Thursday, January 31, 2013

Sal Perricone: The reson for and solution to all of the city's problems

The city wants out of the NOPD consent decree.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu was a strong proponent for the 492-point agreement from its introduction last summer, but recently changed course, citing the $55 million cost of implementation, on top of expected costs associated with the Orleans Parish Prison consent decree, which was preliminarily approved by Judge Lance Africk on Jan. 22.

The city's motion alleged misconduct on the part of DOJ in three areas, including the involvement of disgraced former Assistant United States Attorney Sal Perricone as a DOJ "point person" during negotiations.
Look, a $55 million plus unfunded mandate is a pretty scary proposition; particularly with the cost of.. well... everything else skyrocketing and the "cavalry not on the way" from Washington or Baton Rouge as the Mayor likes to say. So it's not surprising that the city might want to try and back out of such a commitment. Hell, it's plausible that they're doing the right thing considering the circumstances.

But the Perricone angle... that's just pure genius.
—DOJ’s Designation of Sal Perricone as the U.S. Attorney’s “Point Person” During the NOPD Consent Decree Initial Investigation and Negotiations 

Mr. Perricone attempted to become the Superintendent of Police during the Landrieu administration and his subsequent blogging related to Mayor Landrieu, Superintendent Ronal Serpas, the timeliness of the signing of the proposed consent decree, the appropriateness of a court-appointed police monitor, secondary employment (“paid details”), and the need for DOJ intrusion in the reform process. Reports have shown that Perricone was the originator of the comment that the paid detail system was the “aorta of corruption” in the NOPD. Such invective in a public forum by the DOJ’s representative who was engaged in the negotiations wholly undermines the integrity of the negotiation process.
 Recall that one of wanna be NOPD Chief Perricone's NOLA.com handles was "CampStBlue." Also some day the world at large will cease referring to participating in a newspaper website's comment threads as "blogging." But it is apparently not this day.

Anyway in order to buy this at all, you'd have to buy the part about an assistant US Attorney in the local office being the US Department Of Justice's "Point Person" in these negotiations.  I wouldn't be surprised to learn that this is at least a slight overstatement of Perricone's role. 


Depending on your definition of "economic restoration" it's possible that "Pot 1" is too big in the first place.
The controversy erupted as Sara Gonzalez-Rothi, senior policy analyst at the National Wildlife Federation, read the web site of the Gulf Coast Ecosystem Restoration Council, which is charged with disbursing RESTORE Act funds under a formula established by the act. To Gonzalez-Rothi’s surprise, the Council stated that the 30 percent share of the total fund called “Pot 2”—much as $6 billion from the $20 billion fine—would be used to “implement a comprehensive plan for ecosystem and economic recovery of the Gulf Coast.”

Economic recovery? This contradicted the letter as well as the spirit of the law which was passed after months of sometimes testy negotiations between politicians from the five gulf states, environmental groups and business interests. Pot 2, they had agreed, was to be used only for ecosystem restoration. Funding for economic restoration was to come from “Pot 1,” a 35 percent share of the fine – about $7 billion — that will go directly to each state.
Simply put, there is no issue of greater importance to the future of Louisiana than making sure that these funds are spent appropriately.  And despite some optimistic estimates, ensuring the future of the Louisiana coast is likely to cost much more than even the $6 billion tentatively appropriated to "Pot 2" here.

I realize "economic restoration" can, in the best case, refer to the very real and ongoing need to compensate coastal businesses.  But it also just mean that Gulf Coast hotels and restaurants aren't finished making TV commercials. Either way it looks to me like the wrong hands are dipping into the wrong cookie jar in this case.

Also, great to see Bob Marshall back on this beat in a more full-time capacity.

Service economy

A "Charter School Teacher" comments under a Lens story about United Teachers of New Orleans's efforts to organize a scattered workforce.  I don't know enough about the particulars of UTNO's strategy to address the criticism at the end of this but the observation I've bolded here struck me as particularly astute.
As a (non-union) charter school teacher, I saw the headline and was pleased to see UTNO reaching out to teachers at schools like my own. While unions might have been heavy-handed in the past, collective bargaining is an absolute necessity in the long run to give teachers a voice in how schools are run. Charter teachers are largely ineligible for tenure, work under at will contracts and can be disciplined or fired for any reason at any time- and there’s no district to appeal to. Teacher salaries in this city have plummeted while hours worked have drastically increased. More importantly, most charters have no publicly available salary scale or ladder- when a stellar teacher wants a raise, they move schools, or become an administrator, neither of which have particularly positive outcomes for students. Teaching is becoming a service industry in this city for young people to burn out on before moving on to another career.

 Having said all that, I was hoping to see news of a UTNO organizing drive, first steps toward planning collective bargaining agreements with the bigger charter operators, or a discussion of the workplace challenges faced by teachers and the benefits that a union could bring. Instead, they won’t disclose their dues and offer professional development when most charters already offer vast amounts of training. UTNO needs to wake up and listen to their real clients, because students aren’t the ones paying union dues.
This is, perhaps, an echo of the jungle ethic of the city's dominant tourism industry spreading itself across other disciplines.  No job security, no benefits.  Employees are intimidated, under-compensated, and the great majority are used up and discarded.  Sound like any number of bars or restaurants or hotels you might have worked in?

Economic impact

Related to the law enforcement story cited below, there are still plenty cases of prostitution going on in Louisiana where the feds are willing to look the other way.
The New Orleans Saints will receive a $5 million windfall from state coffers as a reward for hosting the Super Bowl, under the terms of an agreement negotiated by Gov. Bobby Jindal and Tom Benson in 2009. The bonus comes on top of the $6 million the state is paying to support the Super Bowl Host Committee’s operations before and during the game.
You'd think that maybe Mercedes-Benz could pick up the tab here... or is that not how these things work?

Where's my Serpas signal?

It's a busy and festive time  in New Orleans but I've yet to see the first indication that there will be any DUI checkpoints this weekend. You'd think that since NOPD is taking extraordinary measures to protect all the important visitors in town (as opposed to just us regular folk who live here) Chief Serpas would be ready and willing to deploy his most favored law enforcement tool in order to guarantee their safety from  the "greatest threat to a law-abiding citizen's life."

Maybe he just doesn't care about these people the way he cares about the rest of us.  Kind of warms my heart.

Update: In a related matter, the presence of federal law enforcement downtown has uncovered something

Federal authorities say they uncovered a sex trafficking ring in the French Quarter in recent days, rescuing five women and arresting eight men.

The women were forced to come here to work as prostitutes for pimps, authorities said.

Agents with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement have been heavily targeting human trafficking and counterfeit goods with the influx of tourists here for this weekend’s Super Bowl

Obviously they knew Goodell and his executives were coming to town.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

King Cakes (Non Vodka Edition)

This New York Times feature on King Cakes (and other local confections) is pretty good though not perfect. Kevin Allman picks out the most annoying bit in this post.

I'll add one nitpicky thing. I realize this is an impossible task but the article could have included a few more of the popular "traditional" bakeries in there.  And then there are the grocery store cakes which are ignored altogether although I'd guess they probably account for at least half of all the king cakes consumed in a season.

Just today I noticed these in Rouses decorated with the Super Bowl teams' colors.

Super Bowl King Cakes

We bought the Ravens cake, by the way. Because, of course we did.

See alsoThis NOLA Defender article from a few weeks back about how weird it's getting out there. King Cakes are kind of becoming the new novelty food dare around town as bakers compete to see who can come up with the weirdest thing; like competing booths at a county fair trying to see what they can deep-fry next.  (And yes the NYT article does note that there is such a thing as a "deep fried king cake")

Wisner Fund

Interesting post by Dambala on this covering a lot of background on a nearly 100 year old land trust that is getting ready to expire.  At first glance there appear to be the following possibilites for the approximately $7 million fund.

1) The beneficiaries agree to continue dividing the money along a similar plan to what is outlined according to the current rules. This doesn't seem likely, and possibly not even desirable for a few reasons I'm not ready to get into yet.

2) The city takes a much larger share or possibly even all of the fund for itself.  I can imagine some upside to this but it would depend on a great many things that I'll need to understand better. 

3) All parties agree to sell it off for a one-time windfall.  This sounds very Mitch to me. And Dambala hints that it's definitely a thing that could happen.  Imagine the city is awarded the 2018 Super Bowl and Mitch spends his entire second term preparing for that by blowing this money installing parkettes up and down Poydras Street or three new streetcars that go from one end of the Convention Center to the other or something.

4) Legal chaos!!  Dambala doesn't think that sounds as fun as I do for some reason. 

Anyway, go read what he has over there and tell him or me what I'm not seeing yet.

He said, he said

NOLA Media Group prints what looks like a response to James Gill from a Jindal PR flack in a space where one would expect to see an editorial correction.  At the bottom of a James Gill column on Nagin we find this blurb.

Spending on mental health higher: Sunday's column suggested that, because of budget cuts, treatment of mental illness had "pretty much gone by the wayside" in Louisiana. Spending on mental health is  30 percent higher than it was when Jindal took office in 2008, according to his spokesman.
"According to his spokesman"  Anybody want to fact check this assertion before running it in this space?

In 2010, the city released an analysis of psychiatric bed capacity in New Orleans compared to five other similarly sized and situated U.S. cities: Atlanta, Cleveland, Memphis, Tenn., St. Louis and Washington, DC.

At that time, the report found, there were 165 inpatient psych beds in New Orleans, a rate of 46.5 per 100,000 population — down from 364 total and 78.9 per 100,000 pre-Katrina. Of those, 60 were adult inpatient beds — fewer than the 77 at Charity Hospital alone prior to August 2005 — 16.9 per 100,000 population. Of course, these numbers were based on a slightly inflated pre-Census estimate population of about 354,000. Based on the actual 2010 population of 343,000, the rate is about 17.5 adult beds per 100,000.

The disparity was huge, the report found, compared to those other cities. Atlanta had 100 total beds per 100,000 population, 57.1 adult. Memphis: 74.7 total/ 63.5 adult. St. Louis: 59.1 total/46.3 adult. Washington: 62.5 total/52.4 adult. "We're at a huge deficit," says (Cecile) Tebo.
Update: Yesterday, in the Letters To The Editor section (where the Jindal PR factoid should have run) we find this question.

If the administration's claims are true, then we taxpayers are spending more money for reduced services. How did that happen? Have the governor's privatization initiatives increased state payments to private contractors while reducing services to the people of Louisiana? That seems to be his agenda, especially in health care and education.

Carnival interruptus

It's a big responsibility being "the Arthur Hardy for a new generation." But don't worry. There's a complete re-cap of the first weekend's Carnival events coming along soon enough.  In the meantime, enjoy these photos Liprap took from Krewe of 'tit Rex, an event I didn't manage to cross Canal Street and catch myself this year.

Also, as  a follow up to Todd Price's report, I noticed the Taaka brand King Cake Vodka was back down to $5.99 at Rouses this week.  So enjoy that... if such a thing is possible.

Public space, private party

The same question I asked yesterday can be applied today to this.

So why is (Armstrong) park closed for a full week’s time for a one-night event?

Initially I’d thought that it’s because the city didn’t want to maintain security/a police presence, but now I suspect that there’s an even simpler explanation: because there’s nothing for the visitors to buy there, it’s been sold out for a private event, denying the public reasonable access without a second thought.

In discussing this casually online, one friend suggested that possibly it was a measure to keep our city’s visitors within the Clean Zone’s boundaries; he added that the enhanced police presence in the Clean Zone would also reinforce this theory.

Another friend replied, “[It's] more like without a first thought — not a second one. It seems right now that we (the folks) are all in the back row for the big show.”

One can only wonder how much the city is being paid for this week of exclusive use and hope that those funds will eventually serve the public-at-large in a meaningful way.
I doubt they gave it much, if any, thought.  In their minds, our local elected leaders don't work for us.  Their clients are the NFL and its attached sponsors. And their job is to move us out of their clients' way while they use our stuff.

Quote of the Day

Actually this is from earlier in the week but I missed it. Found it again via Aswell via Oyster.  It's from a Jindal primer by Dakinikat the national pundits obviously haven't read as she notes at the beginning.
For some reason, the villagers in the beltway appear to have my governor confused with some one who is not a sociopath.  There is absolutely no way they’ve done any background work on Bobby Jindal and the horrible things that he has done and suggested for my state.
The rest is pretty much a must-read. Go do that.

Shut up Shut up Shut up

Knew it was coming. Here is a taste of the glory.

A list of sentences from Super Bowl Week articles employing terrible New Orleans cliches

Cool and Current

I wonder if John Georges thinks he is buying the internet for his children.

That's not why he wants into newspapers, he said. He is doing this partly for the sake of his children because the business is "cool, digital and current" and thus "more suited to their skill sets and generation." We'll see if Georges has a future in the business.
Just a few years ago, Georges was concerned that there were too many "dangerous people" in digital media. Now that the "legitimate" operators are pushing their way in... and working harder and harder to push you out... Georges sees something "cool and current" there.  Funny how that works.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Whose side are they on?

Gambit's Charles Maldonado gives us one more look at the NFL "Clean Zone" policy and how other host cities have implemented it in recent years.
Yesterday's settlement on the Super Bowl Clean Zone may have left some wondering how, exactly, New Orleans city government could have drafted an ordinance with such obvious constitutional issues: sanctioned and permitted signs only, 60 percent NFL branding or "feel" in order to obtain a permit.

The answer is that neither the Landrieu Administration nor City Council invented any of this. The Clean Zone, as defined under the original, pre-consent judgment ordinance, has been around at least since last year's Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
And we've always understood that to be true.  The question raised here, though, is why do the city's elected representatives acquiesce to NFL policy simply as a matter of course?  Over the past week there's been a side debate going about the "economic benefit" to cities of hosting these events in the first place.  
Those estimates, though, are likely fool’s gold, according to an assortment of academic research into the actual economic impact of Super Bowls and other major sporting events. When professors Victor Matheson and Robert Baade studied the economic impact of Super Bowls from 1973 to 1997, they found that the games boosted city economies by about $30 million, “roughly one-tenth the figures touted by the NFL” and an even smaller fraction of what New Orleans officials predict. A later Baade and Matheson study found that the economic impact of a Super Bowl is “on average one-quarter or less the magnitude of the most recent NFL estimates.”

Similarly, a 1999 paper from professor Philip Porter found that the Super Bowl had virtually no effect on a city’s economy. Research on other events New Orleans has hosted, including the men’s Final Four, is similar. When Baade and Matheson studied Final Fours, they found that the events tend “not to translate into any measurable benefits to the host cities.”
Depending on whom you believe the impact of hosting a Super Bowl is either negligible or far more limited than what the NFL sells to the politicians it is attempting to trade favors from.  But rather than ask why our elected officials are so gullible, let's assume that there is at least some "economic benefit" that accrues to cities hosting the Super Bowl and that it is at least significant enough to be worth the trouble.

The question then becomes, how is that benefit dispersed, and who bears the brunt of the trouble? We'd like to think that our elected representatives are.. you know.. representing our interest in this matter; that they're bargaining with the NFL over every use of our space; that they're writing ordinances and setting policies that ease the burden on residents and spread the benefits of the event across the city.  If tourism really is the "economic engine" that makes this city go, it's our political leaders' jobs to make that engine run efficiently. 

And this is why it's so disappointing when, instead, they blindly write the NFL's boilerplate policy into law or they allow CBS to just stick its signs wherever the hell.

These actions indicate that our mayor and councilpersons are to be acting on the NFL's  and the NFL's corporate partners' behalf instead of our own. In some cases, the closeness is so obvious that our supposed representatives just repeat the bullshit they're fed verbatim.

“The Talk” responded Tuesday (Jan. 29) morning with a statement:

"The sign, which was placed due to a light reflection issue, has been removed. Our goal continues to be to showcase this great city in the best way possible."

Update: This is interesting. The locally famous "Bon Jovi Shrine" was created by Tara Ciccarone one of the plaintiffs in the anti-Clean Zone lawsuit. The shrine itself was originally a form of protest against similar measures surrounding Jazz Fest.

Maybe it hunkered down the drain

Uptown Messenger: 
“Our biggest question is, ‘Where did the water go?’” said emergency-response meteorologist Tim Erickson during a recent trip to Freret Street to investigate.

Most weather stations in the New Orleans area recorded 10 to 15 inches of rain during Isaac, but researchers have verified four gauges that recorded significantly higher amounts. One in Gretna recorded 23.96 inches; one at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers office in Carrollton recorded 21.14 inches; another nearby at Audubon Park recorded 21 inches as well; and a station atop Andy Brott’s 43-foot tall home on Freret Street recorded 27.38 inches.

When the meteorologists climbed Brott’s roof to inspect his station earlier this month, they found a pole nearby that some rain might have slid down, increasing his total, they said. But that would likely only account for an inch or two of extra rainfall, they said, bringing it in line with the other three abnormally high readings.

In fact, when rain gauges fail during a hurricane, they most often under-perform, said National Weather Service hydrologist W. Scott Lincoln — because the rain blowing sideways is hard to catch.

“It’s atypical for gauges to over-report during hurricanes,” Lincoln said. “For four independent gauges all to fail in the same area, in the same way, the chance is very low.”
Of course we were all so extremely hunkered at the time that few of us would have had any eyewitness experience of street flooding anyway. But that sideways rain thing, that was real.  Isaac's wind damaged the roof of my building flooding several units. It blew water in under the flashing on the roof at work, at my parents house and similarly damaged more than a few other buildings I happened to check on that week.

Isaac was a weird storm.  But then I guess they all are.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Quote of the Day

Mitch Landrieu: "This streetcar line is not just a red box on a rail going to nowhere"

Of course not. We're pretty sure it's not just that, anyway. But in the meantime we'll take what we can get.

Also from that Gambit report, we find this video of the St. Aug Marching Band leading the ceremonial opening voyage of the Loyola car this afternoon.

In 2007, when the St Charles line finally re-opened after a lengthy post-Katrina repair, that ceremony was led by Warren Easton.


In the late afternoon today, I had occasion to bike through the "Clean Zone" for a while. I traveled the entire length of the Loyola line which, on bicycle, takes less than five minutes. While I was down there I took a few pictures including this "welcome" message on the Joy Theater marquee.

Joy Theater

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pontchartrain XXXVIII

King And Queen Pontchartrain XXXVIII

Sometime this afternoon.

Big booming scene


So far my theory that the early Carnival would mean lighter crowds the first weekend is way off. The above scene is the bustling crowd which I'd guess was at least twice as large as one usually sees on a typical first Friday. Of course there were twice as many parades as usual last night so that might have also contributed.

The Daily Georges

John Georges rumored to be in talks to buy the Advocate.

If true, this is probably bad news.  We've already seen the way the T-P has shifted its focus toward more and more brainless boosterism in recent months.  I'd imagine this to mean we no longer have hope of a decent alternative.

Update: For giggles, recall Georges' thoughts on digital media.

For extra giggles, here is the background context to that remark.

John Georges goes rabid at OPDEC endoresement forum from Eli Ackerman on Vimeo.

Disney trains

Loyola streetcar testing
Testing the Loyola Streetcar Jan 20, 2013

As with every development project currently in action around town, the new streetcar line and all the streetcar lines possibly coming in the future will primarily serve tourists and the tourism industry.
The U.S. Department of Transportation is another uncertainty. The RTA reckons it has enough money to extend streetcar service along St. Claude from Canal Street to Elysian Fields Avenue but not as far as Poland Avenue, as some had hoped. The agency will need federal money to go further or start planning a new line to the Convention Center.
The Loyola line, which takes you from Howard Avenue to Canal Street is basically a fifteen minute walk.  Extend that to Elysian Fields and then you've got something someone might use.  But only if that someone happens to be going from the Hyatt over to a night of "authentic" music on the increasingly disneyfied Frenchman Street.  Locals will never use this for anything.  
It doesn't have to be this way.  Most cities, sane cities, cities who believe in making life work for their own residents, invest in building great transit systems that benefit their own  people.  And then visitors to those cities enjoy using those amenities too. Here we do everything backwards. Utility of infrastructure to the people who live here is always an afterthought.

Locals would have used a streetcar that runs from downtown all the way to Poland Avenue but obviously no one was ever serious about building that.   Instead, it's time to figure out how to get tourists to make the five blocks from the Quarter to the Convention Center without having to get off their fat asses for more than 10 feet at a time.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Last minute work

Bucket Trucks Like these guys trying to get the St. Charles Avenue streetlights working just a few hours ahead of tonight's parades, I've got a post about the coming nutty Hospitality Zone Season I'm going to have to finish hammering out later tonight or tomorrow. But the weather's nice and there are parades coming so.. putting it off for now.

More #Pelicanfacts

I'm still a little meh about these logos.  They look like a committee got together and worked on the way to offend the fewest people.  This sort of thing always results in something unremarkable and this is what we have here.

There's just no sense of identity in this.  Here's a pretty smart post by SB Nation blogger Andrew Sharp. 
The whole reason we loved the Pelicans name was the brilliance of having a team named the Pelicans next to teams like the WOLVES and THUNDER and GRIZZLIES. The Pelicans were just ridiculous and lovable enough to be perfect for a pro basketball team in New Orleans. And now they're trying to get tough and serious-looking all of a sudden?
Sharp even references my favorite of the many many proposed amateur designs.

That's a design by Chris Giorgio.  He later re-worked it a bit when we learned what the colors were going to be.  I like that version too but his original is better. It would have become an instantly distinguished brand.  If city's team should be willing to embrace something offbeat, it's New Orleans's team, right?

Sharp adds:
Look at that New Orleans Pelican! That's the goofy ass Pelican we wanted all along. That's an ABA Pelican right there. What we have now is something like an XFL Pelican, menacing us with its evil glare, pretending to be ruthless, pretending that sports are serious. It sort of undermines the entire idea of naming a team the Pelicans, right?
I couldn't agree more.  But oh well, if you're ready to go crazy buying your $39.00 New Orleans Pelicans hats you're gonna have to deal with the Atlanta Hawks knock-off for now.

Or for about half that you could go with one from NOLA Brewing which looks pretty much the same anyway. 

Finally, since we've managed to contort another Fleur-de-lis out of this design

I'm wondering how long it will be before they send a guy out to adjust the signage at the recently dedicated Laurence Square basketball court.

Wither the fleur de bee?

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Spags bagged Flajole...um... flajoled

Film at 11, I'm sure.

New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton wasted no time making sweeping changes on his third day back on the job as he has fired defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo and defensive backs coach Ken Flajole.

"I personally want to thank Steve and Ken for their contributions during what was an unprecedented 2012 season," Payton said in a statement. "Philosophically we are changing our defense to a 3-4 alignment and right now is the best time to accomplish this transition."
Because he's talking about where he wants the scheme to go, I can't help but think that Payton already knows who he's going to hire.  No idea who that is, but he's got someone on the phone, I think.  Twitter people suggest Raheem Morris or maybe Romeo Crennel.  

Wednesday, January 23, 2013


So they tell us...
The New Orleans Hornets will officially change their nickname to Pelicans in the near future, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports.

Ending a long line of rumors regarding the possibility of name change, the Hornets will make an official announcement of the impending move on Thursday, Spears reports. The announcement will also include a new logo, which hasn't been released yet.
 Your challenge now, internet, is to find a photo of this logo and share it before the official unveiling takes place. Go.

Update: Welp, here you go.

Objectively speaking, this is a perfectly fine logo. Maybe a little hood onramenty but that's okay.   The problem, though, is that, for a supposedly "uniquely New Orleans" symbol, they've chosen a pretty generic design.  For instance, but for a little gold, this thing is practically indistinguishable from what they're using in Atlanta.  Freaking Atlanta, fer chrissakes!

Immitation of End of Life Care

NEW ORLEANS -- Starting Feb. 1 Louisiana will stop offering hospice care services to most patients on medicaid.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals is eliminating the service to families in the state due to state budget cuts.

Critics are up in arms.
No worries, though. Bobby Jindal has devised a far cheaper and more efficient  plan for end of life care as illustrated by this Krewe Du Vieux float.

Yo Mama Care

Another clunker to throw on the "cycles" pile

Last week the timing of the Nagin indictment reminded me that I had been at this second line the weekend of his now famous "Chocolate City Speech."

Yesterday Dambala picked up another forgotten thread in the saga.
The "Katrina Cars" issue is a big deal (that first surfaced here...I know I'm being petty but if I don't say it, no one will).  I know many of you in anon land would like to see this issue surface and I would as well because I believe it ensnares at least one person of particular interest to AZ that has yet to face justice....you do the math with the links above.  
One thing to keep in mind, most of these current indictments took place circa 2008 and Mr. Fed levied them first simply to avoid the statute of limitations.   That doesn't mean there aren't more indictments on Nagin to come.
Looking through those 2006 second line photos, I find a couple of shots of these "Katrina cars" that were, at the time, being stockpiled under the Claiborne Avenue overpass.

Claiborne Overpass


Claiborne Ave

There was also this abandoned boat which I'm pretty sure never belonged to Greg Meffert.

"Beached" boat

Algiers ferry might go away

But hey at least voters agreed to continue in the privilege of paying a dollar to take the bridge anyway so they've got that going for them.

For what it's worth

Here is your official city reminder about Carnival dos and don'ts.

It's pretty heavy on parking enforcement and then peters out before barely mentioning the tents and ladders issue we've been talking about. 

Where it bubbles all the time like a giant carbonated soda

Advocate: New bubble site found southwest of sinkhole

Among the many points of amusement here, the expanding sinkhole is threatening to swallow the remediation work. 

Parish officials added Tuesday that the discovery has led to speculation that the row of bubbles marks the edge of a suspected subsidence zone around the outer rim of the sinkhole and also prompted officials to shift the location of a 1,000-foot-deep well that Texas Brine had been directed to drill at the end of the access road.

The well will be moved to the front of the road, officials said.

John Boudreaux, director of the parish Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, said Shaw Environmental and Infrastructure Inc. recommended the change to avoid the possibility that the well, which will be used to collect seismic data, would be compromised in the future.

“They don’t want to make that critical mistake,” he said.

Shaw is the agent for the Louisiana Office of Conservation, which regulates salt caverns and is leading the response to the sinkhole and its side effects. Conservation Commissioner Jim Welsh ordered the well to be drilled as part of an agreement with Texas Brine earlier this month that ended the company’s lawsuit over response plans.

Boudreaux said Tuesday a representative of the landowner found the bubble sites late last week while checking the property from an airboat. He said the representative gave the frothing site the “mother of all bubble sites” moniker.

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

You're welcome

Usually have to oil your car every 3,000 miles anyway, right?.

Dozens of St. Bernard Parish residents woke up on Sunday morning to crude oil splattered on their vehicles from the ExxonMobile Chalmette Refinery, according to several homeowners who live near the refinery on St. Bernard Highway. The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality confirmed Tuesday that the department estimates that the Chalmette Refinery had a 36-barrel spill.

“Sunday morning, it was just completely covered, completely in oil,” said Steve Stewart, who lives at 2121 Montesquieu Street in Chalmette, just a couple blocks from the refinery. “I took it to the car wash, which was packed, more people there than I’d ever seen.

“All of them had oiled cars.”

Unfortunately the car wash was already out of Corexit. Residents are reminded they may be able to manifest a school of  "magic microbes" to eat the oil off of their cars provided they clap loudly enough.

Keep the neutral ground neutral

Lundi Gras neutral ground
St. Charles Avenue Lundi Gras 2012
Just as a follow-up to this Gambit article I'd like to offer the title of this post as a suggested T-shirt slogan for a public awareness campaign.  Since we know the city isn't going to do too much in the way of aggressive enforcement, it falls on us to keep things in line.  Last year I wrote an op-ed for NOLA Defender where I tried to suggest that we're actually pretty good at this.
Even when one considers the rowdy exceptions conjured by the occasional concentrations of college fraternity types and/or inexperienced tourists here and there, the typical scene along the parade route is genuinely pleasant and almost magically cooperative. Strangers at a parade become fast neighbors and loosely acquainted neighbors become friends who drink and dance and share throws in an improbable ritual expression of community that New Orleanians seem to accomplish naturally but few other populations have figured out how to get right.

Anyone who has watched a sprawling crowd of festively over-served revelers chasing stray baubles from a passing float turn on a dime to corral themselves and their children into a tight shoulder-to-shoulder squeeze along the curb just in time to avoid the wild swinging of the St. Aug Marching 100's drums will tell you there's something more than NOPD crowd control mastery at work here. We just plain know how to do this. And when we're doing it well, we're respecting the fact that enjoying the parade also means sharing the experience with the people who came to enjoy it with us. The unfortunate fact, though, is that in recent years we've seen the growth of certain practices that diminish the grand communal spirit so essential to the Carnival experience.
The best thing the city could do to fix the problem would be to allow for a greater variety in parade routes. Not only would it ease congestion on St. Charles but it could spread the much touted economic impact of Carnival further to small businesses along streets currently not sharing in the "cultural economy" boon.  Also, from an aesthetic standpoint, it would help restore a bit of the grass-roots neighborhood spirit of this "party the city throws for itself" we like to brag so much about.*

But de-consolidating the route requires more heavy lifting than the city is willing and able to perform at the moment so we'll have to focus on the things we can do. Mostly this just means being considerate of one another. Here's part of my email to Gambit that didn't get printed.

There's never been a time that I can remember when people did not bring ladders, chairs, couches, grills, tables, whatever with them to the route. Here's a picture I took in 2008 of a television.  Most  of these items are in my opinion perfectly acceptable.

(There are two exceptions which I think are real problems; the tents take up too much space and there are too many festival chairs arranged in theater style rows near the curb.)

What has gotten noticeably worse over time, though, has been people's expectation that they are able to use their chairs, ladders, etc. to mark off inviolable territory along what is supposed to be a shared public event. This makes it harder for the crowd to shift and flow as the day or evening goes on and decreases the number of people per square foot who can enjoy the event.

Because we're all jammed together, we're going to have to learn to get along in that small space. In other words we have to remember that we're supposed to share it.  And that we're actually quite good at this when we try.

*The proliferation of newer smaller events like Chewbacchus and  'tit Rex is a healthy sign that "grass roots" Carnival does still live on.  But even these are gravitating toward one side of town. Chewbacchus will parade in Bywater this year.

Update: Here, thanks to Jon Frosch via Twitter, is a map of metro New Orleans parade routes crica 1977.

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Monday, January 21, 2013

Creatively Maladjusted

Quote of the Day today is Martin Luther King via Andrew Young via this recent Jarvis DeBerry column
Featured in a PBS documentary in the mid-1990s, Young said, "Martin always said, 'Look, normal people don't challenge the law of the land.' He said you got to be strong enough to be creatively maladjusted. And sometimes he said, 'Andy, you're too well-adjusted. You can adjust to segregation and you can teach other people to accept it. And rise above it personally. But we need people around who can't be adjusted. People who have to upset things.' '"

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The market for king cake vodka

A little more than a week ago we reported on the crucially important matter of the wide variance in prices for competing brands of king cake flavored vodka. At the time, the Lucky Player king cake flavored vodka was running at a full thirteen dollars more than the Taaka king cake flavored vodka.

The market for king cake vodka
January 12, 2013: Make yourself ill for either $5.99 or $28.99

This afternoon we noticed the prices have moved already.  Taaka is up sixty cents while Lucky Player has crashed a full four bucks.

Shift in the vodka market

Taaka's entry into the market has forced the price of Lucky Player below even last year's price of $26.99 when supplies were so tight that Rouses was imposing rations.

King Cake Vodka is precious like gold

What is the equilibrium price of king cake flavored vodka?  Probably somewhere between a head and stomachache.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

"I wouldn't like that"

Not all of us are old enough to remember the full weirdness of the "Chocolate City" speech, I guess. But those of us who did experience it will recall that the mayor began by relating to the audience an imaginary conversation he had with Martin Luther King Jr.  No, Dr. King was not represented on stage by an empty chair or a fake girlfriend's Twitter account or anything, but that didn't make it any less strange.
Now, I'm supposed to give some remarks this morning and talk about the great Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. You know when I woke up early this morning, and I was reflecting upon what I could say that could be meaningful for this grand occasion. And then I decided to talk directly to Dr. King.

Now you might think that's one Katrina post-stress disorder. But I was talking to him and I just wanted to know what would he think if he looked down today at this celebration. What would he think about Katrina? What would he think about all the people who were stuck in the Superdome and Convention Center and we couldn't get the state and the federal government to come do something about it? And he said, "I wouldn't like that."
 This afternoon, Nagin is apparently still communicating with Dr. King across the great beyond.

If we could ask Dr. King what he thought about his words on social justice being invoked to justify petty white collar crimes by politicians, I'm guessing he might say something along the lines of "I wouldn't like that"

Awards season

Gambit: Times-Picayune wins award for prison series produced by many laid-off journalists

Nice job, guys.  Couldn't have fired a better bunch.

Americans for the Arts and The United States Conference of Mayors announced Thursday that Mayor Mitch Landrieu is one of three recipients of this year's Public Leadership in the Arts Awards.

I assume this award is a statue in the form of a shuttered music club

Also still waiting on word as to whether of not Ray Nagin has to give back his Bernardo "Excellence In Recovery Award" or maybe there's still time left for a plea deal involving that.

This will go down on your permanent record

And later we will sell that to somebody.

New York is one of five states that have agreed to share confidential NYC student and teacher data in Phase I with the “Shared Learning Collaborative” or SLC, a project of the Gates Foundation.

The other states and districts in Phase I include North Carolina (Guilford Co.), Colorado (Jefferson Co.), Illinois (Unit 5 Normal and District 87 Bloomington) and Massachusetts (Everett). Delaware, Georgia, Kentucky, and Louisiana are in Phase II, according to the Gates Foundation, intend to start piloting the system in 2013.

These records are to be stored in a massive electronic data bank, being built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corporation. News Corporation is owned by Rupert Murdoch and has been found to illegally violate the privacy of individuals in Great Britain and in the United States.

These records are to be stored in a massive electronic data bank, being built by Wireless Generation, a subsidiary of News Corporation. News Corporation is owned by Rupert Murdoch and has been found to illegally violate the privacy of individuals in Great Britain and in the United States.

Over the next few months, the Gates Foundation plans to turn over all this personal data to another, as yet unnamed corporation, headed by Iwan Streichenberger, the former marketing director of a company called Promethean that sells whiteboards, based in Atlanta GA.

This new corporation intends to make this confidential student information available in turn to commercial enterprises to help them develop and market their “learning products.” This new corporation is supposed to be financially sustainable by 2016, which means either states, districts or vendors will have to pay for its upkeep and maintenance. All this is happening without parental knowledge or consent.

Also in Louisiana, the commodification of student records may one day lead to the development of "learning products" which either do or do not contain any actual science.

The gluttony glut

I know Carnival-SuperBowl season seems like a good time to try launching a bunch of new restaurants. But, as Craig Giesecke's latest column points out, the business can be brutal.
Of course, a quality product is supposed to help draw customers and therefore help you make money. But unless the cost of inventory, labor and other overhead remains at a certain level, the place won’t make it for very long. We tend to forget this as Carnival, Super Bowl and our Festival seasons appear before us. Everyone’s having a good time and the food and drink are selling so well that many owners think it will just continue that way after Memorial Day.
Also, for locals anyway, Carnival isn't when anybody is thinking much about having a nice sit down meal. Usually it's a box of Popeyes or a something bought from a truck somewhere until after Fat Tuesday... and then everybody goes on a diet.  But then maybe the restaurant business isn't really about the local market anymore.

Friday, January 18, 2013


Wonder what this could be about.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's executive counsel Gary Graphia resigned Friday after only three months in the position. Graphia, a former top executive for the Shaw Group who was appointed in mid-October, will be replaced by deputy counsel Thomas Enright.

More lives and cycles

I don't think this stuff is part of today's indictments but today is a good day to remember that  the Emperor Nagin Has No Clothes moment of critical mass at least as far as the local media was concerned happened around the time of the NOAH scandal which came to light largely through the efforts of Karen Gadbois (and a few others).

NEW ORLEANS — The citizens of this scarred city have grown accustomed to promises of grand official projects that will infallibly transform life here but somehow never do. Their attention is diminishing.

But not in the case of Karen Gadbois. She jumps in her car and checks up on the promises, driving for hours across the city, then blogs about the results on her kitchen table while her dogs yap around her. A few months ago, she discovered a city renovation program that was not actually fixing up houses. 

Today the most complete archive of NOAH related stuff is still up at the now dormant WCBF in case you are feeling nostalgic. 

Karen has since gone on to found the local non-profit investigative journalism website The Lens which happens to be celebrating its third anniversary today.

They do a pretty ok job over at The Lens when they're not just retweeting everybody in town

This might be a good day to give them a pat on the back.

Truths and cycles

Street signs

I took that picture under the Claiborne Avenue overpass on MLK Day Weekend 2006.  It's one of a set I took that day following an "All Star Second Line" march through parts of Treme and downtown. The city at the time was barely getting itself restarted only a few months after the Federal Flood. A lot of people showed up for this march.  Every moment and image that day felt especially poignant. Solemn, even.  For me, it  felt like the true beginning of a new year and a new, uncertain time in our city.

One day later, Ray Nagin delivered his infamous "Chocolate City" speech.  Two days later Sean Payton became the 14th head coach of the New Orleans Saints.  Seven years later, on  another MLK weekend, Ray Nagin has been indicted and Sean Payton is about to become head coach of the Saints once again.

What does it all mean?  Don't know. Not much, probably. 

Update: Maybe could have gone with this song instead. Similar "cycles" lyric. More local  references.

More Nagin notes

Here are a few of the most telling moments from Ray Nagin's career that spring to mind for me.

First there's this Details profile by Ethan Brown where we learn that Nagin is reading Naomi Klein's The Shock Doctrine and that he very well may be reading it as a how-to manual.
“I understand exactly the premise that they’re presenting,” Nagin says, holding the book aloft, “that’s for sure. Look, man, after this disaster there is big money! The shock-and-awe piece of what they’re talking about is absolutely correct.” I ask if he’s read the chapter in which Klein laments that the public sphere in New Orleans is “being erased, with the storm used as the excuse.” Nagin replies cheerily, “I haven’t gotten that far! I just picked it up.”

And then there's this interview where we find what I think is nearest to the essential Ray Nagin in his own words we'll ever get.
Nagin also talked about growing up in a lower middle class family, watching his father work as a custodian at City Hall, attending Catholic and public schools, and eventually plodding a career in business and eventually politics.

"Politics in New Orleans is the dominant industry, so I decided to get in," he said. "Besides tourism, politics dominates everything. I just think it's part of our legacy and our history. Politics is definitely a sport and something that the citizens pay attention to." 

Meanwhile some fun stuff:

First, the once verboten shout-out
Nagin’s image as a crime fighter first started to crumble in 2006 and 2007, when the blog American Zombie and Gordon Russell of The Times-Picayune exposed inside dealing in Nagin’s technology office.

And finally, the near-boundless frivolity  much of which is conveniently assembled here

Because it's Friday afternoon

A grand jury has just issued a "list that counts" of 21 indictments against former Mayor Ray Nagin.  The charges range from coldcocking,  to exploding pies, to keeping the brand out there and probably some other things.  I'm sure it will all come out in Volume 2 of Katrina's Secrets.  

Update: This relatively recent look back at Nagin's adventures by Mark Moseley is a timely read. 

You know it's Carnival time when...

The Rex organization is suing somebody.

"If this is blocked up, we'd better give up the coast and move away,"

Oil company trying to dam up Mississippi River crevasse in Plaquemines Parish.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

After further review

Did 2012 even happen?  In a few weeks there will be only that hole where a 2nd round draft choice should be left to prove it.


Bobby Jindal, who only a few years ago, vehemently opposed the renewal of an existing cigarette tax on the basis of strict ideological opposition to approving any "new tax" is today floating the idea of an entirely new tax on cigarettes.

Also we notice Jindal, in his effort to ditch the state income tax altogether, is still trying to preserve the system of income tax credit "business incentives" that make our current tax code as unfair as it is in the first place. The Louisiana Film Tax Incentive program is probably the most famous and controversial of these. 

Typically such incentives finance projects such as film production because the tax credits themselves are transferable. A production company can raise cash quickly by selling the credits to brokers or individuals (such as NFL players and coaches) at below face value.  If the income tax is eliminated the medium of exchange in these transactions will have to be altered. 

Perhaps they can sell cigarettes.

Bush league

The most embarrassing thing about the way our city fathers have behaved in the lead up to hosting this, the city's 10th SuperBowl is that, if you didn't know better, you'd get the impression New Orleans had never hosted such an event before.  Our leaders have taken on the aspect of a small town getting itself all brightened up for the one big thing that ever happened to it like the time the guy who played Cooter on the Dukes of Hazzard signed autographs in the K-Mart parking lot in Bunkie for half an hour. I think they may have closed the schools for a week.*

But New Orleans isn't Bunkie and Roger Goodell isn't anywhere near as cool as Cooter. And yet our leaders are nervously lecturing the rest of us about how to behave.

At a media luncheon hosted by the New Orleans Super Bowl Host Committee announcing the latest preparations for Super Bowl XLVII, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged New Orleans to be on its best behavior — not only is the Super Bowl the city's time in the spotlight, and a time to show off its southern hospitality, but it also must prove it can do it again.

"It's a great joy and a blessing to have an opportunity to host this event," he told the crowd. "It's our time to shine, it's our time to tell our story. ... It's important to me that we do the thing we do better than anybody, which is be nice, and be hospitable. ... If Atlanta gets in the Super Bowl, I'm a struggle, but I promise you, I will be on my best behavior. ... Be gracious and wonderful hosts and show people the hospitality they deserve. This extends to Roger Goodell, too. I know everybody in the city is belly aching about the last year. But here's the thing: Roger Goodell has always been a friend to the City of New Orleans, and he and (former commissioner) Paul Tagliabue ... have worked really hard to make sure this stays here. ... Mind your P's and Q's."

It's astounding and insulting that the Mayor would assume New Orleanians won't be gracious hosts to Atlanta fans. We host major events here all the time many of which are also football games. Sure there are always some rude people in any crowd, but by and large, Saints fans are uncommonly gracious and friendly to visitors... especially the ones who want to dance with us.

I understand that there may be some bad feelings left over from the way 49ers fans treated visiting New Orleanians last year, but I don't expect that to be a problem. But if the Falcons are coming, well, we know those people already. We don't like their team or their city very much but we're used to having them come over.

Being grown-ups ourselves, we understand football fans are just people having a good time. But even the grown-ups in New Orleans do enjoy their pet outrages.  And right now Roger Goodell is cruising along that Michael Brown-Alan Richman-Ed Blakely-Spoons Butler plane of local infamy.  Shouldn't he be at least a little bit worried?  Probably not.  In our long history of collective civic pooh-poohing of individuals the closest we've come in modern times to converting our offense into action happened during an episode of a bad television show that writes us poorly anyway.  If Mitch Landrieu believes New Orleanians need to be told how to behave in front of visitors, he's also not getting our character right.  To hear him tell it, New Orleans is a city full of rube (buffoons if you like Ed Blakely's word) who can't be trusted to behave around their betters.

Furthermore, the Mayor hints... actually more than hints, he just comes out and says... that even if residents have a serious grievance against Mr. Goodell, it would be best that we swallow our pride and smile anyway because... again according to the Mayor... a city like New Orleans can't afford to offend a powerful and important man like Goodell.

This is all embarrassingly bush league. Major cities do not exist solely to service the convention business or cater special events.  In other words, these events are not doing us a favor simply by coming here.  They come here because New Orleans is a place people want to visit.  And this is, in large part, because of the people and culture that exists here not, as the Mayor implies by his nervous instruction, in spite of it. Other cities do not suffer from this lack of self-confidence and neither should we. And maybe a man who exhibits such poor faith in the residents shouldn't be mayor.

*Fact check: Probably apocryphal.  I don't think there's actually a K-Mart in Bunkie.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Athletes are weird

Today's tabloid adventure:  Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, The Most Heartbreaking And Inspirational Story Of The College Football Season, Is A Hoax

Of course, it can always be worse: Drew Brees tweets from the Justin Bieber concert

Illegitimate governance

I don't recall ever voting for or against James Carville and Mary Matalin. Why do they get to tell me what to do?

Roger Goodell is more important than you

Daddy Mitch instructs the help to be on their best behavior when Massa Goodell comes over for dinner.

Still, Mayor Mitch Landrieu is urging New Orleanians to remember that Goodell has helped New Orleans in the past, and a good relationship with him means a shot at hosting another Super Bowl.

“It is really important for everybody in the city to do what we do and be gracious and wonderful hosts and show people the kind of hospitality that they deserve cause that’s what we do well and this extends to Roger Goodell too,” said Landrieu.
Y'all don't go and embarrass Daddy Mitch now.  His guests are more important than anything you care about.

Spending political capital

Seems like we've heard an awful lot about second term Presidents and their narrow window for getting anything done before lame duckitude sets in. Obama's in the middle of a pretty important fight over whether or not you will ever get to retire. And yet here we are watching him spend all of his chips early in 2013 on gun control. 

Of course we'll all probably benefit from stronger gun laws.  At the same time, I'm under no illusion that the President's proposal is going to end the recurring episodes of violence like the one that precipitated this discussion in the first place.  We'd be better off with it but maybe not at the political cost incurred by the effort to pass it.

Picking this fight now fires up the crazies  and rallies the opposition just in time for it to be extra ornery when the much more crucial debt ceiling debate. If second term Presidents really do have limited capital to spend, I'm not so sure Obama is using his wisely.

Keep giving them enough rope

The ever-expanding US Attorneys commenting affair is an excellent case for news organizations maintaining free and open comment sections. Of course people say horrid things in there. What we've learned recently is that the people saying the most awful things happen to be some of the most powerful people in town.

As an aside, I’d point to this absolutely fascinating comment thread about investigations into the shootings on Danziger Bridge. Notice the interaction between “painman11” and “legacyusa,” where they talk about the NOPD.
I find that to be quite helpfully instructive.  It would be a shame if newspapers decided to bend to the mounting pressure to censor of eliminate this feature of their websites merely to maintain the illusion that the politically or socially ascendent are somehow better people that the rest of us. 

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Noted for future reference

Not accusing anyone of anything. Just saying that statements like this have a way of becoming hilariously ironic as time goes on.

"We have had an unprecedented level of cooperation between the executive branch and the legislative branch in the last three years," Landrieu said. New Orleans City Council vice president Jackie Clarkson added, with a laugh, "We pushed this through faster legally than anything we've ever done. A fine line there, but we did it."

Literally, "Fat Family"

In all the other Superbowl related build up, I didn't even think about the implications of Jefferson Parish pushing its "Family Gras" event on visitors

METAIRIE, La. - On Tuesday morning, Jefferson Parish leaders announced the talent lineup for their annual Family Gras celebration near Lakeside Mall in Metairie to be held on February 1 and 2.

This year's festival coincides with Super Bowl festivities and will be a two-day extravaganza of carnival and concerts. Family Gras will give visitors in town for the NFL's premier event a unique opportunity to experience Carnival parades since New Orleans parades are suspended for that weekend.
The line-up includes Amanda Shaw, who we've noticed will play anywhere anytime, along with several  acts I could have sworn had already died in one or another plane crash at some point.  So if you're in town to see the Superbowl halftime show, this event will set the tone quite well.

As always, though, our objection to the term "Family Gras" is the implication built into it that Carnival itself is somehow a non-"family" event which demands this artificial alternative. Anyone who has spent even five minutes near an Uptown parade route understands that "family" is central to the entire concept.

Krew of lil ones

Parade goers and ladders


Carrollton King


Local business and political leaders have spent a great deal of time emphasizing the unique opportunity this SuperBowl presents to showcase New Orleans to the world.

"The city is going to look spectacular," Landrieu says. "I know it's been inconvenient. ... (The Super Bowl) is a great opportunity to show what the city looks like (after) its resurrection, redemption, resilience — (and) it will not be the last one we get."

 Why would we want to include the negative stereotype that our signature annual event is somehow anti-family in that showcase?

Department of names that are probably made up

I notice these often enough that I've decided to start collecting them.  Every now and then a news story pops up where a principal's name seems suspiciously Dickensian.  A few examples:

Bobby Jindal's current Commissioner of Administration is a man called Paul Rainwater.  During the years following the Katrina flood, Rainwater worked for the Louisiana Recovery Authority in hazard mitigation.  So stories about homeowners dealing with flood issues frequently included a quote or two from Rainwater.

For many years the Louisiana State Police designated spokesperson in matters of alcohol and highway safety was Jim Champagne.

I recently discovered that LSU Ag Center employs an environmental scientist named Chris Green

And then there are the names that just sound made up such as former Assistant US Attorney Jan Mann or, names that actually probably are made up such as local artist Katrina Brees.

I'm sure I've got more of these.  Once you start to notice a couple, it's surprising how frequently they occur.  For example this week's Gambit cover story about the city's overblown preparations for the Superbowl includes comments from the NFL's point man for coordinating this event with the city.

When New Orleans hosted the big game in 2002, the city and NFL scrambled to come up with a plan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, which postponed the event and pushed the game into the Carnival calendar. "This time we've had a few more years to perfect the plan, not just a few months. Super Bowl XVII is a lot bigger," says Frank Supovitz, NFL vice president of special events.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Less Messenging

Some months back, local website NewOrleans.com dropped all pretense of any news, sports, and opinion content leaving only its tourism marketing core. 

Today Oyster shares a letter from Jeff Crouere (NewOrleans.com's then-political editor) that the site's decision to butt out of the news business resulted at least in part from pressure coming from former Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard.

Remember this isn't the only incidence of Broussard and pals attempting to intimidate local media outlets.  But it is the only successful one we know of.

More Messenging

Uptown Messenger publisher Robert Morris has launched a second "hyper-local" New Orleans news site covering Mid City

Pro Bono Privato

Rex Organization donates half a million dollars to local efforts to privatize education, hosts a party for union-busting Teach For America members because.. well.. because they are Rex and that's the sort of thing they do.

In a related matter, here's a link to last week's Frontline on education reform con-artist Michelle Rhee in case you missed it.

One moment that stands out is this bit where Rhee makes a mockery of the practice of open government.

JOHN MERROW: With no time to waste, Rhee had been criss-crossing the district, talking about ways to improve the schools. But she kept her most controversial proposal under wraps, closing two dozen half-empty schools, schools that were draining the system of resources.

MICHELLE RHEE: It would have been extraordinarily unwise of me to have started this process by saying, “So I’m going to close some schools. What do you all think?” I would lose faith immediately in that person. You have to have a vision. You have to have a strategy. You have to have methodology, and then data. Then people can react to that once it’s laid out.

JOHN MERROW: But her proposal was leaked to The Washington Post. The next six weeks were all about damage control as Rhee tried to explain the proposed closures to angry parents.

MICHELLE RHEE: The bottom line is that we made the proposal, which was a proposal. We wanted to have a number of community forums during which we could hear people’s input.

A lot of the decisions that I’m going to be making, as long as I’m chancellor, are going to raise this kind of opposition. For me, it’s about the fact that if we make these decisions now, and we take on the people who are not in favor of it now, what it will result in is greater resources quicker for kids in classrooms. And that to me is way more important than how many nights I have to sit around getting yelled at.

Obviously Rhee doesn't actually value any of the "input" she's soliciting at the forums if she is withholding relevant information up front.  We see this sort of empty outreach PR exercise all the time.  Mayor Landrieu's community budget hearings are a good local example. We also see Rhee's arrogant style emulated in Louisiana Education Superintendent John White's use of "deliberative process privilege" exception to state open records law.

The proliferation of such arrogance depends, in part, on belief in a "Great Man/Woman" theory of government where one righteous sounding butt kicker enters into an arena full of incompetents and evildoers and "fixes" everything through force of will.

Despite the stereotypes and prejudices we've developed in recent years, front line employees are not overwhelmingly incompetent or evil.  But the "Great Person" who trades on those prejudices is almost always a grifter. Rhee's con revolves around using standardized test scores as a pretense to abuse as many bogeyman teachers as possible.  She may say it's all about "greater resources quicker for kids in classrooms" but that doesn't seem to be the overriding factor for her in measuring results.

The placing of these two states (Louisiana and Florida) at the top of the list is curious. StudentsFirst gave higher ratings to states that emphasized the use of charter schools and teacher evaluations based on high-stakes testing. But her organization ignored actual results. For example, it gave a “D” rating — the second-worst — to Massachusetts, which has some of the highest test scores on the  National Assessment of Educational Progress exam.

There is one thing that Florida and Louisiana have in common — they are among the worst states for teacher compensation. Florida in 2011 ranked 47th in the country for teacher salaries. Louisiana’s average teacher salary is 42nd in the country.
By and large what we currently call a "reform" movement in education is funded by elites, executed by grifters, and aimed, not at improving this essential public service but at looting it.  Much of what's being looted is coming directly out of the pockets of teachers. Which is one reason you see so many of them trying to escape now.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Compare and contrast

Then gubernatorial candidate Foster Campbell's 2007 proposal to eliminate state income taxes:
As governor, Campbell would try to eliminate the state's individual and corporate income taxes and replace them with a fee on oil and gas processing and distribution in Louisiana, a proposal he drummed year after year in the Legislature.

Critics say Campbell is too quick to point to the proposal as a cure for all ills and that it would stifle one of Louisiana's staple economic sectors, send an antibusiness message to the rest of the nation and place too much reliance on a single source of revenue to support the state budget.

According to Campbell, the fee would generate $5.5 billion a year, more than half the amount of the current state general fund and well more than the $3 billion the plan would give up in income taxes. He says the new resources would pay for improvements in health care, education, roads and coastal restoration. He paints it as a fight against worldwide industrial giants on behalf of poor and middle-class people.

Current Governor Bobby Jindal's proposal to eliminate state income taxes:

Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration is considering the elimination of state taxes on oil and gas extraction as part of the governor's tax overhaul for the upcoming legislative session, according to the state Department of Revenue. No decision has been made on whether the final version of the plan will include the repeal of the so-called severance taxes but nearly all forms of taxes, with the exception of property taxes, are now on the table, department spokesman Doug Baker said Friday evening.

So what we're saying here is we're fine with eliminating the income tax so long as we don't ask oil and gas to pay for it for us.