Benefit at Tipitina’s uptown featuring Donald Harrison, Jr. & The Congo Square Nation, Hot 8 Brass Band, Bonerama, Stooges Brass Band, and More!
100% of Proceeds to Benefit the Victims of the May 12th Shooting.
Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category
“This Tuesday’s Women’s Wellness Program session is our monthly cooking class, held down the street at Algiers United Methodist Church on Opelousas. All women are welcome! This month we’re focusing on healthy snacks.” ~Via Common Ground’s FaceBook Page
Via Rafael Delgadillo, shared with his permission. I very much admire Rafael’s thoughts, perspective, and clarity re: last night’s events:
Last night’s game will go down as one of the most memorable Super Bowls ever. For the great play, the blackout, and for coming back to NOLA for the first time in 11 years.
However, for me, the most memorable moment was before the game. To see the Sandy Hook Elementary School Choir pair up with Jennifer Hudson (whose mother, brother, and nephew were shot to death in 2008) in singing “America the Beautiful” literally in the middle of this country’s most violent city.
Perhaps I’m looking into it too deeply, but those of you who know me well will understand. That moment was moving. Though it is a great song, to me it had lost its meaning over time, like all songs do. But as I heard it last night, it struck me more as a song about the hope that we have for this country’s potential rather than a declaration of our exceptionalism.
The irony of it all. Jennifer Hudson and Sandy Hook’s community reminding us that we can do great things, like curb gun violence on one hand. On the other, the NFL used this city to put American overindulgence on display and quite literally sucked the energy out of one this nation’s poorest cities in the process.
Sorry if this is too personal, but sometimes… you just gotta…
Thank you, Rafa, for sharing these powerful thoughts and words.
I’m sensing a recurring trend with regard to our city officials’ modus operandi… Long-overdue sewerage system repairs needed? Pass the cost on to ratepayers’ bills to the tune of a 114% cumulative increase over eight years’ time! Broken streetlights? Hike the Entergy bill $24-36 per year with no clearly articulated and documented plan for implementation or proposed sunset date!
On Tuesday, 1/8/13, the New Orleans City Council’s Public Works Committee convened a single-subject meeting: to hear the initial proposal regarding a requested addition to the city’s Entergy franchise fee. I was relieved that several of our Councilmembers questioned the proposal outright and indicated that this matter requires additional scrutiny.
Areas of particular concern included potential savings to be realized through increased energy efficiency and if such savings could be leveraged to decrease maintenance costs as a recurring revenue stream. Councilmember Susan Guidry also questioned whether this proposed increase to the franchise fee was even legal.
“‘We’ve got a lot of numbers in here,’ council member Stacy Head said, referring to the presentation made Tuesday. ‘But, I’m unable to extract from these numbers exactly what we’re going to do.’” Council President Head also requested that when this matter is discussed before this committee again, the proposal be structured in the manner of a grade school student’s mathematical word problem to best demonstrate the impact of the improvements and long-term savings to be realized. Council President Head and District C Councilmember Kristin Palmer both stated that they’d prefer see a “sunset” provision for the possible increase.
Reportedly Mayor Mitch Landrieu pitched the idea of an increased Entergy franchise fee when he presented his proposed 2013 budget late last year. In a recent interview, he stated, “‘At the end of the day it’s the people of New Orleans who pay for everything, whether you pay it through taxes or Entergy bill,’ said Landrieu. ‘It’s the people of New Orleans who either get the service or don’t have the services.’” The issue of streetlight repairs and maintenance has been a struggle for the Landrieu Administration from the start — the opening gambit in addressing this problem was to award new contracts in 2011, early in the Mayor’s term, when budgetary issues concerning this need were already known to exist.
During the committee meeting last Tuesday, Council President Head was surprised to discover that the recently-approved 2013 budget did not include any allocations for streetlight repairs, replacement, or maintenance. In a carefully neutral manner, she stated, “In our budget we did not allow one dime for the routine maintenance and replacement of ligh tbulbs. This reveals a flaw in our budget process.” It was my impression that her remark was a subtle calling-out of the Administration’s abysmal failure to include maintenance costs for something so obvious.
As I understand it, the Administration submits a budget to the City Council and the Council gets to ask questions and nibble at its edges, but the Administration essentially calls the shots from the get-go. The Council gets to appropriate money to various departments, but the departments — regardless of what they told the Council in their written proposals or during the budget hearings — has total control over the spending once approved.
While the Council appropriates lump sums, the Administration, via its departments, has absolute control after that point, with no reconciliation after the fact. All the Council can do is wring their hands and call the appropriate officials to committee meetings (who seem to sometimes simply ignore such calls); the Council has no means of recourse except to try and reign them in next annual budget session.
The budget for the Department of Public Works was likely submitted by Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan, the Director of Public Works for the City of New Orleans… but under this Administration, it seems that all decisions run through Mayor Landrieu without fail; any delegation of authority is illusory. Accordingly, this would mean that Mayor Landrieu himself is even more responsible than your run-of-the-mill executive with regard to this so-called”flaw” in the budgeting process.
(It was interesting, too, that a City of New Orleans press release regarding streetlight repairs was issued mere minutes prior to the start of the Public Works Committee meeting.)
If our city’s so-called “Cultural Economy” is so profitable, why is our city reportedly broke (without funding available for, oh, consistent ordinance enforcement efforts), resulting in our City’s Administration holding its hand out yet again, demanding more from New Orleanians?
These rate increases, added fees, and tacked-on charges hit those living on fixed incomes the hardest, and there are no checks or balances in place to determine if these rate increases and surcharges are being spent appropriately and wisely.
I think it’s time for Mayor Landrieu to start doing more with less… I propose that this begins with appropriation the Office of Cultural Economy’s slush fund and applying it to infrastructure repairs.
(As a friend quipped the other day about the Mayor’s recent press release and fanfare regarding the 2012′s record 61 film projects in New Orleans, “The mayor complains about state budget cuts, yet lauds the tax credit that is, in part, responsible.”)
While discussing the potential increase, another friend suggested, “I’d also like see his senior staff donate those whack overtime payments [from the Hurricane Isaac work period] to the Save Our Sons campaign” to be applied to the actually provision of support services (mental health counseling and support, job training, etc.). And another added, “What sort of turn around time in repairs can we expect with that significant of a rate hike? Twenty-four hours?”
I suggest, too, that there is more that our City Council could do, as a body, to counteract some of the b.s. in general and the budgeting flaws in particular. To date during the current Administration, it appears that our Councilmembers have been pitted against one another through Mayor Landrieu’s adept application of a “divide and conquer” strategy. If a solid majority of the Council bands together to act independently, I believe that real and significant progress could be made — now is the time!
In June 2011, as part of a project to create action reports regarding particular problems in the French Quarter, I took a series of photographs to document several of the most seriously damaged or missing streetlights. While some have been repaired or replaced, it appears that several remain damaged and non-functional. Below are a series of “Then” and “Now” photographs for your consideration.
The Landrieu Administration has claimed that all of the backlog of damaged and non-functional streetlights have been repaired and that current outages and other problems which arose during this past year were the result of new causal factors, such as Hurricane Isaac. I believe that this is mistaken at best (possibly even duplicitous), as demonstrated by the “then” and “now” photos below.
Additionally, French Quarter lampposts that are knocked down are not being repaired or replaced. At last count, there are 17 missing lampposts, a circumstance that impacts the safety of all who visit or reside in the Quarter. The following is a particularly noteworthy location of this type: On Sunday, October 16, 2011, NOPD officers found 37-year old murder victim Dr. Brent Hachfeld, an optometrist from Slidell, lying prone and bleeding from the back of his head near the corner of Dauphine and Dumaine Streets (more than four months after the photo on the left was taken at that same location).
One final discrepancy worth noting (a punchline, if you will): A significantly damaged lamppost in the French Quarter serves as the home of a well-documented geocache that was created in July 2007… I know this because I found and logged its location just last week. I also know for a fact that this particular lamppost was included in the listing of damaged streetlights reported in June 2011. To say that all of the city’s broken streetlights were repaired prior to the start of 2013 is simply untrue.
Please read the following now: Council president seeks delay of vote on huge water-rate increase
Or, if you prefer the wholly unofficial CliffsNotes™ version of Tyler Bridges’ exceptional article, please consider the following excerpts:
“New Orleans City Council President Stacy Head accused Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Monday of trying to ram a doubling of sewage and water rates through the council on Thursday, without, she said, the issue having been fully vetted.
“Head is asking her colleagues to postpone the vote because she said the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans has failed to explain how it would spend the $583 million in additional money that it would collect over eight years.
“Landrieu opposes any delay.”
“If approved Thursday, the new rates would go into effect next month. Consumers pay for clean water and sewage disposal every time they take a shower, flush a toilet, wash dishes and so on.”
And Janet Howard, president of the Bureau of Governmental Research, zeroes in on why delaying this vote is the only responsible choice:
“‘The council should hold a well-publicized public hearing,’ Howard said. ‘The public deserves an opportunity to comment on something that affects them. A deferral request makes all the sense in the world, regardless of what you think about the proposal. There is a transparency problem.’”
The release of more comprehensive report on this subject from the Bureau of Governmental Research is scheduled for Wednesday, 12/5/12 — the day before the currently-scheduled City Council vote on Thursday, 12/6/12.
The ’70s era water conservation quip, “If its yellow, let it mellow; if it’s brown, flush it down!” may take on twice the significance if this rate-doubling is approved; I wish that this proposed immediate rate hike was even remotely funny.
WHAT IS THE RUSH? Why doesn’t a decision of this magnitude deserve a full public vetting? Why isn’t the city’s administration using this opportunity to compel serious and meaningful changes at the grossly-mismanaged S&WB? Why is anyone even considering handing them MORE money to misuse and squander?
If the Sewerage & Water Board has allowed for the system’s infrastructure to deteriorate to the point where city officials estimate that our city “loses 40 to 50 percent of its treated water,” why are citizens being asked to pay double before what should be a requisite keelhauling and overhauling?
I’d also like the Mayor to explain how, exactly, he went from proposing that the water system not raise rates more than 10 percent annually to demanding immediate approval of its more than doubling (a 114% increase overall) between 2013 and 2020 in less than one month’s time, bypassing the opportunity for customary council protocol. Without a plan in place before any rate hike is approved, I’m betting that the ultimate result will be double the dollars down the drain.
This is about YOUR money. And this could be the ONLY vote on the proposed increase which, if passed, will be in effect forever after.
What can a concerned citizen do on such short notice?
In response to the concerns voiced by Council President Stacy Head, Council Vice President Jackie Clarkson has scheduled a Special Council Budget Committee meeting on Wednesday, 12/5/12 at 2:00 PM in the City Council Chamber to solicit public comments regarding the proposed rate increase. It is likely, however, that this meeting has been called far too hastily for significant public attendance or input.
Whether or not you are able to attend the meeting, please email and call your elected representatives at your earliest opportunity. Demand that the vote be delayed so that there an be a full public vetting of this rate increase.
Please clip-and-paste to send your email to the following addressees:
email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org
If you, by chance, have additional time available to address this issue between now and 10:00 AM on Thursday, 12/6/12, please also call our Councilmembers and Mayor Landrieu:
Jacquelyn Clarkson, Council at Large supporting immediate vote: (504) 658-1070
Stacy Head, Council at Large opposing immediate vote: (504) 658-1060
Susan G. Guidry, District A: (504) 658-1010
Diana Bajoie, District B: (504) 658-1020
Kristin Gisleson Palmer, District C: (504) 658-1030
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, District D: (504) 658-1040
Ernest F. Charbonnet, District E: (504) 658-1050
Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu: (504) 658-4900
I believe that they all need to have all of their phones ringing off the hook regarding this issue, but none more so than Councilmember Clarkson, as it seems that she, in particular, is closely aligned with the Mayor in this rush to vote.
As an additional resource, City Council President Stacy Head has also sent out an email encouraging citizen participation and action.
In August 2012 as Hurricane Issac buffeted our city, Mayor Landrieu stated the following during one of his frequent press conference updates: “The water drainage and sewer systems are operating on backup power in much of New Orleans, there has not been enough power to clear sewage out of the system. …We are working right now to balance that power. In the meantime, I’m going to ask you to minimize the flushing of toilets.”
Now it seems that our Mayor and Councilmember Clarkson are asking us instead to flush our money down that same dreadfully compromised system just as quickly as possible with only a charade of vetting, as if it’s just another edict to follow without the need for due public consideration. Unlike the conditions experienced during Hurricane Issac, however, I believe that any urgency expressed regarding this premature vote is inflated and illegitimate.
Under a new ordinance proposed by City Council President Kristin Gisleson Palmer at the request of Mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu, people would be allowed to walk through the Jackson Square pedestrian mall (the open space surrounding the fenced-in square itself) from 1:00 AM to 5:00 AM daily, but it would become illegal to stop, stand, or loiter during that period of time.
After the nationally televised NFL extravaganza kick off concert event in Jackson Square highlighting the New Orleans Saints’ home opening game on Sept. 9, 2010, the 22-member Jackson Square Task Force was convened to address a myriad of community concerns. A report of this group’s recommendations was presented to City Council’s Governmental Affairs Committee on 2/7/11, including the following:
…Jackson Square is not a frozen piece of history. Instead, it’s a vibrant residential, commercial and tourist hub that is under increasing pressure because of its popularity. As citizens of New Orleans, we have an obligation to act as stewards of our urban and architectural heritage, particularly those of great significance. It was in this spirit that Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer convened representatives of the area’s residential, business, institutional, municipal, and religious communities, so that we could come together to discuss ways to protect and preserve this space.
The carefully deliberated recommendations include designating a Special Events Point Person, assigning dedicated round-the-clock security, implementing consistent maintenance activity, and improving sanitation by designating a single entity to be responsible for that task.
In total, the group made 15 recommendations almost two years ago; to date, only one has been implemented (banning vehicles from the pedestrian mall). While the proposed ordinance may superficially address some of the concerns cited, an ineffectual closure of the pedestrian mall for a few hours’ time each day was not among the recommendations.
If “tourism is ‘a perception-driven business’,”as stated by Landrieu spokesperson Ryan Berni, why is our city’s administration refusing to implement genuine and visible improvements to enhance Jackson Square? Why do the most recent actions by our elected officials instead suggest what could be described as being a conscious effort to create a “Constitution-free” zone in the French Quarter?
Last month, the American Planning Association named Jackson Square as one of the nation’s 10 great public spaces for 2012. Attempting to ban loitering at Jackson Square for a period of four hours daily will not preserve “its timeless design, historic and cultural significance, and views that encompass some of New Orleans’ rich architectural heritage.”
Mayor Landrieu and City Council, is this really the best that you can do?
Please focus on providing much-needed services (sanitation, maintenance, and security) that will improve the quality of visiting our city’s historic heart instead of proposing ordinances predestined for (wholly avoidable) legal challenges.
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Update 11/29/12 – The Governmental Affairs Committee is presently tentatively scheduled to meet at 10:00 AM on Monday, December 3, 2012, at City Hall’s City Council Chambers, 1300 Perdido Street. It is believed at this time that the two ordinances regarding Jackson Square will be discussed and considered at this meeting. Voting regarding these ordinances could occur at any subsequent City Council Regular Meeting; the next is scheduled for Thursday, December 6, 2012. For additional information, please see the New Orleans City Council Calendar.
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The One Son Who Got Away
By Dr. Andre M. Perry
About a year ago, Ms. Chanda Burks met me in my office to discuss establishing a mentoring program for black males through her sorority Delta Sigma Theta. Ms. Burks brought along her adolescent son Jared Michael Francis to take in the conversation. One year later, just a few days ago, I bumped into Ms. Burks at a NOLA for Life event. There, Ms. Burks informed me that her son Jared died from multiple gunshots in front of their home in the hushed neighborhood of Tall Timbers. He died September 15, 2012. He was an 18 year-old senior in high school.
After hearing this horrible news, I immediately recalled the robust conversation we had about mentoring and staying in school. I remembered how encouraged Ms. Burks and her son left the meeting. Ms. Burks in fact told me during our recent encounter that our past chat made a positive impression on Jared. But, deep down I knew a conversation wasn’t enough. I missed an opportunity to save a son.
A balance of regret and responsibility motivated me to call Ms. Burks a few days later. I also wanted to get a sense of what happened in between the time we last met. Ms. Burks told me that he lived the typical life of a middle-class teenager. She saw few negative signs. Ms. Burks acknowledged the presence of one peer that showed a penchant for trouble. No one as of yet has been charged with his murder. I told myself that a few more conversations could have reached Jared and his troubled friend. But ephemeral conversations are not enough.
I like many others have abdicated our community responsibilities to teachers, community based organizations and City Hall. To a fault, we’ve placed undue responsibilities on police and prisons to restore order. Given the magnitude of our community problems, everyday citizens must unlearn how we made disengagement an acceptable behavior.
According to the report, Building an Inclusive, High-Skill Workforce for New Orleans Next Economy from the Greater New Orleans Data Center, 14,000 youth between the ages of 16 and 24 in the New Orleans metro are neither enrolled in school nor employed. Disconnected youth is the latest tag used to describe this horrible state of anomie. It means that fourteen thousand youth in the New Orleans metro are adrift and disengaged from the social anchors that could instill the type of character that incite youth to fight injustice instead of producing it.
Jared did not qualify as someone who we deem as disconnected, but those we take for granted are receiving the collateral damage of socially dysfunctional communities. We cannot escape ourselves.
The overwhelming statistics demand intimate and intrusive engagement that rises above fleeting conversations. But they’re reasons why we don’t get close enough to embrace a young man or woman. We’re scared. The annual murder counts are more than alarming. Murder creates an environment of fear that facilitates a hands-free ethic of care. Consequently, even the best of us essentially drop in from our collective ivory towers only to helicopter out with deliberate speed. We never become a part of the social milieu. We’ve become what I often refer to as arms-length advocates.
Arms-length advocacy can’t replace the strong hugs our children actually need. We can’t let fear or disengagement deny ourselves opportunities to prevent the unnecessary loss of yet another Jared. The community involvement we need is so simplistic it’s almost insulting to repeat. If more of us who care are fully present, murder rarely happens. If family members, neighbors and friends displayed the courage and love to take the gun away, report the crime and redirect the anger, we would not be our current situation. If those who are not expected to save a son took every opportunity to act, the ongoing professional work could gain traction.
Ms. Burks and I simply can’t let another opportunity pass. If the community character is not present, we must develop it. Moral discernment must be taught, displayed and executed. Therefore, we ask everyone who reads this to take opportunities to build our capacities.
Each year for my birthday (October 12) I try to give back. I’m privileged. Service is the obligation of privilege. My birthday always seemed like the perfect date to give back. This year I asked Ms. Chandra Burks if we could become mentors and direct our friends to deeper mentoring opportunities. She agreed. Over the next week we are directing people to the New Orleans Kids Partnership Mentor and Tutor sign-up program < http://www.nokp.org/mentortutor/>.
New Orleans Kids Partnership has coordinated a variety of proven mentoring and tutoring programs across the Greater New Orleans region. NOKP made it very convenient for anyone to choose an organization that fits our busy schedules. They also provide training and guidance on how to mentor or tutor. We can’t assume that everyone can serve as a role model. Many “mentors” need mentoring. Nevertheless, NOKP and its partners make youth engagement a safe and organized process.
When you sign up, please indicate in the appropriate section that you heard about NOKP’s mentoring program through Ms. Chandra Burks.
As Ms. Burks and I meandered through our discussion, she could not keep straight the number of children she currently had. She would say, “My three…I mean my two children.” She may have lost a son, but she certainly gained a brother. Hopefully, we will soon begin losing track of how many sons we have gained rather than from how many we have lost.
Andre Perry, Ph.D. (twitter: @andreperrynola) is Associate Director for Educational Initiatives for Loyola University New Orleans and author of The Garden Path: The Miseducation of a City.
Last night I was at dinner in someone’s home and the following is the abridged version of a portion of dinner conversation. I say abridged because I was so mad that one, the guest had the audacity to discuss politics in a room of people this person had never met, save one, and two I didn’t want to go ballistic and embarrass the host so I left.
Guest: I was at the VA hospital today for (some random event) and was able to see the blueprint of the new hospital.
Me: Oh really, tell me about it…
Guest: Well on Banks street, the old oak trees were saved, and some of the buildings will be built around the oaks, so there will be a corridor down the middle – a shaded promenade with benches and such.
Me: That sounds nice!
Guest: While I was there today, some of the (nameless) dignitaries were discussing how the Charity Hospitals were being dismantled and they were looking at private corporations to take over the care of the patients.
Me: Oh really? Well after Katrina, when Charity hospital was closed down, all the patients had to go somewhere so they were seen at Ochsner, East Jefferson – it didn’t work well and those hospitals lost a lot of money…
Guest: Yeah, one of the doctors at (nameless hospital) was telling me how after the storm, a gun shot wound patient broke into some pharmacy storage area to take medicine, so that didn’t work out too well with “those” (emphasis guest) patients at the private hospitals. So its going to be difficult for “those” (emphasis guest) patients to find somewhere to go.
Me: I honestly don’t see how the state could possibly shut down the Charity Hospitals? What are they going to do with the new hospital? Sell it?
Guest: Well there will be no more Charity system, they are doing everything right now to close all the hospitals. It won’t be an issue especially if Obamacare is defeated in November when Romney wins.
Me: Its called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Plus there is no guarantee Romney will win.
Guest: Well if Obama is re-elected, there are ways to defeat the health care bill.
Me: Oh Really? You know, we really shouldn’t be going there (having political discussion with strangers) at dinner…
Guest: Well how do you think Obamacare is going to be funded? The federal government will need to put up $50 billion dollars they don’t have to pay for it…
At this point I excused myself and helped clear the table and began washing dishes. The guest continued carrying on political discussion with the others remaining at the table which I could hear from the kitchen. I did as much as I could to assist the host – but very soon after when another guest excused themselves it was my cue to leave too.
I find it extraordinarily disturbing that there is a subversive political process going on which is hell bent on obliterating health care for the poor and uninsured in Louisiana. There has already been a loss of thousands of state jobs, and this current round will result in 1500 more people out of work. How does this contribute to the tax base, the spend and growth economy, putting people out of work, regardless of the fact that these are hard working and dedicated state employees? Where are all the students of health care, physicians, nurses, allied health, going to go for training? Not to mention all of the sick, sick patients and not just the victims of and perpetrators of violent trauma: there is no plan in the foreseeable future for the state to pony up through Bayou Health or any other fee schedule to reimburse the private hospitals that will wind up caring for the uninsured poor. And once these private hospitals begin to see red, what will happen to the patients? Will they just start dying in the streets? Where is the social justice in that?
There is a call to action out there, let your voice be heard. Representative Jerome Richard from Thibodaux has called to convene a special session to address the recent bulldozing of healthcare, among other things. Contact your state legislators and senators, and demand they go to special session in November to reverse the evisceration of health care in this state. You the citizens elected the legislators and they answer to you, compel them to do their job and do what’s right by their constituents and not the special interests.
*****UPDATE***** This link will take you to an online petition through Change dot org requesting the legislature to convene a special session to find out what in God’s name is going on with the railroading of health care in Louisiana – please consider signing it – thanks
Citywide Baby Shower
Daughters of Charity Health Center-Carrollton Third Floor, Community Room
3201 S. Carrollton Ave.
New Orleans LA 70118
In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, Daughters of Charity Health Centers (DCHC), in collaboration with Amerigroup, Kiwanis Club of the Westbank Konnection, Dillard University’s School of Public Health, and Healthy Start, will host a Citywide Baby Shower for new and expecting moms at 10 a.m. Friday, August 3 at Daughters of Charity Health Center in Carrollton, 3201 S. Carrollton Ave. This event is free and open to the public. New and expecting moms will receive free breastfeeding information, baby items, consultations with doctors, midwives and nutritionists, and much more.