Sunday, March 28, 2010

Reasons for Hope in NOLA: Money to be Spent, Things That Have Been Done

I went to a public event Friday that featured Greg Rigamer (a demographer), Patrick Quinlan (Ochsner CEO), and Paul Pastorek (state superintendent of education). Here are some reasons for hope that I gathered from their respective presentations on recovery in New Orleans, healthcare in New Orleans, and education in New Orleans:

  • According to Rigamer, only about a third of the money allocated for housing and infrastructure recovery has been spent. The good news: although Nagin has been no good, his tragic inefficiency in spending recovery money means that perhaps a more competent and focused Mitch administration will have some money to spend.
  • Rigamer also reported that the Army Corps has committed $15 billion to levee building, which is significant when one considers that the Army Corps only spends $2 billion nationally on levees each year.
  • Quinlan's presentation wasn't so much about healthcare in New Orleans broadly. It was more about "Ochsner is really great." Hey, that's what he's paid to say, I guess. However, on the upside, he made a great case for the excellent medical outcomes that Ochsner achieves overall. Using statistics, he made a great case for the fact that the hospitals actually do get good healthcare results in metro New Orleans relative to the rest of the country, even if we are starting with a relatively unhealthy population due to poverty, obesity, and so on.
  • Pastorek made a forceful case for the progress on educational reform in New Orleans since Katrina. Now, I know this process has been controversial in the NOLA blogging world. And I know that kids with extra needs haven't been well served by the reform process (I've experienced that in my family.) However, kids with extra needs weren't well served by the old system either. AND--and this is the thing I like about Pastorek--he holds EVERYBODY to the same standard. This is the guy who went to St. Tammany Parish and ripped public school leaders there for patting themselves on the back for their "great" results when they are educating kids from relatively wealthy families with relatively more involved parents. I like Pastorek because I think he wants to bring accountability to the system so that there is true competition between public and private schools. That's the best future for all of us--not the current system wherein many well-off families have withdrawn from the public school system and placed their children in private schools with great reputations, even thought there is no way to find out if those reputations are well-deserved.
  • Pastorek added that Louisiana is now on the cutting edge of school reform in the country and that Tennessee has used the recovery school district model as a standard for their recent reform efforts. That's something to be proud of for us. RSD: Perfect? Of course not, but light years ahead of what was here before. If we stay with this, in 10 years New Orleans will be setting a world-class standard, perhaps.

I walked out of this presentation with a good feeling about what we're up to here.

Now if we could just get us some wetlands . . .

Friday, March 26, 2010

Troubling Fallout for Saints from Their "Final Solution" for 1,200 Fans

We've already discussed a solution for how the New Orleans Saints can have a new press box, new suites, AND Chef Who Dat and his 1,200 friends in the house. I am in the process of presenting that plan to top Saints brass.

In the mean time, the Saints should pay attention to troubling signs for their marketing and merchandising efforts. Here's a picture I snapped this morning at my local Winn Dixie. Hostile fan reaction to the displacement and disenfranchisement of 1,200 roofbangers has resulted in radically decreased demand for Saints gear, resulting in this:

Friday, March 19, 2010

The Death of Cafe 641 and the Fate of 1,500 Season Ticket Holders

In New Orleans, especially the new and resurrected New Orleans, we understand the necessity for change, even change that involves sacrifice--maybe especially change that involves sacrifice.

We need to remind the executives of the New Orleans Saints about just how creative New Orleanians are.

Right now, according to this (and confirmed by my conversation with Chef Who Dat), 1,500 season ticket holders (including Chef and his merry band in Cafe 641) are homeless this season and perhaps forever. In order to build a new press box (which everyone supports), the Saints are telling 1,500 people in the top of the Terrace that they have no seats for next year.

This cannot stand.

The old New Orleans would be complaining and whining right now, looking for conspiracies, and so on.

The new New Orleans assumes we are all in this together--including the executives of the Saints--and searches for creative solutions that bring renewed life to our community.

So here's my solution:

For the next season or two, while the Dome reconfiguration goes on, put those 1,200 people on the floor of the Dome, in temporary bleachers. Their view won't be great, but I have no doubt they will love it. Do you know how great it will be to look down from the Terrace and see former roofbangers whooping it up on the field for a season or two? Those roofbangers will surely miss their usual perch, but I think they would be willing to sit in bleachers for a couple of years in the name of progress.

Those displaced neighborhoods would become something special for the rest of the Dome and the whole region--a symbol of what New Orleans is doing to get better, and the creative and humane ways we are doing it.

With this kind of creative solution, the Saints will be heroes. Without it--with the current "Final Solution" they have in place--it's going to get old-New-Orleans ugly.

Nobody wants that.

Killing the Dome neighborhoods of 1,500 people? Imagine plowing under Treme or the Irish Channel.

We don't do that here.

C'mon, Saints. I know you're just as creative as we are. We can turn a death into a resurrection, just like we always do in New Orleans.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Why New Orleans is the Perfect Place to Run

1. It's beautiful.

2. It's temperate.

3. It's visually complex.

4. It's flat.

5. When you run up Camp Street toward downtown the day after the Irish Channel Parade, you find this (and you leave behind lots more on the street):

Katrina as Matchmaker

Odd. From today's New York Times wedding announcements:
Ms. Gomez and Mr. Crosby met in October 2005 through a mutual friend who had gone to the University of Florida for a semester when Loyola University in New Orleans had temporarily closed after Hurricane Katrina. The friend had a get-together shortly after her arrival in Gainesville. “We were just drawn to each other right away,” Mr. Crosby said of Ms. Gomez. “She has an attractive face, it’s proportional, high cheekbones and gorgeous blue eyes.”