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Friday, July 19, 2019

The #LAGOV road show

There will be three gubernatorial debates this year.

September 19 in Baton Rouge, September 26 in Lafayette, and October 9 in Shreveport.

None of them will be held in New Orleans.  What's wrong? Does Eddie Rispone not want to come here for some reason?

Thursday, July 18, 2019

Piece of the pie

Here's a hint at what they're giving away to the nostalgia company so it can make fried beef tallow and sugar mounds again.
To secure the project, the state of Louisiana offered Hubig’s a competitive incentive package that includes the comprehensive workforce solutions of LED FastStart– the nation’s No. 1 state workforce development program. Hubig’s also will participate in LED’s Small Business Loan and Guaranty Program, and is expected to utilize the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption and Enterprise Zone programs.

“Hubig’s has been a staple in greater New Orleans for generations,” Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said. “The Parish Council and administration stand at the ready to support the Hubig’s team as they continue to make strides toward their relaunch.”

“JEDCO is pleased to play a role in bringing this iconic regional brand back into commerce,”said Jerry Bologna, the president and CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission. “Through financing opportunities, we are doing our part to help Hubig’s commence production as soon as possible. This project will further advance the vibrant food manufacturing industry in Jefferson Parish, which is an area of focus for JEDCO.”
Congratulations to all those about to be fattened. 

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Is that a lot?

I don't know, really. But it sounds like a lot.
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Gert Town residents faced exposure to high levels of radiation due to material lying underneath their street, according to an EPA memo uncovered by FOX 8.

The memo, dated May 17, 2019 -- just 11 days before crews dug up radioactive material from beneath a Gert Town road and placed it into bins. In it, the federal government stated the site on Lowerline Street was a threat to public health, welfare and the environment, and removal would be the appropriate action, due to the actual or potential exposure to humans, animals and the food chain from hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants
.......
The memo also states the Radium-226 exposure rate was several times higher than the EPA acceptable exposure limit, reporting:

“In fact, the annual dose allowable for the general public can be exceeded at levels at the street or adjacent areas in less than one hour per day.”
It says that memo was issued in May but, remember, also, the city was made aware of the problem (by federal security inspectors) at least six years before. How long was the stuff there before then? Nobody knows.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Please define the scope of "our legal system"

In my mind that sounds like it applies to the system of laws and lawmaking and law enforcement and the vast array of institutions and individuals who study, uphold, and practice within that system.  So it's a lot of things and people to "call into question" at once which would make a statement like this sound pretty serious.
WASHINGTON (AP) — Kamala Harris bemoaned the influence of the powerful and connected elite last Tuesday when she called on top Justice Department officials to recuse themselves from any matter related to Jeffrey Epstein. She said their former law firm’s work on behalf of the financier accused of sexual abuse “calls into question the integrity of our legal system.”
Wow. A US Senator and former Attorney General of our largest state says the integrity of the whole dang system is under question now.  Okay. Let's clean house, then. Where do you suggest we begin?
Yet the same day, Harris’ husband headlined a Chicago fundraiser for her presidential campaign that was hosted by six partners of that firm — Kirkland and Ellis, according to an invitation obtained by The Associated Press.
Oh man. How do we even get a grip on the deteriorating integrity of the system when we can't even make it through this one node without hitting a feedback loop? That's got to be a problem right there.
Ian Sams, a Harris spokesman, said there wasn’t a problem with accepting the campaign contributions because the firm is big and the partners who hosted the fundraiser didn’t work on Epstein’s plea agreement.
Okay well. It's a big firm. Systems within systems, I guess.

Free Ray

It's time to let Ray Nagin out of jail.
A federal judge on Monday denied former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s appeal of his conviction and 10-year sentence for corruption charges.

U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo said that none of a litany of complaints Nagin raised about prosecutors and his own defense attorney, in a brief he wrote from a federal prison camp in Texas, justified overturning the first conviction of a New Orleans mayor for public corruption.

The 63-year-old Nagin is due to stay behind bars until May 25, 2023, according to a U.S. Bureau of Prisons inmate database.
Not saying he never should have been prosecuted.  Ray definitely did the petty crimes he's in jail for. But he was always more of patsy than anything else.  I'm sure from his point of view, he did everything right.  Pleased all the important people. Said all the right "let's run government like a business" things. Nagin just wanted to be another successful guy in the politics herd. 

That's why after Katrina, when it mattered the most, Ray did the "safe" thing and let the pro-gentrification crowd have whatever they wanted from him. That's his real crime but it's not the one he's in prison for.  And there are plenty of his erstwhile friends running free now who have done worse and fared better by it than he has.  Either way, the dude has suffered enough.

What are the chances of lightning striking twice?

About the same as getting a 1 in in 100 year flood every year, I guess.
Lightning strikes and other electrical issues took several pumps out of service during the July 10 sudden rainstorm in New Orleans and a pair of canals were pushed near, or over, the brink, Sewerage & Water Board officials said Tuesday.

The problems, however, did not significantly impact the drainage system’s operations or significantly worsen the flooding New Orleans saw as a major thunderstorm struck the city in advance of Hurricane Barry, S&WB Executive Director Ghassan Korban said at a City Council hearing.
Did it make the street flooding caused by an 8.5 inches in three hours freak rain event that seems to happen all the time now any worse than it would have been otherwise?  S&WB swears up and down that it was past the point of mattering but it can't have helped.

Also it's not really an acceptable answer. City officials have come to rely on snarky drainsplaining as a standard response to any questions about the pumps during any flooding event. If people depend on a piece of public infrastructure to function, they're going to ask about it. They deserve a better answer than, "Well #actually..." even during events when the system is actually functioning perfectly which, remind me when the last time that happened was anyway.  It's not that we aren't willing to consider or aren't capable of understanding the complex challenges of water management in New Orleans. It's just that we shouldn't have to wade through a thick soup of condescension and defensiveness from the people in charge before we get to that explanation.

Flood control is one of the better examples of the divide between elitist and populist approaches to politics you will find in New Orleans. Credentialed experts aren't entitled to exclusive purview over public information and decision making. Meanwhile, just because you don't have all the facts about what's happening to you doesn't mean you don't have the right to shout rudely until you get them.  More often than not it's the only tool most of us have.  Looking around during one of these crises at who is shouting vs who is shaming them for it is a pretty good way to figure out which side everyone is really on.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Liz was the Ken Feinberg of Dow Chemical

The reason these claims clearinghouse operations is to limit the financial damages and liability incurred by the offending party. Probably the most familiar case of this for us would be the Gulf Coast Claims Facility set up by Kenneth Feinberg in the wake of the BP disaster of 2010.  For those unfamiliar with how that played out, there are archives here and here and, yeah, here too

In this case it's Dow Chemical looking to limit the size of its payout after having put a thousands of people's health at risk.  Liz was there to help them put out the fires.
When Dow Corning faced thousands of lawsuits in the 1990s from women saying they’d become sick from the company’s silicone gel breast implants, its parent firm, Dow Chemical, turned to one of the country’s leading experts in corporate bankruptcies: Professor Elizabeth Warren.

Warren, now a Democratic presidential candidate, has never publicly discussed her role in the case. Her campaign said she was “a consultant to ensure adequate compensation for women who claimed injury” from the implants and that a $2.3 billion fund for the women was started “thanks in part to Elizabeth’s efforts.”

But participants on both sides of the matter say that description mischaracterizes Warren’s work, in which she advised a company intent on limiting payments to the women.

“She was on the wrong side of the table,” said Sybil Goldrich, who co-founded a support group for women with implants and battled the companies for years. Goldrich said Dow Corning and its parent “used every trick in the book” to limit the size of payouts to women. The companies, she added, “were not easy to deal with at all.”

Who is afraid of racist grandma

This is not "3-D chess" or whatever. It is just stuff that racist grandmas say.
Although he did not specify to whom he was referring, the president appeared to be referencing the group of four freshmen women of color known as "the squad," which includes Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

"So sad to see the Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion. Whenever confronted, they call their adversaries, including Nancy Pelosi, 'RACIST.' Their disgusting language and the many terrible things they say about the United States must not be allowed to go unchallenged. If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behavior, then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!" Trump wrote in a pair of tweets on Sunday evening.
He literally just watches FOX News and yells racist grandma bullshit back at it.  There's no strategy. It is just rage. Maybe there is something to be said for paying less attention to it... much as one would tune out a racist grandma. But the Grandma Administration is also running baby cage camps so you can't ignore it altogether.

The problem with Democratic leadership is Trump says this stuff and they all think, "Oh no now we will lose the racist grandma vote!" Which is why, instead of filing impeachment articles, they are performatively lecturing their own members for getting yelled at by Grandma in the first place.

Friday, July 12, 2019

No opportunity wasted

The city had an excuse to get out and confiscate some tents and stuff from homeless people and they took it.
But just outside of the New Orleans Mission, there were some homeless residents that weren’t too happy with the city’s approach to encampment sweeps.  “We just got wiped out,” one woman, who lives under the Pontchartrain Expressway overpass, told The Lens. “They took our tent and everything.”

The woman asked to remain anonymous, saying that some of her family didn’t know about her current situation. Her husband, who said he worked as a dishwasher in a nearby restaurant, also asked to remain anonymous because he didn’t want his employer to find out that he is homeless.

As part of its preparations, the city conducted sweeps all along Claiborne and Calliope streets, Babcock said. During the sweeps, city employees removed debris that could be thrown by strong winds while homeless outreach workers spread the word about the extra capacity at the shelters.  But like any encampment sweep, city officials also took “unclaimed” property, including tents. Some of the items confiscated during sweeps are stored by the city until their owners can come get them.

However, at a City Council Quality of Life Committee meeting in March, the city’s Director of Housing Tyra Johnson Brown told city council members that only four people had come to retrieve their belongings over the last five years.  Some large items, such as tents and mattresses, aren’t stored and are simply thrown away, Avegno told The Lens in May.

“I wasn’t even here for it,” the woman who said her property was removed told The Lens. “I was at a meal. All I know is when I came back my home was gone. I lost my tent, my bed, my blankets, everything. Now we got a tropical storm coming.”
 Well, at least we can't say they aren't being "intentional."  We know they like to do that. 
Still, the woman living under the overpass said she made her decision, and wished she still had a tent to provide at least some protection.

“I think it’s cruel and intentional to come out here and steal our tent like that,” she said

"Pretty confident"

When you think about it that's pretty much all you can hope for.
Flood protection officials have said they are confident they can hold back the river at that height, or even a bit higher.

That rise is coming more quickly than expected. The Mississippi is now just below 17 feet -- the height the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers uses as the the upper limit it tries to keep the river below -- and rising. It is now expected to briefly crest about 6 a.m. or 7 a.m., about six hours earlier than expected, said Jeff Graschel, a hydrologist with the Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center.

"We'll still have the same crest for all locations, it'll maybe just be coming in a little sooner," Graschel said.

"We're pretty confident we're not looking any higher than 19 feet," he added.
Yeah okay fine.  Frankly, it looks like everything is going to be okay in New Orleans. The latest advisory this afternoon has hints that the rainfall totals won't be all that bad here.  Another thing I would add to that is, with tropical storms, the rain tends to come in drips and drabs.  It might rain a lot over the course of the storm. But it doesn't usually dump all at once the way it did Wednesday.  Which is to say, under most circumstances, the rainfall is something the drainage system can handle.

So chill out, everybody.   Looking at you, in particular, City Of New Orleans. Stop lashing out at all the "fake news." It makes you look like you are the one panicking.

 

Today we did a short impromptu pre-storm bar crawl. We can report everything is pretty normal. Folks are milling about in the gentle breeze. The hotels on St. Charles are putting out little sandbags.

Mr. John's sandbags

Probably won't be necessary but it's something to do, I guess.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Nobody knows nuthin

Barry. It's a thing that exists now.
Tropical Storm Barry's potential impacts are coming into sharper focus as the National Weather Service said Thursday that it now expects total rain accumulations of 10-20 inches over a swath of southeast Louisiana, with isolated maximum amounts of 25 inches through the weekend.

The pockets of heaviest rain, the National Weather Service predicts, would occur in areas around Baton Rouge and south to the coast.
That's pretty good news for New Orleans, relatively speaking.  But it's a few days away still so we'll see. 

Already by yesterday we had arrived at the point where everyone asks the mayor if or when she is going to call for evacuations. Sometimes I think they're almost daring her to do it. But, as LaToya pointed out, you're always free to leave at any point if you really want to go. Nobody is going to stop you.
Though she declared a state of emergency, Cantrell said it was too soon to say Wednesday whether the city would call a voluntary or mandatory evacuation ahead of the storm’s arrival.

“We will make those calls once we feel they need to be made,” Cantrell said. “As it relates to residents leaving, people can make up their own mind based on conditions now. That’s something that they can always do.”
Today she added to that saying "We look (for) a Category 3" before calling for evacuations. That sounds informally correct. But also it sounds new in the sense that there is or ever was a hard and fast policy. Often it seems like LaToya is making it up as she goes along.  There are good and bad things about that.

In a sense, there is a "voluntary" evacuation on right now. Really, all evacuations are voluntary. Even a "mandatory" evacuation order doesn't mean police are going door to door and pulling people out of their homes.  They don't have time for that during an emergency. The critical decision from the mayor's point of view is whether or not to kick the city assisted evacuation procedures into action. That involves mobilizing buses and police and volunteers and staging venues and all sorts of stuff. It's not a decision to pull the trigger on unless you think it's definitely going to be necessary.

Meanwhile from an individual's perspective, there are all sorts of factors that go into deciding whether or not to evacuate. If you have a place to go and the means to get there then you might consider it.  But evacuating may be more of a risk for some than staying put.  Not everyone is mobile enough to just up and go at a moment's notice. Not everyone can afford to miss a few days of work. Not everyone's boss or landlord is going to be cooperative. Then there is the fact that evacuating is expensive as hell. Not everyone has money put away for emergencies. And there are other costs to leaving beyond just the money spent on the act. Sometimes after a storm has passed, the city might decide to drag its feet on allowing people to come home. Evacuees might find themselves stuck out on the road longer than they had planned with compounding consequences for their lives when or if they ever get back. So, by all means go if you can or want to. But it's hardly ever the right decision for everybody. "Mandatory" evacuations should be called sparingly if at all.

Also it sucks to be stuck in some shelter hundreds of miles away when you could be at home managing the situation.  Maybe you can mitigate damage by being on hand to patch a broken window or move some of your belongings out of harms way if the water comes up. Or what if it turns out your car wasn't parked in the safest spot?  Maybe you can get it moved before the water gets high enough to damage the engine... even if you don't quite make it in time to keep it out of the cab. Still, at least you can get to work cleaning it up right away. Can't do that from some gym floor in Alabama or whatever.

Cleaning the car

Anyway we're probably not going to call any sort of evacuation for Orleans Parish. It's not usually something that happens when a yet-to-be-organized storm is still expected to become a category one hurricane at worst.  The main reason it's being taken a little bit more seriously today is because people are freaked out about this river situation.
Storm surge accompanying potential Category 1 Hurricane Barry may cause overtopping Saturday of much of the Mississippi river levee in the Lower 9th Ward, Algiers and St. Bernard Parish, according to Army Corps of Engineers levee data.

The National Weather Service's Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell expects the surge will add between 3 and 5 feet to the unusually high river in New Orleans and locations to the south, reaching as high as 20 feet at the Carrollton Gauge in New Orleans.
Basically what's happening is, as the storm surge piles in from the Gulf, the river can't discharge at its mouth as fast as it ordinarily would which causes the water level to rise a bit more in its channel. The predicted spike is only expected to last about a day. And, in most spots, they're saying it won't go above the height at which the levees are designed to hold it.

Maybe.
But a map of levee heights in the New Orleans area that's part of the Corps' National Levee Database shows that the top of large segments of river levees along the Lower 9th Ward in New Orleans and St. Bernard Parish on the east bank, and some locations in Algiers on the West Bank, were between 18 and 19.99 feet.

Thus, a 20-foot river height could cause overtopping at those locations, something that has never happened in New Orleans' modern history, and only rarely in St. Bernard.
So there is some discussion as to how serious this actually is.  To begin with "overtopping" is not necessarily a disaster unless it becomes serious enough to scour out and undermine the levee itself. At that point, well, look out.  But the Corps says, #actually that list of levee heights may not be the list that counts. 
Late Wednesday, a spokesman for the Corps,  which oversees construction and repair of the river levees,  said officials in its New Orleans District office discounted the data in the agency's database.

"They show the levee elevations for the 9th Ward between 20 and 21 feet," said spokesman Ricky Boyett. "Our modeling does not show overtopping of the levees in the 9th."
According to this they're still worried about overtopping becoming an issue in Violet and in several spots in Plaquemines but the supposedly vulnerable places in New Orleans probably won't be as bad as the maps suggest. There are some confusing reasons for this. But it sounds like the Corps is saying it depends on how you measure water. 
And Boyett said there's a good chance that the way the water in the river is measured, compared to the height of levees, could provide about 8/10 of a foot of additional protection.

The river gauge on which the water levels are measured uses a 1929 datum measurement to determine its height, while the corps uses 1988 datum for levees, resulting in the height difference, he said.
I think what they're saying is that in 1988 they found out the water wasn't as wet as it used to be so it's okay for it to go higher now.   McBride actually explains it here reminding us that the "datums" discrepancy was a key factor in the design flaws that led to the flooding of New Orleans after Katrina.
Literally finding #1 in the Corps' own wide-ranging "IPET" investigation of their own failures which caused the levee failures after Katrina passed New Orleans was that the Corps' use of different bases, or "datums," for measuring heights was a serious contributor to the failures. Doing so allowed shorter structures to be built without anyone realizing it until it was too late. Some levees or floodwalls ended up multiple feet shorter than intended.
So maybe that's not very reassuring.  But this might be
Forecasters have lowered by a foot their predictions for how high the Mississippi River will get once Tropical Storm Barry's comes ashore this weekend, giving the New Orleans-area levees a bit more breathing room.

The Mississippi is now expected top out "near" 19 feet above sea level at the Carrollton Gauge in New Orleans on Saturday due to the storm surge from Barry, which is expected to come ashore as a hurricane, according to a National Weather Service alert sent out Thursday morning. Forecasters had previously predicted the river would reach 20 feet during the storm, potentially matching or exceeding the height of the Mississippi River levees.
Of course 20 is still "near" 19. That's good or bad depending on your particular datum orientation. And, of course, the surge forecast can change again or be entirely wrong anyway. At the very least this shows us that even the most precise measurements and models employed by the professionals in charge of managing critical infrastructure still boil down to guesswork.  In other words, nobody knows nuthin.' But we already knew that.

Case in point, here is Alli endeavoring to "untangle the knot" of everything we know and don't know about what caused yesterday's street flooding. It's a lot of things. From the basic philosophy underpinning our water management strategy, to the design and engineering of its components, to the maintenance of the infrastructure, to the politics that chooses what gets emphasized, there are so many unknown knowns.  We would like to think the trick is to at least separate out the bullshit. But how do we even start?
Untangling this knot will take time, but it has to start with everyone telling the truth. After an event like today, the public outcry for SWBNO to fix the pumps will continue. But I think it’s almost more important for them to be clear about what they do know and don’t know about the system that we have, rather than throw more money at repairs in the short term. At least then we can start on a path of actual public information about risk, and what it would take to change our approach to water management. Right now, we aren’t even sure what’s broken, besides “everything.”
What's actually broken? Nobody knows!  So what do we do now? There are all sorts of ideas people have about who they'd like to see benefit and who they'd like to see suffer in the meantime. The politics is going to happen even whether we're ready to say what we know or not.

Is it becoming too dangerous or "unsustainable" to live in South Louisiana? Or are there sincere actions we could take to save what's left before it's too late?  Nobody knows. But oil and gas and shipping still want their infrastructure protected. The tourism cabal still wants to host parties in New Orleans. It's fine with them if everyone else is a "climate refugee"

This, again, is why I don't expect we're ever going to fix these things.  Climate change isn't a "game changing" existential problem politically speaking. Politics is always about who wins and who loses and the interests of concentrated wealth run contrary to the concerns of the "99 percent." Guess who usually wins.  In New Orleans, we might not know precisely what's "broken" about our storm management infrastructure. But we still have to act based on our most honest appraisal of the guesswork we have now, or cede every decision to actors who have none of our interests in mind. Even in full view of this the best we can hope to do is to watch the shitty politicians  muddle on through a slog of concessions and compromises.  Unfortunately muddling through is going to have disastrous consequences for the great majority of people while the rich continue to make themselves richer.  But that's what always happens.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

The flood before the storm

Third and Carondolet

There was some rain or something this morning.
Severe thunderstorms were moving through New Orleans early Wednesday morning (July 10), causing street flooding and prompting tornado warnings.
Yeah. Street flooding. A little bit.  Tune in to your local social media station for photos and videos from everybody. That Daily Georges post has collected quite a bit of them.   Here is one I did on the walk back down St. Charles after I moved my car during the height of the thunderstorm. The middle of the street was the only high ground and all the cross streets were flooded I've never seen it flood this much up here.


That's when the water really started rushing in. I've lived on Third Street for twenty years and I've never seen it do this. 

River of trash

Also, yes, there was trash floating down the street. However, I can speak as an eyewitness to the fact that sanitation was definitely out emptying garbage cans this morning during the very heaviest of the rain, by the way.  So somebody gets their #CityOfYes badge today, anyway.

I just saw Ghassan Korban on TV say that we got about 8 inches over a period of three hours which is a "100 year" rain event.  The last one of those was two years ago. OH BY THE WAY that's not even the actual storm. It's not even expected to form in the Gulf until later today or tomorrow. It could actually become a hurricane by the weekend and the track is bad.  If New Orleans is on the west side of a tropical storm, we're going to get a lot more rain.  Hopefully not more like today, exactly.  

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

State of emergency

The mayor declared a "state of emergency" with regard to the damage done to fisheries and waterways by the opening of the Bonnet Carre spillway. I saw this and thought maybe it makes us eligible for federal relief or something. It probably does, actually. But there's more to it.  What does this mean?
With the emergency declaration, Cantrell now has the ability to adapt any ordinances that could interfere with the steps the city takes to appropriately cope with the issue at hand. At the time of the proclamation, other nearby parishes had already issued their own state of emergency declarations, including St. Tammany, St. Bernard and Plaquemines parishes.
I don't get it. What "steps" do they need to take.  The mayor's press release says it gives her the power to  "suspend the provisions of any regulatory ordinance that prescribes the procedures for the conduct of local business along with other potential impediments to necessary action in coping with the emergency."  What businesses need to operate outside the bounds of ordinary regulation in these circumstances?

Quality of life enforcement

Not really sure what the situation is with the bookstore. People are mad at them for calling the cops at all.  Maybe they shouldn't do that. But there should be some reasonable expectation that they can operate without having their entrance obstructed. Maybe they have unreasonable expectations about what is and isn't an obstruction. I really don't know what the scene was like.

One thing is for sure, though. Once NOPD shows up, they need to try harder not to shove any autistic kids to the ground and arrest them. 
Moses said Grant, who is in his early 20s, is a "floater," who plays trumpet with various bands on the corner and is well-known there: “New Orleans musicians, they practically raised this little boy.” Grant is known to be disabled, Moses said, “as we say in the city, ‘slow,'" but that he was "never irate. ... I can’t see him being aggressive."

Moses said she counted 15 police cars responding to the incident — 13 marked and two unmarked, both NOPD and Louisiana state troopers — and has video of them.

“You would think they had weapons of mass destruction the way the police were responding,” she added.
Too bad there was no kindly white homeowner nearby to offer up their lawn as an alternative performance space so this whole situation could have been avoided. 

Backing into Barry?

Guys there is a storm about to form because of a system that is backing its way into the Gulf. That hardly ever happens. But it has happened.
Michael Brennan, a meteorologist who supervises the hurricane specialist team at the National Hurricane Center, said at least two hurricanes have grown out of frontal systems.

Hurricane Arthur, which formed as a tropical depression on July 1, 2014, off the east coast of Florida, actually had its origins in a patch of Gulf thunderstorms associated with a trough of low pressure that popped up in late June. Those combined with a frontal system over Georgia and South Carolina and emerged as a hurricane over the Atlantic. Arthur reached a peak Category 2 strength, with top winds of 100 mph, before making landfall near Cape Lookout, N.C., on July 4.

Hurricane Alicia, an August 1983 storm, formed on the western end of a frontal trough that extended from off the New England coast southwestward into the middle of the Gulf. Alicia made landfall as a major Category 3 hurricane about 25 miles southwest of Galveston, with top winds of 115 mph.
They don't know what this one is gonna do yet besides creep along the coast. If it happens to develop a name, they'll call it Barry.  Probably it will rain a lot.  So it's a good thing Sewerage and Water Board is on top of things this month.
Just before the June general board meeting, the S&WB cancelled all the July meetings, including the general board meeting. I've been watching to see if any will be rescheduled, but none have yet. The last time something like this happened was last September, following the implosion of Jade Brown-Russell's term as interim/acting executive director in mid-August when it was revealed she had approved raises for low-performing upper managers during a fiscal crisis. Her resignation/firing was followed by Admiral David Callahan taking over for two weeks followed by the first month of Ghassan Korban's term. But in the midst of all that turmoil, while all the September committee meetings were cancelled, the September general board meeting proceeded as scheduled, on the third Wednesday of the month.

This time around everything has been cancelled, including the general board meeting. No explanation has been forthcoming.
Oh okay well when they get back maybe there will be some good news
On the upside, any storminess associated with a tropical system could at least provide some short-term relief from the cyanobacteria blooms that have caused the closure of beaches along the Mississippi Gulf Coast, said Nancy Rabalais, a biologist with Louisiana State University who studies algae blooms.

“The cyanobacteria blooms like calm water, which we have had, and of course, the high load of Mississippi River nutrients,” Rabalais said. “Waves will likely dissipate the blooms, but they are so widespread, I would expect them to re-form afterwards. There are enough cells out there to restock a harmful algae bloom; the Mississippi River is at an all-time high, i.e., more nutrients; and the Bonnet Carre Spillway is not closing for maybe another week.”
Almost forgot the spillway was still open.  Hope we aren't looking at that oddball high river hurricane scenario everybody was freaked out about a month ago.  But if we are, at least we can rest assured the new levee system isn't quite obsolete... yet.
The Lake Pontchartrain & Vicinity, or East Bank levee system, and West Bank & Vicinity system have a combined 350 miles of levees, floodwalls and gates. The Corps says it and individual parish levee boards are lifting and armoring more than 76 miles of earthen levees, about a third of which -- 25 miles -- are already done.

An April 2, 2019, notice from the Corps in the Federal Register noted “weak soils, general subsidence, and the global incidence of sea level rise … will cause levees to require future lifts to sustain performance” and warns the levee system “will no longer provide (the promised) 1% level of risk reduction as early as 2023.”

That happens to be the year when the system needs to be recertified so property inside the levees can continue to qualify for mortgages and coverage under FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.
“The fact that these levees won't be certifiable in four years is a travesty,” Van Heerden said.

Sen. Bill Cassidy said getting additional federal funding from Congress for the lifts is no slam dunk, but he’s confident it will happen. What’s more worrisome, he said, is the share of the costs the state of Louisiana is going to have to cover up-front, approximately $300 million.

“The state's already going to have a difficult time coming up with its portion of the rebuilt Katrina levees,” Cassidy said, referring to the state’s $1.7 billion share of the recently completed $14 billion project. “Now we're speaking of more state money going forward” to cover the levee lifts.
If they wanted to bring the system back in line with the "250 yr" protection originally authorized after Betsy it would cost around $45 billion. But nobody thinks that's even a remote possibility politically. So unless a drastic change occurs like some sort of national political revolution ushering in a "Green New Deal" with a robust water management and flood protection emphasis... well, I'd get used to the sinking feeling.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Oh no poor SASOL

I didn't realize the plant that just opened had been been grandfathered in to new ITEP rules.
So far, the Lake Charles chemical production plants have "quickly shown capability to run at full range," Thomas said.

Sasol's economic incentive application for the state's Industrial Ad Valorem Tax Exemption Program, known as ITEP, where companies get a 10-year property tax abatement, was grandfathered in when the program being revamped in June 2018.
They're paying zero in property taxes for 10 years (at least.) That's working well for them. So well, in fact, they are making plans to expand production.  Better look out, though. Under the new rules the next facilities will only be exempt from almost all of their taxes.
If Sasol follows through with plans for an expansion, the company would be eligible for no more than 80% of its property tax bill being forgiven for 10 years under new rules. That means local taxing entities would see a boost in property taxes during the first year.
But, again, it's going well for them and they're planning for expansion now even as they apply for exemptions under the new rules. So what is this even the point of this back and forth?
Sasol's executive was asked by a Commerce and Industry Board member whether the company would still be able to turn a profit if it had only been awarded a 10-year property tax abatement of only 80% rather than 100% when it planned the facility that is being built.

"If we had proposed a lesser incentive … I would have to run the numbers, but I can say this, it's much less likely that we would have (invested in Louisiana)," Thomas said
But you are applying for a new ITEP now.  Not gonna "run the numbers" on that yet? 

Update:  In a somewhat related matter, Governor Edwards, whose administration has overseen the expansion of heavily subsidized chemical facilities and oil and gas infrastructure held a campaign kickoff event today in New Orleans. According to Uptown Messenger there were at least three protesters on hand.

Mitch, there's still time

Eric Swalwell and his head of perfect Lego hair is dropping out, already.
Rep. Eric Swalwell will drop out of the 2020 presidential race after struggling to break out in a jammed Democratic primary field, according to multiple reports.

The fourth-term congressman from California will instead run for reelection to the House, the Los Angeles Times first reported Monday. Swalwell is set to hold a news conference later Monday. He will become the first presidential candidate to make the first debate cut to leave the race.
He's passing the torch, Mitch.  You know you want it. Are you sure we have to wait for Joe Biden to finish cancelling himself?

The right to move around

Here's a report from the uptown RTA charrette. This might be triggering for those of us who went through the post-Katrina public input planning process.
The series of planning events are open-house style; people can drop in to participate throughout the event. The activities and information session are meant to take about 20-30 minutes to complete.

At the meeting, attendees were each given a packet of materials with a set of stickers for them to use in interactive displays about changing the transit system. Using the stickers, participants can vote on what they want to see most in the redesign, such as more frequent streetcar and bus stops versus more express lines, where they travel to most within the city, and which options are most important to them: more reliable service, more frequent service, faster service, more weekend service, more late-night service or better regional connections.

According to Jennifer Brady, who conducts outreach for the RTA, the RTA is surveying people at bus stops, including Elk Place and Canal Street, the largest transfer point in the city, so that people who cannot attend the meetings are able to provide feedback for the redesign.

The survey asks about how frequently people ride the bus and streetcar, what other transit options they use, as well as what they would most like to see change within the current transit system.
Well at least it only takes 20 or 30 minutes to go play the game with the stickers. I have no idea if it's worth participating.  The purpose of these events is to have some sort of "outreach" on the record in order to insulate decision makers from criticism when the actual policies are made.  That doesn't necessarily mean they'll do a bad job. But it does mean they are definitely going to be condescending about it one way or the other.

Anyway the goal is to create a transit system people can use to navigate the city with as much convenience as a car owner might.  That means allowing for actual freedom of movement at all hours and in all directions. But for the most part, the pros and consultants are focused on getting grunts to work and back "efficiently." That isn't good enough. And they're going to use your pile of stickers to justify whatever they want to do either way.

But if you want to play the game, here is the schedule. There is one tonight in Mid-City.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

NIMBY Nation

This Huff-Po article about the increasingly reactionary nature of urban land use politics in major US cities got a fair amount of attention this weekend. I don't know exactly why the author insists on defining the backlash as a generational thing. I know "Boomer" is lately the shorthand for middle-class, middle aged conservatives.  But it confuses the issue for too many people. What we're really trying to describe here is the tipping point in urban politics that naturally follows years of policies specifically designed to fill the cities with nice things for rich people while everyone else is left to fend for themselves.  If only rich people can live in the city, eventually the city's politics will reflect the rich people's interests.
"We have mountains of data showing that cities need more housing and better transit and shelters for homeless people,” said Matthew Lewis, the director of communications for California YIMBY, a pro-housing nonprofit. And yet cities often give in to neighborhood groups opposing this much-needed infrastructure. The proposed homeless shelter booed by Salt Lake City residents in 2017 was canceled the next day. Schwartz’s lawsuit has succeeded in delaying the bus lane on 14th Street. The tantrum-throwing Seattleites eventually won the repeal of the tax they were shouting about.

“It’s frustrating,” Lewis said. “The people with the most privilege pack the meetings, shout over everybody else and get their way.”

These organized opposition groups could also, in the longer term, form a conservative coalition in cities and pull them to the right. This is already happening in cities with high rates of homelessness, where nominally progressive residents have formed interest groups that echo conservative talking points on personal responsibility and cracking down on drug users.

“This is not an anti-homeless march,” Barry Vince, an attorney, told reporters from the local television station as he participated in an “anti-crime march” in Long Beach, California. “We’re here to march against criminals, and we want the bad guys taken down.

Lewis said he’s seen similar rhetoric begin to appear in public hearings over housing and transportation.

“It’s a pretty short leap from ‘We don’t want homeless people living here’ to ‘We don’t want refugees’ or ‘We don’t want immigrants,’” Lewis said. “I’ve seen lifelong hippies who drive electric vehicles stand up at these meetings and say, ‘There’s too many people here already.’ It’s like you’re at a Trump rally.”
Maybe it's that thing about "lifelong hippies" that prompts the "Boomer" framing in the article.  But the critical dividing line isn't based in culture or age cohort so much as class. Didn't we already know hippies grow up to be yuppies the minute they get a hold of the slightest semblance of wealth?  The article alludes to that as well but quickly takes it in the wrong direction.
Cities can also redesign community outreach to encourage input from groups that have traditionally been excluded. According to a 2017 study, older male homeowners are more likely to participate in town hall meetings and other public participation processes than other demographic groups. Another, published this month, found that becoming a property owner motivated individuals to participate in politics and to express their views on housing, traffic and development to elected leaders more often.
This is followed by a consideration of whether or not cities should limit or deflect public feedback at government meetings.  But that's just more of the anti-democratic neoliberal impulse that got us here in the first place. The issue isn't really about process. It is about political power. And right now rich people have too much of it. That's not a new problem. Nor is it a generational problem the way the article wants you to think it might be. It's just the timeless process of wealth accumulating and then defending itself.

A proper analysis of this goes beyond simple questions of YIMBY vs NIMBY.  You can't describe the politics of who is allowed to live where by whom solely in terms of cold hard "supply and demand." There are real live power relationships to consider. In New Orleans, for example, big decisions are heavily influenced by real estate developers, of course. But also there are neighborhood organizations (dominated by property owners) and historic preservationists (property owners with the kind of money that gets you onto the "philanthropy" circuit) who have stifled equitable housing and transportation policies for ages. More often than not they operate with some sort of progressive sounding rationalization.

Under the pretense of "quality of life promotion," neighborhood associations hire private police with public funds,  shut down bars and music venues, shoo the homeless away,  and ensure that bus stations doesn't have too many public restrooms. When the City Council voted to demolish the Big Four housing projects after Katrina, we were told by NIMBY liberals the cause was humanitarian
“We need affordable housing in this city,” said Shelley Stephenson Midura, a Council member who proposed the resolution that was adopted. But, she added, “public housing ought not to be the warehouse for the poor.”

New Orleans's most prominent beneficiary of those demolitions was mega-developer Pres Kabacoff. Here is an article by Roberta Gratz who, even in an article critical of the displacement for which Pres is hugely responsible, can't help but give him props as a preservationist.
Ironically, Kabacoff and his company, Historic Restoration Inc., are responsible for some of the best of the preservation projects that have helped downtown retain its traditional feel.

There's nothing "ironic" about it, though.  Preservation and gentrification often align with the same policy agenda. Which is often carried, we were reminded again today, by high powered liberal politicians.
Warren will meet “with activists, influencers and community leaders,” a campaign spokeswoman said, but didn’t provide specifics.

One of her leading supporters in the state is Pres Kabacoff, a New Orleans real estate developer who said he reached out to Warren because of her support for well-regulated capitalism.
But most of the time these are battles fought out block by block and one planning meeting at a time. Recently this mixed use development faced a gauntlet of intense neighborhood opposition in Bywater. And the Touro-Bouligny association is currently stalling a HANO project Uptown aided, we should note, by the addition of the building in question to a list of "Endangered Landmarks" maintained by a local preservationist society.

Interestingly the mayor rarely weighs in on any of this.  Over the course of her first year in office she's been more focused on the tourism grand bargain, police affairs, the traffic camera controversy, and the Sewerage and Water Board follies than zoning and housing questions. That might change at any moment. The STR wars are moving toward a conclusion... of the current phase anyway.  We may see the mayor get involved in that at some point.  But whenever she does decide to put a thumb on the scale of one of these land use matters, surely the fact that she got her start in politics as a neighborhood association president will have at least some bearing on which way that scale might tip. Just something to watch for, anyway.

Friday, July 05, 2019

The public-private model is never going to fix this

Gill asks us to imagine what might happen if we had some way of researching and combating our most pressing environmental threats without also trying to make a buck.  I wonder if we'll ever know.
Meselhe and Hu are set for trial in August. A memorandum filed by Meselhe's attorney, however, points out that the Basin Wide Model was ”entirely funded with public money through a Cooperative Endeavor Agreement with the Louisiana Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.”

What the institute claims as a trade secret, in fact, belongs to the state of Louisiana, according to the memorandum, which also notes that computer codes invented by the Dutch company Deltares were incorporated into the model on the understanding that they would be common property. Deltares on its website declares, “We believe in openness and transparency, as is evident from the free availability of our software and models. Open source works is our firm conviction.”

If that admirable sentiment were universally shared, we would have a better chance of saving the coastal region.
LOL of course we won't, though.  Climate change may be an existential disaster when we see it collectively. But seeing problems collectively isn't the way we do things.  Our political economy isn't a rational process of  determining the best and most equitable outcomes.  It's a conflict among classes and individuals with oppositional interests. We're not organized to avert or mitigate something like climate change. We can only determine who bears the greatest costs vs who can make an extra buck or two in the meantime. In other words, we are never going to fix this.

Thursday, July 04, 2019

So, then what was the source of it?

You would think a story where we learn about a Powerpoint that tells us about what "may be the source of this radiation" would tell us what that is.  It doesn't, though. In fact, it's just a bunch of blurbs about communications between the city and EPA that raise more disturbing questions than they answer.
The Powerpoint presentation was presented to city leaders by the Group CHP. The presentation talked about the history of the area and what they believe may be the source of this radiation.

On May 20, 2019, the city’s community outreach manager told leaders that they canvassed the area and found six people home. They said they attached flyers to each house, letting people know they’d be working in the area.
Also what is "the Group CHP"? The story doesn't really tell us that either.

About a month ago this Advocate report told us the most complete and coherent story about the history of the site. It's intriguing but it still doesn't tell us exactly why there was radioactive material buried there.
The Thompson-Hayward factory, which opened in 1941, produced a variety of pesticides and herbicides, including one of the main components in Agent Orange, before being converted to a chemical warehouse in the late 1970s.

Even after the plant closed, those in nearby areas complained of noxious odors, and by the late 1980s, Harcos Chemicals, which had purchased the site at the beginning of the decade, was ordered to remediate chemicals on the site and in the nearby sewer system. That contamination eventually led to a nearly $51.6 million settlement with residents of the neighborhood.

However, news articles about that suit did not mention radioactive contamination on the site, and it was not immediately clear why radium would have been used at the factory. Radium has been used for a number of products, including luminescent dials and watch hands, but the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission does not list pesticides or other chemicals as one of its common uses.
Channel 4 says something called "Group CHP" has some ideas that it presented to the city in a Powerpoint.  What were they?

Yesterday the city put out a press release assuring us the remediation work is now complete.  However, this being a Cantrell Administration document it is more defensive than it is informative. The main point it wants to get across is the Cantrell people definitely just learned about the hazard. The second thing it wants us to know is that they only dug it up out of "an abundance of caution" and we probably shouldn't worry about it anyway.
Today, the City announced that the final four of six total containers with underground material from the work site in the Lowerline and Coolidge area have been removed for transport to Anders, Texas. In May 2018, the Cantrell Administration learned about the presence of underground material producing radiation below the road surface at the intersection of Lowerline Street and Coolidge Court. While the origin of the material is unknown, it was removed out of an abundance of caution.
 
“I have been clear about how my administration would approach this issue from the time we learned about it,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell. “Our goal is always to protect the health and safety of residents. Throughout the process, my team has been in constant communication with our federal and state partners who have been monitoring the removal process and have not reported any increased risk to the public.” 

But as WVUE and WWL have reported, that "constant communication" between the city, state, and EPA has been a confusing mess with little agreement as to the severity of the threat or the best means of removing it.  The mayor's press release says that in May, "the City’s Health Department and the Department of Public Works canvassed within a two block radius of the location to talk with residents and distribute information about the existing hazards and what to expect during the removal process." But since there doesn't seem to have been much agreement about the nature of those hazards, well that does cause one to wonder what the fliers they distributed actually said. 


The mayor also says the city still doesn't know where the Gert Town glow goo came from.  But they apparently did see a Powerpoint that at least had some ideas, right?  Why can't we know what those are?  Also, what happened between the time in 2013 when the Landrieu Administration was apparently informed of the issue, and late 2018 when the Cantrell people claim they first learned about it?  There's a lot of stuff here that still doesn't make sense.

"Second Katrina"

Well that's a pleasant way of putting it.
The number of people being forced out of their homes due to rising costs is now causing displacement on a level almost comparable to a “second Katrina,” said Patrick Egan, executive vice president at Latter & Blum, who has been working with a team at the firm to come up with ways to spur more affordable housing development.

Williams' office is putting the final touches on the property assessments for the coming year. That starts with figuring out the average sales price in the city's various neighborhoods over the previous four years.
Oh good. Assessment season is always fun.  The lines at Erroll Williams's will probably be longer than ever this year. And of course the process always favors those who can afford to down there and deal with it.

Anyway, as many of us broken records have been saying for years, this is precisely what every policy choice since Katrina was deliberately intended to do. But oh well, they'll just write about those decisions as though they inscrutable "trends" because of course.
In many cases, the increases reflect trends that began during the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. In the years after the flood, younger residents from across the country have flocked to the city, particularly to neighborhoods in the historic core, said Egan.

That, combined with other factors — including low interest rates that have given buyers the ability to afford higher-priced homes and the proliferation of short-term rentals — put significant pressure on the market, he said.

All those factors have come at a time when there has been a huge loss of cheap housing, thanks to the storm — and yet relatively little new affordable stock created. A report in April by the affordable-housing group HousingNOLA found that while there’s a need for nearly 33,600 additional affordable homes in the city, only about 414 units had been made available between September 2018 and March. Even those making a decent living are now unable to afford many neighborhoods.
We really can't even start to talk about "second Katrina" when we're still sitting here in the middle of the first one. 

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Mitch knew

I'm chuckling a little remembering all the ridiculous prep Mitch's people did just to host a Superbowl. They moved the Mardi Gras parade schedule around. They spent a bunch of money they didn't have to rushing the new streetcar into service.   There was a "clean zone" and a city mission command center. You would have thought they were trying to send someone to the moon.

Mitch Landrieu took all of  it extremely seriously. His entire term in office was built around setting artificial deadlines so he could rush through a bunch of projects and patronage ahead of  Katrina 10 or the Superbowl or the Tricentennial and make it all sound like some sort of emergency requiring everyone to definitely not complain or ask too many questions.   He even gave us all a lecture about being nice to Roger Goodell. That's why, after all of this hysteria, the power failure the night of the game was such a deliciously fun moment. We couldn't have asked for a more appropriate send-up of Mitch's arrogance. 

Of course, as usual, the joke was on us. As it turned out, the seemingly absurd "anti-terrorism" preparations in the weeks leading up to the game did yield some important information. Naturally, Mitch chose not to share that information with the public.
NEW ORLEANS — The attorneys representing residents in Gert Town claim the City of New Orleans not only knew about radioactive material in the area, but also knew the risk that it posed to the public and tried to keep it out of the public eye.

In 2013, when the city hosted Super Bowl XLVII, the federal government discovered radioactive material two miles away from the Mercedes-Benz Superdome while conducting sweeps of the area for the event.
But then they didn't tell anyone.

It's not clear exactly what took so long after that for anyone to get started with the remediation but it looks like that didn't begin until after the new mayor took over. And at that point, it doesn't look like there was a solid consensus among state, local, and federal officials as to how to proceed safely.
In May, Dr. Jennifer Avegno -- the city’s health department director -- emailed Tulane toxicology consultant, Dr. Luann White, asking her opinion on possible dust or particle containment during excavation. In her email, Avengo pointed out a particular recommendation to spray water on the site, stating it did not “seem adequate,” to her. She also said she was not comfortable with the information provided if homes in the area should be evacuated or if there were any possible risks to pregnant women.

White’s responded with:

Misting water can control dust. They have to be careful to get enough to keep dust down, but not so much as to have waste water runoff they need to contain.”

White went on to say the following:

"Radiation seems to be only in the immediate vicinity of the source and does not extend as far away as homes or the sidewalk. The goal is to keep it that way during the remediation. This can be done as they describe, but they need to take care to contain the radiation.”

State epidemiologist Raoult Ratard also weighed in with his opinion during another correspondence this past May. When asked if residents need to evacuate their homes during the work, Ratard said no, so long as the dust was appropriately controlled.

Ratard was also asked if special instructions need to be given to pregnant women, women of child bearing age or children.

“None if they stay away from the site and dust is controlled," he replied.

And, to the question of: “How would the EPA best characterize the level of risk for individuals who have lived on the block and received cumulative exposure?”

Ratard said he did not know

Apparently what they ended up doing was digging into the ground, removing the radioactive goop or whatever while neighbors stood nearby and watched, before throwing it into some dumpsters which remained on site for several weeks.  It doesn't say in that report whether or not anybody misted the dust.

Anyway, according to one of the lawyers handling the residents' lawsuit, the Cantrell administration wanted all of this handled "discreetly." And maybe that's a step better than just never having told anyone at all. But there sure are a lot of questions left to answer now.

Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Is Joe Biden cancelled yet?

Seems like it's all happening so fast.
In the latest poll, Biden's support among black Democratic voters shrunk to 31 percent from 48 percent in the June poll. Harris, on the other hand, saw her support among black Democratic voters grow to 27 percent, from 11 percent in the June poll. The June poll numbers on African American voters were provided to NBC by Quinnipiac.
What even is Joe Biden's constituency?  Right now it's just a bunch of Democratic Party functionaries waiting for the signal that it's okay to go support somebody else.

So far behind we're ahead or vice versa

Congratulations to New Orleans on becoming the first city in the US to have zero public education anymore.
July 1 is important for the school district. It’s the day charter school contracts begin and also marks the start of the fiscal year. One year ago, the city’s RSD charters all transferred back to the local school district’s oversight. That nearly doubled the size of the district. 

Last year, the district was on track to have only one traditional school: McDonogh 35. But it ended up taking over two struggling elementary charter schools and running them directly instead.
So remember back in 2016 when we were talking about how important the OPSB election would be that year specifically because the RSD hand over and the selection of a new superintendent would be  a major pivot point in the direction of the school system?  And remember also how nobody gave enough of a shit to run for hardly any of those seats besides pro-charter grifters?

Well, here is what happened. Nobody could have predicted it.

And as usual New Orleans is well behind the curve. We've gone all in on the privatization model at precisely the time the political winds have finally begun to blow in the other direction. With some notable exceptions, the Democratic Presidential candidates this year, led by Bernie Sanders, have taken on a decidedly more anti-charter stance this year than in their recent past. 

But this is a hard-headed city in a lot of ways and there are few better examples of its hard-headedness is its commitment to segregated schools via any means possible. And make no mistake about it charter schools are segregated schools.  If it seemed to the rest of the country that our city lay for a time at the cutting edge of "school reform," it is only because our hard-headedness happened to align with the fad for a while.  

Anyway there is another OPSB election coming next year.  Will New Orleans take that opportunity to shift direction away from its long standing tradition just because the national politics have changed a bit? Don't bet on it.

"Black slushie stuff"

Is it just me or is it weird that this story feels like such a niche thing this week? 
Initially, the city said they consulted scientists who told them the material was not harmful. We later learned that the hazardous material was Radium 226.

According to the Center for Disease Control, long-term exposure to Radium 226 can cause a number of health problems such as cancer, amenia, fractured bones and cataracts.

Since that information has come out, around 1,000 neighbors living in the area have filed a federal lawsuit against the city. The lawsuit claims the city knew about the radiation problem for years and should have relocated nearby neighbors while they worked to remove the material.

Instead, residents tell me they let neighbors sit out and watch, unprotected, while crews dressed in hazmat suits removed the radioactive.

"If you see the stuff they bringing out of that ground, it just didn’t seem real,” Clyde Williams, who lives in the neighborhood, said. “It looked like black slushie stuff. And the thing to me – what I felt so bad about – they allowed us to walk to the fence where they were digging, but the people that were digging it up had on hazmat suits like spacemen. So why didn’t you run us away from this fence? Tell us it may be hazardous to our health?”

Residents say that since crews began the removal, the area has flooded. They’re worried about radiation traveling to other parts of the neighborhood through the water.
Yeah I'd be more worried about that last bit if I thought there was any chance of Sewerage and Water Board actually pumping flood waters out of Gert Town with any sort of efficiency.  Certainly they don't have the "full capacity" necessary to move any "black slushie stuff."

In any case nobody is paying attention because what with the disappearing coast, the high river, the dolphin-killing algae, and the 15 year oil spill,  thick black radioactive material is like the third or fourth biggest environmental story in the news at any given time.

Monday, July 01, 2019

LaToya Levels at peak

This is really more in the category of what happens when you ask a stupid question than anything else.  In this interview, Essence Magazine asked the mayor about the recently finalized infrastructure "deal" with the tourism cabal. As we know, this refers to a series of bills passed out of the legislature this year which does the following.

1) Allows the the Convention Center to build a publicly subsidized hotel.

2) Legitimizes the Convention Center's previously legally questionable and still morally indefensible publicly subsidized slush fund.

3) Creates a new tax on hotel rooms based on the formerly "lost penny" which the city only gets three fourths of in order to pay for Sewerage and Water Board improvements. This is supposed to be the "fair share" tax despite the fact that the tourism cabal still gets an unearned piece of it AND gets to keep all of its prior revenue streams.

4) Creates a new tax on Short Term Rentals which the city can dedicate its portion of toward infrastructure... although, yes, we still have to "fair share" part of that with the cabal too for some reason. Also, apparently we are married to the proliferation of STRs now.

5) Folds the technically public New Orleans Tourism Marketing Company into the less public New Orleans and Company in such a way that shields their meetings from public records even though both entities continue to receive public funds.

Anyway the deal sucks. But Essence Magazine could have asked  the mayor about any of the above problems. Instead they asked her, "In what ways do you feel the deal will aid in further diversifying the corporate and entrepreneurial workforce in New Orleans to increase the presence of women of color in leadership roles?" Which.. what?

A diverse workforce with plenty of opportunities for women of color sounds like a terrific goal. But how or why would this infrastructure deal have anything to do with that? I can't answer that. And neither can LaToya but boy does she give it a try.
“Fair Share” ensures that improvements to our infrastructure affects everyone in this city – for everyone who is trying to make their way up and forward, and that includes a corporate and entrepreneurial workforce that looks more like this city. “Fair Share” doesn’t single out any particular entity or industry. None of our many thriving industries would be successful if not for the hard-working men and women of this city. In that vein, “Fair Share” ensures inclusivity and intentionality for everyone who puts skin in the game. It’s about meeting people where they are and giving them a real way to level up and that’s what’s been missing in our city.
Whether they're moving forward or making their way up, we're gonna meet them where they are and level up their skin in the game. We will do this intentionally.   Got it?  Okay.

Nice things for rich people

The Louisiana Children's Museum is leaving the Warehouse District. This is excellent news for land speculators since the market in that area is "sizzling." 
The 45,000-square-foot property was bought at the end of 2017 by developer Joe Jaeger’s MCC Real Estate Group for $3.6 million, which at $80 per square foot now seems like an amazing deal for the sizzling Warehouse District market.

The newer developments in the area — mostly condominium complexes with some restaurants and shops on the ground floor — are being sold for anything from $350 to $1,000 per square foot for the condo units, while the retail leasing is among the priciest in the city at around $35 to $40 per square foot a year, according to real estate experts.

The condominium complex at 425 Notre Dame St. recently sold out its units at an average of about $600 per square foot, said Michael Siegel, president of Corporate Realty, a New Orleans-based commercial real estate agency.

"There are some projects getting $700 to $800 a square foot, like The Standard, or the River Place, over $1,000," said Siegel. Some of the older projects are holding up well, too, he said, ranging between $350 and $500 per square foot.
Nobody actually lives in these condos of course. It's a market driven by pied-a-terres and short term rentals, but who cares. Assets are appreciating.  Which is another reason it's funny that this article describes the property as a "gamble" for Joe Jaeger, of all people. He's well positioned to bide his time.
MCC is one of the largest developers in the city and has held onto sites for years before deciding what to do with them. It only recently decided to move ahead with a new elder care facility in the derelict Lindy Boggs Medical Center site in Mid-City which it has co-owned since 2010.

It has also sat on the property housing the old Market Street Power Plant it has owned for the past four years. Aamodt said there was some investor interest in that site at a Council of Shopping Centers conference in Las Vegas last month but no firm plans yet.
So don't worry about him. Worry more about the fact that, even in the middle of a severe housing crunch, our system allows so much property to sit vacant for as long as it takes to turn a nice profit... as more nice things for rich people.
One possible conversion for the Children's Museum site would be a condominium or apartment-and-retail renovation, judging from the projects that dominate the surrounding area.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

All dead

Not mostly dead. All dead.
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Oyster fishermen are saying 100 percent of what they dredge up is coming up dead, which is not only a serious hit to their livelihoods but could have lasting impacts for years to come.

Fishermen will tell you part of the draw of the job is just being out on the water, but the waters near the Biloxi marsh are a little too quiet.

“North, east, west, there’s usually someone harvesting someone trawling you don’t see nothing, there’s not one person out here,” said oyster fisherman, Gregory Perez.

Gregory Perez says he's worked for years building and tending to these acres of water, or his private oyster leases. This year was supposed to be the most lucrative for him until the oysters started dying.

Perez blames this swirling blue-green algae blooms he’s seen intensify in the area. He says it’s killed off all the oysters he was planning to harvest, including the young oysters that would be ready years from now.

“Twenty-five square miles of blue-green algae in this area, and everybody's oyster farm in this area they’re 100 percent completely dead,” said Perez.
I noticed this week Rouses was running a sale on shucked gulf oysters.  The price was still high because Rouses but it does make me wonder where they were getting them from. Might have to be wondering that for a while, it turns out. 
A spokesperson with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries says as the oysters die, and the flood continues, the crisis is just beginning for those in the oyster industry.

“We’re also going to see the aftermath of the flood in terms of additional algal blooms… they’re not going to be able to recover quickly,” said Fisheries Administrator, Harry Blanchet.

“We have more damage now. This is worse than B.P. this is worse because we don’t have any reproduction,” said Perez.

Cops give the worst advice

This is one hundred percent wrong. Please do not do this. You will definitely regret it.
Over the past few months, Eyewitness News has told you about a series of car break-ins in both Orleans and Jefferson Parish. In the last four weeks along, crimemapping.com shows over 500 reports of vehicle break-ins and theft in New Orleans.

It’s the reason why District D Councilmember Jared Brossett has a stack of “Lock it or Lose  It” signs in city hall.  “My office has received a lot of complaints from concerned citizens regarding break-ins throughout the city and throughout my district,” Councilmember Brossett said.  Brossett said he’s partnering with Crimestopper GNO for their “Lock it or Lose it” campaign.

"Most of the car break-ins we've got statistics from Crimestoppers say that 70 percent of them have been from unlocked vehicles," he said.
Locking your car at night is a great idea if your objective is to wake up to a smashed window the next day. I learned that the hard way a couple of times. I don't think I've locked a car door in at least ten years now.  I'd leave the windows rolled down too if a person could ever trust the weather around here.

Sure some mornings I walk out to discover evidence of an overnight visit.  But as long as I remember not to leave anything valuable in there, it's no harm to anyone. It's a strategy these people may like to consider.
Darlene Cusanza with Crimestoppers GNO said the suspects are not just stealing cash. Last year, Cusanza said more than 700 guns were stolen from unlocked vehicles throughout the Greater New Orleans area.
What is even going on out there? I thought gun owners were all about defending their "castle" from invasion.  How does leaving the gun in the car help with that? 

What if, for example, you are lying in bed at a reasonable hour (say 11:30 pm on a Friday night) just reading your book peacefully, and someone just walks into your apartment thinking it is his Airbnb?  Wouldn't you feel silly then?  I certainly did last night when this exact thing happened to me. I don't mean I felt silly not to have a gun. I don't own one. I mean it was awkward for all of us, the guy, his wife, my cat and their chihuahua to stand around with me in my boxers trying to figure out what was going on.  

It turns out what was going on is one of the neighbors is running Airbnb out of her apartment. She gets pretty good reviews. The consensus among her customers is the place is a little bit noisy and "dingy" but the location is super convenient to all of your favorite "NOLA" sights.  I can't argue with any of that.  And I should know I've lived in the building for almost 20 years now.  But I guess actually living in your home isn't what people do here anymore unless you are "fair sharing" your personal space with tourists. 

In this case, though, it was my space that almost got shared. Still not exactly sure how that happened but from what we were able to gather last night the guests just tried the wrong door. And that wouldn't have been too bad except for the fact that the key she had left for them happened to be a master somehow. So this means, not only has the neighbor had a key to my apartment since the day she moved in, she has also been lending it out to random strangers on the internet for the better part of two years now.  Anyway, the "sharing economy" is very good. 

I guess if I had heard about something like this happening to somebody else I'd be upset. But since it's me, it's just another awkward and funny thing to put on the pile.  Or at least it would be that if not for the fact that Menckles lives in my home too. I'm very glad she was sitting out on the back porch at the time so it could be me instead of her who got walked in on. This is the only reason something unfortunate did not happen to the poor confused visitor regardless of whether there was a gun in the house or not. 

It's also the only reason somebody got up extra early this morning to run out and buy a new lock for the front door. In fact she had already installed it by the time I left for work.  If I lived alone I can easily imagine myself letting the situation go on as is for months just to see how many more times something like this might happen. Because she is there, it feels like a violation. If it's just me, it's just a funny bit. 

Either way, at least nobody has to bother the police over something as trivial as whether or not a door is locked.  Sounds like they've got their hands full enough as it is trying to track down all those guns.