In most of New Orleans, especially in the French Quarter, garbage is placed outside in plastic or paper grocery sacks or non-standard bins. I, for one, despise this practice after five years of witnessing these stinking sacks fray or bins topple to spew rotting garbage all over city streets, with attendant smell and visuals. In fact, on more than one occasion, I’ve seen kids and drunks kick piles of trash onto the streets or down sidewalks of the French Quarter just for kicks. Quarter residents are now up in arms over the city’s “despotic” decision to impose standard trash cans for all of New Orleans, even resulting in a member of the Vieux CarrÃ© Commission (VCC) referring to the City Sanitation Director, Veronica White, as a bitch over this matter.
The anger over the issue clashes with general delight with the performance of the Quarter’s new trash collection service. But many French Quarter residents say the free 32-gallon, wheeled, lidded “carts” — although just a third the size of those the city is requiring in most other neighborhoods — are too big to store on their small lots or in narrow side alleys. The commission fears that bins left on sidewalks for many hours after garbage trucks have passed will be eyesores and will hinder pedestrian traffic.
Indeed, one forest-green cart is so much more of an eyesore than flimsy plastic or paper bags filled with rotting seafood and used feminine protection, which may end up on the street or sidewalk. Also, the Quarter’s adamant laissez-faire behavior and name-calling is well and good, but there comes a time when it is nothing but downright contrarian stupidity for its own sake.
To complicate matters, Veronica White is “rude, arrogant and insulting” according to some, the terms of this particular sanitation contract are sketchy at best (involves Nagin and a $450K no-bid contract), Nagin wants Lupin ousted from the VCC, Veronica White is a black woman while Ralph Lupin is a white man and the Rainbow Coalition is getting involved. Can you see how this has turned from an issue of sanitary trash removal to one of a really smelly red herring? TrashCanGate is just one more unnecessary hindrance we have to deal with while rebuilding New Orleans.
In an effort to nip this useless argument in the bud, I ask all parties to stop making this about themselves and to concentrate on the city. As I said at Adrastos’s above-referenced post on the matter: Calling White a bitch – is that how we have civic conversations now? It’s the verbal equivalent of pulling out a gun to solve an argument. Again, calling White names if she were being rude, arrogant and insulting AT THAT TIME is fine. But, doing it for the enforcement of trash cans is unpardonable.
Next, who is Nagin to tell the VCC whom and whom not to include in their organization, especially when he, as mayor, should be bigger about it and try to abate the situation instead of making it worse? Lupin was stupid to have called White anything but it’s still within his rights as a citizen. As for the Rainbow Coalition’s involvement, if each time a non-black citizen criticizes the city government, with its preponderance of black officials, is it automatically racism? Also, are black women exempt from being called bitches, now? In a historically majority black city with majority black governance, that everything has to come down to the cheap race card is sad. Doesn’t the city government have better things to do with their time? Once the Rainbow Coalition helps the Treme or Ninth Ward back onto its feet, it can talk.
Lastly, the Times-Picayune isn’t helping a bit by continuing to feature this story and asking readers if we were offended by Lupin’s appraisal of White. Why don’t we just get the whole city and the kitchen sink in on this non-issue? Talk about journalistic irresponsibility (and giving Jarvis DeBerry an opportunity to once again pull out “racial overtones”).
New Orleans-wide trash can enforcement doesn’t justify the means of its delivery, but none of this implies that the trash cans are a bad idea. Why not smaller trash cans for neighborhoods with space and storage problems like the French Quarter and parts of the Marigny? All I’m asking is not to throw the baby out with the garbage sacks and, for the love of this city, to stop this ego battle now.