Saturday, December 31, 2005

Outlook for 2006 looks more promising 

From the Times-Picayune:

A committee of Mayor Ray Nagin's Bring New Orleans Back Commission appears poised to recommend significant changes in the way the city is governed, such as consolidating all property tax assessments in one office, reducing the City Council's authority over zoning and land-use decisions, and merging the civil and criminal court systems.

The consolidation of New Orleans' antiquated, ineffectual property tax "system" has been a pet interest of mine in recent months, and I'm heartened by this news. I'm going to do everything in my power to see that this particular recommendation becomes reality.
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Friday, December 30, 2005

Could someone tell the ghost of Patrick Henry that 9/11 changed everything? 

The Poor Man juxtaposes famous quotes about liberty with portions of Kaye Grogan's latest column. Now, Grogan's scribblings may seem like low-hanging fruit to some, but I keep hearing her sentiments echoed throughout talk radio and the internets.

Partial freedom isn't free!

Apparently, Digby doesn't understand this maxim and refuses to kowtow to the "panic artists". His failure to blindly cling to the presidential security blanket sends a dangerous message to our enemies.

More on grogans here. (Hat tip to Chris.)
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The ever-mirthful Chad Rogers asked a question over at the DP a week or two ago. I'm having difficulty accessing the blog portion of his site, so I'll paraphrase it from memory. Chad said that the first question Louisianans must ask themselves is "What kind of a state do we want to live in?"

I would answer, fairly seriously: a state that includes its southern half.

Also, Chad recently posited that we shouldn't allow those (at all levels) who screwed up during the Katrina aftermath the chance to screw up a second time. For the most part, I agree. But how can we apply this to the Army Corps of Engineers?

From today's Times-Picayune:

The engineering mistakes that led to the canal levee failures that flooded most of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina were found and then dismissed in the Army Corps of Engineers' design review process in 1990, an investigative team reviewing the failures says.

Can't unelect the Corps, can we?

One of Emily Metzgar's resolutions for 2006 is "Resolve not to view the federal government as a source of hand-outs. The federal government isn't the solution to the state's problems."

If someone wants to explain how Flood and Wetlands protection can be implemented in South Louisiana without significant help from the feds, I'm all ears. If someone can explain how the feds aren't responsible for the Army Corps' apparent floodwall construction mistakes, I'd like to hear that as well. And why are funds for the protection of South Louisiana and the redevelopment of New Orleans considered a "handout" rather than an investment?

Must Louisiana change its political culture in order to survive? Certainly. Will it also need massive federal assistance for coastal/hurricane protection? Even more certainly. Sorry if some conservatives or libertarians are disappointed that LA's fate requires a "liberal" solution, but that's the reality. We need help from the federal government: neither Rep. Baker nor Rep. Jindal nor Sen. Vitter would dare dispute that.
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Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Black Katrina evacuees face triple the usual discrimination rate for housing 

The Houston Chronicle reports:

A fair-housing watchdog group says it found discrimination against black Hurricane Katrina evacuees at two out of three apartment complexes it surveyed in Houston and 16 other cities.

Between mid-September and mid-December, the National Fair Housing Alliance had callers pose as hurricane victims seeking information at mid-priced apartment complexes in Texas, Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Tennessee. At 66 percent of the apartments, white callers were treated more favorably than blacks, the group reported.

"I was surprised at the amount of hostility that came out over the telephone when apartment managers could discern the caller was African-American," said Shanna L. Smith, the alliance's president. "I expected to see the same outpouring of support you saw for the evacuees, with the millions of dollars of donations, the volunteers, white families opening their homes to black families."

Instead, she said, the group found white callers often were quoted lower rents, or agents informed black callers that no apartments were available moments after telling white callers of vacancies.

"Managers lied about availability of apartments, they lied about incentives that were put in place for evacuees," Smith said. "Sometimes, security deposits were waived for whites and not for blacks, or they were lower for whites than for blacks."

At one complex in Dallas, she said, "to whites it was, 'We'll give you a 26-inch TV set.' No mention of that to the blacks."

The group's 12-page report, which was released last week, gives no specifics of how apartments in Houston handled the alliance's test calls.


The Washington, D.C.-based alliance, which represents 220 private, nonprofit fair housing organizations from 37 states, targeted larger complexes that advertise in apartment guides and on the Internet, Smith said.

In 2000, a HUD study found that 22 percent of black rental housing seekers were discriminated against by apartment owners and agents.

Smith said she could offer no explanation why the alliance's would-be Katrina evacuees faced a far greater rate of discrimination.
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"He's a real estate guy. He gets it." 

Louisiana Political Analyst John Maginnis:

Counting our blessings, President Bush gave the gift of levees, nearly doubling his original request to $2.9 billion, which is decent of him, considering that's what it takes to build to actual, not faux, Category 3 hurricane protection.

But unlike Santa, Bush also taketh away, blocking the widely supported housing recovery bill to create a corporation to buy up destroyed homes, settle mortgages and redevelop the properties. Tens of thousands of homeowners, who were counting on the legislation to help them close a dreadful chapter and start anew, now face a very uncertain new year.

The bill's author Congressman Richard Baker, R-Baton Rouge, believes that the White House, concerned about the pricetag, waited until late to object because it didn't think the measure would get as far as it did. Now Baker is confident the president will be on board for a second try in the spring.

But Baker had him there before, or thought he did. A week earlier, he told the Baton Rouge Press Club that the president expressed support for the idea after an hour-long meeting. "He's a real estate guy. He gets it," said Baker.

But who got it in the end? We counted on a "real estate guy" who stiffed us at the closing.
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