Monday, May 14, 2012

Game of Zones

Watching events unfold around the proposed Ho Zone bill in the past week, I've experienced a lot of emotions but above all I've become disillusioned.  I thought the "politics of the past" were really just that...behind us.  I thought this mayor was different than the assholes that preceded him.  I thought this administration knew better than to try and surreptitiously shove legislation down the city's throat in an attempt to circumvent public input.

It's been a hard pill to swallow realizing just how wrong I was.

Within the past few weeks, we have watched Mayor Landrieu attempt to subvert democracy twice.  The first, a brazen effort to push the Ho Zone bill through the state legislature in spite of its intrinsic faults and opportunity for corruption.  SB 573 was championed by Mitch in the following TP article:

   Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls on hospitality industry to support proposed taxing districts

Behind the scenes, Landrieu dispatched a simple message to the neighborhood organizations opposing the bill through one of his handmaidens, "This is war!"  Instead of reaching out to the people who live in this city...the people who voted him in office...he brashly declared war on them.

Apparently if he doesn't get what he wants, when he wants it, he throws a tantrum and starts swinging.

As I was watching this unfold, my mind kept going back to a character in the HBO series, Game of Thrones.  In case you're one of the 10 people who doesn't watch it, let me describe one of the characters. One of the pivotal roles in the storyline is that of King Joffrey.

Joffrey is a boy king who ascended to the throne in a bloody fashion after his father died unexpectedly in a hunting accident.  He is a spoiled, ruthless, brat who cares not about the condition or opinions of his people.  He wants what he wants and that's all that matters.

In a brief but fiery speech, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged hundreds of hospitality industry executives and workers to storm the state capitol next week to show support for a controversial proposal to create a new hospitality district in downtown New Orleans and the French Quarter, even as one of the bill's original backers in the legislature withdrew his support Thursday. Landrieu criticized opponents of the proposal for being focused on "small details" while ignoring the "big picture" that New Orleans is trying to position itself to reach 13 million visitors annually in 2018, up from 8.75 million last year.

Storm the castle?

Small details?  The creation of a new taxing district operated by a crony-appointed "superboard" that does not directly answer to the public is a small detail?  Really?

It wasn't that long ago that Mayor Landrieu's sentiments towards private boards and public monies struck a different note.

A little over a year ago, the two entities that are slated to receive the lion's share of this new taxing district were in a battle to the death.  The CVB (New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau) had mounted a desperate attempt to collapse the NOTMC (New Orleans Tourism and Marketing Corp.) and cannibalize NOTMC's funding.  That battle placed the newly elected mayor inside the fortress walls defending the "storming of the castle" as he fought back CVB board members onslaught (NOTMC is under the purview of the mayor's office).

The king prevailed:

Proposal to merge two New Orleans tourism groups is voted down

From this article, I'd like to point out a couple of salient points in regard to the current Ho Zone proposal:

However, members of the both organizations' boards said Wednesday that the issue of whether the new entity would be public or private as well as concerns about the composition of the new board had been ongoing points of contention.
 "We thought maybe the finer points could have been worked out," said Kent Wasmuth, chairman of the marketing corporation.

And who was on the side of making the new entity public, not private?  Who was worried about the creation of a new entity that didn't have to answer to the public?

Landrieu, who has been a champion of merging the two groups since his tenure as lieutenant governor, withdrew his support because of "basic philosophical differences" with the terms of the merger plan, according to the letter.
 Specifically, Landrieu disagreed with the proposal that the joint organization be a private body.
"I believe that with the investment of significant public funds, it should be considered and governed in accordance with best practices for a public body," Landrieu wrote. "There will be a serious lack of transparency about the use of public funds if the board is not considered a public body." 


I'm curios at what point in the mayor's tenure did his philosophy take a complete 180.  Perhaps when he found himself outside the castle walls instead of defending them?  The metaphorical castle that protects public money and public interests.

It seems Mitch picked up his speaking points from Wasmuth with "finer points" becoming "small details"....a slight semantic shift.

As if this subversion of government isn't bad enough...we then got this gem:

New Orleans City Council president sets special meeting amid unabated tensions

At first glance, you may ask "What does Hedge-Morrell and Johnson walking out of a city council meeting have to do with the Mayor."  Read between the lines.

Head does not fall lockstep in with the mayor like other council members.  Landrieu doesn't like dissent.  After his endorsement of Cynthia Willard-Lewis failed, his attempt to shore up city council votes sprung a leak.  Head has the right to appoint her interim successor within a 30-day period.  She chose Errol George, an urban planning consultant who is probably not so sympathetic to Mayor Landrieu's the very least he will not lay down and roll over.

However, George can not be sworn in the seat unless there is a quorum.  If he is not sworn in within the allotted 30-day period...guess who gets to make the appointment?

Once again....a blatant subversion of government in order to achieve self-satisfying goals.  It's repugnant.  It's everything we voted against when Landrieu was elected.

It''s this:

A very good friend of mine, a former local journalist, once said something to me over drinks  that now keeps ringing in my head.  He said, of New Orleans' politicos, "They're all assholes....every goddamn one of them....they're all assholes."  At the time I put up a heartfelt, single malt-fueled argument against him.

Now I think I'd just quietly sip the scotch and wallow in my miserable disillusionment.

In the meantime...I would ask all of you to please contact city council members Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Jon Johnson and demand that they show up to this Thursday's council meeting and do the damn job we elected them to do.

Jon D. Johnson
City Hall, Room 2W60
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, LA 70112
Phone: (504) 658-1050
Fax: (504) 658-1058

Cynthia Hedge-Morrell
City Hall, Room 2W20
1300 Perdido Street
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112
Phone: (504) 658-1040
Fax: (504) 658-1048


Anonymous said...

Word on the streetz is that Landrieu and the city will press this bill (SB573 is the main vehicle) into a special Committee hearing of Senate Local/Muni.

If the chair agrees to that special meeting, Landrieu and the hospitality goons will be "storming the gates" and astro-turfing that meeting like a mother.

You can contact the Committee here:

Anonymous said...

There is no such thing as altruism - Mitchell J. Landrieu

Anonymous said...

His father's administration was the one that had the brilliant idea of restricting access to WestEnd and funneling all patrons through a massive public-private parking lot. Lakefront dining barely survived.

Anonymous said...

The brightest idea of Lanrieu1 was choosing to begin school integration in the working class, mostly white lower ninth ward. Besides getting a classic Norman Rockwell painting out of that deal and creating modern St. Bernard Parish there wasn't much else too positive from that move.

Anonymous said...

Landrieu is a one termer. He has really alienated the middle class black, white, and asian voters with his support of Williard-Lewis, his support of Serpas, and the dysfunction he has created with NORD. Hope he has an exit strategy for when he is voted out of office.

Anonymous said...

Has it taken you and other liberals this long to figure out that Mitch is a hack and no better than the rest of them? That he's an empty suit who fooled everyone with all the slick-sounding jargon? It's Morial's third term, metaphorically speaking.

Anonymous said...

I'll take that as a "yes."

Anonymous said...

If you think Landrieu is a one term-er, then I have some great investment property for you in New Orleans East.

Among the reasons he will get re-elected

* the TP and Gambit will strongly endorse him (regardless of the minor pings the TP gives him now)

* he will run spoiler candidates as he did before

*after Serpas gets the $144K pension, he will appoint a black chief (I have no problems with a black chief, just about everyone Landrieu hires - black or white)

* Landrieu has been courting the black vote since he got elected

* as The Who some will be fooled again

These are a few. I'm sure some of you have others.

Morgan Cross