Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Breakfield Back At It for AT&T (aka BellSouth)

It's hard to know where to start.

Neal Breakfield, unrepentant sock puppet extraordinaire, is back at it again with a guest editorial in the Advertiser. Talk about misplaced loyalties. Even as BellSouth prepares to sell out to AT&T to create America's largest phone monopoly, Breakfield continues to act in ways that benefit the telecom incumbents and damage the interests of a project the local community has overwhelmingly approved.

While Breakfield neglects to mention his long-standing opposition to Lafayette's project, readers should be reminded that Breakfield was one of the very few voices to be raised against the project locally. He vociferously opposed the idea with various rationales and ran a distasteful site called fiber 411 on which posters regularly trash-talked the project and the character and motives of local citizens from behind its wall of anonymity.

But the best place to start is with Breakfield's charge that Lafayette somehow considers itself "above the law" for pursuing repeal of a law that has repeatedly been used to thwart the will of the voters. It's hard to understand where Neal finds the gall to claim that Lafayette considers itself above the law. Talk about hypocritical. Beyond running fiber 411 and appearing at press conferences Neal's main claim to fame was to file a dubious, "unsworn" complaint against Mayor Durel which, apparently, was found to be without merit since the time has elapsed when a verdict to the contrary would have been announced. In the normal course of events a finding against a person like Mr. Durel would be the first the public would have heard of the matter since it is against the law to discuss unsworn complaints publicly--precisely to prevent folks from using the ethics commission to publicize and give weight to what is essentially rumor-mongering. But Neal's unsworn complaint was announced on the editorial pages of the Times of Acadiana. Neither he nor his partner in unethically discussing a charge he wasn't willing to swear to (Eric Benjamin) has found it convenient to apologize for illegally publicizing a complaint that turned out to be baseless. This makes his strange plaint about others believing that they are "above the law" more than a little hypocritical.

This guest editorial represents a return to the Fear, Uncertainty, and Doubt (FUD) strategy so long pursued by the incumbents. Powerful, dominant, corporations have long used such tactics to smear their upstart competition. Issues are raised that are, generally, either untrue or irrelevant but which always raise doubt about the character or the competence of their opposition. The point is not to lay out a good or even defensible line of reasoning in opposition to what a corporation dislikes. The purpose is simply to raise a long series of scary "possibilities" that surround the opposition's product with so many ugly suppositions that people come away with the impression that something must be wrong.

In the odd, mirror world that Neal occupies trying to repeal a law is the same as being "above the law." It's not--it is obviously the opposite of that. Neal has no objection to the endless lawsuits and obstructionism at the Public Service Commission that has served to delay a project Lafayette voted to approve. His emphasis is entirely on the successes that the incumbents have enjoyed with this strategy. He ignores the fact that the ordinance we all voted on and approved is the same one which BellSouth finally found a court to take it side on--after the author, Cox, the city, the public service commission (who filed a brief in support) and various legislators have all indicated that they think BellSouth is betraying deals made in conference and misinterpreting the law. He rhetorically asks whether we voted on that ordinance. We did! Explicitly. On July 16th

Breakfield ignores the fact that the co-sponsor of the Local Government Fair Competition Act is now spearheading the effort for repeal in the Senate just as he ignores the fact that the people did in fact vote on the ordinance BellSouth sued us over. He's not eager to ask why the Acadiana delegation has lined up for repeal. He doesn't ask why Cox refused to join BellSouth's suit over this ordinance.

Breakfield wants to pretend that the city joining all these folks in thinking BellSouth wrong and defending itself in court when sued by its potential competition was to engage in "blatantly illegal" behavior. Wildest nonsense. Defending yourself in court is the opposite of "illegal" behavior just as seeking repeal of an unjust law exhibits the opposite of considering yourself "above the law."

At some point you would think that having been repudiated at the polls would end this type of self-indulgent foolishness. Or that a decent regard for the judgment of the community would induce a little more care in attacking its interests. Apparently not. The community has ignored this sort of nonsense from Neal before and I've little doubt that it will be ignored once again.

7 comments:

Neal Breakfield said...

John, you always make me LAUGH!!

I find it amazing that it takes you 825 words to skirt the FACTS of almost 2 years of recent history that it only took me 620 words to put forth.

I like the fact that you resort to inuendo and accusation in lieu of actual facts... always makes me feel warm and fuzzy inside!! Seriously, as long as you refuse to go head to head with me, I _KNOW_ I'm right!

Why do you support the administration that by it's own unwillingness to abide by the law (that it helped write) is delaying and possibly denying you your GOD GIVEN right to FIBER?

It's about the law. LUS, Bellsouth and Cox collaboarted on a law that they all agreed set ground rules for fair play. LUS/LCG refuse to obey that law! If LUS would abide by the law, _YOU_ would already have your FIBER! It's not anyone else's fault! It is the administration's fault. And don't take me out of context and say that I am charging the people of LAFAYETTE with misdoings. That's cheap. The citizens don't set policy... the elected leaders do.

Speaking of laws, the election came about from a lawsuit based on the fact that the city was seeking to sell bonds in an illegal manner that eliminated the citizens' right to an election. I didn't say that, Judge Byron Hebert said that. It was so transparent, the entire day in court lasted barely a morning. He ruled from the BENCH immediately!!

You supported them in that ILLEGAL tactic!!

Furthermore, the election had nothing to do with the lawsuit that came about in the fall. We voted on an ordinace that did not provide for illegal cross subsidization. They THREW THAT ONE OUT and snuck another one in that allowed them to force you and everyone else to pay for the losses forever through raises in ultility rates! They said that they would not do that, COULD NOT do that (they said that that was against the law in the CAMPAIGN!!) before the election... yet they did it anyway.

You supported them in that illegal tactic too!!!

I am not the one who says that it is illegal!! Actually, it is LUS / LCG themselves who orignially said that it is ILLEGAL when they helped to write the LAW!

A 3 judge appelate court agreed with LUS / LCG and the LAW that they helped write! The _appeals_court_ said that the ordinance was illegal!! NOT Bellsouth, or John St. Julie or anyone else!!

So here we are again... YOU continue to support illegal means of pursuing the project. Why? I believe that you are a law abiding citizen! I believe that while I disagree with you, you are a good man! Why do you want them to continue to break the law and delay the project?

John said...

Ah Neal,

You're right about one thing: I'm wordy. So let's boil it down.

Re 95% of your rambling response:

"Breakfield wants to pretend that the city joining all these folks in thinking BellSouth wrong and defending itself in court when sued by its potential competition was to engage in "blatantly illegal" behavior. Wildest nonsense. Defending yourself in court is the opposite of "illegal" behavior just as seeking repeal of an unjust law exhibits the opposite of considering yourself "above the law."

(That's just a repeat, you've not responded to the substance of that, nor dealt with why so many people from Cox to the Act's co-sponsor, to the PSC thought Layette's interpretation correct. --people at a meeting I attended last night raised this same question in a slightly different way: They wanted to know if you thought you were the only man in Lafayette who had a handle on the truth. Good question. Is everyone else just wrong?)

Re: What you choose not to deal with:

It's hard to know where to start...

But the best place to start is with Breakfield's charge that Lafayette somehow considers itself "above the law" for pursuing repeal of a law that has repeatedly been used to thwart the will of the voters. It's hard to understand where Neal finds the gall to claim that Lafayette considers itself above the law. Talk about hypocritical. Beyond running fiber 411 and appearing at press conferences Neal's main claim to fame was to file a dubious, "unsworn" complaint against Mayor Durel which, apparently, was found to be without merit since the time has elapsed when a verdict to the contrary would have been announced. In the normal course of events a finding against a person like Mr. Durel would be the first the public would have heard of the matter since it is against the law to discuss unsworn complaints publicly--precisely to prevent folks from using the ethics commission to publicize and give weight to what is essentially rumor-mongering. But Neal's unsworn complaint was announced on the editorial pages of the Times of Acadiana. Neither he nor his partner in unethically discussing a charge he wasn't willing to swear to (Eric Benjamin) has found it convenient to apologize for illegally publicizing a complaint that turned out to be baseless. This makes his strange plaint about others believing that they are "above the law" more than a little hypocritical.

That's just a repeat too and ought to be free in the "wordy contest."

The "where do you get off" is a serious issue, for me and, I know, others. Do you have the credibility to lodge charges of illegal behavior against anyone and expect to be taken seriously?

In the interests of moving the conversation along: I think there are only two possibilities here: 1) you never filed a complaint. 2) You did and you, at least, have heard from the ethics commission that it was without merit. Which was it?

Anonymous said...

John,
One other thing Neal is right about is that you will never go head to head with him on real issues.

Neal,
We need more people like you in public service. Unfortunately we end up with more people like John. This place is starting to scare me.

Anonymous said...

In your opinion,
1. Do you believe the present ordance will pass the non-subsidy ruling if challanged in court.
2. do you hear anything from the legislature on the bills put up by Rodideaux and Michot?

John said...

anon,

Yep, I believe it will stand up in court, but I'm probably not the one to ask since I think both of the previous reverses were wrongly found and I would have appealed them. (The difference between BellSouth and LUS/LCG is that delay is in BellSouth's favor and appealing endlessly serves their needs. LUS and LCG haven't appealed any ruing that went against them..too anxious to get started. BellSouth always appeals and when it loses one case starts a new one. (Hence the revival of the rate lawsuit. Just in case they need a new thing to stop LUS with.))

The Robideaux and Michot bills are sitting out there. They are not yet visible on the calendar of the legislative committees. I'm not privy to the inner movements but am assured that wheels are grinding in the background.

Just how the game is played out will be interesting to watch unfold. The four very different anti (un)Fair Competition bills, emergency bills, the governors committment to rural broadband, the BellSouth/New Orleans mess, Franchise bills, and recovery and development issues all interact. Which ones get played out first and the tack that is taken in presenting all this will reveal a lot about how people are thinking and whose committed fully as alies.

Or, maybe, that's just trying to read tea leaves. We'll see.

Anonymous said...

John
You seem to have a good understanding of the history of this fiber project. Can you please explain what happen to the class action suit that was filed last year? Has it been dismissed and could we see it again? Would it have any impact on the fiber project since it deals with the other utility divisions?
Also, can you please explain how Mr. Breakfield is wrong in his column? I do seem to remember Joey telling my civic group that electric rates could not increase because it was against the law.
I am not trying to come down on you I just believe Mr. Breakfield was trying to share things as he saw them. He made some very good points that I never thought about.

John said...

Anono,

The class action lawsuit is back in play --it was tossed out by the courts who said that, surprise, the plaintiffs actually had to follow the prescribed procedures to try and get redress. That involves bringing their case to the LPUA (Lafayette Parish Utility Authority) to try and get the change they want before suing about not getting the change they want.

Of course the reason it went away and the reason it came back the day the bond ordinance went before city-parish council again is that it's not really about rates. It's about the bond issue. Suing over rates is a way to try and halt the bond issue--the transparent claim of the class action lawyers is that they want the bond issue stopped so that LUS can't take on any debt before they get to try to sue. So it can effect the bond issue and further delay the system the people voted for last July if it is successful.

I've said pretty clearly in the original post the way in which I think that Neal is misrepresenting things. Just to name the simplest one: He wants to pretend that supporting the repeal of a law is somehow like not abiding by a law. There is such a thing as rhetoric--trying to put forward a point of view convincingly--and there's plain old being misleading. There is a difference. I think Neal goes over the line in calling supporting repeal not abiding by the law. As I said before that is the opposite of breaking a law. Repeal is all about actually respecting the process. He goes from this misrepresentation to the suggestion that our local officials intend to "subsidize" (which you, curiously, take as meaning raise other rates) merely because they are trying to repeal a law which BellSouth is using to delay our project. Since I don't take the misrepresentation seriously I don't have any reason to think Neal's little suspicions should be taken as implied...This is always the way this stuff works.