Endorsement by Adolph Reed
As some of you probably already know, Malcolm Suber recently entered the race in a special election for an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council. The election will be held on October 20; so there’s a short time frame for getting resources to the campaign. Contributions can be made at the campaign’s website: http://www.MalcolmForCityCouncil.com
This Council seat became vacant last month when Oliver Thomas — generally considered heir apparent to Mayor Ray Nagin and the developers’ darling — resigned after being indicted for taking a $15,000 bribe. Thomas several years ago led the charge to demolish the St. Thomas low-income housing project as part of the gentrification agenda for the Lower Garden District. More notoriously, in January of 2006, in response to early complaints that public housing residents were being kept from returning to the city, Thomas declared bluntly that they should stay away, that the city “doesn’t need soap opera watchers now.”
His fall and Malcolm’s candidacy in this special election provide a potentially important opportunity to begin to build a coherent and grounded alternative politics and political discourse in New Orleans. Malcolm has been agitating in the city for three decades, is known as a person with clear, principled politics and is rooted in the local political scene.
He is a founder and key leader of the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund (PHRF), which has been the main vehicle for agitation and advocacy on behalf of renters, displaced public housing residents, and other poor and working people. His victory would provide a clear and resolute voice on the Council that insists that those constituencies be included in the circle of stakeholders in the crafting of the city’s recovery and physical and economic reconstruction. This is a pressing immediate need, as an 18th century model of citizenship that recognizes only property-owners has taken hold without discussion or debate. The impact of this model is clearly visible in the skewed pattern of recovery and rebuilding around the city — both between and within neighborhoods.
Those forces in New Orleans that are primarily focused on providing services are able at this point to benefit from the private foundations that are pumping money into the city. However, the more important effort now is the fight to determine the city’s political future, the fight to inject the interests and concerns of poor and working people into the policy agenda — and obviously Ford, Rockefeller, Gates et al will not fund that kind of work.
The PHRF has been at the forefront of that fight since the city was still flooded, in concert with other closely allied organizing initiatives among displaced public housing residents, the new homeless population in the city, and those fighting for workers’ rights under the new regime of Nagin’s “market-driven” recovery.
Malcolm’s campaign has the potential to galvanize these forces into a coherent local movement, which is exactly what the city needs.