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Open Letter to Katy Reckdahl, Laura Tuggle and Tracie Washington
by Jay Arena Monday, Dec. 28, 2009 at 3:48 AM 504-520-9521

The Community Has Already “Weighed-In” on Public Housing: Hands Off Iberville! An Open Letter to Katy Reckdahl, Laura Tuggle and Tracie Washington

Open Letter to Katy ...
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The Community Has Already “Weighed-In” on Public Housing:
Hands Off Iberville!

Open Letter to Katy Reckdahl, Laura Tuggle and Tracie Washington

Katy Reckdahl’s December 26, 2009 article on New Orleans’ public housing elaborates extensively on the Iberville development and the fact that there is now a ‘citizen committee’ that is commissioned with ‘weigh[ing] the complex's future’. Yet, while providing some useful information, Reckdahl leaves out two important points in regard to the committee and the ‘weighing’ of Iberville’s future. This omitted--censored?--information is critical for assessing what is really happening at Iberville and developing an effective fight back against the class and racial cleansing agenda of the real estate sharks and their government and non-profit accomplices.

We, who ‘weigh-in’ on the side of the people’s needs when making our decisions, rather than the profit needs of capitalists, must be armed with the ‘missing facts’ elaborated below as we enter a critical stage in the defense of Iberville, which is part of a broader fight back against the ruling class’ intensifying, global austerity agenda.

The Peoples Committee

The first omission in Reckdahls’ article is that in addition to the so-called ‘citizens committee’ she speaks of, there is also a ‘Peoples Committee’, C3/Hands Off Iberville, made-up of public and non-public housing residents, that has met and spoken out for years in defense of public housing. This committee has rendered its decision: maintain all the apartments at Iberville as Public Housing, in which people pay according to their income. Furthermore, the 300 now empty, and badly needed, apartments at Iberville must be fixed-up immediately, instead of remaining closed as part of a conscious strategy by HUD/HANO and developers to ‘demolish by neglect’.

Unmasking the Iberville Advisory Committee

The second omission is that Reckdahl fails to note that the so-called Iberville Advisory Committee, which the author refers to as the ‘citizens committee’, has a serious legitimacy problem. This committee, handpicked by top HANO lawyer Wayne Woods, specifically excluded Hands Off Iberville, and is headed by an operative of the Downtown Development District, Henry Charlot, Jr. Mr. Charlot and the DDD’s executive director Kurt Weigle, have long made it clear that they want the Iberville destroyed as public housing and the community members removed.

In addition, this ‘committee’ includes Lillie Walker-Woodfork, a public housing resident, who spoke-out at the infamous New Orleans city council meeting on December 20, 2007. While opponents of demolition where beaten, tear gassed, and arrested, Walker-Woodfork declared her support for the Bush and Nagin administrations criminal--and internationally condemned--plans to demolish some 5,000 viable public housing apartments. Walker-Woodfork is part of a long line of resident ‘leaders’, such as Donna Johnigan and businesswomen Cynthia Wiggins, that have collaborated with and/or effectively fronted for real estate developers in their racial and class cleansing efforts. Instead of denouncing the eviction of their neighbors these hacks, after or in expectation of future compensation, become collaborators. For a few coins, or sometimes serious cash (as in Wiggins’s case), they eagerly join the corporate gangbangers in, figuratively and literally, throwing women and children into the streets.

To include the DDD on the Iberville Advisory

Committee, as well as other dubious ‘stakeholders’, is to invite the proverbial fox into the process. If Mr. Gilmore, from ‘Gilmore Kean LLC’, the new HANO administrator, is serious about change and transparency, he must begin by removing Charlot and listen to the peoples demand: maintain all the apartments at Iberville as Public Housing.
If Mr. Gilmore, from ‘Gilmore Kean LLC’, the new HANO administrator, is serious about change and transparency, he must begin by removing Charlot and listen to the peoples demand: maintain all the apartments at Iberville as Public Housing.
A Message to Housing Advocates Tracie Washington and Laura Tuggle

C3/Hands Off Iberville calls on the members of the Iberville Advisory Committee, including attorney Laura Tuggle, to denounce the role of the DDD and demand their expulsion from the committee, At minimum, the committee must open deliberations, which currently continue to be backroom affairs that bar any public oversight.

We also urge Tracie Washington and Laura Tuggle, both members of the Obama administration appointed local HANO advisory board, to publically state their support of the demand made by C3/Hands Off Iberville, May Day New Orleans and other community and labor groups. These grass roots organizations call for defending all the apartments at Iberville as public housing, as well as enforcement (which is currently being ignored) of section 3 rules that give preference for local, low income workers for HUD-funded construction projects.

As part of this defense of Iberville, it is incumbent upon Ms. Washington and Tuggle to denounce the criminal demolition by neglect strategy. Under this cynical and criminal policy, HANO/HUD encourages existing Iberville residents to take section 8 vouchers. When they vacate, their apartments are sealed shut and not offered to the thousands of families on the public housing waiting list that desperately need housing.

Public Works and Housing NOW!

Finally, we call on the advisory board to hold a public hearing where people can speak-out and explain the urgent need, in the face of skyrocketing rents and record levels of homelessness, for defending all the public housing we have, and for a massive public works program to rebuild our public sector, from housing to hospitals to schools.

Article by Katy Reckdahl
Katy Reckdahl, Times Picayune, Dec 26, 2009

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