Demolition Map

Following up on yesterday’s post: Big thanks to Ashley Morris for putting together this swell interactive map of the City’s “imminent threat” demolition list. I’m not sure if it works on every browser, and it may take a while to load, but if you can view it you’ll be able to zoom in and move around. It’s a great tool for visualizing the scope of this list and may

Ashley’s a mensch. You should read his blog.

Razing New Orleans

Remember what I said about Bienville being just the tip of the iceberg? There are 1700+ properties on the “imminent threat” list. I just discovered my next door neighbor’s house is one of them! I called him (he’s in Texas) and he was shocked and alarmed. He has not been notified that his house is slated for demolition.

In an effort to visualize the scope of these demolitions, I’ve been fiddling around with BatchGeocode.com and Google Earth.

Imminent Threat

(I’ve posted the data to Google Earth Community for the true geeks.)

Of course I’ve been paying particular attention to the demolition in Mid-City. There are a lot of them, not just along Bienville. (I’ve posted Google Earth data for just Mid-City too.) According to a friend of mine, “The last major demolition of historic houses at this scale for urban renewal was the demolition of Treme for Louis Armstrong Park.”

I got an interesting phone call yesterday from a woman who read my blog and wanted to share some information anonymously. I asked her to put it in writing, so she sent me the following via e-mail, which I thought was quite extraordinary.
Continue reading Razing New Orleans

Applied

I finally submitted our application to the Road Home program — and not a moment too soon. The deadline is July 31, and I’ve been procrastinating since I resolved to apply in March.

This program is supposed to help Louisiana homeowners get back in their homes after the devastation caused by Katrina and Rita and attendant flooding. It’s been a colossal clusterfuck — sorry, there’s just no other word for it.

In fact there was another story on the front page of today’s paper: Every step bumpy for Road Home, which refers to a “crescendo of gaffes.” Only 27% of 140,000 applicants have closed on their grants, and it looks like their will be a significant shortfall. The paper also publishes a full-page flowchart of the “Rube Goldberg” process which is frankly astonishing, a veritable blueprint of a bureaucratic nightmare that would make Franz Kafka blush. Actually it’s quite helpful. Unfortunately this gem doesn’t seem to be online yet.

(In fact, a flow chart like this is one of the things that participants in yesterday’s Road Home Unconference identified as a key aide in understanding the process. Yes, I was there, but only briefly. For some initial thoughts on the event see TechChris.com.)

We’re among those “lucky” few who not only had adequate insurance, but didn’t get screwed by our insurance company. I wish I could say that our insurance settlement was enough to cover the cost of our repairs, but since the renovation still isn’t finished, it’s hard to know for sure. So I applied to Road Home just in case, even though we may not actually be eligible for anything. Even if we are, they’ll probably run out of money before they get to us.

Bienville Under Siege

I’m all in a tizzy because of the recent news reported by Squandered Heritage. It seems there’s a ton of houses on Bienville that are on the city’s “imminent threat” list for demolition. These are supposed to be houses that pose an immediate threat to health and safety.

And some of them are. Some are clearly in need of immediate demolition.

Falling Apart

But there’s only a couple like that. Many appear to be in decent shape. Consider this one, right around the corner from me:

Bienville

Rock solid. These “raised basement” style houses weathered the flood pretty well. I should know because I’m living in one.

Furthermore, there’s ample evidence that many of the owners don’t want these properties demolished.

So what the hell is going on? I don’t know, but something ain’t right.

Here’s Councilmember Stacy Head’s reaction:

Bienville will be left NAKED and BARREN. I am at my wits end with so many irrational decisions here and I need help. Carla and I will press the city to STOP but we will need pressure from you too. This will be HORRID for Mid City!!!!!

The good folks at Squandered Heritage have also put up an interactive map of the Bienville properties.

Unfortunately this is just the tip of the iceberg.

Classroom Prep

It’s that time of year again. I’m taking the day off work to help Xy get her classroom in order. Mostly this involves putting educational posters up on the wall, which is easier for me because I’m taller. The kids don’t read the posters, but every competent teacher has to buy them (out of their own pocket) and put them up or they’ll look bad. Of course they can also be used as teaching aids, but that is a secondary function. Mainly they’re intended to create the impression that this is a place where learning happens.

As a science teacher, Xy is lucky to have a sink. Unfortunately the faucet yields only a trickle of water, and the school has no money for a plumber. However, they do have money to fly all the teachers out to Epcot Center for a three day retreat. Still trying to figure that one out.

Another Failed Prosecution

Remember that retired teacher who got beat up on Bourbon Street shortly after Katrina? Sure you do, it was on television all over the world, a blatant example of police brutality and a huge embarrassment to the city of New Orleans.

Well, the latest news is that the accused officer was acquitted.

Some will say that Judge Frank Marullo has a pro-police bias. But I note the following from a Crouere’s Corner:

In the past, Marullo had legendary conflicts with former District Attorney Harry Connick and some believed that he was one of the more liberal judges on the criminal court bench.

And I’m sure some will say Marullo is dirty — nothing would surprise me.

But I am left to wonder about the prosecutor. This seems like such an easy case. It seems like another example of a botched prosecution.

We already know that District Attorney’s office can’t handle the job. Some of Eddie Jordan’s defenders have stuck by him out of a false hope that he’s going to clean up the police department. Unfortunately, he can’t, and this acquittal is further evidence of that. He’ll blow the Danziger case too. Mark my words.

Anyway you slice it, this is an ugly case. The other officer involved, who was also being prosecuted, killed himself last month.

And as for Stewart Smith, the third cop, who tried to stop the Associated Press from videotaping the incident? Charges against him were dismissed because the D.A. missed the deadline.

Letter

This arrived in the mail yesterday with no return address. View the large version for easier reading.

Letter

Note: I cut the writer’s name off to preserve his/her privacy.

This letter is in response to the most recent article about us in the Times-Picayune. The writer means well, but the discerning reader will not have to strain much to discover a certain subtext. I guess this pretty much stands on its own. I don’t have much to add except…

The teens on our porch are definitely not scaring the neighbors away. I can say this with some confidence because the teens are the neighbors. I mean, they’re from the families who are moving. No one around here is scared of them. They’re just trying to get away from the family for a little bit. You know how teens are.

Hoosier Car

As I’ve mentioned before, a white Honda Prelude has been sitting on our block for over three months. It’s had debris piled on it. It’s been jacked up and cannibalized for parts. It’s had the rear window smashed out. The police came and looked at it on several occasions. But still it remained.

I was pleasantly surprised this weekend to see the owner return and haul the damn thing back to Munster, Indiana.

I talked to them about it, but I didn’t learn much. It seems they had a small problem with the transmission. I didn’t ask why it took three months to remove the vehicle.

Herewith, a pictorial retrospective of this derelict automobile’s tenure on North Salcedo.

Indiana Plate

Car Under Debris

Smashed

It’s gone now. Good riddance.

Ouch

As I was walking to the Post Office Saturday morning, some jackass asked me for directions. I stepped up to his car, and when we were finished talking, I realized I was standing on an ant hill.

Foot

Actually the guy wasn’t a jackass at all. He was very polite. But my foot is now covered with 16 fire ant bites (or are they stings?) and I’ve got to blame somebody.

Update: I got stung Saturday morning, but the irritation didn’t really begin until Sunday, with pustules in full effect by Monday morning. I took a couple sick days because it just wasn’t comfortable to wear a shoe. Now it’s Friday and the pustules are starting to diminish. I used some topical hydrocortisone to relieve the itching at first, but then I remembered the hot water method. Years ago I discovered this was a great way to deal with poison ivy, and it works for fire ants too. Just bathe in water hot as you can stand, and the itching goes away for hours. Ralph Robert Moore explains it this way:

The itching is caused by histamines produced by the insect bite or poison ivy rash. Exposing the affected area to hot water draws the histamines to the surface of the skin, where they are washed away.

I don’t know if that’s just his speculation or if there’s scientific research to back it up, but one things for sure: it works.

Debra Got Popped

Friday night I was hangin’ with the neighbs across the street. Everybody was joking and laughing and having a good time. I remember thinking it was odd when Debra took off on her bicycle. Where was she going so late at night?

This morning (Saturday) I was awakened early by a knock at the door. It was Debra’s son, Josh, and Debra’s friend who lives in the same building, Trenetta. Debra hadn’t come home. Trenetta wanted to borrow my cellphone to calling Debra, but there was no answer. She tried calling Central Lockup but got no answer.

I went back to bed. Later they stopped by again to let us know they’d found Debra indeed was in jail. She’d been arrested for public intox and also for an outstanding traffic warrant.

Still later in the day they stopped by to borrow $200 for bail. We only gave $100.

I guess they were successful because the final visit from Trenetta and Josh indicated they’d paid the bail and Debra would be out soon. I still haven’t seen her.

We’ve loaned Debra lots of money over the last year, mostly in increments of $10 or $20 but adding up to over $100 at times. She’s always paid us back. However, lately we’ve begun to suspect that the stories she’s told about why she needs money aren’t always true. She’s seemed kind of messed up lately, like she was headed for a fall. I just hope she doesn’t fall further.

Catching Up

I’ve been preoccupied, so a lot of very important stuff has slipped past in the last week and I haven’t had a chance to write about it. Herewith, a grab-bag of updates.

  • Xy’s had a moderate amount of morning sickness, but she’s coping pretty well. She canceled a conference she’d been planning to attend in DC next week. Too bad, she was looking forward to it and I was looking forward to having her out of my hair for a week.
  • Someone smashed the rear window of the abandoned car that’s still on our street.

    Smashed

  • Geraldine and “the girls” who used to live across the street stopped by yesterday. I didn’t even recognize Danielle when she knocked on our door, and Donika has grown too. They are going to rent a place in New Orleans East and hope to be back in their old rental soon. It still needs a lot of work; Geraldine said the owner’s waiting on the “Road to Home” program. I’m amazed that she’s so determined to return to this specific rental unit, but it sure would be nice to have them back.
  • I knew eventually I’d find a connection between Dominica and New Orleans, but I didn’t think it would be as weird as Operation Red Dog.
  • I took the Happy Planet Index survey and scored 32.7, which they say is “similar to that of countries such as Djibouti, Cameroon or Ethiopia. Sorry to say that this is below the world average of 46… Your score is about the same as that of your country, 28.8.”
  • Senator Vitter’s days in office are numbered. Just thought I’d mention that.
  • John Edwards has virtually endorsed the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project.
  • Citizen Crime Watch blows the competition to the weeds, as far as the interface. The city’s site does appear to have a more complete listing of incidents. They should share that data.
  • I’ve discovered I enjoy having a small amount (half a glass) of wine with lunch, and a full glass with dinner. I can skip the wine at lunch, but I’m committed for dinner.
  • Today I tried to sleep in but ended up riding my bike out to the fitness center for a workout before work. I guess that means I’m addicted to exercise. I’ve been sticking to a light workout routine every other day, or every third day.
  • My parents celebrated their 45th wedding anniversary. My first thought upon hearing this was, “Wow! They’ve now been married longer than I’ve been alive.” It doesn’t take a math genius to realize that’s always been the case. There was a nice story about them in the Reporter-Times.
    Continue reading Catching Up

Leadership

“This is an attack on the black leadership.”

So said Malcolm Suber yesterday at the New Orleans City Council, defending District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Personally I think Mr. Suber is confusing leadership with authority.

When I think of black leadership in New Orleans, elected officials are not foremost in my mind. Instead, I think of people like Malik Rahim, who founded Common Ground; Patricia Jones, executive director of Lower Ninth Ward NENA; LaToya Cantrell, president of Broadmoor Civic Improvement Association; and — yes — Malcolm Suber, who has organized the People’s Hurricane Relief Fund.

And there are many others, grassroots heroes who are working for the recovery of New Orleans.

But please don’t cite District Attorney Eddie Jordan as an example of black leadership. Mr. Jordan is in a position of authority, true. But that does not equate to leadership. To the contrary, Mr. Jordan has betrayed the (largely black) community that elected him.

By way of contrast, consider the actions yesterday of State Representatives Cedric Richmond and J. P. Morrell, both active in the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus. Although they stopped short of calling for Jordan to resign, they went public with their disappointment in his performance and threatened him with impeachment if he doesn’t do better.

They put their own reputations at risk for the sake of the community. That’s true leadership. Kudos to them.

Scapegoat

Today Shelley Midura bravely repeated her call for Eddie Jordan to resign. Only this time Mr. Jordan was right there and he answered back.

Jordan said she was trying to make him a scapegoat.

I understand where Jordan is coming from. After all, there’s plenty of other people screwing up in our government. Why is he getting all the pressure?

The answer is because he’s screwed up so badly and so publicly that his removal has seemed to become a possibility, however remote.

I still believe Jordan could be pressured to resign if other elected officials follow Midura’s lead and present a united front. Unfortunately that doesn’t seem to be happening. Perhaps citizens can still unite to the same effect. Perhaps it will require another massive bungle on Jordan’s part.

If and when that happens, if Jordan is forced to resign for his glaring incompetence, then I don’t think he should be considered a scapegoat. I think he should be considered an example.

Perhaps that’s why politicians are afraid of calling for his resignation — they’re afraid of the precedent. They’re afraid they might be next.

Slated for Demolition, Again?

3319-21 Iberville Street [map]

Slated for Demolition?

This building was been proposed for demolition by FEMA. Since it’s in a historic district (Mid-City, my neighborhood) FEMA “requested the aid of the public in identifying alternatives to demolition.”

So I wrote to FEMA back in November and helped them identify some “alternatives.”

And, wonder of wonders, FEMA removed it from their demolition list.

Now, I learn from the Squandered Heritage website that the owners are applying to the Historic Conservation District Review Committee to demolish the house:

MID CITY: 3319-21 Iberville – Herbert Carver, owner. City of New Orleans, FEMA funded demolition (voluntary demolition). Demolition of a bracket-style double shotgun. No redevelopment plan submitted.

I’m not an expert, but it appears to me that this house could be renovated and made habitable for less cost than demolishing and building something new. I suspect the property owner merely plans to demolish. After all, the HCDRC agenda says, “No redevelopment plan submitted.”

But then the agenda also says the demolition is to be “FEMA funded.” That’s confusing to me, because FEMA wrote me in February to say this property was being removed from the demolition list.

The owner hasn’t even taken the basic step of removing the flooded contents after almost two years:

Inside

The house could have been gutted by now. There are numerous groups that do it for free.

According to the city’s website, this property has been reported for the following violations of the “Good Neighbor” program:

– Grass/weed overgrowth – Trash/debris accumulation
– Unsanitary conditions (animals) – Storage of junk, materials and/or inoperable vehicles
– High weeds – Trash/debris
– Open doors and windows (unboarded) – Rats and/or mice
– Needs to be cleaned and gutted – House not gutted
– Rats or mice observed – Rodent droppings observed
– Rodent burrows observed – Trash/flowerpots holding water

When are property owners going to be held to account?

Love, Rage and Hope

What motivates people to get up at 5:00 in the morning and go out to hold a sign in the rain?

Jordan Protest

Love, rage and hope. Love for the city we call home. Rage at elected officials who are unable to perform their jobs. Hope that, despite everything, we might see a better day, where government authorities are held accountable.

Our message was simple: Eddie Jordan must go. He should step down immediately. He has lost the confidence of the public. As I said to the media, “You can’t screw up this bad and not be held to account.”

Update: Maitri is compiling links of media coverage.

Citizens Demand Jordan’s Resignation Monday Morning

This just in via Karen Gadbois…

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

NEW ORLEANS CITIZENS TAKE TO THE STREETS TO DEMAND
THE RESIGNATION OF DISTRICT ATTORNEY EDDIE JORDAN

New Orleans citizens, fed up with the resurgence of violent crime in their city, will stage a protest in front of the Cabildo on Jackson Square on Monday, July 16 at 6 a.m. to demand the resignation of District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

Although every component of the city’s criminal justice system has been in disarray since Hurricane Katrina, the district attorney’s office is widely seen as the biggest obstacle to reform because of its pattern of not pursuing charges.

In just the past two weeks, the D.A.’s office has dropped murder charges against suspects in two high-profile murder cases: that of Dinerral Shavers, gunned down in his car, and last summer’s quintuple murder in Central City. In both cases, the D.A.’s office cited lack of witnesses as the reason for the dismissals. However, in the Shavers case, there were other witnesses and evidence, inexplicably not used; and in the Central City murders, New Orleans police were able to locate the supposedly un-findable witness within a matter of hours of learning about the dismissal.

These incidents come on the heels of a protest march in January, in which 5000 New Orleanians took to the streets to demand that city officials address the rampant violence that had taken over the city. Notably, although mayor Ray Nagin and Superintendent of Police Warren Riley attended, Mr. Jordan did not. At that time, Mr. Jordan claimed a 92% conviction rate, although he declined to provide statistics on the number of cases he chooses not to pursue, raising questions as to the validity of the 92% figure he provided.

In the past, Mr. Jordan has shown disdain for anyone questioning the actions of his agency. Most notably, he stormed out of an Nightline interview with ABC’s Brian Ross when Ross pressed him about whether his office had performed as it should.

It appears that Mr. Jordan has lost the confidence not only of the citizenry, but of his fellow politicians as well. Mayor Nagin released a statement last week condemning the D.A.’s office for its “a disturbing pattern in which the DA dismisses charges without securing assistance from NOPD or any other entity in the criminal justice system.” Councilwoman Shelley Midura has publicly called for Mr. Jordan’s resignation, saying, “I no longer believe you have the consent and support from the public required to perform your duties adequately.”

Note: ABC News/Good Morning America is conducting a “town hall meeting” with Senator John Edwards. The town hall will take place on Monday, July 16th and hosted live by Diane Sawyer in the Cabildo in the French Quarter from 6:00am to 8:00am Central Time.

Update: The organizers add:

We hope that you’ll participate in this peaceful demonstration. Those interested should be in front of the Cabildo at 5:30 a.m. on Monday (to catch the live broadcast of Good Morning America). We ask that you bring signs and wear something white. For further information, please email [email protected] And please encourage your friends to attend!

Bloodletting

These lyrics keep going through my head.

I’m on the creep, with no sleep
I ain’t trynna rest till the enemy six feet
It’s game time, and I’m ready to play
Gimme my remote and my remote is my K
I spray with it, I’m from uptown
I gotta stay wit it
When we murder, we know how to get away wit it
We do our slick, one shot to the head is how we slank a bitch

— B.G. “My World – I Want It” from 2004’s Life After Cash Money

Yeah, he said it. “When we murder, we know how to get away wit it.” Some people would latch on to these words and think the words themselves are the problem, but of course that’s ass-backwards. B.G. is reporting on the situation in his hometown of New Orleans. The real problem is the society wherein murder is an acceptable strategy and the system wherein one can so easily murder and “get away wit it.”

I’m not a vengeful person. I’m not a law-and-order crusader. I am critical of the whole orientation of our criminal justice system.

But I also subscribe to the radical notion that murderers should not go free.

It seems that the District Attorney Eddie Jordan is unable to do his job. Dropping charges against an accused quintuple-murderer is just the latest and most glaring example — the last straw. As a reminder, five young men were slaughtered in Central City last year, and it made headlines around the world. The case was dropped earlier this week because the only witness had “disappeared.” When that news came to light, the police promptly produced the witness, who is willing to testify. The mind boggles.

It surpasses my understanding why Jordan is screwing up so badly, but I really don’t care whether he’s incompetent, corrupt or just plain evil. I don’t care. He just needs to go. It’s entirely possible that Jordan could be replaced by someone just as bad as he is. But the consequence of someone screwing up like this and staying in office is surely even worse.

People, it’s time to rise up. Tell your elected officials to join together and pressure Jordan to resign. If our authorities won’t do this in the next days, then grassroots organizations need to take the extreme step of supporting a national boycott of New Orleans. I think that’s the only thing that will show we’re serious.

I hate to use a violent metaphor, but blood must be let. If Jordan isn’t purged, we should threaten to open our own veins, which is exactly what calling for a boycott would be.

Midura to Jordan: Please Resign

Shelley Midura of the New Orleans City Council has asked our Distict Attorney Eddie Jordan to step down. I’m going to reproduce it here in full because her staff sent it to me directly (along with many others I’m sure) so I can claim as direct a line as the mainstream media:

July 12, 2007
Eddie Jordan
District Attorney
1340 Poydras Street
Suite 700
New Orleans, LA 70112

Dear Mr. Jordan:

I am writing to you today to respectfully request that you resign from the office of Orleans Parish District Attorney.

I have no doubts about your intentions or your dedication or your character. By all accounts you are a fine man. But the job of District Attorney is an admittedly difficult one with heavy responsibility and requires more than most fine men are capable of. After the events of the last 48 hours, which have eroded the public’s confidence in your ability to carry out the responsibilities of the District Attorney, I am asking that you resign from office. An elected official’s legitimacy and moral authority to govern is derived from the consent of the governed. I no longer believe you have the consent and support from the public required to perform your duties adequately.

I do not know that there is any excuse for dropping charges against a quintuple murderer without a thorough exhaustion of all possibilities to prevent such a thing from happening. Months ago you and Superintendent Riley pledged to the City Council several reforms and improvements in your lines of communication to ensure that lack of coordination between your offices would no longer lead to dropped cases against those who pose serious threats to our public safety. It has become all too clear that you have been unable to hold up your end of this bargain. Mr. Jordan, you must know as well as any of your fellow New Orleanians the great urgency our city feels in combating the violent crime problem. We have lost the room for these kinds of error. I thank you for your service and your efforts as District Attorney, yet I maintain my request on behalf of my constituents that you resign your office as soon as possible.
Sincerely,

Shelley Midura

cc: Mayor C. Ray Nagin
New Orleans City Council

Midura has no authority over Jordan. As far as I know, Jordan answers only to the voters. Therefore Midura is exceeding her authority here. She’s sticking her neck out, taking a risk. She may pay a price for it. So… is she merely pandering to her constituents, or is this an exercise of true leadership? I tend to think it’s the latter. Big props to Midura for saying what needs to be said. I’m not in her district, but she’s representin’ for me.