Archive for May, 2006

The jazz project extravaganza

I was going to write about the Jazz Project unveiled by Mayor Nagin, but I wasn’t sure how I felt about it so I was thinking it over before I made a statement on it. Then, t johnson requested we write about it through our ‘Suggest a Story’ link and after reading it, I have to say, she makes some pretty good points. I’m not sure if I agree with her entirely, but there’s a passion in her voice that struck me as very sincere. Though it may be a cop-out of a post, I felt compelled to post her ideas verbatim.

It’s important to note that she appears to have found opportunities in Houston, Tx that eluded her here in New Orleans. I don’t mean that to credit or discredit her, but simply to add context as a way of seeing where her frustration and disappointment come from. I really appreciate the suggestion and respect her view. And to those of you who have made suggestions we haven’t gotten to; we are watching and we’ll do our best. Thank you Mrs. Johnson and all the others for the suggestions. Keep ’em comin’!

“People from all over; other state and local governments, as well as people overseas have done in the efforts in the Hurricane Katrina relief. I am however appauled at the recently reelected Mayor Ray Nagin. He and other politicians have received a $715 million in which it has been decided to construct a 20 acre project jazz project to expand tourism. This is a time when New Orleans renters and homeowners are still in limbo about what to do with their homes. As per New Orleans Times Picayune article dated 5/31/06 this project of Mr Nagin was announced. I, wasn’t a home owner while in New Orleans, however, I have been blessed with the opportunity in Houston. However everyone is never as fortunate, and I feel that if Ray Nagin cared as much as he did during the storm on TV then he should realize that this is not the proper time for tourism. It is a time for helping innocent tax payers rebuild their homes. New Orleans has the French Quarters, which attracts millions in revenue for the city. New Orleans have beautiful parks such as City Park, and Audubon Park which, are well over 20 acres of land that he can enhance for his tourism. As far as money to help educate the children… your guess is good as mine. I guess tourism outweighs education as well. Homeowners, renters, and the homeless in New Orleans right now are sleeping in trailers, the streets, hotels, etc., in some cases right in front of the City Hall that Mr Nagin calls his office. How can Mr Nagin at a time where people are in despair can he focus on tourism, at a time when these citizens, less than a month ago voted him back in to office, after listening to him campaign with apologies, remorse, and conviction. Mr Nagin cried during the storm on TV and radio about how he’d never fail his “Chocolate City” as he was ridiculed for his appropriate comment. Now the truth has come out that its all about lining the politicians pocket in the Crescent City. Its about tourism and revenue. Not the love of our fellow man, just as some of his hasty decisions in Katrina. I’m not writing to you as an angry black woman, but as a disappointed child of GOD. What have these people done to deserve this treatment? How can Mr Nagin look at him self in the mirror? Grandma always said “take care of home first!” In church we are taught love our neighbors as we love ourselves. Well, he isn’t taking care of the New Orleanians first and doesn’t care about them as much as he cares about himself. Eventually, one day he will learn a valuable lesson about biting the hands that feed him. These people reelected him after he let them down.”

Agree? Disagree? What do we think of this new project? For my part, I’m still undecided and cautiously optimistic. But I could change my mind at any moment. Would the project, which must have been in planning stages for months, have still gone forward had Mayor Nagin lost the election? I’m not sure that’s a question anyone is willing to answer.

Trash Memorials

Trash%20Pile%20Esplanade%20003.jpg Boat%20o%27trash.jpg

The trash pile on the left is on Esplanade Avenue, the residents are tired of their neutral ground being a dump, while the residents a block east on Kerlerec don’t share their neighbor’s sense of humor about the situation.

The wheels of the bus go ’round and ’round….

I seriously have to wonder just how the hell this is all gonna work out, if we actually have to use it.

Sure, we’re a much more mobile city than we were before Katrina. A larger percentage of us have personal transportation, meaning we can haul our own asses away or at least pile into a car with someone else. And, given the metro area’s smaller population, there’s going to be less gridlock on the highways. But the logistics of getting all this together are incredible. Kinda gives a new meaning to “Trains, Planes and Automobiles” or “Ridin’ On the City Of New Orleans.” Given that hurricanes have their own unpredictable minds, I wonder if there will be a time so many will flee the city like so many roaches, only to find themselves on the streets of Shreveport, Atlanta, Monroe or wherever and the serious part of the storm will have diverted to someplace like Pensacola or Houston.
“Oh, maaaaaaaaaaan……..”

That said, “a plan” is better than “no plan” or “how we did it last time,” I guess. And I agree there will be a lot of people who are simply going to stand their ground this time. Today being the first day of hurricane season, just about everyone has formed in their own mind what they’re going to do. Here at the headquarters of the Irish Channel Reprobate Society, we’re more likely to stick around this time — despite our lack of some items we had last year. For starters, we no longer have a bigass generator (thank you dickhead looters who stole it). TBK and I also look at the Tinkertoy framing of the power lines around the house and in the neighborhood. Most of the lines incredibly remained on the poles last time, but we wonder if they’ll stand another such event. And, though we’re on demonstrated high ground and the roof is solid, we’re not about to hang around to watch the top of the house go suddenly asail in a mighty wind.

For many of us, it’s going to be a personal comfort issue as much as one of personal safety. Would we rather endure a long period of no power and possible threats to personal safety or hit the road (again) and ensconce ourselves with friend/relatives for an indeterminate period? Is it worse to be safe and wonder about the conditions in New Orleans or remain here and know the situation but wish we’d gotten out? Is it worse to know what you have or wonder what you’ve got left? The questions might sound easy to answer for those who don’t face it up close and personal. It goes so much deeper than just playing it safe — like it’s part of your responsibility to remain if at all possible to Be There when your city, your neighborhood and your friends really and truly need it. After all we’ve been through in the last nine months, part of me thinks it would be chickenshit to just turn and go when/if it happens again.

Many who stayed last time say they won’t stay for the next one — that they’ve learned a serious lesson. But for many of us who left, they feel they missed Something Important — not only for the city but for themselves. It’s a hell of a gamble either way — and one I hope I can simply ponder for another year.

Sunday in the French Quarter

I have heard very good things about the exhibit at the Historic New Orleans Collection in the French Quarter. The exhibit is called Common Routes: St. Domingue – Louisiana and it showcases more than 150 objects from institutions in Spain, France, Canada and the United States. The exhibition traces the colonial and revolutionary eras and explores both the diversity and the commonality of the émigrés and their contributions to Louisiana through literature, music, theater, architecture, industry, law, philanthropy and more. St. Domingue was the former name of Haiti. The exhibit includes Marie Laveau’s full-page obituary in the NY Times and photographs of New Orleans jewelry designer Mignon Faget’s ancestors, who came to New Orleans from Haiti.

During the month of June, the Historic New Orleans Collection will be open on Sundays from 11-4, with FREE ADMISSION. It’s open Saturday from 9:30 to 4:30. On Wednesdays, the Collection stays open until 7:00 p.m., with free admission for Louisiana residents. This is a wonderful place to learn about the history of New Orleans and for doing research on particular topics.

The Historic New Orleans Collection
is located at 533 Royal Street, in the French Quarter. 523-4662

Current State of The City

Editor B has posted a short (2-minute) video marking 9 months since Katrina. It shows how things stand in his particulair neighborhood, as well as the entire city.
It is amazing. We are nine months Post-K. Some days it feels like we have come so far. And then other days I feel pretty much like this video – that things haven’t changed much at all. I really don’t have much to say that b.rox doesn’t cover in the video, so go check it out.

Dan Frazier, you survived Hurricane Katrina…What are you going to do now?

“I’m going to Disney World!”

I feel like Aaron Brooks after the Saints won the Super Bowl. Oh wait, that never happened. Oh well I feel like someone after they won the Super Bowl then. (BTW, who did win this year’s SB? Anyone? I was too busy to notice.)

I’m checking out for 6 days starting Thursday. I have a friend whom, since Katrina and stop me if this sounds familiar, has taken a turn for the worse. Don’t wanna bring ya down but cancer and hurricanes just don’t mix well so we are off to enjoy something while we still can.

Since we really are living in Fantasy Land here (might be a horrible, misguided fantasy but a fantasy nonetheless), we figured the real FantasyLand might be a nice break.

I took another tour of the city yesterday, Memorial Day. Not only a day to remember the American’s who sacrificed so much to make America the country it is but it took on a new meaning for us here, a day to remember those lost to Katrina.

As my mind wondered to Mickey and Minnie and Goofy and Donald (who is my favorite), the pieces fell into place on how we can kick-start the rebuilding. And who better to help than those fine Disney folks. Close your eyes and imagine the possibilities of Walt Orleans World.

Canal Street USA (a.k.a. Main Street USA): Catch the trolley and tour the wonders of Walt Orleans World. See the Walgreen’s that was looted on National TV! Stand on the spot where the rumored “shark” was swimming during Katrina! Look at the hotels Mayor Nagin wanted to turn into casinos! See where Anderson Cooper told America “This is not only a tragedy, it’s an AMERICAN tragedy!”

LakeviewLand (a.k.a. Frontierland): The best rides are here. Slide down the 17th street canal where the destruction all started! See how long it takes you to fill a sandbag! Match the houses in the street to the slabs where they use to stand! Watch the Corp of Engineers rebuild the levees as they try to not re-create “Splash Mountain”! See what the inside of a FEMA trailer really looks like!

Gentilly Square (a.k.a. Liberty Square): View the hundreds of homes that are empty! Are they “haunted”? The thrills you may find in the attic are unlike anything you can imagine! View thousands of household appliances go up in flames at the Gentilly Square Landfill! See if you can spot a refrigerator just like the one in your own home! Follow the brown water line from place to place…just like Hansel and Gretel and the breadcrumbs!

Mid-City Land (a.k.a. Adventureland): This is where all the tired tourists will head for some grub. Taste some of Craig Giesecke’s cheese! Have a “bowl” of beer at Luizza’s! Take a slow cruise around the City Park Lagoons and let that tasty food digest! Mid-city land has something for everyone to enjoy!

ChocoEast World (a.k.a. Tommorrowland): The hit of Walt Orleans World! Become a true New Orleanian as you and your family are dipped in chocolate! Plus you can break off the shell and eat it! See “true” American’s turn their backs on the Vietnamese community, as their area is turn into an un-needed landfill! Visit the Plaza nightly for the Willy Ray Nagin variety show! He sings, he dances, he offends and is still Our Mayor! Plus keep an eye out for some special Ray Nagin Chocolate! It’s made with 100% white milk!
And the kids will just love how it’s never ever crowded! No waiting in lines at ChocoEast World!

Sliver by the River Land (a.k.a. Fantasyland): See the uptowners ask what the big deal is, we still got our homes! Ride the St Charles Trolley for the “it’s a small minded world after all” festival! Spin all day long on the “Tom Benson Tea Party”! After spinning you’ll feel as drunk as Tom Benson! See if you can spot the teacup with a chipped lip! It was built from “displaced china”!

CBD Toon Fair (a.k.a. Mickey’s Toontown Fair): Visit the Mayor’s lair where Doug Brinkley says he broke down and cried! Ride the world’s first rollercoaster built on top of a football stadium! Pick up a piece of roof as a “keepsake” of your great time in Walt Orleans World! See the world’s most dysfunctional government office, City Hall! Visit the Katrina Hall of Shame and see if you can match the “official quotes” that turned out to be wrong with the person who told the world ” I heard the levees get blown up”!

Who needs the feds? Whoever is in charge at Disney, give me a call when you’re ready to build a REAL amusement park.

Ah, that familiar stench

I haven’t posted recently because I’ve been in Chicago for the last week. One of the things I noticed upon returning yesterday was the return of that familiar smell– that musty, moldy smell of my good old neighborhood. I hadn’t really noticed this smell since Autumn, and I can only assume it’s because I’d gotten so used to it that it became normal. But now that I’m back, I smell it all over again, like the first time I returned to the city in September.

Speaking of things that haven’t changed since the first time I returned in September, as of today it has officially been 9 months and they are still pulling bodies out of houses. Over the weekend they found a body just six blocks from where I live.

If they’re still finding bodies, no wonder the stench won’t go away.

The Summer Turnstyle

This week a young woman who works at the Wal-Mart in Harvey needed a place to rent immediately because her father’s senior living assistance from FEMA was being cut-off. He is in Baton Rouge. Miss B., my friend, was able to get her into one side of a shotgun double even though the house wasn’t quite ready. No matter if she had a refrigerator or a stove and she managed to scrounge around for some window units on her own. Her father is elderly, the heat is becoming an issue. It felt good to help her but I am getting a little worried about the cut-off of rental assistance. How many people are going to be trying to get back into the city because FEMA’s done paying their rent? You can get involved directly with making livable space in this city. You can volunteer with Rebuilding Together or Habitat for Humanity or the Green Project or the New Orleans Housing Resource Center, run by Paul Baricos. It’s a good time to buy property at auction if you have the skills to renovate. I am working on helping my neighbor navigate the Louisiana Road Home registration process. Chances are, you have already hosted someone temporarily until they found someplace to live. And rents are starting to look like NYC in the uptown area.

Citywide WiFi – Earthlink Edition

After Hurricane Katrina the city of New Orleans turned their WiFi mesh network that was intended for crime surveillance into an open network for anyone to use for internet access. It was the first free municipally owned wireless internet system in the nation. This was a brilliant move by the city’s Chief Technical Officer Greg Meffert. Unfortunately LA State laws that prohibit publicly operated WiFi networks put this system at risk of being shut down as soon as the city’s state of emergency is lifted.

Enter EarthLink. The company has just been awarded a contract by the city council to build a WiFi network 15 square-miles surrounding the city. It looks like this plan will consist of two levels of access for residents and visitors to the city. The free access will be limited to 300kbps, while a monthly plan (rumored to be around $20/month) will get speeds up to 1Mbps. It looks like the free access will only be for a limited time – while the city rebuilds.

I am glad to see the city pushing forward on the technological front. It will be important in bringing people and businesses back to the city, and even getting new people to move here. New Orleans has always been an amazing mix of new and old, but it is new and innovative thinking that will prove most valuable in these Post-K days.

I go from despondent to overly thrilled

Yeah it’s been a rough nine months for all of us. But the last two days for me anyway have been somewhat, I’m scared to say it, encouraging.

The radio station (First shameless plug ever- AM 690 WIST) has had the following folks on the air since Monday: Rob Couhig, Virginia Boulet, Shelly Midura, Stacy Head, Arnie Fielkow and James Carter, along with the usual Jindel, Vitter and Landrieu (Mary, not Mitch)- All either newly elected officials or “mayoral advisors”. I can temper my giddiness somewhat but maybe, just maybe we can get out of this mess with the help of some of these folks.

They are all a wide variety of people. Staunch conservatives to flaming liberals. But in the first 5 days after the election, they are all either reading off of the same script or they actually might be able to work together to fix the city we all love.

According to both Couhig and Boulet, Mayor Nagin has actually agreed to listen to suggestions, to look at all sides of an issue and then decide. They aren’t getting boatloads of cash. They are actually doing it as volunteers. When is the last time anyone heard of someone offering his or her services in this city for free? They are both fantastic people who want nothing more than to get this city straightened out. I was doing the “snoopy” dance inside after talking to both of them, and trust me they are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, which I think is a great thing.

The City Council is really where I think we are going to get some traction. If everyone remembers, Mayor Nagin was elected as a “reformer” four years ago. One of the main problems with that though was the City Council wasn’t a “reformed” city council. 4 years of that were brutal, as we all know. This time though, this is a reform city council. Yeah we still got 3 of the old guard but frankly I see those three actually getting with the program now.

I can see the light at the end of the tunnel…maybe. Yeah it’s a 4 year long tunnel at least (more like 10 really) but just a little dot of light at the end is a whole lot better than what we’ve been seeing for the last nine months.

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