Friday, July 27, 2007

Fact-Finding Trip

Updated 8/07/07 Something was bothering me the whole time I wrote the update -- Bienville is on the opposite side of Canal from the proposed site of the new VA hospital. Still, eminent domain could be applied to the actual hospital site, not to neighboring areas.

No posting until the week after next, I'm off to see if it's true that developers really are evil, give 'em an inch, they take a mile types. Actually, I decided on the Cove Mountain hike for non-political reasons and came across the news items later. Don't know if I'll make it to the Asheville-Hendersonville area; Bear Wallow Mountain is the next mountain over from Chimney Rock, where Last of the Mohicans was filmed. With the growth in that the area, I don't think it will be long until Chimney Rock is the site of a gated community.

I'll leave you with quotes from two local bloggers that I considered using as the start of an angry rant a few weeks ago, when my computer was broken.

I don’t care what Jim Letten does, some day Sugar Ray Nagin is going down.

I'll buy just about all of that. My only question is then does this mean we have to wait until 2010 or 2012 to see indictments of Nagin's cronies comparable to what we're seeing now with the Morial people?
In a comment at Some Come Running.


Moldy City:
Excessive secrecy can only lead to more rancor and bitterness on the part who are unhappy with those decisions and help justify charges of conspiracies or crooked insider deals.

Some recent posts by other local bloggers.

I'll have to finish the update later, can't get Squandered Heritage (now available) and a Suspect Device (now available) comic on the subject isn't available yet online.

However, if you're going to go the "conspiracy" route, it's not just Bienville. As I said, I can't get Squandered Heritage for some reason, but when I looked at Karen's postings on the subject, I wondered who had designs on Central City. I know that plans for a Jazz Park are officially on hold, but there seems to be heavy concentration of demolitions spreading out in two directions from the CBD. The area bordering the proposed park is one, the other is also interesting:
LSU and the VA have been negotiating for months to build adjoining hospitals that would share laundry and laboratory services. The sister hospitals were supposed to be built on 37 acres bounded by Tulane, Canal, Claiborne Avenue and Galvez Street
The state and the city are now trying to hold on to the VA hospital by offering 34 acres next to the original 37-acre parcel where the federal government can proceed while the state debates how large and how expensive the LSU hospital should be. The new site is bounded by Tulane, Canal, Galvez and South Rocheblave Street.
In all, the city and the state would have to acquire 188 private properties north of Galvez Street to present an unbroken piece of land where the VA could build its hospital. Nine of those properties are blighted, and several more have overdue property taxes, according to a map produced by the city's office of technology.
The city's secretiveness about its plans for the area north of Galvez Street irked the leader of the neighborhood association. Paul Ikemire said leaders from LSU, Tulane University and the VA had talked to the neighborhood about the proposed expansion, but he had heard nothing from the mayor.

"Ray Nagin is our mayor, and when the city makes an agreement with the state regarding a community, I would have thought he would be the first to contact the neighborhood association," he said.

Ikemire, a medical student, said he understands the need to retain the veterans hospital downtown. But if he had the opportunity to talk to the mayor, he said, he would have suggested that the city look at area between Tulane Avenue and Poydras Street north of the interstate as an alternative. He said that area has far more blighted and empty space than the area beyond Galvez does.

To my knowledge, the administration still hasn't offered an explanation for the move -- a proposed move that increases the likelihood of the city losing the hospital altogether.

As far as I'm concerned, needless secrecy can justify any "conspiracy" theory, but I think that most people are too afraid of sounding like conspiracy theorists. If federal prosecutors shared that fear, there'd be no RICO prosecutions. Well, that would possibly be a good thing.

Labels: , , ,

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Reinventing the Crescent

If you haven't signed the petition at the Riverfront Alliance's website, you should. I don't think it's a knee-jerk "developers are spawn-of-Satan" reaction to say:
We believe the future of our Riverfront is too important to be solely and hastily determined by any single entity or group without critical neighborhood input. As citizens we insist upon an open process and meaningful participation at the planning table.

Whether you're enthusiastic or cynical about NOBC's plans for redeveloping the riverfront, your opinion is almost certainly an uninformed one -- unless you're aware of a TV station, newspaper or radio station I haven't yet stumbled across.

I consider myself to be more informed than most, but I was surprised by an email that I was forwarded by a member of the alliance:
Dear Members and Friends:

There is a very important public presentation this Saturday, about the future of New Orleans ’ Riverfront. Some changes will be improvements for the riverfront, for sure. We hope those will be implemented. But, some proposed changes have us very concerned. That’s why, in an unprecedented move, neighborhood leaders of the Marigny, Bywater and French Quarter formed and have been meeting weekly – an aggressive meeting schedule – but we think the issue of the riverfront will likely become a very big controversy.

The city’s process, known as “Reinventing the Crescent”, has been going on for about 6 months, headed by Sean Cummings, a local developer and head of the city’s New Orleans Building Corporation, and a local architectural team, Eskew, Dumez and Ripple – but, it also involved some famous out-of-town planners and architects. Over the past months, the plans have been evolving, and revealed to the public periodically, with the last update in May. This Saturday is the final plan, except for some aspects related to the funding.

What will it reveal? We don’t know. None of the neighborhood organizations from Jackson Avenue to the Industrial Canal were invited to be on the steering committee.

One likely controversial part: We suspect, based on presentations, that the plan will include a proposal for high-rises and medium-rises in the historic Bywater neighborhood, where the Mississippi River meets the Industrial Canal , where the current military base is to eventually be decommissioned. We have seen drawings with as many as six towers in this one spot – appearing like “Land of the Giants” alongside the historic Bywater neighborhood.

While we have had opportunities in this process to listen to presentations, ask questions or make comments, this is not a plan from the people, like the UNOP plan was. It is not built upon citizens coming together to say what they want. This plan appears to be what certain hired professionals say we should want.

I’d like to now take you back in time – About five years ago, there was another, earlier riverfront planning process here in New Orleans . Participants were told that the riverfront could be “economic development” for New Orleans . Some of us wondered how the parks and bike paths being discussed, while nice, were going to add all that much to the economy. Ah, but, there was more to it…

Most of the neighborhood leaders were surprised when a plan was revealed to build high-rises and medium-rises at the River, much like you might see along the Florida coast. Towers, we were told, would be economic development. The public never said they wanted this! This idea appeared to be a developer-driven proposal!

Then, Katrina came. Now, we’re being told that, post Katrina, the way for us to have a renaissance for New Orleans is to have high-rises and medium-rises at the River! Coincidence? Well, now we don’t have to take our local developers word for it – the hired famous out-of-town planners and architects say so!

But, to be clear, not all architects or planners feel this way: During our UNOP downtown planning, when told of a possible plan to build high-rises along the river, an equally famous architect/planner made an eloquent and thought-provoking presentation about how the intimacy of our small scale historic neighborhoods give New Orleans so much character…and how the downriver neighborhoods are amazing to be so intact – this close to the city’s downtown. This planner praised this as an asset that the city should treasure and market to attract new residents and visitors – comparing our neighborhoods character and scale to great cities in Europe ! It was inspiring to see this fresh through his eyes.

In the darkest days shortly after Katrina, I will never forget meeting in private homes with some of this city’s best and brightest neighborhood leaders. We discussed, then, how some day the city was going to seriously consider throwing out the rules and protections for our historic neighborhoods, either out of desperation or because somebody wanted to make $$$ at the expense of the rest of us, with the hurricane being a great excuse.

Is that day here? I hope not. I trust that you’ll agree that this city is too amazing, too special, to let that happen. Please join us Saturday to see what they have in mind. See below for more details.

Nathan Chapman

A member of the multi-neighborhood coalition,

P.S. If you haven’t signed the petition yet at , please do so now. It asks for neighborhood sensitivity and input! We need your support.

The City Riverfront Plan Unveiled


This Saturday, 9 to 11 a.m.

Please join us for the final public presentation regarding the strategic development plan for the New Orleans Riverfront between Jackson Avenue and the Holy Cross neighborhood. Launched in February by the New Orleans Building Corporation and the Port of New Orleans , this important initiative is led by a team of internationally recognized riverfront planners and architects, who will present their master plan at this meeting.

This Saturday, July 28
9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Port Authority Auditorium
( Riverside of floodwall at Henderson Street )

I haven't seen the plans that call for six towers at the site where the river meets the industrial canal, but at the meeting I attended, Alan Eskew did say that the site was large enough to waive height restrictions without affecting the character of the neighborhood. That might be true as a purely aesthetic matter, but he also said that the plan would make the St. Claude Avenue bridge more bike and pedestrian friendly. I'm no architect or urban planner, but it seems to me that bigger apartment/condo towers mean more traffic, which is anything but pedestrian friendly.

I don't want to prejudge the process and frankly I'm not sure whether my misgivings are caused by administration (and NOBC) actions or a lack of interest on the part of the local media. But, a comparison between NORA and NOBC is interesting, as their functions are similar. NORA has a shortage of funding and seems to be stuck in quicksand, yet articles about NORA appear on the front page of the paper at least once a month. NOBC seems to be operating in high gear with plenty of funding, but almost no media attention.

I won't be able to attend the meeting as I'll be out of town, but it is an important one. BTW, one of the articles at the Alliance website sounds very similar to what I've heard from a coworker from Charleston,

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Garland Robinette is a Liberal and Other Random Media Notes

Some of this stuff was getting stale when I saved draft a week ago.

From Monday's (of last week) Anderson Cooper 360:
"Keeping Them Honest" for us tonight, CNN's Randi Kaye.

RANDI KAYE, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The floodwaters long gone, New Orleans is drowning in murder.

The week Helen Hill died, there were 11 other murders, prompting New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin to make this promise.

RAY NAGIN (D), MAYOR OF NEW ORLEANS: We will put all of our resources to focus on murders and violent crime, everything we have.

KAYE: "Keeping Them Honest," we ran the numbers. In the six months since the mayor promised to make murder a priority, more than 90 people have been killed in his city. The police force is still down 300 officers. And the justice system is a mess. Witnesses are either missing or unwilling to cooperate.

I'll mention it once again, the police force is, as far as we know, down a similar number of civilian employees. I don't how much police staffing affects crime rate or how many patrolmen are performing duties that had been filled by civilians, but if anybody wants to make a wager on next year's Endymion route, let me know.

Soon after the David Vitter scandal began*, Elliott Stonecipher gave an interview on WWL TV in which he said that the people pushing the story had to be operating at the national level because Louisiana operatives have known about it for so long, he makes a similar point here. He then went on to make the incredible claim that it had to be the Democrats, because Landrieu's seat is one of the few Democratic Senate seats that will be vulnerable in the next election. Which leads to the obvious question, is Stonecipher stupid or dishonest? That's a plausible theory, I suppose, but for Stonecipher to suggest that the story was driven by political operatives and leave out any mention of Vitter's involvement in Giuliani's presidential campaign is otherwise inexplicable; he's either dumb or dishonest. I've never paid enough attention to Stonecipher to be aware of his political leanings, so I did a google search. I found some hints of Republican leanings but not enough to satisfy Jeffrey Sadow:
Originally on New Orleans’ WWL liberal Garland Robinette’s radio talk show, and then on this area’s balanced Pat Culverhouse program, local demographer and for-hire political consultant Elliott Stonecipher

If Robinette's a liberal, it's news to him, and I can only imagine what the "balanced" Pat Culverhouse program is like. It's bad enough when conservatives claim that MSM types like Gwen Ifill (count the haircuts) are liberal, but Garland Robinette?

They're asking some interesting questions at Gambit Weekly:
Who paid for the call girls' visits? Specifically, did any lobbyist ever pay for the senator's use of prostitutes?

This isn't to toot my own horn, but when I first suggested that line of questioning, I hoped that somebody else would bring up the obvious Hillary Clinton comparison, because I'm reluctant to criticize a politcian's family members, unless they make themselves fair game. Wendy Vitter's done that.

Assuming the allegations, there's absolutely no way that Wendy Vitter could have been unaware of what was going on -- unless somebody else was paying for the prostitutes. I don't care how affluent a famly is, if there's a loss of income from the wife cutting back on her income to take of children at the same time that the family has new expenses associated with raising children and with building a large home on recently purchased land, finances tend to be too tight for the husband to spend that kind of money without the wife noticing. Well, maybe if they both had trust funds and separate checking accounts. I don't know about the checking accounts, but there doesn't seem to have been a trust fund. Sounds a lot like Hillary Clinton, at least Jeff Gerth's version of Hillary Clinton.

Must read post at NOLA-dishu. When ever the phrase "as much as..." or as "little as..." appears in print, or comes out of the mouth of a politician or political pundit, you should look for the half-truth.

*The interview was aired either Friday 7/13 or Saturday 7/14, started to post about it then, but decided to see if a transcipt or video would show up on WWL's website at the beginning of the following week. Neither ever did.


Monday, July 23, 2007

Midura's Actual Statements

Since the local media is reporting about what Midura said, but not not reporting what she actually said:
Mr. Jordan, New Orleans is facing a public safety crisis, and much of that crisis is centered in your District Attorney Office. There is no joy in asking a good man to resign his office. I remember the Eddie Jordan that took on a corrupt and powerful Louisiana Governor and put him behind bars in the name of ethical government and I will always appreciate you for your leadership during that time. Unfortunately, moral fiber and past accomplishments are not enough to get the job done as District Attorney. Continuous mismanagement has consequences, especially when the public consequences of mismanagement put murderers back onto our streets. This is why I now believe it is time for you to step down. Our legitimacy as elected officials is based upon the consent of the governed. Mr. Jordan, you no longer have the public confidence required to lead the office because of the serious management mistakes in some of the most important criminal cases facing our city. New Orleans cannot afford a Michael Brown FEMA-style District Attorney’s office.

Mike Nifong stepped down from office after the public demanded it for his mismanagement of the Duke rape case. Several privileged young white men endured a year of turmoil because of Nifong's mismanagement. But Mr. Jordan, your mismanagement has come at the expense of the families of five murdered young impoverished African-American teenagers. They come at the expense of the family of Dinerral Shavers. They come at the expense of an already wounded citizenry fighting for its future. The stakes for us in New Orleans exceed the stakes Nifong’s citizens faced in Durham, North Carolina. Your mistakes have put our safety in jeopardy. As it has been pointed out by other local leaders, the vast majority of our city’s murder victims have been young black males from poor neighborhoods. If the vast majority of our murder victims were young white males from wealthier neighborhoods, perhaps this problem would have been addressed earlier and we would have fewer dead young people in our city being mourned by so many friends and family.

I do not wish to scapegoat you Mr. Jordan for the failures of the criminal justice system, as you are only one player in a massive broken bureaucracy. But your mistakes have stood out even in that broken system. I will continue to work with whoever is in charge of the office, whether it is you or anyone else as I know I cannot simply do nothing just because I disagree with the leadership of the District Attorney. But I firmly believe it is time to change course in the office of District Attorney, which is why I am continuing to ask you to step down from office. For the sake of our citizens and for the sake of public safety, Mr. Jordan, please step down.

In an abstract sense, a comparison to another D.A, one had been forced to resign in a racially charged atmosphere, would make perfect sense. In the real world, Midura should have foreseen the reactions, both honest and dishonest, that it would produce.

Frankly, the whole matter has me feeling a little stupid. I understand that sometimes offensive comments are coded or so subtle that it takes a few days for the outrage to set in. That must have been the case with Midura's comments, as I believe she made them on Wednesday. Jordan's immediate objection was to being "scapegoated;" to the best of my knowledge, he didn't voice any objections to the Nifong comparison until a weekend interview. Jarvis DeBerry must have also missed Midura's wickedly subtle racial allusions at first; he didn't write about them in his Friday column. Yet DeBerry writes that the racial aspersions were so blatant that Malcolm Suber suddenly felt compelled to denounce the calls for Jordan's resignation as racially motivated.* So by mentioning Nifong on Wednesday, Midura immediately turned it into a racial matter. Yet her comments about Nifong were barely mentioned until the weekend. I must be dense, because I sure don't understand it. I would have thought that it was a case of rationalizing after the fact.

A challenge for anybody reading this, to paraphrase something that I said at Oyster's read the DeBerry column that can be found here (the second of two reprinted columns) and just try to say that DeBerry wasn't setting up a strawman.

*No, that's not what DeBerry actually wrote. Rereading so many old Jarvis DeBerry columns must have had a temporary effect on me.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

DeBerry Hits a New Low

Jarvis DeBerry only writes three columns per week, some weeks only two. With that in mind, I thought it entirely appropriate to question either his work ethic or his integrity when he wrote a column last year that implied that Douglas Brinkley condemned Nagin for crying. That column is no longer available on the Picayune's website, but I've reprinted it here (below the Stephanie Grace column). I challenge anybody to read it and call it an honest piece of writing. Had DeBerry taken the time to read the book, he'd know that Brinkley criticized Nagin for much, much more than crying. After the election, DeBerry wrote a column in which he pointed to GNOR attacks ads as an example of how cleverly the under financed Br'er Nagin used his limited resources against Landrieu. That column is also unavailable online; I'll reprint at the end of this post. The role of the GNOR in the election had already been all over the local blogosphere when DeBerry wrote the column; once again, he was either lazy or dishonest.

Until today, I thought that DeBerry's apparent dishonesty only came into play where Nagin was involved. Now it seems that he's incapable of writing an honest column about anything related to New Orleans racial politics. He's certainly correct to criticize Shelley Midura for mentioning Mike Nifong when she called for Eddie Jordan's resignation, but he should be ashamed of the rest of the column:
It's clear, isn't it, why Shelley Midura didn't last that long at the State Department.

The New Orleans councilwoman, whose only memorable act this term has been her call for the district attorney's resignation, reportedly arrived at the City Council chambers Wednesday with something like a consensus intact.

He begins with a gratuitous insult based on a questionable judgement -- Midura's biography indicates that she spent ten years at the State Department -- and proceeds to a dishonest insult that shows an utter disregard for the facts. Maybe it's not dishonest, maybe DeBerry just has a bad memory or doesn't feel the need to follow the news that he's paid to comment on. I guess facts are for beat reporters, not op-ed columnists.

But DeBerry isn't through with the insults:
You see, Midura, a white woman, cares more about black folks than black folks. She knows that Jordan's chief problem is that he doesn't love black people as much as she does and, actually, is afflicted with that disease that makes him love white people too much.

Well, isn't he clever? If DeBerry were honest enough to think back to the inspector general controversy, he might remember that Midura was brought to tears by charges of racism when she proposed the creation of the office. Isn't it just possible that Midura was being defensive rather than condescending or paternalistic? I would certainly expect DeBerry, of all people, to consider the possibility:
But if it's true in physics that "for every action there's an equal and opposite reaction," the corresponding law of politics might read "for every action there's bound to be an opposite overreaction." Imagine Nagin not having been constantly hectored to show his racial bonafides. Imagine a certain clergyman with 20,000 parishioners not calling Nagin "a white man in black skin." Imagine the mayor not overreacting to that comment and countless others with the George Clinton "chocolate city" allusion

In the same column in which DeBerry argued that "Chocolate City" was an understanable reaction on Nagin's part (to charges of being an "oreo'), he also wrote:
The novelist Toni Morrison argues in a 1997 essay that, as a rule, Americans don't require black people to make sense.

Well, I don't know about most Americans, but I'd expect anybody, of any color, in DeBerry's position to make sense. I also expect any opinion columnist to show some bias, but anybody who only writes two or three columns a week has the time to do enough fact checking to at least give the impression of integrity and consistency.

I suppose it would be just plain silly to point out that there's a stereotype of white, female bumblingness that was depicted most memorably by Lucille Ball.. But does DeBerry really believe that nobody in the audience would have shouted "racism" if Midura hadn't been crass enough to bring up Mike Nifong? The title of his column implies that.

What follows is the "Br'er Nagin" column in its entirety. Remember, Schroeder and other bloggers, who all have other jobs, had already traced the atacks ads that DeBerry praises to the Greater New Orleans Republicans:
May 26, 2006 Friday

LENGTH: 611 words

HEADLINE: Br'er Nagin's enemies outfox themselves

BYLINE: Jarvis DeBerry


"But I don't understand," the young boy said. "Seems like Br'er Nagin had gotten himself in a real sticky predicament. Why couldn't Br'er Landrieu finish him off?"

"He amassed too big an army."

"Too big? But don't the bigger armies always win?"

"Not necessarily, son. Especially not when some soldiers put passion ahead of discipline."

"You're confusing me," he said.

Of course, I was confusing him. By the time I was telling my young neighbor the story of Ray Nagin's re-election, decades had passed. Parts of the story were surprising to those who'd seen it happen. How much more difficult to comprehend it must be for a boy whose parents weren't even born at the time.

"You have to understand, son, that there can come a point when so many people are lined up on your side that folks on the outside can't tell what your side is about."

"Is that what happened to Br'er Landrieu?"

"That's part of it."

"What's the other part?"

"Some folks gave him some help he didn't really need."

"Like that B.B. King song?"

I smiled. I'd taught the boy well. "Boy, you too little to know about B.B. the King. But yes. How did B.B. put it? 'I believe to my soul that you're giving me some outside help that I don't think I really need.' "

"Was somebody cheating on Br'er Landrieu?"

I laughed. "No, son. Not to my knowledge. I don't mean it in the sarcastic sense like B.B. did. I mean it in the literal sense: He had some eager beavers in his camp, and in their zeal to bring down Br'er Nagin, they helped him wiggle free.

"Hmm, maybe foxes is the better word." I winked.

The boy shouted out. "Like Br'er Fox?!" I tell you, this boy's teacher needed a gold star.

"Yes," I said. "What did we agree was the biggest mistake Br'er Fox made in his attempt to vanquish that wily Br'er Rabbit?"

"That he let his desire to humiliate the rabbit overtake his desire to eat him." I nodded.

"But you said Br'er Landrieu was a nice guy," the boy said. "Did he want to humiliate Br'er Nagin?"

"No, I don't think he did. But remember that big army I said he amassed? Some of them did. There was Br'er Doug Brinkley, who thought he'd throw Br'er Nagin into a briar patch by ridiculing the tears he says the mayor shed after Hurricane Katrina. If that man wasn't eaten up with rage! But as you've probably already figured out, Br'er Brinkley's attempt to bring about Br'er Nagin's bloody demise won the mayor that little bit of extra sympathy he needed to win the election.

"Then, too, some white folks must have bolted when Br'er Paul Morton lined up behind the challenger and once again questioned the incumbent's black cred."

"But that's the same thing he was saying in some of the first stories you told me. So what did Br'er Nagin do?"

"Flipped it on him. Embraced the criticism. Had his army send out fliers praising their man as Ray Reagan."

"But you told me that Reagan was an eppretech."

"Epithet, son, epithet. And, what I told you was that Reagan was pretty much abhorred by black folks. There were some white folks who loved him like the Lord loves the truth."

"So how come black folks didn't bolt when Nagin embraced Reagan?"

"They didn't necessarily see those fliers. Br'er Nagin's army, small to the point of seeming nonexistent at times, had but a few bullets and they fired each one with precision. No scattershot attacks from them. In fact, when it was all over, Br'er Nagin compared himself to David, who brought down Goliath with a sling.

"But it wasn't so much Br'er Nagin's military genius that accounted for his victory as it was the haplessness of the folks who took out after him."

Labels: , ,

Friday, July 20, 2007

The Miracle Worker

The miracle city thing, that's just Ray talking..."It's a miracle we're still here." The miracle is he's still here.
Rob Couhig on Ray Nagin

Rob Couhig has either forgotten about his own role in Nagin's re-election or has a somewhat elevated opinion of his own capabilities. In a rant that begins about eleven minutes into this morning's (7/20/07) 7 a.m. show, Couhig actually goes so far as to say that he doesn't believe a word that the mayor says. He also has harsh words for almost every member of the city council.

Frankly, Couhig should do what he'd advise others to do -- examine the situation and determine what he can do to improve it. He can't do anything about his role in Nagin's re-election, but he can do something about the credibility he lent to Nagin's claims of having brought transparency and accountability to city government. He could start by reading this Picayune editorial that finally appeared online weeks after it was published. The editors pulled their punches, but it was a start. I'm still trying to figure out why it was placed on the bottom of the page on a Saturday and took so long to get online. Had it been published on a weekday, it would have been discussed on talk radio and possibly had some impact. I can only assume that the editors of the Picayune felt compelled to say something but were afraid to say it too loudly. It was the journalistic equivalent of an objection muttered under one's breath.

Also, I didn't have any luck testing something I read in today's paper:
With a couple of keystrokes and mouse clicks, residents can now get a clearer picture of crime in their New Orleans neighborhood.

The New Orleans Police Department unveiled Thursday an improved Web site mapping tool that plots crime on a map.

The tool, found at the bottom of the police Web site at, allows users to type in any address in the city. From there, they can search for specific crimes, zoom in and out on specific neighborhoods and tally incidents dating back to Jan. 1, 2005.

The Web site reads:
Once you enter the site, you will be able to enter an address and submit a form which will display a map. You will notice a red square which indicates the house or location you entered. At the top of that map you will see several labels, one of which is titled "City Services". This label will provide a link to four city services; 311, EMS, Fire, and Police. You need only click on the department you choose to obtain data in relation to the address you entered.

Maybe I'm doing something incorrectly, but I didn't have any luck with any of the addresses that I thought would be worth checking. For one thing, the site only listed 311, EMS and Fire, but an error message (finally) appeared every time I tried either 311 or crime maps. Maybe I'm just too sleepy to decipher web page instructions.

Update: The last link above is to Tulane University's Office of Public Safety; it seemed like it would be a good tool to spot check the NOPD maps:
Off Campus Reports
The following crime incidents have been reported to Tulane and Loyola Departments of Public Safety. The incidents have also been reported to the New Orleans Police Department.

Considering how few students are in town this time of year (relatively few incidents to report) and the fact that it seemed like an obvious way to double check the maps, I thought that I was setting the bar pretty low. I tried it again at 8:30 this morning (Sunday), the city services link still doesn't list "police," and I still got an error message when I tried 311 or the (separate) crime maps link. Last night at small dinner get-together, I asked somebody who does volunteer work with the NOPD about the maps (in the cross-talk, I missed my chance to ask her my favorite NOPD-related question); she thought the site might have been overloaded since the article appeared. However, I wouldn't expect that to be the case at 8:30 on a Sunday morning. Somebody else interjected that the instructions didn't make any sense. This leads to the obvious question of whether reporters test the information that they're given about the city website or do they just watch a demonstration? Do they even watch a demonstration, which I would argue is insufficient, or do they just read a press release?

Schroeder gives a helpful link in the comments. The crime map is a volunteer effort, and we all should all be grateful for the work that they're doing. However, it does seem to miss several armed robberies, at least by the spot check that I used. Sorry to point that out, but I think that the number of armed robberies is, in some ways, more telling than the homicide rate. It's always, or almost always, a stranger crime with an "innocent" victim and the main variable (a large one, I'd guess) is the victim's likelihood of reporting it. That would also hold true for sex crimes, and the stated reason for not publishing information --victim's privacy issues -- seems a little fishy. There are obvious reasons not to report that a rape occurred at 31415 Constant Street, but that shouldn't prevent the NOPD fromm informing the public that somebody was raped near the intersection of Constant and Pie.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

I'm Still Curious About Vitter's Finances

In a recent post I mentioned the fact that Vitter's visits to the Canal Street brothel would have begun not only around the same time that his wife had children, but also at the same time that the couple built a large new home on Metairie Road. A new house and small children usually limit the optional spending of even the most prosperous couples; I would hope that somebody is looking at his tax returns for the time period in question.

Even if it turns out that visits to the Canal Street Brothel, paid trysts away from the brothel and visits to the D.C. Madam would not have put a strain on his finances, there are other reasons to question whether somebody else paid for Vitter's activities. Both Jim Letten and (Maier's attorney) Vinny Mosca say that they don't recall Vitter's name from lists of Maier's clients, and by all accounts, Vitter's wife had no knowledge that this was going on. Stephanie Grace's column in today's Picayune doesn't make Wendy Vitter seem like a wife who would fail to notice money missing from the family checking account. It's entirely reasonable to question whether Vitter broke any laws governing gifts from lobbyists.

Addition: Schroeder also notes that this isn't just about sex. Whenever a politician is involved in a personal scandal, people who agree with a politician politically are more likely to view it as a private matter or unimportant. That's true for both Republican and Democratic politicians, but I really don't see how "law and order' conservatives can say hat in this case. For more on Vitter. keep reading YRHT and NOLA-dishu.

Probably Too Late

Other bloggers have already written about a protest and demand for Jordan's resignation in front of the Cabildo tomorrow. If you're interested in participating in ABC's town hall meeting in the Cabildo, I was forwarded the following email Friday:
Monday morning,

Cabildo to be site of “Good Morning America ”

Television Town Hall

on Poverty and Rebuilding in New Orleans

ABC News/Good Morning America is conducting a special town hall meeting in New Orleans with Senator John Edwards. The town hall will take place on Monday, July 16th and hosted live by Diane Sawyer in the Cabildo in the French Quarter from 6:00am to 8:00am Central Time.

We're looking for a diverse group of 60 people to be part of our live studio audience, all ages and backgrounds welcome. The theme of the town hall is poverty with a focus on rebuilding New Orleans. Participants would need to arrive by 5:00 am, and MUST be credentialed.

Please contact me or Monica Escobedo at the below email or phone number with your full names, and contact information if interested. (You must pre-register by e-mailing to one of the producers below.) You will be asked to show ID upon arrival in order to obtain your credential.

ABC's Good Morning America is hosted by Diane Sawyer, Robin Roberts, and Chris Cuomo.

Feel free to call/email me or my colleague Monica Escobedo with questions, as we look forward to your participation. Our contact information is below. Please forward this on to potentially interested parties.

Thanks so much,


Ariane Nalty Zewe
ABC News
Good Morning America
415.203.7183 (cell)

Monica Escobedo
ABC News
Good Morning America
212.456.5993 (work)
646.325.3886 (cell)

It's probably to late to be chosen, but it can't hurt to try. I forgot all about it until I saw Dambala's post because I'll have a horrible day at work if I try to get up that early. For those who who remember the Charles Zewe who went from local news to CNN, Ariane seems to be his daughter-in-law.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Republicans have impeccable taste in silk stockings

Jeanette says that most of the clients who wanted to be dominated were Republicans. She cracks a smile, then adds, "They wanted to be spanked and tortured and wear stockings--Republicans have impeccable taste in silk stockings--and these are the people who run our country."

I don't know anything about the source for that quote, but it seems to predate the Vitter-in-diapers stories that started at Oyster's. I don't have much to add to the posting at Oyster's and NOLA-dishu, but I also wondered how old Vitter's children were when all of this started. Whether or not Vitter was wearing diapers himself, I had to wonder whether Vitter started visiting sex trade workers while his wife was sitting home changing diapers. Don't want to be the Alan Alda of New Orleans bloggers, but that would hardly sound like a decent guy to me.

Well, earlier this evening, a friend of mine told me that he met David Vitter once and was shocked at what a "blah nothing" Vitter was, since even the most air-headed politicians are usually charming in person. He met Vitter at a child's birthday party when his wife was taking their first child to I-to-I (infancy to independence). My friend's son was born in 1995, so it sounds like Vitter started seeing sex trade workers (if I'm going to do Alan Alda...) while his wife was home changing diapers. Yes, I know that can be a difficult time in marriages, but I wouldn't expect a decent guy who believes that preserving the sanctity of marriage is the most important issue facing the country to cut and run for a brothel when dirty diapers put a strain on his home life.

My friend also mentioned that Vitter built a big house on Metairie Rd. during this time. Vitter had a lot of expenses in the late Nineties and early aughts. Should there be questions about his income? I honestly don't know.

FWIW, that friend was a solid Republican prior to the George W. Bush presidency; it wasn't a biased impression against Vitter. Of course, Vitter may very well have been exhausted at the time.


Thursday, July 12, 2007

Easy Incendiary Post Pt. 2

The following is basically a fragment of something I couldn't finish two weeks ago when my computer was broken. Can't remember everything I had planned to write but today's (and yesterday's) paper made me decide to run with what I had. I checked when I was preparing to post and I believe that I found Bryan & Jupiter on Nagin's list of 2002 campaign donors -- I'll verify with LexisNexis when I'm able to. One $5,000 contribution doesn't prove anything, but it was just another sign that we, most of the, ignored that Nagin was a phony reformer -- back in 2002.

From the earlier Easy Incendiary Post:
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),

From Thursday's Picayune:
Gill Pratt was accompanied by lawyer Trevor Bryan, a principal in William Jefferson's old law firm, now known as Bryan and Jupiter. It is not known what connection -- if any -- Gill Pratt has to the case beyond her close ties to the Jefferson family.

Now we read that the airport wants Disneyland-like cab service. The Picayune doesn't say that the airport is acting on advice contained in the Bryan & Jupiter report, but it's reasonable to assume some connection. Also, nobody would deny that cab service at the airport needs improvement However, once again, the Nagin administration can't just fix an obvious problem, it needs to bring in politically connected firms to overhaul everything*. Sound familiar?

*e.g. every cab painted the same color, WTF?

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Devils' Advocacy in Advance

Before Jeffrey posts one of his semi-annual complaints about Gambit's "stupid yuppie readership" and the results of Gambit's Best of new Orleans poll, I'll point out that Gambit only counts ballots that contain responses in at least half of the categories. With over 200 categories, that's insane. Last year, I tried to follow Jeffrey's advice about voting for Oyster and my own advice about best political lie, but couldn't begin to come up with that many answers at the last minute. It's really tough if you don't drink and can rarely afford to eat out. Of course people are going to write down the first thing that pops into their heads. You can't blame the readers for the yearly stupidity.

That said, make the effort to fill out this year's poll. For best political lie, write in "Nagin brought transparency and accountability to city government." If enough people write in, we could use an utterly frivolous forum to convey a serious message. I'm also writing in Meffertgate for best scandal, even though we all know what will win in that category.

Is Brothers 3 still a dive?

BTW: I got a strange feeling of dejavu when I read this week's Gambit:
State Sen. Cleo Fields knew he had almost no chance of winning when he ran for governor in 1995, but he still made the runoff. Fields' campaign made him the most important black political voice in Louisiana for almost a decade. His star faded when the FBI caught him on video taking $20,000 from Edwin Edwards and stuffing it down his trousers, but even today Fields is a force to be reckoned with
It may also involve him filling the huge leadership void that currently exists in black political circles statewide.

Oh yeah,
he could run a losing campaign and still gain in stature by filling a statewide African-American leadership void...
remember what a failed gubernatorial bid did for Cleo Fields. Or would have done, had Fields not been videotaped stuffing his pockets with money that Edwin Edwards handed him.

Maybe Clancy reads Jeffrey, or maybe it's a just an obvious point to consider if you're going to engage in idle speculation. Bloggers often make too much of the fact that the internet's a faster medium than print.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

For Jeff Miller

What you talkin bout Willis?
U.S. Rep. Jeff Miller, a Florida Republican from a town north of Pensacola who has previously advocated moving the hospital to his district, emerged as the strongest critic of the proposal to erect the hospital downtown. He said government should not chance a public investment in a vulnerable area that lost many of its veterans after Hurricane Katrina.

"Putting the replacement facility in a flood-prone area looks like no lesson was learned in the past," Miller said. "Putting it back in the same area that has had a population shift looks like the VA is not looking toward the future."

Some government decisions are realistic reponse to permanent changes, others help make temporary changes become permanent. That's all I have time for tonight, but I've posted about Miller before. The first time was when I was still pretty new at this.

Monday, July 09, 2007

An Honorable Man

You really have to admire Aaron Broussard for the compassionate letter to the editor that he wrote about sometimes nemesis John Young. Being the gentleman that he is, Broussard said that the media should feel to air the details of his divorce because there are no children involved. However, he felt "compelled to comment on The Times-Picayune's efforts to unseal the divorce records and report on the domestic matters involving John Young, his former wife, Mary Lou McCall, and related stories about Sen. Julie Quinn and her former husband, Pat Quinn." You see, there are children involved in those divorces and they could get hurt. What a prince.

Sorry to link to myself again, but background can be found here.

Tell Me No Lies, I'll Ask You No Questions

If the lying sack of s*** is going to repeat the same old crap:
"I haven't had one scandal, not one, in this administration. I've taken your money and used it to the best of my ability and stretched it to get us to the point where we are today," Nagin said, denouncing journalists and "good government officials" he claimed have tried to create divisions in city government.

That's two howlers in one sentence, I'm going to repeat two two (closely related) old questions:

Has the layoff of about 300 NOPD civilian employees affected the number of officers on patrol duty? That is, are more patrolmen than usual assigned to desk duty?

I could mention the shortages in the planning and permitting offices and the absurdity surrounding electrical inspections that go unaddressed while the mayor has a P.R. budget of $600,000 and wants another $100,000 to hire a private firm to tell the country what a great job he's doing. Remember, that $600,000 is the P.R. budget for the mayor's office, other city agencies have their own community relations people (for another example of questionable budget priorities, see the previous post). However, this is a more obvious example. Like I've said before, as underpaid as police officers are, they do get paid more than desk clerks. Also, prospective police officers need to be tested and trained; office personnel can be replaced much more easily and quickly. It's merely a matter of finding the money, unless every dollar of the city budget is spent on more important things.

There may well be perfectly good answers to the questions that I've asked. It could be that rotating police officers through desk duty could be a method of giving rest to officers who have been overworked since Katrina -- as a civilian, I'll admit that I have no idea. More likely, with a reduced population, there's been a reduction in office work --fewer calls and fewer forms to fill out. However, if the mayor, or any member of his administration, or any of his supporters were to make that claim, I would expect them to be consistent in their use of numbers. Yeah, right. I have no idea whether the layoff of civilian employees has a great effect on police presence and effectiveness, or even any at all. I'm p***ed off that nobody bothers to ask.

I won't go into much detail about " denouncing journalists;" does anybody really think that even Nagin believes it? Unfortunately, those kind of statements have the desired effect, most people probably believe the b.s. about not one scandal -- mainly because those "denouncing journalists" have treated him with kid gloves. You can tell how little heat the mayor's feeling by the fact that he didn't say anything about bias.

The local press has paid some attention to questionable dealings by the Nagin administration, but you've had to look for it. There was a front page story about Charles Rice and Omni Pinnacle, but that story was also about the Bush and Blanco administrations and there was no follow-up. Read the parts about Rice and Omni Pinnacle and you can only wonder how James Gill ignored that story. But then again, Gill has been monkey no. 1 where the Nagin administration is concerned. When he finally wrote a column about Nagin and Meffert, he brought back memories of Tulane basketball. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a working link to that truly odd column. Any long time Picayune reader should understand why I mention James Gill, I defy any of them to tell me that Gill holds Nagin's statements up to the same scrutiny as those of any of his predecessors or politicians in other parishes.


The James Gill column that reminded me of a point-shaving basketball team:

September 20, 2006 Wednesday

LENGTH: 686 words

HEADLINE: Claiming yacht, Meffert goes overboard

BYLINE: James Gill


In "Some Like it Hot," Tony Curtis lied about owning a yacht in order to put the make on Marilyn Monroe.

Greg Meffert posed as the owner of a yacht and took Mayor Ray Nagin and other civic worthies out on Lake Pontchartrain.

I am with Curtis on this one.

Whether Meffert took another leaf out of Curtis' book by putting on a blazer and a Cary Grant accent is not known. It is known, however, that he did a lot of bragging around City Hall about the 53-footer he claimed to have bought with the proceeds of a real estate deal.

If Curtis had a cast-iron excuse to dissemble, Meffert offers none. Indeed, Meffert, who recently quit as the city's chief technology officer, continues to insist he owns the M.S. Silicon Bayou in face of public records that prove it belongs to a group of geeks he hired under a fat, no-bid contract.

Meffert did not leave City Hall because he was caught with his ethics down. Indeed, his secret may have remained safe if, a couple of weeks later, he hadn't celebrated his birthday with a "sunset cruise."

Meffert sent out invitations bearing a picture of the M.S. Silicon Bayou to a bunch of friends and colleagues. Inevitably, he was betrayed in a jiffy.

Although he was now back in the private sector, it turned out that he had hosted similar soirees while in the public employ. The ethics law forbids public officials to accept "a thing of value" from contractors, which would seem to cover the use of a two-stateroom yacht with a professional skipper.

The Nagin administration has taken its share of knocks lately, but nobody has disputed that it has made enormous strides in technology. When Nagin was elected, the city computer system was primitive and chaotic, its Web site useless. Citizens doing business with City Hall faced weeks of delay and mountains of forms.

After Nagin recruited Meffert, City Hall was introduced to the modern era, with online services and a Web site that became a model for municipal governments. After Katrina, Meffert's department worked wonders to restore communications.

Thus, when Meffert resigned, he was everywhere regarded as the star. Well, maybe not everywhere. All that bragging about the yacht had evidently grown somewhat tiresome at City Hall, especially as not everyone was fooled by it.

This administration, moreover, has always billed itself as a breath of fresh air after the corruption and patronage that marked the Marc Morial years. Thanks to Meffert, the smell of hypocrisy was in the air.

Meffert had persuaded Nagin to let him hire contractors at will, provided their prices were in line with General Services Administration schedules. Some local IT companies have alleged from time to time that they would have given the city a better deal than Meffert's choices, but he has always maintained he has saved the taxpayer millions.

He certainly never seemed to lack self-assurance, but all the while he was evidently afflicted with a rather pathetic need to impress. His story was that he had bought the boat out of bankruptcy for something of a song. He did so, he would gladly explain, with the money he made by selling the Poche Plantation at Convent five years after buying it.

In fact, real estate records say he got only little more than he paid for the plantation and had, according to his acquaintances, spent hundreds of thousands fixing it up.

The most recent Coast Guard records, moreover, show that the yacht was bought by four old friends of Meffert, who were partners in a company that had made as much as $2.7 million a year from city contracts while he was in charge. The managing partner, Mark St. Pierre, declined to discuss the yacht on the quite reasonable grounds that anything he said would "come up bad in the paper," while Meffert stuck to the implausible story that he really was the owner.

One of the partners, Mark Kurt, has now been appointed to Meffert's old job with the city. Kurt said he sold his share in the boat last year, so, unless he has another one, the days of the sunset cruise are presumably over.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Out of the Trappist Monastary

There is so much chaos that no one will be able to figure out exactly where the money went for a long time.
Bill Quigley

Finally got the computer working, but I spent too much time making long-winded comments at other blogs to finish up planned posts here. Before I get to those posts, I haven't seen any local commentary on Bill Quigley's Lessons From Katrina: How to Destroy an African American City in 33 Steps. I never thought I'd say this, but Bill Quigley is an idiot. Thirty-three steps and he forgets to include co-opting the mayor. Instead, he implies that the federal government tried to prevent Nagin's re-election. I guess Quigley never heard Jeff Crouere's comments about The President's photo-ops with The Mayor. Hell, did he see the puppet dance on a string when he went on Meet the Press shortly after Katrina?

I won't go into a detailed criticism of the piece and I don't believe in dismissing viewpoints as "conspiracy theory." However, if you're going to imply a conspiracy, you need to answer the obvious questions. The nation has been content to abandon its inner cities to the poor and minorities for decades, what makes New Orleans different? Why would it intentionally disperse a large minority population that's nicely segregated according to the working model? Does the same power structure that has no interest in preventing the global warming and ensuing rise in sea levels that put the city's long term viability in doubt have any rational interest in the city?

Elsewhere, Ed Blakely had some interesting comments in today's paper:
"Some things are more difficult now because the city has done what too many cities have done: They've allowed the big boxes to destroy local shopping," he said. Since Hurricane Katrina, a handful of mega-hardware retailers have opened around town, but there is little evidence that small retailers have gone out of business or chosen not to return because of a big-box presence.

"The city's been so anxious to get development, it's made poor choices," he said. "You don't bring big boxes into the middle of the city and expect your neighborhoods to survive."

I may have been the first Blakely critic in the local blogosphere when Nagin first came down to give his expert opinion that we needed a recovery czar and that he was the ideal candidate for the job. He still rubs me the wrong way, but I acknowledge that we're stuck with him and he has done some things that I approve of -- like convincing the mayor not to take out an expensive loan to prove a political point.

Still, there are several unanswered question about Blakely's office, unasked questions might be accurate. Is Blakely's position purely advisory, or does it have real administrative authority. Blakely seems to think the latter. That would seem to make some of the positions in the mayor's office redundant, yet we've given huge pay raises to the mayor's top aides, created new highly paid positions (like a chief development officer for planning and development for the City of New Orleans) within the mayor's office and we seem to have given the mayor a spokesman for every day of the week, all at a time of reduced city services.

Additional Blather:

I assumes that it's obvious why I opened with the sentence about it being difficult to trace reconstruction money. What's true for carpetbaggers is true for scalawags. I'm not being entirely facetious with my choice of words; as I've said, I have no problem with "conspiracy theories." When I first started this blog, I thought it was obviously suspect that the "deficit hawks" in the Republican party won their first real victory with Katrina reconstruction spending -- after the uproar over no-bid contracts and the demand for local involvement began. Since then, I've often wondered if some kind of understanding had been reached between the federal government and the local guys, with the only real squabbling being between the state and the city. Just a suspicion, I've never developed it into a full-fledged theory, but I am open to that sort of thing.

However, Quigley implies a conspiracy that goes against two generations of federal policy. Since the G.I. Bill rewarded new home construction in the forties, and the interstate highway system was started in the fifties, federal policy has encouraged abandonment of our city cores. If your going to posit a radically new conspiracy, you've got some background motivation to explain. I could give a couple of plausible explanations, but I don't think they'd withstand much scrutiny. For example, port activities have been spread throughout south Louisiana.

I do take particularly strong exception to one item in Quigley's list:
Step Twenty One. Keep affordable housing to a minimum. Use money instead to reopen the Superdome and create tourism campaigns. Refuse to boldly create massive homeownership opportunities for former renters. Delay re-opening apartment complexes in African American neighborhoods. As long as less than half the renters can return to affordable housing, they will not return.

Quigley raises a valid point, but he ignores the African American opposition to apartment complexes in African American neighborhoods. One of my biggest concerns about the city's rebuilding effort has been the apparent rush to turn New Orleans into a city of multi-unit housing. The residents of New Orleans East have learned firsthand how quickly multi-unit housing can turn into blighted property.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Old Favorites
  • Political Boxing (untitled)
  • Did Bush Take His Ball and Go Home
  • Teratogens and Plan B
  • Foghorn Leghorn Republicans
  • Quote of the Day
  • October's News(Dec.1)
  • untitled, Nov.19 (offshore revenue)
  • Remember Upton Sinclair
  • Oct. Liar of thr month
  • Jindal's True Colors
  • No bid contracts