A NEW ORLEANS TRIBUNE EDITORIAL:
The New Orleans Tribune Endorses Desiree Charbonnet
We Are With Desi
As time went on, we hoped the rest of New Orleans would see, as we had, through the baseless attacks against Desiree Charbonnet, which were later revealed to be funded by Leslie Jacobs, Lane Grigsby, Jay Lapeyre, Stuart Phillips, Boysie Bollinger, and other White business elite through the Not For Sale NOLA political action committee they formed for the express purpose of attacking Charbonnet reputed to have cost several hundred thousand dollars. When Sidney Torres also put Charbonnet in his crosshairs, we began to struggle with our decision. We have to question the intent and motivation of anyone who fought tooth and nail against putting a dozen or so affordable units in the high-end apartment building he is developing with the use of generous tax credits. His baseless attacks against Charbonnet clearly have nothing to do with what is best for ALL of the people of New Orleans. The way we see it is that if he really he cared about ALL of the people of New Orleans, surely he would not be against making a handful of apartment units cost effective for low and moderate income New Orleanians.
We considered retracting our no-endorsement pronouncement about a week before the primary. We were concerned about Not for Sale NOLA’s deceitful tactics, and we thought we could make a difference. Still, we stuck with our original decision to let the primary play out. But, we can no longer sit on the sidelines. The future of OUR city is far too important. And while we have great respect for LaToya Cantrell and believe she, too, would make a fine mayor, we urge our readers to vote for Desiree Charbonnet.
Here’s the bottom line. If we can look at Bagneris, Charbonnet, Cantrell, Henry and Vassel, and see no substantial differences in their ability to govern fairly, honestly and with integrity, we are left to wonder one thing: What is it about Desiree Charbonnet that has raised the ire of rich, shadowy folk to the extent that they would sabotage her campaign with a smidgen of their money and even more of their baseless, unfounded accusations of “cronyism” and “corruption”—words we haven’t heard in eight years? In a town where a politician is nothing without political allies and hired advisers, why are the White business elite so bothered because Charbonnet counts among hers Ike Spears, a local attorney, and businessman/bail bondsman Blair Boutte? Thing is, we bet they are just as concerned that former mayor Sidney Barthelemey and former city councilman Lambert Boissiere Jr., are in her camp, as well. But because Jacobs and her posse failed to manufacture any mud to sling about them, hoping it would stick to Charbonnet, they conveniently left their names out of their preposterous and bizarre attack against the candidate. How about Congressman Cedric Richmond, Clerk of Court Darren Lombard, former city councilwoman Cynthia Willard Lewis, Public Service Commissioner Lambert Boissiere III, Criminal Court Clerk Arthur Morrell, former national president of Delta Sigma Sorority Cynthia Butler McIntyre, and other respected leaders, such as Deborah Elam and Barbara Major? To be sure, each of these individuals is influential, particularly in the Black community; and they are Charbonnet supporters, as well. Ahhh, is that at the heart of Jacobs and her posse’s dilemma with Charbonnet? Does the idea that she could become the city’s next mayor with strong support from the Black community and without their help, specifically, pose a serious crisis for them?
Who Do You Trust?
Well, as we said earlier, we just don’t have the time nor inclination to attempt to figure the minds of the malicious. It’s a good thing this one is easy. What we knew for sure going into the Oct. 14 primary is that for the first time in eight years, New Orleans would once again be under the leadership of a Black mayor. The minute qualifying ended in July and the long list of candidates for the race officially took shape, we knew our next mayor would be Black, and so did the White business elite. They couldn’t do a thing about the next mayor being Black, but if they had any say it would at least be one over whom they thought they could exercise some influence and control.
To be clear, no shade is intended against any other candidate in either the primary or the impending runoff. All we’re saying is that if those same forces thought for one second that they had no shot at influencing or controlling any other candidate in the race they would have gone after them, too. Those candidates not targeted by Not for Sale NOLA’s vehement attacks should not consider themselves special. In fact, a better posture may be to question why your candidacy doesn’t concern this group. As we see it, they looked at Charbonnet, her supporters and advisors and decided that their ability to exact any influence over her was a longshot, maybe even impossible. They couldn’t get close to her; so they attacked her. They wanted her out, and they figured all they had to do was utter their lies with the authority, arrogance and power that their wealth affords them and it would make a difference. They were almost right. Charbonnet, who began the race at the top of the polls—the one to beat—came in second, a full nine points behind Cantrell.
Not for Sale NOLA’s despicable commercials aired on local stations; and their mailers were disseminated to targeted sections of the city. But they stretched beyond the boundaries of decency to misleading, dishonest and unmerited with baseless and unsubstantiated connections of Charbonnet to former congressman William Jefferson and former mayor Ray Nagin. What they obviously don’t know is that many in the Black community have celebrated Bill Jefferson’s return and are rooting for Ray Nagin’s appeal.
In addition to the attempt to cast a dark cloud drenched in bigotry and bias over her relationship with Boutte and Spears, the mailers also included statements by City Councilwoman Stacy Head based on nothing more than rumors she had heard about how much money was being contributed to mayoral campaigns back in July. Even more outlandish is that the quotes are taken from a general statement that Head made about the mayor’s race as the qualifying period ended and were used by Not For Sale NOLA out of context. Now, this is the same Stacy Head who blew kisses at former public housing residents, taunting and arrogantly dismissing them as the City Council was deliberating to tear down traditional public housing. Why should we trust her? Head’s words had nothing to do with Charbonnet and her campaign specifically. But including Head’s quotes just like throwing in pictures of Jefferson and Nagin were calculated moves. Altogether, it is the type of rhetoric that appeals to those looking for any reason, however unfounded and meritless, to justify their hate-fueled efforts to degrade and vilify Black leadership. Unfortunately, it is also the type of rhetoric that sidetracks and confuses many of the rest of us.
Still, we are dismayed by Michael Bagneris and the tone of his endorsement of Cantrell. He regurgitates the same preposterous notions pushed by Not for Sale NOLA and even borrows their linguistic racism with abandon with regard to another Black candidate. He goes so far as to say he is concerned that Charbonnet’s supporters would have too much control over City Hall, bids and contracts. Then he says this, according to the article about his endorsement of Cantrell that appears in nola.com:
“I believe what I say. I’m not one just to throw things out,” Bagneris said. “If (Charbonnet) is in there, then just put the for-sale sign-up.”
In The New Orleans Advocate story about his endorsement of Cantrell, he is quoted as referring to Boutte, Spears, Congressman Cedric Richmond, and Charbonnet’s brother Bernard Charbonnet as the “fearsome foursome” that “controls” Charbonnet.
Let’s get something straight. Desiree Charbonnet has NOT ever been accused of, investigated for, or charged with any wrongdoing in her 19-year political career. All of a sudden, a bunch of rich, White people get to taint her image by making baseless accusations against her. They send out mailers featuring caricatures of a gun-toting Charbonnet—images hatched in the same twisted, racist mindset of those who held President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama with such disdain that they published a heinous political cartoon on the cover of The New Yorker that depicted them as fist-bumping, Muslim extremists, complete with Michelle Obama toting an automatic weapon and rounds of ammunition. Jacobs and her posse sent out a mailer with a cartoon image of a Black woman carrying a pistol and not only was there no outcry, a fair share of Black folk are actually buying this bull. To be sure, New Orleanians—Black and White—ought to be outraged by this sort of blatant racially-tinged rhetoric.
The right-winged website hayride.com even got in on the deflect-and-destroy bandwagon with an absolutely bizarre story about New Orleans’ long history of mixed-raced lineages and how it figures into this mayoral race. With Desiree Charbonnet’s ancestry as a focal point, the article by Johann Batiste, actually used words and phrases such as “light complexion”, “mulatto”, and “black creole” and speculated about Charbonnet, and Bagneris and Cantrell for that matter, having Black ancestors that volunteered to serve in the Confederate army. Today New Orleans is—some 300 years after its founding—facing tough issues regarding crime, affordable housing, public infrastructure, poverty and more, and the hayride.com wants to talk about whether someone’s great-grandmother, three times removed, was Black or if their great, great, great grandfather had a two families—one Black and one White. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
WE have to be smarter than that. We must resist their attempts to divide (and conquer) OUR community. And while their petty plan may have impacted the primary, the runoff election offers another opportunity to show these folks that WE will not be swayed by their smear campaign. If you want to know how ridiculous and baseless their claims against Charbonnet and her association with Ike Spears and Blair Boutte are simply ask yourself why Jacobs, Grigsby and the rest of their posse chose Charbonnet’s campaign for their attack? Boutte and Spears are two highly-sought after political strategists that have worked on a myriad of campaigns—campaigns for the likes of John Georges, Mitch Landrieu, John Bel Edwards, Arnie Fielkow and even Helena Moreno’s recent, successful bid for City Council—and not once were they made the big, bad boogeymen because they were hired by these political candidates and elected officials. Why now? Why Desiree Charbonnet?
And if you think we’re reaching when we say that the White business elite and Uptown crowd want someone in the mayor’s office they at least think they can control, especially if that someone has to be Black, consider this: Nearly 16 years ago, when the idea of New Orleans ever electing another White mayor seemed like a fairytale, they went marching into the enchanted forest, also known as the executive level suites at Cox Communications, to persuade a young Black telecommunications executive who didn’t have a lick of city government experience that he was just what the city needed and then put their might and money behind him to secure his victory. And never forget how they turned on him as soon as the city’s demographics morphed enough in the wake of Hurricane Katrina to make him expendable. If WE need one reason not to trust the White business elite, this is it. When they no longer needed him, the prince was turned into a beast.
So here we are. Some three weeks away from the runoff. And we’re unapologetic and completely forthcoming in this endorsement. We are with Desi for more reasons than one. Of course, we decided a while back that she could do the job. She has some good ideas and with the right team and ample time to implement them, our city would be better for it. We felt the same way about Michael Bagneris, Troy Henry and Tommie Vassel. And yes, we feel similarly about Charbonnet’s runoff opponent LaToya Cantrell. That is the chief reason we did not make an endorsement for the primary. We found it hard to choose. And our endorsement of Charbonnet now is not meant as a criticism of her opponent.
But when we look at the line-up against Desiree Charbonnet—Grigsby, Bollinger, Torres, Lapeyre, Phillips, and Jacobs—Jacobs, who is already responsible for the debacle and arrogant takeover of our public schools that has been billed as “education reform” in New Orleans—we are fully persuaded that if that cast of characters doesn’t want Desiree Charbonnet in City Hall, then SHE is exactly what OUR city NEEDS!
Take a serious look at who is supporting Desiree Charbonnet. Now, look at who is behind the attacks against her. Who do you trust?
It’s time to truly wrest control of OUR city from the shadowy figures set on using their money, privilege and might to disenfranchise and marginalize OUR communities. Don’t be distracted by malicious attempts to thwart progress and delegitimize Black (and White) leadership. What these powerbrokers need to learn once and for all is that not only is NOLA not for sale, but New Orleanians are NOT foolish little sheep easily led astray by their tricks and the few dollars they toss behind their despicable deeds.
In the words of Dr. Louis Charles Roudanez, founder and publisher of the historic New Orleans Tribune established in 1864, “It is time that we are leaders ourselves!
That is why we are endorsing Desiree Charbonnet for mayor.
Here are our complete endorsements in the Nov. 18 runoff election:
Civil District Court Division J
Omar Mason or D. Nicole Sheppard
City Council District B
City Council District E
Clarification: An earlier version of this editorial listed former Audubon Board commissioner Paul Fine as a Not for Sale NOLA contributor. Fine did not contribute to Not for Sale NOLA. G. Harvey Development, which Fine manages made a $10,000 contribution to the PAC.