Sunday, December 30, 2007

Of Barracks and Mixed-Income ... reports that:

(New Orleans, LA) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is asking HUD officials to provide assurances over the holidays they will meet the terms of the ordinance passed by the New Orleans City Council last week. Nagin says he wants to make sure the transition is smooth from older barracks style public housing projects to homes for the poor in mixed income neighborhoods.

He is specifically asking that "every public housing resident has the right to return to better housing will be upheld and that they indeed will have a "voice" in the redevelopment processes." This comes as the feds prepare to demolish four of the city's big housing projects. Nagin had said he would only issue the demolition permits when he is satisfied everyone who qualifies for public housing will have it as they tear down the old and build the new.

This is the first time I have seen the term “barracks style” applied to the housing projects, and I think it is critical to the decision to tear them down. “Civilians” are not meant to live in barracks, and the vast majority of residents are law-abiding but terrorized by the violent few.

HUD’s approach to replacing the demolished housing depends heavily on mixed-income neighborhoods. But does mixed-income housing work?

Paul C. Brophy, in a 1997 report for HUD titled “Mixed-Income Housing: Factors for Success,” suggests that:

Mixed-income housing works best where there are sufficient units aimed at the higher income renters to create a critical mass of market units and where there are no differences in the nature and quality of the units being offered that are due to the income of the renters. If upward mobility of the low-income residents is a goal, it is necessary to have activities that are specifically aimed at creating opportunities for them; income mixing alone is not sufficient. Perhaps the biggest challenge is income integration in neighborhood settings where property management is not able to set behavioral norms.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, December 23, 2007

News Roundup for 12-23-07 ...

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (CNN) -- Protests against a City Council plan to tear down low-income New Orleans housing turned ugly Thursday, with police using pepper spray and stun guns to clear a crowd angry they weren't allowed into City Hall for the vote.

The City Council voted unanimously to greenlight the demolition of the city's four largest public housing developments, saying they are too damaged by Hurricane Katrina to allow residents back into them.

Aren’t the protesters and former residents romanticizing pre-Katrina life in these developments? BTW, HUD says that 400 apartments in New Orleans' public housing complexes remain available but unoccupied.

From our “Surprise!” department:

WASHINGTON, DC (AP) -- The Federal Emergency Management Agency has yet to shake its poor reputation, more than two years after its mishandling of Hurricane Katrina, a poll shows.

FEMA ranked at the bottom in a new Associated Press-Ipsos poll that measured the public's views of a dozen federal government agencies. FEMA came in last, and the Internal Revenue Service and Transportation Security Administration tied for next to last. The Postal Service was the clear favorite.

From our Corruption Watch department:

ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (TP) -- The Justice Department on Thursday appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court for access to documents seized in the unprecedented 2006 search of Rep. William Jefferson's (pictured)congressional office.

Meanwhile, Jefferson, who was expected to have taken the witness stand Thursday at a pre-trial hearing in his bribery case, did not testify. His attorney spent so much time cross-examining an FBI agent about the August 2005 search of his New Orleans home that the hearing was delayed.

U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III postponed proceedings until Jan. 16, when Jefferson, a New Orleans Democrat, is expected to answer questions for the first time under oath about the sprawling public corruption case against him. Jefferson's trial is scheduled to begin six weeks later.

Are you as anxious for the Jefferson trial to begin as I am?

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana (TP) -- Gambling debts, false statements under oath, bank fraud and secret gifts from lawyers form the heart of an extraordinary impeachment referral that was lodged Thursday against U.S. District Judge Thomas Porteous Jr.


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Sunday, December 16, 2007

Happy 90th!

We have been in New Orleans since Wednesday and leave Wednesday coming. This has been a long stay, but we don’t seem to have worn out our welcome yet. We are staying with my brother and sister-in-law who have been wonderful hosts. The accommodations have been first-class.

On Thursday night we took our hosts, Alan and Mona, to a restaurant they suggested in Kenner, Calas. It’s a find; try it if you get a chance. It’s a bit pricey but worth it.

Saturday I had a coffee break with my friend and confidant Harold. We call them “sessions” because they are more like therapy than merely discussions. I talked mostly about the pluses and minuses of the retirement life. Harold talked mostly about a couple of difficult business decisions facing him, with personal as well as business ramifications.

Saturday evening Alan and I sponsored a party for my mother’s 90th birthday. This was the main reason for our trip, and it went off beautifully. Mom is in excellent health (she takes less prescription medication for various ailments than I do). Attendees included her few remaining close relatives, and she thoroughly enjoyed being the center of attention.

We held the party in a private room at Timphony’s restaurant in Metairie. I don’t think I would recommend the place except for the party room. The cake was from Maurice’s Bakery, which I recommend highly. Is “doberge cake” known outside the N.O. area?

We will probably take a disaster tour of the area before leaving. It is interesting to watch the local news here which is still completely dominated by news of recovery from hurricane Katrina. A few crime stories also make the cut.

The other big story here is the transition to the state’s new governor, Bobby Jindal. He is the latest “reform governor,” and has made strengthened ethics laws a centerpiece of his legislative program. Good luck!


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Need Some Feedback …

Note: Today's link is to an article about us in a Cincinnati newspaper. The picture is of Susan from our first snow of the season.

Do I seem to be obsessed with weather? My major concerns about living in the north are how well I can tolerate the cold, and whether I can drive (safely) on icy streets.

The first measurable snowfall of the season was last Tuesday. I was surprised by how quickly the streets cleared up and how “Norman Rockwell” our neighborhood looked. Any enjoyment of the scene was spoiled, however, by the need to scrape car windows.

I was afraid that the streets would be icy on Wednesday morning, but the drive to a meeting a few miles north was sure-footed and uneventful. My car has front-wheel drive and I think that helps.

On Thursday we had some dear friends visit. They also lost a house and most of their earthly possessions in Katrina, evacuated to Columbus, OH and stayed for a couple of years. This stop was on their way to their new home in Venice, FL. After all this time, Katrina was still a major topic of conversation. We also talked about friends who moved to new cities, one who stayed in New Orleans and has been robbed twice, and places we considered moving to before making our current choices.

On Friday we went to dinner at Wild Bill’s in Lebanon, OH. They had a few Cajun dishes although their execution left much to be desired. We joined some good friends we met through my volunteer work.

On another topic I need your input. I am at a loss as to where we are going with this blog. Should I change the emphasis to New Orleans expatriates living in Cincinnati? Should I make it a digest of New Orleans news gathered from various sources? Should I continue to include full or paraphrased articles that I found particularly interesting, punctuated by the occasional diary-type entry? Is there some other form we should take?

Next week’s column may be a bit late because we will be in New Orleans from Wednesday through the following Wednesday.

I look forward to your feedback.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Not so Big, Anything but Easy ...

Adapted from an article by Virginie Montet for Agence France Presse:

Two years after Hurricane Katrina, New Orleans is still licking its wounds but efforts are being made to bring back the tourists that once made the Big Easy a major draw. New Orleans expects six million visitors in 2007, almost twice the number who came in 2006 but still well below the 10-million-a-year before the disaster.

More than two years on, much of the sultry city famed for its jazz and Creole cooking still lies abandoned after seas whipped up by the hurricane breached its levees on August 29, 2005. While parts of the city, such as the famous French Quarter, survived thanks to their slightly higher elevation, much has been left to rot.

Some 80 percent of the city was left uninhabitable by Katrina and thousands of Louisiana families are still living in cramped government-supplied trailers. Billions of dollars in federal aid remains wrapped up in bureaucratic red tape and blame is flying in all directions.

The musicians and artists who made the jazz mecca unlike any other place in the country are struggling with exorbitant rents, rising utilities costs, high insurance, spiking property taxes and violent crime.

A recent government study found that mental illness has doubled among Gulf Coast residents and there is a surge in the number of people considering suicide. New Orleans, which still has only 275,000 residents, has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the United States.

Some 1,600 people were killed in the hurricane and its aftermath, and almost half the city's residents who fled did not come back. On the facades of homes, writing in blood red paint by rescue workers remains as clear as the day it was written, including the date authorities passed by and the number of bodies they found.


jbv's Competitive Edge