Friday, December 21, 2007

The Corporate Dominated Power Structure Can Knock Down Our Bucolic Project Abodes, But They’ll Never Take Away Our Large-Screen TVs

The ruckus in New Orleans over the city’s plans to raze four public-housing projects landed on the front page of the Houston Chronicle Friday via a pick-up of a Los Angeles Times story (which we can find no evidence of in the Chronicle’s on-line archives, so you’ll have to take our word on it). For some reason the Chronicle decided to lard the Times story with a local insert that did not address how the demise of these complexes might affect former residents still biding their time in southwest Houston apartments but instead quoted at length one Nick Cooper, a “volunteer from the Houston chapter of Food Not Bombs who has made several visits to New Orleans.” Mr. Cooper’s expertise in the matter---hey, he’s made several trips to New Orleans!---apparently accorded him the standing to be directly quoted at a length found in the local paper only when its publisher is trying to explain away the latest fall in circulation. Thus the insight of Mr. Cooper:
“What happened today in New Orleans is in many ways microcosm of New Orleans and the U.S. … A corporate-dominated power structure using weapons and making decisions for people of color who are without the ability even to attend a public meeting …

This is not a New Orleans issue … This is an issue of housing redevelopment in the South, trying to turn public housing into mixed income.
Well said, comrade! Chronicle publisher Jack Sweeney couldn’t have had it written for him any better, if he shared your particular ideological orientation (which we’re pretty sure he doesn’t).

We happened to make a brief swing through New Orleans this week, spending just enough time there to make our first post-Katrina visit to the reopened Camellia Grill, which appears to be run by a Middle Easterner but retains the same general sort of white-jacketed waiters behind the counter, including a youngish white guy who repeatedly addressed the cook, a black gentleman of extremely short stature, as “little gay guy” (as in, “Gimme a Spanish Omelet, Little Gay Guy!”*) and pick up a copy of Wednesday’s Times-Picayune, which had in-depth pre-demonstration coverage of the housing issue (which basically boils down to the loudly enunciated demand of some past and present project dwellers and free-lance activists such as Mr. Cooper to have the feds spend untold millions to renovate and repopulate the ancient yet architecturally significant hellholes versus the aim of federal housing officials and the local housing authority [run by the feds in recent years due to local corruption] to replace them with less dense mixed-income developments).

Part of the new assimilationist policy calls for displaced project residents to use vouchers to rent private apartments, as is done elsewhere with almost no commotion, but that’s apparently a problem in New Orleans, where, according to the Picayune, “many former public housing residents avoid privately owned apartments because they typically face utility and deposit expenses not charged in public housing.” The paper relates the complaint of Sharon Jasper, drolly identified as “a former St. Bernard complex resident presented by activists Tuesday as a victim of changing public housing policies.” Ms. Jasper, pictured above (when we downloaded the photo from the Times-Picayune for unauthorized use here we noticed some wag had titled the file “Miss Saigon”**),

took a moment before the start of the City Hall protest to complain about her subsidized private apartment, which she called a "slum." A [housing authority] voucher covers her rent on a unit in an old Faubourg St. John home, but she said she faced several hundred dollars in deposit charges and now faces a steep utility bill.

"I'm tired of the slum landlords, and I'm tired of the slum houses," she said.

Pointing across the street to an encampment of homeless people at Duncan Plaza, Jasper said, "I might do better out here with one of these tents."

Jasper, who later allowed a photographer to tour the subsidized apartment, also complained about missing window screens, a slow leak in a sink, a warped back door and a few other details of a residence that otherwise appeared to have been recently renovated.
The cutline under the picture was more accurate: “ … details of a residence that otherwise appeared to have been nicely renovated.” In the online version of the story Ms. Jasper was quoted saying, “I might be poor but I don't like to live poor. I thank God for a place to live but it's pitiful what people give you."

Well, yes. But judging by the T-P photos, Ms. Jasper’s new home is hardly a slum: One shot of the exterior shows a spruced-up if unadorned Double Shotgun, while the above interior view suggests a nicely appointed if smallish living space. It also suggests that Ms. Japser might have been able to repair the slow faucet leak and scare up some window screens IF SHE HAD JUST PURCHASED A SMALLER TELEVISION.

(Sorry to be so hard-hearted and unfeeling here at Xmas …)
*Gotta love New Olreans!
**Gotta love New Orleans!

1 comment:

Banjo Jones said...

that pore lady probably can't afford cable. notice how the hoto of the tv is cropped. prolly can't see the rabbit ears w/ tin toil on 'em

happy xmas, slampo.