Friday, September 29, 2006

Debrisville meets the Jetsons
and we all lose our parking

Will the automated garbage collection system proposed by Mayor Nagin end up stealing our parking spaces, and raising our rates? That's the question I have reading this morning's Times-Picayune article Residents call trash pickup a mess.

When the U.S. Postal Service was pushing an end to door service in every neighborhood, residents of older city neighborhoods like my own--Mid-City--question is for a number of reasons, including the fact that we would not be allowed to park within several feet of our mailboxes. This would have ended on-street parking on my street, and effectively made my neighborhood unlivable.

Give some quick thought to what the replacement of your current garbage cans with a city-supplied receptacle to be collected by a robotic arm will mean. A quick search of other cities that have implemented similar schemes reveals a similar problem to that posed by the post mail box debacle. In Moline, Ill., and Mobile, Ala., residents are cautioned that there must be three feet clearance around the waste bin. In Miami-Dade County, Fla. the rule is five feet.

A similar rule would eliminate parking in my block, where less than half of homes have off-street parking. And that presumes that I continue to work at home and can chase away any Delgado student or neighbor who parks in front of my can. Otherwise, I will be left with a full garbage can and no-pickup. Is the city prepared to guarantee a tow truck will come, and the garbage truck return, if someone parks in front of my house while I'm gone?

Like the ridiculous idea that the urban neighborhoods of the city could install curb-side post mailboxes, this idea simply is not going to work through much of the city. Gentilly, Lakeview and the East, yes. Mid-City, Treme, Central City, Uptown--where precisely do they think we're all going to park?

Don't bother trying to call Sanitation to complain. They don't answer the phone (I've been trying to get through to ask them why I'm being charged two sanitation fees when the assessor recognizes my converted double as a single residence). I suggest you call your council-member's office instead.

The other issue I have with this is the limit it will place on the amount of garbage you can place out. Only the city-supplied container will be collected. So if you decide it's time for Spring cleaning (like anyone will have much to pitch after the flood) or god forbid you have a party, what exactly are we supposed to do with those three extra garbage bags that don't fit?

Personally, I plan on dumping them on the nuetral ground of Loyola Avenue, or better yet in front of the mayor's house on Park Island, if this boneheaded plan goes into effect.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Win, Lose or Draw

We have already won.

This is not some Pop Warner game, and I won't pretend that the final score is irrelevant. A win will be a tremendous lift. What I'm saying is that a loss should not be taken as defeat. The final numbers on the scoreboard are not the measure by which this game will be remembered.

It is a home game, at home, in the Sacredome.

It is a sellout.

These are the measure of our success, the victory we will carry out of the stadium tonight regardless of the score. We have proved that we are coming home, and will show the entire nation. The greatest moment tonight won't be repeated endlessly on ESPN, but it will bring tears to the eyes of a million and more survivors of Katrina and the Federal Flood, the moment the Saints run out onto the field.

While I understand blogger bigezbear's concern (echoed through a half-dozen sports, and NOLA blogs yesterday) that the state can find $91 million to fix up the Sacredome for a millionaire's club like the NFL and can't find the money we need to rebuild our homes and businesses. I hear similar laments from da po' blog and a reasonable worry that its all a distraction that will give the wrong impresssion. That's all true, and for the moment completely irrelevant.

Yes, America, don't forget as the stars sing and the game is played that half-a-million people are still homeless, and 23,000 square miles of the United States were devestated. Vast stretches of New Orleans don't look much different than it did a year ago. But that is not today's story. Today's story is that a quarter million of us are home, and so are the Saints. Rebirth is not just a slogan, or a dream, it is a fact on the ground that those quarter-million make every day with a hall-of-fame worthy effort.

Forgive us if you think it frivilous to get so worked up over a game when there's so much to be done, so many people still suffering. This is a moment we all needed, just as we needed Mardi Gras and Jazzfest (and FQ Fest and St. Patrick's and St. Joseph's and every other damn celebration), not to tell the world that we're OK (We are Not OK), but to tell ourselves that we can make it.

The Saints are one of the things that make us a city, that overcomes the immense divides of race and class that we struggle with every day. On a Sunday afternoon (or occasionally a Monday or Sunday night) we put all of that aside. We are all Saints fans. We need that unity, that sense of common purpose, as much as we need to chalk up one more W for the season, even against the detested division rivals.

We need this day--win or loss--more than we needed Mardi Gras, a day which contrary to popular belief doesn't attact everyone. Remember the great debate of last Fall over whether we should have Mardi Gras? And Jazz Fest, which is priced beyond the reach of many Orleanians, is as much for the tourists (even if they are the best of that class) as for us. The Saints are one of the things we all share, like oyster po'boys and red beans and rice, that cross all of the barriers, that makes us one people.

To paraphrase the old Dixie Beer ad, ain't nothin' more New Orleans than the Saints.

I hope like hell the Saints win, but I've been a fan since I was a small child. I can still remember the big-headed logo character, and the gold berets my dad bought for my brother and I. Its been a hard road, holding on even when I lived in D.C. where everyone became an instant Redskins fan even though hardly anyone I met grew up there. Hell, yes, we can lose. We've done it before, and we'll do it again. At worst, let that remind us what a long haul this is, that we are a city in rebuilding mode and a decade away from glory. At best, I wanted to be reminded why two sentences ago I didn't write "they" when I spoke of the Saints. I instinctivly and correctly wrote "we".

All I really ask is that the Saints play like winners, because that's what we deserve. To be an Orleanian today is to be someone who can stare adversity and defeat in the face, get down in stance, and bust like hell on the snap. That's not the way outsiders think of us, or of most people in the south. The words "lazy and shiftless" come to mind. We know better. Look around the city at the houses coming back and the businesses reopening, without a dime of real help from the government, and we know: we are fighters, and we're in this to win. Don't start no shit; won't be no shit.

That is the real victory, the cause for celebration. That is why we are all winners already.

If you are home, or you're working to come home, you are a winner. If you can't come home, or choose not to, but carry New Orleans in your heart and know you always will and are wearing Black and Gold today in Green Bay or Atlanta or Houston or Dallas, you are a winner. If you bought season tickets, or if you wanted to but couldn't afford them, you are a winner. When you walk out of that stadium or stand up and turn off the TV tonight, regardless of the score, you are a winner.

We may not have fixed the roof of the Dome, or had much influence with the NFL. But we're building a city around that stadium, the 68,000 some odd season ticket holders, and every one of us who won't make it outside. Without us, there's be no point to the Dome, the Saints, any of it. That's why we've won tonight's battle even before kick-off. The rest is just going to be a real fine party or a hell of a wake. And this being New Orleans, its always hard to tell the difference.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Come on, rise up

Collapse? Or rise up? A trip around Mid-City to shoot pictures of a couple of houses, one facing demolition by intent, the other (above) demolition by inertia, led me to discover a number of area homes rising up above the street on new piers. As I snapped these pictures, I found myself asking, are we a city are we at the edge of collapse or one just getting ready to rise up, to rise above it all?

It depends, in part, on which parts of the paper you are first inclined to read. Reading the news columns of the Times-Picayune has become like standing out in a driving rain at a parade with an endless procession of floats, each covered in a dull paper mache' made from the endlessly grey words, the glaring headlines and frightful pictures of a year of struggle. The old line krewe members hang listlessly about the float as they do when the throws are gone, unconcerned with the passing scene, sharing a drink and a conversation that does not concern us. There are no flambeaux.

I had hoped that the doldrums of August would pass, that each hour that ticked us further away from 8-29 and closer to the end of the hurricane season on Nov. 1, each day that cool breezes somehow drove back the tsunami of humidity back into the Gulf, would take us that much further toward recovery.

I take the collective temperature and pulse of the city by reading my fellow bloggers. They have not been a universally cheerful lot, those that have found time to write much in the last few weeks. . One laments that she can't find the energy to post, eliciting a wave of sympathy from her friends and colleagues. Others struggle too much with the daily task of rebuilding lives to find time to write. Some, like Dambala on American Zombie, review another suicide by someone as invested as they are in the survial of the city, and throw up their hands in despair. We've not been a happy lot of late, but we all have try so hard to find that golden sunflower pushing up through the rubble to remind us all that its worth it.

All of that changed last weekend. While my wife skulked about the house simmering over her alma matre's embarresment against Michigan and friends lamented the hapless Tiger's game, something beyond all belief occured. The Saints game started with a predictable 'Aints performance, a series of possesions so comical I expected to see Harpo coming down the field riding in an old fashioned dustman's cart like Ben-Hur.

And then something happened, something as simple and profound and mysterious as the apperance of ice in Macondo. Somewhere deep in their collective soul, the Saints found a depth of spirit we thought they, like the hapless Cubs, were denied by the gods for reasons mere mortals might never know. From the depths of impending catastrophe, they stood up, played three quarters of reasonably solid ball, and won. For the second time in a row. On the road.

People outside the city watching the game would have seen nothing miraculous, no golden ray of light from the parted clouds illuminating the field, would feel no sudden tremor in the earth, see no breath-stealing moment of glory to be celebrated endlessly on the sports highlight shows. For the people of the Federal Flood, we saw the one thing we have sorely lacked these last months. We saw a set of people of high position in the city stand up and do their job.

We became, in a moment, not the rabble I lamented last week, but a People in a sense that any storefront Old Testament prophet would recognize, a tribe which after long wandering through the desert came to the crest of another weary dry hill and suddenly glimpsed the promised land. We were elevated from that rabble into the community of saints. I open the paper this week and see stories of redemption not on the religion page (I don't think the T-P still manages one), certainly not on page one but instead on the sports page.

For almost two decades I heard the sisters and brothers, the fathers and monsignors preach that the saints offered us intercession on the road the salvation. The older I grew, the more I scoffed at what they taught me. Suddenly last Sunday, I learned that I was wrong. The Saints have in fact interceded for us, have lifted a burden from our shoulders and shown us the light. We became a city in which, at Preservation Hall, they might change the sign board so that we might all hear "When the Saints Go Marching In" for only a dollar.

As I drove several of the less recovered blocks of central Mid-City today in search of decrepit houses, I was not disappointed. I found the targets of concern, the ones the neighborhood group is worried about. But the real antidote to disappointment were the houses that were being rebuilt and raised, made ready for the long campaign ahead to win the next three centuries for New Orleans, a scene I found in a city I saw through eyes opened not on the road to Jeruselum but on the road to the Superdome

For a long time, we have been the city of Bruce Springsteen's City of Ruins. "There is a blood red circle/On the cold dark ground/And the rain is falling down/The church door's thrown open/I can hear the organ's song/But the congregation's gone/... Young men on the corner/Like scattered leaves,/The boarded up windows,/The empty streets/While my brother's down on his knees/My city of ruins/My city of ruins..."

The bleak picture he paints is only a foil, there to set us up for the tremendous chorus, the call to rise up. Those are the words I hear ringing in my head as I contemplate the impact the Saints have had on the psyche of a half million wounded souls, as I look to the long road ahead and find among the ruins houses rising up out of the rubble It is the one pop song that we should hear at every Jazz Fest from this year forward, the song that more than any other is the anthem of our past year, and the one for our future.

Come on, rise up.

N.B.--I am told Bruce Springsteen did play "City of Ruins" at Jazz Fest in 2006, and I corrected this piece to reflect that. Thanks MC.

Added tags for Saints and New Orleans Saints.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Demolition Standards Differ
in Ninth Ward and Lakeview

House demolitions in the Ninth Ward are substandard compared to those in Lakeview, the first video installment from Loren Feldmen of 1938 Media (part of the Chartreuse sponsored New Orleans Truth project) reports.

At about minute 6:24 into the first video, an unidentified person takes the cameraman on a tour of a demolished home in the Ninth Ward and one in Lakeview, and points out an important difference: in Lakeview slabs are removed and utilities are pulled back to the street, and lots are filled and graded and ready to build.

Not so in the Ninth Ward, says the unidentified man on camera. Utilities are left in place and so are slabs, and the lots in the Ninth are not filled and graded. The Lakeview lot "is ready to build," says the unidentified person speaking, implying those in the Ninth Ward are not. "That's what happens when you have money."

Some immediate questions that come to mind: were both houses in the video demolished by FEMA contractors, or was one perhaps done by a homeowner or their insurance company? What are the addresses involved so we can find out more? Who is the unidentified guide in the video? If it turns out that both were done under a similar FEMA contact, then there is a major disparity that needs to be addressed.

Most of the video is a set of man-in-the-street interviews with New Orleanians, and I found it generally interesting. People who've been following closely for the past year won't hear much else new here, but this video is well worth the fifteen minutes of your time.

I'm going to try to get in touch with the producer and 1938 Media, so we can identify the gentleman talking at 6:24 and learn more about how there are two standards for demolitions: one ready-to-rebuild in Lakeview, the other incomplete and substandard for the Ninth Ward.

If this is generally true (that is, applies to all demolitions in Lakeview and the Ninth), someone in FEMA or City Hall owes the property owners in the Ninth Ward the difference, so everyone can have a ready to rebuild lot at government expense.

This is an important new angle to the story of disparities between the east and the lakefront, and I hope other New Orleans bloggers would put aside any animosity of the past and help get this new wrinkle out into the public eye.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Perdido Street and Agincourt

We are too much a rabble, leaderless and increasingly disiprited. I heard nothing in the mayor's 100-day remarks Wednesday to remedy that. We lack the charismatic leadership we need to see us through this dark hour, our Henry V to rally the tired few to the great battle that will remake the world. Instead, we get Mayor Hamlet, Prince of Denmark or somewhere, anywhere else but New Orleans, wandering the ramparts of Perdido Street and wondering how to proceed.

I see more and more on-line commentators, and some in the newspaper, remark that they are starting to have thoughts of moving on, of leaving the city, of giving up. No one I know personally is ready to leave, and people I thought lost to Texas continue to trickle in despite all the challenges. Still, the conventional wisdom of the street points to the sprouting forests of For Sale signs as indication that many who haven't yet returned, and more than a few who are back, are making other plans.

I wasn't surprised to hear this sort of chatter in August. The first serious month of hurricane season was filled with an endless tide of contrary news, the threat of a storm in the Gulf, and the looming anniversary. Even for the most heavily medicated population in the developed world, it was a depressing prospect. Can we make it, people asked each other with the breathlessness of exhasted swimmers struggling to make their way to the shore.

The mayor and his circle give us no confidence. Leadership is the rescue we need now every bit as much as the people on the roofs of last year, watching the helicopters circle then leave; the 100-day promise was another lifeline tantalizing dangled before our eyes and then withdrawn. Perhaps we should drape our houses in bedsheets roughtly lettered: Mayor Nagin, Please Help Us.

I remain convinced the city will survive. We the 200,000 who have come home can be enough if we do not surrender, if we insist that our leaders step up to the difficult challenges we face as a city, as a collective. We only ask they they work as hard and as ingenously as those who labor all day to save their businesses, and still go home at night to work on ruined homes, that the mayor and his cohorts navigate the paths of Entergy and RTA and recovery finances in the same way the majority of us hack our way through the jungle of insurance, SBA and LRA.

The rousing speech Shakespeare puts into the mouth of his Henry V is something I have carried with me through the years, the product of most of a degree in English Literature from the University of New Orleans, and a number of years spent working alongside a Shakespeare enthusiast. Henry's position was bleak. He was at the end of a long land campaign, surrounded by the French who had cut off his line of supply and retreat, facing a choice between victory and defeat, with no place for retreat. It is a marvel of motivational speech, a statement that rings true to the American ear across the centuries with its martial setting and its celebration of exceptionalism.

It is the speech I would hear from Perdido Street, but have no reason to expect; the sort of speech we must demand of our own leaders, if they wish to be counted among the 200,000 who saved the city. It is the speech we must all give to ourselves, should post on our shaving mirrors or on the doors of our new refrigetarors, to remind ourselves we are here because we have chosen this place to fight.

Its opening words are the best response I could offer to Mayor Hamlet's vacuous remarks, and the truest antidote to them. If you read this blog, you are among the 200,000, the happy few. I do not mean to indict those who have not returned, by choice or happenstance. It is mostly beyond their control. Instead, I mean to remind the 200,000 that they are living through a special place and time in history, one that will be long remembered. When people look back on this time, they will read of the president and the governor and the mayor and laugh, or perhaps cry in catharsis at the tragedy of hubris strutting to its doom. There's nothing we can do now to remedy the leaders who hobble us, except to prove them wrong, to write for ourselves the scene that ends not in tragedy but in triumph.

...proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
and say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Monday, September 11, 2006

FEMA refuses audit of spending

FEMA, found by the GAO to have squandered hundreds of millions in fradulent payments and wasteful spending, has refused a demand by the state of Louisiana that costs charged back to the state be subject to state audit, the Associated Press reports.

Louisiana is facing an unprecedented $338 million bill for its share of Hurricane Katrina relief. The state legislature appropriated $500 million to cover the bills, but inserted a requirement that FEMA's co-pay amounts be reviewed by the state auditor.

FEMA's response: to refuse to submit to even a spot audit, and to threaten Louisiana with penalties for being so, well, damned honest. The federals really need to make up their minds. Either they want honest government in Louisiana, or they dont.

What's tragically funny about this is that the Government Accounting Office identified around $1.4 billion in fradulent payouts by FEMA due to lax procedures at the agency. That doesn't even get into things like the squandered $114 million with of useless trailers. FEMA's position must be part of that "soveriegn immunity" thing; you work for the sovereign, and you're immune from taxpayer oversight.

Why the T-P doesn't run Associated Press stories on the NOLA.Com site is beyond me. Everyone who cares about NOLA, including people who are disbursed and reduced to reading the Times-Picayune on line, shouldn't miss out on this one.

Friday, September 08, 2006

City blames FEMA for 100 day confusion

Deputy Undercover Mayor for Recovery Rob “B-man” Couhig today accused FEMA and the LRA of withholding desperately needed days required to meet Mayor No-C-’Em Ray Nagin’s commitment to deliver a 100 day plan to the people of New Orleans.

“Under the Stafford Act, FEMA is required to supply us up to 90% of the calendar days necessary for recovery planning, provided we request those days prior to the one year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina,” Couhig said in a call from the Secret Recovery Planning Bunker. “To date, FEMA has not provided the necessary days to us.”

Couhig said the city had only actually completed the first 10 days of the recovery plan, the number of days the city is required to provide as a match to the federal allocation. “Katrina destroyed just about every calendar in City Hall, and none were ordered for 2006 because, frankly, without any calendars we missed the deadline for ordering. In our current state, we can’t get to 100 days without an infusion from the federal government, especially when we’re not even sure what day it is right now.”

Federal Katrina Kingfish Don “Knotts” Powell fired back, arguing the city had first failed to submit a request for the days, then submitted an application that failed to specify if the days should be delivered in blotter, tear-a-way or planner format. “It is important that we give each request for time close scrutinity, to make sure that the taxpayer’s days aren’t being squandered but are used efficiently," he said. "Given the history of New Orleans and Louisiana, we have to pay particularly close attention to such requests.”

LRA vice-davenport Walter “Scalliwag” Isaacson, speaking at the Shaw Group Inc.’s Annual Honorarium Hoedown and Bar-B-Q , pointed out that it’s really a local responsibility to put in a properly formatted request for days. “Even if we had days available for them, if they can’t manage to put together their requests properly with the days they have, it doesn’t indicate it would be a good investment of our scarce recovery resources to give them any more.”

Noted time and calender expert Franklin “Leatherbound” Covey pointed out that the feds may be reluctant to part with any of their days. “The Bush Administration is in its last two years, and only has less than a thousand days left to secure its legacy. Transferring the blame for the events of the last year to local officials by withholding these days and keeping them for themselves is a win-win for the White House.”

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Is Allstate a criminal enterprise?

Is there one remaining state or federal officials who is neither corrupt nor a vain careerist, one who is prepared to start treating the insurance industry for what is has become: a criminal, racketeering enterprise?

The definition of racketeering under the RICO statute is this:

(1) "racketeering activity" means (A) any act or threat involving murder, kidnapping, gambling, arson, robbery, bribery, extortion, dealing in obscene matter, or dealing in a controlled substance or listed chemical (as defined in section 102 of the Controlled Substances Act), which is chargeable under State law and punishable by imprisonment for more than one year..." (emphasis mine)
If Allstate's announcement that owners must buy inflated cost car insurance from the company or have their homeowners insurance cancelled is not extortion, I don't know what is. I think the fact that Allstate's motivation is to try to cancel homeowners contrary to state law (in effect, using extortion as a means to circumvent state law) ought to be considered as well, to help demonstrate how the industry has devolved into a criminal enterprise.

Can it be done? It would be a long shot. However, the mere threat having people in high places discuss a criminal (or better yet RICO) investigation would be sufficient to tank their stock. Even before a willing fed could be found, which might require a change of control of the White House, there's no reason (excepting incompetence and cowardice) that our own attorney general couldn't impanel a grand jury, and impound every piece of paper and computer in every Allstate agent's office in the state just to get the ball rolling.

I think that might begin to get the attention of the rest of the nation, and possibly lead to the sort of massive aid New Yorkers received after 9-11 for fear they would take out the airline and insurance industry with lawsuits.

Official Louisiana needs to begin to act in ways that fundamentally threaten the financial integrity of the insurance industry, to force the federal government's hand in the same way the victims of 9-11 (or their attorneys) did, so the government is forced to start paying the compensation Louisianaians deserve.

Allstate and their fellow conspirators in the insurance rackets aren't pussy footing around. They are out to destroy us. I think its time to reciprocate in kind.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

This. Must. Stop.

The crux of the story on the latest wave of killings is buried on Page A-6 in paragraph 37 (screen five of six online). How can a responsible newspaper bury the most important fact, the one that answers the unstated question of How To Make It Stop, so far down in the columns of a big piece on the crime wave? Only the T-P could answer that.

The uncle of one of the victims nails it in paragraph 28, but the paper doesn't stop to analyze his words:
"These young men have three choices in life," [Jonothan] Ellis, 36, said. "They can either live right, live behind bars, or die and be put six feet under."
And that's it, folks. The shooters have no fear of landing behind bars, at least not for any extended period of time, not in New Orleans. That's the next logical turn for this tale, but the T-P misses the corner and winds up in the weeds. The paper's long story instead brings in a criminologist to suggest that the spike is in part tied to the stress of The Flood Formerly Known as Katrina. It's an interesting sidebar, but no more than that. (I can almost hear the right wing exploding heads of radio and cable running with the shooters-as-victims idea, but I prefer to leave the dial on OZ.)

The T-P turns to the central issue toward the end of the full inside page:
"Capt. Bob Bardy, commander of the 6th District, which includes Central City and
parts of Uptown, said a recurring theme in many of the city's violent crimes is that repeat offenders [are] let out of custody on low bonds. (Emphasis mine)
According to the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and Bardy, Thomas Harrison, 26, is wanted in the shooting of a 41-year-old man Sunday morning. A week earlier, Harrison was arrested and charged with aggravated battery with a gun in the shooting of the same man -- but was released that same day on a $30,000 surety bond by Magistrate Judge Gerald Hansen.
Harrison is now wanted on two counts of attempted second-degree murder.
'Don't believe what some people are saying,' Bardy said. "'We're making good cases and we're having people come forward to identify assailants. But they're going to jail, coming out and shooting people again'."
Am I the only person who wants to know why someone arrested for a crime of violence with a handgun is released onto the street? Is there no rational person left in the downtown government complex who can figure this out?

I have a suggestion for you: leg irons and tents. We need to rebuild Camp Foti (the large tent detention center built by then Sheriff Charles Foti in the 1980s), and start stashing these thugs there until such time as the rest of the wheels of justice can be scrapped free of rust, oiled up and made to turn again.

Yes, I am familiar with the Eighth Amendment, but if any judge thinks that letting the prisoners sit in the shade of a tent and get three squares a day is cruel and unusual, then they can always fall back on running for a judgeship here when they are removed from the Federal bench for mental incapacity.

Its time for a little "Texas law".

Remember: K+7

Remembering Katrina, Day+7:

Remember: K+6

Remembering Katrina, Day+6:
Note: The figure of 10,000 was not a number that Nagin pulled out of his, uh, the air. It was an estimate of Orleans Parish casualties from the large Hurricane Pam preparation exercise. At that point, local officials had assume that this was the worst case scenario they had outlined. The lower casualty figures for the metropolitan area are the result of the most successful evacuation of a major metropolitan area every attempted, with over 90% of the population evacuated.

Remember: K+5

Remembering Katrina, Day+5:

Remember: K+4

Remembering Katrina, Day+4:

Remember: K+3

Remembering Katrina, Day+3:

Remember: K+2

Remembering Katrina, Day+2:

Remember: K+1

Remembering Katrina, Day + 1:

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Lowe's to retail Katrina Cottage plans, materials

Katrina Cottage Bulletin: I don't normally do press releases, but as a service to all of the people who still come here daily looking for information opn Katrina Cottages:

Lowe's Responds to Demand for Affordable Housing Solution

Company Will Be Exclusive Retailer of Katrina Cottage Plans and Building Materials

Friday, September 01, 2006

The Myth of Mississippi's Recovery

Is the Gulf Coast truly recovering more quickly than New Orleans? The Times-Picayune doesn't hesitate to suggest that is true in the headline Mississippi's recovery effort seems to be leaving Louisiana's behind. Why? even as the story seems to contradict that assertion.

The story starts out comparing the two states' Road Home plans, noting that Mississippi's was rolled out faster and is less complex, while noting Louisiana's delay results from the Magnolia State initially receiving five times as much money per capita as Louisiana, and the state delaying the program until the Pelican State's delegation could make up the disparity.

And contrary to the T-P's inordinately delicate assertion that the federal government "floated a plan that would have resulted in Louisiana residents receiving less money than Mississippi residents", Congress in fact appropriated the 5-to-1 disparity fueling early assertions that the whiter, more Republican states of Mississippi and Florida received disparate treatment of their hurricane disasters.

The story leans heavily on comparison of statistics, but fails sometimes to call out the reasons for the disparity. One major citation is the difference in building permits issued, with Mississippi leading the way with a 51% increase over the prior year from 161 to 253 in Biloxi while New Orleans falls short of its prior year at with just 364 this year compared to 394.

While the story discusses the fact that Katrina's storm surge levels much of the Gulf Coast miles inland, it doesn't make the obvious connection that Mississippi cannot recover without new construction. The Gulf Coast wasn't damaged by Katrina, it was destroyed. Much of New Orleans housing stock, while significantly damaged by steeping for weeks in polluted floodwaters, remains capable of restoration rather than reconstruction.

The item citing sales tax collections ignores the fact that New Orleans retail was decimated by the flood, forcing sales out to the less damaged suburbs. The Gulf Coast does not have that neat division into urban and suburban that Orleans and Jefferson Parish represent, so recovery spending on the Gulf Coast is typically occurring in the same county as the damage. The same is not true of New Orleans.

The Picayune moves quickly into the question of whether what is calls "plan-demonium" is hampering the Louisiana recovery, turning almost immediately to political hack Tom Blankley, a former staffer for disgraced GOP leader Newt Gingrich and now editorial page editor of the openly partisan, semi-Official Washington Times, to opine that ""it's an honest government [in Mississippi] and Louisiana is notoriously corrupt and incompetent."

Perhaps Mr. Blankley can explain how GOP Governor Haley Barbour's funneling of overpriced, no-bid contracts for debris removal to companies that pay the governor consulting fees in that context, as was widely reported back in September.

Mississippi is also lauded for its rush to reopen an expanded set of casino's, in some cases planning to take away moderate-income residents homes to develop an expanded resort and gaming industry. New Orleans Mayor No-C-'em Ray Nagin was widely derided when he proposed a similar plan for New Orleans recovery.

On matters of infrastructure, comparisons of the Gulf Coast to New Orleans remain unbalanced. While Mississippi quickly moved to re-open public schools and New Orleans did not, the Orleans Parish School Board has been in virtual collapse as an institution pre-Katrina, and the story disregards the reopening of the parochial school system starting in November of last year. Forty-five percent of the city's students attend private or religious schools.

The story does not that the Gulf Coast was quick to reopen hospitals, but doesn't discuss the level of damage those sustained. Most of New Orleans' hospital infrastructure was severly damaged, with two large complexes--Memorial and Lindy Boggs--sitting at the bottom of the bowl. The downtown Charity-LSU complex was similarly decimated. However, suburban hospitals including Oschner and the publid West and East Jefferson hospitals remained online even through the storm. The Gulf Coast's two major hospitals did not sustain major damage and remained open through Katrina.

On other infrastructure issues, the story closes on this note:

...businesses along the Beach Boulevard have yet to reopen, because work did not start until last month to repair the road, which crumbled under Katrina's weight. One longtime favorite, Trapani's Eatery, has reopened in a strip mall on U.S. 90 in Bay St. Louis, while others continue to wait.

A similar situation is occurring in Long Beach, where the storm surge flattened most of the structures in the first three to four blocks off the beach. None of the owners has been able to rebuild because the storm decimated the water and sewerage service to the area.

Mayor Billy Skellie, who continues to operate City Hall from a cluster of double-wide trailers on Klondyke Road north of the devastated area, said the city was able to patch the system in the residential areas farther inland, but that Katrina did too much damage along the beachfront to make even temporary repairs. He hopes repairs to that area will be complete by March.

The story saves the reaction of Mississippi residents for the back page paragraphs of the long piece. Residents of Gulfport, Waveland and Pearlington all question the rosy assessment of their political leaders.

For all the talk about Mississippi's progress, Bill and Nanka Caraway of Gulfport are having none of it.

Katrina washed away the Second Street home that Bill Caraway's grandfather built in 1919. The floodwaters lifted the house from its foundation, causing the roof to collapse and the walls to crumble, and the Caraways were left with little more than the clothes on their backs.

People such as the Caraways decry the notion that the coast is advancing faster than New Orleans, given that the area looks much the same as it did the day after the storm passed. True, the various municipalities have removed mountains of debris in the interim, but the miles upon miles of beach road with little rebuilding seem to tell another story. ...

Like many coastal residents, the couple didn't receive enough money from their insurance company to start over, let alone build a brand-new home. They have asked the state for a $150,000 Road Home grant but haven't heard yet whether they will qualify.

In the end, the myth of Mississippi's recovery revolves around an expanded casino strip that was shouted down in New Orleans, and Mississippi's GOP-connected leadership's ability to receive five-times as much initial funding as Louisiana, leaving our city and state to claw for an equitable deal.

At the end of the story, the best assessment remains LSU political scientist Wayne Parent's: "It's like apples and oranges, given that Mississippi went through a hurricane and Louisiana had a hurricane and a great flood, and the damage was so much greater, so much more widespread..."

"And when we speak we are afraid our words will not be heard nor welcome, but when we are silent we are still afraid. So it is better to speak remembering we were never meant to survive." -- Audie Lorde

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