Wednesday, November 27, 2013

That's a lot of unused property sitting around in our little boomtown

Roughly 20,000 flooded New Orleans homes are still in one or another sort of Road Home limbo.
The state is keenly aware that many people haven’t honored their Road Home covenants, though its Office of Community Development is still trying to assess the scope of the problem. The problem is most acute in New Orleans, according to the department’s research.

In its most recent weekly report, the office estimated that 4,678 Road Home properties in the city were “not likely to rebuild.” That’s 70 percent of the statewide total in that category.

The state labels another 16,982 properties in Orleans Parish as “likely rebuild” and 456 as “unknown.” OCD director Pat Forbes said he’s confident most properties in the first category are in compliance; many homeowners just haven’t filled out all the necessary paperwork. It’s less clear what lands a property in the “unknown” category, and whether those properties will end up being fixed.
The reasons for this are complicated. In many cases, Road Home grants got swallowed up by fraudulent contractors and predatory bankers. Some homeowners are still trying to rebuild but overwhelmed by the shifting challenges and hidden costs of the process.  In other cases, homeowners just gave up.

It's now up to the state to recover grant funds or take over more properties.
The glut of blighted Road Home properties in New Orleans is a problem that arguably belongs to the state as much as to the city. If a homeowner doesn’t rebuild, the state is on the hook to pay the money the owner received back to the federal government, whether or not it can be recouped from the homeowner.

That setup, some observers have noted, could put the city and state at cross-purposes. For the state, every home deemed noncompliant represents a major headache, and possibly a cost. Determining that a homeowner met his obligations makes the state’s problem go away.

The city, conversely, has an interest in determining that every homeowner is held to the full extent of the covenants. Otherwise, the blight is the city’s mess to clean up.
In addition to blight, the city is sure to find itself holding the title to more and more land at a time when the rising costs of housing is dominating the news.  What are they planning to do with all that potential supply?  Maybe nothing.
Councilman James Gray led the charge, pressing Executive Director Jeff Hebert, on why the authority hasn’t auctioned more than a handful of lots in the Lower 9th Ward.

“What are your plans right now for the 600 to 700 properties you hold in the Lower 9?” Gray asked. He represents that area and eastern New Orleans.

Hebert responded curtly: “Cut the grass.”

Hebert said his agency is using the same techniques as other cities facing blight caused by depopulation. The problem, he said, is that there’s simply a glut of properties with low market values.

“NORA does not expect it will ever sell all the property it owns in the Lower 9th Ward,” he said.
Lots in Lakeview, on the other hand, have been auctioned for more than $100,000, he said.

Hebert said that the agency has auctioned only five properties in the Lower 9th Ward. Without much interest from buyers, the agency needs to explore alternative land uses such as the Raingarden pilot program, which encourages the creation of gardens that absorb water runoff before it goes into storm drains.

The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority handles the sales, maintenance and planning for commercial and residential properties in New Orleans as well as the disposition of Road Home properties.

It’s budgeted to receive $2 million from the city in 2014, all of which comes from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. That’s an increase from $1 million this year. The city provides no general-fund money for the agency.

Gray persisted in his questioning until Council President Jackie Clarkson interrupted him, saying that with the packed agenda Monday afternoon, a council committee meeting would be a better venue for his questions.
Probably not so easy to sell in the Lower 9. But when Jackie the realtor is pleased with NORA, you do have to wonder if they're really doing all they can to loosen up the market a bit.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Depends on what you mean by "it's going to work"

If by, "it's going to work," you mean to say that a properly implemented ACA with full participation from the states will provide everyone with quality health care regardless of age or income then... no.. it's not going to do that. 

But the part about the states who have actually tried (built their own exchanges, accepted the Medicaid expansion, and so forth) having had greater success getting people enrolled, yeah, that's working well.

Maybe we should sue the hogs

Ask Garret Graves if this is a scrape or a heart attack.
MARRERO, La. (AP) — Feral hogs are rooting up levees on Jefferson Parish's west bank, causing damage that could pose a threat to flood protection, officials say.

The west bank levee board has enlisted the help of the U.S. Agriculture Department determine the size of the hog population before deciding what measures to take.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shit my Jackie says

Technical issues with the council's video embed have obligated Dambala to go back and emphasize the comment I was going to add to this post. This means it's now basically complete and you can go read it.

I happened to be watching this session live.  But I also recommend taking in council meetings... especially the budget hearings.. at your leisure.  (I do not recommend "binge watching" them, though, unless you absolutely hate yourself and your life.) 

The budget hearings are instructive in just how little councilmembers seem to know about what most departments actually do. Or if they do understand what's going on, then you get to see them pretend to a certain plausible ignorance as a favor to friends. This, I've come to believe, is what Jackie Clarkson is doing most of the time.
For some reason the video embed link only has 7 seconds. You can find the video at the CC website here, scroll down to the November 6th City Council meeting.  The Wisner issues first start at about 28 minutes into the session with Head addressing Cedric Grant.  It picks back up at 57 minutes into the session...although you may want to skip over Jackie Clarkson cackling about how she doesn't think the Wisner funds should go through the Council because they never have before and this Mayor doesn't need to be scrutinized.  Then finally at 1:12, the conversation between Head and Erica Beck takes place.
I don't recommend skipping that part. I think it's the most telling moment of the hearing. 

Yes, of course he does

I wonder which hospitality zone it's adjacent to.  Is it available on Airbnb?
At least two Louisiana natives, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and political strategist Donna Brazile, sit on the DNC's executive committee and attended Saurday's meeting. The DNC's National Finance Committee chairman, Texan Henry Munoz, said he owns a house in New Orleans.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cultural economy run amuck

I'll admit I'm not a fan of the various "ghost tours" floating about the French Quarter. They're cheesy. They're more or less the opposite of informative. Plus there's something kind of sad about the sight of a group of 20 to 30 adults being led around a city like a fourth grade class on a field trip to the box factory.

On the other hand, there's a theatrical element one has to admire. The really hammy ones bring a kind of circus carnie aesthetic which can be fun if you're into that sort of thing.  And, really, there are worse ways to conduct tour groups through the Quarter than the minimally invasive method of forced marching.

But whatever we think of these operations, there are probably very few of us who would condone regulating them by the martial tactics employed at the taxicab bureau
Accustomed to telling horror stories for money, French Quarter tour guides did it for free outside of City Hall on Friday as they protested aggressive and allegedly violent permit-enforcement measures and called for the firing of Malachi Hull, head of the city agency that regulates them.

Nearly 100 tour guides and cabbies denounced tactics used by inspectors with the city’s Taxicab Bureau, alleging a month-long harassment campaign aimed at appeasing Vieux Carre residents bitter over the number and size of street-clogging tourist groups.

Among the protesters was Wendy Bosma, who claims taxi inspector Wilton “Big Will” Joiner tossed her against a car and wrenched her arm, causing severe bruising, while wresting her permit from her during a night tour on Nov. 9.
On the other hand, maybe the problem is just that they're harassing the wrong ghost tour.
The seven men in custody in connection with the suspected arson of LeBeau Plantation in Old Arabi apparently were looking for ghosts, according to St. Bernard Parish Sheriff Jimmy Pohlmann. The sheriff said the men had been smoking marijuana and drinking in the vacant house.

One of the men is from Arabi, one is from Gretna, and the others are from Texas, the sheriff said.
Update: I knew there was something familiar about a rogue ghost tour among the ruins.  Those of us on the senior circuit might recall this story from September 2005.  A San Francisco news team covering the National Guard in New Orleans after Katrina had the guardsmen go on a "ghost hunt" through Sophie B Wright School which they were using as a station at the time.
(CBS5) The presence of the supernatural and the influence of voodoo long have been synonymous with New Orleans.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, members of the U.S. military are saying that there's something spooky going on and it's not just images of death and destruction that's haunting them.

By all accounts, the Sophie B. Wright Middle School in New Orleans sits empty and evacuated except for military personnel who have taken over the campus as a staging site for missions around the battered city.

But the men in uniform have the feeling that they're not alone. It prompted a chaplain to utter this directive: "In the name of Jesus Chris, I command you Satan to leave the dark areas of this building."

Said Sgt. Robin Hairston of the California National Guard: "I was in my sleeping bag and I opened by eyes and in the doorway was a little girl. It wasn't my imagination."

Hairston wasn't the only one seeing things. Spc. Rosales Leanor had her own close encounter.

"I was using the restroom and I just saw a little shadow," Leanor said. "Kind of looming in front of me."

Another member of the Guard unit said that she saw and heard a little girl laughing when she opened a closet that contained cleaning supplies.

At a Baton Rouge marina, boats were strewn like trash, but not a shred of paper could be found. Except for the pages of a Bible that was found by a soldier. It was open to the Book of Revelation.

At a nearby church, nearly destroyed, another Bible was found, showing the exact same passage from Revelation.

Like the power of nature, there is a power at work in New Orleans that defies explanation.
While they were doing this, most of us hadn't even been allowed to come back and even check on the status of our homes yet.  I hope they had fun.  Glad they didn't burn the school down.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Day of remembrance

Just a flesh wound

Yesterday Garret Graves suggested that the state should sue the Army Corps of Engineers and leave oil and gas alone.
In criticizing the suit, though, Graves laid more of the blame for coastal damage on the corps, arguing that the Mississippi River levees and other corps projects were more to blame for coastal damage than oil and gas companies.

“If you’re worried about coastal restoration, if you’re worried about the sustainability of this area, I wonder why you’re worried about a scrape on a heart-attack patient,” he said.
Here's the new definition of scrape
"What is so tragic about the oil and gas industry’s approach to this — and the state’s sort of callous disregard, I mean complete negligence — was that there were answers,” says Tulane environmental law professor Oliver Houck. “They could have avoided the dredging, they could have immediately repaired the dredging following — they didn’t do either. Having made very sure the state wouldn’t touch them, they turned around and said, ‘Hey, the state never touched us.’ Well, come on — the state is just as complicit in the oil and gas damage as the industry is.”

The dredging would eventually slow down because the oil and gas fields under the wetlands were playing out and the action was moving offshore, where 4,000 rigs would eventually be planted off the state’s coast.

But the damage had been done. Of the nearly 2000 miles of coastal wetlands lost between the 1930s and 2010, researchers say anywhere from 30 to 90 percent can be traced to actions by the oil and gas industry.

“I’m comfortable with up to 90 percent,” says LSU researcher Gene Turner. He says for every acre of canal dredged, there is another five to seven acres of wetland that is lost.
That's a mighty sharp tool they used to scrape out those oil field canals. It's not often that a scrape takes thousands of years off the patient's life.  
The government built levees to protect communities from Mississippi River floods. It built jetties at the river's mouth to prevent sandbars from forming and blocking shipping traffic. Those projects worked, but they also accelerated land loss by cutting off sediment flow to the wetlands that once kept pace with subsidence, the natural sinking of soft marsh soils.

Still, the Louisiana coast might have survived another 1,000 years or more, Louisiana State University scientists said. But the discovery of oil and gas compressed its destruction into a half-century. 

By the 1980s, the petroleum industry and the corps had dredged more than 20,000 miles of canals and new navigation channels from the coast inland across the wetlands. The new web of waterways, like a circulatory system pumping poison, injected saltwater from the Gulf of Mexico into salt-sensitive freshwater wetlands. Fueled by the advance of big business on the coast, the Gulf's slow march northward accelerated into a sprint.
But then they tell us we're entering the post-antibiotic era of medicine.  Maybe a scrape really is a deadly cut. nowadays.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

What else can one say?

It's over, kid. on Twitpic

Apart from the Saints incurring yet one more defensive injury, everything about that game was absolutely perfect. From the two early shots to Matt Ryan's head, to Jimmy Graham breaking the Georgia Dome, to Frenchy freaking dominating everything, and most importantly, right down to the 4th quarter characterized primarily by Falcon fails, that was a perfect way to get over whatever lingering ick remained from last season's moment of depression at Atlanta.

The Saints have guaranteed themselves a winning season in 2013.  I was a sad kid holding a towel for most of my childhood before that even happened once.  We're gonna go enjoy ourselves now.

One thing we do know for certain

That punter in that statue is a goddamn Falcon.


Budget passed

Some minor tweaks and amendments mostly arising from grant funding added into various departmental ledgers. The details were all "live-blogged" here.

Then Jackie Clarkson announced, for the billionth time, that this was her last budget.  Next, she curtseyed for the adoring crowd and stepped off the dais into a splendid carriage pulled by 18 magnificent white horses and rode off.  Nobody knows how the horses got in and out of council chambers like that but we're pretty sure they didn't take the elevator.

Update:  Some commentary from councilmembers regarding the Downtown Development District via Maldonado's live coverage here.  
Downtown Development District budget is up now. Palmer: "Is the administration working with them to make sure we get proper services in the District C side of the Downtown Development District?" Kopplin says the administration has been working to ensure that the 100 blocks going into the French Quarter are cleaned as well as the rest of the DDD. Palmer: "We've met with them on a few different occasions. I know people, business owners, are taking personal responsibility for cleaning the 100 block of Bourbon, the 100 block of Royal." Kopplin said the administration has "engaged with them" on "clean, safe and beautiful" priorities throughout the DDD coverage area.
And here.
Clarkson: "This has generally been a problem of the DDD. If they do one side of Canal Street, they generally don't do the other. Specifically, they don't do the French Quarter side." 
But just this morning I noticed this 30 foot tall creepy fleur-de-lis wielding Santa tower on Basin Street installed complements of DDD.

DDD Santa

It's clearly on the "French Quarter side" What more do you want?

No time to rest

St. Louis Cemetery
St. Louis Cemetery from the fourth floor window of the Basin Street Station

This morning, at a ridiculously stupid hour, The Lens hosted a brief interview with John Barry about his role in the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority's controversial lawsuit against 97 oil and gas companies operating in Louisiana.  The event took place at the restored Basin Street Station. The Governor refused to reappoint Barry to SFLPA-E at the expiration of his term this year because of his displeasure with the lawsuit.  Barry has founded a nonprofit advocacy group to continue advocating on behalf of Louisiana's fragile coastal environment called Restore Louisiana Now.

If you've been following the story of this lawsuit and the Governor's subsequent acts of political retribution, you probably wouldn't learn anything new from this talk.

Barry described the reasoning behind the lawsuit.   The SLFPA-E is charged with protecting a vulnerable part of Louisiana from storm surge flooding.  The cost of maintaining this protection is going to increase significantly for the foreseeable future and become impossible altogether unless action is taken immediately to save the vanishing coastline.

The state has nowhere near the funds available to meet these costs without significant help.  Because oil and gas exploration has had such a significant effect on wetlands destruction, it follows that the companies who profited by this activity should participate in mitigating the damage.

According to Barry, the State Coastal Protection Authority had been in negotiations with oil industry representatives for a time.  He didn't offer much in the way of details about what sort of deal might have been worked out but it was clear that the slow progress of those talks played a hand in SLFPA-E's decision to go ahead with the lawsuit.

There was further commentary on the details of the suit none of which hasn't already appeared in various reports.  Key to the suit is a long standing law covering "Servitude of Drainage" which, in addition to being the title of a kick-ass Megadeath album, is a.. well here Bob Marshall explained it months ago.
By turning marsh to open water, the projects increased the amount of storm surge that moves into the metro area during tropical storms and hurricanes. The suit claims that violates a principle of civil law called “servitude of drainage,” which prohibits one person from increasing the flow of water onto someone else’s property. The properties do not have to be contiguous.

While most of the attention in this case centers around the loss of land at or above the surface, the filing also lists 10 other oil industry impacts, including road dumps, watercraft navigation and impoundments.

Is “servitude of drainage” a reach for the plaintiffs?

Not at all. This is a well-established point of civil law going back to Roman times; it’s been a regular issue in Louisiana courts since people started clearing low-lying coastal areas for development.

Of course, the key here is proving that the loss of wetlands increased the flow of water against the authority’s levees.
One interesting quote from Barry came during the Q&A.  In answering a (fairly standard on this topic) question about how soon will it be too late to save what's left of the coast and how much money do we need, Barry talked about the State of Louisiana's 50 billion dollar Coastal Master Plan. Barry described that price tag as "a political number" meaning, among other things, that it's probably a gross underestimate.

Asked whether Senator Mary Landrieu had taken a position on the lawsuit, Barry allowed that she has been "as supportive as she can be politically."  Interestingly, Barry says he has a meeting scheduled soon with Mary's brother who has, thus far, been silent on the issue.

In a bit of a surprise this afternoon the board voted not to suspend the lawsuit as Barry's replacement on the board had recently suggested.  If Mitch does make any public statement now, he won't have the luxury of speaking on a moot issue.

Update: Mark Moseley cites several recent reports and commentaries which seem to indicate a "grand bargain" between the state and the industry is currently in the works.
Barry already spent thousands of words essentially appealing to Jindal to take the credit. Take the lead on Louisiana’s great existential issue. Guide the conversation about coastal accountability.  Preside over a “grand bargain” in which a booming industry would concede a slice of its enormous profits to the equally enormous costs of the Master Plan. Do these things, Barry wrote, and Jindal can become perhaps “the greatest governor in Louisiana’s history.”

It’s an incomprehensible prospect (on so many levels). But heck, if Nixon can go to China, perhaps Jindal can go to Chevron.

One thing is for certain: there is now more political momentum towards a deal to force Big Oil to  fix the coast they helped shatter than at any other time in recent memory.

A few months ago Yancey Duplantis of Hornbeck Offshore, a transport firm that services the petroleum industry, responded to the levee board’s lawsuit by saying: “Negotiation, not litigation, is the answer.”

I would be very skeptical of the suggestion that a Jindal-negotiated settlement will do anything other than protect the interests of the Chevronese.  Given what we know about the immense cost of fixing our problem and assuming a mutually agreed upon settlement will produce a number significantly short of that cost I'm less inclined to shout out the praise.

Upperdate: Some post-pub editing.  I never proofread anything. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Nature of all consultant work

Via TPM, this is a post by Clay Shirky about the Helalthcare.gov launch but this passage could apply to any company who brings in an expert consultant to help with just about any project or transition.  
The thing that made this meeting unusual was that one of their programmers had been invited to attend, so management could explain their web strategy to him. After the executives thanked me for explaining what I’d learned from log files given me by their own employees just days before, the programmer leaned forward and said “You know, we have all that information downstairs, but nobody’s ever asked us for it.”

I remember thinking “Oh, finally!” I figured the executives would be relieved this information was in-house, delighted that their own people were on it, maybe even mad at me for charging an exorbitant markup on local knowledge. Then I saw the look on their faces as they considered the programmer’s offer. The look wasn’t delight, or even relief, but contempt. The situation suddenly came clear: I was getting paid to save management from the distasteful act of listening to their own employees.
9 times out of 10 it's purely an act of contempt toward the staff. But, then, contempt for staff is a hallmark of the modern executive. And there's money to be made in facilitating this.

Once the Crescent Park finally opens, no one will go there anymore

No Trespassing

If you don't have to break in, that takes away most of the fun.
The board of the French Market Corp., which already oversees the city-owned French Market and the Upper Pontalba Building on Jackson Square, voted Tuesday evening to take on management of the long-awaited riverfront park in the Bywater and Marigny neighborhoods.

The newly dubbed Crescent Park is a 1.4-mile stretch of wharves and land running from Elysian Fields Avenue to Bartholomew Street, with two pedestrian bridges over the floodwall and railroad tracks connecting it to the adjacent neighborhoods.

It was originally supposed to open last year, but an unusually high river delayed the project in 2011. More recently, Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration blamed delays on the need to redesign one of the pedestrian walkways, an unspecified “landscaping issue” and ongoing negotiations with the French Market over how the park will be managed
Regardless of when the official opening date falls, the park will have been in use for some time beforehand.  Last December we noticed some curious members of a crowd who had gathered to catch the Automata NOLA exhibit and Robot Parade (don't ask) already hopping the fence to get a sneak peak of the unfinished park. 

And then there was this Fourth of July.
For some neighbors, temptation has been strong. On the Fourth of July, dozens of impatient residents dispatched with the guard gate and poured into the property to watch the fireworks display.

“We would like to see them open at least that end of the park, even if they have to put a temporary fence up to block the rest of the park,” said Mary Ann Hammett, a member of the board of the Bywater Neighborhood Association. “We should be able to officially use that park.”
Of course the attraction could just be a case of curiosity over forbidden fruit.  If you want people to show up at your park, the best way to do that is to tell them they're not allowed.

McDonald's to employees: "Chew more slowly, you fat slobs."

The headline here is Mc Donald's advises its employees to sell their stuff on eBay if they need money for food.  But the amazing part is this,
Elsewhere on the site, McDonald’s encourages its employees to break apart food when they eat meals, as “breaking food into pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.” And if they are struggling to stock their shelves with food in the first place, the company offers assistance for workers applying for food stamps.

But why stop there?

At a time when the city is faced with perennial budget crises, there sure are a lot of quasi-governmental boards running around with either bonding authority or, worse, a share of that hotel/motel tax we're always lamenting that the city itself sees so little of. 

What do they do? If you ask them they'll tell you, "Economic Development" which sounds kind of noble at first. But really it just means they do PR and networking for big wigs.  They're basically just glorified marketing start-ups.  Not surprising, then, how easily they become redundant.
The curious thing about BioDistrict, however, is what it hasn’t done.

For all of the beauty of its big vision, it hasn’t secured a reliable source of annual funding. It hasn’t successfully lured a biomedical business to New Orleans with its offer to help secure financing using its bonding authority and tax-free status. And it hasn’t yet garnered much visible political backing — including that of the mayor.

“I didn’t create that entity,” Mayor Mitch Landrieu told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune during an editorial board meeting earlier this month when asked about the BioDistrict. “I don’t know what they’re doing. It doesn’t sound like they have any money. I don’t know what their vision is. I do know what the entity is that we created. … At this time, all of our effort related to this is housed at the New Orleans Business Alliance.”
Probably the Mayor is especially snippy because BioDistict considered working with Civil District Court judges to help them build a new courthouse in Duncan Plaza which would have undermined the Mayor's plans to move the court and City Hall over to Charity Hospital.  But whatever the reason, folding just one of these boards is a decent start.  Now if we can power down DDD, GNO Inc, NOTMC, NOCVB, and the Mayor's beloved New Orleans Buisiness Alliance too while we're at it we might be getting somewhere.

Update: The BioDistrict officially disavowed any interest in financing the proposed courthouse today. And they've decided to seek a partnership with NOBA.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Serpas Signal: NOLAusterity edition

The Holidays are coming. Time to exercise more caution out there on the roads. 
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Wednesday November 20, 2013, 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. 
I've been looking for a word that captures the current enthusiasm for squeezing New Orleans drivers, renters, bicyclists, or any minor code violators for whatever they're worth while also handing out tax breaks and other such incentives to big developers. NOLAusterity is the best I can come up with. See if you can do better.

In the meantime, today, there is this.
The New Orleans City Council will vote Thursday on a controversial ordinance, proposed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, requiring the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans to cut off water service for residents and businesses who are delinquent on their monthly trash fee, a staff member for the ordinance’s sponsor, Council President Jackie Clarkson, told The Lens.

Thursday’s meeting will be the first time the ordinance will be subject to public debate. It was introduced in late October, deferred without discussion during the Nov. 7 meeting and has not gone before any of the council’s committees.
I rent. The water is included in that so I have no idea whether the landlord is ever delinquent on the sanitation fee.  But I'm going to be the one held accountable if this passes. (It will pass. Otherwise they wouldn't even be voting on it.)

Naturally, the other part of the plan to collect more money for trash services is to offer less of that service.
Kopplin told council members that an analysis by the city and the Office of Inspector General found that rebidding the agreements would have cost as much as $7 million more. But Councilwoman Stacy Head said the analysis was based on faulty assumptions, namely that the city needs its garbage picked up two times per week.

“I think we should ask for less in those contracts, so we could pay less, and use that money” for more essential services, Head said. She noted that other cities, including Dallas, have recently switched from twice-weekly to weekly pickup.

Councilwoman Susan Guidry agreed.

“Change is difficult for people, but we have to help them to get there,” she said. “I’ve heard this in other places that have gone to one-day pickup, it changes the way people deal with waste.”
Thank you, Ms. Guidry, for guiding us through this difficult change. Don't know how we would have done it.

Also on this front, during its portion of the city budget hearings,  the Downtown Development District made plain that their goal is to increase the number of citations they issue for panhandling (even though that very day the city's panhandling ordinance had been ruled unconstitutional).

They also intend to cite more bicyclists.  If their new signage is to be believed, the plan is to cite them for riding on the sidewalk.

The worst thing about this is the DDD's jurisdiction includes stretches where riding on the sidewalk is usually the safest option for cyclists. I'm thinking about St. Charles Avenue around Lafayette Square and  Magazine Street near the Federal Courthouse primarily but there are many other spots down there with wide sidewalks and narrow streets where it actually makes sense to ride that way.  And now they're going to cite you for it.  

Still probably better than getting caught up in Serpas' entrapment scheme. But be careful out there anyway.

I'm so old I remember when the drilling moratorium was "Obama's Katrina"

How'd that go?
As for the rigs running off to less regulated waters: In the 15 months after the moratorium began, only eight of 30 deepwater Gulf rigs actually departed from the region.
Local blogger Clay, who authors the Noladishu site, inspected the circumstances of the eight drillships that left. He found that:
3 were new, 5 were more than 24 years old, and some were more than 30 years old. 20 years is generally a good lifetime for a rig; 30 is sometimes done if prices are favorable and there’s been good maintenance and 10-year overhauls. The new rigs will hurt (the 3 that left were among the best in their respective fleets), but the others were so long in the tooth, you’d almost say good riddance.
So, contrary to the hysteria, most of the deepwater rigs stayed throughout the moratorium. And of those that left for foreign waters, most were well on their way to becoming unsafe rust buckets that would not pass the new safety standards anyway. Instead, they will spend their final years in places like Angola and Egypt, where worker and environmental safety are not quite at the top of the priority list.
Meanwhile, the local offshore rig count has soared past pre-oil spill levels and the Gulf is ”on the verge of its biggest supply surge ever.” Ever! The upswing will continue full-throttle, too, as analysts expect the number of rigs to double by 2017.
As usual with Moseley's columns, there's much much more.  Go read

Meanwhile, Bobby Jindal put on his increasingly well worn political pundit hat again to write yet another op-ed in Politico.  This one, like his several before it, is all about the 2016 Presidential race, who might run, and how whoever runs can win.  He begins his chattering on these topics by marveling at all the chatter there is out there.
Who’s running for president in 2016? Who’s up? Who’s down? Those are the questions that have the chattering class in Washington all atwitter, and all over Twitter, these days. All potential candidates have their own lines they use to deflect reporter’s questions about whether or not they will run for president in 2016. The one I like at present is “I don’t know.” I settled on this one because it is the truth, which is not a bad fallback position when all else fails.
Everyone's talking about who might run for President, Jindal observes. Many people ask Bobby Jindal if he will run, according to Bobby Jindal. Bobby Jindal allows that he might!  Also the "atwitter/Twitter" thing may be the sort of wordplay the voters are looking for, in Bobby Jindal's estimation.

But Jindal cautions us against "getting ahead of ourselves." The potential Presidential candidate asserts that "the whole thing is ridiculous," and then goes on to write some more about it. Specifically, he tells us where to look to find the brightest ideas that will spur the conservative renaissance.
In any case, next year’s elections are the ones that matter. I believe the most important election is the next one, not the one after the next one. It’s been my honor over the past year to chair the Republican Governors Association. And for my money, the real action is out in the states, where we have 36 gubernatorial races in 2014.

It’s not that I’m disinterested in the House and Senate elections, but the truth is that the real conservative reform happening today is in the states. And with many strong Republican governors running for re-election, the outlook for four more years of conservative reform is plenty bright. The forecast in the nation’s capital, meanwhile, is a wintery mix—cloudy with a 100 percent chance of debt and taxation, and a sprinkling of incompetence.
Those Republican Governors sure are a bright ray of sunshine cutting through the "wintery mix!" And don't forget, Bobby Jindal is honored to be their king.  He's not sure he's a candidate for President, though. Let's not "get ahead of ourselves."

The first thing candidates (whoever they might be!) will have to think about is their agenda.  You see, because governments are supposed enact policies and it's a good idea to know what those things are going to be before you forge off  all atwitter into the wintery mix with only your chatter to keep you warm.  Jindal suggests the following.
If Obamacare is still the law of the land, there will be the monumental task of repealing the law and replacing it with a conservative, market-based model that works—while undoing the damage it has done to our economy in meantime. The next president will be faced with unweaving the Obama administration’s massive web of unnecessary environmental regulations that are stifling our energy sector and hindering our ability to be energy independent. Passing a balanced-budget amendment, lowering tax rates, fixing future government spending as a percentage of GDP, restoring America’s global reputation—the list goes on and on.
So, according to (possible... It's currently ridiculous to speculate) candidate Jindal, priority one is Repeal Obamacare, priority two is Drill Baby Drill and priority three is Cut Social Security.  Those sure do sound like winning ideas. Just ask any of Jindal's recently advised client candidates. Neil Riser, for example.
Riser focused exclusively on repeal and sided with Gov. Bobby Jindal in rejecting a provision of the Affordable Care Act that would expand Medicaid, largely at federal rather than state expense.

McAllister opposes Obamacare too, but he proposed trying to make the law work; he also called for the state to expand Medicaid, an issue that may well have appealed not only to Democrats but to those who believe that expansion could help a lot of their neighbors in a district where 25 percent of residents live below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The result suggested that simply bashing the Affordable Care Act, as Riser did, is not enough to win elections, even among voters who may agree, and that advocating its improvement is not a path to certain defeat.
Okay well maybe not Neil Riser, for example. Surely any of the other recent Jindal-approved success stories will lend these prescriptions all the credibility they need. 

Surely the part about the "massive web of unnecessary environmental regulations that are stifling our energy sector" really connects with people.  At least voters would not mistake Jindal's commitment to that idea anyway.
A new member appointed by Gov. Bobby Jindal to the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East will ask the authority to suspend its controversial lawsuit demanding that 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies either restore wetlands damaged during their operations or pay for the damages. A competing resolution, submitted by proponents of the lawsuit, asks the authority to reaffirm its original vote approving the contract to hire the Jones, Swanson, Huddell & Garrison law firm and to authorize continued prosecution of the suit.

Lambert "Joe" Hassinger Jr. was appointed by Jindal last month to replace John Barry, after the governor made clear he would not reappoint the historian who had spearheaded the filing of the lawsuit. Jindal contends that the levee agency overstepped its authority in filing the suit and that the action conflicts with the state's coastal restoration and protection master plan.

Hassinger is the sponsor of two lawsuit-related resolutions that are set for debate at the authority's meeting on Thursday.
We simply can't allow our fixation with Louisiana's coastal marshland to endanger our fragile oil and gas industry the way we allowed our brief concern about an ongoing oil spill disaster to kill all those jobs that the moratorium certainly killed.   This is (not yet) candidate Jindal's proposition to the voters.  Will they respond positively?  Find out next month when Politico publishes his follow-up column, "Do you think I will be a good President? If you think so, please check this box. By, Bobby." 

Monday, November 18, 2013

American economy in two headlines

Dow hits new high, S&P 500 on longest win streak in nine months


Wait for it...

Walmart Store Accepts Thanksgiving Donations for Its Workers

They are trying to take Rob Ford's milks


It's not clear from the video who or what Mayor Ford was suddenly running after.  It got shared around the social pages with the caption "Ford attacks Councillor"  but he really just sort of bumbles into the poor woman. 

Anyway I'm pretty sure we'll eventually learn "Rob Ford" is an elaborate Kaufmanesque hoax so enjoy the performance while it lasts.

Oh and if you don't get the reference, you really should get the reference.

More words than I've read total about wrestling anywhere

Jules Bentley stood in line in the rain with some people trying to get Wrestlemania tickets Friday.

Sir Saint, Gumbo the Hound and a few smiling, harlequin-attired stilt-walkers roved through the thinning crowd— and when I say crowd, I mean the five different lines waiting to meet wrestlers. It was dark, it was raining, and everyone not standing in a line had left. The lines weren't moving, because the wrestlers we were waiting to meet hadn't shown up yet.

Meeting the WWE wrestlers was the only activity at this Party that didn't cost a bunch of money. The T-shirts ("I'm Going to Wrestlemania!") started at thirty dollars, the beers at five. "The newspaper said free food and drink," grumbled one of the women behind me in line. For the hungry, there were food trucks. The On-Sale Party was quintessential WWE: a festival the whole point of which was everybody giving WWE money. Even the few non-WWE vendors, like the food trucks, had paid WWE to be there. As the rain intensified, a local band came onstage. They were called Band Camp and played rock music.

A few of the Pelicans Dance Team wandered by. I asked them dumb questions about Pierre— what his favorite foods were, whether he was bothered by the team's Chevron and Shell sponsorships— and the Dance Team very politely responded they couldn't give interviews unless cleared in advance by the office. Band Camp played a Def Leppard cover.

There's more.

Sorry... fixed the formatting

Gone Hollywood

I think Rob Ryan may have gentrified Ms. Mae's, y'all.

Ms. Mae's goes Hollywood


Meanwhile, it's a short week for the Saints. Reid already has a re-cap article up underneath this great big HARBAUGH FACE. Here's the key takeaway:

The Saints have a real defense.

Not the genial, pliant, milquetoasty Gibbsian unit. Not the unsustainable, zero blitz-addled freakshow. Nor the fossilized, obstinate, inordinately complex, red-carpet-to-the-end-zone circus of pain.

No. None of that shit.

In 2013, we're talking about the real deal. Finally.

Courtesy of the shaggy, itinerant Rob Ryan--finding himself long-last at home in New Orleans, Rolling Rocks and 4-2-5's, and on a revenge tour of his own--this Saints' defense is now the differentiating factor in the hazy competitive landscape of the 2013 NFL.


Here's Ralph Malbrough's column He points out the other big deal about yesterday's game.
The Saints showed the revitalized running game against Dallas wasn't a fluke as they ground out 93 yards on 22 carries against the 49ers top 10 rated rush defense. It wasn't so much the amount of yards or attempts that mattered as much as it made the 49ers respect the Saints running game. The Saints won the battle of the line of scrimmage on offense and defense. In the two previous 49ers match-ups that wasn't the case. The offensive line played its best game of the year and if they can show this consistency on the road I give you permission to start looking for flights to New York on Expedia for February.  
Following the Jets loss, the prevailing attitude among Saints observers was the offensive line was shitty and the only way for it to become less shitty would involve personnel changes next offseason. When they gashed a not very good Dallas defense, we took it as a pleasant aberration.   But seeing them handle the physical 49ers the way they did is another thing altogether.  It's the most encouraging development of the season.


Because we are living in the post-literate age of webpaging, here are some cute pictures that tell the story quite well on their own.


Shut up, Ahmad Brooks.

Just be thankful that the NFL's overprotective of the QB rules benefited the Saints.  This means there's no way the league will do anything to strengthen those rules now.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

This act is wearing thin

Russell Honore has been talking up some great ideas in the series of appearances he's made over the past several months.
Nearing the end of the meeting, Honore gave a brief overview of ideas for possible legislation next session, which begins in March. Three preliminary ideas presented by the former Joint Task Force Katrina commander and retired army lieutenant general included:
  • Barring former industry officials from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, or DEQ
  • Increasing transparency in the Legislature by forcing lawmakers to recuse themselves from votes when they've received industry campaign contributions.
  • Reducing subsidies to the oil, gas and pipeline industries.
There comes a point, though, where we have to wonder about this schtick. 
He said his "Green Army" -- the loosely affiliated environmental activist groups and concerned citizens with which he's been meeting -- will fight "through blood, sweat and tears. We're going to do this."
Really? I mean we all know about the negative effects of oil and gas on our state's politics and environment.  And, sure, we know Honore was an army guy type. (Ray Nagin famously called him a "John Wayne dude.") But do we really have to go around playing like we're in a "Green Army" bleeding and sweating over everything and whatnot?  Can't we just say we're supporting a reform agenda during the coming legislative session since that's actually what we're doing?

The hyperbolic self-aggrandizing pretend language is the sort of thing Jim Letten or Ed Blakely would lay on us.  It's condescending at best and, at worst, indicative of a person who is not sincere in his words. 

Jindal Fatigue

Louisiana's Fifth Congressional District has a new representative this evening.   And it's not Bobby Jindal's preferred candidate, Neil Riser.
Riser, meanwhile, was supported by outgoing congressman Rodney Alexander, House Majority Leader Eric Cantor and the entire GOP contingent of the Louisiana congressional delegation except U.S. Sen. David Vitter. He also raised huge sums for the race and was long seen as the frontrunner, until McAllister started gaining traction just ahead of the October primary.

While some thought the all-Republican runoff would be marked by each candidate running to the far right of ever issue, McAllister took leave of the usual party line during a debate last week by coming out in support of optional Medicaid expansion offered under the Affordable Care Act.

McAllister said he disagreed with Gov. Bobby Jindal's decision not to accept the expansion because of the economic make-up of the 5th District. According to census data, the district is one of the poorest in the nation with nearly 25 percent of its more than 750,000 people living below the poverty line in 2010 and 21 without health insurance.
Last week, President Obama visited the Port of New Orleans where he took a moment to call out Governor Jindal for refusing the Medicaid expansion thus sabotaging health care reform at the expense of Louisiana's most vulnerable residents.   Jindal, then, accused the President of "bullying" him. 

Whether the few voters who turned out in LA-05 tonight were thinking about health reform or they just wanted to show up Jindal is up for debate, but whatever the reason, it's safe to assume the Governor is feeling a little pushed around again.  One supposes Jindal still thinks he can run for President. But the candidates he either supports or stumps for have been on a losing streak.

Depending on your interpretation of this result it could instruct the way state candidates position themselves with regard to the Affordable Care Act next year. Much of this strategy will rest on Obama's ability to weather his current "Obama's Katrina" shitstorm.   Here's an intriguing analysis by Kos of Mary Landrieu's approach.
So enter Sen. Mary Landrieu's fix to this issue (see here and here for details). In short, it would allow people to keep their crappy individual insurance policies, but insurance companies would be unable to keep selling them to new customers, and they'd have to let their customers know why the government considers their policies crap and point them to the exchanges for other options. The idea may not be a home run on the policy side, but Democrats don't have the benefit of perfect policy having botched this thing so badly (from original passage to implementation). But even on the policy, it's not terrible.

But on the politics? Woo-boy it's a winner! Remember, some policies are being cancelled because they are substandard. Some are being cancelled because insurance companies are trying to scam their customers into more expensive plans. In both cases, the problem is the insurance companies.

Right now, the blame is being put on Obama and the Democrats. This bill would turn things around and put the pressure exactly where it belongs: on insurance companies and obstructionist Republicans.

Republicans are acting as if these insurance cancellations are the worst thing since Hitler. Well, put them on the spot: Are they really interested in mitigating the law's unintended injustices (whether real or perceived), or do they merely want to undermine its implementation for sabotage purposes?

We know the answer, of course. Landrieu's bill doesn't have a prayer of passing. Republicans will obstruct it every step of the way. But instead of having Obama taking away your insurance, we'll reverse the equation: It'll now be Republicans defending the ability of insurance companies to cancel those policies.

Heading into 2014, that may be the difference between retaining the political high ground, or facing another 2010. Landrieu's gambit is genius.
I'll admit that's subtle.  Maybe a little too subtle, though. I'm certainly no industry insider but everything I read about what health insurance industry insiders say suggests they get all frowny when you start doing anything that monkeys around with their "risk pool" projections and that this could mean bad things for prices next year.  I suspect a lot of that is bullshit  but then so is the whole conceit that we can keep the insurance companies in the health reform game at all and expect a decent outcome.  But maybe Mary does have a brilliant plan to save herself, if no one else. 

There isn't much to say about the judgeship results.  Pretty much what everyone expected in both races.

The same can be said for the security districts on the ballot, each of which passed and each of which is terrible.  Here's a fun fact, though, about the so-called Twinbrook Security District. The little square of Uptown it encompasses adopted that name from the old New Orleans telephone exchange system.
Decades ago, when telephone companies worried that seven-digit phone numbers would be too difficult to remember, they gave the three-digit “exchanges” memorable names, Friend said. Residences in the area had numbers that started with 891-, 895-, 897- or 899-, and the phone company took the “T” on the 8 and the “W” on the 9 to call the area Twinbrook. Thus, callers in the old days phoning someone at 895-1111 would ask the operator for “Twinbrook 5-1111.”

Those exchanges have been out of use since the 1960s, Friend said, but the Twinbrook name returned just after Hurricane Katrina. When the Baronne Street Neighborhood Association asked the state legislature to authorize a tax district for private security patrols in 2006, they chose the name Twinbrook Security District for the board that would govern the fee collections.
Here is a list of  New Orleans telephone exchanges, if you happen to be interested in such geekery.

This link (could.. possibly) send you to a photo I found on the parallel internet of the now demolished Scheinuk Florist on St. Charles Avenue. Above the front door, the business' phone number is displayed in neon lighting. It includes the TW exchange prefix.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Elections today

I get the feeling the idea behind this round of judicial elections was to first see how low we could possibly get voter turnout to go in the primary, and then try to break that record. But I recommend getting out to vote anyway.  We peons have so little power in this pseudo-democracy as it is, the least we can do is show up at the polls periodically just for the sake of being cranky.

Here's the full slate of stuff on the various ballots via NOLA.com.

In Orleans Parish, you're looking at two yawners of run-offs. One is for Magistrate Judge (the guy who sets your bail bond whenever Serpas hauls you in at a traffic checkpoint or random stop-and-frisk).  The candidates are attorney Mark Vicknair and Councilwoman Cantrell's father-in-law.

The other is for a Traffic Court seat which may not even exist anymore after the next legislative session.
Steven Jupiter and Clint Smith, both campaign newcomers, outlasted six opponents Oct. 19 to force a runoff. Jupiter had a slight lead by winning 23 percent of the vote to Smith's 17 percent, but their rematch will take place on a whole new landscape.

After all, "60 percent of the voters didn't vote for me or Clint," Jupiter said.

Alongside a runoff for magistrate judge in Criminal District Court, the Traffic Court special election sharpens focus on a growing concern over what some officials have called Orleans Parish's bloated judiciary. Mayor Mitch Landrieu this spring failed to convince the Legislature to remove two judgeships from the Juvenile Court's six-member bench, even as he builds a new courthouse with only four courtrooms. And a government watchdog group, the Bureau of Governmental Research, reported that the Judicial Council's own formula for determining a judgeship's efficacy showed New Orleans could do without 25 of its judges.
This seat is regarded as a plum because it allows the judge to collect a six figure salary for "part time" work while continuing to maintain a private law practice.   Regardless of what you may think of that, both of these candidates have some comforting words for voters.
Each candidate says the job of a judge extends out of the courtroom and into the community, and each says he will do whatever he can to educate residents about the law and the dangers and headaches of breaking it.

Both promise to treat each defendant before them with fairness and consideration. Both said the punishment should fit the crime, and that judges should be mindful of financial constraints and the difficulty of skipping work to deal with minor traffic infractions.

Jupiter calls the court’s current practices a “money grab,” with excessive fees, a cattle-call-like system, and little record of where money ends up.

He promises to bring the court into the 21st century, with automated notifications, online ticket payment and video conferencing for witnesses who can’t appear in court.

Smith said he believes the current process for reviewing widely loathed traffic-camera tickets is unfair, and he promises to see what can be done to ensure scofflaws are given a fair shake.
Meanwhile there are a couple of ballot initiatives regarding parcel fees for, among other dubious purposes, empowering Eastover and some part of Uptown calling itself "Twinbrook" to keep paying their private police patrols.  A year ago, WWLTV produced an excellent report on the security district balkanization of New Orleans.  I added some dumb comments at the time. This seems like a good time to review that.

For those of you who do this at the last minute, the Louisiana Secretary of State's website makes it pretty easy to find your polling location. LSU isn't playing today (and their season is over anyway.) So you might as well get out and participate in something sporting this afternoon.  Why not go vote? 

Friday, November 15, 2013

"Obama's Katrina" of the week

This has been an ongoing media meme for several years now.  Why is everyone suddenly up in arms about it this particular time?

I'm not defending it, of course. It's terrible. But it's also very very stale.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Are we really that close to Carnival season?

I thought it was a late one this year.  Also is the guy who played House really enough of a has been D-lister yet to be Bacchus?
Hugh Laurie, who was announced as the super krewe's celebrity king, proclaimed his excitement on Twitter on Thursday.

"I am shirt-bustingly proud to announce that I have been offered the Throne of Bacchus in the next Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Be there!!" he posted to the social media site.

"My reign will be firm but benevolent. Peace and harmony will be upon the land, and the crops will thrive. Please don't get up," he said.
Bonus item: Two more Jefferson Parish parades cancel for 2014. The krewes blame new parade quality regulations but, as we've mentioned before, there's also the anti-suburbanization trend to consider.
The challenge for Thor was that its members tended to drift to New Orleans, Cantrell said. "It just got harder and harder to keep the membership interested in riding in a Metairie krewe," Cantrell said. "You can start a parade in New Orleans and the next year get 600 or 700 members who want the atmosphere of St. Charles" Avenue."

Indeed, the allure of the Uptown parade route was cited by the krewes of Alla and Choctaw for their moves from the West Bank to St. Charles Avenue.
What's being lost here, though, is the idea that a parade is a neighborhood event.  We've already decided to just jam all the Orleans Parish parades down St. Charles Avenue. Now we're even doing that with the suburban krewes.

The proponents of Jefferson's new ordinance say they're opting for "quality over quantity" in their now reduced parade schedule.  If I were Hugh Laurie-esque benevolent ruler of all Carnival, my decree would be that we aim for just the opposite.  Not every happening during the season needs to be a super-krewe.

What if, instead, there were more varied events; 'tit-Rexes and Chewbacchuses and the like in different parts of the city?  Better to have many smaller parades that roll through and enliven various neighborhoods than a limited number of standardized and marginally distinguishable parades along one heavily touristed route.

Update: Multiple routes might come in pretty handy over the next few years anyway.
The crape myrtle trees were the first to go. The king of Carnival could be next.

As part of a plan to improve drainage in Uptown New Orleans, workers this week began cutting down more than two dozen trees along a 10-block stretch of the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground.

The three-year construction project also may result in the rerouting of several Carnival parades in 2015 and 2016, a Police Department spokesman said Thursday.

Sproles for MVP

In Monday's Saints game recap (Yes! One of those happened!) I noted that in every game I've watched Darren Sproles play this year, there's been some point where I drunkenly tweet a bunch of noise about him being the most valuable player on the Saints' offense.  But I can never remember what the specific thing is that's motivating me to say that.

Luckily I am not the only person watching these games.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Serpas Signal

That Rob Ford story reminds us that if you are planning your own crack/oxy/liquor fueled all-night hooker bash this Thursday night, please be advised of the traffic regulations.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Thursday November 14, 2013, 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.
Drive carefully.

The Silicon Bayou's true captain

Rob Ford
Mayor Rob Ford snorted cocaine, swilled vodka, popped a dose of Oxycontin and partied with an apparent prostitute during an all-night binge last year that raved from his office to a private room in a Toronto bar, Ford staffers and bar employees alleged to police investigating the mayor. 
Ford's greatest regret is never having had the opportunity to work with Greg Meffert or Aaron Bennett.

But how will Rob Ryan get to Ms Mae's?

Quick follow-up to yesterday's post about the SELA work on Napoleon Avenue.  The heavy duty disruption is scheduled to begin in January.
The removal of the trees may be the least of the worries. Starting in January, the project will progress to a different phase of construction that will require more space, which means street parking in the affected areas of Napoleon will be discontinued.

"It will be a little cramped. We make sure at least one of traffic in each direction on Napoleon Avenue will be moving," said Wingate.

This particular section of the Napoleon Avenue SELA project is expected to finish in 2016.
This means two things.  First, the disruption of traffic along Napoleon Avenue will cause a re-routing of most Uptown Carnival parades for at least the next two years.  Maybe someone knows what the plan is for that. I don't yet.

Second, should the Saints manage to get themselves a home playoff game in January, it might be a little tricky for fans get to the after party. 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

How much land was destroyed?

Jefferson and Plaquemines Parishes have decided to sue oil and gas companies for damage done to coastal wetlands due to their negligence in defiance of the law.
The parishes each filed their own set of lawsuits covering 28 oilfields in their jurisdictions. The cases are rooted in a 1978 law that created stricter requirements for oil and gas companies over the objections of industry groups. Among the regulations in that law were the duty to maintain the sites being used and “cleared, revegetated, detoxified and otherwise restored as near as practicable to their original condition upon termination of the operations to the maximum extent practicable.”

None of the companies ever filed permits indicating they were restoring those fields.

Should the parishes succeed, the industry would have to pay to restore that damage or provide compensation for the land destroyed. The exact amount of the suit, and the total amount of land involved in the case, are not clear.
And so a fully funded coastal erosion denial campaign was born. 

First they came for the trees


The massive SELA drainage project (proudly preventing Uptown New Orleans from driving in any direction) is finally about to cross St. Charles and move onto lower Napoleon Avenue.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New Orleans District recently awarded a 38-month contract to provide increased drainage for the Uptown area. The contract includes canal improvements along Napoleon Avenue between Carondelet and Constance Streets. The project, which is part of the Southeast Louisiana Project (SELA), will reduce the risk of damages from a 10-year rainfall event. A 10-year event is basically a rain storm that has a 10% annual probability of occurrence and equates to approximately 9 inches of rain over a 24-hour period for our area.

On September 26, 2013, the Corps awarded a $38 million contract to Boh Bros Construction Co. The contract calls for constructing approximately 3,000 linear feet of a concrete covered box culvert under the neutral ground along Napoleon Avenue from Carondelet Street to Constance Street. The new culvert will parallel an existing box culvert and will tie in to the new culvert under Napoleon Avenue at Carondelet Street and the existing box culvert at Constance Street. A notice to proceed will be issued early October and construction will be completed in the fall of 2016.

The Corps continues to work closely with its partners at the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority and the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans on the SELA program. To date, a total of 17 contracts have been awarded in Orleans Parish to date, with work completed on 10 of those projects. All scheduled SELA work in Orleans Parish should be finished in 2018.

Today the crews arrived to prepare the neutral ground for excavation by murdering the crepe myrtle trees that live there.

Tree killin'

Having passed that way fairly often for a number of years, I had gotten into the habit of keeping time by those trees.

In the late spring they start to bloom.


By mid summer they are in full blossom.

Napoleon Avenue summertime

Their fall foliage becomes a brilliant orange for a brief time.

Crepe myrtle leaves are starting to turn

And adds a rust tone to the avenue by the time winter comes along.


I'm told by people who worry about such things that their flowers can get goo all over your car's paint job if you park under them when this is happening.

Crepe myrtle detritus

During Carnival these trees fill up with a different sort of blossom. I have shockingly few decent photos of this. Here is a close up of a bead tree that fell over last year.

Bead tree down

This is a more dramatic example on St. Charles.

Bead tree

Here's what they looked like that one time I saw them in the snow.

Snow on the crepe myrtles

And now they're gone. I'm not sure what sort of landscaping is planned for these neutral grounds when the project is finished. Guess we'll have to wait 3-5 years to find out.

Former tree

Which pimp is best for you?

Ezra Klein:
Twitter is driving less than a tenth of Facebook's traffic -- and it's flattening out.

Yet journalists -- and, quite often, the organizations that employ them -- clearly prefer Twitter. They put enormous effort into building Twitter brands and coming up with Twitter strategies. That's the impression the social-media vendors get and the social-network employees get. It's true for every journalist I know, and it's true for me, too.

The reason, I think, is that Twitter is simply more useful for our jobs. For better or worse, it's where news breaks today. It's also where a lot of real-time reporting happens. The bulk of Robert Costa's shutdown reporting happened on Twitter. For weeks on end, he managed to dominate the top political story in the country in 140-character bursts. As a journalist, if you wanted to stay on top of much of the best reporting you simply have to be on Twitter.
That's not quite it, though.  More important than the sheer number of users, or even Klein's theory about the number of users who are journalists, are the dynamics that exist among users of each network. 

Twitter facilitates sharing and discussion among readers who aren't as connected to one another socially while Facebook just kind of tosses things out into the bloat. People talk to each other on Twitter because they're interested in the same thing at the same time.  People talk to each other on Facebook because they happen to know each other.

On Twitter, what's actually driving the discussion is the content itself. A series of Tweets will say, "Look at this NEWS ITEM everyone is talking about." Maybe a hashtag will develop and bring in even more people.  New connections are created. And those connections are relevant to interest in a common topic.

On Facebook the focus is more on the person talking and who that person happens to know. Your Facebook friend will post something. Everyone who responds will be either a personal acquaintance of (even worse) a relative of that person. They will talk about the person as much as they will the actual topic. As in, "Oh lord THIS DUDE is on about some shit again." If there is conversation, it's limited to a fairly closed circle. It doesn't draw new people in or advance the issue as well.

Twitter's dynamics bring people together around issues. It's more likely to encourage strangers to meet and potentially even act on their common interests.  Facebook does the opposite.  It lets things go in isolated, controlled burns. Nobody follows a hashtag on Facebook.

In many cases, in fact, Facebook convention is more likely to discourage public affairs talk.   Here are 13 million Google search results for "Facebook politics blocker"  It's understandable, of course. Imagine Thanksgiving dinner with your racist drunken uncle.  Now imagine that every time you go on the internet.  So while there are technically more "eyeballs" looking at Facebook, sharing your content there creates a less potent impact than it can via Twitter.

On the other hand, if you work for a media company who doesn't really give a shit what its readers think or how the content it publishes affects the world it reports on, then maybe you really should develop a Facebook-centric social media strategy.  And since that probably describes the large majority of media companies anyway, I suppose that's exactly the direction things are headed.

Might want to dump that Twitter stock you bought last week.

Welcome to the Louisiana "industrial rennaissance"

"The ride has just begun," an annoying media personality opines.

Hope you've got your seat belts fastened and your tray tables up and your phone... well I don't know what you're supposed to do with your phone anymore... but the important thing is that you know how to operate the oxygen mask.
Louisiana’s 17 refineries and two associated chemical plants averaged six accidents per week in 2012, resulting in the release of 2.3 million pounds of pollution, according to a study released Tuesday by the Louisiana Bucket Brigade.

The study was co-sponsored by the Standard Heights Community Association in Baton Rouge, Residents for Air Neutralization of Shreveport, the United Steelworkers, and the Occupational Health and Safety Section of the American Public Health Association.