Thursday, February 15, 2007

Media Notes

The Times Picayune ran the recent New York Times editorial about the Stafford Act on its op-ed page yesterday. Some other bloggers, I first saw the editorial at Humid City, have already commented on it, but I believe that NYT editorials disappear behind a pay wall after two weeks. So be sure to read it before it disappears.

Don't know if Charlie Melancon's angry words had any effect, or if it would have happened anyway, but there seems to be good news:
Stung by criticism from within their own ranks that they have abandoned the Gulf Coast, House Democratic leaders filed long-awaited legislation Thursday to relieve hurricane-battered Louisiana of nearly $1.8 billion in recovery costs. They also promised additional help is coming next month.

There was an interesting exchange between Rob Couhig and James Carter Monday morning, scroll down to Rob & Bo - 2/12/07 - 7a to 8a
Guests: N.O. Councilman James Carter & St. Charles Parish School Supt. Dr. Rodney LaFon, if interested. It starts off as a normal radio fluff interview, but it gets interesting at about the ten minute point. Couhig actually asked how a city with 1000 active officers had the resources for community policing. Carter responded that it had 1600 before Katrina and 1400 now. Surprisingly, asked about Couhig active officers. Carter countered with the 360 officers of the national guard and state police and said that with a smaller city, the city had a proportionally larger police force.

Carter's point may be a valid one, but nobody said it before the election or during the budget debate. I've said before that even though the mayor and city council talked of a 1600 officer police force, they seemed to be budgeting for a much smaller one. Listening to Carter, I got the distinct impression that I was right. There's a cheap shot that I can't resist, Carter insisted that the crime situation was improving. Also, Couhig seems to be taking a more critical look at the Nagin administration. I'll have more on this soon.

carter is right.

new orleans is #1 or #2 in the nation in law enforcement per capita. pre katrina we fluctuated between 6 and 8. numbers of law enforcement has not been the primary reason for our crime problem. it's everything else that we do that is so different from the rest of the country. for us it's about what law enforcement does, not how many there are. we have enough. it's about what our da and courts do. it's about the social services that we lack that other cities have.
What I said was:
"Carter's point may be a valid one, but nobody said it before the election or during the budget debate. I've said before that even though the mayor and city council talked of a 1600 officer police force, they seemed to be budgeting for a much smaller one. Listening to Carter, I got the distinct impression that I was right."

Nobody spoke of reducing the size of the police force during the election. During the budget hearings, they talked of returning the NOPD to its pre-Katrina size, but if you played very close attention, you had to wonder whether that was the plan. If city leaders thought we could make do with a smaller force, why didn't they say so? Maybe because people wouldn't have wondered at the costs of across-the-board pay raises and expenditures like $350,000 for toilet seat covers, $300,000 for an expanded city council staff, a naval base realignment director and assistant (even though the work seems to be contracted out) and they might have gotten even angrier about the garbage contracts to campaign contributors.

During the interview, Carter tried to say we had a 1400 officer police force, it was only when Couhig called him on it that Carter said we didn't need a larger force because we had a smaller population and we had the state troopers and guardsmen. I don't know how long we can count on the sate help, but that would be a very good public debate for us to have. It shouldn't be a fall back argument for a politician to make when he's called on his bullshit.
Meant to say people would have wondered. With the naval base realignment, the city council created a six figure position for a naval base realignment director, with an assistant with a salary in the low forties. I read an article shortly afterwards that gave the strong impression that all the work of running the federal city at the site of the Algiers Naval Base is being contracted out, so the creation of the office at least seems somewhat wasteful.
i appreciate your point, i suppose then i'm making a tangential one then rather than a counterpoint to you. i think focusing on the size of our police force is the wrong priority when it's plenty big enough. every police department has officers on leave. the fact remains that we have a lot of law enforcement boots in new orleans. and no one has been talking about a smaller police force. what makes you think they budgeted for a smaller force? budget requests come from the mayor, his cao, and his department chiefs. the council made zero cuts to the criminal justice agency requests. in fact, they added money.

the toilet seat money by the way was one stinky deal (sorry, i could not resist) but what's wrong with expanding council staff when the council is being asked to do so much more than ever before?

also, who created the naval base director position? are you sure it was someone from the council?
Abbout the extra council staffers, if a smaller population requires a smaller police force...To be fair, evacuees who plan on returning need representation, but they don't need NOPD patrols. However, if they're planning on returning... More to the point, after the mayor's office, the city council staff was about the least reduced of the civilian departments. Still, I wouldn't object to the increased council staff if the council had made room in the budget for it elsewhere. Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, the council seems to have voted for anything that seemed like a good idea. In addition to the toilet seats, there was also the creation of the two naval base positions. This article notes the council vote. Which sounds extravagant for promoters who it seems will have nothing to do with the actual operation of the base. With Blakely's team taking on so much responsibility for rebuilding, you would think that Nagin's "all-star" team could handle that. Of course, the biggest abdication of fiscal responsibility on the part of the council was the vote to make the pay raises across-the board. I'll do one more post on that, but I can only assume that political cowardice played some role in that vote.

The NOPD has more officers on leave than is the norm, and it sems to have more officers performing administrative duties. So I'll continue to ask about replacing some of the laid off civilian employees. Carter cited the increased presence of state law enforcement personnel in N.O. when he said we were adequately staffed. How long can we count on them being here?

As far as not planning on hiring more officers, I rechecked my math with what Hatfield said the raises would cost if the firefighters were included, and I couldn't make fit in with a larger polive force. Of course, it was obvious that the administration was fudging numbers on the cost of the pay raises and the council lacked the backbone to call b.s. on it. I've also found things like the following buried somewhere in almost every story I've read on the subject.

"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.. "
BTW, that first link mentions that the council ratified David White's reappointment to the aviation board. It's outrageous that the council ratified it without appointment and the media failed to comment on the obvious potential for conflict of interest. The mayor reappoints his partner in a newly formed real estate business to a board with numerous real estate dealings and nobody bats an eyelash.
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