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:

Ms. Underwood:

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 moed@cityofalex.com, I will not enter our correspondence into the public record.

I hope you had a great weekend.

All the best,

Lamar

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.

9 thoughts

  1. Some people have vivid imaginations Lamar. (And it usually gets the best of them.) I am on your side with this scenario.
    Truthfully, I would have a hard time dealing with some of the fertilizer tossed in your direction. I respect Greg’s view also…
    We all get along despite the crossfire. We just have to return it on occasion.
    Alex

  2. Dear Lamar, After reading your email and comments on your blog and Greg’s blog I decided after working all day cleaning one of my handful of rentals, to answer your question as to why i did not answer your email. First of all i must have ruffled a lot of feathers with the admistration with calls first from the mayor( i did not return) then Ken Juneau, and now your comments on the blog..Anyone with any common sense and intelligence knows that taxpayer money should not be used for private business and the profits to be gained by private people ..Why were the hotel people asked to attend the meeting to hear the Masters talk of things to come at the taxpayers expense? Was it that he feared someone like me would voice something opposite to his view?It is my tax money that would fund this project.Why did he all of a sudden decide after personally telling the hotel people that the TIF (Herbert Dixon) was a bad idea.Could he have had his own plan in mind?I didnt approve of it then and i dont approve on it now.If the reports from the Sales Tax office are correct, the Fulton HOtel appeared to be full during the LMA conventoion, yet no hotel-motel taxes were collected during the month of that convention.
    Was the City responsible for the hotel during that time? Where are the taxes for that month?
    We now have bond money which is borrowed for SPARC sitting in a bank on whichwe the citzsens are paying debt service. When will we see that money go to a project and not to a consultant?

    How much money has the city spemnt on consultants and legal fees to determins who the frontrunner should be in the hotel plan? Where did the money come from and why are we paying for it? The mayor ran on a platform of not hiring a bunch of consultants yet that number contiues to grow.

    Now why all of sudden does the mayor want to spend our tax dollars for the hotels.Makes you wonder who is going to benfit from the project. Lets see, Bob Dean and BDear Lamar, After reading your email and comments on your blog and Greg’s blog I decided after working all day cleaning one of my handful of rentals, to answer your question as to why i did not answer your email. First of all i must have ruffled a lot of feathers with the administration with calls first from the mayor (i did not return) then Ken Juneau, and now your comments on the blog. Anyone with any common sense and intelligence knows that taxpayer money should not be used for private business and the profits to be gained by private people. Why were the hotel people asked to attend the meeting to hear the Masters talk of things to come at the taxpayers expense? Was it that he feared someone like me would voice something opposite to his view? It is my tax money that would fund this project. Why did he all of a sudden decide after personally telling the hotel people that the TIF (Herbert Dixon) was a bad idea? Could he have had his own plan in mind? I didn’t approve of it then and i dot approve on it now. If the reports from the Sales Tax office are correct, the Fulton Hotel appeared to be full during the LMA convention, yet no hotel-motel taxes were collected during the month of that convention.
    Was the City responsible for the hotel during that time? Where are the taxes for that month?
    We now have bond money, which is borrowed for SPARC sitting in a bank on which we the citizens are paying debt service. When will we see that money go to a project and not to a consultant?

    How much money has the city spent on consultants and legal fees to determine whom the frontrunner should be in the hotel plan? Where did the money come from and why are we paying for it? The mayor ran on a platform of not hiring a bunch of consultants yet that number continues to grow.

    Now why all of sudden does the mayor want to spend our tax dollars for the hotels. Makes you wonder who is going to benefit from the project. Lets see, Bob Dean and Buddy Tudor comes to mind as Dean will get the money and Tudor will get the remodeling…….

    Now answer to your question as why no response from me.I fully believe that I ruffled someone’s feather and that you were asked to contact me as i did not wish to talk to the Mayor, yes i know how he gets his staff to do his biding.

    I did not care to hear the Masters BULL (notice i am being nice and my Irish temper did not flair up) he has not be truthful to the citizens of Alex. In the last few months and maybe this year. It’s his way or no way. The sad part about it is that we had high hopes of the new administration. I dot know if he is aware of it but he is losing support of his freeness and supporters.YOu would be surprised as to what his friends are saying. They are disappointed in him, and plan not to support him for any office. The sad part about it the situation is that a lot of good, smart people who work for him will be unemployed because of the decisions he has made/ let me remind everyone, that i am not for either the council or the administration. I am for what is right for the city and the taxpayer…
    LAMAR, you can write all the things you want to about me, I owe no one money for loans or debts, or do i owe anyone favors. But if you are a person in need and i am able to help i will try my best. BUT Lamar I answer to no man or woman but to GOD. Isn’t it great that we can voice or beliefs and I do hope that your PRESIDENT DOES NOT TAKE THAT FREEDOM AWAY FROM US. /
    uddy Tudor comes to mind as Dean will get the mony and Tudor will get the remodeling…….

    Now answer to your question as why no response from me.I fully belive that I ruffled someones feather and that you were asked to contact me as i did not wish to talk to the Mayor, yes i know how he gets his staff to do his biding.

    I did not care to hear the Masters BULL (notice i am being nice and my irish temper did not flair up) he has not be truthful to the citzens of Alex. in the last few months and maybe this year. Its his way or no way. The sad part about it is that we had high hopes of the new adminstration. I dont know if he is aware of it but he is losing support of his friens and supporters.YOu would be surprised as to what his friends are saying . They are disappointed in him, and plan not to support him for any office. The sad part about it the situation is that a lot of good, smart people who work for him will be unemployed because of the decisons he has made/ let me remimd everyone, that i am not for either the council or the adminstration. I am for what is right for the city and the taxpayer…
    LAMAR,you can write all the things you want to about me, I owe no one money for loans or debts, or do i owe anyone favors. But if you are a person in need and i am able to help i will try my best . BUT LAMAr I Answer to no man or woman but to GOD .Isnt it great that we can voice or beliefs and I do hope that your PRESIDENT DOES NOT TAKE THAT FREEDOM AWAY FROM US./

  3. I reread your comments and i do hope that in looking into my business that you took the time to look under my maiden name,my husbands name,. and other adventures that i am involved in./ you might be surprised what type of business ventures i am into all legal so dont send out a private eye /i work for my living and money////

  4. Gayle:

    Since you live in Alexandria, which is a political subdivision of the state of Louisiana, that means Bobby Jindal is your Governor. In addition, since Louisiana is one of the fifty states in the Union, also known as the United States of America, that means the president of said Union, Barack Obama, is also YOUR President.

    You may not like him much, and you probably didn’t vote for him based on your comments, but he’s still the President of your country. Now, I personally did not appreciate President George W. Bush, nor did I vote for in 2000 or 2004, but I still respected the fact that he was my President, as I lived in the nation that he was elected President of. Perhaps you can do the same?

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