His sister, photographer Jenny Bagert, puts her video camera down and rushes to him.
"Do you want to take a break?"Council President Eddie Sapir asks Bagert, who sinks into his front-row chair and drains two bottles of water as supporters fan him with placards.
later remarks on Bagert's
council appearance: "He's
either the greatest actor that ever happened, or he's
terribly impassioned about the problems of poverty.He
isn't a bad guy.When I was younger I was impassioned, too ... but you've got to earn your stripes.You've got to have a little bit of a track record to be taken as gospel." Bagert
never intended to get as deeply involved in the St. Thomas opposition as he
found himself in late November."After I started seeing what the development was actually about, it really took me by surprise," he
recalls."As I started really to understand how egregious a use of public funds it was, I started being concerned that maybe there was a chance to do something about it."
Before the council meeting, Bagert
had worked for hours, "stapling up posters until the wee hours of the morning," he
says."We worked really hard to try to organize for the rally and for this meeting, and this is a difficult community to organize because it's so scattered around the city."
The experience left him with a sense of purpose."We didn't win," Bagert
says, "but if we want to win in the future, we've got to get people together who are going to be real organized and real disciplined and make sure that any elected official knows that they have to do what's in the interests of the residents they represent.If they don't, they'll cease to be elected officials."
'He isn't a bad guy,' Kabacoff
(pictured) says of Bagert.
'When I was younger I was impassioned, too ... but you've got to earn your stripes.'
Photo by Donn Young Studio
In recent weeks, Bagert
has received job offers from "every nonprofit in the city," he
laughs -- and urging by community members to run for office: "I can't think of a worse fate, and I question how much they really like me when they tell me I should run!"
chose a path that, at least temporarily, leads him out of New Orleans.He's accepted a job with the Industrial Areas Foundation, a national nonprofit aimed at broad-based community organizing.
"The people who spoke (at the meeting) ... a number of them would be an excellent leader and an excellent elected official," he
says."But what it's going to take for those people to have a shot is a lot of very successful and dedicated long-term organizers.So that's where I want to spend my time, and I don't see myself running for elected office."
The IAF job is going to take him out of New Orleans for about a year, Bagert
says.The organization follows a philosophy that new employees should start off in an environment where they must learn how to make connections, instead of relying on existing contacts.