She Faces Opposition from Parts of the Community
by Kenneth Cooper
City Hall, the seat of city government, sits on Perdido St., rotting, a confluence of mold, cramped office space, and often questionable leadership. A building born before desegregation, reports of its demolition have been greatly exaggerated.
Besides ridding the city of poor black people by offering no gentrification solutions, while insuring tourists have a safe space to get drunk and spend money, the only thing that has stopped previous mayors from putting a big, fat Fleur-de-lis on the city’s recovery has been overseeing the construction of a new or improved City Hall.
To paraphrase the president, many people are saying that the present City Hall is not a place fit for a mayor, any branch of city government, or possibly any form of life in general. What many people aren’t saying, though, is that there’s a consensus on where to move it. Any mayor wishing to relocate or rebuild City Hall has to make peace with a number of agencies, like FEMA, the state, the City Council, and the media.
By the time mayor Nagin had proposed moving City Hall, he had torn through so many pairs of drawers with the Council that he could’ve offered to pay for the whole thing with his 401k plan from Cox Cable and they still would’ve opposed it.
Mayor Landrieu, in an act of ambition overriding common sense, ended up with an almost half a billion-dollar price tag to renovate the Charity Hospital building. The state promptly said, “we ain’t helping you pay for that.”
Now comes Mayor Cantrell, reeling and searching for another win – some unifying moment to offset the bad rapport she’s beginning to build with some of the citizenry. She can’t stop alleged gangs of kids from breaking windshields and stealing property. Her handling of the Hard Rock has prompted rumors of corruption and back room dealing, much like her handling of the traffic cameras. She just banned tandem floats, and many hours of days on conservative talk radio have been dedicated to whether she ruined Mardi Gras or not.
Her proposal to move City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium has been met with equal disdain. “Mayor bullies Armstrong Park leader. Mayor’s plan makes no sense.” The headlines abound in varying forms of irrationality.
It’s like when your wife, husband, or whoever you find yourself sharing a house with stores something in the closet or attic, and in the midst of cleaning out the closet or attic you put that thing in the pile of things to be thrown away. A fit of convulsions and declarations ensue. They say how much they love this thing and how they had just been thinking about using it and wonder how you could be so insensitive to ever think about throwing away something that means so much to them. Now, they know they were never ever going to use that thing again, and they know that you know they were never going to use that thing again. It’s just the thought of officially parting with it causes them to cling to it tighter. The Municipal Auditorium creates the same emotion.
The Municipal Auditorium, once the crown jewel of Armstrong Park, flooded during Katrina and has been a mere relic of itself ever since. No Mardi Gras balls are being held there, no plays, no concerts. For 15 years it has been an afterthought, if not forgotten. Until now. Now it’s a place that holds such dear memories of high school graduations and dance recitals. It’s a cultural cornerstone of the city. How could the mayor ever think of turning it into an office building?
A counter proposal to move City Hall to the old Navy base on Poland St. is a real get out my face moment. Poland, along that stretch, is a raggedy, uninviting street, smothered in trees. Sunlight is rumored to reach its surface but is rarely seen. Buried somewhere beneath the foliage is the Navy base, an isolated fortress along the river, completely removed from the heart of the city. Moving City Hall there would be like shoving the mayor in a corner.
Besides bombing other countries, golfing, remaking the world in our image, and keeping citizens properly pacified, all presidents have had one major goal in common, a goal that has transcended time, and party affiliation, a goal if accomplished would immediately elevate that president to almost Rushmore status. That goal is to be the first to bring peace to the Middle East.
At times it seems that erecting a new City Hall would be an equal or greater feat. Nagin was done in by the Council, Landrieu by the state. Will Cantrell face the same fate via the conservative media? We will see. If she is successful, will the homeless people who’ve made the Auditorium their home see its renovation as an act of gentrification by the city?