Laissez les bon temps rouler! We are in the final stretch. Our houses all look like Toomey’s threw up inside of them. Loads of beads, smashed MoonPies and unopened bags of ramen are scattered about, as are filthy stuffed animals that look as though they may have spent some time in a landfill before being tossed off a float. Freshly dry-cleaned tails and gowns hang outside closet doors waiting to be donned at various balls. Ahhh, the Gras! What’s not to love?
I mean, I guess there’s the traffic, trash, idiot adults who elbow your children out of the way to get those diseased stuffed animals and amateurs who puke in Bienville Square. But other than that, it’s pretty damn fabulous.
But even in this time of great fun and frivolity in our city, there are a couple of things going on raining on our parade, so to speak. So I thought, why not complain about those things instead of just letting the good times roll. Hey, I’m just trying to temper our bon temps. We don’t want to get spoiled, now do we? You’re welcome.
Trolling New Orleans
So, as y’all all saw, the Alabama Department of Tourism placed billboards in New Orleans reading, “You are 114 miles from America’s Original Mardi Gras.” This caused a comment war on multiple news sites between Mobilians and New Orleanians and a friendly Twitter war between Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson and former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. On Tuesday, Mayor Stimpson held a press conference to continue this “war” by reading a proclamation “authorizing” New Orleans to continue using our Carnival traditions. Oh snap.
I love some good-natured ribbing over Mardi Gras, and I am proud we get to accurately and proudly claim we are the “Mother of the Mystics.” Any time I am traveling and people find out I am from Mobile and ask about it, one of the first things out of my mouth when describing our fair burg is, “We are the birthplace of Mardi Gras. New Orleans copied us. It’s all of the fun of Mardi Gras, without all of the tourists.”
Don’t get me wrong, I have enjoyed the spectacle of the back and forth this year. And it has definitely raised Mobile’s Mardi Gras profile, BUT let’s be careful not become the University of Central Florida of Mardi Gras. We don’t want to declare ourselves the original and the best so much (even though we are) that people start rolling their eyes and pitying us. We want to always be able to say “bless their hearts” about New Orleans’ Mardi Gras, not the other way around.
Trolling your own constituents
On Saturday, Feb. 3, District One City Councilperson Fred Richardson took to Facebook to troll his own constituents over the new midtown Publix being constructed at Old Shell and Florida.
What was all the fuss about, you ask?
Well, there was a stop-work order issued recently after residents who live nearby UNDERSTANDABLY complained that instead of a masonry wall being erected around the property (as they thought had been promised), a fence made out of “composite material” was going up.
After reviewing the plans, City Council attorney Wanda Cochran issued an opinion that the developer could indeed construct a composite material fence on part of the site because the masonry wall was only called for on Edington Drive, not on South Edington Drive, and the stop-work order was lifted. So essentially the developer was able to get around this on a technicality.
The poor folks who live behind this major development have for the most part voiced support for the project overall, but they have just wanted to — UNDERSTANDABLY — make sure they had good barriers between their properties and the store. And this composite wall was a huge slap in the face. And I don’t blame these residents for being upset. The fence does look really weird.
To me, with any development like this, in any part of the city, the very first consideration should be the barrier protecting the existing residential property owners and it should always be constructed to the highest possible standards.
If the developer needs to cut some corners, do it on the other side of the wall. There is something to be said about good fences making good neighbors. And those fences are usually not made of “composite material.”
I am excited about the Publix too, but I think it’s pretty lousy of the developers not to give these folks their brick wall. But what’s even lousier is how Councilman Fred Richardson has treated these people, his own constituents.
You see, a few of them also dared to voice their concerns about noise coming from the AC units. You know, sounds they may hear while sitting in their backyards or trying to go to bed at night. Instead of Richardson acting as THEIR advocate and communicating their fears to the developer and the city, as he should, he went up on a Saturday in the middle of the day and recorded the sounds coming from the ACs and posted a video with the text “IS MIDTOWN PUBLIX AC TOO LOUD: LISTEN AND YOU DECIDE.”
First of all, who even knows if the ACs were on during this time. It was a Saturday during the day, before the store has even opened. But secondly, even if they were on full blast and he personally perceived them to be quiet enough and this to be a non-issue, he still shouldn’t have trolled his own constituents like this. Ridiculous! Fred, you represent the people of District One, not the developer. The developer has PR firms and lawyers to do that for him. Probably lots of them, in fact.
Look, I get that residential property owners can get a little over-anxious too, to say the least. There have been several projects in this city that neighbors have raised all kinds of hell about that I have been like, “Soooooo, you’d rather have that vacant, crap building next to you than a cool, brand new (fill in the blank.) Um, OK then.”
I know it’s a constant struggle between developers/commercial real estate folks and homeowners. And striking the right balance is often tricky.
But the neighbors I have talked to who live around this project have not been like that. They have been largely supportive. They just want their damn brick wall and to make sure the place isn’t going to be too loud, which is UNDERSTANDABLE.
But their councilperson has been anything but understanding.
I know the good councilman thinks of this project as his, another feather in his cap. And that’s fine, but Fred, you can own it and be proud of it and still be a good advocate for your residents to make sure their rights aren’t infringed upon. In fact, that is your job. You work for them, not the developer. That cute little Facebook video was really tone deaf on your part and precisely one of the reasons you aren’t president of the council right now.
Ultimately, I hope the developer will do right by these folks and we can just get back to worrying about BOGOs instead of brick walls, or lack thereof.