All (need to) Fall Down: New Orleans City Council edition
While New Orleans council members were expecting to give away all 16 of the vehicles allotted to them, only six were ever fully transferred, the city said, including the four cars assigned to Gill Pratt. Batt was the only other member of the council to complete a successful transfer: He directed one vehicle to the Lakeview Crime Prevention District and the other to the Audubon Nature Institute. Because both are "quasi-public" agencies, the titles remain in the name of the city, while the agencies have permission to use the cars.
The hangups in transferring the cars appear generally to be due to a bottleneck in the city attorney's office in getting the legal paperwork done.
Batt, for instance, said he announced his donation of to the Lakeview crime district in November, but the paperwork took almost six months, during which time the car, frustratingly, went unused.
But apart from Gill Pratt, it seems that only former Councilman Eddie Sapir sought to donate a car each to two groups with whom he had close personal ties: Friends of NORD and Victims and Citizens Against Crime, though neither donation has been completed yet.
Friends of NORD's executive director is Nancy Broadhurst, who is married to lawyer and Sapir political confidant Bill Broadhurst. In preparation for using the car in her official capacity, Nancy Broadhurst took out insurance on the car, her husband said, but she has been unable to drive it because the city never transferred the title.
Former Councilwoman Clarkson was apparently the first council member to give her cars way. But though she did so in the first weeks after the storm, the paperwork never followed, and the vehicles she sent to two churches in her district have been idle as a result. She gave one each to St. Paul Lutheran Church in Faubourg Marigny and Greater St. Mary Baptist Church in Algiers, each of which was operating food-distribution centers after the storm.
Gill-Pratt originally said it was God's will she ended up driving the Durango after she failed to win re-election to the city council--"But sometimes God puts things in places for you. It just happened. It wasn't something that was planned intentionally." She still asserts that she and the other council members did nothing wrong. Nothing wrong at all, according to the rules the council and other elected and appointed officials down here live by. Money pours into City Hall and never seems to come out. The city for generations has been a trough for a select few families and their circle of friends who have gotten and stayed rich on the people's money.
I'm too mad to even think. And I am insulted this woman thinks God wanted her to keep driving a SUV donated for governemnt use, not a self-designated charity and especially not for her personal use and I am not Christian or a believer. Giving the cars back means nothing. The problem is she and others thought that whatever was donated to the city government was meant for their personal use, as gifts to them for being...what? What have any of the re-elected or former council members done for anyone but themselves? Gill-Pratt and the others should be prosecuted or at the very least publicly embarrased. The mayor, who signed off on the treansfers of the trucks and SUVs, and the city council members still seated--Oliver Thomas, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Cynthia Willard-Lewis--should be recalled.
I need to add: I have seen in some NO blogs much scorn and hate dumped on Gill-Pratt as if she is the only ethically-challenged person on the council or in any government in the state. I cannot help but divine, having lived here most of my life and understanding far too well the atmosphere here, that some of the scorn is racially based, that it exemplifies the growing implied chorus that it is black politicians who have corrupted the system and need to go so they can be replaced with people who are ethical simply because they are white. (Just like folks keep implying that the buildings of the housing projects somehow cause crime and tearing them down alone will decrease crime in NO.) Corruption comes in all sizes and flavors here. Greed knows no color. And "getting rid of" black people will not solve any of the city's problems. Black people built this city. It is not the color of skin that makes one valuable or not.
And there's wonder why 11 months post-Katrina nothing has been rebuilt but hotels and the Superdome?
Ex-official steers cash to nonprofits
FBI to investigate ex-councilwoman with strong ties to Jefferson
New Orleans City Attorney Addresses Cars Controversies
FBI investigating donated cars
Donated vehicles returned amid outcry
all but one at Nola.com (You'll need to register at Nola.com to read their articles; little national coverage on this one. Yet.)
tag: New Orleans, post-Katrina, New Orleans city council, Renee Gill-Pratt, Oliver Thomas, DaimlerChrysler, corruption, William Jefferson, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Cynthia Willard-Lewis, Jay Batt, Eddie Sapir, Mose Jefferson, People Get Ready blog