1.

I understand I was a close runner-up for this year’s Ashley Morris Award at the annual Rising Tide conference. As I said today on the Twitter, holy moly, it’s just an honor to be mentioned in the same sentence as Ashley. I stuck the Greg Peters-designed and Dirty Coast-produced FYYFF sticker on the front of my desktop. Every single time I write a post on this website, I am confronted with Ashley’s simple and sagacious words of defiance. Months before he passed, I exchanged a couple of e-mails with Ashley; he added my website to his blogroll. I will always be grateful. He opened the door for me in the Louisiana blogosphere. And I am totally floored by the nominations I received for the award named in his honor. Thank you, thank you.  I didn’t even realize I was on y’all’s radar.

2.

For the bargain basement price of $10,000, you can become a platinum sponsor of this year’s Louisiana Family Forum Awards Banquet. Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether or not this donation would be tax-deductible, as it has been in years past. This year, the LFF is saying that the “Louisiana Family Forum Action,” their 501c4 (not tax-deductible), “is writing the next chapter of Louisiana history.”

What did Jesus say about potentially skirting tax laws to support your own religious agenda?

“Well, then,” Jesus said, “give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar, and give to God what belongs to God.” His reply completely amazed them. (Mark 12:17)

I could be way off-base, but I think that when Jesus was talking about Caesar, he was referring to the government.

Either way, I hope the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Internal Revenue Service will keep a close eye on any and all “donations” given to the LFF’s … I mean the LFFA’s upcoming awards banquet for state legislators.

3.

Not surprisingly, back in Alexandria, revisionist history seems to be en vogue. I won’t pretend to understand what, on earth, motivates people like Sandra Bright to call people like Greg Aymond, but obviously, she doesn’t have the best judgment. (By the way, Sandra, Greg Aymond considers you to be a good friend, and a few paragraphs later, he refers to African-Americans as “darkies.” With friends like him, who needs enemies, right?).

In all seriousness, the debate about the Hodges Stockbarn in the Lower Third neighborhood may be the best example I have ever encountered of myopic and heavily-politicized stupidity.

Here’s the story: Lower Third is an historically African-American neighborhood in the heart of Alexandria. For decades, it has suffered from crime, blight, disinvestment, and neglect, and in 2007, it looked like conditions could have been exacerbated. A 14-acre tract of property (the former Hodges Stockbarn) in the middle of Lower Third and in a key location on Louisiana Highway 1 almost became a junkyard. Residents complained and begged the City to intervene, which it did. The City bought the property, with the intention of redeveloping the site as a mixed-use PUD (Planned Unit Development).

I know this story because I was there; I helped write the Request for Proposals. The City also had in its possession a comprehensive study of the neighborhood, a study conducted by J-Quad (which, not that it really matters, is a minority-owned business). And the J-Quad study, which was based on extensive research and interviews (with, among others, Sandra Bright), clearly said: Lower Third needs more housing options. The neighborhood needs a better mix of housing types; it needs apartments, condos, and patio homes.

Then, amazingly, someone stepped up to the plate: New Horizons, one of the top 100 multi-family developers in the country. They secured money from the Bush Administration, and they proposed building 56 moderate-income apartment units on the back six acres of the property. Wow, right? It was the biggest development ever proposed in thirty years in Lower Third.

But guess what happened? A couple of rich slumlords (my word)– people who had long dominated the rental market in that particular neighborhood– stood up in opposition. No, no, they said, not so fast. We want a commercial-only development. They were loud and vocal, and they convinced other people to rally behind them. It was all insidious. It was wrong. It was stupid. And it was an impediment. They very nearly convinced the Alexandria City Council to reject millions of dollars in grant money, and for some reason, no one ever disclosed the ulterior motive.

Thankfully, though, despite the opposition of their own district Councilperson, the project went forward. Today, there’s an $8 million apartment complex on the property, and before it even opened its doors, there was a waiting list.

So, fast forward: The new apartment complex is open, and the developer wants to expand. He has a waiting list, after all. Obviously, there is market demand. But it gets better: The developer also wants to build a commercial component– two restaurants, an insurance office, a pharmacy, a nail salon, and room for a police substation. This will be huge for that neighborhood. It’s awesome. It should be a cause for celebration.  Yet, somehow, for some strange reason, it’s yet another opportunity for people to attack and criticize the Mayor and his administration.

Give me a break. Really.

I personally courted one of the country’s most experienced grocery store developers. Not going to happen, he said. You’d have to pay us to develop retail there. (Sorry, folks, it’s the truth). I also courted one of the country’s leading commercial appraisers. He looked at the property multiple times. Charming at day, he said, scary at night. (Again, sorry).

Regardless of what Fred Rosenfeld says on the radio about government involving itself in the real estate business (to be sure, I respect his opinion on this, considering he’s built his business on federal property), no one bit off more than they could chew. I know this, because I was there. And no one– and I mean NO ONE– promised a pharmacist that he’d be given a building on the property. That’d be illegal, a violation of Article Seven of the Louisiana State Constitution. You know what actually happened? The City said, “Give us a development proposal. Maybe we can assist with publicly-owned infrastructure.” And that proposal never arrived.

At the end of the day, if the Alexandria City Council decides to act righteously and in the best interests of the people of that neighborhood, they will be “saddled” with a multi-million dollar mixed-use development, a brand-new retail facility, and increased police protection. And the district Councilman, who acts as if he is merely attempting to make a “bad situation better,” will have at least 120 additional constituents.

But it’d be best not to acknowledge this, because, wow, that could make the Mayor look good.

2 thoughts

  1. Thanks Gembauble.

    ****

    I’m not really sure why I even bother, except that it’s hilarious, but I have to address Greg Aymond’s epic fail of a response to this post, http://centrallapolitics.blogspot.com/2011/08/freddy-attack-sandra-bright-fred.html.

    His headline is “Freddy Attack (sic) Sandra Bright, Fred Rosenfeld, and Me (sic) in the Same Post.” I am sure his decision to break grammar rules is merely a reflection of his profound genius. He is a brilliant attorney and a venerable wordsmith, a modern-day e.e. cummings. The man obviously plays by his own rules. When I was an undergraduate, my creative writing professors would say, “Know the rules, and then break them.”

    I’ve been reading Greg Aymond’s website for a few years now. His voice often reminds me of Benjy from William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury. It’s a tough narratological task, but Greg Aymond clearly knows what he is doing. He is highly-educated, after all.

    Still, despite the genius of his unconventional and challenging prose, Greg Aymond often fails to convey a basic grasp of the facts.

    In all seriousness, the man can barely cobble together a complete and correct sentence on his website. Frequently, he can’t even compose a correct headline.

    With respect to the “substance” of his allegations against me:

    1. If Sandra Bright, an African-American neighborhood leader, is friends with Greg Aymond, as he claims, then she obviously doesn’t have the best judgment. Greg Aymond is a former member of the Ku Klux Klan. He’s called African-American leaders in Alexandria “N**** Street Thugs” on his website. He was the attorney for the White Nationalists during the Jena Six protests. If Sandra thinks I am “attacking” her for being friends with Greg Aymond, so be it. If she is actually friends with this man, then she needs to really reconsider her standards.

    2. Greg Aymond writes in response:

    Next, Freddy attacked me when he wrote that “Greg Aymond considers you to be a good friend, and a few paragraphs later, he refers to African-Americans as “darkies.” With friends like him, who needs enemies, right?”. I guess that Freddy needs help with his reading comprehension if he really wants to succeed in law school because what I wrote was that Freddy’s boss, Jacques, considers the people who will live in those apartments as “darkies”.

    Although I appreciate the advice on how to succeed in law school, my reading comprehension is not the problem here. I hope that people like Sandra Bright, Von Jennings, Joe Fuller, Tony Brown, and the Larvadain brothers will take note: The one and only person who uses the word “darkies” to refer to African-Americans is Greg Aymond, your “friend,” the former Klan member and attorney for the White Nationalists.

    Jacques Roy is not a racist, by any stretch of the imagination. Unlike Greg Aymond, I know Jacques Roy. He represents the very best and brightest of Louisiana. He’s not some embittered, lonely bigot who chain-smokes behind his computer every night while altering photographs of grown men. That’s weird, perverted, sick, and sad. Jacques Roy has a family and friends who love and care for him. He doesn’t have to pretend to be accomplished or smart. He doesn’t have to invent friendships with people in order to make himself look more normal or accepted. The word “darkies” isn’t in his lexicon. That’s a word employed by racist, ignorant assholes.

    3. I would never, ever speak an ill word against Reverend Huey Lawson. Apparently, Greg Aymond thought I was referring to Reverend Lawson when I wrote about slumlords. Reverend Lawson is a good and decent man, a friend of my family, and a pillar of the community. I have no idea what Greg Aymond means when he states that the decision to build a police substation on City-owned property in Lower Third is merely an attempt to get at Reverend Lawson. That’s babbling non-sense– a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    4. With respect to Fred Rosenfeld: I always liked Fred. I’ve probably eaten at his restaurant more than Mr. Aymond ever has. He’s on the radio. He has a big audience. Frankly, I don’t think he’s been truthful. Actually, I KNOW he hasn’t been truthful. I wish he would be. It’s silly for him to continually criticize the Downtown Hotels Initiative. The man is more conflicted than anyone else in town. It’s also silly for him to bash government incentives for a hotel. Pot meet kettle. I know I have been critical of him, but dammit, if you get on the radio every morning and spout off a bunch of non-sense, then you shouldn’t be surprised when someone says, “HEY! You’re wrong!” You shouldn’t be surprised if someone conducts a Goggle search and discovers your past. And if you’re well into your seventies and on the radio every morning, you shouldn’t be surprised whenever you’re criticized. Fred Rosenfeld may think I am his enemy. I’m not. I just wish he’d tell the truth and disclose his conflicts, and I don’t think I am asking too much.

    5. Finally:

    Greg Aymond writes, “It is a shame that he will still have the ability to publish his lying blog even over in Texas.”

    HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!!!!!!

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