Tuesday, November 28, 2006

What's the Rush?

I'm not even getting Road Home money, but I just about blew my top when I read this. If this ain't a way for another company to get money that could be going to actual rebuilding, I'll go St. Louis Cathedral for Mass Sunday dressed as the Pope -- in a cocktail dress.

From www.wwltv.com:
"Those waiting for money from the Louisiana Road Home program will have to wait a bit longer to get the actual cash as the group disbursing the funds is requiring that they be made to a bank or mortgage company, which will then dole it out in three payments as work is done on your home or when you purchase a new one.

The requirement that the money go to a mortgage company or a bank first, even extends to those who have already paid off their mortgages.

Susan Elkins of the State Office of Community Development says that negotiations are underway with a mortgage company that will disburse funds to people who have completely paid off their home loans."

Are these people fucking allergic to actually HELPING anyone?!

Thursday, November 23, 2006


This is from the good folks at the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. It reminded me -- and informed me of -- many things that we can give thanks for.

"Thanksgiving is coming and, well... life in New Orleans 15 months after Katrina is... still pretty darned hard.

So what shall we be thankful for?

It didn't take us long to realize what we are thankful for here at the Data Center -- all the people who care about New Orleans. All the people who have moved back and all the people who have come to help us rebuild. Those who came to our aid, and those who continue to support us from afar with their expertise and generosity. And all the New Orleanians who have decided this is our chance to make things better in our beloved city and are working diligently to make it so.

Here at the Data Center we are particularly grateful for our local partners at the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals and the Louisiana Public Health Institute (LPHI) who have worked single-mindedly to create population and demographic estimates under almost impossible conditions. And we're grateful for VIALINK, Agenda for Children, the GNO Afterschool Partnership, and LPHI's Partnership for Access to Healthcare who have toiled to track changes in daycare centers, afterschool programs, hospitals, and clinics, so that we can all see where these essential services are still lacking.

And we're grateful to those at the Brookings Institution who have been monitoring monthly indicators of recovery through their Katrina Index -- from average wages to open bus routes. And to the Urban Institute and the Louisiana Association of Nonprofit Organizations for rounding up the research that experts have conducted here since the storm, to create an easy-to-use compilation of post-Katrina best practices and evidence in a single web site.

We are grateful to all of the Data Center's partners and contributors.* Their work is but one demonstration of the dedication that exists to the rebuilding of New Orleans... as well as an ability to work together locally that was unprecedented before the storm.

But the efforts of these researchers is almost insignificant compared to the total outpouring of support our city has received since the catastrophe. An extraordinary number of people and organizations from near and far have volunteered their time and efforts to the rebuilding of this great city. And when you look at the evidence, there's a whole lot there to be thankful for. Here are but a few examples:

  • 35,158 volunteers from the Corporation for National and Community Service (Senior Corps, AmeriCorps, and VISTA) have contributed an estimated 1,624,335 hours in the Gulf Coast area
  • 575,555 individuals volunteered in Gulf Coast recovery efforts including 220,000 from the Red Cross alone
  • Hands On Network volunteers in the Gulf region have contributed 413,960 hours gutting homes, restoring parks, and volunteering in schools
  • And more people volunteer every day as evidenced by the increase in average daily searches for volunteer opportunities on Volunteer.gov from 572 pre-Katrina to more than 3000 post-Katrina

Oh, and let's not forget the $3,574,031,029 donated by individuals, foundations and corporations for post-Katrina relief and recovery as of February 2006. (This is more money than was donated after 9/11!)

Yes, there's a lot to be thankful for in 2006 post-Katrina New Orleans.

And... there's you. Thank you for joining the struggle to understand this incomprehensible post-Katrina situation. Thank you for desiring to understand our new world, so that we all, working together, can figure out how to productively move forward... and make New Orleans even better than it was before." -GNOCDC

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Blessed Are Those...

I liked this so I just wanted to share...

Blessed are those who can give without remembering and take without forgetting.
– Elizabeth Asquith Bibesco

-by Wayne Muller

What inner resources do we have that would carry us through trials beyond belief and enable our generosity to shine through?

Having survived the inhumanity of the Holocaust and the death of her husband, Dr. Elkhanan Elkes, the revered elder of the Kovno Ghetto in Lithuania, Miriam Elkes told her son, years later, of two objects that sustained her: "One was a piece of bread, which she always hid about her person; the other a broken piece of comb. She kept the bread in case someone needed it more than she; and no matter what, morning and night, she would comb her hair to affirm her person." What Miriam Elkes carried, and how she used what she carried, is a profound example of how the spirit can turn ordinary objects into living symbols that can help us live. For what she carried – the bit of bread and her broken comb – and why she carried them, speaks to the wisdom of love itself, and makes me ask: What small thing do we each carry that we can give to others more in need than we, and what constant gesture do we each carry by which we can affirm our person?

To carry these questions alone is life-sustaining. For to carry the smallest crust of bread or truth that we can offer others always reminds us of two essential facts: that we do not live this life alone, and that

no matter the severity of our own circumstances, we have something to give to others. The fact of this does not invalidate our pain, but affirms our worth, that even in pain we can be of value.

We all live somewhere between nothing and everything, and to re-enact, along the way; the smallest gesture of valuing your life is to carry out God's work. Only by affirming our person can the human stalk of spirit break ground and grow into something free.

Often, the unexpected ability to give, when there seems nothing left to draw from, is the sacred things that rescues us all.

~ Wayne Muller

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Define: "Last Resort"

University Hospital's administration had this idiotic comment to make regarding not re-opening the inpatient psych units, which they had at Charity pre-K:

"Beds for psychiatric patients would only be opened as a last resort, if the state's Office of Mental Health can find no other location." [-Chief Executive Dwayne Thomas, T-P 11/17/06]

The LSU/Charity system alone had 100+ adult inpatient beds. The city now has about 24 psych beds total for adults, adolescents, AND children -- 15 months after Katrina. Either Mr. Thomas and I have different definitions of "last resort," or he could use one of those beds himself while he recovers from delirium.

Second, why are they trying to push a population they cared for pre-K off on other people?

And I don't even have time to tackle their decision to also not re-open the Pediatrics department.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Interesting Little Game...if You're a Geek Like Me

I got this from the VatulBlog. Strange that this is the excerpt I found, given the past several days down here. No, I ain't startin' no mess; it really was the closest book to me.


1. Grab the nearest book.
2. Open the book to page 123.
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the text of the next 4 sentences on your blog along with these instructions.
5. Don’t you dare dig for that “cool” or “intellectual” book in your closet! I know you were thinking about it! Just pick up whatever is closest.


"For all we know, racism may be eternal; it certainly seems so. But post-movement, white people's hearts are their own, and black people's lives their own to live. What good does it do blacks to leave race behind if they are still hated for the color of their skin? What they have to leave behind, though under guard, is racist whites."

The End of Blackness: Returning the Souls of Black Folk to Their Rightful Owners, by Debra J. Dickerson

Thursday, November 02, 2006

We Are Our Own Worst Enemy

This is one of those days I feel discouraged and concerned, maybe a bit frightened about New Orleans. What bothers me most is that it's not because of an ineffective leader who can be easily replaced. It's the heart and soul of south Louisiana, the very neighbors I've never had a problem with.

Tonight I attended a Terrytown Civic Association meeting where our councilman Chris Roberts discussed an ordinance approved by the Jefferson Parish council to discourage the state from giving tax breaks to landlords renting to Section 8 individuals. Before he spoke, two folks from the Volunteers of America discussed early planning to build two 4-story buildings with 200 units total to house elderly and disabled people.

In a packed room of at least 100 people, I was the ONLY person voicing opposition to the effort to keep Section 8 people out of Gretna and Terrytown. Before I could finish my brief statements about the policy (that our efforts need to be geared more toward landlords and HUD enforcement of problems; most people with Sec. 8 vouchers are good, law abiding people; the success of mixed-income housing in other places when done right, etc.) I was shouted down by a crowd of people who were clearly fearful about something, based mostly on incorrect assumptions about "THEY" who live in subsidized housing and what some of the bigger root causes of poverty, crime, and blighted housing are. My goal is not to have things my way, but it seemed reasonable to question how is this divisive ordinance even going to resolve a problem.

It didn't bother me that they didn't agree with me. That's fine. What bothered me most is: 1) the complete lack of willingness to even hear alternate views or about initiatives that have been successful elsewhere; 2) a complete lack of civic responsibility for anyone who does not own a home in our neighborhood; and 3) the entrenched resistance to change and not an unwillingness to confront the core causes of blighted housing and crime -- but AN INABILITY to do so.

The Wet Bank Guide wrote a post a few weeks ago in which he rightfully asked for an apology for the Baton Rouge Advocate's portrayal of New Orleanians and our "dysfunctional civic culture."

I don't remember what the Advocate's story said but after tonight, I have to, in all honesty agree, that our dysfunctional culture is probably our number 1 obstacle to accomplishing much of anything, let alone the biggest rebuilding effort ever. Our collective dysfunctional attitude toward anything that is even the slightest bit unfamiliar or new is quite frankly pathological. I just moved back 3 months ago after being gone for 12 years, and tonight I was reminded of how we are most accountable, not for Katrina, but for the inability to be progressive or at least thoughtful about such civic issues. Those same weaknesses we had pre-K are playing a big part in recovery post-K. Quite frankly, if I were a Congressman watching that meeting, I'd go back to Washington not giving two shits about giving any sort of money for recovery or oil revenues to "those people down there in Louisiana."

I heard people talk about how devestating the storm was for them, and how the healthcare system is barely functional, and how hard life is -- but in the same breath ask "where are 'these' people going to be coming from" as if they didn't know there are still about 500,000 people in the region who can't come home yet. When I said many of us ourselves will need supportive housing as elderly persons, a woman said "not us, we wouldn't qualify," as if the lesson of Katrina that no one is guaranteed anything was completely lost on her and those agreeing with her.

This irrational fear and xenophobia that does and at the same time doesn't stem from race issues is alarming to me. The obvious racial element to this issue would be a different post by itself, because it is there whether or not people recognize it. Frankly, I expect the race thing to always be here to deal with as long as I'm alive and it would have been much easier to deal with that, but the general paranoia, misinformation, assumptions, xenophobia, and plain old stubborness of my very neighbors in a neighborhood I love and still do is a bigger beast for me to fight.

I'm discouraged; I'm concerned; but now I'm even more resolved to the fact that it will take a new guard to really make things in this city happen. The old guard didn't help us much before K, so they sure can't help us now because they are as irrational as their constituents. I think that if this region is going to make a comeback, and comeback stronger, it can only be done with radical change that will quite frankly alienate alot of people -- at least until those changes lead to improved quality of life for them.