Friday, November 30, 2007

Alice in Garbageland -Updated

I think her favorite book is Alice in Wonderland, she can quote long passages from memory at the drop of a hat, sometimes.
'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in a rather scornful tone,' it means just what I choose it to mean, neither more nor less.'

Vanna White

The ever entertaining Vanna Veronica White is quoted in an article in the paper as saying;

Nevertheless, White said, the city has the right to require SDT to provide the full gamut of services even if it cannot pay the full bid amount.

If the money's not there, we have the right to ask for those services if we can pay for them or not," she said. "And we're asking for the services."

If they can do that to SDT, why can't they do it to Richards and Metro?

Later in the article;

Nagin spokesman James Ross said the city "does not conduct business via verbal agreement."

"We have a signed contract with SDT Waste & Debris, which articulates the requirements of both the vendor and the city," he said.

That sounds like a reasonable way to do business. I guess someone should go read the contract. According to the paper,
According to the contracts, bulky waste includes "stoves, yard waste, refrigerators, tires, crates, demolition material, washing machines, rugs, furniture, mattresses, and the like." They also state that payment for bulky waste pickup is included in the cost of regular garbage collection: "No separate payment will be made for these services."
and The Lawyer Stacy Head,
"The contracts do not require that the contents be containerized in any way. I don't know why we, by ordinance, would limit what the contractors have to collect," said Head, who introduced an ordinance Friday for future consideration by the full council that effectively would reverse the new ordinance.
Seems odd that SDT is being asked to do more for less and Richards and Metro are allowed to do less for more.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Les Miles has a point.

The NCAA overtime rules favor some teams.
Currently the NCAA overtime period works like this: both teams get a possession starting from their opponent's 25-yard line. No matter what, each team gets a chance to score. If the score is still tied after the first overtime, the teams swap whichever was on offense and defense in the first period. If the game goes longer than two overtimes, starting in the third period you must attempt a two-point conversion after scoring a touchdown.
The rules favor offense over defense, starting on the 25 yard line negates the defense's ability to have an impact. Special teams performance is also largely eliminated.

I have two simple suggestions, (1) at each overtime period move the starting point back 5 yards and (2) require the team on offense to kick a punt or a field goal at the end of their possession and give the opponent choice of starting points.

I wouldn't object to starting at the 35 yard line in the first overtime.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Happy Turducken Day


Posted from the beach in Pensacola.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The Debate on the Debate

New Orleans along with 16 other cities applied to be one of the sites for the 2008 Presidential Debates to be sponsored by the Commission on Presidential Debates. The Commissions selected these cities;
  • Oxford, MS,
  • Nashville, TN
  • Hempstead, NY
The Times Picayune got its panties in a wad over the decision. I don't know why everyone is upset we didn't get picked. New Orleans is too much of an issue and a distraction to be picked. The only place less likely to be picked is Bagdad.

What angers me is that they lied about it. They said we weren't ready. That is clearly a lie. The list of events the city has and will handle before this debate dwarfs the list of similar events in all of the selected cities combined (including Ole Miss home football games and the Grand Ole Opry). That lie may cost the city some much needed business. We should probably sue them for defamation.

It is possible our bid wasn't as good as some other cities, I don't know. I doubt is was much worse.

The real reason is of course politics. I just wish they had been honest and said so. The Paper published a long list of people who said they were in favor of it, including;

Seven presidential candidates -- five Democrats and two Republicans -- had signed letters to the commission expressing a preference that one of the debates be held in New Orleans, and that preference was shared initially by the commission's nine board members and two co-chairmen
... the backing of Democratic presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John Edwards, Chris Dodd and Joe Biden and Republican candidates John McCain and Sam Brownback. Brownback, a Republican senator from Kansas, has since dropped out of the race.
I think at least some of the candidates are lying. Of course if any of the major Republican candidates objected strenuously we would be rejected. I notice Giuliani, Thomson and Romney aren't listed as supporters of New Orleans, which may or may not be important. The only candidate I'm sure wanted a debate here is Edwards.

Update - Ashley has some information indirectly from the horses mouth. It seems the other end of the horse locally may not have been all that competent in putting the proposal together. This is a very plausible explanation might have been helpful if publicly stated.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?

The title quote of Joseph Nye Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy in the 9 June 1954 Army-McCarthy Hearings should apply with equal force to Mr. Eddie Jordan.

Mr. Jordan, on the basis of the power of his corrupt patron was appointed U. S. Attorney and there he prosecuted his patron's Democratic rival, largely through the efforts of the professional staff of the Department of Justice.

On the strength of this prosecution and the political organization of his patron he became the District Attorney of Orleans Parish.

At the behest of his patron he unfairly and illegally fired many long time employees of the District Attorney's Office, thereby crippling its operation and subjecting the citizens of Orleans Parish to an unprecedented rise in violent crime.

As the price for his leaving the office he had so poorly and faithlessly executed he extracted a promise of payment from a non-profit foundation founded to "support the operations and capacities of the New Orleans Police Department".

If Eddie Jordan were not still sucking at the public teat, these funds might be available to help the police or pay for the damage done by Mr. Jordan's reckless actions.

The other public officials who stood by and said nothing are almost equally culpable in this disgraceful episode.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I gotta get me one of these.

I saw one of these, a red one, in Kenner.

It is as impressive in real life as in the photographs.

In case you're not into cars, the Ford GT is one of Ford's "Living Legends". They include the new production Mustang and Thunderbird. Based on classic cars the designs include a number of concept cars.

Henry Ford II had wanted a Ford at Le Mans since the early 1960's.

Initially, Ford attempted to buy Ferrari. Eventually Ferrari called the merger off in 1963. There was reputed to be bad blood between the two.

Ford developed their own with some initial help from Lola. The first cars raced as Ford GT's in 1964, without much success. They won for times in a row from 1965 to 1969. In 1971 Ford ended all racing involvement and support.

In 1966 the GT40 MkII finished 1,2,3.

The Ford GT40s also raced in other series, including the 24 hours of Daytona. It won Daytona in 1966.

I guess this shows that guys never outgrow the cars of their teens.

After Ford stopped racing the GT40 has been produced by a number of builders both from the original tools and as replicas or reproductions. Since the original cars were handmade, this was not as difficult as it sounds.

The Ford GT is a re-imagining of the original car based on the original concept. Production was started in 2004 and ended in 2006 after the production of 4038.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

11/11/1918 11:00 AM

Today is Armistice Day, the original name for what we now call Veterans Day. My Grandmother always called it Armistice Day.

The date in the title marked the end of the fighting in what was originally called the Great War and later become known as the First World War.

The war didn't actually end until June 28, 1919 when the Treaty of Versailles was signed.

The red poppy has been the symbol of Veterans Day from the beginning, referring to the famous poem In Flanders’ Fields by Colonel John McCrae, a Canadian.

I remember as a child the day was a solemn day of quiet remembrance. Veterans organizations, sold red poppies on the street and many people decorated the graves of veterans with them.

Today that seems largely forgotten.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Government That Doesn't Work

Thanks to bayoustjohndavid for pointing this out.

In the recent Times Picayune article on the Mayors proposed budget These two paragraphs struck me as uniquely Naginesque,

Maintaining that "city government is not built for speed," Nagin said he will seek to expedite things with the appointment of a public infrastructure program manager to recruit and oversee an army of architects, engineers and contractors.

To monitor the ambitious brick-and-mortar program, Nagin plans to establish a "project delivery unit" inside City Hall. The unit will serve a dual purpose: to help project managers navigate the city's bureaucratic maze and to guard against waste.

In two paragraphs Nagin points out that City government is inefficient at best and unable to manage the program he proposes, so in order to overcome the complex inefficient government we have, he proposes more government, more complexity and more "offices".

If I remember correctly, there is a Capital Projects office within the CAO's office that is currently responsible for administering capital projects, although some projects are administered in other departments. It seems like duplication of an existing function to me.

How about fixing the problem and creating a city government "built for speed". A government with a light touch to guide rather than railroad. A government responsive to the needs of the people and not the needs of the politicians.

I seem to recall Al Gore spent a lot of his time as Vice President reinventing government. He said;
We need governments that are as flexible, as dynamic, as focussed on serving their customers as the best private companies around the world. We need to adopt the very best management techniques from the private sector to create governments that are fully prepared for the Information Age.
We badly need to reinvent government in New Orleans in order to deliver services and information to people trying to rebuild their lives and their futures.

I wouldn't care so much if we were reorganizing and redeploying existing employees, possibly adding some new specialists. I suspect what we'll get is a "professional" program manager with close ties to the usual suspects.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Government That Works Part II

I wrote about Our Property Assessment Problem, Our Appeal, and Our Hearing.

Based on my experience at the hearing I sent an email to Shelly Midura and to Arnie Feilkow. Midura answered me promptly and said Mr. Feilkow would be addressing my specific concerns himself. I assumed he would email me or something. I never heard from him. I did however just get a letter from the Board of Review (a.k.a. The City Council).

My appeal was granted and the amount they assessed was slightly more than my request.

My request was based largely on the cost of repairs and left the value of the land as originally assessed. I figured the lot is worth what is is worth. The Board of review reduced the values of both the land and the structure. Together they come up to about $3,000 more than I requested. I guess they did that to make some kind of point.

Now all I have to do is convince my mortgage company that I don't owe the original estimated tax, and that it's not really due yet.

It is the first instance of local government working well that I can recall. The review process was respectful, effective and reasonable. That of course does not make up for the fact that it really shouldn't have been necessary at all or that the Assessors shouldn't have screwed up so badly to begin with.

In related news the Sewerage & Water Board and the Audubon Commission have voted to roll back their millages. The City Council has asked all agencies to do the same thing. The Mayor has floated the idea of a small roll forward to raise a few million new dollars, but the reaction to that was cool.

One of the serious problems we have in our community is a lack of confidence in our government. I have a positive dread of ever going to City Hall, because of the almost unlimited amount of stupidity and indifference encountered on every visit. If our governmental agencies could simply provide efficient respectful services, most people would have a much higher level of confidence.

I do have to point out the the level of stupidity encountered at City Hall is not limited to City Employees, they have to deal with what must seem to them to be an endless supply of stupidity coming at them from uninformed citizens intent on some personal exception to the law. But that may have its roots in wide spread perception that some privileged people are able to do whatever they wish.

Perhaps the handling of this property reassessment is a small start.