The Mayor’s Handling Of Six Flags Has Left Many In The East Feeling Betrayed And Frustrated
The people of New Orleans East want answers. Katrina devastated the area 16 years ago. For 16 years they continue to wait for an influx of economic development in the East. And for 16 years they’ve been left frustrated. Then Mayor Cantrell announced that the long abandoned Six Flags site would be development. Hopes were raised. She then backed that up by forming a selection committee to solicit and weigh proposals. The people of the East were then promised a quick and fair process. So far though, there’s been nothing quick or fair about it. And in the meantime, many in the East feel that their voices are ignored.
Many clergy who attended a meeting with the mayor last week echoed that feeling. They expressed the community’s frustration. The main point of contention was the mayor’s selection committee. The committee has faced heavy criticism after establishing Drew Brees’ Shield One urban farm proposal as the front runner over Bayou Phoenix. Bayou Phoenix is the amusement/entertainment themed proposal led by local businessman Troy Henry.
“Bayou Phoenix is clearly the better proposal,” said Wall. “I don’t understand why that’s not clear. It has what the people of the East want, and it would not only be better for the East, it would also be better [economically] for the city. Something just isn’t right here.”
Ira Thomas, former Orleans Parish School Board President, who was also at the meeting expressed the same frustration. “We pointed out,” he said, “that the committee was biased against the Bayou Phoenix proposal.”
The committee’s scoring of the proposals seems to imply that. In the meeting, the mayor reportedly said that financial stability was paramount. Yet, Shield One was awarded a higher financial stability score even though it requires public funding. Bayou Phoenix, on the other hand, is totally funded by Troy Henry and his partners. When asked about Bayou Phoenix having a letter of commitment for its financial backing, the mayor reportedly dismissed it as “just a letter.”
The DBE participation also left some bewildered. The scoring was based on a history of DBE involvement. Shield One, for its part, has no history. Troy Henry and his partners have a long history. Despite that, Shield One was given a higher score. “It makes absolutely no sense,” said Thomas. “Anybody looking at the committee can see that the scoring was biased. The process was clearly flawed.” That’s why residents feel betrayed and frustrated.
Reportedly, the mayor became incensed when she was called to account for any of this. “She rejected our assertion that the committee was biased,” said Thomas.
The mayor also rejected the concerns of the citizens of the East over their lack of involvement. At one point, she was quoted as saying that the people of New Orleans East should stop playing the victim. When asked why no one from the East was appointed to the committee, the mayor responded that they couldn’t find anyone qualified. Council member Cindi Nguyen, who represents the East, reportedly asked to be placed on the committee, but was denied.
“It’s like the East doesn’t matter. It’s just not right.”Tangie Wall
There was also talk of a win-win situation where both groups would walk away with something. “The mayor,” Thomas said, “made it clear that she didn’t want the losing group to feel left out.” That win-win, though, would not involve both groups sharing the site. The losing group would apparently be awarded a smaller development on another piece of city property. When asked if that would be something he would be settle for, Henry said, “It’s not ideal. Ideally, we would like to move forward with our plan, and its expansion.” The expansion would include a redevelopment of parts of Eastover and its country club and golf course. For some, regardless of a win-win, the urban farm is a non-starter.
Residents feel betrayed and frustrated.
With the city’s mayoral election set for October 9th, this can’t be the type of publicity the mayor wants going into reelection. “I believe the committee put the mayor in a bad spot,” said Thomas. “But she shouldn’t allow her pride to prevent her from doing the right thing. Because ultimately, the citizens of N.O. East will hold her accountable.”
“We are a large voting bloc,” said Wall. “And we feel that there’s something wrong here. This is a big story to tell.” Internally, the mayor has to be wondering if this the first chapter in a story that may not end well.