Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Frank Gorshen was Left

I hate to admit that the simplistic cartoonish view of Gene Roddenberry was right but he seems to have nailed it.

Frank Gorshen

I've tried to stay away from race in New Orleans as everybody else has. That I think is the problem. Everyone wants to slide by. Nobody wants to make waves. Nobody wants to create a problem.

Everyone should watch the Star Trek episode 70 "Let That Be Your Last Battlefield". Which side are you on?

It seriously reflects on our situation in New Orleans (As an aside one of the characters is named Lokai).

Bele and Lokai

In New Orleans there are three races. They are the Whites, the Blacks and the Politicians.

For at least 140 years, probably longer, the Politicians have played the Whites and the Blacks against each other to maintain power. Politicians may have changed complexion but that is mere substitution. The game remains. The people both Black and White are being fleeced by the Politicians.

Martin Luther King famously said;
I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.

Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D. C., on August 28, 1963.
Why have his successors forgotten this simple measure, to look beyond a persons skin and look, as well as you can, into their character? I have always believed that you should always credit the other person with honest motives and if you disagree, as honest people can, attack the validity of their views, not the person.

I also believe that you should not be stupid. As Peter Finley Dunn said;
Trust everybody, but [always] cut the cards.
I am disappointed to observe that we seldom have real debates in our political system any more. We now have contests where no advantage is too small and no trick is too dirty. The only discussion is how much money to this or that group, not what to do with the money. The personal has displaced the principle. Spoils have displaced ideas.

Later, as Dr. King moved from racial equity to economic equity as his primary focus he said;
If a man is called to be a streetsweeper, he should sweep streets even as Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music, or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the host of heaven and earth will pause to say, here lived a great streetsweeper who did his job well.

Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967.
If someone wants to become Politician, why should that person not strive to fulfill the responsibilities of the office as well as they can? Why should any Politician seek personal aggrandizement at the expense of their constituents.

The voters have been played time and time again. Clarence Ray Nagin was sold as "the best possible alternate", all of the Whites voted for him. After his first term he became the savior of the Blacks, all of the Blacks voted for him. As far as I can tell Clarence has been looking for his next gig ever since he was re-elected.

Demographics dictated that Harry Connick would be replaced by a Black DA, predictably we got a member of the Third Race, an incompetent attorney, a Politician hand picked by a corrupt machine.

I'm not a native of New Orleans, although I've lived here more than thirty years, far longer than I've lived anywhere else. LOnger than most voters. I don't understand why the Blacks and the Whites who share so much can't bridge the gap and make this city what it aught to be.

I've never understood why the hordes of Politicians here seem to have so much influence. I can only conclude there is a cult of personality and power which leads people to seek the favor of politicians when it should not be necessary. A cult of power where politicians seek control beyond their normal sphere.

I think a lot of it is sham. It's the Soprano method, you take advantage of people by intimidation and innuendo. Seldom do they need to actually do anything, just give the impression of doing something and occasionally giving an object lesson.

I lived in New Orleans while the City developed a corpus of Moratorium Law, more that 200 specific moratoriums on all manner of endeavors that required the supplicants to appear before the political potentates and offer up sacrifices. I can remember several telling incidents.

I can clearly recall a former city councilman berating supplicants for "not coming around to see him", before the council meeting. Why that should have been necessary is beyond me. I can recall political coronations as well known and well connected members of the elite were granted special favors. The whole process was unseemly, distasteful and on TV.

The Blacks seem to have been convinced they need protection from the Whites. That any attack on any Black is an attack on all, regardless of the validity of the charge. Racial solidarity is more important than Truth.

Yet I look around and there is no dearth of Black people in power in New Orleans. Either all public officials are race traitors or they are the tools of the White establishment. How else can you explain the need for protection?

One possible explanation is the the Politicians have a finely tuned ability to manipulate their constituents emotions for their personal benefit, much like sexual predators.

The same game was played with Whites in the fifties and sixties. Apparently some Whites still blame Moon Landrieu for bowing to the forces of demographics. They must be idiots not to have seen it coming and even more stupid not to have reconciled themselves to the demographic reality. The Isle of Denial has serious meaning.

When will the current power structure in New Orleans take some responsibility to cleanse itself?

If you look at the failed institutions in New Orleans from Public Housing to Public Schools to Criminal Justice there is no lack of Black people in charge, yet there are precious few Black officials willing to stand up and call a spade a spade.

I just want to be a New Orleanian.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Interesting Dilemma

I recently posted this link to an Internet mailing list.

Recently a couple of local bloggers have indicated they have confidential information they have promised not to share. What would they do if the US Attorney or the FBI comes knocking, based on these posts?

Journalists have long clamored for Shield Laws. Louisiana doesn't seem to have much of one. The Congress currently seems to be working on passing a very bad one, creating a journalist guild, protected from their own bad acts.

I'm not in favor of journalist shield laws at all. Journalists should have no more or less rights that the rest of of. Shield laws, especially laws like this one, create a protected guild free from the constraints of ordinary citizens. Most paid journalists now work for large corporate conglomerates who are quite capable of defending their employees, and should be held accountable.

There was a decision against Apple based on California’s Journalist Shield law that decided bloggers were journalists. Not all states have similar protection and As I Understand It SCOTUS has declined to find any special protection for journalists in the Constitution.

Speech is given the same level of protection as the press, no more nor less.

That has been pretty consistently interpreted that pre-publication censorship is not Constitutional, but the press has no greater protection than an ordinary person from the operation of law. I may be misreading the law but I think that is basically what Branzburg v. Hayes says.

The News Cartels have tried to expand their "rights", and create all sorts of ancillary rights but as I understand it is still the case that The Press is subject to the ordinary operation of Federal Law.

You read fairly often about reporters refusing to respond to subpoenas and citing the First Amendment. You also read fairly often about Federal Judges holding reporters in contempt. Reporters should refuse to respond to subpoenas when real interests are at stake, and they should be willing to accept the consequences, just as Civil Rights protesters were willing to accept jail for their beliefs.

The proposed law as written has serious potential for abuse. Any political operative could make any anonymous comment or release any confidential material to a reporter with impunity.

The Press Cartel has gotten many states to provide them with special status, but the Federal Government has not, although they are usually careful not to pick unnecessary fights.

I do not believe any journalist should have special protections from the law, in fact I think the News Conglomerates because of their resources and reach should sometimes be held to a higher standard, but I'd settle for the same standard.

I believe I should have the same right to privacy and free speech as journalists. I believe journalists should operate under more or less the same restrictions as everyone else, with regard to libel, slander and the obligation to provide information to properly constituted courts in accordance with the law. Some limited degree of deference should be given journalists as a proxy for the society at large, but journalists should have no license to avoid the responsibilities other people have to society. I think this is pretty much what the Supreme Court said in Branzburg v. Hayes, but since I'm not a lawyer I could be misreading the case. In any event my belief is not based on the case. I would believe the same things even if I understood the law differently.

A Shield Law, in my opinion, will make it easier to attack people whether the attacks rise to the level of libel or not, simply by allowing the journalist to make claims which cannot be subjected to scrutiny. It will allow unscrupulous people to make up or distort stories with little fear of exposure. We do not need protection from honorable people. We need protection from unscrupulous people who believe that any means justify their goal.

I am speaking for the Constitution especially the Equal Protection Clause which guarantees that all people are equal, and none are more equal than others. I want everyone to have the same freedom and responsibility, with no special protected classes. The protection some say is for the source is also for the journalist, as I see it. Allowing journalists to be less responsible to the Law and the Courts than any ordinary person makes them more equal than everyone else.

Some say people may be more willing to reveal things to journalists they wouldn't reveal to other people, that may be. But other unscrupulous people may use that shield to spread gossip and innuendo with little fear of reckoning.

I'm not so worried about what I might reveal, I am worried about what other people might say about me maliciously or erroneously. I think all sources should be accountable for their actions and take that responsibility seriously. Too many people already don't.

Let me pose a hypothetical for you. If the the U S Attorney were to start a formal investigation Should the bloggers who published anonymous assertions of wrongdoing be covered by this law?

My opinions, as strong as they are in this instance, as expressed here aren't fundamentally based in the law of the United States of America but in moral/natural law.

That is what I believe to be Right.

I believe that there is support in the law of the United States of America for my position. If I am incorrect about the law of the United States of America I'd appreciate appropriate citations.

Even if anyone can provide a citation, I may concede the law of the United States is different but it will still not be right.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Hat Trick

Eddie "the Hat" Jordan has be found to have violated the civil rights of 36 former employees of the Orleans Parish District Attorneys office when he fired them immediately after being elected. This mass firing of long time low level and administrative employees included the switchboard operator who reportedly kept track of all of the ADAs so they could be found in court quickly when necessary. This firing was not only unfair to the long time employees it was unfair to the people on New Orleans as it directly contributed to the chaos that is the DA's office. It is unfair to the hundreds of lives that have been devastated by the murder epidemic the ineffective DA has been unable to stop.

It also demonstrated the Eddie has little grasp of the Constitution he had sworn to protect and defend as a U. S. Attorney.
I have an Idea.

The city should refuse to pay unless Eddie resigns. Any private sector executive would surely be forced to resign for something so patently unfair. After Shelly Medura called for Jordans resignation she was criticized for making the issue about race, that was grossly unfair to her. It was gutless of everyone else, especially the politicians who later said they were going to ask Eddie to resign, but couldn't because of Medura's remarks. But that's way politics has played out in the city. It was also widely reported at the time that there was no leverage on Jordan who is an independently elected official. $3.6 million (and climbing at $20,000 a month) is a pretty long lever. It seem like Mr. Rogers aka Arnie Fielko, agrees with me. He says he's not inclined to pay for Eddie's screwups, after all the City's broke too. Anyway, if I recall correctly the City owes millions in unpaid judgments accumulated over the years itself. Whats a few more million to the City.

Or they could delay payment until we get a new Governor and Attorney General. The AG can remove Eddie for malfeasance. Surely a District Attorney violating the civil rights of so many people and costing the taxpayers millions would qualify. The state could easily pay the money from the State's $1,000,000,000.00 surplus. That would leave only $996,400,000 for such things as a reopening the Mansfield Female College Museum, dedicated to the history of women's education in northwest Louisiana and DeSoto Parish which , along with several other local boondoggles museums, is currently closed due to lack of funds.

That fits Jindal's ethics agenda, the government pays what it owes and removes an incompetent official.

UPDATE: I see I'm not alone in thinking of this. The idea has been knocking around in my head for some time, and Jordan's recent stupidity brought it out. NOLA Bloggers Oyster, Schroeder, Dangerblond and Celcus have all more or less come up with the same idea, more or less independantly. Others have chimed in in the comments.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

PBJ on White.

PBJ on White

No not that one. The other PBJ, Piyush "Bobby" Jindal. KamaAina coined the PJB label for Piyush "Bobby" Jindal. Some have claimed using his given Indian name is racist. I actually think it's better than some other names I've seen recently like M. V. "Vinny" Mendoza or Anthony "Tony G" Gentile who sound more like characters from the Sopranos than gubernatorial candidates. The best was Norris "Spanky" Gros, Jr., from Our Gang running for Lieutenant Governor. Maybe next time he'll run as Piyush "Pie" Jindal, in honor of Charles "Pie" Dufour.

Governor PBJ

Once PBJ was elected I started to think about how the next few years might play out.

Some other bloggers seem to think that the the end of the world is near. We have survived a lot, I expect we'll survive this and hope for the best.

The best possible outcome is that PJB will have a positive impact on the functioning of State Government. As a wonk he might actually be able to reorganize government to deliver services better. It 's not as bad as City Government, but it's a mess. Ethics enforcement is nearly non-existent. Money leaks into legislators favored boondoggles at an amazing rate. If that gets straightened out, confidence in government might improve from its current abysmal state.

He might even be able to bridge some of the racial polarization. There is a theory held by some that Harry Lee was able to tell some truths about race, because he was Chinese. Indians may get the same pass. I have noticed that some blacks seem to be hopeful in that regard. In the train in the Atlanta airport I overheard two young articulate and fairly well informed black women discussing Zulu, Jindal's election and the change it represented. I think they were probably college students and one was likely a d├ębutante. (How's that for quick stereotyping?)

All we can do now is give him a chance to succeed.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

All Pundits are Idiots

I have been watching local election coverage during half time of the LSU game. I have confirmed a long held suspicion.
All pundits are idiots.
I have heard people say Bobby Jindal was elected because North Louisiana wanted a mulligan.

Can someone please explain what North Louisiana has against Cathy? I know the problems I have. What has she done to Shreveport ?

Saturday, October 20, 2007

I Voted !

I voted this morning, first thing I did when I left the house. I can't remember an election where I was less enthusiastic about anything on the ballot. I can't say there were any candidates who really captured my imagination.

When we voted there was a neighbor there with her small son. He really wanted to vote. More parents should take their children with them to vote. That made me think it would be a great idea to set up a dummy voting machine and let children vote. I'm sure there must be spares.

Finally I remembered the "Election Night" episode of The West Wing when Charlie took a couple of his neighborhood friends to vote . One guy liked it so much he wanted to go again, like an amusement park ride.

Also in that episode people who voted were given "I voted" sticker for their clothes. I've never seen that done here. I wonder why? It would at least stop me from being accosted in the Rouse's parking lot by 6 different campaign workers (3 from Georges). It might actually cause some people to go vote.

Friday, October 19, 2007

I Want to Take You Higher - Boom shaka-laka-laka

Sly and the Family Stone.

Great song, but not the subject of this post.

I've been observing recovery in and around my neighborhood. I've noticed a few things.

My neighborhood has mostly recovering, there is a lot of ongoing construction. A few houses have been demolished and a few houses haven't been touched. Probably 85% of the houses are occupied, if not totally complete.

Across the street is a different neighborhood and a different story. Many houses have not been touched. A few are under construction although more are being started every week. Only a few are being elevated, I understand that and, in spite of my friend Tim's opinion, I conditionally agree with it.

The thing is there has been much discussion of what the Base Flood Elevation is. Unfortunately FEMA has again taken the cowardly way out. They have simply mandated that all new construction meet the existing (pre-Katrina) Base Flood Elevation or be located three feet above the highest adjacent natural grade (whatever that is), whichever is higher. My own opinion is that a uniform absolute minimum floor elevation for the entire City of New Orleans should have been established, but that would make too much sense.

In my neighborhood we are an AO zone subject to "sheet flooding". We were supposed to be 18" above the highest adjacent natural grade. My house predated NFIP. It is only 12 inches above the highest adjacent natural grade, according to my flood post-K certificate. Unfortunately there is no adjacent natural grade, my house is built on filled lake bottom. The determination of the "highest adjacent natural grade" seems arbitrary and inexplicable.

I had 3 and 1/2 feet of water in my house. I was lucky. It's hard for me to see that had I been 6 inches higher there would have been much less damage. Even meeting the new higher requirement would have resulted in about 1 and one half feet of water in our house. The damage would have been virtually identical.

The thing that killed us was the inability to quickly mitigate the damage, mostly throw out the damaged contents and open the doors and windows. Doing that within a few days would have dramatically reduced the damage. When we finally got in early simply opening the doors, throwing out the upholstered furniture allowed the house to dry out in a few days.

I have made the rational decision to restore my house to its original condition and hope it is another 50 years before it is flooded again. If it is significantly less than that I'll collect my insurance and move on.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

The Principality of New Orleans

One of my core beliefs is that elected officials should be accountable to the people. They also should be responsible for a sufficiently significant and visible function that they can be fairly judged by the people.

Orleans Parish has too many elected officials in minor positions. That provides only personal power and patronage without sufficient visibility for accountability. These minor Nobles inevitably seem to become vassals of a larger Duke or Prince who controls their political future. It is distinctly feudal, with inevitable amounts of intrigue and perfidy. Each minor Noble seeks to enhance his (or increasingly her) apparent power by creating the impression that access to some public service is through the good graces of the Noble, rather than the citizens due as their right from their elected representative.

The system has evolved through usage to include the almost unassailable power of each District Council Member over any matter in that members district, regardless of the citywide impact or importance. What we have are isolated pockets of personal power service small public functions for no apparently reason. Responsibility becomes so diffuse that every office holder can blame their failings on some other entity.

My progressive friends seem to feel that if they could only get the "right" people in office, everything would be fine. I think the system of government is broken and needs a serious overhaul. Some steps have been taken but not nearly enough.

4 Clerk of Courts.
2 Recorders/Registrars.
2 Sheriffs.
2 Constables.


Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Today is My Birthday!

Last year I posted the interesting people born on my birthday.

This year I had a quiet birthday. She left town this evening on business, although She bought me lunch at Li'l Dizzy's in the CBD today. I had Trout Baquet. It was pretty good.

The real celebration was last weekend. We repeated a ritual from recent years. Once a year we go to the Gulf Coast. We usually start at the Grand Hotel before we go to the beach. I don't like to shop, so in between we go to the Rivieria Center and stock up on a few things.

The Grand Hotel has been completely restored and reopened. It is almost exactly like it was before, which is good.

There seems however to be something which hasn't survived the trauma. A certain je ne sais quoi. Perhaps a certain southerness or Mobileness. The feeling was most apparent in the dining room which used to have a quiet genteel southern feel. It now seems more like commercial semi hip hotel a sort of Marriottness. I really miss the old shoe southerness of the old Grand Hotel.

This year I didn't find a lot of stuff at the Outlet Mall. It may be I have no place to put it. It may be I already have too much stuff, although I still have far less than I had. Perhaps I'm less materialistic. We finished early.

We stayed at a condo in Perdido Key Floridia, largely because when we go to the beach I like to cook fresh local seafood and I like Perdido Seafood located under the bridge from Perdido Key. It is located right on the bay and has very fresh fish, shrimp and other stuff.

The weather was perfect. The sky was clear and blue during the day and filled with stars at night. We had the condo balcony doors open all weekend and ate every meal on the balcony. We walked on the beach, swam in the tidal pool right in front of our beach lounge chairs and simply enjoyed the beauty.

Sunday we drove back early. We were back around one, still happy from the beach.

Could Someone Please Try This Here?

I found this in the TP

In Nashville, Tenn., where Morford served as U.S. attorney from October 2006 until August 2007, one pastor in a neighborhood called "The Bottoms" was able to work with local law enforcement to get rid of an open-air drug market and prostitution ring that operated near his church. Church members worked with police to successfully drive out the drug dealers and prostitutes.

"When the community steps up, a neighborhood becomes a neighborhood again," Morford said.

One of the things lacking here is direct community involvement. Every proposal is criticized, but no alternative is proposed.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

The Ole D.C. Shuffle.

Business 2.0 reports massive foreclosures expected in New Orleans. The link came for Adrastos. The discussion over there lead to this post.

I've actually written about this before. My views haven't changed. In fact I think the recent mortgage market makes it even more likely. I doubt that many people understand the participation of the Federal Government in the home mortgage market. I know I don't.

Most people know The Feds, through VA and FHA loans have long guaranteed many home mortgages. These agencies will become the owner of any foreclosed houses guaranteed by them.Most people don't know that most "conventional" mortgages are covered by Freddie Mac, Ginnie Mae and Fannie Mae programs. These programs issue bonds most investors believe are backed by the US Government. They represent bundles of mortgages. They were supposed to be building in the risk, but their accounting practices and oversight have been severely criticized for years. I see it is entirely possible that the Federal Government will step in and provide relief to these lenders in return for forebearance on the terms of the mortgages. There have already been reports of these agencies requesting lenders to be lenient with some borrowers and extend better terms or refinance at no cost and some other things. There will still be a lot of foreclosures.

Normally the lender will auction off the REO properties or sell them through some private method to individuals or groups (usually house flippers) who will spruce up the property and sell them on the open market. Usually everyone makes out.

In New Orleans the situation is different. The flippers are hard at work but I hear property is not moving. I doubt the housing market will accept the 20,000 foreclosures projected, especially damaged houses in less desirable areas. Many of the houses will simply be demolished, leaving a vacant lot which might not be easily to sell.

The Real Estate industry feeds on transaction. They make money coming and going. I never met a Real Estate Broker who didn't say "Now is a great time to buy", often because they wanted to generate commissions.

I think eventually the lenders will end up donating their foreclosures to the city redevelopment process. I think the lenders will donate the property and take a write down rather than hold property which can't be sold and that carries with it the cost of demolition and potential liability of mold or other flood related effects. The city will assume the liability and launder the property for the usual suspects.

Call me cynical, but I bet it's at least proposed.

I really don't think the City can administer this property properly either. I simply distrust the current administration and any foreseeable administration.

The downside for the lenders is likely to be quite low. Many, probably most, of the properties would have had flood insurance, which the lenders would have received. That will likely cover most of their loss. Their real problem will be maintaining property while finding someone to take it off their hands. That looks to be a longterm project.

The foreclosed properties will probably be folded into the Redevelopment effort, along with the property from LRA. This would also allow the Federal Government to count part of the cost of bailing out the mortgage market as Gulf Coast relief and feed the power hungry money grubbing kleptocrats who run New Orleans.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

The Bayou Chica

I hope you read my blog. I know you have commented here. I have wanted to comment on your blog but Microsoft requires me to agree to thing I'm not willing to agree to.

Please email me.

Police Bust Polka Perps

I have expressed some skepticism of the accuracy of the reports of the Police Bust of a Parade in Treme. I am no longer skeptical.

The police have also harassed the venerable Duetches Haus Oktoberfest. During the first weekend the police were ticketing cars parked on the median of Galvez street. I guess they were afraid of a polka playing oom-pah brass band leading a gang of lederhosen wearing chicken dancing temporary Germans.

I don't know if anyone complained about Oktoberfest. I kind of doubt it. This neighborhood is not being gentrified. In fact although there is some repair going on, the neighborhood is largely empty and is slated for demolition to make way for the new VA hospital.

In response Haus volunteers taped off the median with yellow plastic tape and posted warning signs at the entrance. Free Parking was available in a lot owned by The Blood Center around the corner.

Still I wonder about the rationale for this action. Oktoberfest draws people from all over the area. This year we ran into the Oysters and my wife's cousin, among other people. It seems silly not to let people park on the median rather than forcing them to walk though the largely empty and desolate neighborhood for the four of six weekends of Oktoberfest.

I have attended Oktoberfest for many years. In past years NOPD officers have been around and people have parked on the median without interference or as far as I know incident. We never did because we don't drive car big enough to safely jump the curbs.

One thing is certain. Someone in the Police Department has a tin ear for community relations.

Friday, October 05, 2007

A Sheriff for New Orleans?

Monday Harry Lee, longtime Sheriff of Jefferson Parish passed away. Today marks his final passing from the scene as his larger than life funeral continues his larger than life presence. We'll still be talking about him for a long time.

Sheriff Harry Lee
I have noticed a few things. First is Harry Lee will be hard to replace. Where are we going to get another 300 pound Chinese Cowboy? They don't grow on trees.

I also noticed the reaction from some of my fellow bloggers. Some had no use for him. Some expressed a sort of grudging respect. I really don't know what to make of him. He was frequently accused of being a racist, but most of his insensitive statements had an element of truth and may have been meant as deterrents. I respected his willingness to speak his mind.

One thing has occurred to me that might be completely off base. Although African Americans make up almost a third of the population of around 450,000, I don't know many African Americans who live in Jefferson Parish. The handful I have spoken to have almost the same reaction, an embarrassed respect for him. One person said "I had my problems with him but he did keep the people safe." Cliff sort of agrees. Even Joe Horn said some nice things about him on the radio, in between "I"s and "me"s. Apparently Harry was also a big Joe Horn fan, wearing Joe's jersey to games and public events. I wonder if the larger Jefferson Parish African American Community feels the same way? I kind of think they might.

In contrast the mostly black NOPD with a mostly black command structure seems to inspire less confidence from their black citizens than a supposedly racist Chinese suburban sheriff did from his black citizens. If Harry Lee won an election with 70% of the vote at least some blacks must have voted for him.

I've been thinking about the JPSO as well. Perhaps it's the difference between suburban and urban politics, but I don't recall the JPSO being involved in as many scandals as the NOPD. Perhaps I wasn't paying attention. I did some checking for statistics and I couldn't really find the answers.

Harry Lee's entry on the Louisiana Sherriff's Association web site says the JPSO has 1621 officers. That's more than the NOPD, of course the JPSO also does more. They combine the functions of the NOPD, the Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff and the Orleans Parish Criminal Sherriff' and possibly other offices. That seems not to be a horrible idea.

I wonder whether we should make the Orleans Parish Sheriff the Chief Law Enforcement Officer of New Orleans. An elected sheriff would have the ability to create a dedicated tax revenue stream (outside the greedy hands of the Mayor), would not be subject to political pressure from the host of politicians in the City and would be directly accountable to the people for their safety.

Imagine if (a few years ago) Richard Pennington had been able to run for Sheriff. I wouldn't vote for him for Mayor, but I would have voted for him for Sheriff. He now seems to be doing an outstanding job as Chief of Police in Atlanta. I especially admire the way he confronts problems head on, much like Harry Lee but much more polished.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Government that Works

Yesterday I went to the Dome,

and no I wasn't there because I thought the Saints were playing or because I got confused about the LSU game.

We had our property tax appeal hearing. You see the tax assessor in our district appraised our house as if it was livable. It is gutted ready for construction to start, but worth about a third of what it will be when complete.

It is the first positive contact with any Government Agency I've had since the SBA came calling and persistently kept trying to lend up money.

My appointment was at 1:00PM so I left my office a little after 12.

I walked from my office on Poydras. As with any potential interaction with the wall of stupidity and indifference that characterizes any contact with our City Government, I was a little anxious. I wasn't sure what I would find and how I would treated.

Approaching the Dome I started to wonder if they had moved the hearings or something. There was no crowd of people nor was there any heavy security. I walked around the plaza to Gate E and only saw a few joggers out for their lunch run.

It took only about 2o minutes to walk down Poydras and find the appropriate Gate.

When I got to Gate E there was no line of people there was only a Dome Security guy and a metal detector. They didn't pat you down or make you empty your pockets. There was a uniformed security person She possibly was an NOPD officer but she smiled at everyone as we found our name on a list and signed in. I say everyone, when I walked up to her desk there was one man signing in ahead of me.

She gave instructions to go up the escalator and go to the left. At the top of the escalator was another Dome Security person, a woman seated behind an desk labeled Information she pointed around the corner.

Around the corner was another Desk where you signed in (again) for you hearing. Two very nice well trained ladies took my name checked my ID (not really I had known one of them for many years, but this is New Orleans). They gave me a card with my Hearing Officers Number (16) and told me to wait in the next room.

The Waiting Area had 50-75 chairs arranged in rows, much like the typical municipal office waiting area, except most of the chairs were empty there were only eight or ten people waiting. There was a bottled water cooler so I got a cup of water and sat down.

I was about 35 minutes early for my hearing.

Every couple of minutes someone would come out and ask whether there was anyone there for Hearing Officers "one to five" or "twenty to twenty five" and so on. My number(16) was soon called.

I was escorted into on of the Dome Club areas and there were people sitting at folding tables with boxes of file folders. My escort announced me to my Hearing Officer who greeted me by standing and shaking my hand. We confirmed what I was there for and she asked if I had anything to add to the letter I submitted. I told her my story, showed her the color photographs we had taken just for this appeal since we had submitted only black and white copies. I gave her a list of recent sales in the neighborhood for houses in the same condition as my house. We talked about the neighborhood and she asked a few questions.

Finally she told me the list of recent sales was very helpful because they weren't allowed to independent research. That was the first thing about the procedure which seemed odd. Why aren't they doing independent research. I though that's what they had been hired to do. All I had done was go to Realtor.com What is Your Home Worth and put in my address. If you have an appeal still pending I suggest you do that as well, they won't do it for you.

We discussed the process from here on and my second alarm bell went off. Apparently the City Council will vote on the appeals before the Property Owners have a chance to review or rebut the recommendations of the consultant. This to me seems like the Council is ducking their responsibility.

All in all the experience was not stressful. Everything was handled in a professional and pleasant manner. I finished my hearing fifteen minutes before it was scheduled to begin. I get the impression that most people aren't bothering to show up.

If City Government in generally treated citizens at this level I believe that confidence in government would be greatly increased. I give almost all of the credit to Mr. Rogers aka Arnie Fielkow.

(Beware the the link to Feilkow's old website in Adrastos' article is dead and references www.arniefielkow.com. That site is a place holder that lists links to Online Poker, Adult Dating Site, Payday Loan, Free Mobile Phone, Viagra, Hoodia, Debt Consolidator, Airline Tickets, Loan Till Payday, Cialis and BiSexual Dating. Looks like the Ten Best Reasons to Stay away from the Internet. The Scamers are everywhere.)