Sunday, May 27, 2007

Cincinnati has its advantages …

Don’t just take our word for it:

In a list compiled by Bert Sperling, creator of Money magazine’s annual “Best Places to Live” placed Cincinnati among the top 20 fun cities in the United States.

New Orleans has its own share of superlatives, of course, but Cincinnati is not a hardship assignment.

USA TODAY listed Oktoberfest-Zinzinnati as one of as one of the nation's “10 great beer festivals.”

When it comes to festivals we feel certain that N.O. would hold its own against Cinci.

Greater Cincinnati is ranked in the top ten by Fortune magazine as a great place to live and work.

Livability is an important factor at our advanced ages (60-ish, let us say).

We are surprised, as we tell our N.O. friends and acquaintances of our move, how many people are talking about where they are planning to move. But there are also those who rank such relocations as acts of disloyalty. Well, think of us as helping N.O. by decreasing the number of people clamoring for already strained services. Also, we will be visiting often, joining the ranks of tourists that drive the local economy.

Meanwhile AP reports that:

Tucked inside a $14.4 billion blueprint for the rebuilding of New Orleans is a proposal for a Hurricane Katrina monument on a grand, "Homeric" scale, like the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. The idea is to honor Katrina’s victims and the spirit of New Orleans, and create a tourist attraction.

Now that will be worth coming back for --- not that there aren’t enough reasons to visit already.

In medical care, Cincinnati has a remarkable number of firsts: The first oral polio vaccine developed by Dr. Albert Sabin, medical laser laboratory, pediatric eye institute, argon laser surgery in the U.S., heart-lung machine. …

So, Cincinnati, like New Orleans, is one of the great American cities. We are fortunate to have the opportunity to experience both.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Ohio! Why?

Yes, we are moving to Ohio, Cincinnati to be precise. The hardcore, live in N.O. till they die, people have a hard time understanding why and sometimes that makes us re-evaluate. But the decision was not a hasty one and our comfort with it increases every day.

We lost just about all our material goods in Katrina, but were well-insured. This liquidation of our real estate portfolio made the move possible. Susan just retired from UNO so we are as portable as we will ever be.

But won't we miss New Orleans? Sure, but we have the freedom to visit as often as we like and to act like tourists when we do. The hardest part is the separation from some wonderful friends we made over the years. We will do our best to keep these friendships alive from a distance. We have a most comfortable guest room in Cincinnati.

Then why move? Susan is unnerved by hurricanes, and that began before Katrina. We considered living uptown and building a "safe house" in Folsom, but never really warmed up to that arrangement. We are also concerned about the medical care system in N.O. We are having difficulties with this now, and we are stll very healthy.

This move may not be permanent; we are thinking of this as an adventure. We are only renting in Cincinnati, and will re-evaluate as the one-year mark approaches. We will also be tracking the New Orleans recovery from a distance.

Meanwhile, Cincinnati is a very livable city, with a thriving arts and culture community, heart of a metropolitan area of over two million people. We will be living in the Hyde Park area, an urban "village" with lots of amenities in walking distance.

Stay in touch.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Judge Orders Releases ...

From Paul Murphy, ABC26 News:

A New Orleans judge says the Louisiana Legislature is playing "Russian Roulette" with the rights of defendants who can't afford an attorney.

Judge Arthur Hunter ordered the release of dozens of criminal suspects while scolding lawmakers for not giving the public defenders office the money it needs.

Judge Hunter suspended the prosecution of 98 defendants and ordered 20, still held in jail, released.

The judge says some of them have been waiting for a public defender for up to 22-months.

The action comes on the heels of Hunter's order last month, freeing dozens of other poor defendants.

"That's wrong and we will appeal that," said Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan.

The releases are on hold while the DA takes his objection to the state's Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.

"We don't think that the answer to the problem of no representation is to release people on the street," Jordan said. "They still have no representation at the end of the day."

Judge Hunter says the state legislature is making a "mockery" of the criminal justice system by not adequately funding indigent defense.

He wants lawmakers to use some of the estimated 3-billion dollar budget surplus to hire more public defenders.

"The steadfast refusal, even though there is a substantial budget surplus, strongly indicates the legislature has no intention to adequately fund indigent defense and will continue to play 'Russian Roulette' with the constitutional rights of indigent defendants," Judge Hunter wrote.

Twenty-six year old Bruce Dunham was in Judge Hunter's courtroom facing an illegal trespassing charge.

"Yeah, it bothers me," Dunham said. "How can you represent yourself. You can't represent yourself, only a fool would do that. They say that in the law."

Judge Hunter says his only option right now is to convince private attorneys to help pick up the slack.

The attorney for the Orleans Indigent Defender Board says appointing private attorneys to represent defendants who can't afford counsel is not a solution.

She says there aren't enough volunteers to handle the case load and if there is money to pay them, that money should go to the Indigent Defender Office.

"If the private bar is willing to do these cases for free, then all I can say is thank you," said attorney Christine Lehmann. "They're doing a great service. But they have the right to be paid. I am skeptical he will be able to find enough members of the private bar to do this for free.

There is a bill now moving the state legislature, calling for sweeping reforms in the state's indigent defender program.

The bill's author, Metairie State Representative Danny Martini is hoping lawmakers will support the reforms with additional dollars.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, May 10, 2007

EXTRA: Dissatisfaction with government ...

From AP by way of KATC3:

Dissatisfaction with government rivals crime as the biggest concern of people in New Orleans more than 20 months after Hurricane Katrina, a poll released Wednesday shows.

Mayor Ray Nagin's approval rating declined, and the percentage of residents who say they might leave in the next two years is essentially unchanged from last fall, the poll by the University of New Orleans shows.

UNO political scientist Susan Howell said this was the first time in her 20 years of conducting quality of life surveys that any other issue rivaled crime as the biggest problem facing New Orleans. Thirty four percent of respondents said dissatisfaction with government was the biggest problem facing the city, up from 18 percent in October 2006, the last time the poll was conducted. Meanwhile, 29 percent cited crime or not feeling safe, down slightly.

"People need to achieve a greater level of comfort here for the recovery to move forward," Howell said.

Howell characterized attitudes about the local recovery as mixed, with residents less worried than a year ago and seeing improvement since October in some quality of life issues such as the cleanliness of New Orleans and availability of housing here and in neighboring Jefferson Parish.

The UNO report also cautioned that the survey did not include evacuees still living outside the area and that most of the respondents were reached on land-line telephones _ some residents are in homes that still lack land-line service. Howell said pollsters were able to reach only a few residents by cell phone.

The poll also found 29 percent of New Orleans' residents and about one-third in Jefferson Parish considered themselves somewhat or very likely to leave in the next two years, which it said was essentially unchanged from October. Among those most likely to consider leaving: young people and families and those with higher levels of depression, the poll said.

Sixty-one percent of those polled approved of parish president Aaron Broussard, who is seeking re-election; that compared with 53 percent last fall. Reasons for the increase, Howell said, could include relative "economic boom" that the area is seeing.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Per Capita Income Jumps in 2006 ...

From AP via China Post:

Louisiana recorded the largest growth in per capita income (PCI) in the U.S. in 2006, a gain coming from wage increases following hurricanes Katrina and Rita and the loss of 200,000 residents, many from lower-income ranges, the U.S. Commerce Department reported Tuesday.

The 25.5 percent increase last year follows a 9 percent drop in 2005, a year in which there was massive unemployment following the two storms, according to preliminary figures.

Louisiana State University economist Loren Scott said the figures provide evidence that the displaced population was predominantly low-income. The report did not quantify how much of the gain could be attributed to poor residents leaving the state.

"The wide swing in its growth rate reflects the consequences of the property lost in the hurricanes and the state's subsequent recovery," the report said.

Factors that could keep wages up, Scott said, include the Army Corps of Engineers' plans to spend US$1 billion (euro750 million) dollars a year in Louisiana over the next four years as levee improvements are made. He also noted that repair and replacement of homes continues in south Louisiana and that there are plans for high-rise condominium developments in New Orleans

Scott said post-hurricane construction, infrastructure repair and other projected construction projects in the state should sustain the higher wages for anywhere from three to five years.

After that, sustaining the higher income provided by one-time construction projects will depend largely on the state's success in attracting new industry. "The state's recruiting efforts remain vital," Scott said.

In the meantime, even with the post-Katrina boost, the 2006 per capita income figure in Louisiana --US$30,952 (euro23,190)-- only pushed the state from the bottom to 41st in the United States.

Connecticut had the highest per capita income in 2006 with US$49,852 (euro37,350)-- 37 percent above the national average of US$36,276 (euro27,179). Mississippi had the lowest per capita income of all U.S. states: US$26,535 (euro19,880), or 27 percent below the national average.

Michigan's per-capita income grew the slowest of all U.S. states last year, at 3.1 percent, primarily because of employment cutbacks in the automobile industry that created waves in construction and real estate, the Commerce Department said.

National per capita income grew 5.2 percent in 2006, up from 4.2 percent in 2005.


jbv's Competitive Edge