Sunday, March 30, 2008

Visiting New Orleans ...

We are in New Orleans for our third visit in just over five months. One of the visits was for my mother's 90th birthday. The others were just to visit family and friends, and included trying some of the new restaurants cropping up around town.

The current visit got off to a bad start. We waited over an hour to get a rental car --- the PGA golf tournament was in New Orleans this week and local car rental agencies were overwhelmed. Then, on the way to lunch, I got a speeding ticket (31 in a 20 mph zone). Things smoothed out a bit after that.

We also spent some time researching the current real estate market in New Orleans and nearby Metairie. Our commitment to Cincinnati remains, but we feel that we should continue to monitor the recovery as it affects the areas in which we might be interested if we were to move back.

When Hurricane Katrina hit we had begun a house in the Lakeview section of New Orleans. We had finalized the plans, driven pilings and had built the forms for the slab to be poured. After the storm we lost our interest in completing the project and, in the process, lost a substantial deposit to an unscrupulous builder.

We spent one day looking at houses per sale within our preferred areas, square footage, and price range, and another looking at potential rentals with the same criteria. Rentals were a disaster --- the shortage of rental properties has allowed landlords to ask up to $2,000 a month for properties well below our standards.

Properties for sale, on the other hand, are affected by market factors and there are bargains to be had. The option of building a new house is unattractive, due to high commodity prices and a shortage of qualified labor.

Among the houses we visited was a new one in Lakeview that was particularly attractive and affordable. We visited it three times, the third with our interior designer (my sister-in-law). Across the street there is a row of derelict houses that are remindful of how much further the recovery from Hurricane Katrina has to go.

We could not bring ourselves to make an offer on the house, deciding that we prefer to stay in Cincinnati. The choice was not arrived at easily.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Politics and Population ...

Want to express your opinions and feelings about the candidates in the 2008 Primaries? Take a survey at the following address:

On a subject closer to home here is Russell McCulley's take for Reuters on the New Orleans population dispute:

New Orleans officials said on Thursday they will challenge a U.S. Census Bureau estimate that puts the city's population at 239,000 -- just over half the number before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005.

They said other counts have found as many as 300,000 residents in the still-recovering city.

Mayor Ray Nagin told a press conference that a lower number would shrink federal aid, discourage Katrina refugees from returning and harm efforts to rebuild the tourism industry.

"Perception is the first reason our citizens returned and more new people are moving into our community," he said. "It is important, very important, that the world continues to know the truth about New Orleans, and the fact that we are still a major city and we are recovering and the recovery grows every day."

The Census Bureau said on Thursday it estimated that 239,124 people lived in Orleans Parish as of July 2007. That number was up from 210,198 in 2006, but down sharply from 452,170 in July 2005.

It also said that Orleans Parish, which encompasses New Orleans, and neighboring St. Bernard Parish were the nation's fastest-growing counties last year, with growth rates of 13.8 percent and 42.9 percent, respectively.

Katrina struck on August 29, 2005, flooded more than 80 percent of the city and forced a near total evacuation. The storm killed more than 1,400 people and uprooted 500,000 along the Gulf Coast.

Recent studies by local demographers have said as many as 302,000 people live in New Orleans.

City officials said Census Bureau methods do not take into account many poor people who do not file federal tax returns or the influx of migrants who have poured into New Orleans to do rebuilding work.

They said they would present their own data to the bureau for review.

Greg Harper, a Census Bureau demographer who worked on the study, said the city's data would be studied.

"We review every challenge we get on a case-by-case basis," he told Reuters. "It's possible that they could be revised."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Attract Entrepreneurs to New Orleans ...


Start Up New Orleans Joins Push to Establish New Orleans As the City of Choice for Innovators and Entrepreneurs

As the momentum of recovery continues to build in the city of New Orleans, a major force has emerged as a key driver of this recovery: entrepreneurs.

Due to the "clean slate" afforded by a city rebuilding itself, this nascent movement is comprised of unconventional, out-of-the-box thinkers who have distinguished themselves in successful careers, and who have sought a city that is cultivating an entrepreneurial culture.

To attract more of these types of individuals, Start Up New Orleans has been established by four of the city's young business leaders. A resource for entrepreneurs seeking information and connections to other entrepreneurs, Start Up New Orleans is designed to leverage the city's unique qualities (rich culture, low costs, economic incentives, talent pool), which distinguish it from anywhere else in the United States.

According to Sean Cummings, a local developer and co-founder of Start Up New Orleans, "New Orleans has always been a beacon for people with imagination, daring, and alternative approaches to solving problems. Our mission is to attract these types of people to New Orleans, and provide them with the information and resources they need to start their businesses here."

"Silicon Valley became the nerve center for technology in the U.S. because of the investment businesses in the region made in attracting and retaining technology people," said Nic Perkin, also a co-founder of Start Up New Orleans and president of the New Orleans Exchange, a new technology start-up. "The same can be said for New York City with financial people. What we're doing here in New Orleans is making this the city of choice for entrepreneurs. If you're smart, motivated and have a track record of success, we want you here."

Offering a mosaic of case studies of success and profiles of innovators whose ideas are changing the Greater New Orleans region for the better, the Start Up New Orleans website,, is the portal through which entrepreneurs can access information about establishing operations here.

With information also relating to New Orleans leaders in the arts, politics, real estate, economics, cuisine and other areas that are foundational to the identity of the city, Start Up New Orleans is committed to ensuring that entrepreneurs seeking a home for their businesses see New Orleans as the prime location in which to build their futures.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Dr. Wulsin wins Dem primary ...

The candidate for whom I volunteered, Victoria Wulsin, won the Democratic primary on March 4th. This was the first political race in Ohio in which I have volunteered and it was a fun experience. I did office work, assembled yard signs, and once drove "Vic" to a forum. I worked a polling place on election day in the miserable cold and rain.

The victory party was at Arnold's, oldest bar in Cincinnati. Music was by students from the jazz program at Xavier University. Other than being off-key on "Hey Jude" they did a good job. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported thusly:

"With her win in the Democratic primary Victoria Wulsin won a second chance Tuesday to face off against Republican incumbent Jean Schmidt in Ohio's 2nd Congressional District, beating Steve Black by a decisive margin in the Democratic primary.

Wulsin, 54, a public health physician who lives in Indian Hill, had 58 percent of the vote to Black's 30 percent. William Smith, a truck driver from Waverly who was rarely visible in the campaign, drew 12 percent.

"Tomorrow the work begins to unseat Jean Schmidt," Wulsin said as she claimed victory before supporters at Arnold's Bar & Grill downtown.

Jean Schmidt, the Republican incumbent, also won her primary comfortably. Again to the Enquirer:

"Schmidt said facing Wulsin again will be easier than in 2006.

'Republicans didn't show up. They weren't happy,' she said. 'The dynamics have changed for 2008.' Schmidt noted that, including primaries, this is the fifth election she has won in the 2nd District since 2005.

Wulsin faced off against Schmidt in 2006, and lost by less than 1 percent. This year, she said, an earlier start and more aggressive campaign gave her confidence she can win in November.

'What's the difference this year?' Wulsin said. 'I'm better known. The issues I talked about two years ago are even more important now, like bringing home the troops and becoming more energy-efficient.'"

With the general election eight months away campaigning slows down considerably for a while. I will let you know how Vic does in November.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, March 02, 2008

UN Experts Criticize New Orleans Housing ...

From an article by John Moreno Gonzales, Associated Press Writer:

UN Experts Chide New Orleans Move to Demolish Public Housing Projects, Saying It Hurts Blacks

Two human rights experts for the United Nations on Thursday criticized a federal plan to raze public housing projects in New Orleans, saying it will force the predominantly black residents into homelessness.

New Orleans advocates clamoring to save 4,500 public housing units claimed a victory. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which wants to replace the decades-old housing projects with mixed-income, mixed-use development, called the U.N. experts "misinformed."

The statement issued out of Geneva was not a U.N. finding, but only the individual views of Miloon Kothari, a special investigator on housing matters for the U.N. Human Rights Council, and Gay McDougall, a lawyer who is an expert on minority and rights issues.

They charged that demolition would harm thousands of people by denying them a place to live in a city where housing already is scarce since Hurricane Katrina hit in August 2005.

"The authorities claim that the demolition of public housing is not intentionally discriminatory," Kothari and McDougall said, but the "predominantly African-American residents" will be denied their "internationally recognized human rights" to a home.

They commented a day before a U.N. racism panel planned to discuss Katrina recovery efforts and public housing in New Orleans and also was expected to comment on allegations of racial discrimination in the United States. Neither expert was involved with that committee's hearings.

Local officials said the U.N. experts were too detached from the complexities of the post-Katrina city to claim razing of the buildings was racist.

"The past model of public housing in New Orleans has been a failed one -- years of neglect and mismanagement left our public housing developments in ruin," the city council said in a statement issued Thursday. "These are critical times in our city's history -- we can choose to continue on the path of progress and positive change or we can choose to maintain the status quo."

Council members unanimously supported the demolition plan in December, in a meeting marred by violence when some protesters tried to force their way into the packed chambers. The protesters have said they were denied their legal right to enter.

The demolition of the housing projects appears all but assured. Early stages have begun at some developments, while others are waiting only for demolition permits.


jbv's Competitive Edge