New Orleans. There was the Detroit Mayor and now it seems we will have the New Orleans City Council simply unable to exercise good judgment once their hands grab the keys to send an email or tap out a text or blackberry message. Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial (and now head of the National Urban League) used to tell me frequently how he looked forward to trying out a blackberry once he was out of office (and he uses one with abandon now!), but only a fool would use one while mayor. We are reminded that his honor the mayor knew his stuff on this score.
A local, activist lawyer, Tracie Washington, filed a freedom of information (FOIA) request for the emails of the city council members on the public server. She was actually given these records by the head of the Sanitation
Department in sort of an “end around” play that had the City Attorney fuming since it went around him. Nonetheless nothing illegal there in having a city department head comply with a proper FOIA request. But, then all heck broke loose as the City Attorney and the Council wanted to block Washington from putting up the emails on her website for public perusal, because they wanted to make sure there was nothing confidential or harmful to the city’s (public?) interest.
Courts went back and forth recently on the issue. First, one said no, then the state district court of appeals said, yes, on Tuesday. Late on Wednesday the Louisiana Supreme Court stayed the order, but not before Washington’s people put up a couple of the emails on their site.
The three that went up were from first (and hopefully last) term Councilwoman Stacy Head. The Times-Picayune report said that the emails posted clearly were chosen to embarrass Head, but until all of them are eventually up, we New Orleanians have no idea if that was hard to do or not.
The e-mails are case studies in hateration, as they call it down here. She has a visceral attack on food stamp recipients (blackberry no doubt, Marc) because she resented standing in line behind some of them in the grocery store. She takes a couple of foul-mouthed swipes at another councilwoman, Jackie Clarkson, who may or may not have deserved it, and does so in an email to Shelly Midura, another councilwoman, implicating her in this chatty barrage. The other one that was published was an attack on Jerome Smith, the well regarded former SNCC organizer and head of Tambourine and Fan in New Orleans, who she accused of racism for absolutely no good reason in a dustup some months ago.
You get the message, huh? It’s not just that Head obviously has to go. It’s also that even if you can’t serve us well as citizens of this great and damaged city, at least have the judgment to put your hands in your pockets or jacket and don’t let us know what kind of nasty and evil person you are in real life. Enduring some of these folks as public servants is bad enough. Why inflict us with even more!