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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 23, 2005 - 03:35 pm:   

Interesting population statistics/wild-ass guesses have surfaced this week. The mayor says there are currently 100,000 citizens settling their heads onto pillows each night in New Orleans, whereas some other observers put the current number of returnees closer to 65,000. Either way, the population here is smaller than it's been since 1840, when it was just a shade over 100,000 and the racial breakdown stood at 55% white, 45% black. That would be the approximate racial breakdown of today's returnees, too, with white citizens maybe making up as much as 60% of the total right now (a situation which would've last existed in about 1960, the year the Reverend Avery Alexander got frog-marched out of the City Hall lunch room by members of the NOPD for not being the right shade). The most optimistic projection places the New Orleans population of three years from now at 275,000, or a little more than half the pre-Katrina population of 570,000.

And so the rumors fly (and are repeated in front of a Congressional committee, thanks to Rep. Cynthia McKinney of Georgia -- thanks, Cynthia! Always grateful for the help!) that the white establishment blew up the levees protecting the Lower Ninth Ward in order to protect Uptown and the French Quarter. Well, dear conspiracy theorists, if that is so, then those white folks sure were klutzy, considering that they managed to drown Lakeview, St. Bernard Parish, and Mid-City along with the Lower Nine, thus rendering a good portion of their own racial colleagues homeless, as well. How the hell we've managed to rule the country and the world this long, I'll never know. Well, whatever. . . maybe David Duke can explain it to me sometime.

And now we have the sick-making spectacle of the mayor and the City Council battling over who has the ultimate decision-making power regarding where the temporary trailer parks will go. King NIMBY rules the day. People are fussing and worrying about parks being taken out of commission and maybe never restored, and that bringing in "outsiders" or the "wrong kind of folks" will result in more crime. In my own little humble opinion, 999 out of 1000 people who are willing to come back into this battered city and live in a trailer in some field or parking lot for a year or more in order to put their lives back together are EXACTLY the kind of people I'd want back in New Orleans and would want as neighbors. People who give a damn! People who are willing to sweat it out and live rough for a while in order to bring this city back! And what good are pretty little parks if there are no kids around to play in them?

Actually, the aspect of all this that makes me the most hopeful about New Orleans' future is the great big RESET button that we've gotten to hit regarding the public school system. Between being in the control of a politicized and seemingly inept bureaucracy, being stuck with an obsolete, falling-down physical infrastructure, and having to deal with a huge portion of students who came from households where the parents or parent didn't give a damn about formal education, the old system was mired in a downward spiral of awfulness (with a few, very few islands of above-mediocrity). Now, with the State Board of Education having taken control of ninety percent of the campuses and looking for universities to run them, and many of the physically surviving public schools reorganizing as semi-independent charter schools, we are basically starting over again with a nearly blank slate. For a good time to come, the numbers of pupils this shrunken system will have to deal with will be a tiny fraction of the old total, and many of those students will come from families who really want to be here, because they've had to overcome major hardships to come back. Plus, major private foundations have been putting out feelers that they'll be willing to fund a huge reconstruction/rethinking of the public schools here, if only those schools can wiggle their way out from beneath the heel of the old, disfunctional school board bureaucracy. That stipulation has come to pass, for the most part, so I really, really hope those foundations will follow through. I would really love it if, five years from now, I can be excited to send my boys to public schools in New Orleans.

For you art-lovers out there, the Contemporary Arts Center on Camp Street in the Warehouse District is reopening on January 5th, kicking off a big weekend of arts events in the District that will be a winter version of White Linen Night. Trumpeter Irwin Mayfield will be playing at the CAC, and pianist/patriarch Ellis Marsallis will be playing across the street at the Ogden Museum of Southern Art.

Holiday sales have been brisk at my two favorite local bookstores, Octavia Books and Garden District Books. I went in to sign copies of whatever stock they have of my stuff, and the clerks and owners were too busy to deal with me. . . which didn't make me unhappy, no sir, not one bit!

Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah to all!
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Saturday, December 24, 2005 - 09:17 am:   

Andy,
Thank you for the update. A friend and I were thinking of going down there once things settled down to help with moral and economic support of the city but now that I'm umemployed, I'm afraid that doesn't look possible for me.

Happy holidays to you and yours.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Saturday, December 24, 2005 - 05:40 pm:   

What a bummer, Ellen! If you still want to come down and can't pay for a hotel, please know that you have a place to stay here with the family and me, in our spare bedroom (just so long as you don't mind cats and babies. . .). Lucius S. had a fun time staying with us early this year, when he was doing research at Tulane University library.

Merry Christmas and happy Hanukkah!
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Saturday, December 24, 2005 - 07:11 pm:   

Andy, I totally agree that the one bright spot is the potential regeneration of the school system. The kids growing up in the lower classes in New Orleans never stood any chance of getting out of the projects with the horrific schooling that was available to them. The school system--or lack thereof--was also one of the big reasons why so many people lived on the Northshore and suffered the commute. With an improved school system more families will be willing to live in New Orleans.

Ellen, ditto on the offer of a place to stay if you decide to head down this way.
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Ellen Datlow
Posted on Sunday, December 25, 2005 - 09:30 am:   

Thanks very much for the offer Andy and Diana. Part of coming down was to actually stay in a hotel ...but we'll see what the future brings.

Ellen
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, December 28, 2005 - 02:05 pm:   

Here's a link to a superb Times-Picayune article about how New Orleans' restaurants are leading the way in the rebirth of the city:

http://www.nola.com/living/t-p/index.ssf?/base/living-5/113575327340910.xml

If anyone not from here wants to gain some insight into what makes New Orleanians tick and the reasons why this place is worth saving, read this article. It's one of the best I've come across since the storm.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 11:39 am:   

Here's another top-notch column. This one's from Chris Rose, who has been at the very top of his game ever since the storm. Unfortunately, the man he writes about in his opening is an acquaintance/semi-friend of mine, musician and entrepreneur Cyril Neville, who was interested in making a film version of Fat White Vampire Blues before Katrina hit. Cyril seemed like a really decent guy. I hope he gets over his current bitterness and comes back to his home town and helps us put it all back together again.

http://www.nola.com/rose/t-p/index.ssf?/base/living-0/1135925783299960.xml
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 12:27 pm:   

Oops, my bad. The Cyril Neville that Chris Rose refers to is actually my acquaintance's father. I've met Cyril Neville Jr. on a few occassions, but never his dad.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 12:53 pm:   

A few nights ago, I was reminded, yet again, that there are two sides to every arguement, and, often enough, both sides have at least some merit. I ran into my city council representative, Jackie Clarkson, at the Save-a-Center. Jackie knows my mother-in-law, so all I have to do is drop Phyllis's name and Jackie remembers who I am. I wished her luck on all the work she and the city council are doing to bring the city back. Since she represents both the French Quarter and Algiers, where I live, I said the one big hope I have for Algiers now, since it was lucky enough to come through Katrina with no flooding, is that the neighborhood attract some more successful businesses and restaurants. She then brought up the controversy surrounding the selection of trailer park sites for returnees without liveable homes, saying she's been getting badly beaten up in the press due to her insistance that Lakewood Country Club be taken off the list of useable sites. The reason for her opposition, she said, wasn't NIMBYism (she reminded me that other parts of Algiers are already slated to be housing a couple of thousand trailers), but a desire to jumpstart the area's economy, since, before the storm, Lakewood had been purchased with an eye towards redeveloping it into a new residential and retail neighborhood surrounding a smaller but nicer golf course. I have to give her view some credit here. It's a hard trade-off, deciding whether a big chunk of land should be home to a thousand trailers now, or to a permanent new neighborhood which may not be completed for another five years. I can recognize that Lakewood probably isn't the best spot to tie up with trailers right now, since one thing the city will definitely need will be new housing in high and dry areas of town. Being a politician isn't always easy; but I'm glad Jackie has strong opinions and doesn't try to make everyone happy at the same time (generally, nothing worthwhile ends up getting done that way).

Last night, I took the family to the truncated Celebration in the Oaks in City Park. City Park got whacked really badly by Katrina; 80% of the park and its vegetation and attractions sat in several feet of standing water for weeks on end, so about 2,000 of the park's 60,000 trees have died, and more will die before the spring. Also, 90% of the park's employees have been laid off, since just about all of the park's funding comes from income from its attractions, which are all out of commission. Still, the volunteers who put on Celebration in the Oaks did a marvelous job of making a small portion of the park look festive and merry. They had an animated lights version of "A Cajun Night Before Christmas" and a holiday-themed laser lights show. It was just a bit creepy to look away from the pretty lights and see the ruins of the beautiful wedding receptions hall. Surreal.

This morning, I joined NOPD Chief Reilly for the annual pre-New Year's Eve press conference concerning holiday gunfire. Previous chiefs of police and I have been doing these together for the past ten years. We aren't expecting nearly the volume of celebratory gunfire this year as we have in recent years, and that volume was already way, way down from the horrendous levels of the early and mid 1990s. Less than a quarter of the population is back, and none of the ten public housing projects is currently inhabited. However, the NOPD wants to make sure that opportunists with guns don't sneak into the abandoned sections of town (Lakeview, Gentilly, Mid-City, Broadmoor, the East, the Ninth Ward. . . cripes, practically two-thirds of the city) and take advantage of their emptiness to have mucho fun with firearms. I got to see some of my old friends in the department, guys who were sergeants when I first met them back in 1995, Marlon Defillo and Greg Elder, now both promoted to Captain (Marlon is now the department's number two man, and Greg just got appointed as superintendent of the Third District, which includes devastated Lakeview). The NOPD takes a slagging in the media pretty regularly, and sometimes they deserve it, but the officers I've known and worked with have been top-notch people. My New Year Coalition campaign wouldn't have been half as effective without them working so closely with me.

Have a happy, safe, healthy new year, everyone!
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Josh Rountree
Posted on Friday, December 30, 2005 - 03:11 pm:   

Same to you and yours, Andy!
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 08:25 am:   

Here's some not so great news. I just read that a 56 year old man was seriously wounded by a falling bullet just after midnight on New Year's Eve. He was standing on the levee in the Riverbend area and was struck in the back at about 12:03 A.M. Area residents reported that a group of four men were shooting off their guns in the direction of the levee a few blocks away, but the bullet could've come from as far away as seven miles distant. Complaint calls regarding gunfire were way, way down this year from last, as one would expect, given that only about 25% of the pre-Katrina population is back. But, as I said during Friday's press conference, any bullets at all, even just one, fired in the air have a chance of coming down on someone's head. Higher volume makes the chances of getting hit greater, but the chance of getting hit doesn't go away until the gunfire is completely silenced.

Police haven't released the name of the man who was injured. I'll check in with my contacts in the department and see if I can track the man down. I'd like to visit with him while he's recovering in the hospital.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 06:50 pm:   

I saw that article and instantly thought of you since I know you're deeply involved in that cause.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, January 02, 2006 - 08:09 pm:   

I did a follow-up interview earlier today with a reporter from Channel 26 ABC. His report hasn't aired yet, since their nightly news programs have been preempted by the bowl games. I believe the news will come on once the Sugar Bowl is over. The injured man is in critical condition at Oschner Hospital. The reporter asked whether I planned to get the New Year Coalition campaign rolling again this year, since we've now had two years in a row with at least one injury, following four years with none. I told him I'd love to, but at this point I'm unsure whether any of my old partners will be back in the city in the near future. Some of my closest friends from the campaign I haven't been able to contact or locate since the storm.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Tuesday, January 03, 2006 - 11:05 am:   

We don't have the same problem on the northshore with injuries from falling bullets, however if I can be of any help let me know. Also, my husband has a ton of connections in New Orleans so perhaps he can help.

(Right now people are getting killed by falling *trees* on the northshore as they try to clear out the downed or partially downed trees. Five, so far, since the storm. Katrina just keeps killing and killing.)
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 - 08:25 am:   

Today's the day that Mayor Nagin's "Bring New Orleans Back" Commission releases their big plan for the city's rebuilding and rejuvenation. Based on what I've witnessed so far regarding the behavior of the city's political leaders, this plan, no matter how sensible or practical it may be, is going to be shreaded to pieces and ultimately tossed in File 13. The mayor and the city council and all the rest of the city's political establishment are still too committed to protecting turf and still too much in allegiance to old race and class divisions and controversies that go back at least fifty years for them to agree on anything like what this plan will propose. Mississippi seems to have all their ducks in order; I expect they'll be back to a semblance of pre-Katrina normality within two to three years. I fear -- I hope to heaven I'm wrong -- that the political, racial, and class infighting in New Orleans and Louisiana as a whole will result in a shrunken, debased city, whose outskirts, formerly thriving neighborhoods, will still look like bombed-out ruins ten years from now. No one in our current political leadership has the courage or the balls to say to anyone in any neighborhood, "Look, I'm sorry, but I can't in good conscience let you rebuild your home where it was. Events have proven that the land there is just too low. We'll buy you out or ensure that the Federal government buys you out, and we'll help you rebuild on higher ground in another area. But if we let you rebuild here, you're going to be surrounded by blocks and blocks of blight, you won't be anywhere near open stores, and we can't afford to have police and fire protection any closer than twenty minutes away from what's left of your neighborhood. As much as you love your old area, it's gone, and in the interests of safety and the interests of the whole community, we're going to let it return to flood plain and turn the area into a park and recreation zone." No, our leaders are going to be cowed by cries of racism and classism and are going to let the rebuilding take place higgily-piggily, and so we're going to end up with a higgily-piggily city.

Hey, maybe they'll all pleasantly surprise me. Maybe they'll find backbones and be willing to make hard decisions. Based on how they've handled something as relatively trivial and simple as where to place trailers for returnees so far, though, I'm not feeling very optimistic. But I'm still hoping that, a few months from now, I'll look back at this post and say to myself, "Boy, was I in a shitty mood that morning! I couldn't have been more wrong!"

I think what's happening with me, and what's happening with lots and lots of other folks about now, is that the initial adrenaline rush of being back here in New Orleans is wearing off. The despair is beginning to creep in. Sunday, I drove my boys over to City Park, to the almost brand-new playground there close by City Park Avenue, by the Casino refreshments building, that was put up less than a year before the storm and stood in one of the only parts of the park that didn't flood. If you ignored all the tree stumps and tried not to notice how less shady even this part of City Park now is, you could almost convince yourself that no disaster had happened at all. The playground was full of kids and their parents. It was wonderful. But then I drove us home, back towards the Crescent City Connection along Orleans Avenue, and I passed block after block of drowned buildings where things have hardly changed in three months. Oddly enough, thanks, I guess, to the tender mercies of the National Guard, the Lafitte Housing Project, all securely boarded up, looks better and neater than I've ever seen it. Only problem is, it's completely empty. It's like a museum of early 20th century red-brick public housing apartments.

Just before the end of Hanukkah, I ended up buying a couple of gifts for Levi at an old haunt of mine, Hub Hobby Shop. Hub Hobby is located on South Broad Street. When the business first opened back in the 1950s, the neighborhood was heavily commercial and working class; Hub Hobby's neighbors were Bohn Ford, there since the 1920s, and the city's biggest pumping station. Since the 1980s, the neighborhood has gone way downhill. Bohn Ford left for Mid-City in the mid-1990s, but Hub Hobby hung in there, serving a dedicated clientele who would come in from all over the area. It was a classic hobby shop, full of model kits and scale trains and reference books and paints and tools. Walking through there, I felt like I'd stepped back in time to a hobby shop in South Miami that my father used to take me to when I was ten.

I was driving through the area on a work errand and decided to take a small detour so I could see what Hub Hobby looked like now. I saw an employee out front hosing down a row of metal and wood display shelves on the sidewalk. I pulled over to ask whether they were planning on reopening, or if they'd be relocating somewhere else. He amazed me by replying, "We're open right now; we've been open for six weeks."

I parked in the lot next to the store and got out. At the edge of the parking lot, tables had been set up with rows and rows of formerly inundated model kits, toy soldier sets, and scale airplanes and trains, all selling now for a quarter apiece. A lone man in his sixties, bearded and heavy-set, picked through the piles of moldy, damp cardboard for hidden treasure. I went inside. Only the front room was in use; the back room had been too badly damaged. The less damaged merchandise, the kits and toys and tools that hadn't been drowned in the six to eight feet of flood waters that had invaded the store, or that were made of materials that hadn't been appreciably ruined, was selling for 50% off. Levi is too young yet to build model kits with me, but he adores toy cars. I spotted a row of die-cast metal car toys sitting in a row on a bench, with a hand-written sign saying, "$4 each." These were mostly imported toys that would've sold for $12-$25 dollars new and undamaged. There were about a dozen of them, and they looked exactly like miniature versions of the real cars throughout the city which had been drowned, their plastic windshields clouded with murky water residue, their hubcaps grimed with various grades of gradoo (a wonderfully useful Cajun word that means exactly what it sounds like). I picked out what I though were the two best ones, the ones which Levi would enjoy playing with, a 1969 Pontiac GTO and a 2000 Pontiac Trans-Am. The owner told me they'd be just fine once I washed them off some. He put them in a pair of paper sacks for me, and I paid him in cash, since he wasn't set up anymore to take credit cards. I asked him about his future plans, and he said he was looking for a new location outside of New Orleans, in Metairie, but he was afraid he wouldn't be able to afford the retail rents out there. I wished him luck. I thought it took a hell of a lot of guts and gumption to sit day after day in a flooded-out store in a completely ruined neighborhood, selling drowned merchandise for pennies on the dollar. I told him I hoped he'd still be around when Levi and Asher would be old enough to be delighted by all the stuff in his store.

I took those cars home and washed them off as best I could, trying to get all the brown residue off their windshields with paper towels (not all of it would come off, but most did). Levi loved them, of course. Dara was a little worried that he might accidentally hurt his little brother with the heavy metal cars, though, so she put them up on a display shelf in his bedroom for the time being. As long as we have them, I'll be able to look at those two cars and remember exactly where they came from and what that store and that neighborhood felt like in late December, 2005.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, January 11, 2006 - 09:16 am:   

Here's a link to today's very thorough Times-Picayune article which describes the "Bring New Orleans Back" Commission's plan:

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/frontpage/index.ssf?/base/news-4/1136962572109650.x ml

I like it. I think they may be overly optimistic regarding a four-month timeframe to hold the numbers of neighborhood meetings required to make the plan work, especially as many of those meetings will have to be planned and scheduled for residents currently outside the city. But, overall, I think this is a good blueprint.

However, see my post above. . . the mayor isn't bound to follow the plan's directives. I'm betting, although I'd hate to be right, that this plan ultimately ends up in the circular file, for the reasons listed in my previous post.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, January 17, 2006 - 08:21 am:   

Ahh, New Orleans politics. . . the gift that just keeps on giving. As I've said many times, this city is one of the most generous of any in the world to writers of a certain stripe, because all you have to do for material is turn on the talk radio, the evening local news, or open up the newspaper, and gold, solid GOLD, comes flowing in.

I didn't vote for Ray Nagin (I voted for Richard Pennington, the ex-police chief, because I knew him personally and hold him in extremely high regard), but I didn't dislike Ray Nagin and wasn't upset that he became our mayor almost four years ago. I've supported many of his programs, and he has certainly had my sympathy and, for the most part, respect for the extremely difficult task he has been faced with ever since August 29, 2005. But, after his comments in front of a Martin Luther King Day parade crowd yesterday, it is very clear, unfortunately, that Hizzoner the Mayor is just not ready for prime time and probably never will be. Every man is welcome to his private thoughts, beliefs, and prejudices, but a responsible leader should know that there are certain things that are simply not said by a mayor at a public gathering. It's not even that Nagin's comments were offensive. . . I think all of us could learn to be a little less uptight and quick to take offense, sure (but even I find some of what he said very risable). It's that saying them aloud, when they were sure to be picked apart and broadcast to the entire country, was so incredibly stupid and dense. These are exactly the kind of comments that, when uttered by Pat Robertson or Jerry Falwell, bring immediate demands from across the globe for retractions and apologies. I won't bother to quote Hizzoner's remarks, because they are now so widely available on the Internet. But Mr. Mayor, please don't feel it's necessary to lecture me and the rest of the residents of New Orleans on what God does and doesn't want, that New Orleans won't be New Orleans unless and until it becomes majority black again (it did just fine being New Orleans up until 1975), and that the Good Lord throws around hurricanes in fit of pique because He is pissed off at George W. Bush for invading Iraq.

I'd been leaning towards voting for Mr. Nagin this time around because I hadn't seen anyone on the horizon who, in my judgement, would have done a better job of dealing with the disaster and the recovery efforts. Now, however, I believe I'll have to do the work of finding someone else to vote for, even though none of the current contenders looks very palatable, either. I feel that Ray Nagin is a basically very good man who truly loves New Orleans, but he doesn't seem to have the emotional maturity or self-control to continue acting as our mayor during this critical time. Diarrhea of the mouth, while entertaining in a politician during normal times, should be a disqualifier during times of existential crisis.

On the other hand, if he gets reelected and keeps tossing boners of this magnitude my way, my job as a novelist just gets easier and easier. Not that this is any reason to pull for him to be reelected. . . that would be selfish.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 06:37 am:   

Hehe.. I'd been wondering what your reaction to Mayor Ray "I've gone completely off the friggin deep end" Nagin's speech would be.

Like this city isn't enough of a laughingstock already.

I'll take my chocolate without the nuts, thank you.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 07:03 am:   

Yeah, I think Hizzoner's speech has been a gilded gift to editorial cartoonists and stand-up comedians all over the country, if not the world (the story appears to be getting a lot of play in Germany, of all places. . . well, they do make good chocolate there). I've heard the jokes about Willie Wonka becoming the new city chief operating officer, new head Saints coach, new head of a consolidated levee board, etc. etc. etc.

I have to say though, I felt honest sympathy for Ray Nagin after listening to his apology/partial retraction on the radio yesterday. He basically admitted that he'd laid a great big boner, and I could tell he wished he could have Monday back to do over again. I told a couple of folks yesterday that Nagin would probably be a lot more effective as a behind-the-scenes city manager type, with somebody of a different temperment and with a different skills set doing the mayor thing in front of the cameras and microphones. Not everybody is cut out to be a mayor. Ray's a good man, but I don't feel he's currently in the right job. Unfortunately, the little pack now looking to replace him don't seem to be ready for prime-time, either. Oy.
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Nathan
Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 07:54 am:   

I did vote for Nagin, and I think he's done a pretty good job of running New Orleans. Certainly a better job than Morial, I'd say. When he showed some fissures in his normally airtight mien of self-control during the worst days of the crisis, I attributed it to -- rightly, I believe -- normal human erosion under extraordinary pressure.

But when I heard portions of this speech, I cringed. I agree with you: what's most frustrating is the stupidity of making those remarks in a speech. I find myself wanting to apologize for him, to rationalize his comments, even now: I tell myself he was really speaking to the fears of New Orleans being gentrified, that he was assuring people that he wouldn't let the poor black community be stranded all over the country, their homes and lives consigned to the scrap heap in favor of industrial renewal. I believe that's what he was referring to; I certainly hope so. But to cast it in a racial light, instead of an economic light, was a gross and irresponsible misstep.

Since I'm not there anymore, I can't speak to his daily handling of the city. I don't know anymore whether he's the best candidate the city's got. It definitely saddens me to see him drift into polemicism, though. It saddens me that the nation will know him this way. It's not how he was before the storm.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 08:14 am:   

I think part of the problem, according to what's been reported in the Times-Picayune, is that Mayor Nagin doesn't pre-script many of his speeches. This one, for example, was delivered extemporaneously. I agree with you about what the mayor's intentions likely were. But there's a reason why mayors have staffs, including speech writers.

By the way, humor columnist Chris Rose has been exceptional since the storm. Today's column is a keeper:

http://www.nola.com/living/t-p/index.ssf?/base/living-5/1137567673272460.xml

The mayor and his staff have been doing nothing but damage control for the past two days. Just what the city needs right now -- our leaders gratuitously shooting themselves in the teeth. Unfortunately, I don't think Peggy Wilson or Oliver Thomas are what we need in the mayor's seat, either.

Hope you and your daughter are doing well up there in Asheville, Nathan. Come on down and visit sometime soon, okay?
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Nathan
Posted on Wednesday, January 18, 2006 - 07:42 pm:   

We're doing pretty well, Andy. And I'm dying to get back down there. I'll definitely let you know when that happens.

And thanks for the link! I always enjoyed Chris Rose's columns. I'm strangely pleased that this catastrophe has brought out the best in him.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, January 19, 2006 - 07:18 am:   

Chris Rose has been super. He's a really good guy, too. I met him a couple of years in a row at the Celebration of Banned Books at the House of Blues, where we both read selections from various books that have been challenged in public libraries or public schools.

I'll be really pissed if you come visit New Orleans and don't let me know you're here. The writing group misses you. But good news on that front -- thanks to messages on this discussion board, I invited two regulars here, Diana Rowland and Louie Maistros, to join the group, and they both participated in our January session last night. Looks like they both will be terrific additions. Next month, we'll be critiquing submissions from both of them. George Effinger would be pleased that we've been able to keep his "baby" going this long (about eighteen years now). Next month we'll be meeting back at our regular spot, the meeting space above Fair Grinds Coffeehouse in Faubourg St. John, not far from the horse track; their store got knocked out of commission by the flooding but will be back in time for Mardi Gras. It'll feel good to give Robert and Liz some business. They've been handing out free coffee from their place to anybody who wanders over ever since the storm, even when their building didn't have any power (they ran a long extension cord from the little grocery on the corner that had a generator). Great New Orleanians, those two. They're also collecting books, especially writing reference books, for local writers who lost their book collections to Katrina. If anybody wants to donate some books to their cause, I'll post their mailing address here.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 08:07 am:   

News, news. . . lots of news popping up today. Probably the biggest tidbit is the unofficial announcement from sources connected to Mitch Landrieu that the current Lt. Governor will soon throw his hat into the ring regarding the mayorial race. In many ways, this is a big relief. As much sympathy as I have for Ray Nagin, and as much as I look at his travails since the storm as a peculiarly N'Awlins form of Shakespearian tragedy, I think the man needs a rest, and I don't have confidence that he is the person we need in the mayor's chair for the crucial next four years. Until Landrieu made his intentions clear, though, there wasn't anybody else on the horizon I'd consider voting for. Didn't want to vote for the minor radio personality, the Republican gadfly, the New Orleans School Board member (the thought that his service on the School Board would qualify him for higher political office makes me shiver), or the guy who used to cut my lawn back when I owned a house in Uptown (yes, he ran for mayor last time, and he got about a hundred votes). Actually, I think I'd vote for the lawn maintenance guy before I'd vote for the School Board guy.

Tonight is Bush's State of the Union address, to be attended by a group of displaced New Orleanians. So we get to see whether or not Our President will continue with his recent line of reasoning regarding our city, which is, essentially, "We've given you plenty of money already, you disfunctional twerps, so f-ck off and die." Of course, lots and lots of that money has been spent on things like $60,000.00 temporary trailers, most of which still haven't even arrived in Orleans Parish (and I remember the days when $60,000.00 would buy you a house and a half in lots of neighborhoods around here; come to think of it, in Gentilly and the Lower Ninth Ward and parts of Broadmoor, I'll bet you could still buy a house and a half for that money).

Also in the news. . . FEMA was offered hundreds of rubber boats and rescue crews by the Federal Department of the Interior shortly before Katrina and turned them down. The Louisiana National Guard had dozens of boats and high-water vehicles stored within the city limits in case of a levee break. . . but they stored them at Jackson Barracks in the Lower Ninth Ward, where they were quickly inundated as soon as the Industrial Canal levee broke. . . ahh, the list of SNAFUs just gets longer and longer. . . more fodder for the next novel, of course.

And very soon, the Jesse Jackson Traveling Circus will return for a limited-time-only engagement in the New Orleans area. Local ringmaster services to be provided by State Representative Cleo Fields, that paragon of public virtue, he of the caught-on-videotape-shoving-a-wad-of-cash-from-Edwin-Edwards-down-the-front-of-h is-pants fame. I can hardly wait.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 08:49 am:   

A week ago, on a rainy Sunday when I couldn't think of anything else to do with my boys, I took a long drive through parts of the metro area I hadn't seen since the storm. I got on 90 East, heading toward the Rigolets and coastal Mississippi. I used to make this drive all the time, the scenic route to the coast, a little slower than taking the I-10 but worth it. I'd get to pass by the Little Saigon section of New Orleans East, the edges of Bayou Savage National Wildlife Preserve, the Lake Catherine fishing camps with all their silly, goofy name signs (and the occassional tattered "Duke for Governor/President/Dog Catcher" banners still hanging from the trees), and a pair of masonry forts from the post-War of 1812 era, one preserved as a state historic site, the other, on private property, slowly decaying into ruin. The old White Cottage Diner, which generations of New Orleanians used to stop at on their way to the coast before the I-10 was built in the 1960s, is long gone, but, before Katrina, you could still spot the remains of the diner's sign, with its Indian maiden, near the edge of the road.

The boys and I didn't get very far. The rotating drawbridge next to the Venetian Isles subdivision was closed, so we couldn't see what remains of the fishing camps in Lake Catherine. I was somewhat surprised to see most of the raised homes in Venetian Isles still standing. . . although storm surge and wind gusts had torn out their interiors. People were there, beginning to rebuild, even though their community is surrounded by water on almost all sides. Most of the homes there are raised at least ten feet high. I guess they must be pretty sturdy to still be standing. It might be a good idea for folks rebuilding in Lakeview, Gentilly, and the Ninth Ward to ask residents of Venetian Isles who their architects were. Those raised homes are attractive and obviously practical.

That storm surge must've been tremendous. We passed at least half a dozen large fishing boats sitting on their keels or sides partially on the road. I'm not talking weekend pleasure craft; I'm talking the big, commercial, fifty footers, tossed around like aluminum canoes.

On the bright side, a majority of the Vietnamese-owned restaurants and stores in the Little Saigon section along 90 have reopened. Their parking lots were crowded with cars. I believe that much of 90, the Chef Menteur Highway, follows the trail of an old natural ridge which formed five or six hundred years ago when the Mississippi shifted its banks to its present location. So I imagine that the little business district took on a lot less water than the residential area behind it. I really admire all those immigrant businessmen who've gotten their district up and running again. I'll have to take the boys out for vermicelli noodles one weekend.

On our way back home, we drove through Chalmette and Arabi in St. Bernard Parish. Chalmette, just a quick ferry boat ride from lower Algiers, has always been the butt of jokes to people who live in New Orleans, but since I've been living in Algiers I've come to appreciate the place. The people who lived there really, really loved it, and it was a pleasure to take the ferry over there and have a good meal at one of their many seafood restaurants. Most of those seafood restaurants, once tucked away in marinas or alongside bayous, were obliterated by the storm, wiped away so completely that I had a hard time remembering where they were. As I drove along Paris Road and Judge Perez Drive, I didn't see a single sign of life, apart from a few clusters of trailers; not one restaurant or business had reopened. The national media concentrated their attention on the devastation of the Lower Ninth Ward, but Arabi and Chalmette, just next door, got hit equally as hard. The storm didn't discriminate by race. Population-wise, Lower Nine was close to 100% black; Arabi and Chalmette were well over 90% white. Nothing separated the two communities but a political boundary. Both met the same fate. The storm surge from the Intracoastal Waterway and the MR-GO made no detours.

FEMA's head of Gulf Coast recovery efforts now says it'll be ten years before the people of New Orleans won't be thinking in terms of recovery. He says it'll be three to five years before the outlines of the new New Orleans begin to emerge. This is a long-term thing. We aren't waking up from this anytime soon.
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Diana Rowland
Posted on Tuesday, January 31, 2006 - 10:28 am:   

I was delighted to see that Mitch is considering entering the race, although in a way it surprises me since many consider him to be an absolute shoo-in for the next governor.

Your talk of Hwy 90 brought back memories of when I was a street cop. Part of my patrol area was 90 from the Rigolets to the state line. It was darn near a straight shot, and you could get up to 100mph pretty easily, but the real risk was that a wild hog would wander out into the road--and if you hit one going that fast you were dead meat. We also used to go out to the little bridges out near the state line late at night and throw out empty bleach or milk jugs and do some shooting practice. Though there were some times of the year that you didn't even want to get out of your car down there since the mosquitos were big enough to carry you off.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, February 01, 2006 - 07:06 am:   

Fifty-six seconds. . . that's what the residents of the Gulf Coast got from Our President in his State of the Union address. I really appreciated how he gave lip service to wanting to see many more opportunities for home ownership, while his lack of support for Rep. Richard Baker's housing bill makes it all the more likely that hundreds of thousands of the very type of low- to moderate-income homeowners which he praises and says he wants to see more of will be forced into foreclosure and bankruptcy and cut off from the opportunities of home ownership for at least the next fifteen years.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, February 15, 2006 - 08:56 am:   

Politics and sausage-making. . . two processes you're strongly suggested not to watch if you like partaking of the end product. After this second post-Katrina special session of the Louisiana legislature, I think I'd rather spend a week in a sausage factory, heck, a week inside one of the vats where they mush up the meat byproducts, than spend fifteen minutes inside the conference room of the Louisiana House of Representatives. Nothing has changed for these jokers since the twin disasters of Katrina and Rita cut the size of the Louisiana economy by a third. They can't see past the ends of their own noses -- for them, the most important goal is to ensure the well-being of the Louisiana political class, constituents be damned. Case in point: New Orleans is the only city in the nation to have seven independently elected assessors. Each assessor maintains his/her own fiefdom and cuts deals with homeowners, so that the levels of assessments vary wildly from neighborhood to neighborhood, sometimes from house to house. One of the governor's goals in this special session was to cut down on the number of elected officials and separate sheriff and police forces in New Orleans, saving the city money during a time when the city's population is about a quarter of what it was six months ago. The approval of the state legislature is required to do this, because it involves a change in the state constitution. Who manages to kill the bill while it's still in committee? Oh, just the sons of two of the current seven assessors. One of them is the representative from my district, Rep. Tom Arnold. Rep. Arnold, you can be certain that I will remember your baldfaced act of nepotism the next time you come up for election.

Here are links to a pair of excellent recent editorials in the Times-Picayune, including a gem by my favorite of their political writers, Jarvis DeBerry.

"So Much for Survival of the Fittest"
http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/deberry/index.ssf?/base/News/1139900648172530.xml

Another good one, this one dealing with the federal screwing over of South Louisiana, as opposed to the state's screwing itself over:

"Still Drowning in 'That Part of the World'"
http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/otheropinions/index.ssf?/base/news-0/11399882818032 0.xml
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, February 17, 2006 - 03:04 pm:   

Mid-City Update:

I had lunch at the new Jefferson Parish branch of one of my favorite local restaurants, Venezia's, and the hostess, who used to work at the North Carrollton restaurant, told me that the original location will be reopening in June. I also had a doctor's appointment (hint: the same type of doctor that Charles Bukowski wrote about in his hospital memoir entitled All the Assholes in the World and Mine) and ended up spending a couple of hours in the waiting room next to an older guy who said his relatives own Angelo Brocatto's Ice Cream and Pastries Shop. He said he thinks they may abandon their flooded Mid-City location up the street from Venezia's Restaurant and go back to where the business was originally located, in the French Quarter. But the hostess at the new Venezia's disagreed, saying she's heard Brocatto's will reopen in their current space. Either way, it'll be great to have a Brocatto's to take my kids to again. That place is a classic New Orleans Italian coffee and desserts joint. The city would be a poorer place without it. I can't wait to get back to the original Venezia's, too.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, February 20, 2006 - 07:26 am:   

I'm so sorry to disappoint that legion of loyal fans who are expecting a Carnival parade update from me. . . my sons were both down with colds this weekend, and the weather on Saturday and Sunday was cold and damp and windy, so I decided not to risk having them out in the open long enough to cart them to a parade and watch the thing. Plus, we'll be out of town this coming weekend, the big weekend, as we'll be attending my niece's bat-mitzvah in San Diego. However, we'll be back in time for Fat Tuesday, so I might take the boys to a Gretna parade if they're feeling okay and I have the energy. Plus, our new rabbi's family, who have never seen a Mardi Gras before, want to join us for a parade on Fat Tuesday, so that'll probably push me into dragging the boys out of the living room for the day.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, February 22, 2006 - 10:00 am:   

Here's an intriguing bit of evidence that a new spirit of communitarianism may be edging its way onto the stage in New Orleans, shoving aside, at least a bit, some of the racial and class-based divisions which have been threatening to make a big hash of everything (or even more of a hash than things are already). City Council President Oliver Thomas, a long-time African American representative on the council and political foe of Mayor C. Ray Nagin's, recently praised the Housing Authority of New Orleans (operators of the city's mostly moribund, empty public housing developments) for suggesting the following policy, one which may not go over particularly well with many of Councilman Thomas's traditional supporters. HANO, with the backing of Thomas and several other members of the City Council, is trying to reopen many of their apartments, mostly on second levels of developments, which weren't directly flooded, but with the following stipulation: that those residents who will be allowed to return to this very limited stock of public housing must pledge to either hold down a job or to enroll in job training. In Thomas's words, no sitting around all day watching the soaps on TV. Given that the city is flat on its back, desperate both for workers AND for affordable housing for low- and moderate-income workers, this is a stroke of common sense, if not genius. Right now, New Orleans is caught in a circular bind -- the tax base is nill because lots of businesses can't reopen; businesses can't reopen because they aren't able to hire enough workers; workers can't come to New Orleans to take jobs because there is nowhere for them to live; the city can't provide housing (such as renovating the vast number of decayed and abandoned properties which they took over before Katrina) because the city is broke. One way to begin breaking this log-jam is to open back up those basically undamaged units of public housing to people who are willing to return and do the work of bringing this town back to life.

Before Katrina, such a policy would have had the lifespan of a fruitfly, if it would've lasted that long before exploding in a fussilade of political outrage. Now, however, at least some of our elected leadership are willing to look beyond the ends of their political noses to try to figure out what the community as a whole desperately needs. Not ALL of our local politicians, by any means (refer to my posts regarding Rep. Jeff Arnold and his nepotistic protection of his father's, Assessor Tom Arnold's, political job), but I'm very happy to see that Councilman Thomas is willing to take the blinders off.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, March 08, 2006 - 10:04 am:   

More election fun. Our (most likely) certifiably insane Clerk of Criminal Courts, Kimberly Williamson-Butler, has thrown her hat into the ring for mayor. She couldn't attend last night's mayoral candidate forum because. . . wait for it. . . the young woman was cooling her heels in the slammer. She got put there for three days for being found in contempt of court, due to her refusal to sign off on her predecessor being allowed to assist with cleaning up the gigantic mess Katrina left the Criminal Courts records room in. She had a snit, like a three year old screaming "I can do it MYSELF!!!" So she went on the lam, avoiding the courts and the cops for about four days until they finally caught up with her. By the way, this is the woman in charge of making all the arrangements for the upcoming election. . . which is scheduled for next month. She significantly screwed up preparations for the most recent election in Orleans Parish, and she wasn't even spending her time in prison back then. Yowza.

My family and I have had a "fun fun fun" last few days. On Friday, I went in for that most splendid and dignified of medical exams, a colonscopy (thank heavens, they put me out this time; when I last had one done, way back in 1980, they rammed that damn tube up my ass with no anaesthetic at all). I got off lucky this time; the doc didn't find anything amiss, for which I am extremely grateful. On Saturday, my two-year-old, Levi, came down with the stomach flu while we were out in Thibodaux for a friend's fortieth birthday party. Had to cut that visit right short (two screaming toddlers isn't the kind of birthday gift you want to give a pal). Sunday night, I started coming down with something related, but I still had to get up early early on Monday, as Dara and I had to bring our smaller son, Asher, to Children's Hospital for surgery. Since birth, he has had a receding penis, which his circumcision did nothing to correct. It isn't a medical problem, but it could certainly be a social and emotional problem a few years down the road, so we opted to get it fixed now. The surgery went really well (they've got a terrific crew over at Children's -- I was very happy with all the nurses and doctors who worked with us), and Asher is recovering nicely. Unfortunately, I couldn't be as much help as I wanted to be on Monday, since the flu was starting to squeeze me tight. Tuesday I was flat on my back all day, and Tuesday night, "Doctor Mom," my wife Dara, started coming down with a version of Levi's stomach flu. To top things off, my boss insisted that I come into the office today, and our baby sitter may have broken her toe and can't walk. At least Levi seems to be doing better, and Asher is progressing well. If only they were old enough to take care of all the adults in their lives (oh, their grandma around the corner has the flu, too). Greetings from New Orleans. . . wish you all were here. . .
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Friday, March 17, 2006 - 11:08 am:   

My family and I spent last Sunday with a good friend of mine, Dr. Jack Stocker. Jack, now 82, is a retired chemistry professor and a member of First Fandom. He's lived in New Orleans since the 1950s and has long been involved with the local SF scene, having been a good friend of the late George Alec Effinger's and a used books dealer at all of the regional conventions. Jack's home was in Gentilly, not far from the London Avenue Canal, and when that canal's levees failed during Hurricane Katrina, Jack's house was inundated with eight feet of water (he was out of town for a professional meeting). In addition to losing a lifetime's worth of personal possessions, photographs, and memorabilia, he also lost about 20,000 rare books and pulp magazines, most of them SF and fantasy-related.

Despite losing all of his personal possessions at the advanced age of 82, Jack remains one of the most cheerful and upbeat persons I know. His son helped him move into a little apartment in Faubourg Marigny, in easy walking distance of the French Quarter. So Jack has been delighting in daily walks through the Quarter and visits to the half-dozen used books dealers in the neighborhood. He is slowly rebuilding his collection, taking whatever he can find at yard sales and thrift stores and trading it for what he really wants. Dara and I gave him a couple of dozen books that we didn't really have space for, and Jack was thrilled, already dreaming of other volumes he could make deals for. He spent a couple of hours with my little boys and I at Washington Square Park in Faubourg Marigny and was enchanted with the chance to help Levi climb the playground ladders and slides (Jack helped raise six boys of his own, so he has lots of memories of the prolific energies of toddlerhood). Then we took him back to our house for an early dinner, and he helped feed the boys while we talked about books and authors and the SF world for a few hours.

What a terrific, big-hearted man. I hope that, should I be fortunate enough to reach the age of 82, that I share his spirit, strength, and inner peace.
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Nathan
Posted on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 06:10 am:   

Andy, I'm going to be in New Orleans for one day this month -- probably the 16th. If you're free, I'd love to hook up and have lunch or at least a coffee with you. If not, I plan to visit again in the summer.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, April 06, 2006 - 07:01 am:   

Great! That's a Sunday, so I should be available (although I might need to bring the boys along). Dara and I are listed in the phone book. Just give us a call when you get into town and we'll definitely get together. We could do a brunch somewhere or maybe a dinner (or, if you don't have much time, coffee would be fine, too). Glad to hear you'll be paying us a visit. I'll look forward to it.
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Nathan
Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 08:16 am:   

Hey Andy, barring disaster (read: car blowing up), I'll be in NO Sunday, as planned. I'll give you a ring.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, April 13, 2006 - 01:04 pm:   

Looking forward to seeing you, Nathan! Drive safely.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, April 18, 2006 - 09:13 am:   

Nathan, are you okay??? I never heard from you on Sunday. Did you cancel your trip to New Orleans? I hope that all is well with you.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Wednesday, April 19, 2006 - 03:17 pm:   

Two Tuesday nights in a row, Dara and I have attended forums for groups of New Orleans City Council candidates. Last week it was the At-Large candidates; this week, the candidates for District C, which includes Algiers, the French Quarter, Faubourg Marigny, and parts of Mid-City. We were especially impressed with the candidates running for the two At-Large spots on the council. Interestingly, neither of the two incumbents who are running (Oliver Thomas and Jackie Clarkson) showed up. Those present were all newcomers, all inspired to give politics/public service a try by the Katrina disaster and what they view as an incompetent response by the current administration and council. One of the best things we heard from all seven of these gentlemen was how much they had come to respect and enjoy each other and that no matter which among them win, the others will stay involved and act as a support team. Impossible to tell from just a couple of hours with them, of course, but at least on the surface it appears that all seven have chosen to make their runs due to love for their community and fear that New Orleans could go belly up without new leadership and fresh thinking. Dara's and my two favorites from this group are David Lapin, an investment banker who retired with his wife to New Orleans three years ago, and Arnie Fielkow, an executive from the Saints football team who was fired by owner Tom Benson late last year for advocating too strenuously that the team should remain in New Orleans and commit itself to supporting the rebuilding. The group running for the District C seat isn't as strong, but there appear to be several good candidates among this number, as well. My second choice would be young attorney James Carter, and my surprise first choice (surprise because I hadn't even heard of him before last night) is furniture store owner Julian Doerr. He came across as the most straight-forward, thoughtful, public service-minded, and balanced of the candidates. Plus, it didn't hurt that appearance-wise and demeanor-wise, he reminds me strongly of my dear old friend Bob Borsodi, who is very much missed.

Dara has said she refuses to vote for any incumbents. I can understand where she's coming from. A number of folks running this time around have been on the New Orleans political scene for years and years, and most of those years saw little or no improvement in the insidious problems which have dogged the city for decades (crime; crumbling streets and infrastructure; mostly abominable public schools; over-reliance on tourism; continuing out-migration of the middle class). Oliver Thomas is a perfect example. I like Oliver, a lot. I've known him since my earliest days working on the New Year Coalition campaign against celebratory gunfire. He did some heroic things during the Katrina disaster, including personally rescuing people from flood waters. But he's been on the City Council, either as a district rep or an at-large rep, for sixteen years. Even before Katrina, the city wasn't much better off in many respects than it had been back in 1990. I would happily give my patronage to Oliver Thomas if he would start a business, because he is a good man and he loves New Orleans. But I just think it is time that he step aside and let somebody else take a crack at making this a more functional city. The man has had his shot.

If I feel that way about Oliver Thomas, multiply that sentiment ten times over for Mayor Ray Nagin. I think Ray is a decent man and, during much of his first term, he wasn't a bad mayor. Marc Morial's great accomplishment as mayor was hiring Police Chief Richard Pennington and backing his reforms to the NOPD. Ray Nagin's biggest accomplishment during his term was avoiding the public corruption that tainted Marc Morial's administration. He also seemed to be a rare political figure who transcended race, being a black mayor who owed his election primarily to the support of white voters and who seemed to want to engage in an honest discussion about the racial and class divides in New Orleans. Dara and I were 110% in his corner during the Katrina disaster when he very humanly and emotionally screamed for the Federal and state governments to get their asses to the Superdome and the Morial Convention Center where 45,000 poor people languished without food or water. But he has really blown it since then. He has pandered, he has waffled, he has shown himself to be unable to commit to any policy positions which might alienate any sectors of the electorate. He has shown himself to be devoid of ideas and too timid to fully back the plan formulated by his own Bring New Orleans Back Commission. He is not the type of mayor New Orleans needs at this desperate time; as his opponent Rob Coughig stated in Monday night's nationally televised debate, "Ray is a fun, glib guy." So true, and a "fun, glib" mayor would be just fine, perhaps, if the city weren't flat on its back, devoid of more than half its population and sixty percent of its housing stock, and flirting with bankruptcy.

The election is this Saturday. The run-off, if necessary (and I'm sure it will be, what with 22 candidates running for mayor), will take place on May 20. If this city votes back in a majority of incumbents, I fear for our future. I truly do. They aren't bad people, most of them. But they weren't doing that great a job before Katrina, and they sure don't have the right stuff to deal with the prostrate city that we live in now.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Thursday, April 20, 2006 - 08:59 am:   

Here are links to a couple of recent Times Picayune editorials which I consider to be outstanding. The first, by geologist Richard Campanella, describes the three different philosophies underlying rebuilding (or abandonment) strategies for the New Orleans region:

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/otheropinions/index.ssf?/base/news-0/11455159072784 30.xml

The second, by my favorite of the T-P's current editorial contributers, Jarvis DeBerry, pleads with mayorial candidates to tell us what we need to hear, rather than what we want to hear, and conjures the ghost of a local TV advertising icon, the Special Man from Frankie and Johnny's Furniture Store on North Broad Street:

http://www.nola.com/news/t-p/deberry/index.ssf?/base/News/114534039467660.xml

Both articles are not to be missed.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 07:55 am:   

Throw out all the bums. . . just not MY bum.

That pretty much sums up the New Orleans municipal elections this past Saturday.

Things aren't over until they're over, of course, and a number of races are still to be decided on May 20, the date of the runoff. But we are assured of seeing many of the same old faces on our City Council, sitting in our seven assessors' chairs, and running the confusing myriad of more minor elected offices. Some commentators are saying this won't matter one way or another, as they expect the mayor and City Council will just be window dressing for at least the next four years, with the Federal and State governments having almost total power of the purse in the city. I still think the composition of our local government will matter, however, as often the devil is found in the picayune, local details -- witness last year's power struggle between Mayor Nagin and the City Council over the placement of FEMA trailer parks throughout the city, for example.

As I wrote in an earlier post, I was extremely impressed with the quality and the passion of the fresh candidates, most of them making their first runs for public office, who put themselves in contention for the At-Large and District C council races. Unfortunately, of all the candidates who garnered my support, only Arnie Fielkow has a shot at getting in at this point. I greatly hope all the others, particularly Julian Doerr and David Lapin, will find a way to continue to be involved in the city's rebirth and rebuilding.

Actually, due to a snafu on the part of the Registrar of Voters, I didn't have the opportunity to cast my vote for Julian Doerr in District C. More than two years ago, during the presidential election, I submitted a change of address form at my old Uptown polling station to switch me to Algiers for all upcoming elections. I went to Edna Karr School with Dara on Saturday, expecting to cast my vote along with her, and was informed that I'm still on the rolls back in my old neighborhood, where I haven't lived since the summer of 2003. So I had to drive across town and vote in a completely different district, District B, where I wasn't familiar with the candidates at all. And, of course, the Registrar will be unable to fix the problem prior to the May 20th runoff, so I'll be forced to vote in District B again. Oh, well. . . at least I'll have a chance to play spoiler and vote against the District B Council incumbent in favor of her opponent. Both candidates in the District C runoff are fresh faces, both of whom live in Algiers, and while I have my preference (James Carter), I think either one of them will be a strong representative for my neighborhood, so I'm not too disappointed that I won't be able to cast my vote for Mr. Carter.

I hope Arnie gets in. Not that I don't like Jackie; I know her personally, and she is very friendly with my mother-in-law. But she has been our local representative for sixteen years, either on the City Council or in the State legislature, and I really want Arnie to have his shot. He's dynamic and progressive, and he and his family have made some big sacrifices to stay here in support of New Orleans. I could also see him working very closely with either Mitch or Ray (whoever our next mayor will be) for the good of the city as a whole. My candidate, Ron Forman, who placed third, has already pledged to work closely with the next mayor, whoever wins, for the good of New Orleans; given his history, I wouldn't expect anything different.

One last thing -- a big thanks to all the campaign volunteers who spent Sunday picking up the campaign signs from General DeGaul Avenue, MacArthur Avenue, and other major thoroughfares in Algiers. There were literally thousands of signs, and I thought they'd never get picked up, but the volunteers did a marvelous job of keeping the litter to a minimum (highly unusual for New Orleans, where natives tend to grow up thinking that any public space is an available trash receptical).
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Nathan Ballingrud
Posted on Monday, April 24, 2006 - 02:01 pm:   

Hey Andy. I think I've got a working email address for you, so I'll email you about last Sunday.
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Andrew Fox
Posted on Tuesday, April 25, 2006 - 07:00 am:   

Great, Nathan. I'm having problems with the andrewfoxbooks.com email address. I left a note for you on Ellen Datlow's board just now. Glad to have you get in touch (I was worried).

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