Even though I absolutely love my job, I don’t like to blog about it.
This website has never been a personal diary; it’s primarily concerned with media criticism and progressive policies in the State of Louisiana– though, occasionally, I may publish something about the accomplishments of a friend or neighbor of mine or a new album, and Drew may discuss Eastern European urban planning or the most accurate way of calculating American unemployment rates.
Either way, the point is: This blog is not and has never been about the day and life of a 27-year-old, disabled, unmarried white guy who works as an assistant to the Mayor of his hometown. Believe me, if I were writing that blog, it would be much more interesting.
Remember the post featuring Jared the Subway Guy in the Mayor’s Office? Just a typical example of the day in the life.
In all seriousness, I don’t like to call too much attention to my job, because I’ve learned, sometimes, people who disagree with the opinions I express on my blog will quickly suggest that I am speaking in an official capacity, as if everything posted on this blog was directed and endorsed by the Mayor. Such an assumption is not fair to me, and it is particularly unfair to the Mayor, who is uniquely skilled and brilliantly adept at challenging me about practically everything.
I’d like to believe I present my opinions honestly, earnestly, and fairly, and I don’t expect or even hope readers will always agree with me. I believe the main reason this blog has sustained visitors and contributors for the last three and a half years is because it encourages discussion. Since I created this blog, we’ve published 1,412 posts and 8,333 comments.
I created this blog to spark a conversation on the future of Alexandria and the State of Louisiana, and since then, we have also had conversations on a number of other issues.
I say all of this in order to provide the context for why, exactly, I am going to take the bait.
You see, a couple of days ago, on the online Town Talk, a blogger named “councilwatch” criticized a private developer’s proposal to demolish City Hall as a part of a plan to privately purchase and renovate the Hotel Bentley and the Fulton, suggesting that such an arrangement would necessarily involve “kickbacks.” Incidentally, the proposal criticized by “councilwatch” considers the demolition of City Hall as an ancillary action that would not affect anything currently being considered. According to this particular proposer, this is just a Phase 2 or Phase 3 “concept,” which I guess means we must also be dealing with conceptual kickbacks. Believe it or not, as it turns out, sometimes, you can’t learn everything from a headline.
A few months ago, I heard that the handle “councilwatch” belonged to Gayle Underwood, a frequent and outspoken presence in Alexandria City Council meetings. Ms. Underwood, who owns and rents out a handful of single family homes in inner-city Alexandria, has always been incredibly kind and gracious to me, and after reading her criticisms of the downtown hotels project and her accusations about kickbacks, I decided to send her a personal e-mail, assuring her that I was happy and willing to directly answer any questions she may have.
As a rule, I never publish on my blog personal e-mails that I either send or receive, but considering Ms. Underwood shared my e-mail with another local blogger, Greg Aymond, who then published my letter on his website, I think Gayle Underwood has confirmed any correspondence with her is not personal. Fine by me, too.
Gayle Underwood never responded to my e-mail. Instead, she forwarded it to Greg Aymond. I am not sure why she decided it would be more effective to forward my letter for publication on Aymond’s website than simply engage in a discussion on a subject about which she ostensibly cared. But either way, since Gayle Underwood would have rather had my e-mail to her published on a blog site before she could honestly respond, I will give her another opportunity to respond publicly.
Of course, I will reply publicly.
Here is the letter I sent to Gayle Underwood, offering to answer any questions she had after she pseudonymously implied an illegal kickback scheme in the Downtown Hotels project:
A few months ago, someone (I honestly don’t remember who) told me that you blog under the name “councilwatch,” which I thought made sense considering you are a frequent Council “watcher.” I never had the opportunity to ask you if this was true, but in light of some comments made tonight on the Town Talk, I am writing to let you know I am more than willing to answer any questions you may have about the Downtown Hotels Initiative.
If councilwatch is not your online handle, then please forgive me and disabuse me of my presumption. As you know, I am an active blogger, and I’m always interested in the things people are saying online about our fair City.
And if, in fact, you are the blogger expressing concerns about the hotels initiative, I remain more than happy and willing to answer your questions.
I think this could be an incredible project for our City– a project that creates at least two hundred jobs and contributes significantly both to our tax base and our quality of life, and I wouldn’t want one of Alexandria’s most engaged citizens to form an opinion of the project’s merits without being afforded the opportunity to learn about the details.
I’m sure you would agree: It is impossible to describe a 100+ page proposal in a 500 word article (however well-written), particularly when the headline is somewhat inaccurate (headlines are usually not written by the writer of the article).
Again, I am more than happy to answer any questions, regardless of whether you’re a blogger or not.
This is my personal e-mail address, and unless you instruct otherwise or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org, I will not enter our correspondence into the public record.
I hope you had a great weekend.
All the best,
PS: I was also saddened to hear about the sudden loss of one of Alexandria’s best champions, Mike Redman. Council meetings won’t be the same without him.