Marshall Truehill’s final political battle was his greatest. I last saw Truehill this past October when he was working vigorously for passage of a city charter amendment that would allow for the creation of a meaningful Master Plan. Though the amendment was way overshadowed by the election of Barack Obama on the November ballot, it may have been the most important and far-reaching decision that voters have made in years.
When I saw Truehill, who was black, he was concerned that opposition to the amendment was increasing within the black community. As a former Chairman of the City Planning Commission and as a practicing minister, Truehill understood the hurt and suspicions within the black community, but he also felt that the Master Plan would allow for rational, de-politicized planning. He knew that before a plan was adopted there would be studies and public hearings. In the end, he envisioned a plan that would allow the city to grow and it’s people, all people, to live in decent environments.
On this day in October, Truehill was busily sending e-mails to counter charges from others in the black community who believed that when white people talk about Green space, they are talking about space that is not black. Truehill had been close enough to the planning process to know better, but he was that day a man who seemed to be very lonely — taking the fire from within his own community.
That the amendment passed is to Truehill’s credit. It got enough of the black vote that, coupled with the white vote, the proposal became law. There are many people who can take credit for that election, but no one had to walk the mindfield that Truehill did during that campaign.
Truehill was not patsy for mainstream thinking. Vincent Sylvain, who publishes The New Orleans Agenda, a web newsletter focused on issues within the black community and a former college classmate of Truehill’s, wrote this last week about the Minster:
While an advocate of the recently passed Master Plan charter amendment, Truehill was also a vocal critic of HUD’s plan to destroy the "Big Four" housing developments following Hurricane Katrina. Doubting that the units would be replaced with housing for the underserved.
"I’m extremely skeptical that anything will be replaced," said Truehill, an opponent of the demolitions who grew up in B.W. Cooper (then called the Calliope), served on the City Planning Commission and oversaw social work in the city’s 10 public-housing projects for all of his adult life. "There is a deadline of 2010 to have those things completed," he said. "But we’re already on the cusp of 2009, and we haven’t seen a single pile driven." — The Times-Picayune
Truehill, founder and Executive Director of Faith In Action Evangelistic Team, Inc., and Pastor of First United Baptist Church, died Christmas Day of what was described as a massive heart attack. He will be missed in the future planning of the better New Orleans that he envisioned. But because he lived, that better New Orleans has a chance of being realized.
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