Friday, July 31, 2015

Back at the budget circus

Every year there's at least one of these meetings where the folks are extra shouty.  This year it was District A.
The “Fix My Streets” group, formed in Lakeview around budget time last year, was among the first cluster to speak and was well represented throughout the comments all evening. They asked how they can be sure that their tax money is really being spent on fixing streets — suggesting they would be open to a dedicated tax to speed the effort — and they asked Landrieu to move swiftly to create a committee to help oversee the process.

Landrieu’s response was a glimpse into the particular kind of hopelessness that municipal government can create. Admitting that the interior neighborhood streets are terrible, Landrieu said it would take $9 billion to fix them all. Even if he completely transferred the budgets of the entire police and fire departments to that effort, it would still take 20 to 25 years.

In the meantime, Landrieu said, the city is doing the best it can to fix the roads that benefit the most people. It has already repaired many major roads around the city, rattling off a list around District that included several in Lakeview (“You ride on them, don’t you?” Landrieu asked, to which someone in the audience yelled back: “Very slowly!”). Next, the city is using new GPS and 3-D scanning technology to map the damage to every street in the city, to prioritize them for repair.
And, from the looks of things, "Fix My Streets" was the tame petitioner last night, relatively speaking.. and that is saying something. The firefighters were there to yell, as usual. And, of course, this being Lakeview, a lot of pro-Confederates were in the audience. 
Another vocal constituency at the Lakeview meeting was the “Save Our Circle” group, formed in response to Landrieu’s recent suggestion that the statue of Robert E. Lee be removed from Lee Circle downtown. Organizer Tim Shea Carroll asked Landrieu how much the effort was going to cost in light of the other budget difficulties, and said he had a petition of 22,000 signatures asking that the mayor “stop talking about the monuments.”

Landrieu replied that, as the city both recovers from the flooding after Hurricane Katrina and prepares for its 300th anniversary, it has the opportunity to correct the mistakes of the past and shape itself into the city it always should have been. The statues honoring Confederate leaders were erected in a period of history during which white supremacy and anti-integration sentiment was being reasserted by the governing class, and Landrieu said that they do not represent his values or those of many other New Orleanians.

“Just because it was part of our past does not mean it has to be there for all time, or that it has to be revered,” Landrieu said, noting that Lee Circle was originally Tivoli Circle before it was renamed in honor of the Confederate general.
If one goes by the tweets and other live-bloggings, that passage downplays the mood in the room where there appear to have been multiple outbursts and standing ovations in favor of keeping the monuments. For some reason, this is very important to District A folks. 

We'll have to wait and see if the Civic Leaders take this anxiety into account during their deliberations. 

The final budget circus is scheduled for August 10 in District E at the Andrew P. Sanchez & Copelin-Byrd Multi-Service Center (1616 Caffin Ave)

We failed

Hang in there, guys. Only one month left in the #Katrina10 commemoration, celebration, whatever it is.  I know some people are getting testy.  Which is weird to be because everywhere you look, one very important Civic Leader after another is telling us how great everything is.

The mayor appeared in Buzzfeed this week to do that some more.  But also he
couldn't help but take the opportunity to snap at his critics, or at least at his incoherent mischaracterization of them. 
Landrieu went further, arguing “there’s some people who have this sick mentality that all the bad things kind of help make the good things. That’s wrong. I think that’s wrong. I don’t believe you need poverty to make culture … Lots of people conflate good things and bad things. It’s good for neighborhoods to have housing that’s improving. It’s bad for everybody to be priced out of the market. It’s good for neighborhoods to be diverse and not just racially monolithic. It’s bad when it flips one way or another.”
But no one has argued that "you need poverty to make culture." The complaint is that our policy solution to the problem of poverty has been to remove the poor people.
Twenty-year-old Jonquille Floyd is on the hunt for an apartment. Like many New Orleanians without much of a formal education, he works in the hospitality industry, washing dishes at a touristy French Quarter restaurant.

It's minimum wage, $7.25 an hour, plus some lagniappe from the wait staff who share tips with him for fetching water and the like. It's not his long-term plan. He's going to school in the fall to study welding.

In the meantime, he has to find a place to live. At his pay, he thinks he can afford something in the realm of $650, with some help from Covenant House, the shelter where he lives now.

Not that long ago, Floyd might have been able to afford a spot around Treme or Bywater, some place where his commute would be an easy bus ride or a jaunt on the skateboard he takes around with him for short trips. Instead, he's looking at places on the West Bank, out in Jefferson Parish and in eastern New Orleans. Even there, it's shaky, he said.

Floyd is one of many low-income workers being priced out of the city's historic core, neighborhoods where the working poor were once able to find cheap housing. It was often substandard, but it was close to work, allowing residents to sidestep the expense of a car and a public transportation system that leaves much to be desired, especially for those living in far-flung neighborhoods.
Nowhere in this article does anyone say, "We need Floyd to stay poor so he can make culture'" Well okay, actually that is precisely what his employers are saying by offering him an unlivable minimum wage. If Mitch wanted to yell at somebody's "sick mentality" maybe he should start with his close friends among our Hospitality Leaders.

Instead he purposefully misconstrues critics who have merely pointed out all along that the city's development strategy over the course of the recovery has emphasized building nice things for rich people and tourists while ignoring ... or actively exacerbating the affordable housing crisis.

New Orleans was always going to be rebuilt. Billions of dollars in federal investment guaranteed that. Our job as a local polity was to make sure that the benefits of that recovery accrued equitably; that they worked more to lift people out of poverty than to lift the poor out of the way of "opportunities" for the wealthy.  For the most part, we failed to accomplish this.

That doesn't mean things can't happen now to rectify these failures. But the first step is recognizing the failure for what it is.  Maybe after the self-aggrandizing Katrina 10 tributes are over, we can talk more seriously about that.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

What is an election even for?

Why even have a primary if we've already decided politics isn't for people who want to argue about stuff anymore?
This isn't about Hillary. The lesser evil argument has been a consistent feature of Democratic Party thought dating all the way back to the late Reagan years, long before Hillary Clinton was herself a candidate. The argument always hits the same notes:

–The essentially antiwar, anti-inequality platform progressives want will never win a national election in this country, because McGovern, etc.

–Therefore we must instead support corporate-sponsored Candidate A, who will help us bridge the fundraising gap with the evil Republicans.

–And we should vote for Candidate A anyway, because even though he doesn't always (or even often) show it with his votes, deep down, he's a true believer on the issues.
 Back to the salt mines, guys. We'll call you out when it's time for you to crown the new king.

Camp previews

It's that time of year. The guys are checking into the golf spa and already starting to relax.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- The New Orleans Saints designated three players as physically unable to perform on Tuesday, placing them on the "PUP list" one day before the start of training camp.

Safety Jairus Byrd, receiver Marques Colston and defensive tackle Glenn Foster were placed on the PUP list.
The heavy intensity of hanging around the Greenbrier and mostly not practicing hasn't even begun yet and already the writers know how it's all going to work out.

The Advocate's Nick Underhill tells you who is going to make the roster here. (McCown over Griffin, Hightower over Murphy, Johnson over Lorig, Coleman and Jones over the Morgans, Hopkins over Hocker)

The T-P's Larry Holder offers a competing foresight. Differences in caps. (McCown over Griffin, MURPHY OVER HIGHTOWER, LORIG OVER JOHNSON, Coleman and Jones over the Morgans PLUS SAUNDERS, Hopkins over Hocker)

But who knows what will happen in the future? We sure don't. At this time last year we were rolling into camp on the crest of the mightiest wave of #WeGotThis we've ever ridden. That didn't work out so well. By the way, stay tuned to this site for yet another unimpeachable prediction of the Saints' win total in a few weeks.

Meanwhile the camp previews are arriving. Here are some you might enjoy.

At Black and Gold Review, Ryan Chauvin imagines various alternate futures none of which is knowable to us or anyone because, despite his thesis, a season of football is nothing like as season of TV drama because TV is fake and football is real life stuff. Mostly. Except for the part about the deflated balls. None of that is believable.

Here's Ralph Malbrough talking about underpants gnomes.. or something. Also there's this worrisome bit.
As I mentioned earlier, the 2014 Saints needed Champ Bailey to be a contributor for a terrible batch of corners. Kevin Williams is in the exact same spot for 2015 Saints defensive tackles. The Saints interior defensive linemen include an old Brodrick Bunkley, second year question mark John Jenkins, and some rookies most of us couldn't name.

The Saints don't need Williams to be great, but if he doesn't make the roster and play 15-20 snaps a week, then the interior run defense might be as big a mess as it was the second half of 2014.
Bunkley has already been released.  Get ready for 2015 featuring the Patrick Robinson Show of Defensive Linemen.

There's more out there. Check an internet near you. It looks like Deadspin's "Why Your Team Sucks" series is moving according to last year's draft order which seems appropriate. Magary's Saints article should be up in a few days.  Here's Atlanta. Kind of a ho-hum effort much like its subject.

Anyway, hope the Saints have fun at the country club. Try not to hit anyone with a belt.

That one thing that makes our product uniquely attractive to you

Yeah, we're killing that part.
Twitter's complexity isn't just a problem the company needs to eliminate, it's an essential part of what makes the site useful right now. Twitter facilitates a type of rich, open conversation that's much harder to have on a more restrictive platform like Facebook or Instagram. It's why its most committed users are so incredibly committed, and why they create so much valuable, free content for the service.

While more complex products tend to be less popular in relative terms, they can still be huge markets in absolute terms. Microsoft is a hugely profitable company because it can continue selling its products to businesses that need the power of a full-scale PC. Similarly, the rapid growth of Facebook and Instagram doesn't mean that Twitter is doomed; there will continue to be tens or even hundreds of millions of people who want to use Twitter.
Too bad. Have fun being a crappy Facebook that no one will like for any reason now.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

If you can't join em

They'll beat you.

Republican party leaders on Tuesday endorsed former U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry as the party's choice for Attorney General, but offered no specifics about why they would choose Landry over incumbent Republican Buddy Caldwell.

The choice of Landry over a sitting Republican officeholder is a rare move for the party, GOP Chairman Roger Villere Jr. acknowledged, saying it hadn't been done since the 1991 gubernatorial endorsement of U.S. Rep. Clyde Holloway over Buddy Roemer, who had switched from Democrat to Republican weeks before.

But despite Villere referring to Landry as "the Republican in the race," and as "a registered Republican his entire life," he said the endorsement of Landry had nothing to do with Caldwell's 2011 decision to switch from Democrat to Republican. But when pressed on specifics about why the party was abandoning Caldwell, Villere would only say that Landry was the "the best candidate."


Post-Citizens United campaign finance
Gov. Jindal may be last in the polls, but, due to the unconventional ways in which his team has raised money for his campaign, using at least two closely affiliated SuperPACs and another 501(c)(4), he is well within the top 10, including both Republican and Democratic candidates, in fundraising.

According to his most recently filed campaign finance report, Jindal's struggling presidential campaign has raised less than $600,000. But a pro-Jindal SuperPAC, Believe Again, claims to have more than $3.7 million in the bank, and a dark-money nonprofit affiliated with Jindal has at least $4 million more. All told, Jindal has actually raised more than $8.6 million, which, as veteran Democratic strategist Joe Trippi told The Advocate, "is more than enough to be competitive in the early states.
Jindal once campaigned to enact a "gold standard" of ethics reform in Louisiana, but today his presidential campaign appears to be blurring the lines in ways thought unimaginable before Citizens United. The official Jindal campaign, for all intents and purposes, is practically indistinguishable from the campaigns behind his SuperPAC, Believe Again, and his tax-exempt 501(c)(4), America Next, and their shared staff, resources and missions make it very difficult, if not impossible, to believe the three organizations are not improperly coordinating with one another.
And, whatever is working for Bobby, is certainly going to work also for T-Bobby.

Similarly, Bautsch's work for Scott Angelle's campaign and his political action committee should raise significant concerns. According to a source intimately familiar with both campaigns, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, Bautsch essentially provided Angelle's campaign with Gov. Jindal's entire campaign database and, at least initially, utilized the Jindal campaign's $1,200 a month software system to track donations and finances. Bautsch adamantly denies the accusations, suggesting that the individual campaigns are responsible for those costs and that Jindal and Angelle have never shared the same software.

"Not necessarily"

He might have had to die. We don't really know. He probably didn't necessarily need to die, though.
City Manager Harry Black also spoke about the unreleased body camera video of the shooting.

"It's not a good situation," Black said. "It's a tragic situation, someone has died that did not necessarily need to die."
Also, if you've got a police force equipped with body cameras, and the body camera doesn't prevent the police from killing people, and the body camera video isn't  necessarily available to the public, well, maybe body cameras aren't necessarily there to protect the public in the first place.  What are they there for?

Corporate nullification

But everyone loves them some Ubers.
In February, Airbnb chief executive Brian Chesky compared his firm’s defiance of local housing ordinances with that of Gandhi’s passive resistance to British rule. Meanwhile, a tweeter compared Uber to Rosa Parks, defying unjust laws. Chesky quickly backed down after widespread mockery. Companies acting out of self-interest comparing themselves with the noble heroes of civil rights movements is as absurd as it is insulting.

But there is a better analogy from the US civil rights era for law-flouting firms of the on-demand economy. It’s just not the one corporate leaders claim. They are engaged in what we call “corporate nullification”, following in the footsteps of Southern governors and legislatures in the United States who declared themselves free to “nullify” federal law on the basis of strained and opportunistic constitutional interpretation.
Clever. What we need now is a map that marks Airbnb locations with little Confederate flag icons. 

Monday, July 27, 2015

So far behind we're... really behind

Here's the city's brilliant new way to fix the housing problem. Let developers build more nice things for rich people but with a token amount of "affordable housing" plugged in somewhere.
As a real estate boom makes affordable housing increasingly hard to find in New Orleans, the City Council is experimenting with new zoning strategies aimed at giving developers an incentive to include space for low-income residents in their projects.

The council made its most recent move Thursday (July 23) when it approved a rule that allows apartment developers to build on smaller lots in exchange for including some units set aside for low-income residents. The bonus would be available in any district that allows multifamily units, including most of Treme, Faubourg Marigny and Bywater.

Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who has been increasingly vocal about the need to mitigate the displacement associated with gentrification, sponsored the new rule, calling the amendment a good "first step" and saying that other zoning changes are in the works.

"Everyone in New Orleans knows that we are in the midst of an affordability crisis," Cantrell said.
This "strategy" (again, it's really just a token conciliation)  is already not working in other cities with a similar problem. 

It won't work here either. But, from the city's point of view, the point is not to pass something that actually works. The point is to appear as though they tried something. Here's a "best practice." Let's throw this at it.

Really just posting the Junior Galette meltdown links so I'll know where to find them

These are a potential treasure trove of call back lines we may very badly need to rely upon this coming season. #PillsFuckingHimUp is already to go-to tag for the next weird granny-killing reverse call.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Watch Bernie Sanders speak in Kenner

It's not as long as it looks. The first thirty minutes of this video is just watching the crowd assemble. (UPDATE: They've edited it down since I posted this.)   It was big. Something like 3500-4000 by my guesstimation. Bernie talks for about an hour.  There's further coverage of this speech in the Advocate, Gambit, and T-P.

I was there too. It was the second of back to back Bernie nights for me. On Saturday night I weaseled my way into the Louisiana Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson Dinner where I mostly was disgusted by/made fun of people.  I've got a long post in the works about that, about Bernie Sanders, and about the Democratic primary. But my writing schedule is such that I might not have that done for a few days.  In the meantime, this is one heckuva stump speech. Have fun watching the TV pictures.

Saturday, July 25, 2015

The Year Of The Shitty Governor

Whether they have any respect for you back home matters not one iota in Iowa.
The wacky things he does that make no sense to liberals in Louisiana have a strategic rationale, I promise you. For example, the Planned Parenthood investigation pairs well with whispers on the right about frontrunner Gov. Scott Walker being soft on abortion. (Walker recently countered.)

The local press is a bit alarmed that Jindal is brazenly lying about his record. Guess what? He ain't stoppin'!! In small town Iowa, Jindal's in control of his story. If a pesky reporter "fact checks" him up there, he can easily parry the questions— with more lies, if need be. That liberal media, always distracting us from the important issues, like hyphenated Americans and 'no go' zones.
Read the rest. There aren't many people who think Bobby Jindal has a reasonable chance of challenging for the GOP nomination right now. I'm one of them. Oyster is another one.  I can't think of many more at the moment. Although I noticed a few weeks ago Stephanie Grace was pretty impressed with his performance in New Hampshire.

Anyway don't sleep on Bobby just yet.

Runnin' it like a business

I'm so old I can remember back when Ray Nagin went to jail and everyone (well Clancy Dubos.. who counts as a lot of people) decided we weren't going to fall for the "run government like a business" canard ever again.
Lesson No. 1 — Don’t try to run government like a business. This is a lesson for us all. Businesses are dictatorships; our government is a democracy. The two are not designed to work the same way. The next time you hear some puffed-up businessman saying we should run government like a business, remind him that Greg Meffert and Mark St. Pierre were successful businessmen — and ask him if he likes how they ran things. If nothing else, we now know the danger — and the folly — of running government like a business.
Did we really ever learn "Lesson No. 1" though?  Not really. We just shifted the branding ever so slightly. Now "running government like a business" is called "disruption" or "public-private partnering" or, sometimes, "volunteer entrepreneurism."   But whatever you call it, the idea that, in order to provide a public service, we must first ensure that someone can make some money doing it, is still very much with us.
Another RSD school, Andrew H. Wilson Charter School, was taken over by a new, RSD-selected, operator after parents fought to keep the F-rated school from closing.

Parent Lamont Douglas, whose 6-year-old attends Wilson, said he felt like charter operators were angling for the school’s building more than the students in it.

“They’re treating our school system like a business and our children like commodities,” he said.

The use of “CEO” bears out that comparison, many said. The title is commonplace in New Orleans charter schools. Some charter network CEOs oversee multiple schools and site-level principals, and others are single-school sites with both a CEO and principal.

Who else do they have?

Bookmark this question. It will be fun to refer back to over the course of the upcoming season.
Outside linebacker Junior Galette said his stunning release by the New Orleans Saints on Friday was a "terrible call," and he also suggested it would have consequences for the team's struggling defense.

"Who else do they have?" he asked pointedly in an interview with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on Friday. "You tell me: Who else do they have?"
At the very least some guys who aren't always in a fight with someone.  (Fans, teammates, housemateswomen on the beach, everyone has a story.) The Saints ate a big cap bullet just to be rid of this.  They're probably fine with who else they have.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Year of the shitty governor

This will continue to be theme. Bobby Jindal is not the only shitty governor running for President. And, if the polls mean anything right now (questionable proposition, I know), being a shitty governor is not really a weakness.

Bye, Junior

It's been fun
The New Orleans Saints released embattled outside linebacker Junior Galette on Friday, a source told NOLA.com's Larry Holder.

Galette's release comes less than one year after he signed a lucrative contract extension that was meant to ensure his long-term future in New Orleans.

Galette told reporters last month that he was scheduled to meet with NFL officials in New York about his January arrest for domestic violence at his home in Kenner. The charge was later dismissed.

More recently, a video emerged last month showing Galette striking a woman with a belt during a brawl in 2013. The Saints said they forwarded the video to the league office, which was already investigating Galette in connection with the January arrest.

Galette, 27, spent all five of his NFL seasons with the Saints since being signed as an undrafted free agent in 2010.
Are you ready for the Hau'oli Kikaha era?

The email pipe is still clogged

One evening in late November  2010 the city suffered a loss of water pressure at 10:30 pm. Within 45 minutes, S&WB knew they would have to issue a boil water advisory. But, due to communications problems, it took several hours for that to happen. 
Within 45 minutes of the breakdown, which occurred just before 10:30 on a Friday night, water board officials knew they likely would have to issue a boil-water advisory urging residents not to use tap water for drinking, eating, cooking or bathing.

But it wasn't until almost 2 a.m. Saturday that the advisory went out to local news outlets. Even then, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's communications director didn't get the word for another hour, despite her repeated requests to the water board for information.

Ultimately, it took until after 8 a.m. -- long after many people had used tap water to shower, brush their teeth and make their morning coffee -- for City Hall to spread the news, which affected some 300,000 residents and tourists, via its e-mail and text alert system.
The controversy that ensued resulted in everyone vowing to get it right next time even if it meant sending the police to the mayor's house in the middle of the night.
St. Martin and Sneed said on Friday that they have changed their emergency protocols as a result. In the future, they said, they will call senior city officials at their home and cell phones -- or dispatch police to rouse them, if necessary -- when major problems occur at night.
They never quite got that system worked out although they've ample occasion to practice. The next boil advisory was issued in 2012 after a 5 hour delay
New Orleanians went about their usual morning routines Monday, showering, brushing their teeth, eating breakfast, unaware that a short, sudden drop in water pressure might have compromised the city's water supply. The Sewerage & Water Board, which manages the city's potable water system, knew about the glitch a little after 8:30 a.m., but didn't tell east bank residents until 1 p.m. that they should boil their water to guard against harmful bacteria.
This time we were told the problem was.. something something something.. Bobby Jindal, probably.
Officials said Monday's incident had little in common with what happened in November 2010. The lengthy consultation with state officials, not faulty after-hours policies, led to the latest delay in alerting the public, St. Martin said.
The next year the problem was a water main break.  The advisory lag was still about the same, though.
Six hours after a water main break in the Carrollton neighborhood flooded several streets Tuesday morning, the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board advised residents and businesses in a large swath of Uptown to boil tap water before drinking, bathing or rinsing food with it.
Today's advisory didn't happen until 10:00 am. That's about seven hours after S&WB lost water pressure. Although today, unlike in 2010 when they knew within an hour, they're telling us that's just how long it takes to determine anything
So why did it take more than seven hours -- after most of the city went through its breakfast and pre-work routines -- for officials to alert the public? The answer, officials said, involves the time needed to determine whether the water supply was at risk.

After Sewerage and Water Board responded to the interruption in power and switched to a backup source, it began a comprehensive assessment of water pressure readings around the city, spokesman Robert Jackson said. Once a determination was made that enough pressure readings dropped below the safe 15-pounds-per-square-inch threshold, the boil order was issued.
But that's not what they've said in the past.  Have they just given up trying to get this right?

Amoeba fatigue

What if you lived in a city where boil orders happened so frequently that they barely held anyone's attention?
A precautionary boil water advisory has been issued for the east bank of New Orleans on Friday morning (July 24) after the Sewerage & Water Board's Carrollton Water Plant experienced a number of power surges, S&WB officials said.

"Residents in the affected area are advised not to drink, make ice, brush teeth, bathe or shower, prepare or rinse food with tap water unless it has been properly disinfected, until further notice," said a S&WB news release.

The New Orleans Recreation Development Commission announced that all New Orleans east bank pools are closed until further notice because of the advisory. The Behrman Pool on the West Bank is not affected.
That would be one exciting life, right? This is something like the fourth one of these we've had since 2010. This time it's Entergy's fault, possibly.
Water board officials blamed the advisory on Entergy power surges that caused interruptions in the water system's Claiborne and Panola pumping stations.

"Because of these Entergy Power surges, water pressure unexpectedly dropped to 20 pounds per square inch at the S&WB Carrollton WAter Plant for a few minutes and may have dropped below 15 psi in areas throughout the east bank water system," officials said.

The threshold established for a boil water advisory is 15 psi, they said.

The water board switched from power supplied by Entergy to its internal power production system at the water plant and by 3:20 a.m. had stabilized water pressure.

S&WB and Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals officials are now taking water samples across the east bank for testing.
Water back to full pressure at 3:20 am. Public alerted at 10:00 am. Everybody showered in amoebas this morning. But that's fine. We're used to it. 

Shadow Government

We know everyone has been worrying their pretty little heads over what to do with all these Confederate monuments. Worry no longer. Mitch is getting his super smart friends together in secret to figure it all out for us.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu will this month hold a pair of invitation-only discussions centered on his proposal to remove four Confederate monuments from city property.

A spokeswoman for the administration said that invitations were sent to members of Landrieu's Tricentennial Commission. A full list of the recipients was not immediately available after business hours Thursday (July 23).

The talks will be facilitated by Welcome Table New Orleans, a racial reconciliation program Landrieu started with the help of the William Winter Institute at the University of Mississippi.

The administration didn't publicly announce the meetings, but Steve Beatty, editor of The Lens, obtained one of the invitations and posted it to Twitter.
The invitations are addressed, "Dear Civic Leader" and went out to "members of" the Tricentennial Commission which, one assumes, means not all of them. Although, two all day sessions seems like there'd be plenty of time for everybody. Take some time with the roster to mix and match your dream team of unelected "leaders" you'd most like to see make decisions for you in secret.  

In this case, they'll probably agree to take the monuments down since that's what the mayor wants to do and he's paying for their catering and all.  That's an OK outcome. The statues probably need to come down. But who do I complain to if they're replaced by images of Tricentennial Commissioner Erroll Laborde crafted by Tricentennial Commissioner Mignon Faget?

Nobody could have predicted

Bobby Jindal "never would have imagined" that this horrible thing that happens with alarming regularity all over the place could happen again.
A KLFY reporter also asked Jindal about gun control. Here was his response:

"Right now we're just learning the details of what happened. ... Let's focus on the victims right now. Let's focus on their recoveries. There'll be a time, I'm sure folks will want to jump into the politics of this. Now is not the time."

At a news conference carried live after his initial comments, Jindal said this:

"Today is a day that not only angers but also saddens all of us. ... we never would've imagined it would've happened in Louisiana or Lafayette. ... (told story about teachers) ... We're going to hear about other acts of selfless heroism. ... I saw family members that were hoping for the best, waiting for information on their loved ones. ... They're praying and fearful and anxious. We've heard from folks all over the country. Now is the time to send them your thoughts, your prayers, your love ... (on first responders) They ran towards danger, not away from it. The first officers could literally still hear the gunshots."
We "never would have imagined" because the very act of allowing for the possibility is indecent to our posture.

"Now is not the time" to talk about it, though. That would also be indecent.  

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Vicious cycle


They're doing some kind of activity at the City Hall today.
Four cyclists have died this year in collisions with automobiles on the streets of New Orleans, spreading fear and outrage through the cycling community, which feels that the city treats them as second class citizens when it comes to traffic safety and infrastructure spending.

To remind the city's politicians and the driving public what's at stake, Pool and a group of his fellow cyclists are staging a "die-in" at City Hall on Thursday.

Modeled after the sit-ins of Civil Rights movement, cyclists in several cities have taken to staging events in which they lie down en masse, as if slain, to protest what they see as shoddy treatment by officials and motorists. Such die-ins are typically held in the middle of crowded, busy streets, grinding traffic to a halt.
Ok, look. This is not the Civil Rights movement. Stop making that comparison. It doesn't help anyone. But this is a serious safety issue. People have been killed in these accidents. Unfortunately it's not an issue that city leaders are taking seriously. Or, at least, they aren't handling it honestly.

Instead, they've deployed an array of  PR and "data" calibrated to facilitate the PR intended to demonstrate that  New Orleans is becoming a "bike friendly" city.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu has made bicycle friendliness a priority since taking office in 2010. He has promised that New Orleans will have 100 miles of "bikeway" infrastructure by the end of the year. Before Hurricane Katrina, the city had just 5 miles of bikeways.

As of Nov. 6, the city had 37 miles of dedicated, on-street bike lanes and 16 and 1/2 miles of off-street paths. New Orleans has 40 miles of road designated "shared," meaning there is no protected infrastructure for cyclists but there are on-street "sharrows" to remind motorists to share the road.
They've installed bike lanes. They've celebrated "Bike To Work Day" (Presented By Entergy) events.  They've encouraged NOPD to issue citations for bicyclists who glide through stop signs or ride against one way traffic.  Mileage of bike lanes installed, like the number of tickets written is a measurable data point. It's easy to haul out and recite whenever someone asked what you're doing to make the streets safer. But, as the cycling activists point out, just slapping down some bike lanes isn't necessarily making anyone safer.
Where there is infrastructure, it can be poorly designed and misunderstood, or outright flouted, by drivers unused to sharing the road with cyclists, Roe said.

He pointed to the death of Philip Geeck, who was killed in a wreck at the corner of Elysian Fields and St. Claude Avenue in 2014. Although Geeck had been traveling St. Claude in a bike lane, which ends abruptly at the intersection, a semi-truck turned across his path, crushing him beneath the trailer's wheels.
A lot of these, then, are bike lanes in name only. They're not thoroughly planned to work with vehicle traffic. Many of them are just "shared lanes" meaning we draw a little picture of a bike in the road and leave it to cyclists and drivers to work it out on their own.  But the intersections are the worst.

Here's more coverage of the Philip Geeck accident including a diagram of the confusing intersection that led to a man's death. Other intersections around town are as bad or worse. Often a bike lane will end altogether at a busy intersection leaving a cyclist to make adjustments to confused right-of-ways  on the fly.  Busy intersections are by far the most dangerous places for bicyclists and they are precisely the spots where the infrastructure fails them.   There are smarter, safer ways to do this. No one talking about implementing those solutions, though.

Instead, they're just shoehorning more bike lanes in everywhere regardless of whether they are safe or even desired. At a Corps of Engineers public meeting last month, officials unveiled plans for the redesigned post-SELA Napoleon Avenue. Among the public's many concerns with the design, bike lanes.
While the walking path on Napoleon Avenue is something residents have long sought, the narrowing of the neutral ground for the creation of bike lanes proved controversial among those at the meeting.

Faye Lieder said the last meeting on the landscaping in October gave residents no idea that narrowing the neutral ground was under consideration, leaving them “blindsided” and “stunned” when the plans were revealed Thursday.

“Bike lanes may prevent some rear-end collisions but create problems at intersections,” Lieder wrote in an email to Uptown Messenger after the meeting. “Aside from the questionable wisdom of bike lanes, why would the city (just who made this decision anyway?) want to shrink green space on this beautiful oak-lined avenue, already two lanes each way, where families gather on the median to watch Mardi Gras parades?”

Resident Richard Dimitry said at the meeting that the placement of the bike lanes next to the parking lanes would put younger riders in particular in danger of being hit by motorists opening their doors to get out of their vehicles.

“I can’t see that for the kids,” Dimitry said. “It’s not necessary to put them in danger.”
Does the bike lane work on Napoleon? Is it designed in a way that makes people more or less safe? None of this is really the point. The point is striping more mileage of bike lane so the mayor can cite statistics that impress people when next he is in Aspen.

This also explains the now infamous "pilot program" on Baronne Street where a lane installed (despite the objections of the city's traffic engineer) has caused nothing but headaches for motorists and cyclists alike.
Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., more than 40 cars drive down the bike lane. Two Regional Transit Authority (RTA) buses turn it into a bus lane for several blocks. Two taxicabs roll lazily down the bike lane. A Budget rental truck parks with its warning lights on in the middle of the bike lane for 35 minutes. A cyclist is forced to swerve around the truck and into traffic, then swerve back into the bike lane.

Within the same hour, one police officer drives by. No one gets a ticket.

Mike and Abby, who work at a hair salon on Baronne Street, say they've seen this scene every day since December, when the city took out one lane of vehicular traffic to create the dedicated bike lane.

"We see cars using it a lot," says Mike (like Abby, he didn't want to give his last name). "We see people riding down the wrong way sometimes. We see people on bikes still using the sidewalk or car lane. ... I'd say it's about 50 percent taxis using the bike lane, surprisingly. We haven't seen anything being enforced.

"I'd like to add," Mike says, "that the people who do ride bikes are extremely hostile."
It has definitely gotten hostile out there.
A driver bobbed his head peacefully to the reggae tune emanating from his luxury vehicle on a recent afternoon in the Central Business District, but the good vibrations did not extend to those in the car next to him, furious that he was skipping the traffic line by driving through a bike lane.

The scene was captured on a recent trip down Baronne Street, where officials replaced one of two auto lanes with a dedicated bike lane for a six-month trial period meant to assess the impact on vehicle traffic and cyclist use.
The Baronne pilot program is due for review by the end of this month.  It's hard to imagine there's any way the city will decide to remove precious bike lane mileage despite the less than stellar results. Also the grant funding for the program only paid to install the lane. The city would have to find the money to take it out. Meanwhile nobody can say with any certainty that we're doing anything to actually make the streets safer.

Instead it appears, for the time being, we are caught in a vicious cycle. First the city builds crappy unsafe bike lanes everywhere. Fatal accidents ensue.  Bicyclists stage protests. So the city builds more crappy unsafe bike lanes. Everyone is "taking action." But is anything really accomplished?

Update: Here's how the die-in went. No casualties reported.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

They've agreed to be yelled at some more

The Algiers riverfront rezoning was scheduled to go to City Council tomorrow. It's been pulled.
A controversial proposal in Algiers Point to rezone the Misssissippi River batture from open space to maritime industrial will be pulled from the New Orleans City Council agenda Thursday. Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who represents the area, is returning the amendment to the Planning Commission to hold a public hearing, said Kara Johnson, Ramsey's chief of staff.

No action will be taken at the council's meeting, Johnson said.
So OK go yell at the Planning Commission if you get the time. But, remember, Mitch has already said it probably won't matter

Something for your trouble

Bechtel worked really hard bidding on this contract that they didn't get. It's only fair that they get reimbursed for that.  You know, a little bit at least.
The Army Corps of Engineers paid $4 million in June 2013 to one of four losing bidders for the contract to build permanent pump stations on New Orleans canals -- a public expense Corps officials didn't mention in the project's announcements.

The payment was intended in part to get the company, Bechtel Infrastructure Corp., to drop a new challenge of the selection of a winning contractor, Bechtel officials confirmed this week.
On the one hand, $4 million seems like a lot to pay out just to get a project underway. On the other hand, it is kind of an important project.  Every hurricane season we go without those pump stations is another season of catastrophic risk for everyone. Guess you just have to credit Bechtel for understanding their position, right?
Spokesman Ricky Boyett, in a statement, said the payment was made to Bechtel "for submitting a satisfactorily rated Phase II proposal for the above mentioned solicitation, in order to settle and amicably resolve all differences, to avoid the uncertainties and expenses of litigation associated with the filing of its agency protest and any other litigation arising out of or related to the solicitation, and for and in consideration of the assignment of all data rights in and to its proposal submissions under the solicitation."

The $4 million payment was first reported by corps critic Matt McBride in an online post criticizing the federal agency for paying millions of dollars to unsuccessful bidders at a time when New Orleans area residents were still recovering from flood damage caused by failure during Hurricane Katrina of corps-designed and corps-built levees and floodwalls in 2005.
Maybe there's stuff going on that I don't quite get. That does happen on a regular basis. But I swear it looks here like Bechtel had been holding the city's safety hostage and the Corps finally decided just to pay the ransom. But, again, this is all complicated engineering stuff and maybe I don't quite get it.

On a somewhat related note, here's an interesting article published this week where Richard Campanella looks at resettlement patterns after Katrina. I still need to think on whether I completely agree with this conclusion but Campanella's data suggests that, as people moved back into the city, flood risk of individual neighborhoods did not play a controlling role in their decision making.
When intersected with high-resolution LIDAR-based digital elevation models, the 2010 Census data show that residents of metro New Orleans shifted to higher ground by only 1 percent compared to 2000 (Figure 1). Whereas 38 percent of metro-area residents lived above sea level in 2000, 39 percent did so by 2010, and that differentiation generally held true for each racial and ethnic group. Whites shifted from 42 to 44 percent living above sea level; African Americans 33 to 34 percent, Hispanics from 30 to 29 percent, and Asians 20 to 22 percent.

Clearly, elevation did not exercise much influence in resettlement decisions, and people distributed themselves in vertical space in roughly the same proportions as before the flood. Yet there is one noteworthy angle to the fact that the above-sea-level percentage has risen, albeit barely (38 to 39 percent): it marked the first time in New Orleans history that the percent of people living below sea level has actually dropped.

What impact did the experience of flooding have on resettlement patterns? Whereas people shifted only slightly out of low-lying areas regardless of flooding, they moved significantly out of areas that actually flooded, regardless of elevation. Inundated areas lost 37 percent of their population between 2000 and 2010, with the vast majority departing after 2005. They lost 37 percent of their white populations, 40 percent of their black populations, and 10 percent of their Asian populations. Only Hispanics increased in the flooded zone, by 10 percent, in part because this population had grown dramatically region-wide, and because members of this population sometimes settled in neighborhoods they themselves helped rebuild.

The differing figures suggest that while low-lying elevation theoretically exposes residents to the hazard of flooding, the trauma of actually flooding proved to be, sadly, much more convincing.
So, yes, some moved from low to high ground. I'm not sure if that's explained by "the trauma of actually flooding" or the headaches associated with rebuilding in place. Maybe it's both.

In any case, for those who did resettle in Lakeview and Gentilly,  I'd wager that confidence that the Corps was fixing the problem with the outfall canals played a major role in those decisions. Nice of Bechtel to pull down whatever it could holding that process up.

How's Tom Benson doing?

On the cusp of the opening of Saints camp it's a good time to check on the richest man in Louisiana.
Louisiana car salesman Tom Benson built his fortune by funneling his earnings into a steady procession of auto dealerships, local banks and sports teams. Benson’s biggest asset, the New Orleans Saints football club, is worth $1.1 billion; it is one of the NFL’s more profitable teams despite their small market, thanks in part to scoring favorable stadium rental rates in exchange for staying in the Super Dome through 2025.

Attendance for Benson’s NBA team, the New Orleans Pelicans, has been up lately as the club improves on the back of its brilliant young star, Anthony Davis. He also owns a 26-story office building that’s named for him and the city’s Fox affiliate.

Forbes estimates Benson's worth at $1.9 billion today.  Last September they had him at $1.6 billion. Not bad for a guy going through a drawn out legal dispute with his family.  How has your year been?

Binders full of murder

This is supposed to be a thing where he shows the interviewer that he cares soo much but how do you not read this as something a very strange person would do?
The past weekend, I met with the New Orleans mayor, Mitch Landrieu, in his office. He had something he wanted to show me.

When we entered, stretched out before us in a row on a large wooden table was a line of three-ring binders, each four or five inches wide, with red covers.

The mayor arbitrarily flipped one open. The binder fell open to the image of a black man with dreadlocks, lying prone on the pavement in a pool of his own blood. Dead. The mayor leafed back one page, and there was a picture of the same man, alive, looking into the camera. The mayor then leafed forward a few pages, and there was a police report about how the man wound up dead.

The mayor explained that he had instructed his staff to compile before and after pictures of every homicide victim in the city and some information about that person when they were alive.
Apart from readily accessible morbid conversation pieces for when reporters come to visit, I can't think of any reason to have this in your office. Maybe I'm the only one who thinks it's weird.

Wars of NOligarchy

Sometimes the great powers go head to head.
Local developer Kishore "Mike" Motwani outbid Sidney Torres IV on Wednesday (July 22) for the ownership rights to the Oz, agreeing to pay $8.175 million for the Bourbon Street dance club.

Motwani must close the deal and pay in cash by Aug. 15. If he fails to do so, the rights go to Torres whose final bid was $8.125 million.
Motwanivania is an empire of downtown and French Quarter T-Shirt shops, restaurants, hotel projects, and ATMs. It's hard to draw on the NOligarchs map because there's so much overlap with the other kingdoms, especially with Torreszonia which Oz, it seems, very nearly fell to here. Anyway, here's a rough approximation.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On today's episode of Hillary Clinton Is The Worst

While we're still figuring out how much fun we had at poor Bernie Sanders' expense last weekend (much of it deserved.. more on that later),  now is a good time to remind ourselves that Hillary Clinton Is The Worst.
Bill Clinton’s overhaul of the welfare system, which was passed in conjunction with a Republican-controlled Congress, replaced a major federal welfare program with block grants to states, required adults to find a job within two years of receiving aid, placed a five-year limit on aid, blocked future legal immigrants from welfare assistance, and cut $24 billion in food stamps. It was denounced by many Democrats, including Peter Edelman, who resigned from his post at the Department of Health and Human Services, arguing that the law would do “serious injury to American children.”
The rest of that article is a series of snippets in which Hillary is being the worst person to families her husband was cutting off of welfare. My favorite parts are when later Senator Clinton starts talking about "deadbeats."
In an April 2002 interview with the Gettysburg Times, then-Senator Clinton reiterated the impetus behind her husband’s effort to “substitute dignity for dependence.” At the time, Congress was considering the reauthorization the 1996 law.
“There were people in the White House who said, ‘just sign anything,’ you know,’ the New York senator said in an interview. ‘And I thought that was wrong. We wanted to do it in a way that kept faith with our goals: End welfare as we know it, substitute dignity for dependence, but make work pay.’”
In that same interview, Clinton also said that people who had moved from welfare to work were “no longer deadbeats.”
“Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?”
To put it bluntly, Hillary Clinton doesn't care about poor people. She doesn't care how many she has to throw to the wolves to get elected.

Today, she was asked some pointed questions about the emergence of the "gig" economy where wolves like Uber and Taskrabbit take advantage of the desperation of underemployed people with no social benefits. These over-capitalized start-ups are sinking a lot of money into political advertising this year so candidates may be wary of offending them. Her answer, predictably, was a dodge.

The question really wasn't about the ACA. But it's important to emphasize that the "innovation" she doesn't want to stifle is these companies' ability to exploit vulnerable and therefore pliable and cheap labor. That's what the "gig" economy is. And that scheme can't operate if we get too many "deadbeats" running around with no imperative to feed it.

Here's your #Katrina10 "Pain Index"

Image created by Greg Peters 2007

Bill Quigley writes:
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the nation saw tens of thousands of people left behind in New Orleans.  Ten years later, it looks like the same people in New Orleans have been left behind again. The population of New Orleans is noticeably smaller and noticeably whiter. While tens of billions poured into Louisiana, the impact on poor and working people in New Orleans has been minimal.  Many of the elderly and the poor, especially poor families with children, never made it back to New Orleans. The poverty rate for children who did made it back remains at disturbingly high pre-Katrina levels, especially for Black children. Rents are high and taking a higher percentage of people’s income.  The pre-Katrina school system fired all it teachers and professionals and turned itself into the charter experiment capital of the US even while the number of children in public schools has dropped dramatically. Since Katrina, white incomes, which were over twice that of Blacks, have risen three times as much as Blacks. While not all the numbers below are bad, they do illustrate who has been left behind in the ten years since Katrina hit.

We've already spent a large part of our summer following city leaders to various civic commemorations where the message has been largely positive. We're a shining city in a bowl; all full of resilience and such.  But, as we've asked at various points over the past decade, for whom is this really true?  These numbers tell us some of the answer. Especially the ones that indicate what has changed and who has benefited from these changes.
There are now 3221 fewer low income public housing apartments in New Orleans than when Katrina hit.  In 2005 there were 5,146 low income public housing apartments in New Orleans, plus thousands of other public housing apartments scheduled for renewal or maintenance, nearly 100% African American.  The housing authority now reports having 1925 public housing apartments available for low income people on the sites of the demolished complexes, less than half of the number promised, and less than half of those completed have rents set at rates which are affordable to those who lived in public housing before Katrina, meaning the majority of their public housing units now require higher incomes from renters than the people who were living in public housing prior to Katrina.  That is why only about half of the families who lived in the four public housing developments which were demolished after Katrina made it back to New Orleans at all by 2011.  And only 7 percent of those original families were living in the new housing which replaced their homes.
The new housing wasn't really meant for the former residents, of course. We wanted, instead, to build nice things for rich people and tourists there.  It was important that we attract more of those folks.  Which we did. Just look at the median income. 
The median income for white families in New Orleans is $60,553; that is $35,451 more than for Black families whose median income was $25,102.   In the last ten years the median income for Black families grew by 7 percent.  At the same time, the median income for white families grew three times as fast, by 22 percent.  In 2005, the median income for Black households was $23,394, while the median for white households was $49,262. By 2013, the median income for Black households had grown only slightly, to $25,102. But the median for white households had jumped to $60, 553.
Move out the poors. Build nice things. Move in the wealthy.  Congratulations, you are resilient now. Those of you who are here still. 
There are 99,650 fewer African Americans living in New Orleans now than in 2000, compared to 11,000 fewer whites.

After 10 years, are we ok?   Some of us are.  A lot of us don't even live here anymore.

Stampede at the monuments

NOLA.com made you a map to the movie stars' homes but for Confederate statues. They've mostly done this so that a bunch of people linked over from whatever talk radio station posts it first can write a bunch of comments about how their history and heritage is all being erased and whatnot.

But it's a nice map. There may even be a few Confederate place names on there most of us weren't aware of.  I didn't even know the story behind Palmer Park until last year's Rising Tide.
Benjamin Morgan Palmer was the pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of New Orleans during the Civil War era, and his 1860 Thanksgiving sermon after the election of Abraham Lincoln is credited with spurring Louisiana’s secession. In it, Palmer describes slavery as an institution created by God to benefit the “black races.”

“We know better than others that every attribute of their character fits them for dependence and servitude,” Palmer said. “By nature the most affectionate and loyal of all races beneath the sun, they are also the most helpless; and no calamity can befall them greater than the loss of that protection they enjoy under this patriarchal system.”

The park that bears his name at the corner of South Carrollton and South Claiborne avenues was originally called Hamilton Square when it was created as a formal gathering place for the former city of Carrollton, said Kevin McQueeney, a University of New Orleans graduate student in history who presented his findings Saturday at the Rising Tide conference. Hamilton Square was originally named after Alexander Hamilton, one of the founding fathers, but after Palmer’s death in a streetcar accident in 1902, New Orleans city leaders decided to rename the park after him.

“It’s a time period right around when we’re building the Jeff Davis monument,” McQueeney said, describing an era of “commemoration” of the Confederacy in New Orleans.
There are 14 streets and 12 monuments on the map. Some of these are statues. Others are plaques or parks. It's a good idea to remind ourselves that only a selected few of those are even "under threat" of removal by Mitch Landrieu and his supposedly raging horde of iconoclasts and followers of chaos out of control or whatever. 

But rather than worry about that, here's a pretty good Adrastos post about the limits of the various "slippery slope" and straw man arguments posited by the neo-Confederates.  You should go read that. Also, since Adrastos is one of those people who likes to finish posts with soundtracks here's one of those.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Save the Moguls

And now a very important message from Bob Ellis and Stacy Head and the poor oppressed landlords they represent.

Aspiring Seahawk Brandon Browner

A lot of Saints fans have not met this guy yet
New Orleans Saints cornerback Brandon Browner said during an on-field interview at a celebrity softball game Sunday in Seattle he hoped to someday return to the Seahawks, the Seattle Times reported.

Browner made the comment during a celebrity softball game hosted by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman at Safeco Field.

The Saints signed Browner in the offseason for three years and $15 million.

Browner was a part of the Seahawks' "Legion of Boom" defense during the Super Bowl-winning season of 2013. Browner played on another Super Bowl winner in 2014 with the New England Patriots
Browner was saying a friendly thing to a Seattle newspaper. Also he's talking about his plans three years from now when his contract is up and he will be 34 years old so we know how seriously to not take this.  But given that we know going into the deal that Browner... just as a consequence of his style of play... tends to draw a lot of pass interference calls, he's going to get a lot of attention from Saints fans this year both good and bad.  The bad times might be fun opportunities to remember this is all just one long Seahawks audition. 

Ban tourism

The stock "economic overview" boilerplate in Louisiana typically celebrates two major industries; petrochemical extraction and tourism. (Lately we also like to write a lot about the grifter economy; i.e. the "entrepreneurial scene" but let's stick with the devils we know best for now.) There is more that goes on here than just those things but there's a disproportionate amount of money and political investment in those so they get the most press.

It's only taken us the better part of a century to fully understand the Faustian bargain with the petrochemical sector. To merely say it has created jobs and spurred growth would be a gross understatement. Oil and gas has built fortunes, sustained families and, in more better political times, been made to fund a host of public services from health care to transportation to education.  Oil money built downtown New Orleans as we know it today, including our city's most truly "iconic" structure.

And yet all of this has come with a terrible cost in environmental damage, heightened cancer rates, ruined fisheries, and, eventually, the entire southeast portion of the state itself, if nothing is done in time. (Spoiler: Nothing will be done in time.)

Our media and politics only began to take the negative externalities of oil and gas seriously after the big bust in the early 80s. It was at this time that tourism began to be touted as a "clean" alternative. There had always been tourism in New Orleans, of course, but this was the moment the consensus moved toward tourism on an industrial scale and that industry's utter dominance of the local economy.  We're only now beginning to take seriously the negative impacts of this.

Here's an op-ed by Elizabeth Becker published in Sunday's New York Times. Becker has written about the struggles of "destination cities" all over the world and the various policy responses. Her conclusions are a bit elitist for my liking. She seems primarily concerned about "boorish" middle class travelers making too much noise in the world's "beloved places."  But her observations and research are well worth noting.
Barcelona, a city of 1.6 million that receives over seven million people a year, represents the turn toward regulation. Taxis and tour buses have taken over entire neighborhoods, while souvenir shops and bars have displaced pharmacies and greengrocers.

The city’s mayor, Ada Colau, 41, who was elected in May, announced a one-year ban on new tourist accommodation citing the swarms of students who have all but taken over the Ciutat Vella, or Old City, of Barcelona. Last August, hundreds of residents erupted in spontaneous protest after images of three Italian tourists wandering naked in the neighborhood of La Barceloneta were circulated online. Her greatest worry, Ms. Colau says, is Barcelona’s turning into Venice.
Here's another article about the Barcelona reaction.  Residents there are actually upset about more than just uncouth naked wanderers
A survey for the Exceltur tourist group revealed that there are now twice as many beds available in tourist apartments – some 138,000 – as there are in hotels.

Tourist flats offer a more attractive and economic deal to visitors, and their owners can expect rents at least 125% higher than they would receive from long-term tenants. While many are let through large online organisations, such as Airbnb, others are offered by homeowners trying to make ends meet during Spain’s prolonged recession.

Tourists spend 25m euros (£18m) a day in the city, and the industry accounts for 15% of Barcelona’s GDP and about 120,000 jobs. No one wants to drive tourists away, says Colau, but if the city becomes a “theme park” people will stop coming.

Ciutat Vella, the heart of old Barcelona and one of the most popular districts among tourists, has lost 13,000 residents in eight years, driven out by high rents and the relentless noise of tourism. Many areas, such as the famous Las Ramblas or the area around the Sagrada Familia church, are in effect no-go areas for residents.
What we're seeing in "destination cities" around the world, and here at home in New Orleans, is the tourism industry  hollowing out very cultural attractions it has marketed to travelers
A 2004 study published by Tulane University sociologist Kevin Fox Gotham in Urban Studies indicates it may be wrong to blame tourists alone. The transformation of a city into a place that caters to tourists over residents is also the result of targeted investments by developers, often supported by city governments.

Cities seeking more economic development partner with these investors to become more attractive to tourists and upper-income residents by building hotels, entertainment venues and upscale housing. Suddenly, traditionally working- and middle-class neighborhoods are inaccessible to residents of modest means.

Gotham’s study uses New Orleans’s French Quarter as a case study. In the 1980s, for instance, the construction of upscale hotels in the French Quarter provided investors with an incentive to renovate properties on the district’s Canal Street and transform Bourbon Street bars into upscale music venues. The resultant expansion of tourist activity in the area would lead to a 50 percent increase in rents on the street between the mid-1990s and 2002, with some properties more than doubling their rental price.

Spurred on by an expanding tourism industry dependent on “an image of nostalgia,” Gotham writes, investors bought and renovated properties to reflect a notion of the French Quarter as a neighborhood of “red-brick town houses, cast-iron galleries over public sidewalks and enchanting backyard gardens.” By the early 2000s, this process left “few unrehabilitated residential houses for sale,” in a neighborhood where “the asking price for single-family homes is far beyond the means of low-income-housing tenants.”

Moreover, writes Gotham, the demographic changes caused by skyrocketing rents and increasing tourism coincided “with a dramatic restructuring of the commercial base of the neighborhood.” Between 1950 and 1999, he reports, resident-oriented businesses like “barbers, department stores, shoe shops, small groceries and laundry services” decreased by 15 percent, while tourist businesses like T-shirt shops increased by 32 percent.

“Gentrification and tourism,” concludes Gotham, “are largely driven by mega-sized financial firms and entertainment corporations who have formed new institutional connections with traditional city boosters (chambers of commerce, city governments, service industries) to market cities and their neighborhoods.”
Yesterday we talked about the NOligarchs who buy sell and trade real estate with the help of public financing and policymakers. They are creating a real life version of Dizneylandrieu.  All of those investments, as well as the growing Airbnb plague, are driven by tourism.  Just as petrochemical extraction has left us with an uninhabitable and disappearing coast, tourism is leaving us with a husk of a city where nobody actually lives. 

Sunday, July 19, 2015


A few months back, the Convention Center Brahmins announced plans to spend at least $175 million in public funds to jumpstart development of a new "neighborhood" of luxury condos and hotels along the riverfront.
The Central Business District. The Warehouse District. The Lower Garden District.
And now, introducing, the Trade District.

A group of developers have presented an ambitious vision for a shiny new neighborhood on the riverfront with an MGM Grand hotel, more than 1,400 residences, blocks of retail and restaurants, and a towering needle-like sculpture for lofty views of the Mississippi River.

The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, which owns the vacant land, is in talks with the Howard Hughes Corp., owner of the Outlet Collection at the Riverwalk, and local real estate moguls Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger on becoming master developer for the site.
This week we learned that Jaeger may be about to append one more valuable piece of property to that territory. 
The Market Street power plant, an idle behemoth with hulking twin smokestacks sitting on 20 acres of riverfront property near the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, will go up for public auction this fall, according to records on file with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office.

The property’s owner, Market Street Properties LLC, apparently was not able to meet the terms of a reorganization plan hashed out in bankruptcy court. So the company’s mortgage lender has decided to foreclose on the plant, a move that could clear the way for other development ideas after years of stalled plans.

The Sheriff’s Office this week began the process of notifying the attorneys for Market Street Properties that Victoria Land & Development LLC has filed a writ of seizure and sale against it.
The auction is set for Sept. 24.

Market Street Properties owes at least $15 million in principal, interest and fees to Victoria Land & Development for payments related to two mortgage loans, according to court filings.

John Mannone, a member of the management committee for Market Street Properties, did not return a call Friday seeking comment.

It is not clear whether Victoria Land & Development intends to bid on the property itself. The company’s head, developer Joseph Jaeger Jr., also did not return a call. But Jaeger is part of a team of developers in talks to redevelop a large tract of land nearby.
As we've seen many times over, the primary policy objective in New Orleans is Build More Nice Things For Rich People And Tourists. All other concerns can wait in line behind that.  One reason building nice things for rich people and tourists is so important is because that is how the currently rich and influential enhance their own wealth and influence.

To see this one need only take note of the names appended to any major project announced in the paper and see how often they are repeated.

 Recently, in Mid-City:
Ultimately, he added, the development would support “high-end living” on the bayou near the city’s burgeoning medical district, where the new University Medical Center and Veteran Affairs Medical Center are getting ready to open. He also envisions the property acting as a residential connector between downtown and City Park.

“When people ride their bikes from the French Quarter to the bayou, or even to Lakeview, I look at this as the welcoming point,” Torres said. “It would really help revamp that area of Orleans, where it’s lacking in development.”

So far, Torres’ plans take in only 3 or 4 acres of the 9-acre property. He’s looking for proposals for the rest of the land, along with partners Joseph Jaeger, owner of MCC Group, and Hicham Khodr, the man behind Camellia Grill.
Torres, Jaeger, Khodr.

Here's Torres and Khodr again.
Developer Sidney Torres IV and restaurateur Hicham Khodr have formed a joint venture to purchase the New Orleans Board of Trade property in the Central Business District, reports CityBusiness.

According to the Orleans Parish conveyance records, the transaction closed last week at a sales price of $3 Million.

The building has been used primarily as a wedding and events venue, with PigĂ©on Catering as the catering partner.  The building also houses the offices for the Board of Trade.
That was Torres's first transaction since...
For Torres, the deal is the first major transaction he has made in the city since selling three boutique hotels in the French Quarter and Marigny to developer Joe Jaeger a year ago.
Torres and Khodr also cut Berger in on this one

They just go round and round like that.  The city's real estate is constantly carved up and sold back and forth amongst a core group of local oligarchs.

There are others to name; Mike Motwani, Pres Kabacoff and a few more. Tom Benson specializes in one sector especially but it's a very lucrative one. The most important thing to know about all of them, though, is that their empires are, in various ways, heavily supported and subsidized by public funds and public policymakers. That's worth remembering the next time you hear one of them lecture you about his entitlement to whatever he wants to do with that property your money and your elected representatives have acquired for him.

It's also good to know where these properties are. The oligarchs are always in business with one another so their territories often overlap.  But, from time to time, we can identify fiefdoms.. like Jaeger's expanding Trade District, where one of them seems to be dominant. This is a particularly muddled picture in the French Quarter where several of them have overlapping interests. But since Sidney Torres owns the police there now, we should probably consider him first among equals for the time being.  We identified Kabacoffia last week.

Anyway, I've started working  on a map. There's more to do but here's what I've got so far.

Yeah it's just the big ones downtown right now. I'll try to keep updating and filling it in as opportunities arise.