Sunday, May 31, 2009

Tomorrow, June 1 marks the official start of Hurricane Season. Yippee.

After donating last year’s canned goods in a recent food drive, I stocked back up for this season. Still need to get water… turns out there was a gallon from 2 years ago in the back of the pantry. It sprung a leak. That’s why the “use by date” is 2 years from when it’s bottled: isn’t not that the water goes “bad” but the plastic just can’t hang anymore.

Today’s paper had a special hurricane preparedness section with checklists, contraflow maps, lists of this year’s storm names, etc. I think even more helpful was Saturday’s column where readers sent in their thoughts. Another article that really interested me was “Airport a vital escape route from storms.” What fascinated me was this:

During Hurricane Gustav, federal officials originally wanted to stop flights about 10 a.m. on the day before the storm made landfall, but airport officials were able to get a few more hours of flying time, Wilcut said. "That allowed us to get a lot more people out of the city," she said.

The last flight out was Aug. 31 at 6 p.m., according to news reports. The storm made landfall the next morning about 10:30 at Cocodrie.

For Gustav, the airport opened again to commercial flights on the afternoon of Sept. 3. It took about two weeks to reopen to commercial flights after Katrina, Wilcut said.

As Gustav made its way towards Louisiana, I was road tripping from Georgia to New Mexico. Aug 30 Aug 31

I’m glad the airport didn’t close at 10 am August 31, because I would have been stuck in Dallas. I was in a serious race against time to make it back to New Orleans to help Greg evacuate. My friend in Albuquerque said I was welcome to stay as long as I needed to, but I would have lost my mind. I couldn’t even sleep the night of the 30th, I was so amped up with a singular thought “I must get home.” Not only would there have been a period of time during the height of the storm when I would have no idea if Greg was OK, but who knew how many days it would have been before the airports reopened. As you can see, after Gustav it was a few days. After Katrina, two weeks. One of the most important lessons I've learned about hurricanes and storms is no two or exactly alike.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Festival Double Header

Last Saturday we squeezed two festivals into one day. We needed our Sunday to do the mundane weekend chores.

First was the Greek Fest. Held every year at the first Greek Orthodox Church to be established in America back in 1866. It’s on Bayou St. John near the lake. The day started out gray with rain in the forecast, so we didn’t bother with hats and sunscreen and packed ponchos instead. An hour later it was full on sun. Oops.

We spent a few hours consuming a smorgasbord of Greek delicacies, a bottle of retsina wine (tastes like drinking water from a Christmas tree stand, but in a good way), browsing the market place, chatting with friends and taking in the music and Hellenic dancers. It had been a number of years since we had been (it’s usually beastly hot, which isn’t fun) and it has grown considerably in size; they apparently bought more land, probably after Katrina. Opa!

* * * *

We then went to the other end of Bayou St. John for Bayou Boogaloo, a festival of local music, crafts and food vendors.

Floating in the bayou seemed to be the place to be. Shade was limited and what shade there was, people crammed in under.

The music was great – we were too full to eat anything else – checked out the crafts and bumped into more friends. We only stayed a few hours because it was really getting hot.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

So somebody is jerking the public around. Here’s a brief time line of events surrounding the Lyon’s Pool:
April 21, 2009, Day 0
2 Suspects were arrested for theft of copper at Lyons Center

April 30, 2009 – Day 9
2nd District Email blast from Major Little about arrests sent to Public via Google Groups

May 11, 2009 – Day 20
Irish Channel N.A. hears rumors about extent of vandalism and the possibility that the pool will not open this summer.

May 12, 2009 – Day 21
1st Email Sent to Councilman Fielkow and Councilwoman Head asking them to inquire about Lyons pool. These inquiries are forwarded to NORD and others for follow up.

May 14, 2009 – Day 23
NORD Dep. Director makes presentation to ICNA regarding NORD programs. He makes a statement regarding the Lyons Center Pool. “Mr. Barabino asked that I give a status of the Lyons Center Pool.” He further states that the pool is expected to open by “June 1”

May 22, 2009 – Day 31
NORD Director and Capital Projects Administrator address status of Lyons Center pool at a City Council subcommittee meeting. They state that they expect the pool to open by 2nd week of June. NORD was awaiting Entergy to install a pole to provide power to the pool pumps, at which time they could test the pumps. It was also reported the center had been broken into earlier that week and one person arrested. At the same public meeting a petition was presented to NORD Director and Councilman Fielkow with 196 signatures from neighbors asking that Lyons Center be opened. All signatures collected in less than 2 weeks.

May 26, 2009 – Day 35
Press Release from NORD Director and Capital Projects Administrator state “targeted a late summer date to open Lyons Center pool”.

We just want to know the real story. Several emails were sent in response to the May 26th press release asking why Friday the 22nd it was said the pool would be open in June, and now on the 26th it won’t be open until the end of summer. What good is opening the pool at the end of summer? And what transpired between Friday May 22 and Tuesday, May 26th? There was a Saturday, and Sunday and Memorial day in between these two days.

Part of the press release that addressed Lyon’s Pool:

Mayor's Press Office
City of New Orleans
1300 Perdido Street, Suite 2E04
New Orleans, Louisiana 70112
Official Statement
May 26, 2009


Unfortunately last month, the Lyons Center was damaged as a result of copper theft. The facility has been secured and further security measures, are being evaluated at this time. Understandably, the theft and resulting damages, have delayed NORD's plans to reopen the Lyons pool in June, but, NORD and Capitol Projects will continue to move forward with repairs and have targeted a late summer date to open Lyons Center pool.

----- Original Message -----
From: Arnie Fielkow
To: William M. Chrisman; Larry Barabino, Jr.
Cc: Jackie B. Clarkson; Shelley S. Midura; Stacy Head; James Carter; Cynthia H. Morrell; Cynthia Williard-Lewis; Deborah J. Langhoff; Eric Granderson; Katherine R. Schneiderman
Sent: Tue May 26 17:48:53 2009
Subject: Fw: Official Statement NORD and Capitol Projects

The lyons opening is inconsistent with the public testimony bill provided friday to the youth and rec comm. At that hearing, it was represented lyons would be open in mid june. How could your position have changed in 4 days? This is a major setback for the community!

----- Original Message -----
From: Brenda G. Hatfield
To: Arnie Fielkow
Cc: Jackie B. Clarkson; Cynthia H. Morrell; Shelley S. Midura; Stacy Head; '' ; ; Ray Nagin; '' ; Larry Barabino, Jr.; William M. Chrisman; Deborah J. Langhoff; Eric Granderson; Katherine R. Schneiderman; Pamela S. Smith
Sent: Tue May 26 19:36:22 2009
Subject: NORD press release

Councilmember Fielkow:
Regarding your reprimand to Larry Barabino and Bill Chrisman today, wouldn’t it seem rational for them to promise a more reasonable date of late summer to open Lyons’ pool after gathering more capital repair information -- so as not to disappoint the community while aiming for mid June? Even doing our best, it sometimes takes longer than anticipated.

Can you give some credit for nine pools being ready to open along with 84 parks and playgrounds for recreation, cultural and educational programs for our youth, seniors and families to enjoy this summer?

----- Original Message -----
From: Arnie Fielkow []
Sent: Tuesday, May 26, 2009 8:58 PM
To: Brenda G. Hatfield
Cc: Jackie B. Clarkson; Cynthia H. Morrell; Shelley S. Midura; Stacy Head;; Cynthia Williard-Lewis; Ray Nagin;; Larry Barabino, Jr.; William M. Chrisman; Deborah J. Langhoff; Eric Granderson; Katherine R. Schneiderman; Pamela S. Smith;
Subject: Re: NORD press release

Brenda, I am truly sorry you see it that way. There was no reprimand but rather a statement that there is little credibility when a senior official (and I think bill does an excellent job!) makes a public committment and then 4 days later the administration says something very different. The neighborhood leaders who were present on friday are pretty frustrated with this situation given the importance of the lyons center and the fact that this matter could have been averted with appropriate security. Even this past friday, I had to call the nord director because a door to the center was wide open when I passed by.....many kudos and thanks were extended to bill and larry friday for improving the facility issues and working closely with fema to close the reimbursement disparity.....I believe the community deserved a straight answer on this one but they can weigh in directly with you.

At this time, we wait for any further clarification on the matter.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Petition to open Lyon's Center Pool

Lyons Center

The pool

NORD's Lyon Center is in my neighborhood. No renovations have been done since Katrina. Last July at the Mayor's Round Table I attended last August a representative from NORD said that the Lyon's Center was under Architectural review and construction would start the end of the year. No work has been done since then.

Last summer the pool was open and kids from all around went. These are kid who parents can't afford to send them to a summer camp. And it's hot down here in the summer. The pool is a safe, supervised opportunity for the kids to have some fun.

April, two men were arrested after doing over $300,000 worth of damage to the Lyon's Center. Here's what someone from NORD emailed us about the damage:
There was substantial recent vandalism to the facility:

Room housing electrical breakers for pool area- Stripped wiring, electrical breakers and pool valves and mechanics-Total loss

Under Gym Bleachers as well as Restroom- Copper tubing for water lines stolen and cut-Total loss

Large Conference in front- Most copper electrical wiring in ceiling striped ceiling destroyed to get to the copper

Additional rooms throughout building- copper electrical wiring in ceiling striped ceiling destroyed to get to the copper

Restroom Facilities used in summer season 2008- Inoperable -copper waterline tubing cut and stripped.

We have assigned an architect to the project- have to get the contract through the process- but never anticipated this most recent and significant damage of this extent and nature that will now have to be addressed. Of course with our high insurance deductibles the repair cost will be borne by the most part by the City. There are bond funds available ($1.7M)which were supposed to go toward overall improvements which will now have to be used for this remedial purpose. There is little to no likelihood that FEMA will even entertain the idea of any funding to address that vandalism. It is my understanding that the thieves were apprehended but any help that Council could give making copper theft less attractive will greatly help our and thousands of others efforts in the recovery. We will do what we can but this is a major blow to that facility which will be exceptionally costly and time consuming to repair.

I have instructed MWH that the City will no longer use copper piping in the construction of any of our facilities; however, electrical system, the most costly in the construction, remain wholly vulnerable.
Why wasn't the building better secured and monitored? That much damage can't be done in a day. Plus when the arrest was made there was evidence that people were living in the center!

So I started a petition, to be presented this Friday at meeting with the City Council, NORD and FEMA, stating it is NORD's responsibility to do what need to be done so that the pool can be opened this summer. If you agree, PLEASE sign the petition and tell your friends. THANK YOU!

Friday, May 08, 2009

We've been tagged.

We have a long metal shed across the back of our property that backs up to a field. One day in the last week or so it got tagged. Big time. I'm not sure how I feel about this.

I am amazed they were able to work in such close confines. There's only about 14 inches between the fence and the shed. G discovered graffiti artists wear latex gloves because he found some along with empty spray paint cans.