Sunday, May 28, 2006

The Recreation Calendar ...

The big story for this Memorial Day weekend is that the recreation calendar seems to be back to somewhat normal. Channel 6 hits the highlights:

33rd Annual Greek Festival New Orleans

Out of the muck and grime left from floodwaters that inundated Lakeview and other parts of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina will come one of the biggest parties of the year from one of the oldest church congregations in the country.

Aquarium & Entergy I-MAX Theater Reopening

The Aquarium of the Americas, which lost more than 10,000 fish as the result of Hurricane Katrina, opened its doors to the public Friday. Various activities are planned throughout the entire weekend.

15th Annual New Orleans Wine and Food Experience

The city welcomes tourists and residents to experience New Orleans' rich cultural heritage in a five-day experience. There will be an indigenous cuisine paired with more than 400 fine wines from vineyards around the world against a backdrop of local art, architecture, music and rare antiques.

18th Annual Louisiana Sportsman Invitational Fishing Rodeo

Grand Isle is hosting its annual Louisiana Sportsman Invitational Fishing Rodeo. The event runs from Friday until Sunday. Proceeds from entry fees, food, drinks, and raffle tickets will all benefit Camp Challenge -- a camp for kids with cancer and other disorders.

Zephyrs Spend Memorial Weekend At Home

The New Orleans Zephyrs will be spending their entire Memorial Day weekend at home. Come support them as they take on Oklahoma at the Zephyrs Stadium.

Plaquemines Parish Heritage & Seafood Festival

Join Plaquemines Parish as they hold their annual celebration of the rich and vibrant heritage of the parish’s people. The festival will be held in Belle Chasse, LA on the grounds of the Louisiana Medal of Honor Park. Guests will enjoy great seafood and other local cuisine, live music, crafts from local artisans, and fun for the entire family.

Other Events include the Mid-City Bayou Boogaloo and the Spring into Summer Fest.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 21, 2006

It's Nagin ...

Some facts and figures from today's TP:

With all precincts reporting, Nagin had 52 percent of the vote, compared with Landrieu's 48 percent. It was the narrowest margin of victory for a sitting mayor in the city's modern history. The nearest parallel was the 1982 re-election of Dutch Morial, who won in a runoff that year with 53 percent of the vote.

With his victory, Nagin kept alive a 60-year win streak for incumbents and continued the era of African-American leadership in the mayor's office, which began when Landrieu's father, Moon Landrieu, left office in 1978.

By election day, more than half of the 462,000 pre-Katrina residents remained in exile, including as many as 200,000 registered voters.

Given the vast diaspora, Saturday's turnout could be considered brisk. Returns showed that 113,591 people cast a ballot for mayor, or about 38 percent of the city's 298,512 eligible voters. Nearly 25,000 people -- almost one-fourth of those who cast ballots -- mailed or faxed in an absentee ballot or voted in person at one of 10 balloting centers set up around the state for early voting. Turnout was 1 percent higher than in the primary.

Turnout among black voters in the primary was 31 percent, compared with 51 percent for white voters.

While black voter turnout in New Orleans generally lags white turnout, the disparity was more than 10 percent points larger than usual. In the 2002 mayoral primary, for instance, 50 percent of eligible white voters cast votes, compared with 45 percent of eligible black voters.

The results Saturday suggest that Nagin managed to build back a sizable portion of his once-enviable white base, an accomplishment that likely put him over the top.
Pollsters had said that, based on his strong showing among black voters in the primary, Nagin would need at least 20 percent and perhaps 25 percent of the white vote to win. Landrieu, conversely, would have had to build slightly upon the 24 percent of black votes he received in the primary.

Early analyses Saturday night indicate that Nagin met his goal of a 20 percent share of the white vote, while Landrieu failed to build upon his African-American support, and might have even lost some.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Getting Our Footing Back ...

By this time next week many of us will talking about how the New Orleans mayor's race turned out. Is there anything left to be said about it? The candidates have each tried to demonstrate that they have a plan, that theirs is the right one, and that they can get more done than the other fellow.

The race has drawn international attention but I don't think that this is due to the candidates' titanic struggle. The candidates are both capable gentlemen committed to public service, but the Katrina story dwarfs this race, politics, and the mechanics of governance.

A major city in the richest country in the world is crippled, due largely to governmental malfeasance, and aggravated by governmental impotence. The media are baffled as to what today's headline should be, and a mayoral race seems as good a thing as any.

The real story doesn't follow the daily news cycle; the gist of it is considerably less tangible than regular progress reports on levee reconstruction, and on the racial composition of the electorate. How do you convey community spirit, frustrations of trying to get anything done, and discouragement caused by the glacial pace of reconstruction?

My friends and cohorts are mostly 60-ish, and we find ourselves seriously considering leaving the area. Any sense of disloyalty to our home town is outweighed by the toll of everyday life; this is not the way to spend our golden years.

Katrina led us to cashing out our house, furniture and clothing. We evacuated with only what fit in our car. Like many, we want to see what happens this hurricane season before deciding whether it makes sense to build or buy another house.

Many of the people we talk to have adopted a similar wait-and-see attitude. But even then, of course, there will be another hurricane season each year. Still we need to be spared this season just to get our footing back.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 07, 2006

A Safer City …

We are maintaining a recovery index on post-Katrina New Orleans, and are staying with our estimate of the last two months at 35 percent. While the population has crept up over 35 percent of its pre-Katrina count, we feel as though services have not kept up. Of greater concern is that crime seems to be back in New Orleans after a too brief reprieve.

New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Superintendent Warren Riley announced the city's first-quarter crime statistics on Friday. He asserts that, even though crime in New Orleans has risen as the population has grown, the city is still much safer than it was before Hurricane Katrina.

Anticipating the argument that the decrease was insignificant because population is dramatically down in the city, Riley produced figures that he said show that even adjusting for the lower population, violent crime is still down about 26 percent from the first quarter of 2005.

Criminologist Peter Scharf reflects the skepticism of a public that has long distrusted police crime statistics. "If this is Pleasantville," Scharf said of New Orleans, "we're in deep trouble."

Is this Pleasantville? From 2002 through when Katrina hit the city in 2005, New Orleans’ murder rate was nearly eight times the national average, and the highest per capita city homicide rate in the United States. For perspective, New Orleans averaged about 59 people killed per year per 100,000 citizens—compared to New York City’s seven.

Are we “under-policed?” Before Katrina the city had about 1,450 police for a population of about 460,000 or about 3.2 officers per 1,000 residents. This compares to a national average of 2.3, and an average for larger cities of about 2.8. Currently there are about 1,200 police for a population of about 180,000 or about 6.7 officers per 1,000 residents.

While it is estimated that 80 percent of city cops lost their homes to Katrina, NOPD still seems to be functioning better than the rest of New Orleans’ criminal justice system.

Criminal Court is not expected to reopen for another month. Work on the state prosecutor's building, police headquarters and other facilities has not yet begun. Only one of the city's 10 jails is fully functional. NOPD's temporary headquarters is a collection of trailers at a vehicle inspection station.

We will keep you posted.


jbv's Competitive Edge