Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Oh Really?

From an editorial in Today's Picayune:
But the issue with the high pay for Mayor Nagin's top employees is not necessarily that city taxpayers are shelling out more than residents in larger communities, but whether New Orleanians are receiving in return the quality of service such pay deserves. Key city managers need to show that their work deserves the high pay they are receiving.

In other words, we can afford the highly paid executives if they perform well. We must have had some turnaround in the last year:
The city government isn't just broke. It's holes-in-your-pockets broke, flat-on-your-back broke, headed-to-the-poorhouse broke. With much of the tax base gone, it's hard to see how City Hall will pay for all the services necessary to get New Orleans functioning.

Under these circumstances, local officials and legislators should of course be figuring out how to trim any fat out of city government.

That was from an editorial that appeared almost a year ago, one can't help but wonder what happened since.

In October, we read that Oliver Thomas called for electricians to do volunteer work for the city, because the city couldn't afford the competitive wages to attract electrical inspectors and, in another context, The Picayune editorialized:
New Orleans has tremendous needs -- from curbing crime to patching city streets to handling the myriad permits and paperwork for rebuilding. And the city's recovery will depend on how well its scant resources are used to meet those needs.

Apparently, the city's financial situation has improved tremendously in only three months. I guess I should just stop criticizing the mayor and the paper. Or not. The mayor and his chief recovery officer have felt the need to go a begging tour of New York and we read something else in today's paper:
RTA commissioners sat slack-jawed Monday during their monthly meeting as they listened to staffers explain the challenges associated with cleaning a bus -- inside and out -- with a skeleton crew of about a half dozen laborers and a single pressure washer.

Today's editorial noted that public services "have been found wanting since Katrina." Maybe, instead of looking at the top executives, we should be spending less on executives and more on manpower and equipment.

The editorial writers at The Picayune have a slightly different perspective:
The mayor has not indicated whether he plans to pursue further pay raises for his top aides. But for the sake of the city's taxpayers, City Council members should seek a case-by-case justification if he chooses to do so.

Have they gone loony? The only sane response to such a proposal would be to burst into laughter.

Gordon Russell's report on executive pay.
People Get Ready: Quiett declined to comment

Talking Points

The other day I wrote:
I sometimes think that New Orleans bloggers (myself certainly included) don't emphasize key points often enough because they don't want to repeat what somebody else has already said.

In a televised interview Joe Lieberman said that we've spent over $100B on Katrina relief, unfortunately, I can't find a transcript to link.

Now da po'blog points out that Bush is saying:
Well, I gave a speech that I thought was necessary to give. On the other hand, I had been talking a lot about Katrina and about the fact that I worked with the Congress to get about $110 billion sent down to both Mississippi and Louisiana to help them on their reconstruction efforts.

That goes beyond spin. The $110B includes $20B to fund the federal flood insurance program, something that people around the country rely on. The actual flood insurance payouts were mandatory. Of course, the remaining $90B is misleading -- inflated contracts to politically connected firms, repairs to damaged military bases, reimbursement to school districts that took in evacuees, etc.-- and some of it went to Gulf States other than Louisiana and Mississippi.

I'd have a lot more respect for DINO-hunting northern liberal bloggers if they ever said anything about that lie. I did email a few links to DPB almost a year ago, didn't think it would be cool to pimp my own blog.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Maybe Nothing

I saw a copy of that counter letter that was in the news earlier this month.

Something that had little bearing on the case at hand caught my eye:
S & J Consulting, LLC. is exploring the development of the city square bounded by Poydras Street, Loyola Avenue,Perdido Street and Rampart Street in the City of New Orleans. It is anticipated that S & J Consulting, LLC. will participate as a development partner with other developers to be determined to acquire all parcels located within the square and develop said parcels.

The managing partners of S & J Consulting, LLC., Stanford P. Barré and Roy J. Rodney, Jr., further agree that as S & J Consulting, LLC. becomes involved in additional business ventures, this counter letter will be amended and supplemented to include and describe all such business ventures.

Like I said, maybe nothing.

Sunday, January 28, 2007


From the T/P's January 25th, editorial:
In her efforts to deflect growing criticism about the program's slow progress, the governor says Louisianians would already have received their checks if federal funds had not been delivered "six months late."

The state did not receive the final appropriation to pay for the program until early July, but that should have given the Blanco administration more time to get ready to distribute the money. Instead, almost seven months later, only 258 homeowners have received Road Home grants.

With that record, the governor's finger pointing is dishonest.

The editorial doesn't make it exactly clear that Mississippi received its money six months before Louisiana, but I suppose that most readers can infer that or remember it from a John Maginnis column that appeared almost four months ago. There are also some questionable assumptions in that second paragraph, but my my point isn't to defend Governor Blanco.

On the previous day, The Picayune ran an editorial about the Nagin administration's clumsy attempt to over bill the federal government. Any guesses what word didn't appear in that editorial? No synonyms for dishonest either. I'm sure that the paper's op-ed writers wouldn't pull their punches like that, if they bothered to write about the landfill deal at all. None of them wrote about the city's attempt to over bill the feds for overtime either.

I don't know if there's any connection, but something interesting appeared in yesterday's paper:
The agency wants to immediately move billions of relief dollars sitting idle in state accounts to the parishes and local agencies that have applied for it, so long as the federal government is willing to accept oversight of the project expenditures.


Now Col. Jeff Smith, acting director of the state homeland security office, is preparing a letter to FEMA Director David Paulison proposing that the state pass the remaining $2.5 billion in obligated FEMA money to the local agencies without delay, said Mark Smith, spokesman for the state office. In doing so, Jeff Smith would ask the federal agency for a waiver that would hold Louisiana harmless if local agencies misappropriated or spent money outside federal guidelines. Under the current system, if money is not spent properly under federal rules, the state would be on the hook to pay it back, Mark Smith said.

"With the waiver, the federal government becomes responsible for oversight, and the parishes would get all their money in one shot," Smith said.

The infusion of cash would be a boost to local governments. FEMA's reaction, however, remains in doubt.

FEMA press secretary Aaron Walker said his agency had not received the request from Louisiana officials. He quoted the state's agreement with FEMA, which says, "the State is responsible for implementing and monitoring the grants awarded under the Public Assistance program."

Of course, that wouldn't be an excuse for the slow pace of Road Home program.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

"We Both Get Up Very Early in the Morning"

An article buried in the metro section of Wednesday's paper reported that Ed Blakely accepted two new jobs last year:
The Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, a Massachusetts-based think tank, said Edward Blakely was hired as a research fellow for 2006-07. Blakely, who officially started his work in New Orleans this month, was hired last fall to look at how cities, through planning, can "adapt to climate change," the group said.

James Ross, a spokesman for Mayor Ray Nagin's office, said Blakely would not be available for comment Tuesday and that the city would have no immediate comment. Blakely's yearly salary with the city is expected to be about $150,000, he said.

It will be up to Blakely to decide how much time he spends on the climate research, though a finished product, including new planning tools and modeling, is expected by fall, said Anthony Flint, the institute's public affairs manager. Flint said he expected New Orleans to be a part of the research, which could have implications for coastal cities.

In addition to the job with the Lincoln Institute, WRNO reported a rumor that Blakely's also accepted a teaching position at UNO. Rob Couhig asked Donna Addkison, chief development officer for planning and development for the City of New Orleans, about Blakely's ability to handle the workload. Addkison neither confirmed nor denied the reported UNO position, but said that Blakely seems a lot like her -- they both get up very early in the morning and go to bed very late at night. It wouldn't surprise her in the least if Blakely could handle such a workload.

The interview can be found on the on demand part of WRNO's website, 7a-8a-1/24/07.

Something You Won't Read in The Dead Pelican

I didn't see this when it was posted at Acadiana and SW Louisiana Democrats last month:
The Baton Rouge Advocate reported on Tuesday that the national Republican Slime Machine has opened its Louisiana franchise with the stated goal of gaining GOP control of the Louisiana Legislature in the 2007 elections.

The group tips its hand by all but naming itself after Tom DeLay's disgraced operation. The operating moniker: "The Louisiana Committee for a Republican Majority."

New Orleans developer cum post-Katrina land-grabber Joseph Canizaro is the head of the group, but it's clear that this is the Louisiana version of the national operation that was so successful in the earlier portion of this decade but which has fallen on harder times in 2006. Canizaro is a Bush Pioneer.

That obviously calls to mind the Oyster-Adrastos theory; without rehashing that, I'll note one item in the Advocate story mentioned above:
Headed by New Orleans developer Joseph Canizaro, the committee already has more than $600,000 in the bank, with a goal of $2.5 million by candidate qualifying.

Baton Rouge-based companies and individuals; including The Shaw Group and Mockler Beverage; are among the donors.

When no-bid contracts and reconstruction fraud were briefly mentioned in last month's news, conservative bloggers played up The Shaw Group's connections to the state Democratic Party. The Dead Pelican even linked to a Torygraph story that prominently featured a photograph of Kathleen Blanco. While it would be dishonest to deny (Shaw CEO) Jim Bernhard's past involvement in the La. Democratic party, it's equally dishonest for conservatives to ignore the fact that the Shaw Group's* campaign contributions have always been evenly split between the two parties and that the Shaw Group employs's Joseph Allbaugh's lobbying firm.

While I'm on the subject, I'll once again ask if it's possible to find film or video of local TV stations' election coverage. On the night of the election, Jeff Crouere clearly stated that the White House told the Greater New Orleans Republicans that Nagin was its candidate. As a former GNOR treasurer, Crouere would be in a position to know. I don't want this to sound more critical than it should, but my only objection to the Oyster/Adrastos theory was that it left out The White House. Though a comment I made about Alphonso Jackson trying to help Nagin might have been over-the-top, Bush did have obvious reasons for wanting to see Nagin reelected. To the rest of the country, Louisiana Republicans behaving behaving badly seems more like LOUISIANA Republicans behaving badly than Louisiana REPUBLICANS behaving badly.

FWIW, I would have posted this a few weeks ago, but I had hoped to finish touching up a blogger New Year's resolution post about talking points that the early January murders caused me to put off before writing this. I sometimes think that New Orleans bloggers (myself certainly included) don't emphasize key points often enough because they don't want to repeat what somebody else has already said. If you give credit, it's not poaching. This was an entirely partisan talking point*, but the principle applies even to New Orleans bloggers who prefer to stay away from party politics -- assuming it's possible to keep politics out of any reconstruction discussions. Also, it seems that conservative bloggers who used to criticize the sate,local and federal governments have lost all desire to criticize the federal government.

*The other three companies in the article contribute almost exclusively to Republican candidates and PACs. It's not an entirely partisan point, conservatives often use The Shaw Group's connections to the Louisiana Democratic Party to imply that all aid to the state is wasted, while ignoring Haley Barbour's ties to companies like Ash-Britt.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Wake Up, Watchdog

Warning: The following may seem like bragging to some readers.

Times Picayune editorial, June 24, 2007 (correction: Jan. 24, 2007):
But the real loss here isn't $860,000 -- it's the damage to the city's image. New Orleans needs continued federal help to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Any effort to game the system hurts our credibility and only confirms people's worst opinions about New Orleans and Louisiana.

Homeland Security decided to conduct this audit after U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling questioned the landfill deal as wasteful. He's the Texas Republican who blasted state and local officials after a visit here, saying that they want a big federal handout without taking any responsibility or showing accountability.

City officials should not give ammunition to the Rep. Hensarlings of the world, but unfortunately, that's exactly what this deal has become. It was even featured on the NBC Nightly News, on a segment called "The Fleecing of America."

Moldy City, May 28, 2006:
Before getting into the particulars of why I think that Nagin is quite possibly as corrupt as any of his predecessors, let me explain why I believe that it's important to watch the mayor like a hawk. Billions of dollars in federal money will be flowing through the city, you can bet that federal officials will be watching that money very carefully--if only to be able to blame any waste and corruption on the local guys... If you think that taking a Chinese monkey attitude toward any questionable contract decisions that Nagin makes will keep the Tom Tancredo types from noticing, you make Pollyanna look like Diogenes.
I certainly think that it's fair to say that, since the entire nation is watching, the mayor needs to, at the very least, pay more attention to the appearance of impropriety.

I picked the wrong congressman. Other than that, it was entirely predictable.

In two earlier posts, when I referred to the T/P as a cowardly watchdog, I suggested that the editors of the Picayune consider something from one of their own editorials:
But New Orleanians shouldn't have to count on the feds and the state to make city government run cleanly and efficiently.

I still don't think they're ready to assume the watchdog role. Back in November, there were two disputes between federal and local officials; James Gill didn't write about the one involving potential fraud.

Thanks, LABI

If you think State Farm's agreement to pay off hundred of millions of dollars of homeowners' claims is good news for Louisiana, think again. As Business Week puts it:
Joseph Bruno, a lawyer who represents 4,500 homeowners in the New Orleans area, said insurers and policyholders there are settling hundreds of cases individually. But a mass settlement like Mississippi's is less likely in Louisiana, he said, because punitive damages aren't allowed under state law and the companies aren't facing a criminal investigation there.

Punitive damages were allowed in Louisiana until 1996, when Mike Foster floor leader and LABI member F. Charles McMains authored a tort reform bill that outlawed them. Don't expect that law to be repealed any time soon. Austin Baudoin has introduced a bill to do just that, but LABI's working very hard to defeat such bad bills. As (no-longer blogging) N.O. blogger Timshel put it:
When lobbying groups like LABI call someone anti-business it usually means that they don't sufficiently support "tort reform," tax-breaks and/or outright subsidies for business, and lax environmental standards,

I wish I had started reading New Orleans blogs before the federal flood*.

There is a second part to that equation: "the companies aren't facing a criminal investigation there." Maybe Charles Foti should stop playing God.

*According to a commenter at Jeffrey's, in England it's (more correctly) referred to as the flood, rather than the hurricane.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More "Recommendations for Support," I Suppose

Back in November, FEMA thought that some of the city's requests involving overtime spending were somewhat suspect:
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.

However, the Nagin administration said not to worry:
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."

Now that the Feds are questioning a ridiculous landfill deal, about which da po'blog has more, the mayor's spokeswoman is strangely...silent.

When FEMA conducted its November review, I said that the city needed an independent outside audit no matter what the costs, -- about three times what the city council voted to spend developing portable toilet seats -- and a serious recall effort, I really believe that now.

I've also thought that Nagin's "FEMA will pay for it" comment (about the expensive car removal contracts) would come back to haunt the city long after "Chocolate City" was forgotten. I don't know if that statement gave anybody in the federal government any ideas, but you don't talk about it publicly when you're scamming. At any rate, that statement is bound to be repeated if the city ever requests more aid from Washington.

On the other hand, I suppose that we should be happy that Nagin spends so much time traveling. When he stays home to try to run the city, he does things that give people like Jeb Hensarling orgasms.

Monday, January 22, 2007

They Really Don't Know

My job in the serials department of a local university library involves claiming missed issues. As everyone in the area knows, mail service, especially for periodicals, was interrupted well into 2006. Needless to say, many issues of most journals were missed.

Anyway, the sales rep for a large distributor forwarded us the following mail that she received from a the editor of a small magazine in Massachusetts:
As you can see there are a shocking number of missing issues from the libraries you handle. Either addresses are incomplete and the magazines are not getting to the correct individuals or there is a large amount of "lifting" of our magazine. It seems statistically impossible for the post office to be this bad, especially as our other subscribers don't miss issues except where they have moved.

--- paragraph with identifying details deleted---

In any case, we will supply missing issues for 2006 as supply lasts--for $5 each.

My initial reaction wasn't printable, but it is a small magazine that's probably not profitable. The sales rep (for the distributor) also forwarded her response which explained that mail service in New Orleans was interrupted for months after the hurricane.

I know that we received some of the missed issues, I'm not sure whether we've received all of them. At any rate that wasn't the point. Just a small example of how much people don't realize.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

He Didn't Call it a Desperate Measure at the Time

Remember that "very favorable" line of credit that the mayor announced during the election? Apparently Ed Blakely convinced him that it wasn't such a good deal after all:
Blakely... revealed Wednesday that the city has abandoned its plans to pursue a $150 million line of credit that Nagin announced with great fanfare in May in the final days of his re-election campaign.

Under the proposal, four participating banks stood to earn $3.75 million in upfront fees whether the city drew down on the loan or not.

Financial analysts also noted that the proposed interest rate of 6 percent was substantially higher than most cities are paying for a line of credit...

Blakely said the Nagin administration walked away from what he described as a bad deal at his urging.

"We want to borrow the lowest possible amount and pay it back in the shortest possible time," he said. "And I think we can find something more competitive. At the time the mayor went after the (previous) line of credit, the city was desperate."

I'm glad that Blakely's earning his keep, but the mayor did describe the terms of the loan as very favorable. I can also understand that the election caused the mayor to sugarcoat things, although that alone would be another reason to stop treating the mayor as a non-politician whose honesty and candor often get him into trouble. It might be hard to remember now, but during the weeks leading up to the election, even observers as astute as James Gill Stephanie Grace described the mayor that way.

However, even three months after the election, Nagin still bristled when questioned about the loan:
"That got caught up in post-election politics," Nagin said. "We were in front of the Bond Commission, and certain individuals showed up that had not participated in the commission in a long time and started raising all these questions about the upfront fees, and it got placed on hold."

I have no idea whether some Nagin crony was in line for a commission on the loan or if Nagin was merely reacting like a child whose toy had been taken away. It doesn't matter. Just remember that statement of Nagin's whenever city finances are discussed. Yeah, he's really going to stretch every limited dollar to make the city better.

In a related matter, a humvee would be a big improvement over my bike and public transit. But I'd have trouble affording the gas, let alone the car note.

A better analogy might be if I were married and my wife and I had an affordable lease that was due to expire. If in the months leading up to the expiration of the lease I kept telling my wife that I was due to get a promotion that would cause my income to explode allowing us to a luxury apartment, she'd certainly say that we should wait for the promotion before getting the luxury apartment. A second argument over whether the new apartment was really an improvement could wait. If I let the old lease expire, it wouldn't matter how nice the new apartment turned out to be. My wife and I would still be broke and she'd have that much more reason to distrust me, at least where finances were concerned.

Two silly analogies, but the point is clear. During the debate over garbage collection, I thought that the argument over whether the automated service would work was the wrong argument. Or the right argument at the wrong time. Yesterday's article on the subject was beside the point. And I'll say it one more time, The Times Picayune brought up campaign contributions to judges when it covered continuing legal education. The mayor himself brought up Landrieu's campaign donors during the election. But nobody mentions the fact that the two biggest contracts went to two of the mayor's biggest campaign donors.

Monday, January 15, 2007

Breaking News

The mayor announced a major policy shift today, saying: "We're gonna rub every nickel we've got together, stretch every limited dollar, to make this city better, safer, stronger..." Details of the mayor's new plan can be found on the city's accountability matrix.

In all honesty, the mayor gave a good speech today. As written, it was a very good speech about Martin Luther King and New Orleans. However, I almost didn't watch it, because, as delivered, the beginning of the speech was all about Ray Nagin. It even began with the same stale and dishonest jokes about reading speeches and staying on script. I expect the mayor to keep insisting that he went off script last year, but I have no idea why local news reporters continue to go along with that conceit -- one station even reported that Nagin adlibbed it.

It's possible that I'm being too harsh on the mayor, but read the Scuttlebutt page of last week's Gambit. You'll find three separate items on increased racial tensions in post-Katrina New Orleans, but no mention of who's benefited the most from those increased tensions. I do sometimes wonder how many people remeber how much the words of Nagin ally Jimmy Reiss contributed to increased racial polarization that ultimately helped Nagin. So did Nagin's own mishandling of the FEMA trailer placement issue.* For that matter, so did the election lawsuit filed by enemy-turned-ally Rob Couhig. An excess of luck and a shortage of conscience can take you far in this world.

*Yeah, I've ranted about NIMBY dozens of times before, but, due to Nagin's speech, I'll probably rant about both that and city finances once more this week.

Second Thoughts: "Very good" was probably too kind in the analysis above. I was struck by contrast between what I read online and what I heard on TV. Can anybody still stand the tired humor about reading scripts and the even more tired paranoid egocentrism? I was overly impressed by its absence from the prepared text.

Blaming the Victim?

It's a bit of a stretch to call Mary Landrieu a victim, but it is amusing to see the reaction of famed DINO hunter Atrios (and some other liberal bloggers) to the latest example of Joe Lieberman's perfidy:
Bush's Best Democratic Buddy
Joe Lieberman gives the president a pass on Katrina.

Prior to his re-election, Lieberman called for investigation of the federal governments role in the Katrina crisis and Mary Landrieu campaigned for Lieberman. Now that he's been re-elected, Lieberman's changed his mind. So does Atrios blast Lieberman on this issue? Does he even call for Landrieu to respond (as oyster does)? Not exactly. Instead he gives us:
Great Job Mary Landrieu!

Certainly doing what's best for the people of your state.

Landrieu Memories

Nice judgment, senator!

What a dipshit! He seems to be forgetting who elected Lieberman. Atrios has put up several posts blasting Lieberman for his support of the troop surge, but I've yet to see one saying:
Great Job Connecticut

I'm not the first to note the contrast between the liberal web's portrayal of Landrieu as a closet Republican and Louisiana Republicans' portrayal of Landrieu as a baby-murdering socialist, but does Atrios even realize that Landrieu's supposed liberalism was cited as a reason to vote against her brother in our recent mayoral election? He probably doesn't care. Whatever, it's utterly absurd for a Philadelphia blogger to blame a Louisiana senator for the actions of a Connecticut senator. Personally, I'd like to see a more liberal Democrat in Landrieu's seat, but it ain't gonna happen.

However, yesterday on Meet The Press, a Nebraska Republican did put the Connecticut Independent in his place.

Second Thoughts: I Don't want tone down the above too much. Two months ago, when posting on William Jefferson, I was struck by something on one of the links that made to The Black Commentator:
They bowed to George Bush's declaration of permanent, unilateral war for no remotely defensible reason. Their fear is self-generated, automatic.

Ford, Jefferson and Wynn represent safe, solid Black-majority districts, dependably anti-war and anti-Bush. Only Bishop's district is less than majority-Black, although it is also considered safely Democratic.

At the time I thought that was a consideration that some on the liberal web seem to forget; i specifically thought of the difference in some of the posts I had seen at Atrios and at Daily Kos. I can certainly understand the point of view at My Left Nutmeg, but Atrios took two swipes at Landrieu for Lieberman's vote in the space of two hours Saturday night, with only one other post in between.

Atrios didn't even call on Landrieu to demand that Lieberman keep his word. I'd like to think that's she pressuring Lieberman privately, but if that doesn't work, she should be prepared to do so publicly. With that in mind...

Lastly, the above is an example of the pitfalls of posting from memory without checking your facts. Landrieu was one of the few national Democrats to support Lieberman in the general election, the leadership that I recalled supporting Lieberman supported him in the primary. Of course, the support of national Democrats for Lieberman in the primary made their support for Lamont in the general election meaningless.

One More Update:

On the same day that I posted the above, A conservative Louisiana blogger ran a post with the title:

Landrieu lies cannot cover up liberal voting record

I know that the Connecticut bloggers cited are angry because of Landrieu's support of Lieberman; I understand that. The post wasn't directed at them.

Test Post

Blogger wouldn't let me save; a medium length post with several links just vanished. Let's see if it will let me publish.

Friday, January 12, 2007

The One Thing

After listening to Rob Couhig (see Wednesday's post), say that Nagin told him, at the start of his second term, that crime was the one thing he cared most about, I decided to see just how much attention crime received in the mayor's 100 day announcements. Crime was mentioned in passing but, after the promised transparency, housing received the most attention. However, Nagin apparently already had big spending plans in mind:
At a news conference Sunday, Nagin further said he will spearhead an aggressive effort to get trash off city streets. He said his administration will seek new proposals for a garbage collection contract that would divide the city into three zones to expedite clean-up.

So while the mayor was telling Couhig that crime was the one thing he cared most about, he was already making plans to award "very lucrative" (the mayor's words) to two of his biggest campaign donors.

In fairness to Couhig, it's quite possible that Couhig's memory combined a conversation from the start of the second term with one that occurred after the city's first second term crime wave. Whatever the case, the conversation wasn't followed by any action. How many crime waves are we up to in just the second term? If we had that promised transparency that Couhig promised us, we might have more resources available for crime fighting. Isn't it time for Couhig to be man enough to admit that he was duped and demand that the mayor deliver on that promised accountability? Instead he uses his talk show to make excuses for the mayor.

More importantly, Nagin may have been talking to Couhig about crime but he was already making plans to for a broke city to spend much, much more on garbage collection. During the election, Nagin talked about improved sanitation but he didn't reveal any of the details that he had apparently already worked out, why? Probably because the local media might have asked about Nagin's campaign contributions. Why did he wait until the end of the Summer to reveal any more details? Because by the time he revealed the details, the city council had "no choice" but to approve the contracts. Millions are now gone that could have been spent elsewhere, like on anti-crime measures. I have no idea whether the mayor was motivated by a desire to help his campaign donors, or inspired by Kimberly Williamsom Butler or if God told him that we needed to spend more on garbage collection, the fact is the mayor was more interested in making the city look like Disneyland than making the city safe. The crime may have been inevitable, the inaction wasn't. There was a direct connection between what Rob Couhig and Ray Nagin had to say in May, and what Karen Gadbois and Bart Everson had to say in January.

Finally, I can't write that much about the sanitation contracts without mentioning the elephant in this week's Picayune. The Times Picayune mentioned Metro Disposal, and, for that matter, Roy Rodney in articles about a corruption and Morial associates. You know man, for a paper that's out to get Nagin, The Picayune isn't throwing a lot of elbows. You know man, I'm just saying.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

He's Nuts

I'm not just talking about everybody's favorite alpha male manque, I'm also talking about Bush supporter Stephen Sabludowsky (yeah that Sabludowsky):
Bush sees the Iranian nuclear threat, knows that Syria has destabilized Lebanon and Israel while funding the Hezbollah. He knows that Iran has threatened to destroy Israel and could put moderate Arabs at risk.
However, there is method to his madness. Bush is taking on radical Islam. He is ensuring the Middle East is not being threatened by Iranian nukes. And, unfortunately, he is doing it alone since to be obvious would shut down his ultimate goal—to stabilize the Middle East through the threat of force and if necessary, by force itself.

His sane colleague at BayouBias doesn't want the GOP to move toward the center.

On the opposite end of the sanity spectrum, Becky Houtman had a post about rebuilding last Saturday that might get overlooked because of the crime issue. It shouldn't be.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

No Snark, No Sarcasm

Though I'm sorely tempted, I'll just make a couple of suggestions.

First suggestion:

If you want snark, listen to Rob Couhig and you'll have no trouble providing your own. This takes a little scrolling and clicking, click on WRNO audio on demand, scroll down to:
Rob & Bo - 7a to 8a - 1/10/07
Former NOPD chief Richard Pennington's reaction to Mayor Nagin's anti-crime plan.

and click listen. At about the six minute point, Couhig says that when he first went to work for the mayor, as a volunteer, he asked the mayor what the one thing he cared most about was. Couhig says that without batting an eyelash, the mayor said crime, man we've got to get this crime under control. Okay, I threw in the "man," and Couhig says that the conversation took place in June, but he also stresses that it took place at the beginning of the mayor's new term. We're supposed to believe that getting crime under control has been the mayor's top concern all along. Like I said, supply your own snark.

Second suggestion:

I know nobody cares about wonkery right now, but please consider my Tuesday night post and mominem's comment:
A called who identified himself as a NOPD officer assigned to the Quarter said he had been told the actual number of officers was more like 900. The Chief denied it and the rattles off the numbers including 100+ officers out sick, 80-100 administrative duties and 80-100 command staff.

I can't make tomorrow's march, but to anyone who does go or otherwise gets to talk to the mayor or any city council members, please ask two simple questions. First ask if they think laying off nearly 300 police department civilian employees didn't have any effect on the effectiveness of the remaining police officers. Then ask, if the city council can find $300K to hire nine new council staffers, then why the fuck can't it find $3M to rehire 90 civilian NOPD employees? Rehiring civilian employees to put those administrative officers back on the street shouldn't have any of the delays or uncertainty of recruiting and training new police officers. If nobody from the city can answer that question, the claim that the city is throwing everything it has at the crime problem is pure bullshit.

BTW, Lolis Eric Elie is wrong about one thing in an otherwise excellent column:
I don't believe that the mayor, the police superintendent and the City Council are neglecting the problem of crime. I just think they don't know what to do.

He's certainly right about the mayor and council not knowing what to do. But if this isn't neglect, what is?

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Boston Legal in New Orleans?

Not exactly a PSA, bit I've got to see this:
"Angel of Death"
Tuesday, January 9 @ 10/9c

Denny Crane and Alan Shore, joined by ambitious new attorney Vanessa Walker (Nia Long), head to New Orleans to defend a doctor accused of euthanizing patients during Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile Claire Simms' new secretary, the cross-dressing Clarence, wants to file a lawsuit when he's kicked out of an all-women's gym, and Denise Bauer weighs the pros and cons of dating Jeffrey Coho.

That's on ABC. It can't be as funny as Bones.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Manpower Questions

I've been debating whether to post yet another time about police manpower and the city budget all weekend. When I left work Friday, it seemed like a no-brainer. On Thursday the mayor's op-ed piece let us know that, as Schroeder said, the mayor's "recovery plan is to 'await funding that has been promised to the city' so that the city can get 'its house in order.'" When the following day brought more internet discussion of the Endymion controversy, I was ready to write a snarky, preachy piece about not expecting Endymion back in mid-city (out of uptown, if you prefer) until people were ready to ask serious questions. It's one thing to use a parade controversy as an excuse to jump on your favorite soapbox, another to use real tragedy. Also, I wouldn't be arrogant enough to pretend to have the answers to the city's crime problems or simplistic enough to think that more police patrols alone can solve the problems. However, there are serious questions that need serious answers. Not utterly ridiculous answers that only the "Nagin hating" media would take seriously.

For example, how many active duty officers does the NOPD realistically expect to have at the end of the year? I doubt that any members of the city council have the faintest idea how many the city's budgeted for. Everything I've read indicates that Nagin's stated goal of a 1600 officer force is pure rhetoric. An article that mentions the 1600 officer goal, also states that to meet the goal, the police academy will need to graduate 200 officers a year for the next three years. The academy's first post-Katrina class has 41 recruits, but, as the article states, not all of them will graduate. It would seem that the city has some catching up to do.

Not exactly. An October Times Picayune article stated that:
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...

The two goals seem somewhat contradictory. A couple of things worth noting, for one the article made it clear that meeting the smaller goal -- to hire enough to accommodate for normal attrition rates would be difficult to meet; not only because the city has cut the number of civil service employees handling NOPD applications from two down to one. Also, it's extremely doubtful that the city can expect normal attrition rates:
Police officers' morale has plummeted, Nagin said, since a grand jury indicted seven current and former officers last week on murder and attempted-
murder charges, stemming from a shooting episode on Danziger Bridge a week after Hurricane Katrina. In announcing the indictments, Jordan said officers cannot be allowed to "shoot and kill our citizens without justification, like rabid dogs."

Talk of beefing up the police force is clearly just talk.

A 1400 officer force might be more appropriate to city's new size than a 1600 officer force, if the 1400 figure weren't misleading. For one thing, over 100 of those officers are out on sick leave. In October, we were told that out of 1425 officers, 109 were out on sick leave. In Sunday's Picayune we were told that the force had 1401 officers -- including the 41 recruits -- with 114 out on sick leave. Even with the new recruits, the police force is losing officers. I believe the sick leave figures refer to officers on long term leave, if so, the trend isn't good even if the difference is small. If it does refer to officers out on long term sick leave, that raises one set of question. If that many officers are calling in sick on average day, it's even more worrisome.

It goes beyond that. I'll admit that I was wrong (somewhat) in June when I speculated that the numbers were fabricated, but I was right that they were misleading. Schroeder commented that he heard that police officers were assigned to duties that had been handled by civilian employees. That would stand to reason, the nearly 300 police department positions eliminated in the 2005 layoffs were all civilian positions. If a police department eliminates nearly half of its civilian positions, one would expect it to have some effect on patrol levels or overall effectiveness. Indeed, WWL would later report that, due to officers out on medical leave or engaged in what had been civilian duties, the number of active duty officers was closer to 1100. The rest of the negative local media failed to follow up on the story.

I have no idea how many more officers than usual are performing civilian duties, frankly, I shouldn't need to ask. Whatever the number, it's a ridiculous way to cut costs. As underpaid as police officers are, they do get paid more than desk clerks. Also, recruiting and training police officers is a costly, time consuming process, new office personnel can be trained and put to work in no time. If the mayor and city council were serious about spending priorities, the majority of police officers that have been re-assigned to desk duties would be back on the streets in a matter of days.

Mark at Wet Bank Guide has some good ideas on the subject. I agree with him about the curfew being needless, but would disagree with most of the people at yesterday's meeting -- I think that temporarily bringing back the state of emergency would be a good idea. It would make it far easier to reassign civil service employees and restructure the budget.

Adrastos has a recap of local blogger reactions to the crime wave. Twice.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Who Lost New Orleans

Recent events have made me think of a Feiffer cartoon that my older brother had in his room when I was a kid. I could only find the first two panels online (available here) but did find a good description:
Most of the chiefs are brought together in one memorable cartoon entitled, "Who Lost Viet Nam?" "Not I," answers Ike, "I just sent money." "Not I," says Jack, "I just sent advisors." "Not I," says Lyndon, "I just followed Jack." "Not I," says Dick, "I just honored Jack and Lyndon's commitments." "Not I," says Jerry, "What was the question?" And in the concluding panel, clutching a paper marked SECRET, appears Henry Kissinger, pointing an accusing finger at the reader, as he opines, "YOU lost VietNam, because you didn't trust your leaders."

Since I can barely draw stick figures, I won't attempt a New Orleans version. It's easy enough to imagine a "Who Lost New Orleans?" cartoon drawn five years from now, two years into a Thomas administration. Instead of Nagin and preceding mayors, the first few panels would be Nagin, Blanco, Bush, and Michael Brown saying things like, "Man, I didn't sign on for this," but what would Oliver Thomas say in the second to last caption? "Don't blame me, the city I inherited was already lost?" So why doesn't he do more as council president, now?

And who would point the accusing finger at the end? Robert Mendoza, saying, "You lost New Orleans, because you didn't clean your catch basins?" I don't think so.Warren Riley saying, "You lost New Orleans, because you didn't talk to the police," would come close. But if I drew such a cartoon, the concluding panel would show Rob Couhig clutching a paper with "SECRET" stamped over the words "Transparency" and "Accountability," pointing an accusing finger at the reader as he says, "You lost New Orleans, because you were stuck in pre-Katrina thinking."

David's Corollary

To Hanlon's Razor.

Hanlon's Razor:
Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

David's Corrollary:
Hanlon's Razor does not apply to demands for written FOIA requests.

That's part of the reason why I'm so much harder on the mayor than the governor, but I certainly agree that incompetence is a lousy excuse.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Go Negative

I decided to delete a post with this title last week, because of a short-lived resolution to be more positive or something. But something I read at Dambala's made me change my mind. I don't think that anything will get the mayor's attention, but something does have to be done to get the attention of the rest of city's leadership. That post is permanently deleted, but it was just a re-edited version of some comments I've made here and elsewhere.

On Ashley's blog:
I respect your point of view, but I disagree with parts of it. I think that more people need to say exactly why they're leaving, if only to expose the "buy New Orleans dirt" tour for the farce that it is. The mayor's a joke, but the T/P's editorial and op-ed writers refuse to criticize him as much as Blanco (I don't think they criticize Blanco too much) and Oliver Thomas refuses to provide the leadership that only he's in a position to provide. Something's got to make him stop waiting to inherit the throne and start rocking the boat now (yeah I know, mixed metaphor). As it is, the people on Howard Ave and on Poydras seem to take complaints about Nagin by people who plan on staying as harmless venting. I agree that people who've given up on N.O. shouldn't whine about it, they should shout about it.

And on this blog:
I hope you're not taking the "stop complaining, just shut up and leave" attitude of Poppy Z Brite, Chris Rose and some bloggers. I doubt it, it doesn't seem like you. I can understand that attitude, but I think it's misguided. I explained part of the reason here.

Beyond that, I can't speak for anybody else, but if other "complainers" are like me, they're hoping to be told why specific complaints are incorrect or overstated, not that they're wrong to complain at all. If anybody thinks it was wrong of me to complain that I was ready to move two months ago because nobody objected that an administration that laid off most of its workers and couldn't afford basic service chose to spend millions on pay raises for the remaining workers, most of whom were at the upper end of the pay scale at the same time that we found out that the mayor had flat lied nine months earlier when he claimed to have hired more electrical inspectors, I'd like to know why. I wasn't ready to move because the mayor (through Greg Meffert) made up wiring inspectors that were as real as faery folk, I was ready to move because of the apparent agreement not to call him a lying sack of shit.

I will say that anybody who doesn't want to hear complaints from people who are ready to give up and move better be ready to go all the way with the Sinn Fein spirit. If you've ever worked in any kind of service job, you probably got sick of the platitudes about it being better to hear the complaints, because the people who aren't happy but don't say anything will tell ten of their friends. Restaurant and retail managers take that attitude to ridiculous extremes, but it's sometimes relevant to post-Katrina N.O. Take the letter writer I quoted from last Dec., who gave up on the wait for permits and left. If he followed events in New Orleans from wherever he moved to, he probably had second thought when he read that the problem had been solved. When he found out, months later, that the mayor had made up imaginary new inspectors, he certainly felt vindicated. If he's still following events in New Orleans and sees that there still hasn't been a public outcry, he really feels vindicated. He's probably telling his new neighbors that not not only is the city's leadership inept and dishonest, but its residents are hopelessly apathetic. So go ahead and tell "whiners" to just leave and not let the door hit them on the way out. Sinn Fein, baby.

I feel that way more strongly than ever now. So if you've given up and decided to leave, do those of us who are staying a favor -- write a letter to the editor saying exactly why you've given up on the city. Call a talk radio station or email Rob Couhig (link available here) and ask him about that promised transparency and accountability.

Whether you're staying or going, if you ever meet any of the three enablers -- Tom Watson, Virginia Boulet, or Rob Couhig -- who helped Nagin get elected and lent their credibility to the 100 day smokescreen, be sure how they can continue to lend credibility to such a blatantly dishonest administration. If Nagin just keeps making shit up until that boom saves the city, that boom may never happen. Even if it does, a lot of irreparable damage will be done first.

From Today's Picayune

State Treasurer John Kennedy had an op-ed piece about one of my favorite themes:

Boom won't solve Louisiana's problems

Well, I say that about the city, and financial issues weren't his main focus, but he did write:
And what about the resources that government must divert for reconstruction? These resources often come from debt that outlives the reconstruction boom, and even if the resources come from current revenues, they mean there's less money available to spend on education, health care and job training.

That's true in spades for the city, except the city isn't spending money that comes from current revenues. Isn't it obvious by now that Nagin's whole plan is to wait for the expected boom to solve all the city's problems? Well, he does seem to have other plans. BTW, Kennedy's column didn't mention any Dutch philosophers. If he made any references to Danish philosophers, I didn't catch them.

Elsewhere in the paper, as is usually the case, the Saturday New Orleans Politics was worth reading -- no knock on any of the paper's other writers, but Bruce Eggler might be the best for this column. In today's column, we found out that a proposed crackdown on rude, disruptive heckling was heckled out of existence by Dyan Cole and Albert Clark (of course). I'm not making this up, read the article. There was also some discussion about enforcing the three minute time limit for speakers (that does seem a little short), no word on whether Bishop O.C. Coleman spoke for fifteen minutes on the subject. The man does do a good imitation of a visiting corporate vice-president or even CEO -- speaks for fifteen minutes while saying he won't give examples to back his claims because of time considerations, gently but firmly says that he doesn't expect people to have side conversations while he's speaking, etc. At least he seemed that way at the sanitation committee hearing that I later saw on cable.

For anyone curious about what the mayor's office meant about the city having 83% of its pre-Katrina hospital beds, Eggler came pretty close to calling the mayor a liar:
The Metropolitan Hospital Council found in December that New Orleans hospitals have reopened only 635 of the 2,269 staffed beds they had before the storm. That's 28 percent.
It turns out that Nagin's staff did not mean exactly what it said
Bed capacity, which refers to the total number of available beds in an area, is nowhere near 83 percent of its pre-storm level.
What the mayor's office actually meant to say was:
...the hospitals that have beds open are on average 83 percent full, though that number changes daily depending on how many patients are admitted and discharged.

Isn't long past time that the paper's editorial and op-ed writers starting saying what some of its reporters have been pointing out? If the mayor says it's a nice 70° outside, it's more likely a damp, windy 35° or a humid 95°. Of course, the Picayune would probably run an editorial giving the mayor credit for the nice 70° day. Actually, I think that even Gordon Russell and Bruce Eggler ignored the mayor's absurd claim that the city was operating on 25% of its pre-Katrina budget.


I went to see City of Hope at The Historic New Orleans Collection today, it was too crowded to look at anything very closely. Serves me right for forgetting about it until yesterday's paper reminded us that today would be the exhibit's last day. With that in mind, NOMA's ¡CARNAVAL! runs through the 21st. I suspect the January 19th T/P will run an article about the 21st being the last day, so you might want to see it before the likely to be packed last weekend. It's worth the cost of admission, at least for Louisiana residents. Seriously though, I saw it last weekend and it was interesting, not earth-shattering, but interesting. I never knew that throwing ants on people was considered fun and festive in parts of Spain, for example.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Scary Rumor

A rumor's been struck from an LSU Fan Site. The rumor is that Jesse Daniels, Trindon Holliday and maybe RJ Francois have been suspended for selling their game tickets. Daniels would be huge. It's just a rumor, but bear it in mind if you're thinking about betting LSU and spotting the points. BTW, the rumor's already out there, I wouldn't post this otherwise. But if I made a bet and then heard the rumor... Actually, I (almost) never bet when I care about the outcome and rarely bet on favorites.

Update: I hope this Shreveport Times story is more accurate.

FEMA Writes Up the Worksheets

If you didn't read the Nagin link on Sunday's post, read it and be baffled. I just heard Junior Rodriguez say (on Rob couhig'g show) that FEMA draws up the work sheets, not that it's especially important. What is important is that Nagin is either totally delusional or totally full of crap. G Bitch has much more.

Monday, January 01, 2007

N.D. Was Whiter Than White

I've linked to this before, but catch this Notre Dame Tailgate Party. I do,however, find it interesting that sports bloggers are often such fashion snobs.

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