Friday, December 28, 2007

I've been meditating on some recent reading, here. Bear with me.

After the Wall fell, two factors became shockingly clear. Firstly that the GDR's loudly trumpeted industries were almost entirely uncompetitive, both in the enlarged domestic and the wider international market. Secondly, that those skills, manpower and productive capital resources lost to the West in the post-war period were not coming back - or at least not in the quantities that would have made possible a genuine revival of the region's fortunes to pre-GDR levels.*

I've been thinking a lot about the haves and the have-nots over the last month or so. I guess one could argue that it's been on my mind in one way or another since 8-29...and even before that...

A while back, I was in my grandparents' synagogue for the High Holy Days of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, where I was witness to a comparison of the
Unetaneh Tokef prayer with the events of 9-11 that made my blood boil. To the words "who will live and who will die; who will die at his predestined time and who before his time; who by water and who by fire", the rabbi added some to the effect of "who shall be on the 90th floor and live, and who shall be on the 92nd floor and perish." I wanted to run up to the bimah, the pulpit, and wring the man's neck right then and there. I vowed never to go back to my grandparents' synagogue as long as that man was still their rabbi (he only lasted another year or two as their rabbi, anyhow, but I still haven't returned there for services). What made me so angry? This crushing idea that we are fated to live and die in a way that we have no control over whatsoever. An idea that was of little comfort to at least one family in my grandparents' shul who had lost one of their own in the collapse of the Twin Towers. There is more than enough humbling of ourselves before God at the time of the Jewish New Year. This simply added injurious insult to metaphorical prayer.

The true 'punishment ' of the East - and the most insidious, lasting crime of its Communist masters - was this theft of hope.*

Injurious insult has been added in slow, torturous increments to the folks who are suffering in great numbers in these parts. This, the third year post-8-29 (check Maitri's for exactly what day it is - heh) is turning out to be a major test of our capacity to hope, and in keeping that hope alive, our capacity to work our butts off for change. It ain't easy by any stretch of the imagination. With city government and city services behaving badly, folks fighting for money to rebuild, the feds getting their war on in other countries and leaving our own country in the dust, and other assorted bits of rising crime rates, crumbling national infrastructure, and instances of downright selfish behavior on the's just a tad too easy to abandon ourselves to fate and let it all pass us by or carry us off.

All of us are feeling this strain in one way or another.

In my recent reading, though, I took some comfort in the fact that a wall that was built to keep people in East Germany for hundreds of years lasted only a little over a generation. Paradoxically, the Berlin Wall came down because the GDR wanted to keep its people from leaving in droves, which they were starting to do through the loophole of traveling to other then-Soviet bloc countries with more porous borders. Where there is a will, there is a way. Where hope is stolen, there is a means of stealing it back. Because, in the process of taking it back, we are taking back our own lives in the bargain.

Here's to another year among the NOLA blogpocheh, a bunch of yahoos who haven't gotten the message that "hope" is supposed to be a four-letter-word in the dirty sense. Though I will be bringing in the new year up north, I'll be back for more in 2008. Be well.

from Frederick Taylor's The Berlin Wall: A World Divided, 1961-1989

And, for those of you who instantly said Aw Hell Naw on seeing some more quotes from yet another book I've read - tough toenails. I read a lot. Get used to it. And just to torture you some more, here's another bunch of quotes from the past year. Read 'em and weep - with laughter.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

The horrible news of Benazir Bhutto's assassination today had me thinking of one thing...

Daniel Pearl's murder. And, more specifically, the book Bernard Henri-Levy wrote investigating his murder. In it, he explores the fact that Pearl was killed for finding that Omar Sheikh, the man he was investigating, had connections with both the ISI (Pakistan's Secret Service) and al-Qaeda. Sheikh masterminded Pearl's killing and eventually admitted his guilt in court, but his connections to both organizations were never fully explored.

Levy's book can be tough to read at times, but what struck me about the things he related about the many factions present in Pakistani society is that, in invading Afghanistan and partnering with Pakistan, the U.S. was delaying dealing with a hornet's nest. Levy saw, back in 2002-3, that America's military might was not going to be directed against the Afghani neighbor that was most likely harboring former Taliban leaders - it would be turned towards countries a little further west. Like, say, Iran or Iraq.

For more on why Iran or Iraq, head to Maitri's.

We are absolutely not justified in saying we didn't see this coming. Most folks around the blogosphere are seeing a potential powder keg of Asia exploding here. For all our sakes, I hope not.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

All right, I guess I got the order wrong.

First to go will be the housing, then the schools.

How do I know this?:
The 20-year-old man implicated in a bizarre October armed robbery -- and subsequent flight to then-District Attorney Eddie Jordan's house -- was accidentally released last week from Orleans Parish prison and remains at large, officials confirmed Wednesday.

Elton Phillips, the suspect in an Algiers gas station stick-up and a bit player in a circus-like drama involving Jordan, was also named a suspect in the fatal shooting of a New Orleans police officer. Two other men were later arrested in that killing, and Phillips has not been charged in that case, but police have not publicly cleared Phillips....

...The reason for his release stems from either a clerical error or a misreading of a screening document from the district attorney's office. Late Wednesday, officials from the DA and the Sheriff's Office pointed fingers at one another for the improper release.

The document, a screening action form submitted to Gusman's office by the district attorney's office -- dictates the jailer's action on all prisoners. Options on the paperwork indicate whether the case was accepted, refused, diverted or referred.

At the top of the paperwork, a prosecutor circled the "referred" option, which a representative of the DA said proved his office ordered Phillips kept behind bars.

All I want right now for the coming new year is competent law enforcement, prosecution, and prison management in this city. Complete with an office staff that can read and ask questions if they aren't sure about the documentation that they are given.


Update, 12-27: I guess if this does happen again, we can get the St Charles Parish deputies to book 'em.
It's supposed to be a family time, the holidays. In the spirit of those heartwarming get-togethers, I bring you:

Relative Quotes

Searching for some New Year's gifts in a local bookstore, I was intrigued by a book about the nature of friendship and immediately thought of my mother's reaction to a recent bridal shower she'd attended. My mom is not a cold person by any stretch of the imagination, but friendships, for her, have been tossed and turned a great deal by the fact that the only constant in life is change. She took in the girl-to-woman proceedings and casual cute initiation rites with some bemusement, commenting later on that, "Granted, I haven't held on to the friendships I've had with childhood friends, but I didn't know I was gonna be joining the Ya-Ya Sisterhood when I came for the brunch."

Such is life, sometimes.

Life can also occasionally consist of trying to encompass a large, complicated part of it into one easily understood truism. My husband, statistician that he is, tried to encompass all of Christianity in this way on the 24th: "90% of it is saying kaddish for Jesus, and the remaining 10% is wishing he'd come back." Yeah, honey, tell that to all the folks who are commemorating the day of Christ's birth. If religion and its mysteries were that easy to quantify, we'd all be of one religious denomination.

There also wouldn't be as many wonderful movies such as Lilies of the Field, which we watched last night. Watching the nuns work their guilt trips on Sidney Poitier's character, Homer Smith, was a kick, and it was a movie that even the little guy wanted to watch. It soon became yet another lesson in "watch what you say around the child", as the little guy watched Homer finishing up the chapel and writing his name in the cement holding the crucifix atop the small tower next to the chapel. "He wrote his name up there, Mom?" the kid asked.

"Yes, he did, honey," I said to him.

"Is that a lower-case T up there, Mom?"

"I think so," I said, thinking he was talking about the "T" in Homer Smith's name. Then I stopped and thought about it. That "T" in the cement wasn't lower-case...

"Is that a lower-case T up there?" the little guy asked again. And then I understood.

On passing the large crosses off of I-10 in Baton Rouge one time, Dan referred to them as being "lower-case Ts"...which is what they are shaped like.

I was torn between laughing my head off and tearing Dan's head off for not watching what he says. Instead, all I could say was,

"Uhhh, yes it is, honey."

Anybody got a good starter course on world religions for five-year-olds?

I think I'm gonna need it.

Oh!!!!...Mominem has a good shout-out to all the volunteers from Christian organizations giving their all to helping rebuild New Orleans. On Christmas Day at our synagogue, we met a couple of Jewish groups taking time out at our Chinese food and Bingo dinner from doing the same.

Bless them all...the ones who have come and the ones yet to come.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Ahh, the perils, the jumping to conclusions, the misinterpretations, the misunderstandings...

I'm speaking, of course, about five-year-old-speak. The kind of talk from kids on the verge of kindergarten that can sound like one thing when it really means something entirely innocuous and innocent.

"Mom, I saw a cont!" the little guy said earlier today.

"Excuse me?????!!!!?!????!!!!!" I said, ready for miffed parent educational lecture mode. Because I didn't hear "cont". I heard something entirely different. You know, the rude, crude, and socially unacceptable term for a part of the female anatomy that comes to mind when you drop the "o" and replace it with a "u".

"You know, Mom. The first part of the word on the airplane!" the little guy said, happy with his reading epiphany.

Oooo-kay. My jets cooled. The panic button was depressed a second time, shutting off the adrenaline. He was talking about one of his toy airplanes he'd received from his secret Santa at school. A Continental 737-800."Let me know if you see anything else that starts with 'cont', okay, Mom?" the kid said in his most admonitory, administrative tone. And of course he would ask me this, because he had this revelation about the letters of the alphabet where? Where else?

In the car, of course. In which we could pass by any number of signs that would start with those four letters. Not that we did.

If I ever end up with high-risk insurance rates to pay, it will be because I let the parental discipline adrenaline run away with me while I was driving the car. Pray for us, y'all.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Some holiday-related thoughts emanating from my family in the past few weeks:

The little guy revealed some clues as to his sense of self and how he relates to the world last week. His teacher told me that he was in the midst of stitching up some holiday stockings, and he insisted that they be Jewish stockings, because he is Jewish. Fair enough.

"And do you know why I'm Jewish?" the kid asked his teacher.
"Well, why are you Jewish?"
"Because I'm from New York! And everybody from New York is Jewish!!!" my son said triumphantly.

Trying very hard to suppress giggles leading to outright laughter, my son's teacher said, "But I'm from New York, and I'm not Jewish!!"

That one froze his brain for a bit. It just didn't fit his paradigm.

"I'm gonna let you think about that one for a bit, son. I'll be right over there," my son's teacher said in true Montessori fashion.

Needless to say, my extended family is having a field day with that one. Then again, what did we expect? The short time we lived in Queens, our social life revolved around our local synagogue and trips into Manhattan for rehearsals with our Yiddish chorus.

Last night, though, what was supposed to be a simple fielding of a Christmas question from the little guy turned into a short lecture from Dan on what kids really think of Santa Claus these days.

"Mom, why do we hate Santa Claus?" the little guy asked me as we came out of the synagogue last night.

"Honey, we don't hate him," I tried to say as seriously as I could, but failed. "We just don't believe in him, is all."

That seemed to satisfy the little guy. The mistake I made was when we got home and I mentioned the kid's query to my husband. "Actually, Santa these days is scary to a lot of kids!" he said, half-jokingly.

"Oh, no," I said. "Don't go there. Not here, not now."

"No, really. We were talking about this at work! A big guy in a beard breaks into everybody's house and wreaks holiday havoc in the world's homes in the form of leaving presents for the kids, causing them to go absolutely berserk! Santa is a stranger! Kids aren't supposed to talk to them, remember? Santa is nothing but a benevolent bully!" Dan finishes with a grin, as my son listens in on this diatribe, eyes wide and ears open.

Lovely. Let's just play some "Back Door Santa" for the kid and reinforce the picture of Saint Nick as embodying all the things parents have told their children to be wary of all these years.

Yeah, there are times when your typical five-year-old (in ten words or fewer) pays little attention to these things. But that brain belonging to the little guy has just duly noted that information, especially since it came from Daddy.

God help us, every one!
For what went on inside the City Council chambers, check the New Orleans News Ladder:
At the end, each council member read a lengthy explanation of his or her vote, and it became clear that they had prepared these statements together prior to the hearing. To me, that meant that the meeting was not a hearing at all, so a lot of very busy people had just wasted their time preparing their own three-minute speeches. The deal had already been done, and we were just spinning wheels, no doubt to the considerable amusement of the council members, the mayor, and the federal authorities. I judge the council members harshly for this deception. Furthermore, they had the outrageous audacity to correct the public for noise while they were speaking, yet they laughed and joked while the public was speaking. In fact, one man stopped his comments and demanded their attention before proceeding. It was a mockery of democratic procedures, and for that reason I found myself sympathizing with the outrage of the demonstrators. I also felt outraged, though I do not like to demonstrate in the manner they did. I left the meeting with the conviction that George Bush and his clique had their vision of what they wanted to look like, so they told Alphonso Jackson, who extorted obedience from the council. I do not know what the council would have decided, if the members had in fact been free to vote their own judgments. I have a copy of the threatening letter that Alphonso Jackson wrote to the mayor and the council.
I have a copy of that letter, too. It ain't Tony Soprano speaking, but it does remind city officials that the vouchers of former Lafitte tenants will be terminated at the end of this month if they don't go through with demolition, among other things. The almighty HUD had certainly spoken.

Oyster, that conscientious landlord, also gives us the questioning that should have been taken up by da local paper with regards to available low-income housing in New Orleans. The arguments he presents also expose how much of the anti-demo activists' actions were spurred on by reaction more than actual organized resistance, because there ain't no rest for the wicked, but if you are righteous, you, too, need to throw that rest away when you are in pursuit:
HUD says 154 units are available, and the T-P editorial board says "the city doesn't seem to have the severe shortage of public housing that demolition opponents say exists." Well, if a reporter is willing to follow an elderly public housing activist back to her home for an inspection, why can't T-P reporters do similar legwork to verify HUD's claims about available units?

In October, Senator Vitter said 400 units were available "right now". Then the T-P reported as "fact" that "hundreds" of units were available "right now". Days later, the number of available units "right now" was down to 154. Does even that number hold water, especially in light of DNOPH's claim that last year HUD acknowledged that the "250 prepared units...never existed"? Neither the T-P nor the activists were willing to find out for sure.

Why didn't activists press hard on this dubious, evolving HUD number upon which the T-P based so much of its reporting and editorial opinion? Wasn't this a politically exploitable "soft spot"? If the T-P was forced to retract its false subheading about the "fact" that "hundreds" of units were available "right now", and if HUD was shown to be lying about the 154 unit number-- a distinct possibility in my view-- wouldn't the activists be in a very strong position to demand a second opinion on, say, HUD's rehab vs. redevelop cost numbers? Couldn't any HUD number be credibly disputed at that point? What if the activists presented 154 displaced families who were willing to fill up the available units, and what if HUD was unable to come up with the 154 units that they claimed? How would that look? How would the T-P look? Wouldn't that be a political winner?
It's just too damn bad this is hindsight. It should have been seen by all of us all along, in much greater detail.

I'm gonna crawl back into bed now.

Friday, December 21, 2007

David Naccari's Rouxminations, which I talked about on my birthday last week, can now be downloaded!

Samples of songs, including some that have yours truly singing on 'em, can be accessed here.

The CD will soon be available at Louisiana Music Factory, Royal Sundries, and Gallery Nine Forty.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

I'm trying to put my finger on it. Why do I feel so bad?

Yes, the weather was gross today. Not all of my Christmas presents to others are going to get there in time for that holiday...c'est la vie. They'll be New Year's gifts at this point. My son is out of school for the next two weeks - but I have signed him up for a mini-camp. Not that I don't love my son, but he loves the mini-camp. So I turned the big 3-5 last week. Big ol' whoop. I'm not getting any younger, and my childhood was nothing I'd want to go rushing back to. No serious regrets there.

I have a touch of blogging fatigue that showed in one of my last posts. It would be nice to be able to back up all the stuff that has entered my brain and then toss the stuff saved onto my organic hard drive in a trash bin somewhere. Perhaps then I'd feel better.

Problem is, I decided to voluntarily take up answering a query of Ed's last night concerning the infamous picture and article that has been a hot topic as of late. After gazing at a bunch of comments about Sharon Jasper and her TV that essentially said "How dare she???" and "Let's get her address and phone number and harrass her!", I wanted someone to dunk me in Clorox. Or, maybe I should have been duct-taped and put out on the street like a nasty fridge.

I really thought I'd left significant amounts of gutter comments behind when I left the majority of the parenting blogs behind - though I still check some parenting blogs on a regular basis and have linked to some, I was happy to have let go of the folks who thought it was their way or the highway as far as their views on what you should or shouldn't do as a mom or dad were concerned. Such people had no hesitation, if you expressed a different opinion from theirs, in cursing you out or trying to flame your name into cyber-oblivion somehow.

And yeah, I'd been warned about the commenters before. I had some idea of what to expect. However, a good scan of 294 comments yielded only three of note that were different from the usual merde-ish invective:
Posted by wakeupfriend on 12/19/07 at 11:16AM
Reminder: While President Bush has been in office, the Republicans controlled the presidency, the House of Representatives, The Senate, and the Supreme Court. Yet, not once during that time was an attempt made to end the funding for welfare programs.
'Know why? Can you handle the truth?
These programs are not for the Jaspers of the world but for the rich and famous campaign contributors and politically connected people of the world. DON't even TRY to say that the Republicans could not have eliminated or reduced funding and support for these programs!
$ 800,000,000 to tear down and rebuild public housing in New Orleans! Eight hundred million (by the time cost overuns and change orders are calculated)! We should be outraged not with the few residents who reside in public housing but with the government that profits from their continued occupancy.
Where are the letters to Bush? Demand that he stop spending $ 50 billion per month on the eternal conflict in Iraq and that he solve our housing problem here by building new homes everywhere. No more $ 375,000 per apartment developments! No more developers who contribute to the party in control of the Presidency!
No. I guess it's just better to fall for the Times Picayune's attempts to frame the issue in controversial, blog-worthy terms.

Posted by RhettsWife on 12/19/07 at 11:41AM
Mr. Bruno's post says it all. The main problem is that the leadership of this city in past decades has created the continuing mentality of 40 acres and a mule and entitlement. Why, so that they could get the vote. Now let's start working together to unify this city and make it progressive. We hope that the council makes some definitive decisions that will create a new Nouveau Orleans and not the same old system. They talk of corruption. Corruption takes more than one form. Let's get quality housing for those who are truly deserving of it, let's improve education, let's stand up for moral standards, let's make this city the Queen of the South.

Posted by MitchLisHot on 12/19/07 at 2:40PM
It amazes me how nothing gets done in the city of New Orleans!!!!! IF YOU ALL WOULD CUT OUT THE DIVISION AND DISCORD then maybe you can come online with the rest of us in the state of Louisiana......Already in SouthWest Louisiana there are low cost affordable homes being built complete with onsite day care centers and clubhouses/recreation centers.......In Lafayette alone there will be 27 blocks of homes built....But for division, discord, fatalism and the "old guard" (the White power structure who still to this day resent desegregation and the Landrieus) you can't even get three houses built in the New Orleans area....A-freaking-mazing!!!!!
Cut the strife, discord and division and you'll see just how much that can be accomplished.....Brad Pitt can't do everything!!!!
This reminds me of Abraham arguing with God over how Sodom and Gomorrah will be saved: if there are but fifty righteous people in town - forty - do I hear thirty? - twentytwentytwentydo I hear twenty? - ten?ten?ten? - going once, going twice...

Think about this. Three people out of 294 had something to say other than "I'm paying for that lady's large apartment and her honking big TV! Cut her off!!!"

That was when I really knew, deep down, that the projects were gonna go without any rational discussion of revamping the approach to their redevelopment. We're supposed to trust that HUD and HANO have done the right thing in giving the rights to the redevelopment of public land to these private interests when those two organizations haven't been able to manage a bunch of grocery bags, forget local and nationwide low-income housing. Tax credits go to Providence and Enterprise, all wrapped in pretty, shiny paper with a nice satin bow on top. Happy holidays!

There wasn't much point in going to the City Council meeting today. I didn't want to go to see another catastrophe - I've had enough of that. The newspaper's headline today made it clear that things were more or less predestined, anyhow.

E is correct as well:
It was really ugly. Very upsetting. The whole event made me sick to my stomach and not because of the pepper spray fumes, though that didn't help matters. It didn't have to happen the way that it did. City Council was extremely arrogant and undemocratic in the way they handled the proceedings today.

There are other tried and true means of diffusing a situation like the one City Council was confronted with this morning. If I were in charge, I would have let all of the advocates and residents come in, I would have let them chant and yell and scream and take turns with the microphone. I'd have allowed them to do that all morning. Then you have HUD and HANO and the developers do their side and then you vote. Given the experience at the demolition hearing last week, there was no real reason to assume things were going to get out of hand. Sure people are going to shout and be rowdy. They're going to boo things they hear and don't like. They're going to stomp their feet and speak out of turn.

Big deal. Let them. At the hearing last week (see the link), public housing advocates were well behaved, they allowed representatives of HANO and HUD and the Developers to prevent their case. Sure people interrupted to boo from time to time but the meeting went forward, the vote went forward. They voted with the developers and against "the mob" but nobody went out burning condominiums, nobody pushed down police officers, nobody was violent against any of the HUD or HANO officials, and representatives of the developers, or any members of the review board. The same thing probably would have happened. Protesters would have filed in, they would have been loud and obnoxious, council would have voted in favor of the developers and protesters would have been loud and obnoxious. Big deal. They would have left in peace. Maybe someone would have broken a window in frustration or something.

People want to feel like they're listened to. They want to yell and scream. They want to be given access to the democratic process. They want to feel like their voice matters. That is why so many people showed up this morning to attend this meeting. They all already knew they had little chance of stopping council from approving the demolitions. Don't we all know that?
The only good news today, really, is that the abandoned cab that has been sitting in front of my house for a few months is finally gone. Whoop-dee-doo.

The real debates I've seen in the past week concerning these issues of housing, race, class, corruption, and media spin have revealed that we are a flawed bunch of people who mean well. We are in a flawed system that needs help. Many of us want to help, but are at a loss. Is a hollering session at a City Council meeting going to help? Are we really getting all sides of this and other issues that concern this city, or are we being played for complete doormats? How do we work for change when we have to be overly concerned about how everything looks or sounds to someone else? How can we get everybody educated enough to be able to question the things they are shown or told? For more on why this is especially important to consider, check Nightprowlkitty's latest.

I'm exhausted and need to recharge, is all. I also need to make sure the city doesn't decide to kick in my front door and instantly declare that my home is over 70 percent damaged and ripe for demolition. Yes, I'm not the world's greatest housekeeper, but give me a break. We just repainted the place and the abandoned cab that used to be out front is gone now.

Some people...

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

My son saw some of this movie tonight. He saw waaay too much of it, I admit. And we had to leave after he started to dance to this:

Yes, I know. I really pushed it. There's now a good chance that this song will come out of the little guy's mouth at anytime, anywhere.

And you all in the blogosphere have been warned.
Well, the kind of stuff this man talked about some weeks ago has come back to bite the city:
"Information is power," Cerasoli said. The more he gets, the better he can do his job. He has had to educate himself plenty fast, as this is a place that has endured many, many forms of corruption amongst the people who are charged with running this city. This is probably the largest city in the United States without a city auditor.
This came to mind when I saw this little item on Fox News last night (and I know the link is from a different Louisiana news station, courtesy of Greg. I haven't yet been able to find a link to the story on a New Orleans channel's news site...probably due to embarrassment at how absolutely stupid this city has been.). Even if this was only a temporary situation, it was enough to stop one check to the police and fire departments, who are stretched to their limits as it is. Missing something as basic as a financial audit deadline should not be beyond a city such as this, but there you have it.

Folks in this city have been wrapping their brains around good thoughts on the public housing debates. It's almost too much to have us all tripped up on a deadline that helps keep this city going financially, but that is also life in post- 8/29 New Orleans. If it ain't one thing, it's another.

Sometimes I feel as though the window I have onto the doings of this city and the New Orleans bloggers' signposts to facts and opinions about it all is gonna contribute to some form of self-implosion. There are well over one hundred of us and counting trolling through this stuff most every day. Some of us little elves are getting our political mojo on and running for some local offices. Some representatives of city councilmembers are accessing the blogger listserve and forwarding us some info they think we should be privy to, like the plans for the redevelopment of the Lafitte projects (some visuals at People Get Ready) and a letter from Alphonso Jackson detailing the steps that would be taken if the city blocked the demolition of Lafitte. Some points made in the email from Shelley Midura's communications director:
  • Lafitte is a 1:1 replacement of subsidized housing units. It will be a mix of ACC and project based voucher housing subsidies, totaling 900 subsidized units out of 1500 total. 276 units will be funded through ACC subsidies and 624 units will be funded through project based vouchers. There were 865 subsidized units at Lafitte prior to Katrina. The primary difference between the two subsidies is that ACC subsidies also fully subsidize the cost of utilities. Those units being funded through project based vouchers will also receive a partial subsidy for utilities. For a 3 bedroom unit, that utility subsidy is approximately $215 per month. 94 units are scheduled to be available in January as part of the phased development and phased demolition plan for Lafitte, with another 100 units that will immediately be made available if those 94 fill up. The first new Lafitte units are scheduled to come online in one year.
  • All former residents of public housing are eligible for vouchers as an interim plan until their redeveloped units are ready. As far as I know, virtually all former residents are already receiving these vouchers. I know that with Lafitte, every former resident will have the right to return to the redeveloped Lafitte. As far as I know, these residents are not currently residing in Duncan Plaza or under the Claiborne overpass.
  • Alphonso Jackson wrote in his letter to the city that if the City Council voted against demolition of Lafitte, then vouchers former Lafitte residents would be terminated at the end of this month. Families would lose their housing assistance.
  • The Council’s power is basically limited to the issue of permits. Some protesters have called for the rehabilitation of existing units versus redevelopment. HUD has made it clear they will not fund rehabilitation, claiming it to be more expensive than redevelopment. While this contention may be controversial, what is clear is that they will not provide funding for rehabilitation. There is no other source of funding that we know of. Thus if the Council voted against granting these permits, the “Big 4” developments would likely remain vacant and uninhabited for years, until the next Presidential administration takes office and begins the process all over again, which would likely take another 2 years before deals and financing could be put into place, with construction another 1-2 years away after that. This assumes a new administration that takes a different policy position than the current one. Thus, it would likely be 5 years before new units could come online with a big assumption attached if we do not act now. The Council does not have the power to reopen public housing. The only choice the Council has is whether to allow redevelopment or not. It is unclear what alternative plan exists to bring public housing back online. The only one we know of is the current redevelopment plan. The vote on Thursday is whether or not to allow that plan to proceed.
  • The tax credits that make the financing work for redevelopment are in danger of being withdrawn by the Louisiana Housing Finance Authority if the redevelopment projects are not in motion before their next meeting, on January 9, 2008. Without these tax credits, the redevelopment deals would almost surely fall apart and the process would have to start over, under less favorable circumstances.

Councilmember Midura and her office support the vision of the Lafitte redevelopment, but recognize and respect the concern of public housing protesters. She wants everyone back who was displaced by the storm. However, she also believes there is an opportunity to reform public housing as we reopen it. She disagrees that the larger issue is demolition. The larger issue is redevelopment and whether we believe the old public housing system was broken or not. Councilmember Midura is committed to bringing people back while pushing for improved housing conditions and an environment that is geared towards lifting citizens out of poverty. She continues to support Senator Landrieu’s bill, S1668, which authorizes hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for new construction and a replacement plan for public housing. This legislation is unfortunately being blocked by Senator Vitter. We urge supporters to ask Senator Vitter to support S1668 and allow it to move to the floor for a vote.

One question: where are the contractual obligations for Lafitte's redevelopment?

Okay, a few more questions: where are contractual obligations for redevelopment of B.W. Cooper and C.J. Peete? The government has shown that it cannot run public housing; does it not want to show that it can't get a good contract signed with a private company? 'Cause we all know that would be embarrassing.

Also: "whether we believe the old public housing system was broken or not"???? Who are we kidding? Yes, it was broken, and it's going to take much, much more than architectural drawings and promises of 1 to 1 replacement to fix it. This is much bigger than physical buildings. This is about the living, breathing lifeblood of the city: the people who help keep it running in a myriad of ways and who want to dream big and have greater opportunities to realize their dreams. Housing in neighborhoods, not compounds, is a good start. Schooling is a good continuation. Keep it going with the hospitals. Start attracting some good businesses to spur more economic development (stuff beyond the usual retail, fast food chains, and hospitality industry mainstays) and we've got ourselves in a true world-class bracket.

We just want to see some particulars. This is our city, too. To not provide this kind of stuff to the public in this age of information say the least...embarrassing.

Last thing we need.

Update, 10:27 AM: I wish I'd seen the part of the Charlie Rose interview with Brad Pitt that Schroeder saw. Unfortunately, I dropped in on it at the point where Rose was asking Pitt some pointed questions about how the writer's strike has affected his most recent acting jobs. Schroeder does make a point of talking about the Midura email as well, especially in light of this morning's story in the T-P.(check the Sharon Jasper link in the quote for more) :
To help solve this problem, just for starters, I recommend that Alphonso Jackson be removed from any further authority over New Orleans public housing issues, if not outright fired. He’s no longer a credible authority. No matter what he could say or promise at this point, no one will trust him.
...On the other hand, few people would trust the views of Sharon Jasper who seems to be arguing for why she should be allowed to return to the St. Bernard development because she can’t afford the deposit and utility bills in in her Section 8 property. She could probably make a down payment on a modest house with that 60 inch television in her living room.
Now that’s brazen disregard for how many of us who pay her rent with our taxes settle for a fifteen-year-old television and struggle at the same time to pay our own rent while trying to get back into a home. I have no doubt that Times-Picayune photographer Ted Jackson intended to get that television in the frame. Writer Coleman Warner should have asked Ms. Jasper about the television. Maybe she can’t work — that’s one thing — but we don’t expect to see lavish luxury on the public dole.
Part of getting these people in bona-fide homes and back on their feet is in showing them the way the world works. It's another way in which the management of the projects has failed the folks they were supposed to help, and it is also why there needs to be much more than just a 1 to 1 commitment to replace housing units. It's not strictly the units, it's the people. It's social services. It's the all-around picture, and we're stuck in a tiny corner of its pixels.

Anudder update, 3:16 PM: Dangerblond outlines why Ms Jasper's TV is a potential shonda fir da demolition protestors: Nothing gets white people riled up like the sight of poor black people in possession of expensive consumer goods....If they are poor, then dammit, they need to act like it!

Yet another way in which we are all stuck in a teensy corner of the big picture. And it's sad, because the TV controversy does say a great deal about our issues of class in general, and about media spin. God help us all.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Some people out there won't let the YouTube wars go.

So, if you're gonna post something as horrid as Heidi Klum singing, I'm gonna post the song that is apparently giving the Christmas songs a run for their money on the British charts. Only thing missing from the hordes of hora-dancing preteens are the grandparents busting moves. Oh, and the translation of the song is not exactly "Baby, Let's Dance":

And, some slightly better news coming from Humid Haney: yesterday was Bill Hicks' birthday. Whatever higher powers there might be took him from this earth waaay too soon. And I'm not talking 'bout Republicans.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Good Lord.

Karen brings word of a demolition lawsuit being brought by homeowners against the City of New Orleans and the Walking Id, Da Mayor.

Then Scout finds this nifty tidbit involving Alphonso Jackson.:
And beyond, looking for better appears opportunity struck in 2005 with Katrina. In the wake of Katrina, HUD thought HANO needed to have a construction manager to "repair and rehab its housing units." And of course (William)Hairston needed work. Voila--- Hairston received a non competitively bid HUD contract that "paid more than $485,000 for working at HANO during an 18-month period." Now an investigation focuses on the question of whether Alphonso Jackson threw that contract to his friend, Hairston. Reading of Hairston's financial struggles makes the question more compelling as well as perhaps explaining why Jackson was determined to keep Hairston on the government teat even though HANO thought he was of no use.
Things are certainly heating up in our chilly town.

Yes, I know the chill is relative. I just talked to my grandparents on Long Island. They're looking at seventeen degree temperatures tonight. Brrrrrr.
A little response from little ol' me to some recent discussion on a certain listserve:

...those of us with education know that this is much bigger than just developing the projects into retail and making their former residents "useful to society" in some way. This is about a presumption that the public is quite happily willing to hand over any and all property that was once dedicated to public service, no questions asked. Once it is handed over, with excuses such as "People don't want to live in old houses", among many others (it's such a sick joke - I live in an old house and love it) put forth to justify the transaction, the folks involved in private enterprise can do whatever the hell they want with it. Nine times out of ten, it ends up not serving anybody but the few who own it. The only thing that companies such as Providence and Enterprise are being held to with regards to the projects are the demolitions.

Those so-called "politics of the past" are still alive and well. They have been given a primo opportunity with the difficulty most people who want to return and rebuild are having with obtaining financing from Road Home, insurance companies, and other funding sources. The poor are the ones who are the least able to defend themselves in this scenario - there goes the affordable housing. The sick, who need good medical care, are the next least able - there go the hospitals. The kids in K-12 - forget it, goodbye schools.

Unless there are some legally binding contracts based on serious consultation with displaced residents who want nothing more than to come home and help make this city better than ever, even the least paternalistic, well-intentioned plans will fall flat. No real effort is being made to find a way other than the easy way - the most amount of money for the least amount of people. And it certainly ain't gonna go to the poor, the sick, or the poorly educated.
Read more about this over at Wet Bank Guide. Mark also directs us to what happens when HUD/HANO rebuilds. Not good. Not good at all.

Schroeder weighs in on the way the media is treating this issue, and even points out Bill Quigley's questioning of the HUD secretary's dealings with regards to New Orleans. Schroeder, I wish I could fully back the Make It Right foundation, but one glaring bit of fine print is my main obstacle.

Yes, Dambala, the projects didn't work. I just want to see, in some fine print, where, when, and how the neighborhoods will be rebuilt. I'm still not confident enough to hand over that land to private enterprise and rely on them to correct those "mistakes we've made in our city planning."

And, as for the article that came out in the Times-Pic this past weekend, that's very nice that there is available housing. Where's the effort to place people in these homes? Why are there still tents in Duncan Plaza and homeless folks roaming the streets? Where is Providence's and Enterprise's contractual obligation to rebuild on formerly public land? Social services, anyone? (Oyster makes the point that social services put forth on the part of the protestors to put 'em in homes could well tip the scales towards the anti-demolition activists. Get yourself out there, ya treif bivalve, you! ;-) )

Update, 10:05 AM: What's with us Nolas? Check what TPMCafe has to say. (thanks, Greg!)

Anudder update, 1:35 PM: E has more. And he's right. Everybody must do their best Aretha Franklin and think.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Close Encounters With Author-Type People

Well, just one author, really. At three or four separate author events. How I get myself into these things is beyond me.

The first time was a real need to attend in support of what is a great, great book. She's already selling out copies all over the place of the first printing run, and, if you can't get another copy at Loyola before the holidays, looks like you're gonna be SOL, as they say. I dragged my son along with me to the reading at the Garden District Book Shop, and because I had to keep him quiet and because I spoil him a little when we head to a bookstore, I picked up something for him while waiting for Ms D to get her read on. I didn't realize the irony of what I got him until recently. Just look at the picture and I'll tell you more 'bout it later on:ANYway, I made it through the reading despite the little guy's constant "When are we goiiiiiiiinnnnng????" queries. It wasn't until I got home that I'd forgotten to get the book signed. Oops.

So I high-tail it off to the New Orleans Book Fair and run into the same author there, who is holding a reading about the same time as I'm hanging 'round and soaking in the smells of old beer and puke in the gutters and new, printed paper in the Frenchmen Street bars. If I'd'a known she was gonna be there, I would have brought the book to get it signed!!!! Alas, it was not to be, though I sat through another reading of her incomparable book, I won a raffle of a bag full of bookfair authors' books and a nifty t-shirt, as well as a Saints and Sinners Festival admission (hot damn! Dorothy Allison in attendance!). Can't say I haven't been lucky in general - just not lucky enough to get Ms D's John Hancock in her book.

I got an email advising me that Ms D would be talking about Sandrine's Letter To Tomorrow on WTUL one Friday morning, so I hustled the little guy out the door and into the car for school (which ain't an easy feat - the child has two speeds: slow and stop), flipped on the radio, and was just in time for the interview to be cut short because of a fire alarm (!) going off in the building in which the studios were located. The radio show's host and Ms D had to sign off, and dead air took over 91.5 for a while. Ugh. "Mommy, where's the music??" my son asked. Sighing, I flipped over to WWOZ, a tad sad that I had to do that.

Once I got out of the car and got my son off to his classroom, however, I was happy to turn back to WTUL and hear their voices again. There was a good deal of talk about what girl power in the 1970's was all about and how much potential there was for girls to be strong and to reclaim stronger roles for themselves in society as a whole. The interviewer commented on Sandrine being a book that readers want to pass on to other readers, especially the women. I instantly thought it would be a perfect holiday gift for two friends of mine in the New York area and I ran to get two copies for said friends. I looked in the books at the checkout counter and saw that they were signed. Mine still wasn't. Grrrrr...

And then I heard about the Loyola author event. That did it.
I now have a signed book from Ms D. I even got to meet another blogger whose book I now have (it too is signed. I'm learning my lesson here...), as well as Ms D's husband, Mr D. It wasn't until I told her about the first signing that I fully realized what I'd bought my son that day and how funny it was in light of this past week's events. The gas station in the book gets knocked down for a children's playground. In the demolition of the station, materials are separated for recycling (some of those recyclables are even used in the playground! Niiiice...) and life is beautiful all the time haha heehee hoho.

Oh, if only that were so.

Friday, December 14, 2007

I love the Pixar flick Ratatouille for many reasons. I really don't think it should have been marketed as strictly a kids' movie. It is for everyone. However, I really wish I could get the corny song from the longest Pixar short film yet, Your Friend The Rat, out of my head. The lyrics are hilarious, but the music needs to get out of my brain.

We'll follow you to Mars
Or where you people go
We rats are right there down below.

We've traveled near and far
With swamis, geishas, thugs, and czars
In planes and boats and submarines
We've sailed from Liverpool to Queens
We're even in Qatar
Or wherever you people go
We all adore Francois Truffaut.

Abandon musophobia and embrace the new utopia
Butterflies and puppy dogs
Summer evenings, crispy frogs.

Imagine if you will a world
Where women, rats, and men and children
Live in peace and harmony
We're even holding hands

We're dancing through the streets and singing
Cabaret songs - ooh la la
Now join with us
We'll make a human ratty wonderland.

We'll help you tie your shoes when you don't feel like bending over
And perhaps you'll take that trap from out behind the pantry door.
We'll say, "Bonjour!" and "How's the family?"
When we pass each other on the street
And just like that we won't be strangers anymore.

So here we go to Mars
With our stories intertwined
And although once you tried to kill us,
Now we know that you won't mind
We'll Journey through the stars
And whatever else may be,
We all hate that lousy flea (that lou-syyy fleeea!).

Whew! I feel much better now.

Oh, and check these holiday video classics from Sophmom. If bad holiday videos die hard, funny ones die much, much harder.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

While Standing on One Foot...

All right.

In the spirit of my former elementary school level of blog readability, I will try to sum this up as simply as possible, with illustrations to try to help out the confused, 'cause pictures will always be helpful to visual learners.

On Monday, I observed the following at the meeting from hell:
It occurred to me, after the old business was over and done with, that there was a true trifecta of property judgments today's meeting dealt with that the public housing demolition protesters, to their eternal credit, recognized. Schooling, medical care, and housing are indeed basic human rights. The voting on Johnson Lockett School and on the Lindy Boggs Hospital was for deferral of the decision to demolish those buildings. What remained was the last-ditch fight for Lafitte, C.J. Peete, and B.W. Cooper.
Soooo, let's try this one mo' time.

This is a demolition deferral of a local hospital, courtesy of E:

This is another property whose demolition was deferred:

And this is a photo of a property that is coming down a little ahead of schedule. Notice the fellows not wearing any safety equipment (Thanks, Sophmom!). The housing demo protestors may want to apprise OSHA of this fact if they get really, really desperate:
Are there any concrete plans and contracts to return and redevelop all these basic services that other cities across this nation of ours enjoy and take for granted? Anybody seen anything in writing that is legally binding? Anybody hear anything other than lip service and promises coming from the folks who are charged with the demolition of city property?

Do I hear a no?

Any other questions?

All the rest is commentary, now go and study:

Round Two: Editor B
So Much For the RSD Master Plan: Matt McBride
Continuing coverage of the housing debacle from We Could Be Famous
God bless Karen Gadbois. I don't know how she does it.
G-Bitch, Jeffrey, and Mominem weigh in.
Grandmere Mimi brings in some words from local clergy (thanks, Scout).
Oooh, and I nearly missed Spawn O' John's comment on Oyster's latest:
Since the storm, the LRA has been given a free pass on pretty much everything. They get full credit for the wins, but don't take any blame for the losses. Walter Leger and Andy Kopelin show disgust for ICF, but take no responsibility for how screwed up things have been. The LRA set the policies that ICF follows. While ICF is not without fault, it is clear that the policies were poorly constructed and poorly monitored.

Make no mistake about it, but the LRA has held on to money that could have helped the recovery of New Orleans because they wanted to make sure they had enough for the homeowners - that was purely a political decision. They believed that many more people would choose the buyout option, which would make New Orleans smaller, which would mean less infrastructure money would be needed (evidence of this is the fact that the shortfall didn't appear until much later, remember the buyout was at a discount). I have heard stories that several LRA members have even made comments shortly after the storm that spending the money on New Orleans is a mistake because the City will never come back.

The problem for them was that the citizens of this city completely screwed up their plans. By rebuilding and becoming active in our community, the LRA realized that they could not kill this City by starvation. While there is not much we can do now, and clearly things are on the mend we need to stop giving any sort of walk to the LRA.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ladies and gentlemen, when a gauntlet like this one gets thrown down, well, I've found myself with little choice but to post a THIRD DAMN TIME on the SAME DAY for the FIRST TIME EVAH, just to bring you this bit of hollerday cheese. Put on your yarmulkes:

Update, 12:44 PM: I double dog dare ya not to laugh at Scout's latest. Even though it's probably hopeless at this point, I'm gonna throw in some cheesy Chanukah gangsta rap. WARNING: Watch out for falling munster!:

And, is it just me, or is this really, really sad? This one's quite the melancholy classic, too.

Update, 3:33 PM: Oyster declared himself da winnah, no doubt with help from Katherine Harris. He paid noooo attention to a late, great entry from Greg Peters. We must all bow to the maestro. Oy vey to the world, y'all...

Update, 4:52 PM: All mo' time, since some people can't let this go. Like moi, for instance...

5:55 PM: Fine, Greg, FINE. Kick us while we're down. I think I'm gonna be sick.

Oh, and while you're at it, embed this in your blogs to protest the ultra-orthodox in Israel having it yanked from the airwaves. These folks have NO sense of humor. (Thanks to Failed Messiah) For more on how the Jewish ultra-orthodox sects tend to overreact to this kind of thing, head to this article.:
I have seen too often the fallout from using verbal overkill, from branding the inappropriate “assur” rather than leveling with people and urging them to refrain from what might technically be permitted, but is not in the spirit of the Torah. The technique may work for most (but clearly not all) members of an insular and disciplined society like haredi Israel, but it does not work as well in open societies, or even ones with walls, if those barriers are semi-permeable as they usually are in the West. Teens in particular are resentful of being told that something is absolutely prohibited, only to find out later that there are others who permit the same activity. Feeling manipulated, the next step is often much more serious transgression.

Many Israelis are poisoned against any kind of Torah restriction, no matter how it is phrased. The appeal of this commercial, however, suggests that even the secular public can detect that there is something wrong with the abuse of words, with the proliferation of exaggerated condemnations, with shrill and angry denunciation of too many things. We should stop and think what impression the same words have on our children – or even upon ourselves.

If it is indeed possible to sum up the polarizing views surrounding the public housing debates in this city, I think Mominem has taken the best stab at it...with an older post, no less.

A passage from it that resonates with personal significance:
Housing policy is serious business and needs to be discussed in the context of the effect of the housing on people, however it got that way.

Alexander von Hoffman of Harvard wrote a paper on public housing I especially thought this part was on target.
"The fundamental dilemma facing public housing was the changing character of its tenants. ... After the war, the clientèle became lower-class rural migrants ... many of whom had little experience with the city and its institutions. ... To make matters worse, in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the federal public housing agency insisted that local authorities enforce income limits, expelling many stable and upwardly mobile tenants ...
"warehouse the poor" seems an apt paraphrase of "limit[ing] the program to low-income people", something included in the 1949 housing bill.

It seems that the paper in general supports the idea of mixed income developments, something advocated by every current proposal.

There has also always been a paternalistic bent in social programs designed to help the poor, often to keep them from misusing the assistance. You can see this in almost every assistance program ever conceived. The paper also mentions that "social work" receded. I think people should be "empowered" to make their own choices.

In New Orleans (and other places) we also have the history of a failed Housing Agency which mismanaged the resources it was allocated and created a grossly ineffective and expensive drain on other city resources. Public administration of housing has failed miserably here and pretty much everywhere. The repeated attempts to fix HANO all failed. It is an intractable problem and there is no known way to fix it.
This problem is much, much larger than the edifices involved. It is indicative of at least one thing: how much the bottom dollar trumps the nurturing of community these days. When there is no chance for people with aspirations to grow and change and eventually pull themselves out of their poverty and their dependent status in society, it is then that their surroundings become more of a prison that a home. A home that others can profit off of mightily.
"It's just a bunch of confused beavers..."

Yes, it is.

If anybody's looking for a good movie to put yourself in the hollerday mood, look no further. Really.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Straight from Dirty Coast

More on the import of yesterday's public housing follies (with pictures!) and on the negatively charged extremist posters over at We Could Be Famous. I, for one, am quite grateful for the Saints' win last night, as a picture from that game trumped a picture of one of the condo-for-projects posters on the front page this morning. Geaux Saints! For a hoot of a reaction to those pesky posters, check Clay's post, too (thanks, Jeffrey). Hee!

I went to the meetings yesterday largely because of a book I've discussed once before. We are in the middle of a strange case of corruption and long-time resistance to what the rest of the nation is doing coming back on us, with a largely displaced and dispersed disaster diaspora paving the way for the "everybody's been doin' it" approach to tearing down public housing. It is fueled by a nifty government agency and its labyrinthine machinations that affect us each and every year, to the point where we must rely on software or accountants to make that April 15th deadline for filing our taxes and doing so in a way that doesn't have auditors knocking down our doors:

Contractors might not have had the United States tax code lying around on their nightstands, but beginning in the 1950s, they could have told you something was afoot just by looking at the shoddy buildings they were bulldozing. It all circled around how the Internal Revenue Service handled depreciation, or tax deductions taken to account for an aging structure....prior to World War II, most buildings were granted a forty-year useful life. An owner could depreciate them on a tax return at 2.5 percent each year, allowed as a "set-aside charge in anticipation of ultimate replacement." But pushed by aggressive building industry lobbyists, in the 1950s, the IRS let owners of new commercial buildings ramp up depreciation and grab hefty tax deductions early in a project's life. If a new project was financed 90 percent by loans, for example, an investor in the 70 percent tax bracket who plunked down $100,000 could make back $77,000 - before a backhoe even touched the ground. "Buildings that are intended to be written off quickly need not be durable," the authors dryly noted. "They need only function efficiently for the short run before capital gains are taken, and the cycle of tax incentives repeated elsewhere. Tax laws and related accounting procedures have not engendered permanency in the American landscape." Yes, folks, it's creative destruction at its finest, and a boon to those who ride the wrecking ball.

Sometimes, of course, the cycle gets a little too amped up for even wreckers to keep under control. What with so many flimsy facades to crunch up, one starts blurring into another, and soon enough the Associated Press gets ahold of a juicy story like this: "A couple was at their dinner table when a bulldozer rumbled into their home and tore their ceiling down. The bulldozer operator had the wrong address, officials said."*

Huh. It would be nice if it were that easy. Let's just give the demolition contractors the address of the projects at 1300 Perdido Street and see how far they get, just for kicks. However, I'd hate to see our current city leadership profiting off the tax deductions if the bulldozers did a significant amount of damage to City Hall - even if, architecturally, it has the aesthetic of a massive cereal box on its side.

At any rate, man-made disaster is bringing on this city a fate that has been fifty-plus years in the making. The projects didn't work because they were designed and run as holding tanks for the poor. It is indeed folly to turn back time and have them continue as they were. However, there is still little or no effort being made to obligate the developers to work hand in hand with the people who live here, or who lived here over two years ago and just want to come home.

As Mominem said in a comment on Sheckrastos' two cents on the whole housing debacle:

"My solution is save families not buildings.... If people need help with housing we should help them."


*from Jeff Byles' Rubble: Unearthing The History Of Demolition


Oh, and today's my birthday.

Shameless plug: Yesterday, this little item about David Naccari's Rouxminations album was in da paper. It's great. Plus, I sing on it. If you're looking for a good hollerday gift, high-tail it over to the Louisiana Music Factory when it comes in and get it. It'll give Dave back some much-needed vacation money that was spent on recording sessions in a homemade studio in Gretna.

Not that any of the stuff I just mentioned about myself should influence your consumer choices in any way...

Monday, December 10, 2007

Never been to a protest before. I missed the last big one in these parts. I was asked by a fellow blogger (more from said fellow blogger here about today's events)if the one for public housing this morning constituted a good turnout. All I could say was that, considering that a good deal of time and planning went into the march against crime in January, this is probably not bad.

Though there were calls to have the meeting in the City Council chambers, everybody was moved up to the eighth floor of City Hall for the HCDRC meeting, in room 8E-10, a place designated for "Homeland Security" meeting use. They couldn't fit everybody in. Somehow, eventually, everyone managed. Suggestions were made, after the conclusion of the old business items on the agenda, to move the meeting to a Civil District courtroom in another building. Hell, no, nobody was gonna go. I hauled my out-of-shape carcass up eight flights of stairs, as did many others. Everybody stayed put.

It occurred to me, after the old business was over and done with, that there was a true trifecta of property judgments today's meeting dealt with that the public housing demolition protesters, to their eternal credit, recognized. Schooling, medical care, and housing are indeed basic human rights. The voting on Johnson Lockett School and on the Lindy Boggs Hospital was for deferral of the decision to demolish those buildings. What remained was the last-ditch fight for Lafitte, C.J. Peete, and B.W. Cooper.

Testifying from public housing residents started off the tussle. There were calls for HUD secretary Alphonse Jackson to be investigated under charges of corruption, calls for HANO's management practices to be fully investigated, things that were not going to be voted upon by the committee, but that they doubtless needed to know about to help in voting on the demolitions. Folks from the PRC and other preservation activists said their piece as well, and then Bill Quigley did his thing, driving home the fact that there are no real signed contracts between the Providence Community Housing/Enterprise Foundation joint developers and the city. There is no written commitment to redeveloping the public housing sites, there is only the commitment to knock 'em down. And, as an activist pointed out, there are the tenant leases. Don't the folks who once lived in the public housing properties up for voting have a say?

And, as another fellow pointed out, HUD is technically in violation of the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act, since one of the housing developments is a designated landmark and the others are eligible for landmark status.

After a five minute recess, the meeting reconvened, with representatives from Providence and Enterprise coming in with their maps and their plans for redevelopment that they had no contractual obligation to do. Una Anderson came in to say her piece...for what, I really couldn't tell you (Seriously. If someone who was in the front row could give me the gist of it, let me know...Oh! According to Sarah Elise Lewis: "Una is the director of NONDC, which is redeveloping C.J. Peete." Thanks! ). On the one hand, mad as hell activists were trying to do some shouting down of the things the developers were saying - it started with indignation over the low-income housing tax credits these companies were gonna get and escalated from there, with cries of "Lies!" and "Corruption!" with every declaration from the developers that they had met with residents all through the process leading up to this day. On the other hand, the folks looking for a ruling favoring demolition were speaking so softly that not many people could hear unless they were in the front row - there was no PA system set up and none was coming. None of it, from any and all sides, seemed fair.

The talk was over. The committee took its votes.

Lafitte: 3-3 vote. Demolition not approved.

C.J. Peete: 4-2 vote. Demolition approved.

B.W. Cooper: 4-2 vote. Demolition approved.

"Gee, what's next?" I was asked. "Anybody gonna sue?"

It's gonna take a small army. Or much, much more.
Ecccch. More idiotic assessment hijinks being chronicled at the Tin Can. If you haven't gone over this territory with me before, well, head over here first. Check all the links, then come on back.
The assessors had from August 20 when the appeals were submitted until November 13, after the hearings were completed to meet and apprals due to the Louisiana Tax Commission to meet with taxpayers and explain the situation or try to reach a settlement. In 85 days that would have required Mr. Williams (the most appealed assessor) and his staff to meet with about 35 people per day.
Let me make this final point. Injustice it where you find it. I found it in my mail box, after two years of trying to get my address changed and several trips to the tone deaf assessors office.
The assessors who issued incorrect assessments in the tens of thousands and refused to meet with us, the voters and tax payers, citing (among other excuses) the need to close City Hall. Assessors who, elected by us, failed to continue to meet with us after the filing date passed to mediate disputes. Assessors who refused to take any affirmative action to discover and correct their own mistakes. All of them contributed to the distrust of the local government in Orleans Parish.

I understand Erroll Williams is planning to run for the single assessor of Orleans Parish in the next election. The rumor is he has brokered a deal to hire all of the former assessors. He can count on my vote for his opponent.
And everybody's thinking the battlefield is overseas in the Middle East. Not to mention the fact that a quarter of our fellow Americans think we're still under water.

My head hurts.