The Wayback Machine: (Political) Deathbed Conversion

I’ve been complaining of late how boring New Orleans politics have become. On the other hand, they may have been *too* colorful when I wrote this post in 2006. The City Councilmember in question, Renee Gill-Pratt, was a minion of the Jefferson machine and was convicted of a conspiracy to bilk the school system. She is currently enjoying the hospitality of the federal government and will be doing so for quite some time.

In my early days as a blogger, I nicknamed almost everybody. The one I stuck on her is perhaps the best of the bunch: Renee Gill-Pratfall. I’d like to claim credit for her defeat in the 2006 election but her time was up. So, dial the Wayback Machine to Sunday February 5, 2006:

(Political) Deathbed Conversion

In a city full of indifferent careerist and not terribly bright politicians my council district (B as in bozo) has hit the proverbial political trifecta: we have the worst member of the College of Clowns (city council for newbies) and there’s a lot of competition for that dubious honor. Her name is Renee Gill Pratt but I call her Gill-Pratfall. Yesterday Gill-Pratfall held a “customer service” day for her constituents. It’s a first for her and the timing is I daresay very interesting: one month before the electoral qualifying period. Gee, I can’t imagine why…

For 4 years, Gill-Pratfall has had a perfectly imperfect record: in my role as a neighborhood leader I have called emailed and written letters oodles  of times and have never heard back. Not once, never, nunca. That is, *until* she was up for re-election. It was just over a week ago; a grammatically challenged aide sent out an email to neighborhood leaders asking them to “staff” the “customer service” day. After recovering from the shock of hearing from Gill-Pratfall’s office, I replied in my best lapsed lawyerly tone and told the errant aide that the group didn’t do politics, and that I couldn’t staff anything if my life depended on it.

To her credit, the errant aide emailed an apology/lame explanation a few days later but the damage was done. At first my heart was aflutter at hearing from my very own council clown and then my hopes were dashed by being asked to volunteer at a vanity event, he said his voice dripping with sarcasm. I was jilted by a council clown. I’m weeping copious crocodile tears. Woe is me.

The depressing thing is that Gill-Pratfall is a *typical* NOLA pol who thinks that the voters work for her instead of the other way around. Now that the political deck has been reshuffled, she’s suddenly scrambling to pretend that she cares about anyone but herself. It’s a new act for her and an unconvincing one at that.

The irony is that I don’t automatically dislike *all* politicians. (I know that’s hard for those who only know me from the blog to believe but it’s true.) In a previous life I worked on Capitol Hill for an outstanding Congressman who was much more liberal than his district yet kept getting re-elected by wide margins. The secret to his success? Constituent service. No letter was unanswered, no call unreturned. People from his district would often say: “That sumbitch may be a goddamn liberal but he helped my mama out with her social security so I’m votin’ for him.” That doesn’t happen in Debrisville: our pols serve only themselves. They *occasionally* help out their constituents but only if they or a relative benefits. For example, former Mayor Marc Morial was very good to his Uncle Glenn Haydel on the public’s dime; so good that Uncle Glenn is under indictment. Ah, family values in action NOLA style.

Back to Gill-Pratfall. Rumor has it that she was elected in the first place in 2002 because of a deal between two pols higher up the food chain. The story is that US Rep Dollar Bill Jefferson and then Council Prez Jim Singleton engaged in some high stakes horse trading. Singleton wanted Dollar Bill’s support in the 2002 Mayoral election. In exchange, Dollar Bill wanted Singleton’s political organization NOT to run a candidate in Council District B which is my district. Singleton’s group BOLD (one of a veritable alphabet soup of local organizations) had held this council district for 5 consecutive terms. Nobody knows for sure if the deal was closed but if it was, Jim Singleton got screwed: Dollar Bill supported ex-NOPD Chief Richard Pennington for Mayor. My district got screwed as well: BOLD did NOT run a candidate in district B and we got stuck with the clueless inarticulate and, to be blunt, downright dumb Gill-Pratfall. In this instance B stood for buggered. Merci, Dollar Bill. Gracias, Jim.

Where do we go from here? Right now there are only two untested candidates planning to run against my resident rascal. On the one hand I’m not sure that this is the time to put a political neophyte into office; especially after Chocolate City’s experience with a certain Mayor. On the other hand, I plan to vote for only one incumbent: Councilman-at-Large Oliver Thomas. It’s time for the voters of New Orleans to put aside their past passivity get busy and throw the rascals out of office.

Finally it’s time to circle back to the title. I gotta prove that *some* of my entry titles are relevant. Joe Friday wouldn’t have it any other way. (I’m not sure however what Tuesday Weld thinks.) Here we go:

Yo, Gill-Pratfall, your political deathbed conversion is way too little way too late. It’s too transparent to be credible. Not only are you a horrible councilwoman, you’re a terrible actress. You should have studied some of the great deathbed scenes in film history: Debra Winger in Terms Of Endearment,  Greta Garbo in Camille, or Jimmy Cagney who died on screen more often and more dramatically than anyone. As an admirer of Cagney ,and a non-admirer of Gill-Pratfall, I suggest that she study the death scene in  White Heat where an unrepentant Cagney blows himself up on a water tower and says: “Finally made it. Top of the world ma.” KABOOM. It’s not unlike what the council of clowns and C Ray are doing right now: wrecking the city for their own self-aggrandizement. Unfortunately this is the real, not the reel, world. It’s time to throw the bums out.