Thursday, June 08, 2006

Government by cheerleaders

Can New Orleans really afford a new municipal complex to include a Disney-style jazz museum and performing center? As Lolis Eric Elie argued, don't we already have enough authentic, crumbling historic venues?

And does a $100 million condo complex of units which will sell for between $180,000 and $280,000 agree with the city's need to provide affordable housing for 200K+ residents who lost their homes?

Jeffrey at Library Chronicles:

Building a sanitized park and "Jazz orchestra hall" while ignoring the historically significant landmarks nearby smells strongly of Disneyfication of street culture to me. In fact.. it looks like part of this project calls for building more condos in the very neighborhood Lolis is talking about.

Jeffrey's concerns about voodoo economic forecasts used to boost investment in such projects reflect my own concerns. It's not enough for the mayor of any city, let alone a city recovering from the nation's worst natural disaster, to just say everything's going to be alright:
"For big projects, I don't think money is going to be the problem. I really don't," he said. "We have the world's attention and now if we come up with good projects, they're going to get funded. That's what I mean by money is not going to be our problem."

Were I mayor, I think I'd promote the same sort of optimism, and I don't disagree that people around the world care enough about New Orleans to fund projects. I'm not sure we have the right leadership in City Hall, however, to facilitate the successful completion of essential projects.

Just for starters, could we get a basic overview of the city's fiscal situation? What revenues are coming in, what expenditures are going out. It ought to be simple.

On the other hand, an acquaintence related a conversation he had about the city's financial situation with Mitch Landrieu. Mitch said he saw the city's books, and said that basically there are two kinds of accounting methods: One where you can see clearly what's going on; another where you can't see what's going on at all. Guess which type of accounting Mitch said is being used in City Hall.

So Ray Ray, you touted your MBA in a campaign debate. Could you please just show us you got your money's worth by giving us a basic explanation of revenues and expenditures like Jefferson Parish did (and had published in The Times-Picayune).

Like Jeffrey said, "this looks very much like government by cheerleaders who prefer to do as little homework as possible to get by."

Or, as Ballzack said in Antigravity Magazine, quoted by Jeffrey, "it really seems like a city run by C students."

We need more direction from Mayor Nagin -- SPECIFICS!!!

What's going to happen to the neighborhood charrette process, for example. Will the city respect the efforts by neighborhoods which have been coming up with their vision for how they'd like to rebuild their communities, or is the Nagin administration going to turn that planning process over to for-profit planners?

Alan from Alan's Blogometer, for one, expressed his concern that the neighborhood planning process was going to be taken over by the same private developers who brought us the yuppie Saulet projects on lower Tchoupitoulas (from which I strongly suspect a former mayor pocketed money). Of course, the difference is that private developers are PAID, but when we lowly citizens come up with ideas, there's no money to be made:
At this time my presence may only serve to confuse citizens in Hollygrove who may get the false impression that there is an association between our funded professional effort and your volunteer splinter group who has no official capacity to produce a “plan” for Hollygrove.

This issue definitely requires further investigation.

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At 6/08/2006 09:02:00 PM, Blogger Tim said...

File this one under "Damned if you do, damned if you don't."

First of all, the concept is really sound. City Hall is an ugly, out-of-date, hard to maintain building. We needed a new City Hall 15 years ago. So it's about time in my estimation.

Second, the architecture is no-win around here. If you do it up like traditional New Orleans style, people accuse you of Disney-fied fakery. If you do it contemporary like the artist's rendition in the newspaper, people complain it ignores New Orleans tradition and it doesn't fit. Look, I love the French Quarter as much as anybody, but the function and the scale of the new city complex doesn't fit the gingerbread shotgun or the iron-railed Pontalba. Get over it already, people! Be bold, embrace change and be modern!

And finally, here we have hizzoner stepping up to the plate with a bold plan to launch a civil construction program that will make downtown attractive and something to be proud of. But typical cynical New Orleans, we hate it, it won't work, it's ugly, the money could be better spent elsewhere, and by the way, when is the Mayor going to show some initiative!!!!! As big as the pimple on the nose in the middle of their unshaven faces!!!



At 6/09/2006 04:36:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Sure Tim. I know. You're right.

Truly, I love the idea. When I did some contract work in City Hall a few years ago, Greg Meffert seemed to be the one with big ideas -- including a massive new municipal complex.

I don't think it's necessarily a bad idea, and I'd really prefer innovative design downtown.

My problem with Nagin is, well, "is that all you got?"

What the hell is going on? What's the plan man?

I'd prefer he announce the municipal/jazz complex idea along with a host of other bold ideas to fix schools and the health care system, stimulate business growth, a crime-fighting strategy, kick-start the neighborhood rebuilding process.

Nagin's just way over his head on this, and I'm increasingly pessimistic that this will go well, notwithstanding the $4.2 billion infusion of cash just approved by Congress.

At 6/09/2006 07:32:00 AM, Blogger Michael said...

Sounds to me like the project is all icing, no cake...and there's nothing in the pantry for dinner, either.

Only having seen City Hall from the outside, I'll take Tim's word that it's hard to maintain, and you don't need an architecture degree to judge its looks. But if it's structurally sound, I think the city might want to look at different ways to invest money first. Like, for instance, making sure there's a city. And making sure essential services exist for the residents of the city.

At 6/09/2006 09:13:00 AM, Blogger jeffrey said...

Essential services which currently aren't being planned for.. like basic public transit once FEMA pulls out.. or fixing the water system.

More importantly, I don't think it cynical to be suspicious that major development projects put together by this mayor and his developer/hotellier cronies will do more harm than good to your average citizen trying to get back on his feet. I don't think he deserves that kind of trust.

At 6/09/2006 04:37:00 PM, Blogger Rob said...

Um, I'm all for a new complex, but it seems like we're about ten years from that being practicable. Could we, say, have a reliable bus schedule first? or fixes for the millions of gallons of water leaking from the pipes? I'm just saying. Kind of reminds me of Rummy pushing for the latest missle system while not providing basic body armor for our troops.

At 6/09/2006 10:01:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Well said Rob.


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