Thursday, June 29, 2006

Wasn't Going to Post Tonight But...

Billboard Ben*, the Talleyrand of N.O. politics:

Benjamin Edwards was originally appointed to the S&WB by former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy and was retained by former Mayor Marc Morial. Nagin has not reappointed Edwards, but has allowed him to continue serving although his term expired in late 2003.

made the front page. Scary paragraph you might have missed:
It's not the first time investigators have examined Moore. He pleaded guilty to a single federal felony charge last year for his role in a kickback scheme involving a massive energy contract at City Hall. He agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in that case, in which several defendants are set to go to trial in September.

I really hope I was wrong:
Nagin would be the biggest patsy of all time if he thought the he had made a deal with the Bush White-- he blames everything on Blanco and Bush supports him in return. Then the White House helps Nagin get re-elected, knowing that the Justice Department was planning an investigation.

Actually, I backed away from that, calling it a mindfart. But I can say, in all honesty, that a lack of time kept me from finishing a week-before-the-election post about what we could expect in 2-3 weeks if Nagin were re-elected. One prediction was that James Gill would write a sarcastic, innuendo filled column about the mayor's reputation for integrity or we'd see a wishy-washy editorial about appearances, or Stephanie Grace would write something in between. I would have been wrong, but I think the prediction might have only been off by a month. There were stories* that should have prompted such editorials about a year ago; I'll assume that Katrina prevented that.

Finally, my sources tell me that the Gambit Story did not exaggerate. They also tell me, that in response to the article, a rule was enacted that Water Board members were not to have contact or dealings or even direct conversations with Water Board employees. They tell me that Edwards routinely ignores that rule.

*Unfortunately, Times Picayune links that worked for months no longer seem to be working.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

In Case You Missed Anderson Cooper Monday Night

Couldn't post last night, gave up around 8:15 or so* and decided to use a relative's extra room. Over the weekend, CNN promoted Anderson Cooper's report on:
So, the mayor of New Orleans says he has a plan to rebuild the city. So, how's that plan working so far? Tonight, we're "Keeping Them Honest" -- next on 360, live from New Orleans.

The commercials also mentioned that the city was poised to receive billions of dollars of your tax money. I didn't like the sound of that last part, but with billions of dollars being spent, you'd think that somebody would ask some questions, keep them honest as it were.

Anyway, if you watch cable news often, you know that any segment that's advertised that heavily usually turns out to be a biased hatchet job or two minute fluff piece. Surprisingly, this was neither, although Couhig did not come across well:
KAYE: But no matter how many times we asked neither Rob Couhig or the mayor's office could explain where that money will be spent. Mayor Nagin declined to be interviewed for this story, but Monday afternoon announced progress.
That led to an inadvertently funny quote from the mayor:
I don't know where this came from but there seems to be this incredible perception that we have done no planning.

Well Ray, have you tried sharing any details? If you missed it, you have to scroll down a bit (past the segment on Warren Buffett), to read the interview with Couhig. He didn't really come across that badly, just evasive. The main thing is, Nagin,Couhig or whoever better do a lot better when they face some really hostile reporters.

If that swipe at DeBerry seemed gratuitous, all I can say is school buses. DeBerry's column on flooded buses appeared in December (Stephanie Grace's never, to my knowledge). I didn't expect advocacy, but the T/P and the rest of the local media were silent when the images of flooded buses were all over the national media. The T/P's ardor for defending the city government cooled noticeably between the first and second weekend of September. I've said it before, you'll find nothing defending the state or city (either on the op-ed or editorial page) between Bush's Jackson Square speech and Marty Bahamonde's testimony--other than an easy response to Larry Craig. I'd love to hear how they can justify failing to speak up about unfair criticisms of the mayor that made the entire city look bad (when they also had a national audience), but defending the mayor from criticisms that only made the mayor himself look bad (during the election of course). Worse, they somehow decided that the criticisms were so "unfair" (well, Jarvis, it would have been unfair if Brinkley had really been that critical of the mayor for merely crying) and "politically motivated," that it was their duty to defend him. Actually they didn't defend the mayor, they counter-attacked the critic with such gusto that anybody who benefited from the criticism could only get caught in the fire. I'd love to hear an explanation for the contrast. Now that the election's over, I don't expect the journalists at the Picayune to start acting like Inpsector Javert where Nagin is concerned. But it would be nice if they started acting like Lois Lane. Or Walter Annenberg.

*Don't know how prominent this will be in tomorrow's paper, but this bears watching:
"I have four letters for you: C-D-B-G," Vince said, referring to Community Development Block Grants. "This ought to be the wake-up call for the LRA (Louisiana Recovery Authority) and the state and the feds that we have to have money to rebuild the electric and gas system," he said. "You can't rebuild the city unless you have reliable electricity."

That just makes me less likely to support CDBG money for entergy, if he were from Entergy it definitely would. Even though he's from a Boston and Washington law firm, apparently he's been the city's energy advisor for two decades. I won't rush to judgment, but I don't the fact that the city's advocate is also acting as Entergy's advocate--I'm more concerned about the city's position than Vince's integrity. That CDBG money could disappear awfully fast.

I'm Trying To Kick The Habit

But they just keep making it so tempting. Moldy City on Monday:
Believe it or not, I'm usually a fan of the paper's op-ed writers, but I can't remember the last time that one of them wrote a column that would earn more than a C on any kind of relevance test.

Jarvis DeBerry on Tuesday:
Seersucker suits this true New Orleanian

Never realized just how addictive the local paper could be.

Monday, June 26, 2006

So You See

I heard about this crime wave on Magazine St. So, I thought, call out the national guard. But then I remembered that the crime wave involved transvestites. Hell, there should be an actual joke with a set-up and punchline in there. Damned if I can come with anything more than random association.

Seriously though, this is the last straw. No more pussy footing around with low-key, polite criticisms of the Times Picayune and the local television news. It's one thing to underreport crime and ignore other problems, but to bury a story like that is just inexcusable.

Nervous Chatter From the Picayune, Reporting From Gambit Weekly

Apologies in advance for the overdone rhetoric or purple prose at the end. Sometimes, you know better, but just can't help yourself.

I hate to admit it, but I do it sometimes myself; I just hope I'm not as obvious about it as the T/P staff. I'm sure you know the feeling from your work or personal life, it's time to talk about something that you know you just have to talk about, but you just can't bring yourself to talk about it (conversely, you might be worried about what the other person plans to talk about), so you just nervously chatter away about anything else. That certainly seems to be the collective mindset at the Picayune. Well, there does sometimes seem to be an element of malicious gossip mixed in with the nervous chit chat.

At least, that's the only explanation that I can come up for paper's recent reporting. I've already ranted enough about devoting page after page to a $238K judicial conference but one buried column to the city budget, now they give us a front page story on the future of a political "dynasty." I think that we're all a little more worried about the future of that "dynasty's" city. Believe it or not, I'm usually a fan of the paper's op-ed writers, but I can't remember the last time that one of them wrote a column that would earn more than a C on any kind of relevance test. I understand the problems involved in election reporting, but they've had five weeks to get some confidence in their second term reporting-- maybe they just identify with the mayor. I am curious about one thing, James Gill hasn't published a column in at least two weeks, has he had the good sense, or merely the good fortune, to take his vacation while the paper gets its bearings?

At least Gambit Weekly seems to hold to the old-fashioned notion that media should fact check the statements of public officials, even honest Ray. From this week's Scuttlebutt:
Nagin Keeps (Forman's) Campaign Promise
The mass murder of five teenagers June 17 shocked and angered the city. But Mayor Ray Nagin's response -- asking Gov. Kathleen Blanco to send in the National Guard to help police cope with growing violence -- was no less stunning. During his recent re-election campaign, Nagin never hinted he was considering such a drastic measure, even though his police chief now says the request for Guard troops was first made in March. At the time, Nagin was in the middle of a campaign for the April 22 primary. In fact, Audubon Institute CEO Ron Forman then was the only major candidate to suggest bringing back the Guard after its Katrina mission ended Jan. 1. "If I'm mayor, and it doesn't get better soon, I'm going to get the governor's cooperation to bring the National Guard back in town," Forman told Gambit Weekly in an April 5 interview. Forman repeated his pledge in a televised forum that same week. Nagin emphasized support for Police Chief Warren Riley at the forum. "We need help from state government," the mayor said, but he was referring to millions of dollars in proposed state relief to rebuild the local criminal justice system. Forman finished third in the primary, but candidates often borrow each other's ideas. -- Johnson

There's more:
Nagin told the crowded City Council Chamber that Chief Riley had asked Gov. Kathleen Blanco for 60 State Police troopers two weeks before the killings of the five teens. Nagin then told the crowd, including mothers of the slain teens, that he himself had asked a Guard commander for 250 troops to assist NOPD. "These requests are in and the governor is reviewing them," Nagin said. Hours later, Blanco said she had already received the city's request for Guard troops two weeks earlier.

There's also mention of that Times' Editorial that Shroeder and others have mentioned. I wonder if anybody in either local government or the local media has read it yet. Everyone else who has any interest in the city has.

This goes beyond a mere gotcha about when the mayor asked for help. Even with the guard and state troopers in town and FEMA money coming in to replace damaged police cars, it's important to ask whether the city's budget problems affected its police presence. They mayor insisted that they didn't, yet it would seem that they did. Whether the loss of officers was greater than admitted, officers were assigned clerical duties or there weren't enough squad cars available, lack of resources certainly seemed to reduce the police presence.

I for one would like to know just how credible the mayor is, before I agree to unite behind him. Note to the Picayune, you can't establish somebody's credibility without examining his credibility.

Sorry, I don't grant an assumption of integrity to a politician who skirts the edge of federal campaign law:
Finance list note challenged: A footnote to a list in Saturday editions listing contributors to New Orleans mayoral candidates stated that the data didn't include contributions received by Mayor Ray Nagin during a May 8 fund-raiser in Chicago despite a state law requiring candidates to report contributions to the state ethics officials within 48 hours of receipt. On Saturday, Nagin's campaign treasurer, David White, noting that the law requires reporting contributions when they are "in hand," added, "There is no way we could report on contributions we have not received." White didn't return earlier calls about the fund-raising event, which according to Chicago Sun-Times reports netted $500,000. (5/14/2006)

and makes some highly misleading statements to get re-elected.

Playing hardball politics certainly doesn't disqualify somebody from public office, but it's absurd to treat a hardball politician like Honest Abe. Well, what's the worst that could happen if we all unquestioningly united behind the mayor? It's not like the administration could spend away the city's future and bulldoze away its past, could it? Anyway, the press would certainly be all over the story, right?

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Somebody Actually Noticed

Maybe it did all go according to script. After performing admirably during the crisis, New Orleans' Finest soon found themselves overwhelmed and unable to perform their mostbasic job functions. Now, buttressed by outside support, they've regrouped and started to focus on problems areas. Amazingly, the results are already becoming apparent.

From yesterday's Picayune:
The individual items in the list given to the council added up to about $20 million less than the $50.8 million total budgeted. Asked about the discrepancy, an administration budget official said later that the list inadvertently omitted some items and would have to be corrected.

I was pleasantly surprised that it's not considered obstructionist to even ask. Although, I am curious about whether it was a city council member, reporter or somebody else that noticed the discrepancy.

Though the infusion of $50M of federal money into the city budget is certainly good news, the article leaves me with more questions than answers. The use of the word reimbursements implies that it's money that the city is being given to cover costs that the city already incurred. That doesn't seem to be the case, but how the city spends the money and then gets paid back by FEMA isn't exactly clear, not to me anyway.

More importantly, it's reassuring that somebody noticed the $20M discrepancy. It's less reassuring that the reaction of the administration seemed to be, "Oops, we forgot. We'll get you an accounting statement as soon as possible." Worse, the reaction of the city council seemed, "Well okay, we'll write you the check. Just be sure to tell us how you spend it." I'm probably reading too much into it. If the Picayune devoted a fraction of the ink to a $50M appropriation that it did to a $238K judicial conference, it would probably be crystal clear.

Finally I couldn't help but noticing the following:
Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Cary Grant said the city also will be reimbursed $32 million for police, fire and other city vehicles that were ruined by post-Katrina flooding. That money is not covered by the ordinances approved Thursday.

Of course, the city was too broke to have an adequate number of police officers and police cars. It's a matter of credibility, unless you think that, in the interest of moving the city forward, we all should all unite behind a mayor who seems to just make stuff up.

Who's the Chubby Chaser at the Picayune?

Remember that picture of a judge in swim trunks that dominated the front page of last Sunday's paper? Did you notice that the T/P thought it was worth showing again, on yesterday's letters' page (sorry, no link available)? This brings up a question of some personal interest. I'm no longer the Spring chicken that I used to be and I just had my last injection of a medicine that's kept me from exercising for the last year. The question is, once the effects wear off (in a week or so, I hope), will it be worth it to start exercising again? Or, are there many people as attracted to middle-aged bellies as somebody at the Picayune seems to be?

Easy Incendiary Post

From yesterday's paper:
All the budget changes were requested by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

In other actions, all by unanimous votes, the council:

-- Gave the local law firm of Bryan & Jupiter a three-month extension, to Sept. 30, to complete its report on how to revise the chapter of the city code that regulates taxis and other for-hire vehicles. The firm was awarded a contract in January 2005 to revise the chapter, which many people in the transportation industry have said is rife with contradictions, omissions and confusion. In its proposal, Bryan & Jupiter said it expected to bill the city about $147,650 for the work, although the figure could go higher. Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis said the extension was necessary because of delays caused by Katrina.

Way too easy
Prior to running for elected office, Jefferson founded the law firm, Jefferson, Bryan and Gray (now Bryan and Jupiter),

Yeah, I know. Guilt by association, way too easy, blah, blah, blah.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Just Open the Books

Something in today's paper made me think about an exchange from one of the mayoral debates (an exchange that many seemed to miss). When Landrieu called for a forensic audit of the city's finances, Nagin said that we couldn't afford to wait for the results of an audit. We needed to come up a plan right away.

At first I expected the mayor to say that we couldn't afford the expense, but that would have been somewhat out of character. While either argument might have applied to an outside audit, neither would have applied to merely opening the city's financial records (including payroll*) to public inspection. In addition to any other merits, doing so could answer some obvious questions. I don't want to rehash any urban legends (fear of doing so has kept me from bringing it up for months), but there seem to be far fewer police officers on patrol than the Katrina-related loss of personnel could explain. Now that the New York Times is pointing out that:
The city's police department is close to its pre-hurricane size, protecting a population that is less than half of what it was before the storm.

people are bound to ask where the police are. That's not a matter of perception, it's a matter of empirical observation. Every morning on the way to work I see two resource officers outside of McMain Sr. High; I rarely see two more during the course of the entire day--I've started looking.

I've come up with various theories about this, most involve either the loss of police officers being greater than the city admitted or a lack of police cars. Acknowledging either, during the campaign, would have involved acknowledging the extent of the city's budget crisis--assuming that either is the case. I suppose it's even possible that the city has increased its quota of undercover cops. That would make more sense than anything the city's told us. Of course, the city hasn't told us anything and the press hasn't bothered to ask. If there ends up being a perfectly reasonable explanation, I won't be the least bit embarrassed for having asked--some people should be embarrassed for not.

Though the RTA's budget is separate from the city government's, we could probably learn quite a lot from opening up its books as well. This has nothing to do with the dispute between the chairman and the RTA board; after three recent newspaper articles, I have no idea who's right in that matter. As a matter of fact, I can't tell whether the outside consultants are recommending a $25,000 raise for a top official or creating a new $125,000 position--it would depend on whether the deputy general manager position is retained. Either way, it is being recommended in the face of massive layoffs.

*Publicizing city payroll would not involve any violation of personal privacy. The city pay is a matter of public record, though an individual's job classification is not. It would merely be a matter of showing how much staff each department had and then giving the breakdown for each office by job classification.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Triangle of Distraction

Memo to Nagin, Riley and the Times Picayune: Just don't go there. By all means, go to central city. Just, please spare us the embarrassment of claiming that, outside of a few problem areas like "the Triangle of Death," the city doesn't have a crime problem. There might be a kernel of truth to such an assertion, but, in case you hadn't noticed, the international media is paying attention to the New Orleans crime problem. If you try to say that 14 of the the city's 54 murders have occurred in the "triangle of death," one those reporters might ask about the other 40. If you do try that spin, please be careful how you say it, some "baffled outsiders"* might take that to mean that crime is okay in poor or black neighborhoods--it could sound very racist, I'm not trying to inject that element. Some cynics might even wonder how the city realized that it needed help in March if there never was much of a problem to begin with. So, if any of you are considering that spin, it won't work.

In a similar vein, when the plan to bring in the National Guard was announced Monday, Warren Riley blamed the media for the perception that the crime problem was out of control. In April, (I had forgotten until I today's YRHT) he tried to blame the perception on opportunistic politicians--probably less a similarity than an imitation. Also, today's paper says that both Nagin and Riley said that the plan has been in the works since March. On TV Monday night, Nagin said that the request had been put in two weeks ago. By itself, it's a minor inconsistency--I only noticed because Nagin used the statement to make a snide comment about Blanco. I might have misinterpreted it, but it sounded like he thanked the state for responding so quickly since the request had only been made two weeks before.

It's unimportant that Nagin and Riley differed on the details on one item. By itself, it might not be overly important that Nagin would have us believe that he realized the problem was bad enough to demand outside help, while he was telling us that there wasn't a problem. But it would be a problem if the mayor grew (more) smugly, complacent, secure in the knowledge that he could say and do whatever he wanted and nobody would question him about it. Well, because the local media has refused to even spar with Nagin, I'm afraid that the city's going to take a lot more pummeling from the national media (via Schroeder). Sorry, couldn't resist the boxing metaphor.

Finally (probably most importantly), something doesn't seem to add up in the reporting on the NOPD. We keep hearing that the city has lost 300 police officers. That's only about 20% of the pre-Katrina total. Patrols sure seem to be down by more than 20%. It could be that the city lost most of its fleet of patrol cars. If that is the case, I'd certainly wonder what budget priorities come before repairing or replacing those cars. If mayor "turn-around expert" can't find the money, it might be a good idea to open the city's books to someone who can. If that is the problem, that suggestion might be the reason why we haven't heard that detail. There could well be a perfectly good answer, shame nobody asks the question.

*Explaining link seems to have disappeared from the T/P website.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Another Confession

Every so often, I still miss drinking. Don't get me wrong, it's never a serious craving or anything worrisome; it's more along the lines of a wistful nostalgia for some of the things that I used to do. Fortunately, there is a readily available antidote to that kind of misguided nostalgia. I just pick up a copy of The Times Picayune, read the editorial and picture myself sitting in a bar listening to some drunk ramble on and on for hours without ever making a point.

There is one key difference between a long-winded drunk and an editorial page writer at the Picayune. When a drunk stops rambling, all too often, it's to get belligerent. The apparent reason for the rambling nature of Sunday's editorial was an effort to avoid being belligerent, or even critical. What started out looking like a half page indictment of (or admonition to) the city's leadership turned into a page length editorial about... nothing.

In addition to being pathetic journalism, this refusal to criticize the Nagin administration is third rate boosterism. While it's certainly not the job of a newspaper to decide that we should all unite behind the mayor, you have to wonder whether the deep thinkers at the Times Picayune have even thought their position through. Has it occurred to them that people would be more likely to unite behind the city's leadership if they felt that the usual watchdogs were doing their jobs? People do know when their being buffaloed and you don't need to be a cynic to suspect that no news is hidden bad news.

Anyway, the local press can play ostrich all they wants. There are other reporters in town (Adrastos has already posted on this, but his site seems to be inaccessible tonight). Every national news outlet still has reporters assigned to the recovery. If it's left to the national media to report on the city's failures, those failures will certainly seem worse, they'll probably get worse.

I certainly commend the Times Picayune for pointing out the wasteful spending by area judges; I just can't understand the amount of space devoted to the story--a large part of page one and four more pages (plus at least one op-ed piece and more promised as part of an occasional series) devoted to expenses totaling less than $240,000. Certainly, in that amount of space, the T/P could examine many more questionable expenses than that. It might even examine the failure of city agencies and rebuilding authorities to give adequate notice for mandatory public meetings.

Of course "big" (in terms of space anyway) stories and series get nominated for journalistic awards. Also, looking at more than judicial spending would involve looking critically at the Nagin administration and that seems to be taboo.

Finally, since Jeffrey's on hiatus, I'll point out the irony of a newspaper that can't afford to provide basic newspaper services sending at least three reporters and a photographer to Florida to report on wasteful government spending when the government can't provide basic government services. Well, that front page photo of a large bellied judge in a bathing suit certainly added quite a bit to my understanding of the story.

Update: Obviously, the city is about to start getting a lot more national and international attention. Couldn't help but laugh when I heard Warren Riley say that the city asked for the help weeks ago, but then say that the city's slow recovery was caused by excessively negative media coverage--by both the local and national media. In other words, the city realized that it needed help weeks ago, yet the media is exaggerating its problems.

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Shouldn't There Have Been Two Stories?

The Times Picayune finally reported on that RTA meeting that I mentioned yesterday. I wouldn't have expected a prominent story announcing the meeting in advance, just some kind of visible notice. Obviously, the failure of the T/P to announce yesterday's city planning in advance is a much bigger issue. If the Picayune has the information about these meetings in time to publicize them and is failing to do so, that's a highly questionable judgment call. If they are publishing such information, they might want to examine placement. If the agencies involved are failing to furnish the paper with the information in a timely manner, that seems like a major issue. It might even be worth a third of page one and a full four pages of section A--as the first part of a series.

Just to be clear on yesterday's post, there's almost certainly a lot worse than arrogance and indifference involved in the decision to limit public input into the decision making process; I just wanted to point out what seems to be an underlying mind set.

Back to the RTA, yesterday's story told us that the RTA board rejected the consultants' plan to reduce bus service. You had to go back to an
earlier story to find out that the consultants fees had already reached $1.8M, despite being budgeted for $1M. Neither story made it clear whether the consultants' contract limited their fees in any way. Also, it's impossible to tell, from the reporting, whether it would be more correct to say that the RTA awarded one its top managers a $25,000 pay raise or created a new $125,000 position.

To put that in perspective, today's lengthy articles (the beginning of a series) on wasteful spending by judges involved "hundreds of thousands" of dollars. Actually, $238,231 for 2004, the last year with published figures. Of course it's a bigger story than the amount of money involved, that $238,231 was wasted by judges all over the entire metropolitan area. Unfortunately, I can't go into this at the moment.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

There Seems to be a CYA Memo Going Around

A memo that says something about just barely meeting the minimum requirements of the state and city public meetings laws. There seems to be a little more than mere carelessness followed by CYA realization, in the case of the big story, the one that people are talking about (started to link any blogger that mentioned it, but I'll just point out Markus' comment on Adrastos' post). The salient point is that so few people even know about the meeting to talk about it. Schroeder's colleague may well be correct about good faith:
1) That you didn't know about this meeting or the development of the CSO suggests that, while it is a good faith effort in moving forward, there remains a serious breakdown in public communication.

But this is far from being the first such breakdown in public communication. And no matter what your opinion about the decisions that led to the city's move to charter schools, you have to admit that there was very little communication about the decision making process. There may have been communication, just very few people around to receive it:
Today, Thursday, September 15, the Orleans Parish School Board voted to make Lusher School a charter school!

Frankly, I have mixed feelings about the move to charter schools. I'd probably be more open to it if most of the decisions hadn't been made in September. Not that I cared about going to school board meetings in September, I cared more about getting into my own neighborhood.

At least in those cases, one can imagine greed or other ulterior motive being behind the desire to to steamroll the decision making process. However, I found a flyer (in the staff lounge of a quasi-public building) yesterday morning announcing a public meeting to discuss possible cuts in RTA service. The flyer didn't give a date, but referred to the RTA website. It appears that a flyer was placed on June 16 (in a not very public place) to announce a June 16 meeting--it's possible that it was there earlier in the week, but highly unlikely that I'd have missed it. Moreover, a second glance at the flyer showed no date, but a reference to "tonight's (sic) meeting."

Although I can understand the desire of RTA officials to avoid potentially embarrassing questions, it would be hard to argue that greed or some other nefarious motive was behind the the desire to limit public input. It's probably just too much bother to give enough notice to have a large turnout for these (legally mandated) public meetings, and large public meetings can just get so noisy. Anyway, our public officials really already do know what's best, so it's not like they're actually going to learn anything from the people they represent. Why should they bother giving more than pro forma notice for the meetings that they're required to hold?

I can certainly understand the mindset. Speaking as someone who always knows what's best, I often wonder why I bother to listen to other people's opinions myself. Of course, I'm just a self-appointed asshole, not a publicly appointed one.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

It's Not Personal

But it should be city business. As I've mentioned many times (here and here, for example, eight months after the city laid off nearly 2/3 of its civilian (excluding police and fire departments) work force, the city has yet to take a serious look at upper level pay. Remember that early in Nagin's administration, in an effort to bring in a top-notch staff (seriously), huge pay increases were granted:
Mayor Nagin raises salaries for eight appointed city workers a total of $420,000. Now the Civil Service Commission wants another $440,000 for raises for eight civil servants

In all, about three dozen upper-level pay raises were sought, most were granted.

So, what else is new? I've been all over that. I realize that the amount of money is miniscule compared to the city's overall budget, but after the Picayune pointed out that:

The city can fill a lot of potholes and cut a lot of grass for $800,000.

and nobody seemed to agree with me, I had to wonder whether it was impossible for me, as one the laid off employees, to look at the situation objectively. I understood the layoffs, but the mayor's smug suggestion that the voters could give him the ultimate pay cut--in February--really ticked me off (I suppose that James Gill would have advised me to cover my ears). I also couldn't help but notice that, outside of the police and fire departments, the mayor's office was the cut branch of city government. The mayor's office cut 34 out of 100 positions--the mayor lost a much smaller percentage of his office staff than his city lost of its population.

But since nobody seemed to care (whether I put in terms of city debt or services the money could provide), I was ready to drop it as a personal pet peeve.

At least I was, until Gentilly Girl pointed out that our local firefighters could end up getting screwed because of the city's budget problems:

But on Thursday, the city contacted Engine House No. 12, along with four other companies living in similar situations, and informed them that their trailers were being repossessed.

Even at post-Katrina prices, how high can the monthly payments on five trailers be? To paraphrase the T/P: the city can make a lot of trailer payments for $800,000.

To be fair, I would imagine that there's more than one trailer at each site and there does seem to be a bit of a he said/she said aspect to the story:
Meanwhile, the city released an official statement saying payment had been delayed to one of the trailer vendors due to a miscommunication and intended to correct the situation Monday morning.

Felton said his understanding was that the city hasn't made a payment on the trailers since December.

I know who I believe--call me old-fashioned, but I believe that it's usually a mistake to give the benefit of the doubt to overly secretive administration's. If it was a miscommunication, what does it say about the efficacy of those pay raises? I suppose that it might indicate a need for even larger pay increases.

Two important points:

These aren't corporate executives being rewarded for the cost-saving measures that have benefited their shareholders--don't even think about that corporate parallel.

When the lay offs were announced, the mayor referred to them as "pretty permanent." That might seem just, just, a little exaggerated, but nobody expects the city, or its government, to reach its old size any time soon. There's is absolutely no justifiable reason to retain a top heavy work force. The city certainly doesn't need to keep its "top notch" upper level staff, because the entire work force will be back soon.

It's not just a matter of high level salaries, there's also the question of the need to have a director and assistant director for each agency or even combining agencies under one head. That would be the too lengthy a subject for this post, but it's obvious that, since Katrina, Greg Meffert has played more roles in city government than Harold Hecuba in the musical production of Hamlet. Nothing against Meffert, but it raises questions about other department heads. Did any that were unable to return, continue to collect pay after the layoffs?

Meffert's ubiquitousness implies that some consolidation has occurred. Was it all temporary and the result of attrition? Or, 8 1/2 months after the layoff announcement, has any thought or planning, whatsoever, gone into permanent consolidation?

However personal the beef might have been months ago, now it just seems like incredibly, unbelievably, objectively bad business.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006


'The only thing to do'
Perhaps the toughest decision facing the RTA is a proposal to slash the payroll from 790 or so workers to about 360. Pre-Katrina, the RTA employed about 1,340 people; no employees have been fired, but about 550 failed to return after the hurricane, officials said.

RTA board Chairman Jimmy Reiss said the draconian cuts in the work force are part of a painful process that the financially crippled transit system must work through as it figures out how to squeeze more out of less while the city rebuilds.

Draconian cuts:
The proposal that the RTA board will consider also recommends a change in the agency's top management.

Under the plan, General Manager Bill Deville would move into a new position: director of capital recovery. Deville would be replaced by Mark Major, the RTA's deputy general manager for finance and administration.

Reiss said he will recommend that Deville retain his $125,000 salary and that Major's $100,000 salary increase by $25,000.

Deville has come under fire from several RTA commissioners who have questioned his decision to extend a contract with Creative Risk Controls, the agency's longtime insurance claims administrator, without board approval. Privately, some RTA officials also have called attention to a $175-an-hour agreement Deville signed with a consulting firm that provides advice on how to get along better with board members

Really draconian cuts:
Also on the board's agenda Friday is a discussion of the cost of the consultants' work. Originally budgeted around $1 million, the consulting team's billings now stand at about $1.8 million.

Reiss said the federal government has agreed to allow the RTA to tap into $42 million in already-approved grants for capital and maintenance projects to pay for the consulting work

Update 6/15: On the matter of the two salaries, if you look at it as one $25,000 raise, it might seem like a minor matter. However, as I've brought up before,there are many such minor matters--yeah,I know RTA has a separate budget. It does reflect the fact when it comes to cost cutting, the mindset of this administration is very business-like--at least like a modern corporation. The question of the consulting fees is potentially far bigger. And, of course, it brings up many more general questions.

But hey, I have every confidence in Reiss. Anybody who can get evacuees angry enough at Nagin to vote for Nagin has got to be a miracle worker.

I was ready to drop the subject of the city payroll on the grounds that, since no one else seems to care, it must be personal. Then I saw something (thanks Gentilly Girl) that made it seem worth a little more attention.

Of course, another way to look at the two salaries is that they created a new six figure position (for somebody who got into trouble at the old one) while eliminating dozens of five figure positions. Of course, that's the first we've heard (or I've heard) the T/P or the local media mention Deville's critics. But, of course, why should they bother to report on the possible appearance of cronyism in this administration. Everybody knows it's just the appearance.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Two Items in the Last Week's News

Didn't Couhig bring this subject up in one of the debates? It occurred during one of the exchanges where all the candidates could speak freely, so the topic changed quickly. As I recall, Couhig said that the S&WB was wasting about 2/3 of the water that it pumped. Couhig brought it up in the context of resettling the entire city. Couhig seemed to be using it as an argument for keeping the areas east of the canal closed; he seemed to think that most of the waste was occurring in the miles of pipe that water had to go through to get to those areas. Don't know whether the other candidates changed the subject because wasted water seemed to wonkish, or whether the idea of cutting off water to those areas seemed to controversial. Whichever it was, Couhig never pursued the topic. That angle hasn't come up in the recent reporting on the subject.* Not to worry, since Couhig's self-described job is to make the workings of city government within 100 days, we'll certainly know soon enough how large a factor that is in the Water Board's over $80,000 a day deficit (that works out to about $30M a year, the $50M figure quoted is apparently the market value of the lost water--I can't imagine that FEMA would pay for that). I can't be the only blogger thinking that he meant to mention it at the time. If anybody did mention it and I missed it, sorry about that. Nothing wrong with tooting your own horn--I'd certainly be shameless enough to. Well, I've gotten at least a little better about that.

In the too little, too late (alternate link) department, shouldn't Jack Kent Jr. and Marine Shale (scroll down to MSP behind the scenes) be fined that much just for their role in giving us Edwards/Duke and for their general all around thuggery. Years later, two things come to mind when I think of Marine Shale. The first is some truly infuriating film footage of Marine Shale thugs beating up--beating up isn't quite the correct term when two-by-fours and baseball bats are involved-- a group of peaceful environmental protesters. I believe that particular incident took place in the mid-eighties.

The second is the barrage of attack ads (paid for by Jack Kent Jr. and MSP) against Roemer that aired in the closing days of the 1991 election. If there's ever been a bigger barrage of third party campaign spending at the state level, I'm unaware of it. Don't know if other local bloggers have brought this up, but the recent election wasn't the first time that Republican business leaders helped elect a Democrat with a bad national reputation. It wasn't just MSP, though LABI remained neutral, the Louisiana Chemical Association also waged a virtual war against the Roemer administration. Though LABI was neutral in that election, the legacy of Roemer's battles with the LCA, can be seen in it's current legislative agenda. It's always worth remembering that LABI has its own definition of what exactly is pro-business or anti-business.

*It's probably no longer relevant, but it is interesting that everybody, including Couhig, seemed to decide that it was a taboo subject. I'm certainly not advocating turning off water service to people in New Orleans East, but it does underscore something that bloggers emphasized to a far greater degree than reporters in the election-- that city finances should have been as big a part of any resettlement discussion as flood protection.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

John Kallenborn Agrees With Me

Well, sorta. Before I get into that, if you think that, now that the people have spoken, the federal aid money is ready to start flowing, and a $150M loan package has been approved, it's time for the people, the new council and even the media to unite behind the mayor, you're sadly mistaken. It might seem like the responsible, forward thinking (as opposed to obstructionist) position; in fact, it would be the height of irresponsibility. You'd just be setting yourself up to moan and bitch and kvetch if you find yourself unhappy with not only the state of the city's finances, but decisions about such issues as preservation and redevelopment in a few years. Of course, there might be some risk involved for any elected officials who oppose the mayor; he seems to know who his friends are.

With that out of the way, I'll get to why the local president of JP Morgan Chase--the man most responsible for the city's $150M loan package-- agrees with me, sort of. In a recent Picayune article about possible future scenarios for the city's finacial condition, John Kallenborn came out solidly in the optimistic camp. However, even he added:
"Internally, we have signed on to the more optimistic case for revenues," said Kallenborn, who has led the financing effort and whose bank has agreed to cover $55 million of the loan. "But it is very important that they maintain discipline on expenses. If they get wacky on that, we're going to have a problem that will be very hard to solve."

So, when the chief architect of the city's loan package calls for closer scrutiny of the city finances, what do we get from the local paper? The editors call for more information, but don't seem to have assigned any reporters to do a thorough follow-up story (remember, there may well be pressure to commit by the end of the month). The paper's op-ed writers have been largely MIA; a reluctance to seriously citicize the mayor has combined with an overriding desire to be clever to produce some utterly shameless clowning. Frankly, there's something seriously wrong with the priorities of the paper's senior op-ed writer when's more concerned with $8,000 judicial junkets than with $2.5M sewerage contracts (to poltically connected, but not yet incorporated firms) or expensive bomb-proof garbage cans. There was a good start on the reporting (at least of the redevelpment plan), but a follow-up (before the end of June)is certainly called for. I'd particularly like an explanation of how large a bill the city or state can expect whenever FEMA pays for something. Even, if it's no bill, FEMA financed projects could have their drawbacks.

To finish up an earlier post, I wasn't just concerned about the media's election coverage. If the city's "informed sources" are too obtuse to understand that the mayor said that neither the BGR or anybody outside of his office knew anything about the city's finances, it doesn't give me great confidence in their ability to cover government by cheerleaders.

That said, I haven't made up my mind about the city hall plan--there's not enough information for that. Uh, what else is new? If little up front money is involved, it might even have minimal impact on the city's short term ability to provide basic services. Well, the added debt and committed revenues (TIF's) could affect the city's bond rating.

What concerns me more is that I see the city experiencing a short term boom, not the bleak scenario described in the article, but not quite the rosy one either. Unfortunately, even the most spectacular booms don't benefit everyone and, more importantly, local governments tend to overspend during the boom and find themselves broke afterwards. In this case, the boom, rather than solving the city's budget problems, could come to an end at the time that city's bills come due. If that happens, the city will be forced to go to congress for more aid. Even the bills that FEMA picks up the entire tab for (if such bills exist) would be remembered.

Also, Nagin's explanation that an overpriced towing contract didn't matter because FEMA was paying for it, could prove to be his most boneheaded comment yet. I'm sure that the statement will come up if Nagin finds himself asking congress for more help; I just can't imagine what the response would be. Oh, I"VE GOT IT! James Gill will write an "oh so clever" column titled If Sen. Craig can't take a joke, he should cover his ears. I wonder whether the Boise paper will pick it up.

T. thanks for the comment:I'm starting to think that the public has to be responsible for policing irresponsible journalists. My sentiments exactly, if I sometimes go overboard on the subject, it's that I think that media fact checking and even watch-dogging is one one of the few useful functions that bloggers can actually serve. Big_Shot, I'll send Lorenz a copy of the post; if I can find an email address for Norman Robinson, I'll send him a copy.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Two Different Emails

From the Rahm Emanual of the DCCC:

Dear Friend,

In a race that unexpectedly became one of the most competitive in congressional history, Francine Busby sent a shot across the GOP bow and proved that even in the most reliably Republican district, the message of change and a new direction for the country is resonating with voters.

As an editorial in The Washington Post wrote this morning...

"If Republican were breathing easier this morning, they had few illusions about what lies ahead. The extraordinary effort to hold onto a seat that has long been safely in GOP hands underscored the challenges as they try to retain their congressional majorities in November at a time when President Bush's approval ratings remain weak, the party's coalition is fracturing and voters are repulsed by the taint of corruption in Washington."

Francine was a tough candidate who fought hard. She couldn't have come as far as she did without the support of our members like you in districts nationwide. She will have another opportunity to win this seat in November, when Republicans in her district will once again be divided. But, the truth revealed in this election is that voters are demanding change and new priorities. This November, in districts around the country -- many more moderate than Busby's -- we will be fighting for new priorities in Congress. The NRCC can't spend almost five million dollars in every district to keep their majority.

CA-50 is a district that President Bush carried by 11 points in both 2000 and 2004 - this race should not have been close. By all measures this was a safe Republican Congressional seat. Yet, Francine Busby forced the Republican Party to spend close to five million defending it - the most federal money the NRCC has spent on a House race, ever.

As Carl Luna [1], a political science professor at San Diego Mesa College put it...

"This race, of course, should have attracted almost no attention from anyone outside of the candidates' immediate families, let alone national news coverage and millions of dollars in national campaign money. The Republican candidate, be it Brian Bilbray or Zippy the Wonder Pup, should have been assured this seat hands down. And, as the Republican nominee, Bilbray should have been hanging ten right now to an assured, double digit victory.

"Key words: should have."

After spending more than five million dollars - more than 20% of their reserves for November -- and using national Republican leaders like George W. Bush, John McCain and Laura Bush, and running viciously negative ads, Brian Bilbray and the NRCC were able to pull out less than 50 percent of the vote in a solidly Republican district. We've got them on the ropes, but we also know that they are not going down without a fight. The fact that the DCCC and Democrats across the country are already competitive or ahead of Republicans in campaign funds and polling numbers is unprecedented, but we need to keep up the momentum until November.

Francine Busby's hard charging campaign demonstrated that we can and will bring this message of change and new priorities to Americans across the country. Not just in Democratic or moderate districts, but deep into the heart of Republican territory. During these last five months, Democrats in Republican districts from Pennsylvania to Washington state will look to Francine's campaign as an example.

From Consortium News:

The defeat of Democrat Francine Busby in a special congressional
election outside San Diego was a case study in why Democrats lose. With
conservatives dominating the media and with Busby running a "safe"
consultant-driven campaign, the Republicans pounced on a minor verbal slip-up by
Busby in the final days and propelled Brian Bilbray to victory. The
question now is: what can the Democrats do to ever break out of their
cycle of losing?

For the full story of why the Democrats always seem to find themselves
in the same rut, go to at .

Also, while at the site, you might want to look at other recent
articles -- including how the Haditha massacre and the Nuremberg Principles
apply to George W. Bush and what one seasoned political analyst says is
at stake for America in Election 2006.

Also, please consider a tax-deductible donation to keep alive. Our spring fund-raising drive has raised less than one-fifth
of the $10,000 we need to maintain this Web site at this crucial time
in American history. You can contribute by credit card at the site or by
sending a check to Consortium for Independent Journalism (CIJ), Suite
102-231, 2200 Wilson Blvd., Arlington, VA 22201.
Blogger ate a lengthy post that the above that included the above last night. Judge for yourself. If you're not familiar with consortium, it's a worthwhile sight. No time to add more.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Just to clarify, I think the proposal is a serious one that deserves serious consideration; just not one that should be rushed into. Does anyone, either in state or local government or in the media, actually ever know in advance how much we'll end up paying when we hear that FEMA will pay for something? Seems like there are usually bills later when FEMA pays for something, but I haven't studied the issue closely.

As for as rich families that have their own international corporations go, I have a rather high opinion of the Pritzkers. If I remember correctly, they made a serious bid to buy the Saints (as a New Orleans team) and only lost out because the NFL was opposed to corporate ownership, even if the major shareholders are all part of the same family. I think that they actually put in a better bid than Benson. That's all from memory, the facts could be way off.

A Particularly Low Moment in Local Journalism

I refused to admit it to myself, but I knew that Nagin had the election sewn up the night before the run-off. When the panel on Informed Sources informed me that Nagin was the better candidate and that Landrieu appeared uninformed and unprepared for office, I knew that it was over. Well, those weren't the exact words. In addition to the usual cohosts Larry Lorenz and Errol Laborde, Norman Robinson and a fourth panelist (sorry can't remember who, and transcripts not available) were on. In a discussion of the debates they all said that Landrieu seem unprepared and they all chuckled over the fact that he even admitted that he didn't know what shape the city's finances were in. Frankly, at that point I was mad at Landrieu, thinking that if even these esteemed journalists didn't know the reason for that, Landrieu had done a poor job indeed of explaining that nobody could possibly be informed about the city's finances because Nagin refused to provide information (certainly documented information) about the city's finances. However, the discussion rapidly reached a level of utter clowning that Bob Somerby couldn't begin to describe. Remember the panel consisted of four of the city's top political reporters, including a journalism professor who considers his task, well:

His job, his niche, is asking the reporters why the hard questions are going either unanswered or – even worse – unasked.

I suppose the professor is just more interested in underlying philosophical questions than questions about factual details. One of the panelists did explain that Landrieu offered the excuse that he was uninformed about the city's financial condition because Nagin refused to share the necessary information. However, they all chuckled in agreement that Landrieu's excuse was a lame one, because, as Norman Robinson pointed out, if BGR was able to gain access to the city financial figure, so Landrieu should have been able to.

That four of the city's top journalist could be that uninformed shouldn't be overly surprisingly, that they should all be too lazy to look at the BGR report shouldn't be surprisingly, that contemporary journalists should reduce a factually resolvable dispute into a he said/she said issue shouldn't be at all surprising. But that all four would reach the same incorrect conclusion from uninformed speculation and decide to laugh at the candidate that the facts actually backed is just, I was going to say inconceivable, unfortunately it's not.

To begin, one can only wonder whether any of the four actually watched the debates. Didn't any of them hear Nagin say that the BGR went on estimates, that they had no idea what the city's financial condition was, that only he (Nagin) did? Did they even bother to read the BGR/PAR report? If so, they must have found out that Nagin was honest about one thing, the BGR didn't "know" what the city's financial situation was, the report was based on estimates, projections and unaudited figures.

In retrospect, that exchange probably illustrates why it would have been almost impossible for Landrieu to win. If even the city's most informed political commentators refused to listen when Landrieu made his points in a polite manner, I don't know how Landrieu could have made his points without being accused of being the mud slinger in the race. That carried over to Nagin's insinuations about Landrieu's campaign financing. In that regard, Nagin may have executed a sort of boiled frog strategy beautifully, but he had more than a little help from the media. Every time Nagin turned up the heat, some commentator remarked on the remarkably cool water temperature. This actually continued into the last week of the campaign, when Nagin ran an endless barrage of commercials suggesting that Landrieu must be crooked to have the money to air so many commercials. I have no idea whether individual journalists were useful idiots or willing accomplices, but I wouldn't rule out the latter in every case. Had Landrieu elbowed back as Jeffrey, I'm not sure who else and I advocated in real time (while we saw what wahappeningng), he'd have probably been subject to a real media lynch mob. Of course, he had to do something.

The above was intended as a two paragraph intro into the subject of whether we should expect better second term coverage than election coverage from the local press--I suppose that we all tend to vent on certain subjects. With the exception of Sunday's Picayune--which I'll get to-- the answer would appear to be an emphatic no.

I've already made fun of Jarvis DeBerry's and Stephanie Grace's entries into the "Ray Nagin is the coolest thing since crushed ice" essay contest, but let's face it, with serious Nagin criticism apparently off the table, all three of the paper's main op-ed writers seem to be writing about less important topics than they might otherwise be.

More importantly, other than the previously mentioned exception, I've seen very little in the T/P (or on TV) to help me follow the advice in a recent editorial:

When a plan carries a high price tag and many complex parts, citizens need to study it carefully.

Until Sunday's article (by a business writer) I had none of the information needed to "study it carefully." Though the article left out, or underplayed, some important details, it was a major step in the right direction. Almost enough to make you wish that the T/P would throw a business writer in with political reporters and commentators next time we have an election. For one thing, since so much of the public financing involves "TIF's," i would have liked a little more explanation of the mechanism. Fortunately, since I'm not a paid political analyst or one of the merry panelists on Informed Sources, I knew where to look for more information. I'm sure that anyone reading this blog also knows, but I'll save you a step (or a somewhat better link). For some negative views on TIF's, click here or here. I wouldn't be alarmist about the TIF concept, but I would want specific details on how large an area around the development will be in the TIF district, how long the tax revenues will be dedicated and a few other matters.

The reporter, Rebecca Mowbry, did express a healthy skepticism about most of the details of the project, but I was amazed at how little she expanded on one particular paragraph:

Portions of the money are an opportunity born of disaster. The Federal Emergency Management Agency offers financing to replace those irreparably damaged in the storm, FEMA spokesman Ross Fredenburg said. Through June 30, the federal government would pay for 90 percent of the damage caused by storms to public buildings; the federal participation drops to 75 percent next month
As there will probably be strong pressure to commit to the project by the end of the month, a little more information on what those details could mean might be advisable. As Adrastos pointed out:

They're nuts; of course, we already knew that. FEMA will ONLY foot the bill to replace or renovate buildings "irreparably" damaged during the storm: they've already declined to pitch in big bucks to replace Big Charity, which sustained more damage than the buildings involved in this project. Optimism can only take you so far: they need to drink some coffee and sober up.

I understand that it's not the reporter's job to advocate one way or another, but an informed estimate as to the likelihood of FEMA reimbursement (before the city's commits) wouldn't be advocacy.

Finally, this wouldn't be a Moldy City post if I didn't ask a few questions of my own. Will the complex have bombproof garbage cans? Will Billboard Ben have a say in the new complex's plumbing contract?

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Remember This Advice From Charleston?

Save the heritage that remains of New Orleans

Over the following months, even years, as Charleston pulled herself back together, we learned that ironically, a historic community's greatest threat may not be the storm itself, but rather the often short-sighted, economically driven redevelopment that can follow. Insurance money and government grants can do wonderful things for preservation when in responsible hands. When not, they can afford to tear down what's left of the irreplaceable.

Our historic and architectural legacy is what made Charleston the city it was before Hugo hit, and we made the commitment, as city leaders and citizen preservationists, to not accept any but the highest preservation standards in recovering from Hugo

You might recall this Times Picayune article that appeared around the same time:

No one here has really given voice to the option of saving what you've got.

The storm took away so much, I know. But now you have an even greater risk of losing what's left in the redevelopment process."

The advice was specifically limited to historic architecture, but it would certainly seem fair to say that it has more general implications. While I don't pretend to have anything new to add to the old discussion about saving what should be saved while changing what needs to changed, it does seem that opening up the decision making process now would minimize the recriminations (for the painful decisions that need to be made) that are to certain to come later. I certainly know that the answer isn't to just fall into lockstep behind a mayor who seems particularly averse to sharing information. I should point out that Howell's views have not changed much since the beginning of the year (updated link pdf). It's been nine months since Katrina, the mayor's been out of town at least three times that had absolutely nothing--nothing, zero, donut hole--to do with city business, I think that it's time for Howell to get past the Hobbesianism. It's certainly time to get past the emergency powers.

That's not just sour grapes over the election and today's inauguration. It's been two full days (but time for three nights' evening news) since the announcement of the city's redevelopment plan. Somehow, I have yet to hear word one from the administration or question one from the media about the remaining 47 percent:

About 53 percent of the project's financing would be private. Developers now need to work with public agencies, explore tax credit projects, approach foundations and seek additional investors to put together the rest

I'd happily move on to other topics if the mayor started sharing information or the press started asking questions.

Actually, I do have reason to be optimistic on that last point--three reasons, in fact, and I'm gonna share them with you:

Reason number one: As head of the city's "100 day" panel Rob Couhig promised to make transparency his first priority.

Reason number two: Couhig added that, " My goal at the end of the 100 days is that... (and) that there is better understanding for what the future portends in the city of New Orleans"

Reason number three: Couhig...whatever.

A couple of closing notes:

It would be wrong to mention historic preservation without mentioning a recent city council decision:

The debate was longer and more emotional this time, but the New Orleans City Council's second consideration of a request to demolish a three-story, at-least-century-old wooden building at 1508 St. Charles Ave. resulted in the same decision: permission for the owners to tear it down, despite preservationists' objections.

I won't wax indignant without knowing the facts of the case, but coming from a lame duck council, one member of which called the issue, "a very tedious situation for the council and myself"...

If you're familiar with this blog, you can guess the second closing note:

One can only hope that the millions of dollars spent upgrading the building that houses city government are better spent than the hundreds of thousands (more actually) that were spent upgrading the top level personnel that run it.

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