Sunday, November 26, 2006

Katrina Humor ...

From Luanda, the Angola Press:

Dark humor brightens life in battered New Orleans

A Hurricane Katrina evacuee walks up to a woman in a bar and says, "Want to go back to my place?"

"I`d love to," the woman replies.

"So would I," the man says.

In New Orleans, struggling to get back on its feet more than a year after Hurricane Katrina, stand-up comedy and satire are surging in popularity, as survivors of the storm turn to humor, the darker the better, to cope with their plight.

Navigating government bureaucracies, battling over insurance claims, and watching politicians roll out recovery plans that are never put into practice have all whetted what was always a large appetite for the ridiculous and the absurd.

Bigger-than-ever audiences attend comedy shows, residents are devouring humorous blogs and satirical newspapers and growing numbers of amateurs are trying stand-up routines, comics say.

"After the storm, I came back and wondered what kind of crowds we would get and what kind of mood they would be in," said Mike Strecker, who tells the joke about the evacuee`s pickup line in his comic routine. "The crowds are larger, and they`re so much more responsive.

"It`s a release just waiting to happen," he said of the mood in his audiences who have returned since Katrina burst the New Orleans levees and flooded the city.


Among the new additions to the comedy scene is a satirical newspaper, "The New Orleans Levee," with the motto: "We Don`t Hold Anything Back."

The free paper pokes fun at politicians and officials who are supposed to lead the post-Katrina rebuilding effort, said publisher Rudy Vorkapic, 42.

"This isn`t making fun of New Orleans. This is making fun of people who are failing New Orleans," he said. "This is born out of frustration."

The latest edition features a playful story on local Congressman William Jefferson explaining the $90,000 cash federal authorities found in his freezer as a "manufacturer`s rebate" for buying the appliance.

Another article details a study showing that hurricanes did not strike New Orleans this year "because there was so little for them to do."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, November 19, 2006

NOPD: Of Standards and Fees …

NOPD lowers standards!

The T-P reports that the New Orleans Police Department has voluntarily withdrawn from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies. The NOPD has been accredited by CALEA since the 1990s.

In a news release, Police Superintendent Warren Riley cited "overwhelming structural and financial devastation" imposed on the city by Hurricane Katrina as the reason the department expected it would not be able to meet the accreditation standard.

"A full recovery is expected to take another one and a half to two years, during which time the department hopes to re-establish its infrastructure, technology and personnel levels," Riley said, adding that the NOPD will seek reaccreditation with CALEA in the future.

Will New Orleans' fees kill jazz funerals?

The LATimes reports that the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit on behalf of one of New Orleans' best-known traditions: the "second-line" dance processions and jazz funerals that regularly take place on city streets.

The suit claims the city of New Orleans and the governor's office are imposing excessive fees and unfair permit rules on organizations that hold parades. The city raised fees after one person was killed and several others were wounded this year at shootings at two parades.

The higher fees start at around $1,200, and a state bond of $10,000 must be posted as well. ACLU lawyers said that would prevent many so-called Social Aid and Pleasure Clubs, renowned for their processions and funeral marches, from conducting parades and would infringe on their 1st Amendment rights.

"The policies that are currently being enforced are a curtailment of their freedom of speech and expression," said cooperating attorney Carol Kolinchak.

"If we do not get relief from the court," said Joe Cook, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana, "then this tradition will be taxed out of existence."

The ACLU is representing the Social Aid and Pleasure Club Task Force, which comprises 21 groups, and other plaintiffs. The defendants are the city of New Orleans, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Police Supt. Warren J. Riley and Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Rebuild in flood zones, hand you the bill ...

From an editorial in USA Today:

The definition of insanity, according to Benjamin Franklin, is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.

Ben, welcome to New Orleans.

Nearly three-quarters of 14,534 New Orleanians who've applied for federal grants say they'll rebuild their Hurricane Katrina-damaged homes in flood areas — even though city restrictions are unlikely to protect their homes if the levees fail again, USA TODAY's Anne Rochell Konigsmark reported last week.

The latest plan calls for the Louisiana Recovery Authority to dole out grants of up to $150,000 to cover uninsured losses, which residents can use to rebuild or relocate. To qualify, homeowners in and around the city must raise their homes by at least 3 feet and purchase federal flood insurance.

So let's see. Federal taxpayers will be subsidizing reconstruction in flood areas, underwriting the insurance on those homes and will no doubt have to bail out the flood insurance program if the homes get wiped out again. The program collected only $2.2 billion last year in premiums but will pay out more than $20 billion in Katrina claims, leaving taxpayers on the hook for the rest. Worse, the program encourages development in areas subject to flooding — not just in New Orleans, but everywhere — by offering insurance at bargain rates in areas where private insurers fear to tread. That increases the population in vulnerable areas, leading to more costly disasters.

It is an absurd use of taxpayers' money, to which New Orleans is adding an expensive new twist.

Certainly, the homeowners in and around New Orleans deserve some assistance because of the magnitude of the disaster and the failure of federally constructed levees to protect them. But encouraging rebuilding in the most flood-prone areas is foolhardy.

The 3-foot rule, adopted Sept. 1 by the New Orleans City Council, makes little sense and is a poor substitute for a comprehensive rebuilding plan. An extra yard of elevation isn't needed in areas that didn't flood after Katrina, and it's too low in areas that saw as much as 20 feet of water. Just ask those who had to be rescued from their rooftops. If there's another catastrophic event, thousands of homes could flood again under the new rules, says Federal Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Doug Bellomo.

To prevent such an event, $6 billion is being spent to upgrade the 350 miles of levees around New Orleans. But parts of that system remain suspect, and work won't be done until 2010 at best. This year's tame hurricane season is no reason for complacency. The truth is, New Orleans won't be safe from a Katrina-scale storm for many years.

Recovery after Katrina is a mammoth undertaking that should be managed at the municipal and state level. But if local authorities allow residents to rebuild in the most dangerous areas, it should be at their own risk. Asking taxpayers around the USA to subsidize, underwrite and bail them out again fits Franklin's definition of nuts.

See some interesting responses to this editorial.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

EXTRA: Mobile Laundromat ...

New Orleans Saints’ John Carney appearing courtesy of PLAYERS INC fluffs and folds for a cause

WHO: The service is available to all local families in need of clean clothes

WHAT: Starting November 13th, the Tide CleanStart mobile laundromat returns to New Orleans to deliver some holiday cheer by helping families renew their sense of hope by providing clean clothes while they continue to rebuild their homes and lives.

• Families are encouraged to drop off their laundry to be washed, dried and folded by the Tide CleanStart team, free of charge.
• The Tide CleanStart mobile laundry facility contains 32 high-efficiency washers and dryers and has the capacity to do nearly 1,500 loads of laundry in the five day period the truck will be in the New Orleans area.
• The truck can do approximately 300 wash and dry cycles a day — equal to one year's worth of laundry for a single family.

Tide launched the Tide CleanStart program in partnership with America’s Second Harvest in October 2005 to fulfill the essential need of clean clothing for families in the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina.

WHY: Just months after the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, Tide understands there are families still struggling with everyday household tasks. By returning to New Orleans, Tide hopes to alleviate some of these pressures and continue its commitment to the area’s revitalization.

WHERE: Wal-Mart parking lot, 1901 Tchoupitoulas, New Orleans, LA, 70130

WHEN: Daily from Monday, November 13 to Friday, November 17 from 7AM – 9PM

** Photo and interview opportunities with New Orleans Saints’ John Carney appearing courtesy of PLAYERS INC: 2-6 PM on Tuesday, November 14th.

For more information:
Jen Cornella
DeVries Public Relations
Office: 646.253.0219
Cell: 917.291.5200

Liza Martindale/Jennifer Fromm
DeVries Public Relations
Office: 212-891-0483/212-891-0444


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Inspector General Approved ...

The office of Inspector General was finally created by the New Orleans City Council, eleven years after the idea was endorsed by voters.

The Council voted 7-0 Thursday to create an inspector general's office to seek out waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency in the government of a city that is, according to the T-P, “long fabled for easy morals and flexible ethics.” The unanimous vote was intended to send the message that the city can be trusted to spend billions of dollars in federal aid to rebuild after Hurricane Katrina.

Debate goes on about who should hold the office - a New Orleans insider or an outsider - and what powers the office should have. Former DA Harry Connick said that creating an inspector general's office was like telling law enforcers that they're not doing their jobs. He said the council essentially was creating a prosecutor, a "predatory-type creature."

Concerns were raised, too, about the accountability of an inspector general. Under the measure, some records generated by the office could be withheld from the public.

The discussion raised the specter of race, as some residents accused the council of racism for pushing the measure during a black mayor's administration. Some worried an inspector general might indiscriminately launch investigations targeting blacks.

One resident, Pamela Steeg, said, "If there is a racial issue here, it's who suffers from corruption. It's the poor."

The council is made up of four black and three white members. Two of the measure's most ardent supporters, Arnold Fielkow and Shelley Midura, are white.

"I am no racist; this is not racially intended," Midura tearfully told the audience just before the vote. An AP article stated that “Midura opened the debate by invoking writings on unity by Martin Luther King Jr. and was heckled.”

The measure still needs approval from Mayor Ray Nagin. The office is expected to cost $400,000 a year.

Kenya Smith, director of intergovernmental affairs for Nagin, said: "Our hope is there will be enough money to get it off the ground, but it's a work in progress."


jbv's Competitive Edge