Update: I recognize that, to some readers, I may seem harsh. I’m okay with that. I think this particular subject requires some harsh words. And no, it has nothing to do with this particular development, because, in truth, this development was never actually evaluated on its merits. Instead, its opponents cobbled together a series of patently untrue and, at times, obliquely race-baiting distortions, and then, afterward, their actions were lauded by the newspaper as an great example of community engagement.

Look, of course, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with people exercising their free speech rights, but when one person shows up to a Council meeting and pretends to speak for an entire neighborhood– thousands of people– by adamantly and repeatedly saying, “We do not want any more multi-family,” both the newspaper and the Council owe citizens at least a little bit of fact-checking. Is that true? No, not really. In fact, according to a recent study by J-Quad, new and additional housing options was one of the top priorities of that very neighborhood. J-Quad didn’t merely analyze the data; they also conducted a series of community meetings. Nothing has changed since that study was conducted, except for the construction of 56 moderate-income apartments and the million-dollar renovation of an existing apartment complex.

What bothers me most is that Ms. Norris and others suggest that the predominately white areas of Alexandria don’t have nearly as many apartments as the predominately African-American neighborhoods. Just not true. Not even remotely. In fact, there are disproportionately more apartments south of MacArthur Drive, hundreds and hundreds more.

People are attracted to neighborhoods that provide choices. Not everyone actually wants to own their own home, and as we now know, the whole “home ownership” initiative spearheaded under the George W. Bush administration resulted in a catastrophic collapse that primarily affected the poor and the lower middle class. So ironically, while leaders and officials continue to reject additional multi-family and affordable housing options, effectively turning away millions of dollars in private-sector investment, they are only further contributing to their neighborhood’s struggles; they are hurting the very people they ostensibly seek to help. If you truly care about Lower Third, then this should make your blood boil, as it does mine. People need options. Not everyone can afford to buy their own home. At the very least, as a community, we should be focusing on providing all people with access to quality and affordable housing.

Lower Third needs and deserves more retail. It needs and deserves a grocery store. And clearly, something is not working right now. There are hundreds of vacant and dilapidated homes.

Pull up an aerial map of Alexandria and locate all of the grocery stores within the city limits. You’ll find something interesting: Every single grocery store in the City of Alexandria is located either directly adjacent to or within a half of a mile of an apartment complex. Every single one, even the new Wal-Mart in the Lakes District. Makes you wonder whether or not these major grocery chains have a formula, right? They do; it’s called density.

To Greg Aymond, who thinks I’m totally wrong (not surprised): I absolutely love this line from your most recent post (bold mine):

But the greatest amount of venom spewed by Freddy was aimed at Paul Carty’s editorial entitled “Our View: When civic-minded neighbors rally in Alexandria, they are heard” but Freddy didn’t criticize the article which appeared in the newspaper a day earlier by Freddy’s rumored friend Bret McCormick entitled “Alexandria council denies housing project after residents protest“).

Greg, go read the comment section on the article I apparently “didn’t criticize.”

Again, my criticism isn’t really concerned with this particular development, though I most definitely believe that rezoning should have been approved. I am mainly concerned and frustrated by the knee-jerk reaction, the ways in which lies were accepted as facts, the myopia, and the shameless race-baiting that was employed, particularly by Ms. Norris. If I’m an awful person for wanting to rip these arguments to shreds, so be it. If you can show up at a public meeting and rail against any and all multi-family developments in a neighborhood that desperately needs them by attempting to scare your neighbors into a panicked frenzy and injecting a ridiculously wrong-headed race-based conspiracy, then, sorry, but I think you should be called out. And if you’re the editor of the local newspaper and you attempt to frame all of this foolishness as virtuous “citizen-driven action,” then you also should be called out.

Greg’s right about one thing: I do know Lewis Lauve and Cole Finn, the two developers, but I haven’t spoken to either of them in years. I do know this, though: They’re young professionals who have returned to Alexandria and who are willing to risk their own money to invest in building the future of Alexandria. Lewis wisely pointed out to the Council that the City’s own adopted consolidated plan calls for increased affordable and alternative housing, and indeed, the J-Quad study specifically recommends cottage homes. Single-family homes. For sale, actually. Affordable.

As Chuck Fowler pointed out, “all of the objections were to multi-family housing,” rental housing, and that’s not what Lewis or Cole actually proposed.

Regardless, the neighborhood and the City have both prioritized and noted the need for multi-family housing. Again, the knee-jerk reaction is destructive and wrong-headed.

After Lewis presented the actual proposal, Ms. Norris, bafflingly, said there was an “excess” of housing in Lower Third and that it didn’t matter whether the project called for multi-family or single-family housing, that the neighborhood was “over-flooded” with housing. Not true. Not true at all. There’s a dearth of housing.

Lewis was completely and totally correct, and Ms. Norris and Mr. Goins were completely and totally wrong. Mr. Goins, there was no “overwhelming” opposition to “this” project; five people showed up, and none of them were actually opposing this specific project. Essentially, they argued that Lower Third should not be the beneficiary of ANY and ALL new residential development.

If you don’t believe me, watch the meeting for yourself. It’s insane.

****

Paul Carty, get real. This is just garbage.

In the civic-minded world of Alexandria, two things are clear:

—One: Many residents of South Alexandria do not — repeat: do not — want additional multifamily housing in their neighborhoods. Not now, thank you.

—And two: Some of them could charge a decent fee to give presentations on how to give effective presentations.

Tuesday’s citizen-driven action at the City Council meeting is the latest effort by property owners and other residents from the area to take their concerns to City Hall, state their case thoughtfully and persuade council members to act on their behalf — unanimously, in fact.

They should be proud of their actions, and the council gets points for listening carefully to the people who take the time to step forward and speak for their own interests. This is what America is all about.

Mr. Carty is the editor of The Town Talk. Even if he didn’t write this particular editorial (he probably did), he’s still responsible for it. And despite his rhetorical flourishes (“This is what America is all about”), he fails abysmally, epically. He’s either lying, pandering, ignorant, or all of the above. (And look, I understand this sounds harsh, but you need to consider what he’s talking about here and why his words aren’t merely wrong; they’re also destructive).

Mr. Carty was referring to a recent unanimous vote by the Alexandria City Council to deny the rezoning of 46 acres in Lower Third in order to provide for a “multi-family” development of affordable housing; I put the term multi-family in quotations because, in truth, the plans called for a series of affordable, single-family, modular cottages, competitively-priced new construction. He botched his editorial, and The Town Talk botched its news coverage.

Forgive my exasperation, but holy hell, five people show up to a City Council meeting to oppose a new development in their neighborhood. Most of them talk complete nonsense. One lady, Brenda Norris, who is provided the most time, implies that there’s some sort of racist conspiracy to keep the people of Lower Third down. She rambles on about how neighborhoods south of MacArthur Drive don’t have nearly as many apartment complexes as her neighborhood. If that were only slightly false, I’d give her the benefit, but it’s just utterly detached from reality. Lower Third has fewer multi-family rental units than any other contiguous neighborhood in Alexandria. The overwhelming and vast majority of apartment units in Alexandria are located south of MacArthur Drive; Brenda Norris lied. She lied. Ms. Norris is a liar, a lying liar, a race-baiter who dishonestly presented herself as a representative of her entire neighborhood.

The truth, insofar as I can see it, is that she doesn’t care about her neighborhood; she attempted to speak for everyone, forcefully and theatrically, but in truth, she represented only herself.

Sorry, Ms. Norris, but you presented, on public television, one of the most dishonest and ridiculous arguments I’ve ever witnessed, and you should be ashamed. (I can be theatrical too).  Instead, though, you’re praised. Paul Carty thinks you get it, even though you get all of your facts wrong. You accuse developers and the government of a racist conspiracy, while, at the same time, standing in opposition to investment. (News-flash: major retailers don’t care about the color of anyone’s skin. They care about the population and the spending capacity of their service area. If there aren’t enough rooftops, they’ll go somewhere else. Duh. If it’s ever going to be targeted for large-scale commercial and retail development, Lower Third needs additional and improved housing).

People like Brenda Norris not only hold back Lower Third; they hold back the entire City of Alexandria. They stand in our way to growth. They attempt to frame the discussion about our shared future around racial identity.

Local, state, and federal studies have all demonstrated that Lower Third is one of the most severely underserved neighborhoods in the State of Louisiana; the neighborhood desperately needs more housing options, and it desperately needs newer housing stock. That’s why, even though it wasn’t a victim of the mortgage crisis, it still qualified for millions in funding from the Bush Administration’s Neighborhood Stabilization Program. Once upon a time, only three years ago, the residents of Lower Third clamored for improved and additional housing. It was even more important than drainage improvements. Perhaps the political climate has changed, but the data hasn’t.

Today, one person can show up at a Council meeting and defeat projects that are desperately needed. Ms. Norris, Mr. Goins, and Mr. Larvadain all claim they want commercial investment in Lower Third, and during the last few months, they have, both collectively and individually, protested and/or denied MILLIONS of dollars in PRIVATE-sector development. Idiots.

Let me be abundantly clear, unlike Paul Carty: Jonathan Goins and Edward Larvadain III, acting disingenuously on the staged presentations of people like Brenda Norris, are destroying African-American neighborhoods. They are rejecting millions of dollars in investment, not because they really disagree with the merits; it seems to be mainly about the potentiality of a white person making money in a majority African-American neighborhood.

It’s a difficult thing to say, particularly from a liberal Democrat like me. But ugh, you’re making this about race. That’s awful.

No, Paul Carty, this isn’t what America is all about. You’re confused. This represents all that is wrong about America.

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