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We Could Be Famous



Celebritard Blogutante



Updated: 2017-11-25T05:36:58.881-06:00

 



Dear My Entire Contact List. Re: Gulf Coast Recovery Act.

2010-06-11T12:08:38.989-05:00

I've been trying to send this around as much as possible. Have you seen this?Did you see or hear about this Anderson Cooper interview with Doug Brinkley last night?Brinkley says he's got admin sources talking about unveiling a massive Gulf Coast Recovery Act? It sounds too good to be true. I haven't seen any other press reporting on it or confirming Brinkley. A massive public works project to rebuild coastline and related infrastructure has been desired above all else in S. LA since before Katrina and especially since. I can think of nothing that would be more meaningful to these communities. Even if Brinkley was jumping the gun, it would be a massive help to at least get a discussion going on something like this.http://videocafe.crooksandliars.com/heather/doug-brinkley-administration-going-come-ouRelevant transcript excerpted in my postscript.EliBRINKLEY: Well, I mean, there are three things, I mean, I think, big baskets, going on.One is close that well, get the -- capture as much oil as you can, keep the pressure on BP on the relief wells. Second is immediate cleanup. And I think more can be done by the Obama administration. And I -- and but I think the big third piece is coming, when President Obama comes to Florida and Alabama and Mississippi, and that is holding BP responsible for the Natural Resource Damage Act, for the Oil Spill Response Act. And, by that, I mean BP is going to end up paying somewhere from $10 billion to $15 billion, maybe even $20 billion, because they're going -- one of the only ways to save the Louisiana wetlands is going to be -- you know, the Mississippi River has been channelized for navigation.Well, now the Mississippi River has to be redirected. It's going to have to be flooded and sediment pumped into these marshlands to save it. I think the Obama administration...(CROSSTALK)COOPER: So, no, wait. No, wait. Doug, is this just a hope on your part?BRINKLEY: No.COOPER: Or -- I mean, I know you have been talking to sources. Do you believe this is actually going to happen?BRINKLEY: Yes. Yes.And it's one of the reasons why the president is not talking to Tony Hayward. And they are going to come out with a large Gulf recovery act, because the oil and gas industry has been dredging. We have disappearing barrier islands. For 40 years down there, it's abused the wetlands.This is a turning point. There is an appetite on Capitol Hill for Gulf recovery act. The Mississippi River is going to have to be redirected into the marshlands. And BP and Transocean and other, you know, operations, Cameron, other companies are going to have to pay up to $10 billion and $15 billion for breaking national acts.(CROSSTALK)BRINKLEY: In addition, for offshore drilling in the Gulf, Anderson, there will be a conservation excise tax that, yes, there will be offshore drilling, but Louisianians will start getting some of the revenue to stay in state.CARVILLE: If -- if the president does that, I will be the biggest supporter in the world. He will be beloved in Louisiana.If he -- if he has a restoration act and the kind of things that Doug Brinkley is talking about, who Doug, by the way, lived here. His wife is from here. He knows exactly what he is talking about. If there is that kind of action from the White House and this president, he will go down, in my opinion, as one of the great presidents in history.And I have not hesitated to criticize him. But if that kind of action is -- that -- that kind of thing starts to happen, that's going to be a very encouraging sign for South Louisiana, and for the country, too.COOPER: Doug, I mean, what percent -- I mean, you -- you -- you're saying this based on people you have talked to?BRINKLEY: Yes.[...]



Steps on the rubber, checks his sign, steps off the rubber, wipes his brow, adjusts his cap, steps back up on the rubber

2010-06-08T17:20:33.197-05:00

I've really been struggling to truly scale back my news consumption. It is, I've realized, a project. And it is one I've been working on for two or three weeks now with some important but limited success. The impetus for my effort was my decision to go to grad school but it could have just have easily been related to burnout. Geopolitical affairs have seemed especially volatile for the last month and especially over the last two weeks. It is extraordinarily stressful to read the paper these days, especially for friends of the Gulf. The national discourse has seemed especially frantic and inconsistent.I've also been interested in a couple of interesting pieces that question what our increasing use of the internet and gadgets are doing to how we think and live. Basically, our attention spans are being tested and so are our ability to analyze larger, long term phenomenon. I don't think I've fallen into the hole but I've certain walked around the edge and peered into it. Certainly, it took me a lot longer to read my latest book than it should have.---I've been trying to spend more time with my favorite past time, the great game of baseball.I happened to be watching the Tigers play the Indians live when poor Armando Galarraga lost his perfect game bid to a horrendous blown call by first base umpire Jim Joyce. The immediate reaction to the mistake from chatterers was to call for expanded instant replay use. The argument was that since we have the technology, we should digitize the baseball rule book in order to eliminate human error from the game. Yet the incredible class with which the perp, Joyce, and the victim, Galarraga, conducted themselves after the blown call turned out to be incredibly heartwarming and wonderful. It was such that after the immediate calls for replay, there were glowing columns and reports about the great lesson America had just learned about sportsmanship. In all probability, Galarraga's near-perfect game will be remembered for longer and more fondly than an actual perfect game would have been.And so had instant replay been in place, we all would have been denied what is undeniably an awesome reaffirmation of the beauty of imperfection and the irreplicable nature of the human touch.(Though for the record, I do think there has got to be an unintrusive way to use replay to overturn really bad calls in baseball.)The calls for the mechanized reduction of human error come amid a context in which player evaluation decisions are increasingly being made with the assistance of computerized evaluation of player statistics and ability. The movement within professional player evaluation and popular with fantasy baseball players seeks to project what a player "should" do statistically speaking. The popularity of these methodologies has ushered what some have probably already referred to the "Moneyball era" of baseball team personnel management. The idea originally was that teams were relying on less-than-appropriate statistical measures or on unquantifiable measures like whether a player's was "clutch." But it's not hard to imagine what happens when the pendulum swings to far in that direction. I believe the success of the Phillies in recent years is due, in part, to the organization's emphasis on a player's individual personality and on team chemistry. It has gotten to the point where instead of a particular measure of player skill being poorly evaluated by baseball GMs, the most undervalued baseball commodity comes from imprecise and difficult to measure judgement of a player's character.(Though for the record, I do think a lot of GMs are still foolishly making really boneheaded personnel decisions based on their 'guts' instead of on what can be and already is measured.)The other area in baseball in which there is an increasing clamor involves the length of games. Some, even within the world of baseball fandom, argue that baseball takes too long. Indeed, baseball has lost market share to the NFL. There is so much irregularity in baseball. There is no clock so games can last from anywh[...]



What was this 'sposed to be?

2010-06-02T16:58:47.648-05:00

A few weeks ago, I made the final decision to attend grad school this coming fall and quit, for the first time since I launched this blog in 2007, writing about New Orleans.I wanted to take some time to enjoy my last month in New Orleans, to have a leisurely staycation in which I would slowly sell off my possessions to finance some restaurant goodbyes. I wanted to try to reevaluate my work here over the last couple of years, to try to paint a big picture in my mind. What was this all about and what did I learn?The reflection process has, so far, been way less successful than that which is forcing me to retire snug pairs of pants at an alarming rate.My self-imposed rehabilitation and semi-retirement from writing has not stopped me from impulsively and compulsively reading the news about New Orleans, especially as it relates to the BP disaster. I just can't quite seem to quit it, at least not while I'm here experiencing the smell of it all and trying to pump up stories like this one with national media. It has been impossible to think cumulatively while simultaneously considering the daily intricacies of the unfixable oil catastrophe and coverage of it in the media.I spent all weekend exiled in the woods to dry out a little bit. It did wonders for the soul. When I get to Philly and am at the ballpark, I think I'll be able to separate myself even more successfully. I'm not sure I will now be able to successfully deliver to you a meaningful or interesting series that will review and revise this blog. There's too much to say.A couple of people have said that I should write a book. It is probably true that I've got a few hundred pages worth of long-winded feelings, rants, and analysis about recovery from the failure of New Orleans' levee systems and the state of politics and governance in New Orleans more generally inside of me. But that doesn't mean it would be the least bit entertaining. Or even interesting or useful.So what I thought I'd do, since I have resolved not to "blog" (in the sense that I refuse to "cover" anything anymore), is to try to get my own gears going by restating what I think my mission was back when I started We Could Be Famous right after the second anniversary of Katrina in 2007.Let's see.I was 22 years old and had just graduated Tulane University the previous spring. I was an enthusiastic student but was feeling kind of lost in terms of what to do next. I spent the entire summer backpacking through Mexico and if I knew anything it was that I wasn't ready to join the traditional 9-5 workforce in any field. I certainly knew what my interests were and felt like I had pretty well-defined values. I care about helping beleaguered cities and knew that I would eventually find a "career" that allowed me to do that. But fresh out of college and full of that totally irritating combination of exuberance and ennui, I decided to feel out my own path.I also saw an opportunity. I was an early adopter of "blogs" (I still really really hate the word 'blog') as important sources of news and opinion. In Philly, I noticed the efforts of people who were starting to upset the traditional Democratic Party machine by mounting electoral challenges to ward leaders. I was amazed and inspired in 2004 as the long-shot Dean campaign, which I admired but never supported (not that I'd be ashamed to say if I did - I liked that liar John Edwards in '04), used the internet to get people organized in real life for real life purposes. I was amazed and inspired by the way it seemed like short video clips or short snarky comments by a few well positioned and widely read liberal curmudgeon outsiders could shake up the mainstream news. Even though the internet and the blogosphere (another word I detest) wasn't that different from what it is today, it kind of felt like the Wild West, especially at the local level. To put it crudely, it seemed like if you were funny and made consistent arguments, famous people would link to you and then you would be famous too.(That inelegant conclusion was[...]



Rustoleum

2010-05-19T17:36:46.671-05:00

Does this thing still work?

As I said in my farewell piece for the Lens, I am heading to SIPA at Columbia to pursue a master's degree.

I really need to 'quit' the news and find where I put my attention span. I'll really need that for school. But I would like to continue writing.

So I'm not really sure what I'm going to do with ye olde We Could Be Famous blog.



We Could blog at The Lens

2010-01-19T12:29:45.345-06:00

I'm going to be blogging at The Lens, with increasing frequency as some of the kinks with the site redesign are ironed out. My hope is to establish a regular intellectualesque conversation that I hope long time and new readers will enjoy. I'll elaborate on that idea later on.

In the mean time, my first post is up now.

Go read the super important things I have to say.



#Nolamayor piques national attention

2010-01-14T12:52:49.957-06:00

The campaign to elect the next mayor of New Orleans has attracted a wave of national attention. The AP, New York Times, and Los Angeles Times all wrote reports within the last week to brief readers about the mayor's race and the real possibility that New Orleans will elect a white mayor for the first time in over a generation.

Check them all out and see if you agree with the analysis:

Campbell Robertson of the New York Times, "Race Assumes Central Role in New Orleans Vote"
Richard Faussett of the Los Angeles Times, "In New Orleans, a white candidate leads the field"
Kevin McGill of the Associated Press, "Mostly black New Orleans could pick white Mayor"


State Senator Ed Murray's exit from the race and the collective gasp of many members of the city's African American political elite when he did, seems to have been the impetus for the wave of national dispatches.

The three stories are not appreciably different, but do emphasize different reasons for the loss of African American political unity.

McGill points to the decline of African American middle class neighborhoods as a result of the Katrina tragedy as "undercutting efforts by black candidates to raise money and build voter support."

Faussett describes "buyer's remorse" in the African American community and points to universal disapproval of Mayor Nagin in polls and ongoing federal investigations.

Robertson's piece similarly discusses "buyer's remorse" and - I love this line - the "low wattage" of most contenders prior to Landrieu's entry. Robertson's description of "the franchise" and the significance of political power for the African American community is also very interesting.

Black professionals refer to the office as “the franchise,” the counterweight to the economic power of New Orleans’s white elite. For the past three decades, the black private sector — the lawyers, businessmen and architects — has relied on the franchise: they may not always be able to become board members at the city’s white-owned firms, but black professionals turned to the city government for contracts and jobs.


I think these are damn fine write-ups all things considered. How about you all? Any nits to pick?



City Council ordinance seeks to limit Mayor's discretionary powers, but only this one time

2010-01-13T16:29:42.386-06:00

Yesterday, I wrote about the potential for increased federal scrutiny over the manner in which D-CDBG funds are being monitored by the LRA and used in Orleans Parish.

Recently, Mayor Ray Nagin revived plans to purchase the Chevron Building even though City Council had voted against pursuing such an agreement last summer. The Nagin administration has argued that because only funding sources independent of the city budget would be used - the revolver fund or D-CDBG money - Council has no legal oversight authority. Presumably, that logic would extent to every project the Mayor might pursue using non-budget recovery dollars.

I've now learned that City Councilmembers Jackie Clarkson, Arnie Fielkow, Stacy Head, and Shelley Midura have cosponsored an ordinance that would require the Mayor to disclose plans to use money from the capital project fund or D-CDBG funds and to obtain Council approval for those plans.

Read the ordinance here.

The ordinance only applies to "City Hall Project Worksheet 7746," which represents the proposed purchase of the Chevron Building.

It does not tackle the larger questions about the mayor's power to use D-CDBG and revolver fund money in a discretionary fashion and would not preclude the mayor from applying recovery dollars to other projects such as the proposed LSU/VA hospital or the proposed renovation of Municipal Auditorium with little disclosure or oversight.

The measure will be up for a vote at City Council on Thursday, January 21st.



Rumors I wish were true: Stormy Daniels and Trashanova

2010-01-13T13:30:14.561-06:00

I was so excited when I heard the rumor that garbage contractor Sidney Torres, the Trashanova, had fallen for your next Senator from the Great State, pornography entrepreneur Stormy Daniels.

Unfortunately the rumor is false. That is too bad because it sounds like a lot of fun.

Can't you picture the type of hilarity that would ensue if Stormy, SDT, Kid Rock, and Lenny Kravitz jumped on a campaign bus tour through the North Louisiana Bible Belt as the Sinator's opening act?

A guy can dream.

I was able to speak to a source close to Daniels' campaign for Senate against David Vitter.

"I have heard from students at UNO that Sidney Torres was dating a UNO student named Stormy since at least the spring of 2009. I do not know the current status or validity of that relationship. I have been told that this alleged girlfriend of Mr. Torres's has blond hair and similar upper body attributes to Stormy Daniels. But they are two different people."

Too bad!



HUD Monitoring Disaster CDBG Funding More Closely?

2010-01-13T00:33:39.268-06:00

For more than a few weeks, American Zombie and I have been wondering aloud Mayor Ray Nagin administration's interpretation of laws governing money outside the parameters of the regular city budget, as well as City Council's oversight of that money.Of particular concern is the "revolver fund" that the Louisiana Recovery Authority established to advance cash to parishes to pay for projects that will eventually get FEMA reimbursement. Nagin wants to use some of that money to buy the Chevron Building and convert it into a new city hall - even though the council has already rejected such a move.A statement from Nagin spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett makes it clear the administration believes it has discretionary power over funding streams like the revolver fund and that the council has no legal oversight."The matter before the City Council was the appropriation of funding from one capitol [sic] account to another ..not an approval of the acquisition. Funding appropriation –Legislative Branch authority per the charter, Purchases –Executive Branch authority per the charter."To clarify, Quiett is saying that the proposal to buy the Chevron building that was shot down by City Council over the summer involved the city budget. Because the most recent proposal only uses money from state and federal sources, such as the revolver fund, there is no formal oversight process through which the administration must seek City Planning Commission or City Council approval. Whether that is accurate is debatable, but it is the administration's position nonetheless.Presumably, that position extends to the city's use of the Disaster Community Development Block Grant money, for which the LRA is the local administrator of federal funds from the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department. The City Council had obligations when it comes to this money in that the LRA required a recovery plan with community buy-in, including Council approval, before the agency would release the HUD funds.However, when it comes time to allocate real capital to a specific project, the modification of the original plans accepted by the LRA, or the reallocation of surplus money from a specific project, it would appear that the Mayor has vast powers.Once the Council approves a framework for yearly DCDBG expenditures, only the LRA or HUD would be in position to block funding for a specific project submitted by Nagin on the grounds that it deviates from the original recovery plan, anticipated expenditures were vaguely documented or if HUD regulations are otherwise violated.Since the Obama administration took office and Shaun Donovan was sworn in as the new secretary, HUD has been more proactive about cracking down on dysfunctional projects. HUD's receivership of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, for instance, has been totally reshuffled amid widespread allegations of graft and waste.There is also evidence that HUD is taking a fresh look at its role in the hurricane recovery process both in New Orleans and elsewhere.In November, AP reported that a HUD review had discovered over 11 million in unaccounted disaster money at the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA) that had fallen victim to poor record keeping or a failure to follow HUD regulations.That same week AP also reported that HUD had rejected Texas' recovery plan for rebuilding areas badly battered by Hurricane Ike in 2008. The notification letter from HUD, which you can read here, suggests that Texas' plan was denied for failures to comply with federal citizen participation requirements.Are these recent actions highlighting regulatory compliance issues in New Orleans and Texas indicative of a much more widespread concern on the part of HUD administrators that processes governing the efficient use of recovery money were poorly constructed, inattentively followed or even explicitly violated?What effec[...]



Warren Riley! Stacy Head! In 3-D! On Ice!

2010-01-11T17:45:21.006-06:00

Update: WDSU just caught up with Superindendent Riley and he appears to be meekly backing off. It makes his comments on the radio last week all the more slanderous.Off-camera, Riley told WDSU that he doesn't believe the e-mail is a big deal, that he's never seen the message and he doesn't have proof that Head actually sent it.Update II: Seriously, I cannot believe how pathetic this walk back is by Riley. Unbelievable. He should apologize to WBOK's listeners and to Councilwoman Head.--Warren Riley leveled some pretty serious and racially charged allegations in an interview with WBOK last week. I really wish WBOK archived its broadcasts. Thankfully, the T-P's Brendan McCarthy was tuned in.The allegations about Head's e-mail came up when a radio station caller, who went by the name Malcolm, mentioned the alleged message.The caller said: "I hear some of our council members are sending e-mails out -- one in particular, Ms. Head, sent an e-mail saying she hopes you fail and let's not approve your budget. But anyway, she's the failure in all of this anyway.Riley responded: "You forgot the N-word that was in that e-mail, from what I understand.""Well, yeah, you heard about it," the caller responded. "She said 'Let's make this Negro, not Negro, but she used that other one."The caller then lambasted the media for ignoring the message. "The news (media) did not, nobody else put that out, nobody else interviewed, nobody made a big story about that. And if it was somebody of color that sat on the City Council who had that kind of behavior, would have been asked to step down."Those who know Stacy Head personally have been quick to insist that this allegation is baseless and that such behavior would be unimaginable. But considering Stacy Head's history of off-color and, in a general sense, prejudiced language, Riley's allegation must at least be considered plausible.Saying something that reflects ignorance, prejudice, or bias is different from saying something indisputably racist with malicious intent. Riley's accusations, if true, would be far more condemning of Head's character than her casually offensive observations in the Walmart checkout aisle.If Head indeed used that epithet toward anyone, she would have to resign. She should not and cannot represent a population for which she has such an expressed, visceral hatred. The public pressure would be intense and well-deserved.Luckily, we don't have to live in a world of 'what ifs.' Warren Riley claims Councilwoman Head used that particular slur in an e-mail. He should immediately produce the email. Regardless, news organizations should submit a public-records request to Head to obtain it.Head's colleagues should hold immediate hearings to demand Riley produce the email, to censure Head if he can come through, or to call for Riley's ouster if he cannot.If this email does not exist, Riley would be guilty of an extraordinarily insidious, divisive and manipulative slander. He knew that the forum he chose to air this allegation, WBOK, would not challenge him. He knew he was speaking to an audience predisposed - because of Head's past intransigence and WBOK's listener base - to believe a plausible, even if baseless, allegation of racism about the councilwoman.And maybe he thought Head would prefer to ignore the story and minimize its media echo amid a tough reelection fight instead of throwing down the gauntlet to make him prove his charge.Stacy Head should not and cannot simply ignore this story. Merely asserting that the allegations are totally baseless and false, as she did to the Times-Picayune, is not enough. Because of her salty language in the past, there is a special burden on her to substantively prove her innocence to the extent that she is able. When the e-mail controversy first began, Head took it upon herself to release a large set of e[...]



Rabid John Georges demonstrates comedic value to Dems

2010-01-09T01:09:06.766-06:00

Update: Now with video below

This was recorded at tonight's meeting of your Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.

(object) (embed)

John Georges goes rabid at OPDEC endoresement forum from Eli Ackerman on Vimeo.




Apparently, Georges flew off the handle.

There should be even crazier audio or video floating out there. I will see if I can get it.

And by the way, OPDEC has officially endorsed:

Troy Henry for Mayor
Arnie Fielkow and Cynthia Willard-Lewis for Council at-large
Susan Guidry for Council District A
Corey Watson for Council District B
Kristin Giselson Palmer for Council District C
Cynthia Hedge-Morrell for Council District D
Austin Badon for Council District E
Dwight McKenna for Coroner
and Karen Carter Peterson for State Senate District 5.


Now, here is some video of John Georges exhibiting no shame whatsoever. It is amazing.


(object) (embed)

John Georges untethered from Eli Ackerman on Vimeo.




Punchline: Omg omg, a press meme

2010-01-07T18:42:43.173-06:00

First, let's talk briefly about how and why Ed Murray left the race and what it means electorally and symbolically.Clancy D's narrative of events is similar to what I have heard. Apparently, Murray disappeared for a few days after seeing some pretty dismal poll numbers and returned with the decision not to continue his run for office. He then announced the decision to the press without consulting his political bffs or his campaign staff.The rest of Clancy's story - that advisers told him he'd have to find a half million bucks, make the election about race, and that Murray refused to go there after some soul-searching - leaves some stones unturned.Chris Tidmore then went live with a story about a possible buyout from the Georges campaign. Oyster gives us a cathartic profile of the reactions of some lovely conservative blogs who, of course, immediately reached the conclusion that everything is the White House's fault.Clancy also accidentally (in the comments of this post) sort of confirmed that Georges' people have been pushing photographs and/or video that might be embarrassing to Mr. Murray. Since nobody else will, I will add a little bit of detail. There may be some embarrassing material circulating about Mr. Murray's fondness for wine. But considering that we generally accept politicians who drink, and even make drinking a standard benchmark of the campaign trail - see Batt, Jay or Clinton, Hillary - nothing that has been described to me would end Senator Murray's career. Even the worst rumor I've heard would just be really embarrassing and politically harmful if it were released at the right time, but not something that would make me think Senator Murray is a dishonorable human being.So my sense of Murray's decision was that, despite the general sense from a couple of leaked internal poll numbers that he was running in second place, he didn't think he could win the election.Let me say that again: HE didn't think he could win the election.Clancy DuBos insists that Murray came to some sort of moral realization.Murray’s top supporters and close friends are hurt, and most don’t understand his logic. But anyone who looks at Murray’s decision as a moral choice — particularly anyone who knows Murray — should have no difficulty understanding his decision. I spoke with Murray on Sunday afternoon and, while the conversation was “off the record,” I got the clear impression that he wanted to follow his inner moral compass, not his steering committee’s political advice, on this one.For whatever reason, the explanation that it would take some nasty racial divisiveness on Murray's part for him to win is assumed to be reasonable. Yet, the fact that his advisers were telling him he was going to have to raise another $500,000 - $700,000 is just passed over as though it is easy or even possible to raise and spend a half million dollars over the next thirty days. Nor does anyone seem to point out that Murray was the most recognizable African American candidate going into campaign season, had already spent more money on advertisements than any African American candidate, and yet apparently still couldn't crack 20% in the internal polls that have been reported.Here's the real dirty little secret about Ed Murray - he's a horrible candidate.State Senator Ed Murray is a horrendous public speaker. HORRENDOUS. He's quiet, he mumbles. He trails off at the end of sentenc...Again, he was the highest profile black candidate in the race BEFORE he unloaded his campaign war chest on an expensive two minute television commercial. I didn't see every single debate, but in the ones that I did, Murray was getting destroyed. He wasn't being attacked, he was being ignored - he was barely part of the conversation. John Georges, for all the sleaze,[...]



Stuff Real Mayors Do

2010-01-02T14:55:06.998-06:00

Mayor of Philadelphia spends New Years' Day speaking to inmates.


On New Year's Day, while many Philadelphians were enjoying bowl games and parades, Mayor Nutter was up early and delivering a message of hope - with a little tough love mixed in - to the inmates of seven of the city's correctional facilities.

He was joined by about 40 clergy members, from a number of denominations, for the annual Ecumenical Services and Civic Engagement Visit to the Philadelphia prison system.

Part of Nutter's message to the clergy, which started at a breakfast meeting, was a practical accounting of money and choices.

He said that of the city's nearly $4 billion operating budget, 24 percent is spent on all the components of the criminal-justice system.

"We don't need more incarceration, we need more education," he said. "Some of these people don't need to be locked up, they need a job."

The message to the 200 inmates at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility - his first stop - was just as pragmatic.

"We spend a lot of money to keep track of you up here," Nutter said. He told them it cost $30,000 a year for each prisoner, compared with $10,000 for a community-college student.

"Where do you think I'd rather spend our money?" Nutter said.

--

Before he left Curran-Fromhold, two inmates, Lynwood Ray and Alex Naranjo, presented Nutter with a portrait of him they had painted. He told them he would hang it in City Hall.

Later, Nutter said that it was "painful and personal" to see talent wasted in prison and that the city could be doing more to help inmates.

"It just shows you, when properly motivated and directed, every one of these men and women can be doing something totally different and don't have to be in prison," he said.

When the entourage arrived at the Riverside Correctional Center for women, Nutter received a foot-stomping, hand-clapping, rock-star welcome.

His message was the same. Have a reentry plan. Play by the rules. Stay away from bad influences. And don't return.

"Never, never, never come back to this place," Nutter said to the about 125 women in attendance.


That's all for today's installment of Stuff Real Mayors Do.




Process Matters: The Revolver Fund and the Chevron Deal

2009-12-31T02:50:23.295-06:00

I think WDSU was the first to report on it but the Times-Picayune has a story as well.I also learned earlier today that the city was again pursuing the acquisition of the Chevron Building and the abandonment of City Hall. The section 106 (historic review process) notice is here and supporting material is here.Both of those articles remind us why this is news. Over the summer, the administration negotiated with Chevron Corporation to potentially purchase the Chevron Building from the oil giant for the price of $8 million, pending the process stipulated by City Charter.There was a process. The City Planning Commission held a hearing and a vote. The City Council held a hearing and a vote.City Council voted against the project.So some members were apparently surprised today to learn that the administration was going to go ahead with the purchase and relocation anyway. Travers Mackel reeled in Shelley Midura:"This is news to me," she said. "(The information) is not factual. The city determined in July that it would not buy the Chevron Building and would not move any city offices into that building."Frank Donze also caught up with the Councilmember from District A:She said she has "serious concerns about what is going on here" and described any effort to acquire the Chevron complex with state and federal money as "an undisguised attempt to avoid the council's involvement, and, unfortunately, part of a disturbing pattern of this administration."Later, I emailed Councilman Arnie Fielkow for his thoughts:We only learned of this today and are trying to get many of the same questions answered. I, and many other cms, do not support this! The entire project needs to be better thought out, master planned and left to the next administration and council!And Councilwoman Stacy Head for hers:I have no idea how he plans to do this without council approval. I am calling around to find out.I also emailed Ceeon Quiett at the Mayor's Office of Communications. Here is what she wrote back:The matter before the City Council was the appropriation of funding from one capitol account to another ..not an approval of the acquisition. Funding appropriation –Legislative Branch authority per the charter, Purchases –Executive Branch authority per the charter. The Mayor and the City Council both believe in the relocation of City Hall and the viability of the Chevron building. To this day, as the media has reported, leaking roofs, lack of hot water, broken elevators remain. As you remember FEMA has recognized the depth of damages to 1300 Perdido St. City Hall. Over $5million has been approved by FEMA for City Hall. --I think the administration is arguing that City Council and the City Planning Commission had oversight power over the original proposal to acquire the Chevron Building and mothball 1300 Perdido St. from this past spring and summer because at that time, they were being asked to fund the purchase using the city's capital budget.Indeed, the city's original deal was to purchase the Chevron building for $8 million by using the $5 million FEMA has pledged for damage to our current City Hall and cobbling together the other $3 million through bond sales and the capital improvement budget.This time is different, from the Mayor's perspective, because the executive is simply moving forward with the execution of a purchase and is not pursuing funds from the budget, which would reengage the a cycle of public hearings and votes by Council and the City Planning Commission.The administration's position is that it did not need approval for the project itself, just the funds to move forward with the purchase. Ms. Quiett reminds us that FEMA has already allocated $5 million. That still leaves the same $3 [...]



Perry outclasses those that bothered to show in CJ reform debate

2009-12-18T15:06:22.232-06:00

What an outrage! I cannot believe some campaign produced a largely unoffensive YouTube video! I give the story that an anti-Mitch video was online for all of an hour a big fat who cares. The Gamblog called it "virtual mud," but I call it unnoticeable dandruff. The only thing I don't understand is why a campaign wouldn't just stand behind the video. It's not a swift-boating, it's a PG-rated parody.I could be wrong though, I noticed Landrieu skipped out on last night's Mayoral forum. Maybe poor Mitch was still crying about that meanie meanster video.In other news, there was indeed a forum for the Mayoral candidates yesterday on the issue voters and every candidates agree is the most important issue facing the city, criminal justice.Only James Perry, Troy Henry, Nadine Ramsey, and Ed Murray made it. Seems a bit odd that there would be any no-shows for a forum on the hottest issue in town, let alone three. The Landrieu and Georges campaigns sent representatives with statements. The Couhig campaign avoided it entirely. I guess they felt it was too risky to send someone across State Street after dark.To dispense with the sarcasm, last night's forum was very interesting. I wish it had been televised. The candidates were asked to sign onto a ten point platform prepared by the host organizations, which included Safe Streets/Strong Communities and the Juvenile Justice Project. The platform is far from radical, it reflects a lot of the principles that a comprehensive community policing strategy ought to entail. Since most candidates profess to support something called "community policing," it was helpful to have a forum in which some of the ideas that actually make "community policing" different from what we have now were spelled out in at least a little bit of detail.I will paraphrase the platform that candidates were asked to endorse.1. National search for a reform-oriented police chief2. End incarcerations for traffic violations and/or municipal offensives; end incarcerations for people charged with "marijuana 1st offense."3. End practice of charging suspects of simple solicitation with felony crime against nature4. Prioritize youth/recreation programs, access to drug treatment and mental health services as part of crime prevention strategy.5. Create incentives in city contracting process to encourage employers to hire formerly incarcerated individuals6. Establish certificates of good conduct to help those with criminal records find jobs7. Establish Office of Formerly Incarcerated Affairs in Mayor's Office8. Convert vacant properties into housing opportunities for formerly incarcerated and low income families9. Create a public-works style program to improve public transportation10. Increase youth opportunities by investing in alternatives to incarceration including employment programs, recreation programs; building positive behavior supports in public schools, and rebuilding the Youth Study Center in way that respects human dignity of inmates.All pretty benign and unobjectionable, don't you think? Certainly, some planks, like the suggestion of a public works style program for public transportation, are entirely vague, but why would a candidate have a problem endorsing a reform platform like this? Wouldn't this platform seem to generally outline what a real community policing strategy would look like?Strangely, in addition to those candidates that weren't even there, Ed Murray and Nadine Ramsey refused to endorse the suggestions, saying they don't make campaign pledges as a matter of principle (amazing). Only James Perry and Troy Henry did.James Perry put on a clinic at this debate. He is well-versed in criminal justice reform issues and spoke very deci[...]



And then there were... fewer than before

2009-12-16T19:58:19.042-06:00

Leslie Jacobs has abandoned her campaign for Mayor.

"I'll be going on a mini-vacation," she said. "I want to read a book of no intellectual value and watch the waves for a few days."


This was not unexpected. It had been widely rumored that Mitch Landrieu's last minute entry in the race would ultimately force Jacobs to yield.

In an interview, Jacobs said she made her decision after reviewing results from a poll she commissioned last week.

"Those numbers confirmed what I thought: Once Mitch entered the race, I could not win," she said. "I am a Democrat, he's a Democrat. And I think it's safe to say our bases overlap -- very much so."

Jacobs, a wealthy businesswoman who had been waging an aggressive television campaign, confirmed earlier reports that she consulted with Landrieu before announcing her candidacy on Nov. 18, about three weeks before qualifying opened.

At the time of their meeting, Jacobs said Landrieu told her "there was a possibility, not a probability" that he would run after announcing in July that he would not.

"He said the odds were low," Jacobs said, "but that he would leave that door open. So I took a calculated risk on my part. Mitch had the luxury of name recognition so he could decide at the last minute. I didn't have that luxury."


What does this mean for other candidates?

On the face of it, it would appear that Mitch Landrieu is the most direct beneficiary of Jacobs' decision to sit out. The two were essentially competing for the same pool of voters. I'm sure Jacobs' poll showed Landrieu way out ahead of the field. That he no longer has a well-heeled challenger biting at his heels, he has less work to do.

John Georges is also probably pretty happy that he has one less WMA (White Mitch Alternative) with whom he'll have to compete. Jacobs was going to be the only candidate capable of buying TV commercial time to the extent Georges can. He'll be able to dominate the airwaves.

James Perry might also squeeze a few votes out of the situation. Jacobs was definitely hoping to win over some of the post-Katrina young transplants that Perry has courted aggressively.



Analysis: Meh

2009-12-16T13:34:49.630-06:00

This forum did not lend itself to serious candidates truly distinguishing themselves. As much as people are frustrated by talking points, it is kind of hard to do anything but stick to sound bites when you only have fifteen seconds to outline how you're going to reduce crime. That said, before I watch the rebroadcast this debate to see how it came across on television, I want to share my thoughts on how the candidates fared.First of all, considering what he had to do, I thought Norman Robinson pulled off one of the slickest, smoothest debates I've ever seen. He was charming and he kept it moving. Big props.Manny Bruno was hilarious. He should do this every year until he is dead or finally elected Mayor. Jonah Bascle did a great job with his opening statement. I think he should file a lawsuit if they don't do the obvious and switch a few of the red, handicap-accessible streetcars onto the St. Charles line.Marijuana was also a big winner tonight. Very nice to have two people bring it up, even if it wasn't any of the "real" candidates. I was surprised that no candidate spun off of the laugh lines to make a serious point about how decriminalization of marijuana possession is a big part of real community policing policy, how simple pot arrests suck resources out of our criminal justice system, or to commend DA Cannizzaro for his progressive views on this issue. That would have been a big move for someone with direct knowledge about this like Judge Nadine Ramsey. She whiffed though. I don't know why candidates are still too scared to talk about this like grownups.The Good:As for the major contenders, I think that if there was a winner, it was Troy Henry.His delivery was strong and direct and he didn't repeat himself as much as other candidates. In a forum like this, I think that you have to be unafraid to say I and me. You have to be loud and in charge. Henry did this well. I think he raised a lot of eyebrows.James Perry also did a pretty good job. Similarly, he was not afraid to be loud and direct. He spoke firmly. He needs do more to emphasize his work as a civil rights attorney fighting housing discrimination and less to emphasize that one time he was a lifeguard for NORD.The Bad:Ed Murray needs to get his money back from whoever has been coaching him. You might be able to get away with mumbling one-on-one to a constituent but you can't mumble during a debate. During one answer, he started to say something about the Beacon of Hope but then just trailed off. It was weird.On more than one occasion, Mitch Landrieu repeated lines verbatim from the youtube announcement of his candidacy released last week. I would have expected something a little better from someone with actual charisma. It came off as phony.John Georges also had a mumbling problem and had trouble thoroughly answering questions without straying onto other topics or talking points.The Boring:Leslie Jacobs, Nadine Ramsey, and Rob Couhig were largely forgettable.If I were Ramsey, I'd have rather been bad than forgettable.Leslie Jacobs was really timid and uninspiring. Since Mitch Landrieu jumped in the race, she has had to work hard just to convince people she is still interested in the office. She should have used this opportunity to show that to people. She needed to be louder, more confident, even fiery. She seemed nervous and reticent.Rob Couhig is just not someone I'm interested in. People told me he was going to make fireworks or something but he was stiff and I didn't pay attention to him.Stay tuned. I will update this post with additional thoughts once I've watched video.UPDATE: After watching pieces of the debate on television, [...]



The Great Boilerplate Debate

2009-12-15T21:22:38.749-06:00

Just got home from debate number 1. I do have some summary thoughts but first I thought I would publish, unedited, my shorthand version of tonight's debate.I typed while they talked. I had intended to just write a couple of things down but found it enjoyable to just try and type everything I heard. The fluffy words of the candidates came into my ears but my fingers were only able to type the distilled essence of the product. So if you don't have time to actually watch the debate because candidates spend too much time thanking the moderator, you can just read this summary of the most popular and repetitive catch phrases and buzzwords.I didn't catch everything and my notation may be a little confusing. I apologize.I tended to transcribe rote boilerplate when candidates delivered their statements clearly and forcefully and tended to stop typing when candidates began to drone.Italics reflect cheap thoughts of mine, regular font reflects the candidates' intonations.Again, these are my actual, almost entirely unedited notes from tonight's candidate forum: 6:01 Norman in. 6:04 Introductions over. Apparently everybody’s poll numbers say crime is the biggest issue. Good for Troy Henry and the intentional comedians to think of something creative. 6:05 Leslie Jacobs gets her first crack at it. Crime on. We need leadership, accountability, collaboration, trust. “Community policing experience.” It’s not just police… I want all NORD centers reopened. 6:06 Ed Murray wants national search. “Community Policing,” knowing people in neighborhoods. Long term it is about education. I’m going to create an office of education in the Mayor’s office. NORD. 6:07: Jerry Jacobs – Look at reasons for crime, not the manifestation of the crime. The law is incorrect. The law of prohibition of marijuana is the worst thing ever. Legalize marijuana! Repeal marijuana laws. Glad Georges and Copelin got this guy in. 6:08 Nadine Ramsey – My solution is “neighborhood policing.” It’s a long-term commitment. We must listen to our neighborhoods. Get the faith-based community engaged, after-school programs, old people. 6:09 Troy Henry – I’m talking about reengineering city government. A comprehensive approach that’s a five legged stool. We need transparency, more jobs, housing/blight. I missed some of his legs, sorry. 6:10 Jonah Bascle – Equal access. New Orleans is dysfunctional for everyone. St. Charles street cars need to be handicap accessible now. You can just switch 5 streetcars from Canal line to St. Charles line. Honest and transparent government. I had to run for Mayor because I’ve been trying to get this done for months and this is my last resort. This kid is just got himself some streetcars moved. 6:11 James Perry – I’m the only candidate that has made a real commitment. I won’t run if I can’t bring the murder rate down 40%. That same day I kicked ass in a debate when people didn’t know a jail from an after-school program. I am going to invest in NORD. 6:12 Manny Chevrolet – I want to go on the record right now by saying I’m against crime. How can we fight crime when police themselves are criminals? Nice. Also let’s grow lots of pot and tax the hell out of it. Two people! Yes!!! Soon they'll stop laughing... 6:13 John Georges wants leadership. Our leaders are in the private sector. With strong leadership we can do anything! 6:14 Some guy named Lambert says we need lots of transparency. 6:15 Mitch Landrieu loves this city with his heart and soul. He’s going to fix it with the children. This is[...]



Bad Coroner: Port of Call New Orleans

2009-12-15T14:52:41.646-06:00

There is a lot to say about this week's gripping series by Frontline, The Times-Picayune, and Pro-Publica, and I wish I had a few hours to go on at length. Unfortunately, I'll have to dart in and out.If you haven't been keeping up, please get yourself started now.I don't know exactly what's coming up in this series but I would like to briefly to discuss the race for coroner.Though it had been assumed for a long time that the longtime incumbent coroner, Dr. Frank Minyard would retire at the end of his term, he has decided to run for reelection. At first, it appeared as though he would be unchallenged but an opponent did surface before the end of qualifying.Dr. Dwight McKenna has entered the race.Dr. McKenna was also once an employee of the Orleans Parish Coroner's Office, so he is not an inexperienced candidate. He and his wife, another doctor who was recently involved in a tragic and horrible car accident, are behind the McKenna Museum of African American Art and the New Orleans Tribune.--Minyard came under fire after Katrina for the slow pace at which his office was able to identify victims and for apparently refusing aid that would have bolstered his staff.Minyard has been on my own radar since I began researching material for this unflattering profile of Police Superintendent Warren Riley. Minyard came up when I was reading about the death of Adolph Archie, who was beaten to death while in custody after he was arrested for the murder of a police officer. You can check out this scanned clipping of the AP story reporting Minyard's new story, this account in Above the Law: Police and the Excessive Use of Force pg. 33, or this one from a 1995 New York Times column by Bob Hebert.He also was a major impediment to A.C. Thompson's exposure of violent racist vigilantism in Algiers Point after the levee failure. From an interview with Thompson:The lawsuit brought by me and the Nation Institute's Investigative Fund also gobbled up many months. We sued Orleans Parish Coroner Frank Minyard for the right to copy every single autopsy report tied to Hurricane Katrina. All we really wanted were the autopsies documenting shooting victims, but Minyard refused to give us those, saying he couldn't sort them out from all the other autopsies. So we wound up demanding everything, as we were allowed under Louisiana law. We won. And the coroner now owes the Investigative Fund some $10,000 in attorney fees, which he hasn't paid.Dr. Minyard is 80 years old now. At some point or another, someone else is going to be leading the Coroner's office. I have a hard time thinking of another city that elects its coroners. Are their any? What are the advantages of having the coroner subject to the political process?Update: Does Dr. Frank Minyard still live in New Orleans anymore?[...]



End of Qualifying

2009-12-11T17:36:40.287-06:00

Eddie Sapir is indeed qualified to run at-large. So is Darren Mire, of the BOLD political machine. That's going to be interesting. I'll update this post later with more details and thoughts if I can.



Arnie out, Eddie in

2009-12-10T20:32:09.730-06:00

WDSU says Arnie Fielkow is undecided about seeking reelection as Councilman at-large. I hear he is decided. He is not going to seek reelection. I have also heard that the "family issues" cited cryptically by WDSU involve his wife's career and not something weird.Meanwhile, 71-year-old former Councilman and Municipal Court Judge, Eddie Sapir is going to be qualifying for an at-large run first thing tomorrow.Update: To be clear, Sapir is in whether Arnie Fielkow qualifies or not.Update II: Times-Pic says Fielkow is back in! Wow dude, make a decision.Update III: That story seems thin. I bet he's still undecided. We'll have a better idea tomorrow.Between Sapir and Jackie Clarkson, the other candidates might have to agree to keep all debates between 5 and 7PM, after dinner and in time for bed.Another thing the senior circuit will agree on: it's drafty in here.--Might James Perry also seize the opportunity and shift his meager resources from the Mayoral election into an at-large bid? It's hard to find evidence that he's gaining enough traction in the analog world to earn a fighting underdog's share of the vote in the Mayor's race, let alone seriously threaten for a spot in the runoff. He missed his opportunity to knock on doors and organize and he'll never raise enough money to play the traditional TV/radio game in any real way. It's not as hard to envision Perry making an honorable go of it for one of the two at-large openings.If he is warm to the idea, he should get moving.--Though the Jacobs campaign denies it, it's hard to avoid hearing rumors that she is still considering dropping out of the Mayor's race now that Mitch Landrieu is running.She could jump into the at-large fray herself.--Elsewhere:Austin Badon has qualified for District E and Stacy Head has qualified for District B.Marlin Gusman has no challenger for Criminal Sheriff.Cynthia Hedge-Morrell may also run unopposed.Coroner Frank Minyard has broken his promise not to seek reelection. I hope someone challenges him. Do other cities have elected coroners?Tomorrow, Virginia Blanque is still expected to join the fray for District A and Corey Watson for District B. I think District A could get even more crowded. Same for District C.--Just one more day of qualifying. We'll know for sure who is running for what by the end of the day tomorrow.--Late update:If Arnie qualifies, runs, and wins. He's signed up for four years. If he's qualifying because he's really still undecided and ultimately decides to drop out because he wants to make more money and he or his wife want to take a job out of state, that's fine. But if he runs and wins and then resigns, it will cost all of us as taxpayers and set up one of those undemocratic low-turnout special elections. That would be lame. He should really think it over.[...]



Jerry!

2009-12-09T14:04:38.090-06:00

I was at the courthouse this morning to check out the open of the candidate qualifying period. It was boring, just a stupid media set piece where candidates are filmed walking up steps and answering questions like "why do you want to run for Mayor."

It is exactly like a beauty pageant except all of the contestants are ugly.

Walking the gray carpet today:

For Mayor:

John Georges
Troy Henry
James Perry
Leslie Jacobs
Nadine Ramsey
Rob Couhig

For Council:

Cynthia Hedge-Morrell (D)
Susan Guidry (A)
Cynthia Willard-Lewis (At-Large)
Kristin Palmer (C)
Tom Arnold (C)
Jay Batt (A)

Also qualifying, though I must have missed them:

Mitch Landrieu (Mayor), Nolan Marshall III (At-Large), Jackie Clarkson (At-Large), Cindi Nguyen (E), Jerrelda Drummer-Sanders (E), Nathaniel Jones (C), William "Poppa" Gant (At-Large)



Georges had sign-wavers in the neutral ground for the entirety of his visit and rolled up with what was by far, the largest entourage.

He also brought his friend, some dude named Jerry Jacobs.

Jerry Jacobs is running for Mayor at the behest of Georges and former State Rep. Sherman Copelin to distract voters intending to vote for Leslie Jacobs. He qualified today. His name will be on the ballot.

Copelin and Georges telegraphed the move at a meeting of the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee last week so it came as no surprise to the Jacobs campaign.

(Update: In fact, the Jacobs campaign press flack, Cheron Brylski included this tidbit in a Krewe of Truth e-blast today.)

Not that it would come as much of a surprise to anybody...



The Race Race

2009-12-08T13:11:39.777-06:00

What was once a primary campaign to determine which white person and which black person will face one another in a runoff is still a primary campaign to determine which white person and which black person will face one another in a runoff.Mitch Landrieu's candidacy is so intriguing because he, more than any other candidate, has an opportunity to undercut this dynamic to some degree.I don't know if it is the conventional wisdom that Mitch Landrieu is a shoo-in to be in the runoff, but it shouldn't be.Leslie Jacobs is apparently furious with Mitch Landrieu for lying to her about his intentions. She reportedly went to him just two weeks ago to secure his promise that he wouldn't be running before she spent all kinds of money on television advertising. Her campaign staff is putting the word out that she is staying in the race and intending to win it. She will be putting in qualifying papers first thing tomorrow so we'll know by mid-morning tomorrow whether or not she has any second thoughts. Apparently, before Georges announced his candidacy, he was similarly deferential to Mitch Landrieu but I see no indication that he has any interest in quitting now.Though Landrieu has important name-recognition and a star power quality that will give him an immediate short term advantage and the ability to tap into some real buyer's remorse from 2006, Georges and Jacobs should not be viewed as setting suns. Georges and Jacobs are millionaires. They can afford to get their names out there. Mitch Landrieu has his vulnerabilities just like everyone else.On the surface, the three of them will be vying for different slices of similar electorates. Georges will try to capture Lakeview, old uptown families, and is going to try hard to mobilize some measure of cross-over African American support. Jacobs is going to try to capture young voters, women, and a lot of business council types who pretend to like John Georges but secretly think he's an a-hole. If Georges and Jacobs stay in, as it looks like they will, they'll have enough campaign power to capture large bases of support.But Landrieu is still a wild card. As the only candidate with legitimate star power, he'll have the luxury of setting the debate. Depending on how he structures his platform and campaign, he could emerge as a shoe-in for the run off or he could be in for a much tougher fight.Does Landrieu analyze this election as distilling down to a white primary, a black primary, and a runoff? Does he feel he needs to fight off Jacobs and Georges for a large enough share of the white vote to get into the runoff?Is he just going to be a more charismatic version of Arnie Fielkow?Or, does he instead aspire to earn widespread African American support?Georges is definitely attempting to coddle together some votes in the black community but it's hard to imagine his largely appearance-based efforts will yield substantive results. Jacobs may want to put together that kind of coalition but I don't think she even knows where to begin.Mitch Landrieu has the Civil Rights legacy of his father, Moon.Will Mitch Landrieu run on that legacy by demonstrating his value as a bridge builder willing to fight for compromises from entrenched power structures?Or, will he campaign for citywide office like he and his sister have campaigned for statewide office, as the consensus candidates of the Democratic Party and the chamber of commerce?He can run as super-Arnie and either win or lose a much harder than anticipated white [...]



Mitch Again?

2009-12-07T18:41:34.605-06:00

According to sources close to the Landrieu political operation, Mitch Landrieu is expected to announce his candidacy for Mayor of New Orleans.

This totally rearranges the field.

Maybe he liked what he heard out of that poll he was running a few weeks ago.



It's not paradise

2009-12-06T22:26:53.932-06:00

What a difference in just two years.

The homicide rate is down almost 24 percent since 2007. Violent crime receded 10 percent this year.

Single-stream recycling saved $400,000 in landfill fees in September alone.

The number of homeless people is down 26 percent since last year, thanks to a new partnership with the Philadelphia Housing Authority.

The city's inspector general, with more resources, is rooting out corruption on an unprecedented scale.

Members of the city's criminal-justice system have reduced the prison population 11 percent in a huge reversal of past yearly increases.

Licenses and Inspections is processing building-permit applications within two days, and customer satisfaction at L&I counter service is soaring.

The city fleet is smaller by 400 vehicles.

Since last year, filled, full-time positions in city government were reduced 705 to a total of 22,625.

We're writing a new zoning code to replace our 46-year-old version.

And the 311 Call Center has handled almost a million calls in less than a year of operation.

It's just Philadelphia under Michael Nutter.

It certainly hasn't been all roses. These are tough economic times in Philly and not everyone is happy about the cuts that he had to make, but an 11% reduction in the prison population in the midst of a 26% drop in homicides is a pretty stunning achievement for a place bit hard by tough-on-crime sloganeers. It's impossible to read Nutter's op-ed in the Inquirer and not hurt over our failure in New Orleans to come together around these kinds of pragmatic reforms. Mayor Nutter broke a cycle of racially divisive municipal campaigns by putting together a working coalition and won election by the largest margin in Philadelphia history. It was a mandate.

And now, for the first time in a long time, Philly has a game plan.

It's an important reminder not just that our issues are not totally unique, but also that solutions are not so impossible to achieve.

Just need a leader with a little vision and big enough guts to put together a coalition for pragmatic progressive reforms similar to those listed in Mayor Nutter's retrospective.

Would anyone be left unsatisfied with a list of accomplishments like this from our Mayor in his or her second state of the city address?