Published: Tuesday, March 1, 1994
Edition: THIRD
Section: METRO
Page: B6


New Orleans

On Jan. 20 of last year, while I was at least technically and chronologically a member of the Sidney Barthelemy administration, I received a call at my home from Hizzoner.

Why was the Historic District Landmarks Commission conducting hearings on the casino proposals? Who did we think we were? These matters had no business being publicized. Better leave them to those who know what they are doing.

When I declined and he saw he could not convince me otherwise, he rang off with, "I'm going to tell (developer Christopher) Hemmeter to bypass you."

During that 45-minute harangue and since then, I have been called many things by members of this administration and others, but none that got my goat until I read Bruce Eggler's Feb. 23 article on the McCall suit.

"Thomas Tucker, die-hard preservationist and casino opponent . . ."

I hate the term "preservationist" applied to anyone, especially me. It means I am fated to do whatever comes next. I have no desires or scruples, no choice. Preservationists save things; they can't help it, poor dears. The term denigrates the effort.

I am not opposed to casinos or casinos at the Rivergate or demolition of the Rivergate. I am opposed to arrogant, corrupt administrators of the public fisc.

I am opposed to the demolition of anything in which the public has an interest without public hearing. I am opposed to city involvement in gambling businesses. I am opposed to public contracts let without public bid and to secret meetings.

I don't care what happens to the Rivergate. It's not my building. I do care that an important building may be torn down without a hearing or any other reason than that the demolition contracts go to the mayor's friends and the governor's friends.

I do care that a building adequate for the casino, on which the license was awarded, will be replaced with a papier-mache dirty dream that costs the city nearly a billion dollars.

I prefer to call myself "sensible." But I would rather be called nothing than "preservationist" - the term strips the dignity out of an individual's efforts.

So the District Court dismissed the McCall suit - a very sound case - three weeks before it could be tried. Should I be surprised? Should the residents of New Orleans care?

I think so. I mean, if this can happen in New Orleans, it could happen anywhere. Then again, perhaps it could happen only here.

I am reminded of an editorial in the "Daily Delta" of New Orleans Jan. 16, 1850, commenting on the City Council's plan to develop the property where now stands the Rivergate:

"Elsewhere, than in this long-suffering city, such a proposal as this would be considered as bordering on impudence, and the results held out by those who advocate this very original proceeding would be denounced as humbug. But our people, like the old woman's eels, have been so long accustomed to this treatment, that it has actually grown to be a necessity of their existence. Like opium-eaters, they would die without the accustomed stimulant of clap-trap and humbug. Every year, just about the time their spirits begin to sink under the depressing effects of some exploded makeshifts and grand schemes, a new battery is applied, and they are galvanized into a high state of delight, hope and confidence, by some new scheme to pay our debts . . ."

Thomas W. Tucker

Copyright The Times-Picayune Publishing Corp.