Monday, February 29, 2016

The Fly is Chinatown

Stupor Bowl 3

A few weeks ago we played our annual flag football game out at The Fly. Sadly for fans of the legendary Vibrio Vulnificus Football Club, things did not go especially well for our heroes. The previously undefeated Vibrios were done in by a lack of preparation combined with just plain being a bunch of old dudes.  Given the week of soreness immediately following the game, there isn't a single one of us who would blame the recently cut [CORRECTION soon to be cut] Marques Colston if he just decided to call it a career.

Still it was a nice day for it. Sunday afternoon at The Fly is quite busy with families and neighbors, picnickers and soccer players, or just anyone there to hang out. Ron Forman says he needs to fence a big part of it off, though
Plans for a soccer complex at the The Fly are on hold, as backers hold talks with opponents of the $4 million project.

The Carrollton Boosters, a youth sports nonprofit seeking to build the complex on the Riverview section of Audubon park, already has approval for the project from the Audubon Commission, but the group has agreed not to begin construction until it has heard the public's concerns, said Ron Forman, head of the Audubon Nature Institute.

"It's a short term pause to see input on how we can improve the project," Forman said in a phone interview Tuesday (Feb. 23).

The Audubon Commission is the public body that manages the park for the city of New Orleans and is vested with decision making power over the park. The Audubon Nature Institute, a private nonprofit partner, serves as the commission's staff.
To visitors on any given Sunday, it isn't clear what amenities these "improvements" would provide that don't already exist. There are already soccer fields.  Stupor Bowl 3 made use of one of them with no difficulty. There's already adequate parking. Even though there were lots of people using the fields, we didn't have to pay a rental fee because the space was not made scarce by fencing.  We brought plenty of beer so we didn't have to buy concessions from anyone.  This is different from what Forman and the Boosters are envisioning. 
The commission approved a cooperative endeavor agreement last spring with Carrollton Boosters, granting them the right to develop the soccer complex on Audubon land. Under the agreement, the Carrollton Boosters are vested with managerial authority over the complex and entitled to any revenue it produces from concessions and rentals.
The plans call for a full-sized soccer field, to be in enclosed by a fence, bleachers, a press box, a new concessions building, a playground and two parking lots. The 2.5 acre field would be the only area not open to the public at all times, but the full footprint of the project would occupy more than six acres, a sizable chunk of the 40-acre riverfront park. A large swath of the park is already dedicated to a cluster of baseball diamonds and a trio of soccer fields.
So that seems unnecessary.... for anyone who doesn't stand to make a little money off of the deal, anyway.  Naturally some folks who do not were upset
A group of New Orleans residents are banding together to oppose a plan that would expand sports facilities on The Fly in Audubon Park and put the new facilities under the control of a private booster club.

"There has been a lot of concern over what is being considered the taking over of the only wide, green space on the river," said Bill Ives, one of the development's opponents. "We think it should be preserved as a unique resource. There are many places in the city where a sports complex can go."

An online petition opposing the development had 3,800 signatures Monday evening (Feb. 15).

The most contentious part of the new development is the conversion of 2.5 acres of open green space into a tournament-grade soccer field and parking lots. The new facility would be placed under the management of Carrollton Boosters, which is footing the project's $4 million price tag.
Okay wait  a minute. That's not exactly correct.  Technically it may be okay to say the Boosters are "footing the $4 million." But, really, most of it is coming from Tom Benson
The $4 million price-tag for the project is being footed by the booster club, which solicited donations from foundations and wealthy individuals, including Saints owner Tom Benson and Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
It should be worth noting that Benson's donation benefits not only his friends in the Boosters but also Ron Forman. In recent years, Forman sat on the board of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District which is the public entity directly responsible for overseeing Benson's extraordinarily favorable lease on the Superdome and adjacent properties.

Who should we turn to in order to report this obviously inappropriate political kickback? What about our friends at the Bureau of Governmental Research?  They're always keen to weigh in on stuff that seems fishy.  Who is over there we could talk to? Let's ask Treasurer J. Storey Charbonnet. He ought to know how to follow the money for us. Certainly shouldn't be any problem for him also sitting on the Carrollton Boosters board of directors the way he does.  Charbonnet happens to be an Audubon Institute commissioner on top of that so, you know,  connections all over the place. When the reporters check back in on the story I really think this is the guy to talk to.

Probably you see where this is going. Probably you're about to say, "But Jeffrey, we can't rely on Charbonnet or his friends at BGR to offer us an unbiased analysis of Forman and Benson's shuffling of money back and forth. These organizations are all just different combinations of the same elites covering for each other."

Well you had better hold your horses there, bub. Stacy Head says that kind of talk is out of line.
Councilman James Gray and Councilwoman Stacy Head, however, argued that more space is needed for organized youth recreation.

Head blasted some speakers for attacks on members of the commission and the booster club, saying that claims of profiteering from the project or elitism in the organization were out of line.

Maybe we should just listen to Stacy. After all, everyone knows the work done by our city's elite organizations and non profits is always strictly "Pro Bono Publico"
“The generosity of those donating to such a worthy cause has been tremendous as the Pro Bono Publico Foundation hits this $1 million milestone,” said Foundation Chairman Storey Charbonnet. “We’ve seen continued annual growth in contributions to help invest in our community’s future by promoting a strong educational environment for children.”

The grants exemplify PBPF’s drive to assure that all of New Orleans’ children have access to excellent schools. Ninety-three percent of New Orleans students now attend public charter schools. These schools, and organizations supporting their important work, have been the focus of PBPF’s investment, as well as the commitment of dozens of Rex members serving on their boards.

The Pro Bono Publico Foundation was formed by members of the Rex Organization as New Orleans recovered from Hurricane Katrina. Foundation giving, in its ninth grant cycle since 2007, now totals $4.4 million in cumulative cash contributions to schools.
Forget about it, yall. The Fly is Chinatown.

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