Oliver Thomas was widely respected throughout the neighborhoods, and would've easily become New Orleans' next mayor. I was very much looking forward to that day. Now, I can't tell you how disappointed I was to learn this news:
In the most dramatic development to date in a sprawling probe of corruption in New Orleans city government, longtime City Councilman and mayoral hopeful Oliver Thomas has reached an agreement with federal prosecutors to plead guilty to charges of demanding illegal payments from a City Hall vendor and is expected to resign his at-large council seat as early as Monday, sources familiar with the case said Saturday.
Sources said the criminal charges against Thomas involve money he allegedly received from Common Street Ventures, a [Stan "Pampy"] Barre-owned company that held a share of the contract to operate three city-owned parking lots on the downriver end of the French Quarter during Morial's tenure from 1994-2002.
The sources declined to reveal how much money Thomas is alleged to have received from Common Street Ventures or how and how often the payments were made, and would not discuss the specific charges against Thomas. Those details will be spelled out in court documents expected to be released on Monday, the sources said.
In May 2004, [Marc] Morial's successor, Mayor Ray Nagin, awarded a contract to run the three parking lots to a joint venture that included an investor with ties to Thomas.
The Nagin administration signed a management deal for a 50-50 partnership between Standard Parking, a national firm that has operated parking lots in New Orleans for 25 years, and Parking Solutions LLC, whose principals include Keith Pittman, a former aide to Thomas.
The lots are owned by the French Market Corp., a city agency that is run by mayoral appointees, including three City Council members. Thomas has held a seat on the French Market board since 2002. The board approves the management contracts for the parking lots, with input from the mayor's office.
Later in 2004, the Nagin administration awarded a separate contract to the partnership to install and maintain new high-tech parking meters citywide that accept credit cards as well as coins.
It's interesting that a good part of this Times Picayune article is devoted to describing the connections the Nagin administration had to these contracts and companies.
Now that Pampy fingered Oliver Thomas to reduce his own sentence, who will OT "give up" after pleading guilty on Monday?
Good riddance, I say. He was shaking people down when he was District B Councilman. Central City certainly didn't thrive under his tenure.
I too am disappointed by Oliver Thomas' actions.
I'm bummed. I thought he was one of the good ones. Why isn't Letten getting the goods on Nagin yet?
He was singlehandedly responsible for several businesses leaving Orleans Parish (one of which was a NASDAQ traded company) with his shakedown practices. He was one of the ringleaders of corruption all the while under the guise of good government. There will be others to go down in this investigation. Eddie Sapir get ready.
channel six actually had Charles Rice to comment on what this meant politically -- not about technical matters involving garbage contracts. Charles Rice was in charge of those contracts in Nagin's first term.
The last time I saw Oliver Thomas was an appearance at the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization. He seemed mentally disheveled and worn-out, better than Nagin but that's not saying much.
Same thought I left on Moldy City: this upsets the normal flow of things, and we should look at that as an opportunity. Someone connected only weakly to the current political scheme (and that probably means a contributor/money person), might be able to step in.
Yes, Nagin was that sort of a-political "white knight" and look where that got us. Still, Thomas' indictment shows us that we're still mired in a system in which each Administration steps in basically to get their cut.
Taking Thomas off the table means that things are much more wide-open. The one issue I see is how to find and bring out people of good will in both racial communities who will demand a new sort of candidate, and who will consider voting for a candidate of the other race because they are a good candidiate.
The next elections may be the last chance for something like a progressive middle to emerge in this city, and anything that clears the table for a new game in the end has to be looked at as good.
I don't trust Stacey Head any further than I could throw here. She strikes me as just he white, Uptown flip-side of the old system. But if she, Midura and Fielkow can hold together and insist on a candidate without the usual machine/contract baggage, that might help tilt things in the right direction.
The question is: who is that candidate? If it's not a Black candidate, it will just exacerbate racial tension. But it needs to be someone outside of the old machines. I have no idea who this person is, but they must be out there somewhere.
Remember the city charter in terms of mayoral succession. If Oliver didn't go up before Ray, he most likely would have been acting mayor. The next at-large councilperson needs to be chosen/looked at very carefully.
Is mayoral succession based on seniority of the at-large members? Just how is it determined should C Ray suddenly resign, plead guilty, become governor or congressman, moves to Dallas or gets shot by someone reading Ashley's blog too literally?
Mark asks "Who is this candidate?"
That's what is so disheartening about OT's misdeeds-- he was a candidate who would've won overwhelmingly with broad support among black and white voters. Barring a very unexpected emergence, the racial-politico dynamic that this will exacerbate will probably further polarize New Orleanians along color lines. OT was one of the very few politicians who (I thought) was competent, semi-honaorable and well regarded across all the neighborhoods. I thought he had the potential to make this city better and more unified after this disasterous Nagin 2nd term-- that's what I have in mind when I describe how disappointed I am in this development.
At La Boulangerie this morning white folks were in shock, and talking about how much OT helped their business get a permit, or that "we could go to Thomas about anything and he'd make sure something got done"...etc.
Obviously we didn't know the whole story. What an unwelcome "hard truth" this will be to "laugh off" or incorporate.
The City Charter requires that there be an election to fill any vacancy on the city council, if the unexpired term is more than one year. Any council appointee would only be in office for the period from the resignation until the newly elected councilperson is sworn in after the special election. As to any election, watch for term-limited legislators to consider jumping into the race. Sen. Diana Bajoie is one name that comes to mind. As to any appointee, my guess is that the council will want to preserve the current (4B,3W) racial balance on the council. Former appointee David Payton, who did a fine job in the year that he served, is another name that comes to mind.
For those of you who are shocked over O.T.'s indisgressions, where have you all been?
I admit I am shocked but only because he has been caught and apparently going to plead out.
For him, shakedowns are nothing new. Is anyone awake here?
I think you’re spot on in your analysis, Oyster. Thomas’s career is over, as it should be, but the emotion for me is disappointment.
Mark’s got the question that will be all the talk in the next few weeks: who's going to run.
I am not sure the election to fill his seat will be held this November, qualifying is less than four weeks away. That is not much time for a candidate to line up support and funds.
I hear C Ray has a pretty big war chest... ;-)
Jay Batt talks about the indictment.
Jay Batt calls out Vitter on prostitution! The pot calling the kettle black!
Thomas, although he seemed to be nice, vastly more polished than Nagin and able to get the council to work together as well as anyone, had been more than a bit of a hack. The question about what Mexican food had to do with gumbo was inexcusably moronic and prejudiced. And he asked criminals to leave their thug cards at the door, an order to which they of course immediately complied (after searching through Costanza wallets, past the Visa, Dillard's and Smoothie King cards).
Actually, Editor B's assessment of Thomas' political future is veddy veddy inneresting:
Sorry, Ray. ;-)
I feel so sad. I really admired Oliver. Had never heard anything about shake downs in the past.
It's going to be an interesting race for the At-large seat. I happened to be at an event on Saturday night with a broad section of the community, and there is talk of James Carter running for At-Large, also of Cynthia Willard-Lewis. It sounds like Oliver has pleaded guilty so quickly and his sentencing not being for months, is based on his cooperation with the "cleansing" of the city and his soul. Will be facinating to watch for the next few weeks. It sure feels like we're working our way up the ladder, doesn't it?