The Unmasking of N.O. Councilman James Carter
by Jay Arena
Monday, Aug. 04, 2008 at 7:03 PM
Unmasking James Carter and his central role in the assault on the poor
partners_in_crime--_stacy_head_and_james_carter.jpg, image/jpeg, 3264x2448
What is New Orleans City Councilman James Carter Trying to Hide?
The Iberville Public Housing Development and the
Unmasking of a New Orleans Capitalist Politician
Get Out! Get Out!
James Carter barking orders at public housing activists Jay Arena and Cody Marshall after they tried to raise questions about the future of the Iberville during the councilman’s May 21st so-called ‘town hall’ meeting at the African American Museum.
C3/Hands Off Iberville
‘Only time will tell’ is an old adage often invoked when there is a question or disagreement about the character or outcome of some person, process or entity. Well, mother-time has spoken and the verdict is in on New Orleans’ District C Councilman, James Carter: He is a run-of-the-mill capitalist politician willing to do anything, including destroying badly needed affordable housing in post-Katrina New Orleans, to serve his corporate paymasters.
Of course, for some, including myself, this confirmation of Carter’s role came as no surprise. When he launched his candidacy for District C in the spring of 2006 I sent an email to local progressive listserves exposing his role in establishing the counter insurgency “Weed and Seed” program, which works to militarize poor, often African American, communities, send more young black men to prison, and facilitate gentrification (see my email below). Despite his pretences, Carter was, I argued, just another (aspiring, at the time) capitalist politician ready and willing to implement any and all elements of the racist neoliberal urban agenda, albeit with ‘progressive’, ‘anti-racist’ packaging (as opposed to the Stacy Head method of imposing the urban revanchist agenda with unrestrained racist zeal). I made explicit, at the time, that my critique of James Carter was not to engineer support for his odious white-racist, Jackie Clarkson-backed, Democratic Party opponent; rather my critique was to underscore the need for the local left to run its own candidates independent of both racist capitalist parties. Following my exposure and critique of Carter and his record, several of his community backers swung into action to protect him. They defended the young African American lawyer as a well intentioned, dedicated, and effective ‘community activist’. They argued this ‘dedicated’ activist would do the best job of defending against what was clearly, even then--Spring 2006--a racist attempt to use hurricane Katrina as an opportunity drive poor black people from the city.
Public Housing and James Carter: What Do His Apologist Have to Say Now?
The central argument employed by Carter’s backers to justify supporting the young, ambitious, lawyer was that he would be a bulwark against the racist class cleansing agenda, that is, the effort to drive poor black people from the city. Of course, defending public housing was--and is-- a key part of blocking this agenda because of the thousands of rent controlled apartments it provides, and the way it indirectly keeps rents down in the private sector. Yet, despite the importance of public housing for stopping, or at least staunching, ethnic and class cleansing in post-Katrina New Orleans, Councilman James Carter has consistently shown himself to be an implacable foe of this vital public resource and the people that reside there. Lets look at the supporting evidence.
Exhibit A: James Carter and Millionaire Developer Tom Bauer
In the late summer of 2006 Carter voted to approve zoning changes demanded by developer Tom Bauer to turn the former Winn Dixie supermarket, located next to the Iberville public housing development, into a 900 to 600 unit condo complex, ranging from $200,000-600,000 a piece. This project was of particular concern for Iberville residents since the Winn Dixie store had been a convenient, and reasonably priced source of nutritious food, including fresh fruits and vegetables rarely available at local corner stores. Nonetheless, Carter, whose nod for the project was vital since it was in his district and thus a signal for how other council members would vote, gave enthusiastic support for replacing the supermarket with upscale condos. Carter’s endorsement was given without even lip service to how the project would increase development pressure to eliminate the low-income, black Iberville public housing community. Nor, of course, did Carter demand Bauer create a ‘mixed-income’ development—as is invariably invoked to legitimate the destruction of public housing—that would include affordable units for low-income workers. It fell to C3/Hands Off Iberville activists, who attended the city council hearing where the zoning changes were approved, to raise these uncomfortable--from the perspective of capitalist politicians like Carter--issues. In a final slap in the face, Carter did not even follow through on guaranteeing that the developer, Tom Bauer, would meet with community activists about including some type of grocery in the new development.
Exhibit B: James Carter, Ethnic Cleansing, and the December 20, 2007 Police Riot
Carter’s insult of his own low-income, black public housing, District C constituents, in favor of the profit-making needs of a white racist real-estate shark, was only the beginning for the freshmen legislator. In December 2007 Carter became one of the infamous, criminal gang of seven New Orleans city council members--4 whites and 3 African Americans--that voted unanimously to carry out ethnic and class cleansing by approving demolition of some 5,000 viable, well built public housing apartments across four, African American low income developments. Carter’s criminal vote was preceded by another crime: the tasering, beating, pepper-spaying, and arresting, inside and outside of New Orleans city council, of people that attempted to register their opposition to the demolition of public housing. Carter, as is shown on various videotapes, joined his other council gang members, including the notorious racist, poor-people hater Stacy Head, in overseeing this brutal assault.
After NOPD stormtroopers had crushed most voices of opposition in the council chambers, Carter pontificated on why demolition of the homes of poor people was actually a good thing for them: “What person would want another person to be dependent on the government for the rest of their lives? Nobody.” (Times Picayune, Decemeber 21, 2007). Ethnic and class cleansing is actually a humanitarian gesture! Ronald Reagan or George Bush could not have expressed it any better. Of course, like Reagan and Bush, Carter does not apply this same bootstrap philosophy when dealing with capitalists that ask for favors--as they regularly do--from the government. In fact, Carter and other capitalist politicians regularly dole out subsidies to real estate developers, and other capitalists, to assist with their ‘free market’ ventures. If Carter’s political career fortunes do take off, and he makes it to Congress, you can be assured that he will be the first to approve corporate welfare schemes, like the bailout of Bear Stearns and Fannie Mae.
Of course, as a capitalist politician, there was never any question--despite illusions propagated by some elements of the public housing movement--how Carter would vote. The ruling class identified destruction of public housing as a key part of their program, and Carter, as a loyal servant, was not going to let them down. Nonetheless, part of Carter’s political calculations was that even with his vote shafting public housing residents, he could always count on the backing of opportunistic ‘community’ organizations that could provide him political cover. One of the most important in this regard is the George Soros-funded Safe Streets outfit, dedicated to ‘criminal justice reform’. Safe Streets pulled out of the public housing movement before the December 20th city council clash, not wanting to jeopardize their good, working relations with Carter, and another city council criminal, the ‘liberal’ Shelly Midura. Safe Streets leaders, unsurprisingly, have never made any criticism of Carter for this pro-ethnic cleansing vote, although they claim to be the local affiliate of the anti-gentrification outfit, Right to the City. Indeed Safe Streets relations with the two councilpersons are so close that Carter and Midura have used the outfit as a recruiting ground for new staff (Wiltze, Ariane. Citizen Voices. 2008. Gambit, February 5, pp. 9-15). In the summer of 2008 Safe Streets worked closely with Carter to pass a toothless independent police monitor bill that will be included as part of an upcoming city referendum. It’s a win-win for all: Carter gets, with little political cost, to posture, to appear as a maverick willing to put restraints on the brutal and racist NOPD, while Safe Streets will be able to provide ‘accomplishments’ to their foundations funders and angle their outfit for bigger grants in the future.
Exhibit C: James Carter and the Current Scheming Against the Iberville
Despite an extensive record of vicious, cowardly, attacks on public housing communities, Carter does not like to broadcast his ongoing dealings, and mechanizations on behalf of, developers angling to seize more public property. Thus, it was not surprising the cold reception that myself and fellow C3/Hands Off Iberville member, and Iberville public housing resident, Cody Marshall, received at a May 21st ‘town hall’ meeting the councilman held at the African American museum, located on Governor Nichols street in Treme. Nonetheless, despite being aware of Carter’s hostility, we thought the ‘town hall’ format would provide an opportunity for some democratic input. Thus, we took time out of our busy schedules to attend and raise some questions about plans by developer Michael Valentino, Valentino’s friend---Iberville tenant president Kim Paul, Downtown Development District head Kurt Weigle, and architect Ray manning, among others--the gang is collectively known as the so-called ‘Iberville Rebirth Coalition’--to sell a privatization and downsizing plan for the Iberville. Yet, when I attempted, during the question and answer period, to raise some issues and questions about the threat to Iberville, Carter told me to talk on another subject. When I requested the right to finish my presentation, he stood up and ordered me to sit down. When I stood my ground he had a New Orleans cop, in attendance, to eject Cody Marshall and myself from the city-owned, African American museum. (It should be noted that Nydia Bynum, a real estate shark and gentrification-pusher in Treme, spoke before me and was allowed to spout with no interruptions by Carter).
What explains for Carter’s outburst? Well, what I wanted to raise, and Cody Marshall planned to as well until being confronted with arrest, were questions regarding the content of the meetings Carter has held with developers, racist Stacy Head, and sell-out tenant leader Kim Paul. Through public records request, acquired from the Downtown Development District (DDD), C3/Hands Off Iberville discovered that Carter had met with the DDD head Kurt Weigle, sell out Iberville tenant head Kim Paul, and architect/developer Ray Manning, on August 25, 2006, and possibly on other occasions, about the plans of these vultures to privatize Iberville (the records of thee meetings will be eventually posted on C3/Hands Off Iberville’s website: c3nola.org; to obtain them now, contact the author at 504-520-9521). Furthermore, through subsequent public records request, we have obtained documentation confirming Carter’s meeting with the new director of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, Karen Cato-Turner, to discuss, what HANO inter-government liaison Darren Martin termed, the ‘revitalization’, i.e. privatization, of Iberville (see April 11, 2008 email from Darren Martin to James Carter). Carter has even had a dinner date with that fanatical opponent of public housing, councilperson Stacy Head to specifically discuss Iberville, that is, its destruction (see September 19, 2006 email from Carter to Head, Subject: Iberville Housing). This is the same Stacy Head that recently went into a rage when she found out that HANO was allowing displaced public housing residents--HUD and HANO are now demolishing their developments--to move into Iberville. How dare they! (see Email from Councilperson Stacy Head to Councilpersons James Cater and Jackie Clarkson, February 27, 2008). In fact, Carter’s relations with Head are so cozy that they stood shoulder-to-shoulder--along with Head’s community hack Barbara Lacen--in a joint anti-crime, i.e. pro-gentrification, June rally in central city (see Times Picayune, June 22, 2008). Thus, Carter’s authoritarian behavior was not surprising considering that Cody and myself were attempting to inquire--and expose- the backroom meetings Carter has been holding about Iberville. Detailing the content of the meeting would help expose the deep contradictions of this capitalist politician and the bankruptcy of his community apologists.
Drawing the Political Conclusions
It is clear, from our perspective, the role of James Carter. While his style, his mode of operation may differ from open racist reactionaries, like Head, Carter’s policies affecting working class differ little. Indeed, to be effective for his corporate paymasters, Carter must have a different style than Head, who, because of her provocations, can, at times cause problems for the ruling class. The challenge for working class and oppressed people is to build a movement that can push aside capitalist politicians like Carter. As part of building that movement we must work to expose the scams that Carter, and his allies, are carrying out to finish off the Iberville public housing community. Join us in that effort!
C3/Hands Off Iberville meets every Thursday at 7 PM at 410 Basin Street.
I sent mine on march 13, after Walter’s post
James Carter and the Weed and Seed Counter-insurgency program
Recently there was a message sent to the CLU list in support of James Carter for the District C council seat. As I read his attached biography, I saw, among other activities, he touted his involvement with the pro-corporate Metropolitan Area Committee, as well as being the “program director” of the so-called “weed and seed program”.
Weed and Seed is a federally supported urban counter-insurgency campaign to push gentrification and harass youth, particularly black working class youth and others “undesireables’ off the streets. It was begun by the feds just after the 1992 LA rebellion to help keep a lid on nay other type of uprising.
This is the type of work Carter was involved in. Do we want to support these type of collaborators? Indeed we could see the whole racist ruling elite’s post-hurricane agenda as one big weed and seed program the whole city.
Instead of relying on these no-good, racist, war mongering, ethnic-cleansing supporting Democratic party capitalist politicians, we need to run a slate of anti-racist, pro-working class fighters. This is a real weakness on our part that we have not run our own candidates in the election.
Below are some excerpts from Pittsburgh and Los Angeles against so-called weed and seed counterinsurgency. Make your own analysis.
From Pittsburgh indy media
On June 13th members of the Bloomfield Garfield Corporation, members of various east end organizations city officials and state government representatives gathered in front of an abandoned building in Garfield. They chose that spot to highlight the "gang presence in the area" and host a press conference to express their outrage at possible federal cutbacks of the Weed and Seed Program. Weed and Seed is a federally funded program that was started after the 1992 Los Angeles uprising as a Republican-led response to what they saw as “the social and economic deterioration of America's inner cities." Since then, the program has spread to about 300 neighborhoods across the country, including many in Pittsburgh. The basic premise of Weed and Seed is to weed out criminals and prevent "Narcotics traffickers and violent criminals from distributing drugs and terrorizing local residents." 50% or more of the Weed and Seed funds go to increased law enforcement. The seeding is aimed at community projects that are devoted to “revitalizing distressed neighborhoods and improving the quality of life in the target communities.” Weed and Seed has been a controversial program since its inception. In Seattle in the early 90’s a coalition of 55 community organizations banded together to fight Weed and Seed
From Los Angeles Bus Riders Union
The Strategy Center worked to generate a Left post-rebellion urban politics, in direct contradiction to the rainbow corporatism of Rebuild L.A. guru Peter Uberroth. We worked in collaboration with Anthony Thigpenn and AGENDA, a south central organization, and Michael Zinzun of the Coalition to Prevent Police Abuse (CAPA) to develop a city-wide movement to defeat a federal "Weed and Seed Program." Weed and Seed attempted to control social service agencies by placing their funding under the authority of the Justice Department, and criminalizing inner city black and Latino youth through "target zones" that allowed them to be arrested and convicted under even more repressive federal statutes. In this movement, the leadership clearly came out of the black community, where there is a stronger historical opposition to the police and a far more effective multi-class united front, whereas many of the Latino elected officials and community residents were initially more supportive of a law and order attack on gang members. In this context Strategy Center organizers Lisa Duran and Martin Hernandez, and LCSC founder Rodolfo Acuna provided essential and courageous leadership in the Latino community. We were successful in building an effective black/Latino united front to get the Los Angeles City Council to reject federal Weed and Seed money.
After a year's work, the Strategy Center published Reconstructing Los Angeles From the Bottom Up, a comprehensive program that included full rights for immigrants, an $8 an hour minimum wage in all government jobs that presaged later Living Wage campaigns, the strictest environmental protections for communities of color, community control of police, and a first class public transportation system that countered transit racism and segregation. The report was launched at a press conference that generated a full page story in the Los Angles Times and attracted significant organizational support from the black, Latino, Korean, and white liberal communities. Finding common programs, working together to generate alternative politics against capitalist modes of economic development—these are some of the common terrains of rebuilding the black/Latino and multi-racial working class alliance at the core of the anti-imperialist united front.
Hands Off Iberville confronts the DDD
by Jay Arena
Monday, Aug. 04, 2008 at 7:03 PM
C3/Hands off Iberville activist Mike Howells (left corner) confronts Downtown Development Distract head Kurt Weigle (far right) at DDD board meeting over outfits ‘redevelopment’ privatization scheme for Iberville
by Jay Arena
Monday, Aug. 04, 2008 at 7:03 PM
notorious_racist_and_poor_people_hater__stacy_head.jpg, image/jpeg, 322x242
The notorious racist, poor people hater, Stacy Head