Saturday, August 04, 2007

The Man Who Sold Freetown

Now it appears that Chris Williams, the man who sold Freetown to the developers has the cheek to ask people for their votes! Williams is term limited in his position as a Coucilman. So, he is now running for the District 44 State seat. He even has the nerve to ask the residents of Freetown to vote for him. His gall is incredible!

According to the wacky Williams world view, he is somehow a hero for getting the sum of $200,000 to help preserve the history of Freetown. The fact of the matter is that he did no such thing. His constituents did not want the development. They were happy as they were, without the money. It now emerges that Williams thinks of himself as a hero. The people of Freetown think of his as a buffoon, a greedy self-serving political hack. He is no hero.

It has also come to light that a local businessman, who put up Williams to supporting the development, is paying Williams back. It seems that this individual has contributed the maximum permissable to the William's campaign. This makes Williams little better than a political whore. All his posturing about race is just an act. When it comes down to it, Williams was just looking after himself.

To add insult to injury, Williams supporters were in Freetown putting his yard signs all over the place, including on City land, which is illegal. They even put the signs in people's yards, without asking permission. These signs have now been removed and thrown away.

In a slightly ironic twist of fate, one of the people running against Williams is Fred Prejean. Prejean was one of the few people who stood up against the developers, as a member of the Lafayette Planning and Zoning Commission (PZC). The PZC, which is now under Prejean's leadership, twice voted to deny the developers permission to build their monstrosity. The City Council, led by Williams, overturned their decision. One thing is clear, Prejean is a friend of the voters of Freetown. Williams is loyal only to his own interests. Voters should keep these facts in mind on election day.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Le Festival de Ville de Libre (Freetown Festival) - Sunday, January 28th at 2:00pm

Le Festival de Ville de Libre (Freetown Festival) - Sunday, January 28th at 2:00pm

Come celebrate the history of the Freetown Neighborhood in Lafayette with a Second Line March through the neighborhood led by renowned trumpeter and vocalist, James Andrews and the Crescent City Allstars (A bio is included below). This celebration is a joint effort between Cité des Arts, the Freetown Neighborhood Historic District Association and St. Pauls Catholic Church. The event is made possible through a grant received from Project HEAL, the SOS Musicians Fund and the Acadiana Arts Council.

The Second Line will begin at 627 Vermilion St. between Gorden St. and Lamar St. It will wind through about an eight block area of the Freetown Neighborhood ending at Good Hope Chapel located on the corner of Convent St. and Garden St. The day will culminate with two music and artistic cultural presentations at Good Hope Chapel.

The first presentation at 3:00pm will feature James Andrews and the Crescent City Allstars and will be facilitated by Austin Sonnier, Jr., a local author, musician, playwright and artist. This educational program will focus on the history of the Tremé Neighborhood Jazz Style and other neighborhood Jazz styles to come out of New Orleans. James Andrews, trumpeter and vocalist, locally known as "Satchmo of the Ghetto" grew up and still lives in the famous New Orleans neighborhood of Tremé. As the grandson of the late Jesse Hill (of "Ooh-Poo-Pah-Doo" fame), James was present at many of his grandfather's gigs and therefore was musically tutored at a young age. James is also the older brother of Troy"Trombone Shorty" Andrews. He has performed with many local brass bands including the Tremé Brass Band and New Birth Brass Band before forming his own For James, as for many musicians who came up on the streets of New Orleans, the Treme neighborhood, located directly north of the Frenc!
h Quarter, represents a distinct musical heritage. This neighborhood is more popular for second-line parades and brass bands. His acclaimed solo album "Satchmo of the Ghetto", a mix of traditional New Orleans Trumpet workouts, acid jazz-styled, instrumental funk and gruff and soulful Louis Armstrong influenced vocals also features appearances by Dr. John and Allen Toussaint.

The second presentation at 4:00pm will be "Freetown Sketches" written by Austin Sonnier Jr. This is a composition that incorporates Jazz improvization and the spoken word. It is an assemblage of short sketches that reincarnate various landmarks, people and situations that were once embraced by a unique neighborhood called Freetown. This double-media dialogue was influenced by a communal spirit that held together this cosmopolitan haven during the early1950's. Actress/Singer Bria Hobgood will read and Austin Sonnier, Jr. will play the soprano saxophone.
(Austin Sonnier, Jr. (Playwright, Author, Composer) is a native Louisianian. He is the author of Five Books: /Willie Geary “Bunk” Johnson: The New Iberia Years (1977),Second Line: Jazzmen of Southwestern Louisiana (1990), A Guide to the Blues: History, Who’s Who, Research Sources (1994), The Violin in New Orleans Traditional Jazz (2006),/ and/ Jazz, Hoodoo & Gumbo (2006)./ His magazine articles have been published in England, Austria, Sweden, Italy, Spain and various Jazz magazines in the United States. He has written a number of plays and musicals, including /The End of a Perfect Death, Poppa Jazz: Jammin’ on a Blue Note, Head and Tales, Duddy’s Delight, The Greasy Spoon Restaurant/Funeral Parlor, Satchmo & Miss Lillian, Salty Dogs/(which had performances in New York City, Dallas, and Edinburgh, Scotland), /A Tribute to Billie Holiday, /and /A Salute to Sinatra. /He is presently working on two plays: /Lady Gardenia /and/ Willie the Lion./ He is a member of “The American Soc!
iety of Composers, Authors and Publishers”, and has received commissions to compose music for a number of major dance performances. He was awarded a “National Endowment for the Arts” grant and has presented papers at the “Center for Black Music Research/Columbia College, Chicago” and the “Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters.”)

WHEN: Sunday, January 28, 2007 at 2:00pm - 5:00pm
WHERE: Second Line March begins at 627 Vermilion St. between Gorden St. and Lamar St. It will wind through about an eight block area of the Freetown Neighborhood ending at Good Hope Chapel located on the corner of Convent St. and Garden St.
COST: Free to the public
For additional information please contact Cité des Arts at 337-291-1122

The following images were taken in New Orleans, at the first Second Line, after the hurricanes hit. Enjoy!

See every one there!

N.B. Capstone (the developers of the student apartment nightmare) were approached to support this event. At the time of posting, it is not known whether they will show support for Freetown. Their commitment to the area will continue to be monitored and reported here.

Sunday, November 19, 2006


So, Capstone have started work on their unwanted student apartment project. Although there was a lot of talk about saving trees, this seems to have come to nothing. The following images document what happened to a single Pecan tree.

The first image shows the tree before the man with the backhoe started. Incidently, the driver of the backhoe, who seemed nice enough, came from an area about 300 miles South of Mexico City. So much for the claims made by Capstone about using a local labor force.

The backhoe begins...

A not so gentle push and the Pecan tree is half gone...


It does not too much more effort from the powerful machine to bring the rest of the tree down...

Well, that tree is now history! A small sacrifice to progress...You cannot make an omlette without breaking a few eggs...Trees are for hippies - Let us make some CA$H!

This Pecan was not the only tree that fell to the backhoes after the last couple of days. The following images document the large number of large and old Pecan trees, Live Oaks and other fine trees that have been ripped from the Earth and piled up like so much garbage. The carnage has just begun... [Click on each picture to see a larger image].

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Capstone III -- Confusion!

Over the weekend, residents of Freetown received a notice of a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting, to consider so-called 'Capstone III'. The notice seemed to indicate that this was to involve a further 70 units. This had folks very unhappy. Now though, it appears that the extra units are not real and their mention on the plat was due to some odd kind of clerical error.

Late this afternoon, a member of the Freetown District Commission received an e-mail from Kent Campbell of Capstone in which the situation was discussed. It appears that the developers do not wish to build more units and still intend to use the land for car parking. How the misleading information appeared on the plat is still unclear. However, it is worth noting that the plat also misnames Lamar Street, Stewart Street. Campbell's claims were confirmed with the City by reporters from KATC.

Apparently, a separate planning request is needed, due to the fact that this land was not included in the Capstone II plans, because the developers did not own the land. Despite this fact, the area was included in the plans they presented.

It is still going to be important from residents to attend the meeting on the 9th of October, at 5pm. Representation is important to ensure that there are no other untoward 'surprises'. However, in the meantime it appears that the developers have not changed their plans after all, so rather than fearing a further 70 units, residents of Freetown can go back to being annoyed about the development that was promised.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Freetown Lost, again! What Next?

As people may have heard by now, at the Lafayette City-Parish Council meeting on Tuesday night, the Capstone Phase II development was approved, once again going against the opinion of the Planning and Zoning Commission. It seems that in this City, when residents and big money disagree, big money will win. This is a shame and should be kept in mind when it comes to election time. Although many members of the Council are term limited, should they have further political aspirations, their treachery should be remembered.

There were few heros in this debacle. One was Rob Stevenson. He was not at the meeting on Tuesday and thus counted as a 'no' vote. As his sided with residents the first time, it seems that he can be trusted. Louis Benjamin also voted against Capstone. He too is trustworthy. As for the rest, draw your own conclusions. One other individual who deserves mention for his strong support of residents is Fred Prejean of the Planning and Zoning Commission.

So, what next? It seems that we have little choice but to learn to live with Capstone. On the plus side, we will have $200,000 to try and mitigate against their impact. One problem that was mentioned at Tuesdays meeting was the fact that the Freetown District Commission lacks any African-American representation. This is an important problem, given the history of Freetown. The Commissioners have indicated that they are very aware of this issue, which is reassuring. However, suggestions about what may be done about this would be very welcome. Please feel free to post comments on this, or any other relevant topic. Another thing that would be very welcome would be concrete suggestions for the commission. Please post these too.

There were a few good things that came out of Tuesday. Capstone indicated that Oats and Hudson, their lawyers, would be happy to handle mail outs and other mundane tasks for the Commission. This is a real help, as this kind of thing is difficult without the right kind of infrastructure.

There is also one clarification, based upon a previous post. At the 'Meet Capstone' meeting, they claimed that they would only make a profit of $300,000 per year from their project. This claim was somewhat skeptically received. However, we have learnt that, after the Council meeting, a Capstone person approached Freetown Commissioner Dr. Istvan Berkeley with a spread sheet print out. Dr. Berkeley tells us that, although his view of the document was short, it did appear to indicate that the $300,000 figure was approximately correct. Actually, the figure is closer to $330,000, but it is close enough. The skeptical may wonder whether this document was a fake. However, we hear that it could have been a candid admission. You decide.

So, by way of conclusion, please think about how we the people of Freetown, as a community, work to mitigate the effects of the Capstone development. Talk to your neighbors. Talk to the Commissioners (they are in the phone book). Freetown has survived for nearly 200 years and has faced adversity before. We will have to work together. However, this situation is one that hopefully the resilience and resourcefulness of the community will be able to deal with, as we have handled adversity before.

Monday, August 28, 2006

An Evening With Capstone

This evening, residents of Freetown met with Capstone, the developers of the proposed student housing project. Capstone provided pop and pizza. As was quite natural, residents had a great many questions for Capstone. Engineer Paul Meyers was particularly helpful in explaining the various details on drainage and traffic concerns. A variety of other interesting bits of information came out in the course of the dialogue. The highlights will be provided here.

  • Capstone are not prepared to offer any further funds to residents, over the $200,000 already promised.

  • Further details of the secret meeting at which the deal was agreed emerged. Apparently, the meeting was attended by Glenn Armentor, a Mr. Edwards (representing Capstone), Steve Oats (Capstone's lawyer), City Councilors Chris Williams and Bruce Conque.

  • Capstone claim that the project will make them $300,000 per year. This figure is almost certainly a lie.

  • Capstone have bought the house behind the trailer park, as they needed more space for drainage ponds.

  • Capstone are willing to meeting with a Freetown community group on a monthly basis to address issues and impacts from their development. We will have to see whether this actually happens.
  • All comments about the Capstone project should be directed to Michael Mouron, the President of Capstone. His direct line phone number is (205) 414-6423, his cell phone number is (205) 936-6423 and his e-mail is

Probably the most odd part of the whole meeting was the fact that some man showed up from J an J Exterminating, trying to get the contract for the proposed development! Needless to say, this individual spoke highly enthusiastically about the development. Residents found this whole episode bizarre. If J an J are your exterminator, now might be a good time to change companies.

Tomorrow will be the City-Parish Council meeting, which will vote on the Capstone II proposal. Hopefully, the stooges Conque and Williams will not be able to hold sway this time. As many people as possible should show up to voice their opinions against this pernicious development.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Meet The Developers! Plus Coterie News

At a meeting tonight, the members of the LINC 7 neighborhood Coterie were selected. The Coterie will have nine members. Details on the members will be announced shortly. The first meeting of the Coterie will be at 5.30pm on Tuesday the 12th of September, at the Rosa Parks Center.

At the same meeting, it was announced that on Monday the 28th of August, representatives of Capstone Development will be at the C.J. Angelle Hall, at the corner of Jefferson and Taft Streets between 5.30 and 6.30 pm.

The purpose of this event is to permit residents of Freetown to let the developers 'know their concerns and thoughts about their proposal to build 600 student apartments in the neighborhood'. It is claimed that refreshments will be served. It is important that as many people as possible attend and let these people know how they feel about their plans. Residents of the trailer park on Stewart Street should take this opportunity to let these people know how they feel about losing their homes. There are reasons to believe that these individuals seldom get to meet the people they hurt in their quest for money. This is the reason why this is an important event, which should not be missed. This meeting was arranged by the Freetown District Commission. It is your chance to tell the developers what you think of them. So, please do so. Feel free to vent spleen! As one individual at tonights meeting remarked about this meet "This is a chance to meet the face of evil".