By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — Let me open this week by apologizing for missing my post last week; a friend of mine died suddenly and the funeral was Monday. It all happened so quickly that I never even thought about my post here until Wednesday. Note: if you are a diabetic, please take care of yourself and do not ignore symptoms or skip medications. That disease is serious business. Take care of yourself.
Meanwhile, here in Louisiana, local and state government continues to be the hot mess that it has been for decades and an issue for which Louisiana has become famous. I’ve documented pretty thoroughly the ineptitude that is local government in New Orleans: Mayor Mitch Landrieu continues to attempt to reinvent his legacy and image in the face of daily shootings and murders in the city while he was spending millions to remove four Confederate era monuments.
Let’s read between the lines of this summation of the situation:
The city says about $2.1 million was spent to remove the three Confederate monuments in May and the Battle of Liberty Place monument in April, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in security costs Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration had not anticipated.
My question: how could Landrieu have been so clueless as to not realize security would be needed? Did he really not think people would protest this? Ineptitude at its finest.
The city said $1.04 million of the monument-removal costs came from budgeted city funds, with $1.07 million coming from private donations through the Foundation for Louisiana, which is keeping the names of donors secret.
Secret? Seriously? I would love to know who is funding cultural genocide in New Orleans. FOIA, anyone? Be sure to read this post from The Hayride for more about Landrieu and his friends at Foundation for Louisiana.
Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni said “racial extremists” forced the city to spend $710,000 on a safety and intelligence contractor named Trident Response Group. Invoices show that Trident, a Dallas-based company, provided advice developing operational plans with consultants charging up to $425 an hour.
Trident also provided two security advisers, listed on invoices only as “Bob” and “Gary,” at $275 and $250 per hour, respectively. About a half dozen other security analysts monitored threats on social media and other sources as known white supremacy groups and opposing Antifas encouraged online followers to amass in New Orleans, Berni said.
Again, this wasn’t anticipated? And “racial extremeists” forced the city to spend this money? This is incredible. I would suggest Landrieu would be more to blame than “racial extremeists.” As for Trident Security, they are self-described as “elite risk and threat solutions firm of Veterans and Special Ops to anticipate and solve problems for influential decision-makers.”
This is serious secret-agent stuff, isn’t it?! And all for what? What was accomplished?
Mayor Mitch Landrieu had said there would be no city funds used the remove the Liberty Place monument and statues of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard and Jefferson Davis.
Berni emphasized no city funds were used on actual removal work, only logistics, security and storage. For example, the city was forced to spend about $52,000 building a shed for the monuments — and another $12,000 in security there — after they were moved to a storage yard because of attempts to vandalize them when they were left outside, Berni said.
Semantics. Word-play. Of course city funds were used in this demolition. And again with this “forced” business – the city “was forced to spend…”. When did this shed get built because last time I saw photos of the monuments they were outside in a maintenance yard. Perhaps Landrieu should have left them where they were until he had a plan to place them someplace else – then he could have saved $52K on “a shed.”
And by the way, there is still no plan for the monuments that anyone knows about.
After WWL-TV reported earlier this week that the city spent $173,000 deploying 221 NOPD officers to the three Confederate leaders’ statues, the full amount paid for all four removals and the protests was released Friday. The total NOPD cost was nearly $220,000. Fire Department personnel were paid $20,000 and EMS employees made about $5,500 to be stationed at the monuments.
The Regional Transit Authority also spent about $7,500 to remove and reinstall overhead streetcar lines at Lee Circle to clear the way for the especially challenging removal of the Robert E. Lee statue.
The graphic from The Advocate breaks down regular and overtime hours. All could have been avoided. Trident received $710K for this gig. Would anyone say that Mitch Landrieu has been a good steward of the city’s money? I don’t think so.
I feel certain at some point the Democrats are going to attempt to put Landrieu’s name out there for the next presidential election and it’s incumbent on all of us to know what you’re getting with that.
Meanwhile, New Orleans continues with daily shootings and murders, potholes go unfixed, the city’s infrastructure declines, tourism declines and problems amass. The city is more racially divided than ever – a city that was once known for its acceptance of diversity and tolerance.
But at least there are four less pieces of public art. There’s that. At least now nobody will have to drive by a statue of Robert E. Lee and feel the trauma of remembering that our country was once divided by a civil war over issues much more complex than just slavery. At least nobody will have to walk past a Jefferson Davis monument (even though they will still have to travel of Jefferson Davis Boulevard).
He has protected us from that trauma. Now if he could figure out how to protect us from the violence in the streets of New Orleans that would be something.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.