Monday, September 30, 2013


Maybe there are enough Republicans willing to cave after all.

Either way it makes sense.  The hardcore group still gets to say they tried to die on this hill.  It will make them happy and the added bonus is 800,000 people don't get furloughed.  

Rump government

Here's what the gerrymander gets you. Enough safe Republican seats that a shutdown won't engender any serious political consequence. 

Domeland security

Dome TSA

Because I don't have to carry a purse, or an overnight bag, or a random Fed-Ex parcel or any of the other bits of luggage depicted above to the football games nothing in this illustration applies to me. In which case, the big red NO BAG LANE sign would seem pretty inviting.  It doesn't move any faster, though.

The real bottleneck is the metal detector. I realize we're well into fake government fiscal crisis season, but it would help if everybody would remember to take their trillion dollar platinum coins out of their pockets before they get to the wanding area.

On the bright side, I haven't had any trouble getting my flask through the gate this year.  Neither has anyone else, apparently, given the crush of humanity lunging toward the restrooms at halftime.  This photo was from the Atlanta game.  Yes, this is worse than it has been in the past.

Bathroom line chaos

Other Dome facts of note this season:

The Terrace, long a no-frills hot dog and "walking taco" wasteland,  now has some of the fancier menu items available at the concession stand. On offer now is a $12 roast beef po-boy as well as something they're calling "seafood nachos" which I doubt is ever a good idea to try although maybe the fact that this is the Dolphins game will tempt a few of your more sharp-witted nacho enthusiasts this evening.

Superdome Wi-Fi. It exists! And it works! Damn well, too.  I'm afraid that might only be because not many people know about it yet. So don't tell anybody, OK?

Usually after the games I like to test my theory that the price of beer purchased from unlicensed street vendors diminishes with greater distance away from the Dome.  But this year, we didn't even get to talk to the first vendor because someone else was already having a conversation with him.

Vendor Enforcement

Interestingly, the vendor enforcement doesn't seem to have caused a rise in prices thanks to the efforts of the downtown Rouses.

Rouses party

I know I'm supposed to have posted three game re-caps by now.  If you've been following the Yellow Blog over the (now almost 10) years you're used to stuff not always getting typed up on time.  So, big surprise, nothing has changed.  There was an almost-finished Atlanta post that ended up being mostly about robots.  Then there was an almost-finished Tampa post that ended up being mostly about Jim Letten.

What usually happens is all the unused material gets chopped up and folded into whichever post actually makes it up on time. So expect something long and sprawling which nobody will want to read coming soon. While we wait for that to happen I refer you to the usual places where you can read as much Saints blogging as your tired little eyeballs can absorb. Most of what you see there will be better than my dumb jokes anyway.

Meanwhile, the 3-0 (yay!) Saints have to play against their first not-total-basketcase opponent tonight.  Won't it be interesting to see who will win?  Actually I expect the Saints to do well tonight.  But don't get too cocky.  This is already a fun team to watch and they should win more games than they lose this year. But if they don't get their offensive line play straightened out, it won't be many more than 8 or 9 wins. Fewer if Brees gets hurt, which is a strong possibility given the number of hits he's taken so far.

But let's not dwell on the negative. The good news is, Mark Ingram might not play tonight.  And on the off-chance he changes his mind about that trade thingy, it's rather convenient that the Saints' traditional running back dumping ground happens to be the visiting team.  If they time things right, they could just put him right on the Dolphins' bus after the game. Kind of a reverse-Kiffin.

Now.. where's my safety-approved clear plastic umbrella?

Shiny new things for up and comers

Last week Atlantic Cities found this amusing ad campaign from the mid 80s promoting Atlanta's grand vision of shopping malls and office parks.
Atlanta: A Visual Postcard promotes all the things most tourism videos would probably shy away from in 2013 -- an intimidating mixing bowl of highways, shopping malls, and "futuristic" office buildings that allegedly brought "urban flavor to the suburbs." All in all, a place that symbolized "the new South."
Fair enough.  But, at the time, this was the vision of the kind of city the well off and successful wanted to live in (or.. at least on the outskirts of.)   Try to think less about the aesthetics of what's being built and instead focus on who it's being built for and you'll see that very little has actually changed.
Kabacoff said Iberville’s new buildings will have four floors and will evoke the Storyville era. Prices will accommodate a range of incomes, including former public housing residents, people making less than $30,000 per year and those willing to pay what the market will bear — perhaps $1,400 per month for a two-bedroom place.

“Density is good as long as you don’t concentrate the poor,” Kabacoff said, shifting into developer mode. Because Iberville abuts the French Quarter, “this is as good a location as you can have in New Orleans.”
He added, “This plan gives us the kinds of buildings you want.”

But HANO and HRI have enough money to build only 227 units. Plans call for more mixed-income housing as part of what’s known as the Choice Neighborhoods Initiative: approximately 660 more units at Iberville and another 1,500 units to be spread throughout downtown, Treme and part of Mid-City. Much of this housing will be apartment buildings and will require tens of millions of dollars more, Kabacoff said. Where will the money come from? He doesn’t yet know.

Keep on fracking, I guess

The "reindustrialization" of South Louisiana continues
Royal Dutch Shell said today it plans to build a $12.5 billion natural gas plant in Ascension Parish, bringing some 740 new permanent jobs to the area.

Gov. Bobby Jindal joined Shell this morning to announce the company has selected a site near Sorrento for the planned natural gas-to-liquids (GTL) facility, though a final decision on whether the project will move forward has not been made.

Shell intends to make that call after site evaluation and preliminary engineering studies. The company did not provide a timeline for the evaluation phase.

Shell is one in a string of companies looking to expand its domestic manufacturing operations amid historically low U.S. natural gas prices. Rumors surfaced earlier this year that Shell was looking at sites in Louisiana for a GTL plant that could produce at least 70,000 barrels of liquids per day.

Sooner or later the frack boom will have to do... something.. to move the jobs number in Louisiana, right?  At the moment, we're still waiting. This is from a recent report from the Louisiana Budget Project titled The State Of Working Louisiana 2013.
Louisiana had nearly 2 million jobs as of July 2013, an increase of 7,500, or 0.4 percent, since the start of the recession in December 2007. But the state’s population has grown by 6 percent in that time, meaning the number of jobs is not keeping up with the working-age population. With the state’s population expected to grow by another 2 percent over the next three years, this means that Louisiana must create roughly 150,000 new jobs by 2016 to bring the unemployment rate to pre-recession levels. That’s equivalent to creating 4,000 jobs each month for the next three years, more than twice the rate of job growth experienced over the past year. The state created an average of 1,950 jobs per month between July 2012 and July 2013.

A large portion of the state’s job growth since the start of the recession has occurred in low-wage industries like leisure and hospitality, which added 15,900 new jobs since December 2007 (an 8 percent increase), while high-paying industries cut jobs. Louisiana manufacturers,for instance, have eliminated 14,600 net jobs since December 2007 (a 9.6 percent reduction).
Mark Moseley wrote about the disconnect between the promised reindustrialization and the slide in jobs numbers last month.
(LA Economic Development Secretary Stephen) Moret would have us believe it’s a new day. Investments are in place, huge new plants are being built. The unemployment uptick is just statistical noise before the industrial boom kicks in. Don’t you worry, fracking good times lie ahead!

He has a point. In April I made a partial list of encouraging business news items about new headquarters, plants and facilities in Louisiana. It’s an impressive array of projects, and it would be highly disturbing if, as they came online, statewide employment numbers continued to worsen.

Keep watch to see if next week’s statewide unemployment numbers rise again. If they do, it could signal more political problems for the Jindal administration. The public would want to know what is happening to the Louisiana economy right now. They wouldn’t want to hear Moret’s repeated assurances about the industrial paradise that lies over the rainbow.
The unemployment numbers are not better. And so what the public might want to know now is why their money is being appropriated for millions of dollars worth of "incentives" paid out to Shell.

Corporate welfare is at an all time peak nationally.  It's estimated that the various subsidies paid out to big businesses cost the average American household something like $6,000 per year. Louisiana is among the very worst offenders. A 2011 "report card" study by the watchdog Good Jobs First rated Louisiana's subsidy programs "D+" The introductory test on the GJF website offers this brief history.
Louisiana has a long history of enormous corporate giveaways. A decade ago, the Louisiana Coalition for Tax Justice compiled the state’s property tax exemption records for the 1980s and found that they added up to $2.5 billion, with the largest tax breaks going to giant petrochemical companies and utilities. Almost three-quarters of the exemptions created no new permanent jobs. Many of the companies also received enterprise zone tax rebates and credits. One of these, Shell Oil, collected credits for hiring new workers to replace seven employees killed in a 1988 plant explosion.

The chief economist in the Legislative Fiscal Office recently criticized these kinds of payouts like what was recently awarded to Sasol for building another gas plant.
Sasol, for example, will get $115 million in cash in 2018 and 2019 to build their liquids-to-gas facility in southwest Louisiana. In these years, state tax revenues in excess of cost will actually be negative, according to LED's own projections, but officials still state the "cumulative" tax revenues will be positive.

Albrecht disagrees with this characterization.

"They're trying to imply that it's still free even though their annual benefit is negative in that year," he said in an interview Thursday. "I think a little of disingenuous."

This cash incentive throws a wrench into the budgeting plan for those outlying years, because lawmakers will have to find the money from the state general fund, construction budget or elsewhere. When asked where he thinks the administration will say the money is coming from, Albrecht said he didn't know.

"They don't say," he said. "When (the costs from the Sasol project) starts, they're going to be gone and they've obligated future legislators to come up with $115 million in cash."

A few weeks ago Lt. Gen. Russel Honore spoke to the Rising Tide conference about economic justice and Louisiana's chemical industry. It's a remarkable talk for someone who is frequently the subject of rumors about a run for statewide office. Such rumors are certainly far-fetched. It's difficult to imagine any Louisiana politician exhibiting this much open hostility toward oil and gas.

"What we have going on off our coastline is equal to what we have going on in Nigeria as far as environmental injustice," he says at one point.

Later he directly attacks the influence of oil money on state politics, on the public universities and on commercial media.  "If I had my way we would put a proposition in that would say, if you're running for office you cannot take money from the oil and gas industry. It distorts a democracy."

Rising Tide 8 - Keynote - Lt. General Russel Honore from Jason Berry on Vimeo.

It's maybe not the most polished speech you'll ever watch but it is remarkable to hear a public figure of Honore's stature talk like this even as the state continues to open its purse to companies like Sasol and Shell without anything like an expectation that they will offer anything other than more destruction in return.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Check local listings

The new season of BP Trial begins this week.

Last season, you will recall, was all about "gross negligence."

This time, the plot revolves around "quantification."
On Monday, U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier will be presented with conflicting testimony over BP's success at "source control," the halting of the flow of oil from the well after the blowout. The parties are expected to present testimony about that issue for a week.

That will be followed by three weeks focused on "quantification" - determining how much oil was released into the Gulf during the spill.

Barbier will then decide, likely next year, how many billion of dollars BP owes in fines.

Alliances will shift as business partners turn against one another!
Barbier also has limited the number of witnesses and expert reports during the two phases, and urged the parties on each side to consolidate wherever possible.

That has resulted in a temporary alliance for the "source control" portion of the case between the Plaintiffs Steering Committee, made up of attorneys representing private claimants, and two BP contractors - Transocean and Halliburton. The two firms were opponents of the PSC and the government during the first phase of the trial.

Transocean is the owner of the doomed Deepwater Horizon drillship and its employees drilled the well under BP's direction. Halliburton provided the cement and cementing advice to BP.

There will be deceit! 
The aligned parties contend that while BP repeatedly reported to federal officials in April and May 2010 that the oil was flowing at the rate of 5,000 barrels per day or less, the company's own internal experts knew that the flow was much more.
There will be.... murder?  Top Murder!
"After the Macondo blowout, BP repeatedly lied to key decision makers about the flow rate of the well. BP told the Unified Command, the Coast Guard, government scientists, and Congress that the well was flowing at 5,000 barrels per day, when BP's internal estimates showed rates as high as 96,000 barrels per day. These lies and omissions delayed the capping of the well."

Even as the disparate flow estimates were being produced, BP already had on hand a "capping stack," basically a second blowout preventer, that could be placed atop the failed preventer, the aligned parties said. Using it weeks earlier, instead of trying the Top Kill, would have dramatically reduced the amount of spilled oil.

The aligned parties also argued that BP misled federal officials and the public about why the Top Kill method failed, blaming it on the rupture of pressure relief discs in the well. Inspection of the blowout preventer and other well equipment in the aftermath of the accident found no disc failures, though.

Instead, the aligned parties argued BP's deceiving flow estimates led to the failure of Top Kill, because those designing the effort did not factor in the real -- and much higher -- flow rate.
And, of course, the ultimate spoiler: Whatever penalty BP is assessed, it will not be enough money to remedy Louisiana's massive coastal crisis.  
But enjoy the show anyway. Binge-watching, live tweeting, etc. begins Monday morning. 

Death wish

Every couple of years we walk right up to the ledge and stare over the side longingly.

It has started to feel normal that two or three times a year we have a major state/fiscal crisis and maybe once every 18 months or two years, there is a true breakdown with fairly grave consequences. The last time was in the summer of 2011. We have a very good chance of another next week and something even more catastrophic next month.

Despite the fact that it hasn't occurred since 1996, at this point, given the possibilities on offer, a government shutdown seems almost prosaic. Countless citizens are inconvenienced in ways large and small. But you can start the thing back up again in a week and apart from a mini-shock to the economy probably everything goes back to working fine. The thing with truly catastrophic potential and permanent damage is defaulting on the national debt - the possibility of which is mind-boggling in the absence of actual state bankruptcy, war or civil disorder.

I'm not even sure what to say about it because it's the new normal. We know it. We live it. But this is really unprecedented stuff - deep attacks on the state itself inasmuch as the state requires for it to function a penumbra of norms surrounding the formal mechanisms of government.
And this is just what we do now. Actually Marshall goes on to point out, correctly, that this is specifically what the Republicans do now. As I tried to say last week, they aren't acting this way (only) because they are crazy.  They act this way because there are political and financial incentives for them to keep doing it.

But it bears repeating that this is an incentive to go ahead and blow up the country... or at least come very very close to doing that.. every 2 years or so.  After a few more rounds of this maybe someone will ask just who the blow-up-the-country constituency is and why they have such a loud voice in Washington.

In a related story, the big scary deficit, by the way, is already falling. Although it's also worth noting that that's not even what they're screaming about this time.  This time they're blowing up the country over health insurance.  Oh and now apparently contraception.  Again, why do these people get to demand so much attention?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

That's one heck of a bounty payment

When they make out the check I hope they at least put something clever, like "Brain Rearch" or something,  in the notes line.
Local government bodies must return more than $500,000 in taxes the National Football League and its affiliates paid on expenses associated with the 2013 Super Bowl, according to city records obtained by The Lens through a public records request.

The city, the Orleans Parish School Board, the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority and the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation agreed last spring to rebate their share of general sales, hotel-motel and hotel occupancy taxes to the NFL.

Under the agreement, the NFL could claim a rebate for taxes incurred on certain specified expenses between Oct. 1, 2012, and Feb. 10, 2013. Room rates and food and equipment purchases for official Super Bowl events qualified for the exemption. Mini-bar and alcohol purchases did not. The deal set an $800,000 cap on the rebates.
I guess from a certain point of view, we came in around $300,000 under our NFL corporate welfare budget.  So, hey, nice going, guys. Or was that just because the meter stopped running while the lights were off? 

"There's a liability there"

Graves and Jindal actually want the companies to go scot-free, leaving you and me to pick up a tab that is bound to run into the billions. That’s why they are in the process of scuttling a suit filed by the New Orleans-area levee board seeking damages for the havoc caused by the canals and pipelines that criss-cross Louisiana’s rapidly disappearing marshes.

The reasons they give for doing so lead ineluctably to the conclusion that the board should indeed abandon its lawsuit, but only so the state can seek redress on an even larger scale.

Nobody doubts that oil and gas companies have played a major role in the wetlands destruction that has given storm surge an ever clearer shot at the New Orleans region. Graves himself has said, “I will be the first to admit there’s liability there,” and styles himself “no apologist for the oil and gas industry.” Well, he might as well be.
Welp, mistakes were made.   Too bad nobody has to be accountable.


From NOLADefender April 2011:
Thanks to First NBC Bank, officers of one of the Department's Uptown districts (the 6th) will get their own alt-policing method: the segway. NOPD Superintendant Ronal Serpas rode the new crime-fighting segway last night at the ribbon-cutting ceremony of First NBC Bank’s new branch opening in the Garden District.  

After riding it quickly and confidently across the bank’s parking lot, Serpas talked about how it differs from the average tourist Segway carrying Midwesterners through the Quarters. “It has a bigger battery capacity," he said. "The wheels and structure are stronger."

Though the city has problems like potholes, Serpas believes the Segway’s customized larger wheels are “capable of a lot of terrain that you might not expect."
In the photo below (also via NOLADefender)  Serpas demonstrates the super-Segway's enhanced strength when pushed to the extreme limit of its carrying capacity.


It was only a few short months later that Serpas deployed an even more impressive piece of technology
On Friday afternoon, the New Orleans Police Department and Chief Ronal Serpas will be unveiling the newest weapon in their crime-fighting tool belt: a $350,000 mobile DWI unit the NOPD has christened the "Batmobile."

Purchased through a grant from the Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, the Drunkmobile Batmobile is a 38-foot long mobile unit with room for four citizens to cool their heels while a fifth blows into a tube in the rear of the vehicle.

Holy high-tech drunk tank, Batman! Look for it at a DWI checkpoint near you.

But even as his department has benefited from new technologies, Serpas has run into difficulty maintaining the manpower necessary to operate it.
New Orleans has lost 300 more officers than it hired since 2010 amid what some city leaders are calling a staffing crisis, officials said Wednesday. Even with new recruitment efforts finally underway and the promise of hiring 100 new officers over the next year, the City Council is looking for new ways to put more police on the streets faster. 
According to a status update to PANO's Facebook page, though, it sounds more like the city is running in place there.
Oddly enough, in the midst of the hearing, CAO Andy Koppelin (sic) appeared and stated the City may still have to impose layoffs and LWOP days depending on the cost of the pending consent decrees. That bit of info would seemingly alarm any potential applicants, as well as current employees.
But, hey, the good news is they're buying new tech
New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas said Wednesday his office is buying hundreds of cameras for officers to wear on their uniforms beginning as soon as late this year. He called the devices “the future of American law enforcement.”
The "future of American law enforcement" begins when every interaction you might have with a police officer.. no matter how insignificant.. is recorded by a law enforcement camera and fed into the burgeoning security panopticon.  How exciting! Are you excited?
Serpas said the body cameras are a major step that other police agencies across the country have embraced, both to protect the public and to forestall false complaints against officers.

“Imagine a day in the city of New Orleans, in the not too distant future, where every single time we pull over a car, we ask somebody who they are or what they’re doing, that that entire incident is audiotaped and videotaped,” Serpas said. “We’re very excited about it. It’s coming.”
See? It's exciting. But this vision of Segway and Google Glass powered Batcops is really just a way station on the path to a better future where we can dispense with manpower altogether and just move straight ahead with the all-drone police force we've been waiting for. Will sure save a lot on pensions that way. 

What could possibly go wrong?

Everybody Yell At Pres Day

Direct your pea-shooters here at noon.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Trucking asbestos all over the westbank wilderness

These two recent AZ posts are intriguing.  You could ask a bunch of questions. One is, who had the asbestos abatement contract?

Yet another French Market reboot

Seems like we come across this existential crisis once every couple of years.
One of Smith's first priorities on the job is likely to be awarding a substantial contract to manage three city-owned parking facilities but he said he has bigger plans to revamp the 322-year-old French Market, including the farmers and flea markets.

"This is such a jewel for the city and it's just been so horribly mismanaged for so long," Smith said. "It needs someone to come in there and do the right thing and just be honest and transparent and forthright."

First, Smith said he would like to see a return of fresh produce and seafood to the French Market.
"I remember as a kid going down and getting big slices of watermelon and there was this guy who would roast corn," Smith said. "You could go and make a legitimate grocery shopping trip."

It's not as easy to have a consistent supply of fresh fruit and vegetables in Louisiana where farmland isn't as abundant as it is in Madison, Wis., Smith said, but there's no reason there can't be a permanent stall selling citrus from Plaquemines Parish or a shrimp truck parked outside the market six days a week.

"Maybe we partner with the Crescent City Farmer's Market or the Hollygrove Market and have one per week or a daily feature where a different farmer comes in every day," Smith said. "The French Quarter at its core is a neighborhood where people live and work and eat so let's make a market that the residents can use."
 Sounds great. But wasn't that the point of the last big re-vamp? Whatever happened with that?


Like I've been saying, there is, in fact, a point to all the crazy.
As for the “real change” Ted Cruz said he was looking for, that change has arrived in Washington, and the change is Ted Cruz himself.  Almost single-handedly, the freshman Tea Party apostle has upended the clubby U.S. Senate, roiled the tradition-bound GOP, and revolutionized the business of power in the nation’s capital, all thanks to the health-care bill that Cruz, former senator Jim DeMint, and a small army of conservative operatives have essentially made a living out of hating.

"These guys aren't stupid.  They can read the votes,” says a veteran Republican operative.  “That's why Republicans are so infuriated. Folks know exactly why they're doing this. They are using this issue and misleading conservatives in order to expand their own influence and raise money for themselves." 
The biggest actors so far in Defund, Inc. have been Cruz, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, and the Senate Conservatives Fund, the leadership PAC that Jim DeMint launched as a senator and handed off to his former staff members to run as a conservative super PAC.  While Cruz led the defund fight in the Senate this summer, the SCF led a huge parallel fight on the outside, setting up a website, running radio and television ads, robocalls and a direct mail campaign, all designed to raise money from still-hot conservative activists and urge them to sign a petition to tell Congress not to fund the health-care bill when they greenlight funding for the rest of the government. 

The elite Ivy study habits of highly effective people

You may not be shocked to learn that, in his days at Harvard Law, Senator Ted Cruz was kind of an asshole.
At Harvard Law School, Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, would only study with pals from other Ivy elites.
"He said he didn't want anybody from 'minor Ivies' like Penn or Brown," law-school roommate Damon Watson told GQ Magazine. Yet, Cruz, who was profiled in the magazine's October issue, once asked permission of Chief Justice John Roberts to wear his "argument boots" -- black ostrich-skin cowboy boots -- to the Supreme Court.
Thanks to Cruz's totally-not-a-filibuster last night, those of you who never got to breathe in the rarefied air of an "elite Ivy" study group learned a little something about how they operate.
Senator Ted Cruz reads Green Eggs and Ham to his daughters because Green Eggs and Ham, according to him, is just like Obamacare for the American people: “they do not like Obamacare in a box, with a fox, in a house, or with a mouse.”

Except he seems to completely misunderstand the book because, as the narrator in the story learns, once he actually tries green eggs and ham, he realizes they’re delicious.
And that's the elite Ivy system in a nutshell.  They don't have to read all the way to the end of the book before they tell you what's important about it.  Their assertions are the only ones that matter anyway, right?

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Pres Kabacoff's big ideas

Lots of big shiny things in this story. Some of them are funded. Some of them, in the right context, sound pretty nice, even. As someone pointed out on the parallel internet this morning, a brain hospital is about the most appropriate thing you could hope for to share space with City Hall.

But the important thing to know about the big shiny things is that they're, not exactly fantasy, but only partially realized big ideas Kabacoff gets to talk about in order to dress up the one part of this circus that's actually underway.

Iberville is the one project in Kabacoff’s plan where he can point to tangible progress.

Earlier this month, workers in hard hats began demolishing Iberville under a contract awarded to HRI by the Landrieu administration and the Housing Authority of New Orleans.

On a recent morning, Kabacoff stood by a chain-link fence with a “Keep Out” sign and explained the plan over the sound of hammering. The sprawling complex contains 820 units in 75 separate buildings. HRI is tearing down 59 buildings, keeping those on Bienville and Marais Streets to reintroduce the street grid.

Once completed, Iberville would include about 890 units of mixed-income housing in new and renovated buildings owned by a partnership with HRI in charge.

The 400 or so remaining residents at Iberville are being relocated by HANO, Kabacoff said. Many of the elderly will move to the former Texaco building on Canal Street. It, too, is now owned by HRI and its partners.

Kabacoff said Iberville’s new buildings will have four floors and will evoke the Storyville era. Prices will accommodate a range of incomes, including former public housing residents, people making less than $30,000 per year and those willing to pay what the market will bear — perhaps $1,400 per month for a two-bedroom place.

Density is good as long as you don’t concentrate the poor,” Kabacoff said, shifting into developer mode. Because Iberville abuts the French Quarter, “this is as good a location as you can have in New Orleans.”
Put all the breathless talk about "transformative visions"  for a new downtown aside and what you're left with is a publicly subsidized plan to move the poors out of the way so Pres Kabacoff can charge higher rents on valuable property.

What is the difference, exactly?

Here are a couple of commentaries from last week about the overturned Danziger verdict I thought were worth mentioning.  First, there is this from two of the jurors who sat on the case.  They sound pretty adamant that the "prosecutorial misconduct" cited by Judge Englehardt didn't have anything to do with the jury's decision to convict. 
The New Orleans Advocate tried to contact each of the 12 jurors in the Danziger case. Farlough and Robin were the only ones who agreed to be interviewed. Both said they knew nothing about any online comments — by Perricone, Mann or anyone else. They made their decision, as the judge ordered them to, based on what they heard in the courtroom.

“I think it’s a folly, all of this supposed posting of things on NOLA.com,” Robin said. “We would not have been selected as jurors if we didn’t have the integrity to follow the court’s order. We rendered the verdict that we thought was fair and proper. To now reverse that verdict seems a bit ludicrous.”
The editorial board at the Washington Post agreed this weekend.
Judge Engelhardt is right that the online comments were egregious, unjustifiable, unprofessional abuses of authority on the part of the lawyers. The two prosecutors in New Orleans left their jobs in disgrace. The Justice Department lawyer, whose role was revealed in the judge’s decision, may face disciplinary action. Conceivably, they could be disbarred.

However, his conclusion that the online postings created a “prejudicial, poisonous atmosphere” that justified throwing out the convictions is a huge stretch. By that logic, overturning the convictions might also be justified by the TV show “Treme,” which began airing on HBO 14 months before the officers’ trial and depicts the New Orleans police as corrupt, brutal and violent. It’s a safe bet that more New Orleanians have seen “Treme” than the prosecutors’ online postings.
Please don't get me started about the egregious, unjustifiable, poisonous abuse of the viewing audience that is HBO's Treme. The Post is wrong to assume that anybody watches that anymore anyway.

A better comparison, if we're talking about actions that might prejudice a jury, would be between the relatively obscure online comments and Jim Letten's penchant for grandstanding press conferences that get blasted all over the media every time he indicted somebody. If a jury can be tainted by anonymous sniping deep within the bowels of  a newspaper's online comments section, surely this bluster must have some prejudicial effect.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Diminishing returns

Critics of  New Orleans's red light cameras have long cited the experience of other cities where such experiments had been tried previously.  In many of those cases, the cameras are being abandoned as they have disappointed projections both in terms of accident prevention and revenue generation.

Today the city's revenue estimating conference revised their projection for this year downward by $2.4 million.  The reason:
Officials said Monday that the city expects to take in about $2.4 million less in revenue this year than previously forecast, mostly because less money than anticipated is coming in from the city’s traffic cameras, EMS collections and other secondary sources.

Parade ordinance almost done?

Caution tape

This weekend, Councilwoman Cantrell held another community input meeting regarding her forthcoming revision to the city's Carnival ordinances. The meeting took place during a Saints game which makes absolutely no sense to me. Luckily Uptown Messenger was there to cover it.

One of the thorniest Mardi Gras issues is the placement of ladders, which can often form an impenetrable wall along the parade route. They are currently required to be as far back from the curb as they are tall, and Cantrell’s initial suggestion was to make that distance uniform, at 10 feet, so that officers and perhaps even posted signs could easily point to a “line” that ladders should not cross.

This suggestion proved to be the most controversial Saturday. Several residents said that 10 feet is too far, especially on the sidewalk side, where it would largely rule ladders out. Perhaps a shorter distance could be adopted on the sidewalk side, they said, especially since floats run closer to the neutral ground anyway, leaving more space from the sidewalk.
I know I'm supposed to be the community scold on this issue but what I'd really like to emphasize is that there should be plenty of flexibility with regard to these rules.  There are places where ladders on the sidewalk side are fine.  I also think it's ok to bring a grill and some chairs and stuff provided you don't use it to hog up all the territory. 

The biggest problems that I witness at parades every year are:

1) Ladders too close to the curb.

Lundi Gras neutral ground

2) Ladders and other difficult to move items blocking the intersection.

Chairs and ladders in the intersection

3) Ladders chained or roped together to form barricades.

Ladder citadel

4) Large parcels of neutral ground roped off and impassable.

Ladder Phalanx

5) Rows and rows of tents which obstruct even more territory than just ropes and tape.

Tents and such 

There are already rules against the first three on that list.  I'm not sure about number five but it should be addressed.  The key here is reminding people to be considerate of one another.  A bit more friendly enforcement of the rules already on the books should probably accomplish that.

Heckuva Job

Clay suggests that Bobby Jindal's reorganization of the SLFPA-E just goes the whole nine.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Mitch vs Wisner kicks off this week

We don't want to ruin the outcome of this one so we're refraining from making any online comments... oh wait.
In the past few months, I, along with a couple of AZ readers, have been picking through some data that has shed some very interesting light on the Mayor's dealings with the Wisner Trust, the Advisory Committee and the lieutenants carrying out his orders, namely former City Attorney and mayoral appointee to the Advisory Committee, Michael Sherman.  In fact, AZ reader, Kevin, has uncovered some very interesting private dealings Mr. Sherman was carrying out while employed by the City that may constitute a conflict of interest with his role not only as a City Attorney but specifically his position on the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee.  

Also, it looks like the Mayor's Chief Administrative Officer, Andy Kopplin, may have played a significant role in the original effort to persuade LSU to change their appointee to the Advisory Committee.  On the whole, it's become rather clear to me that the hostile takeover of the Committee taking place behind the scenes I suggested was very real and had immediate goals, the most notable being to remove the Waltzer and Wiygul as counsel for the Trust in the case against BP in order to replace them with the JV/PSC attorneys I've been writing about for the past year.

The fix was clearly in.  It's ironic as Governor Jindal is pulling pretty much the same thing right now with the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.  The democratic process isn't meeting the desires and political machinations of the executive branch so the Governor subverts the process in order to accomplish his own selfish goals...this is exactly what happened with our Mayor and the Edward Wisner Donation Advisory Committee.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

What am I missing?

I still don't get why I'm supposed to be pointing and laughing at conservatives' handling of Obamacare.

Going back to the very beginning of debate on the matter, conservative histrionics have been remarkably effective. First, they managed to ensure that the law (itself a conservative "market-based" approach to health insurance reform) would accomplish the bare minimum of what was politically possible at the time and far less than what comprehensive health care reform should deliver. 

They've also delayed  and obstructed its implementation. This has allowed them extra time to rail against whatever strawman they want "Obamacare" to be.  The House has voted to repeal the law roughly three million times since its passage.  Now they're threatening to shut down the government over its funding. I keep reading about how embarrassing or problematic this is supposed to be for them in the mid-term elections but I think they're getting exactly what they want. Polls continue to show that "Obamacare" remains an unpopular concept although (and also partially because) most Americans have no idea how the law will actually affect them. 

Repealing or defunding the health care law may be a lost cause.  But to conservative voters in red states and in the badly gerrymandered congressional districts, it's a lost cause worth dying for over and over again. And the longer a majority of voters go without seeing the full benefit of the law (such as it is) begin to kick in, that will continue to be the case.

Not to mention, it still brings in the money.
WASHINGTON -- The Senate Conservatives Fund, a political action committee connected to Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint, raised its largest-ever monthly total for a non-election year this August while running a campaign pressuring Republican senators and representatives to defund Obamacare.

The PAC raised more than $1.5 million in August, according to its Federal Election Commission filing, with $1.3 million of that sum coming from small donors giving under $200 each. The small-donor haul is the largest-ever monthly small-donor total brought in by the Senate Conservatives Fund.

This fundraising bonanza came as the PAC joined efforts by the Heritage Foundation and its sister 501(c)(4) nonprofit Heritage Action, along with a series of tea party groups, to defund Obamacare. Money was pumped into an advertising and publicity campaign that, with the vocal support of Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), sought to block all spending measures if they did not defund President Barack Obama's signature health care law.
Conservatives trolling Obamacare is sort of the new televangelism.  It won't deliver the salvation from the law it promises its flock.  But it will make the preachers rich and successful in the meantime. Should we really be taking this scheme so lightly?


Advocate Seats
Special edition Advocate delivered to Superdome seats for the Saints' home opener vs Atlanta

From a 2012 NPR story on the loss of a daily paper in New Orleans:

John McCusker, who has been a staff photographer at the Times-Picayune since 1986, lost his job in the restructuring.

"The main thing is I'm sad for this city," he said outside a local bar where laid-off workers met to commiserate. "You take away the Times-Picayune, and there are a bunch of police officers that were on the Danziger Bridge that would still be on the streets today.

"You take away the Times-Picayune, and Aaron Broussard would still be president of Jefferson Parish. The watchdog role of this newspaper cannot be underestimated."

McCusker was talking about how reporters exposed corrupt politicians and even a police plot to cover up civilian killings after Hurricane Katrina. The paper's storm coverage earned a Pulitzer Prize.
Since then, the Advocate has entered the New Orleans market with a daily printed paper to fill this crucial "watchdog" role we all lamented last year. Here are some interesting facts about the new watchdog.

 It is owned by millionaire and sometime politician John Georges.

It is "the official paper" of the Tom Benson corporate welfare empire. 

Its new ad sends a bit of a strange message.

If you haven’t seen The New Orleans Advocate’s new television campaign, you probably will soon. The brisk, clever ads emphasize the paper’s daily delivery schedule and feature local personalities — Archie Manning, Irma Thomas, Rita Benson LeBlanc, Andrea Apuzzo, the 610 Stompers — ringing a doorbell and handing copies of The New Orleans Advocateto a surprised homeowner. It’s all set to a jazzy soundtrack and the familiar Yat growl of Ronnie Virgets: “New Orleans is at ya do’ — seven days a week.”

But it’s not all chefs, musicians and sports figures. Among the familiar faces ringing the doorbell are several elected officials: Jefferson Parish President John Young and Sheriff Newell Normand; St. Tammany Parish President Pat Brister; and New Orleans City Council Vice President Stacy Head.

“Business is good in Jefferson Parish!” Young says, handing the homeowner a newspaper, while Head announces, “Here’s the latest from the City Council!”

Most newspapers’ marketing departments — including that of The New Orleans Advocate — are completely separate from their newsroom operations. Nonetheless, using elected officials in ads for a newspaper is a new one on Kelly McBride, the house ethics expert at the Poynter Institute, a nonprofit school for journalism in St. Petersburg, Fla.

The Advocate obviously has a competitive relationship with The Times-Picayune,” McBride told Gambit. “If the politicians join The Advocate in sharing that message, what does that say about The Advocate’s ability to critically examine those politicians?”
In any commercial news gathering outfit there are times when the news and marketing divisions are working at cross purposes.  One imagines an ad where politicos show up at your door and tell you what to read might make the news staff uncomfortable. The Gambit addresses this question with journalism ethicist David Craig.
"It raises questions in my mind around the issue of independence, and the principle of acting independently comes into play here, though it may be more of an issue of perception than reality,” Craig said. “It doesn’t make me start worrying that the members of the newsroom aren’t credible, but it does make me wonder what members of the public might think about it.”
Okay, sure, obviously the pros in the newsroom aren't compromised by a TV ad.  But couching this as a mere "perception" problem is too dismissive. John Georges is making himself, his friends, and connections a part of the Advocate brand on purpose.  Eventually that comes to mean something whether that thing is openly stated or not.

Still yet more, even, on the subject of Bobby Jindal lying about stuff

Lamar is on a roll this week.

Here's my new open records law proposal

From now on, let's just conduct all official government communications within NOLA.com comment threads. That way we don't have to go to court every time we want to document obvious things everybody already knew.
A New Orleans environmental activist is suing the state for copies of correspondence she says could shed light on conversations between Gov. Bobby Jindal’s top coastal-protection adviser and the energy industry about a local flood-protection board’s decision to file a massive lawsuit against dozens of oil and gas companies.

The suit comes in the wake of the state’s denial of a public-records request by Anne Rolfes, founding director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, seeking all correspondence to and from Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves since December.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Serpas Signal

If you're doing that thing where you dress up like Rob Ryan in a Santa suit and ride around paying everybody's bar tab Friday night, you might want to bring along a designated sleigh driver.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint on Friday, September 20, 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.

Meanwhile, because you want more Rob Ryan, here's a bunch more Rob Ryan

Ain't my fault

Here's a little trip down memory lane to Ray Nagin's 2007 State of the City address.
"It's not our fault that the levees breached that the federal government built," he said, launching into the speech's singular moment of unscripted oratory and rousing the night's only standing ovation. "It's not our fault that we were stranded and left. It's not our fault that the Road Home program has issued only 12 percent of the grants after almost two years. It's not our fault that our water system is leaking today. It's not our fault."
The T-P article failed to note that Nagin was explicitly referencing the brass standard "Ain't my fault" here. As was the case during nearly all of Nagin's extemporaneous moments, I remember cracking up watching it.

Anyway, it crossed my mind again today when I saw this
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin asked Thursday for a delay in his corruption trial, scheduled for late October, with his attorney arguing that he needs the opportunity to fully review reports by a Justice Department special prosecutor into the anonymous online commenting of two former high-ranking New Orleans prosecutors.

The request came two days after U.S. District Judge Kurt Engelhardt tossed out the convictions of five former NOPD officers in the Danziger Bridge shooting case, in part because of the online commenting of Sal Perricone and Jan Mann, once high-ranking members of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
So that's now Heebe, Nagin, and the Danzinger cops who have picked up the Perricone Get Out Of Jail Card so far. But if this is gonna be somebody's fault, it's ultimately got to be Jim Letten's.

Something, anyway

Good to see they got at least one guilty plea out of Halliburton.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) - A federal judge accepted a plea agreement Thursday that calls for Halliburton Energy Services to pay a $200,000 fine for destroying evidence after BP's 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Halliburton pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge stemming from the deletion of data during a post-spill review of the cement job on BP's blown-out Macondo well.

The Houston-based company could have withdrawn its guilty plea if U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo had rejected its deal with the Justice Department.

Milazzo said she believes the plea agreement is reasonable and agreed with prosecutors and the company that it "adequately reflects the seriousness of the offense."

Halliburton also agreed to make a $55 million contribution to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, but that payment was not a condition of the deal.

The company was BP PLC's cement contractor on the drilling rig that exploded in the Gulf in April 2010, killing 11 workers.
Not that this amounts to much. 

Curtis Lofton: Mommy blogger

Just a moment in time.

A gift to the government nerds of NOLA

This new Lens endeavor is pretty sweet.
Working with the Greater New Orleans Foundation, The Lens has received a $50,000 matching grant from the Knight Community Information Challenge to enable The Lens to create a searchable database of local  government contracts.

The grant program, part of the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, aims to improve how people and governments interact by increasing access to local news and information. Ten community-based organizations around the country received awards.

The Lens will use the money to collect and upload as many local government contracts as possible and present them in a way that enables searching and cross-referencing with public officials and agencies. When possible, we’ll get our our information online. Otherwise, we’ll copy or scan the documents in person.
If this gets me a step closer to the Grand Unified Flow Chart Of Why Kevin Wildes and Norman Francis Are On Every Board, I'll be happy. 

More Bobby Jindal lying poorly

Just as we were talking about what a crappy liar Bobby Jindal is, he drops this beauty on us.
The U.S. Justice Department is attempting in federal court to ban Louisiana from continuing the voucher program for students who otherwise would attend public schools under federal desegregation orders. The lawsuit alleges that the scholarship program is, in some cases, leading to more segregation in schools.

Jindal said such a claim is completely false. He challenged Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder to come to Louisiana and explain the legal challenges to the 8,000 students Jindal said are benefiting from the program. “They would send our children to these failing schools,” Jindal said.

Vouchers are state tax dollars to help pay for students who attend public schools rated C, D or F, and who meet other conditions, to attend private schools.

Jindal and other backers say the aid offers students trapped in poor schools a way out. Critics say vouchers drain vital dollars from traditional public schools.

“Our children only grow up once,” Jindal said. “They only get one chance to get a good education.”

The U.S. Justice Department previously said in a prepared statement that the agency is not trying to end the voucher program. “The United States seeks a straightforward goal: to ensure that the State of Louisiana implements its school voucher program in a manner that complies with the U.S. Constitution and longstanding federal desegregation orders.”

You know what? I'm not even going to touch this.  Instead I'll point you over to Lamar who utterly destroys it.
As I mentioned yesterday, Bobby Jindal and John White aren’t even attempting to sell this scam to poor white kids in poor majority white schools in the country, and they’re not recruiting the state’s best private and most competitive private schools. No, instead, more than 93% of school vouchers are being given to African-Americans, almost entirely from inner-city neighborhoods (neighborhoods, it’s worth noting, where the public schools are the most important civic assets and institutions).

Under the pretense of “choice,” we are effectively defunding our most vulnerable inner-city schools in order to enrich right-wing churches, profiteering ideologues, and schools under significant financial strain (that is, schools that need the voucher students because without the additional stream of revenue, they could go bankrupt). And again (it’s worth reemphasizing), we’re marketing these schools to African-American parents and children, and we’re pretending as if this is “empowering.”

I’m not suggesting that the voucher schools are universally bad; I’m saying: It’s close. And if you have any doubt over why the Department of Justice is dedicating their time and resources to this or how this program undermines desegregation, consider this: The voucher program is disproportionately placing African-American students in underfunded, completely unaccountable, and completely unregulated schools, and in so doing, it is ensuring, in many districts, that public schools become even more segregated.

Reality-based Bobby

Last month, Bobby Jindal's office released the results of an internal poll that purported to show a dramatic turnaround in the Governor's dismal approval ratings.
Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal's approval rating stands at 50 percent, according to a poll released Monday by his political consultancy firm. The numbers contradict those released by a different firm earlier this year that showed a dip in Jindal's ratings to an all-time low of 37 percent.

According to the poll released Monday by OnMessage, Inc., half of those polled approved of the governor's job performance while 46 percent disapproved. The numbers were a four point increase over previous OnMessage ratings for the governor.

But they represented over a 12 point increase when compared with polling numbers released in April by Southern Media & Opinion Research -- a firm with funding from conservative businessman Lane Grigsby -- and a 13 point increase over a February poll released by Public Policy Polling.
That On Message poll was a significant outlier, and a particularly suspicious one at that.

Never mentioned (by the Jindal folks, anyway) is the fact that the 50 percent approval rating was the result of a poll by OnMesssage of Alexandria, VA.

OnMessage. Sound familiar? It should. It was OnMessage that hired one Timmy Teepell to head up its Southern operations in Baton Rouge—except there was never a Baton Rouge address or telephone number in Baton Rouge for the company and Teepell’s Jeep has remains parked in the back lot of the State Capitol since his hiring.

Despite recent rumors of OnMessage’s dissatisfaction with Teepell’s failure to attract clients for the political consulting firm, there is the matter of some $1.2 million that can’t be ignored when considering those rosy OnMessage poll results.

That’s the amount that Jindal’s Believe in Louisiana non-profit, tax-exempt propaganda machine paid OnMessage through last September. That figure included $456,551 paid in March of 2012, ostensibly for polling and research.

It’s enough to make one wonder how much Jindal (or Believe in Louisiana) paid OnMessage for the latest good news.
Team Jindal needed to buy some good news that week since other polls coming out then indicated he was becoming America's Most Unpopular GOP Governor.  Sometimes, in such situations, it helps to get at least one positive headline out there.  If you buy the right propaganda at the right time you might be able to turn the overall trend around.

Except if this time it didn't work.  Bobby Jindal's bad poll numbers are still bad.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's polling numbers might be higher if the Louisiana economy was stronger or, absent that, his communication skills were sharper -- especially when it comes to economic policy, according to a report in Governing Magazine.
In other words, he'd be polling better if he weren't so terrible at either A) politics or B) policy. Under better circumstances, you might be able to lie your way out of bad news.  But it turns out Jindal isn't quite as convincing a liar as we maybe used to think. Also the news is still bad.
The study ranked the states in order of the success of their state economies; it then looked at the relationship, if any, between the level of that success and the governor's popularity.

Louisiana's economy placed 40th on the Governing list, a relatively low number considering a recent boom in the state's natural gas sector that some say is leading to the "reindustrialization" of the region.

While the Jindal administration continues to push the narrative of economic growth, the study claims if the state economy was truly booming, Jindal would see higher polling numbers.
Here's something else about that "reindustrialization." It comes with a heavy price in corporate giveaways. 
On the cost side, Albrecht said the state not only provides incentive-subsidy packages -- what he deems "flat-out check writes" -- but also hands firms cash money to influence their decision.

Sasol, for example, will get $115 million in cash in 2018 and 2019 to build their liquids-to-gas facility in southwest Louisiana. In these years, state tax revenues in excess of cost will actually be negative, according to LED's own projections, but officials still state the "cumulative" tax revenues will be positive.

Albrecht disagrees with this characterization.

"They're trying to imply that it's still free even though their annual benefit is negative in that year," he said in an interview Thursday. "I think a little of disingenuous."

This cash incentive throws a wrench into the budgeting plan for those outlying years, because lawmakers will have to find the money from the state general fund, construction budget or elsewhere. When asked where he thinks the administration will say the money is coming from, Albrecht said he didn't know.

"They don't say," he said. "When (the costs from the Sasol project) starts, they're going to be gone and they've obligated future legislators to come up with $115 million in cash."
Recall that Jindal's main stated objection to accepting federal medicaid expansion dollars is his concern over future state budget obligations.  In effect what's he's saying there is that future outlays to care for sick people just aren't as sexy as giving cash directly to chemical companies.

Also, the giveaways aren't doing any good. You may not know that if you get all of your information from business magazine listicles, though.  Which is why it was refreshing to see this column where Robert Mann calls attention to the kind of research on which such pieces are based.

This month, it's Area Development, which concluded that Louisiana is sixth among the "Top States for Doing Business" in 2013. The editors assert that Louisiana has secured economic development projects "that are creating more than 63,000 new direct and indirect jobs and more than $28 billion in new capital investment, along with hundreds of millions of dollars in new sales for Louisiana's small businesses."

"This resurgence is largely due to the innovative economic policies put forth by [Jindal] and the state legislature," the publication says. "Action items have ranged from removing unconventional business taxes to reining in government spending, reforming governmental ethics laws, revamping work force development programs, and implementing landmark education reforms for Louisiana students."

I'm not sure how the magazine is qualified to comment, for example, on the correlation of economic development to education "reforms" enacted only last year and not fully implemented. But that doesn't influence the objective data used to calculate Louisiana's ranking, does it? Except, one wonders, just how does the magazine know Jindal created those 63,000 jobs and $28 billion in investments?

I submitted that very question to Gerri Gambale, Area Development's editor. Her answer was surprising. The data, she told me by email, "came from the website of Governor Jindal."
Mann goes on to debunk Jindal's PR with some less sanguine numbers furnished by the BLS and also this report from the Louisiana Budget Project which tells us, among other things, that Louisiana manufacturing jobs are down 9.6% since Bobby "The Re-Industrialist" Jindal came into office. 

But the reindustrialized Louisiana isn't just supposed to be the new robber-barron's paradise in the sense of direct payments to industrialists. There are also public services to privatize.
Shortened emergency room waits and an eliminated prescription backlog in Baton Rouge. A re-established gynecology clinic in Lake Charles. The reopening of operating rooms in New Orleans and an orthopedic clinic in Lafayette that were previously shuttered by budget cuts.

Those are among the examples of health care changes highlighted by Gov. Bobby Jindal's administration, seeking to quell criticism as the last pieces are put in place for the privatization of Louisiana's charity hospital system.

The governor and top cabinet leaders say the first outsourcing deals, rolled out in April and June, have improved services for the poor and uninsured and boosted medical training for students, as private health providers have taken over the services previously run by LSU.
Oh wait, wait, I'm sorry, we're doing that thing where we just copy down what the Governor's office tells us again.  Where's the.... OK here we go.
Gov. Bobby Jindal's privatization of the LSU-run public hospital network is bringing in $39 million less in lease payments for the facilities than expected this year, according to a report from the Legislature's financial analysts that is disputed by the Jindal administration.

The budget for the fiscal year that began July 1 was built on estimates provided to lawmakers by the Jindal administration that anticipated the new hospital managers would lease those facilities and their clinics for more than $140 million.

In a new publication, the Legislative Fiscal Office says that so far, the leases are only expected to generate about $101 million for the 2013-14 year. That would leave the budget with a $39 million gap that lawmakers have to fill before the fiscal year ends June 30.
If Bobby Jindal is ever going to become a serious candidate for national office, he's going to have start giving his lies a little more staying power than this. It's almost a little sad watching him try and fail repeatedly like this.

Quote of the Day

“A person once asked me, in a provocative manner, if I approved of homosexuality,” he told Father Spadaro. “I replied with another question: ‘Tell me: when God looks at a gay person, does he endorse the existence of this person with love, or reject and condemn this person?’ We must always consider the person.”
Pope Francis I 

I'm not someone who needs religion to make sense of the world. (I don't really need it to make sense at all but that's another conversation.) But many people seem to like it, so I figure it's caught on and so the kids can have fun with that if they like.

Anyway, despite the many crazy things your grandmother or Bill Donahue may have said to you over the years, the Catholics were never the most socially backward Christians. (At least not during the most recent century or so.) They've only been really really bad.  And, relatively speaking, that's pretty OK.

So it's not surprising to see a somewhat less hardline stance from a Pope every now and again. Now, if only they'd fix that whole child sex abuse thing they've got going on, they'd be halfway to becoming a semi-legitimate global fraud conglomerate just like any other large bank.

In other words, nice going.

Harvest Moon

Twitter tonight, in a nutshell.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Speaking of real estate opportunities

After the Saints-Falcons game two Sundays back, we took a walk down to the Quarter (as is often the custom.) Along the way I noticed the Orpheum has a sign up again.


For some reason, I'd thought this had all been settled. But apparently I was wrong, so, like Villere did with his ferry landing, I went home and googled it.
Disgruntled investors in the long-shuttered Orpheum Theater have taken ownership of the historic property and put it up for sale for the third time in eight years. The 1921 beaux-arts theater, left largely untouched since Hurricane Katrina despite promises of renovation and revival, was listed on the market for $2 million Friday.
The theater took heavy flood damage after Katrina. Things have only gotten messier since. Just go read the above article if you want to details of the weird dealings, sales, and re-sales.  The upshot is there are about $10 million in renovations to be done on top of that $2 million asking price. 

Opportunity's cost

Sometimes I think if we collected all of Jean-Paul Villere's columns into a book we'd have to call it something like, New Orleans: A Vulture's Eye ViewHere he is picking over the carcass of the Jackson Avenue Ferry Landing. 
A couple of weeks back my wife and I found ourselves idling at the stoplight at Jackson and Tchoupitoulas and as my eye surveyed the very familiar intersection, this tiny sign came into view.  I squinted and realized it was a “For Sale” sign on the chain-link fence enclosing the long shuttered building on the corner.  I thought it was joke or prank on par with the “guzzled” hoo ha that just unfolded in the metro area till I went home and Googled it.  And lo and behold, the ferry landing was (is) in fact for sale.  And if you’ve got $1.65 million then it could be yours too.
I drive by that spot fairly often myself. When I see it I think about how different the city might be had we not abandoned a public transit cog that could connect Uptown pedestrians and cyclists to Gretna.

Here's a recent edition of Vice Magazine which featured an interview with (fairly) famous sons of the West Bank, Ballzack and Odoms. The article opens with a brief description of their background in the isolated "suburban nothingness."
Ballzack and Odoms rap mostly about the West Bank, which is the big chunk of New Orleans that exists across the river from the city’s more renowned areas. “The Wank,” as East Bankers call it, is a much different creature than the French Quarter. Though lacking touristy charms, the West Bank is nonetheless deeply New Orleanian—while walkability and unique flavor defines New Orleans as y’all know it, the West Bank is like most of America: big, busy roads and strip malls. Meaning you need a car. Meaning until you’re 16 years old, you’re stuck. For a decade, Ballzack and Odoms, both in their 30s now, have been making music that harkens back to their West Bank childhoods and the art of conjuring fun out of suburban nothingness.
Think about how different that picture might be with regular ferry service.  The roughly 3/4 mile between the Westbank 'burbs and the Uptown oaks would be much less a barrier to commerce and exploration.  Commutes would become easier. Owen Courreges wouldn't accuse us of "conspiring to landlock Uptown."  Gretna Fest could be accessible to untold numbers of  Eastbankers starved for quality entertainment.  Maybe we would bore one or two fewer teens.  A lot of stuff would be different.. and mostly better.

These are the things that flash across the mind when one happens upon a  For Sale sign posted to a piece of public infrastructure like this: A crumbling social contract, the physical and symbolic divide between the gentrifying city and the creeping poverty of its suburbs, the pain in the ass NOPD speed trap just around the corner from there on Tchoupitoulas behind the Wal-Mart.

Villere's real estate column, though, comes to rest on the "once in a lifetime opportunity."
My greatest curiosity remains who the bidders will be, what their intentions are, and ultimately what the winner will do with it, but unfortunately from here my guess is we may only ever know the latter.  I suppose for what is being offered the sum sought might seem relatively affordable.  In terms of real estate inventory, the “one of a kind” tagline really works here as really, is there anything else like it?  And if there is, what are the chances that it too would be for sale.  Like a late night screening of the Twin Peaks movie at the Prytania, an acquisition such as this may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity.

Me, I think I’d make it an office; what would you do with it?
A "once in a lifetime opportunity" to open an office. Way to think big, I guess.  At least no one has suggested we use it to dock the "party boat."

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Rising Tide 8 is in the can

Sometimes it doesn't really feel like 8 years.  But then look at all the "vintage" swag that's piled up.

RT Swag

This subversive little blogger meet-up is practically an institution now. You never know who you might see at one of these.

John Georges in danger

You have to credit Georges for showing up at something like this, what with all the "dangerous people" you might run into.  In the interest of keeping the brand out there, though, I gave him a little razz behind his back just after I took this picture.

Don't worry. Other things happened as well.  But instead of sitting here and typing it all out while I'm trying to watch the Saints game, I'll link you over to The Lens where Steve Myers live-blogged the Charter School Accountability panel and also to Uptown Messenger where Robert Morris blogged and shared tweets from attendees throughout the day.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

What's on Teevee?

It's (or at least it should be if this thing works) the Rising Tide 8 live stream.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It's been fun

The process of undoing the levee board reforms begins today.
A nominating process that is likely to end with the ouster of two prominent supporters of a local levee board’s suit against almost 100 oil and gas companies will get underway Friday as a committee of engineers, academics and policy experts begins poring over a half-dozen applications from those seeking seats on the board.

Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East President Tim Doody and Vice President John Barry, whose terms have expired, each face two challengers seeking their spots on the board. State law requires the nominating committee, which holds its first meeting today, to recommend two people for each slot to Gov. Bobby Jindal.

While several board members have kept their thoughts on the recently filed suit private, the Jindal administration has been sharply critical of it. Administration officials have said a candidate’s support or rejection of the suit — which potentially seeks billions in damages from energy companies for the destruction of coastal wetlands — will be a key factor in the appointments.

To be very clear, the governor has said that the lawsuit is a litmus test. Period,” said Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Chairman Garret Graves, who has been the administration’s chief spokesman in criticizing the lawsuit.
At  least they're up front about whose side they're on. 

Amoeba defense

Isn't this supposed to be what Rob Ryan was hired for?
Tests from federal health officials have confirmed the presence of a rare brain-eating amoeba in four sites in the St. Bernard Parish water system, the state Department of Health and Hospitals said Thursday.

But even though the water in some areas carries the amoeba Naegleria fowleri, health officials stressed that there is a low risk of contracting any disease since people cannot be infected just by drinking the contaminated water. The amoeba can affect a person only if it gets into his or her nose

Thursday, September 12, 2013

True facts about Ed Blakely

According to ABC News Australia, former New Orleans "recovery czar" Ed Blakely is "Bringing Brooklyn's urban cool" to a shopping mall fountain in Sydney. Gambit explains.

Dr. Ed Blakely watchers know that former Mayor Ray Nagin's "recovery czar" declared mission accomplished on the rebuilding of New Orleans in 2009 and took his metaphorical "cranes in the sky" to Australia, where he now works with the University of Sydney's United States Study Centre (bless their hearts).

But now Blakely has a new challenge. He's teaming up with "urban designer" Ethan Kent to revitalize a shopping mall in the Sydney suburb of Parramatta.

That revitalization seems to center on restoring a fountain built in 1986 in the midst of the mall, a rather different task than rebuilding New Orleans. But certainly Blakely is the man for the job; as a report on ABC News Australia stated this morning, he was appointed to fix New Orleans by none other than President George W. Bush:

Professor Blakely was called in by then president George W Bush as "recovery tsar" after Katrina and has now been commissioned by Parramatta City Council to rebuild its central square, Church Street Mall.

He says the task in New Orleans was massive.

"The city fell down. 80 per cent of it was ruined," Professor Blakely said.

"We had to build it from the ground up and that's what we did.

"But I worked on a lot of other cities around the world: San Francisco, some in New York, Moscow, Paris."
There once was a time (I think this was just after the "Chocolate City" speech) when we were fond of pointing out the similarities between Mayor Ray Nagin and President Bush.  But we were pretty certain at the time that Nagin and not Bush hired Ed Blakely.  But if ABC says differently, then I suppose there's a lot we didn't know about Ed Blakely.

And that's why I did some checking.  You might be surprised at the Ed Blakely facts I found. I would like to share these facts with you now.  Not many people know these facts so you are likely learning them for the first time.  If you find them shocking please consider the feelings of others you may share them with before you do.

  • Ed Blakely was hatched in a secret laboratory operated by Monsanto in Anaheim, California at Disneyland's original Tomorrowland exhibit. In the basement.

  • Ed Blakely trained  in the meditative arts by walking a topiary labyrinth for 20 years uninterrupted while he communed with the infinite.. or possibly the ghost of Robert Moses.

  • Ed Blakely was appointed by President Rutherford Hayes to re-crack the Liberty Bell after it was repaired by well-meaning locals who didn't want to wait around for the damn gub'mint to solve their bell problem for them.

  • Ed Blakely once escaped from Liliput shouting defiantly at its inhabitants, "I don't have time to talk to little people."

  • Ed Blakely personally administered the neighborhood charrette that produced Adrien de Pauger's original plan of New Orleans.

  • Ed Blakely restored power to Superbowl XLVII by smiling brightly at a newborn child.

  • Ed Blakely once bike toured all the way from Cuba to Florida.
This afternoon, we received word that the Voyager 1 Spacecraft is believed to have finally exited the solar system and sailed  on into interstellar space. But Ed Blakely was already there so it turned around and came home.