By Ramsey Green and Sam Winston, members of Friends of Wisner Park
On Saturday, New Orleanians will vote on whether to approve a new 50-year tax increase with all revenue exclusively designated for the Audubon Institute. You should vote “No” – especially if you value having more functional green spaces in the city like the beautiful Audubon Park. Before we talk about the merits of this proposed tax increase, let’s talk about what this ballot item is not. First, this is not an “extension” of an existing millage despite what the Audubon Institute’s glitzy PR campaign has claimed. The original Audubon millage, approved by voters in the 1970s, was designated solely to pay for improvements to the Audubon Zoo.
In a state in which abstinence-only sex education is the norm, and locally accessible reproductive health services are scarce, and often demonized, Planned Parenthood has always remained a stalwart voice for the practice of safe sex and a resource for those who need real answers about sex other than “Don’t Have It”. I personally have benefitted from Planned Parenthood’s health services, receiving free STD testing, free contraception, and an overall safe and positive environment. Recently, Planned Parenthood has seen much scrutiny and vitriol from vocal critics such as NOLA Needs Peace, or the Louisiana Archdiocese, which has even threatened to blacklist any companies aiding Planned Parenthood in the construction of its new facility uptown. What New Orleans truly needs is advocacy and realistic goals about keeping its citizens, especially teens and young adults, safe and healthy. This means affordable access to all reproductive health services including birth control, cancer screenings, and abortions.
In response to Mr. Courreges’ recent piece regarding NORTA fare increases (“Necessary or not, RTA fare hike makes New Orleans two bits closer to unaffordable”), I suggest that one way to increase revenue without socking it to the poor, elderly, and others with no alternative would be to increase the single-ticket price while keeping the monthly-pass price the same or perhaps even lowering it. I would also suggest offering discounted monthly passes for the same categories (and perhaps others) that are currently offered for the single fares. In some other U.S. cities and in many parts of Europe, the single fares are pretty steep but the monthly passes are a good deal. (This not only makes things cheaper and easier for those who rely solely on public transportation, it encourages those who have a choice to go ahead and buy a pass and then use it more often instead of driving.) By way of comparison, a single ticket in New Orleans is only $1.25 but the monthly pass is $55, i.e. you would have to ride more than 44 times (22 roundtrips) per month, to make a pass worthwhile. In San Francisco, for example, a single fare is $2, but the monthly pass is $66.
Although Katz and Columbus are entitled to their opinions, it is shoddy journalism to falsely attribute quotes. I refer to the first paragraph’s attribution to the OIG of “marking down crimes”. That phrase does not appear in the report or any statement by the OIG and was invented by the authors of the opinion. The OIG’s report was issued following an inquiry into credible allegations received about conduct in the 8th District. As required by law, the OIG investigated the claim; which explains why the inquiry was focused on the 8th District.
The recent Uptown Messenger article “Good neighbors: Freret’s revival has largely avoided the issues that often accompany gentrification” is an intelligent and well considered fine piece of writing on a complicated subject. It is much appreciated. I also would have liked to have seen some treatment of the larger economic change that has hit the traditional middle-class quite devastatingly, not only here, but nationally and world-wide. I know it sounds like an extraneous issue to raise and examine in such a tightly focused urban neighborhood discussion, but it seems to me to play a pivotal role. When I was a kid, we lived in a large house of many apartments that one of my grandmothers owned on Jackson Avenue between Magazine and Constance.
Letter to the editor by Edwin Holmes Jr., New Orleans Fire Department
I am writing to clarify remarks made by New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD) Assistant Superintendent Tim McConnell during an Uptown community meeting on Tuesday, which you attended, and referenced in your article on The Uptown Messenger website. At no time did Chief McConnell say that any fire company was being closed due to budget cuts. He did state that the City of New Orleans was fortunate to have received the “Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency and Response” (SAFER) grant that allowed the department to hire firefighters in 2010 however; through attrition the department’s numbers have decreased back to the 2010 levels. The fact is the administration increased the amount of funding placed in the NOFD 2013 General Fund budget by more than $1.8 Million dollars. Chief McConnell informed the audience that the NOFD conducted an efficiency study to determine the most effective method to assign its assets.
How many of us have hesitated to notify the police when we see something or someone suspicious? We all say we are going to call, but many of us hesitate when the time comes. Will the police expect me to stop everything and fill out a report? Will the police give my name out as the one who alerted them? Will the police consider it silly that I have called?
I’m about to offer up some tough love, for this city and the fez-wearing simian we’ve been toting around unawares:
Citizen engagement in New Orleans has reached an impasse. There, I said it. There are two sides to this sad situation: On the one hand, we are a citizenry in motion, attending countless meetings, speaking into every available microphone, producing data and consuming statistical reports at an unprecedented clip. In the plus column: New Orleans boasts numerous micro-communities engaging their members in topics ranging from youth programs to land use, from prison reform to public transportation, from crime tracking to fighting blight. For every cause, there’s a website; for every gripe, a social network where you can vent.
[The following letter to the editor was written by Tim Garrett, State Street Drive neighborhood activist and administrator of NOLAhoods.com and AskNOLA.com]
As the owner/manager of AskNOLA.com, I may be biased, but I suspect many other native New Orleanians share my assessment of the current “citizen complaint hotline” hosted by City Hall:
Its hours are too restricted: Try dialing 311 at 5:01pm or during the weekend. A recording asks you to call another day; you cannot leave a message. The operators are poorly trained: Many of my calls get routed to the wrong department (“I said street light, not traffic signal”), and I’m forced to redial. That’s quite an inconvenience, especially for tourists, drivers and cyclists. The City’s dialup-only hotline accepts just a handful of report types, excluding common complaints like water leaks (call S&WB), utility poles (call Entergy), highway signs (call DOTD), chemical spills (call DEQ), stray animals (call SPCA), etc. (AskNOLA forwards all of these and many more by phone, mobile app or email 24/7.) Callers receive no confirmation, callback or status report. Worst of all, others have no way to check whether a problem has already been submitted (AskNOLA maps existing complaints), so reports are constantly duplicated. For most citizens, the 3-1-1 system remains a frustrating black hole – items check in, but they never check out! One year ago, the Landrieu administration promised us a fully operational, multi-service, GPS-enhanced, mobile-enabled 2-way system for Orleans Parish. It was presented, discussed and funded by City Council. But when will it ever materialize? Last summer, they said “November.” Then we heard “wait until March,” and later “end of Q2.” At a BlightStat meeting in June, we were told “not until September,” while at the Mayor’s August town hall meeting, his staff indicated “November of this year.” Don’t hold your breath, I say. In the meantime, City Hall warned everyone (NOPD included) not to use AskNOLA.com (see Jan.
Upon further review of the Freret streetscape plans, the longer they take the better. As best as I and many others can tell, they plan to narrow Freret Street with 42-foot-long street “bump-outs” similar to those on Oak Street. This is a horrible idea that must be stopped. These bump-outs look great on paper, but Freret Street has city buses (Oak Street does not) that will now be forced to stop in the middle of the street. We also have multiple businesses that rely on large cargo trucks for delivery of goods for resale.