31 March 2006

Photo du Jour: An "Our Mayor: Ray Nagin" Bumpersticker


I think this is the first non-broadcast media campaign advertisement I've seen for Mayor Nagin that isn't a commercial billboard (which by the way are scattered throughout the most highly visible, heaviest traffic volume locations within New Orleans). I've seen zero yard signs for Nagin and zero bumperstickers (until this one). Nada. Forman and Landrieu yard signs are seen all over the place, however, with some Couhig and Boulet signs here and there. Forman signs seem to dominate the "high-end" Uptown homes especially the Henry Clay/State Street crowd, but Landrieu signs seem to be evenly spread throughout the city. I've seen nil Peggy Wilson signs--in fact I've seen more signs for other "second-tier" candidates with far less name recognition than Mrs. Wilson.

By the way, I took this picture on St. Charles Avenue as I was approaching Círculo de Lee y el Centro.

St. Charles Streetcar Line Projected to Return in December 2006/Canal Street Streetcar Line Resumes This Weekend (minus Carrollton/City Park Spur)



I took the above shots in front of the Carrollton Barn yesterday excited to actually see some progress beyond a rehabilitation project announcement sign. The workers are removing the existing overhead wires as part of the St. Charles Line's electrical system overhaul. From what I've observed, it appears most of the overhead lines have been removed on the entire Line in one direction.

Today's Times-Picayune features a story on the return of the Canal Street Streetcar Line (using vintage St. Charles Line Perley Thomas cars) which resumes service this weekend. This is of course great and much needed news for Mid-City and New Orleans as a whole, but unfortunately the status of the St. Charles Streetcar Line briefly mentioned in three sentences at the end of article is not what I wanted to read. An RTA spokesperson says that "a portion" of the St. Charles Line won't be operational until December. "A portion . . . ": not even the whole line. Under this schedule (if it holds) it will be a minimum of a year and a half that the St. Charles Streetcar Line is out of commission. Living a block from the Line, not hearing the rumbling, the clicking, and the buzzing of the streetcar in the middle of the night is bizarre. Since KTMB, I've actually dreamed I've heard the different sounds. I so look forward to it's return.

Unfortunately, because of a switching box issue the Carrollton/City Park Spur will not be included in the initial re-establishment of the Line this weekend and almost certainly will not be active for the two weekends of Jazzfest in about a month. Not being able to take the Line to the end of North Carrollton and Esplanade for a short walk to The Fairgrounds is a real disappointment. Just the other day a Mid-City friend and I were talking about doing just that . . .

1 APRIL 2006 UPDATE: Strike that. According to today's Times-Picayune, the RTA has reconsidered plans not to run the Carrollton/City Park Spur. The Spur will be back online Sunday as they have managed to work around the signal box issue. This is unexpected but fantastic news.

LSU Basketball: And ONE MORE Thing

In this season which will be remembered down here as the season when LSU men's basketball got back on the map (hopefully for good), it will also, unfortunately, be remembered for another thing: "Mr. Integrity," Roy Williams, is the Coach of the Year.

North Carolina's press release about the award is even better. The university's story boasts that Williams deserves the award, in part because "The Tar Heels also won at 10th-ranked Kentucky." Calling Kentucky a top-ten team this year (presumably because of the pre-season poll) is about as offensive and misleading as it gets.

The award itself is ridiculous on its face because voting is completed before the tournaments begin. But here's the other thing that makes it more ridiculous: John Brady, coach of a team that ran away with the SEC regular season title, coach of a team that didn't have a point guard for all but three games this season, coach of a team that made it through the entire season without a credible backup at either guard position, coach of a team that started three freshmen and a sophomore for most of the season--didn't receive a single vote.

And "Mr. Integrity" wins because he started a bunch of freshmen and beat Duke. Oh, and tenth-ranked Kentucky. Too bad LSU didn't play Duke in the regular season.

League of Women Voters of New Orleans Spring 2006 Election Guide

http://www.lwvno.org/ElectionGuide.html

I stumbled across this site yesterday. The League of Women Voters of New Orleans Spring 2006 Election Guide provides a thorough list of all the candidates including their biographies, but more importantly includes a Q&A with each candidate asking four questions relevant to the contested office. This is the best listing and information concerning each race that I've seen online.

Another helpful resource on the site is the list of Orleans Parish polling locations for the upcoming election. My normal voting location was not physically effected by the floodwaters, but happens to be one of the public schools yet to re-open. I just assumed I was to vote in the normal place, but after consulting this list I learn that my precinct's polling place has been moved to Lusher School.

30 March 2006

Lester Earl--POSTSCRIPT

In my previous article about Lester Earl, I am not suggesting IN ANY WAY that LSU and/or Dale Brown were innocent in the Lester Earl scandal. They were busted. But the venom, anger and ruthlessness that the NCAA displayed during the investigation still makes me angry. The punishment did not fit the crime, especially considering the many precedents set before and after this one. Does anyone remember Notre Dame's football "probation" a few years ago? In contrast, LSU's punishment was the about the equivalent of a football team losing 30 or more scholarships during the same period of time.

That's what makes this Final Four so much sweeter than normal. We could barely field a competitive basketball team as recently as 8 years ago, and here we are today.

Nobody can deny that the NCAA has a different set of rules for what it considers "respected" programs (Notre Dame, Michigan and other schools get off light), while "renegade" programs, usually in the Southeast and Southwest (LSU, Alabama, UNLV) have their programs wrecked. Does anyone remember the Chris Webber "Fab Five" scandal--where the booster who paid him wound up dead before he could testify? We're talking hundreds of thousands of dollars there (much more than the $5,000 in LSU payouts reported in the articles), and Michigan lost fewer scholarships over a longer period of time than LSU did. Michigan lost 4 over 4 years; LSU lost 6 over 3. Is that right?

I guess karma is a funny thing.

Legend Eddie "The Rhythm Man" Gabriel, 1910-2005

Thursday, 23 March 2006 would have been Eddie Gabriel's 96th birthday. Sadly, the iconic Pat O'Brien's musical performer perished in his Lower Ninth Ward home during the post-KTMB "Brownie" days in August 2005. Mr. Eddie has been a fixture of Pat O'Brien's for nearly its entire existence since 1938 which to me is nearly incomprehensible. There have been twelve Presidents of the United States in those 67 years. Think about that. Over the past 15 years I have been legally able to drink, I don't ever recall an evening at Pat O'Brien's when I was there and Mr. Eddie was not. I have one of those "official" Pat O'Brien's black and white pictures of Hollis P. Wood and myself standing with a smiling (as always) Mr. Eddie taken back in January 2001 when he was young--only 91. I don't have it framed yet, but plan to . . .

To honor and remember his life and career, Pat O'Brien's held an honorary tribute for him at the Piano Bar on his birthday. Myself, Hollis P. Wood, and nolagirl insisted on attending this celebration of the true legend Mr. Eddie was.

As a slideshow presentation of Mr. Eddie throughout the years projected onto the Piano Bar's St. Peter Street wall, the event kicked off with one of the owners offering her reflection and stories about him and his life. Unfortunately there was a woman sitting at the bar near where I was standing who didn't quite understand that everyone within earshot of her was trying desperately to hear the ongoing presentation. Instead of hearing about Mr. Eddie I got to hear everything about this Midwestern woman's job with Belfor and about her being "on the ground" in New Orleans since 30 August 2005 and about how she had been at this train accident last year or about that tornado the year before. When I begrudgingly asked her to please be quiet in the most possible polite way I am capable, she gave me the "how dare you" look and her frigid friend wanted to know "what my problem was." Under normal circumstances I likely would have lost it. But not on this night.

(Now honestly, I wouldn't have even brought this part of the story up, but to me (and I came to this realization right after it happened) this episode is symbolic and personifies the entire situation in New Orleans post-KTMB both with outsiders not "getting" (or remotely caring about) us here and the complete lack of respect most carpetbagging contractors have for our city, our culture, and our existence. They don't--and are incapable of--getting New Orleans and it's people. (Am I reading wayyyy too much into it . . . . Perhaps. Let's move on . . .)

Several long-time co-workers (piano players), friends, and family came up on stage one after the other and told touching stories about Mr. Eddie and of specific memories of times spent with him. Among some of the things (paraphrased from memory) said about Mr Eddie:

"Mr. Eddie had a very gentle spirit,"

"the staff tried to get him to retire for years and he'd always come back he couldn't retire because he still needed the money" (at 95 years old),

"he didn't finish high school, but was very smart and always gave the best advice,"

"he was as 'easy as Sunday morning,'" and

"he took his vitamins every day, enjoyed every day of his life, and always smiled--these were what he thought was the key to a good, long life."

His niece (the lady in red in the picture below) gave a long emotional account of her uncle and even sang a tribute to him requesting everyone in the Piano Bar to hold hands. There were some tears in the crowd, but overall the tribute was joyous--and not sad--the way death is supposed to be celebrated in New Orleans. After the heartfelt presentations were complete, a brass band entered the Piano Bar and a second line march with a picture of Mr. Eddie in the lead paraded through the Piano Bar then out to St. Peter Street and then back inside to the patio. The whole event was fitting and a great way to pay tribute to "The Rhythm Man" which I will never forget. Mr. Eddie--another piece of New Orleans washed away on a Monday morning in August 2005--will be sorely missed . . .

Here are some pictures:



29 March 2006

Emergency? Response in New Orleans

Mayor Nagin has been quite clear as to the difficulties that the city is having with maintaining the infrastructure necessary to support the population of New Orleans and that returning residents in some flooded neighborhoods may receive little to no support for some time to come. Well, he is not kidding around. Saturday night a car hit my house in Carrollton. The car was speeding and hit the house hard enough to shake the entire structure. Immediately after my house was hit I heard screaming on the street outside. Before doing anything else, I grabbed the phone and dialed 911. The 911 operator quickly took my information and asked if anyone was injured. I told her I did not know. She said the police would be on their way.

Luckily when I went outside to check on the situation, no one was injured. The car was speeding and managed to glance off my house and take out a power pole. A young person was driving and the screaming was from my neighbors who are related to the driver. However, since I had damage to my home and our neighborhood had one less operating power pole, I thought a police report was still in order. I waited about 20 minutes and called the NOPD a second time to check on the status of the patrol car that was supposedly sent to my house. The operator informed me that I was still in the system and an officer would be dispatched to my house. After waiting an additional 40 minutes I called the NOPD one more time to check on the status of the dispatched officer and received the same story. After two hours had past since the time of the incident an officer finally responded to the accident. He did an excellent and efficient job and was courteous to everyone involved; overall very professional. Also, strangely enough, an ambulance also came to the accident scene at the same time (two hours after the accident). They promptly left when it was clear that no one was injured.

This entire incident was quite an eye-opener. It does appear that the NOPD may be overwhelmed and not capable of responding in a timely manner. Hopefully, in my case, this was the NOPD making a judgement call based upon the low probability that someone was seriously injured. However, if you are living in New Orleans, you would be wise to have a back-up plan to 911 in case the emergency response is not capable of living up to your immediate needs and expectations. Finally, if the city is having difficulties meeting its emergency response needs, the state and Federal governments should be providing law enforcement and emergency medical services to supplement those of the NOPD until such a time as the city is fully staffed and functioning and capable of supporting its own emergency services.

Flooded Orleans Parish School Bus For Sale on Ebay?

Is this legit? Check it out. 18 bids so far . . .

UPDATE: Yes, apparently it is legitimate according to this widely-circulated AP story.

30 MARCH 2006 UPDATE: DaPbBlog has a good post on the fire sale.

28 March 2006

The Latest New Orleans Mayoral Debate: Some Quick Thoughts


I caught most of the debate on WGNO last night. Here are a few quick thoughts on the debate and each of the candidates that participated. This doesn't really reflect my opinion of each candidate, it's only what I saw last night.

Virginia Boulet- Mrs. Boulet seems to be informed and passionate. She is likeable and her resume is fairly impressive. Unfortunately, she stops and stumbles a little when she speaks off the cuff, much like our governor, and was not very impressive in the debate. She doesn't command attention. www.virginiabouletformayor.com

Rob "inconceivable" Couhig- Mr. Couhig, by his own admission, is a little abrasive at times. He showed it last night. He is the only one really taking shots at the other candidates. He told Mitch Landrieu that he had his chances over the last 20 years of being in Baton Rouge to make a difference and he hasn't done it. Like his politics or not, he clearly is passionate. He showed well last night. He had answers with some specifics for all the questions asked. www.robcouhigformayor.com

Ron Forman- Mr. Forman didn't really impress me at all. He offered no real specifics on any plans that he has. All he was able to do was point out the Zoo and the Aquarium and what a success story they are. No doubt he did a fine job there but, I was disappointed in his efforts last night. However, it was only one debate. www.formanformayor.com

Mitch Landrieu- Lt. Gov. Landrieu is clearly the most polished speaker and debater of the candidates present last night. He is also one of two candidates with a target on his back. Not surprising because he has been in politics for 20 years or so. He seemed the most informed about what is really happening in the reality of the situation. Obiviously, that is due to his present position. You may or may not like his politics but, last night he was clearly a prepared and an informed candidate. www.mitchformayor.com

C. Ray Nagin- Being the incumbent, Nagin has the other target on his back. It is easy for the other candidates to take shots. Nagin has done a lot to make it easy for them. However, the mayor also seemed to have more real information about what is really going on. Obviously, because he is living it right now. But, most of the debate he let the others talk and I thought he kept pretty quiet throughout the debate. I don't think he help himself much last night. www.reelectmayornagin.com

Tom Watson- (the pastor, not the golfer) Passionate and spirited, traits that I admire. However, he seems to be a little out of his league. He speaks his mind and isn't afraid to take on anyone, but he also could not offer specifics on anything. www.tomwatsonformayor.com

Peggy "Dreamworld" Wilson- What dreamworld is she living in? I really wish someone would ask her to explain her "Tax Free City" platform. How will the city pay for anything if there are NO taxes? Will I have to pay state income tax? Federal Income tax? Sales Tax? Property tax? Alcohol tax? What exactly is she proposing and what authority does she think the mayors office has to do it? She just keeps repeating the words, tax free city, and no one asks for explanations. www.peggywilsonformayor.com


And that leads me to the moderators from ABC 26, Liz Reyes and Michael Hill. I know they are bound to a certain format for these debates and the questions they ask are predetermined. However, the follow up questions they posed during the debate were very weak. The Peggy Wilson tax free city thing is the biggest example. They did a poor job in my opinion. It seemed that they were fishing for sound bytes and nothing else.

27 March 2006

Map du Jour: City of New Orleans Repetitive Loss Claims by Census Tract


The above map appears on today's front page of the Times-Picayune with this accompanying story. As the disclaimer on the map states, this map can be misleading because just because an area has more claims doesn't necessarily mean its more flood prone. Also keep in mind this data takes into account only rain-related flooding (such as the May 1995 flood) and does not include any claims derived from the MANMADE flooding within the City of New Orleans due to floodwall failure post-KTMB. Not surprisingly Broadmoor/Fountainbleu does have the most claims given it's geographic location and economics. Here's what some friends did to their house in Broadmoor with a FEMA grant following repetitive flooding in 1995 and 1998. Their area did of course flood post-KTMB, but the main living space of the house avoided the floodwaters. Unfortunately, the roof sustained damage and rainwater penetrated the raised portion of the house anyway.

FYI: The flood event that garnered the most paid claims in the history of FEMA by the National Flood Insurance Program was the infamous 9 May 1995 Flood at 31, 264 "paid losses." That event held the dubious honor until August 2005 as 141,786 paid losses have been documented from KTMB-related flooding. The list of significant flood events compiled by the FEMA NFIP can be seen here.

26 March 2006

Anti-Incumbent Websites for 22 April City of New Orleans Election

IQticket.org

The City of New Orleans has seven property tax assessors each assigned to one of the city's seven municipal districts. Every other parish in the state has one assessor responsible for property assessment within the bounds of his/her entire parish. The City of New Orleans' system originates from a time when the amount of properties in the city probably outnumbered or at least rivaled the total amount of properties combined in the other 63 Louisiana parishes outside of New Orleans, thus somewhat justifying the seven city divisions for administrative and record-keeping purposes because of the sheer volume. For the past thirty or so years-- mainly because of technological advances (computers, databases, etc.)--having seven separate assessors covering the City of New Orleans/Orleans Parish has probably not been necessary and certainly not fiscally (or politically) efficient. Not only does the current system breed wasteful duplicity but the system also breeds non-standardized property assessments (location-based under-assessments/over-assessments) which translates to inconsistent property tax bills not in proportion to the true worth of a property. This makes it possible, for example, that a high-dollar Uptown Victorian house owner pays less property tax than a middle-class suburban ranch home owner in Algiers. The Times-Picayune did a special series in April 2004 dubbed "Dubious Value" which discusses these issues in more detail.

To attempt to start the consolidation of the seven assessor offices into one, stream-lined operation (an amendment to the state constitution would be required to actually consolidate the Orleans Parish Assessor offices), a coalition called "the IQ Ticket" has been formed. The IQ Ticket (IQ stands for "I quit") places a stated IQ candidate in each of the seven municipal district assessor's election. According to their vow, any IQ candidate that manages to win will resign the position when and if the state constitution is amended for only one office.

It will be interesting to see how the IQ Ticket fares. City of New Orleans government consolidation has been on the docket for two Louisiana special sessions since KTMB and miraculously those bills died in committee before there could be any serious discussion about it. The IQ Ticket (read their site) seeks to force this issue--at least in terms of property tax assessment--through the ballot box. The dual Orleans Parish court and sheriff systems are another whole deal in itself.


CURRENT ORLEANS PARISH ASSESSORS BY MUNICIPAL DISTRICT/YEAR TAKEN OFFICE (Source: The Times-Picayune)

Municipal District 1 (11,000 parcels): Darren Mire, 2002
-before 1985, a member of the Comiskey family held this position since 1935

Municipal District 2 (15,800 parcels): Claude Mauberret, 1994
-a member of the Mauberret family has held this seat since 1904

Municipal District 3 (78,000 parcels): Erroll Williams, 1985
-a member of the Hickey family held this position from 1952 until Williams got elected

Municipal District 4 (7,400 parcels): Betty Jefferson, 1998
-a member of the Burke family held this position from 1941 until Jefferson got elected

Municipal District 5 (19,000 parcels): Tom Arnold, 1985
-hand-picked by members of the Modenbach family who held this position from 1958

Municipal District 6 (56,000 parcels): Janyce Degan, 1981
-a member of the Degan family has held this seat since 1936

Municipal District 7 (17,000 parcels): Henry Heaton, 1985
-a member of the Heaton family has held this seat since 1936


anybodybutbatt.com

If you live in the New Orleans area you have no doubt heard the Anybody But Batt commercials in heavy, heavy rotation on WWL Radio the past few weeks. Jay Batt is of course the City Council District A incumbent running for his second term. In the 2002 election, Batt beat fellow-Lakeview resident Scott Shay in the runoff despite not gaining the majority in the primary election. If I remember correctly third-runner Sal Palmisano endorsed Batt in the runoff (correct me if I am wrong on this.) Most of the anti-Batt sentiment comes from the non-Lakeview areas of District A (Carrollton/Uptown/Mid City) where issues of neighborhood preservation reign supreme (as they should). Several controversial projects with Batt's approval and backing have been implemented during his tenure inflaming many Uptown. I voted for Shea back in 2002 and I am not sure which other candidate is in position to give Batt a runoff in post-KTMB 2006. Based on the amount of campaign signage out in the district, it looks maybe to be Palmisano who's running once again. Does anyone know the whereabouts of Scott Shea?

A historical review:

COUNCIL DISTRICT A PRIMARY ELECTION, 2 FEBRUARY 2002:
Scott Shea 13,800 (48%)
Jay Batt 11,370 (39%)
Sal Palmisano 3,845 (13%)

No Palmisano, Shea likely wins outright in the primary. 700 more votes would have put him over 50%.

COUNCIL DISTRICT A RUNOFF ELECTION, 3 MARCH 2002:
Jay Batt 15,152 (51%)
Scott Shea 14,697 (49%)

Shea gets more combined "popular" votes in the two elections, but it doesn't matter. Hey, that sounds familiar.

LSU Basketball: 10 Years Later

Lester Earl (pictured), Roy Williams and the NCAA could not kill the LSU basketball program no matter how hard they tried.

Here's a recap for those of you who don't remember: Former Baton Rouge high school phenom Lester Earl committed to LSU and played there his freshman year. For some reason, he immediately regretted his decision and looked for a way out. "Mr. Integrity," Roy Williams, then the head coach at Kansas had a solution: come to KU. So he transfers to Kansas, but LSU doesn't grant him a release (thus losing a year of eligibility). Roy and Lester get pissed off about that, so they get their revenge. Lester tells the NCAA that he was paid by LSU. To add insult to injury, Earl gets immunity from the NCAA if he agrees to bring LSU down, and that's exactly what happens. LSU gets probation, Earl gets off scot free, and he later even regains the year of eligibility he lost.

So during the upcoming years, Dale Brown leaves in disgrace, and LSU's program is crippled and wallows in mediocrity (except for the Stromile Swift's sophomore season). Roy Williams' Kansas Jayhawks rack up the recruits, have great success, and is considered a "model program" for integrity. Fortunately, however, they come short of winning the ultimate prize: the national championship. Meanwhile, Lester Earl is driving a Yukon in Lawrence, Kansas. Later, he is arrested for drunk driving, but is eventually reinstated by Roy Williams.

Of course, the story does not end well for Kansas either. "Mr. Integrity," Roy Williams would leave them too and go to North Carolina. Later, it is discovered that Williams violated NCAA rules during his tenure, forcing his former school to face potential probation--while he gets off scot free.

So, here we are, almost 10 years later. To borrow a phrase from television, "Where Are They Now?"

LESTER EARL: He never lived up to his potential. And less than a year ago, he was arrested again. What a classless piece of trash.

KANSAS BASKETBALL: The Jayhawks remain a "respected" program. However, Roy Williams deserted them too, just like Lester Earl sold out LSU. In the last two years under Bill Self, the Jayhawks have lost in the first round in the NCAA Tournament. Those losses came as a 3 seed and a 4 seed.

LSU BASKETBALL: The Tigers are back in the Final Four for the first time in 20 years.

ROY WILLIAMS: Wins the National Championship with the team he inherited at North Carolina. The media are generally overjoyed by this development, and this "man of integrity" continues to be praised today.

Roy, hopefully you're the next one who will fail the test of time.

30 MARCH 2006 UPDATE: Lester Earl--Poscript.

25 March 2006

LSU Basketball: TEXAS STATE CHAMPS

Well, the LSU Tigers men's basketball team is going to Indianapolis and the Final Four. Texas A&M and Texas are not.

And we don't owe you anything, bitch.

And you're not getting Ryan Perriloux back either.

More to come later, after I fully digest this.

Aaron Brooks Signs with the Raiders

Well, A.B. is going to get his wish: he will probably remain a starting quarterback. He signed a deal with the Raiders this week, probably the only team left he could have started with. He should fit in perfectly with Oakland, a team notorious for being a haven for dysfunctional players and aging stars who have never reached their potential (until they got there).

I predict that he will be the opening-day starter. They've already dumped their previous starting QB (another former Saint--Kerry Collins). His competition is a apparently a never-will-be (Marques Tuiasasopo) and a 2nd year guy that the jury is still out on (Andrew Walter). Of course, there are also a lot of rumors that the Raiders are also where Vince Young will eventually wind up.

My initial reaction is that Brooks and the Raiders deserve each other. They are a joke of a franchise right now too. But there are at least two things working in his favor. First, the last two Saints quarterbacks who signed free-agent contracts elsewhere (not counting Jeff Blake who was washed up after his injury) are (drum roll please...) Jake Delhomme and Kerry Collins. Both guys were in the Super Bowl in no time after leaving the Saints in their rear view mirror. Second, it should be easy for Brooks to succeed in Oakland--at least statistically. All he has to do is chuck the ball 70 yards downfield and wait for Randy Moss to throw the defensive back down and not get called for pass interference, catch the ball, and score a touchdown.

But hopefully that's all he will remain: a guy you'd take for your fantasy football team but you wouldn't want running your real-life team under any circumstances.

24 March 2006

The Third Battle of New Orleans Version 2.0

I finally "grew a pair" and got my hands dirty messing with the backend code to change the appearance and layout of THE THIRD BATTLE OF NEW ORLEANS. I got tired of going to other blogs which used the same old stale template/layout/color scheme as the one I was using . . . More changes to come.

Mike Davis: Who Is Killing New Orleans?

Mike Davis, author of the excellent CITY OF QUARTZ: EXCAVATING THE FUTURE OF LOS ANGELES, has this piece in the latest edition of THE NATION entitled "Who is Killing New Orleans?" Like most things Davis writes it doesn't exactly paint the current situation in the most optimistic light, but I'd say he pretty much speaks the truth and tells it how it is . . . . Check out the full article.

Some worthwhile excerpts:

  • Republicans also rebelled against aid for a state that was depicted as a venal Third World society, a failed state like Haiti, out of step with national values. "Louisiana and New Orleans," according to Idaho Senator Larry Craig, "are the most corrupt governments in our country and they always have been.... Fraud is in the culture of Iraqis. I believe that is true in the state of Louisiana as well."


  • The paramount beneficiaries of Katrina relief aid have been the giant engineering firms KBR (a Halliburton subsidiary) and the Shaw Group, which enjoy the services of lobbyist Joe Allbaugh (a former FEMA director and Bush's 2000 campaign manager). FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers, while unable to explain to Governor Blanco last fall exactly how they were spending money in Louisiana, have tolerated levels of profiteering that would raise eyebrows even on the war-torn Euphrates.

  • Congress ultimately voted to provide $29 billion for Gulf Coast relief. Yet as the Washington Post reported, "All but $6 billion of the measure merely reshuffled some of the $62 billion in previously approved Hurricane Katrina aid. The rest was funded by a 1 percent across-the-board cut of non-emergency, discretionary programs." The Pentagon won approval for a whopping $4.4 billion in base repairs and other professed Katrina-related needs, but Congress cut out the $250 million allocated to combat coastal erosion. Meanwhile, Mississippi's powerful Republican troika--Governor Haley Barbour and Senators Trent Lott and Thad Cochran--persuaded fellow Republicans to support $6.2 billion in discretionary housing aid for Louisiana and $5.3 billion for Mississippi, with red-state Mississippi getting five times as much aid per distressed household as pink-state Louisiana.

  • Even before the last bloated body had been fished out of the fetid waters, conservative political analysts were writing gleeful obituaries for black Democratic power in Louisiana. "The Democrats' margin of victory," said Ronald Utt of the Heritage Foundation, is "living in the Astrodome in Houston." Thanks to the Army Corps's defective levees, the Republicans stand to gain another Senate seat, two Congressional seats and probably the governorship.

  • New Orleans has always vied with Detroit when it comes to the violent antipathy of white-flight suburbs toward its black central city, so it is not surprising that representatives from Jefferson Parish (which elected Klan leader David Duke to the state legislature in 1989) and St. Tammany Parish have particularly relished the post-Katrina shift in metropolitan population and electoral power. Both parishes are in the midst of housing booms that may consolidate the hollowing out and decline of New Orleans.

Trust Me

http://www.tonygforgov.com/

OMFG: The Lower 9th Ward

I'll keep this brief. If you have not been to the break in the Industrial Canal in the Lower 9th Ward, turn off your computer, drive down North Claiborne to Tupelo, turn left and go 4 or so blocks. This is mandatory. Once you go you'll know why words can not describe what you will see there. Go before it is gone.

23 March 2006

LSU 62 Duke 54


I just love this picture.

Sorry, America. The official college basketball team of ESPN and CBS is eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet Sixteen YET AGAIN. This just comes one day after ESPN.com published an article saying that Duke's run of 9 straight Sweet Sixteens is "comparable" to UCLA's run in the 60s and 70s. Yep. Duke essentially beat a 16 and an 8 or 9 for nine straight seasons. UCLA won SEVEN STRAIGHT NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS, TEN NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIPS IN TWELVE YEARS, AND 88 STRAIGHT GAMES. Some comparison.

No word yet on if CBS will pre-empt the rest of the NCAA Tournament for reruns of "CSI" now that Duke is gone.

Also no word yet on if CBS and ESPN will issue an apology for waiting until FEBRUARY 28 to give LSU a national television appearance. Duke had had at least two dozen national TV appearances by that point.

Rob Couhig: "Inconceivable"


On the left, actor Wallace Shawn playing the role of Vizzini in the classic 1987 movie THE PRINCESS BRIDE. On the right, attorney and former owner of the AAA Minor League New Orleans Zephyrs and current City of New Orleans mayoral candidate Rob Couhig.

Is the resemblance conceivable? Or is it . . . . ?


Perhaps Mr. President should have heeded another of Vizzini's famous quotes . . .

22 March 2006

Shameless: The ALLSTATE Sugar Bowl

This is one I had to do a double-take on. An insurance company is the corporate sponsor of a bowl game in New Orleans? I guess the money saved in this "act of God" nonsense allowed Allstate to waste millions of dollars endorsing the BCS.

Who was the Sugar Bowl's second choice? Ruth's Chris Steak House?

There may be one good thing to come out of this. Maybe Pedro Cerrano will conduct the coin toss.


SEYMOUR D. FAIR--MY TWO CENTS: Yes, it is ironic that the new sponsor for the 73-year old Sugar Bowl is an insurance company given that many of our citizen's post-KTMB misery hasn't exactly been helped by this industry and in particular this company. However, the securing of a new sponsor by the Sugar Bowl committee since Nokia (sponsor for the past ten years) decided not to renew their sponsorship deal was mandatory towards keeping the game within the BCS and in the three year national championship game rotation. Without a big corporate player stepping up, New Orleans would be at risk of losing this annual 150+ million dollar impact regardless of the long-storied tradition and history of the Sugar Bowl. Another city and corporation would gladly step in and take that position despite the historical significance of the Sugar Bowl. History means zippo. Money means everything. Further irony: the Sugar Bowl's first sponsor from 1986 to 1994 was another insurance company USF&G. USF&G also sponsored New Orleans' PGA event from 1982 to 1991 which after muscial chair sponsorships by Entergy, Freeport McMoran, Freeport-McDermott, Compaq, and HP is now sponsored by Zurich Financial Services--another insurance company.

17th Street Canal and West End Panoramas


Yesterday a friend and I decided to go over to R&O's for lunch. As we were more than halfway there we remembered that R&O's isn't open on Tuesdays. Once we got to Bucktown, as expected, the place was closed. Turns out, according to the sign in the window, they are also closed on Wednesdays as well post-KTMB, at least for the time being. We decided to eat at II Tonys instead and were not disappointed. After we finished our lunch I asked the waitress about the status the restaurant remaining in it's current location. About two months ago the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the location of II Tonys was needed for the now under-construction floodgates. She told us that this is no longer the case and the restaurant will remain as is despite it's proximity to the new floodgates and eventual new pumphouse.

After lunch and wanting to enjoy the ideal weather conditions before heading back to the office crypt, I decided to take some panorama shots of the floodgate construction, the 17th Street Canal floodwall breach, and views of West End and the two harbors at the marina. Overall, the marina appears in much better condition than it did back several months ago (like nearly everywhere else in New Orleans), but sunken and "beached" boats and flooded-out vehicles remain scattered throughout West End. Debris still remains in many places, but much has been cleared in the past couple of months compared to how it was. Nearly every boathouse is completely decimated with its bottom and sometimes its second floor completely blown out from the force of the storm surge. The pedestrian bridge that connected West End to Bucktown survived the storm (unlike the Georges-destroyed original Brunings, the "temporary"/"waiting on insurance" since Georges Brunings, The Dock, Jaegers, and Fitzgeralds) but has been dismantled to allow barges and work boats access to the floodgate construction underway at the mouth of the 17th Street Canal and Lake Pontchartrain. The collapsed West End Lighthouse rests on the ground and the burnt remains of the Southern Yacht Club have been bulldozed and replaced with temporary modular buildings.


Check it out for yourself here. For maximum detail, be sure to view each image at its original resolution.

20 March 2006

The Remnants of Holly Beach Courtesy Hurricane Rita

It's easy to forget that KTMB wasn't the only hurricane Louisiana sustained within a month in late summer 2005. Hurricane Rita (RTMB) threatened the Gulf Coast in the third week of September eventually coming ashore near the Louisiana/Texas border at Sabine Pass. A while back I posted some before/after aerial shots of the Cameron Parish town of Holly Beach. A friend from Lafayette sent me the following pictures he took on the ground at the remnants of Holly Beach a little over a month ago . . .




But the Louisiana State Government and Louisiana Local Governments Cannot be Trusted to Wisely Spend Federal Post-KTMB Dollars . . .

Check out this article in today's Washington Post: "Multiple Layers Of Contractors Drive Up Cost of Katrina Cleanup."

It's just pathetic and points out what we've all known all along--everyone has their hand in the cookie jar except for the people physically doing the work. And because of all those hands, the cost to perform a task that must be done in order for the region to rebuild doubles and triples. Nothing like that "government rate."

And then there are situations like this:

A family friend who has a large truck and trailer and the other necessary equipment decided in October to go help out with the debris removal in St. Bernard Parish. He got hired by one of the underling companies and has worked nearly seven days a week in Chalmette and Arabi loading his truck and trailer and bringing the debris to dedicated disposal sites over the past four months. Guess how much payment he has received for his work? Nada. Zero. Still waiting on the check . . .

2006 Irish Channel St. Patrick's Parade Photos

A week late, but below are some photos I took during my participation in the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Parade. The turnout seemed less than usual on St. Charles but seemed as crowded or maybe even more crowded than pre-KTMB times on Magazine. Politicians (and/or potential politicians) were on the prowl at the parade. I saw Arnie Fielkow in the staging area and talked to Oliver Thomas who was making the rounds pre-parade. Just like Mardi Gras, this event not happening in 2006 looked to be a real possibility back in the Fall.








19 March 2006

If You Tell a Lie Big Enough and Keep Repeating It, People Will Eventually Come to Believe It PART 1: New Orleans Nat'l Flood Insurance Participation


Where the Money is Going Map from the Times-Picayune:
PDF. Not surprisingly Lakeview and Chalmette have the most to-be-paid claims both totaling over one billion dollars each. Mid-City, Gentilly, and New Orleans East have between 500 million dollars and one billion worth of flood claims.

The lead article in today's Times-Picayune is entitled "After Katrina, pundits criticized New Orleans, claiming too many residents had no flood insurance. In fact, few communities were better covered." The two following examples cited from the article typify the erroneous and misleading information that continues to plague perception and hamper the rebuilding of New Orleans.

The opening two paragraphs of the piece:


In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, public officials and insurance experts predicted that the vast majority of property losses from the most costly flood in U.S. history would be uninsured.

Members of Congress rose up in righteous indignation to scold residents of New Orleans, one of the most vulnerable cities in America, for failing to buy federal flood insurance and then coming hat in hand and asking to be bailed out with federal money.

The irony, now revealed in data painstakingly worked up by aides to Donald Powell, the Bush administration's liaison to the disaster zone, is that Louisiana was a more enthusiastic participant in the National Flood Insurance Program than any other state in the nation.

Ooops. I liked the "scolding" part. Are any apologies going to be issued? Did any member of Congress even consider talking to the FEMA National Flood Insurance Program people before openly chastising Louisiana? Actually, flood insurance or no flood insurance, our impacted citizens and businesses should be bailed out 100% by federal money as the failure of federally constructed levees and floodwalls is the sole reason for this disaster. Unlike this bullshit (and to be quite honest downright offensive) claim that "Louisiana Owes Texas," I would dare say the federal government indeed owes the City of New Orleans and the Parish of St. Bernard for their mistake. But actually, it is owed because two thirds of our citizens have been paying flood insurance premiums for years and years so its time for the NFIP to ante up. This isn't just entitlement just because as some would have you believe--this money is the return of an investment paid year after year.

But wait, there's more . . .

"Although flood insurance is heavily subsidized, many -- even most -- property owners in New Orleans do not buy this insurance, expecting the federal government to bail them out whether or not they are insured," said Cato Institute Chairman William Niskanen in testimony to Congress about the disaster in September.

Niskanen was wrong about New Orleans. And like New Orleans, the rest of state also participates heavily in the flood insurance program.

Did Mr. Niskanen just make this up? Did he or his staff do ANY research at all before he spoke this mis-truth during Congressional testimony as New Orleans and its surroundings still sat underwater? Perhaps it was just the assumption that the freeloading, not-working, government cheese eating citizenry of New Orleans was just too darn stupid to buy even heavily-subsidized (which they all should like right?) flood insurance.

Can any of these people do any research before they start yapping?????? More examples of "If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it" to come . . . .

UPDATE: Harry Shearer comments on the New Orleans and Louisiana and the National Flood Insurance Program.

UPDATE2: Kinch at Building Big Easy makes an excellent point I omitted in my above rant. The existing 1980's-released FEMA FIRM maps told residents in many areas which did flood post-KTMB (such as along the Gentilly Ridge) that they weren't at risk for flooding. Therefore, they were part of the 1/3 of the property owners that opted not to participate in the National Flood Insurance Program.

Photo du Jour: New Basin Canal Irish Memorial


A late Happy St. Patrick's Day . . . .

Markus at Wetbank Guide has a fantastic St. Patrick's Day post on the relevance of the Irish to the past, the present, and perhaps even the future of New Orleans. Read this post.

About the Photo du Jour:
The New Basin Canal Irish Memorial commemorates the death of at least 8,000 Irish (mostly to disease) during the digging of the New Basin Canal between 1832 and 1838. After its completion until the 1960's the canal provided navigable access from Lake Pontchartrain to the present location of the Louisiana Superdome transversing a distance of about six miles. It was filled in the early 1960's in conjunction with the construction of Interstate 10 which utilizes half of the canal's original right of way for its routing. The monument is within the Lakeview neighborhood and sits a few blocks east of the 17th Street Canal floodwall breach that contributed to the flooding the City of New Orleans in August 2005. Because the monument is elevated upon a small hill it was not completely submerged in the flooding, however the bottom 1/3 of the cross including the base was underwater as observed by the still very evident water line. The depth of the floodwaters (from street level) were in the seven to eight feet range in this area.

Check out the floodlines in this panorama via flickr visible upon the adjacent houses on West End and Pontchartrain Boulevards. THIS IS ALMOST SEVEN MONTHS LATER--although much of debris has been hauled away, the majority of houses in areas like Lakeview resemble what they looked like in October once the floodwaters receded.

18 March 2006

AMAZING Video--New Orleans: My Home, My Life, My Love - A MUST SEE

Just this morning I received an email from a friend who is President of HRI, the company that owns and manages the American Can Company building in Mid City. His email provided a link to an 11 minute video showing the conditions in the American Can Company and Mid-City in the days immediately following Hurricane Katrina and the rescue of those trapped in the American Can. In addition to hitting very close to home, this is the some of the most powerful imagery I have seen about the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. It is real and honest without being graphic or gratuitous. The retail businesses there can now reopen and owe it to the fortress-like construction of the American Can building. The people in this video owe much more than that to the American Can.

Because the American Can is such a Mid-City landmark this is absolutely essential viewing material for any resident of Mid-City and the American Can Company. There are a handful of expletives and a few intense images, so if you think you may be offended or if you do not want to revisit the memories of the storm this video is not for you.

In his email my friend wrote “There are many images of what happened post-Katrina in New Orleans which are engrained in the minds of the country. Hopefully, the positive images reflected in this video help change some negative memories. It sure had an impact on mine.”

The video can be seen by clicking here.

17 March 2006

It's Time to Cut Aaron Brooks a (Small) Break

Look, before I go any further, let me strongly say that I am IN NO WAY an Aaron Brooks fan. Nobody is happier than me to see the guy gone. His time was over. We stayed with him a couple of years too long. But come on. Give me a freakin' break. People are celebrating a little too much that this guy is gone. I think that a lot of us are being completely unfair to the guy. People are acting like this guy was a total disaster (and it was at the end). I also think that a lot of people are blaming him for things that weren't completely his fault.

With that being said, I would like to point out some things that we need to remember about Aaron Brooks while we stamp the dirt down on his grave:

1. Aaron Brooks is NOT EVEN CLOSE to being the worst starting quarterback in Saints history: I guess it's time for me to pull out the names. Gary Cuozzo, Bobby Douglass, a washed-up Ken Stabler, Richard Todd, John Fourcade, Steve Walsh, Doug Nussmeier, Heath Shuler, Danny Wuerffel, any quarterback named Billy Joe. You know I can go on. In fact, no matter how much you try to trash him, Aaron Brooks will go down as the third-best quarterback in Saints history, behind Archie Manning and Bobby Hebert. And if you want to be technical, Aaron Brooks had winning seasons and a playoff game. Archie Manning did not. And, yes, Archie is my all-time favorite Saint--so please don't give me a history lesson.

2. Aaron Brooks almost single-handedly saved the 2000 season: Who didn't think the 2000 season was over when Jeff Blake went down? Brooks came into the first start and beat the Super Bowl Champion Rams on the road. He then pulled off one of the biggest comebacks in Saints history, coming back from 10 in the last 5 minutes in San Francisco. Without those wins, the Saints do not win the division.

3. Aaron Brooks should not get the bulk of the blame for Jake Delhomme's departure: You can say he should have voluntarily sat down at the end of the 2002 season because of his injury, and let Jake get us in the playoffs. But I don't. He's a competitor. I don't think he would have volunteered to play if he didn't think he was healthy. But it shouldn't have been his decision. If Jim Haslett would have any balls whatsoever, he would have told Brooks he was out. Haslett could have done it at any point in that Panthers game (when it was clear that Brooks was killing us), but he was a gutless turd. Basically Haslett and the front office never took Jake seriously. They never thought he was any more than an average backup. That's not Aaron's fault.

4. Aaron Brooks did one thing no quarterback has done before or since in Saints history: He won a playoff game. Because of Aaron Brooks, nobody can tell us "The Saints are the only team in NFL history to NEVER win a playoff game." And Aaron Brooks deserves the credit for winning that game. Well, future Saint Az Hakim deserves some credit too. But Brooks was money in that game. Look it up if you forgot. He came up huge in the biggest game of his career. Too bad he has regressed since then.

Now, I know what you're saying. And I could make a list of all the terrible things he did. The late-season collapses, the indifference, the stupid decisions, the misleading statistics (which were usually padded during blowout losses), and the infamous "backward pass" to Wayne Gandy. Just don't act like this guy was Heath Shuler, okay?

Photo du Jour: John Brown's Sidewalk Astronomy in the Vieux Carre


Following the St. Bernard Parish design presentation by Andres Duany and his firm DPZ (post coming on that), myself and my friend decided to stop over in the Vieux Carre for a bite to eat and some beer to drink. We wound up eating dinner and "having a few" at Coop's Place then on the Molly's on the Market for a few more frosty beverages. As we were driving off to call it a night, my friend had a beignet craving so I made the block and was able to park within a block of Cafe du Monde. As he has been for thirty years, John Brown and his Sidewalk Astronomy was setup right on Decatur Street on the sidewalk adjacent to Cafe du Monde. After we had a sugar and fried dough fix, we walked over and talked to Mr. Brown for a while and also looked into the eyepiece of the telescope. At first the telescope was aimed at the Moon (as seen in the picture). Looking into the telescope it was amazing to see pretty good detail of the rough cratered surface of the Full "Ides of March" Moon. Then I asked about the "rings of Saturn" as his chalk board sign mentions and he turned the telescope in the opposite direction (aimed directly above St. Louis Cathedral) and within thirty seconds he had Saturn in view and focused. I stepped up to the ladder and although fairly small, clear as day the sphere and rings of Saturn fell into view. The moon Io could also be seen through the lens, but it just resembled a star as would be seen in the normal sky.

We have lost so much since August 2005--hopefully most of it will come back as New Orleans rebuilds--but seeing that such a fixture of the French Quarter and New Orleans remains right where its supposed to be reassures me we can overcome the problems left in the wake of the MANMADE FLOODING spurred from KTMB.

16 March 2006

Aerial Photographs of New Orleans and Environs: 11 March 2006


Last weekend a friend of mine had the opportunity to participate in an aerial survey of the New Orleans area. Fortunately he took a boatload of digital pictures. The images capture both the widespread devastation to the built environment (still remaining over six months later) as well as the devastation to the surrounding natural systems (massive erosion/wetland loss) worsened by the storm surge.

Areas included in the images are: St. Bernard Parish (Chalmette, Arabi, Delacroix), the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans East, City Park/Bayou St. John, Chef Menteur/Irish Bayou, and Eden Isles/Oak Harbor on the St. Tammany Parish Northshore.

The New Orleans and Environs flickr photostream can be seen here.

GAO: Millions Wasted in Award of Katrina Contracts--and Louisiana Can't be Trusted

This is the kind of thing that really infuriates me. One of the main reasons given that the feds were very hesitant to send to much money to Louisiana was the fear that it would not be spent wisely. Then you go and read stuff like this..............

http://hosted.ap.org/dynamic/stories/K/KATRINA_CONTRACTS_LAOL-?SITE=LAMON&SECTION=HOME&TEMPLATE=DEFAULT

We all know that our political history here in Louisiana is a bit "colorful" to say the least. Have our elected officials at every level wasted and misused funds? Absolutely. Should we have to account for every dollar given to us from the federal government. Absolutely. Why? Because that money belongs to the citizens of the United States and if any other state ever needs any help and its our money that gets sent to them that is what we would want. Oversight is fine. We all agree. Transparency is the only way. But, those in Washington have to be held to the same high standards.

The reports of waste in the wake of Katrina are astounding. I'm sure this article is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine the good that could have been done with the millions that were spent on things that weren't needed. Trailers that will never be used. Cots that will never be used. Trailer loads of ice that were left to melt. Bloated blue roof contracts. (Govt. paid like $2000 each and the actual work was subcontracted out for 175 bucks each). FEMA trailers that will cost us (the taxpayers) $36,000 each for 18 months of use. We have all seen these trailers. Don't you think that you could do better for 36 grand. 36 GRAND!! Per Trailer!! We could have just give each qualifying applicant 20 grand, saved millions and we wouldn't still have thousands of people begging for trailers.

How about this.......we don't have to pay taxes until they show that the money won't be wasted and it will be spent on what we want them to spend it on. What's good for the goose is good for the gander right?

It makes me wonder if our federal goverment will ever be able to adequately handle a situation like ours. Maybe, because of the nature of our governmental system, it isn't possible for them to do much better. Hell, I don't know. At least the GAO is looking at these things and somebody is reading the reports.


UPDATE: The "Agency Management of Contractors Responding to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita" GAO Report (as a PDF) can be viewed here.

14 March 2006

The Future of the NEW ORLEANS Saints Rides on This Guy

Well, here he is. The next New Orleans Saints quarterback. All I can say is good luck. I hope you know what you're in for. Literally speaking, the future of this franchise rests on you. You'd better be ready for it. It may not be fair, but if you fail miserably, you will be the scapegoat, fans will stop coming, and the team will move to Los Angeles. But enough of the worst case scenario.

The Saints did what they had to do. They are not wasting any more time on Aaron Brooks. They are getting a respected quarterback with a proven track record. It's about time. When is the last time the Saints have had a Pro-Bowl caliber quarterback in his prime (Jim Everett and Ken Stabler do not count)? Maybe the 6 weeks of Kerry Collins in the Ditka era, but he clearly sandbagged because he had personal problems and didn't want to be here anyway.

As I said in an earlier post, I don't think that this is a slam dunk by any stretch. It's probably the best move they could make, considering that trading for Culpepper was never really a credible option. So let's look at the signing from its good and bad points:

THE GOOD

1. Drew Brees is a Pro-Bowl quarterback: That has already been discussed, and the Saints haven't had one of these since Archie Manning was at his peak.

2. Drew Brees is a winner: This guy made winners out of both Purdue and the San Diego Chargers. Neither team was close to competitive before he got there. Purdue is already back at the bottom of the Big 10, 5 years after he left. Remember, the Chargers were a joke of a franchise at least on the level of the Saints 2 years ago. We all remember the Eli incident. Well, he led that team to the playoffs.

3. Drew Brees does not make mistakes: His touchdown-to-interception is outstanding. Apparently he does not force the ball, try to be a hero, and make stupid mistakes. Of course, if he can break the huddle before the play clock runs out, he would be an improvement over Aaron Brooks.

THE BAD

1. Drew Brees is coming off of major shoulder surgery: The national media is speculating that this is why Miami backed off and traded for Daunte Culpepper. And if you think that a quarterback with a shredded knee is a safer pick than a quarterback with a bad shoulder, you must have serious reservations. The national media is also saying that it is questionable if Brees will be ready for training camp.

2. Drew Brees is not a "prototype" quarterback: Drew Brees is not 6'5". Drew Brees does not have a cannon for an arm (even before the surgery). But then again, Tom Brady and Joe Montana weren't "prototype" quarterbacks either. And if you don't think Brees belongs in this category, neither were Bobby Hebert and Jake Delhomme.

3. Drew Brees played in a conservative offense: Marty Schottenheimer was his coach. This is probably why he didn't make mistakes. Ladainian Tomlinson caught 100 passes from Brees 2 years ago. And Antonio Gates was his most dependable pass catcher. The Saints don't have a go-to guy at tight end. The Saints haven't had a running back that has caught tons of passes since Tony Galbreath. So Brees will probably have to learn to adjust his game to the Saints' strength--their wide receivers.

4. Drew Brees will be under lots of pressure: You can say that it's unfair, but as I said before, whether the Saints survive and fluorish in New Orleans depends on whether Brees and the Saints can win right away. The city can't afford to lose fan support early on, because ownership and the NFL are looking for the first excuse to get the hell out. Last year, we asked Aaron Brooks to carry the hopes of the team and the city on his shoulders, and he predictably failed miserably. The good thing is that it sounds like Brees knows what he is in for, and isn't afraid.

So good luck, Drew Brees. I pray that you are the man. So are thousands of other Gulf Coast residents. If you can save the team, you will forever have our gratitude.

Drew Brees Apparently Signs with the Saints

Fast and furious. Two sources (ESPN News and WWL-TV) say the Saints have signed Drew Brees, only 30 minutes after it was announced that Daunte Culpepper was traded to the Dolphins. When I get more info, I will talk about it.

1986 Levee Wall Test Exposes Failures: NOTHING Done About It

According to the National Science Foundation, in 1986 the Army Corps of Engineers tested levee walls in the Atchafalaya Basin to see if the walls would hold the water that they were designed for. The test specifically mimicked the soils and conditions in New Orleans.

From the Times Picayune this morning:
The 1986 corps test, done in the Atchafalaya Basin on soils purposely meant to simulate those in the New Orleans area, resulted in a series of events that closely mirrors those that occurred on the 17th Street Canal during Katrina, the science foundation statement said. As water levels rose against floodwalls built for the test, a "dramatic increase" in deflections of the sheet piles occurred, followed by a "gap developing between the sheet piles and the soils, allowing water to flow between the sheet piles and the soils, exerting additional hydrostatic pressures on the piles," the foundation engineers said.
Wow, that sounds a lot like the findings of the Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, the Corps sponsored panel investigating the floodwall failures during Katrina:
The Interagency Performance Evaluation Task Force, working for the corps to investigate the levee breaches, said in its second interim report Friday that the 17th Street failure was caused by rising water in the canal that forced the floodwall to flex away from the canal, causing a separation between the wall and the levee inside the canal. Water pressure building inside the opening then exerted force on a weak layer of soil under the wall and the land-side toe of the levee, causing the layer to slip and bringing the levee down and the wall with it.

The results of the tests were "widely circulated among Corps officials" and the New Orleans Levee District was alerted of the test also. But according to the National Science Foundation, further evaluation and methodology of testing soils, sheet piling, and the concrete walls was never done.

So let me get this straight:

1. New Orleans Floodwalls built.
2. Mimicked Floodwalls tested and failed.
3. Test Results widely distributed through Corps and Orleans Parish Levee District - nothing done about it.
4. Katrina slams coast - New Orleans floodwalls fail and make the world's largest wave pool.
5. Corps sponsored panel claims that the floodwall failure was "unforeseeable" but they conveniently forget the 1986 floodwall test.
6. National Science Foundation exposes the Corps and it's pet panel for what they are.

Now maybe this isn't quite as obvious as "Bin Laden determined to attack in the United States" but something should have done to those walls when the Corps KNEW that they were doomed to fail. And now the Corps is bullshitting everyone by saying "unforeseeable". Where's the fucking accountability?

Miami out of Drew Brees Negotiations?

ESPN News is reporting that Daunte Culpepper has been traded to the Dolphins. Apparently the Saints' only serious competitor for Drew Brees is gone. No word yet on new talks between the Saints and Brees. The stories say that word should be out today...

The 2006 New Orleans Boat Show


The New Orleans Boat Show was held last weekend in the Ernest Morial Convention Center. The show is normally held in the Louisiana Superdome but was moved to the Convention Center because of the work being done at the dome right now. It was good to see the boat show, which is put on by the National Marine Manufacturers Association, pull off an impressive show. The Convention Center was an excellent venue. It was bright and clean and showed no evidence of the "unpleasantness" that took place there only six short months ago.

It seemed to me that there were more boats than in recent years. I talked to a few vendors who said that attendance was good and the sold quite a few boats. The sales can probably be attributed to many people replacing boats lost in the storm. Whatever the reason, it was good to see. It was good to see the crowds and really good to see that the NMMA went ahead with the show even though the usual venue wasn't available and many speculated that no one would come. Fortunately, they were wrong.

The New Orleans Boat Show, as all shows and conventions like it, are important to New Orleans. It is the largest boat show on the Gulf Coast and second only to the Miami Boat Show in the South, I think. They had lots of boats to choose from. I went to see two in particular and it was well worth the trip. I have now decided on the one I want. I even got a price quote.

Thanks to the organizers, they did a great job.

"Ramrod Opportunism" Walgreens at South Carrollton and South Claiborne


This is an excerpt from the Times-Picayune right before Mardi Gras regarding some resolutions passed by the City Planning Commission:


It (the planning commission) also gave unanimous approval to plans for a 14,700-square-foot Walgreens drugstore at South Claiborne and South Carrollton avenues, the former site of a Rite Aid drugstore and a Canal Villere grocery. Both stores have been closed for several years.

Leaders of several Carrollton neighborhood groups have been pushing for years to get a grocery built at the site and have opposed Walgreens' plans, saying the neighborhood does not need another drugstore. Walgreens officials presented similar plans in 2002 but withdrew them at the last minute. At that time, they said that if the drugstore plans were approved, Sav-A-Center was
ready to build a 24,000-square-foot grocery on the Nelson Street side of the block, provided a fire station at Nelson and Carrollton could be relocated.

Many neighbors were skeptical, fearing that if the Walgreens were built, the grocery would never follow.

A parking issue: Because a drugstore is permitted at the site under the zoning law, the issue before the commission was not whether to allow the store but whether to let Walgreens build it 143 feet back from Carrollton, with a large parking lot between the store and the street. Although a setback of that size violates commission design regulations, the commission agreed to allow it,
provided that the developers plant several trees, landscape the parking lot and promise to keep clean a bus stop in the Claiborne Avenue neutral ground. It also ordered the developers to meet with the unhappy neighbors but did not direct them to make any concessions.

There was no discussion of whether a grocery is likely to be built on the Nelson Street site that Sav-A-Center formerly was targeting for a store.

These developers (via Texas I believe) have been playing hardball since they acquired this piece of property over five years ago. Since their initial proposal got shot down by the city I have been saying (to my wife's annoyance everytime we drove by it) that they were purposely letting the buildings go to shit and practically hoping someone would be killed or be harmed on the premises so the city and neighborhood associations would be begging them to build the new Walgreens per their original proposal. Rite Aid in their geniusness closed the long time K&B/Rite Aid location at one of New Orleans' busiest intersections within a year of their acquisition of the K&B chain. Yes, the place was in desperate need of renovation, but that location at one of New Orleans' busiest intersections, should make it a perennial cash-cow. Rite Aid once again proves why they are the worst. Ever. The Canal-Villerie also on-site bit the dust in the late-1990's Schweggmann, National-CV, Sav-A-Center, Robert Market grocery store shuffle-roo. Both stores continue to languish there now tagged (and swept by the rollers of the Gray Ghost), flooded-out, and abandoned. No one got killed as I predicted, but the developers are now going to get their way regardless. Just as Barbara Bush provided her insight on New Orleans evacuees relegated to the Astrodome in September 2005, "it's all working out pretty good for them."

Not stated in the excerpt above is the stipulation of the retroactive closing of the Walgreen's on South Carrollton/Earhart included in the initial proposal several years ago. This was another major factor galvanizing the neighborhood associations and City against the proposed project because of the empty, abandoned building to be left behind ten blocks up South Carrollton Avenue from the new store location. And now in the post-KTMB New Orleans defined by ruin and abandonment, this should be an even more pronounced issue, not an overlooked consequence of new development. Currently, the South Carrollton/Earhart store now just sits there empty--with all of the outdoor signage identifying the store as a Walgreens removed within the past couple of months. Hmmmmm.

I consider this yet another example of what I am defining as the "ramrod opportunism" spawn in New Orleans post-KTMB by those with desires that pre-KTMB would be very difficult in fulfilling. Many of the voices that would otherwise fight this Walgreen's project (and successfully fought it for the past five years) are busy trying to get their lives back together--unfortunately, some in other cities altogether or others dealing with rebuilding and re-establishing their once-flooded homes/businesses here in New Orleans. Other examples of the post-KTMB "ramrod opportunism": Ruth's Chris Sellout corporate headquarters bolting to Orlando courtesy of CEO Craig S. Miller, the not even debatable eradication of the Tulane School of Engineering and Newcomb College by Tulane President Scott Cowen and Tulane Provost Lester Lefton, and Entergy's soon-to-be-confirmed minimized, if not eliminated entirely, corporate presence in New Orleans. Pre-KTMB these changes surely would have faced an uphill battle--or at least generate enough opposition to make them un palatable.

UPDATE: The Mime: The Blog has pointed out another obvious case of ramrod opportunism brought about in the aftermath of KTMB: the ammending of the state casino laws by the Mississippi State Legislature to now allow land-based casinos on the Mississippi Gulf Coast.

13 March 2006

The Next New Orleans Saints Quarterback

There's a chance that one of these six guys will be on the Saints' roster next year. One of them, even the rookies, may enter the season as starting QB. We may know in less than 24 hours, if Drew Brees doesn't sign with the Dolphins before he "gets back to us." Basically, there are 4 ways this could turn out:

1. Sign Drew Brees: This sounds like a popular choice. He is a proven NFL Pro Bowl quarterback. But even if we get him, I'm not sure it's a slam dunk for the Saints. It's an aggressive move, and I'll give the Saints credit for going after him. But he has rotator cuff problems, and he's a conservative-offense quarterback. The reason he was so efficient was that it seemed like all his passes were dumps in the flat to LaDainian Tomlinson or 5-yard routes to Antonio Gates. I don't think it a reach to say I'm not sure if he can play in a WR-dominated offense.

2. Trade for Daunte Culpepper: This would be very interesting. No doubt he's the best pure quarterback who is apparently available. He puts up incredible numbers (at least when he had Randy Moss), but is he a great leader? That's the question on him. Well, that and the knee surgery. Can he lead a team to the Super Bowl, or his he another Dan Fouts? I'd like to see the Saints also make an aggressive play on him. But I doubt that it will happen. It sounds like he wants to go to Miami or Oakland.

3. Draft a rookie and start him: I don't think that this would be disaster. It's not like he would be Alex Smith (of the 49ers) starting with a horrible offense around him. Ben Roethlisberger won right away. He'd go in there with a good RB, solid WRs, and a sometimes-decent offensive line. I guess I'd go with Matt Leinart over Jay Cutler and Vince Young. I don't know what this love-fest is all about with Cutler. And I'm scared to death of Young, even though there's a chance he could be Michael Jordan to Leinart's Sam Bowie.

4. Draft a rookie and bench him behind a mediocre veteran: That's where Josh McCown comes in. I hear that there's interest if we don't get Brees. The guy had some good games in Arizona, but he had some bad ones too. This will probably be the route the Saints will go if the Brees thing falls through. I mean, we need a backup anyway. I doubt that Brooks or Bowman will be on the team, and McPhereson sounds like a bust so far (even though Haslett is notorious for misjudging QB talent).

Opinions, anyone?

TIME Magazine: Why New Orleans Needs Saving

John Barry of RISING TIDE fame and-- gulp--Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House and Tulane alumn (1971), penned an article entitled "Why New Orleans Needs Saving" in last week's TIME Magazine. Check it out.

The entire article is worth reading but here's a good nugget:

There is no debate about the reality of that land loss and its impact. On that the energy industry and environmentalists agree. There is also no doubt about the solution. Chip Groat, a former director of the U.S. Geological Survey, says, "This land loss can be managed, and New Orleans can be protected, even with projected sea-level rise." Category 5 hurricane protection for the region, including coastal restoration, storm-surge barriers and improved levees, would cost about $40 billion--over 30 years. Compare that with the cost to the economy of less international competitiveness (the result of increased freight charges stemming from loss of the efficiencies of the port of New Orleans), higher energy prices and more vulnerable energy supplies. Compare that with the cost of rebuilding the energy and port infrastructure elsewhere. Compare that with the fact that in the past two years, we have spent more to rebuild Iraq's wetlands than Louisiana's. National interest requires this restoration. Our energy needs alone require it. Yet the White House proposes spending only $100 million for coastal restoration.

Washington also has a moral burden. It was the Federal Government's responsibility to build levees that worked, and its failure to do so ultimately led to New Orleans' being flooded. The White House recognized that responsibility when it proposed an additional $4.2 billion for housing in New Orleans, but the first priority remains flood control. Without it, individuals will hesitate to rebuild, and lenders will decline to invest.

Amen.

The Kimberly Williamson Butler Saga: An Anonymous Comment (from a Former Co-Worker) to TBNO

This comment was posted in response to nolagirl's post on 3 March 2005 concerning the decision of Kimberly Williamson Butler to throw her name into the hat for the 20+ candidate New Orleans mayoral election to be held in April. I don't know how I missed this comment made on Friday (damn Irish Channel Parade weekend)--but I just discovered it this morning.

I don't know who wrote this (nor can I confirm it's authenticity), but ouch . . .

Anonymous said...
I was fired in Feb. 2004 after running elections for 26 years and watched in horror to what happened in September. After working with?? her for 2 1/2 months, I saw the bizarre behavior and her unwillingness to "do the right thing" as she ignored accounting procedures, even after I advised her of what was required. I was fired that afternoon. Lying seems to come to her naturally.I've already decided if the electorate in this city makes her our next mayor, my house will go up for sale and I will relocate, even it it's only to the North Shore or Baton Rouge. We will all be doomed for failure.
March 10, 2006 5:01 PM



Times-Picayune editorial writer Jarvis DeBerry has this to say about Ms. Butler yesterday.

This letter to the editor also in yesterday's TP says its all.

28 September 2004 Gambit Weekly: ". . . she has not handled herself very well . . ." They hadn't seen anything yet.

Photo du Phat Tuesday - March 13

"She's hot. She's a star . . . "

Anyone else remember those "Come see me after the game" Chris Owens commericals on the Superdome Jumbotrons at television timeouts during Saints games in the early Mora era (late 1980s)????


The John Blutarsky flickr Mardi Gras stream can be seen HERE.

Photos du Jour: The Parkway Bakery and Tavern





The other day a friend of mine whom I work with needed to head over to Mid-City to "touch base" with the work crew currently working on his house. Over six months later my friend is still dealing with the insurance company and still fighting to receive acceptable financial settlements, but despite this has charged ahead and has his house well on the road to recovery. His home sits an area that was engulfed with 5+ feet of water at street level, but because the house was raised three feet off the ground got a little over two feet interior inundation. Also, the turn-of-the-century house is two stories, so he was able to recover all possessions upstairs. He and his wife (and child) plan to be in the house by May. (Look for a future post on my friend's story.) See Chris Rose's most recent column accurately assessing/describing Mid-City New Orleans.

So he had to run out to Mid-City and he asked me if I wanted to go along with him during our lunch hour. I was wavering but then he suggested we eat lunch at the Parkway Bakery and Tavern near Bayou St. John-- I was in. The Parkway Bakery was a place I had heard nothing but good things about but which I had never been to since it's resurrection in 2004. The place is the classic New Orleans neighborhood po-boy restaurant (such as Domilisie's Uptown) located in a typical New Orleans corner store building. The place did get about 2.5 feet of water but reopened in mid-December. We both ordered the signature sandwich--the hot roast beef po-boy--with his dressed and mine plain, and the sandwich lived up to all the buzz (using Leidenheimer Bread I am sure). Although windy and ugly overcast we sat in the outdoor seating area out back and despite the lack of a funky water line on the Parkway building--obviously power-washed off --a thick brown line was glaringly obvious on an adjacent house. I think I may have found a new favorite po-boy . . .

12 March 2006

LSU a 4 Seed in the NCAA Basketball Tournament?

Okay, I know that this is a New Orleans site, but I really need an explanation. LSU won the SEC. LSU finished two games ahead of Tennessee. LSU beat Tennessee by something like 18 points. LSU went deeper into the SEC tournament than Tennessee (or to put in other terms: LSU actually won a game in the SEC tournament).

So, why is LSU a 4 seed and Tennessee is a 2 seed?

11 March 2006

How Will ESPN.com's Dan Shanoff Explain Away This One?

Anybody who knows me personally knows that I have trouble letting things go. I think that this is something Seymour and I have in common...

People familiar with this blog are familiar with my sports rants. My story about ESPN's Dan Shanoff trashing the Hornets in their New Orleans return is just the latest. I'm still having a hard time with it, because his premise was so far-fetched that it wasn't even funny. Just like other "national" media people fuel the fire that the whole KTMB catastrophe was "our" fault, even though the government historically ignored our levees and told our officials "They are fully prepared." Somehow it's our fault for trying to live in this geographical nightmare.

But I'm digressing again. Since the loss Wednesday was "our" fault too, I wanted to see what happened next time the Hornets played in OKC, where they could feed off that incredible "fan vibe." I wanted to see if Shanoff was right, or if the facts I presented in my article were valid.

Judge for yourself:

Peja Stojakovic scored 26 points, including the go-ahead 3-pointer, and West missed a shot at his fourth game-winner of the season as the Pacers beat the New Orleans Hornets 92-90 on Friday night.

The Hornets had a final possession after Stojakovic missed a long 3-pointer with the shot clock dwindling and took the ball out of bounds with 6.1 seconds left after play was stopped because an orange toy ball was thrown onto the court.

West took an inbounds pass and was forced to call timeout with 3.1 seconds left when he was swarmed by the Pacers' defense. Indiana's
Anthony Johnson was called for a technical foul walking to the sidelines, but Chris Paul missed New Orleans' ensuing foul shot.

The Hornets have now lost five straight, and 7 of 9 since the break. Only one of those games was played in New Orleans.

That's one hell of a "fan vibe." The Hornets couldn't close a big game again. Those superior OKC fans couldn't lift the Hornets to a victory. Hell, they even throw toy balls on the court as they are trying to win the game.

But I'll probably wait for a Dan Shanoff apology for misleading American opinion just as long as Seymour waits for an apology from Ruth's Chris.

Dan will probably still blame it on New Orleans. If they wouldn't have played here, they wouldn't have had the terrible jet lag resulting from that 2-3 hour flight to Oklahoma City. Or maybe they were tired from hammering all those nails in as they tried to help rebuild the city.

Oh well. Maybe next time I'll have something positive to say. Maybe if Drew Brees comes to town and Aaron Brooks gets the hell out...