Last Night's Maple Area Residents (MARI) Meeting
I made it over to the MARI (Maple Area Residents, Inc.) neighborhood meeting held last night in the basement of Lusher School on Willow Street. The guest speakers were scheduled to be At-Large Councilman Oliver Thomas, State Representative Steve Scalise, Architect/BNOB Commission Member Peter Trapolin, and Lusher School Principal Kathy Reidlinger. When I arrived Councilman Thomas was already speaking--and I also witnessed Steve Scalise's presentation as well as Kathy Reidlinger's. I am not sure if Peter Trapolin wasn't there or he may have spoken before I arrived. District A Councilman Jay Batt was not in attendance. The announcement that he was not able to attend for personal reasons drew rumbling by some within the 150+ person turnout.
Oliver Thomas mostly spoke in terms of generalities of the city as a whole--not so much Carrollton specifically. He addressed the myths and realities of what did and didn't happen in what I call the "Brownie" days immediately following the storm. He basically stated that much of what was reported was not factual, but also there were some things that did happen which avoided media coverage. I give credit to Thomas' ability to speak and his general personable qualities. He is most certainly a polished politician unlike Mayor Nagin--although Nagin's non-politician persona is what garnered "fed up with the system" votes (including my own) which got him elected.
Next up was District 82 Louisiana State Representative Steve Scalise. The majority of Scalise's constituency is within neighboring Jefferson Parish although part of his district meanders through Carrollton/Uptown to Audubon Park. Scalise spent much time on the levee board consolidation issue as it will be the central topic of the upcoming special legislative session. A question from the audience shifted to the status and future of Charity Hospital. He kept repeating that the Charity system was broken--although not really quantifying the statement to where I personally understood exactly what he intended. He did remark on the "failed social programs" of the Huey P. Long-era which might provide a clue as to what he meant. I agree that the 1930's-built facility is badly in need of physical improvement or possible replacement (even before KTMB), but is not Charity a leading learning/teaching hospital in the country and a major economic generator for the region? Is it the free medical service to those in need that he is against?
The final speaker was Lusher School Principal Kathy Reidlinger. Lusher (along with several other City of New Orleans schools) of course is now designated a charter school--in partnership with Tulane University. The big news to me from Ms. Reidlinger was that Lusher Extension on South Carrollton (at the former location of the Carrollton City Hall and Ben Franklin High School) is to be moved to the Fortier High School campus on Freret Street. Whoa. After her presentation I inquired about the future of McNair School (which is a couple of blocks away from my home) and she told me that school was on the state's takeover list and would be opening as a charter once adopted by an organization--most likely in the Fall.
Former Saints Executive Vice President Arnold Fielkow was "in the house" not as a participant but as a resident of the city listening to the presentations just like everyone else. Rumors have swirled that he plans to run for a political office . . .