Tuesday, March 24, 2009

From the Zombie:

This city is crippled. It is not crippled by Katrina or the threat of hurricanes….we can overcome that. It is not crippled by a lack of economic development….we can overcome that too. It is not crippled by lawmakers in Baton Rouge….we generate more money than them and we can overcome that as well. It’s not even crippled by it’s education system…I believe we can overcome that and in fact have made great strides in recent years to do so.

This city is crippled by its bombastic perception of race. It’s not actually racism….it’s the perception of race and the confusion created by those invoking racial sentiments.

I think every city in this nation deals with issues of “race” in some form or another…it’s just that in New Orleans….it tends to pervade and eventually destroy everything we do.

Why? Why is that?

Is there truly a grand conspiracy by some group of people, based on their skin color, to gain control of this city’s political process by ousting any other group of people whose skin color doesn’t match theirs? Black, White, Asian, etc?

I believe the answer is no….on all accounts. And I mean all accounts…so don’t extract that question and comment that Tracie Washington and crew are in that number…because I don’t believe that is their true motivation.

I do believe, however, that there are cultural cliques within this city that wield enormous power. I believe those cliques use the perception of race to manipulate, polarize, confuse, and inflame people to achieve their political, financial, and egomaniacal goals. I believe there is a CULTURE of corruption within this city which has rotted everything from our education system to our public transit system to our public housing to our technology systems…..essentially everything that has a public budget behind it. I believe that culture of corruption is race neutral, but the people ingrained in this culture want you to believe race is the motivating factor behind every action within our government.

The bigger the budget, the bigger the corruption….case in point, the pre-K, NOPS budget which topped out as the largest in the state at over 500 million. The layers of corruption within that school system were legendary, from the lowest levels to the highest. The result was the worst public school system in the nation. The number of public officials and private enterprises, white and black, who were grafting money out of that system, at the expense of the children within it, was truly sickening. To make matters worse, many of these thieves portrayed themselves as champions of the children while methodically siphoning off as much cash from the system as they could.

...But here we are again….and now the target is Stacy Head. Head has been instrumental in routing out issues regarding trash contracts, and in case you didn’t know this…..MIS/Tech contracts including the crime cameras. Now that these issues are being brought to the public’s attention, she’s suddenly being charged with racist motivations.

Veronica White, Tracie Washington, and Ray Nagin would have us believe that Head has spent the last three years of her life digging into contracts and trying to get a hold on city expenditures for the shear motivation of ill will towards black people. They would have us believe that Stacy Head’s primary motivating factor in life is to expunge New Orleans' government of any black person which may hold office.

Never mind that White has been unable to produce any semblance of an audited report on our city sanitation contracts….which is her job. Never mind that our Inspector General’s office released a painstaking report which detailed massive corruption within Nagin’s technology office….with the lynchpin (Meffert) being as white as the driven snow. Never mind that the majority of the contract and financial benefactors of Nagin’s 8 years were white republicans, i.e. HSOA/Benetech. Cipher, LSI, Imagine & shell companies.

No don’t pay attention to the facts….this is a “racist” conspiracy.

...my hope in this whole scandal….E-maelstrom, Crime Cameras, and everything else that is transpiring….is that justice is served blindly and the public sees clearly that this is truly about corruption. It’s about a culture of corruption which transcends race or the notion of race. The only motivating color in this scandal is green. Oh how I hope, we as a city, come to Buddha on this…I believe or future is contingent upon this realization.

Confession of mine to make: there is one of those "Recall Stacy Head" petitions with my name on it.


Because I think things are pretty damn polarized in this city, and the polarization is worse than ever. Because, for all the good things Head has done with regards to uncovering the corruption being kept in motion by the circus emanating from Hizzoner the Walking Id's office, her mouth has gotten in the way, only feeding a misguided public perception that her actions are all about race and class.

Mind you, I am quite grateful she's telling it like it is on things as basic as communications between the Mayor's office and the City Council:

On the relationship between Nagin and the council, Head said: "It's largely nonexistent. We never see him."

She expressed sympathy for Councilman Arnie Fielkow, who she said continually works to get commitments from Nagin, after which, Head said, the mayor invariably "reneges on the deal."

"And I have to say, 'What did you expect? Has he ever kept his word to you?' "

She said she has advisers who tell her blunt truths, whereas Nagin doesn't have "anybody like that."

"I mean, he has 'yes men' that tell him how wonderful he's doing and how that's going to be in 'the book,' " she said. "And I'm serious. 'The book.' They talk about it and they're dead serious. This is not a joke. Apparently he plans on writing a book on what a wonderful job he did and all his yes men talk about, 'Oh, that's going to go in the book, that's going to go into the book.' "

Head said Nagin's rocky relations with council members are in part a result of his "pattern of belittling everyone who doesn't agree with him. And frankly, childish behavior of 'Well, if you don't agree with me, I'm just going to go do my own things, and I don't have to worry about you -- nanny nanny boo boo."

A big part of the problem at City Hall, she said, is "that the departments operate in silos and there's no management at the top."

She described Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield as "delightful" and "the most lovely, lovely human being." But "as much as she cares and as much effort as she puts in," Head said, Hatfield is "not a strong leader for departments, particularly those departments that don't operate well."

Head has directed some of her harshest criticism at White, the head of a department she claims has wasted millions of dollars. Her fights with White, who is black, have fueled some critics' claims that she is a racist. In the interview, Head said that's an unfair and "very hurtful" charge. But she made no apologies for her approach.

"Veronica White does a horrible job," she said. "Am I supposed to not address that issue, to the detriment of my poorest neighborhoods?"

Head said she also has criticized white department heads, such as former Safety and Permits Director Mike Centineo and former Economic Development Director Donna Addkison.

White's ethnicity is irrelevant, Head said. "There's nothing I can do about that," she said. "She happens to be black; I happen to be white. She does her job badly."

I wish some of Head's other infamous comments, policies, and gestures (ummm, blowing kisses at protesters of the decisions to demolish most of the public housing in New Orleans?) had been as rational.

The reality of all of this is that the evils of corruption are indeed motivated by only one color, that color being the green of dollars in many denominations - but the corruption happening in this town still has the specter of race and its horrific past and present overshadowing it that cannot completely be discounted as a factor. Take one good look at the map of non-blacks in this country that elected Barack Obama as our president, take note of where New Orleans sits, and think very carefully about what Head could have done better in the past. Because the past can quite easily turn around and bite her - and the corruption investigations - in the ass if wielded in juuuuust the right way.

Oh, there will always be folks around like the Walking Id, Ellenese Brooks-Simms, and Dollar Bill Jefferson to say they are doing what they are doing because of the people of New Orleans, the children, and the people in their district, and by God, you are a racist if you question what they do and why they are doing it. Look at the details of their plans and policies instead. Follow the color green. And, most of all - and hardest of all - keep your mouth and your emotions in check.

Stacy is only now learning that latter lesson well.

I just hope the next District B representative (and it had better not be Renee Gill-Pratt) learns from her mistakes.


BeverlyRevelry said...

Very, very well done, liprap. Plus you are extremely compassionate in saying that Stacy Head has learned, or is learning any lesson well. I (as one of her white, Garden District constituents and I hate having to qualify like that) do not give her that much credit. But thank you for reminding others why I am so very embarrassed by her lack of grace and leadership. So what she can point out (the very obvious) deficits of someone else; where is her humility? Oh, wait: she has none. Anyway, good job on your part.

Vérité Parlant said...

Thank you for linking to me in your other post. Actually, I do think Stacy Head is a racist, but not in the traditional sense like saying she sits in the back room with the boys and plans how to keep the "niggras" off committees and out of the Garden District.

I think she suffers from what most of us suffer from, subconscious racism. We cling to out-dated perceptions of others, and often speak our minds in ignorance. The problem is not that she has these feelings The problem is that she would rather deny her attitudes to herself so she can feel good about herself who she thinks is "not a racist."

We'd all be better off if our politicians black and white sat down in a corner someplace alone and asked themselves "How are my old attitudes toward people not like me impacting my decisions and how I'm perceived by the public?"

If Stacy had done that, if Mayor Nagin did that, most of what they've said and done would not have happened.

We can't drive each other from the city. Like it or not, we need each other. Yet, there is an old guard black poli-social structure (more complicated by historical splits between black Creoles and non-Creoles and skin color issues) that wants to prevail, and the same is true for non-blacks (but a little less complicated unless you throw old money in the mix). Politics is a power game, even for the politicians who want to do the right thing.

I wish I could lock all our politicians of all races and cultures in a room with a gifted psychotherapist for three months. No Xanax allowed. The ones who can't handle it should be kicked out and the ones who handle it only through deception and drawing alliances down racial lines should be kicked out. Whoever can figure out how to work for the common good wins. Call it Survivor Political Island.

But I don't think Stacy Head would survive. She's too easily tempted to the darkside of Drama Queen.

Leigh C. said...

Hah! A political "Survivor" would be perfect! And so much needs to be done about the underground racism, indeed. Rather than having folks like Head defend it as themselves being themselves, we need more lessons in how best to really put it aside for the good of all.

Stacy isn't at all good at learning those lessons or applying them, and most of the folks we have in City Hall aren't much good at that, either, no matter what color they are. I just hope we aren't so far gone that we are stuck with loads of "lesser of evils" candidates for city governmental positions for another bunch of years.