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2006: Batt and Ball-derdash
Apparently our attempt to shed some light on the tenure of Jay Batt in District A has annoyed our jovial councilman somewhat.

He has aired a commercial on WWL, aiming to counter what he claims is a smear campaign against him.

We have some thoughts and observations on this.

1. No Secret

Mr Batt feels that the Anybody But Batt PAC is somehow not playing fair (indeed is downright "wrong") to air a radio ad using anonymous voices to criticize "someone like Jay Batt" - entertainingly this finger wag is provided by an anonymous voiceover, but there you go.

More importantly, the voices in our ad may be anonymous, but the identity of the chief members of the Anybody But Batt Political Action Committee are not a secret. The Chairperson and Treasurer of the organization are recorded with the State Elections Commission and the PAC is required to report all contributions and expenditures. See our Statement of Organization for details, or write to us here (send a check too, if you want...)

2. Smear/shmeer

Batt claims that we are engaging in a smear campaign. This is clearly not true. Take a look around our site. We have consistantly tried to provide accurate information and we have also published comments from readers who do not agree with us, as well as from many who do. This is a process called "dialogue", which despite politician's protestations is always less popular with them than a "monologue" paid for $2,500 at a time by their moneymen.

We have the clear right to express our opinions on these matters of public importance and to invite others to express theirs. If they choose to enter their real names they are free to do so; if they prefer to adopt a nom de plume, that is entirely their right and is commonplace on such websites as nola.com.

Denouncing any hostile commentary as "negative campaigning" and "smear tactics" is simply a convenient excuse for a poor candidate.

Try reading Jay Batt's blog at jaybatt.blogspot.com. Currently "blogspot" has tens of thousands of on- line blogs. Mr Batt's is the only one we have come across that doesn't allow the reader to submit comments.

3. Making Groceries

We have criticized Mr Batt for running again when he promised last time that he would not run if he could not get a full-service grocery store opened somewhere along the Carrollton corridor.

In his response, Mr Batt argues that the Save-A-Lot at Carrollton and Palmetto, planned before he took office, meets the description of a full-service grocery store and that therefore his campaign pledge was kept. In this he is supported by Bruce Eggler in the Times-Picayune who wrote back in August 2003

The recent opening of a Save-a-Lot supermarket at South Carrollton Avenue and Palmetto Street was good news for Councilman Jay Batt: It means he can run for re-election in 2006.

Case closed? We don't think so. As Mr Eggler went on to comment:

[Then sitting District A Councilman Scott] Shea said at the time that he expected a grocery would be built at Carrollton and Palmetto, the site of a former Rite Aid drugstore, but that he didnít know who would operate the store or when it might open.

Many residents would have preferred a supermarket at Carrollton and South Claiborne, a more central site that once housed a Canal Villere. In fact, Batt made his promise standing in front of that closed store. But the Palmetto location falls within the corridor he cited in his guarantee.

Furthermore, we are reliably informed by members of the Uptown Triangle Neighborhood Association, that in a meeting with them during his previous campaign, Mr Batt specifically promised the new grocery would be at the corner of South Carrollton and South Claiborne avenues on the site of the then - and still - empty Canal Villere store.

This discussion about Mr Batt's promises is much more than just hair-splitting on street names. The issue was then and remains now about the future of the Canal Villere site, which has been devoid of commerce and an eyesore at a major intersection in the district during Jay Batt's ENTIRE term of office. The issue remains about whether it was a good policy to allow yet another drugstore to open there, even though residents didn't feel one was necessary, and whether allowing the unwanted Walgreens would in fact encourage a large "full-service" (Batt's words) supermarket to piggy-back into the same block, as claimed. And the issue remains about how our councilman should act in order to encourage a large grocery store to locate into an area that has lost three major grocery chains in recent years. In this light, the opening of a small-scale Save-A-Lot (not to be confused with a Sav-A-Center by any means), which was on the books before Batt took office is really just a fig leaf.

Save-A-Lot describe themselves as "one of the nation's leading extreme value, limited assortment grocery chains". So, "full-service" but not "full assortment"? Nothing against Save-A-Lot but this is clearly not what constituents understood Batt to mean when he made his vow.

At the time of Mr Batt's pledge, some people felt that his bombastic promise would put the councilman - and by extension his constituents - at a disadvantage in any future negotiations with a prospective retailer. Since we are making groceries here, it is surely fair to ask: Didn't it occur to him that a councilman who has publicly put all his eggs in one basket is in no position to talk turkey with someone who might save his bacon? That in a game of chicken he might have cooked his goose?. (On the other hand, why should he care? - if it leaves his constituents crying over spilt milk, that's just the way the cookie crumbles.)

Perhaps that's why this happened:

In other actions Monday, all by unanimous votes, the council: -- Overruled the Planning Commission and authorized the Save-A-Lot supermarket at South Carrollton Avenue and Palmetto Street to have several more exterior signs than the law allows. The signs advertise categories of goods the store offers. The council approved the extra signs at Battís urging. "Iím thrilled to death to have a grocery store in the Carrollton corridor, and Iím going to do everything I can to help it succeed," he said

Times Picayune, December 2003.

So, the councilman has to "do everything he can" to help a particular unexceptional retailer - basically because his job depends on it. And the laws relating to exterior signage and the interests of his constituents? Chopped liver.

4. City Planning for Dummies

In his radio ad, Mr Batt claims that he honors the recommendations of the City Planning Commission "on major issues" - he doesn't reveal who decides what is a "major issue". In the case of the new Bruno's on Maple St., and specifically its parking arrangements - an issue which the immediate neighbors felt was majorly major - he did not follow the recommendations of the CPC which has guidelines for numbers of parking spaces required for commercial establishments in residential areas.

The CPC's guidelines for a bar of that size is for 45 parking spots. Mr Batt managed to reduce this to 22. Bruno's could not come up with even that number, so Mr Batt quietly introduced an "administrative amendment" to reduce the number of spaces needed to 12. More details here.

5. Sins of Omission

In his riposte, Mr Batt does not directly mention the Bruno's controversy nor does he mention the French Quarter hotel controversy at all. Perhaps he doesn't have any excuse for helping his buddies build an additional huge bar in a mixed residential neighborhood and break the 35-year-old moratorium on new hotels in the French Quarter.

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