Entries for June, 2007

Who really holds the keys?

I had to wonder whether it was with deliberate irony that yesterday’s Times Picayune placed the article N.O.’s plan for rebuilding passes Muster with LRA immediately beneath LRA feeds Road Home kitty, with it’s handy inset showing of the approximately $1 billion the state is adding to the Road Home program, $577.5 million is coming from CDBG funds previously slated for infrastructure repairs, and another $50 million was “carved out of other recovery spending areas” by the LRA. (The amount to be doled out for New Orleans rebuilding is $117 million – of the $1.1 billion that “officials” (whoever they are these days) say we need.) Oh, and that doesn’t count the $513 million the LRA now has access to since the 10% match of federal funds requirement was waived – $513 million the LRA had earmarked for parish recovery projects, of which New Orleans was to receive $324 million – so they can sit on it in case the state needs to ante up even more cash to help close the Road Home gap.

Today’s TP editorial, A good faith effort, claims that “repairs to storm-damaged state buildings and construction of a replacement for Charity Hospital in New Orleans,” which were to be paid out of the $577.5 million would be paid out of the state’s budget, but forgive me if I’m skeptical.

What really infuriates me is the nearly blind eye being turned to the source of a sizable chunk of the Road Home gap: insurance underpayment, to the estimate tune of $2.7 billion. To be fair, in May Blanco and Walter Leger recommended that the state pursue claims on the behalf of cheated policyholders – after all, what hope can individuals have suing the colossi piecemeal (the insurance industry is the only other field besides Major League Baseball exempt from antitrust regulation, making the combined insurers a pretty daunting monolith). But it looks like, yet again, insurers have passed the buck to taxpayers, and worse, the state and federal governments have chosen to bleed the programs that are underfunded already. Big surprise.

This is yet another instance of why the entire state and nation should be taking heed of Louisiana’s and Mississippi’s situation. Insurers – property, health, auto, etc. – are as consequence free everywhere as they are here. The number of ways in which the system is scandalously broken is too great for me to digest, but PLEASE check out the Insurance Transparency Project for much more – inspired by, but not exclusive to, Katrina’s insurance aftermath.

NO Free Lunch

June 23rd, 2007

For immediate release:

The Scrooge-Marley Foundation is pleased to announce a $2.2 million grant to advance a joint initiative by Scrooge-Marley and the New Orleans Office of Repast Management to buy New Orleans lunch. The grant will fund a series of conferences on Menu Development, Seating Arrangement, and Service Strategies, among other lunch-related concerns. “Mid-day hunger management in the Crescent City and elsewhere has always been a burning concern of ours – now more than ever,” said Scrooge-Marley Spokesperson, Waylon Smithers. “Almost two years later, the region is still reeling from the thousands of lunches lost both in spoiled refrigerators themselves, and in attempts to clean or inspect those spoiled refrigerators. The need is great and the task complex. Recruiting top-notch talent will guarantee that the lunch-preparation efforts are undertaken with the highest degree of professionalism and urgency.”

NOORP Director B.B. Bumstead added, “The Scrooge-Marley grant will be critically important in helping the city build the necessary caloric capital to assist in New Orleans’ recovery.”

The NO Free Lunch program will be administered by the Graham School of Orthopathy’s Center for Dinner Excellence. “Katrina was devastating to South Louisiana lunching, but it is incumbant upon all of this to take this as an opportunity to address the endemic dietary poverty of the region, where decades of high seasoned food, rich dishes, and the free use of flesh, not to mention coffee and wine, have trapped the populace in the cycle of luxury, indolence, voluptuousness, and sensuality that so gripped the nation’s and the world’s hearts in the days following August 29, 2005. What we have here, basically, is a blank plate,” said Graham President Palmer Onan, “We are especially pleased to be spearheading the first large-scale mixed-income lunch menu, and are in talks with Hormel regarding the production a fois-gras-and-mixed-baby-greens Spam for the occasion.”

In addition to Mixed-Income Menu Planning, Seating Arrangement Studies, and Strategizing Food Service, the series of conferences is expected to address the production of a NO Free Lunch documentary, development of a “Mouth of New Orleans” citizen-feedback web portal, and an ongoing series of “Breakfast with Boudreaux” talks to be streamed live on Mouth of New Orleans.

If you would like to receive NO Free Lunch, provide feedback, receive NO Free Lunch updates, or if you are a Lunch Professional interested in attending upcoming NO Free Lunch Conferences, please visit MouthOfNewOrleans.com.

Family Wildlife

June 14th, 2007

Greetings from Volga, South Dakota (The Town with a Future!), where I’m hard at work pissing off the local wildlife, along with my dad and my brother (they haven’t really been pissing off the wildlife – just me and my camera). This guy gave me an earful for intruding on his territory (he’s the one that sounds like “the grating of a rusty hinge,” not the nice twittering by his friends in the background (not pictured)). He ought to have conceded me at least a little courtesy though, because he’s living on the Houtman-DeBates Family Wildlife Area, thanks to my Aunt Greta and her husband Larry “Uncle Bates” DeBates, who bought my grandparents’ farm when they retired and eventually arranged a perpetual conservation easement for the property to revert to natural prairie and marsh.

I don’t know as much about conservation easements as I feel I should, and I think they vary somewhat from state to state, but it’s an interesting strategy to restore and preserve natural habitats. Owners who opt for an easement get tax incentives and retain title, control of access, and “compatible use” rights – hunting, fishing, trapping, etc. I have another uncle on my mother’s side who has a similar arrangement in Wisconsin, where he keeps bees and taps maple sap, among other things. They also get assistance restoring the property back to its natural state – burning off weeds, reintroducing native flora (hopefully fauna, like my angry friend above, follow too), restoring water exchange, or whatever else might be called for. And any new development or “non-compatible” use is prohibited for the life of the easement even if the title changes hands.

Louisiana’s DNR has a conservation easement program: the Louisiana Coastal Wetland Reserve Program. It’s a drop in the bucket of all the restoration Louisiana needs, I suppose, but every drop counts.

Now, off with the family to check out the Brookings, SD nightlife, which I suspect is not very wild…