Sunday, April 20, 2008

Careful there, Stacy

I missed this article when it was published last week and would have been unaware of the goings on at The Stern Tennis Center if not for Cait's* comment on this post.

From what I remember of the neighborhood in question, one passage in the article gives an incomplete description:
As city officials prepare to move ahead with a $1.6 million plan to resurrect the Atkinson/Stern Tennis Center, an iconic Uptown institution in the middle of an old residential section, a dispute has erupted between two factions with competing visions about how to bring back the New Orleans Recreation Department facility.

That's true, but it's near the edge of a predominantly black neighborhood that borders a predominantly white neighborhood. At least, that's how I would have described the neighborhood a few years ago. But, it's late, so I'll just copy, paste and slightly edit the comment that I left on the other post:
Cait, the Stern Tennis Center was completely off of my radar, but if Fanucci Jim Singleton is involved, something's up. I wouldn't guess that there'd be enough patronage involved for Fanucci Singleton to wet his beak, but I can easily see a trap for Head.

Can I assume that Head's on the privatizer's side -- the Picayune article didn't give any indication? It doesn't matter if Oliver Thomas' mentor, Singleton, is involved, that's no excuse to act disdainful of people who disagree. First off, the burden of proof should always be on the party that wants to privatize. Secondly, it's a public facility in a poor to working class neighborhood that's probably experienced some gentrification (haven't been that way in years) and that borders a much more affluent neighborhood. Poor and working people have every right to be suspicious when somebody proposes a change to a public service in their neighborhood; the demographic flux that enabled Head to be elected can't help but heighten those suspicions.

On the other hand, it's entirely possible that Jim Singleton's just a retired public servant motivated by a sentimental attachment to clay tennis courts.

Update: In a letter to the editor, the secretary of A's and Aces writes:
A's & Aces is not a management vehicle for a tennis facility. Because of its location and historical significance, it was thought that the Atkinson Stern Tennis Center would be a perfect venue for a program like A's & Aces to benefit neighborhood children. That is the sole connection ever proposed between A's & Aces and the tennis center.

However, the article linked above contained the following:
Pushing for private management of the complex, Schumacher is offering the services of his recently formed nonprofit group, A's & Aces, to oversee tennis instruction and the suggested learning center.

I have no interest in a tennis center across town from where I live, but something interesting is going on.

*Cait's comment caused me to look up the article, I have no idea what she thinks of Singleton or anybody else involved.

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Fair point. I think open discourse is critical from any vantage point, whether you support Schumacher's plan or the renovation of the existing set-up.

BTW, the next Stern meeting is tomorrow.
Thanks, but I'm not really sure what point you're acknowledging since I didn't take sides. I think the historic significance of the clay courts is pure and unadulterated grabage. The courts have only been public for 35 years, and the fact that a few people in a neighborhood like something doesn't make it part of the city's cultural fabric. If clay courts really are more expensive to maintain, the people that want to keep them, need to give us a reason why it's worth the cost. However, I sneer at the historic significance of clay courts as a private citizen. As a public servant, Head should treat that type of nonsense as repectfully as I did when I was a waiter or working the circulation desk at the public library.

However, if the burden of proof is on the people who want the more expensive clay, an even bigger burden of proof is on whoever wants to privatize or quasi-privatize a public facility. I think I said that, but I probably wasn't clear enough about how tone deaf Head's being to the neighborhood and racial politics involved. Head's constituents are interested in facilities for tournament level play? Who exactly are her constituents in this case?

I suppose it's possible that Singleton just likes playing on clay courts, but he's always been a snake. Like Don Fanucci in the Godfather II, he always wets his beak. Since I doubt there's much patronage involved, he's probably just to help rouse feelings against Head. But it's largely Head's own fault if she's going to tell the residents of that neighborhood what her constituents want.
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