Tonight we welcome a few hundred new members to the Nation Of Morons. Namely, those caring citizens of New Orleans who are fighting the good fight to help keep poor black people stuck in the Projects for another generation.
Emotions came to a head at todays city council meeting when angry citizens lost control and began a brawl which cleared the dais and sent council members scurrying off to safe rooms. The council had just begun a meeting to determine if the City of New Orleans and HANO, the Housing Authority of New Orleans, had the right to demolish the many rat infested, mold covered housing projects around the city. Soon after the disturbance was abated, the council got down to brass tacks and unanimously ruled that the projects must go in order for New Orleans to move forward, but also added provisos that the units must be replaced and no one would be denied their rights to fair housing.
Meanwhile, outside the building, throngs of angry protesters got even angrier when they were denied access to the already over-attended meeting. Instead of the usual chanting and folksinging, a few bright individuals began to storm the gates, breaking them open and starting a riot in an attempt to gain access to the council chambers. NOPD officers responded with tazers and pepper spray until they could regain control of the gates and reseal them with the use of handcuffs. And it was all broadcast live on WDSU channel 6, the local NBC affiliate.
Shortly after order was restored, WDSU began interviewing protesters. My favorite among these is a spindly bald white guy whining about how he was denied access to "our" meeting, (as if he ever spent a day in a housing project in his life,) and complaining that the mean old policeman tazered him and pepper sprayed him. No kidding. What did he expect would happen? The NOPD would give him a front row seat because his vandalism proved how much the meeting meant to him? Get real.
And then there was the post-meeting press conference. Good old C Ray Nagin was asked why he sent a letter of support to be read instead of showing up in person. His response was that "this was the councils' day." In other words, he sent an errand boy to say, "I'll back your vote, but if this blows up in your face I ain't got nothin' to do with it." He sure did bask in the camera glow afterwards though.
The problem I have with these protesters, many of whom I think have their hearts in the right place, is that they're fighting a wrong-headed battle. If it weren't for Katrina, most of the projects would be gone by now and the residents would be living in their new dwellings in the same locations. The demolition plans were finalized years ago and the housing replacement plan was already ongoing. This is not something the city just decided to do. Not only that, but people have to realize that public housing is not the be-all and end-all utopia that some seem to think it is. Before Katrina, all we heard was how terrible the projects are, and can't something be done about the crime in the projects. Now the projects are presented as an idyllic community where the air is fresh and the neighbors are always friendly. Get your story straight, folks!
Public housing was created to give the poor of this country a chance to climb out of the slums and make a better life for themselves and their families. At best, people were expected to stay 2-3 years while they saved up for a home of their own. Unfortunately, many folks in public housing units decided that the cheap rents were worth the occasional bullet through the wall and dug in like doughboys in the Ardennes Forest. There are people in New Orleans who are actually proud to be third- and fourth-generation St Bernard or St Pete. I'm sorry, but that's nothing to be proud of. It's sad and it shows how truly messed up the welfare and housing branches of our government really are.
As for those who are screaming that they have rights and the city can't take away their homes; think again. They are not your homes, no matter how long you've overstayed your welcome. They are owned by the city and you are effectively renting and the rest of the country is footing the bill. If my lease is up and my landlord decides not to renew it so he can tear down my apartment and build a strip mall, there's really nothing I can do about it. My landlord is required by law to give me adequate time to find a new place to live and that's about it. The people of the projects have had over two years. It's time to fight for something other than the right to live in squalor.