Saturday, November 17, 2007

Last Minute Appeal to Vote for Clarkson

Because time is running out, I won't take the time to organize the following points into any type of order.

Of the two candidates, Clarkson comes much closer to be a preservationist. We already have a pro-development mayor, with at least three ambitious plans to remake the city on the drawing board, and a recovery czar who believes in cranes and bulldozers but who doesn't believe in being influenced by historical and cultural factors. For the sake of balance, we need some preservationist voices on the city council -- not that Clarkson's a rabid preservationist.

However, there are two specific projects that concern me. Any large scale redevelopment of the riverfront will forever alter the city, yet the current city council has shown no interest in overseeing the process to reinvent the crescent. I won't go into my specific reservations about the plan, particularly the plans involving the site of the naval base at the river and the industrial canal, but I did hear something worrisome at the one public meeting that I did attend. The architect giving the presentation said that NOBC would take public input into account in its design plans, but the project was going to happen because the mayor is fully committed to it. Even if I had total confidence in the mayor, I would want city council involvement in a project that big. As I've pointed out elsewhere, I noticed riverfront development money behind Willard-Lewis, Riverfront Alliance members donating to Clarkson. The fact that it even seems like a minor matter to base a vote on, indicates just how neglected the issue has been.

The other project is in Mid-City. I alluded to it yesterday, but I'll spell it out today: Cynthia Willard-Lewis has already shown that she has no qualms about voting against the recommendations of both the planning commission and Shelley Midura. I'm probably being alarmist because I haven't heard anybody else say this, but i can't see a project of that size going through without causing major traffic problems. That's been said, but there's no room to widen Carrollton Ave. I suspect that we would see pressure to widen Jeff Davis, allowing access from Earhart, down Jeff Davis, then up Orleans or Bienville.

Even if you believe that the Picayune's coverage of the garbage contracts was somehow biased, Willard-Lewis has had over two weeks to clarify her position. If she's joined Stacy Head in saying that either the ordinance needs to be rewritten or the contracts renegotiated, I haven't heard her. Her work on behalf of Metro Disposal makes it entirely reasonable to question whether Willard-Lewis' (commendable) opposition to the Chef Menteur Landfill was based on concern for the landfill's neighbors, or based on the fact that Metro owns an interest in the Gentilly Landfill.

Finally, there's the fact that Clarkson strikes so many people as, to put it politely, unpleasant. Frankly, I didn't like her when I lived in the Quarter during her first term. Of course, even though I was about thirty, I worked nights, stayed out past dawn, slept days, and had all the maturity of a nineteen year-old. I was certainly likely to be influenced by the opinions of the bar owners that I talked to. More recently, I was had a conversation with the bartender and another patron in Johnny White's one night during her second term, in response to a negative comment that I made, the other patron asked, "you don't live in the Quarter, do you?" I had never met him before, but he didn't strike me as rich yuppie. The bartender, who I did know and respect the intelligence of, told me that Clarkson was a lot more popular with residents and store owners than some bar owners. Around that time, I also saw a banner across St. Philip thanking Clarkson for the job she was doing. Of course, anybody could have out the banner up; I'm certainlt not going to argue that Clarkson is a nice person. But I'll take somebody who says mean things about homeless people, if she'll stand up to the mayor. If Wilard-Lewis is elected, we'll all be grateful for Nagin's incompetence in a couple of years.

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