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Day 578: Please End TrashCanGate Now!

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 Carré 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.

10 comments… add one
  • John March 29, 2007, 11:17 AM

    Most New Orleans homes that I’ve seen have more room for a trash can than my tiny house in DC did (and I had a full-sized can).

  • jeffrey March 29, 2007, 11:19 AM

    Check this out! I almost totally agree with Maitri on something. I agree completely with your assessment of the stupidity of the “bitchgate” circus. Although I’m probably more amused than outraged on balance.

    I also agree that the circus obscures the important issue. Although it looks to me like you’re concerned that it obscures improved trash collection while I’m more worried that it serves as another excuse for the T-P to ignore corruption in the Nagin administration.

    I did say we agree here, didn’t I?

  • Maitri March 29, 2007, 11:28 AM

    Pull out the good china and bring on the party – Jeffrey and I almost agree on something!

  • TM March 29, 2007, 11:38 AM

    *standing ovation*

  • liprap March 29, 2007, 4:10 PM

    Well, the party IS this weekend…

  • Slate March 30, 2007, 12:01 AM

    OOOOPS, and I love her so much, but she’s gonna HATE my post on this.

    PS Thanks M. Your presence tonight was what got me up there. You and L were so supportive that I managed to not make a total ass of myself.

    I think, anyway. Heartfelt thanks, and more discussions on your mom and karma!

  • Adrastos March 30, 2007, 12:06 PM

    Hmm, so Slate are we talking karaoke or another form of public humiliation?

  • Slate March 30, 2007, 3:46 PM

    Karaoke, for sure. They made me get up and do a drunken rendition of Bohemian Rhapsody while the two of them forgot to do the headbanging and I forgot the words about Beelzebub, but they supported me anyway. It was my mellifluous, smoky Lauren Bacall voice that worked so well on that song. I shoulda stuck to the Bacall thing and just whistled.

  • Puddinhead April 2, 2007, 9:59 AM

    I’m in total agreement with Ms. Maitri on this one, except………

    Yeah, there’s always an “except”, isn’t there? But in this case it had nothing to do with the main thrust of the argument, and ventures into the realm of the picking of the nits.

    “In a historically majority black city with majority black governance, that everything has to come down to the cheap race card is sad.”

    Of course I agree about the “race card” part–there isn’t much else that will bring the whole process (whatever process it happens to be) to a screeching standstill nowadays than someone’s “playing the race card”. What I do want to point out, however, is a minor inaccuracy that has become something of (in my mind) the most prominent and crippling “straw man” argument that has resulted from the entire Katrina nightmare–that New Orleans is a “historically black city”. The truth, of course, is that New Orleans (the city proper) had a majority white population for most of it’s existance, making it (like most every other American city) a “historically white city”. Only twice in the census history prior to 1980 (in 1810 and in 1830) were there more African-American residents of the city of New Orleans than there were white residents; by 1860 the population was 86% white and remained over 70% white for the next 80 years. (http://www.leh.org/editorials/myths.html) New Orleans became a majority-black city some time in the 70’s as a result of white flight to the suburbs after school integration, and didn’t become “officially” a black-majority city until the 1980 census. The Ninth Ward, as an aside, didn’t become majority-black until after 1940, having been pretty sparsely populated by anyone of any color before then. For comparison’s sake, the New Orleans “Metro” area was generally considered to be about 37-38% African-American prior to Katrina.

    All of this is not intended to show that I’m obsessed with the concept of race; on the contrary, I’m one of those who (probably due to having grown up in the Upper Ninth Ward and the Eighth Ward and hanging with many friends from the Seventh Ward) always had plenty of questions over how anyone could look at the broadly multi-hued palette that is the complexion of New Orleans and make a decision on exactly where to draw lines delineating “races”. Rather, I only do it to point out the fallacies behind the argument that the New Orleans culture will either disappear or at the least be irreplably harmed unless some process is created to (artificially, if necessary) ensure that the city remain majority-black. Simply put, I would ask those who focus entirely on the racial percentages of our city’s population this question–Was there no “New Orleans culture” before the 1970’s, when the city was still majority-white? Did jazz, second-lining, and Creole cuisine only develop in the thirty years between then and now? Or were (and are) the African-American contributions to New Orleans culture so strong and so numerous that it has never mattered whether the city was majority-white or majority-black, and would likely not matter if the population were majority-purple??

  • Puddinhead April 2, 2007, 10:01 AM

    “irreplably”?? LOL

    You know what I mean……..LOL

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