Archive for the ‘Jane Public’ Category

Where’s the Laugh Track?

The comedy of errors, better known as City Hall here in New Orleans, is yes at it again.  If your a member of the media in this city and have a request for “public records”, you better be prepared to wait weeks or months to get your request filled. Even then, the information you get will be blacked out, deleted or only exsist in Ray Nagin’s rather large noggin. Media outlets in this city have been complaining and some have resorted to suing the city to get public records to become actually public.

That is why I am asking why we can’t get a laugh track to go along with the situation at City Hall. You know what a laugh track is right? It is a fake audio track of a bunch of people laughing at some inane sitcom that is not even close to being funny. How the powers that be are running this city right now, with every story that is coming out, makes me do nothing but laugh at this point. It doesn’t help to get angry or mad or frustrated because not enough people in New Orleans are paying attention to make a difference.

Most people know the name Veronica White. She is the city’s Sanitation Director. The lady who has overseen the quadrupling of cost of having someone pick up the trash from in front of your house. The lady who has not been able to give the City Council a list of homes that is being serviced by the city’s trash contract holder. The lady who gave us the wonderful trash cans that dot the French Quarter landscape. At least the homeless peeps have somewhere to crash on those cold nights.

Ms White, who is not a lawyer and who does not oversee anything other than trash in this city, has been “outed” for passing along hundreds, maybe thousands of e-mails that belonged to City Council members. It looks like “community activist” lawyer Tracy Washington requested copies of the emails for Arnie Fielkow, Stacey Head, Shelly Midura and Jackie Clarkson. Along with Jeff Thomas, who is Recovery Director Ed Blakely’s first assistant. All 5 of these folks are white. No request was made for emails from any black council member.

Obviously, I am not debating Tracy Washington’s right to get access to these e-mails. Nor do I care if she only wants the messages from white folks. That’s her decision and personally I think that shows exactly where she is coming from. Most people are grown enough to read between the lines. All of that is the besides the point. And here is the point.

Ms Veronica White contacted the Mayor’s Office of Technology and requested these e-mails. No one has announced who in the technology office actually went into the server and burned thousand upon thousands of e-mails onto 3 cd’s which Ms White then handed off to Tracy Washington. Ms. White’s job is to oversee the trash contracts. A job which she has totally screwed up to this point. Her job is not to contact the office of technology and skirt not only the law but city procedures.

It’s just too funny, I’m sorry. Loyal readers know my past frustrations with the way the recovery has gone to this point. I’ve promised myself to not rail on the lame, impotent leaders of city government. So I am not. At least I know who to contact next time we have a public records request. Just contact the garbage lady and I’ll have it within 10 minutes. Only if I request it for the folks who Ms White doesn’t like though.

The Curious Case of Ray Nagin’s E-mails

large_nagin3

August 21st, 2007. That is the oldest e-mail I have on my work computer server. That is over a year and a half ago.I did the research and bring it up because earlier this week citizens of New Orleans learned that the city government “leaders” had all of their emails and correspondence deleted from the year 2008. Specifically Mayor Ray Nagin. That is correct, every email that Mayor Nagin sent out or received in 2008 “magically disappeared” after Channel 4, WWL-TV filed a public records request. Not only every email from the year 2008, but the Mayor’s schedule also has been deleted.

The City of New Orleans claims that the server did not have the capacity to “store” all of these emails and schedules and such. Therefore, they just deleted everything. This is just total fraud. The city states that there is no way to get all of the deleted information. Which of course is public record and you me or any Joe Blow is suppose to have the right to get access to these within three days of a written request.

I gotta tell you, something is really fishy here. I talked with my IT guy this morning, he says you can get a extra terabyte something for a hundred bucks that will store over 1 million emails. Plus he says the first thing to go when a server has issues are large files such as pictures, videos and audio.

What does Mayor Nagin have to hide? Why would all of HIS e-mails and HIS schedule disappear when he touts himself as “The Technology Mayor”. I thought we were moving into the 21st century with Ray Nagin at the helm.

What will come next in the Curious Case of Ray Nagin’s e-mails? It might not be worthy of a Oscar nomination but I’m sure the answers we get in the future will be comical.

The Bywater: Not so Black and White

Texture of the Bywater

One of the glass-is-half-full things about being homeless* is that we get to live in a lot of different neighborhoods. The week after next, we’re staying in the Bywater. Yesterday we walked down there from Canal Street to check it out.

My college boyfriend used to stay in the Bywater when we were students at Loyola. I was living in Gentilly and would make the drive from St. Cecilia to my Aunt Velma’s nearly every night. Velma was old, white and working class New Orleans. She warned me about the “coloreds.” She said I had to be careful.

But, yesterday, we walked up Royal Street busy with funky cafes, Ironworks and artist studios. I had to look up the term “gentrification” because I’m not exactly sure if that’s what’s happening to this neighborhood. Some parts have been cleaned up and artified. There’s still a lot of rough texture, though, abandoned buildings and senseless murders.

A lot of people that we meet encourage us to move to the Bywater when we get off the homeless boat. Many of these people are white, educated, professionals who came down here post Katrina to volunteer. They fell in love with the city and the neighborhood they were helping to rebuild and stayed. One woman told me that her windows are screwed shut. That she would love to open them during this fall weather, but she’s afraid. I wanted to tell her that we did just such a thing 20 years ago at an Uptown dinner party, and two kids came in with a gun and took our cash, our jewelry and our pecan pie. The fear can take you to horrible places.

As we walked up St. Claude Ave. after dark, I felt a little afraid. But what I felt more was a sense of freedom. There is nothing like walking through a neighborhood at night to make you feel alive. We passed some amazing locations for our film. People, mostly black people, were sitting out on their stoops, hanging around, enjoying the evening. (Here’s one difference between the blacks and the whites in New Orleans. Black people say “hello, how  you doin’?” to strangers passing by their doorstep. White people don’t.)

I’m thinking long and hard about the old fear these days. It’s not so black and white. It has something to do with freedom, but I can’t really work it out yet. It has something to do with responsibility. Since I’ve come home to New Orleans, I’ve met people of many races, many religions and of many classes. I have been treated fairly and respectfully by every one of them.

New Orleans is a lovely city without fear. But, beware that chilly side. It will seduce you too.

*Patrick has asked me to footnote any mention of our homelessness with the fact that we have been homeless by choice since July 23, 2008. It is a somewhat experimental lifestyle, one of the aims of which is to limit our impact on the environment.

St. Bernard Resident Nominated for CNN Hero Award

This from the WDSU website. Liz McCartney, who started a non-profit to get St. Bernard residents back into their houses, has been nominated as a CNN Hero. Voting goes until November 20th, and you can cast your vote here.

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