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.

Public drunkeness and litter. Good to see they're tackling the hard issues. Actually.. this kind of a crackdown makes me close to public enemy no. 1. Not that I'm not regularly in the top ten anyway.
One more thing... why exactly is Head the yuppie preferable to Pratt the crook? Anyone?
I warned everyone about Stacy...but nobody listened. If we'd picked Shane Landry, we'd have seceeded and joined OPEC by now.
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