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Community Organizer VS Corrupt Politician: The 12/6 New Orleans Election

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    Action LA Coalition Action for World Liberation Everyday! Tel: (213)403-0131 URL: _http://www.ActionLA.org_ (http://www.actionla.org/) e-mail:
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 4, 2008
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      Community Organizer VS Corrupt Politician: The December 6 New Orleans
      Congressional Election
      _U.S. Politics_
      (http://www.blackagendareport.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=section&id=30&Itemid=44) - _The Progressive Front_
      emid=44) Wednesday, 26 November 2008

      by BAR Managing Editor Bruce Dixon
      The December 6 New Orleans congressional election isn't just a local choice
      between a privatizing "minority" Republican, a notoriously corrupt Democrat
      and a caring, competent community organizer running on the Green Party
      ticket. In these times when anyone, anywhere can contribute to the efforts of real
      progressives with the click of a mouse, or volunteer to reach undecided
      voters, the days leading to this election are a test of whether there exists even
      the shadow of a national movement mature enough to hold any black Democrats
      the least bit accountable to the needs of his constituents
      As is often the case, the Republican and the Democrat represent more of the
      same. But this time there's another choice.

      Community Organizer VS Corrupt Politician: The December 6 New Orleans
      Congressional Election
      by BAR Managing Editor Bruce A. Dixon
      The congressional election in Louisiana's 2nd district was delayed to due
      Hurricane Gustav, and will take place on December 6, 2008. What was once an
      overwhelmingly black district containing most of New Orleans and a sliver of
      neighboring Jefferson Parish is probably still majority black, but with a much
      thinner margin.
      The Republican is a Vietnamese American who almost never mentions his party
      affiliation when campaigning inside New Orleans. The Democrat is disgraced
      nine-term incumbent William “Dollar Bill” Jefferson, under indictment for
      bribery after the FBI discovered _$90,000_
      (http://www.cnn.com/2006/POLITICS/05/21/jefferson.search/index.html) stashed in the plastic containers of his home
      freezer. The Green Party candidate is longtime community organizer Malik
      Rahim, a co-founder of Common Ground Relief Network, a grassroots organization
      brought together in the wake of Katrina to open medical clinics, distribute
      flood relief supplies and repair and rebuild homes damaged by the flood. With a
      projected low turnout, it's shaping up as a three way race that could go in
      a surprising direction. “We are shooting for 30,000 votes here,” a Rahim
      campaign spokesperson told BAR, “and we think we can win.”
      Hurricane Katrina along with the series of man-made disasters _ethnic
      cleansing_ (http://www.counterpunch.org/quigley03042008.html) and wholesale
      privatizations of the city's school and health care systems in its wake have changed
      the face of New Orleans, and determine the fault lines for its politics even
      today. Accordingly, their responses to the Katrina disaster provide us with
      a useful and telling contrast between Rep. Dollar Bill Jefferson and Malik
      On the second day after the levees broke, hundreds of starving, dehydrated
      New Orleans residents (and some tourists) attempted to walk out of their
      drowned city toward the lights of neighboring Gretna. Their paths were blocked by
      lines of local law enforcement officers who menaced them with shotgun fire,
      cursed them, buzzed them with helicopters and drove them back into New
      Orleans. If ever there was a time when the relative wealth, the connections, the
      prestige and authority of a congressman might have done his constituents some
      good, this was it. But Dollar Bill Jefferson was not that kind of congressman.

      Malik Rahim lived in the Algiers neighborhood of New Orleans, one of the few
      places that wasn't flooded, and where water supplies were not compromised.
      Ignoring orders to evacuate, Rahim was one of many local residents who
      remained in New Orleans to save lives and _assist_
      (http://www.cwsworkshop.org/katrinareader/node/268) his neighbors, since the authorities would not. He helped
      other families evacuate, tried to get white vigilantes to stop shooting
      random black people and began organizing shelter and assistance to the victims of
      the flood.
      While thousands of his constituents were swimming for their lives, trapped
      in attics, on rooftops and expressway overpasses, or penned up in the
      Louisiana Superdome, congressman Jefferson commandeered six Louisiana National Guard
      MPs and a five ton truck to drive to his home in the flood zone and linger
      there for an hour or more while he removed personal belongings including a
      laptop computer, suitcases and several boxes. According to ABC News:
      The Louisiana National Guard tells ABC News the truck became stuck as it
      waited for Jefferson to retrieve his belongings.
      Two weeks later, the vehicle's tire tracks were still visible on the lawn.
      The soldiers signaled to helicopters in the air for aid. Military sources
      say a Coast Guard helicopter pilot saw the signal and flew to Jefferson's
      home. The chopper was already carrying four rescued New Orleans residents at the
      A rescue diver descended from the helicopter, but the congressman decided
      against going up in the helicopter, sources say. The pilot sent the diver down
      again, but Jefferson again declined to go up the helicopter.
      After spending approximately 45 minutes with Jefferson, the helicopter went
      on to rescue three additional New Orleans residents before it ran low on fuel
      and was forced to end its mission.
      "Forty-five minutes can be an eternity to somebody that is drowning, to
      somebody that is sitting in a roof, and it needs to be used its primary purpose
      during an emergency," said (ABC News consultant) Hauer.
      The contrast between the personal bahavior of Malik Rahim and Dollar Bill
      Jefferson could not be clearer.
      In Katrina's aftermath of homicidal government indifference and incompetence
      Republicans saw vast opportunities.
      “...Richard Baker, a prominent Republican Congressman from this city, had
      told a group of lobbyists, "We finally cleaned up public housing in New
      Orleans. 'We couldn't do it, but God did.' Joseph Canizaro, one of New Orleans'
      wealthiest developers, had just expressed a similar sentiment: 'I think we have a
      clean sheet to start again. And with that clean sheet we have some very big
      opportunities.' All that week the Louisiana State Legislature in Baton Rouge
      had been crawling with corporate lobbyists helping to lock in those big
      opportunities: lower taxes, fewer regulations, cheaper workers and a "smaller,
      safer city"--which in practice meant plans to level the public housing projects
      and replace them with condos...”
      If Republicans saw opportunities in Katrina's wake Nancy Pelosi, the leader
      of Dollar Bill Jefferson's Democratic party in Congress saw a trap. She
      wanted to blame Republicans, but she feared holding hearings to expose the
      homicidal incompetence and indifference of government would tie congressional
      Democrats to the cause of black New Orleans in the minds of voters nationwide.
      Better, from her point of view, to leave that alone. So Nancy Pelosi, the leader
      of Democrats in Congress forbade even members of the Congressional Black
      Caucus from speaking up publicly on the unfolding spectacle of racially
      selective displacement on the Gulf Coast. Amazingly, the entire Congressional Black
      Caucus silenced themselves on Katrina and refused to call for congressional
      hearings, with the exception of Georgia's Rep. Cynthia McKinney.
      A fifth term representative, McKinney had just returned to Congress after a
      two year absence. Instead of restoring her seniority and committee
      assignments as is the rule in such cases, Pelosi unceremoniously stripped McKinney of
      her seniority, leaving Rep. McKinney freer than usual to reach across the
      aisle and do what not a single one of more than three dozen of her black
      congressional colleagues would do --- _hold hearings _
      (http://www.blackcommentator.com/172/172_cover_katrina_shock.html) on Katrina.
      In the days following the Katrina disaster, Malik Rahim did what experienced
      community organizers do --- he talked to his neighbors, he helped bring
      like-minded local residents together with volunteers from around the country and
      funders to create the Common Ground Relief Network. Common Ground
      distributed relief supplies, generators, food, fuel and tools to begin gutting houses
      and rebuilding. Malik Rahim and Common Ground solicited medical supplies and
      qualified personnel and opened up free medical centers in devastated New
      Orleans. He rallied volunteers and raised money for grassroots efforts with
      churches and others to get done on the ground what government officials like
      Jefferson could not or would not do. Under the leadership of Common Ground and
      Malik Rahim, some 13,000 volunteers have gutted roughly 3,000 homes to prepare
      them for occupancy in New Orleans.
      That's community. That's organizing. That's leadership. That's Malik Rahim,
      and that's the choice before the voters of New Orleans on December 6. They
      can reward Republicans and Democrats for engaging in the same old politics of
      cronyism, privatization and avoidance of responsibility. Or they can send a
      community organizer to Congress.
      This is a choice between a deceitful "minority" Republican, a brazenly
      corrupt Democrat, and an honest to goodness community organizer with a history
      that stretches back to his co-founding of the New Orleans branch of the Black
      Panther Party back in 1970.
      In the wired and interconnected environment of the early 21st century it's
      no longer the exclusive choice of voters and activists in New Orleans. In
      some measure, this choice up to all of us who want a piece of it. This will be
      a three way race, and an extremely low turnout election, so it's anybody's
      game. There's even a chance, if the turnout is low enough, that the Republican
      can win. It's not a chance we chose. It's a chance that leaders of the
      Democratic party, nationally and in Louisiana forced upon us, secure in their
      belief that black and progressive voters in New Orleans would have no place
      else to go. But they do.
      Here's what you can do.
      You can _click here to donate_ (http://votemalik.com/contribute/) to Malik
      Rahim's media fund THIS WEEK to ensure that he can air radio commercials in
      the final days before the election.
      You can _click here to volunteer_
      (http://salsa.wiredforchange.com/o/1488/t/689/signUp.jsp?key=2078) your energy and phone minutes phone banking to New
      Orleans voters. You'll be guided through a polite, well thought-out online
      script that informs undecided voters of the clear choice before them. You
      don't need to live in Louisiana to phone bank for Malik Rahim.
      Is there a chance that supporting the Green candidate could lead to a
      Republican temporarily assuming the seat in New Orleans? Honestly yes, there is
      that chance. It would not be possible of Louisiana's lazy and hollow Democratic
      party had bothered to come up with an honest and viable Democrat to
      represent hundreds of thousands of New Orleans voters. But they didn't. And they
      won't. There is also a chance of sending a real community organizer to congress.
      One choice was forced upon us. The other is ours to make, and to take.
      It's anybody's contest in New Orleans December 6. We hope that our readers
      will do the right thing. Forward the link to this page, and to _Malik Rahim's
      web site_ (http://www.votemalik.org/) to all your friends, family and
      associates. Give generously to put Malik Rahim's radio commercials in play, to
      get him parity with the fat cats who contribute to his Republican and
      Democratic opponents. And participate in the phone bank that reminds New Orleans
      voters of the December 6 election.
      In a low turnout environment like this a few votes, a modest contribution of
      money or time can make a big difference. If you want a change, be that

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