January 27, 2008

A Recovery that Doesn't Work

posted by m.d.

If there are no workers:
Thousands of blue-collar workers like Washington who never lived in publicly subsidized housing increasingly have no place to live in New Orleans. The planned demolition of 4,500 publicly subsidized apartments is less significant to the future, policy experts say, than Katrina's destruction of nearly 41,000 inexpensive rentals that once housed the city's self-sufficient working class.

With no concrete plan to replace those apartments, some say the city's economic base erodes with every blue-collar worker pushed out by higher living costs.


Amid predictions affordable housing could be indefinitely out of reach for blue collar workers, state and federal agencies offered landlords a subsidy to accept lower-income tenants. The effort is falling short because landlords can get high rent in the post-Katrina free market without dealing with bureaucratic red tape. To date, there are only 550 of these subsidized apartments.

Long term, the Bush administration has offered tax breaks to developers to build mixed-income housing. Two and a half years after the storm, little such construction is evident.
No apartments, but plenty of homes:
More than 8,800 houses are for sale in the New Orleans area – almost as many as were sold in the last 12 months, according to one of the city's leading real estate brokerage firms. High insurance costs and the crash in the mortgage market nationwide have slowed sales.

Thousands more damaged houses are being bought by the state of Louisiana through its Road Home program. It pays homeowners for their losses in the 2005 hurricanes. These houses will be turned over to local governments for redevelopment or resale.

Meanwhile, 27,500 families, mostly from New Orleans, are still living in tiny, tinny government-issued travel trailers across the state.
If you have been waiting for rebuilding help that never came and now you want to sell, that's tough too:
A new study of home prices around the New Orleans area shows that buyers rewarded sellers who gambled and rebuilt in devastated areas like Lakeview, eastern New Orleans and Chalmette. Renovated homes in those areas recovered much of their pre-storm value last year, while prices continued to tumble on homes that were gutted but otherwise left untouched.

Wade Ragas, the retired University of New Orleans professor who prepared the study, said buyers have gotten wise to the amount of money and drudgery it takes to bring a damaged house back from the dead. Heartsick from being displaced for two years, distrustful of contractors and insurance companies, buyers are shopping for houses that have already been repaired for them.
Tipping point? What tipping point?
[Federal coordinator for Gulf Coast rebuilding Donald] Powell disagreed with Mayor Ray Nagin’s assertion that 2008 will be a tipping point in New Orleans’ recovery from the levee breaches that put most of the city under water and left behind massive destruction.

The recovery seems to have entered a new phase, with Nagin and other local officials who had decried the pace of federal aid saying money is starting to flow more freely and that the responsibility now falls on them to put it to smart use.
I've heard that something's "getting ready to explode."


A Connection?

posted by m.d.

Anthony Amato resigns as the Kansas City School District Superintendent in a similar way that he left New Orleans.

The last I heard, Sandra "18-Wheeler" Hester was living in Glasgow, a small city about two hours away from Kansas City.

Could it be... Sandra?

January 25, 2008

What a Wonderful Thing to Say

posted by m.d.

Rev. Jack Battiste of the New Testament Baptist Church in the 9th Ward on why his church will make a comeback:
"The love of the city exceeds the hardship."
I just liked that. I liked it because I read it two ways. First, that the reverend's love of the city he lives in is greater than the hardships he faces. Then I looked at it again and read it as the city's love - the love the city feels for her residents - is greater than the hardships we face.

The city's love exceeds the hardships. I think that is important. The residents already love New Orleans. That's why they are here.

New Orleans must love her residents back.

The article is written by a journalist from Northern Michigan. She also maintains a blog on her newspaper's website. In it, she writes of her experience in the Lower 9th and St. Bernard Parish:
It’s hard to believe it’s been more than two years since Katrina, judging from the state of neighborhoods like these. And seeing the devastation firsthand makes it seem all the more real.
Journalists keeping having that same reaction when they come down for the first time.

I must keep reminding myself that this year is the "tipping point."

January 20, 2008

Sunday Morning Peter Tosh

posted by m.d.

When stuff like this happens, I think of this song.

January 18, 2008

Last Murder Victim of 2007

posted by m.d.

I hope.
Nearly five months after robbers opened fire on seven people in an eastern New Orleans home, fatally wounding three, a fourth victim has died, the Orleans Parish coroner's office said.

Kiengkay Chomsy, 42, of eastern New Orleans, died Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. at Canon Hospice, a day after he was transferred from University Hospital, chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano said. Chomsy died of complications from gunshot wounds to his head.
Another name on my list, which is now 207 murders in the city of New Orleans in 2007. I count murders that I can find reported on in the media. The NOPD’s official number was 209. I do not know if they will count this death as a 2007 or 2008 murder.

As for this year, we have 11 murders in the first 18 days. Once again, about a murder every other day. That rate has been fairly consistent, even with more people moving into the city. If the population growth is slowing down, that might be the rate per day we are stuck with.

Cliff’s Crib directed me to the field negro’s blog (that is the title of the blog – I feel like I need to point that out). On it, the field negro (once again, that’s the blogger’s name) is tracking media reports of murders in Philadelphia which he calls the “Killadelphia Murder Count.” When I visited yesterday, there were 11 homicides in “Killadelphia,” three of which were vehicular homicides.

Philadelphia has around 1.4 million people in it. I prefer the New Orleans estimate that's around 300,000 people.

I don’t expect the total of Philadelphia murders (not including vehicular homicides) to stay lower than New Orleans for long. Last year, the city had 392 murders.

But my first reaction was: “Wow. We have more murders than a place called Killadelphia. What does that make us?”

At a ceremony to reopen NOPD headquarters yesterday, Superintendent Warren Riley:
"We will reduce our violent crime by year's end," Riley said.
I wonder if he means total numbers or per capita. It makes a difference.

January 13, 2008

Sunday Morning Bob Marley

posted by m.d.

I just can't believe the loveliness of loving you.

January 10, 2008

The Mayor Is Wearing No Costume

posted by m.d.

At the end of an article entitled "National Guard patrols slated for Endymion parade":
Chatting with reporters in a hallway, Nagin said he hasn't decided what his Fat Tuesday costume will be.

"Last year, people were asking 'Where is the mayor?' so I came as myself, " he said.
Is there a "C. Ray? Here I am!" t-shirt in the works?

Ensuring FEMA Reimbursements

posted by m.d.

The City of New Orleans hired MWH, formerly known as Montgomery Watson Harza, to guide city rebuilding:
MWH's role will include monitoring the work; ensuring uniformity in documentation provided to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for reimbursement; and making the process more transparent, company chief executive Bob Uhler said.
I assume MWH will be trying to avoid situations like this:
The deal with Montgomery Watson Harza, however, has sparked questions from FEMA officials, who say it violates federal rules by tying profits to costs. The agreement also has raised eyebrows at the FBI, which issued subpoenas last year for documents related to a subcontractor linked to longtime water board member Benjamin Edwards.

The alleged problem with the contract's structure, which critics say provides no incentive to keep costs low, has spawned another reimbursement feud, which S&WB officials say has retarded further the progress of sewer system repairs.
According to a Nov. 3 letter by Public Works Director Robert Mendoza, state officials are using the findings of the fiscal review as a reason to hold back $9.6 million that they already have received from the feds for the Montgomery Watson contract. The state department serves as the pass-through agency for disaster appropriations to local entities.
(All above emphasis mine.)

h/t jeffrey and his commenters

January 8, 2008

Black and White

posted by m.d.

New Orleans public school enrollment numbers as of Oct 2007:
Recovery School District (RSD) – 11,608 students
97.49% black
0.56% white

RSD Charter Schools
UNO - New Beginnings Schools Foundation – 886 students
98.42% black
0.23% white

New Orleans College Preparatory Academies – 120 students
99.17% black
0.00% white

Esperanza Charter School Association ¬– 322 students
50.00% Hispanic
48.45% black
1.55% white

NOLA 180 – 119 students
99.16% black
0.00% white

Broadmoor Charter School Board – 341 students
97.95% black
0.88% white

Pelican Education Foundation – 445 students
95.51% black
0.67% white

Dryades YMCA – 701 students
99.43% black
0.00% white

Friends of King – 554 students
100.00% black
0.00% white

New Orleans Charter School Foundation – 595 students
97.48% black
1.01% white

Choice Foundation – 613 students
98.21% black
1.79% white

Treme Charter Schools Association – 473 students
100.00% black
0.00% white

Algiers Charter Schools Association (ACSA) – 3,472 students
96.37% black
0.52% white

SUNO Institute for Academic Excellence – 320 students
96.88% black
1.25% white

Knowledge Is Power Program (KIPP) N.O. – 712 students
95.79% black
3.37% white

Middle School Advocates, Inc. – 367 students
98.64% black
0.82% white

RSD & RSD Charter Total – 21,648 students
96.76% black
0.67% white

Type 2 Charter Schools
International School of Louisiana – 452 students
46.46% black
27.43% white
24.34% Hispanic

Milestone/SABIS – 330 students
97.58% black
0.00% white

Orleans Parish & OPSB Charter Schools – 9,719 students
75.89% black
15.40% white
6.03% Asian
2.57% Hispanic

All New Orleans Public Schools – 32,149 students
28,855 black students (89.75%)
1,765 white students (5.49%)

January 6, 2008

It’s Hard Not To Be Morose

posted by m.d.

Six days, five murders in New Orleans. All shot.

Also, two non-fatal shootings. One is not life threatening. One victim was in critical condition.

A year later, and we are still on our bloodied knees.

Once again, the murder rate is not a blip.

In decidedly less morose news, I can start eating king cakes again. As of last year, and with the demise of McKenzie’s, my favorite king cakes come from Hi-Do Bakery on Terry Parkway in beautiful downtown Terrytown.

And, yes, this post contained murders and king cakes in it.

Sunday Morning Bob Marley

posted by m.d.

Said I'm a living man.
I've got work to do.

January 5, 2008

I Don't Care Much For Politicians

posted by m.d.

But it worries me when they leave office to become Washington lobbyists, as Representative Richard Baker is considering:
In an interview, Baker said he will enter into talks with the Managed Funds Association, the Washington trade group representing the $1.8 trillion hedge fund industry. He said he could decide within "a week or ten days" whether he will take a job as president and chief administrative officer.


If he takes the job, Baker said he could step down by early February. His departure would be the latest in a sudden exodus from Capitol Hill of Louisiana lawmakers.
From MFA’s website, emphasis mine:
MFA meets regularly with policy makers and their staff. To date MFA has met with more than 140 Members of Congress and staff.

MFA testifies at hearings on Capitol Hill on a variety of issues, including systemic risk, pensions, and taxation:

March 13, 2007—MFA Director and Clinton Group Founder and CEO George Hall, MFA Member and Taconic Capital Advisors Co-Founder and Principal Kenneth D. Brody, and MFA Member and Kynikos Associates Founder and President James S. Chanos testified before the House Financial Services Committee for a hearing entitled “Hedge Funds and Systemic Risk in the Financial Markets.”
From Baker’s bio page, emphasis mine:
Baker also serves as a longstanding member of the House Financial Services Committee, where he is widely viewed as an expert on capital markets, insurance, and housing finance.
I know Baker filed some papers under the new Honest Leadership and Open Government Act of 2007. But, what about the one year cooling-off part?
MEMBERS AND OFFICERS OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES- (i) Any person who is a Member of the House of Representatives or an elected officer of the House of Representatives and who, within 1 year after that person leaves office, knowingly makes, with the intent to influence, any communication to or appearance before any of the persons described in clause (ii) or (iii), on behalf of any other person (except the United States) in connection with any matter on which such former Member of Congress or elected officer seeks action by a Member, officer, or employee of either House of Congress, in his or her official capacity, shall be punished as provided in section 216 of this title.

`(ii) The persons referred to in clause (i) with respect to appearances or communications by a former Member of the House of Representatives are any Member, officer, or employee of either House of Congress and any employee of any other legislative office of the Congress.
If he takes the job, whom would Baker lobby if not a “Member, officer, or employee of either House of Congress and any employee of any other legislative office of the Congress?”

Although former lawmakers cannot lobby members of Congress or their staff, they can lobby executive branch officials and direct a firm's congressional lobbying efforts.

"It's a completely ineffectual restriction on the revolving door," said Craig Holman of the left-leaning watchdog group Public Citizen, which found that 18 members of Congress who left office in 2004 had lobbying jobs by July 2005.
That commentary was given before the final passage, though I believe it applies.

Baker is also Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment, which holds jurisdiction over the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers wetlands projects.

Yey, hedge funds.

The Skeletons of New Orleans

posted by m.d.

Parts of New Orleans were abandoned before the storm:
The Orleans Parish coroner's office is seeking the identity of a person whose skeletal remains were found by workers in the unoccupied C.J. Peete public housing complex Friday morning.


The body was in an area where people apparently had taken up residence though the complex had been closed since before Katrina and was fenced in. There were blankets, food, a place where fires probably had been made, and an ice chest.
Related – two homeless people freeze to death.

A commenter on nola.com regarding the homeless deaths:
The freeze did not kill these people. Their decision to not accept shelter killed them.

Now the TP writer is putting freeze in the same class as guns and SUVs. They all need human participation to become lethal.
Freezing temperatures do not kill people. Human participation in freezing temperatures kills people.

The world keeps giving me more to think about.

January 4, 2008

Four Days into 2008, Two Murders

posted by m.d.

First murdered person this year, shot and then burned. He had “RIP” tattooed on his arm.

The second, shot near his home in Algiers.

The violence continues at the same rate as last year – a murder every other day.

New Orleans Post-Katrina Murder Rate

The higher murder rate post-Katrina is not a blip, nor is it made up of a series of blips. It has been consistent.

Looking at NOPD numbers for 2006 and my count for 2007, we can see this in the quarterly results:
2006 Jan – Jun: 17 murders
2006 Apr – Jun: 38
2006 Jul – Sep: 53
2006 Oct – Dec: 53*

2007 Jan – Mar: 48
2007 Apr – Jun: 50
2007 Jul – Sep: 53
2007 Oct – Dec: 55
The population of New Orleans was still recovering through the first half of 2006, so the number of murders were thankfully lower. In July, the U.S. Census had the city’s population at 223,000.

To calculate the murder rate, you take murders per 365 days. Then, divide the population by 100,000 (murders per 100,000 residents). Now, divide the murders-per-365-days by the population-divided-by-100,000.

There have been 367 murders in 730 days (2 years), which is equal to 183 murders in 365 days.

Using today’s estimated population of 300,000 – which is high for 2006 through the first months of 2007 – I get a murder rate of 61 murders per 100,000 residents in the City of New Orleans in the first two years after Katrina. Using higher population numbers makes the murder count lower. But there is nothing low about a murder rate of 61.

And from July 2006 to the end of 2007, the quarterly (3 months) number of murders stays consistently around the average of 51, even with more people moving into New Orleans. What that suggests to me is that the people moving here are not killing anyone.

I want to say it could mean law enforcement tactics are starting to work because the numbers of murders are not going up with the growing population. But the murder rate is too high to say that anything in the criminal justice system is “working.”

It does support law enforcers’ claim that a small group of the usual suspects are causing all the violent crime problems, as was made in August 2007:
There have been more than ten shootings in the last five days, five of them fatal – and NOPD Sergeant Joe Narcisse said past trends reveal the same suspects.

"We have a small group of individuals that are committing most of the crimes, they are responsible for a large portion of the actual crimes that happen here in our city."
If that is true, then we need to put most of our resources into the area where this small group of individuals operates – and I don’t mean more police.

I’m talking more recovery resources. I’m talking CDBG money. I’m talking new schools, new community centers, new housing, new roads, new businesses.

That's it.


*I count one more than the NOPD because they count the last murder in 2006 as a 2007 murder. And for 2007, the NOPD count is three higher (209) than mine (206). I have not found a media report for the three I don’t count. Possibly, the murder I count in 2006 is one of the three 2007 murders I don't have.

January 2, 2008

Who Was Murdered in 2007

posted by m.d.

They were mostly men.

Of the 206 New Orleans murders in 2007 that I could find reported on in the media, 188 were men, 16 were women. I could not identify two people’s gender. At least 91% of the people killed were men.

They were mostly under 30.

The average age of a person murdered was 28.

22.8% (47) were under 21 years old.
23.7% (49) were 21 – 25.
17.9% (37) were 26 – 30.

That makes 64.5% (133) of those murdered 30 years old or younger.

They were mostly shot.

194 were shot. 94% were killed by a bullet.


I don’t know. The media generally does not print the race of the murder victims. NOPD press releases gave the race at the beginning of the year, but quickly stopped. Of the few they printed, they were mostly black. Based on personal experience as a news photographer, my guess is that "mostly black" is accurate all the murders. But, I can not back that up with facts.

When I started as a freshman at Jesuit High School, I was 13 years old (I have a late birthday). I was 17 when I graduated. A lot of my friends were 18. So, high school age is from 13 to 18.

25 murder victims were 15 to 18 years old – high school age. That’s a classroom full of teenagers who died instead of graduating high school. 24 were young men.

Did they ever have a chance? I wonder if they sensed that they had lived half their lives or more when they turned nine. I am in my thirties and I expect to live another thirty.

Then again, to quote a recent commenter on a previous post: “Damn life really aint promised.”

January 1, 2008

The Parish Line

posted by m.d.

The NOPD says 209 people were murdered in New Orleans in 2007. I found 206 media reports of murders in 2007. For the rest of this post, I will use my numbers because I know where they came from.

In Jefferson Parish, the Sheriff’s Office reports 30 murders through September. In this December 28 T-P article, JPSO says there were 44 murders in unincorporated Jefferson Parish in 2007. I found 13 murders in October, November, and December on the JP Crime Tracker map. Add the Dec 28 murder, and that adds up to 44 in 2007.

Kenner PD says there were 9 murders or non-negligent manslaughters through October there. I can find 8 media reports or KPD press releases for murders in the same period. Since I am not sure if there was one non-negligent manslaughter, I will only count 8. I found one more media report of a murder in Kenner in November, which makes 9 total in 2007.

I know of two in Gretna. I believe there were none in the other JP cities.

That makes at least 55 murders in Jefferson Parish.

206 in New Orleans. 55 in Jefferson Parish. That’s a big difference.

Here’s a bigger difference. New Orleans has an estimated population of around 300,000. Jefferson Parish has about 445,000 people in it (98% of pre-Katrina).

206 murders with 300,000 people equals a murder rate of 68 murders per 100,000 people.

55 murders with 445,000 people equals a murder rate of 12 murders per 100,000 people.

That's a big difference.

The combined rate is better – 261 murders with 745,000 people equals a murder rate of 35 murders per 100,000 people. But, it masks the problems in the New Orleans if you combine them. Geographically, only a parish line divides New Orleans and Jefferson Parish. There should not be this big a difference.

Official numbers will come out later this year. There might be more murders in Jefferson Parish than I am counting, but not enough to catch up to New Orleans.

Graphing the murders in JP and NOLA by month using my numbers, the second half of the year stands out. When murders went down in New Orleans, they went up in JP, and vice versa.
I’ll have to think about what that means.

Goodbye, 2007

posted by m.d.

In 2007, there were at least 206 murders in New Orleans. That’s a murder every 1.7 days – basically, a murder every other day. In a city of 300,000 people, that is a murder rate of 68 murders per 100,000 residents.

On at least 147 days in 2007, a person – or more than one person – died a violent death on the streets of New Orleans.

We here about most of their deaths, but we don’t hear many of their names. Here are their names, or at least as many as I could find:
Corey Hayes
Cedric Johnson
Hilary Campbell Jr.
Randall Thomas
Kevin Williams
Helen Hill
Jealina Brown
Steve Blair
Jeffery Santos
Chivas Doyle
Christopher Ruth
Tyrone Andrew Johnson
Ronald Holmes
James McGittigan Jr.
Roy Warner Jr.
Eldon Gaddis
David Crater
Daniel Allen
Chrishondolaye Lamothe
Tamara Gabriel
Robert Dawson
Michael Dunbar
Damon Brooks
Ivan Brooks
Alden Wright
Harrison Miller
Roy Grant
David Cagnalatti
Lionel Ware III
Aaron Allen
Josh Rodrigue
Herbert Preston
Byron Love
Ronnie Keelen
Mitchell Pierce
Kevin Pham
Kevana Price
Warren Thompson
Glynn Francois Jr.
Sean Robinson
Larry Ramee III
Warren Simpson
Antoine Williams
Terry Despenza
Eldridge Ellis
Travis Johnson
Phillip R. Boykins
Charley Zeno
Carl Anthony McLendon
Terry Brock
Cleveland Daniels
Alexander Williams
Terry Hall
Dominic Bell
Gregory Singleton
Damont Jenkins
Troy Thomas
Artherine Williams
Keith Moore
Nicholas Smith
Eligio Bismark Espinoza
Daniel L. Prieto
Curtis Helms Jr.
Troy Dent
Curtis Brenson
Michael Combs
Jay Landers
Mark Oneal
Corey Coleman
Emanuel Gardner
Edward Charles Balser
Arthur Dowell
Montrell Faulkin
Anthony Placide
Ernest Williams
Harry Heinzt Jr.
Robert Billiot
Willie Simmons
Tammie Johnson
Larry Hawkins
Terrell Ceazer
George Hammond
Persale R. Green
Joseph Magee
Albert Phillips
Samuel Gonzales
Darryl Williams
Robin Malta
Jason Wynne
Jerrell Jackson
Christopher Roberts
Samuel Williams Jr.
Jeremy Tillman
Jennifer Williams
Gary Walls
Arthur Jackson IV
Henry Newman
Johnny Martin III
Travan Coates
Jeffery Tate
Jerome Banks
Eric Fobbs
Keith Page
Adrian Davis
Paul Burks
Leon Williams Jr.
Dallas Jerome
James Johnson
Anthony White
Dellshea LeBlanc
John W. Barrow III
Kevin Underwood
Pablo Mejia Jr.
unidentified man
Thomas Jackson
unidentified man
Demond Phillips
Michael Phillips
Luong Nguyen
Anjelique Vu
Terry Johnson
Chauncy Smith
Cornelius Curry
Nia Robertson
Kadeem Wise
Percy Read
Freddie Davis II
Edwin Stuart
Corwin Shaffer
Julio Benitez-Cruz
Wilford Holmes
Perry L. Oliver
Donald Gullage
Kong Kham Vongvilay
Wisan Inthamat
Boon Roopmoh
Louis Heim
Brandon Snowton
Carnell Wallis
Thomas Dominick
Larry Gooden
Gerald Howard
Larry Butler Jr.
Phillip A. Carmouche Jr.
unidentified man
Aaron Harvey
Mario Anthony Green
Jason Snyder
Perry Watts
Lionel J. Hills
Warren Martin
Dwayne Landry
Don Smith
Demetrius Gooden
Townsend Bennett
unidentified man
Thelonius Dukes
Gregory Hayes
Charles Miller
Eddie Bernard
unidentified man
Carmen Leona Reese
Cedrick Brooks
Waldon Howard
unidentified man
Antwon McGee
Jason Anderson
Archie Solet
Shana Thomas
Brian Lee
David Bryan Alford Jr.
Brett Jason Jacobs
Howard Pickens
Darryl Daggons
Matthew Qualls
Aubrey Powell
John Batiste
Toran Landry
Anthony Walker
Lester Denis
Cardero Davis
Javier Sanchez
Julian Mathins
Theodore J. Leach
Daniel Baham
Jubbar Scott
Tyrone Lanaux Jr.
Andre Toussaint
Eddie Spiller
Carlos Miller
Sheldon Dean
Rigoberto Dominguez
Angela Thomas Bryant
Brandon Brown
Jermaine Turner
Alejandro Pecina Ruiz
George Hankton III
Aaron Williams
Frank Whittington
unidentified person
Jesse Jones
Chanell Sanchell
James Jones
Wendell Millro
Elizabeth Chapman
Clayton Johnson Jr.
I write “at least” for my numbers because I am only counting murders I can find reported on in the media. I believe the NOPD official number is higher than mine at 209.