BATISTE: Financial Trouble Hits City Park, Monument Supporters Smile

New Orleans’ City Park has found itself in financial straits less than a year after letting Mayor Mitch Landrieu steal its 102 year old historic monument. Don’t worry, the City Park board didn’t spend taxpayer money on the removal, Mitch did. But when the City Park Improvement Association and City Park employees allowed the confiscation, it troubled many, many people, and the park depends on those people for its existence.

CEO Bob Becker said the public support has fallen each year. Park officials blame weather, specifically the summer rain and the cold weather (also known as “winter”). Those running City Park should take an honest look at their inaction, specifically with their landmark, the one listed on the National Register of Historic Places that was carried away under their watch after two years of opposition.

Gustav Toutant-Beauregard was much more than the racist Landrieu stereotyped him into. Beau was one of us who excelled. Born in St. Bernard Parish, he attended West Point Academy and finished second in his class. Beauregard made a name for himself during the Mexican War as an engineer. After that war he worked in New Orleans as an engineer and saved the Customs House on Canal Street, the location of Audubon’s Insectarium. He held the position of Superintendent of West point in early 1861 before he was discriminatorily fired because he was from the Southern state of Louisiana.

After joining the Confederate Army, Beauregard led Southerners on many battle fields throughout the South, fighting off Northern invasions. After the War Between the States ended, Beauregard attempted to improve New Orleans. He worked as a railway executive and developed a cable car system which birthed New Orleans’ iconic streetcars.

Beauregard fought for “political equality” and land ownership for black people, he opposed racial discrimination in hiring and he supported integration. Beauregard did this as part of the Louisiana Unification Movement in 1873, during Reconstruction, a time when it was highly unpopular to do so in the South. He never owned slaves. Beauregard was Louisiana’s original Civil Rights leader and Mitch removed his monument and City Park buried its head in the sand so it could happen.

Detractors challenge that if Beauregard did all these wonderful things, why was he memorialized as a soldier in the Confederate Army? His military career is where he most distinguished himself, it’s where he rose to his most prominent position. Consider that The Daily Picayune said in 1899: “It is a debt which Louisiana owes to erect a worthy monument to this greatest military engineer of any age and eminent commander, and it is a debt which cannot, with any sort of confidence, be left to future generations to pay.” A war commander was the pinnacle of his achievements.

And City Park’s leadership chose not to take a stand for a remarkable monument to an honorable man at its entrance. Now the grand avenue has the base with portions missing, standing like a lone tomb from the city’s past. Even some of the Alt Left who opposed “Confederate monuments” will admit the Beauregard monument was a beautiful work of art.

Leftist journalist Walter Isaacson argued for the removal of monuments by writing Op Eds and giving support to Mitch Landrieu. (Of course he also showed that he as an historian didn’t research Robert E. Lee before erroneously making the claim that “he never even visited the city.”) After the removals, Isaacson changed his tune. He now defends G.T. Beauregard and claims that he never believed the monument should have been removed.

“I argued, as you may know, to keep Beauregard. (Argued) for it,” Isaacson said in a clip now on YouTube. “He was put up for reasons that he helped New Orleans. I thought Beauregard should definitely stay. It also is a great piece of art.” Isaacson has said this at speaking engagements and on national news.

But then you have the CFO of City Park Kevin Cox making posts on Facebook before the removal of Beauregard stating, “proud to stand with the Mayor! … some are proud…others like me are embarrassed…take em all down and enjoy the unfairness.”

Cox’s statement leads one to believe he should be willing to accept the fall out from the removal. That fallout is showing its head in the need for funding. The social media group Save Our Circle has boycotted City Park since the May 2017 removal. The Gambit’s article laid out the money making areas of the park: Storyland, Celebration in the Oaks, and Bayou Oaks golf course being significant. So if the people boycotting avoid those Park offerings, it hits the pocketbook.

City Park has a shady track record as of late. The Hayride has continued to cover multiple stories airing the gross neglect of the City Park management, as well as covering up all Beauregard discussions in its minutes while contracting legal counsel about the topic to the amount of $68,000.

The COO Rob DeViney used park contractors on his own properties. DeViney paid $600,000 to unlicensed contractors.

The City Park Board and its attorneys attempted to conceal a sexual harassment settlement paid in 2012 when The Hayride requested records. Information provided by the state Office of Risk Management showed a sexual harassment claim not taken seriously until legal measures were taken. Then taxpayers were burdened with a $35,000 settlement due to a City Park employee. And City Park officials and attorneys attempted to keep this from the public.

Over the years, City Park has made its own decisions against the city it relies on.  The Speech Police at City Park reworded “Christmas in the Oaks” to “Celebration in the Oaks.” 13 years after Katrina, City Park still has not restored its drive through Christmas light display, a great New Orleans pastime. City Park did have a cutout of the Andrew Jackson monument and Cathedral for its Celebration display this past winter. The cutout with lights was vandalized and tagged “Racist.”

It’s worth a trip to Metairie to drive through the Al Copeland light extravaganza in Lafreniere Park. Since the City Park Celebration remains on foot and the Park routinely ignores the pleas each year to make it a drive-through experience again, the market has found an answer and it is in Jefferson Parish.

The financial situation of City Park allows for some schadenfreude from the large population that hated watching masked New Orleans Firefighters make off with a proud son of New Orleans, a war-tested Army general, an engineer preservationist, a civil rights leader, and the father of the streetcar. Many feel the Park’s misfortunes are deserved.

City Park said it may have to rely on a tax, using the less revolting word “millage,” to make up its budget gap. Typical government, instead of trying to exist within its means, the group thinks the answer is taking more money from the public.

The tomb at the park entrance now marks the failure of a mayoral administration and City Park administration. Perhaps the best way for City Park to recoup funds and reestablish regional support would be to have a fundraiser to re-erect the grand statue to a deserving New Orleanian.

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