Government & Politics
 

‘Enemy for life’: Mayor Mitch Landrieu accused of steamrolling those who disagree with him

If you’re not on Mitch Landrieu’s team, people say, he’ll fight back by pulling city contracts, removing you from boards and committees, and dressing you down. The mayor says there’s no evidence of such retaliation, and that he’s tangled with entrenched political interests.

On the day he became mayor nearly four years ago, Mitch Landrieu delivered a stirring inaugural address. He concluded it by repeating a slogan from his campaign.

New Orleanians, he urged, should unify: “One team. One fight. One voice. One city.”

Since then, Landrieu has worked hard to move the city forward. But he has displayed little patience for those who aren’t on the team. While jovial and gregarious in public, he often lacerates and retaliates against those who question that one voice — his.

The Lens interviewed more than 30 New Orleans residents who said that the mayor mistreated or punished them after they expressed a contrary view, or that they had firsthand knowledge of the mayor’s heavy-handed behavior. They include current and former elected officials, business people, a wide range of civic activists, attorneys and an opponent in the 2010 mayoral race.

Some of them say the mayor withheld funding or cut off city contracts. Others say he forced them from city boards or jobs. Still others say he chastised them with curse words over the phone or accosted them in public.

About a dozen of them were willing to speak on the record.

“He will steamroll anyone,” said Babs Johnson, a youth advocate and one-time supporter who said she drew the mayor’s wrath in 2010 by questioning the direction of his recreation department. She believes the mayor has now blackballed nonprofit groups associated with her. “People are afraid of him.”

Those who would not agree to be identified said they feared retribution by the mayor.

“I have more people come up to me and say: How can I help Michael [Bagneris] without Mitch knowing?” said Rob Couhig, a New Orleans attorney who finished fourth in the 2010 mayoral race.

A week before Christmas, Bagneris resigned after 20 years as a Civil District Court judge to challenge Landrieu. Political handicappers say the mayor is the clear favorite, with Bagneris presenting the biggest obstacle to his re-election, though no polls have been made public.

Bagneris has made Landrieu’s treatment of others an issue leading up to the Feb. 1 primary.

“Unlike what you’ve seen to date from the administration, I work well with others,” Bagneris said as he formally announced his candidacy on Dec. 23. “I will work with all the stakeholders in government.”

Bagneris, however, declined to discuss the issue with The Lens.

Complaints against a heavy-handed mayor in New Orleans are not new. As mayor from 1978 to 1986, Dutch Morial earned a reputation — which carries to this day — for haranguing critics and political enemies.

“People said he was arrogant and feisty, but he got things done,” said Clancy DuBos, the co-owner of Gambit and its political editor. “Look, you can’t be a wussy and be mayor of a city that many think is ungovernable.

“With Mitch, you have a mayor with a strong personality who has stepped on toes and angered people,” DuBos continued. “Even some of his friends, putting it delicately, have said he has control issues. That’s a polite way of them saying he’s a control freak.”

As Landrieu pointed out Wednesday in a 40-minute interview with The Lens, he became mayor at a difficult time and has had to make tough decisions. He inherited a city that remained broken by Hurricane Katrina, as his predecessor, Ray Nagin, seemed overwhelmed.

It has taken a hard-driving approach to get things done, Landrieu said.

“What you see now in the past three and a half years is a huge record of accomplishment,” Landrieu said at his campaign headquarters, sitting on a folding chair, his jacket off. He was mostly calm, snacking on Cheetos, though he bristled several times when presented with accounts of his political retaliation.

“The only way any of that could happen is if I knew how to get along with people, talk to people, get things done, bring people together, focus attention and lead. And what has to happen, as a natural consequence, you have to tell some people no. There are entrenched political interests in this state that have strangled the progress of the state and city for a long time that I have now tangled with.”

Landrieu acknowledged having sharp words with some of those who have disagreed with him. He blamed it on his “impatience” and “passion.”

“I can always be better at what I do,” he said. “But the record of accomplishment speaks much more loudly than the noise of those people who have been told no.”

If voters don’t like his style, Landrieu said, they can support Bagneris, who is “a really nice guy that gets along with everybody, that doesn’t aggravate anybody, and that doesn’t get anything done but just listens well.”

Cheron Brylski, a longtime public-relations agent supporting the mayor’s re-election campaign, made a similar argument this week.

There are assholes and then there are PRODUCTIVE assholes,” Brylski wrote in an email newsletter Monday defending Landrieu. “And in politics, the productive ones are often what you need when you have some place to go and no easy road to get there.”

Alienates former supporters

Babs Johnson said she has known the mayor for years, as he served 16 years in the Louisiana House representing an Uptown district, unsuccessfully challenged Nagin in 2006 and then won the mayor’s office in 2010 while he was lieutenant governor.

“I was one of his biggest champions,” she said. “I’ve supported him in every campaign he’s run.”

Having served on a citizens’ advisory panel for the New Orleans Recreation Department during the Nagin administration, she said she grew frustrated with the slow pace of change at the new recreation commission under Landrieu. She was especially dismayed with its decision to put a smelly portable toilet next to a children’s swing set at Lyons Playground in the Faubourg Delachaise neighborhood.

On June 6, 2010, Johnson emailed Arnie Fielkow, who was a council member at large, to report that workers “have, on a Sunday morning, come to replace the old one with the exact same model in the exact same location.”

She added: “This entire unpleasant episode underscores to me that this administration is simply business as usual.”

Fielkow forwarded the email to Landrieu. Johnson said Landrieu wrote her a scathing email in response. The Lens asked to see the message, but she said she couldn’t find it.

“After that, I was blackballed,” she said, adding that the mayor bad-mouthed her to mutual friends.

“You cannot tell him he’s wrong,” Johnson said. “You have to be in lockstep with him or he’ll go after you. He went after me.”

The nonprofit organization that Johnson cofounded, the Lafayette Square Conservancy, has applied but not received grants from the Landrieu administration. (The group did not seek funds from the Nagin administration.)

Johnson also serves on the board of YAYA, a 25-year-old nonprofit that provides arts education to young people. YAYA also has applied for city funding during the Landrieu administration, to no avail.

Landrieu said he does not play a role in the awarding of grants and has taken no action against his one-time ally. “Babs Johnson is not even on my radar screen,” he said.

Baty Landis described a similar run-in with Landrieu.

After winning the 2010 election, but before taking office, Landrieu asked Landis to serve on a task force charged with recommending a new police chief.

“Mitch told me how much he valued my work and my input,” said Landis, a community activist. She was a founder of SilenceIsViolence, a nonprofit group that works to counter the culture of violence in New Orleans.

After several meetings, Landis and several other task-force members became uneasy. They couldn’t get minutes from past meetings, a list of applicants or even the questions the applicants were being asked. Landis repeatedly tried to reach Landrieu, but he wouldn’t call back.

On March 20, 2010, Landis began posting updates on her group’s website about the task force’s work. On April 2, in her third update, Landis went public with her concerns.

The following day, Landis learned from reporters that Landrieu had removed her from the task force. Official word came later in an email from Judy Morse, who co-chaired the mayor-elect’s transition team.

“We have determined that your interests can be better served as an external stakeholder and community member but no longer as a member of the Task Force,” Morse wrote. “We appreciate your service and look forward to your continued involvement.”

Her removal “was a surprise,” Landis recalled.

SilenceIsViolence is a well-regarded group. But during Landrieu’s years, the group has failed to win funding from the city, including its NOLA for Life Fund anti-violence program in 2012.

After Ryan Berni, the mayor’s campaign spokesman, noted that SilenceIsViolence participates in NOLA for Life Fund efforts, Landis said in an email, “This is what makes the lack of funding so stunning.”

Landis is also a consulting director of YAYA. Eleven days after the mayor removed her from the police task force, she received an email from Bethany France, a director of Arts-in-Education at the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, in the lieutenant governor’s office. Because he hadn’t yet been sworn in as mayor, Landrieu was still the lieutenant governor.

“I just received some bad news,” France wrote. “The Office of the Lt. Governor has cancelled [YAYA’s] arts education program at Jazz Fest this year.”

She blamed a scheduling conflict.

After pressure from YAYA’s supporters, the lieutenant governor’s office reversed course 10 days later and offered a last-minute invitation.

Landis believes the “scheduling conflict” was a ruse. The mayor said he was unaware that YAYA’s participation at Jazz Fest was in jeopardy that year.

According to Landis, “Mitch has told people that he’ll never support programs I’m associated with.” She would not provide their names for fear of reprisals.

“Mitch has tremendous understanding of the city and its needs,” Landis said. “He has great compassion and energy. A lot of good things have happened while he’s mayor. But he is distracted by petty concerns that include vindictive behavior.”

Another member of the police task force was Danatus King Sr., the president of the New Orleans chapter of the NAACP. He also is running for mayor.

King resigned from the task force over concerns similar to Landis’. In 2012, King said, the NAACP was “punished” by not being allowed to participate in New Orleans’ ceremonies marking Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Landrieu said King wanted to be keynote speaker, but the event’s organizers decided against it. In an interview Thursday, event organizer Norwood Thompson Jr. said individual NAACP members participated, including himself.

Landrieu makes enemies in statehouse

State Rep. Jeff Arnold, D-New Orleans, said he has been targeted by the mayor.

In 2013, Arnold opposed Landrieu’s plans in the Legislature to get greater control over the firefighters’ pension fund and to reduce the number of judges in Orleans Parish.

“He has told other members,” Arnold said, “that if they are a friend of Jeff’s, they’re not a friend of his.”

Arnold added: “Mitch’s deal is, if you’re my enemy, you’re my enemy for life. That’s the vindictive side of Mitch.”

Another episode with Arnold shows that the mayor also seeks to remove those who get in his way. He and political allies have called members of the Algiers Development District urging them to replace Arnold as the district’s chairman after he opposed giving control of the Federal City project to a group supported by Landrieu. The development district members spurned the mayor.

State Sen. David Heitmeier, D-New Orleans, confirmed that Landrieu asked him to remove Arnold as chairman. “I told him I was supporting Jeff,” Heitmeier said.

Arnold is supporting Bagneris for mayor.

Landrieu ended the interview before The Lens could ask him about Arnold. But speaking earlier, he said he does not engage in political vendettas.“There is no out,” he said. “There is no in.”

Other legislators say relationship is collegial

State Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, said she opposed Landrieu’s 2012 plan to designate an area, including the French Quarter, as a special taxing district.

“I fought to get it defeated,” Moreno said. “He was not happy.”

She said they talked afterward “and agreed to disagree. I’ve always felt like I could tell him what’s going on. I know what some people say about him, but I have always had a good working relationship, even when we disagreed on issues.”

State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, said he suffered no payback when he supported Stacy Head for an open at-large City Council seat in 2012 over Cynthia Willard-Lewis, the mayor’s pick.

“There’s no question in my mind that the reason why the city is moving forward [under Landrieu] is that so many partnerships have been forged,” Leger said. “You can’t forge partnerships if you can’t get along with people.”

A power play regarding the Wisner Trust

Cathy Norman had run the Edward Wisner Donation — commonly known as the Wisner Trust — for nearly 20 years when Landrieu became mayor. Under a century-old deal, the city averaged about $1.5 million per year in income from the leases of Wisner properties. As mayor, Landrieu was one of the trust’s five committee members who decided how to spend the money.

Landrieu was not content with the status quo. He wanted more control over the trust as well as access to a greater share of its cash.

He called a meeting with Norman in September 2010 to discuss several pending agreements. The gathering included city officials and several others whom Norman didn’t know. Outnumbered nine to one, she felt uncomfortable.

Norman asked Landrieu to sign a routine contract hiring outside attorneys, which the committee had approved. He refused, saying there was a conflict of interest with the law firm. Norman noted that the city attorney had waived the conflict. Landrieu repeated that he wouldn’t sign it. Norman told the mayor that she had the authority to sign the contract herself under the trust’s bylaws.

After more contentious discussion, Norman said she would prefer to discuss the matter another time when she could bring Wisner’s attorney.

“He threw up his hands and said, ‘Call your lawyers!’ and stormed out,” Norman recounted. “I said to myself: ‘I guess the meeting is over.’ I walked out of that meeting shaking.”

For nearly five months, the city did not answer Norman’s emails or phone calls or attend any of the trust’s monthly meetings. Then Landrieu called a special meeting in February 2011 — without Norman — where he demanded that the other trust committee members fire her. They refused. She ended up resigning 18 months later, after Landrieu gained two allies, and a majority, on the committee.

“Every other mayor met with us and worked to understand Wisner,” Norman said. “In my opinion, his tactics are unethical, aggressive and very much my way or the highway.”

Former mayoral candidate loses city business

Among those interviewed by The Lens, no one seems to have been targeted more than Troy Henry, a businessman who finished a distant second to Landrieu in the 2010 mayoral election.

Henry went to Landrieu’s victory party on Election Night to congratulate him. “I thought that’s what you’re supposed to do, like a football game,” said Henry, a first-time candidate.

But within four months of Landrieu taking office, three city agencies stopped doing business with Henry Consulting. His company had won the contracts through public bids:

“He plays very vindictively,” Henry said. “I was very surprised.”

Presented with Henry’s accusations, Landrieu responded, “There’s no evidence, not one scintilla of evidence, that I punish people who are against me,” he said, adding that he plays no role in awarding contracts.

His staff produced a 2012 contract between the city and Henry Consulting for diesel fuel, valued at $40,000. Henry said he chose not to renew the contract because the city was taking too long to pay his company.

“One team. One fight. One voice. One city.” The trouble, critics say, is that the one voice is Landrieu's, and he punishes people who speak up.

Infrogmation (Creative Commons)

“One team. One fight. One voice. One city.” The trouble, critics say, is that the one voice is Landrieu's, and he punishes people who speak up.

Henry and his business partner, actor Wendell Pierce, believe that Landrieu nixed a development plan in the Lower 9th Ward in 2011 that would have included a grocery store operated by their company, Sterling Farms.

Pierce said the mayor killed the deal in a meeting with the developer’s financial backers. “They walked into the meeting, and it was happening,” Pierce said. “They walked out, and it wasn’t happening.”

He added: “This mayor plays political hardball.”

Will Bradshaw is the president of Green Coast Enterprises, the would-be developer. “I don’t have anything to say about it on the record,” Bradshaw said. He said he voted for Landrieu in the first election and he’ll do so again. “I think the mayor’s leadership of the city of New Orleans has been critical and important.”

The Lower 9th Ward still doesn’t have a grocery store.

Landrieu said the project required more public funds from the city than were available.

In 2010, Landrieu removed all of the members of the New Orleans Public Belt Railroad board – including Henry — following revelations that the railroad’s general manager had misspent money.

Henry had left the board to run for mayor, and the other members reappointed him once the race was over because they said he did his homework and attended meetings.

The mayor “blew up” when he got the news of the reappointment, one of the board members told The Lens. Another board member is convinced that the mayor asked the entire board to resign as punishment for reappointing Henry. Neither would be identified because they still have business that could be affected by Landrieu.

Sharp words, publicly and privately

Several people told The Lens that they had unpleasant chance encounters with Landrieu. One of them was Jane Booth, an attorney who represented residents next to where Tulane University wanted to build a football stadium.

Booth and her clients grew worried that Tulane was running roughshod over them. They wanted the city to better defend their interests.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu horses around with a kid last summer after he officially opened the renovated John P. Lyons Memorial Center, which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina. Photos like this are common as Landrieu marks signs of progress after the storm. But critics say the mayor has dressed them down if they question his decisions.

John McCusker / The Advocate

Mayor Mitch Landrieu horses around with a kid last summer after he officially opened the renovated John P. Lyons Memorial Center, which had been closed since Hurricane Katrina. Photos like this are common as Landrieu marks signs of progress after the storm. But critics say the mayor has dressed them down if they question his decisions.

One evening in 2012, she was sitting with several friends at a Jazz Fest gala when she saw the mayor. Booth, who had known Landrieu for years, greeted him and asked for five minutes of his time to relay the neighbors’ concerns.

“He looked at me and said, ‘That’s the last thing on my list of priorities,’” Booth said. She repeated that she just needed five minutes.

“This is the last thing on my list of priorities. I don’t think you heard me.” He walked away. She and her friends looked at each other.

“We were all shocked and surprised,” Booth said.

Landrieu said Wednesday that it was inappropriate for Booth to raise the issue then because he was at a social event with his wife.

Booth now believes that the mayor had privately sided with Tulane and viewed the neighbors as obstructionists. The city reached a stadium agreement that Booth said “benefitted Tulane 100 percent.”

Ryan Berni, the mayor’s campaign spokesman, said the mayor arranged meetings that brought the two sides together to discuss concerns, but in the end “the zoning allowed for the stadium to proceed.”

Immediately after the encounter, Booth said, the city canceled a small contract where she represented the city in zoning issues when the city attorney had a conflict of interest.

Booth noted that she has no direct proof that Landrieu yanked the contract. She has decided to support Bagneris for mayor.

Don Hubbard recounted an incident that happened just three weeks ago.

Hubbard was one of the first African-Americans to work at City Hall, appointed to his job in 1970 by Mayor Moon Landrieu, Mitch’s father. Hubbard has known the mayor for years. They typically hug when they see each other.

Shortly before Christmas — right around when Bagneris entered the race — Hubbard was sitting in his office at the Hubbard Mansion, a bed and breakfast on St. Charles Avenue, when the mayor called to ask for his support.

“We have some things to talk about,” a skeptical Hubbard said he told the mayor, who retorted, “Where in the f— is this coming from?”

Hubbard said he shot back that he could use that word with the best of them. He then told Landrieu, “I hadn’t made up my mind in the mayor’s race, but based on this conversation, I now have.” The call ended moments later.

Recalling what happened, Hubbard said, “I wouldn’t allow any man living or not yet born to talk to me that way. I guess he thought he was entitled to my support.”

Landrieu declined to discuss his conversation with Hubbard.

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  • TimGNO

    Tip of the iceberg, my friends. Tip. of. the. Iceberg!

  • Janet Hays

    It’s been 3 months since a “formal” meeting request was made to Landrieu to discuss a feasible way to bring back the Charity Building as a mental health facility/medical research complex. Despite overwhelming community support, the request was kicked to the Neighborhood Engagement office where it still sits in limbo. Numerous attempts were made previous to that to inform the Landrieu Administration about the idea.

    Apparently you need to be able to produce a bank note to have access. [Or have celebrity status] A great idea is not worthy of discussion. I thought the way government was supposed to work is by listening to people and letting them set priorities for policy and then bring developers in to make it happen. Mitch does it backwards. He lets developers set priorities and then squeezes every penny he can get out of us through taxes and fees to stovepipe to the heads of Boards and CEOs.

    In 2010, the Save Charity Hospital group gathered 11 000 petitions to ask for Landrieu’s support to put what was the new LSU Hospital – now LCMC – back into the existing Charity building. Save Charity, in order to be accountable to the people that signed, arranged for an event to publicly deliver them to Landrieu on the steps of City Hall. He refused to allow us to meet with him if there was any media. He did not want a “media circus”

    More info on the Charity idea here: http://savecharityhospital.com/content/2014-city-wide-election-where-do-candidates-stand

  • Nick Kindel

    Congratulation to The Lens on getting your last ever interview with Mitch Landrieu!

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Let’s see…. the first people who complained are Recreation…Well, I can tell that is NOT important as it doesn’t bring any revenue to the city and acts as a baby sitting service for irresponsible parents.

    The other groups, main NON-profits, are all SEEKING MONEY for whatever poor people or victims that are crying the most.

    REGARDLESS, Those who didn’t get what they wanted…which means MONEY….should read this.

    Advocate: Last year, for example, Jefferson generated $310.7 million in sales taxes, excluding taxes generated from the sale of food and drugs, automobiles and hotel and motel rooms in the parish. Orleans Parish brought in just $162.9 million, but that includes every category, meaning the gap between the two parishes is even greater.
    http://bit.ly/1eCPYPg

    IN OTHER WORDS, Jeff Parish doesn’t have a lot of touristy things, hotels, French Quarter, Superdome, Mardi Gras, JAZZ FEST, FQ Fest or music events. Yet they still make more than twice as much as Orleans Parish Big Talk Tourism, Culture, etc….

    NOLA will continue to be underfunded for crime, recreation, and whatever non-profit wants money, if the city cannot attract business.

    The HOSPITAL doesn’t generate any money as it’s paid by tax payer dollars in one form or another and as you can see the STATE also doesn’t have any money either as many of the oil companies left for Houston.

    If you can see the declining City revenues and backlog of emergency items and projects,

    you will see a NOLA BANKRUPTCY.

    You think it’s bad now and IF YOU DISAGREE with the Mayor, just look at Detroit.

    The Mayor, the elected city officials are constantly faced with EMERGENCY ITEMS every day but still can’t address them cause there IS NO MONEY to FIX THEM even if you got rid of the deputy mayors.

    Why is this?

    It’s the PENSIONS…which take around 40% of the city revenues that are the problem….the exact same thing with Detroit, US Postal Service and even Car companies….

  • nickelndime

    Think again, Helena. St. Jude (Saint of Impossible Causes) won’t be of any help to you on this one. This Landrieu does not fall far from the family tree. In fact, the Devil and one apple (the serpent was not the real culprit) may be involved. Landrieu#1, Landrieu#2, Landrieu#3 – what images does this name invoke? Not good. You are quite correct. Landrieu is a bully. Absolute power corrupts, absolutely. Thank you Ann Duplessis for your…whatever it is. Thank you Greg St. Etienne…for Liberty Bank (the both of you). Obviously, the FDIC and the federal government are far more lucrative than city government. Yes, this is the tip of the iceberg. Now, who is going to get this guy out of here? Voters!? Don’t count on it.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    The Save Charity Hospital Group could have petitions by very single doctor, nurse and health care provider in all of Louisiana and it still wouldn’t make a difference as the state and New Orleans doesn’t even have enough money to pay for enough staff at the DMV for your driver’s license or fix the lights and streets in NOLA.

    Sure, everybody wants great health services, but look at NOLA’s economy. It’s low paid tourism that brings in like 40% of what Jeff Parish brings in and Jeff Parish has very little industries in the first place when compared to cities outside of Louisiana. New Orleans has had a declining population for like 50 years.

    Plus, New Orleans has been declining in CITY RANK for like 170 years (NOLA used to be the #3 city in America at one time).

    Does this make sense?

    SQUEEZING PENNIES FROM TAX PAYERS?
    He lets developers set priorities and then squeezes every penny he can
    get out of us through taxes and fees to stovepipe to the heads of Boards
    and CEOs.

    Most of NOLA pays ZERO taxes.
    #1 Orleans Parish Sales Taxes are like 40% of boring Jeff Parish.
    #2 Only 40% of the properties in Orleans Parish pay any property taxes.
    (High Huey P Long NINJA LOAN Homestead Exemption that other states do not have)
    http://bit.ly/1iIXUwK
    #3 The Poverty Rate on Orleans Parish is like 50% so how can the Poor have Second Lines Parades (which are nothing more than Bar Hopping with a permit) yet still are on EBT, WIC, SNAP and Section 8

    Even The Lens NOLA had to let go one of their staffers recently. Want to know why? Cause the Lens couldn’t find enough money or businesses via donation or advertising to pay that person, that’s why.

    Lastly, NOLA is going to be either in DENIAL or SHOCK if it can ask this question.

    IF THERE IS NO FREE LUNCH, how can there be such a thing like a FREE SHOW like Mardi Gras? For 100-200 years, Mardi Gras loses money for the city as there is no such thing as a FREE SHOW.

    What makes Walt Disney World and Las Vegas Shows different than New Orleans?
    Orlando and Las Vegas charge money for it’s entertainment and shows while NOLA hosts it’s parades and shows for FREE. Orlando and Las Vegas Shows don’t believe in the HYPE of Economic Impact either.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    The real tip of the iceberg will be when NOLA realizes there is no free lunch.

    In other words, If there is no free lunch, how can there be such a thing as a free show like Mardi Gras?

    NOLA has been declining in population for 50 years and declining in city rank, hence competitiveness and quality of life for like 170 years (NOLA used to be the #3 city in America)

    The sales tax dollars of Big Talk Orleans Parish is like 40% of boring Jeff Parish.

  • Janet Hays

    The most interesting thing about your comment AhContraire is that it’s obviously you haven’t read the idea. The point about the petitions is to demonstrate Mitch’s habit of manipulating the media through his pr and propaganda tactics. You can read the plan here: http://savecharityhospital.com/content/2014-city-wide-election-where-do-candidates-stand

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    There are lots of ideas on New Orleans. The question is how to pay for it.

    See that Save Charity Plan.
    It talks about SAVING MONEY ($283M) by using what available.
    (1) Yet, is that SaveCharityHospital.com plan really going to attract “new” business?
    (2) Why would a new outside business want to go setup shop at or around a revitalized Charity?
    (3) Did new businesses flock to the Charity in the past? Or ever? If so, why not provide proof of the new businesses that said, “Hey Charity is or was a great place for networking and starting a new bio-med business.”
    (4) Clearing out the other space for the new bio med center clears out a lot of properties that were crime ridden, used lots of city services, and were under the Homestead Exemption and didn’t pay property taxes while declaring themselves as “historic”. (This is a KEY POINT!)

    “Saving Money” is not the same as “Making Money” or “Generating New Revenue” for the City by attracting new businesses. This is where the NOLA DOCTORS and NURSES are wrong and short-sighted.

    If I were running the city and I get calls every day about why isn’t this fixed, or that person is shot, or this and that, and then look at my bank account and find that I can’t even pay for current things, I would get mad as non-profits constantly asking me for things that have no immediate financial impact as I, the city, is barely able to pay city employees their weekly paycheck as business are leaving.

  • Jason Brad Berry

    Berni, why don’t you just start using your name?

  • Nadra Enzi

    Mitch is a classic Dixiecrat. I think he confuses this city with his own personal plantation. Here’s one else he froze out: Bro Al Mims: New Orleans #1 Anti Crime Crusader! http://capblackhood.blogspot.com/2014/01/brother-al-mims-new-orleans-1-anti.html

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Instead of attacking the messenger, why not attack the message?

    Right now, I really see no one arguing against my message….pretty much silence.

    And just as well, the numbers speak for themselves…not that I had to tell you that. You can already see that for yourself with the orange cones marking all the
    pot holes all around the city while action reporters broadcast the spots daily….still 8 year after Hurricane Katrina…..And what does the water leak around that gumbo shop in the French Gutter have as an excuse as the French Quarter didn’t flood did it? http://bit.ly/1eXJ1nK

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Want to know more about me? See below and even if you are afraid to follow me, you can still bookmark me.

    “love thy neighbor as thyself” but don’t forget that the “Lord disciplines the one he loves”
    - Hebrews 12:6
    “I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think its hell.”
    - Harry S. Truman
    Can’t stand the “Proud-to-call-New-Orleans-Home” bumper sticker types?
    2 afraid 2 follow me on Twitter? Bookmark http://twitter.com/AhContraire

  • Jason Brad Berry

    You’re challenging me to follow you on Twitter? Are you daft? I don’t want to follow you anywhere. You’re commenting on every online forum in the city…if you’re not sockpuppeting for Landrieu and getting paid you need to send them a bill.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    And cannot anyone reply to any comment I made?
    Why yes they can reply or rebut.
    Yet, have you or anyone else replied with a different opinion or point of view? Very rarely.

  • Jason Brad Berry

    Have you considered that perhaps your comments have little to do with the article itself? If you want me to comment on the article itself, particularly the part about Cathy Norman and Wisner, I’m more than qualified. Your comments regarding the budget shortfall Mitch faced when entering office are valid, I know all too well what kind of lurch Nagin left the city in but that has little to do with the subject matter of Tyler’s story.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    The Wisner Trust seems like a lot of money.

    Yet after 20 years of management by Cathy Norman, can you show and cite some examples of how the Wisner trust has made the city better in a long term and beneficial way?

  • Jason Brad Berry

    You clearly have no idea of how the Trust operates. Norman was the Treasurer/Secretary, she had no decision making authority in who received the annual grants from the city. The trust has strict guidelines on how the City must spend the money it receives that is generated mostly from oil and gas leases. Norman doesn’t make those decisions…she never has.

    Mitch not only refused to operate under the bylaws of the Trust, he launched a hostile takeover of the Wisner Trust Advisory Committee 5 person board in order to get what he wanted. He politically bargained with LSU and Tulane to oust their sitting members and replace them with two sycophants who would answer to his demands and manipulation of the board. Immediately after he subverted democracy in order to gain a quorum on the Committee, he had his lapdog, Michael Sherman, whom he appointed as his rep. on the Committee make a motion to fire the existing law firm the Trust had contracted to litigate the Wisner Trust’s case against BP in the law spill.

    The 3-man quorum Sherman (City), Tulane, and LSU reps. then voted to hire 3 law firms under a joint venture agreement to take up the case.

    These lawyers, some of which were present in the Mayor’s office when Cathy Norman was hot-boxed, threatened and pressured into capitulating to the Mayor’s demands, also serve on the Plaintiff Steering Committee in the BP multi-district litigation settlement. Jim Roy, Steve Herman, and Calvin Fayard also constituted about 14% of Landrieu’s campaign contributions for 2012…about $140,000. These lawyers now stand to make 10′s of millions of dollars in the Wisner settlement with BP.

    Norman was terrorized by Landrieu and his pit bull, Sherman, for not bending over and meeting the Mayor’s demands.

    The difference between Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu is that Nagin ended up taking 50k bribes under the table because he didn’t have the political stroke to play 100 million dollar games with some of the most valuable property in the state like Landrieu can.

    I have been writing this story for over a year and a half, Landrieu’s actions are deplorable. I believe he has manipulated the judiciary in order to take over the Wisner land completely by dissolving the trust in order to sell it off for his own political gain. All the while enriching his uber-wealthy political donors.

    So when you talk about lack of funds make sure you point out that it’s the city that is struggling with a lack of funds…not Mitch Landrieu.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Wait one second.

    I asked what has the Wisner Trust done for the City of New Orleans in the past 20 years?

    Let’s forget and stop talking about C Norman for a minutes or more, and please tell us what the Wisner Trust has done for the City of New Orleans in the last 20 years that has positively benefited the city from a long term point of view? (Many New Orleaneans don’t even know about the Wisner Trust in the first place, except for a street named Wisner that has speed cameras that ticket drivers.)

  • Jason Brad Berry

    - “I asked what has the Wisner Trust done for the City of New Orleans in the past 20 years?”

    Wait two seconds….no you did not.

    “Yet after 20 years of management by Cathy Norman, can you show and cite some examples of how the Wisner trust has made the city better in a long term and beneficial way?”

    You called into question Cathy Norman’s competency and the question implies she had some control over how the grants were spent for the city.

    I am going to answer your question but you clearly don’t understand what the Wisner Trust is, how it was created, what the stipulations are regarding the grants from the city or how it is managed.

    How has it benefitted the city? The grant was bestowed by Edward Wisner to benefit philanthropic entities, primarily to serve the indigent and support the arts. That’s what it’s done for nearly one century, it will reach the 100 year mark this summer. In the past twenty years it has provided tens of millions of dollars through city grants to countless non-profit entities that serve the poor and to countless entities that support the arts, e.g., NOMA, The New Orleans Symphony, The New Orleans Ballet Co., The New Orleans Jazz Orchestra, The Arts Council…it’s a very long list.

    The money that goes to LSU was actually originally designated to Charity, LSU received it because they were running Charity Hospital up until last year. Tulane spends the money as they see fit and the Salvation Army should be self-explanatory in it’s role as a philanthropic entity that serves the indigent.

    Now my guess is that you’re going to try and argue that the trust really isn’t serving the city because you don’t agree with the entities the money is going to or you don’t give a crap about serving the indigent. But before you do…that argument is moot.

    The Wisner Trust, like any trust, was a private fortune that was bestowed to the city with strict stipulations. It’s not a matter of public money or tax income generated by the public…it’s money generated from a gift bestowed to the city by a private individual, Edward Wisner, with stipulations that the money generated be used to benefit the city, and the other beneficiaries, in the areas he wanted to benefit. You can’t take the money and spend it on whatever you want, i.e., the consent decree. The city agreed to these stipulations when they contractually agreed to receive the grant money.

    MItch is determined to take over the entire Trust and the land by hook or crook….and so far it’s been crook by pushing the matter into court and using his political stroke to manipulate the judiciary. It’s beyond anything Ray Nagin could have pulled off or even imagined.

    Which brings us back full circle to the original subject matter of this post. He has bullied, manipulated, threatened and I believe bribed (with indirect monetary gain) people in this city and state to further his own political career.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Now my guess is that you’re going to try and argue that the trust really
    isn’t serving the city because you don’t agree with the entities the
    money is going to or you don’t give a crap about serving the indigent.
    But before you do…that argument is moot.

    ENEMY FOR LIFE? Or POOR FOR LIFE
    Are the entities that the Wisner Trust money “really” serving the indigent from a long-term beneficial view? Last time I checked, the indigents of Nola are only getting WORSE, regardless if the trust money is going to whatever school, hospital, or non-profit.

    The Wisner Trust money was suppose to help the indigent get better and on their feet and not be indigent forever, or “POOR FOR LIFE”.

    This reminds me of the homeless and all those people who give food and stuff to the homeless near the New Orleans Mission. All that free food and stuff only LURES and TRICKS them to live under the bridge and be trapped by drugs and alcohol. Jesus said “feed the poor”, Jesus did not say “feed the addictions”.

    Is there a list of Wisner Trust grantees? If I could, I would stop all that money from going to entities, non-profits, schools, hospitals, that are only entrapping the indigent as opposed to what the Wisner Trust is supposed to do, and that’s helping the indigent for the long term. Wisner Trust and it’s current operations reminds me of welfare, EBT, WIC, SNAP and Section 8 as it’s no different and only promotes irresponsibility among the indigent and entraps the indigent in the cycle of poverty and crime. The Wisner Trust could be used for ONE-WAY TICKETS for the indigent to send them to cities that have JOBS today, not tomorrow or promises of 1-3 years from now.

  • Craig

    A verse you must have missed in your persual of the text: “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” Matthew 7.

  • Craig

    Arguing with the likes of you is like throwing pearls before swine.. a waste.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Can you tell me what the difference between a JUDGEMENT and an OPINION is?

    And can you tell me the difference between a JUDGEMENT and “STATING ONE’S BELIEF” is?

    A judgement (eg court ruling) usually renders a physical incarceration, imprisonment or monetary damage/reward. I don’t recall a judgement being the same as a press release or an opinion poll.

    This “Judge Not” Bible verse reminds me of the Pharisees in their literal
    interpretation of the Sabbath Day commandment and how Jesus had to correct them in their reading and literal interpretation of the Sabbath and what Keeping the Sabbath Day holy means.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    …and to countless entities that support the arts, e.g., NOMA, The New
    Orleans Symphony, The New Orleans Ballet Co., The New Orleans Jazz
    Orchestra, The Arts Council…it’s a very long list.

    So basically these art entities are partly funded by Wisner, yet Nola’s has very few professionals who can find good jobs to attend and enjoy these art and music performances by these art entities. The number of professionals in NOLA is phenomenally low.

    Recent Entrepreneur who had to GOOD BYE 2 NOLA
    (please see my comments, if you are not afraid to read them)
    http://bit.ly/1gAHeH8

  • Jason Brad Berry

    You live up to your screen name. You are arguing tangents and can’t seem to focus on the subject at hand, therefore I leave you to your own devices.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Norman was the Treasurer/Secretary, she had no decision making authority in who received the annual grants from the city.

    The descendants also cited Landrieu’s actions that have resulted in the resignation of Cathy Norman as executive director of the trust, effective Jan. 25. Norman had led the trust for 20 years, but was at odds with Landrieu and his staff over the legal representation and other issues.
    http://bit.ly/1azLZfw

    So it this person the Treasurer/Secretary or the Executive Director

    These lawyers now stand to make 10′s of millions of dollars in the Wisner settlement with BP.

    And what was the Wisner’s original lawyer and Wisner’s Management position on the BP settlement? Was Wisner’s original lawyer going to make any money? Or were these original lawyers doing it for free?

    KEY QUESTION:
    Does the Wisner’s original lawyer have experience in these types of oil spill and massive settlement lawsuits? The BP settlement is very important and it is a BIG DEAL and it needs to be handled correctly.

    I don’t see how a day-to-day, staff operations lawyer for the Wisner Trust would have any relevant experience in a massive BP oil settlement.

  • Jason Brad Berry

    Yes…Waltzer and Wiygul specialize in environmental lawsuits. They were vetted by the Committee after a long review process of many different law firms who submitted resumes.

    The JV attorneys Landrieu hired are not environmental lawyers and had little understanding of the Wisner property and it the issues.

  • Jason Brad Berry

    She was not Executive Director, she was the Treasurer/Secretary. Aside from that, she had no vote over how the City spends it’s portion of the grant money. Her position was the “point person” but she had no control over how the City spent the grants.

    I’m not going to promote myself in this comment section but if you Google Wisner Trust you will find all the answers to these questions and much more than you will every care to read.

  • Craig

    No, to refer to all unemployed black males as universally “irresponsible” is to pass judgement on them, no matter how you try to hide or obfuscate it. You could at least have the spine to admit what you are saying instead of struggling to have an evasive answer for any response you get.

    It’s sad seing you basically try to equate yourself with Jesus, you and Kanye West should hang out together sometime and try to out-Jesus each other. 90+% of the posts I’ve seen you make can be summarized as: “Alcohol, bad! Alcohol is the scourge of society! It’s the devil, Bobby!” Apparently while you compare yourself to Jesus the whole water-into-wine thing escapes you. Or perhaps you simply misinterpreted that as well as everything else

    People like you are so pathetic. I know from experience that you aren’t the type who actually opens your mouth and publicly says these inane things aloud. No, you see something, interpret it in your own distorted manner, then race home to your keyboard where you can say whatever you want on your imaginary soapbox without being held accountable. You’re a coward…if not a lunatic. You even pathetically promote your own Twitter as if you’re some kind of local celebrity with a following. Delusional, that’s what you are. I pray that you open your mouth in public just once and let the vitriol flow long enough to get what’s coming to you.

  • Tracy Renee

    Tragically, The Lens consistently ignores its dictate of clear reporting and muddies the issues with character assassination without substantiation. Even if elements of this report are true, they are mere threads of the fabric of a great man. Inherent in the execution of all life responsibilities is the duality of human error alongside the imperative of success. Allow our mayor to be human.

    Fortunately, this journal’s biased reporting is only one facet of the truth available to the public. We as citizens must spend more time knowing our elected officials not through the lens of writers like this one, but through interpersonal engagement with the people and the city.

    Compelling writing does not have the market on truth; Don’t allow it to persuade you otherwise. To do so, would be tantamount to believing tobacco advertising, which would have us conclude that smoking is a wonderful way to live.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Why do I get down votes yet NO REPLIES?

    I guess it’s called “attacking the messenger”, instead of the message.

  • NOLA_Darling

    So actual accounts of the mayor bullying people who disagree with him, cancelling valid city contracts with people he doesn’t like, and trying to de-fund nonprofits because he doesn’t like one of their board members is “character assassination”. Rob Couhig is rich and has nothing to gain or lose from speaking out. Unlike Helena Moreno and Walt Leger, Jeff Arnold is a political veteran with a decades long track record of positive, productive public and community service, so any accounts by him and others of incidents where the mayor has tried to have him removed from a public boards because he has refused to do the mayor’s bidding have to be treated as credible.

    I will reiterate what others have already said, these stories are just the tip of the iceberg. Talk to anyone who has had dealings with the public sector and they will have at least one personal account and at least three indirect accounts, of “Monster Mitch” in action. There’s a reason why his own local party officials (i.e., the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee) refused to endorse him, despite his and his family’s considerable political influence.

  • NOLA_Darling

    What are you trying to say by referencing this blog posting? Reading is fundamental but comprehension is crucial and something you obviously lack.

  • NOLA_Darling

    From rigging contract selection and hiring processes, to threatening people with professional and economic retribution if they oppose him, Mitch Landrieu is a tyrant of the highest order. Just spend one afternoon at the Rib Room, Dicky Brennan’s or any of the other establishments where the city’s business power brokers hang out, and you will hear stories that will make you wonder why the man isn’t being indicted. More than one business person has said that he’s not sure the city can survive another Landrieu term, but that everyone is too afraid of retribution from Mitch, Mary and Moon to participate in or support any opposition.

  • NOLA_Darling

    Your comments, while possibly valid when looked at outside the context of this article, sound like irrelevant rants of a drunken Kanye West at the Grammys.

  • NOLA_Darling

    Along with the T-P refusing to post anymore stories from their “partners at The Lens”.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    You just can’t handle the truth, can you?
    Well, here are some PICTURES instead.
    (Not as much to read, you can comprehend it? Or perhaps accept it?)

    GRAPH of Historical Metro Populations of the US;
    NOLA (NO) is like #5 at 1840 in dark brown.
    https://twitter.com/AhContraire/status/424731933679972354
    (click on peakbagger link at top)

    NOLA had rapid rise from 1810 to 1840 when compared to other top cities. Other than that, it’s been 170 yrs of decline.

    The rapid rise probably caused some to say/estimate a #3 ranking instead of #5

  • silvestris

    Don’t know this one, but Katrina Mary has made me anti-Landrieu.

  • ConservativeCreole

    I think it’s time for some Conservative leadership here in the Big Easy. These progressives have made a mess of my beloved New Orleans.

  • nickelndime

    4Gored’sSake. The Lower 9th Ward DO have a grocery store. In fact, it gots 2. It’s called Family Dollar and Dollar General! Who DAT say the Lower 9th dont’s have choices (its like the choices dat dem dat gots is dem dat gives us da choices). We ayn’t as dumb as u think we is/are, Mitch, dat you be givin’ us wit dat strong handskake u gots. We know how to cross bridges.

  • Nolaresident

    Well I can see what the author called you:

    Coward.

    AhContraire

    Joe Corbett

    Are you saying that your clients are cowards for not want to stay in NOLA?

    Joe Corbett

    AhContraire

    No. I’m calling you a coward for hiding behind the anonymity of the internet.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    And where did this guy Joe go after one year in NOLA? He went back to D.C. while his wife left even earlier. Why not ask his wife what she thinks of NOLA?

  • Jason Brad Berry

    Did you get confused commenting in your pick-up truck on the way to the Klan rally and end up in this forum instead of the Nola.com forum?

  • http://www.laugh-eat.com/ kyron

    “Several people told The Lens that they had unpleasant chance encounters with Landrieu.”

    “Johnson said Landrieu wrote her a scathing email in response. The Lens asked to see the message, but she said she couldn’t find it.”

    …local politican has enemies — news at 11.

    btw, if Troy Henry is the star victim in your piece, you’re writing it wrong.

  • http://thelensnola.org/ Steve Myers

    We encourage a free-flowing discussion on our stories, and I’m generally impressed with the level of discussion among Lens readers. This story raises a number of issue related to Landrieu’s leadership as mayor, so I expected the discussion to be wide-ranging. However, in some cases the conversation has degenerated or veered well off-topic.

    I’ve deleted the comments that were the farthest off-topic or uncivil. Please keep the discussion to the subjects raised in this story and remember that this is the place to have civilized, substantial conversations, no matter how impassioned.

    Thank you,
    Steve Myers
    Managing editor

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    I googled Wisner Trust and the Advocate says Sec/Treas, but the NOLA.com say Exec Dir.

    How can a “Point Person” be the one involved with the selection of the lawyers, yet not the one who also controls the grant spending?

  • nickelndime

    I really appreciate the manner in which THE LENS’ looks at the substance of comments and appears to consider the merits (pros and cons, etc.) of the posts. Now that some comments have been deleted, I have an overwhelming urge to read them, sorta like when, on a commercial, viewers are advised not to try something daring – like driving on top of a moving train (getting my keys, looking for a moving train), or walking across the street when the sign says, DON’T WALK. So, I was wondering, does THE LENS have a special section, like a VERBOTEN section, where readers, duly warned, can look at the deleted comments?!! I’m just messing with you, Steve. Nice work.

  • Jason Brad Berry

    Fair enough…but you left this one up?:

    nickelndime

    • a day ago

    4Gored’sSake. The Lower 9th Ward DO have a grocery store. In fact, it gots 2. It’s called Family Dollar and Dollar General! Who DAT say the Lower 9th dont’s have choices (its like the choices dat dem dat gots is dem dat gives us da choices). We ayn’t as dumb as u think we is/are, Mitch, dat you be givin’ us wit dat strong handskake u gots. We know how to cross bridges.

  • Jason Brad Berry

    She was not responsible for the selection of the lawyers, nor was she responsible for how the City chose their grants, nor did she have a vote within the 5 person committee.

    She was the “point person” because she was the secretary. She oversaw the daily operations of the Trust and the Advisory Committee….just as the current secretary/treasurer does now.

  • rick

    Good article, but I wish there wasnt so much hearsay….lots of claims with little evidence. Babs couldnt “find” the email, eh…

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    IF the Secretary/Treasurer oversees the daily operations, what do the other officials, like the President and VP do? Shouldn’t they have a say and why didn’t the media get interviews with them, the President and VP, before publishing anything? If the Mayor had to go the Secretary/Treasurer to get anything done and disagrees with the Secretary/Treasurer, why can’t the Mayor go to the President?

    The “Point Person” seems like the defacto President

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    If she is not responsible for the selection of the lawyers, what in the world is she doing in the picture, and in this discussion, in the first place?

    How can a “point person” not be responsible for selection of the lawyer? This “point person” sounds more like a “press secretary”.

    The fact that we, us, and the media is having this discussion in the first place tells me there is a communication and chain of command problem.

    Note, the original lawyers appear to have experience in environmental, but not large complex cases, nor does it seem like it’s a firm with a lot of in-house resources. Seems like 2 guys who already have a lot work on their hands, so how can they devote a lot of resources to the BP spill?

  • Jason Brad Berry

    Have you considered seeking medical help? Seriously. You are making scenarios up in your head simply to argue. I think you need help, bro.

  • http://www.twitter.com/AhContraire AhContraire

    Wow, no President or VP, yet there is a Secretary/Treasurer????
    So there is only one executive person, then?

    Who is the committee then?

    What kind of organization is this? Seems like there are more
    “job titles and job positions” then actual people with assigned responsibility.

  • Craig

    Go google Red State Welfare Queens. Conservative “leadership” has practically cratered the south. And Mitch is no progressive, not by a long shot.

  • ConservativeCreole

    what is that article’s author basing their findings on?
    Mitch certainly is not a blue-dog democrat, either.

  • ConservativeCreole
  • Craig

    Whatever. The rebuttal tries to go back 30 years in time instead of acknowledging the playing field as it has been in recent history. It’s an old ploy, like when the cons try to whitewash their racial prejudices and claim Democrats are “the real racists” because of their long-ago support of segregation. I could care less if you’re in denial.

  • ConservativeCreole

    it gives you a historical basis for current situations. everything builds on what was before …
    if you could care less, stop replying since you’re not interested in cogent, respectful discourse. Peace

  • Craig

    Excuse me? “Respectful?” I see no need to respect conservatives and their propaganda with what they’re doing to this country. They are entitled to none. And as for “cogent”, your idea of that is to post conservative spin pieces that I doubt you even read. It’s ironic when conservatives want to call facts “junk science” (as your piece did) considering conservatives have shunned science as being “liberally biased.” So they create their own facts and rewrite history. There’s no point in respecting that. You want to blame “progressives” yet you want to ride your high horse and talk about “cogent, respectful discourse.” You’re a hypocrite. When you guys want to stop screwing over the sick, the poor, the non-white, the non-heterosexual, and the non-evangelical, maybe I’ll think about throwing a little respect your way. Take your poor self-persecuted self somewhere else if you can’t deal with that. PEACE.