August 30, 2007

2010 Reappraisal

Two weeks ago, when this was happening…
An eleventh-hour effort Wednesday by the New Orleans City Council to extend deadlines for challenging assessments failed Wednesday, leaving property owners with just a few more days to file paperwork disputing land and building values.

As hundreds of property owners waited in intense heat to appeal assessments, the council passed a resolution asking the Louisiana Tax Commission to suspend deadlines for the public inspection of the tax rolls and filing of tax rolls "for as long as legally permissible."

The tax commission, however, doesn't have that authority.
…this was happening:
Tyler Technologies, Inc. announced today that the Parish of Orleans, Louisiana, has selected its CLT Appraisal Services to conduct the first ever complete reappraisal of real property in Orleans Parish. The contract is valued at approximately $12 million.


The project consists of two separate phases. In the first phase, Tyler will collect data for all real properties in the parish over a two year period. In the second phase, Tyler will perform a reappraisal of these properties in which the data previously collected is analyzed, and values are calculated. The company expects to establish new market values by mid-2010, followed by a period of informal reviews where property owners will have an opportunity to discuss values. Final assessment of property is expected by late 2010.

While the Parish prepares for the most comprehensive revaluation in its history, it is no stranger to Tyler Technologies. In 2003, the Orleans Parish Board of Assessors purchased Tyler's integrated property assessment and tax software in preparation for eventual reappraisal.
The 2003 contract was a $1 million contract [pdf].

In 2010, when this $12 million contract is finished, there will also be an election for one assessor to take over for the seven assessors we have today. Similar appraisal/assessment craziness would make for an interesting election.

August 29, 2007

$116 Billion

That’s the number I expect to hear today.

It has already been thrown about by the media:
$116 billion in recovery dollars have been earmarked for the Gulf region, almost $60 billion of it to Louisiana alone.
Of the $116 billion appropriated by Congress to Gulf Coast recovery, $34 billion has been earmarked for long-term rebuilding.
Then there is another number I’ve seen, too:
In the two years since Hurricane Katrina, the federal government has provided more than $114 billion in aid.
As I said at the beginning of the briefing, the federal government has provided $114 billion to the region, of which $96 billion has been disbursed or is available to the states. [via oyster]
Then there is the real number which, surprisingly, at least one person in the media is using:
Overall, Congress appropriated $94.6 billion for hurricane restoration.
In a former blogging life, this number was my obsession. Back then, it appeared in the form of “$110 billion.” That number was around $22 billion too much.

The new number adds $6 billion more, but is still $22 billion too much.

My break down of money Congress has allocated to the Gulf Coast recovery:
* September 2, 2005 – $10.5 billion in a disaster relief bill

* September 8, 2005 – $51.8 billion in a disaster relief bill

* December 31, 2005 – $5 billion in a spending bill (along with $24 billion diverted from already authorized funds, but not new money)

*June 15, 2006 – $19.8 billion in a spending bill

*May 24, 2007 – $6.3 billion in a spending bill
Unless I missed a major appropriation bill somewhere (and please point that out to me if I have), that adds up to around $94 billion dollars.

The WRDA bill has more appropriations authorizations in it, but it hasn’t been passed yet and Bush has threatened to veto it anyway.

So, they are still counting the $22 billion (or $23 billion – the numbers are real fuzzy when everyone starts rounding off) paid out in flood insurance claims.

In the past, I have argued that this money is not recovery money. It is money due to the people who paid to have that coverage. I am sticking to that:
You can count on your claim being paid in the event of a flood loss because NFIP flood insurance is backed by the Federal government.
That’s all.

[ADDED] The official line:
The Federal Government Has Provided More Than $114 Billion In Resources – $127 Billion Including Tax Relief – To The Gulf Region.

August 28, 2007

Personifying New Orleans

I have often personified New Orleans when speaking about her. She has been many people to me at different times, but mostly a family member whom I love and feel an intense duty to protect and fight for.

I have never thought of her as a murderer:
It has been almost eight months now since the early morning silence of the Marigny district was broken by the sound of gunfire from inside Helen Hill's tidy white house on North Rampart Street.

Eight long, frustrating months since the acclaimed Canadian filmmaker was killed by a bullet wound to the neck. No clues, no arrests and no closure for family members desperate for answers.

Still grieving, Hill's stepfather has come to his own painful conclusions.

"I felt right away that New Orleans killed Helen," says Kevin Lewis. "In my bad moods - my worst moods - I don't care if New Orleans gets flooded out again and is just plowed over." Lewis says he knows "in the long run" he can't hold the city itself culpable in the death of his daughter, but his assessment holds more than a kernel of truth.

Two years after Hurricane Katrina brought this historic city to its knees, murder is coming to define New Orleans's personality as much as jazz funerals, Mardi Gras parades and French Quarter debauchery.
The title of the article is “Did New Orleans kill Helen?”

At the risk of causing more hysteria over crime and therefore eclipsing the hysteria over more important issues, I just want to point out that there have been 25 murders in the last 25 days in the city of New Orleans, from August 4 to August 28. August has been the deadliest month in 2007 with its 25 murders, making 137 murders for the year.

Violent crime affects the recovery on a very personal level:
Dear New Orleans: I’m Leaving You


They don't understand that I'm in love. I talk to friends about New Orleans like a dysfunctional romance. I gush over it one day, then call up bawling and heartbroken the next. Why can't it change? Stop being self-destructive and violent? It has so much potential.

Recently, my blinders started to come off. It was building for awhile. My friend Helen Hill was murdered in her home;other friends have been mugged. We don't go out much any more...

But then there was this hot Friday night last month. I went on the perfect date with New Orleans . Saw live, local music, danced with friends on the stage, then headed home through my neighborhood of craftsman cottages and angel trumpet trees.

A block from my door, I was attacked from behind by a stranger. I escaped, with the help of my roommate. The case is moving forward, so I can't say much more than that.

Now I'm a jilted lover of the city. I'm angry and confused. Which is the real New Orleans? The one that's violent and desperate? Or the one that coos softly, and caresses me? The answer, of course, is both.

I just hauled my things out of New Orleans in a big truck. I am still in love with the city, but it's hard to trust it. Maybe we'll both heal, and the relationship will rekindle. I don't know what - or how long - that might take.
I wish that person would stay. I wish that her city loved her back. I wish that this were an isolated experience.

Once again, 25 murders in 25 days.

When do we march?

August 23, 2007

“And tell me where I’m wrong.”


I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch Glenn Beck’s show. But Ashley directed me to My Two Sense, who does watch Glenn Beck, and I see that Glenn Beck really does not like New Orleans:
New Orleans was a disaster waiting to happen, and it`s going to happen again. Two years after Katrina, I`m not sure still that we should bother rebuilding it. Here`s the point tonight.

As we see yet another deadly hurricane season, can we please ask the question, in the aftermath of Katrina, if we`re going to rebuild cities like New Orleans, can we at least do it right? And if not, I say we cut bait and not bother doing it at all, and here`s how I got there.

Category 5 storms are rare, but they do happen. There were five back in 2005, making it one of the deadliest hurricane seasons on record. New Orleans and a huge amount of America`s gulf region left in ruins. We all remember seeing the footage, and so many of us are -- have lived through it.
It seems his point is that he has seen some footage of a rare disaster on the Gulf Coast, therefore we should not rebuild New Orleans unless we rebuild it to his standard of "right."

Obviously, I do not agree with Mr. Beck. But that’s not my biggest problem with what I saw in the video on My Two Sense.

As Mr. Beck was interviewing Douglas Brinkley, these banners ran on the bottom of the screen:

New Orleans’ population is currently 484,000, half of its pre-Katrina total.

New Orleans is 15 feet below sea level and sinks one inch per year.
Both of those statistics are wrong.

New Orleans’ population before the storm in the 2000 census was, in fact, 484,000. It certainly is not right now. The 2006 census said New Orleans had 223,000 people, which is about half the estimated 2005 population (usually stated as 454,000), but not half of the 2000 census. I assume Beck’s producers were using US Census numbers. Current estimates put the New Orleans population at 273,000 to 300,000, which would be more than half of Glenn Beck’s number even if it were the correct pre-Katrina population.

The claim that New Orleans is 15 feet below sea level is ridiculous:
"LIDAR elevation data show that 51 percent of the terrestrial surface of the contiguous urbanized portions of Orleans, Jefferson, and St. Bernard parishes lie at or above sea level (with the highest neighborhoods at 10-12 feet above mean sea level), while 49 percent lies below sea level, in places to equivalent depths."
While a part of New Orleans may be 15 feet below sea level, by no means is the City of New Orleans 15 feet below sea level.

Also, the claim that New Orleans is sinking one inch per year is equally as ridiculous:
Most of New Orleans is sinking at an average rate of 6mm a year. In some areas, subsidence is occurring at a rate of as much as 29mm/year. That’s according to research published in this week’s edition of the journal Nature by scientists from the University of Miami Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science.
According to this widely publicized study, most of New Orleans is sinking 0.236 inches (6mm) a year. Not one inch.

It also states that “some areas” of New Orleans are sinking 29mm a year, which is 1.14 inches. Those areas are represented as red dots on this map:

Not a lot of red dots.

Glenn Beck is not a credible source of information about New Orleans.

I admit that I could not watch the entire interview. If he corrected those stats later on in the interview, please let me know.

19 Murders in 19 Days

Three more murders yesterday, two men shot and one victim died who had been shot on Friday.

Starting from the first murder in the month of August 4 to the most recent one yesterday August 22, there have been 19 murders in the city of New Orleans in 19 days.

August 22, 2007

That’s Our Brother

Four more murders. Three yesterday, and one man shot in June died Saturday.

Heartbreaking vignette from the recent Times-Picayune article:
Schaffer lay on a stretcher with his arms folded, shirtless and wearing jeans and construction boots. Nearby, a huddle of bereaved family members wept and cried out in anger. A shoeless boy of single-digit age stared at the body on the stretcher. "That's my brother," he repeated over and over. He did not cry.
Yes, his brother was just released on parole for a narcotics charge. But, the child did not see a “bad guy” when he looked at the body on the stretcher. He saw his brother.

A murder is hard to prevent, unless you know it is going to happen. I can safely assume by the murder rate that NOPD officers are not psychic and do not know when and where murders will happen. So, how do you effectively prevent them?

One way is to look at every person as a potential murderer and act accordingly – more “boots on the street,” more cameras on the streets, more guns, more traffic checkpoints, a cop on every corner.

Or, you can look at every person as your brother or sister. Think, “What do I want my brother and sister to have?” and make sure every person has those things, be it food, education, health, opportunity, hope, etc.

The solution to our violent crime problem is not a law enforcement solution. We have plenty of laws and enough enforcers. As much as I want the criminal justice system to function after a crime is committed, I would much rather the crime never happen in the first place.

Sure, a functional criminal justice system is a deterrent. But, is there a better deterrent than not having a reason to commit a crime?

This goes back to valuing every life as equal.

Once again, my goal:
NOLA will have the lowest per capita murder rate in the United States for cities with populations between 250,000 and 300,000.
And some solutions:
Better and more effective policing strategies (problem-oriented policing), a city which provides functioning social and municipal services (health care, education, electricity, water, maintained streets, flood drainage, doesn't wrongly demolish your house), and a community that values every life as equal from birth to death.
We can do it. It will take a “no excuses” attitude and a lot of work. And it starts with us, which is why I am digging Rising Tide 2.

August 18, 2007

A Meeting with the Army Corps of Engineers

At a meeting last Thursday in Lakeview, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officials updated residents on the status of projects west of the Industrial Canal.

Around 9pm, about two hours after the meeting started, Col. Jeff Bedey walked in the room at St. Paul’s Episcopal, and removed his beret. Where his black cap had pressed against his skin, a deeply set, slightly red indention formed a crown around his head.

He walked around silently, looking for a place to stand and trying not to interrupt a Lakeview resident who was speaking as he entered. As Commander of the Hurricane Protection Office, his place was at the front of the room, and he took that place when the resident was finished.

Without a microphone, he addressed the room. He explained that he came two hours after the meeting started because he was attending a similar meeting in New Orleans East. He thanked those in attendance for being there even though they did not have to be there, noting that the USACE staff were the only ones in the room that had to be there.

The sense I had gotten from the residents in attendance was that they felt they had to be there. They felt they had no choice.

Col. Bedey explained that this was part of the USACE’s mission to engage the public – the “stakeholders” – in decisions that affected them.

The first raised hand that Bedey called on addressed this mission directly and bluntly. The Lakeview resident said, “With all due respect. You have failed in your mission.”

By that time, I had already realized that I was an outsider at that meeting. Not because I don’t live on the East Bank west of the Industrial Canal, though.

I came there for an update on the levees. These residents didn’t come for an update. They didn’t come to be informed about decisions that had been made already. They came because they wanted to be a part of the decisions that were going to affect them. They have a stake, and they wanted to have a say.

Up until that point in the meeting, they hadn’t felt like they had any say in what the federal government was going to do to their neighborhoods.

The problem was a report set to go to Congress on August 26, 2007, ten days after the meeting. Congress directed the USACE to develop a report analyzing three alternatives to providing flood protection with the outfall canals:
Sec. 4303. The Chief of Engineers shall investigate the overall technical advantages, disadvantages and operational effectiveness of operating the new pumping stations at the mouths of the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals in the New Orleans area directed for construction in Public Law 109-234 concurrently or in series with existing pumping stations serving these canals and the advantages, disadvantages and technical operational effectiveness of removing the existing pumping stations and configuring the new pumping stations and associated canals to handle all needed discharges to the lakefront or in combination with discharges directly to the Mississippi River in Jefferson Parish; and the advantages, disadvantages and technical operational effectiveness of replacing or improving the floodwalls and levees adjacent to the three outfall canals: Provided, That the analysis should be conducted at Federal expense: Provided further, <> That the analysis shall be completed and furnished to the Congress not later than three months after enactment of this Act.
The three alternatives being considered:
1) Pumping stations at the Lake and keep existing pumping stations
2) Pumping stations at the Lake, remove existing pumping stations, and use gravitational drainage
3) Improving the floodwalls (parallel protection)
Only option number three would not require the temporary pumping stations at the lake not becoming permanent. The USACE also proposed replacing the open canals with a pressurized box culvert system.

Where did these alternatives come from? Col. Bedey explained how we got here.

Before the storm, the USACE had floodwalls on the outfall canals, and thought they worked. Then, Katrina came. They didn’t work. Two canals had breaches in three areas of the floodwalls.

The federal government worked hard and fast to make sure the area was protected from future storms in the short term. The USACE built the interim closure structures and temporary pumps to protect the city from storm surge coming from Lake Pontchartrain.

In the middle of this charge, Congress directed the USACE to rebuild the entire levee system to protect against a 100 year storm and evaluate how to achieve higher protection.

It all happened so fast, Col. Bedey says, they are “playing catch up with the technical analysis.”

The “fifth supplemental” appropriations bill asked for the report on the three alternatives with “coordinated efforts with academia and stakeholders,” as one slide said. And the USACE was standing in front of the stakeholders that night.

But the stakeholders couldn’t understand why the advantages and disadvantages of three options they had just been informed of would be presented to Congress only 10 days from the first time they ever heard they even had any options. One resident said, “We need to see the options you are giving us from which someone else will choose the best one.”

USACE officials before Col. Bedey arrived had stressed, “This is not a plan.” It’s just the advantages and disadvantages of various options, implying that the report was not of critical importance and that all options were still on the table.

Also, a website had been set up to receive comments on UASCE projects for environmental reports (NEPA requirements) that would be used before a plan was finalized in April 2008. An official 30-day comment period would begin for each project in the area, though residents could leave comments on the website any time.

A slide in the presentation showed the official comment period for IER 5, the outfall canals project, started 2/29/08. When the 30-day official comment period ends, it would be April 2008 – the estimated date for the final decision. To the residents, that did not leave much time for officials to consider their concerns.

“Your timeline is a little different from a homeowner’s time frame,” one resident said to the USACE officials from the back of the room.

One fear that the residents consistently expressed was that decisions had been already made and this discussion was merely “window dressing.” Before Col. Bedey arrived, the USACE officials present did not directly answer the question of which option the USACE felt had the most advantages and least disadvantages. When asked the same question, Col. Bedey straightforwardly stated they gave higher priority to the gravitational flow to the pumping stations at the lake. Option 2.

Now, here’s where I need to point out something that I learned at the meeting, and I am embarrassed that I didn’t know it. Many people who live by the Lake don’t want those big pumping stations in their neighborhoods. I thought it was a done deal that we would keep the closure structures and build permanent pumping stations.

I think the residents there that night also thought it was a done deal, contrary to the USACE’s protestations to the contrary, which fueled their opposition and mistrust of the USACE’s intentions. That mistrust continued until the last question, with murmurs of disapproval all around, not loud enough to disrupt the meeting, but loud enough to be heard and most likely agreed upon by the residents present.

The only point resolved by the end of the meeting was that Col. Bedey gave his word to meet with every neighborhood association leader who wanted to meet with him in his office. And one neighborhood leader commented that Col. Bedey’s word was the only person’s word he trusted, a comment that was backed by another leader who knew Col. Bedey personally and vouched for his honesty.

And that's how the meeting ended. With a promise made to listen, and a hope that a community's voice might be heard when that promise is kept.

[EDIT: Some spelling errors corrected]

Matt McBride on Silt

At Humid City:
So the canal bottom, for nearly half its length (from I-10 to the railroad bridge, which is the southernmost part of the canal, right in front of Pumping Station 6) is nearly half full of silt.

Thoughts on a Saturday Morning

A Civilized Tragedy

Not all lives are valued as equal in civilized human cultures. Some lives are expendable to keep civilization going.

I can’t help but think about that when I read the news of miners trapped in Utah and China. They mine coal. Coal is fuel. Fuel runs the machinery of civilization.

We will not change our civilized ways in response to these mining accidents. Civilized humans will not stop putting their brothers and sisters at risk to mine our fuel. Civilized humans will make a value judgment, and decide that the risk to our miners is worth less than the need to have fuel for our machines.

The tragedy is in the miners who lost their lives trying to save their brothers. They, who we also value less than our desire for fuel, valued their trapped brothers as equal, and risked a similar or worse fate to save them.

To civilization, the miners who died in the rescue were expendable – just a as the trapped miners – because we value their lives less than we value fuel. Civilization will not stop mining in dangerous areas in response to their deaths, nor in response to the trapped miners’ plight.

The miners who died in the rescue considered themselves expendable, too, in a way. They valued their trapped brothers’ lives as equal to theirs, or even more important than their own lives. And in the end, their values led them to make decisions that cost their own lives. If anything, theirs was a more honorable value system, though one that produced more tragic results.

We who were not there will laud the dead rescuers as heroes, claiming that we value them highly. Yet, we value their fellow miners, to whom the dead rescuers saw themselves as equals, as not worth more than the fuel they supply. Those who we define as heroes are at the same time expendable in the civilized value system. They are valued as high and low. Is this not a paradox?

I have similar thoughts when I read about the deaths in Iraq, all the deaths: Americans, coalition members, military, private sector, civilians. It is a war being fought so that civilization’s value system will continue to operate. Under those values, some humans are expendable.

And I think about values when I see a murder every other day inside the New Orleans city limits. I wonder if the murders are acceptable. I wonder if those who are dying are expendable, and we will not change our civilized ways to stop the murders.

If civilization needs the deaths of some of its members, I don’t know how to stop those deaths without changing civilization. Civilization sustains itself. It can not be changed, except maybe by degree. The only option I see is to opt out of civilization.

These are just thoughts on a Saturday morning. It’s too early to start drinking, so I can’t numb my thinking.

Oh, yeah, there's a big ol' hurricane in the Caribbean.

Go Saints.

Wake Up. Check Dean.

There he is.

The models look good.

I am a little worried that Dean seems to be slowing down, and when storms slow down dramatically, models change. But things look good for us. Bad for Texas and Mexico.

Life on the Gulf Coast.

August 17, 2007

Battle of the Deviant Computer Models

Deviant blue line vs. deviant yellow line.

I am rooting for the yellow line.

The other models do not deviate much, which is always a good sign.

*UPDATE* 4pm: The deviant blue line continues.

Another Gadfly

First, it was Karen Gadbois in the Times-Pic:
"That's a massive amount of housing to take out of a neighborhood as a neighborhood is trying to maintain its vitality," said Karen Gadbois, a preservation-minded gadfly who maintains the Web site, where the discussion is taking place.
Now, Matt McBride in the New York Times:
Matt McBride, an engineer who became an anti-corps gadfly on flood-protection issues, left the city along with his wife after deciding he simply did not trust the new system.
Hooray for gadflies.

I understand that gadfly is a compliment. But it just sounds weird. I don’t know if everyone, including me, gets the classical allusion.

According to Wikipedia:
During his defense when on trial for his life, Socrates, according to Plato's writings, pointed out that dissent, like the tiny (relative to the size of a horse) gadfly, was easy to swat, but the cost to society of silencing individuals who were irritating could be very high. "If you kill a man like me, you will injure yourselves more than you will injure me," because his role was that of a gadfly, "to sting people and whip them into a fury, all in the service of truth."
How about "active citizen" or "citizen-activist." Or, "blogger," to give us a little credibility.

Rhinoceros Head vs. Technology

A quote attributed to Frank Lloyd Wright: "If it keeps up, man will atrophy all his limbs but the push-button finger."

I am now tracking Dean on Google Maps, and by extension, Google Earth. It is cool.

And, so, my refrigerator tracking map and goofy magnets go the way of my Commodore 64.

But, I must fight this. I must pass down the refrigerator tracking map to my son. I have fond childhood memories of tracking hurricanes on those free maps from Wendy’s or wherever.

Of course, no Katrina ever hit when I was young. If one had, then those memories may not have been so fond.

One way I have dealt with my son and hurricanes is to explain EVERYTHING to him. I hope that the more he understands, the more power he feels he has. Many decisions will be made in this and future hurricane seasons that will directly affect him, and I don’t want him to feel powerless. I want him to understand what we are talking about and why we are making whatever decisions are being made.

He likes Google Earth, too, though. So he might opt for the push-button rather than the goofy magnets.

Thinking about it, it would make more sense to see a point on a computer-generated map rather than a big rhinoceros head in the middle of the Atlantic headed for the Gulf.

Although, in reality, I would prefer the rhino head to be headed to the Gulf.

Another Murder Early This Morning

What's the excuse for this one?
It happened not long after midnight in the 1000 block of North Salcedo Street. Officers found the body of an unidentified man lying in the street.

Police said he’d been shot in the chest and died on the scene.
I think this is right around the corner from Pal's bar.

I am no expert in criminology. I am not posting about murders all the time because I like it. I am also not posting about murders to point out the negative.

That's not my goal.

Mayor Nagin said at a recent crime meeting:
Most intelligent people out in our community are looking for that balance. Some folk is just negative and that’s just the way they going to be. And there’s nothing we can do about that. But for the majority of our citizens, it’s incumbent upon us to give you the truth and to give you the facts so you can really understand what’s going on.

And to my friends who keep trying to portray the city in its worst light: Stop. Even when they talk about murders and violent crimes, they link it up to other parishes around this area to make it seem like New Orleans is totally out of control.
I hope that I am not one of the negative folk. I am trying to be a member of the positive folk. I want "to give you the truth and to give you the facts so you can really understand what’s going on."

And murders are going on.

The NOPD, the city, the state, the federal government, and the community are doing what they can to stop the murders.

But they are still going on. That's all I want to point out.

17 days into August, 13 murders. 229 days into the year, 124 murders. A murder every 1.8 days, about a murder every other day. At this rate, 73 more people will die a violent death this year.

That's too much. Right?

August 16, 2007

12 Days, 12 Murders

From August 4, 2007, to yesterday.
Pablo Mejia Jr., August 4
A man in the Iberville projects, August 5
Thomas Jackson, August 6
A man in New Orleans East, August 7
The Philips brothers, August 8
Luong Nguyen and Anjelique Vu, August 11
Two men in Treme, August 13
Cornelius Curry, August 14
Nia Robertson, last night
Are you mad, yet? I am.

Today, the NOPD released the official 2007 2nd Quarter statistics to the media. The 2007 1st Quarter statistics popped up on their website at the beginning of the week.

The official analysis
Looking at just the numbers, violent crime is up 49%, non-violent crime is up 23% and total crimes are up 13%.

If you look at the crime rate as a percent of the population, violent crime is still up by 12%, non-violent crime is down 11% and total crimes are down 8%.
Determining the rate is a function of dividing by the population. So, a bigger population lowers all the raw data. The population the NOPD used was 294,000.

The article cited above states: “There were 48 murders in the city from April to June. That number is up 26% over the same time period last year.”

I count 49, and I have links to all of the news stories done on them. Rather than post them here, you can count for yourself on the Times-Picayune 2007 Murders blog which corresponds to my numbers. I want to double check the NOPD’s number, but the 2nd quarter stats are not on their website as of this post.

[UPDATE: Arthur Jackson was shot on the last day of June and died the first day of July. The NOPD might count that murder in the next quarter.]

Katrina devastated the city. And everyone in the criminal justice system can point to all the ways Katrina made their jobs harder.

Criminologist Peter Scharf addresses this:
"The hurricane theories, morphing of drug groups, or that the NOPD is in a trailer, really don't make sense," Scharf said. "You look at the leadership in this city to the leadership in cities that have been reasonably successful, and it's night and day."
It’s two years later. No more excuses. And we should champion that person who stands up and gives none. When that person stands up…

And *we* need to stand up to. When’s the next march? It was 5,000 strong then, and there is all the more reason to march today. Make that yesterday.

We are 123 murders into this year. Will we keep making excuses? What will be the excuse for the next murder? The one after that?

Here’s my goal:
NOLA will have the lowest per capita murder rate in the United States for cities with populations between 250,000 and 300,000.
How do we get there? Think about that.

It’s not: “What can we do?” It’s: “What will we do?”

August 15, 2007

Tear Down the Projects, and Build a Golf Course

I mean two golf courses. And a YMCA:
The wrecking ball hasn't been ordered for the vacant complexes -- the St. Bernard in the Seventh Ward, the C.J. Peete in Central City and the Lafitte near Treme -- and the partially re-opened B.W. Cooper.

But at its regular monthly meeting Wednesday, HANO officials checked off a few more bureaucratic chores needed for the massive redevelopment, approving four "pre-development agreements" with the firms they have chosen to redesign public housing in New Orleans.

Those plans call for a vastly different landscape for low-income housing in post-Katrina New Orleans: A revitalized St. Bernard with two 18-hole "championship" golf courses and a 45,000-square-foot YMCA, free for the complex's public housing residents, and two charter schools.
How about we build affordable housing where housing existed before Katrina, and build golf courses where golf courses wait to be fixed, like at City Park:
The Park made an initial claim for damages to the three courses (not the buildings or golf equipment, which are the subject of separate claims) at approximately $4.0 million. FEMA’s initial estimate of eligible damage was $350,000. To date, three different damage estimates have been calculated and given to FEMA to evaluate.

I Am Paying Attention This Time

Not just because TS Dean shares my last name (without the "e" at the end).

11am EDT Wednesday, August 15, 2007

New NOPD Official Crime Statistics

On their website.

They released the official stats for the first quarter of 2007 (Jan-Mar). Then they compare those stats to the first quarter of 2006 with an asterisk:
The population in the City of New Orleans was significantly reduced during the first quarter of 2006 as compared to the population of the City during the first quarter of 2007.
I don’t think the comparison with the same time period last year is important. But they are useful for watching trends.

The NOPD murder totals are the same as mine, except they count one less in February and one more in March. Aaron Allen was shot on February 27, but died later in March.

At the Crime Prevention Roundtable II, Chief Riley told the audience the statistics would be released this week and added:
“And one thing that we have made some progress in, but we still certainly have a long way to go, is that you will see that our murder rate has dropped by 8.75%.”
I am not sure what his comparison is to say that.

What I do know is that August has been a violent month. Today is 15 days into August, and we have had 11 murders this month. In fact, we have had 11 murders in the last 11 days.

We certainly do have a long way to go.

Mayor Nagin told that same audience at the Crime Prevention Roundtable II:
I know one murder is way too many. We are going to continue to try to bring this city to a zero point. But, just to give you an indication of the trends, this past July – which July historically has been our most violent month as relates to crime – this past July, we recorded 14 murders. Four of those murders were carryovers from somebody being shot in a previous month. Compare that to one year earlier, and there were 23 murders.

So, as you can see, we are starting to see some trends. And we’re not happy with it. But we’re starting to see some trends that suggest things that we put in place are starting to have some impact.
Well, that was July. The month before, June, had 19 murders by my count, the highest of any month this year. And now we have August.

Here are the murder trends by quarter:
2006 3rd Quarter (Jul-Sep): 53

2006 4th Quarter (Oct-Dec): 52

2007 1st Quarter: 48
-January: 17
-February: 13
-March: 18

2007 2nd Quarter: 49
-April: 15
-May: 15
-June: 19

2007 3rd Quarter (Jul-Aug 15): 25
-July: 14
-August: 11
The 2006 stats are NOPD. The 2007 stats are mine.

We have had an average of 50.5 murders per full quarter since Jul 2006. As the population rises, the murder totals are staying the same. That is good in the sense that the murder rate goes down.

But, we are hovering around 50 murders per quarter (three months) and we have steadily averaged a murder every other day, even with more people moving back.

One possible explanation is that the new population is moving into the safer areas. That would mean the crime hot spots are just as dangerous as they have always been. If that were true, then our murder totals will stay around these numbers, even though our murder rate will go down.

Also, we now know where murders happen and where they don’t. This would support the assertion that the safer areas are remaining safe, as it regards to murder, as the crime hot spots are staying hot.

Solutions? Better and more effective policing strategies (problem-oriented policing), a city which provides functioning social and municipal services (health care, education, electricity, water, maintained streets, flood drainage, doesn't wrongly demolish your house), and a community that values every life as equal from birth to death.

Simple as that.

August 14, 2007

GO Zone Projects Not Coming to New Orleans

Ed Blakely calls foul:
Projects in New Orleans are getting only a tiny fraction of the low-interest bond money aimed at jump-starting Louisiana's post-Katrina economy, and officials plan to ask for a larger share, commensurate with the city's massive flood damage, recovery director Ed Blakely recently told a City Council panel.

Blakely's beef relies on the numbers: Just one New Orleans GO Zone project has gotten off the ground. That project, listed on State Bond Commission records as "Carrollton Revitalization," has a price tag of $4.5 million. That amounts to 0.1 percent of the $4.5 billion in projects that have received final approval from the commission.

As usual, when someone from the city calls foul, someone from the state calls fouler:
Kling also said the anemic amount of GO Zone money headed to New Orleans thus far is in large part due to a lack of applications, not because the city has been passed over in favor of other locales. Overall, the Bond Commission has received applications worth about $12.8 billion.
Yesterday, the GO Zone story was the condos in Tuscaloosa. Possibly related to that, via Hurricane Radio, I read in the comments to this post that Louisiana has built some college-related condos with GO Zone money as well:
$5 million in Gulf Opportunity Zone bonds for the Louisiana Community Development Authority to finance the cost of a 35-acre apartment, retail and condominium development adjacent to Tiger Stadium.
The only project close to Tiger Stadium that I could find was this:
LSU fans weary of returning to New Orleans after a Tiger game will soon have an option that lets them enjoy the spirit of the game for a weekend or longer.

Birmingham, Ala.-based Capstone Development Corp. plans to build FieldHouse Baton Rouge, a luxury sports-themed condominium to be built at the north gates of Louisiana State University, less than half a mile from Tiger Stadium.
Now, the bonds were approved for the LCDA, one of the largest issuers of tax-exempt financings in the state. So, if the Fieldhouse project is benefiting from GO Zone bonds, I don’t think anything nefarious is going on here. I just found that interesting.

GO Zone Projects

As long as it doesn’t deny funding for projects more in the spirit of hurricane recovery, my biggest problem with these Alabama condos is that the color scheme is not purple and gold:
With large swaths of the Gulf Coast still in ruins from Hurricane Katrina, rich federal tax breaks designed to spur rebuilding are flowing hundreds of miles inland to investors who are buying up luxury condos near the University of Alabama's football stadium.

About 10 condominium projects are going up in and around Tuscaloosa, and builders are asking up to $1 million for units with granite countertops, king-size bathtubs and 'Bama decor, including crimson couches and Bear Bryant wall art.
Here in Louisiana, since the end of last month, we have had a different GO Zone problem:
The State Bond Commission temporarily derailed projects seeking low-interest post-hurricane bond financing Thursday after the panel was told there is only $97 million left in the $7.8 billion program and more than $4.5 billion in projects on the list to be financed.

The commission voted 6-3 to put the brakes on approving developers' requests to use the tax-exempt Gulf Opportunity Zone Bond Program to help finance projects ranging from refineries and car dealerships to shopping centers, hotels and residential developments.

Bond Commission Executive Director Whit Kling said the panel's vote means that $3.4 billion in projects on Thursday's agenda have been shelved for now. Some of the big-ticket items in the New Orleans area placed on hold are:

--$1 billion to expand the Valero Refinery in St. Charles Parish.
--$900 million for Entergy to rebuild or construct "public utility property" in St. Charles Parish.
--$250 million to build an ethanol plant in St. James Parish.
--$200 million for commercial and residential development near Slidell.
--$100 million to expand a liquid logistics center operated by International-Matex Tank Terminals in St. Rose.
--$60 million to build a crude-oil storage complex in St. James Parish for NuStar Energy Services Inc.
--$24 million for a retail shopping center near Covington.
--$15 million for a 180-unit development in Slidell.
I wonder if any inland luxury condo projects in Louisiana already got their bonds before these "big-ticket items?"

August 13, 2007

Developer Proposes Tearing Down Woolworth's Building on Canal St.

To construct a parking garage and apartments:
Metairie developer Mohan Kailas, in plans filed with the New Orleans Industrial Development Board, is proposing building two towers on either side of the old NOPSI building at 317 Baronne St. Separately, Kailas is planning to build a 550-space parking garage and a 200-foot apartment tower at the site of the closed Woolworth building at 1031 Canal St., which would be demolished to make way for the new structure.

During the 1960s the Woolworth building was the site of numerous sit-ins organized by civil rights workers attempting to end the city's segregation of lunch counters. Some of the original stools and counters are in storage and would be used in the project to memorialize the site's significance in the civil rights movement, Kailas said.
A picture of the Woolworth's counter and interesting history about the building's construction from Blake Pontchartrain:
The next year, 1939, saw the construction of another in the F.W. Woolworth 5-and-10-cent-store chain. But the building of this store created quite a disturbance among preservationists. You see, the store was built between 1031-1041 Canal St., and in order to do this many old buildings had to be demolished. But these were not just any old buildings. The area was the gateway to the famous Tango Belt area.

Located in the French Quarter just across Basin and North Rampart streets from Storyville, the Tango Belt was practically the center of nightlife in New Orleans in the first two decades of the 20th century. There you could find many cabarets, saloons, nightclubs, and theaters where jazz flourished. One of the buildings that was destroyed had housed the Arlington Cabaret. once operated by Tom Anderson, a state legislator and prominent political leader who was also known as the unofficial Mayor of Storyville.

Problem-oriented Policing

Dr. George Capowich of Loyola University spoke at the Crime Prevention Roundtable II last Saturday about establishing a university-based research consortium at Loyola involving all the area universities to produce research that law enforcement can use to craft a problem-oriented approach to policing. He talked about the importance of research and using it to fight crime and to pursue a holistic approach to crime fighting.

What he said about problem-oriented policing was not really specific, but is sounded good to me. He said it does three things:
1) It broadens the information police use to understand crime, like census data and other information that criminologists and sociologists use.

He said, “One of the characteristics about violence is that it is very situational. It happens at the spur of the moment. It’s based on past relationships and the circumstances that are present on the street. Problem-oriented policing tries to find, does find the information that bears on that, it uses that, it analyzes that whole gamut of information to try and craft responses and solutions.”

2) It relies heavily on active engagement of law enforcement with the community, including the people who live in the communities and the organizations, non-profits, and city departments that operate in the communities.

He made an interesting point about the relationship between non-profit organizations and the city: “The non-profit sector in this community accounts for 12% of the employment in social services in this city. That is very high. In many cities around the country those are things that citizens expect to get from their government. In New Orleans, you get it from the non-profit community.”

3) It has very specific implementation: scanning (analyzing information), crafting a response, implementing it, and evaluating it.
Capowich rated the three ways to reduce violence:
1) Law enforcement only: least effective
2) Law enforcement strategies coupled with good community relations: more effective
3) Law enforcement strategies, with good community relations, and police problem-oriented approaches: most effective
This approach uses reactive as well as preventive strategies. I like it.

Perception of Corruption, Corruption of Perception

Keeping with my goal of staying positive, Oliver Thomas’s plea is not the “black eye” that “could hinder N.O. recovery aid” as the Times-Picayune headline may suggest.

The perception game is silly, as others have pointed out.

But, let’s assume that America and Washington, DC, thinks New Orleans and Louisiana is full of corrupt politicians and always has been, the type of perception we are trying to avoid. Then, it would be consistent with that perception that there should be plenty of corrupt politicians for the US Attorneys to find. In fact, if they were *not* prosecuting a bevy of politicians for corrupt practices, *then* America and her politicians may be able to say that we tolerate corruption in this part of the world and can not be trusted with millions of dollars in recovery aid.

Thomas’ plea shows that, whether or not we did so in the past, the new New Orleans, or at least its federal enforcement arm, is not going to tolerate corruption. Not even in a popular politician like Oliver Thomas.

That’s a positive.

D.A. Jordan's Crime Update

At the Crime Prevention Roundtable II Saturday, New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan gave the small audience a D.A.’s office update.

Here are the highlights of his highlights, with a few quotes. I took these from an audio recording I made, so you may cite the figures and quotes safely. I worked seven years at a TV news station, so I know a thing or two about accurate reporting. I also assume the Roundtable has been or will be broadcast on public access television, so you can check me.

The sound quality of my recordings is not broadcast quality. Otherwise, I would post the audio. But, if you really want to hear it, you can email me (email address is in the sidebar) and I will send it to you.
New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan’s Update at the Crime Prevention Roundtable II, August 11, 2007

Screening Division – Keva (Kee’-vuh) Landrum appointed chief of Screening Division; screening division is where case begins: initial appearance of offender, bond set, D.A. receives police report, then screening process begins; specialized screening assistants (narcotics, sex offenders)

6,304 arrests for state charges, Jan 1-Jun 30 – “While I fully respect the assistance provided by the federal government, you can see that our numbers are much, much, larger.”; screening division has screened 6,660 cases, Jan 1-Jun 30; charges accepted in 56% of those cases; “…the national norm with regard to local prosecutors is roughly around 50% or so. So, we’re certainly within that range…”; “before the storm we were up to 70% in our acceptance rate”; 3,750 cases accepted, 2,910 refused

Witness participation still problem in victim crimes – trying to provide more than temporary housing; “We have relocated individuals to other parts of state and as well as to a safe house in another state that we maintain as a safe place for, a safe haven for our crime victims and witnesses. And we don’t relocate individuals. We relocate families many times. And many times we’re talking about single parents with several children. And it is a tremendous challenge because my office has never been allocated any funding for this kind of service.”; the most recent federal appropriation has money for victim/witness assistance

701 releases – “The 701 release problem… which had pretty much come to an end before the storm. We had very few cases resulting in 701 releases.”; “The 701 release period is the 60 day time period after an arrest occurs during which the police and prosecutors have an opportunity to get the information into the D.A.’s office so that the prosecutor can make an informed decision about the merits of the charge. And, if insufficient information I available, then of course the case cannot be accepted. The problem since the storm has had to do with drug cases and the unavailability of our drug lab. And, that problem continues to exist but it is not as great a problem as it once was.”; Jan: 580 releases; Jun: 118; Jul: 150; 74% decrease from January; “The overwhelming majority of these 701 releases are still drug related, even with our acceptance of the field tests that’s been talked about. The field tests were never the issue. It’s always been a problem of the crime lab. But, the crime lab is more functional now. And so, the 701 release problem is going away. That’s a good thing.”

Economic crime – D.A. has received 2,000 complaints of contractor fraud; 88 active investigations; 20 outstanding arrest warrants; 45 cases pending trial; $222,000 obtained by D.A. office in restitution

Trial Division – at least 2 prosecutors assigned to every section (12 sections) of court; “It is our goal always to closely supervise our young prosecutors, many of which have less than two years experience as trial attorneys.”; salaries higher; 177 cases tried since Jan 07; 67% conviction rate for judge trials; 63% conviction rate for jury trials; 1490 convictions; 1384 convictions in pleas; 106 convictions in trials

Violent Defender Unit – “Violent crime is, I believe, the number one concern of the citizens of New Orleans. And, certainly, homicides are part of that. And, I have always believed that every life – every life – is valuable. Every life is important. And, it’s not that a person has a particular title or a particular status in the community.

I did not know Dinneral Shavers. I didn’t have the privilege of knowing him. But I know that he was, based on all accounts, he was a man of tremendous importance to this community.

But we have many people who have criminal histories. Maybe homicide victims who have criminal histories. We treat their cases with the same respect and professionalism that we treat Mr. Shavers’ case.

It’s important in every case that we have witnesses come forward. And, when we do have sufficient evidence, we will accept that case for prosecution and we will do everything in our power to make sure that that person is brought to justice and justice is served.”

Violent Defender Unit (con’t) – assign homicide cases to violent defender unit; 9 violent defender prosecutors; most experienced prosecutors; average experience is 10 years in violent defender unit; 92% conviction rate

Child Support Division – $27 million collected in child support in 2006

Public Corruption Unit – majority of cases resulted in successful prosecutions
Commentary to come later.

August 12, 2007

Chief Riley's Crime Update

At the Crime Prevention Roundtable II yesterday, Police Superintendent Warren Riley gave the small audience an NOPD update.

Here are the highlights of his highlights, with a few quotes. I took these from an audio recording I made, so you may cite the figures and quotes safely. I worked seven years at a TV news station, so I know a thing or two about accurate reporting. I also assume the Roundtable has been or will be broadcast on public access television, so you can check me.

The sound quality of my recordings is not broadcast quality. Otherwise, I would post the audio. But, if you really want to hear it, you can email me (email address is in the sidebar) and I will send it to you.

Police Superintendent Warren Riley’s Update at the Crime Prevention Roundtable II

In-car camera system – 70 cameras have been installed out of 109

Attrition rate – lost 500 police officers after the storm; were losing 18-19 police officers a month; two weeks ago, largest recruit class in NOPD history started; 160-170 officers are back on the streets; right now, losing about 11 officers a month; before Katrina, losing 10 officers a month; “We’re beginning to stabilize that situation.”

Check points – “have been highly effective”; placed in high crime areas and highly trafficked areas where drugs come in; “It’s been successful in us taking over 70 hardcore wanted subjects off the streets of New Orleans.”; “Our largest drug bust this year came from a traffic check point.”; 14 officers on check points

Statistics for 2007 – will be released next week comparing last six months of 2006 and 2007; “And one thing that we have made some progress in, but we still certainly have a long way to go, is that you will see that our murder rate has dropped by 8.75%.”

Training – officers have been trained in what the D.A. wants; D.A.s went through same training

10-point plan with D.A. – meet every two weeks with D.A. staff

Crime Lab – “Our crime lab is now up and running.”; at UNO; about 40% of equipment is in; have run some drug and ballistics tests

Evidence Room – two weeks ago signed a new lease on a property to store evidence

New interoperable radio system – “We should never ever have a problem handling an emergency with the radio system like we had during Katrina.”

Neighborhood Watch organizations – 155 total; 36 are new

NONPAC meetings – well attended by citizens

Focus on youth – over 500 kids in Cops for Kids summer program

Focus on domestic violence – Domestic Violence Unit went from 4 to 7 officers

Mental illness
– trained over 125 officers to deal with mental illness; NOPD handles 200 mental illness transports a month to hospitals

Schools – officers at certain schools at bus stops; officers will check places where truants hang out; working with RSD Superintendent Paul Vallas to open a truancy center; “Last year, truants were brought back to the schools. It is not a successful way to deal with truants because, basically, they go back to school and they leave out again as soon as we leave.”

Partnership with federal government – since February, 85 cases have been turned over to the U.S. attorneys office; “Of those 85, 75 have been indicted, 40 have been convicted.”

Reaching out to Hispanic community
– handing out pamphlets (I assume in Spanish, although Riley did not specify); identifying and using officers that speak Spanish; “Right now Los Angeles has a major gang war between the Hispanic community and the African-American community. A very violent situation. We’re trying to get ahead of that.”

Sex Crime Unit – located 912 out of 1350 that were registered pre-Katrina

New Crime Mapping Tool on website – info goes back to Jan 2005; some information is on it within 24 hours; every crime is reported within ten days

RAND study on officer retention – adopted recommendations; “The New Orleans Police Department is now the highest paid police department in the state. That has a lot to do with our highest recruit class ever that we started two weeks ago. That has a lot to do with our attrition rate dropping from 18 to 11 a month. And, within that 11 a month, 5 or 6 are retiring because they have 28, 29, 30 years on. But they are no longer just leaving for other departments.”

Working with juvenile court – Judge David Bell and the Juvenile Detention Alternative Initiative

$6.6 million from the State Appropriations Committee – will begin ordering equipment over the next couple of weeks
Commentary to come later.

Care Forgot Update

I added all the information I have on 2007 murders in the city on the New Orleans Wiki page for Care Forgot.

I need some victims' names, which I will get when I have time from the Times-Pic 2007 Murders blog or just from other T-P articles.

As of August 11, 2007, there were 119 murders in the city of New Orleans.

Inspiring Posts

In case you're wondering, my positive pledge was inspired after reading Cliff's Crib, starting with this post.

And, yes, the picture had something to do with it, though I don't watch much pro wrestling. Maybe I should.

Lives Gone, Lives Valued

Staying positive isn’t easy:
There were moments when the tears would stop just long enough for Mejia to see clearly what had happened to her life. Her arms rested across her round belly -- her first child, Mariana, is due this month. The body of her husband, Pablo Mejia Jr., lay in a casket an arm's length away from where she sat in the funeral parlor on Wednesday, the bullet wound in his forehead patched over in a way that the family's grief can never be.

A handmade rosary of yellow roses from an aunt, notes from friends and family, and a drawing from a 10-year-old godchild had been tucked into the coffin of a young man who had been actively pursuing the rebuilding of New Orleans. He was the third generation of a Hispanic family in New Orleans. The birth of his daughter would begin the fourth generation of family with roots in the city and a determination to stay and contribute to its rebirth.
Mejia was working on his house, with a friend, at 2 p.m. in the afternoon. Three gunmen robbed them, then shot Mejia, in his home, as he was rebuilding, in the daytime.

Further east in New Orleans East, a man and woman were shot yesterday morning:
Nguyen and Vu, who lived together at the Savoie Court address, owned three companies including a real estate firm, LA Properties of Slidell LLC, formed in May 2004. The company had purchased several properties in the Castle Manor neighborhood of eastern New Orleans.
Not only is violent crime killing our recovery as a metaphor, it is actually killing those who are staying to rebuild.

I am trying to stay positive. Staying positive doesn’t mean you have to say something positive about everything, or find something positive in everything. There is nothing positive in these stories.

The positive goal I would like to set for myself and the media: Treat every murder as the murder of a human being; treat every human being as equal; therefore, treat every murder as equal.

By the media account, Pablo Mejia was a good man. His family and friends know this. And, from what I read in the article, our community has gained from his presence, and will lose something in his absence.

But we lose something in every violent death. And we need to recognize this. Every murder in the city of New Orleans should be treated equally. Every murder should have an above-the-fold picture on the front page of the Living section of the Times-Picayune, with the story continued on a full page inside.

Part of the reason why we have as many murders as we have is we don’t value every human being’s life as equal in our city.

Let’s take Central City as an example.

Standing in the 2500 block of 3rd Street, in the middle of Central City, you are surrounded by violent death. Walk less than a mile (0.7 miles) in every direction from that point, and you encounter the scenes of 20 murders in 2007 (see the image below).

After a brief internet search, I found no two-page Living section articles about the people murdered inside that circle of violent death. Please, let me know if I am wrong.

If you think that they do not deserve a two-page Living section article revealing who they were beyond simply how they died, then how about at least a one-page article? How about a blurb other than “An unidentified man was shot to death…” or “The Orleans Parish coroner's office has released the identity of a man who was shot to death…” or an article that may as well be titled “A bad man gone,” listing all the times the murdered was shot or arrested or both?

Indeed, the bad is part of the story just as the good is part of the story. But the “bad guys” weren’t always bad. You are not born bad. You are taught bad.

We need to value every life as equal.

If we don’t, then we don’t value a child enough to make sure he or she is *not* living a home life that isn’t much better than a homeless life.

If we don’t, then we don’t value a child enough to make sure he or she does *not* go to a school where no learning occurs.

If we don’t, then we don’t value a child enough to make sure he or she receives preventative health care and enough (and nutritious enough) food to stay healthy.

If we don’t value every life as equal, then we don’t value a child enough to make sure he or she does not choose the street over the community and then dies a violent death.

That is how you teach bad, by not valuing every life as equal.

I have added a Goal for New Orleans in my sidebar that reads:
NOLA will have the lowest per capita murder rate in the United States for cities with populations between 250,000 and 300,000.
If we value every life as equal, we will achieve that goal.

If we had valued every life as equal, we would be there already.

As a goal for myself, I will become active in Care Forgot, an idea communicated to me by Ray and Alan Gutierrez. The idea is to remember every life lost to violent murder in New Orleans equally - a truly positive goal.

August 11, 2007

Breakfast. It’s the Most Important Meal.

I forgot to mention in the previous post this part of Mayor Nagin’s address to the Crime Prevention Roundtable:
We’ve had an incredible criminal justice dialogue, about every segment of the criminal justice system. Recently the District Attorney and I had a wonderful breakfast where we talked very frankly about our mutual frustrations and what we were going to do to solve some of those going forward. And we have both consistently followed up on those issues to make sure that everyone understands that we are moving forward.
Once again, my transcript.

I hope to have a wonderful breakfast tomorrow morning where I solve a few frustration-inducing problems and move forward. I am inspired. I am also out of coffee. Off to the store.

Mayor Nagin Has Taken the Positive Pledge, Too

As I make an effort to be positive, I want to surround myself with people also trying to stay positive. I attended the Crime Prevention Roundtable (pdf) at Gallier Hall today, and I am glad to see that Mayor Nagin also wants to stay positive:
The media keeps beating on everything that happens that’s wrong. If we have a sensational event as it relates to criminal activity, that’s all you here about over and over and over again. And it’s rare that we have any balance to this. So this is our opportunity for us to provide some balance.

Most intelligent people out in our community are looking for that balance. Some folk is just negative and that’s just the way they going to be. And there’s nothing we can do about that. But for the majority of our citizens, it’s incumbent upon us to give you the truth and to give you the facts so you can really understand what’s going on.

And to my friends who keep trying to portray the city in its worst light: Stop. Even when they talk about murders and violent crimes, they link it up to other parishes around this area to make it seem like New Orleans is totally out of control.

Why are you doing that? I don’t know. But it would be nice if you would stop.
That’s my transcript and my emphasis.

Nagin also provided an accountability moment that BSJD or any other blogger might want to fact check when he commented:
So many of the initiatives that we talked about many months ago, six, twelve months ago, we have put in place. If you go back and check the record, just about everything we told the public we would do, we’re either doing or have done. And it’s starting to make some impact in our city.
He was, of course, referring to crime initiatives, of which here are the highlights:
Increased pay for police.
A record breaking 71 recruits in the latest class.
New police cars.
“Crime cameras up in most areas of the city.”
In-car cameras.
“…latest and greatest in technology to the NOPD.”
$7 million from state to NOPD.
Crime walks.
Increased checkpoints.
Federal partnerships.
Focus on kids, like the Cops for Kids Program.
I am not sure where the crime cameras stand. I am also not sure if they are “up in most areas of the city.” That’s one for Dambala.

Mayor Nagin also took the positive route on population figures, which is nothing new:
We as a community have to unite. We are 300,000 strong in this recovery and the numbers are growing everyday.
The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center estimated the New Orleans population at 300,000 using mail delivery numbers. But Greg Rigamer set the population at 274,000. Nagin has said in the past that Rigamer’s number does not include migrant workers.

Nagin also shed some light on maybe why he’s only “somewhat” worried about the New Orleans brand when it comes to the murder rate:
I know one murder is way too many. We are going to continue to try to bring this city to a zero point. But, just to give you an indication of the trends, this past July – which July historically has been our most violent month as relates to crime – this past July, we recorded 14 murders. Four of those murders were carryovers from somebody being shot in a previous month. Compare that to one year earlier, and there were 23 murders.

So, as you can see, we are starting to see some trends. And we’re not happy with it. But we’re starting to see some trends that suggest things that we put in place are starting to have some impact.
July had the second lowest number of murders of any month this year. February saw 13 murders by my count, but had three less days than July. So, yes, that is positive.

One month earlier in June, however, there were 19 murders by my count, the most of any month. And we are averaging a murder every other day for 2007 even with the lower total in July.

The fact that the population is going up but more people are not being murdered is a good thing. That could mean that our violent crime prevention initiatives are working. Or it could mean that the new population isn’t moving to areas where they might be killed.

I heard a lot of good things at the Crime Prevention Roundtable. If I have time, I will post more transcripts and good things.

And heed the Mayor’s words. Stop the negativity!

August 10, 2007

Go Team Gray!

Positive news from Pistolette about a local team with a chance to show up the big boys in a national competition. What makes it better is some of the team members are Tulane Engineering and Computer Science graduates... some of the last Tulane Engineering and Computer Science graduates maybe?

And she asks:
They have been featured in several national science publications, and two months ago the Discovery Channel came to film them work for several days (that show will air in February). So where is the local press on this story!?!
The local media has not made the positive pledge that I have made. Maybe they should.

Of course, if Team Gray succeeds, the Dept. of Defense will have more and better ways to kill people:
The DARPA Urban Challenge features autonomous ground vehicles conducting simulated military supply missions in a mock urban area. Safe operation in traffic is essential to U.S. military plans to use autonomous ground vehicles to conduct important missions.
But the science is certainly cool, if not the application. I am one who feels like humans can both have this knowledge and use it wisely. Some day.

The Positive New Orleans Brand

Mayor Nagin defined the brand he thinks we can use to market New Orleans’ murder rate to the world:
Responding to a TV reporter's question about whether New Orleans' murder rate hurts the city's tourism economy, Mayor Ray Nagin on Thursday called the phenomenon a "two-edged sword."

"Do I worry about it? Somewhat. It's not good for us, but it also keeps the New Orleans brand out there, and it keeps people thinking about our needs and what we need to bring this community back. So it is kind of a two-edged sword. Sure it hurts, but we have to keep working everyday to make the city better," Nagin said, according to a transcript of provided by FOX8.
So the headlines from this marketing campaign would look like this:
New Orleans’ Murder Rate Highest Per Capita; Mayor Says “Help Us.”
Here’s the headline I would like to see:
New Orleans’ Murder Rate Lowest Per Capita; Mayor Says “We Did It.”
What marketing campaign gets us those headlines? Let’s hire the ad agency that can make that the New Orleans brand.

Let’s make that our goal: Lowest Per Capita Murder Rate. Not “Lower.” With that as our goal, every time our leaders must make a decision related to murders and the criminal justice system, they can ask themselves, “If we do this, will it help us achieve the Lowest Per Capita Murder Rate?”

If Mayor Nagin had asked himself that question before he answered the reporter, he may not have responded that he was “somewhat” worried about the murder rate.

What is New Orleans’ current murder rate? According to the Times-Picayune, there have been 117 murders this year as of Wednesday, August 8, 2007. August 8 is 220 days into the year. If the murder rate remains the same, we would end the year with 194 murders. With a population of 274,000 people as of July, that gives us a murder rate of 70 murders per 100,000 residents.

According to 2006 FBI statistics, Plano, TX, had the lowest murder rate per capita of cities with between 250,000 and 300,000 residents. Its murder rate was two. There were four murders in Plano in 2006. That’s our goal: a murder rate of two. That would be only five murders in the City of New Orleans for an entire year (at the July population numbers).

I hear the doubters already. Yeah, I know. I hear you.

“Plano is this; Plano is that.”

“New Orleans is this; New Orleans is that.”

“A hurricane hit us!”

No excuses. It is just harder for us, but not impossible.

This is all part of my new positive outlook. I am not sure how long it can last. But I’m keeping positive about it.

First Attempt to Stay Positive

I am going to Rising Tide 2.

My Attempt to Stay Positive

I blogged anonymously. Now I don't. This change coincides with my attempt to stay positive about where we are and where we are going in the NOLA area. If I am positive while being honest, then it's okay if everyone knows my name.

I am still the blogger you all know and love, except you might not know who I am and you might not love me. But, my anonymous self may have still been on your NOLA blogroll.

By the way, it took forever to copy and paste my NOLA blogroll from my old blog onto this one. There are a lot of us. Wow. If I missed you, let me know.

So, hi. My name is Mark. I post as m.d. I'll be sure to introduce myself to you at Rising Tide 2. Be there.