Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Route 66

Residents of Mid City probably feel like the citizens of Radiator Springs when the Mayor endorsed the Police Chief's recommendation to move the Endymion parade from its traditional Mid City route to Uptown due to safety and security concerns.

Mid-City residents cheered last week when six members of the New Orleans City Council said they favored letting the Krewe of Endymion parade on its traditional Mid-City route for Carnival 2007, rather than the Uptown route that it followed in 2006 and that Police Superintendent Warren Riley has said he wants it to follow again in 2007.

The residents' spirits fell this week when Mayor Ray Nagin said that as far as he is concerned, the Mid-City route is out of the question for next year.

Nagin said Monday that Endymion's procession, the largest of the Carnival season, will have to roll Uptown, like all of the city's other east bank parades, because it would be too dangerous to let it roll through what he depicted as an area of abandoned homes and buildings.

"It's not about money," Nagin said. He said Riley is concerned that he wouldn't have the resources to handle a serious crime along the Mid-City route on the same day that other parades will be marching Uptown.

But there appears to be a slim hope that Endymion could yet roll on the route it has followed almost every year since the 1960s.

Nagin said Tuesday he might change his mind if Riley tells him he no longer objects to the Mid-City route.

Mid City residents have a legitimate concern that their neighborhood will end up like Radiator Springs, forgotten. I think the Police Chief's concerns are legitimate also. However, I would also like to see Endymion roll in Mid City again.

So rather than continuing to fight to keep the 2007 route in Mid City, they should start fighting for 2008. As long as people don't forget about Endymion's tradition, it will roll in Mid City again.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Start Me Up

One mile of the St. Charles streetcar from Canal Street to Lee Circle is up and running today. Only five more miles to go.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tell Me Where People Want To Go So I May Lead Them There

The Times-Picayune's art critic penned an article about the effort of Andrés Duany of DPZ and his efforts to recreate New Orleans one small piece at a time. Much of the article has been covered by this blog before so I wont belabor the point. Although one paragraph mentions something I think is important and should be discussed in more detail.

He dismissed showy, big-budget projects such as the "Reinventing the Crescent" plan as "silver bullet" solutions. New Orleans, he said, is historically addicted to them. The aquarium, Convention Center and world's fair were all silver bullets meant to save the struggling city. They were high-profile substitutes for more elemental changes to the municipal codes that, he believed, would have accomplished more over time. Duany puts great stock in municipal codes.
His objections, though, is tempered by the knowledge of what is really needed.
They were high-profile substitutes for more elemental changes to the municipal codes that, he believed, would have accomplished more over time. Duany puts great stock in municipal codes.
Taken independently he is correct. Taken as a whole he is wrong. New Orleans needs all these solutions. That is why I have consistently favored all of them even if it is with reservations.
All of the project Mr. Duany mentioned have improved the city though they have not solved all of the city's ills.

Bringing the city back will be a long-term and multifaceted slog through the cypress swamps. The journey will be hard, dirty and impossible without effective leadership. People like Andrés Duany are providing that leadership. But what makes his leadership so effective that he takes the effort to listen to the residents and brings them to where they wish to go.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

MR-GO Gotta GoGo

The Environmental Defense group has released calling for MR-GO to be closed by Congress.

The group Environmental Defense released a report urging Congress to take certain steps to control MRGO, called “Mr. Go.” It claims the channel costs taxpayers $11.8 million a year to maintain and degrades wetlands and cypress forests.

The report comes 10 days before the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is to present Congress with a plan to close MRGO to oceangoing ships, if not all water traffic.

“The community has been calling for the closure of MRGO for decades,” said Paul Harrison, coastal Louisiana project manager for Environmental Defense. “The next step is Congress’ part.”

Congress has directed $3.3 million to the corps to develop a closure plan. Also, the most recent congressional supplemental funding bill included $75 million for closure.

Among the report’s recommendations are:
  • Stop wetlands-killing saltwater intrusion by closing a hole cut through the Bayou la Loutre ridge by MRGO construction.
  • Build a vegetated buffer in front of the MRGO levee to disperse 95 percent of wave energy.
  • Reintroduce freshwater, sediment and nutrients to re-grow the central wetlands, cypress forests and Lake Borgne wetlands while pushing back saltwater.
  • Build four constrictions across MRGO to encourage the rest of the channel to fill in naturally and reduce the tendency of the channel to carry storm surge inland.
The entire report can be read here.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

The Road Home-less Program

Governor Kathleen Blanco's Road Home Program has been taking criticism from all directions due to the slooooowwww pace of distributing checks to flooded homeowners. Now, City Business has take up the task of tracking the rate of progress (or lack thereof) the the Road Home Program in making people whole.

Since last week, almost 2,000 homeowners have made their selections and mailed back their Benefit Option Letters to The Road Home. Since last week, almost 2,000 homeowners have made

However, just 56 of 85,256 applpicants have been paid. The average claim being paid totals $51,452.

Homeowners are marking their choices to stay in their homes, relocate to new homes in Louisiana or sell their homes and move out of state.

In November, The Road Home mailed more than 10,000 letters to homeowners, detailing their options and informing them of the award amounts for which they are eligible.

Upon receiving a homeowner’s letter, program officials are entering each homeowner’s response into the system and are compiling reports detailing the choices that homeowners are making. This information will be released as soon as it is available.

The Road Home is working to ensure that homeowners understand the content of their letters. Each homeowner who has received a letter will also receive a phone call from a program representative to answer any questions they may have about their awards or the closing process.

Some phone calls have already been made to applicants. Homeowners should carefully read the instructions contained within the letter when making their choice. Those homeowners with questions about their letters are encouraged to call The Road Home hotline at (888) ROAD-2-LA and choose prompt No. 6. Staffing at the call center is being increased on a daily basis to accommodate the expected influx of homeowner calls.

Since the program began sometime around early October, just 56 checks have been mailed. At that rate, all applicants should be made whole about 270 years from now. I understand that the wheels of government turn slowly, but this is ridiculous.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Sister Act

The Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick have returned to their convent in Gentilly. I didn't know they were here before the storm but I'm glad to know they're back after the storm.

The Servants of Mary, Ministers to the Sick have called New Orleans home since 1914, spending nearly a century tending to the sick and dying in their time of greatest need. The devastation Katrina left behind threatened to permanently chase the 18 nuns from their beloved city.

"We never evacuated in our whole lives," said Mother Superior Silvia Juarez. "When we heard there was a mandatory evacuation, we decided we should think about leaving, but we only had two cars available to us and we couldn’t fit 18 sisters in them. We decided some should go. That was a very difficult decision. Six sisters left and 12 stayed behind."

The nuns who stayed at the convent on 5001 Perlita St. were soon chased to the second floor by 5 feet of floodwater the day after the storm. They spent the next three days awaiting rescue.

They took in two elderly neighbors and three young men, providing them with food, water and shelter.

When a passing rescue boat spotted the nuns standing on the roof of the convent still wearing full white habits in the festering heat, the sisters insisted their neighbors be rescued first.

That boat returned with two others that ferried the nuns to safety as the last people rescued in Lakeview.

Fifteen months later, the Servants are back in their convent thanks to the hard work of volunteers from across the country and help from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Louisiana and Shell Oil.

You can more about their ordeal here.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Turning Japanese

Japan apparently has a simple yet novel way of protecting their cities from potential flooding.

The Arakawa spillway and other engineering improvements -- chiefly, a more modern system of levees and locks that manage water flowing from the Arakawa -- have drastically reduced river flooding in Tokyo. As in New Orleans, the levee system means the city depends on pumps to keep low areas from flooding after heavy rains, a battle the pumps don't always win. (The Tokyo government is upgrading its pumps to handle 2 inches of rain in an hour, roughly the amount for which New Orleans pumps are designed.)

nd as in New Orleans, other forms of flooding are possible: a typhoon that brings heavy rain, for instance, or a storm surge that tops levees and causes them to fail. Or, worse, an earthquake that ruptures levees and sends a tsunami through the breach. (The levee system in Tokyo includes roughly 60 miles of oceanfront breakwaters.)

To minimize those possibilities, the Japanese have been replacing the traditional levees along the Arakawa with what they refer to as "superlevees."

There's nothing gee-whiz about these ramparts, no high-tech gimmickry comparable to the computer-controlled storm gates and permeable levees deployed by the Dutch in their eternal struggle with the North Sea. Superlevees are actually no higher than the levees they replace; their effectiveness lies in their extraordinary width.

Rather than dropping back to grade level at the same steep pitch on both sides, a superlevee is severely asymmetrical, sloping down gradually on its backside for a distance of perhaps several blocks. The goal, one the Japanese believe they have achieved, is a breach-proof levee.

Imagine a Mississippi River levee that doesn't stop shy of the river road but continues all the way across Tchoupitoulas Street to Annunciation, and you get a sense of how seriously the Japanese have taken the responsibility to mitigate flooding.

Unfortunately Japanese doesn't translate well into Creole. While these "superlevees" may be practical in more recently developed or undeveloped areas of a city, how do proponents of "superlevees" in New Orleans propose that we build such a levee without destroying the MOST historic parts of the city. This most surely a case if cutting off one's nose despite its face.

However, the "superlevee" idea is not totally without merit in southeast Louisiana. There are many miles of levees that exist in undeveloped areas. The problem is that it is not that important to protect marshland from storm surge. One advantage to the "superlevee" is that it creates land that is high and dry and is ripe for development.

The problem with this scenario is the the Corps of Engineers is not too keen on people building anything in their levees. Besides, most earthen levees held up well during the onslaught that was Hurricane Katrina. It was the smaller, I-wall levees that failed during the storm. The Japanese don't seem to have an answer to that problem.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Takin' Out Da' Trash

The New Orleans City Council is set to vote for or against the city's contract for trash collection in the French Quarter, CBD and Wharehouse District.

The mayor's office chose SDT to handle around-the-clock trash pickup and street cleaning in the French Quarter, Central Business District and Warehouse District.
The article delves into the intricacies of the bidding process and the additional costs but what I'm sure most residents want to really know. To what extent will trash collection occur in these neighborhoods?

If the contract calls for the winning bidder to ensure that trash is collected on at least a daily basis and includes street and sidewalk cleaning, this is a good thing. One of the things that has limited progress in the city and hindered our recovery are the piles of garbage and debris in the street. No one likes to see a dirty city. And New Orleans is dirty. Visitors to the French Quarter have for years complained about the trash but have largely fallen on deaf ears. Now their complaints have gotten louder. Piggybacked with French Quarter business owners complaints about lack of business, politicians started listening.

If this is a good contract we may finally see a French Quarter in all its pristine beauty.