B.B. Would Understand
24, 2008
By Roger Emile Stouff

(Note: The "letter to the editor" this column refers to can be read here.) 

Rep. Sam Jones may be able to write nearly three times more than me yet says practically nothing, and he seems at first glance to be lacking comprehension skills.

He’s not lacking at all. It’s what he does: Distract, divert and decoy. It’s what he’s always done.

For instance, his letter to the editor last week said, and I quote him verbatim:

"Roger, regardless of your drivel about Hurricane Lili in 2002 and what you claimed happened on Willow Street that it was 6 feet underwater and you saw it with your own eyes (which is silly since that is 6 inches higher than your head and would only allow the very top of my bald head to show)…"

Jones, in addition to making the asinine assertion that he and I were standing in six feet of water, is pretending to be unaware that I was quoting him, from 2002, his own published words, and hoping you’ll fall for his ploy to discredit me.

That quote came from the Banner so I’m sure he’ll attempt to dispute it too, but the exact text from Oct. 7, 2002 was:

The Franklin Canal, directly connected to the Intracoastal Canal and the Gulf of Mexico, breached its banks about 1 p.m. Thursday.

"At one point, we were losing a foot of Willow Street every two minutes," Jones said. "We got anywhere from 4 to 6 feet of water."

The former mayor will likely resort to his famous routine of saying I misquoted him way back in 2002.

In Friday’s letter, Sam went on to say:

"The reason I asked the former governor for the allocation was in order to draw up (not study) the specifications to construct the gates on the Franklin Canal just below the new boat landing that would protect Franklin from hurricane surges (not at the Vermilion Bay like Stouff wrote in his article which would be a stupid place to put the gates)…"

Again, he is attributing his own quotes to me. So "stupid is as stupid does" indeed.

The exact quote from The Daily Iberian of Sept. 14 was:.

Jones however, said he doesn’t understand why Franklin city leaders haven’t begun the process of getting a floodgate at the base of the canal near Vermilion Bay. The former Franklin mayor said the issue should have been addressed immediately after Hurricane Rita, which shined the "first spotlight" on the problem.

He can also say the Iberian misquoted him but wow, that sure seems like a lot of misquoting of one state rep, doesn’t it?

Anyone wishing to read the actual 2002 article in the Banner is more than welcome to visit me at the office and I’ll show it to you in black and white in the archives. The Iberian’s story is on their website.

Furthermore, he says: "During Gustav which was more damaging on the east end of the parish (which unfortunately and sadly, Roger, you seem to dislike the people over there and I hope you get over that)…"

That, ladies and gentlemen, is a prime example of Jones’ infamous talent to twist, misconstrue and turn-inside-out anything he wants when he needs to deflect criticism away from himself. In this particular case, he has taken my blasting of a mere handful of elected officials on the eastern end of St. Mary Parish…and twisted it into the declaration that I "dislike the people over there." All of them, Jones accuses. Every single soul living east of the Calumet Cut.

See what I mean? He’s incorrigible and insufferable.

After a lengthy list of places he went and people he saw during the storm, Sam relates, "So whatever your inference that I showed up ‘after’ certain events is something of which you have NO knowledge because the one person I did NOT see at any of these places was you," Sam says.

My apologies, dear readers. I was derelict in my duty. I should have sought out Sam Jones and recorded his words for posterity, rather than go out and make photographs of the actual storm aftermath.

He goes on to say he would hold me "partially responsible for the outcome" of the city’s efforts in the future to control flooding in the city.

He is welcome to spout such melodrama, but I don’t answer to Sam Jones. And as a constituent of District 50, the fact is that he answers to me, and every other resident of the district.

Also, as an employee of a Franklin business and someone who has family and friends who live in the city, I still accuse him of misrepresenting the actual chain of events from 2002 to 2005 in particular, and up to the present day as well. The record speaks for itself.

It is true that Sam didn’t have much time to fully address the issue of flooding from hurricane surges in the time between Lili and his departure to work in Baton Rouge…but certainly the same case can be made for the current administration.

At least the current mayor and council are trying to do something besides sell pies in the sky. All Sam wants to do is argue and demonstrate that he is not our "representative" in Baton Rouge. He is a "my way or the highway" politician.

In condemning a five-minute rule for speakers at the city council meeting – which wasn’t even enforced – the ex-mayor mocks me for something he concocted in his own vivid imagination:

"Roger, I have had my share of irate citizens taking the microphone at city council meetings. Sometimes I probably let some of them go on too long. But, I never suppressed them with a five-minute rule that was meant for some but not followed by others. I am completely opposed to censorship whether implied, coerced or practiced de facto. As a journalist who lives by the first amendment, I am shocked that you defend that kind of behavior but also joined it! As if to say ‘How dare someone in this free nation question authority!’ How dare you speak truth to power! How dare you imply otherwise, Roger!"

Honestly, I ain’t got a clue what in the world he’s getting at with this one. I am neither a city official nor the sergeant at arms of the council meetings, and I don’t recall standing up in the middle of the meeting shouting that someone was talking too long. Beats me, he’s out on a very creaky limb.

Jones sums up by saying he hopes I "get over the fact that the Daily Iberian asked me some questions and I answered them. If you would rather make up stuff instead, you are free to do so…I hope you do better in the future separating fact and fiction..."

Again, I invite anyone to come look at the newspapers of 2002, and go to the Iberian’s website. He can’t deny what’s there, he can only accuse misrepresentation of his words. I would hope his claim that two separate reporters from two separate newspapers misquoted him would be met with extreme suspicion.

Mayor Jones is on the record saying there was up to six feet of water on Willow Street in 2002, yet that the problem there first manifested itself in 2005 for Hurricane Rita, an obvious attempt to discredit the city with whom he has been quarreling for years. No amount of sleight-of-hand can change it.

He sums up that he’ll continue to do the job he was elected to do and that I should know that…oh, let me not paraphrase! He’ll be all over me again:

"The elective office I hold now has responsibilities that dictate otherwise. Each day and each year brings new challenges and there is too much work yet to do. And I take my duty seriously and will discharge with all I have in me to give.

"After all these years, you of all people should know better."

Well, finally, some 2,700 words into his letter, Sam finally says something I can agree with.

He’s right. I should know better. For the better part of 22 years, I worked with the man and considered him an ally for the betterment of the city. In retrospect I am certain only that it was what I thought was best at the time.

There’s a story bluesman B.B. King tells, about when he was playing in some club and a fire flared up. He fled, but realized he had left his guitar inside, and ran in to get it. The building crashed, burning, around him, and B.B. barely escaped with his life. He later heard the fire started when a fight broke out over a woman named Lucille, and he named his guitar in honor of the lady to remind himself never to do such a damn fool thing again.

I have a photograph of Sam and I tacked on the wall beside my desk.

B.B. would certainly understand.