Sunday, September 28, 2008

Coming Back, Part 2

Continuing from a previous article:

Last year, tourism was at 70 percent of the pre-Katrina level that generated $5 billion a year. But the city began this year with four major events -- college football's Sugar Bowl and national championship game, Mardi Gras, and the NBA All-Star Game Weekend -- plus major conventions. The momentum continued with the French Quarter and Jazz festivals, and more than 16 festivals are scheduled through the end of the year, including Tales of the Cocktail mixing it up this week and the new Prospect 1 -- "the largest biennial of international contemporary art ever organized in the United States," planners say -- scheduled to start Nov. 1.

There's also a new attraction, the Audubon Insectarium, which opened last month on Canal Street, near the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, an Imax theater, and the Audubon Zoo.
Still, some would-be tourists are staying away out of a sense of respect for everything the city's been through, says Sandra Shilstone, head of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corp. Those people should remember the city's unofficial motto, the Jazz Festival's Quint Davis says: "We dance when we die."

This year's official slogan is "Come out and play," and that's what people were doing the weekend I was there. Bourbon Street was a little sleepy on Thursday and Friday afternoons, but it sprang to life on Friday and Saturday nights. A continuous stream of visitors of all ages strolled along the pedestrian-only street, many toting plastic "go cups," since open containers of alcohol are permitted.

High school students in gowns and tuxedos dined at some of the fancier restaurants, bachelor and bachelorette parties club-hopped, and families rode horse-drawn carriages through the Quarter and along Jackson Square.

Since the disaster, there have been some surprises in the city's regrowth, Shilstone says.
"There's been a cultural renaissance. Neighborhoods putting on arts festivals and cultural events," she says. "People lost art and are buying again."

As she shows us the sections of the city hit hardest by the flooding -- West End, Lakeview, Gentilly, New Orleans East, St. Bernard, and the Ninth Ward -- Stauder stresses that she doesn't care why people come, just that they come.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Monday, September 22, 2008

Of Youth March and Polo ... (Monday Edition)

City Cathedral Announces 2nd Annual 180 Youth March and 180 Turn It Around Youth Conference

City Cathedral Church announces its plans for a second annual 180 Youth March to be held Saturday, September 27, 2008. Last year, at the organizers’ first march, over 1,000 youth marched for righteousness, peace and joy in our city. This year’s march through the streets of New Orleans is a demonstration of what godly counsel imparted to our youth will produce: young people where the combination of the words “youth” and “streets” doesn’t equate to violence! This 180 Youth March and Conference will encourage youth in our city to turn their lives around!

“The alarming rates of murder and violence among our youth, and skyrocketing numbers in cases of drug addiction, of unemployment and of homelessness are all indicators that people need hope. The Lord is the answer. We can do all things through Christ who strengthens us! God is hope!” said Owen McManus, Jr., Pastor of City Cathedral church and organizer of the event. “In any other circumstance, if that many youth were gathered together in the streets, it would mean trouble,” he continued. “We’re excited about what God is doing in the youth of this city. They are the key to our future.”

Organizers are expecting an even larger event this year and are extending an invitation to other ministries to join them in the march and in the youth conference that will take place that same weekend (September 26-28, 2008). Keynote speakers at the 180 Turn It Around Youth Conference will be Pastor Joel Stockstill, Pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, LA; Keith Barnes, Elder and Youth Pastor at City Cathedral; and Pastor McManus, who will deliver the final message of the conference on Sunday, September 7, 2008.

The City Cathedral Ministry team began marching throughout the city in February of 2007. Since they began, over 2,000 men, women and children have made decisions to serve the Lord.

Ministries and youth interested in participating should contact:

City Cathedral Church
ATTN: Wendy Trosclair
8801 Chef Menteur Highway
New Orleans, LA 70127
(504) 246-5121

12th Annual Harvest Cup Polo Classic Raises Money For Junior League Community Projects

Please mark your calendars for Sunday October 26, 2008 from 12 Noon – 5 PM

The Junior League of Greater Covington will sponsor the 12th Annual Harvest Cup Polo Classic on October 26, 2008 from 12 Noon – 5 PM at John Melton’s Folsom Equestrian Center on Highway 40 in Folsom.

Funds raised from the 12th Harvest Cup Polo Classic will benefit the Junior League of Greater Covington’s Community projects in St.Tammany Parish including Hope House Child Advocacy Program, Habitat for Humanity, New Heights Equestrian Center, and Southeast Hospital Adolescent Unit as well as serving the community through their own signature projects including Children’s Museum of St. Tammany, Career Corner, and The Museum Without Walls.

Watch two exciting polo matches, dine on great food and beverages from over 50 local restaurants and bars, be entertained by Four Unplugged, watch football games on a large screen in the catered, air conditioned Polo Pub Tent, browse through the Silent Auction Tent sponsored by Omni Bank which has over 150 items up for bid, and take a chance on purchasing a $20 raffle ticket for a $2500 gift certificate to be used toward the purchase of an Omega watch at Lee Michael's Fine Jewelers Lakeside Shopping Center.

Ticket prices are $75.00 per person prior to event or $100.00 at the gate.

For more information please call the Junior League Cottage at 985.892-5258 or check the JL website @, where you can purchase tickets online.

The Junior League of Greater Covington is an organization of women committed to promoting voluntarism, developing the potential of women and improving the community through the effective action and leadership of trained volunteers. Its purpose is exclusively educational and charitable.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Thoughts on another visit to New Orleans …

From our Cincinnati base we visit New Orleans 5 or 6 times a year, generally staying a week or so. Our latest visit was an unscheduled one, when my mother had a heart attack. She is just fine as of this writing.

One big difference on our latest visit is that we spent much of our time with Mom, and were not looking at real estate. The previous three visits were totally dominated by looking at houses that we might live in, or lots on which we might build when we move back to New Orleans. One visit was dedicated to looking at lots where we might build a version of a model home that we particularly liked.

We are still talking to the builder of the model home, Donny Natal. He has a couple of lots available in Lakeview, our current choice of neighborhood. We have previously also looked at houses in uptown New Orleans, and in Metairie.

Somehow we have never gotten sufficiently enthused to purchase any property. Our real estate agent, Eileen Wallen, has been absolutely wonderful. She did so much homework, knew our preferences, scheduled appointments, and accompanied us on just about every viewing. Use her if you need a realtor; call her at (504) 250-5656. This may assuage some of our guilt about working her so hard when we apparently could not make a move.

Perhaps the lack of enthusiasm is toward whether we really want to return to New Orleans. We have some wonderful lifetime friends there, but our life in Cincinnati is very good. We are making some good friends, and are pleasantly busy.

One of our New Orleans friends keeps asking us to assess a probability, in percent, that we might move back to the area. When our real estate search started, we were quoting 80%. Now we are hopelessly stuck on 50%. We have a lot of soul-searching to do.


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Saturday, September 20, 2008

Women Doing Good (Saturday Edition)

This item was contributed by Lesley Estep of SELF Magazine in New York City:

(Pictured is Kimberly Kelleher, SELF’s Vice President and Publisher; a photo of Dian Ross was not available at press time).

I am writing to introduce our “Women Doing Good” event that will be recognizing the work of Dian Ross. Dian single-handedly delivered 30,000 books to children of low income families and those devastated by Hurricane Katrina, offering them an opportunity to improve their lives through the gift of reading. Maybelline New York is honored to acknowledge her remarkable contributions through their Beauty of Education initiative.

SELF Magazine created the Women Doing Good initiative in 2008 to honor women who enrich their communities and the world by working to empower and enhance the lives of others. Dian will be receiving a national award and a $10,000 donation to help continue her work in her charity, First Book.

Dian is currently living in Diamondhead, Mississippi, and will be traveling to New York to receive her award on September 24, 2008. The Women Doing Good event will take place at Top of the Rock in New York City.

Hoda Kotb will be the ceremony’s special guest host. Kotb, co-host of NBC’s Today Show and four-time Emmy Award-winning journalist is also a breast cancer survivor and activist for prevention and treatment for all women.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, September 14, 2008

New Orleans is worth rebuilding ...

Last Sunday's blog on whether New Orleans is worth rebuilding aroused a lot of comment. Here is a stronger case for rebuilding offered by our good friends, Janice and Steve Shull:

Beyond the intangible sense of place of New Orleans is the historical fact of an old city, born of the French, nurtured by the Spanish, and playing a major role in American history. Its culture and vitality have been studied, romanticized, and mimicked, but never reproduced. Strands of many other places, other languages, other stories are woven into New Orleans' singular fabric.

But there has always been an ugly underbelly to life in N.O. and Katrina exposed it all. Unfortunately, opportunities for a true revitalization of an impoverished city have been missed or cynically dismissed. Still, New Orleans survives and its resilience must inspire hope to anyone who suffers a disaster. Just as the World Trade Center site has become a sacred place, New Orleans' symbolic meaning is powerful.

The historic heart of town is on high ground, but other parts of the city are so damaged that they should not be rebuilt. Only a small fraction of properties have been rehabilitated in the Lower 9th Ward, and the west end of Lakeview and New Orleans East remain terribly vulnerable to another Katrina-type storm.

New Orleans will never be the power-house city that it aspired to be in the 1970s-1980s. With astronomical insurance rates, exorbitant building costs, rents that are 50% higher than in 2005, and a job market offering primarily low-paying wages, there isn't much to attract people to live and work there. Perhaps the answer lies in accepting New Orleans' destiny as a tourist mecca on the order of Savannah or Key West. It doesn't have to be a DisneyWorld or Williamsburg!

Mark Abkowitz, a professor of Civil Engineering at Vanderbilt University, has stated that only a long-term, systematic and strategic approach to hurricane protection will reduce the risk in the Gulf Coast. The patchwork, reactionary response to each and every hurricane is doomed to failure at some point.

Hurricane-strength building codes must be strictly enforced, and this scattershot rebuilding throughout greater New Orleans should be stopped. But you know well that the political implications often outweigh common sense.

Remember, too, that it was not Hurricane Katrina that devastated New Orleans, but rather a failure of government on all levels to provide the levee protection that had been promised and guaranteed at Level 3 and then to coordinate a disaster plan effectively to ensure public safety after the storm. The hard lessons of Katrina are paying off in better emergency management all over the U.S., whether from floods, tornadoes, earthquakes or what have you. The cost, while heavy (much less than Iraq, however!), does benefit taxpayers. One academic source computed the cost at $98 a year in additional taxes per person to achieve the stronger hurricane protection needed. This opinion piece in the L.A. Times argues that it is the right thing to do:,0,5522292.story

We have visited the city many times since Katrina and it continues to be a hard place to live. You just can't imagine what people have gone through in the last three years to keep the city alive. Hard, hard work and great personal sacrifice are the words that describe life in New Orleans.

Janice Shull retired as a law librarian from the Supreme Court of Louisiana, and now works as a volunteer at the Venice Archives and Area Historical Collection. Steve Shull is an emeritus professor of Political Science with the University of New Orleans. His specialty is the presidency, and he has written several books on the subject. The Shulls miss New Orleans but have learned to appreciate small-town life in Venice FL.


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Monday, September 08, 2008

Clarifications by Dr. Cigler (Monday Edition)

Beverly Cigler, a public policy professor at Penn State University, took issue with our editing of Sundays blog.

She referred to her quote "My own personal opinion is that you shouldn't rebuild in areas unless you can make them safe," she said. "And nobody's had the willingness to confront these kinds of issues."Her clarification: ""Areas" refers to the most low lying, unsafe areas and I suggested making them safe before rebuilding. Much of what I told the interviewer (Lara Jakes Jordan) about "these kinds of issues" was omitted. Specifically, I discussed trade-offs among and between economic development, private property rights, and wise environmental and land use policies (vs. solely structural solutions such as levees.)"

Professor Cigler clarified another point from her interview with Lara:

"Lara--I...Some people think I said things I didn't say or infer, such as New Orleans across the board should not be rebuilt. That's likely because of the title of the article and the way that interviewee comments were ordered.

"Readers aren't aware of my explanation of the pro's and con's of structural (levees) vs. non-structural (land use, etc.) options, concluding that the levees will be be fully strengthened across 350 miles of levees for the next 3 years. They miss the fact that parts of the city are at different elevations and that the tough decisions regarding areas of lowest elevation have not been well addressed. My comments on wetlands, building codes, and other land use measures were to say that structural options aren't the only concern; instead, a mix is needed in rebuilding and rebuilding in particular areas should not be done unless the areas are safe.

"People are interpreting my comments to say simply that NOLA should not be rebuilt because it is a soup bowl. It is a soup bowl, but I made all kinds of comments regarding how to make it safe. My comments to you were focused on explaining the difficult trade-offs among and between economics, property rights, wise planning, and other choices for the areas of lowest elevation.My sending the material to you on Congressional appropriations vs. how much has been spent was to further the argument that there's a long way to go to say that NOLA is safe.

"I never said or implied that NOLA wasn't worth rebuilding. If anything, I've argued for a faster and more competent pace of rebuilding. I remember mentioning that 75 million people live in coastal areas in the U.S. I wouldn't suggest that they be moved or not allowed to live there, akin to arguing that NOLA shouldn't be rebuilt....I think it's time for a report on the tough decisions that need to be made along our coasts, along California's canyons, etc.”


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Is New Orleans Worth Rebuilding?

Hurricane Gustav has revived the question in our title for the first time since Katrina. The following discussion is adapted from an article by Lara Jakes Jordan, Associated Press Writer:

Those who love New Orleans say Hurricane Gustav is proof that the billions of dollars spent to protect the city and bring it back to life after the devastating 2005 storm season was worth it.

Despite fizzling out shortly after it made landfall Monday, Gustav spurred the government into action, probably costing millions of dollars, and put a nation angered by the bungled response to Katrina three years ago back on alert. Would it be worth the cost to rebuild New Orleans again if the storm had been worse?

Since Katrina ripped through New Orleans three years ago, the federal government has devoted at least $133 billion in emergency funds and tax credits for Gulf Coast disaster relief. Much of it went to rebuilding and better protecting New Orleans from future storms. How much more will be needed after Gustav — or Hurricane Hanna, as that storm creeps up Florida's eastern coast — is unclear.

Former GOP House Speaker Dennis Hastert, R-Ill., infuriated Louisiana lawmakers when he suggested in 2005 that a lot of New Orleans "could be bulldozed" after Katrina and questioned the wisdom of rebuilding it. More dispassionate observers note that no matter how much is spent, New Orleans will continue to swallow federal dollars with each gulp of the Gulf or Lake Pontchartrain.

To die-hard residents and other devotees of the Big Easy, the money poured into the Gulf Coast to continue oil production, preserve local culture and, most importantly, strengthen levees showed that New Orleans could withstand another battering by Mother Nature.

Some observers aren't so sure.

"It's a soup bowl and it's not safe," said Beverly Cigler, a public policy professor at Penn State University, referring to the city's geography. "My own personal opinion is that you shouldn't rebuild in areas unless you can make them safe," she said. "And nobody's had the willingness to confront these kinds of issues."

Yet abandoning New Orleans hardly seems an option either.

The Gulf Coast is home to nearly half the nation's refining capacity, 25 percent of offshore domestic oil production and 15 percent of natural gas output. Tens of thousands of construction workers, hoteliers, nurses and other service employees who flocked to New Orleans in Katrina's aftermath have helped keep local unemployment low. Not to mention that giving up would, essentially, mean spending all those billions of dollars for naught.

"It's clear that a lot of the money was spent well — even if it's far too early to declare victory," said Don Kettl, University of Pennsylvania public policy professor and co-editor of "On Risk and Disaster: Lessons From Hurricane Katrina." "If you walk away, you are condemning the city to tremendous suffering," Kettl said. "As serious as the suffering was the last time, it didn't completely destroy the city. The real challenge is deciding what kind of city you want."


jbv's Competitive Edge 

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Levees and YouTube (Thursday Edition) is an organization that is calling for a thorough investigation of the causes of Hurricane Katrina. Founder Sandy Rosenthal insists that it was not a natural disaster, as normally depicted, but an engineering disaster. They claim that their mailing list contains over 21,000 subscribers.

Their current video is called "The Katrina Myth," and it is available on YouTube ( Producer Ken McCarthy speaks of the success of the video: “The good news is that we successfully made the leap from top rated News Video of the day to top rated News Video of the week. That's a good thing because otherwise the video's high visibility would have evaporated from YouTube today.”

Sandy was tracking Hurricane Gustav and sent a “before the power goes out here” email, primarily made up of Ken’s suggestions. If you are tired of Katrina stories then skip it, but the video is compelling.

Apparently the organization has found that the video has been a powerful way to state their case to a wide audience. I continue to be amazed at the power of YouTube.

Here are some excerpts from Ken’s suggestions:

It is visits and people who rate and comment on the video that are keeping our message in the public eye. YouTube is a ferociously competitive environment and it's very easy to disappear. So, as always, we need more traffic...

Simple ways to help

1. Write friends, family, colleagues, anyone in your circle, and let them know about the video.

2. If you have a blog, please post the link straight through to the YouTube page so that people can rate, comment on, favorite and forward the video to others. All this helps the video's ratings.

3. Even better than posting to your own blog is considerately posting info about the video and its link to other blogs, especially high traffic ones. Read the blog, find a thread where a comment is relevant, and post there.

4. Write directly to news outlets, people with high traffic blogs, and anyone else you think may have a significant mailing list and ask them to view and then spread the word about the video.
"The Katrina Myth" does the job of clearing up the flood of misinformation, puts people on the side of New Orleans, and directs them to join


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