Thursday, May 31, 2007

State of the Nagin Address

What he said:
"It's not our fault."
What he meant:
“It’s not my fault.”
What’s not his fault? Oyster elaborates:
Re-electing Ray Nagin was an awful, horrible blunder for New Orleans-- for myriad reasons-- but Nagin's commitment to a Police Chief who can't control crime is at the top of the list.
Yes, can’t control crime. Mr. Nagin, you and your appointee can’t control crime. Especially violent crime. Nor can you explain it away:
On the issue of public safety, Nagin said "crime stats are trending in a positive direction comparing first quarter of 2007 to the last quarter of 2006." He said the city has installed 87 cameras in crime hot spots and is on pace to reach its goal of 200 by year's end.


Nevertheless, the mayor admitted that the murder problem is not under complete control. He referred to spikes in the body count as "blips" and noted that "we had one this weekend."
A blip? This weekend’s blip included five murders from Friday afternoon to Sunday night.

Mr. Nagin continues to mention blips or upticks when discussing our incredibly high murder rate. Let me express these blips and upticks in a different way.

May 30, 2007, the day Nagin gave his State of the City address, was 150 days into the year. As of that day, 77 people were murdered (by my count) on the streets of New Orleans. That is an average of one murder every 1.94 days. A murder every other day.

The “blips” are not anomalies. They are analogous to a murder every other day in the city of New Orleans. Is that trending in a positive direction?

We have a little more than half the pre-Katrina population in the city but 3/4 the pre-Katrina violent crime. Is that trending in a positive direction?

Wait... Wait... I know what you're going to say.

Hey, man. It’s not my fault.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Crazy Man Tries to Fill Post-Katrina Leadership Void in NOLA

No, not Nagin:
A fashion writer accused of sexually abusing a former co-worker while dressed as a firefighter hoped to go to New Orleans and lead a gang of angry Hurricane Katrina survivors, a psychologist testified Monday.


"He talked about going to New Orleans because he thought there were a lot of angry people down there and he could provide them some kind of leadership," Barr testified.
Even an insane sexual abuser can tell we've got leadership problems down here.

Crime Numbers

In March 2007, the NOPD released crime statistics for 2006 and lauded them for showing a reduction in crime compared to the year before:
The uniform crime report statistics show a 22 percent reduction in violent crime when compared to 2005 statistics, according to NOPD spokesman Sgt. Joe Narcisse.

Nonviolent crime dropped about 25 percent.

"In most categories you see a reduction in crime," Narcisse said.

Asked whether the statistics offer a fair assessment considering the post-storm chaos and radical reduction in population, Narcisse said the numbers speak for themselves.

"It is what it is," he said. "We may be able to (attribute) some of the reduction to Katrina."
It is what it is.

This week, the NOPD released their official crime stats for the first quarter of 2007. Compared with the same time period last year, there is no overall reduction to be lauded. In fact, violent crime is up 107 percent – more than double.

Hey NOPD, is it still what it is?
The NOPD did not return repeated requests for comment on the statistics Monday.
Wait, don’t tell me. Some of the increase in violent crime may be attributed to an increase in population, right?
Scharf, a frequent critic of the NOPD, called the city's murder rate alarming because it is a marked increase over the previous year without a corresponding increase in population.

A study recently released by GCR & Associates Inc. placed the city's population at 255,137 for March 2007. For January 2006, the start of the same quarter last year, the U.S. Census Bureau estimated that 158,353 were living in New Orleans. That's a population increase of 62 percent.

"You are 182 percent higher (in murders) than last year with a population that hasn't grown at that rate," Scharf said.
What the NOPD said last year [scroll down] around this time:
Although crime in New Orleans has risen as the population grows, the city is still much safer than it was before Hurricane Katrina, police Superintendent Warren Riley announced Friday as he revealed the city's first-quarter crime statistics.

The number of violent crimes reported to police -- murders, rapes, robberies, shootings, stabbings and other serious assaults -- was down by 64 percent in the first three months of this year [2006], compared with the same period last year [2005], Riley said.

The number of murders and armed robberies was down, each by about 74 percent, and nonviolent crime was down about 52 percent, Riley said.

Anticipating the argument that the decrease was insignificant because population is dramatically down in the city, Riley produced figures that he said show that even adjusting for the lower population, violent crime is still down about 26 percent and nonviolent crime about 1 percent, compared with the first quarter of last year. The figures are based on crimes per every 100,000 residents.
Maybe the first three months of this year was one of those “upticks” Mayor Nagin told us about.

Here’s the scary part. Let’s compare the first quarter of 2007 to the first quarter of 2005, the last Jan-Feb-Mar period when the city was at full pre-Katrina population.
First Quarter 2007

Murder - 48
Rape - 14
Armed Robbery - 190
Simple Robbery - 54
Assault - 447

Total = 753

First Quarter 2005

Murder - 65
Rape - 44
Armed Robbery - 284
Simple Robbery - 85
Assault - 530

Total = 1008
In the first quarter of 2007, total violent crime was down 25 percent from the first quarter of 2005. The only thing is, there were *almost twice as many people* in New Orleans in 2005. With around 56 percent (255,000) of the pre-Katrina population (455,000), we had 75 percent of the *total* pre-Katrina violent crime.

Using the “per 100,000 residents” method that Riley used in May 2006 to claim a 26 percent reduction in violent crime in the first quarter of 2006 as compared with the first quarter of 2005, the numbers say that violent crime is up 33 percent in the first quarter of 2007 (295 violent crimes per 100,000 residents) as compared to the first quarter of 2005 (221 violent crimes per 100,000 residents).

Assuming a first quarter 2006 population of 200,000 residents in New Orleans, violent crime is up 62 percent per 100,000 residents in the first quarter of 2007 (295 violent crimes per 100,000 residents) as compared to the first quarter of 2006 (182 violent crimes per 100,000 residents).

These comparisons aren’t really good for anything except showing that violent crime is not going down in 2007 when compared to the same time period after the storm *or* before the storm - on a per resident basis. But look at how close we are to the pre-Katrina total numbers of violent crime with around half the population. No numbers or formulas can make that look good.

Monday, May 14, 2007

A Complete Exit

In March, inspired by a Galveston County Daily News editorial, I wrote:
The next time an insurance company threatens a partial withdrawal from an Atlantic coastal region, every state on the East Coast and the Gulf Coast should invite the insurance company to make a complete exit. That includes 20 states with coastal counties or parishes, which make up over a third (134 million) of the United States' population (300 million).

That’s a sizable market to lose.
Via Mr. Homan, I see that Allstate will "stop selling new home insurance policies in California and would continue to seek a 12% rate increase for its 900,000 existing customers."

California's population in 2000 was over 33 million. Were California to join the similarly treated Gulf and Atlantic Coast States in asking Allstate to make a complete exit, the insurance company would be locked out of doing business with more than half (167 million) the population of the United States (300 million).

Now *that's* a sizable market to lose.

Keeping It Real

Real transparent, that is:
When he promised transparency at the start of his second term, the mayor had clearly begun work on the new garbage contracts, yet he kept quiet about the contracts until the city council had no choice but to accept them. That's real transparency.
This in a series of posts at Moldy City concerning Mayor Nagin's opacity, as well as posts on the dearth of inspectors of electricity.

For some reason, those garbage contracts still really bother me.

When Good Enough Is Better than Nothing at All

Just reopen the damn hospital:
Louisiana State University announced this month that the downtown medical campus it hopes to share with the Department of Veterans Affairs could ramble over more than 70 acres, consuming a neighborhood that includes empty buildings, weedy parking lots and a patchwork of viable and neglected homes.

As the state gears up to spend tens of millions buying this property -- in some cases invoking the power of eminent domain to force out unwilling owners -- the hospital where LSU cared for indigent patients and trained generations of doctors stands idle a few blocks away on Tulane Avenue.
It ain't state of the art. But it's there.

I guess there's not enough money to be made in "good enough."

Monday, May 07, 2007

Should We Be Worried?

Last Friday’s storm was non-tropical, but the Sewerage and Water Board still had to switch over to back up power for the pumps in New Orleans:
And on Friday, the loss of 60-cycle commercial electricity also knocked out a compressor that increases the pressure of natural gas to operate the water board's 25-cycle power plant, causing it to shut down, too.

Water board officials scrambled to switch to diesel fuel to operate the power plant, but the failure led to most individual pump stations west of the Industrial Canal being knocked out for periods lasting from a few minutes to 45 minutes, St. Martin said.
The 60-cycle/25-cycle problem is explained in the article and is blamed for the loss of power to the pumps. While the explanation for why the pumps lost power is important, whatever the reason, we still had to switch to back up power (diesel generators) in a storm outside of hurricane season and non-tropical in nature.

Also, the London Avenue Canal exceeded its safe water level:
At the London Avenue Canal in New Orleans, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers requested the Sewerage & Water Board shut down Pump Station No. 3 at 1:30 p.m. because the water level in the canal reached 4.3 feet. While that would not seem particularly high in a canal where the floodwalls extend 14 feet above sea level, the Army Corps has set conservative limits for those drainage canals that suffered catastrophic floodwall failure during Katrina and allowed a swollen Lake Pontchartain to empty into the city.

The safe water level for the London Avenue Canal is 4 feet.
Once again, this was a storm outside of hurricane season and non-tropical in nature. Yet, we had to shut down one pumping station because an outfall canal reached the highest level of water the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is confident that the floodwalls they built can handle. And most of the other pumps were running on backup power.

Look, I don’t expect the city’s pumps to do the impossible. I don’t expect the city to stay completely dry when the rain is coming down hard.

But, I do expect an honest assessment of where we’re at heading into this hurricane season.

Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Marcia St. Martin provides an assessment:
"But the real key to this afternoon is, irrespective to our problems, the rainfall event was greater than our capabilities with everything working perfect," she said.
Everything working perfect. Sounds like we should be worried.

[UPDATE] prytaniawaterline provides another assessment:
This tells me that the levees and the pumping system are not to pre-katrina levels. In the event of a large hurricane we would be in deep poo-poo at the very least deep water with poo-poo in it.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

I Posted Something on Iraq

And then deleted it because I don't know what the hell I am talking about.

"Ashamed of What You Thinks It's Worth"

A sign at yesterday's teacher rally in Baton Rouge, as seen on the front page, above the fold, of my edition of the Times-Picayune.

I like how the "s" in "thinks" barely fits on the poster. I can see the creator thinking as he or she made it, "Whew, I almost didn't have enough room for the 's.' That would have looked bad."

Related: All of your calls is important to us.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Not the Answer I was Expecting

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science asks the question:
Why Do Oysters Choose to Live Where They Could be Eaten?
The answer:
According to an article in the May edition of Ecological Monographs, a team of scientists has found that despite the risk of being eaten by cannibalistic adults, oyster larvae choose to settle in areas of high oyster concentrations to take advantage of future benefits of increased reproductive capacity when they mature.
Ohhhh, so, it’s “Why do oysters choose to live where they could be eaten by other oysters? - not by humans.

While I think the latter wording of the question would make for a more interesting experiment, it could not possibly make for a better title of the actual article: “Mechanisms reconciling gregarious larval settlement with adult cannibalism.”


World Class Education

In Cuba:
When UNESCO gave math and language tests to third- and fourth-graders in 13 Latin American countries, researchers were stunned to find that pupils in Cuba's lowest-income schools outperformed most upper-middle-class students in the rest of the region. This test data confirmed years of anecdotal evidence that Cuba's primary schools are by far the best in Latin America, and maybe better than schools in neighboring Florida.


Our comparison of Cuba with Brazil and Chile draws other lessons for good schooling. Brazil has a highly decentralized education system: Each state and municipality runs its own elementary schools. Schools have a lot of autonomy and teachers are trained in universities that decide how to best train their teachers, with very little control from state governments. Everyone - parents, teachers, administrators - have many choices, and teachers have the freedom to teach they way they want, with almost no supervision by principals. Sound familiar? It's like our system, and, like ours, it works well for wealthier children and not very well for almost everyone else. Although we extol local control, many school principals and communities do not have the resources or organizational skills to assure high-quality education.

Chile has decentralized even farther, again with little success. Almost half of Chile's students go to private schools, most to private schools where students get vouchers equal to the amount spent on public school students. But like Brazilian students, Chileans don't perform nearly as well as Cubans. Our classroom videos and interviews showed why: When left to their own devices, schools - whether public or private - can't overcome low standards and expectations, inadequate teacher training, and their pupils' social environment.

Many analysts in this country think that vouchers and charter schools are going to make for great education. The Chile-Cuba comparison suggests that they will not, because they fail to address the question of who will change the social environment in which children grow up, who will set and enforce high standards in the classroom, and who will take responsibility for training the teachers to implement those high standards. Cuba's success tells us that only when government takes these tasks seriously does every child get a shot at good schooling.
Every child can be educated.

Via Left I.

Every One Hurts

As of May 1, 2007, there have been 62 murders in New Orleans this year. With 120 days in the year completed, that comes to an average of one murder every 1.935 days – basically, a murder every other day. If that average stays the same all year, we will end 2007 with 188 murders. In a city of 223,000 people, that comes to a murder rate of 84 murders per 100,000 residents.

If nothing changes, 126 more human beings will die a violent death on the streets of New Orleans this year. And most of those who die will be African-American men, often young, and almost always they will be shot.

I must agree with Slate. This post is becoming predictable.

January – 17 murders.

February – 13 murders.

March – 18 murders.

April – 14 murders

04/01/07 – 1 murder
49) In the third slaying of the weekend, a 20-year-old New Orleans man was fatally shot in a FEMA trailer early Sunday in the 3400 block of Touro Street in Gentilly after what appeared to be a drug deal gone bad, New Orleans police said.

Carl Anthony McLendon died of multiple gunshot wounds in the trailer where he apparently lived, said chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano, who released the identity.
04/02/07 – 4 murders
50) The violent beginning to the week started shortly before 4 a.m. in the 7th Ward. Gunshots rang out near The Duck Off nightcub in the 2300 block of A.P. Tureaud Avenue, police said.

Terry Brock, 22, of New Orleans was shot several times, said John Gagliano, chief investigator for the Orleans Parish Coroner.

51) Officers responded to a home in the 1200 block of Michael Street around 9:10 a.m., police said. Inside, Cleveland Daniels lay bloodied from several gunshot wounds, according to a spokesman for the coroner’s office. Daniels was taken to University Hospital, where he died shortly later.

Police said 17-year-old Westley Simmons, the son of Daniels’ girlfriend, shot Daniels following an argument.

52) The third homicide of the day took place in the middle of the afternoon in the middle of a busy Bywater street.

Police discovered the body of a 21-year-old man just after 2:40 p.m. He had been shot several times. Police said the slaying was drug-related. Alexander Williams, 21, of New Orleans, was pronounced dead less than an hour later at University Hospital, said a spokesman for the coroner’s office.

53) The victim, a 29-year-old man, lay streetside near the corner of Ransom and Dale Streets.

Officers responding to a call of gunshots found the man around 3:10 p.m., police said.

Terry Hall, of New Orleans, was pronounced dead at the scene, according to a coroner’s spokesman. He died from multiple gunshot wounds, including one to his head.
04/04/07 – 1 murder
54) The victim, Dominic Bell, 20, whose last know address was a FEMA trailer park in Baton Rouge, had a lengthy police record and was known in the neighborhood as “D-Block." He died at 6:16 p.m. at University Hospital, said John Gagliano, a spokesman for the Orleans Parish Coroner’s office.

The shooting took place around 5:30 p.m. inside Waad Discount Store on the corner of Governor Nicholls Street and North Johnson Street, police said.
04/06/07 – 1 murder
55) New Orleans Police are investigating the shooting death of a 40-year-old man this morning in Algiers.

The shooting occurred shortly before 5:45 a.m. at 431 Whitney Ave.
04/07/07 – 2 murders
56) A 31-year-old man was murdered Saturday afternoon in the Faubourg Marigny, New Orleans Police said. The victim’s name has been withheld, pending notification of family members.

According to Officer Garry G. Flot, an NOPD spokesman, the incident took place at 12:15 p.m. in the 1300 block of Marigny Street.

Fifth District officers responded to calls of a shooting and found the victim lying on the sidewalk with a gunshot wound to his body, Flot said.

57) Police also are investigating a shooting death late Saturday in the 9100 block of Fig Street.

Shortly before midnight, Second District officers responded to a call and found man lying on the sidewalk with several gunshot wounds to the body.
04/08/07 – 1 murder
58) A woman was found dead inside a FEMA trailer near the temporary campus of Southern University at New Orleans on Sunday morning, the third murder victim in New Orleans over the Easter weekend.

A man has been arrested in connection with the beating death of Artherine Williams, 69, of Dallas, authorities said.
04/10/07 – 1 murder
59) The son of New Orleans music legend Deacon John was fatally shot in his car on an Uptown street Tuesday afternoon, and police quickly arrested a suspect, police said.

Keith Moore, 43, who also goes by the name Deacon Johnson, was shot behind the wheel of his car at or near the intersection of Austerlitz and Annunciation streets, less than a block from Tchoupitoulas Street, about 3:20 p.m., New Orleans police said.
04/17/07 - 1 murder
60) A 16-year-old boy, whose brother and three cousins have died from violence in New Orleans over the past seven years, was shot to death Tuesday night on Bayou Road near Esplanade Ridge.

His father identified the victim as Nicholas Smith, a sophomore at John McDonogh High School and resident of Arts Street in the 8th Ward.

Police responding to a report of a shooting found the boy lying face down in the 1800 block of Bayou Road about 8:20 p.m.
04/22/07 – 1 murder
61) Shortly after 6 p.m., New Orleans police responded to a call about a "male down" in the 4800 block of Alsace Street, and they found the victim lying on the ground. The area is a block east of Alcee Fortier Boulevard, between Peltier Street and Saigon Drive.

The man had apparent gunshot wounds to the body, said Jonette Williams, a police public information officer.

He died Sunday at 7 p.m. at University Hospital, John Gagliano, chief coroner's investigator, said. He said the man was believed to be 30 to 40 years old. An autopsy will be performed today.
04/27/07 – 1 murder
62) A 22-year-old New Orleans man was shot to death and a second man wounded within two blocks of St. Charles Avenue in Central City Friday evening.

The dead man was identified as Curtis Helms Jr. of New Orleans, said chief coroner's investigator John Gagliano.

New Orleans police said both lived in the neighborhood where they were found wounded, on Fourth Street, between Carondelet and Baronne streets. An assault rifle was recovered on the scene by police, police spokesman officer Garry Flot said.
Here’s a map of the 62 murders in New Orleans in 2007.

As always, NOLA-dishu has better crime maps with more information.

More information is exactly what we need.