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Old April 12th, 2006, 06:07 AM   #21
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More stream in, cast early ballots in New Orleans elections
11 April 2006

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) - More displaced New Orleans voters Tuesday streamed into satellite polling stations set up across the state to cast early ballots in an election that will decide who will lead the city as it rebuilds in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.

A spokeswoman for the Secretary of State's Office said 1,859 people -- 975 in New Orleans alone -- voted by the end of business Tuesday, bringing the total number of ballots cast so far to 3,532.

The highest total outside New Orleans was 357 in Baton Rouge.

The satellite voting centers will be open all week except on Friday when the offices will be closed for the holiday.

The election was originally scheduled for February but was postponed because of the damage and dislocation done by Katrina.

New Orleans had nearly a half-million people, about 70 percent of them black, before the hurricane. But fewer than 200,000 have returned, most of them white. Some black leaders tried to postpone the balloting, fearing the black community would lose political power.

Twenty-two candidates are challenging the re-election bid by Mayor Ray Nagin, including Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and Ron Forman, an executive credited with turning New Orleans' zoo into a national showcase.

If no mayoral candidate gets a majority in the election, the top two finishers will compete in a May 20 runoff.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 06:46 AM   #22
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New Orleans-Baton Rouge Amtrak route considered
11 April 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Transportation officials are studying the possibility of an Amtrak passenger train route between New Orleans and Baton Rouge to help handle the flow of commuting workers following Hurricane Katrina.

Amtrak made a test run last week between Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans and a Kansas City Southern rail station in Baton Rouge to see if the route is suitable technically for passenger service.

The state is waiting to see how much of a subsidy the venture would require, and whether federal money for it is available, said Cleo Allen, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation and Development.

Stops in St. John the Baptist and St. Charles parishes are possible, but no decisions have been made, she said.

The state proposed a similar service in September at an estimated three-year cost of $25 million. But the Federal Emergency Management Agency instead financed a bus service called LA Swift, to shuttle residents between the two cities.

The bus service, which originates in downtown Baton Rouge with stops in Sorrento and LaPlace, has had nearly 75,000 riders since it began Oct. 31, Allen said.

But federal financing for the line is expected to end June 30. Transportation officials said it is doubtful that financing will be extended.

Passenger rail service between Baton Rouge and New Orleans was discontinued in 1968.
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Old April 13th, 2006, 10:23 AM   #23
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Its pretty sad that Black and White is such an issue in my country.Very sad indeed.Everything that goes wrong down in the south ends up being a race issue.

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Old April 16th, 2006, 09:43 AM   #24
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Talk of Race Pervades New Orleans Campaign
15 April 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - High heels echoing, Ruby Ducre-Gethers crosses the floor of her airy but unlivable home -- ear on her cell phone, eyes on the workers replacing her flooded-out walls, and mind on payback at the ballot box.

Across town, Irma Williams says the election for mayor this Saturday isn't truly an election without her neighbors to vote -- but she says it's past time for street lamps to work outside her temporary trailer.

Alex Beard wakes up a thousand miles away and reads the New Orleans newspaper online, following each day's campaign news convinced that the storm brought a chance to rescue the city he adopted and then reluctantly fled.

Some people in New Orleans are angry about the government response to Hurricane Katrina and want to render judgment as the city casts ballots for mayor, city council and most every other elected official, from sheriff to assessor. Many want to look ahead.

But trumping all that as Election Day approaches, race -- and all the history that comes with it here -- has become the defining line for this election, dividing the city by neighborhood and color.

Any verdict on Mayor Ray Nagin's leadership, or any of the proposals to move forward, has been swallowed up by recriminations, paranoia and anger. There is fear -- and hope -- that the city may elect its first white mayor in three decades.

The election on Saturday has been vehemently challenged by those who say it should be postponed until more of those who left in the city's diaspora -- more likely black and more likely poor -- can find their way back. But early voting, so far, mostly reflects the racial demographics of pre-Katrina New Orleans.

The logistics alone present an unprecedented challenge, like everything else that Katrina left behind -- a hundred thousand voters or more scattered across the country, the mystery of how many will actually vote, and potential crowds and confusion if voters flock back to the city on Election Day itself.

This city is still trying to piece itself back together: huge piles of moldering debris wait uncollected at the curb, drivers creep past nonworking traffic signals or hit the gas and pray, the French Quarter's neon burns bright while many restaurants and hotels are sadly quiet.

"Everything is so broken and destroyed. Everybody's in limbo," said Mark Fowler, manager of an Uptown co-operative that helps musicians replace instruments and find apartments. "The city's been traumatized."

Half the city is homeless -- living somewhere, maybe within a half-hour's drive, maybe across the country -- making it a guess as to who will vote.

"This is the most unusual mayoral election in American history," said Susan Howell, a University of New Orleans pollster. "When have people in 50 states been able to vote for the mayor of one city? This is a logistical nightmare."

And one that's likely to be repeated, since the nonpartisan election is almost sure to narrow the crowded field of Nagin and 22 challengers to two front-runners. If no one gets 50.1 percent of the vote, the runoff will be May 20.

Nagin won in 2002 as a black candidate supported by the white business community. His toughest opponent was the black police chief.

Now, his most serious challengers are two white men. Pre-storm, blacks, with 70 percent of the population, were the decisive vote. The last white mayor, Moon Landrieu, stepped down in 1978.

Everyone uses the city's geography to talk about race: Uptown and the French Quarter are the mostly white neighborhoods that survived with less damage; the Ninth Ward, Central City and New Orleans East are the majority black neighborhoods that suffered the storm's brunt.

"Right now, we have Uptown trying to reclaim its ideology," said Barry Ranski, an Uptown campaign worker bluntly laying out the mind-set of the scores of candidates who've jumped in for races far beyond mayor.

"When you take 65 or 70 percent of the citizens and displace them, they're not going to go through the hassle of registering absentee ballots."

At least that's the hope of some.

And others' fear. "The powers that be want black people out of here," said Beverly McKenna, publisher of the New Orleans Tribune, a newspaper that writes about black issues. "That's what's happening demographically, economically ... It's insulting how transparent it is."

Beard thinks such sweeping denunciations are unfair. An art gallery owner, he sees a chance for the city, black and white, to recognize how badly it had failed over the past half-century.

"If you pull back the curtain at all, and say this has been an increasingly unsuccessful welfare state for 50 years, and a devastatingly unsuccessful one for 25 or 30 years -- your timing lines up with the last white mayor of New Orleans. So it's a racist statement, how dare you," he said.

"But it isn't. Everybody's equally guilty, white and black."

He is voting absentee, even as he sold his gallery and moved his wife and young son to New York City. Is he coming back? Not right away. It depends on the vote and how the city recovers.

Nagin's white challengers say race doesn't matter.

-- Mitch Landrieu, the son of the last white mayor, brother to a U.S. senator and himself the lieutenant governor. He has reached out to those burned by Nagin's rebuilding commission, which proposed not rebuilding some low-lying neighborhoods. His family has traditionally reached across racial lines.

-- Ron Forman, who built a can-do reputation with his oversight of the city's Audubon Zoo and construction of a downtown aquarium. In the public arena for decades, he's made powerful alliances without ever going before the public for a vote. The city's newspaper, the Times-Picayune, endorsed him.

Nagin famously stirred up the racial pot when he called New Orleans a "chocolate" city, and he stands by the comment. Critics said he was race-baiting. Nagin says he's convinced "the black vote is definitely coalescing" around him.

Some candidates have gone even further. Peggy Wilson, a former city councilor given little chance of getting into the runoff, threw out incendiary words like "pimp" and "welfare queen" that drew groans from other candidates at a televised debate.

Forman says outsiders and the media have injected race into the campaign. Landrieu looks at the camera and says he's proud of his biracial support -- a reminder that his father helped integrate New Orleans.

For many, black and white, the election is about the past year, not the past 30 years.

Ducre-Gethers, like so many of the black middle-class already hiring workers to rebuild, intends to vote on how the storm was handled and plans for the future.

"The leadership we have, I'm not pleased with," she said, her gentle words delivered with the sharpness of a slap. She scoffs equally at speculation that black voters won't make their voices heard, or that they're coming together along racial lines.

"A lot of people are assuming the African-American voters are gone. That's not true," she said in her house in a gated community next to a golf course in New Orleans East, home to much of the black middle-class. "The black vote is going to kick Nagin to the curb."

She'll move back to the city from across Lake Pontchatrain, she promised. Once her home is rebuilt, once her teenage boys are out of school. She's putting her money behind her words, spending $200,000 to resurrect her home.

She wants New Orleans to be made whole, dismissing plans that pick and choose neighborhoods, or accept that it will be half the size it once was. "Right now, we need somebody to fix the city. I don't care if they're green," she said. Her candidate? Landrieu.

When it comes to the actual task of voting, there's bound to be even more confusion.

The city has revamped its voting system, reducing somewhere around 300 polling sites to 93 "mega" sites, to try to make the process more efficient. Absentee ballots are going to Baton Rouge.

Advocates are busing out-of-state evacuees to polling centers set up across Louisiana, and the state has expanded deadlines for absentee ballots. Still, many worry that the city's mail problems will lead to lost votes and complain that the state should have set up voting centers in places such as Houston and Atlanta.

Early voting -- which ends a week before election day -- drew 10,585 ballots by Saturday, according to preliminary numbers from the secretary of state. Through Thursday, the racial breakdown was roughly the same as New Orleans before Katrina: One-third white, two-thirds black, and 2 percent declaring themselves "other." So far, 14,760 voters had requested mail-in ballots.

Some question how fair any election can be when the city that was here eight months ago is not the city that's here now.

Irma Williams knows firsthand. It took her seven months to get home. She was rescued from the floodwaters by helicopter, swept away to Corpus Christi, Texas; then Houston, then Shreveport, La. She finally got back to her Central City neighborhood last month, living with her 78-year-old mother in the driveway.

On her house, a head-high waterline still marks the spot.

The election was already delayed from its early February date, and Williams asks why not wait longer so more residents can return.

"It's not fair to have an election and everybody's not back," she said, standing on the thin trailer steps after campaign outreach workers knocked on the screen door. "Half the people can't get here to vote."
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Old April 16th, 2006, 09:44 AM   #25
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In racially balanced city, race becomes focal point
15 April 2006

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) - Mayor Bill Bell is black. So are Police Chief Steven W. Chalmers, City Manager Patrick Baker and a majority of the city council. Durham's population is almost as black as it is white.

So why is it that some blacks like Preston Bizzell, a 61-year-old Air Force veteran who said he's never experienced racism in his 30 years in Durham, believe justice here is swifter and harsher for a black man than a white one?

Bizzell sat on his bicycle recently and stared at the house where a black stripper claims she was raped and beaten by three white Duke University lacrosse players. He's convinced if the alleged attackers had been students at historically black North Carolina Central University, and their accuser white, "that same day, somebody would have been arrested."

"They wouldn't have spent that money (on DNA tests) over at that black university over there just to make sure they didn't do that," said Bizzell, a resident of the Walltown neighborhood, where some blacks still refer to the Duke campus as "the plantation." "No, no. If them girls had said, `Him and him,' you're going to jail."

Without question, the case has racial overtones. But after a month of intense media scrutiny, it's hard to tell whether the coverage has shone a spotlight on existing racial tensions in Durham, or is creating those tensions.

Bell bristles at the suggestion that the rape allegations have somehow turned up the heat on simmering racial tensions in Durham. He says Durham has no more racial trouble than any city its size.

To him, comments like Bizzell's are more about the state of the country as a whole, where blacks are represented in jails and prisons out of proportion to their percentage in the population, as they are among the poor and poorly educated.

"I think it tends to be more out of frustration, with wanting to say something," he said. "I think it's more based on history."

Attorney Kerry Sutton, who represents one of the players, said it is outsiders who are injecting race into the story.

"They've made it a much bigger element than it ever should have been," she said.

On March 13, two black women went to an off-campus house to perform for members of the lacrosse team, which has only one black member. The accuser, a 27-year-old student at N.C. Central, has reportedly said she was subjected to racial slurs, and told police she was dragged into a bathroom and raped.

At a forum last week on the Central campus, a vocal, mostly black crowd peppered District Attorney Mike Nifong with questions about why no one has been charged and why the FBI has not been called in to help investigate this as a hate crime.

Joe Cheshire, who represents one of the team captains, characterized much of what was said as, "We black people are mistreated by the criminal justice system, so what we need to do now is go out and mistreat white people."

Sutton finds it ironic that anyone would suggest Nifong was dragging his feet because the players are white, especially when he is taking so much heat for pursuing the case at all.

"I've never known Mike Nifong to make a decision based on the race of a victim or a defendant or an attorney or the judge or anybody," she said. "That is simply not a factor."

Bell, a former city council chairman and three-term mayor, said he's seen Durham reduced in news reports to "a city of poor blacks ... and you've got Duke off to its own -- a white university, a wealthy university."

In truth, he said, Durham's unemployment rate is just 4.4 percent. It's home to Research Triangle Park and its many high-tech companies. Two black-owned banks and the nation's largest black-owned insurance company are also based in Durham.

"We do have poverty," Bell said of his city of 187,000 residents. "But what city this size doesn't?"

As for the so-called racial tension he's read so much about, Bell hasn't seen it in the racially mixed crowds that have peacefully protested the alleged rape. "I'd say given the demographics of this community, I think you'll find more people are united on issues than are divided," he said.

But in a recent interview with The Associated Press, the Rev. Jesse Jackson said history can't help but loom large over this case. It is particularly horrible because these white men hired black women to strip for them.

"That fantasy's as old as slave masters impregnating young slave girls," he said.

Cheshire found Jackson's comment odd, since the lacrosse players did not specifically ask for black strippers.

"There is no slave-master mentality here, and that's just another perfect example of ... self-absorbed race pandering," Cheshire said.

Conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh has suggested that Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton haven't visited Durham because of its "possibility of being a Tawana Brawley situation." He was referring to the 15-year-old black girl who claimed in 1987 she was raped, smeared with feces and scrawled with racial slurs by six white law enforcement officials -- a claim championed by Sharpton but later discredited.

Jackson and others have suggested that even if the rape allegations are proven false, the racial slurs are enough to make this case worthy of such a national dialogue. One witness has said someone at the party shouted, "Hey bitch! Thank your grandpa for my nice cotton shirt."

That it happened at a university as prestigious as Duke, and among "some of its choice young men," makes that dialogue all the more necessary, Jackson said.

"The character of this thing is chilling," he said. "Something happened that everybody's ashamed of, nobody's proud of ..."

Even if some racial epithets were used, people "do say stupid things," Sutton said. When announcing the negative DNA results, even Cheshire acknowledged that doesn't mean there are not moral and ethical issues raised by the case.

Jackson said he's been too busy with immigration issues and the upcoming New Orleans election to visit Durham, but plans to come at some point.

He said Saturday his Rainbow/Push Coalition will pay the woman's college tuition -- regardless the outcome of the case -- so she would never have to strip to survive.

Sharpton had planned to attend a rally outside the party house this Sunday but canceled after its organizer asked him to stay away for now.

"We don't want our good to be turned into a racial issue," said Bishop John Bennett of the Church of the Apostolic Revival International. "I just think his coming may stir some people up."

There has been speculation of violence should no one be charged. Bell calls that expectation another sign of bias, recalling that last summer, when three seven-foot crosses were burned around town, whites and blacks came together to denounce the acts.

Bell arrived in Durham in 1968, the week the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. He said the city was an oasis of calm and civility during that crisis.

"We did not have the looting, the burning, the rioting," he said. And today, no matter what happens in the Duke lacrosse case, "I have no fear of that."
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Old April 19th, 2006, 05:48 PM   #26
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Fractured Fairways
Hurricane Katrina --ravaged New Orleans will celebrate the return of the PGA Tour next week, but the city will need much more time to overcome the obstacles to resuscitating its golf industry and courses
24 April 2006
Sports Illustrated

With the setting sun at his back and a cool, gentle breeze in his face, Terry Casanova goes through his preshot routine. Down both sides of the fairway, magnificent oak trees cast their twisted shadows. Casanova doesn't have a caddie or a yardage book, but he thinks he has about 165 yards to the rusted barrel. "This used to be one of my favorite holes," the 48-year-old securities broker says. "A short par-4. A driver and a little sand wedge." That was before Hurricane Katrina roared ashore last August and put New Orleans's Bayou Oaks Golf Club under millions of gallons of contaminated floodwater. Now the only golfers you see at City Park are a few sad souls like Casanova, who come out to hit balls on the unkempt meadow where Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead once roamed. "I've been playing out here since I was 10," he says.

"It's terrible to see it like this." Thirteen miles south, on the other side of the muddy Mississippi River, Etienne and Mildred Songy aren't much happier with the view. A retired couple, the Songys have lived in the Louisiana Pines subdivision of Algiers for 22 years, the principal attraction being their unobstructed view of the fairways and greens of Lakewood Country Club, site of the New Orleans Open from 1963 through 1988. But now the vista--even with hundreds of fallen trees cut up and hauled away--is less than pristine. "It's not nice to look at anymore," says Mildred, an avid gardener. "The grass hasn't been touched since Katrina. It's like moths ate it."

Out west on Airline Highway, the grass at the St. Rose Driving Range is mostly gone--parched by drought, smothered by ranks of trailers and RVs, and trampled by the boots of relief workers who have made it their campground. "There's probably 20,000 golf balls out there," says range owner Bruce Bourgeois, referring to the dirt- caked orbs that litter his property like cow patties. "We tried to pick them up, but we were too busy taking care of the relief workers." He sighs. "I want this to be a driving range again."

On the east side, where abandoned malls, churches and schools give the landscape the appearance of nuclear winter, the two ruined courses at Eastover Country Club simply bake in the sun.

It's not all bad news. When viewers tune in to next week's Zurich Classic, they will get the usual blimp shots of emerald fairways, sparkling water and white-sand bunkers. English Turn Golf and Country Club sits on relatively high ground near the river and suffered only minor freshwater flooding from Katrina. The flower beds will be bursting with pansies. The grandstands will be filled with fans.

But if religious broadcaster Pat Robertson were to look at New Orleans eight months after the storm, he might decide that golfers, and not libertines, were the targets of God's wrath. Golf equipment discounters Nevada Bob's and Edwin Watts have left town. The University of New Orleans will disband its women's golf team at the end of the season because of storm-related budget cuts, and men's coach Chris McCarter and his wife live in a FEMA trailer. Tulane has shut down its men's and women's programs. At upscale Metairie Country Club, members are pondering whether to restore a portion of their flood-battered, 66,000-square-foot clubhouse or simply raze it and start over. To make matters worse, Congress approved nearly $8 billion in tax breaks for Gulf Coast businesses last December but specifically excluded casinos, racetracks, liquor stores, massage parlors ... and golf courses. The beleaguered Federal Emergency Management Agency, swamped by aid applications from the South, has given little or nothing to public parks and golf courses. As one harried bureaucrat put it, "FEMA doesn't buy grass."

Twenty miles west of English Turn, the Tournament Players Club of Louisiana--the club that debuted a year ago as the Tour's New Orleans venue--lies in sleepy repose. Behind the big front doors, in a shadowy vestibule, the guest book is still open to the date it was last used, Aug. 25, 2005. "We had only a few golfers on the morning of the 26th," recalls marketing director Pamela Vitrano-Buie, one of three PGA Tour employees house-sitting the clubhouse while the course is rebuilt. "People had already started evacuating."

The hum of air conditioning and the piped-in voice of James Taylor confirm the Tour's plans to reopen the three-year-old TPC by September, but a quick tour of the property reveals extensive turf damage and thinned-out tree lines. "We had thousands of trees that were down or snapped in two," says course superintendent Jim Moore. "All the bunkers were bathtubs, and we couldn't even get to holes 2 through 6 for a couple of weeks. That was all underwater." And then came the army worms--voracious turf eaters that can devour a fairway in a matter of days. "They had two solid weeks, just out there eating," Moore says.

Fortunately, the PGA Tour does buy grass. Moore's crews recently began resodding, and there's no reason to think they won't have the Pete Dye--designed layout in tournament shape by next spring. The tree lines will need a little more time to fill in--say, a couple of decades.

Nature, we don't have to be told, is capricious. The Audubon Park Golf Course, an elegant executive layout in the New Orleans Garden District, looks as if it got a manicure and a pedicure from Katrina. Meanwhile, the city-run Joseph M. Bartholomew course, on the south shore of Lake Pontchartrain, took on up to 20 feet of chemically contaminated saltwater and a top dressing of dead sharks and redfish. Why did Audubon survive and Bartholomew perish? Hydrologists will tell you it's because Audubon is on high ground near the Mississippi levee, while Bartholomew occupies the precarious low land behind the lakefront barrier. Refugees from the late, lamented Lower Ninth Ward will claim there's more to it. The posh park course, a beloved track for in-line skaters, joggers and leashed dogs, is named for a 19th-century wildlife artist. The lakefront muni, a favorite of black golfers and home to the First Tee of New Orleans, is named for its designer, thought to be the first professionally trained African-American golf architect.

Well, nobody said hurricanes were fair. Besides, the Big Easy's rich and powerful golfers couldn't dodge the storm. New Orleans Country Club lost 55 carts, all its maintenance vehicles and the entire first floor of its clubhouse. At Metairie Country Club, where an estimated half of the members suffered the loss of homes and cars, the course took on anywhere from four to 12 feet of water. "I was one of the first to set foot on it, post-Katrina," says golf shop manager Joe Schick. "When I went out on the putting green it was basically black and crunching under my feet." Both clubs had insurance and a roster of deep-pocketed members. On a recent weekend New Orleans Country Club sparkled, its tennis courts, fairways and rebuilt clubhouse teeming with happy members. Metairie's infrastructure will take longer to repair--the clubhouse doors remain padlocked and the shop is in a trailer--but the course itself is green and inviting thanks to the efforts of staffers who towed a 500-gallon tank through the mire to hand-water greens battered first by flood and then by drought. Says Schick, "Now that we have the old guys playing golf again, it's almost normal."

The operative word is almost. At Professional Custom Club and Repair, in a strip mall on Veterans Boulevard, a thigh-high sheet of unfinished drywall marks the flood line. "It's not completely dead," Dale Baker says of his business, but he concedes that most of his work is replacing rusted shafts--rust being one of Katrina's enduring legacies. Another is frustration, particularly among dispossessed residents who spend their days word-wrestling with insurance adjusters, contractors, public officials and FEMA. Baker's sister and co-owner, Connie Whalen, says, "We get four or five guys a day who come in, hit 10 balls and leave. They say, 'Man, I had to hit something.'"

Across the street at the Golf Zone--where business is strong, says owner Joe Campo, thanks to the exodus of the chain stores-- golfers try out three-ball putters and waggle titanium drivers with devotional intensity. "To deal with this type of disaster, you need an outlet," says Campo. "For one person, it's church. For another, it's golf."

Peter Carew would agree with that. "People can't spend the whole day doing Sheetrock," he says, driving a utility cart across the hard, bumpy fairways of the Brechtel Memorial Park Municipal Golf Course. "They have to have recreation."

Carew, 52, is the course superintendent for the New Orleans Parks and Parkways Department. Before Katrina, he and a full-time staff of 14 took care of two courses: Brechtel Park, across the river from downtown New Orleans, and the flagship Bartholomew layout in Pontchartrain Park. The city had just finished a $1 million upgrade to Bartholomew, and another half million was slated for Brechtel.

These days Carew operates on a budget better suited for a teenager with a lawn-mowing business--except that the kid probably has better equipment. The flood destroyed everything at Bartholomew, and both courses suffered the after-whammy of looting. Carew now has a staff of three. Roderick Rick, who lived in the Lower Ninth, and Bill Elliott, who was named the parks department's employee of the decade two years ago, waited a week for rescue on the second floor of the parks building before wading out in chest-deep water. "There's a lot of pent-up anger and frustration," Carew says. "I've seen grown men break down and cry."

Against all odds, Brechtel reopened on Dec. 1. To say it's not in tip-top shape would be an understatement. The tees are hardpan. The fairways are close-cropped weeds. The greens, mostly sand and brown thatch, are puttable, but only because Carew drags them with a broom attached to a utility vehicle donated by the Toro Company. "But I haven't heard one complaint, not one whiner," he says, momentarily assuming the guise of world's luckiest greenkeeper. "The people who come out to play are happy. Everybody smiles." Brechtel is so busy, in fact, that revenue is up from 2005.

Unfortunately, the course may soon choke on a surfeit of--get this--turfgrass. "As soon as the nights reach 70 degrees, the bermuda jumps," Carew says. "You stand in one place too long, it'll grow over your feet." Normally this wouldn't be a problem, but Carew's jerry-built equipment already buckles under the rigors of twice-a-week mowing. The prospect of 100 acres of Tifton 328 and common bermuda growing an inch a day gives him the willies. "Sometimes when I go to staff meetings, it feels hopeless," Carew says. "There's no money. There's no equipment. They're telling me to hang on for a year. I say, 'Hang on with what?'"

The grass bomb is also a looming concern over at Bayou Oaks, where City Park Improvement Association CEO Bob Becker has seen a staff of 220 full- and part-time workers slashed to 22. "There's nothing we can do about it," he says. "We have no golf staff. No electricity. Our equipment claims to FEMA have not been processed. We're at a standstill."

A nonprofit entity operating on city-owned land, the CPIA gets no general tax revenue to run the 1,300-acre park, which cuts through the devastated Lakeview and Fillmore neighborhoods. The courses were profit centers, generating roughly 30% of park revenue, but now they are thirsty, weedy liabilities. Private donations would help--the U.S. Tennis Association recently gave $150,000 to help restore the City Park Tennis Center--but no such help has been offered by the golf community.

"The response has been pretty disappointing," says Becker. "We'd like to get our West course open, but we can't do anything without equipment, and we need somebody to subsidize some operating costs so we can hire staff." Meanwhile, the city's golfers shouldn't expect to tee it up anytime soon on the park's East or North courses, where an unsuspecting hiker will still come across the odd bowling ball or junked car. "The other two courses, I don't see any way," Becker says with a sigh. "We'll simply have to let them go back to nature."

There are other places a dead golf course can go. At Eastover, where Katrina demolished 36 holes and $2 million worth of golf carts and maintenance vehicles, developer Donnie Pate intends to bulldoze the weaker 18 and build houses. At Lakewood, now owned by the New Orleans Fireman's Credit Union, plans to build a resort hotel, condo development and retirement community are on hold.

Where the displaced golfers will wind up is another question. A healthy number of range rats turned out in early March when City Park reopened the Bayou Oaks driving range. The pro shop was an empty shell, but park policeman Bill Bayle sold $5 buckets of dirty range balls from an outdoor table. "We tried to wash off the balls with the hose," said Bayle, "but somebody stole the hose."

It's another day in City Park, another setting sun, another cool breeze. Cleveland Harris, 78, is practicing short pitches with a wedge to what used to be the Bayou Oaks North course putting green. The balls at his feet spill out of an unzipped shag bag.

Harris is a retired schoolteacher living on a pension. His house on Harrison Street, just east of the park, was flooded, so he's renting an apartment on Cadiz Street. Before that he spent months as FEMA's guest at a hotel in Baton Rouge. "This is my town," he says. "I plan to restore my house." But first he has to persuade authorities to remove the teetering pine tree in front of his gutted home. A gentle man with a sweet smile and soothing voice, Harris takes an easy swing and lobs a shot onto the overgrown green.

"I've been playing golf my whole life," he continues. "I was playing golf out here when it was against the law for black folks to play." In fact, Harris helped finance the 1950s lawsuit that gained blacks access to the park courses, first on Tuesdays and Fridays and later on an unrestricted basis. He rakes a ball from the pile. "It's very important that they get the golf courses going again because we need recreation," he says. "We need exercise."

The old man hits another nice high wedge, watching the ball drop to the ground with obvious pleasure. "I'm no fluke," he says. "I play the game."

It would be cruel to point out to Harris that New Orleans's nighttime temperatures will soon hit 70.

Congress approved nearly $8 billion in tax breaks for Gulf Coast businesses but excluded golf courses. As one harried bureaucrat put it, "FEMA DOESN'T BUY GRASS.""We get four or five guys a day who come in, hit 10 balls and leave," says Whalen, the co-owner of a custom club shop. "They say, 'MAN, I HAD TO HIT SOMETHING.'""I HAVEN'T HEARD ONE COMPLAINT, NOT ONE WHINER," says Brechtel greenkeeper Carew. "The people who come out to play are happy. Everybody smiles."
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Old April 20th, 2006, 02:46 AM   #27
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I don't know too much about it but just this evening I saw on ARTE-tv a documentary about the theme and I was shocked by the looks of big parts of the city. People from poor neighbourhoods said they had no money to rebuild their house but the city council had plans to make golfcourses there instead. That they just were happy to be rid of those poor black people. City council liked New Orléans more white and richer.
Those were neighbourhoods lying -1 m below sea-level, hard to protect against the water. Where do those people have to go to, I think then.
What you also hear a lot is that in the USA people don't want to pay taxes, therefore the there is little money to maintain the dykes properly, and therefore they were vulnerable. Is this true? If so, it sounds quite strange to me.
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Old April 20th, 2006, 08:02 AM   #28
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Photography camp students document Katrina's effects on their city
20 April 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Cameras in hand, the students gathered at a makeshift floral memorial in the 9th Ward, amid the destruction wrought by post-Katrina flooding.

Their attitude was respectful, befitting their assignment: They were there as National Geographic photo camp participants to document this facet of post-K life in New Orleans.

After quiet contemplation of the shrine and a few clicks of their cameras, the students turned their attention to one of their mentors, veteran National Geographic photographer Sam Abell.

"The temptation is to take this picture and move on," Abell said. "Or you can lock in and wait for something to bring the still life to life" -- perhaps raindrops, or people stopping there to pray, or motorcyclists riding past. "See, that truck just drove by. It wasn't great, but it was something."

Camper Alex Ates opted to "lock in and wait" as Abell and the rest of his four-student team moved on. Members of other teams drifted past, fanning out in search of their own perfect pictures, but never out of sight of their mentors from National Geographic or photojournalism students from Loyola University's communications department.

Ates was one of 14 students from Lusher High School participating in the four-day photo camp; a 15th camper was from Isidore ****** School. The previous day, the group had taken pictures in the French Quarter; the next day, they photographed volunteers gutting flooded houses in the 7th Ward and Lakeview. Before and after field sessions, the students gathered at Loyola for photo editing and presentations, including one by Times-Picayune photographer Kathy Anderson.

The students also had homework: to make a self-portrait and to photograph "people and things that have meaning for you." And there were writing assignments: to record a childhood memory and specific memories of their experiences during Hurricane Katrina and to answer such questions as "What do you think about? What concerns you? What do you dream about lately?"

"This was the first time we used writing assignments," said Kirsten Elstner, photo camp coordinator, who explained that in previous years and cities, the program had been devoted to documenting neighborhoods in selected ZIP codes, a la the National Geographic's Zip USA feature. "For this one, we wanted to use photography and writing as a way for kids to work through their feelings."

To further the same aim, self-portraits were included for the first time as well, said Kurt Mutchler, National Geographic illustrations editor and former Times-Picayune photo editor, another photo camp mentor. Concern over the storm's effects on the city's youth drove the decision to make New Orleans one of the 2006 camp settings, he said: "There was no way we could ignore the impact of Katrina."

"Another goal," Elstner said, "was to show New Orleans through the eyes of young people."

After selected photos taken by the students are printed, mounted and combined with excerpts from the writing assignments, they will be returned to New Orleans for exhibit. The location is still being determined, Elstner said.

This was also the first photo camp to involve younger high schoolers. Usually, campers are high school juniors and seniors, but the current reduced student population of the city resulted in the selection of ninth- and 10th-graders.

"I was nervous at first, but it turns out they have been the most responsive and interested," Elstner said. "They didn't just fulfill the assignment, they went beyond the assignment.

"They were truly the strongest group of kids we've had."

The final day was devoted to editing, with each team picking three digital photos per member to tell its story. Using those pictures plus others from the nearly 6,000 taken over the course of the camp, Mutchler and Jim Webb, photo camp technical director, then put together a group photo story, set to New Orleans music and shown to campers, teachers, family members and friends.

The photo of the 9th Ward shrine that camper Ates waited 45 minutes to snap -- he finally got it when a church bus with a cross on its side drove past -- did not make the final cut. It was overshadowed by his detail shot of a jazzy painting on a door, his portrait of a girl in her First Communion dress and his low-angle picture of volunteers taking a break from house gutting, shot from the bottom of the steps up toward his seated subjects.

To camp organizers, the process is more important than the product.

"It speaks to how photography can be used as a learning tool not just for visual proficiency," Mutchler said, "but for students learning about themselves and the world."
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Old April 21st, 2006, 12:40 AM   #29
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AP Interview: Brad Pitt announces New Orleans design competition
20 April 2006

NEW YORK (AP) - Brad Pitt called Thursday for people to submit proposals for an environmentally friendly design competition he is sponsoring to rebuild parts of New Orleans devastated by Hurricane Katrina.

"Our goal is to kick off the rebuilding effort. It's certainly long overdue and I can only go from the reports that we get ... that it's behind, absolutely. People are frustrated," Pitt said by telephone from Namibia.

"We could possibly build something that was better and took into account the historical traditions of the city and the voices of the people and turn this into some kind of good," the actor added.

Pitt, who is currently in the southern African country with actress Angelina Jolie and their children, is teaming up with Global Green USA, a national environmental organization, on the design project.

Pitt will lead a jury made up of architects and local leaders to choose designs by six finalists who will then work with local neighborhoods on more detailed proposals for environmentally sound buildings.

The open competition will focus on the Holy Cross neighborhood in the impoverished Lower 9th Ward. Designs will be submitted in June and the finalists chosen in July.

Pitt described his reaction to watching the scenes of the devastation caused by Katrina. "Truthfully, I dare say we witnessed, to our shame, the fact that there's a portion of our society that's being dismissed and that needs to be rectified and I thought that was a real casualty overall from the event."

Pitt said it was both the humanitarian and design elements of the project that interested him.

"Good architecture is not about building a pretty box and putting it on a piece of land. It's about the needs of the people inhabiting it. It's about the sun, wind, the temperature of the place, their well-being, their quality of life, they go hand in hand. Good architecture cannot exist truthfully without good will," he said.

Pitt said he has a huge interest in architecture.

"I am a bit of a junkie. It's inexplicable really. I believe we creatures are very susceptible to our surroundings. They can actually improve our mode of life and I personally am very affected ... when I walk through an intelligent building. It inspires me," said Pitt. "To me it's like walking through a piece of art and, coupling that now with the green movement of the smarter architecture -- of the healthier buildings with great design -- is a very exciting prospect to me."

Matt Petersen, president of Global Green USA, said that Pitt had "really educated himself not just on architecture, but green design as well. We'll probably have a vice-chair as well on the jury to help Brad. There will be a lot of experienced people on there as well as Brad."

The impetus for the competition stems from both a desire to help rebuild the devastated city, and to ensure that at least some of the reconstruction occurs in an environmentally-aware manner that reflect a vision of New Orleans in the future.

"As the rebuilding process in New Orleans begins in earnest we want to ensure that the designs and construction embrace principles of sustainable design and green building," Petersen said.

"What we're doing can help provide a spark for the rebuilding of New Orleans and to do it differently. If we build the right buildings now, we're not going to have to tear them down. They will be more disaster resistant," he added.

Anyone can pre-register from today for the competition although final details on the jury and the brief will not be released until mid-May. The finalist presentation and jury review will take place before the first anniversary of Katrina on Aug. 29.

Global Green, the US arm of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev's Green Cross International, is providing technical assistance in green standards for 10,000 buildings in New Orleans. The standards include energy efficiency, improved indoor air quality, clean energy sources and healthy building materials.

Pitt declined to answer questions about the upcoming birth of his biological child with Jolie. "Absolutely not," he laughed.

There is widespread speculation that Jolie intends to give birth in Namibia and that the couple plan to marry there.

Pitt would only say that he had a warm welcome there. "Namibia's just a country we're very fond of. It's a beautiful land and hospitable people and a place that we want to be for the time being," he said.

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Old April 21st, 2006, 08:01 PM   #30
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City gives residents until Aug. 29 to act on damaged homes
21 April 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - New Orleans residents with flood-damaged homes have been given until Aug. 29 -- the first anniversary of Hurricane Katrina -- to clean, gut or board up their residences.

Those who do not meet the deadline risk having the city seize and demolish them, the City Council decided Thursday in a unanimous vote.

Council member Jay Batt, who sponsored the ordinance, said mold-infested homes can become "environmental biohazards" that could slow the recovery of entire neighborhoods by discouraging nearby residents from repairing their own homes.

"Its not fair to others to let these houses languish," Batt said. "No neighborhood is going to be worth a doggone" with hurricane-blighted houses in the middle of it.

To help homeowners who need financial assistance to remediate their property, a Web site will be set up listing nonprofit organizations that can work with them, Batt said.

Council member Renee Gill Pratt said many homeowners want to return to New Orleans but have yet to receive insurance settlements or other needed aid. At her suggestion, Batts ordinance was amended to provide a process for reviewing hardship cases.

The ordinance will have to be reviewed by Mayor Ray Nagin. If he vetoes it, the council can overturn him with five votes.

Information from: The Times-Picayune,
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Old April 25th, 2006, 05:48 AM   #31
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The New Orleans economy wasnt exactly flourishing before Katrina. Why would it be after rebuilding?
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Old April 26th, 2006, 07:14 AM   #32
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Hurricane-devastated New Orleans to hold 2nd round vote for mayor

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, April 23, 2006 (AFP) - The race to lead hurricane-devastated New Orleans' multi-billion dollar reconstruction was forced into a second round after Mayor Ray Nagin failed to secure automatic reelection.

Thousands of refugees from Hurricane Katrina returned by car on special buses from other cities, to take part in Saturday's vote that ended with Nagin on 39 percent and his nearest rival, Mitch Landrieu, on 28 percent.

After a campaign fought in an international spotlight in which race featured prominently, Nagin needed 50 percent of the vote to avoid a second runoff on May 20. Landrieu is the lieutenant governor of Louisiana state and the son of New Orleans' last white mayor.

Activists have highlighted how the city's black community suffered most from the hurricane and make up a disproportionately higher number of those who fled to other cities.

About 300,000 of the 465,000 population is still living outside New Orleans and a majority of the displaced are African-Americans.

Nagin and Landrieu called for unity and an end to racial divisions that have become more pronounced since the August 29 storm that killed about 1,000 people in New Orleans.

Nagin, whose handling of the storm aftermath has been criticised by the national government, told cheering supporters: "It is time for black and white, Hispanic and Asian -- everybody -- to come together for one New Orleans."

"There were too many people who said this city should go in a different direction, but the people have said they like the direction," he said of his first place in the poll.

But in the aftermath of the disaster, the 49-year-old former cable television executive stirred up controversy by saying God wanted New Orleans to remain a "chocolate city" -- meaning majority black -- a statement that has cost him support among whites.

It is the first time in more than 20 years that a sitting mayor has been forced into a runoff vote in New Orleans.

Landrieu said: "We in New Orleans will be one people and we will speak with one voice and we will have one future."

Though the final turnout was low, at about one third of the registered electorate, signs put up outside homes added new signs of life in districts that are still empty and wrecked.

Ten polling stations were set up across Louisiana for storm refugees. About 20,000 people cast ballots by mail and were even allowed to fax their votes.

Civil rights groups organised buses from Houston, Atlanta and other cities across the south.

The election will play a key role in deciding how the tens of billions of reconstruction money will be spent in New Orleans.

Many residents are still looking for signs of a promised resurgence.

"This election is very important for the city," said Pat Schmidt, 52, an attorney and lifelong New Orleans resident.

Four years ago, she voted for Nagin in his first bid for office. But his handling of the hurricane changed her view, and on Saturday she switched to Landrieu.

"You need fresh thinking," Schmidt said. "We know Mitch. We know what he stands for. He has a lot of contacts that can help. We do need help."
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Old April 27th, 2006, 06:52 AM   #33
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Brass bands welcome tourists to New Orleans jazz festival

NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana, April 27, 2006 (AFP) - Brass bands will fill the halls of Louis Armstrong International Airport this weekend as New Orleans celebrates its first Jazz and Heritage festival since Hurricane Katrina.

The festival is expected to draw tens of thousands of people this weekend and next with big names like Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Paul Simon, Elvis Costello and Fats Domino.

"New Orleans music remains the beacon of our 'bent not broken' culture," said Bethany Bultman, the director of the New Orleans Musicians Clinic, a nonprofit support group which organized the new music series with airport officials.

The Soul Rebels kick off the first-ever airport concert series Thursday before playing at the Jazz Fest on Sunday. All eight members of the band lost their homes to Katrina's floodwaters and are now living in Houston.

With tourism slowed to a trickle and more than half the city's residents still scattered across the country, gigs have been few and far between for local musicians.

Many are anxious for the work and hopeful that the festival will help revitalize the city's famed music scene.

"Everyone has got a few butterflies in their stomachs," said Lumar Richardson, a towering tuba player and president of the band.

"Is the attendance going to hold up? I'm sure if they have 70 percent of past attendance it will be a success considering the city has been so traumatized by the hurricane."

Jazz Fest officials will not speculate on attendance. The event traditionally draws around 400,000 people and boosts the city's economy by 200 to 300 million dollars.

For the first time, however, millions of viewers around the world will be allowed to "visit" the festival for both Sundays via a live Internet streaming of the 10 stages operating simultaneously.

"Jazz Fest is an economic engine, it's an emotional engine and it is a celebration of the culture we are," said festival spokesperson Matthew Goldman. "It's an important time to support New Orleans."

The city coffers are nearly empty and its economy is starved for tourism.

Reconstruction since the worst natural disaster in US history is going slower than expected.

The French Quarter and other parts of the city that escaped the floodwaters are still intact and functioning.

However, piles of storm debris, white trailers furnished by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and vacant homes in the flood-damaged residential neighborhood that hosts the festival serve as stark reminders of Katrina's destruction.

Undaunted, festival promoters entreat tourists and locals alike to the Fair Grounds racetrack with the theme: "Bear witness to the healing power of music."

At least 85 percent of the city's 27,799 hotel rooms have been booked for the next two weekends, although many are filled by government officials, disaster recovery workers and professional golfers playing in a major tournament in the city this weekend.

But tourism officials are hopeful.

"Just a few short months ago, we weren't sure we could host an event of this significance," said Sandy Shilstone, president of the city's tourism and marketing group.

But like the city's successful staging of Mardi Gras two months ago, Jazz Fest will "show the world that New Orleans can once again shine," she said.

Oswald "Ozzie" Laporte, who runs one of three tour bus operations offering tours of neighborhoods recovering from Katrina, believes the city will make a comeback.

"The reasons why people still come to New Orleans are still here - the music, food, culture, architecture, and history," the Celebration Tours ownersaid. "We've survived yellow fever, floods, and FEMA. The only thing we don't have is the avian flu. We have survived it all."
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Old April 29th, 2006, 02:32 AM   #34
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COMMENTARY-Music is foundation to rebuild New Orleans
(c) 2006 Reuters Limited
By Branford Marsalis
April 28, 2006

(New Orleans native Branford Marsalis is a saxophonist, the founder of the Marsalis Music label and the honorary co-chair of New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity's Operation Home Delivery.)

NEW YORK (Billboard) - I am pleased to see that New Orleans is holding its Jazz & Heritage Festival this year on the weekends of April 28-30 and May 5-7, but I'm not really surprised. Although there are a few companies based in New Orleans, the city does not have a substantial business infrastructure. Tourism is the lifeblood of New Orleans, so to my mind there was never a doubt -- despite the heavy losses caused by Hurricane Katrina and displacements suffered by event staff -- that the festival would take place.

This will be a special edition of the festival, though more like the way it was when my brothers and friends were kids. That's because the crisis of Katrina has placed the focus more squarely on Louisiana. I suspect that a larger percentage of the performing artists will be local, and a larger percentage of the listeners as well. The crowds may end up being smaller, but they will no doubt be more focused.

New Orleans' condition today depends to a large extent on where you look. If you are a tourist who confines yourself to the Garden District and the French Quarter, little change may be evident; but if you love the whole city, what is going on (or not going on) is unbelievable. In approximately 60 percent of the city there is still no electricity, houses are abandoned, and people have not returned. It is easy to hand out blame for this situation, but the important thing is to take steps to ensure that people in need receive real assistance.


People have been comparing Katrina to earlier disasters, like the hurricane that hit Galveston, Texas, in 1912, or to the San Francisco earthquake of 1906. Given the property devastation and the massive relocation that Katrina created, however, I think a much better analogy is the condition of Europe after World War II. Back then, millions of people were displaced, and the housing stock and infrastructure of entire countries were destroyed. It took several years and the Marshall Plan to correct the situation, not just a few million dollars thrown at the problem. It is going to take that kind of focus to restore New Orleans and the Gulf Coast. If the government is not prepared to step forward, then concerned people both in the region and around the country will have to respond.

Massive amounts of assistance from corporate America will also be required, but I understand that companies are concerned over how funds will be spent.

In this regard, I feel that the music community should take the lead in the rebuilding effort because New Orleans is so central to the entire culture of music in America. New Orleans is widely acknowledged as the birthplace of jazz, but it is also arguably the birthplace of rock 'n' roll. Artists like Lloyd Price, Little Richard and other early pioneers were deeply immersed in the music of the city, and through their impact the city's influence spread throughout the world. A lot of musicians, songwriters and bandleaders understand this and are quick to acknowledge that New Orleans is a primary cultural source.


This is why Harry Connick Jr. and I have become involved with New Orleans Area Habitat for Humanity in the creation of the Musicians' Village in the Upper Ninth Ward. We have acquired five city blocks, and the Musicians' Village will be the site of 75 single-family houses plus 150 additional homes in the surrounding area for musicians and qualifying homeowners.

If you know anything about life in New Orleans pre-Katrina, you must also know that New Orleans musicians have not always received their fair share. Through this catastrophe and the response of NOAHH, many musicians old and young will be able to own homes for the very first time.

The Musicians' Village is not intended to be exclusively for musicians, however, and an important aspect of its design is that musicians will be in a true community, enjoying the kind of person-to-person, neighbor-to-neighbor relationships that have sustained such New Orleans traditions as the marching band. A central aspect of the Musicians' Village will be the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music, which is named after my father and will be a performance, education and recording complex where bands can play and rehearse, students can get lessons and neighbors can hang out. I love the idea that kids will be able to walk a few blocks from their homes and learn about the music.

As opposed to all the hand-wringing that has gone on around Katrina relief, the Musicians' Village is a proactive solution that I am delighted to be part of. You can learn more about it at And you should also ask yourself what your part will be in the relief effort because if music is your life, New Orleans is your home.

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Old April 30th, 2006, 07:48 AM   #35
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Onward and Upward:
Architects Envision New Orleans Rising From the Waters

Linda Hales
Washington Post Staff Writer
29 April 2006

In a child's eyes, rebuilding New Orleans couldn't be simpler. Put the city on a hill.

Such an image, drawn in crayon by a New Orleans grade-schooler, inspired one of the most powerful designs in an exhibition of visionary post-Katrina architecture opening today at the National Building Museum. The show is called "Newer Orleans: A Shared Space."

The child, listed only as "Courtney S.," imagined people walking to safety up a hill they didn't have. After seeing the drawing, the Dutch architectural firm MVRDV devised a multistory school tucked inside a grassy, man-made mound. All the usual functions -- classrooms, cafeteria, library -- are stacked within the hill, which would double as a playground. Places that children would congregate are well above sea level. Windows and balconies poke out of the sides like spokes on a sputnik. It's a funky-looking structure, but entirely buildable.

The point of the exhibition is to propel visitors beyond catastrophe. As the wall text promises, this is "architecture that can give New Orleans hope."

Six proposals -- shown through intricate models, renderings, blueprints, sketches and politically charged factoids -- offer ways in which innovative design can revive a sense of community and build a stronger connection with nature.

In the re-imagined city, mangrove trees flourish in a vast, welcoming park; levee embankments are recast as picnic grounds; and civic pride finds expression in a public library so wildly creative that it would supplant the Superdome as the city's most notorious architectural icon. And children get a safe haven for a school.

The exhibition was organized in six weeks by a transatlantic brain trust including Reed Kroloff, Tulane University's dean of architecture and a member of the New Orleans recovery team; Aaron Betsky, an American who heads the Netherlands Architecture Institute in Rotterdam; and Tim Griffin, editor of Artforum magazine, the March issue of which serves as the exhibition catalogue.

"There is an absolute necessity for visionary thinking," says Betsky, former curator of architecture at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art. He came to Washington for a preview Thursday.

The exhibition is tightly focused. A select group of high-profile U.S. and Dutch firms were asked to address three specific problems: the design of an elementary school in a poor neighborhood; the restoration of City Park, an unkempt and now-contaminated public green in central New Orleans; and the creation of an architectural symbol as powerful as the Washington Monument.

The American firms are Morphosis, Hargreaves Associates and Huff + Gooden Architects; chosen from the Netherlands were UN Studio and West 8 Urban Design and Landscape Architecture, along with MVRDV. All are highly regarded for unconventional approaches to structures, urban design and the reinvention of landscapes. There is no expectation that any of the designs will be realized, or even that any of the designers might become part of the actual rebuilding, although one can always hope.

The search for a symbol to represent the future produced an exploded ziggurat by UN Studio. The staggered form would house a multimedia library and civic offices while incorporating a vertical garden unlike any seen in the Garden District.

The central park flooded by Katrina becomes a major opportunity for psychic healing in the conceptual plan by Adriaan Geuze of West 8. The land would be desalinated and restored in phases, serving as a tree farm for the city and later becoming an environmentally sound delta of serpentine creeks crossed by 1,000 pedestrian bridges. The path of the hurricane would be marked with a progression of tidal pools, which he calls the Katrina Trace Memorial.

Morphosis, the firm of 2005 Pritzker Architecture Prize winner Thom Mayne, tackled the real-world issue of who should live in the new New Orleans. Mayne adopts the highly controversial idea that the city should shrink to its most prosperous neighborhoods. Maps show a densely populated zone on high ground surrounding the French Quarter. Flooded areas extending from the Ninth Ward north and west along Lake Pontchartrain are marked for a "strategic return" to wetlands.

The blueprint is grounded in research that Mayne did for a client before Katrina struck. He already had determined that the city lacked the tax base to sustain, much less rebuild, infrastructure. "Radical subtraction" would alleviate the burden on city services, the plan suggests, while the central core could be revived as a cultural destination. The cost of establishing Category-5 levees has been put at $32 billion, at the least. Morphosis compares that figure with the projected $9 billion cost of buying out displaced residents.

The opposite position is taken by George Hargreaves, a master planner and past chairman of the landscape architecture department at Harvard's Graduate School of Design. He notes that 70 percent of homes in the area that Morphosis consigns to wetlands were owner-occupied. That suggests to Hargreaves that if people could be made to feel safe, they would return. In his view, the opportunity to restore the city's "soul" outweighs the cost.

"Newer Orleans" opened in Rotterdam in January. The exhibition was brought to Washington through the efforts of Dutch Ambassador Boudewijn J. van Eenennaam, who traveled to New Orleans in November and organized a tour of Dutch flood protection systems for Louisiana officials in January.

Betsky hopes the exhibition, which will travel to New Orleans, New York, Chicago and Louisville, can generate discussion beyond the problems of New Orleans. Cities without defining elements such as Washington's Mall, Chicago's Millennium Park or Seattle's new public library could find strong arguments here.

As for schools, they serve as safe havens for children everywhere, but unfortunately, designs rarely live up to their potential to foster well-being.

Newer Orleans: A Shared Space runs through July 30 at the National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW. Hours. Monday through Saturday 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 202-272-2448. Free.
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Old May 2nd, 2006, 07:18 AM   #36
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New Orleans Jazz Fest: celebration among the ruins

NEW ORLEANS, April 30, 2006 (AFP) - Under threatening skies on Saturday, thousands of tourists and locals streamed past rows of vacant flood-damaged homes outside the Fair Grounds racetrack, toward the first New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival since Hurricane Katrina.

"That is what people need to see," said Jazz Fest spokesperson Matthew Goldman. "That is what we can't hide in this whole scenario. We are not whole; we are trying to get back."

Eight months after the worst natural disaster in US history, men in shorts and women in sun dresses strolled around 10 stages of live music, scaled-back food booths and other attractions on the festival grounds.

The first day of the two-weekend festival opened Friday. Festival organizers say they will not release attendance figures until the six-day event closes May 7.

As at Mardi Gras two months ago, many in the opening-day crowd at Jazz Fest expressed a determination to reclaim the festival's celebratory spirit.

Some spectators were even costumed as if it were Mardi Gras.

"We couldn't wait to come here," said Jason Wight, a broad-shouldered firefighter from Rancho Cucamonga, California dressed in a red wig and black tutu. His wife, Mary Beth Wight, a school teacher clad in similar attire, nodded in agreement.

"We were apprehensive at first," Wight continued. "But once we heard Jazz Fest was happening we booked our flight, immediately. New Orleans is the best city in the entire world!"

Some of the urgent, grassroots activism that has emerged since the Katrina turned up at Jazz Fest. Scores of spectators wore hats, T-shirts and pins bearing the French fleur de lis, a city symbol of renewal. Elsewhere, one young woman wore a black T-shirt that read: "Screw Fallujah, Save New Orleans."

Not everyone was so parochial. At the Fais Do Do stage, local blues musician J. Monque D. ended a soulful performance with an urgent appeal: "Let us never forget our brothers and sisters in Darfur, where every day young children and women are being kidnapped and raped by the thousands. Write your congressman or representative. Tell them about the blues in Darfur!"

Ronnie Virgets, a semi-retired columnist, stood in the back of the crowd. Virgets, who swam through his flooded home to safety during Katrina, portrayed Jazz Fest as a benchmark in the city's spiritual recovery.

"New Orleans has always been noted for its culture of celebration and mourning," Virgets said. "We've had eight months of mourning since Katrina. This Jazz Fest will be a way of awakening the celebration part of our culture."

A short walk away, a tent offered shade from the sun and coffee-table books about New Orleans, its music and Katrina. Those related to the storm were the best sellers, said Tad O'Brien, organizer of the tent.

Tom Piazza, local author of the popular post-Katrina monograph, "Why News Orleans Matters," said Jazz Fest captures and fuses the best of the city's culture: "It gives us a way of understanding the way the food, the music, the dancing and the landscape all work together."

Some of the activities were scaled back or transformed at Jazz Fest 2006, however. Fifty-five of 64 food booths re-opened, though crowd favorites such as Crawfish Monica returned, festival officials said.

Many of the nonprofit groups who sold beer and bottled water for worthy causes were missing. Also absent were traditional craft exhibits by blacksmiths, bricklayers, and Cajun women who spun yarn and made lace.

The streets outside the festival grounds were largely free of traffic congestion but also of colorful vendors and aspiring musicians. There were none of the open house parties or Jazz Fest flags that flapped in the wind over neighborhood porches during past festivals. Katrina had scoured the Jazz Fest's neighboring "landscape."

Back at the Fais Do Do stage, zydeco musician Barney "Sunpie" Barnes led his 10-piece band in a rollicking version of "The La-La Song." It was a favorite tune of his guitar player, James Kebodeaux, who played with Barnes for 12 years, Barnes told AFP last week.

Kebodeaux had major surgery last summer and died shortly after evacuating New Orleans. He was 49. "I'm dedicating this festival to him," Barnes said.

He sang the "La-La Song", an upbeat tribute at a Jazz Fest celebration, for a city trying to end eight months of mourning.
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Old May 5th, 2006, 10:08 PM   #37
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Originally Posted by hkskyline
Authorities watching for signs of gang resurgence
17 March 2006

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Most of the city's drug dealers and violent criminals were blown out by Hurricane Katrina, "

They should have added to the first part - "...and they moved to Atlanta and Houston".

We're tired of the 30% increase in crime in Atlanta since we received our "guests"... can you folks PLEASE take them back now?
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Old May 6th, 2006, 08:34 AM   #38
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New Orleans can be rebuilt, that's fine, but we should NOT use FEDERAL US tax dollars to do it.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 09:00 PM   #39
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New Orleans can be rebuilt, that's fine, but we should NOT use FEDERAL US tax dollars to do it.
So I suppose we also shouldn't use federal us dollars to rebuild Seattle when Mt. Rainier decides to finally blow up, Los Angeles, San Fracisco, and the other 90% of urban California in between following the next major earthquake, or any small town in the midwest that gets flattened by one or more tornadoes?

That said, it's important to clarify what federal dollars should go for.

Building "Cat 5" Levees? No. Regardless of how big and mighty the levees are, someday, somehow, one of them will fail... probably, due to an unforseen mode of failure, like the barge that crashed into the levee after Katrina. They might fail due to a terrorist bomb, an asteroid crashing into Lake Ponchtrain, or some chain of events taking place over decades that slowly set them up to fail. But somehow, they will... and if the government's reassurances convince people that they won't, that ultimate failure will be all the more catastrophic. It's far better to make the levees "good enough" to not catastrophically fail without warning during a hurricane, and fortify the surrounding area to minimize the damage from those inevitable future floods -- building new buildings on pilings so their first floor is above any likely flood level, and building them to Dade County hurricane standards.

Paying claims for flood insurance? Absolutely. Those people paid their premiums, and have every right to expect they'll be honored in full. Handouts to poor people who didn't have insurance? No. Loans to rebuild on pilings, up to Dade County hurricane standards, like homes in the Florida Keys? Yes. If they can't afford to rebuild, well... they still own the vacant lot. Assuming they don't do something stupid and f**k things up for themselves, they can still sell it and use the proceeds to buy a new home elsewhere.

If big groups of poor, uninsured former homeowners are smart, they'll band together and market their properties as a block to big developers (who'll pay more per square foot for the land, since they can do more with it with less risk). The way big developers like US Homes, Lennar, etc see it, if the tract of land is big enough, they can ALWAYS build a wall around it to protect the wealthy homeowners inside if the rest of the neighborhood doesn't gentrify fast enough.
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Old May 6th, 2006, 09:47 PM   #40
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So I suppose we also shouldn't use federal us dollars to rebuild Seattle when Mt. Rainier decides to finally blow up, Los Angeles, San Fracisco, and the other 90% of urban California in between following the next major earthquake, or any small town in the midwest that gets flattened by one or more tornadoes?
You suppose correctly. With the exception of the small midwestern cities, all of those cities face imminant dangers with their natural disasters. If another major hurricane hits Miami it should be the same thing. The rest of the country didn't move there, build crappy houses that couldn't stand up to the storms, and then stay to ride out the storms. The federal government should provide food and water and shelter for the victims for a while, and then help them to relocate elsewhere. Private investors can come in and rebuild the city if they see if fit.
There's more to New York than New York City..... a lot more.
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louisiana, new orleans

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