I had to laugh at Gulfport Mayor Billy Hewes dismissing the Sierra Club and other environmentalists as special interests while pouring perfume on the Landfill Sleaze from New Orleans that have been courting Gulfport city politico$ for year$ now. But all the money the Wards have been spreading out can’t take away the stench of the kind of people that want to come to Gulfport and bulldoze more wetlands in the name of progress that Billy Hewes now attempts to prettify:
BILLY HEWES: Don’t squander a second chance at Turkey Creek
The first sign the public should be harbor great dubiety is that Hewes is from the government and claims he wants to help. Normally this means helping himself by helping the monied special interests that want to fill in wetlands to the detriment of the local residents. If I lived downstream in the floodplain I think I’d be highly skeptical. Make no mistake folks, Poppa Ward is still calling the shots here.
One thing I’ve learned doing Slabbed is established print media do not mix and match their state lines. Here at Slabbed the only rule is there are no rules. The benefit to this philosophy today is the following Anita Lee story, which traces its family roots to Thomas “Butch” Ward of the River Birch Ward family. Everyone should therefore read it.
EPA wants Port of Gulfport projects studied ‘holistically’ ~ Anita Lee
So much for MDOT taking the whole enchilada in the Turkey Creek watershed.
With the cutbacks at the National newspaper chains the good ol’ days of small media market bloggers being able to make a living linking the local paper are long gone but occasionally there are still days when a days worth of material pops up in the local paper and that is the case with today’s Sun Herald so here goes a quick trio of posts, this one highlighting Jefferson Parish’s own Butch Ward and his adventures in developing wetlands, this time Gulfport’s Turkey Creek Watershed. This story has been topical since May 2010, my interest driven by Slabbed’s previous coverage of the massive political corruption scandal in Jefferson Parish which has the Ward family at its epicenter and the fact that Thomas “Butch” Ward, formerly of the Jefferson Parish Council was the early public face of Anita Lee’s reporting on same from her perch on the Gulfport beat for the Sun Herald.
As I recall the early reporting on Team Ward’s attempt to fill wetlands for commercial development happened right around the same time as the criminal prosecution of former Gretna City Councilman Jonathan Bolar for fleecing a church on a real estate transaction. Just so happened that when Butch wasn’t testifying in federal court about his role enabling Bolar (or barking at Judge Africk) he was in Gulfport working Mayor Schloegel and the Sun Herald editorial board. It represented a journalistic threefer for Slabbed and I think all the people involved on the media side got the warm fuzzies. Lest I digress.
In any event lawsuits have long since been filed and the litigation grinds but Team Ward rolled out a settlement proposal and Anita Lee is Johnny on the spot covering it for the Sun Herald. I can’t imagine the people in the Turkey Creek section of Gulfport will be enthusiastic on the specter of 400 acres of prime wetlands being filled in and developed, especially for uses related to port expansion, which Team Ward artfully uses to justify the development.
Given the Ward family history in Jefferson Parish my personal feeling is to be wary, very wary in fact.
Besides tracking the movements of Team Ward in Louisiana the wing of the family under former Jefferson Parish Councilman Butch Ward has been active in Mississippi via a track of wetland they own south of I-10 between the Canal Road and Highway 49 exits. The interchange at US 49 is on 16th section land and it is fully developed so it is logical the frontage on I-10 going west to Canal Road would be the natural path for more commercial development. MDOT took the entire piece of land from Ward for the new port connector road that is under construction and both Team Ward and the City cried foul taking the USACOE to federal court to oppose taking the entire parcel. Our prior posts on this topic in chronological order from oldest to newest can be found here, here, here, here, here and here.
I mention all this because Anita Lee is reporting for the Sun Herald that the Gulfport City Council did not take the Highway 49 commercial corridor away from the historically black city council district to include in District 7 as originally proposed in a deal that would have benefitted Butch Ward as district 7 council person Cara Puchu is pro development. The current city council person for the area is Ella Holmes Hines who has constituents in the Turkey Creek area that have flooding problems that would certainly be worsened by Team Ward style “fill and build” development.
Anita Lee has the story concerning the promised second Gulfport redistricting hearing that now includes 2 new ward maps, one of which is specifically drawn with the public’s previous input in mind. Long story short Butch Ward and his boy are the fighting eminent domain on their property fronting I-10 between Canal Road and US 49 while they quietly tried to put the inside fix in against the historically black Turkey Creek community by moving the land from Councilwoman Hine’s Ward to Team Ward friendly Councilwoman Pucheu’s Ward. (Whew that is a lot of Wards)
Those wanting to catch up on this facet of the now multi-year Ward family saga in Gulfport can click here for those posts.
Folks, we’ve consistently heard the racketeers behind the River Birch landfill owned both land and politicians here in Mississippi and as proof I offer today’s update by the Sun Herald’s Anita Lee on the lawsuit filed by Jerald Ward, mini me to Jim and Butch Ward against MDOT and the Army Corp of Engineers. The irony of people known inside Mississippi environmental regulatory circles as “wetland pirates” casting themselves as environmental saviors is rich but unluckily for the taxpayers in Gulfport, myself included, the fleecing continues as Mayor George Schloegel and the City have joined the Ward’s lawsuit over the Turkey Creek wetlands, which the Wards wants to fill in to build retail. The ultimate irony however, is that this land could well be subject to forfeiture when the coming RICO indictments against certain members of Team River Birch are handed down in New Orleans.
To catch our newer readers up, Gulfport Mayor Schloegel is former CEO of Hancock Bank and IMHO it is a reasonable guess that Team Ward had considerable money (from which they may have also paid considerable bribes) with Schloegel and Hancock Bank. That said and regardless of any prior connections between Schloegel and the Wards, when MDOT announced they wanted no part of the Ward family in Mississippi both the Wards and Mayor Schloegel took umbrage and ol’ George marched mini me Ward down to the Sun Herald so they could get the word out. The fly in the ointment is we also got the word out that Schloegel needed a long shower after the association but it appears George prefers the company of racketeers or more specifically racketeers with money.
This brings us to today and Anita’s latest story, which also contains Judge Ozerden’s ruling on Team Corp of Engineers motion to dismiss as she updates the behind the scenes events that have taken place over the past year. My own experience is that criminal prosecutions have a way of making civil litigation from Team Defense evaporate so there is lots of uncertainty inherent to this litigation but we’ll be keeping this case on our radar screens regardless. Mississippi does not need these flies buzzing around period as we have enough of our own.