Sunday, January 06, 2008

Happy Mardi Gras


The start of the carnival season seems like a good time to remember that it's not just our political leadership that's failed us and that people other than politically connected minister/businessmen have profited at the city's expense.

Jefferson's biggest contributors, and the biggest donors to assessor campaigns generally in the past half-decade, are members of a partnership that shared a lucrative contract to collect delinquent property taxes until Mayor Ray Nagin was elected and cut them off two years ago.

The original contract, inked by Marc Morial's administration, was held by a joint venture between a Texas law firm, Linebarger Goggan Blair, and United Governmental Services of Louisiana, a local firm whose members included lawyer and 2002 King of Carnival William Grace Jr., restaurateur Sam Kogos, lawyer John Keller and businessman Westervelt "Westy" Ballard, Grace's brother-in-law. The Linebarger firm still has the contract.
Jefferson puts Grace's Victorian mansion at Third Street and St. Charles Avenue, where Rex has stopped each Mardi Gras since 1907 to make a toast, at $504,500. He, too, received an increase this year.

Grace's home has been in his wife's family for generations, and the Graces sold off a portion of the property in 1996, making it impossible to compare his assessment to the sale price. But the valuation Jefferson has assigned the property, $504,500, is only a third of what a lender who holds a $1.5 million mortgage on the property thinks it's worth.

The appellate court deemed unconstitutional a 1998 city law that established a 30 percent penalty on delinquent taxes for the purpose of paying the Texas law firm that won the collections contract.
City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields noted that the suit targeted a law passed during former Mayor Marc Morial's tenure to accommodate a contractor hired by Morial. Nonetheless, she said in a statement that the city will join in the appeal "pursuant to its duty to defend all actions filed and pending against the city."
The contract, signed in 1998, was among the more controversial of Morial's tenure, in part because of the winning partnership's nebulous duties and in part because of its political pedigree.

Partners in United Governmental Services include restaurateur Sam Kogos, a member of Morial's inner circle; lawyer John Keller, a partner with Morial's uncle Glenn Haydel in a lucrative Regional Transit Authority management contract; lawyer William Grace, who was a Morial appointee to the Sewerage & Water Board; and businessman Westervelt "Westy" Ballard, Grace's brother-in-law.

Update: Revision forthcoming. In the meantime, see Jeffrey's second comment and mominem's comment as well.

First of all.. "Westy"? Really?

Anyway, the house in this article is the source of one parking nightmare after another on my block as the once and future kings and queens of Carnival gather there for various Uptown mucky-muck parties... especially this time of year.

It's even worse ever since the house was damaged by lightning late last summer as the contractors repairing the damage have taken up most of the block on a semi-permanent basis.

I'd imagine that building would sell for more than $1.5 million... but I'm no real estate genius.
Also... the way this post is worded almost suggests that these white Carnival elites are somehow incidental beneficiaries of our style of back-door networking power politics instead of the actual architects of said system who have reaped many times over the benefits only recently gobbled up by the less white "minister/busnissmen" elite.

It's only a minor quibble and I'm sure not intentional... but I thought I'd add it for context,
jeffrey is right.

different groups of immigrants one after another were used by the power brokers, while they were excluded from the inner circle. The Irish and the Italians went through this before. Now we have a mostly creole elite tied into the same system.
Not my intention. I was reminded of the October article when I was looking for something unrelated around Thanksgiving. It gave me an idea for a Twelfth Night post, but I've forgotten where I intended to go with it. Guess, this not-quite boomer is getting too senile for occasional posting. The cat scan, when my skull got cracked, didn't reveal any brain damage though. Think they only scanned the part of the brain near the head injury?
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