Thursday, November 30, 2006

Before the Budget Vote

The mayor waited until the last moment to submit his budget proposal. The mayor hasn't provided complete or accurate budgetting information to the council. Now we find out that "sloppy accounting" may cost the city both state and federal money, a fact that would seem to call the city's revenue projections into question. And the mayor wants the state of emergency to end as soon as his budget is approved. Sounds scary to me.

I don't know if my earlier suggestion that the city council extend the state of emergency would work as way of pushing back the budget deadline, but the council is poised to make some serious mistakes tomorrow. The council has itself to blame for some of its difficulties, but the mayor hasn't given them enough information to make intelligent decisions (in some cases, it's difficult to determine where the fault lies.). It certainly has no business approving seven year contracts for garbage collection.

It seems that the city council is still being generous:
Also likely to get more money are Safety and Permits, the Planning Commission, the Office of Inspector General and the company that administers the city's health care plan.

WTF? That company administers the health care plan of a smaller work force. Bruce Eggler's budget reporting has been very good, even excellent, so I'm a little surprised that there wasn't any more detail on that. Maybe I'm missing something.

The pay increases are getting absurd. Most of the raises mentioned in today's article necessary, but remember the arguments for across-the-board pay raises. Targetted pay raises are unfair because they lave some people. Does anybody really doubt that the mayor's plan had something to do with the firefighter's union endorsement of Landrieu? City workers needed the raise because they don't get longevity raises; now they're getting longevity raises. My personal feelings are no longer as strong as they were even a few weeks ago -- the two people whose pay raises I wouldn't have paid for are gone -- but I'm afraid that the city's generosity could be used against it.


One definition

Remember when Nagin issued three executive orders "designed to ensure greater opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses and environmental justice for all groups" while the city rebuilds? The Picayune reported:
With "transparent spending policies* in place," Nagin's office said, "the city is better able to position its local small businesses to access private markets."

Yet today's Picayune reported that:
The most heated issues are the (garbage collection) contracts' cost -- more than triple the current price of garbage collection citywide -- and the fine print of the pending deals with Metro Disposal and Richard's Disposal, which the Nagin administration has refused to disclose, saying the deals have not yet been signed. The contracts would call for twice-weekly pickup in most of the city.

How many verses of that song have we heard since the mayor promised transparency and accountability? It's getting to be absurd. I can understand that Shelley Midura needs to be tactful, but she needn't be quite so diplomatic:
"I want to know why the administration is being so secretive about this," Midura said. "That's just a question. Why not just come open with this? If there's nothing to be concerned about, then just come out and show us.

"I get the sense that this has been an unfortunate PR disaster for the administration that was trying to do something good, (given) the way it just snowballed into being incredibly suspicious," she said.

But it's time to call a farce, a farce. Maybe Midura needs to be diplomatic, but the mayor deserves more than a brickbat from the local media on this matter. Both James Varney and James Gill brought up campaign contributions when they wrote about snakes on a beach, but the media's ignored that aspect of this story. Who do you think I had in mind when I wrotein May, that:
Actually, man, it seems like the mayor takes a fair amount of money from businesses ... that either do business with the city, or may seek to do business with the city.
it seems like the mayor gets a lot of Benjamins from companies in the disposal, scrap metal or landfill business.

How would it be bias to ask the same questions of the mayor as other officials?

On the positive side, there was some discussion of limiting the scope of the contracts, but the three old council members and the District C reformer were unavailable for comment.

BTW, I started to use "Lying Sack of Shit" as a title, but didn't want to look like I was trying to imitate any other bloggers. Also, wouldn't it be kosher to ask why the two sanitation companies purchased the new trucks before getting the contracts? Today's paper alluded to it, but didn't really push the point. I'd like some more details on when the equipment was purchased.

*Of course, we knew that the city had transparent spending policies, because Rob Couhig had just spent 100 days giving us transparency. With all the rumors of Meffert being a Scientologist, I have to wonder if Couhig's a closet SubGenius:
Pull The Wool Over Your Own Eyes and Relax In The Safety Of Your Own Delusions.

I also remember the job that Nagin promised Couhig during a debate. Guess he was in campaign mode.

Update: It's not looking good. Still don't see the reason for seven year contracts, unless the council has a gang of four that's been bought and paid for.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Jefferson Has Very Devastating Ads Against Carter on the Issues

Rob Couhig also says that Carter has a great ad calling Jefferson a hypocrite. Rob Couhig had Joe Lavigne on his show this morning. On WRNO's web site, you can find the interview on the audio on demand link. Scroll down to:
Rob & Bo - 7a to 8a - 11/28/06
Former 2nd District candidate, Joe Lavigne, talks about the Congressional Runoff.

and click listen. The Lavigne interview and Couhig's comments start about 9 minutes in.

I listened to Couhig's talk show for the first time this morning, I'm glad that somebody's adjusted his thinking to post-Katrina realities. Your impression of the Lavigne interview might be different than mine, but I got the impressions that Couhig was trying to win over voters for Jefferson. Yeah, he allowed that Carter had a "great" personal attack ad, but Jefferson has a "devastating" ad attacking Carter on the issues. I had no idea that late term abortion and gay marriage were still such important issues in the post-Katrina world. Jefferson's also an "American success story, from sharecropper to Harvard." I won't call it an Adrastos-Oyster repeat until I see what BayouBias has to say about it, but I was suspicious. If there's a GOP effort to help Jefferson, Lavigne either isn't part of it, or he's playing his part too subtly. He did say that he was more impressed with Jefferson, whom he found knowledgeable, than Carter, whom he found robotic, but I got the impression that he might reluctantly vote for Carter. When Couhig suggested that it might be better to vote for Jefferson because we might get a new election in nine months, Lavigne disagreed, saying that you needed to vote for the best candidate now. Listen for yourself (from about the ninth to the sixteenth minute), but I thought that Couhig's recap of what Lavigne said gave a different impression than Lavigne's actual words. The quotes were accurate; the emphasis seemed different.

Before I say anything more about the show, I'm no Blanco fan. Depending on the opponent, I thought that I might vote for her next year, until I heard about $700M ICF contract. Without a good explanation, it will be almost impossible. Still, it's impossible to listen to local talk radio without answering some of the attacks. I don't think it's possible to listen for an hour without hearing a local Republican script: that Haley Barbour is handling Mississippi's recovery so much better than Blanco's handling ours. Sure enough, Republican state representative Danny Martini called in and the subject came up. Couhig opined that Mississippi trusted its people, while La. put in too many safeguards. It's questionable whether La. would have received the Road Home money without those safeguards. Anyway, nobody's arguing that La.s handling its recovery well, but it's inconceivable that both Martini and Couhig still think that Mississippi's recovery is going so well.

Couhig was at his most hypocritical when he discussed Blanco's meeting with French Quarter business owners. According to Couhig, if Blanco had ever run a business, she'd have a greater sense of urgency. She wouldn't be promising help two months from now, she'd be cutting checks now. Yeah right, if Blanco did that, Couhig would accuse her of overstepping her authority and trying to buy the election. Just listen to his conversation with Martini, it starts about twenty minutes into the show. At one point he says that we've progressed beyond spending a couple of million to win an election, now it's $7B. He even ended the show saying that state needs to be careful how it spends the surplus. I believe the exact words were, "let's not act like it's Christmas and try to buy an election."

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Scott McClellan in Drag?

I have no idea what Ceeon Quiett looks like, oddly enough the mayor's spokeswoman never seems to appear on television, but her statements in the paper often read like Scott McClellan explaining a coalition member's decision to withdraw its troops from Iraq. Friday's Picayune gave a good example:
Though the report does not demand the return of federal money paid so far, the allegations related to Montgomery Watson may be delaying the release of almost $10 million already in hand at the state level for the contract and could hamper FEMA's approval of the remaining $14.8 million, city documents show.

Speaking generally about the reports, a spokeswoman for Mayor Ray Nagin said she does not view the federal audit reports as a rebuke but as a guide to how the city should handle future reimbursement requests.

"I don't see this as allegations," spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett said. "I see it as recommendations for support."

Whether you call them allegations or recommendations, they were, as the Picayune put it, "eye-popping:"
amid $39.2 million in overtime costs that the city asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reimburse was an employee who earned $207 per hour after the storm; that employee normally was paid $23 per hour. Another worker earned overtime pay for 14 consecutive 24-hour days, the report says.
The fiscal report also claims that city officials used "illegal contracting methodology" in inking agreements worth more than $92 million with two national firms, the Shaw Group and Montgomery Watson Harza. It says the deal with Montgomery Watson tied profits to costs, an arrangement that violates federal rules because it provides no incentive to keep costs low.

The report also claims both contracts were awarded without competition, which boosted the risk of "unreasonable prices," and that the city failed to monitor contractor performance.

Obviously, one of the new guidelines is that if FEMA is paying for it, only Washington officials can award fat, no-bid contracts. Frankly, that should have come as no surprise. A more general guideline might be to expect FEMA to ask more questions than the city council and to be in a position to demand more answers than the local media.

After Friday's article, one might have expected Sunday's paper to contain a caustic, yet insight-filled James Gill column about the dispute between local leaders and FEMA officials. True to form, today's paper did contain a caustic James Gill column about a conflict between local leaders and FEMA officials.

Clearly the city is past due for an outside audit; that's far more important than a weakened inspector general answerable to the city council. Last we heard, the city council lost interest in an audit when informed that the price* would be higher than in the past. Prior to that, the mayor re-acted very indignantly to the suggestion of an audit during one of the debates. It might have been the expected reaction of somebody's who's fallen into the kinda smart guy (who's not as smart as thinks he is) trap, but there may well have been much more reason for the mayor's defensiveness. There were certainly obvious questions about the payroll since the layoffs were announced in October, 2005. But I've been over them before and the time sheets in city government are filled in by hand, i.e. easily faked. Still, an audit would look into more important matters than whether office staff or department heads (A no longer online 12/05/05 article implied that about NORD) who didn't return were kept on the payroll after the layoffs.

It's definitely time to get serious about a recall effort and, if possible, extend the state of emergency another month. I'm serious, on both counts. I wouldn't expect a new recall effort to do anything other than embolden the city council and perhaps make the heir apparent stop taking some votes for granted. Something needs to wake up the council.

It worried me when the mayor suddenly announced that the state of emergency would end on December 3. I can't help but suspect that contracts have been signed that can only be revoked in the event of an emergency, or that something similar is up. I'd feel a lot better if we had an IG (rubber stamp or not) going over all recently signed contracts before Dec. 3. Under normal circumstance, the city charter requires that a new budget be approved by the first week of December, I'm not sure whether a state of emergency affects that. If it does, that alone would be reason to extend it a month. With another month, some council member might actually ask why the mayor wants to lock the city into seven year garbage collection contracts when St. Bernard seems to have a six month contract.

*I still think Donze got spun on that one -- correct but irrelevant background info.

Links That Don't Involve Criticisms of the Mayor or the Paper

New York Times' Frugal Traveler is about New Orleans this week. You can find objections to any article about New Orleans, but this has its heart in the right place. The reporter even recommends volunteering with Habitat for Humanity and meets a local blogger -- Adrienne Lamb of After Katrina. I don't know if it's a good idea to recommend visiting the St. Louis No. 1 Cemetery without any warnings about being in a group, however. The article also contains a link to an audio slide show of Rebirth playing at the Maple Leaf.

Some of these are old, but even though I frequently criticize the mayor for wasting the city's limited resource, it's important to remember why those resources are so limited.

The IRS is acting like the IRS:
The grants, which are averaging about $60,000, are not directly taxable. But the Internal Revenue Service says Road Home recipients who claimed a storm loss on their taxes last year should count the grants as income on their federal tax returns this year. That means some people will be thrown into lofty tax brackets they never dreamed of -- and pay more taxes too.

This is reminiscent of the end an old Rockford Files episode, but the character in "Feeding Frenzy" brought his problems on himself. The IRS' position may intellectually defensible, but the choice between a higher tax bracket or interest and penalties is not. The Picayune article linked above didn't mention Mississippi, but one can only assume that homeowners in that state are facing similar problems. One would hope that the two states' congressional delegations could work together to pressure the IRS and the White House on this one.

If you missed it earlier this month, read what Ashley and oyster had to say about the Bush administration and offshore oil royalties. Or just read the NYT story on the matter and the T/P report on the effects on Louisiana.

G Bitch on a recent Bill Quigley essay:
Yet another thing people nationally don't get--"all that money" sent to the Gulf Coast has filled the pockets of connected corporations, like fucking Entergy and KBR and Ceres "Environmental."

From the Bill Quigley essay:
Ashbritt of Florida was awarded a contract over $500 million to clean up debris in Mississippi despite not owning a single dump truck. Ashbritt had paid a GOP lobbyist firm $40,000 right before the storm and another $50,000 directly to the GOP the year before.

If you watched Fox News, you'd know the identity of the GOP lobbying firm:
Since 2000, company executive Randal Perkins and his wife, Saily, have given $50,000 to the Republican National Committee, $10,000 to the Florida Senate campaign of Republican Mel Martinez, Bush's former Housing and Urban Development secretary, and thousands more to Florida's GOP, according to the nonpartisan Political Money Line.

AshBritt earlier this year hired the lobbying firm Barbour Griffith & Rogers (search), which was founded by Republican Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, and paid the firm $40,000 to lobby the Army Corps and Congress, according to Senate records.

If you follow the second link, you'll even find mention of Bobby J. To the best of my knowledge, Barbour's lobbying firm didn't drop AshBritt as a client after it sued to take business from a small Mississippi firm. As da po'blog points out, "we're not exactly swimming in 100 dollar bills."

If you have any interest in preservation, you should be worried by the letters to the editor supporting the demolition of St. Francis Cabrini. Some argue that the building isn't worth saving, which, along with whether adequate notice was given, should be the main point. The vast majority aren't.

I had no idea that Karen Gadbois was doing so much while on chemo. I'm amazed, congratulations to Karen on finishing the treatment.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Jeff, Don't You Read John?

John Maginnis wrote a column in early October that some would do well to re-read:
Road home no faster next door

The snail's pace of the post-hurricane housing grant program is provoking outrage among state politicians. Homeowners who applied in April have heard nothing back. The Legislature complains about being shut out of the planning process, while ethics questions swirl around some lawmakers' business dealings with the program. It is being called the governor's "albatross."

And -- surprise, surprise -- it's not in Louisiana.

Though Mississippi received full federal funding for its housing grant program six months earlier than did Louisiana, bureaucratic snags have caused only 75 of 17,000 applicants to receive checks as of Sept. 14, according to the Mississippi Development Authority.

I understand that La. homeowners are justifiably angry and don't want to hear excuses, but professional political analysts certainly read the piece. Still, I wasn't surprised when Jeff Crouere wrote:
In Mississippi, officials have gone to work and are getting the job done, while Louisiana created bureaucracy, hired an out-of-state firm and is still mired in misery. Their Governor, Hailey Barbour, has been rewarded with high approval ratings, our Governor, Kathleen Blanco, has some of the lowest approval ratings in the country. If her “Road Home” plan is not untracked very soon, her current abysmal approval ratings will look like political nirvana in a few months.

If readers from other states have stumbled upon this, I'll point out that Maginnis is arguably the most well-known political reporter in the state, and he's not exactly a Blanco fan.

After her latest budget proposals, I'm no Blanco fan either, but an unfair or dishonest criticism shouldn't go unanswered. For the record, I was never a Blanco fan, reluctant defender would have been the better term. However, I have to disagree with those who think the money should go to aid New Orleans' recovery. I agree that it's where at least some of the money should go, but any spending proposals aimed exclusively at New Orleans would have been difficult to pass under the best of circumstances, with the city's elected officials sending the message that we're just Jim Dandy they would be impossible to pass. Now it seems that carelessness, corruption, and cronyism might cause more problems with both state and federal aid. If you read today's paper but didn't finish the article about audits, you might have missed the mention of Billboard Ben. I'll have more on this after I look up the appropriate links, but I seem to remember the mayor insisting that he was a CPA and able to audit the city's books himself during one of the debates.

BTW, the post linked above where I call Maginnis a partisan hack is one reason that I've decided to start being more careful about insulting journalists. But I'm still planning to post about "Kid Gloves" Gill.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Don't Forget

William Jefferson is a loser and a eunuch. As the Black commentator observed, another label could also apply to Jefferson:
Also among the Republican fellow-travelers were William Jefferson (LA), who is not a member of the DLC or Blue Dogs, but often votes like it

It also pointed out that Jefferson always had a safe seat, so he didn't have the excuse for questionable votes that a Democrat like Melancon might have. And don't forget telecommunications "reform".

It's an absurd overstatement to say that, since they're both corrupt, the only reason to vote for "Princess Bold" is to save us the embarrassment of re-electing Jefferson. Let's not forget what Jefferson is accused of: solicitation of bribes. That's a euphemism for shaking people down-- in this case demanding not just money, but an actual piece of some businesses. That's a lot worse than standard, run-of-the-mill, venial venality. Knowing cynicism is no reason to excuse the inexcusable.

Finally, don't forget that what's at stake is more than mere embarrassment. If congress doesn't forgive the city's emergency loans, the city will be broke for years to come. The Democratic victory in the recent elections makes forgiveness of those loans much more likely, but it's by no means a done deal. Nagin has already given Foghorn Republicans all the material they need to grandstand when the issue comes up. We can probably expect both Democrats and Republicans to question some of Nagin's statements like "FEMA will pay for it" (about the expensive car removal contract earlier this year) or that federal loans would cover part of the cost of the new sanitation contracts. Those would be entirely reasonable issues to raise. Re-electing Jefferson will only add to those difficulties.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

He Forgot the Camaraderie

One of the most refreshing characteristics of New Orleans right after Hurricane Katrina was the population's unveering focus on the practical matters of survival. We had neither the time nor the appetite for puffed-up academic claptrap or long, deliberative debates. Life was hard physically, but there was a bracing simplicity to it: The things necessary for our survival are to be embraced. Things that would impede us are to be discarded.
Jarvis DeBerry (in today's Picayune)

I had to scrap the pioneer days style recollection of shared nutria around the bonfires that sprung up along Bayou St. John that I had written -- it just wasn't funny. Neither was DeBerry's column; at least, I don't think it was meant to be.

It does explain some interesting columns that DeBerry has written. When DeBerry wrote that Douglas Brinkley attacked Nagin for crying, I assumed that DeBerry was either too lazy to read Brinkley's book or deliberately dishonest. After all, Brinkley criticized the mayor for hiding. I should have made allowances for the fact that DeBerry was too focused on survival to read Brinkley's book carefully. Even though Schroeder, who has a full time job and blogs as a hobby, tracked down the source of vicious Republican-funded attack ads against Landrieu before writing about them, I shouldn't have expected the same of DeBerry; a man's gotta survive.

Despite my longstanding dislike of DeBerry, there were serious problems with today's column. And I'm not just talking about the quoted paragraph. There's also the unintended irony of the headline:

Killing school would set bleak precedent

Yet he writes:
Holy Cross officials say the church building does not fit into their vision for the new campus. So if the building stays, Holy Cross doesn't come. If Holy Cross doesn't come, the neighborhood could transition from a dying neighborhood to a dead one.

I've heard similar arguments in favor of strip mining and it would set quite a precedent for other developers -- just threaten to take your ball and go home and you can destroy whatever you want. That passage is, in fact, the main reason for this post. I actually have no opinion on that particular building, but I do remember this advice from Charleston:
"If the building has good bones, fix it. If you start ripping things down, you're gong to lose the city."

DeBerry was writing about a fifty year old building, but that mind-set would make every structure built since the Civil War expendable.

Also, DeBerry seems to think that objections to demolitions need to be raised in what he considers a timely fashion. What type of precedent would he like to set there? DeBerry merely asserts that the objections were tardy, yet in two columns he hasn't addressed the issues raised by Mark Wet Bank Guide and others. If it's true that the "adequate" advance warning involved mentioning at a meeting, without putting it on that meeting's printed agenda, that would be a worrisome precedent.

Also, I'm appalled that anyone who writes that "the need to survive trumps all other concerns" is in one of three op-ed writers for the city's only daily newspaper. That logic could easily lead to most New Orleanians saying, "Hello, Houston." I can think of at least two ways it could lead to that, one literally, one figuratively. Think about it.

Like I said, I really have no opinion on this particular building, but I don't like the burden of proof being on the preservationists -- even for a relatively new building. Also, I've had problems with DeBerry since he spoke to defend Nagin during the election, after failing to speak up when pictures of flooded buses were making the entire city look bad. His first column on the subject appeared in late November or December of last year, after the Picayune had lost most of its national readership and long after the image had been seared into the national consciousness. Since the "Br'er Nagin"and "Nagin Wept" columns (not available on line), I'm probably permanently biased against DeBerry, but the assumptions behind this column would have been scary no matter who wrote it.

In addition to the Wet Bank Guide post linked above, Squandered Heritage, Building Big Easy and Maitri have more on this.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Time For a Principled Resignation


If Rob Gouhig has a shred of honor and self-respect, he should resign his position in the Nagin administration. Seriously. In case you missed Saturday's paper:*
City officials refused to provide bid documents following the 10-minute conference, despite requirements of the state's public records law that in general oblige public entities to grant immediate access to available public documents. Assistant City Attorney Shawn Lindsay first demanded a written public records request, and after one was provided, said that only one lawyer in the city attorney's office handles requests for public records, and she was out of the office Friday.

That's not the first time the Nagin Administration has stonewalled an FOIA request. It's not even the first time since the end of the "100 Days." There was also some recent stonewalling about technology contracts:
Though The Times-Picayune has filed three public-records requests with City Hall for information about technology contracts, it took more than a month for city officials to produce a response.

The first request was filed more than a month ago, and the law requires a response within three days. On Friday, the Nagin administration said the records are being compiled and "as soon as (they) are available, we will contact you immediately."

If you're wondering at the Couhig connection, it goes back to the beginning of the "100 days:
"My goal at the end of the 100 days is that we have made substantive progress in the quality of life in New Orleans (and) that there is better understanding for what the future portends in the city of New Orleans".

Describing himself now as a dutiful member of Nagin's team, Couhig said he wants to help the mayor foster transparency at all levels of city government.

"I think what the mayor believes is that we're in better shape than some of us who were running against him believe," Couhig said, adding that his task in the coming months will be to get all residents on the same page.

I suppose that everybody would be on the same page if we all just accepted everything the mayor told, but it's difficult to reconcile administration actions with Couhig's stated goal of transparency. If that was Couhig's real goal, he's been had and he should give up on any notion of using his access to influence the mayor. Clearly, the mayor has interest in Couhig's goals. I can't imagine an easier goal to accomplish than greater transparency, yet this administration treats contract proposals like top-secret intelligence. Couhig's help hasn't done the mayor much good in that department.

That's assuming Couhig takes transparency seriously in the first place. At the "100 day" presentation, Couhig repeated the claim that the city was operating on a quarter of its pre-Katrina budget. I've been over this twice before, that claim is deliberately misleading. If it's not a bald-faced lie, it's a distortion of hyperbole exaggerationration (okay, I'm no Winston Churchill). The city had an operating budget of $324M this year; it's never been four times that, not even close. It was $460M in 2004. When Mr. Couhig quits lending credibilityibilty, maybe he'll come to work for me. My IQ's 190, I bench 450lbs and I...won't go there.

*Though it's not relevant to this post and I don't want to knock the article as a whole, I was disturbed by one passage from the article:
Echoing his re-election promise to clean up New Orleans, particularly tourist hot spots, Mayor Ray Nagin has said all three new deals, which are slated to begin Jan. 2, will provide better service than under the current contract with Waste Management, which had been worth $18 million annually before it was reduced to $9.4 million this year to account for the city's diminished population.

That sounds like the reporter bought administration spin. Every candidate promises a cleaner city and a cleaner French Quarter; I certainly don't recall it being a major pledge. At any rate, the city doesn't need to spend millions more to empty garbage cans that it was able to empty prior to Katrina.

Update:Oyster raises the question of whether Couhig still has a position in the Nagin administration. I have to admit that I wasn't sure and a quick google search didn't answer the question. It was sloppy to go by the impression I got two months ago, but it's largely irrelevant. Couhig bears at least some responsibility for the fact that Nagin can claim to have put "transparent spending policies in place" without getting laughed out of town. If Couhig still has an advisory position he should resign; if he doesn't, he should use his position on radio to demand that Nagin start following those transparent spending policies.

So how about it, Rob? If you're reading this, do you really think that the city has transparent spending policies? If not, shouldn't you say something?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

I Blame James Gill

It was bad enough that the Picayune's most cynical columnist tried to act like a civic booster in a truly worrisome column last week, he actually wrote:
Suddenly, moreover, we have a football team to be taken seriously. The effect on the mood of the city is invaluable.

Didn't he remember the Saints most disappointing season ever? After a great start things spiraled downward following a trip to Pittsburgh. Let's hope he only jinxed a game and not a season. I'd hate to see headlines reading: SAINTS ARE BUMMING.

Have the Saints successfully pooch punted or hit the coffin corner yet this year (I know, teams rarely aim for the coffin corner anymore)? They should possibly start considering the opponent's 40 yard line four down territory and run on third and two. Not that the play I have in mind made a bit of difference today.

I'll return to that Gill column in another post; hint:
But Katrina has turned New Orleans into the most desirable burg in America for businesses looking to relocate, according to Expansion Management magazine, which cites state and federal financial incentives and cheap labor in its list of inducements.

But it was a relief to see James Gill return to writing about conflicts of interest in today's paper. If there's a conflict of interest involving a high ranking official, Gill will be all over it. Won't he?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A WWL-TV Editorial Asks A Good Question

Did a few protestors with a questionable following force the powerful New Orleans City Council to do their bidding? Or were they designed to allow the council to create just what some council members wanted... an Inspector General with a weak bark and no bite.

I wondered about the same thing myself. It certainly gave Mr. "no more business as usual" the perfect opportunity to amend the measure. The "weak bark and no bite" doesn't concern me as much as much as the potential for approving actions that haven't been thoroughly investigated.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

I Had to Stop Drinking, But...

This is just wrong:
While several council members said they would like to see the department steer away from arresting people for minor municipal offenses, Councilwoman Stacy Head said she is in favor of a "zero tolerance" policy on littering and public drunkenness.

No point in getting worried about something that can't be serious like a crackdown on public drunkenness in New Orleans. They'll probably follow up with a crackdown on fatty foods.

The littering crackdown is an idea that's long overdue, but not currently feasible. When I lived near Palmer Park, I once counted eleven garbage cans (long wait for the bus) in the two block by one block park. Still, to describe Palmer Park as trash-strewn would have seemed charitable at times. Katrina has, however, changed at least one thing. Until recently, I didn't pass a single garbage can on the entire length of my daily bike ride from Bayou St. John to an uptown university. Recently, a couple of large plastic cans lined with bags have appeared on either side of the Dumaine St. bridge -- I assume that neighbors put them there and change the bags. Finally, just this week , I noticed two new garbage cans at the corner of Audubon Blvd. and Claiborne Ave., didn't look closely enough to determine whether they were the old bomb-proof cans that were being "cleaned and serviced" or the new ones that were replacing them.

I didn't go into all that detail because I expect anyone to share my fascination with the city's garbage cans, but to question the feasibility of enforcing litter ordinances in a city where the garbage cans that haven't disappeared are overflowing. And I'll repeat it, it's ridiculous that "cleaning and servicing" "bomb-proof" garbage cans only merited a Chris Rose column, and nobody questioned the replacement. Also, reading Millie Ball's column and some recent letters to the editor, I couldn't help but wonder if Nagin really is practicing the broken window theory in reverse. Call it the overflowing garbage can or broken traffic light theory.

Another interesting passage from the article about the city council meeting:
In questioning Riley, who under the 2007 Nagin budget is slated to receive $113 million for the New Orleans Police Department, Midura had similar questions about why the police department needs 1,600 officers, roughly the same amount as they had before Katrina reduced the city's population.

Riley said that while the city does have a smaller population, police still have to patrol the same geographical area. The pervasive "social ills" entrenched by New Orleans' high poverty rate also haven't dissipated since the storm, he said.

Midura makes a good point, but as far as I can tell, the city's only doing enough recruiting to meet ordinary attrition levels and, due to the layoffs of civilian employees, more cops than usual are performing desk duty. I don't think that anyone in city government is looking very closely at the budget or staffing decisions. James Gill may have drunk the Kool-Aid (more on that bizarre piece later) but resource allocation is going to be very difficult for a long time to come. Not that the council seems to realize that.

Update: Ashley has more on this. I don't share all of Ashley's negative opinions of Stacy Head; there are two council members that I have absolutely no respect for (couldn't vote for under any circumstances in future elections) and five that I have mixed feelings about (would maybe vote for, maybe against in future elections). Head's one of the five; at the very least, she seems to take her council duties very seriously. What's been clear, at least since the pay raise issue, is that even the council's more serious members are considering issues in the usual fashion. They seem to be worrying about what's at the top of their wish lists as opposed to what should be at the top of the city's list of priorities. The city has very limited resources in terms of both money and manpower, but council members seem to be thinking in terms of what seems like a good idea.

The public drunkenness crackdown would be a bad idea under normal circumstances. In addition to being intrinsically wrong for New Orleans, there would also be the problem of selective enforcement or the perception of selective enforcement. You can't solve the littering problem if the city's garbage cans are all overflowing or missing. If you're worried about littering, hold the mayor accountable for the shenanigans that have been going on in the sanitation department since before Katrina. Once that happened, I'd like to see the city start writing tickets for littering.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Serious Shit

I wasn't seriously alarmed when I first read the article that I mentioned at the end of the last post, but go back and read it carefully. It's too serious for jokes about the Park Island Gang making the Waste Management execs an offer they couldn't accept -- couldn't resist, didn't realize that Jimmie Woods had more politicians in his pocket than Don Corleone. This could be repeated two or three times over, and for larger amounts of money. I'm not a lawyer, but if the council has "no choice" but to approve the contracts, it will probably all be perfectly legal. Unless somebody can show conspiracy or something.

Monday, November 13, 2006

John Young, Comedian or S*** Stirrer?

Or: Why You Should Read More Than the First Two Paragraphs of Metro Section Articles

At last week's joint meeting between the Jefferson Parish Council and the New Orleans City Council, John Young had some interesting money saving ideas:
Jefferson Council Chairman John Young said he thinks future collaboration should involve regionalizing services such as garbage pickup or public transit. Jefferson and New Orleans use the same company, Waste Management, but they have separate contracts. Two different agencies also run their bus systems.

"What would prevent Orleans and Jefferson from going to the table together with a company like Waste Management and negotiating a contract that covers both parishes, where we can use economies of scale to pass savings on to our constituents?" said Young, who organized the meeting with New Orleans City Council President Oliver Thomas as a first step toward greater cross-boundary cooperation.

The article didn't describe how that particular idea was received, but the mayor didn't seem too pleased with the overall direction of the meeting:
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin grew impatient Wednesday with the lengthy orating, and he advised council members to focus their efforts on three core issues -- flood protection, federal housing assistance and crime. He then left abruptly, predicting the meeting could last 12 hours.

It lasted four hours -- less time than it takes to fly to Jamaica. I have no reason to think that Young was deliberately trying to get the mayor's goat, but it's a nice thought. Nor do I have any reason to think that Nagin's reaction was related to Young's suggestion -- "his smugness" has never needed an excuse to be rude. However, the two garbage contracts that the mayor has endorsed are going to campaign donors and the owner of at least one of the companies has well documented political connections.

Interesting that Jefferson Parish is flush with cash, but its leaders are interested in saving money on garbage collection. From what I've observed, there's more good will toward New Orleans in Jefferson Parish than I've ever been aware of. Good will might not be the correct term, maybe just concern over what will happen to Jefferson if New Orleans goes down the tubes. At any rate, Nagin can be as smug as he wants, but new Orleans needs the good will of Jefferson parish right now, at least of its legislative delegation. That Entergy bailout hasn't been approved yet.

Couple of other interesting articles over the weekend. One that I would file in the too little, too late department. It's nice to see the council getting serious, but the budget committee met with the mayor's CAO and CFO in late September to discuss the city pay raises. Rather than ask any of those questions, the committee members, with Willard-Lewis along for back-up, was satisfied with laughably incomplete information.

I house/dog sat in Metairie most of last week. I think the Metairie print edition overdid the abbreviation of a New Orleans story, although it's possible that I missed something. Couldn't figure out the first paragraph:
Some New Orleans City Council members have made it clear that they are not ready to sign off on a costly new approach to trash collection that Mayor Ray Nagin plans to launch Jan. 2. But with the current contractor set to exit as soon as its contract expires Jan. 1, council members learned Friday that -- short of shutting down collections -- they might have no choice but to accept the mayor's plan.

Couldn't see why they couldn't just bypass the mayor and extend the contract until I read:
Nagin said last week that because of delays in cementing the legal language of the citywide contracts, particularly with respect to the companies' bonding, the contracts had not been signed. At that time, he said the city was contemplating an extension of its agreement with Waste Management on a month-to-month basis, perhaps through February.

Waste Management officials said this week, however, that they aren't interested.

That's pretty serious, and I don't believe that's the whole story. Time to get serious about the recall effort. Might be a good idea to add Ed Murray, Austin Badon and Cedric Richmond to the recall list. Read the whole article and get very angry.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Lolis Eric Elie Gets it Wrong

Sorta. In a recent column he wrote:
During the years when black lawyers, engineers, architects and consultants were shut out of doing business with the city, white politicians were free to hand out the spoils of office to their friends. Neither white voters, nor the white politicians they elected, seemed to find this problematic.

Why are the rules of the game suddenly changing?

Mr. Elie seems to be stating the conventional wisdom among those who find the inspector general ordinance racist rather than his own opinion, but he doesn't seem to feel the need to challenge that particular piece of CW. Fact is, that particular piece of CW is just plain wrong. Like I've said before, New Orleans has had the same reform movements as other cities. If you remember your American history, most of the effort to reform institutions came during the Progressive Era. Between WWII and Watergate, "good government" efforts mainly concentrated on finding the right candidates. Institutional reform didn't come back into vogue until the 1970's. By the time institutuinal reforms like establing an IG's office were popular anywhere, whites were losing power in New Orleans. The only difference in New Orleanians and residents of other cities is that we've been more easily, or willingly, fooled by fake reformers.

That seems to still be the case. Others have pointed out that the IG's office was approved by a majority of both blacks and whites during the Morial administration. More recently, the winner of the city council election in the city's most racially balanced district appealed to both blacks and whites as a reformer. The home page of his campaign website prominently said:

"no more business as usual"

I guess the italics and quotation marks were to make doubly sure that we understood he was quoting somebody rather than making a promise. Before he sucessfully watered down the inspector general office, this breath of fresh air showed that he thinks the new council should be able to spend money as freely as the old:
Council sources said later that of the three temporary nonvoters, only Carter had real reservations about Fielkow's proposal, which Fielkow was able to resolve.

Some things haven't changed much at all since "the days when white politicians were free to hand out the spoils of office to their friends."

Of course Mr. Elie usually gets more things right than he does wrong -- his column doesn't appear on the op-ed page. He's absolutely correct that the city council member behaved no differently than politicians anywhere else in insisting on control over the very office that's charged with policing the city council.

Just to be clear, of course residents of the city and the state have historically been somewhat more tolerant of corruption than residents of other parts of the country; I wouldn't be foolish enough to suggest otherwise. But it's a gross exaggeration to say that there's never been any concern whatsoever. Even the Edwards era was interrupted by the election of two reform governors.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

But An Inspector General Might Cost Too Much

Damn old computer where I'm house/dog sitting just went off, erasing a longer post. But contrast something from a September Times Picayune article:
In other actions, also by unanimous votes, the council:

-- Asked Mayor Ray Nagin's administration to work with the council to develop a "comprehensive and articulated policy" on the use of tax increment financing districts, or TIFs, under which specified tax revenue is diverted to specific development projects. Council members such as Fielkow and Stacy Head have said they are not opposed to TIFs in principle but think the city needs a clearly defined policy on them.

Developers hoping to convert the vacant Plaza Tower office building to luxury condos recently asked the council to approve a TIF to help finance the project. But they had to drop the idea after so many government agencies insisted the taxes due to them should be excluded from the plan that it no longer would have yielded a significant amount of money.

-- Approved a salary of $100,030 for a new city position, the Base Realignment and Closure director, who will be in charge of city efforts to promote the federal city complex expected to bring thousands of new jobs to Algiers starting in 2008. The director's assistant will be paid $42,450.

With something in today's paper:
In what officials say is "a major support contract" that lifts the federal city project off the drawing board, a Virginia-based firm has been selected to negotiate land leases with the Navy at the Naval Support Activity in Algiers, and later to help select a master developer.

The contract was not finalized and no money has changed hands, Arnold said. The Algiers Development District board, of which Tucker and Arnold are members, will pay for the BearingPoint contract, Tucker said.

However, the commission set a Sept. 30, 2008, deadline for the city and state to get funding in place and start construction, or else the base will close. Officials believe the deadline will be met.

The New Orleans Federal Alliance, a nonprofit corporation created two years ago to steer federal city to fruition, said in a press release that the master developer should be selected by next summer, and buildings in the first phase should be ready for occupation in 2009.

The Algiers Development District (pdf) is TIF funded, with an appointed board that's gained contol over more money than I think anyone intended:
The Algiers Development District contributed $675,000 to make the street four lanes, said state Rep. Jim Tucker, R-Algiers, who chairs the Development District board.

The main thing is the city council voted to pay for a marketing team for a project that doesn't even have a management team yet. And it did so with no debate. I'm guessing that C. Ray wanted it, and whatever C. Ray does, the council will go with.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Daily Howler Will Probably Discuss It

But in case Somerby missed it, there was an aggravating exchange on MSNBC around 7:30 (8:30 EST)tonight. The panel used Bob Casey's election in Pennsylvania as evidence that the Democratic party had softened its stand on abortion. Chris Matthews and a few other panelists said that Casey's father wasn't allowed to speak at the 1992 Democratic convention because he was pro-life and now the Democrats have elected his pro-life son, etc. Finally, after several minutes of "Bob Casey Sr. was excluded from the 1992 convention because he was pro-life," Howard Dean said that there was great deal of mythology around that convention. I thought it was pretty weak of Dean not to go into more detail, but fortunately, he didn't need to. Matthew changed his tune, said that he knew that it was mythology -- Bob Casey Sr. was excluded because he refused to endorse Clinton. Matthews seemed impressed with himself for knowing the truth; he didn't seemed at all embarrassed that the entire panel was happy to perpetuate a myth for the sake of a good talking point. Sorry, no link that I could find.

Also, I heard Katie Couric on CBS and somebody I didn't know on CNN refer to the fact that Steele had been endorsed by African-American officials and/or Democrat officials. Don't know if this was true or the networks were duped (H/T: Jeffrey).

I don't know why this race hasn't received more attention. Asheville's a trendy place, a born again Christian ex-jock running as a Democrat, with a good chance of unseating an incumbent Republican-- it should get some attention. I've long thought that Asheville was one of the few cities significantly smaller than N.O. that I could even consider living in. This would make it even more palatable if I ever decided to follow Harry. No, I'm not thinking about moving to Asheville, though I have in the past.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Comments or Input Requested

This for anyone who was in town last December or January, is my perception off, or was the fact that the city only had two electrical inspectors on the verge of becoming a major issue before the mayor's office announced that it had contracted out for the services of ten more. I wasn't getting out much at the time, so I may well have misread things. But if I'm right, shouldn't it be a much bigger issue that the administration was just making shit up when it said that the city had a full staff of wiring inspectors? Doesn't that say something about the mayor's credibility now?

A Confederacy of Carlsons?

Margaret Carlson (via The Daily Howler):
ROSE: Where were you on the war?

CARLSON: I was, give diplomacy a chance. [Brightening] I was with Colin Powell the whole way along! Whatever Colin Powell—

ROSE: Oh, so whatever Colin— You know. OK.

CARLSON: Yeah. Whatever Colin does, I’ll go with.

The New Orleans City Council (via The Times Picayune):
When the ordinance came up for a vote late in Thursday's long and exhausting meeting, Councilwoman Shelley Midura said she didn't know what the fund was and asked for an explanation.

Council President Oliver Thomas offered to explain to Midura the purpose of the NOBC, or New Orleans Building Corp., a public-benefit corporation created to find ways to enhance revenue from little-used city properties.

Midura replied that the explanation didn't tell her what the Paragon Economy Fund was.

Thomas, one of three council members who serve on the board of the Building Corp., admitted he wasn't familiar with the fund, but he noted that the ordinance was supported by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

Neither Sean Cummings, executive director of the Building Corp., nor any other administration official was on hand to explain the ordinance, but Thomas moved to approve it anyway, and the other six members agreed to go along.

A vote to establish the NOBC Paragon Economy Fund is no vote for the Iraq war, but Margaret Carlson is just a pundit that nobody in Washington takes very seriously. Oliver Thomas is president of the city council and, arguably, the most respected politcal figure in the city. At the time of the Iraq War resolution, Colin Powell had an unquestioned reputation for integrity and sound judgement; Ray Nagin has never been known for his sound judgement, and his reputation for integrity is beginning to come into question. But, yeah. Whatever C. Ray does, he'll (Thomas) go with.

After a busy weekend, I'm too tired to go into much detail, but Saturday's N.O. Politics column deserves attention for more than just a great headline:
No clue? Council votes anyway

Though Eggler allows that the council has a very heavy workload, he seems to find its failure to ask even the most obvious questions as shameful as I do. However, after reading Eggler's column and watching a few reruns of council meetings on cable, I 'd like to suggest an emergency appropriation to replace the city's broken fax machines. I often get the distinct impression that many of the council members first read proposed ordinances when they're introduced -- at last Thursday's meeting, Cynthia Willard-Lewis actually asked what UNOP meant. I don't blame Ms. Willard-Lewis, with a functioning fax machine she would have been faxed a copy of the proposal in advance and already known the answer. It's possible that she asked the question rhetorically, she went on at such length about how much she cares about Broadmoor, even though it's not part of her district, that I stopped paying attention. Funny thing is, I have much more mixed feeling about Willard-Lewis than some of my fellow bloggers; she's not one of the two council members that I consider totally hopeless. In all seriousness, it does seem like the council should refuse to consider any non-emergency proposals that aren't submitted far enough in advance for the council members to read and consider.

Though Eggler doesn't mention it, I have to wonder if the vagueness of the ordinance is intentional. The ordinance does seem to involve cty property and the mayor does have a second job as a real estate developer. It would certainly seem to be a reasonable question of a mayor/real estate mogul.

If you only glanced at the article, read all the way through to the end of the column. Eggler also seems concerned that the council will just rubber stamp the mayor's budget proposals:
Of course, even when the conference does meet, it generally approves the revenue estimates prepared by the administration with little if any dissent.

It goes beyond garbage collection.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Environmental Racism: The "Mama D" Version

What's next for Albert "Chui" Clark and Dyan French Cole? Are they going to accuse a Cal. Berkeley engineer, an LSU engineer, Ivor van Heerden, and a couple of environmental groups of forming a new chapter of the KKK? Will Dyan Cole claim that racism's behind the opposition to the Old Gentilly Landfill. I'm sure that Clark and Cole think that there couldn't be any legitimate reason to worry about that landfill: those racists aren't really worried about flooding or environmental matters and wouldn't care at all if AMID Metro Partnership was white owned. They just don't like the fact that 97% of the profits from a city owned landfill are going to a partnership between a black businessman and a white businessman with a black wife. Or maybe the engineers and the environmentalists are upset that both partners were major supporters of both our current mayor and his predecessor -- both African-American. Either way, as Nagin might say, "you know man, I just find the timing highly suspicious that this came right after one of the partners was awarded a very lucrative garbage collection contract." They never worried about those things when white people owned the landfills.

Of course the above is absurd. Many of the people who are now worried about the Old Gentilly Landfill, helped close the Chef Menteur Landfill, but you could make at least some connection between those two front page stories. The assertion that environmentalists don't care about pollution from white owned companies would certainly be absurd, but no more absurd than the contention that reformers never worried about corruption involving white politicians. That simply isn't the history of New Orleans or any other city. The fact that reform efforts rarely achieved lasting (or any) success doesn't mean that they weren't attempted at all. Anybody who doubts that could by reading about Robert Maestri, who Mark also mentioned in a post on the subject. Of course, some of the opposition to Maestri did involve ethnic prejudice:
But because Maestri had little interest in proper bidding procedures, richly rewarding his friends with lucrative contracts and City Hall patronage, the Uptown elites and the city's press excoriated him. In editorial cartoons Maestri was consistently portrayed as dark-skinned and unshaven, suggesting that perhaps a good deal of the problem with him was his ethnicity. Other times he was drawn as a spider in a web, a rat devouring cheese, and a snake suffocating Lady Democracy in a deadly coil.

But to claim that complaints about corruption began with the election of the city's first black mayor is to be a tool of the Park Island Gang.

You Don't Have To Call Me Ted Haggard Anymore

I keep expecting David Kuo to come out with a cover of an old David Allan Coe classic:
(Steve Goodman)
David Allan Coe - 1975


I got sick of that song in the early 80's when I worked in a bar that it on the juke box. It still gives me a headache, but you get the idea.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

It Reads Like A Bad Joke

Brown had worked since 1981 as a special research scientist with ExxonMobil in Baton Rouge, where he gained an understanding of EPA and OSHA rules and regulations regarding the management, assessment, handling and disposal of hazardous and nonhazardous material. He was also president and CEO of Brown and Associates. He will be responsible for permits and environmental assistance to the regulated community.

So the man who never met a landfill he didn't like, learned about the environment while working for ExxonMobil. That figures.

BTW If any readers are offended, I did say ExxonMobil. In all honesty, I would have had that reaction about any oil company when I was younger, but now just Exxon.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Does She Have Witnesses This Time?

"Mama D", eleven months ago:
“I was on my front porch. I have witnesses that they bombed the walls of the levee, boom, boom!”

Lolis Eric Elie described the reaction she got in Washington:
The problem is, they're talking about how crazy we are.

Now she says that Shelley Midura is out to destroy her people.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

One Born Every Minute

Despite the huge cost increases, the city does not plan to raise the $12 monthly garbage fee paid by residents. Instead, to cover the increased cost over the current contract with Waste Management, which currently collects garbage citywide once a week for $9.4 million annually, officials said they will tap the city's general operating budget and a low-interest federal loan secured after Hurricane Katrina.

Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield said the total package of increases, including the already-implemented police raises, would cost the city $3.1 million for the last four months of 2006 and $11 million for all of 2007.

She said the city can pay for the raises because of improvements in the city's economy and revenue picture and the arrival of federal community disaster loans.

Having postponed the politically unpopular task until after the April 22 primary, the New Orleans City Council voted this week to approve a package of 2006 property tax millages that includes a sizable increase in the city’s tax rate to help pay off its debts.

The City Council adopted the final millage rates earlier this month, and reassessments have now been completed. These taxes will generate the revenue necessary to continue providing needed City services.

The property tax increase that seems to be having at least some impact on rents was necessary to keep the government running. Nagin's pet projects are being paid for by the federal government. And the city needs to spend millions to replace Waste Management with Metro Disposal because there were so many complaints in the past.

There is a God After All

Don't know where my brother got this Saints link. Jim Henderson's reaction when Hakim drops the ball is priceless.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why Bother? Part 2

Yesterday, when I wrote:
Hell, the council didn't even notice that though the mayor talks about restoring the police force to its pre-Katrina size, he has no plans to do so. That means that this year's most pressing issue will again be a problem next year.

I was joking -- about how pressing the issue was. Not about the fact that Nagin has plans to restore the police force to its pre-Katrina size. As the Picayune reported in early October:
Compared with a force of 1,668 before the flood, the department now employs 1,425 officers. Of those, 109 are on sick leave and top officials believe 150 more have put in applications at other departments, who have contacted NOPD for references

Starting a wide-ranging recruitment campaign, with the goal of hiring 250 to 350 new officers over the next couple years -- the number Stellingworth said will be necessary to accommodate normal attrition levels -- will be a key test of the city's bureaucracy, depleted of money and personnel..

The same article even expressed doubts about the ability of the reduced civil service staff to process that many applications. You might argue that with a reduced population, the city can make do with a smaller police force. But that reduction to 1425 understates the case. As WWL reported the real number is closer to 1100. In addition to the 109 officers out on long term medical leave, more officers than usual are performing administrative duties because of the police's department's laid off civilian employees. I'm not surprised that the rest of our frivolous press corps failed to follow up on that story, but I'm a little disappointed in two of my favorite local bloggers, Jeffrey and Adrastos, seem to think that this is just another case of the NOPD calling wolf (in Adrastos' case I may have just inferred that) about manpower. I know that Nagin's duplicity about spending is my pet obsession, but it is another example of Nagin putting fat contracts to political supporters before the city's real needs. At least it looks to me like the city will end up spending half as much on sanitation as police protection, maybe as much as on fire protection.

Yesterday, I was completely serious when I called the city council "cowed" and "feckless". We were told in January that the city had taken care of the electrical inspector shortage that's hampered the city's recovery. The lie was so convincing that it was barely mentioned during the election; prior to that, I must have typed "two electrical inspectors" a dozen times in the month of January alone. Once the lie was accepted, I believe that Nagin even cited solving the problem as an accomplishment. Now we find out that the problem is still slowing down the recovery, causing the city to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on electrical inspectors who charge as much as energy advisers and allow potentially dangerous self-inspection. So does the city council challenge the mayor's credibility for lying back in January? Does it ask how the mayor can even think about any expensive bulls*** before coming up with a plan to solve the problem? Of course not. Instead, the council's senior member asks electricians to volunteer their time. That's pretty f***ing feckless.

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Old Favorites
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