Friday, August 31, 2012

Not sure how this is gonna look on the blog

First time I've used Blogger's phone app to post so this could look worse than the site usually does. Anyway the picture ... if you can see it... is of some downed foliage on Fourth Street on Wednesday.

A lot of Uptown looks like that right now. Most of the city, including Yellow Blogging World headquarters is still without power. Hence the phone posting.

Of course we're the lucky ones as most everyone living outside of the newly robust federal protection system has been hammered hard by Isaac's estimated 12 foot storm surge.  So it would appear that America's investment in improved  flood protection after Katrina has paid off by saving New Orleans. This time. But obviously there's much more of this vital work to be done.

More when we're fully de-hunkered.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Continue hunkering at all costs

Here we see Biscuit demonstrating the proper hunkering technique.

Biscuit Hunkering

This is a nutty freaking storm.  During the past hour the radar indicates that Isaac has taken a jog due west.  When it comes ashore again it could head directly for Baton Rouge or maybe even points west of that.

Even more disturbing, it's past midnight and we still have power here at hunkering world headquarters.

Hunker HQ

Given the most recent glance at the Entergy outage map, that's pretty remarkable.

Entergy map

If you're unlucky enough to be in one of the red areas on that map, Entergy says they can't do anything about it until the winds die down to below 30 mph.  If the storm stays where it is that's not likely to happen for a while. 

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Power still up, for now

Better hurry up and make this joke before that changes.

As you can see by looking at Entergy's outage map there are over 60,000 plus people in Orleans Parish alone without the ability to see the GOP Convention on TV right now so... thank you for that, Isaac.

Other than that there's not much to report.  We're hunkering as hard as we can possibly hunker right now.  Every now and then the wind blows pretty hard and everybody goes, "Ooooh" and whatnot.  NOPD is driving by regularly with lights flashing in order to "show presence" Here they are momentarily hunkering at the laundromat.

Isaac at 8pm

Isaac, meanwhile, is just kind of sitting there.  In fact I'm just seeing WWLTV report that it has moved back offshore for the moment. So we're in for an extended period of hurricane force winds, lots and lots of rain, and probably more surge. 

All in all the storm has turned out to be a much more serious event than we anticipated this week. But it's still well within the bounds of what South Louisiana should expect to periodically deal with. If the power stays on, I'll try to update later on. 


More from NOLA Defender on the Corps' new toys.

The Army Corps of Engineers closed more of the new flood control system as Hurricane Isaac made its final approach to the Louisiana coast on Tuesday afternoon.  In addition to the "Great Wall" at the confluence of Lake Borgne, the Intracoastal Waterway and MR-GO, as well as Lakeshore Drive and the Orleans Avenue Outfall Canal, the Corps also closed gates at the Seabrook Floodgate Complex around 1:30 p.m. The gate is located just south of the Lakefront Airport in eastern New Orleans.

Watching today's news .. and making educated guesses based on the track.. I'm getting a hunch that the Corps is expecting a heavier storm surge than we might have predicted a few days ago.  We expect the big walls and pumps and things will work but I'm just getting the feeling that this will be more than just a dress rehearsal. Nothing to get too worried about just.. interesting.

Meanwhile we're just sitting here waiting for the power to go out which could happen at any time given the sound of the wind gusts outside. If anything happens, we'll just light a pop tart on fire. Anyway, stay hunkered, my friends.

Isaac Aug 28

This is interesting

WVUE just reported that the Orleans Avenue Canal floodgate has been closed.  Just yesterday, when The Lens reported that there are problems with the temporary pumps installed on the gate, the Corps spokesman commented that the gate hasn't been closed during previous storms.

“We’ve never had to close the (Orleans Avenue) gates during a storm. Not even during Ike, not even during Gustav,” he said. “So the threat of these pumps being down and causing any problems is extremely remote. There is hardly any threat to City Park or Mid-City. “We are not where we want to be at Orleans currently. I would like to be a little higher, but it is not something people need to be worried about,” he said. “My standard is to have as many pumps functional at all times.”

Maybe it's nothing but apparently the Corps has decided to close a gate today that it has "never had to close" during a storm before.

Let's do this

Mayor Landrieu showed up to this afternoon's press conference in full battle rhythm.  You could tell because he was wearing his heavy duty Burlington Coat Factory weather jacket.  This is the point in the crisis when the pressers start to get repetitive.  Officials took turns rattling off the same points they've gone through several times now.

Mitch recited his list of "Things That Can Kill You" during a storm which included, going outside, getting wet, using candles, and, I think, boredom. He said "NOPD are on the ground and leaning forward" which must be some new yoga technique they're working on.  He also described the new Corps of Engineers' MRGO flood barrier as "robust."  Later, WDSU showed footage of Senator Vitter personally supervising the closing of the structure, because... the man knows wetness protection.

Other moments of note:

Stacy Head told us her family's plan is to do puzzles.  And a city is filled with envy of their fun right now.

After the press conference Fletcher Mackel asked rotund police chief Ronal Serpas, "are you bulking up in any specific areas?"

Right now all the television stations are screaming at viewers, "DO NOT GOT TO THE LAKEFRONT" just as they cut away to footage of how much fun people at the lakefront are having

Oh and allegedly Isaac is an actual hurricane now.  At about 2PM in Uptown New Orleans, it's barely raining and the sun is poking out a little.  We coped with the crisis by having a pizza delivered.  Yesterday we spent the evening "hunkering down" in the Quarter where we got some more pictures of the hunkering in progress.

Old Absinthe Bar

Old Absinthe Mango Mango

The Cabildo all boarded up


Me: "Wow look at all the cable news trucks" Menckles: "God, they're like roaches!"

TV trucks

Calm and mostly clear sky yesterday evening

Calm skies

Calm and mostly clear sky just a few minutes ago

Calm weather

Monday, August 27, 2012

Battle pics

First, the big news.

With people hunkering down at home and not evacuating New Orleans, grocery stores are selling materials folks will need to get through the Tropical Storm Isaac.
And that includes alcohol, which Meg Farris reports is selling at record rates for the downtown Rouse’s.
I happened to catch this report when Farris went live on the air with it this afternoon.  She had to stop and start over again after telling viewers, "We're at Wouses in the Warehouse..."  That bit has been edited out of the web video.

Anyway I got out this afternoon and took some pictures of New Orelans getting into "battle rhythm" There's less urgency than there would be with a bigger storm but people are boarding up nonetheless.

Commander's Palace was actually still open even with the boards on the windows.

Commander's Palace

The FunRockN on Magazine Street is taking things seriously.  That looks like, what, four whole sandbags in front of the door.


Quarter regulars will be relieved to know that Mr. Binky's Adult Superstore is being secured against Isaac.

Mr. Binky's Adult Superstore

Similarly it's good to see the Cabildo is protected against the storm.  And also against bicycles.


Anyway, the latest advisory is coming out just as I type this.  As of 4 PM on Monday, Isaac still hasn't reached hurricane strength.  As I said earlier today, it will be unpleasant but it won't be devastating.  The key will be in how soon the power comes back once it inevitably goes out.

Koan of uncertainty

The Mayor's noon press conference is just now wrapping up.  Landrieu's message was, "We think it's gonna be ok," but he promised to remain in "battle rhythm" and advised all of us to continue to "lean forward" which we think only makes sense when walking into 65 mile per hour winds.  He also told us to "be prepared for the unexpected" which must be some sort of riddle.

The Mayor then turned the podium over to the many many other persons packed onto the dais with him who he referred to oddly as "individuals who will throw down with you." I think he meant "throw down" as in "share information" but it was kind of a strange thing to say after talking about how we're all in battle rhythm. Also Stacy Head was there which confused the matter all the more.

After the various department heads took their turns at assuring us they were prepared for the weather, The mic went over to Jackie Clarkson who... was promptly interrupted by Head who insisted on talking first.  Head then, sort of, introduced Jackie by telling us about how confident she knew Jackie was.  When Clarkson finally got the mic, she began, "She (Head) made my speech for me," before going on to stress the importance of "following orders" during an emergency.  And so it remains unclear to anyone just which of the two councilwomen is the most likely to declare martial law first if things start to go bad.

District A Councilwoman took a second to caution us about animals that might bite us during a hurricane.  If that seems like a weird topic to you, you probably don't spend much time in Uptown.

While the press conference was going on, The Lens published this discouraging report questioning the reliability of the pumping station at the floodgate of the Orleans Avenue canal

Two of the 10 pumps at Orleans Avenue experienced “some type of hydraulic failure” last month, were removed and are being repaired off site. They’re scheduled to be reinstalled in mid September, Accardo said. This appears to be the second failure experienced by the two pump systems this summer, after likely corrosion-related oil spills prompted their initial withdrawal from service.
Interestingly, the Corps says they've never even had to close the Orleans gate even during Ike and Gustav so this is probably not a reason to panic but it does raise another riddle.  If the gate isn't even used during a major storm, what is it there for? 

Party prep?

The good news this morning is the NHC still doesn't think Isaac has strengthened to hurricane strength. That's encouraging given that it's been out over the open Gulf for 24 hours. You can see here that it's not especially organized.  There's no discernible eyewall.  But the colors are pretty.

Isaac Aug 27

Meanwhile I'm seeing some reporters tweet that the city of New Orleans won't be issuing any mandatory evacuations.  That's a relief to those of us who have resolved to stay in any but the absolute worst case scenario.  We like to think we're grown up enough to make our own decisions without having to endure the bullying posture officials tend to take in these situations for political reasons.

At the moment, though, it looks like everyone gets to make their own decisions. And that's fine.  People can start their parties and stuff.  Or they can pack up and go visit "Fred and Myrtle" as Bob Breck kept telling us yesterday. 

But if you're planning to ride out Isaac in town, you should know that hurricanes, whatever their strength, are scary.  Even if we're confident our levees will hold and our pumps will work, there will definitely be wind and there will definitely be a lot of rain. Streets will flood.  The power will go out. These storms can also spawn tornadoes. That can make the 75 mile per hour gusts you hear in the middle of the night seem all the more threatening.

In short, it's not as fun as you might think.  I've attended a number of "hurricane parties" over the years and the only one of those I have a particularly fond memory of was Ivan in 2004 when it barely even rained here.  In a way, I think New Orleans needs to go through a minor storm like Isaac just to remind everyone that we can still stand it.  But if you are staying, don't be surprised if it's not exactly the sparkling social occasion you might have been hoping for.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

10:00 Advisory

If you haven't gotten enough beer yet you've probably still got time to do that tomorrow.

Gasoline, on the other hand... well, supplies might run short.  I filled my tank this morning but we waited to top Menckles off this evening after the presumed "forecast of least regret" went into effect.  That led to some interesting sightseeing as we found the Tchoup Stop completely sucked dry around 7 PM.

Tchoup Stop out of gas

Driving around Uptown we found lines at every gas station.  So, instead, we decided to have a nice dinner at Coquette.  Before Gustav, we had a "last supper" sort of event at K-Paul's so it was nice to keep up that tradition.  Mushroom tart,  oxtail, NY strip steak, and chicken piccata, a nice sazerac;  I very much look forward to my next pre-apocolyptic meal.

Anyway the whole thing came with a lovely view of the Discount Zone across the street where the gas line extended all the way down the block.

Gas lines on Magazine

The good news is we found gas back at the Louisiana Super Saver on Louisiana and Carondelet.  The store was closed but the pumps were working and there was no line.

So I guess we're ready to stay or to go if we have to.  But this time I'm not planning on leaving unless at absolute gunpoint... which I guess could literally happen nowadays. In the meantime I recall that someone once told me Skookses float so we'll cling to that for now.

Skookses float

Always fighting the last war

Four years ago during Crazy Freak Out '08 everyone overreacted to the Katrina experience.  This resulted in much discontent for other reasons. This time around, we're all working off of that Gustav experience and are resolved not to make those specific mistakes again. 

What will happen this time no one can say but I did just watch Bob Breck personally guarantee that the levee improvements make Orleans Parish a pretty safe place to be so that that for what it's worth.

Meanwhile we're doing laundry.  Oh and I'm charging up the camera because lord knows we'll need a photographic record of this debacle as well. 

Just for giggles and nostalgia and whatnot, here's that Gustav photoset.

Battle Rhythm

The Mayor and his several deputies just completed a press conference on the preparations for Isaac.  Here are the few notes.

The Mayor has declared a state of emergency noting that the city has entered a "cone of discomfort" thus satisfying our obligation to come up with a newly coined useless term. He also says that it is time for us to get into "battle rhythm" whatever that might mean. Frankly I think he may have to work on his a bit.

City Hall will be open tomorrow morning. Mitch refused to say whether school would be cancelled tomorrow, probably because he wants to be a dick to kids by making them wake up early unnecessarily.  Meanwhile the final Community Budget Meeting scheduled for tomorrow evening is, in fact, postponed so don't show up there complaining about drainage in your neighborhood.

Also we were reminded not to call 911 unless we have actual serious emergencies such as having run out of beer.

Several other people took a moment to lean into the mic and say some things.  But we still couldn't get any info out of Serpas regarding checkpoints. Stacy Head advised us to pray, which prompted several people on Twitter to remark about how smart she is.

The most entertaining moment came just as the TV coverage was going live.  Mitch looked around the room and asked into the live mic if Jackie Clarkson was there yet.  "Nope," sniped Stacy Head as she was elbowing her way onto the stage, "I'm the (council) President! Don't forget that."  Ms Head assumed her position behind the Mayor's left shoulder, the two of them put on their serious leadership faces and then the presser began.

Is Isaac going to be a serious problem for New Orleans?  Nobody knows.  But we do know we've got the makings of some pretty entertaining TV in the meantime.  At least until the power goes out anyway. 

Signs of recovery

Well, so far, the stupid freak out over Isaac isn't quite as stupid as it was a few years ago for Gustav when Ray Nagin got on TV with a stage over-crammed with city officials and claimed that the storm was bigger than the actual size of the Gulf.

Everybody up and ran for no reason only to find that they weren't allowed back in without the proper city issued placard.   It was expensive.  It was inconvenient.  It was unnecessary.  Probably it was unconstitutional as well.

None of that has happened yet with this storm which is probably a sign that we've grown a little since then.  Anyway we're off to the grocery for "hurricane supplies" which roughly translates as... you know... groceries.

Wake me up when Serpas comes on TV to announce he's adding sobriety checkpoints to all contraflow points of egress.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Hot novelty item to sell in Tampa this week

Because let's go make some money real quick.

Gru Dog

Sean Payton's persona is taking on a distinctly Greg Meffertesque aspect as of late.

Banished Saints Head Coach and occasional conga man Sean Payton is apparently on the motivational circuit, and he has been speaking to the enemy. But, at least he was funny. North Texas is gearing up for next weekend's season opening showdown next weekend in Death Valley with the LSU Tigers, so they invited the Saints' suspended coach to give them a little advice. Turns out, Payton is still coaching.

I leave here in about in half an hour and I go to a sixth-grade practice. I've got kids looking at dandelions and picking their boogers.  I'm trying to put in 50 plays.  You ought to see the offense we got.  We scrimmaged last week and we gutted this team we played. I called up my friend Jon Gruden. I said, "Gru Dog, man, we just gutted this team. They didn't stop a play we just ran.

Meanwhile, Payton's replacement to his replacement Aaron Kroemer is preparing for tonight's fake game vs the Houston America's Cows by handing out bro nicknames to everyone he comes into contact with.  Fans aren't sure how much they'll see of "Drew Dog" or any of the Saints' starters this evening.  More likely they're most looking forward to the halftime update on Isaac from Giant Bob Breck via the jumbotron.

As for ourselves, we'll be evaluating the performance of our new plastic flask at the Superdome gate because.. we paid for these tickets anyway, right?

Robust arms race

Digital media technology faces off as NOLA Media Group's memory hole goes up against Gambit's wayback machine.

District C's Budget un-meeting

Just a couple of comments to go along with this Lens account of the District C bonus community budget un-meeting hosted by neighborhood groups on Thursday.

Because District C includes neighborhoods on both sides of the river, the Mayor had scheduled 2 separate meetings in previous years to accommodate residents who are reluctant to leave the West Bank as well as those with the good sense not to go there.

This year, when the Landrieu's staff decided to trim the number of meetings to one per district without adequately explaining their reasoning, the lone District C meeting was set in the Federal City area of Algiers where very few East Bankers are likely to have ever been or will ever go. This seemed like a bit of a dodge since two of the Mayor's most controversial initiatives this year, the Hospitality Zone legislation, and the crackdown on live music venues, greatly affect the East Bank of District C.  Which is why it would have been interesting to see the Mayor address these sorts of questions in person.
Predictably, the topic that drew several comments was tourism.

Speakers from the Marigny and the Quarter alike said the city should put aside money not just to draw tourism, but to manage the effects of tourism on residents and to properly market the city’s culture, not just its party scene.
Keep in mind, that's not just some half-cocked complaint fired off by local cranks.  The Boston Consulting Group report on which the whole Ho-Zone concept was based explicitly recommended that the city concentrate on "authentic bawdiness" as a major selling point to visitors.

New Orleanians have been dealing with the negative effects of the dominant tourist trade for years. Their communities are presented to the world as marketing stereotypes ripe for exploitation. After a time, it becomes less and less clear just who these neighborhoods even belong to anymore. 

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

FYI: A separate discussion on these "Community vs Commodity" matters is scheduled for September 22.  Pretty sure the Mayor won't make it to this one either but you never know.

Friday, August 24, 2012

And we thought Hollywood South was only flooding the town with douchebags

Apparently it was also facilitating the flooding of the city with... well... water.

NEW ORLEANS - Isaac is bearing down on the Gulf, Ray Nagin is under investigation, and now new evidence that a key figure in that corruption probe has hurt the effort to fortify pump stations so they can withstand a major hurricane.

Businessman Aaron Bennett pleaded guilty last fall to bribery and is helping the government in the case against the former mayor. But just a week before he was charged – and after he’d already fielded at least one plea deal offer from the feds – he took $600,000 from his construction company – money that came from the Corps of Engineers to pay for storm-proofing work on three New Orleans pump stations – and gave it to his fourth wife’s film production company.

The film company, HB Entertainment, is in post-production on the New Orleans-shot feature “The Tell-Tale Heart.” It stars Rose McGowan and Peter Bogdanovich.
 Just to re-cap.  The "Hollywood South" tax credit has blown a big hole in the state budget for the dubious benefit of  conning Saints players, getting Blaine Kern in (even more) trouble, and now, I guess, grafting away the city's flood control infrastructure. 

But as long as it keeps the B+ List stars in $40 eggs, it all works out somehow.

Serpas Signal is dim

The following messages were sent out by NOPD around 3 AM this morning.

(August 24, 2012)-New Orleans LA,-As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted tomorrow night. 
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M

Moments later, there is a *CORRECTION*
(August 24, 2012)-New Orleans LA,-As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted tonight.

The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M.
Obviously they mean "tonight" August 24.  At least according to the date on the memo.  But for clarity's sake, it would be better if they just wrote, "NOPD will conduct a sobriety checkpoint beginning the evening of August 24 at 9pm"

Given their extreme reticence to specify the location of the checkpoint, we can reasonably assume the vague wording about the date combined with the overnight timing of the announcement is a further attempt at subterfuge.  In this case, they've managed to fool themselves.

Anyway, I've got half a mind to get on my bike and go looking for the checkpoint tonight, but now I'm likely to get caught up in the bicycle dragnet as well.   Obviously NOPD wants everybody to stay inside their homes at all times... preferably while hiding under something, no doubt.

Update:  The internet may have pinpointed the location for us.  I have no idea how accurate this information is but here it is anyway. 

Apostle Lucas still in line to pick up his check from John White

TPM runs a comprehensive summary of Louisiana Secretary of Education John White's non-existent vetting process for private schools receiving public funds via Governor Jindal's new voucher program. The post cites work Louisiana blogs CenLamar and American Zombie have done digging into some of the more questionable voucher recipients. It also quotes this bit from a recent James Gill column.
James Gill, columnist with New Orleans’ Times-Picayune, noted that he believes the approved schools likely received little to no vetting whatsoever. “Evidently the Louisiana education department hasn’t heard that ‘Don’t confuse them with the facts’ is supposed to be a joke,” wrote Gill.
White has promised us a revision of the voucher standards is currently being formulated.  We won't be able to see any details about it until the school year has already begun, of course. So for now we're left to determine what the new limitations might be by trial and error.

And the great Louisiana Education Experiment continues.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

A lot of suspicious characters ride bicycles

A familiar quotation from A Confederacy of Dunces by John Kennedy Toole
Patrolman Mancuso was walking slowly down Chartres Street dressed in ballet tights and a yellow sweater, a costume which the sergeant said would enable him to bring in genuine, bona fide suspicious characters instead of grandfathers and boys waiting for their mothers. The costume was the sergeant's punishment. He had told Mancuso that from now on he would be strictly responsible for bringing in suspicious characters, that police headquarters had a costume wardrobe that would permit Mancuso to be a new character every day. Forlornly, Patrolman Mancuso had put on the tights before the sergeant, who had pushed him out of the precinct and told him to shape up or get off the force.
By comparison, all this story is missing, really, are the ballet tights. 

NOPD officers in the 5th District are being ordered to increase the number of field interview cards they fill out, and they must pull over at least one bicyclist every day.  But as FOX 8 investigates, many in the community feel the orders violate the constitutional rights of residents.

On August 2, NOPD Lt. Carol Aldridge sent an email to members of her platoon in the 5th District. In the email, which FOX 8 obtained, Aldridge writes, "This is an order-1 bike, 2 businesses, 1 walking beat EACH TOUR OF DUTY! did you forget that this was a platoon directive? if you cannot accomplish this, you will be writing a 105 every day to explain why you saw no bicycles violating the law, why you had no time to do 2 business checks, and why you did no walking beat the previous day."

Mark Ingram is thinking very very hard about football

Gotta get those "mental reps" in.

METAIRIE, La. – For parts of Mark Ingram’s past three years, injuries have played a significant role in his progress forward.

Entering his second season with the New Orleans Saints, he promises that he doesn’t feel behind despite being on a schedule where he practices one day and rests the next.

“Not at all,” Ingram said. “When I’m not practicing, I’m out there getting mental reps, in the film, studying the film. Just because I’m not physically taking the rep doesn’t mean I’m not benefiting from getting mental reps or benefiting from watching Pierre (Thomas) go through the play or (Chris) Ivory or (Travaris) Cadet or whoever.”
Actually this bears watching. If he mental reps too hard, Ingram could become the first player to sue the NFL for a non-contact brain injury.  Call it a sports hernia of the cerebrum, maybe.

Yell at the Mayor season drawing to a close

The Mayor's traveling budget circus has almost completed its year 2012 circuit. The only stop remaining on the official tour will be Monday's District D event on the Dillard University campus.

Everybody should make an effort to catch at least one of these events. Sure, they're mostly just window dressing that allows the Mayor and his staff to brag about having collected some "community input" before releasing the budget proposal they've already decided upon anyway. But the entertainment value is well worth your time. If you catch the right show, you might even see someone get arrested as we happened to witness in District B a few weeks ago.

Note, also, your opportunities were unexpectedly limited this year. As The Gambit and The Lens note, the number of performances was reduced to five from an originally scheduled seven. Gambit's Kevin Allman writes
In an appearance before New Orleans City Council earlier this month, deputy mayor Andy Kopplin told the council that Mayor Mitch Landrieu would be having seven community budget meetings in August and September — one in Districts A, B and D and two in C and E. District C would have meeting on the West and East Banks, while District E would have meetings in the Lower 9th Ward and in eastern New Orleans

Only five meetings have been announced, however — one in each district — and in an email this afternoon, Landrieu spokesman Ryan Berni indicated those plans have changed, saying, "We have five meetings this year, one in each council district. ... As you know, we take community engagement in the budget process very seriously. Our budgets the last two years have incorporated community input gathered from community meetings and community members. We'll do the same this year."
Berni went on to have one of those fun Twitter back and forths with reporters on this question.  The word robust came up, as it often does.

Robust Berni

Note this is Berni's personal Twitter account so the snarky closer is and should be just fine with everyone. Still... BURN, right? Anyway, neither those tweets nor his emailed response to Gambit provide anything like an actual answer. Why are there fewer meetings this year? Because it's more robust that way, I suppose.

Anyway, the good news is there's going to be an extra special bonus meeting for District C tonight hosted by some East Bankers who couldn't make it to Algiers for the official one.
Tonight’s meeting will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at St. Mark’s Churck, 1130 N. Rampart Street.
Follow @beattylensnola on Twitter for coverage of the meeting.
Unfortunately the Mayor won't attend this one.  But really that's just one less guy there telling people when to shut up

One thing we know about the 2012 Saints right now

They will lead the league in resume padding.
“I think we had a bunch of great candidates. Really, there was no wrong choice,” Brees said. “There was a bunch of right choices. But I think by choosing Kromer, it sends a strong message to the team in that hey, this is something we’ve always done to continue to promote from within.”
Not only that but, as Brees went on to say, pretty much any idiot can coach this team.

“Yeah. What people don’t realize the type of men we have in this room,” Brees said. “We have leadership, character, a lot of veterans, a lot of guys who have been here for a long time. We know how we do things. We know the way the schedule works. We know what’s expected of us. And then everybody who comes here as a rookie or a free agent, everybody kind of falls in line.”
It's almost like some kid with an X-box could handle this, really.   Or maybe a really big poster.  Anyway, we hope Sean Payton continues to enjoy his vacation. Good luck not getting replaced by a robot next year.

I was told that I could listen at a reasonable volume..

Attorney Stuart Smith may just yet inspire Jan Ramsey to set the building on fire.

But at Pat O’Brien’s and Court of Two Sisters? That’s taking it really far. Pat O’s says it plays music in its courtyard but at a low level so as not to interfere with customers’ conversations (it’s background music, apparently). I’ve been to the Court of Two Sisters many times, and the only music I’ve ever heard there is a jazz band. So what is this Yokum talking about? Jazz bands? Crowd noise? Is the crowd noise too much? Should Pat O’Brien’s go out of business because one guy is disturbed by music and events that have taken place there since 1933? Is this just another way for rich Quarterites to convert the neighborhood into a no-music, no-noise zone? Or is it another attempt by Stuart Smith to bully the rest of the city into doing things his way? We know he hates noise, and we know he probably makes some money from the lawsuits he files.

Smith has made his fortune from representing class action suits in the environmental field. Could it be that he sees music—read ”noise” in Smith’s legal brain—as a possible means to a class action lawsuit representing citizens who choose to live in the densest entertainment district in the south and then complain when the music (noise) is too loud for their old ears?
The noise wars are more complicated than a set of fuddy-duddies who "hate noise" vs the "free artists" they seek to oppress.  Ramsey is probably correct that Smith represents a particular cadre of "rich Quarterites" who want the kids off their lawns. But Quarter residents do struggle with maintaining their neighborhood in the face of encroachments from the film and tourism industries in various other ways.

Meanwhile the Landrieu administration continues to reinforce the notion that music and entertainment is permissible only in the Quarter and downtown through a series of stings and raids on neighborhood bars and music clubs frequented by more locals than visitors.  Maybe those of us who think neighborhoods and "entertainment districts" aren't' mutually exclusive propositions would be better off moving to the Quarter. 

If Mr. Smith would be willing to trade his condo for my Uptown apartment, I might make that deal. He should know, though, that the Downman mansion up the street gets pretty rowdy when it hosts its private Rex and Comus functions. Might be fun to see him try to sue them for a change.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Today Joe Vitt said

Regarding whether he expects the Saints' tackling to improve:

“That is why we work on it. There is an expectancy level.”

Meanwhile the NFL hasn't quite yet determined the expectancy level for just when Vitt's six game suspension to start the season will begin.

METAIRIE, La. – Acting head coach Joe Vitt knows his six-game suspension will begin once the regular season starts.He just doesn’t know exactly when in Week 1; a league source said Wednesday the precise date the suspension begins is still being discussed.

The Saints’ final preseason game is Aug. 30.  NFL rosters must be cut down to 53 players on Aug. 31 and a practice squad must be announced on Sept. 1. The first regular season game is Sept. 9.

But whenever that might happen it looks like the Saints have settled on an interim-interim coach for that particular.. um.. interim.
Metairie, La. - Saints Executive Vice President/General Manager Mickey Loomis has designated Offensive Line/Running Game Coach Aaron Kromer to replace Assistant Head Coach/Linebackers Joe Vitt during his absence.

Saints players and coaches are looking forward to the unveiling of Vitt's "I also expectancy you do to your job" banner at the practice facility at some yet to be determined time in the coming weeks.

Hoist up the Sloop St. P

Assuming this story is real info that is CORRECT, of course.

Sources close to St. Pierre and the Nagin probe tell us the former technology firm owner hopes to get his sentence reduced in exchange for testimony against the ex-mayor. If St. Pierre is really willing to admit his crimes, he could have key information about trips, parties and home care he provided for Nagin.
Documents and testimony at St. Pierre's trial showed he provided a yacht for a Nagin campaign party, yard work at Nagin's house and a credit card tha Meffert charged to fly Nagin and his family on exotic vacations to Hawaii and Jamaica and on a campaign trip to Chicago. In Chicago, St. Pierre hosted a campaign party and raised money for Nagin’s reelection.

Thought of the Day

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

But we're crazy for thinking that maybe they're doing this on purpose

Only the most recent occurrence of this.

Steve Gleason said Monday comments attributed to him in an HBO feature story to air on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel" today have been misrepresented and mischaracterize his true feelings.
Yesterday, ESPN ran with the misapplied quote.  Today they note Gleason's correction, but manage to get that wrong as well.
"The real problem was no one seemed shocked," Gleason was quoted previously. "There was no discussion of, 'Wow, did we just hear that?'"

However, Gleason says in his email to the media outlets that his exact words were: "The group I was with ... no one seemed shocked," which narrows the scope of his comments from the entire room of Saints defensive players to just the group he was near.
What's left out of that description is the "group he was near" refers to Gleason's brother, filmmaker Sean Pamphilon and other guests.  In other words, Gleason was surprised that none of these outsiders who aren't used to filtering out Williams' schtick  seemed shocked upon hearing it for the first time.  This is particularly noteworthy because Pamhilon would go on to write a robust "essay" about how affected he was by this speech and how it inspired a string of historic text messages and a deep deep concern in him for children everywhere. Gleason is merely telling us that if, in fact, the Greatest Love Of All was happening to Pamphilon in that moment, the evidence wasn't there on his face.

The way ESPN presents this, even today, still suggests that Gleason expected Saints players to be "shocked" even  in a story where he is trying to tell them otherwise.

Eggs fro-yo?

Here we find just about everything that's wrong with present day New Orleans distilled into one article. A decaying tourist brand on cruise control, bad overpriced food, Hollywood celebrities taking precedence over everyone else; I can't think of anything that would be more perfectly embarrassing than perhaps the dish in the title of this post.

To be fair, though, Breakfast at Brennan's has been just this overrated since way back in the before flood times so maybe we should take comfort in that continuity.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Entire team injured

Still two more fake games left to play.  Roger Goodell still says football is not inherently dangerous, though.

Traveling Budget Circus back in motion

Tonight's District C meeting is in Algiers.

NEW ORLEANS - New Orleans residents will get another chance to weigh in on the city's budget at a meeting on Monday.

The meeting is the third hosted by Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other city officials.

Residents can voice their opinions on what the budget priorities should be for next year.
The meeting for District C residents is set for 6 p.m. at the Federal City YMCA in Algiers.
Federal City is a long way to go for downtown residents wishing to air grievances about the Mayor's frequent decisions to choose hospitality, Hollywood, and developers' interests over theirs over the past year. I'm told that neighborhood organizations have invited the Mayor and Councilwoman Palmer to a separate East Bank meeting but neither has accepted the invitation.

Also aside from a string of live-tweeting by Gambit  I haven't seen any significant report on last week's District E meeting.  Admittedly, I've been a bit overwhelmed this week and may have missed a story or two. If anyone has a link to something, I'd appreciate it.

Update: Here's WVUE's blurb on the District E meeting.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Fuzzy Math

We already knew Bobby Jindal and John White's school voucher program endorsed some funny ideas about the natural sciences curriculum.  Turns out they've got some goofy mathematics mixed in there as well.

A Louisiana judge won’t stop the state’s controversial school voucher system from going into effect next month. District Judge Tim Kelley ruled that he did not have jurisdiction to provide the injunction sought by the voucher program’s opponents, citing a Louisiana law prohibiting injunctions that state officials claim will create a deficit.

Superintendent John White and Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater made just such a claim, saying that enacting an injunction on the voucher program, for which 8,000 students have already applied, would lead to a $3.4 billion hole in the state’s education budget.

The figure stems from the $3.4 billion Louisiana currently spends on state aid for school operations via the Minimum Foundation Program. Jimmy Faircloth, who represented the state during Tuesday’s hearing, said it was “unavoidable and factually inescapable” that the proposed injunction would lead to the ten-figure deficit. “It’s just indisputable,” he said, according to Baton Rouge newspaper The Advocate.

However, as Brian Blackwell, an attorney for the plaintiffs, said, “That’s just kind of crazy. … There’s no way that not spending money can cause a deficit. When you don’t fund something, you can’t have a deficit. There’s no deficit if you can’t spend.” Blackwell pointed out that the funds have already been sent to the Department of Education and that an injunction would merely prevent the money from being distributed.

Link via CenLamar where Lamar points out that John White is compounding his bullshit about the operating deficit by also flat out lying about what the court ruling here was even about.
So while John White claims victory and suggests that Wednesday’s decision validates his position, the truth is that the Louisiana Supreme Court never ruled on the merits or the fact of this case. They’ve merely accepted Superintendent White’s sworn testimony. I hope readers understand the distinctions here, because the positions taken by both Jindal and White are obviously dishonest: There is no conceivable way that an injunction against the voucher program would result in deficit spending. The voucher program, by definition, is concerned with giving away taxpayer dollars, and most assuredly not about generating revenue for the Louisiana Department of Education.

Parlor games

So the first major question of the Louisiana congressional election season is this.  Which "challenger" to 2nd District Congressman Cedric Richmond will come closest to receiving 1,000 votes without (obviously without) exceeding that number? Will it be The Mayor's Cousin Gary? Or will it be the unknown individual claiming to be another mysterious individual who may not in fact exist?

We didn't lay a wreath or anything

In fact, I'm not sure they would have allowed us to. The Tom Benson Presents "Rebirth" at Champions Square brought to you by Mercedes-Benz statue is heavily chaperoned on game day. She isn't in the picture here but there's a lady in charge of managing the very long queue of fans waiting to have their picture taken in front of Bronze Steve Gleason blocking a punt by Bronze Mike Koenen of the Atlanta Falcons GENERIC NFL PUNTER.

Rebirth statue

I can't imagine what the plan might be for preventing fans who wish to complete this work from attaching Falcons details to the punter's uniform. But we probably won't have to worry about that happening until Week 10 anyway.

That's right, Goodell. Bite us

Back in the Dome tonight.

Also, ESPN allows lying asshole John Barr to interview Sean Payton. Should be tons of fun.

Oh and despite what Roger Goodell would have us believe, football is fucking dangerous.  Why do we play so many meaningless games?

Also Cadet is currently beating out Chris Ivory.

Also Joe Morgan should be on the team.

That is all.  Two more goddamned stupid fake games to go.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Just what was handed down

The following is excerpted from Lawrence N. Powell's recently published history of early New Orleans titled The Accidental City: Improvising New Orleans.  Upon describing the death of Bienville in 1767, Powell takes a paragraph to discuss the legacy he left to the city he founded.

Whether the site he selected for a capital was the best choice, given other possibilities, will remain eternally debatable. The Bayou Manchac alternative still seems viable from the vantage point of three centuries, though part of that area collapsed into the river in the early 1800s. But with proper engineering, it offered continuous waterway access to the Gulf of Mexico. It was higher and drier too. There would have been physical space for inhabitants to move north and east, away from the river and the diseased swamps taht would make New Orleans the great necropolis of North America. Of course, the Bayou Manchac site got passed over; and maybe in light of what the city became, it is a good thing Bienville's guile won out in the end.  New Orleans developed into something greater than a mere entrepot for a continent. It became a state of mind, built on the edge of disaster, where  the lineages of three continents and countless races and ethnicities were forced to crowd together on slopes of the natural levee and somehow learn to improvise a coexistence whose legacy may be America's only original contribution to world culture. For that legacy alone, we owe Bienville some measure of gratitude.
That sounds nice and romantic and everything.  But I'm becoming a bit weary of all the academic talk about New Orleans' "original contribution to world culture"  Is there even such a thing?  "World culture" is an ongoing conversation where everyone  borrows ideas from everybody else, repackaging them, and selling them back to one another.  The New Orleans and really the entire American experience with those interminable "melting pot" and "gumbo" metaphors speaks to this quite plainly.  Isn't the quick and dirty definition of the word Creole jumbled up bullcrap from the Old World, recycled and "repurposed" over in the New? That's what we've been up to for 300 years.  From a "world culture" perspective, it's probably been several thousand years since anything truly original was ever contributed.

As to the question of whether we'd have been better off 300 years later having put the city 40 or 50 miles to the west, I think the answer is becoming more and more obvious every day.  Whether we sit here and worry about our sinking firmament and the encroaching, petroleum spoiled Gulf or we sit there worrying about our proximity to an expanding toxic, possibly radioactive, hellmouth, it's pretty much pick your poison in any case.

Aside: Lawrence N. Powell will be speaking at an upcoming event on the campus of Xavier University September 22. 

And he likes to sing along

Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello on the fact that Paul Ryan is apparently a fan of his band.

I wonder what Ryan's favorite Rage song is? Is it the one where we condemn the genocide of Native Americans? The one lambasting American imperialism? Our cover of "Fuck the Police"? Or is it the one where we call on the people to seize the means of production? So many excellent choices to jam out to at Young Republican meetings!

Doesn't even have to retroactively retire

Kicking Kira Orange Jones gets to keep her position with Teach For America and stay on BESE because of course she does.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Today in the Sinkhole

The spiders are getting hungry
50 additional feet of land has collapsed into the southwest side of the sink hole caused by Texas Brine Company's Oxy Geismar Well #3 near Bayou Corne. Two clean-up workers required rescue by airboat from the boat in which they were working to remove diesel from the surface of the water filling the sink hole. Shortly after being rescued the boat that they were working from was pulled down into the sink hole with the tree it was tied to. Clean up operations at the site have been suspended. No injuries have been reported.

Putting more noise in the Serpas Signal

The latest checkpoint announcement is slightly less precise than its predecessors.
New Orleans, LA - As required by the Louisiana Supreme Court, the New Orleans Police Department is issuing a public advisory regarding a sobriety checkpoint that will be conducted tomorrow night. 
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint in the Orleans Parish area beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M., and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.
 Not sure why they've made this policy change.  Could be somebody zoomed out on the Google map, or it could be whoever wrote the press release this time had incomplete information. 

Or maybe they're actually trying to be a little sneakier. One thing I've noticed lately is that these emails have been going out later and later on the night before the checkpoint is to take place.  And because the notice says "tomorrow night" instead of naming an exact date, the reader might not be clear on when the checkpoint is actually taking place. 

Update: T-P's Gordon Russell follows up with NOPD.

The notice satisfies the court's requirements, NOPD spokeswoman Remi Braden said in an email this morning.

In 1989, the high court banned sobriety checkpoints, opining that they violate citizens' privacy. But in 2000, the court decided to allow for them -- provided police warn the public in advance of the general location and hours.

Though the "Orleans Parish area" is the only area in which the NOPD has any jurisdiction, Braden said the notice satisfies the court's requirements.

"I just had the officer who alerts this office to put out such releases verify what information is essential to include in them," Braden said by email. "He said they're required to include the parish, date and time frame of checkpoints."
I'm not sure who "the officer who alerts this office to put out such releases" refers to so I can't say how much authority his/her interpretation holds.  Either way, Braden says they're required to include the date.  "Tomorrow night" still seems pretty vague in that regard.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Mayor's traveling budget circus plays in District E tonight

They're at the St. Stephen Full Gospel Church on Read Blvd. tonight. You know, the one that looks like a big space Wal-Mart. Unfortunately this is slightly outside of Uptownmessenger's jurisdiction. Someone should go and take notes so we don't have to settle for the T-P version.

Qualifying time

Ah yes, the smell of freshly cut grass, the players taking the field for the first time.  Both at the professional and at the scholastic levels the political season has begun in earnest.

Today brings our first look at the new draft choices, and the returning veterans.  Fans get a chance to start sizing up the tough position battles, go over any last minute roster updates, and organize their own cheerleading clubs.

Prepare for plenty of meaningless coachspeak
"It is time to say no to politics as usual," Jones wrote in a statement released late Monday. "The residents of District E have tried the politics of the past and it has failed us. Let's try something new: honesty plus integrity plus hard work equals real leadership. That's the Willie Jones formula! I'm ready to serve!"
Some of it will be "incredibly historic"
The achievement, which she billed as "incredibly historic" moments before handing a pile of paper-clipped petitions over to the registrar of voters at City Hall, basically allows her to enter the race without having to pay the $375 qualifying fee.
Some of it will be "relentlessly effective"
"Building on our successful work in Broadmoor, I'm ready to deliver a spirit of collaboration, a tireless work ethic, and a relentless effectiveness to the District B Council seat," Cantrell said.
 Much of it will be... well... even stupider than that. But that's why we pay for the tickets, right?

Question: If you could hire an airplane banner to commemorate the campaign kickoff, what would it say?

Oh heavens, please no

Clancy Dubos: Time for Jindal to get back to work in Louisiana

Why would we want that? Are the schools, hospitals, and universities not killed quite dead enough, yet?  I know it's easy to pick on Jindal's political ambitions. But it's not his inattention our state is suffering from now.

So here's an interesting question

What's more difficult, collecting a verifiable signature from 1,000 individual people or collecting one dollar from 375?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Budget Brawl Begins in "B"

Budgeting for Outcomes

Just when we thought we'd examined every possible negative effect of the cutbacks at the Times-Picayune, Monday evening's events have brought yet another concern to our attention. It turns out they may have fired the person responsible for writing the article we see about this time every year about how the hot weather makes everyone in the city angry and so drives up the violent crime rate. For whatever reason this year's version hasn't been typed up yet.

Sure it's a dumb and tired meme but that doesn't usually stop anybody from running with it. And sure, NOPD is out with this bit about "major crime" being down about 6% compared with this time last year but even that doesn't mean we couldn't get away with one article blaming the weather for a slightly higher number of murders during the second quarter.  Statistics are highly manipulable. Just ask Ronal Serpas.

Still we do not find our annual warning about the "mean season" in the Times-Picayune this summer. This may have been a mistake.  Without our reminder that the hot weather makes us cranky, how can we be expected to be on guard against unseemly loss of temper?

This becomes especially important as the Mayor begins hosting his yearly series of community hearings on city budget priorities. This is always a contentious process but figures to be especially tense this year as the city finds itself burdened with the costs of reforms to the police department and parish prison imposed by federal consent decrees, an ongoing fight over the city's handling of the firefighter's pension fund, an expected request for a hike in utility bills, as well as the usual set of fits and arguments over an ever shrinking pool of municipal funds.  Tempers are certain to be short already.  It would be a shame if anyone let the weather get the better of them.

This is one reason why holding the initial (District B) meeting at the Jewish Community Center seemed like a pretty good idea.  After all, the site of one of Uptown's more popular swimming pools should have had the folks in the mood to be cool.  And for a while, at least, they seemed ready to do just that.   A large crowd... maybe 200 or so... fit into the auditorium in relative comfort.  They were greeted by Deputy Mayors Judy Reese Morse and Andy Kopplin and then by interim District B Councilwoman Diana Bajoie who spoke glowingly for a few minutes about various projects underway or recently completed in the district.  A slideshow featuring photos and captions of these played on the screen behind her rendering her comments unnecessary.  The slides continued to cycle throughout the evening.  Jackie Clarkson's presence was acknowledged but, improbable as this seems, she did not ask to speak.

The format for these things is simple enough. Attendees wishing to speak hand in comment cards at the beginning of the evening.  While that gets organized, the hosting city officials spend about 20 minutes or so introducing and congratulating one another. Then the mayor gives a brief monologue.  Mitch's, rather ominously, centered on the fact that cities around the country are facing tough times and tough decisions with regard to their budgets.  It was clear that he wants to start this process with expectations as low as he can have them.  He did manage to reassure the crowd that he is looking forward to having "robust discussions on the theory of government" with us, which really is also pretty ominous when you think about it... right down to his choice of the word "robust."

Once those niceties are done with, the floor is open to the public.  Those who turned in comment cards are called upon one by one and given a maximum of two minutes each to speak.  For most attendees, this seemed an adequate and fair allotment of time.  More on that in a minute.

The concerns raised by the public weren't too surprising.  By my semi-precise count, the comments centered around the following issues in roughly the order of their comment frequency.

  • Blighted properties/overgrown lots

  • Streets and drainage

  • Mental health services

  • 311/City customer service issues

  • Senior services

  • Property tax assessments

  • Historic preservation

  • Fire Department response time

  • Crime cameras/traffic cameras

In addition to the above, attorney Mary Howell asked about the conditions at Orleans Parish Prison and the possible impact of a coming federal consent decree mandating reforms.  Big Chief Larry Bannock asked if Gert Town specifically, which he says is "going to hell in a bucket" was being neglected.  In fact, a couple of speakers asked about Gert Town in particular. Firefighters union president Nick Felton confronted the Mayor directly regarding the firefighters' several complaints. (WWLTV's account of the evening focused on this issue.) A Patricia Morris raised some interesting questions about the city's "budgeting for outcomes" process implying that the focus on minute measurable "outcomes" such as the number of potholes filled or catch basins cleared is a statistical dodge away from the question of whether the whole street or drain is actually being well maintained.

And then Sandra Wheeler Hester's turn came up. Ms Hester is well known for frequent commentary at various public forums like this one. When her name was announced, a rumble of anticipation went through the crowd.  It was clear that nearly everyone in the room knew what to expect from her.  And this makes their reaction all the more puzzling.

Ms. Hester began her remarks with a complaint about the two minute time limit.  This isn't surprising. Hester has been involved in a well publicized feud with the city over its attempts to limit her participation in City Council meetings so pushing the boundaries of the format has kind of become a pet project of hers.  The best response is usually just to let her make her comment and move on.  She has as much right to be heard as anyone else attending the open forum. Even if she ends up going a little over time, it's in everyone's interest (including hers) to let her take the air out of her own balloon.

Unfortunately the Mayor did the opposite of that.  Before Hester could even get going, Mitch interrupted her to address the crowd. As the slideshow behind him scrolled through photos of the recent Claiborne Towers implosion, Mitch spoke to the room. "Remember this is your meeting," he said, "Ms Hester can stay as long as she wants to afterwards but this is your time right now"  The Mayor's remarks were basically an invitation to the crowd to police Ms. Hester however they saw fit.  They eagerly took him up on this booing and heckling her.  Of course this behavior could only manage to egg her on.

So, predictably, instead of just moving on to her comments, Hester took on the audience's challenge. When she said something along the lines of, "I've had about enough of this foolishness," a woman in the crowd later identified as Uptown house flipper Jane Murdock leaped to her feet and shouted back, "And we have had about enough of you!" This led to more rabble-rabble from the crowd and more cross talk between Hester and Murdock who, for a moment, shifted into Spanish.  The last intelligible line from that exchange was  Hester suggesting that Murdock "Go back to Cuba and let Castro deal with you!"

It was pretty much downhill from there.  The crowd continued to boo and hiss.  Hester proceeded to call them racists, and "honkies" until 7 or 8 of the many many uniformed NOPD present surrounded her and began negotiating her exit. 

Sandra Hester and the police

This took quite a bit of time.  Meanwhile the meeting continued to move right along.  Commenters droned on courageously about their catch basins and their senior centers while Hester and the police stood in the middle of the room arguing.  For what it's worth, I took some shaky video of the scene just before  Hester was eventually led away in handcuffs. 

None of this had been necessary.  Had the Mayor perhaps asked the crowd to exhibit a little patience instead of giving them a green light to antagonize Hester, this scene would likely have been averted. Despite his culpability, Mitch took a moment afterward to lecture the rest of us about the importance of courtesy before we moved on.

Notable comments followed from former mayoral candidate and sometime negligent landlord, Sonja "Lady" Dedais who complained (in a roundabout way) that her property taxes are too high. Later, activist Deidre Lewis wondered about the lack of opportunities for young people in District B.  Her precise remark was that the non-profit training restaurant Cafe Reconcile is, in fact, "teaching black children how to be slaves."

Now that's pretty hyperbolic language but the point that a pipeline that conducts kids from poor neighborhoods into demeaning, low paying, low benefit service industry careers is essentially correct. Unfortunately the already riled up crowd was not in the mood to consider the nuance and resumed catcalling. Lewis went on to say a few more things about Gert Town before noting that Ye Olde College Inn "looks like a Klan meeting going on in there"  Again, strong language... yet with a nugget of truth, however irrelevant in this case.

Soon it was the Mayor's turn to speak again.  His first order of business was to run Lewis out of the room by asking her to stop talking over him.  Mitch often employs the phrase "One Voice, One City" as a favorite slogan so that shouldn't have surprised anyone.  An exasperated Lewis said something about not wanting to sit around and listen to lies and marched off in a huff.  She was spotted again later just outside the building holding a hand made sign that read "NOPD domestic terrorists" for the benefit of anyone exiting the meeting.

As for the attendees who weren't expelled from the room, they can't have taken too much comfort from the Mayor's response to their comments. Mitch returned to his earlier news from abroad about the sorry state of city budgets.  He stressed the national political climate where conservatives are "questioning the benefits given to public employees" such as the firefighters' pensions.  At one point he went so far as to say that because he is a Democrat he is "under a special obligation," to question every dime spent on public services and the people who provide them demonstrating once again why Democrats are so terrible at actually representing the interests their nominal constituents.  "The firefighters think you owe them 150 million dollars," Mitch told the room.  He meant the firefighters and also the Louisiana State Supreme Court, of course, although he somehow failed to word it quite that way.

The Mayor continued in this vein pointing out that the "cavalry is not coming" with regard to state and federal aid to cities.  The "stagnant" US Congress and the ideologically intransigent Jindal Administration have been particularly tight.  This means the city will have to find ways to cope with costs of implementing consent decree mandated reforms at NOPD and OPP without the benefit of federal funding.  He explicitly stated he expects these costs to win out over the needs of senior centers or street repairs, especially "interior" (not major throughfare) streets about which he told us we should "get used to complaining."

In response to the several concerns about Gert Town, he pointed out the forthcoming Costco store as well as the conversion of the Blue Plate Mayonnaise manufacturary into "artists lofts." It's difficult to imagine either of these points of light amounting to much comfort for the attendees who asked about that neighborhood.

Mitch addressed complaints about our various municipal cameras.  People are unhappy that the crime cameras don't work and that the traffic cameras do.  While he affected a sympathetic frustration with the traffic cameras, "I hate that damn camera on Washington and St. Charles," he went on to say, not only that he supports them, but also that a silent majority of citizens have requested their installation.

As to the crime cameras, he said he believes it is more cost effective for private citizens to install as many of their own cameras as possible and share whatever they film with the police. Or, as Marge Simpson once said, "You know, the courts may not be working any more, but as long as everyone is videotaping everyone else, justice will be done."

This morning the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center released this "Assets and Opportunity Profile" for New Orleans.

Among New Orleans families, 23% live in poverty, with African America families experiencing poverty at much higher rates (30%) than white families (8%).

Beyond traditional poverty rates, this report looks at the extent to which families have sufficient savings to support themselves for a short time should they suddenly lose their income. Asset poverty rates indicate the percent of households that do not have enough assets (specifically net worth) to survive at the poverty level for three months without income. In total, 37% of New Orleans households are asset poor.

Although black and Latino households are more likely to be asset poor in New Orleans, asset poverty spans race categories with 50% of black households, 40% of Latino households, 24% of Asian households, and 22% of white households living in asset poverty in New Orleans.

Households with lower levels of education are more likely to be asset poor, but too many households with college degrees also have insufficient savings. In fact, 22% of New Orleans households with at least a bachelor’s degree do not have sufficient net worth to sustain themselves at a poverty level for three months should they lose their income. Thus, even middle-income families face asset poverty. For example, 28% of New Orleans households earning between $45,655 and $70,014 are asset poor. 

Those numbers tell us a couple of things right off the bat.  For one they tell us just how tenuous are the finances of a great number of the city's households, even among those whose incomes we might consider solidly "middle class." While the racial breakdown reminds us that, despite her over-the-top shouting about New Orleans being a "tale of two cities" last night, Sandra Hester was actually trying to articulate some very real and serious frustrations.

Unfortunately the Mayor wasn't in the mood to have those particular frustrations expressed. Instead he focused his efforts on preparing New Orleanians to "get used to complaining" since the "cavalry is not coming" any time soon.  In the evening's most staggering moment, he even suggested that he is considering a plan to penalize property owners who are late paying their sanitation fees by shutting off their water.  Some people in the audience even indicated their support for such a measure.  Likely these were not renters at risk of losing their water should their landlord happen to miss a payment or two.
It's a shame that Mayor Landrieu is exhibiting such a threatening and austere posture toward an increasingly desperate city at the onset of the difficult budgeting process. Of course it could be there's nothing else he can do.  After all, as a Democrat, he's "under a special obligation" to make sure the poor swallow their medicine without too much unsightly complaining. Maybe he'll be in a better mood once the summer is over.

Note: Also see Uptown Messenger's account of this meeting.  Much more thorough than what I was able to relate here. And a thousand times more useful than the T-P's unhelpful focus on the Hester sideshow in this morning's edition.

Monday, August 13, 2012


Eventually every neighborhood should just become its own nation-state with unique systems of fees and taxes funding various security patrols.  Eventually we can set up checkpoints at all the border crossings so that you really do have to get your passport stamped every time you cross Canal Street.

Voters in at least three parts of New Orleans will decide this fall whether to join the long list of neighborhoods in the city that pay special property fees or taxes for security patrols or other services. The City Council has called elections Nov. 6 for the Gentilly Terrace and Gardens, Lake Vista and North Kenilworth neighborhoods.

New Orleans already has more then two dozen such special security and improvement districts. Most such proposals are backed by existing homeowner associations, and they normally are approved without much controversy. In November 2010, there were 12 such proposals on the ballot -- five for new fees and seven for renewals -- and all passed.

Must be a great time to be Wackenhut around here. 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

You say you're tired of the Serpas Signal?

So, how do you feel about MOAR SERPAS SIGNAL?

Amid the imposition of a federal consent decree requiring the New Orleans Police Department to analyze the usefulness of traffic and pedestrian stops and to provide additional training in that area, officers patrolling Algiers have been directed to increase their "proactive policing," with the warning that poor performance could result in working undesirable shifts. A recent email from Commander Brian Weiss of the department's 4th District says that officers deemed the top "producers of proactive work" will receive their choice of shifts -- while those on the lower end will be reassigned. The new directive was given to officers daily during roll call last week.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Might be time to start paying more attention to the big hole

You know. Before the giant spiders start to emerge... or worse.

The problems with the salt cavern were not disclosed to the public and some parish officials involved with the response effort. An examination of DNR records, interviews, public statements and public meetings established the following:

 The possibly failed salt cavern may be closer to the outer wall of the Napoleonville Dome than Texas Brine officials believed.

 DNR defended the timing of its disclosures about the history surrounding the salt cavern as matching the emerging facts of the incidents in Bayou Corne.

 Sonny Cranch, Texas Brine spokesman, said company officials have been as surprised as anyone about a possible collapse of their salt cavern.

 DNR officials allowed Texas Brine to deposit naturally-occurring radioactive material arising from drilling into two company salt caverns, including the one that may have breached in the Bayou Corne area. As of Wednesday, state environmental officials had not tested the sinkhole for radioactivity.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Where's Bobby?

Can we get a camera crew to wherever in not Louisiana Bobby Jindal happens to be tonight? We need a real time reaction shot when Mitt doesn't pick him.

Update: Ohh that leaky leaky internet.  No need to wait until tomorrow.  Jindal loses out tonight. NBC says Mitt is going with the other freakishly hollow ideological kiss-ass.  You know, the white one. 

So hey, sorry it didn't work out, Bobby.  Since it's not so important anymore, does this mean we can have all our schools and hospitals and stuff back now?

Upperdate: Suddenly I'm having visions of Bobby Jindal committing dramatic suicide by drowning himself in the Gulf of Mexico like Kate Chopin's heroine at the end of The Awakening.  Only he wouldn't be the first pathetic creature to try that this week.  Oh well. Runner-up again, it seems. 

Doing her job... so that she doesn't have to do her job

This is actually a pretty standard move on Judge Berrigan's part. She is giving the NFL and the players time and incentive to come to an agreement. Does she really "want to rule in favor of Mr. Vilma"? Who knows? But she knows if she says that now, it might motivate the NFL to negotiate in good faith.