Good Times/Bad Times: May 25 – 31

Today I have for you (channeling the chefs on “Chopped” which I just finished watching!) a little list of some of the good things and bad things that I read on the internet in the past week. Most of them are from other blogs, some from NOLA, some not. It’s just a hodge-podge of articles that I liked or …… didn’t, but all are decidedly shareable.

Good Times

Road trip! Follow Ian McNulty on a trip down the bayou to Terrebone Parish in Bayou Country journey offers glimpse of small-town life at the end of the line.

Local blogger Blathering shares her recent outing to City Park’s Botanical Gardens with a walk through Enrique Alferez’s sculptures in her weekly feature “Arty Tuesday”.

“Blackberries Everywhere” , via Bouillie blog, takes us along to pick wild blackberries in rural Louisiana and adds a bonus of a recipe for Blackberry Cornmeal Cake that sounds scrumptious. The photos of the finished cake made my mouth water and put it on my list of recipes to try this summer.

I’m always complaining to myself that I don’t have the kind of time I’d like to read. This is really not exactly true since I often  end up surfing the internet when my intention was to read my ebook.  I even tweeted about it. So I was happy to find this post, 7 tips to help you read more (& love it).

 Bad Times

Local political journalist John McGinnis died last Sunday at the age of 66. Robert Mann penned a wonderful memoir and tribute to Mr. McGinnis here,  a worthy read about an exceptional journalist.

#YesAllWomen was a hashtag on fire on Twitter this past week. It apparently first popped up Friday 5/23 in the aftermath of the Elliot Rodger shooting spree in California in response to his misogynist rants on YouTube. When social media takes up a cause like this, I find it much more interesting and enlightening to read personal blogs written by everyday people to get a feel for how the issue affects or is affecting everyday people. Here are a few blog posts I read this week that touched me (to tears in some cases) and/or just made me think in a different way, breaking open the festering sore of misogyny.

First, here’s a link to a Vanity Fair article that includes a graphic showing how the hashtag spread worldwide.

Brandi writes a very personal account of her experience of being bullied by a boy (and, yes, it was bullying)  at age 11. I really identified with this post because I experienced the same thing at the same age and I remember the humiliation I felt.

Roxane Gay’s post, In Relief of Silence and Burden, is a heartbreaker written in the unmistakably honest voice that is Roxane Gay. Reading this made my stomach hurt.

Walking While Fat and Female – Or Why I Don’t Care Not All Men Are Like That was an eye-opener. I guess I’m naive but it never occurred to me that adult men acted this way.

And, from the men:

My Girl’s a Vegetable: A Father’s Response To Isla Vista Shootings  in Luna Luna Magazine shares how a dad’s eyes were opened to the every day misogyny directed to women via his daughter’s experience while walking home from school.

Local Blogger Ian McGibboney writes “A Letter To All the Nice Guys”and makes some really good points.

And, finally, Emily Shire says “#YesAllWomen Has Jumped the Shark” and wonders if it’s being diluted by people tweeting about such things as “complaints about women being told to smile”. What do you think?

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New-To-Me Blog of the Week

To end on a lighter note, I want to share a blog each week (or so) that’s new to me and that I enjoyed reading  – you know, show a little link love.This week it’s  The Art of Simple, a blog that shares ways to live a simpler, more meaningful life as well as giving great organizational tips. Give it a click, I think you’ll like it!

 

 

 

 

 

No to Demo of Historical Canal St/Tchoupitoulas Buildings!

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For historical info and how to contact the City Council click here. The council vote is this Thursdsy, May 22.  Let your voice be heard!

Marigny Neighborhood Assn Tour and B&B Awareness Campaign

Basic FMIA Home Tour Flyer

The home tour will also launch an awareness campaign, “Won’t you B&B my neighbor?”, designed share information about licensed B&B and Guest House best practices, the positive contributions these businesses bring to the Marigny and the city, as well as problems and issues surrounding illegal short term rentals, not just in the Marigny neighborhood, but throughout New Orleans. 

The FMIA is working with the Professional Innkeepers Association of New Orleans (PIANO), and others, to provide information regarding economic impact as well as quality of life and safety issues. Here are just a few points and counter points for consideration:

  • Legal B&B’s and Guest Houses contribute hundreds of thousands of dollars each year in taxes and fees that go directly into the city’s coffers to support infrastructure and city wide services.

  • Legally operating establishments are owner-occupied, insuring guests are well behaved and respectful of neighbors, insurance is compliant with property use, and help maintain the integrity of the neighborhood via owners’ vested interest in quality of life issues affecting the area.

  • Owner-occupied establishments retain legislative representation via residency census data for the area and maintain an integral voter base able to take action on important city and state matters.   

  • Illegal B&B’s and short term rentals in the area represent an untapped resource of taxes that is estimated to be well over $1M each year (and that figure is growing). 

  • Illegal establishments artificially inflate rentals, reduce rental inventory, create absentee owner issues such as lack of vested interest and oversight, and destroy the integrity of the neighborhood with constant flow of visitors/strangers, disrupting a stable residential neighborhood.

  • Illegal establishments impact city services without direct compensation, are most likely underinsured, may present safety and liability issues, and, bottom line, are against the law

FMIA is also promoting an upcoming city wide informational session and calls for the city to take action against illegal short term rentals. The meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 20, 7 p.m., at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, 2624 Burgundy Street. More info about illegal short term rentals.

Visit http://www.faubourgmarigny.org/ for more information.

Faubourg Marigny Improvement Association (FMIA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1972 to preserve the quality of life in the Faubourg Marigny, protect the natural and built environment, and provide a vision for the neighborhood’s future.

The 19 Benefit is Tonight

19BENEFIT

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.

The mission of The 19 Fund is to help victims of violent crime heal physically, financially and emotionally.
Co-Sponsored by Tipitina’s Foundation, United Way and Silence is Violence

PSA for NOLA Women: Free Wellness Program

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“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

Sandy Hook Elementary School’s Chorus & Jennifer Hudson sing of hope in nation’s murder capital

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…

#GoNOLA

Thank you, Rafa, for sharing these powerful thoughts and words.

How many Mayors does it take to fix a busted streetlight?

Photo by Grace Wilson @GraceLovesNOLA — used with permission.

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.

Corner of Chartres & Toulouse Streets on 6/1/2011

Same corner on 1/9/2013 (Now with cheap Mardi Gras bead detailing!)

Corner of Royal & Iberville Streets on 6/1/2011

Same location on 1/9/2013 (One Shell Square had temporarily disappeared into the fog.)

225 Decatur Street on 6/1/2011

Same location on 1/9/2013 (Possibly repaired and damaged in the extreme again?)

Lamppost at 1012 Governor Nicholls with missing panel in its base on 6/1/2011

Same location on 1-9-2013 (Apparently this repair was considered to be “good enough for government work!”)

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).

Uptown/Lakeside corner of Dauphine and Dumaine Streets on 6/1/2011 — lamppost missing, wires exposed.

Same location on 1/9/2013 (Note: This corner was repaved as part of the Paths to Progress project. Unlike other locations with missing lampposts, at least this one wasn’t paved over.)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

New Orleanians: Don’t let the Sewerage & Water Board piss away twice as much of your money!

Water meter coverPlease 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.”

Bridges adds,

“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:

shead@nola.gov, jbclarkson@nola.gov, sgguidry@nola.gov, dbajoie@nola.gov, kgpalmer@nola.gov, chmorrell@nola.gov, efcharbonnet@nola.gov, mjlandrieu@nola.gov

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.

Jackson Square needs maintenance and patrolling, not superficial ordinances.

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.

NFL Football Season Kick Off Parade on 9/9/10. (Photo by Kalen Wright, all rights reserved.)

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.

Smoke from the marsh fire in New Orleans East resulted in an eerily deserted Jackson Square at 2:00 PM on 8/30/11. (Photo by Kalen Wright, all rights reserved.)

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?

Sunset over Jackson Square and the St. Louis Cathedral as viewed from a balcony of the Lower Pontalba Building on 10/15/10. (Photo by Kalen Wright, all rights reserved.)

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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Update 11/30/12Good News: Proposed ordinances re: Jackson Square’s pedestrian mall to be withdrawn