Sunday, August 20, 2006

Kudos to Mason Granger

For using such simple language in his Thursday editorials that even I, a product of the New Orleans public school system, can understand them. Until last Thursday, I had no idea why the city's streets have been in even worse shape since Katrina. In my ignorance, I thought it might have something to with the fact that the city had cut its number of street maintenance workers from 129 to 14. But, as Granger explained:
Sixty billion times 8 pounds -- 480 billion pounds.

Now, consider that unlike other areas where floodwaters rushed in, did their damage and then rolled back out. The 480 billion pounds of water in New Orleans sat and then dissipated over weeks. Imagine what the weight of that much water on our streets and sidewalks for that much time did to our infrastructure.

Well, I'll have to take his word on the math part, because like I said...

I hope that I'm not premature in complimenting Granger for this week's editorial, but only one thing could possibly follow the conclusion of lat week's editorial:
Consequently, now a year later, rebuilding our infrastructure has to be a top priority. We cannot build neighborhoods, communities and businesses without reliable sewer systems and decent streets.

The federal and state governments should forego the usual red tape and do all they can to provide money for the reconstruction of New Orleans' infrastructure. When they do, the weight of bureaucracy will be lifted and those who think the recovery process has been too slow will see the city come back at a much faster pace.

And that will help create something we all want -- momentum.

I'm waiting to hear something along the lines of:
With rebuilding the city's infrastructure such a top priority, it's inconceivable that the mayor's office has at least sixty-six paid staffers, yet the city only has fourteen street maintenance workers. Imagine, the mayor's office staff has gone from being slightly smaller than the staff of its streets maintenance staff, to being almost five times as big (accompanying hand gestures so that even an ignorant New Orleanian can get the point). That might have been understandable when the cuts were hurriedly made during a crisis, but surely there's been time for the city to get its spending priorities in order. Once it did so, it would be much more difficult for the state and federal governments to put limits and restrictions on rebuilding aid and we'd see even more momentum.

I don't think that I can write as condescendingly as Granger talks, but you get the point.

More seriously, there seems to be a recent increase in discussion of the need to repair the city's infrastructure. I have to wonder on the belated emphasis on the obvious; I hope it's a mistaken perception on my part. I can't help but wonder whether the administration decided to start emphasizing damaged infrastructure as an excuse--

the damaged infrastructure is the reason that it's taken us so long to repair the damaged infrastucture

and people have largely bought it.

Of course, I do just have to make a more cynical observation: by emphasizing the need to begin making immediate infrastructure repairs, the administration makes it that much more difficult for anyone to question how the money gets spent. By the time anyone can question apparent cronyism in the contracts, dubious bond issues, etc., the contracts will have been signed and the work will have begun.

If any reader thinks that I'm making a mountain of a molehill by repeatedly emphasizing the subject of city payroll, I'd welcome the comment. I'm often accused of being obsessive and sometimes I have to admit that I can be. I'd welcome the comment, I'd just like some reasons for it.

As it is, one reason that I still occasionally think about moving is that nobody seems to care. I can accept the fact that we re-elected a "clunk" mayor, but I'm flabbergasted at the lack of outrage over at least 66 employees in the mayor's office and only 14 on the city’s street maintenance crews. Or the fact that the city still appears to be wasting money first cleaning and servicing, and then replacing bombproof garbage cans, or...

As a thought experiment, just imagine if there were 66 employees in Aaron Broussard's office and only 14 working on street maintenance. There'd be a stink, and not just from the garbage accumulating where the bombproof cans used to be. Of course, in Jefferson Parish, some sleazy politician would at least have the common decency to make a political issue of it. If that happened in Jefferson Parish, the Times Picayune would put it on the front page and write an editorial about it.

Who says nobody cares? Many of us care, and some of us are naive enough to expect our newly elected city council to provide aggressive oversight of budgetary foolishness, which is the council's duty under the city charter. By now, it should be obvious that CRay is incorrigibly incompetent and we should all be about the process of helping this city to recover without the mayor, or perhaps in spite of him. I am now hearing the early rumblings of a recall initiative. Is anyone else hearing this talk?
I lived in Memphis when Elvis died. Mason Granger was the reporter that stood outside Baptist Hospital and told me the bad news.

Every time I see him I think about that.

Howie Luvzus
I know that people care, but I don't think they're getting angry enough, or effectively angry enough. As I implied, the local press is largely to blame. I'm serious about the difference in questions they ask the mayor and questions they ask other area leaders--the city wastes far more money than judges on a plane.

By effectively angry enough I mean that people need to ask more pointed questions than "why is it taking so long?" They shouldn't even ask questions that can be twisted into "why is it taking so long." My examples might not be the best--I only like the garbage cans because they almost caused a scandal before Katrina--but "did the city first pay to have the cans cleaned, and then pay to replace them? If so, how much?" can't be answered with a call for patience and understanding. I would suggest that everybody who really cares should write all three of his representatives on the city council and the newspaper asking something along the lines of, why are their 66 or more employees in the mayor's office, but only 14 working on street maintenance. I'm sure that other people can come up with better ideas for specific questions that can't be easily evaded.
A cubit foot of water weights about 62 lbs. Even at 10 feet deep, that would seem to put less pressure on a city street than the weight from say one axle of my car, guestimating that two tires probably cover about a square foot.

I think the staturation of the soild probably had more to do with it, but I'm an English major and not an engineer.
Granger is probably quoting the new head of the streets department, a civil engineer, who I've heard make comments about the damage caused by the weight of all that water. I have to agree with Mark. I think it has more to do with the soil being suspended, and then contracted with months of drought.

Why is it taking so long?

I heard an assinine interview by a WWL TV reporter tonight. Nagin said that he thought the housing supply would soon catch up with the housing demand. To which any person with common sense would have asked what?

Of course: "Since you're so loose with generalities to deflect attention from you complete incompetence, could you tell us Mr. Mayor, what precisely is the current housing demand, and the current housing stock, and in how many weeks do you thing the shortage will end?"
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