It seems like just yesterday that we were packing up our TV cameras and computer hard drives to get out of Dodge before Katrina struck. Danae finally took Ray Nagin’s pleas seriously about 4 a.m. and began the long, slow journey to her parents in Arkansas with five dogs and our photographer. Allan, his sister Sandy Levy and their aged Mother, Miriam Katz, left several days earlier for Birmingham in an abundance of caution.
I want to tell you a story, though it’s a tired one. It’s one of watermarks, floodlines, and rust. It’s one of great sadness, overwhelming emotions, and glorious reunitings. One that over the last 10 years most Americans are tired of hearing, and one that many New Orleanians have a version of. It’s Katrina. And Rita. And levees breaking. And the curious nine years that followed the moisture-rotted rollercoaster of events in latter 2005 in the Crescent City. And while my tale unfurls I will ask you to remember two words: gumbo party.
I’m just going to come right out and say what everything is thinking: What the @#$% is going on with home prices in Orleans Parish?
It’s getting crazy out there. I’ve been seeing listings of renovated homes for over $300 per square foot on the edge of Central City. A “fixer-upper” needing a “total renovation” on the edge of City Park recently hit the market for $700,000.
What trait did actor/comedian Robin Williams and many of New Orleans homeless share? Mental illness. Like a majority of the homeless in New Orleans, Williams battled periodic bouts of substance abuse and depression until he finally “silenced the demons that relentlessly targeted him” earlier this week, as the Associate Press put it.
The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that the rate of mental illness increases as boomers age. According to the Center for Disease Control, the suicide rate for adults - aged 45 to 64 – increased 40% from 1999 to 2011. An analysis by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found that the suicide rate for middle- to late-middle-aged adults is higher than any other age group.
While it’s very early in the competition to see who the Presidential nominees will be in 2016, we’ve been impressed by the energy and drive of U.S. Senator Rand Paul, a Republican from Kentucky.
Senator Paul recently accepted an invitation to speak to an Urban League convention in Florida. Unfortunately, most of the delegates to the convention thought that inviting an arch-conservative like Senator Paul was a mistake and stayed away from the session where he spoke.
In literature, typically anything with the word “master” before it is going to be something both controlling and nefarious. For example, if a science fiction novel references a “master computer,” you can bet your last credit that it is either threatening the existence of humanity, or has already wiped us off the globe.
This is why the idea of a “Master Plan” for the City of New Orleans has always been viscerally unsettling to me. It’s as though there’s some cold, unfeeling entity out there that seeks to control every aspect of using property in the city.
Gut feelings can be off, of course, but this one is not.
With fewer than 100 days until the mid-term Congressional and local elections, it’s no surprise that more than a few candidates and elected officials turned out Sunday for brunch and hobnobbing with Congressman Cedric Richmond. While Richmond could face opposition again from Gary Landrieu, the mayor’s cousin who ran two years ago, Richmond is expected to be easily reelected.
In addition to Richmond, U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu and Congressman Steve Scalise (who represents only a small portion of Orleans Parish but it unstoppable as the new House Majority Whip), there are 41 additional races that candidates could qualify for. Because of difficulty raising money, most incumbents will not draw opponents. On top of those races, we should add various millage items and other local initiatives that will appear on the November ballot.
We can now officially say that the New Orleans City Planning Commission is insane. This week, the Planning Commission asked members of the Deutsches Haus to revisit the plans for their new building in Mid-City — because it is too Germanic-looking.
Yes, you read that correctly.
Now, when you go car shopping, you don’t say to the salesman: “I like this car, but it looks too much like, you know, a car. Don’t you have anything that looks like a bicycle?”
“There’s just something about Mary!” exclaimed state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, chair of Louisiana’s Democratic Party, when she introduced U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu in Washington, D.C. yesterday at the Dentons Navigant Energy Outlook Series, attended by a global audience of energy officials at the National Press Club.
Dentons, the international law firm which advises the New Orleans City Council on utility regulatory matters, operates an office in New Orleans which Carter Peterson recently joined. Other New Orleanians present included Pearlina Thomas, chief of staff to Councilman Jason Williams, chair of the Council’s Utilities Committee.
Keeping your eye on the road matters. Sometimes it just prevents you from being a jerk, other times it can save somebody’s life.
Case in point: Earlier this past week I was going down Oak Street looking for a parking space on the street. When I saw one, I immediately hand signaled (my car is 63 years old and lacks turn signals) and slowed next to the spot. A white SUV was approaching behind me from the intersection, so I held the hand-signal for a few seconds, believing that the SUV would see the signal and leave me sufficient space.
Your home is not a hotel, obviously. However, an ever-growing number of New Orleans homeowners want to run a hotel-type business on the side. With tourism booming in the midst of a generally weak economy, it’s a quick way to make some extra cash.
This is the nexus of the controversy over “illegal short-term rentals” that has been permeating local political discourse in recent months. Due to zoning and licensing laws, there’s simply no way for homeowners to rent a room out as a vacation rental. Most crucial is the fact that any lease has to be for at least 30 days (or 60 days in the French Quarter).
It won’t be long before Mayor Landrieu will begin telling us why we need to approve one or more of his tax proposals in the fall elections. Before you get out your checkbook, we have a few ideas that will create new jobs and generate additional taxes — if the Mayor and the City Council can be a little more flexible on zoning.
The day after millions of folks celebrated the independence of the United States of America, I joined a sea of folks dressed in all white, the color associated with the deepest mourning, to recognize one of the most tragic parts of American history.
In its 14th year, the Maafa commemoration is an ancestral ceremony put on by the Ashe Cultural Center to honor those who were subjected to the unfathomable atrocities of enslavement and the plight of the generations who emerged from this despair, those who were anything but free when America claimed its freedom from the British crown back in 1776.
This time of year, when the mercury starts erupting comically out of the top of every thermometer, every New Orleanians eyes turn worriedly to their electricity bill. This is because whenever temperatures spike, so does the monthly amount we owe Entergy New Orleans, our much-maligned local electric utility.
Many people have long believed that Entergy is gouging them. This is to be expected when bills skyrocket and people begin seeking out scapegoats.
Everyone we know is talking about our off-the-charts crime problem. While Bourbon Street could arguably be the most famous street in the world and crimes there like last Saturday’s shootings are truly shots heard ’round the world, the depth of our crime problem is really in our neighborhoods.
What we need are out-of-the-box crime solutions.
Jitney is probably a word few New Orleanians are familiar with, although historians believe that the work may have originated here.
Back in the early 20th century, systems of shared taxis, appeared in cities throughout America. The cost for using one of these shared cabs was usually a nickel, or jitney. The French Creole term “jeton,” which refers to a small coin or token, is widely believed to have been the inspiration for the word “jitney.” Accordingly, the word probably came from New Orleans.
The basic scheme behind jitneys was simple: An ordinary citizen could buy a used car or bus and run passengers around, usually far more cheaply and quickly than streetcars could. Eventually, some jitney operators formed jitney companies and even jitney drivers’ unions.
Since Mayor Landrieu did not succeed in getting the Legislature to approve many of the new taxes he wanted to pay for the police consent decree, the firefighters’ lawsuit, the jail consent decree, etc, it is no surprise that he is punting to the voters to choose.
“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” according to the century-old adage. Demonstrating the premise that numbers and data can still be manipulated to suit any argument, New Orleans was named one of two “most livable” cities in the country last week — based on, of all things, our crime rates.
Nobody will ever accuse Mayor Mitch Landrieu of being creative. Time and time again he has traveled down the same well-worn path of shifting blame to justify pursuing unpopular fiscal policies.
Most recently, Landrieu did the ol’ bait and switch by proposing cigarette and hotel tax increases that he knew he lacked the clout to get through the legislature. Next, he turned around and pushed through authorization to double of the police and fire property tax millages, subject to approval of that proposal on the city and state ballots in the fall.
As readers are well aware, the Tea Party is a growing anti-big government movement that seeks to change American politics by often promising to get government out of the lives of citizens – as if that is even remotely possible. Most people of our generation began their voting lives as Democrats. We understand that when people get a little older, more successful and sometimes more conservative, they might transition from being moderate Democrats to Republicans.
That’s fine. But right-leaning Tea Party Republicans are as out-of-step with middle America as the left-leaning fringes of the Democratic party. And they certainly won’t help the Republican party attract the ever-growing number of Hispanic, Asian and African-American voters they must have to win another presidential election. As the voting majority nationally because more non-white each year, both parties are scrambling to embrace those voters.