Saturday, April 14, 2007


In his first public appearance as a government official, Blakely, 69, was brutally blunt with some of his answers, vague with others and a bit testy toward the end of the news conference when asked to describe how he expected the city to look a year from now.

"Come back," he said. "I'm not explaining any more today, because that, I think, is not a question that anyone can answer. What are you going to be doing next year? I'm not answering questions unless they're really questions. That sounds like a threat."
Times Picayune Dec. , 2006

Pressed by two reporters for further details about what the areas might look like, however, the recovery chief took offense.

"I have a very clear idea" of how the zones will develop, he said. "Developers make a lot of money by getting those clear ideas early and getting the jump in the game. And that shouldn't happen in the newspaper. You're a newspaper reporter, not a developer."
Times Picayune March 30, 2007

Dr. Blakely, New Orleans’s belatedly appointed Hurricane Katrina recovery chief, refers to the city’s racial factions as “a bit like the Shiites and Sunnis,” calls the civic elite “insular,” and says the newcomers he wants to draw here will be impatient with local “buffoons.”
New York Times April 9, 2007

What mystifies me about the whole Blakely brouhaha is why it was caused by the third quote. I wouldn't have expected someone like Susan "lockstep" Howell to be concerned about the first two, but I would have expected other people to be.

Actually I'm not quite as mystified about what everybody seems to be angry about this time as few other times, NIMBY/Chocolate City and the garbage contracts come to mind. I can't understand why more people aren't concerned that mayor "trust me" has appointed czar "trust me," but I'm not alone in that view; Jeffrey at Library Chronicles has pointed out the real reasons why we should all be worried about Blakely. Also, I'm not sure if it's the "buffoons" comment that really has people upset, or if that was the focal point for a lot of generalized anger.

I started the above Thursday night, but didn't finish up and post. After seeing Malcolm Suber calling for Blakely's dismissal, I should wait until a link becomes available to finish that point. I actually agree with Suber to some degree, but he's wrong to focus on personality. In this case, process is the one thing that we need to get right and can get right.

I'll finish that later, but first a couple of things in Blakely's defense. Apparently some people are angry with the New York Times article because it implies that no planning had been done prior to Blakely's arrival. The article doesn't actually quote Blakely as saying that, it's hard to tell whether that Blakely's view or Adam Nossiter's.

I'm truly mystified about the anger over the following:
Here, race is “the first thing in people’s minds,” said Dr. Blakely, who is black.

How much has alcohol consumption increased since Katrina? Are our memories so damaged that we forget the events of two weeks ago? A man calls a woman who lied not only to him, but also to his (for want of better word) constituents a bitch and "bitch" gets called a racial epithet. I would like to believe that Blakely's correct about such foolishness being a New Orleans thing.

If any body's curious about why I labeled White a liar in what might be considered a he said/she said matter, it's a simple matter of credibility. Veronica White has shown herself to be one of the biggest shit maker-uppers in an administration full of shit maker-uppers. Throw in the fact that Lupin was far from alone in his assertion that White lied and I think that there's only one reasonable conclusion. I suppose Jarvis DeBerry would call "liar" a racial epithet.

Didn't realize how often I had posted about the sanitation department. For anyone who wants to expose the corruption of of the Nagin administration, the technology office isn't the only weak link.

Bonus link: For anybody who's read this far. The December New orleans Levee:
On Thursday, Nagin said Blakely upset him by saying anything at all.

“The guy said too much, he’s a loose cannon,” Nagin said. “I don’t need people around me who are using words, even if they’re trying not to say anything.”
Pressed on what he would do in his roughly $150,000-a-year job, Blakely only said that he had goals, which he refused to detail, and that all areas of the city should be rebuilt, though he would not elaborate.

Yes, it's only a New Orleans thing, as the past week's Don Imus comments thing (termed a "national discussion" about beauty standards or something by the Times-Pic today, as opposed to the sensationalist circus it was) demonstrated.
"Nappy-headed", "bitch"

One of those terms is racially loaded. Maybe it's a New Orleans thing to think that both are.
I have "nappy-headed" on several records, have listened to the Nappy Roots, etc. It's a contextual thing. And people say vastly worse things on Comedy Central ("Mind of Mencia") and other places every day of the week, practically every minute of every hour. I've heard it said that the Imus situation was different 1) in that he does serious commentary as well as commentary, my reaction to which is, "If you say so," and 2) These women were basketball players and deserved more respect, which is a point but has nothing to do with race per se. I've also read that the insult was not "nappy-headed" but the combo with "ho" while you're telling me it was just the former. Whatever the case, this case went into overdoing-it territory pretty quickly.

What the newspaper columnist (and not ALL of New Orleans--it was a media thing, again, and the non-local Rainbow Coalition got involved as well, as it did the Imus case) said was that in this case the term's offense was again contextual. I don't agree with this, but heaven knows it was certainly sexist and disrespectful.
And one more thing: Lupin wasn't appointed for any provocative rep as a "shock jock" and there is no question as to whether he expected to do comedy, serious commentary or both in his role. He was hired for neither.
Ray, I don't want this to get as overheated as the Lupin thing. You're right about the non-New Orleans Rainbow Coalition. Believe it or not, I was thinking of that when I wrote "I'd like to believe Blakely's right..." rather than "Blakely's right...," but was too hurried to finish the point.

I actualy believe that Lupin and Blakely were both correct in what they said, but wrong to have said it in the forums that they said it in. I don't think the offense is great enough to mandate dismissal in either case, though one might argue that it could justify it. Personally, I think it would do more harm than good in both cases. Until our real estate developer mayor makes all his real estate dealings public, I don't want him to have any excuse to make any more appointments to boards that have anything to do with real estate; he already re-appointed his business partner to the aviation board.

I've never really lived anywhere other than N.O., unless you count a few post-Katrina months in Mandeville and Metairie, so I can't really judge the accuracy of what Blakely said about race being bigger here than elsewhere. I can say that seems to be the consensus of opinion among people that I've known, both black and white, who've either moved here from elsewhere. or lived elsewhere after growing up here.

About Lupin and Imus. Lupin called somebody who lied to him a bitch. That is something that a white man would say of a white woman who lied to him. I've already been over why I think White's the liar here -- too many other people say so and she has a record of giving evasive answers and contradictory statements that look pretty suspicious coming from a public servant spending public money.

In Imus's case, the offense wasn't worsened because they were basketball players, but because they were college rather than professional basketball players. Had he stuck to saying that they were rough looking girls with tattoos, I would have thought that he owed them an apology because they were amateur athletes. He'd have had every right to say that about professional athletes. Saying somebody has tattoos doesn't imply anything racial. Once he added that it was their "nappy-heads" as well as their tattoos that made them rough looking, it became racial. The term "ho" with the dropped r has become common enough among whites, but it certainly furthers the impression. If somebody (a white guy) described a rough-looking tattooed ho you wouldn't know if I was talking about a black woman or white woman, once he described her as nappy- headed, you'd probably not only infer that she was black, but that he thought that part of the reason that he thought she was rough-looking was because she was black. IMO, in that context, the use of the word "ho" would add to the impression that he was prejudiced, rather than just trying to be cool with the hip-hop lingo.

One more thing about the Imus mess, has anybody even pointed out that he made the statements on both MSNBC TV and CBS radio? I agree that it brings up race as topic of conversation, but I also think it brings up something about media diversity. I hope thats been mentioned and I just haven't been following the national news or internet discussions closely enough.
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