Saturday, November 26, 2005

Grab the Pichforks, Have the Torches Standing By

The Times-Picayune is on the case again. They won't let the unified levee district story go, and we need sustained attention like that. Today the T-P writes an editorial listing with bold-face type the state legislators who voted against the creation of a unified levee district for our region. Conveniently, the paper also lists my state representative, Jalila Jefferson-Bullock, who didn't even bother to vote. Apparently her education at Harvard and the University of Chicago didn't cover training in virtue. Maybe she was attending a grand jury hearing for her father.

Our region needs a levee board focused on levees, not on casinos, an airport, and a police force, as the current Orleans Levee Board spends its time. I'll go even further: we need not only a unified, regional levee board; we need regional government. I'm going to spend some time researching this issue before I really elaborate, but I like the idea of Orleans, northern Jefferson, northern Plaquemines, and St. Bernard all under a single mayor or president. Strange bedfellows make for great politics. I like the idea of a region with Harry Lee as police chief and Oliver Thomas as mayor or president and Junior Rodriguez as, as--oh, we'll find him a job because he's fun to listen to and because he's proven his mettle a hundredfold during this whole mess.

The heart-and-soul of our region isn't Uptown (where I live) or Old Metairie or even the Quarter. It's Jefferson (the area near Ochsner, not the parish), Gentilly, Bucktown, Arabi, Chalmette, the Lower Ninth, Belle Chasse, Gretna (yes, even bridge-defending Gretna). Those are the folks who give metro New Orleans much of the character and most of the characters who really make us special. I think a regional government that unifies all that makes sense.

The BRA test is the real test of whether an area of metro NOLA is essential to who we are. If in that part of town "bra" refers more often to your buddy than to a woman's support undergarment, then that's a place that deserves special attention. That's who we are. The Quarter and Warehouse District are nice places that we show our guests. They are the formal dining room; the "bra" areas are the kitchen, where the real bidness is done.

As Dillyberto (a real bra if there ever was one) says, we need Gentillification, not gentrification.


Schroeder said...

Gentillification -- yes.

I respectfully disagree with a couple of points.

Harry Lee? Yuck -- he's a racist, money-grubbing, political machine. Nobody should be allowed to hold office for over thirty years. All the contractors who get business with the sheriff are returning the favor in one way or another. Watch who shows up buying tables for Harry Lee's "fais do do" at $100 a pop. That's a totally ethical minefield. Commanders are handed boxes of tickets they send down the chain of command. The pressure to sell is so high that those in the department who can't sell their tickets end up buying the remainder themselves. Jefferson Parish residents have no idea how little command competence there is in the Sheriff's office, because they haven't had to deal with a lot of crime. That's changing -- crime that is -- and we're starting to see the department fumble the problem.

Oliver Thomas -- he gives an appearance of being an honest public servant, but I just don't like the guy. I think it's just that my impression is that he isn't very bright -- or that he lacks vision.

Junior Rodriguez -- yeah, he's definitely not afraid to say what's on his mind to help his people.

I live in Uptown too. I don't think New Orleans would be able to sustain the things that people like about the city were it not for the residents (and their money) of Uptown. True, the rest of the city is the heart and soul, or what I like to think of as the backbone of the city -- hard-working folks, more in common with me.

Mr. Clio said...

I agree with you disgreements, across the board, and in a way this helps make a point I was trying to make, though I could have done it better.

I purposefully used examples of local pols whom I don't especially like. You're dead-on right about Lee, who's pretty loathsome. Oliver Thomas is okay, but he's done a little too much self-indulgent grandstanding since the storm. And Junior, well. . . This is the guy who still wants to call Black Bayou by its older name, N-word Lake.

By responding correctly, as you have, you help make my point. I want Orleanians to have a say in the political future of Harry Lee and Junior. Lee's corruption and Junior's racism hurt us all. Oliver Thomas's grandstanding hurts folks in Jefferson. I'm dying for the chance to vote in an election where I can vote against Harry Lee, Jalila Jefferson, and an Orleans Parish School Board member in the same booth.

I need to research the regional government idea more, though. (E.g. how big is Houston or Atlanta or Charlotte geographically? How would a regionalized NOLA compare?)

I think I'm going to revise my post to be a little kinder to Uptown. I didn't mean to make us sound like a no-place. I just wanted to emphasize the virtues of those other parts of town. I love Uptown, though of course a few attitudinal adjustments are necessary among some of its residents. You sound like you've got the right idea.

I really appreciate your taking the time to read and comment.

Schroeder said...

Right on. I missed the subtlety of the point you were making.

Mr. Clio said...

I'm gonna do some serious revision on this post. I wasn't subtle; I was incautious with words. I want to try to get this right and develop this.

Your March on Washington is extremely appealing. My only worry is how to make it work with so many people up to their chests in sheetrock dust etc.

Anonymous said...

yah bra, metairie and kenner give this place soul bra

That's how we talk.

Don't hate Metry and Kennah brah