Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Said it before and I'll say it again: I'm sorely addicted to reading the written word.

But, much as I enjoy them, the written words tear me up sometimes, syllable by syllable. They aggregate and become content, plot, opinion....voice. Voices, rather. Many, many voices. They fill me up to bursting and I reel from the effects. Which is probably why I've been turning to music more and more to decompress (not to mention a lot of cross-stitching). Blip.fm has been fun, even when I can't find exactly what I want to play on it. Plus, it clued me back into an album I got Dan for his birthday one year and never paid much attention to 'til now. I thought it'd be cute to get him something that referred back to the place where his parents came from, the place where he went to college, the place where his best man and many of his college buddies still reside. Yes, folks, come on, now...

Ironic that I'm enjoying this album now when a counting of the corruption convictions per capita has Louisiana beating Illinois in the corruption sweepstakes. Interestingly enough, the only two places in this country that ranked higher than Louisiana were Washington D.C. and North Dakota.

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, who campaigned for office seven years ago as a reformer, has lately been resisting news media requests to release his official city e-mails and refused City Council demands to fire the official who oversaw the crime-camera contract that is now under investigation. Nagin's office also put up numerous administrative and financial roadblocks as the city's first inspector general tried to set up his newly created office in 2007.

But the current inspector general, Leonard Odom—who worked as the inspector general for the Chicago Housing Authority from 1996-2002—has not been deterred.

On a wall in his office is a sprawling work-in-progress: an attempt to diagram, with scores of yellow Post-it notes, every arcane, off-the-books board, commission and agency in New Orleans' tangled city bureaucracy. So far, investigators have found more than 140 agencies that are not included in any city audit.

"Here's one: something called the Delgado-Albania Plantation Commission," Odom said, pointing at a random sticky note. "They get about $37,000 a year, but we don't know what they do. But we're going to find out."

Forget that plantation commission (well, not entirely)...let's take a closer look at a city that requires business owners to plant no less than 250 bushes around a bowling alley/music venue in order to be in compliance, among other things:

...when you ask even some officials at City Hall whether this is a business friendly city, you often get the same answer.

“No, we are not,” said City Council president Jackie Clarkson. “Because the process is too laborious and it’s too forbidding would be a good word, coming from the business sector. We don’t make it a one-stop shop like other parishes around us do.”

John Blancher and his son Johnny are all too familiar with that. They own Mid-City Lanes, more commonly known as the Rock ‘n’ Bowl, and Ye Olde College Inn.

In fact, the elder Blancher said shortly after Hurricane Katrina, he was approached by the cities of Austin, Texas and Lafayette to move his business there. He said he was shocked at how cooperative those cities were and how helpful they could be, walking him through the process. Instead of leaving New Orleans, he decided to move his Rock ‘n’ Bowl from its current location to the old Helm Paint building next to Ye Olde College Inn.

Blancher said doing business in his hometown is horribly different than in Austin or Lafayette. In those cities, Blancher says he knows who to see to do business, but here in the city where he grew up and lived all his life, it’s different.

“In New Orleans, I couldn’t tell you. If somebody came to me and said, ‘John, I want to open a business in New Orleans, who should I go talk to?’, I’d have no idea who to send them to,” Blancher said.

Blancher said, were he not a die-hard New Orleanian, Rock ‘n’ Bowl would be gone from New Orleans “without a doubt” because of the hurdles he’s faced here.

To maneuver through the process at City Hall, Blancher said he had to hire a lawyer, claiming he personally got so little help from the city.

Nice. I can't tell you how nice it was to see that on the news last night. It wasn't anything I didn't know already, deep down, but it's a weighty thing to think that if Blancher had a different attitude towards New Orleans, he'd be outta here, and so would a unique venue for fun and music.

Oh, and as for music, Sufjan Stevens, the creator of Illinois, had this idea, with the preceding album, Michigan, that he'd be embarking on a 50 States project. Haven't heard much from the musician since he released an overflow album of songs dropped from Illinois, entitled The Avalanche, and a Christmas songs album, so I don't think the 50 states thing is going to come to its full realization...

...but boy, if Stevens decided to make Louisiana, he'd most likely end up with two double albums.


(I was going to try to do some mass tie-ins between Illinois songs and recent New Orleans bloggers' links - like linking "John Wayne Gacy, Jr." to this funny vignette about the Easter egg hunt at NOMA - but I may do it in an overflow post. We'll see.)


Update, 2:11 PM: A hearty MAZEL TOV to Lee Zurik of WWL on his award, gained from following some mighty big leads from Karen Gadbois and Sarah Lewis concerning New Orleans Affordable Homeownership.


saintseester said...

What's so frustrating about the corruption is that everyone knows it is there, it has been there forever, and no one can really figure out how to find it all, much less end it.

And, North Dakota is more corrupt? Really?

Leigh C. said...

"But for genuine, savory, infused-in-the-gumbo style public venality, Louisiana still has Illinois, and most of America, beat. Ranked according to corruption convictions per capita from 1998-2007, Louisiana is No. 3, well ahead of Illinois at No. 19. (Only Washington, D.C., and North Dakota ranked higher—and in North Dakota's case, the results were skewed because of its extremely small population.)"

Think of what North Dakota would be like if the population were greater! I hope the folks affected by the Red River flooding up there are conscious of this. ;-)

And the Inspector General's office here needs to keep up that massive diagram it's created. I'd give anything to see that sucker.

GentillyGirl said...

I am now starting to deal with the City for our business startup. Feels like the Fourth Ring of Hell.