Archive for September, 2008

Today’s Vote Roster on the Bailout

Cash_Money

CSPAN Roll Call of Votes

I don’t feel like this is a partisan issue, I feel like most people on the ground just want help first for a change. Most comments on the report on the Times Picayune website are from people who feel like they are already under a great burden and seem to want to share to pain. Plus, the last time we opted for a blank check, we were lied to.

I am posting this to share the link where you could see how your favorite House Representative voted which way today.

Central City

Cafe Reconcile

Cafe Reconcile

Frank picked us up at my maaama’s in Gretna. He had arranged for a meeting between us and his friend Don, whom Frank is sure will help us with connections. We drove over the beautiful Crescent City Connection to Cafe Reconcile. A crowd of retired white folks outside who were literally bussed in from some hotel raved about the food and the service. Good. Reconcile Cafe is in Central City and employs at-risk youths and trains them up to work in the hospitality industry.
 
There are so many neighborhoods that have names that I don’t know. I started hearing about Central City after Ka-ka-ka-trina. Reading about it in the blogs while still in London. Where the hell is that? I asked myself. Well, it’s Dryads Street, which is now Oretha Castle Harvey Blvd. Changed its name from tree nymphs to civil rights leader. I wonder anyway where the whole greek mythology theme came from what with Caliope and Elysian Fields and that.
 
I used to drive through Central City every day on my way to Loyola. I’d drive from Gentilly where I was living with my Aunt Velma to Bywater to pick up Mark at St. Cecilia where he was living with Ronnie. Then we’d drive all the way down Rampart cross over the Ponchetrain Expressway and then onto Dryads. It was a beautiful decaying street then, and it ended in the YMCA, which was a beautiful decaying building. I always wanted to live in that building. It’s a school now. And there’s the Zeitgeist Theatre and a voter registration center down there.
I had smothered okra, green beans and cornbread. Yummy. This time, I went in armed with my own tupperware for my gator bag.

After, Frank drove us around through Mid City, City Park, Bayou St. John, Lakeview, Lake Vista, Gentilly and the Marigny. It was like doing a state of the union on New Orleans neighborhoods. I did this the last time I came here in December of 2006. Things still look pretty fucked up, so the afternoon had a bittersweet tinge to it.

Go here for a comprehensive article about Central City.

Idiotwatch update: "LaBruzzo idea at odds with welfare numbers"

State Rep. John LaBruzzo says the government should consider cash incentives for poor people to undergo reproductive sterilization, because society is careening toward a day when persons on public assistance outnumber taxpayers and the economy collapses. A look at Louisiana welfare numbers suggests his fear is unfounded….

Figures from the state Department of Social Services show recipients of the main form of welfare, the Family Independence Temporary Assistance Program, have plunged from a monthly average of 280,177 people in fiscal 1990-91 to 13,504 people in 2006-07. The monthly grant to a qualifying mother with two children is now $240.

Total annual spending over the 16-year period dropped from $187.2 million to $16.5 million, less than legislators earmarked for pet projects.

The main reason for the decline, said Social Services spokeswoman Cheryl Michelet, is the 1996 federal welfare reform legislation signed by President Clinton. It put a five-year lifetime cap on benefits…. [emphasis totally 100% mine]

full story at NOLA.com

LaBruzzo’s Final Solution: Seriously, Y’all

Hi, Metairie:

I know there’s been some tension between us lately. I know it’s mostly because you hate it when people think of Metairie as “New Orleans”. That reaction doesn’t surprise me–y’all got your start being an alternative to New Orleans, back in the white-flight gold rush of the 50s and 60s. With your well-kept subdivisions and your sensible, frequently lionized parish president and your rational street grid (Old Metairie not withstanding), you’re pretty much everything that Orleans Parish isn’t. And you want to stay that way. Which is totally fine….

However: we have GOT to talk about your weirdass taste in state representatives. Seriously. I thought y’all might’ve learned a valuable lesson back in the day, when you elected David Duke to the House; I remember that moment pretty clearly, because there was a coast-to-coast epidemic of whiplash when everyone else in America stopped what they were doing and looked at y’all like you had 37 arms and a canister of Zyklon B tucked under each of them.

And now? Your state representative Steve LaBruzzo wants to offer every poor woman in Louisiana $1000 and a heaping helping of free hysterectomy. I’m not joking, dude.

Now, okay: I know I’ve seen women with too many kids. We’ve all had that moment at Schwegmann’s or Robert’s or Rouse’s or whatever they’re calling themselves these days and seen that woman–the one with a cart piled up with Little Debbie snack cakes and too many mouths to feed. But, um, how to put this delicately: EUGENICS IS NOT AN OPTION. Please, pull Stevie aside and tell him that if he’s concerned about rising welfare costs and how poor people are having more kids than wealthy people, he ought to address the bigger problem–namely, Louisiana’s crazy quilt of an educational system. Unfortunately for LaBruzzo, bringing that up to speed will be a slow, time-consuming, not-so-showy process, and might even involve teaching sex ed, which I’m pretty sure he’d oppose. (FYI, he also opposes freedom of choice for women; luring women to have state-funded surgery is fine, but goddess forbid that we allow those same women to pay for a safe, secure abortion.) The only thing that LaBruzzo proves by pushing eugenics is that he, too, is totally undereducated–which begs the question: would he really be willing to include free vasectomies for guys? And would he be first in line? That might sway my opinion on the matter.

Bottom line: I know that Orleans parish has its share of fuckups. Honestly, I would love nothing more than to see C. Ray and Dollar Bill get gaymarried tomorrow and set up housekeeping in Napa Valley. But clearly we are not alone in this drifting tugboat we call a state. Please fix the problem ASAP.

xoxo Richard

P.S. Yes, I’ve been watching Gossip Girl.

P.P.S. Can you tell me something? Seriously now: were David Duke and Al Copeland the same person? Or at least cousins? Because the all that Tiny Dick Syndrome and Plastic Surgery Addition seems a shade too coincidental for my tastes. Just curious.

C’mon and take a free ride

I wanna know just how many 20-somethings in this city right now are spending megabucks (for them) at Whole Foods or other grocery outlets on the taxpayer dime.

We all know about the double food stamps for too many. And I know from experience what it’s like to have to hit the road with only a finite number of dollars and find those dollars quickly gone due to circumstances beyond control. And then to finally come back to town and discover your job no longer exists and to try to cobble together what you can to pay some bills and reassemble things as much as you can. You gotta be resourceful, venture into new personal territory and learn a lot of new rules in a big damn hurry. And if the state/federal folks can help, it’s appreciated. Thousands of folks are doing that very thing right now in Louisiana and especially in Texas. It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but you do what you gotta do. And you gotta claim it on your tax return too.

….but in the past couple of weeks, I’ve talked to at least a dozen 20-somethings who lost virtually nothing in the Gustav/Ike thing and are racking up bigtime on the dole. The food stamp giveaway that’s been going on rivals the $2K handouts post-Katrina — if not in dollars then certainly in the bogus claims being made to food stamp offices around the entire region. I talked to one kid today who readily admitted losing only like $100 in frozen pizza and other schlock when he bailed for a week of partying — but he qualified for, oh, $600 in food stamps when he came back to town. I’ve talked to way too many others who never left or lost income — but they qualify for at least the basic $160 or whatever even if they’d lost nothing. They’ve been standing in line and, for the most part, telling a good version of the truth. And they get food stamps just because they can. And that seems to be their reason for doing it. Just because they can.

It’s a “screw them before they screw you” mentality and it’s wrong.

…said the dinosaur.

Midsummer Mardi Gras

Krewe of O.A.K. Midsummer Mardi Gras

Krewe of O.A.K. Midsummer Mardi Gras

We went by Henry’s last night for drinks and the Krewe of O.A.K. Midsummer Mardi Gras Parade. I’m a bit of a stickler for arriving on time, but I think that is going to have to change in the Big Easy. Apart from the early bird Pussyfooters, of which Henry’s lady friend is a member, there were only two other civilians in the house. Chatting with them, we learned that one had just bought a building near the Falstaff restoration project (tell me how to get on the list for that). He’s making mixed incoming apartments too. Originally from California, he was attracted to the project because he wanted to get involved in restoring the community. It’s cheap, too. You can get grants for making buildings green. I never met anyone who owns a building before.

As more of the Pussyfooters dance troupe arrived, I realized that I hadn’t been to a party with this many women in years if ever. The apartment was pregnant with estrogen and pink and feathers. I must say that I withdrew and became quite shy.

Midsummer Mardi Gras had been postponed because of Gustav, so the Krewe were not going to let a little sprinkle of rain stop them. Walking down to the Maple Leaf Bar (the starting point), pink clad ladies were already dancing to the music inside their heads and bobbing umbrellas real New Orleans style.

The street was packed and blocked off by police. Nearly nude Scandinavians were playing beach volleyball. A man in an electronic wheelchair was narrating through a megaphone. Then the band started to play and led everyone behind the police car to parade through the dark streets of uptown. “Not just anyone can march in a Mardi Gras parade,” I turned and said to Patrick. “The don’t let you do this during Mardi Gras time.”

Stopping to smoke by the side of the street, we met a middle-aged black lady throwing beads and trinkits into the parade…like a reversed Mardi Gras. She said she had been living uptown for 28 years and that this parade had been going for 20 of those years: “I wait for it every year,” she said as she as she threw a frisbee at a man dressed in Choctaw gear and carrying a huge hurricane swirl made of cardboard. “My hurricane’s turned into a category one, honey” he said referring to wilting, rain-drenched thing.

It was all a bit overwhelming, and we had to leave early. Walking through the wet dark streets back to my momma’s car, we tried to make sense of it all. But, that’s just it. You can’t make no sense no how. And, I have to stop feeling like a foreigner in my own hometown.

Photo from Krewe of O.A.K. Website

Crime Stats Online

Bust on N. Robertson St. Treme (4)   Bank Robbery Suspect Chased to Oak St.

In case you have been living under a rock and missed this, the recent Op-Ed by Comstat veteran, Brian Denzer, in the Times-Picayune blasted the continued, irritated concern of citizens regarding the release of crime statistics from the NOPD as a real tool for addressing violent crime in the city simply by transparency. The theory is that if the NOPD would release timely information, citizens can then provide more eyes and ears on the ground and use it to create new tools in their own neighborhoods and assist NOPD in stemming crime by identifying trends earlier with on-the-ground observation.

Many people are wondering what has happened to the Crime Camera contract the Mayor has been promising. In the meantime, potential witnesses who happen to see the wrong thing, at the wrong time are still being killed in our streets, like Helen Hill. Crime cameras could help alleviate this senseless loss of life and help the NOPD get some solid anonymous evidence to keep violent criminals in jail.

Access to current information has been a long-standing issue among residents who have returned since Katrina. The citizens of New Orleans were called upon to be part of the larger planning process since Katrina and have all been very engaged in making things better with this opportunity to voice their fundamental concerns. Every planning session I attended noted Crime as the number one issue for rebuilding New Orleans with a better qualtiy of life in the city. Citizens were smart enough to know that this issue was closely linked to better jobs, economic developement and improved schools as part of the long-term issue as well. We demanded all of this. Citizens were loud and clear in late 2005. They are still screaming about the issue of crime cameras today. The Nagin adminstration remains cavalier about this and all citizen concerns and despite the continued pile of victims, it seems we have gone nowhere.

However, thanks to the initiative of Thom Kahler’s website which only covers the 8th district, he pushed the T-P to help get faster access to crime reports on behalf of citizens. Thom’s bold and free-speech approach to crime coverage makes us all wish we lived in the 25’s.

Without the Crime Camera project, which remains incomplete, we are all getting more disenfranchised about the administration since this was a huge concern city-wide in the two-years of planning hell we went through. It all seems to have gone out to lunch with the Mayor and his wife in Dallas. Where has that contract money gone?

A few diligent citizens have used the Times Picayune’s statistics to create excellent online tools using this information. Thanks to Thom, and Rob and Brian Denzer and people like Baty Landis and Ken Foster who have pushed the issue for a few years now. Here is where we are today with online tools citywide. If you know of anything in your neighborhood, please let us know.

Current Online Crime Tools:
Citizen Crime Watch
Rob Schafer and Ben Gauslin have created this very useful tool. Using Google Maps, it provides a visual view that’s very familiar and (hopefully) easier to understand than page after page of text. Linking incidents to news and police reports provides much-needed context to the pins on the map. And since every incident is stored in a database that data can be examined to generate statistics over time to help understand crime rates, what areas are dangerous, what crimes are committed when, etc.

New Orleans Murder BlogAll things crime. All things New Orleans. This blog doesn’t condone murder, or death.

New Orleans Crimeline by Thom Kahler.

We believe if citizens have information about threats to their safety they will hopefully be able to take precautions against becoming victims.

Sites with archived information:
Citizen CrimeWatch

This site is not currently mapping crimes in New Orleans but gives some good background information on crime mapping initiatives in other cities. One great example is Washington, D.C.

In 2004, the Office of the Chief Technology Officer (OCTO) was asked to develop a program called Citywide Data Warehouse (CityDW), formerly known as DCStat, to support the District’s Hot Spot crime reduction initiative. To do so, CityDW designed a data warehouse to store agency data and created various presentation tools in an attempt to increase transparency by publishing more information across agencies and to the public.

Today CityDW ’s mission is to provide a centralized access point for enterprise-wide data with a focus on providing real-time operational data from multiple agencies and sources that enables decision support and government transparency. To that extent, CityDW works with the Office of the City Administrator, the CapStat program, and district agencies supplying both data and business intelligence tools. Residents and businesses now have access to information through our Summary Reports and Data Catalog and Data Feeds.

Crime Reports.com Thankfully, we have Citizen Crime Watch, a similar program, created by volunteers who have devoted their time to constructing a similar site for New Orleans. The issue we could press as citizens is to get access to map the “calls for service” as they come in. Running a routine on the computer could extend this current application to map these calls-for- service as they happen, automatically. If only the City would permit access to that information.

City of New Orleans, NOPD:
The NOPD website doesn’t map crimes in a timely manner, they wait til reports are cleared through a larger bureaucracy, which gives them the opportunity to manipulate the numbers to their advantage, not ours.
NOPD Crime Stat Maps

Advocacy Groups Related to Crime:
Silence is Violence

New Orleans Metropolitan Crime Commission

Court Watch New Orleans

Police Assoc. of New Orleans

Safe Streets NOLA

Times Picayune Forum, for when you just want to bitch about the problem:
Times-Picayune Crime Forum

Lagniappe

Styrofoam Sofa from urbanreview.com

Styrofoam Sofa from urbanreview.com

I’ve decided that I’m not going to bitch about how things work better in London than here. This is New Orleans. Things are different…not necessarily worse. Also, I am still in the first stage of culture shock where everything is awesome. That may change, and I may start to bitch. I just don’t know.

Everything comes with a side of Lagniappe:

Like…

People talk about their feelings here. To complete strangers. This is something that is both beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. Bittersweet. There’s a feeling that we are all in this together.

People touch each other here. Having breakfast at the Ruby Slipper Cafe this morning, the waitress touched me 17 times. They have a really amazing shrimp omelet, by the way. The coffee is fair trade from the Coffee Roasters of New Orleans. And, they offered me wax paper and tin foil instead of a styrofoam box to wrap up my leftovers in.

Which brings me to 3.) When you go out to breakfast/lunch/dinner, there is enough food to last you for two meals after. This to me is like getting three meals for the price of one. Speaking of which, does anyone remember three for one Wednesdays at…was it Que Serat? That big restaurant/bar on St. Charles near the Golden Spaceship…

A note on styrofoam: unless you are saving up to make a sofa (see above), stop flipping using it. It’s bad for the environment, and there are cheap and more sustainable alternatives. If you want to be really silly green as a consumer, you can bring your own containers from home when you go out to eat. You know you are going to get a doggie bag, so don’t tut tut at this idea.

Sleeper cells

Our friends at the Ministry of Homeland “Security” have been missing it all along. While FEMA tries to “help” our latest hurricane victims on our own coast and in Teck-siss (it’s pronounced that way. I grew up there. I know), the umbrella agency has been missing the sleeper cells in our own midst.

They are in the restaurants on Magazine St. It is the staff. They are asleep. Zzzzzzzzzz. Right there in front of you. The ones trying to hold their heads up while dozing in front of TVs showing Divorce Court and other video pablum until there is an Actual Customer.

This isn’t to criticize my own staff, which is excellent and professional, or anyone else’s. But the retail activity on Magazine St. over the past week has been, um — what’s the word? Lethargic? Glacial? I think it’s a case of Hurricane Hangover — where most folks blew their financial wads in evacuation and won’t get back in balance until the first of the month or so. Wall Street’s problems don’t help this week either. At any rate, most places (including the Saints yesterday, apparently) are watching their employees nod off left and right. I think the cooler weather will help everything.

I’m getting those political phone calls these days — the ones where you either get a pre-recorded message from some politico or (on a more personal note) a real, live person wanting to outline their candidate’s total supremacy. I used to have a two-word response to these kinds of calls, but now I just hang up. I used to say, “well, if they call me, they’re guaranteed not to get my vote.” But pretty much everyone seems to be doing it these days.

Has anyone noticed how the “Jefferson For Congress” signs seem to be hanging in the same place(s) as the “Cannizzaro (sp) For DA” signs? It’s happening too often around my Irish Channel neighborhood to be mere coincidence. If I was running for DA, I’m not sure I’d want my name next to that of a federally indicted public official.

I’m just sayin’

Hello New Orleans. How’s ya momanem?

Ike welcomes us home.

Ike welcomes us home.

Finally. After 20 years of roaming Asia and Europe, I am home sort of semi-permanently. Daneeta Loretta Jackson reporting for duty, New Orleans.

I didn’t think we would actually make it what with all the meterological activity. A week before we left London, my mother called to tell me that she was evacuating ahead of Gustav. Two more storms were riding its wake, and PJ was streaming both CNN and WDSU as he finished off his last UK music video (shameless self promotion). “Are we really gonna do this,” he asked. I told him that we’d get to D.C. where we were to change planes to New Orleans and then hitch down if we had to. There was no going back. We had given up the flat in London and sold everything except what they allow on international flights these days.

So, we made it. Two missed flights and I notched it up to 11 for a meltdown in the D.C. airport including swearing and slam dunking a subway sandwich on the floor. Had it not been for the lovely Vincent in lost baggage at Louis Armstrong International, I would have gone back to London. But, that’s not home.

This is. And I’m here. Finally.

So, this is what I’ve noticed so far:

The people are real nice here. They say hello, how ya doin’ to perfect strangers.

All of my mom’s friends call me “baby” at my age, which, quite frankly, makes me feel like a kid again. And, that’s a good thing.

Tellers at really big banks do not know how to exchange Stirling and have to call in the manager.

Public transportation pretty much sucks except that you can have some lovely conversations waiting 45 minutes for the one of two buses that go down Carrollton (see above).

The public library downtown rocks. I already have a library card. But, they cannot tell you how to get to them via public transportation. They can, however, give you bus schedules for every bus in the city.

There IS a bus that goes from downtown to Arabi.

The Algiers Ferry is the best way to get across the river on a hot sticky night. And, it’s free if you walk on.

I took a mini-break this weekend to visit friends on the Northshore. The picture is from a high school buddy of my mom’s (they got in touch through Facebook). His name is Mel Borne.

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