What We’re Up Against

District Attorney Eddie Jordan says he has resigned, but the Secretary of State’s office says no one has notified them, and nothing happens until they get the word. Meanwhile, Keva Landrum-Johnson has presumably taken over the office. She’s a highly respected prosecutor, we’re told, and a hire of the former DA, Harry Connick, Senior.

Meanwhile, no one still has any ideas as to how the DA’s office can pay the $3.7 million judgment as a result of Jordan’s discriminatory firing of whites and hiring blacks. He’s gone, but the damage is done, and the bill has to be paid. With the talk of asset seizure, the newspaper points out that taking over desks and computers in the office of the district of attorney will not come close to raising that amount of money.

The NBA Hornets began their first full season in New Orleans since Katrina, and the last I heard, they still had lots of empty seats to fill. Only 7,000 season tickets have been sold, leading some to question whether this city can support more than one professional sports team. Pastors have started receiving promotions in the mail, encouraging them to bring church groups to the games. Point of Grace, the popular Christian trio, will be featured one evening when they hope to attract lots of our folks.

Those who keep up with the goings-on in New Orleans or who get their N.O. news only from this blog will recall the lawsuit against the police force of the West Bank town of Gretna. In the awful days following Katrina, when the city was being featured on national television–exposing the misery at the Superdome and Convention Center, the chaos inside and out, people drowning in their homes, and first-responders rescuing people from their housetops–some residents of New Orleans who were trying to flee the city were turned back from crossing the downtown bridge (proper name: The Crescent City Connection) leading into the Algiers section of New Orleans and on to Jefferson Parish. Members of that police department and deputies from the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s office closed the bridge to pedestrians.

Back then–and ever since–the defenders of this completely irrational act insisted that the West Bank had nothing to offer the people of New Orleans. I find that incomprehensible beyond belief. The West Bank had something New Orleanians needed badly–high, dry ground!

One policeman fired a shotgun into the air at that time, to intimidate and maybe threaten those who tried to cross. This week, an Orleans Parish grand jury refused to indict him. The Gretna police chief says this exonerates his department for everything they did.

On a radio talk show this week, a criminal justice expert from one of the universities was explaining why the law enforcers did what they did. The host said, “So, you agree that they did the right thing?” Long, long pause. Too long. Finally: “Yes, I think they did.” Uh huh. Your hesitation gave you away, sir.

I’m only a layman, only an outsider observer of these things, and all I know is from reading the paper and picking up various tidbits from the radio and television news–but it irks me the way these guys stand up for one another and can’t even admit when a brother-in-blue does something completely indefensible. It makes no sense to me why pointing out that a police department did something truly cruel and utterly wrong is perceived as disloyal and unpatriotic. No group in our society puts a higher prize on courage than the typical police force. But to paraphrase Mr. Gump, courage is as courage does, officers.

The newspaper points out that five lawsuits on this matter are still pending against Gretna and the sheriff’s office. These are about civil rights violations. The U.S. Attorney, however, says there are no active investigations on this matter at this time. It’s over, and I suppose it’s well and good to put it behind us. But if you ever wonder why the most powerless people in our society feel helpless before the powers-that-be, remember this little event.

This week the mayor of New Orleans presented his proposed 2008 budget to the City Council. Almost a billion dollars, Nagin included in the budget only $1.3 million to fund the office of the new Inspector General. Robert Cerasoli, whom we have discussed here, has said he will need twice that amount to do the job right. Nagin insists that he checked with similar sized cities and this amount is in line. He did not point out that those cities have had the office for decades and ours is just getting started, or that New Orleans has enough ingrained corruption to keep a team of inspectors-general busy for a decade. Good luck, Mr. Cerasoli. You can see what you are up against.

It was so refreshing, then, in contrast to all the above, to hear a minister’s wife sit in my office Wednesday afternoon and say the following: “We moved away from here in 2001. But we missed this city so much. We have come to love New Orleans.” They moved back after Katrina, live in Metairie, and belong to Celebration Church where Dennis Watson is pastor.

Life here can be so tough and the challenges so burdensome, it’s encouraging to hear someone say they chose to move back, that they love this city, that they want to be a part of God’s new thing in New Orleans.

Twice this week I’ve heard the number “25 years” bandied about as the time line for the rebuilding of this city. This is going to require not a sprint but a steadied pace from all of us. It’s more of a marathon.

Thanks for praying for us all. Please don’t slack off.