[StBernard] Gulf Coast cities bicker over plant

Westley Annis westley at da-parish.com
Sun Apr 8 20:52:25 EDT 2007

News staff writer
For years the sister Gulf Coast cities of New Orleans and Mobile have
bickered over the title of the birthplace of Mardi Gras, which city cooked
up the first batch of gumbo and who has the best port.

Now they're squabbling over who should land a $2.9 billion steel complex
planned by German industrial giant Thyssen Krupp, and the fighting has
turned ugly, at least in the newspapers.
On Feb. 28, the Press-Register of Mobile took the first shot, running an
editorial cartoon by J.D. Crowe showing Lousiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco mired
in the swampy waters of the state's "corrupt political history." Blanco,
welcoming ThyssenKrupp, proclaimed that the " water's fine."

On March 15, the Press-Register took another swing in an editorial detailing
the reasons the newspaper believes Mobile should win over New Orleans.

It notes the "shifting soil" of the St. James Parish site, saying it would
require 140,000 pilings to support the steel plant. It pointed out Alabama's
competitve transportation costs and the Mobile County site's proximity to
Thyssen's customers, automobile plants. It also proclaimed Alabama's
superiority in politics and economic development, saying Louisiana's "fetid
history of political corruption hurts the state to this day."

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans fired back March 24, saying: "When a $2.9
billion steel plant with the promise of 2,700 jobs is on the line, the
competition is bound to get a bit heated. But some supporters of Alabama's
bid for the plant are trashing Louisiana in the process, and we're frankly
fed up."

That editorial noted the convictions of former governors Don Siegelman and
Guy Hunt. And it mentioned the community college scandal where Alabama
"legislators and their family members have made a killing off the two-year

Terri Troncale, editorial page editor for The Times-Picayune, declined
comment on the back-and-forth. Troncale, a former editorial writer for The
Birmingham News, said in an e-mail The Times-Picayune editorial speaks for

Frances Coleman, editorial page editor for the Press-Register, a Louisiana
native herself, acknowledged Friday that Alabama has had its share of
political misconduct, but she said the state "in no way has anything
approaching Louisiana's culture of political corruption."

Coleman said the Press-Register's editorial board, which includes another
Louisiana native and a third member who lived there for several years, felt
it couldn't "tiptoe" around Louisiana's history of corruption.

"The distinction between the states is a factor ThyssenKrupp should take
into account," she said.
The snipping between the two Newshouse-owned papers about ThyssenKrupp will
likely stop once the German company makes its choice. But some arguments may
never be settled.

On the topic of Mardi Gras, Coleman said: " We know, regardless of what one
might hear elsewhere, that Mobile is the birthplace of that beloved
tradition, so bickering about it would be irrelevant."

E-mail: sgoodman at bhamnews.com --

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