Friday, August 30, 2013

"The NFL expects only 'positive press"'

Maybe, as an adult reader, I shouldn't be as amazed by this stuff as I am but I don't understand how they can comply with this sort of thing and then expect their readers to take them seriously.
I learned firsthand of the NFL's sensitivity to criticism of inaction on health issues in the run up to the 1997 Super Bowl in New Orleans. At that time the Superdome had a towering spire in its parking lot topped by billboard featuring the Marlboro Man. Similarly, inside the Dome were several strategically positioned ads for cigarettes. The Louisiana Tobacco Free Kids organized a children's demonstration in the shadow of the Marlboro Man to protest the connection between smoking and sports. The adults present also questioned whether television cameras catching sight of the tobacco ads during game broadcasts violated the ban on TV cigarette advertising. Several news outlets, including national newspapers, reported on the protest, but not the hometown The New Orleans Times-Picayune. A reporter subsequently explained to me that in awarding Super Bowls the NFL expects only "positive press" from local news outlets during the event. Executives worried that the League might count it against the city if the paper carried a report that effectively highlighted the NFL's unwillingness to stand against kids smoking.
To be fair, the T-P reporting around the Super Bowl  this year wasn't all glowing positivity.. although there certainly was a lot of that.  I didn't think this article said the most positive things about what the NFL does for the city and state, for example.  


Was just kind of asking about this with regard to Isaac follow-up this week.
The state Department of Environmental Quality confirmed that Stolthaven New Orleans LLC in Braithwaite had a chemical spill about 10:15 a.m. Friday. DEQ spokesman Tim Beckstrom said that release of methyl acrylate was stopped about 11:50 a.m. and that agency employees were on the scene on Friday afternoon "conducting air monitoring in the community."
 This is not the first problem they've had.

Happy Birthday, Huey Long

120 years old today.

Kingfish restaurant in the Quarter is holding a (campy, perhaps, but what the hay) "lookalike contest" in Huey's honor today. Unfortunately Spud McConnell will probably be there so decide for yourselves if you really want to participate.

Lies of omission

Al Jazeera America's feature on New Orleans 8 years post-K.

New Orleans: Two Cities from Jazeera Clips on Vimeo.

As with 99% of the mountain of docu-drama and agit-prop to have grown out of Katrina, there are some problems with this film. It tries so hard to tell the story it wants to tell that it deliberately omits, simplifies, or obscures facts the filmmakers fear might weaken their argument. That's a shame because the inaccuracy blunts rather than sharpens the effect of their statement. But watch it anyway. It reveals a myth at the heart of the post-K era even if it presents it in an imperfect fashion.

For example, there's an interview with a local craftsman named Henry Artigue who is described as a"having recently moved to Bywater" in a way that implies he's one of those stereotypical "young professionals from somewhere else" we hear so much about.  Turns out, though, he's moved to Bywater all the way from Uptown. The filmmakers could have said that and lost no narrative value from it but they seemed to want his comments to have maximum dramatic appeal.

This isn't necessary, though. The statement stands on its own. About the prospect of displaced New Orleanians who haven't been able to come back ever returning, Artigue adds a condition.

"I'd like to see them come home, but they have to get a job."  

The myth of the New Orleans "comeback" is built upon the premise that people who had little and lost everything were themselves the problem all along. It doesn't surprise me at all to hear this sentiment expressed by a local.  It's an articulation of a latent class hostility that has existed here as long as I've been alive and which the Katrina flood unleashed with devastating consequences. 

In so many ways post-Katrina New Orleans has realized the aspirations of local conservatives stretching back for generations.  Public housing decimated, public education privatized, public health services greatly reduced and privatized, white mayor elected, tourism scene attracting all the right sort of boutique development, rents up, longtime Uptown Republican Councilwoman Peggy Wilson only wishes she could have achieved even one of these revanchist items during her political career. In the post-Katrina environment they all sailed through as "common-sense reforms."

Population growth is OK but only limited to a certain kind of person. You know, the good kind of people who fit in with the new plan.  At Wednesday night's District B Community Budget Meeting, real estate agent, Jackie Clarkson told the audience she was thrilled to see the city attract so many "young people" of the "creative class." Meaning, of course, people who can afford to buy expensive houses. 

To people like Jackie, there's a clear narrative.  Before Katrina, the city was being held back by poor people. Pres Kabacoff called them a "drag on the city's economy" meaning they lived on land he wanted to  develop.  After Katrina the "drags" have been removed and so the city has "undergone a renaissance."  

But even this, ugly as it sounds, is an illusion.  

Here are some statistics from GNOCDC's Katrina Index that run counter to Jackie's and Pres's enthusiasm.
The poverty rate in the New Orleans metro declined from 18 percent in 1999 to 15 percent in 2007, but then increased to 19 percent in 2011, such that it is now statistically unchanged since 1999. In New Orleans itself, the 2011 poverty rate of 29 percent is also statistically the same as in 1999 after falling to 21 percent in 2007.
So, according to Kabacoff, shouldn't we expect the "drag on the economy" to remain fully in place?  Or can we still have a renaissance if we just move the drag out of the immediate area we'd like to renew?
Post–Katrina housing is unaffordable with 54 percent of renters in the city paying more than 35 percent of their pre–tax income on rent and utilities in 2011, up from 43 percent of renters in 2004.
Bill Quigley refers to the GNOCDC numbers as the "2013 Katrina Pain Index"
The last of the five big traditional public housing complexes was ordered demolished in May. About a third of the 5000 plus displaced residents have found other public housing according to National Public Radio.

Public transportation is still down from pre-Katrina levels. Pre-Katrina about 13 percent of workers used public transportation, now 7.8.

Public education has been completely changed since Katrina with almost 80 percent of students attending charters, far and away the highest percentage in the country reports the Tulane Cowen Institute.

The poverty rate in New Orleans is 29 percent, nearly double the national rate of 16 percent. However, GNOCDC reports the majority of the poor people in the metro area now reside in the suburban parishes outside New Orleans.
The cost of living in New Orleans has skyrocketed while every means of support for low income families has been ripped out from beneath. The rent is too damn high. The school system is an impenetrable maze. City services are being cut, privatized, or subtly shifted to meet the expectations of a wealthier population rather than the needs of the poor.

More to the point, though, overall poverty in New Orleans hasn't even been reduced.  It's just been shifted out of the way where it can be more easily ignored.  The "renaissance" people like Jackie Clarkson tend to celebrate is really only a shift in political power and priorities that benefits their side. 

Thursday morning I couldn't help but notice that the famous print edition of the Daily Georges left any mention of the Katrina flood off of A-1. This week's Gambit scarcely mentions it at all.  There was no acknowledgement of the date anywhere on their frequently updated website either. 

I understand the desire to not appear as though you're trying to exploit the memory of the day for attention, for "web hits," to sell T-Shirts or whatever. But I think both the Advocate and Gambit made a mistake. In consciously downplaying the significance of the day, these opinion-making news organizations are playing directly into the Kabacoff-Clarkson thesis that Katrina happened, Katrina ended, and now everything is better. 

But the fact is Katrina is still happening. It is, in the form of federal disaster aid, the source of all capital, all patronage, and  all economic activity to speak of currently in play in New Orleans.  Its attendant "demographic shifts"... made more permanent by the selling off of the school system, the destruction of public housing, and the favor shown to upscale re-development... has allowed the conservative faction to solidify its grip on political power.  It is the catalyst for everything the money power in New Orleans has gained these past  8 years and everything the rest of us have lost.

To ignore it, or to suggest that it is a closed chapter in our history, is to tell a fundamental lie about everything happening in the city today and for many years to come.

And the longer we tell that lie, the greater credence we give to Mr. Artigue's and Mr. Kabacoff's and Ms. Clarkson's assertion that the city is better off for having abandoned its most vulnerable residents. 

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Do something nice for someone on 8/29

Red Cross could always use some help.

So could Habitat.

We're all pretty familiar with a range of organizations who do good work during disasters. Pick your favorite.

Or you could help with Deb's medical fund which I understand will be an ongoing need for some time.

Here's something she wrote this week which kind of dovetails with what I was just talking about in the previous post.
Governments are only as effective as the communities that watch them. People scream for an end to violence, but shrug and take another bite of their po’ boy sandwich when they hear that $6 million was squandered on a development that never got off the ground, or on some program that was supposed to address crime but never resulted in one conviction. If the people voting leaders into power do not demand accountability, who will?
By the way, Deb Cotton is scheduled to be the featured speaker at this year's Rising Tide Conference.

RT was itself born as a response to the flooding of New Orleans after Katrina and remains dedicated to the idea that communities should watch their governments.   This year's conference is scheduled for September 14.  That seems like a lot further away from now than it is but it will be here soon.  There will be some program announcements in the coming days. But since you guys are loyal followers of this dumb little blog, I can tell you that inside sources say what you don't see on the schedule yet will include discussions on problems of transparency in the charter school system as well as New Orleans's  relationship with its tourism industry.

Anyway the conference is always a good deal (includes lunch!) and is a great way to meet and work with other civic-minded New Orleanians. Consider giving it a look.


Remember back during the Nagin-managed recovery when your house could suddenly be declared in "Imminent Danger of Collapse" and demolished without warning?  Remember how everyone kept telling you stuff like that would stop happening when we just got some grown-ups in charge at City Hall?

Yeah, well.
Eight years after the hurricane upended her life, James, 47, had outlasted the misery of temporary relocation — first to Texas, then to a Baton Rouge shelter. She had prevailed, more or less, in skirmishes with her insurer, her mortgage company and New Orleans city bureaucrats. The Road Home program had finally coughed up $52,000, and she had a city building permit in hand to rehab her beloved family home on Pauline Street in the Upper 9th Ward.

This past January, a contractor set to work and James joyfully told her daughter that the house should be ready for her son to occupy as he began the fall semester at the University of New Orleans. New doors and windows, still bearing the trademark stickers, are clearly visible in the photograph that a city inspector shot on a visit to the property in March.

But on July 16, James’ world caved in with the suddenness of a floodwall  undermined by surging stormwater. That day, the man she had hired to maintain her lawn notified her that her house had been bulldozed, without prior warning.

 James tearfully described the shock of receiving the call. “I didn’t know what to do. I called the police and filed a report. I just didn’t know who to call.”

Adding insult to deep injury, the city sent her a bill to cover the cost of the demolition.
It's another example of why we need to expect things of our politicians besides just baseline qualities like competence and efficiency.  The actual agenda is what matters. And at the top of Mitch's agenda is "blight reduction."
The New Orleans City Council has approved sweeping revisions to the city's building codes that are designed to combat blight by setting minimum standards for all properties, including occupied housing.

The new rules, which give the city broader enforcement powers and the ability to impose stricter penalties on non-compliant homeowners, won't solve all of the problems with New Orleans' housing stock, but they are a "welcome first step toward amending the code to allow the administration more reasonable and effective tools to combat blight," said Councilwoman Stacy Head.

The six-month process to revise the code was praised by members of the public at last week's council meeting, but some raised concerns that the new ordinances go too far and will hurt the most vulnerable people.
The priorities are "Blight" first, "Vulnerable people" something like 70th.  That sort of thing doesn't change administration to administration. Sometimes you get a little more efficient, though, which means you can execute the priorities faster.

Serpas Signal

Traffic signal at St. Charles and Napoleon downed by Hurricane Katrina. Still down in December 2005. 

NOPD is commemorating the eighth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Federal Flood in the only way they know how. 
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Thursday, August 29, 2013, in Orleans Parish. The check point will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.
As we know, the announcements no longer get any more specific than "Orleans Parish."  Maybe they'll set up at the Danzinger Bridge just for the sake of sentiment.

Anyway, drive safely.  This is not a time for contraflow. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Somewhat surprising quote of the day

Bobby Jindal:  
“BP needs to stop spending hundreds of millions of dollars on their public relations campaign telling us how great they are and start proving it by addressing their Clean Water Act and Natural Resources Damage liabilities now,”
This was at a meeting of the inter-state council charged with spending the Clean Water Act fines the Gulf States will be awarded at the end of the BP trial. There's more to read there but the Governor's language was striking given his stern defense of the oil industry in other legal arenas. 

Chemical soup

Isaac Aug 28
Hurricane Isaac just off the coast of Louisiana August 28, 2012

Whatever became of all this?  I'm sure it's been magic-microbed away by now.
In the wake of Hurricane Isaac last August, at least 341,000 gallons of oil, chemicals and untreated waste-water were released by area oil, coal, gas and petrochemical facilities, according to a report released Tuesday (August 6).

The report by the Gulf Monitoring Consortium, which examined National Response Center and Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality data, stated that facilities also released about 192 tons of gasses and other materials – or about 355,000 pounds. The report also notes that oil from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon continued to wash ashore as a result of the hurricane.
Update: Also, in a related matter, there's this.

An analysis of water, sediment and seafood samples taken in 2010 during and after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has found higher contamination levels in some cases than previous studies by federal agencies did, casting doubt on some of the earlier sampling methods.

The lead author, Paul W. Sammarco of the Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium, said that dispersants used to break up the oil might have affected some of the samples. He said that the greater contamination called into question the timing of decisions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to reopen gulf fisheries after the spill and that “it might be time to review the techniques that are used to determine” such reopenings. 

Last night of the tour

District B Community Budgetchella finishes off the party tonight at KIPP Central City Academy, 2514 Third St.  Probably we won't see the Mayor do any twerking in the final number although you never know when you're liable to catch him in one of these moments.

If you can't be there to capture the magic in person, you can always try The Lens' live-blog.

Still silent

Yesterday I linked to this article from Bob Marshall  where he wondered why some prominent Louisiana environmental groups weren't supporting the SLFPA-E's lawsuit against the oil and gas industry.
Yet three weeks later, the National Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Audubon Society remain silent on the lawsuit.

After working separately for a couple years, the three groups joined together in 2008 to create the Restore the Mississippi River Delta coalition, a well-funded drive to gain national support for salvaging the state’s abused, collapsing coast. A large part of that effort has been championing the state’s Coastal Master Plan, developed by the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority. The state authority is headed by Garret Graves, an outspoken critic of the lawsuit.

Restore spokesmen said the coalition’s mission" saving the coast" is the reason for its silence on the lawsuit, not the politics of its working relationship with the CPRA.

When The Lens asked local officials with the three national groups for their organization’s position on the lawsuit, all of them referred to a joint statement that acknowledges damage by the oil and gas industry and recognizes that wetlands loss hinders flood protection" the case made by the flood protection authority. The statement stops short of supporting the suit.
Today a coalition of organizations who do support the lawsuit held a press conference to affirm their position and to take shots at the Governor.
At a New Orleans news conference, environmental groups presented a list of 231 contributions to Jindal state election campaigns between 2003 and 2013 by oil and gas companies and executives that total $1,019,777.

The Jindal administration has criticized a lawsuit filed by the East Bank levee authority against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies.

Representatives of the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice, Global Green, League of Women Voters, Levees.org, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, Sierra Club, and Vietnamese American Young Leaders Association of New Orleans attended the news conference Wednesday.
 I don't see any of Marshall's big three organizations listed among them. 

Just blatantly trolling

I'm pretty sure Duncan is just fishing for reactions here so I'm already sorry for biting. But this whole statement beginning with simply, "Listening to (Cowherd)"is just a failure to be human.

South_Park_Compares_Student_Athletes_to_Slaves by temankilla12

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Hey also how about let's not go kill a bunch more innocent people

Oh well, no arguing with the "smart guys" though, I guess.

Sympathy for the hobbits

Listen to me, hobbits.

I'm thinking about beginning all of my correspondence with that opening from now on. Yesterday I said that the Letten-O'Keefe video "does not disappoint." I might have understated my feelings a bit.

It is every bit the big-pompous-asshole-screams-bizarre-unconventional-insults-at-annoying-little-twerp bit of comedy gold I had imagined it could be the moment we learned of the encounter.

Since yesterday afternoon, I've watched it at least 50 times.  Every time I laugh loudest at some new aspect.  There's the way Letten holds the phone steady next to his reddened face as he shouts. There's the part where he, literally, throws the book at O'Keefe. There's the line "All of you, you're hobbits. You are less than I can ever tell you. You are scum. Do you understand?" It's the, "Do you understand?" part that gets me.  I think this rhetorical treasure should be recreated on stage for future generations to ponder. Like the Lincoln-Douglas debates.  

So it's a wonderful blessing and we should be thankful for it.  But also pay attention to what it also might tell us about the already infamous sloppiness of Letten's office.
This background adds an interesting dimension to O’Keefe’s claim that Mann, or someone on her team, leaked privileged emails between O’Keefe and his lawyer, in an attempt to drive media coverage against him. In the second video, O’Keefe says that Attorney General Eric Holder pressured Letten’s office to prosecute O’Keefe (presumably for political reasons).

The videos note some of the many interconnections in and outside Letten’s office. For example, Mann and her husband were both top prosecutors, and Sen. Landrieu’s brother Maurice was a prosecutor on staff. The second video quotes from a letter O’Keefe’s attorneys sent to the Department of Justice asking that Mann recuse herself from the case due to “intertwining political issues.” (According to O’Keefe, there was no response to the request.)

The letter failed to mention a relevant fact that I’ve wondered about: Mann grew up with Landrieu. They were classmates at Ursuline Academy (both were class of ‘73 graduates). Further, Mann’s father — Joseph Maselli — a proud Italian-American and fervent foe of ethnic and racial bigotry, proposed building the Piazza d’Italia to Mayor Moon Landrieu. (The plaza is now undergoing renovations under Moon’s son, Mayor Mitch Landrieu).  Indeed, according to Maselli’s Oct. 23, 2009, obituary in The Times-Picayune, Moon Landrieu was an honorary pallbearer for Maselli. So Mann grew up with Mary Landrieu, and their fathers were friends.

This seems to be the basis of a pretty clear conflict of interest. Letten’s recusal might have given the appearance of fairness, but Mann may have had more of a conflict than her boss! If so, Mann should not have prosecuted the case and should have recused herself along with Letten.
And, of course, there's more there. Go read

The quiet storm

Stay Away Isaac

One year ago today we were all hunkering down and getting into "battle rhythm" and stuff as local officials plied us with press conference after podium packed press conference in advance of Hurricane Isaac.

It was all big fun until the power went out and then stayed out for days afterward forcing New Orleanians to relocate their hunkering operations to the nearest generator-powered barroom until further notice.

Cool in here!

Meanwhile, outside of the (supposedly) super-improved New Orleans levee system, actual terror.
In Braithwaite, where everyone had water up to the ceiling, people waited on roofs and on the Mississippi River levee for rescue, many with children and pets in tow. Two people drowned in Braithwaite, among five in Louisiana who lost their lives.

Parts of Braithwaite had flooded during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and the community was left outside the new, post-Katrina system of federal levees and floodwalls. Yet despite its devastation and perilous location, hundreds of families have returned to Braithwaite’s still-ravaged landscape.

The damage caused by Isaac was surprising given the relative weakness of the storm.
Though a mere Category 1 storm, Isaac lingered along the Louisiana coast for days before making landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River on Aug. 29, 2012, bringing an outsized surge with it. The storm’s size and path pushed much of that water into western Lake Pontchartrain and right into St. John Parish, which has no lakefront levees.

The water took residents by surprise — not only was Isaac seen as a relatively minor threat, such extensive flooding had never occurred in St. John. Many parish residents theorized that the $14.5 billion in improvements made to the New Orleans-area levee system after Hurricane Katrina left the surge nowhere to go but LaPlace. But a post-Isaac review by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers found that the improved levees in the city “could not have significantly influenced” flooding elsewhere.
The new levee system may not have left outlying areas more vulnerable (according to the Corps, anyway) but the unchecked destruction of the Louisiana coast certainly has.

You may have noticed Governor Jindal on (yet another) major national media tour this week.  He talked to David Gregory about school vouchers and advised Politico that racism happens because minorities don't try hard enough to be whiter. No national outlet asked him to comment on the SLFPA-E's lawsuit against the oil and gas industry, though. And he certainly didn't volunteer any opinions.

Last night at the District D Community Budget Jambaroo, Harry Shearer asked Mayor Landrieu to comment on the lawsuit.  Shearer didn't stick around to hear the Mayor's response. (The sessions are formatted such that all of the questions are presented before the Mayor begins responding so this could have taken a long time.) Mitch used this as a convenient excuse not to answer.
Landrieu: "Harry Shearer, where are you?" Shearer apparently left, so Landrieu isn't going to say whether he supports the levee board lawsuit. Though I don't think Shearer was asking just out of immediate, personal curiosity.
It's curious that neither the Mayor of New Orleans nor the Governor of Louisiana care to use their most visible platforms to address current developments regarding the greatest existential threat to the entire region.  But they are politicians and we know they don't like to do hard stuff  if they don't have to (especially when it involves crossing the oil industry) so we're kind of used to being disappointed by them.

What's more interesting is the reticence of prominent environmental groups to take a stand on the lawsuit.
With three of the nation’s largest environmental groups working out of local offices to help save Louisiana’s drowning coast, it seemed only a matter of time before they voiced support for the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority - East’s lawsuit against oil and gas companies for damages to the region’s wetlands. After all, green groups have been criticizing the state’s cozy relationship with oil and gas for decades. Finally, here was an official state body making an historic break with that tradition.

Yet three weeks later, the National Wildlife Federation, the Environmental Defense Fund and the Audubon Society remain silent on the lawsuit.
Hurricane Isaac caused damages estimated in the billions of dollars last year; far in excess of what we typically believe a Cat 1 storm capable of.  In the city itself, despite the extended power outage and substantial property damage, memories of Katrina rendered the experience largely forgettable by comparison.

But the real takeaway form Isaac is that coastal loss has rendered all of Southeastern Louisiana far more vulnerable to even a minor storm than ever before. It would be a shame if we allowed the fact that metro New Orleans remained mostly dry to cause us to ignore this threat the way the people in charge appear to be ignoring its possible remedy. 

Update: Apparently Shearer got some sort of response from the Mayor.  I don't know where or when yet but Shearer tweeted this this morning.

Monday, August 26, 2013

We can finally prove that Will Smith could not have been a linebacker

If he had been an actual Saints linebacker, his season-ending injury would have been caused by Mark Ingram.

Is Kenny Vaccaro "real"?

Here's a B&G Review breakdown of the Saints roster with a... brief... tribute to the late Elmore Leonard thrown in.

Read the boring parts at your leisure. But I wanted to call attention to one thing I was discussing on a parallel internet last night.
B&G editor Bradley has been using the term “real player” today, as if that term means anything. What he means, he says, by “real player” is a guy who has the ability to cause havoc and create awesomeness on his own. Perhaps these are your “blue chip” guys, the badasses around whom a collection of role players and also-rans can rally, raising the play of all. Darren Sharper was a “real player” in 2009. Kenny Vaccaro has the look of a guy like that.
People keep making these nebulous comments about Vaccaro. He's a "real player."  On the parallel internet, I was told, "Vacarro is a rock star....I know it....i just sense it. All the stars are going to align around him." 

You hear a lot of this kind of thing.  But in the two home fake games I watched in person, there wasn't anything I could point to about his play that backs any of this up.   Warshauer compares him to Darren Sharper. Here was  my first impression of Sharper after a couple of pre-season games in 2009.
Meanwhile, Darren Sharper looks ready to play. Sharper forced a Cedric Benson fumble, knocked Laverneus Coles near unconscious, and ran down a reverse all in one quarter. Sharper's play along with that of Kendrick Clancy and Anthony Hargrove has us feeling pretty good about the Saints' post-Davidectomy defense.
 Vaccaro hasn't made that kind of impression yet. At least not on me.

Jeff Duncan makes a stronger argument based on Vaccaro's performance yesterday.
Vaccaro stood up KeShawn Martin at the goal line with a textbook open-field tackle on third down to prevent a touchdown in the third quarter. The hit was so violent Vaccaro  gashed his nose. The tackle was one of a team-high six for Vaccaro, who once again was all over the field in his "joker" role.

Afterward, Vaccaro said he couldn't remember how his blood was shed. Nor was he concerned.

"You see me out there hitting people," Vaccaro said. "That's what I do."

As a first-round pick, Vaccaro has assumed something of a de facto leadership role among the first-year players. He's outspoken and oozes confidence. It's only a matter of time until he becomes the spokesperson for the defense.

"He plays like a vet," Foster said. "He's not afraid to get dirty and put his head and there make plays.

"He doesn't play like a rookie."
I say that's a stronger argument because he at least sites one standout play.  But notice a lot of what's written there, "He plays like a vet" and such, is  still very much in the "He just looks like a rock star" category.

So let me answer that with a non-football-based observation of my own.

I know I tend to get different kinds of subjective vibes than most people do but, for me,  there's something about Vaccaro that strikes me as kind of fake. I can't quite put a finger on it just yet. But there are certain players who get billed as having certain "intangibles" or "leadership qualities" when it turns out that they're just boastful douchebags. The last 7 or 8 USC quarterbacks come to mind as examples. I think Vaccaro might be one of those guys.

Of course I'd like to be wrong. But yesterday afternoon something happened that reinforced the notion a bit. We were watching the game and Rosalind was telling me that she thinks Vaccaro is "pretty." And this led into a side conversation about Kenny Stills' hair and.. well anyway.. just as we were talking about this, the play Duncan talks about where Vaccaro gashed his nose happened.   The camera focused on Vaccaro walking off the field with his helmet off and blood running down his face. 

Without even thinking about it, I said, "You know, I'd give good odds he just did that on purpose with like..."

And then she finished my sentence.

"... with like a fake blood packet or something?"

We were just kidding around, of course. We realize fake football is... probably... not quite as fake as pro wrestling.   But I thought it worth noting that we both got to that joke at the same time.  

If we're going to talk about Vaccaro based on things we "just sense" about him, well, he kind of seems like that kind of dude. 

That Furnace Faced Letten vs Smarmy Punk O'Keefe video we've been waiting for

Fight fans will recall that last month there were reports of a nasty clash between former US Attorney (and big jerk) Jim Letten and conservative provocateur (and bigger jerk) James O'Keefe. The reports seemed like a bit of a tease, though, since no one shared any video of the event, which we knew had to exist somewhere.

O'Keefe has released his version.  It does not disappoint.

Also try the banana stand

In case you missed it last week, The Lens put together a list of policy options the city could pursue to cover the cost of federally mandated police and prison reforms. Some of theses choices are more palatable than others but it's important to remember they are available.

More importantly, some combination of these is surely preferable to Mitch Landrieu's "cow slaying"machismo where he makes a bunch of "tough choices" he doesn't really have to.  A lot of people end up worse off, but he looks good on TV doing it which is what matters to him.

These things happen for reasons

This morning's WWL radio news blurb says:
Census figures show that about thirty percent of Americans don't own a computer or smart phone with Internet access,and never get online.  That number is even higher in more rural states, including Louisiana.

"It's a damn shame, it does nothing but hurt the people of Louisiana," Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell said.

Census Bureau information shows that nearly 34% of Louisiana residents do not use the Internet.

Campbell says part of the problem is that service is not available in the most rural parts of the state where providers don't want to make the investment.

"The money is not there and that's why we don't have all the connected spots we need, because it's not profitable," Campbell said.
It is a "damn shame."  But it's also a shame WWL doesn't complete the story.  Because there's a reason this happened. See, at one time, there was money available to bring broadband access to rural areas where it might not be super profitable for telecoms to provide it on their own accord.  But Bobby Jindal turned that down for absurd ideological reasons.  
"This grant called for a heavy-handed approach from the federal government that would have undermined and taken over private businesses," said Jindal. "We have an administration in Washington that wants to run car companies, banks, our entire health care system and now they want to take over the broadband business. We won't stand for that in Louisiana."
This stubborn refusal to provide constituents with a vital service  one of many reasons Jindal is America's Most Unpopular Governor right now.  But the "principled conservative stance" is also a reason he's still talked about as a "rising star" in the Washington press.  Funny how that works.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Keep building more jail

I know this point tends to get lost in the fun of Mitch's and Gusman's long public feud over consent decree reforms but, despite what the Advocate implies in this report, it was never clear that Mitch was ever opposed to building Gusman a new jail.
“At this point, with construction well underway, it is a more cost effective use of taxpayer money to build a new building with mental and medical health beds than to retrofit the facility currently under construction by the sheriff,” the mayor’s spokeswoman, Garnesha Crawford, wrote in a prepared statement in response to a request for an interview.

Crawford blamed the mess all on Gusman: “It is a shame that the sheriff did not follow the law and failed to honor his commitment to construct a facility that could house all types of prisoners.”

The sheriff has nearly $50 million in unspent FEMA funding, which Crawford said would be used to construction the third building, which she promised would include “no more than 250 mental health, medical and substance abuse beds.”
Maybe it is "a shame" that they just have to go ahead and do this now.  But that doesn't necessarily mean that isn't what they wanted to do in the first place.

Opponents of the expansion aren't just agitating against a bigger jail.  They're trying to overturn a whole set of "perverse incentives" which reward the sheriff's office for keeping more people locked up.
The institution of OPP is also exceptional in that it is a county jail and a state prison combined into one entity. About 2,700 people in the jail are mostly pre-trial detainees - the majority being held for drug possession, traffic violations, public drunkenness, or other nonviolent offenses - and are legally innocent. An additional eight hundred people are state prisoners who have been convicted in court, who may spend years or even decades at OPP.

Almost 60,000 people passed through OPP in the last twelve months, a staggering figure for a city of this size. The average length of stay was 20 days. The largest portion of pre-trial prisoners in the jail are there for nonviolent, municipal offenses that even under conservative standards should not warrant jail time, including 20,000 arrests this year for traffic violations. "New Orleans is basically the incarceration capital of the world," says Kaplan. "You're hard-pressed to find a resident of New Orleans - especially in poor communities - that hasn't had their lives disrupted in some way by this institution."

An article by journalist Ethan Brown in one of the city's weekly papers noted, "thanks to the profound misallocation of law enforcement resources in New Orleans, you're more likely to end up in Orleans Parish Prison for a traffic offense than for armed robbery or murder." Ultimately, this struggle over the size of the jail is also about the city's incarceration priorities. If the city builds a larger jail, it will have to keep filling it with tens of thousands of people. If a smaller facility is built, it will change who is arrested in the city, and how long they spend behind bars.
At various turns, both the Mayor and the Sheriff have offered sympathetic lip service to this concern but have made no progress toward doing anything about it.  

See this exchange between CM Susan Guidry and city budget director Cary Grant in 2011.
“I’m surprised that the administration has had a year to do this and we still don’t have a fixed budget,” (Councilwoman Susan) Guidry said. “This is a perverse incentive to keep people in jail. It’s wrong, it’s not a healthy thing to do and we have had a whole year since the last budget. I don’t want another year to go by without us dealing with this.”

Guidry’s criticism prompted Landrieu’s budget director, Cary Grant, to say that a fixed payment system for Gusman is still “a goal of the Landrieu administration.”

So, Guidry asked him, how many people did he have working on the issue today?

Today we probably have fewer people working on that than we should,” Grant admitted.
In April of this year, we find little to have changed.
Now that the Justice Department is insisting that the city share responsibility with the sheriff for the unconstitutional conditions there, Mayor Landrieu would like us to believe that his hands have been tied since he has no control over Gusman or OPP. But the Landrieu administration has dragged its feet on changing the funding of the jail from a per diem structure that incentivizes filling beds at the jail to one that would increase transparency and accountability. When Laura Coon of the Department of Justice asked Kopplin if the city had done anything to increase the city's oversight over the jail, for example, ordering a forensic audit,  Kopplin admitted that although this was something within the city's power, they hadn't ever looked into it.
Not that they haven't been busy.

Three years ago, the mayor convened a "working group" to consider the jail expansion. The group met in secret until forced to do otherwise. Then, after some "lashing out" on the part of the public, the Mayor went ahead and approved the expansion saying only that they would determine the number of beds later.

A few months later that number was set at 1,438  by the city council and the mayor.  And now they've decided to scrap that plan.  So we're back to where we were.  The per-diem is still in place and Gusman will get a bigger jail to feed with it.

Finally, here's a new Al Jazeera report on the horrid conditions that exist at OPP.  It should be clear that the system needs a major overhaul.  But if the city continues to resist the federal consent decree  or keeps dragging its feed with per diem reform, it isn't clear that this new building will bring anything other than just more of the same.

Orleans Parish Prison - America Tonight - Al Jazeera America from Anon Videos on Vimeo.

Cow tipping

Mitch Landrieu has come to overturn your sacred cattle.

Landrieu vows to fight against ‘sacred cows’

The list of groups and individuals that Mayor Mitch Landrieu is feuding with seems to grow almost weekly: the sheriff, a pair of federal judges, the police unions, the firefighters union, the taxi drivers, the judges at Civil District Court, the clerk at Criminal District Court, the heirs of Edward Wisner, the local NAACP, etc.

 At a meeting of the local Rotary Club this week, Landrieu recalled that it wasn’t always this way.

 As a member of the state Legislature and then as lieutenant governor, he said, “My reputation was one of a guy who was really easy to get along with, someone that was a consensus builder, someone who always tried to get to ‘yes,’ no matter what.”

 Landrieu had to acknowledge though, “As mayor of New Orleans I have developed a reputation recently — evidently — for being a fighter,” adding, “I want to talk about that for a second.”

If the gathered Rotarians expected an olive branch to follow, they were disappointed.

“There are certain things that are really worth fighting for, and they’re fundamentally important to the future of the city,” Landrieu said. If he’s going to hand City Hall to the next generation of leaders in better shape than he found it, it’s going to require “slaying sacred cows — and there are many of them in the city of New Orleans.”

So, to be clear, police, firefighters, cab drivers, these are all, in the Mayor's mind,  "sacred cows" he will have to "slay" (cows apparently need slaying now... like dragons)  in order to protect The Future. 

Know, also, that if you are believed to be harboring any cows in your home, Mitch may send his knights in there to slay them too.
The rules give code inspectors the go-ahead to be on the lookout for structures with rodent infestations, tall grass, rotting wood and defective plumbing. Efficiency rental units that don’t include cooking appliances and refrigerators, bathroom floors that aren’t made of a “smooth, hard, nonabsorbent surface” and properties with “substantial” peeling paint and cracks can also draw citations.

The ordinance gives inspectors with the Division of Code Enforcement the ability to enter any land, structure or premises they have “reasonable cause” to believe is in violation of the code and it empowers hearing officers to order demolition at an initial hearing.

“These revisions are long overdue and will allow us to increase efficiency and create stronger, more flexible enforcement options for all properties, including substandard living conditions in occupied properties,” Landrieu said in a statement. “My priority is to provide a strong quality of life for all New Orleanians as we continue to make progress toward reducing the number of blighted properties in the city.”
Poor orelderly homeowners can't always afford to keep up with the "peeling paint." And there are, of course, scores of quirky apartment buildings in New Orleans that still offer affordable rents.  But these are sacred cows now and the Mayor's Boutique Strategy dictates that we have them at least put out to pasture if not "slain" altogether.

Anyway there's bound to be a glut of ground meat on the market soon. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Everybody hates Bobby... and he hates them too

Pass the popcorn.

America's most unpopular governor and his officials are digging in their heels against the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority- East (SLFPA-E) and its lawsuit against the oil and gas industry. 

Over the course of the past week or so, SLFPA-E Vice President John Barry has been on a public relations tour of sorts.  He has written op-eds for the Times-Picayune and The Lens,. He spoke Monday at the Baton Rouge Press Club and has made several pointed statements to the media about the lawsuit.  His comments have been firm but measured with obvious invitations to the Governor, and to the industry to sit down and negotiate a resolution.

The Governor, through his officials, has... not so politely.. declined.  Instead they began looking for ways to gut the Authority's.. um.. authority.. and to remove Barry as soon as possible.
But ever since the offer was tendered, Garret Graves, the head of the state Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, has done a thorough job of showing the Flood Protection Authority that the olive branch won’t bear fruit.

Central to the levee authority’s offer was a willingness to consider a 45-day “pause” in some aspects of the lawsuit if the administration convened a task force with representatives of the oil and gas industry.

Graves quickly made it clear that the administration wasn’t going to “let the tail wag the dog.” Since then, the dog has been busy.

On Monday, Graves said that the administration would use the annual process of replacing expired seats on the levee authority board to seat new members who agree with its position.

At Wednesday’s monthly meeting of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, Graves led the group to a unanimous vote opposing the suit and promised more aggressive court action soon.

He seemed to shred the last leaves from the olive branch with this comment about the future of the Flood Protection Authority: “I don’t see any scenario where this levee district doesn’t get gutted — or, say, ‘reformed’ — in the next legislative session.”

And then it got worse.  Today the Attorney General's office sent out an official rebuke of Barry.  Meaning they wrote up a press release saying explicitly that they were rebuking him.
The state Attorney General’s Office issued a press release entitled “AG’s Office Rebukes John Barry in Levee Board Lawsuit.”  The rebuke was for statements by Barry that the AG’s office had told the flood authority’s attorney, Gladstone Jones, that the oil and gas law suit “did not negatively impact the state’s efforts to collect damages from B.P. in the Deepwater Horizon oil spill litigation.” The AG’s office said that never happened. However, the release did not say the office thinks the flood authority suit is interfering with the state’s case against BP.
In other words, the AG's office doesn't necessarily disagree with this thing they are alleged to have said.  But they do not want people going around saying that they said it. Anyway it merits a "rebuke," I suppose.

Not that that means anything, especially in Louisiana political circles.  The most famous "rebuke" I can recall happened in a 2006 mayoral primary debate.  I'm sure if I dug around I could find video but, for now, we'll just have to settle for my description of it at the time.
The classic moment of the campaign came later when Rev. Tom Watson challenged Nagin to explain his "double talk" meaning his tendency to contradict his own statements depending upon the make up (race) of his audience. Watson admonished Nagin not to "apologize for being a black man." Watson also challenged Nagin's assertion that the state is "holding up" reconstruction funds and let fly at Nagin with all of the fire and brimstone he could muster here declaring, "Ray Nagin is the problem! Ray you are lying! You are a liar!" At one point in this exchange Watson actually used the words "I rebuke you." Nagin's response to all of this was even better. During the reverend's tirade Nagin affected to bless Watson making the sign of the cross and shouting, "Pastor! God bless you!"
That was on April 19.  By May 11, Watson had endorsed Nagin in the runoff.  Here's how Watson described the "rebuke" then.
But at a joint press conference Thursday at Li'l Dizzy's Cafe on Esplanade Avenue, Watson said his past criticism of Nagin was "heated, emotional fellowship."
I'm not sure we can describe the rift between the SLFPA-E and the Jindal administration in those same terms but, since we do know that un-rebukes do exist, we'll hold out hope that one is still possible in this case.  Maybe the Governor can issue an un-rebuking when he appears on Meet The Press this Sunday. On the other hand, all the questions will probably be about Chris Christie.

I suppose, there could also be one or two questions about what it's like to be America's most unpopular Governor. But, as Clancy Dubos correctly points out in this strange but amusing column, that's likely to be met with a rebuke of its own. 
Team Jind cautioned against putting faith in so-called “independent” polls that show Our Beloved Supreme Leader’s popularity dropped from 37 percent to the mid-20s. Such numbers are “pure fiction,” Team Jind says, because they are the work of Democrats, liberals, bloggers and other undesirables.

Thursday, August 22, 2013


So this seems bad.
A nuclear expert has told the BBC that he believes the current water leaks at Fukushima are much worse than the authorities have stated. 

Mycle Schneider is an independent consultant who has previously advised the French and German governments.

He says water is leaking out all over the site and there are no accurate figures for radiation levels.
Meanwhile the chairman of Japan's nuclear authority said that he feared there would be further leaks.

The ongoing problems at the Fukushima plant increased in recent days when the Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) admitted that around 300 tonnes of highly radioactive water had leaked from a storage tank on the site.
 Meanwhile, in other slow-motion disaster news
Assumption Parish officials on Wednesday released a video showing the sinkhole swallowing several trees in a matter of seconds.

The video, posted on the city's blog, is described a "slough in" that happened around 7:15 p.m. Wednesday.

Moving the chattel

For some reason we can't just provide public service to public. Instead we have to use public money to subsidize private companies who benefit from the service.
Council members did express worries about the effect on low-income workers in the city's hospitality industry. Regional Transit Authority manager Justin Augustine said the authority will work with the industry on a tax incentive program for employers who help pay their low-income employees' fares.
Because, you know, public transit exists only to serve the needs of the hospitality industry. 

"That’s all we want: Fix the part they broke"

Jazzfest Presented By Shell

John Barry explains the SLFPA-E's lawsuit in this Lens op-ed.
Our case is based on the fact that we are forced to maintain and possibly build more elaborate flood protection defenses because of land loss. The industry’s failure to comply with permits — its failure to do what they voluntarily agreed to do and to obey the law in exchange for taking hundreds of billions of dollars out of the state — has destroyed land.

That land loss means there’s no buffer to block storm surge, and that sends more water pounding against our levees. As the saying goes, the levees protect the people, and the land protects the levees.

The land is disappearing so fast that by 2100, if nothing is done New Orleans will be basically an island. The levees will be beach-front property. Much of the rest of the Louisiana coast will simply cease to exist.

Louisiana law also embodies a concept going back to the Romans called “servitude of drain.” This prohibits one party from increasing the natural flow of water from its property onto another’s. The destruction of land is sending more storm surge pounding against our levees.

We believe the oil and gas industry violated the law, and these violations have endangered the people we are responsible to protect.

Our suit does not ask that the industry restore the entire coast. But they must restore the part of the coast they destroyed. They must fix the part of the problem which they created. That’s all we want: Fix the part they broke.
 There's much more.  Read and share with your closest 500 friends. 

By the way, "Servitude of Drain" was probably the best Pantera album.  Pity, Gambit didn't ask Phil Anselmo about it in this interview.

Shit My Jackie Says/Serpas Signal

Kind of a  two-fer today inspired by this bit from Tuesday's District A community budget hearing.
Jackie Clarkson: "I spent one hour on the bridge coming over here tonight. I could kill Jefferson Parish for voting our tolls down.
Because everybody knows that there was never any traffic on the bridge when it cost one dollar to cross it. 

Tonight's meeting is all the way out at Joe Brown Park in District E.  If Ms. Clarkson wants to make this one, she'll have to cross two toll free highway bridges to get there. Let's hope she has the fortitude, though, since she always has such interesting things to say in the East.

Also, if you're going and things happen to run a little late, you.. or your family's driver.. should also be aware.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Thursday, August 22, 2013, in Orleans Parish. The check point will begin at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at about 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc., available if requested.
Drive safely. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Everybody hates Bobby

The latest survey from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling, provided exclusively to TPM, showed Jindal with an approval rating of only 28 percent. Fifty-nine percent of Louisiana voters said they disapprove of the job he is doing. According to PPP, those numbers make Jindal the least popular Republican governor in the country and the second most unpopular governor overall (Democrat Pat Quinn of Illinois is the lowest rated governor in PPP's polling). At 41 percent, President Barack Obama actually boasts a higher approval rating than Jindal in Louisiana, according to PPP.
This is in addition to a Harper poll released earlier this week showing Jindal's approval rating at 35 percent.
Harper's release was the latest in a string of lousy poll numbers for Jindal. A survey in February from Democratic-leaning Public Policy Polling found 57 percent of Louisiana voters disapproving of Jindal's job performance, a far cry from PPP's findings in 2010. In April, a poll from Southern Media & Opinion Research showed 60 percent of Louisiana voters disapproving of Jindal, giving him an even lower approval rating than President Barack Obama in the state.
There was one outlier to all this bad news for Bobby, though.  His own internal consulting firm managed to produce some more favorable numbers for him. And NOLA.com found that good enough to turn the whole story into a big positive headline for the Governor. Well done.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Budgetpalooza Round 2

Tonight the circus moves in to District A, home of the city's original special security district, @BeingLakeview, and no Sonnier-operated restaurant ever under any circumstances.

Residents are encouraged to come out and address the Mayor directly about priorities they'd like to see reflected in next year's municipal budget.  Naturally this will mean lots of questions about go-cups and noise ordinances.

The event begins at 6pm at Edward Hynes Charter School 990 Harrison Avenue. Come early if you want a good seat.   Or stay home and follow along on The Lens live-bloggy thingamajig.



Bobby Jindal Campaign  "War on Corruption" campaign ad from 2007:

"We can't tolerate corruption. We can't tolerate incompetence."

Except when we do.
The Kailas family, one of the metro area’s biggest landowners and developers. They have been close with Jindal through southeast Louisiana’s small Indian community for decades. The family has contributed tens of thousands of dollars to Jindal’s campaigns over the years, including office space and supplies for his victory parties.

The governor’s office said it launched an internal investigation when we broke the story last year, but apparently dropped it after Mark Maier, the consultant who partnered with Lago on the rental program, wrote a note absolving Lago of any wrongdoing. The HUD IG, however, kept working the case and the U.S. Attorney’s Office filed charges under seal in late June.

I think, maybe, the dragon won this round

Prize hog

Congratulations! It's... a hotel and some condos.
Gatehouse Capital Corp. could get a shot at transforming the former World Trade Center Building into a W Hotel and residential apartments. The selection committee tasked with finding a new use for the vacant building chose the Gatehouse proposal over two other projects in a meeting Tuesday.

The panel will present its decision as a recommendation to the New Orleans Building Corp., the city agency that would negotiate a lease with the developer. During the negotiation period, Gatehouse will be pushed to make a stronger commitment to using disadvantaged businesses in its development and to pay more than it originally offered for the building.

Gatehouse Capital Corp. has proposed turning the 33-story building at the foot of Canal and Poydras streets into a 245-room W Hotel with rental apartments on the upper floors.

Two major revitalization schemes for the X-shaped structure in the past decade have ended in failure.
So after all the talk of skywheels and monorails and iconic.. whatevers the most interesting thing New Orleanians can look forward to on this property is a "W" shaped like an X. 

But not everyone is left out of the fun.  A few weeks ago it appeared that the Tricentennial group had reached some sort of partnership arrangement with Gatehouse so we expect they'll get to play some part in whatever happens there. 
The consortium’s letter was submitted to the city’s Bureau of Purchasing, the office that issued a request for proposals to redevelop the property. The letter does not directly revise the The Tricentennial Consortium’s original proposal, but it makes clear that the group is hoping to amend and advance its troubled plan, if the city will allow it. The group suggests that it be allowed to work with the city on a new plan that includes the building and a long-term vision for the area surrounding it. Alternatively, the consortium said, it would like the city to consider allowing it to work with one of the competing bidders.
 In fact, this may already be happening.

And still we have no idea what an Iconic Demand Generator would look like. In fact, the closest approximation to such a thing has been missing for months. 

Pig missing

Gret Stet of Texaco

John Barry speaking Monday to the Baton Rouge Press Club:
Barry summed up opposition to the lawsuit against the oil and gas industry with one word: Politics.

“People used to say the flag of Texaco flies over the State Capitol. People have to ask themselves if that’s still true,” he said during a lunchtime gathering.
Barry did not comment on whether the State of Texaco could ever have been "bigger than Texas." But the implication that the state government is wholly owned by oil and gas could not be more appropriate given the lengths the Governor and his allies in the Legislature have gone to to shut down the Flood Protection Authority's lawsuit.  In a Gambit column this week, Clancy Dubos doesn't pull any punches on this point.
No one should be surprised by Jindal’s duplicity. He has never let irony, or truth, or even a fundamental sense of right and wrong stand in the way of his ambition. And right now his ambition tells him to do whatever he can to ingratiate himself to the energy companies that he hopes will help bankroll his future political moves.

In late July, SLFPA-E sued 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies that have carved up Louisiana’s coast for the past eight decades, seeking to make them pay their fair share of the costs of repairing the marshes and protecting southeast Louisiana against the increased risks of flooding. Ever since, Jindal and his wetlands czar Garret Graves have been trying to put the kibosh on the lawsuit.

They tried to intimidate commissioners, who voted unanimously to file the lawsuit, into changing their minds. That didn’t work. Jindal now hopes to replace commissioners whose terms have expired, particularly historian John Barry, who has been outspoken in favor of the litigation. Barry, who wrote Rising Tide, is one of the nation’s leading authorities on flood control policy.
To be certain, the lawsuit is a long shot.  But it's a necessary long shot given the desperate Hail Mary situation South Louisiana finds itself in with regard to the  safety of its residents and the future of its coast.  The Lens' Bob Marshall explained shortly after the suit was filed.
Decades of drilling and dredging by the oil and gas industry have contributed to the dramatic loss of wetlands in southeast Louisiana, which help reduce storm surges pushing against the region’s flood protection levees. About 2,000 square miles of land have disappeared in Louisiana; various studies say the oil and gas industry is responsible for anywhere from 16 to 50 percent of that.

The Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East claims that the loss of wetlands in its jurisdiction means levees and floodwalls must be built higher, resulting in a dramatic increase in their costs for building and maintaining levees and floodwalls.

The agency wants 97 companies named in the lawsuit to repair the damage, and if that’s not possible, to help defray the cost of flood protection now and in the future.
Back in February, Marshall reported on the dramatic costs the SLFPA-E was facing down as it assumed responsibility for maintaining the new and complicated flood control system from the Army Corps of Engineers.
The costs include $14 million for annual operation and maintenance of the system – a figure that does not include future levee raising — as well as $20 million a year for the next 30 years as part of the state’s cost-share for the whole project.

If the flood protection authority can’t find a fix, officials said, the only alternative would be bond issues at rates that could be ruinous to some communities.

“We’ll soon be facing a $600 million question,” the authority’s vice president, John Barry, said with reference to the 30-year cost sharing burden. “Who is going to pay?”
The lawsuit proposes that instead of placing the burden of financing the ever-increasing expense of protection on the public debt of residents, why not seek recompense from the parties responsible for putting them in this position in the first place?  It's a simple and desperate call for justice.

But no one is living under the illusion that's really within reach. 

Last week's legislative hearing demonstrated the oil industry's muscle pretty plainly.
After the meeting, Adley told reporters there wasn’t anything the Legislature could do about the suit until the next session, which begins March 10.

He and Rep. Jones both said, however, that they strongly expect multiple lawmakers to file bills seeking to either limit the authority of the levee boards or block this specific suit.
Meanwhile, Louisiana's Master Plan for coastal restoration is largely dependent upon a favorable result of the current Clean Water Act litigation against BP stemming from the 2010 Macondo disaster.  In May, The Lens hosted a forum dramatically but aptly titled "Last Call For Louisiana's Coast." There Barry said bluntly, "Were it not for the BP spill, we would not have any dollars coming" in time to even get started with the necessary work of saving what's left of the wetlands.

Now even that assertion seems hopeful. Anyone who has been following BP's increasingly defiant stance recently can't expect the state will reap an award anything near sufficient to its needs from those proceedings... certainly not in time to do what desperately needs to be done with it anyway.

Simply put, "Last Call" means it's time to start trying whatever desperate move might be left available before it becomes time to pack up and float away.  And taking 97 oil companies to court is about as desperate a move as one can make.  But even then, Barry has made it clear that the suit is an opportunity for negotiation.
I ask the governor this: Why not solve the problem? Our suit addresses only New Orleans. The entire Louisiana coast needs help. The governor has been good for the coast. I ask the governor to be great for the coast. I ask the governor to negotiate a solution acceptable to everyone. I would support this. I hope the governor and the Legislature would, too.
Of course, any good faith negotiation would have to start with taking the Texaco flag down off the Capitol building and running the Pelican back up in its place.  But even that may be too much to hope for.

Show 'em what they've won!

Will interested residents and visitors to the WTC site be awarded the hotel, the hotel with the jazz-taurant, the hotel with the daily fake Mardi Gras parade, the hotel with ferris wheel, or the monorail and "iconic" tower package with probably more hotels and condos nearby?  OR will they take their chances with whatever was behind the giant red question mark? 

All will be revealed Tuesday!
After years of failed attempts to redevelop the run down city-owned high rise at the foot of Canal Street, a five-member selection committee is scheduled to meet today to make a recommendation on the fate of the former World Trade Center building.

The committee, appointed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, is expected to choose one of three proposals, two of which call for turning the vacant building into a hotel and apartments and one that pushes for its demolition and replacement with a public park.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Everybody hates Bobby

Bobby Jindal's terrible poll numbers are still pretty terrible.
The latest survey from GOP firm Harper Polling released on Monday found that only 35 percent of respondents in the Pelican State have a favorable opinion of Jindal, compared with a little more than half — 51 percent — who said they view the governor unfavorably. An even larger majority of 58 percent said that Jindal should not launch a White House bid compared with a mere 20 percent said he should run in 2016. In a hypothetical presidential matchup, the poll found Hillary Clinton claiming a slight edge over Jindal, 44 percent to 42 percent.

In yesterday's New York Times, Bill Keller wrote a column about the Common Core curriculum project. (I know that's a disheartening thought in and of itself, but never mind that right now.) In the column, Keller refers to Jindal as "Louisiana’s Republican rising star."   Someone should maybe send him an email.