Tuesday, February 15, 2005

The Bond Vote...and Fiber411

Well, here is my report on and first response to the council meeting. Tonight, after a very long wait (we had to deal with the Verot School Road vs. Ambassador Caffery controversy first), the council advanced the fiber plan one more notch. This vote was to introduce the ordinance that will govern the sale of the fiber bonds. The one next week will approve the ordinance introduced today. And then later on, they'll approve the actual sale of the bonds based on the ordinance they approve next week. (Yes, I know and I agree. There has got to be a better way. Or at least a less convoluted one.)

But the drama of the night, as anticipated, was provided by the Fiber411 guys. Three people spoke in favor and Tim Supple read a prepared statement in opposition. Some of it was expected, some of it strange, and at least one part was a surprise.

The expectable stuff was, well expectable. They still don't want to admit that their real motive is purely, simply to defeat LUS. But Supple hinted at it, which is an improvement of sorts. He defended their joining BellSouth and Cox on the basis of poverty and not having the time for it. Weak sister, indeed, but a step up from thinking it doesn't need defending. They still want to put off the real argument about the wisdom of the fiber plan and substitute the silliness of the Cox "Let the People Vote" bit of misdirection.

The surprise was a suggested "compromise" offered by the Fiber411 folks. For the first time they conceded that maybe the city-parish "might have a point" when the city-parish suggests that a fight between the city-parish and the corporations would be unfair. And as a "compromise" they suggested that the city agree to a referendum, the city-parish set up a budget for it, that they get BellSouth and Cox to agree to spend no more than the city does, and that the chamber of commerce referee the deal. In return the lawsuit gets dropped.

The progress made here is in Fiber411's actually admitting that their actions might have consequences. That is, with small children and with wayward adults, the first step toward a conscience. It's a good thing--and admitting the issue is real makes for one less thing to fight about, also a good thing. I will be excused, given the history of Fiber411, if I can't get too enthusiastic. After all, they are giving away what they don't have--BellSouth's and Cox's money and the corporate lawsuit and LUS' legal and political advantages in trade for..what? Nothing that they actually have to offer. They can't stop the lawsuit. It's hard not to look at it and not think it is anything but another publicity ploy that BellSouth would be all to happy to play along with. So I don't see any substance yet. Just words. Here is a real threat: if Cox and BellSouth don't agree to their terms, they withdraw their support and go home. It wouldn't be much but it would be something they could actually do --and it would be more than just giving away other people's advantages and taking credit for a compromise to which you contribute nothing.

I earlier suggested, as one of eight steps toward their rehabilitation, that Fiber411 demand just this sort of compromise (though I'd not think the chamber much of a referee). So I'll give 'em credit for that if they support their words with actions. But I still want to see action on the other seven points.

(Oh yeah, you really wanted to know about Verot School Road and Ambassador Cafferty? The Council endorsed prioritizing Verot School Road when they discovered that it wouldn't make any difference if they did so. Or at least that is what it sounded like to me. It was a strange night.)

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