New Orleans: if you live here, you’re married to it. Along with the betrothed come all the perks of city government with assorted departments therein, and Parks & Parkways, I’m looking at you. This is me, index and middle fingers extended, pointing horizontally into my eyes and singularly redirecting index finger in your general direction, P & P Music Factory. I. Am watching. You. You have 32 weeks to trim the tree across the street from me. Do it before and I’ll give you a gold star and curse less over the amount of property tax I pay annually. Do it a day later than yesterday, I will channel the spirit of Pulp Fiction‘s Sam Jackson’s Jules before he had his religious awakening, and I will figuratively eat your Big Kahuna burger. Why? Because of the time frame you conjured, a turnaround time of supposedly and approximately 7 1/2 months before an issue gains resolution. Only I won’t be saying “This is a tasty burger!”
Back this story up to the day before yesterday when inexplicably my home shifted to one leg of power. How did we know? The AC stopped working, and the meter quit spinning. We had partial use in some lights and fans, but we were otherwise in a sort of twilight state of utility use: a little over here, and a little over there, but not up to snuff. It was getting a scosh warm inside the casa, the natives not yet restless but mutiny on the horizon. While things went south for us electrically over the late afternoon / early evening hours of the Labor Day holiday, Entergy really came through. There were no other issues for them at present, so we fell to first priority. Tech #1 showed up promptly to verify the issue and then dispatched the truck for repair, as from the ground he noted the disconnect was at the transformer and pole amidst the overly hairy oak across the street. Tech #2 then appeared within say an hour and with a few visits up and down the bucket (he actually had to run a splice), we were again whole. I was impressed and thanked him for his work. But! Part of the issue and arguably the core of it is the dense foliage of this old tree; somebody needs to groom this baby. And because it rests firmly between the sidewalk and street, the duty for care falls squarely to none other than our fair city’s Parks & Parkways.So yesterday morning a little after 9 a.m. I dial up 311 and get all pertinent info taken down and am quickly fired off an email detailing my ticket number, etc. Wow. An email from the City of New Orleans confirming my complaint: you’ve come a long way, baby, City that Care Forgot! But the honeymoon was fast over. Next, the city calls me back, and this time it’s a nice lady in Parks & Parkways, and while reconfirming the need to address the tree, she unburdens herself that the crew is 32 weeks behind schedule. Right eyebrow raised, I coughed a little and stammered “Thirty-two weeks?!” No, my hearing was correct; she hadn’t said “three to two” or “three point two” but “thirty-two.” I flat couldn’t believe it. Though I accept it, I find it in a word to be: unreal.
Why? The quietest storm season over the last 8 years is happening now. Right now. So there haven’t been any emergencies, scrambles or evacuations. No hiccups, no emergency sites taking priority over another part of the city. No raucous city strikes, or any general man-made or Mother Nature-fueled tomfoolery. Largely, business as usual, right? We – as a city – should be caught up on our homework. But when I’m told it’s going to take – say it with me - “32 weeks!” to trim a tree, we clearly are far from being caught up and a good distance from efficiency. Seven and lagniappe months, one might offer. And again I have to wonder: why?
Are we waiting on something? A new order of rare saw blades? Are we rationing gasoline now? I mean, I don’t understand: show me the work. Where is it? Because I don’t see it, and I would like to think I get around the city enough to be able to say “Oh yeah, Parks & Parkways? They were over on Jeff Davis the other day doing a bang up job of preventative care on the oaks along the avenue.” I don’t find myself saying this. Instead I find myself saying things like “Motherscratcher, this street is blocked too!?” So while I’m navigating the pervasively unearthed roadways I’m missing something else entirely I guess.
In the age of interwebs, status updates and whiteboarding one’s progress I offer up a challenge: Parks & Parkways should create a twitter feed and tweet to the world what awesomeness they’re accomplishing over the course of every given day. I dare you, P & P. Do it. Prove me wrong. Show me and the rest of the city what a 32 week wait looks like and what you’re doing in the interim. Because just like when I catch one of my kids in a lie, I’ll tell you like I tell them “I don’t believe you.” Government transparency is good, and I’m always looking for another local entity to follow on Twitter. At the very least, I give you until early April 2014 to get it done but only because you say that’s how long you need. It’ll be here before anyone knows it, right? Right eyebrow still raised: Yeah, right.
Jean-Paul Villere is the owner of Villere Realty and Du Mois Gallery on Freret Street and a married father of four girls. In addition to his Wednesday column at UptownMessenger.com, he also shares his family’s adventures sometimes via pedicab or bicycle on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.