Wednesday, October 11, 2006

We're rednecks, we're rednecks...

I think most of you know the rest of the words to the chorus of the Randy Newman song. They are ringing in my head as I read the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate denunciation of the "dysfunctional civic culture" of tNew Orleans. For all our problems, this is a tremendous insult to the 200,000 people who have come home by their own efforts and at their own expense to try to rebuild a city.

Of all of the successes and failures of the last year, to select the challenge of finding enough poll commissions is petty and malicious. It recklessly disregards contradictory facts about "our civic culture", motivated I believe by enthusiasm for our failure.

It is the most insulting thing I've read in a year, because it comes not from some distant and empty-headed political pundit or chronic complainer to radio and the editorial page, but from the editorial board of the newspaper of of the state capitol. My view is that once-sleepy Baton Rouge sees its future as a boom town tied to our failure.

Here is the letter I sent in response.
Your editorial “Old Habits Hamper City" is an insult to the 200,000 people who have returned to New Orleans. In the areas with a large returnee population, we turned out our old city council members. We tried to elect a new mayor, but were outvoted by absentee voters who have not invested their lives in New Orleans future. Next time. We campaigned for and won reform of the levee board system. We are tearing down the old and broken regime as fast as we can, in the same fashion we are putting our homes back together.

Thousands of Orleanians with two jobs--a day job and a damaged home to work on--- with children in distant schools with no bus service, without basic civic amenities such as garbage collection and mail service, are finding time to turn out to participate in the redevelopment of our city through volunteer service and the planning process. We have come home without a dime of government assistance and little or nothing from the insurance for which we all paid, because of our commitment to a successful New Orleans. This is a "dysfunctional civic culture"? Why not make our lot the conditions of service as a poll commissioner statewide, and see how other parishes fare?

We demand an apology and a retraction, but don't expect one. Once-sleepy Baton Rouge's economic future as a boom town is too closely tied to a failed New Orleans for us to expect any sympathy. Perhaps you should look at your own failures, such as your traffic congestion. You have had a year to build new roads and expand transit to accommodate the influx and what have you done? Oh, that takes money? Federal money? And time? Aren't those sad excuses that reflect your own failure as a city to deal with the situation?

Thousands of Americans, from Louisiana and elsewhere, have come down and volunteered and walked a mile in our shoes. To these people, we are eternally grateful. Only someone who has not done this could possibly have penned such an editorial. Until we see the story on your page one trumpeting the work of your editorial board to gut a house, clear a neutral ground or paint a charter school, I suggest you forfeit the right to criticize us.

It is an insult we will not soon forget. And we’re not going away.

Damn. Now I feel better. Here, now you tell them what you think.

Way to go, Mark! Very well written. I hope it hits them hard.

Thank you.
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Baton Rouge is lecturing on us our civic culture. The Southern Baptists I grew up with would have remembered the bible verses about the beam in your eye or casting the first stone, guess they don't in B.R.

A city's whose cops behave so badly that state troopers from two other states leave in disgust, has nobusiness leturing other cities. You know how the B.R. police department responded to those complaints from New Mexico and Michigan state troopers? It conducted an internal investigation and declared itself innocent.

civic culture
When we catch up to Baton Rouge in AIDS cases per capita, when we become a little more selfish and republican, when we only care about winning football

then I'll even begin to think anything outta BR has merit.
That was a great letter Mark.
Apologies from someone who lives in Baton Rouge. The editorial in no way is representative of my views, and I certainly hope it doesn't speak for everyone in Red Stick...although, to be honest, BR isn't exactly a place of enlightenment. Sometimes I think insulting, incorrect, and ugly remarks like what the paper wrote are done out of sheer spite: New Orleans is a world class city, Red Stick is a sleepy redneck town. Oh, and as far as the recent "growth"? Well, it's really just more sprawl...which makes us more like a mini-Houston than anything else.

I dunno--maybe that's punishment enough.
This cheap shot editorial doen't surprise me. Baton Rouge hates New Orleans. I suspect there are many folks there who are secretly enjoying our misfortune. I have spent a lot of time there and can say that no two cities are more different than NO and BR. Two different peoples, two different cultures. For more than two centuries BR has lived in the shadow of NO, and the editorial clearly reflects the perception that this is their opportunity to overtake NO in importance. This insufferable editorial probably represents more a perceived pandering to the Advocate's smug constituency than it does anything else.
Excellent letter. And yes, B.R. people love to bash N.O. I have theories about this. One is that "New Orleans" to them is code for "Black". Another is, it's just envy of all that nice architecture and culture.
You know, I've been leaving that article open on my desktop for two weeks wanting to comment on it, but it's absolutely beyond my comprehension how they could possibly stoop to such a hack job piece. There are any number of reasons why people don't sign up as poll workers. Just for starters, they make it near impossible for people with busy schedules to train for the positions. Then, I never understood why they don't split the day up into shifts rather than make people work the whole day.

I'm still pissed at this one. I almost wish I hadn't read it.
I've always wondered why, with NO and BR so close there is no train service.
Think of the huge benefits.
There was talk about a BR-NO rail link back in the 1980s, along with a proposal to re-start commuter rail service to the Gulf Coast. (I had family friends that once commuted from Waveland via rail, and stayed when rail service stopped long ago).

It makes perfect sense to have train service between the cities, but I don't expect to see it happen any time soon.
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