Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Sunday, February 26, 2006
Wednesday, February 22, 2006
Mitch Landrieu announced for mayor this afternoon. Mo and I went down there, I guess because we were invited, probably because we happen to be on the cultural mailing list. We were riverside, and at least 2 coast guard helicopters flew overhead. Okay I like Mitch. He was our daughter's basketball coach; he spoke at her high school graduation and gave her a hug. He seems to be a good person and a natural born politician. His mom and dad were there, Moon the former mayor. Mitch's speech touched the right bases: a moment of silence for the dead of Katrina, a nod to Mayor Nagin thanking him for his work, just so it's nothing personal. Then Mitch stressed his main selling point: he is a politician. Meaning: he knwos how to communicate and work with other politicians. He mentioned the mayor of Baton Rouge, Kip Holden who was there (I didn't see him.) He mentioned Karen Carter and Ann Duplessis, who were there. He didn't mention sister Mary but obviously he can work with her. I expect he can work with Governor Blanco.
Mitch has a broad minded vision for the city, maybe somewhat unbelievable. New Orleans as an axis for culture and commerce, a world class city, with the business sense of Houston and Atlanta but the charm and culture of , well, New Orleans, adding up to a sort of Paris on the Mississippi. Well, probably not but it was a beautiful day in the sky.
Mitch had lots of cute kids holding hand made signs representing different neighborhoods; Mitch believes and lives racial harmony, and I suspect Mitch has good support from old line politicians. That's what worries me a little, but I think of the three major candidates, he's the most likely to succeed politically.
Anyway the guy is just extremely likeable. And did I mention he was my daughter's basketball coach?
Thursday, February 16, 2006
Tonight I attended a panel on the working poor in New Orleans since Katrina at Loyola University. Some of the panelists included Wade Radke, New Orleans born founder of ACORN and an organizer for Local 100 hospitality workers; Dr. Mark Rank, a professor of sociology at Washingotn Universit author of One Nation Underprivileged; Professor Bill Quigley , a law shcool professor at Loyola University and a noted local activist and Jarvis De Berry, an editorial wrier for the NewOrleans Times-Picayune; and Alan Baroski of theBrookings Institute, author of a report on poverty awareness, Katrina’s Window.
Katrina’s Window is available for reading at http://www.brookings.edu/metro/pubs/20051012_Concentratedpoverty.pdf
Also during the panel, Bill Quigley mentioned the Agenda for Children’s Self Suffiency Sandaard for Louisiana which is a way of measuring actual poverty by asking what a family actually needs to be self-sufficient.
That report is available here:
Important points that were made about the working poor. Because of the politics in this country we tend to look at poverty as an individual matter. We don’t ask about the structural causes of poverty. Dr. Rank compared it to a game of musical chairs. Let’s say tehre are 9 players and only 7 chairs. Two people are going to lose. In the current approach to poverty, people focus on the 2 that lose and say, why did they lose, what’ wrong with them, etc. But in a structural approach, we ask, why aren’t there more chairs?
A few interesting points came up. The working poor in the city would closely correlate to bus ridership. (Over 25% of people pre-Karina in New Orleans did not have access to a car. Currently ridership is at about 9% of its previous level which might indicate a rtehr large shortfall of working poor. One panelist pointed out that while New Orleans has a reasonably good bus system, it has no interface with surrounding parishes. It’s hard to ride a bus to a job in neighboring Jefferson Parish. This is a good example of a structural problem that would help the working poor have more opportunities.
The biggest structural problem today is clearly the lack of housing for the working poor. Rents have gone up substantially. It’s already a fact that in most cities in America 2 people working at a minimum wage cannot afford a two bedroom apartment.
The other structural problem pre-Katrina was the disastrously bad public school system. Radke of ACORN observed that people get the schools that their local businesses demand and that in New Orleans, the demand has been for people to change sheets or wait tables, jobs that don’t require education. In effect the schools have been successful in turning out workers to be exploited. The elite schools (like Ben Frnaklin High School) produce students who will leave the city and never return.
Bill Quigley characterized the response to the storm as a self-help evacuation because people were expected o get themselves out of town.He characterizes the rebuilding of the city as a self help rebuild. 60% of the city were renters and nothing is being done to bring them back. Older people are returning because in many cases their actual greatest asset is their home. Howeer younger peole with families cannot return; there is not only a shortage of working poor but also middle class. There are not enough schools for children (only 18 public schools are open) and not enough housing for either class.
Who has returned? The people are probably older, generally, something I’ve also observed.
In the discussion, someone asked, why is it that the Republicans (like Bush and locally his friend Joe Canizaro of the Bring Back New Orleans Commission) are talking about planning whereas the Democrats on the city council are talking about self sufficiency and every person for himself?
Radke answered that he believed the developers (like Canizaro and Pres Kabacoff) were seeking land essentially. He gave an exaple of a neighborhood of slab homes near Gentilly that would be costly for individuals to rebuild because each of them would have to raise their homes and the costs are prohibitive (AS an aside he mentioned a study of slab homes in New Orleans East that were investigated by the Earth Institute; 8 out of 10 they looked at would be impossible to raise up.)
However, once the landowners were made whole and abandoned he neighborhood, a developer could easily move in, bulldoze the homes, add fill and build up the land to much higher height and redevelop to a more upscale neighborhood. Radke believes this accounts for the confusion about what’s going on. He beileves the neighborhoods that will survive are those where substantial numbers of people return and make it impossible for developers to move in en masse.
According to the Brookings site: http://www.agendaforchildren.org/pages/LASelfSufficiencyStandard.pdf
Overall, nearly 50,000 poor New Orleanians lived in neighborhoods where the poverty rate exceeded
40 percent. New Orleans ranked second among the nation’s 50 largest cities on the degree to which its poor
families, mostly African American, were clustered in extremely poor neighborhoods like the Lower Ninth
Ward. In these places, the average household earned barely more than $20,000 annually, only one in twelve
adults held a college degree, four in five children were raised in single-parent families, and four in ten working-
age adults—many of them disabled—were not connected to the labor force.
A new Brookings analysis confirms the disparate effect
that the city’s flooding had on poor, minority households.
The flooded area of New Orleans contained 80 percent
of the city’s minority population, versus 54 percent of its
white population. The average household income there
lagged that in the city’s higher ground by more than
Certainly, Hurricane Katrina’s lopsided impact on these
populations reflects failures at the federal, state, and local
levels to mount an adequate response to the impending
natural disaster. Yet it also highlights the effects of
an even more insidious, long-standing policy of neglect
towards the city’s most vulnerable residents, exemplified
by their continued segregation into neighborhoods of
In these neighborhoods—places like New Orleans’ Lower
Ninth Ward—families are cut off from quality educational,
housing, and employment opportunities. Unsafe local
environments debilitate residents mentally and physically.
That so many people from neighborhoods like
these in New Orleans had no friends or relatives to turn
to for shelter or financial assistance when disaster struck
demonstrates that their location can isolate them socially,
as well as geographically. In short, extremely poor
neighborhoods serve to limit the life chances and quality
of life for poor families that live in their midst, above
and beyond the barriers imposed by their own personal
Unfortunately, New Orleans is hardly the only place in
America where concentrated urban poverty persists.
Despite positive trends in the 1990s, almost every major
American city still contains neighborhoods that mirror
the Lower Ninth Ward demographically and economically.
These places did not arise solely as the result of individuals’
choices about where to live. Their existence reflects
a complicated mix of politics and policies that over the
past several decades have reinforced the concentration of
racial and ethnic poverty in central cities.
Sunday, February 12, 2006
Well Krewe du Vieux rolled Saturday, chilly outside but our hearts were warm. We had great fun marching. We were part of the Krewe de Mishigas-- Yiddish for the krewe of craziness-- formerly Krewe du Jieux but do to an unfortunate but predictable schism in the ranks, there is now a random krewe of jieux marching about under the redoubtably brilliantly but ofttimes maddening LJ Goldstein, whereas the krewe he founded.. anyway.. yawn...
We marched, and the crowd was happy to see us. We were supposed to be NOLA's Ark-- being a Jieuxish krewe we are doomed to be exegetical-- anyway, 3 of us came as the three blind mice levee inspectors.. marching with our white canes and crashing into folks, who seemed to get it immediately...Some photos for your viewing pleasure...
First you see (above) our King and her royal highness the J.A.P. 2006--
Next (below) one of those lovely blind mice a random clown...a FEMA official, and the candyman
Wednesday, February 01, 2006
The state of Louisiana is pushing for a greater share of oil royalties from the Outer Continental Shelf.
Former Senator Breaux thinks chances are better than in the past to get crucial White House support.
But Charlie Melancon, congressman from Napoleonville isn't so sure.
During a recent meeting business leaders and politicians had with Bush in New Orleans, Melancon asked Bush to support the state’s push for the royalties. “I said, ‘if you would help us get OCS revenue sharing, we could take care of our own problems,’ ” Melancon said. Melancon said Bush responded by asking, “What’s OCS?”
Governor Blanco wrote to the Federal government arguing that in light of Katrina and Rita and their damage to the coast, she had to reassess future oil leases in the Gulf.
It's a big shot across the bow-- finally someone in the state is saying, we've had enough. You can read details here
Gov. Kathleen Blanco warned this week that the state would not support future
offshore lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico unless Louisiana gets a share of
the federal royalties generated by oil production there. You can read more
At last Blanco is showing some spine. I'm sick of begging Washington.
Bush says the country is "addicted" to oil. It's time to make these addicts pay.
- Mardi Gras, Frenchman Street 2006
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- Mitch Landrieu announced for mayor this af...
- WORKING POOR IN NEW ORLEANS Tonight I attended a ...
- Well Krewe du Vieux rolled Saturday, chilly outsi...
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- ▼ February (12)
Rodger Kamenetz is an award-winning poet and author. He wrote the landmark international bestseller The Jew in the Lotus and the National Jewish Book Award-winning Stalking Elijah. His five books of poetry include The Lowercase Jew --he has been called “the most formidable of the Jewish-American poets”. His memoir, Terra Infirma, has been described as “the most beautiful book ever written about a mother and son.”
His 2007 book, The History of Last Night's Dream, was featured on Oprah Winfrey's Soul Series. Kamenetz takes us on an historical tour of dreaming from Genesis to now, and shows how dreams have been misinterpreted. He then shows how dreams can be used today to reveal the truth of the soul.
In 2010 came Burnt Books: Rabbi Nachman of Bratslav and Franz Kafka, a dual biography published by Schocken and Nextbook Press.
Rodger lives in New Orleans where he divides his time between working with dream clients and writing poetry. He is married to fiction writer Moira Crone and is the father of Anya Kamenetz (author of Generation Debt) and Kezia Kamenetz.ACADEMIC CAREER
Rodger Kamenetz is Professor Emeritus at Louisiana State University where he was the Sternberg Honors Professor and LSU Distinguished Professor. He held a dual appointment as a Professor in the Department of English and in the Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies. He is the founding director of LSU's highly successful MFA program in Creative Writing, and the founding director of the Jewish Studies Program. His students have gone on to successful writing careers, among them poets Martha Serpas, Virgil Suarez, Mark Yakich and Anthony Kelman and fiction writers Olympia Vernon, Ronlyn Domingue, Laurie Lynn Drummond,and Connie Porter. He holds a B.A. from Yale College and graduate degrees from Johns Hopkins and Stanford Universities.