Friday, July 27, 2007

7/28/2007 Community Gumbo

Listen | Democracy Now (7/27/07)
  • Should Impeachment Be Off the Table? A Debate with Peace Mom Cindy Sheehan, Ex-CIA Analyst Ray McGovern and Democratic Strategist Dan Gerstein
  • State Repression Continues Unabated More than One Year into Oaxaca Uprising

Listen | Million Dollar Blocks
Download the presentation here.

Systemic change to the criminal justice system was on the agenda of the New Orleans City Council Criminal Justice Committee meeting on June 12th. The Vera Institute of Justice and the Soros Open Society Institute funded two innovative research projects which take a fresh look at changes that might improve the functioning of the criminal justice system. One of those projects highlighted the positive effects of establishing small community courts to try perpetrators of lesser misdemeanor crimes, and to require that those offenders participate in restorative justice projects. Another project recommended a complete inversion of investment in communities, pumping dollars into neighborhoods instead of prisons. The Million Dollar Blocks concept, advocated by Dr. Laura Kurgen of Columbia University's Spatial Design Lab, identifies neighborhoods where high concentrations of jailed perpetrators once lived. Dr. Kurgen argues that a wiser strategy of investing in social services and jobs in those problem neighborhoods -- rather than investing in prisons -- would provide opportunities and hope to people, thereby reducing the conditions of depravity which are an important factor in breeding criminal behavior.


View Dr. Laura Kurgen's Million Dollar Blocks presentation, filled with detailed maps and analysis, which was delivered to the City Council:

Columbia University Spatial Design Lab

Vera Institute of Justice

Vera Institute of Justice, "Proposals for New Orleans' Criminal Justice System: Best Practices to Advance Public Safety and Justice"
Renovation of the city’s infrastructure will help set the stage for criminal justice reform and should be a top priority.

New Orleans can improve public safety by pursuing the following new policies or programs:

• Early triage of cases and routine communication between police and prosecutors,
• A wider range of pretrial release options,
• Community-service sentencing and greater use of alternatives to prison, and
• More appropriate and cost-effective sanctions for municipal offenses.

For each of these policy areas, this report identifies specific areas of need and proposes solutions that are based on effective practices used in other jurisdictions. Moreover, it focuses on practical steps that over the next six to 12 months promise the “biggest bang for the buck.”

Open Society Institute and Soros Foundation

New Orleans City Council Criminal Justice Committee

New Orleans City Council Meetings and Agendas

Independent Lens, Red Hook Justice


Developers Unveil a New Orleans Riverfront Development Project
The final public presentation and discussion regarding the strategic development plan for the New Orleans Riverfront between Jackson Avenue and the Holy Cross neighborhood.

Saturday, July 28
9 a.m. to 11 a.m.
Port Authority
Auditorium (behind the Convention Center + free parking)

Sean Cummings, "Plans for rebuilding Big Easy cause unease," USA Today, 7/27/07.
Sean Cummings, a cutting-edge developer who has created some of New Orleans' hippest hotels and condos, is tackling one of the biggest redevelopment projects of his career — and one of the biggest in the city's recent history.

The project, scheduled to be unveiled to the public on Saturday, would reconnect the city with the Mississippi River, creating a 4.5-mile stretch of bikeways, jogging trails, cruise ship terminals and hotels on city-owned riverfront property two blocks from the French Quarter. ...

"It's totally out of context and out of character and out of scale with the wonderful historic neighborhoods," said Nathan Chapman, president of a French Quarter advocacy group.

Nathan Chapman stated in an email that "no neighborhood leaders were allowed on the steering committee. Decisions were made behind closed doors." (RiverfrontAlliance.Org).

The developer's Web site is

Support Needed to Expand Low-Power FM Community Radio

Community radio hopefuls and broadcasters alike announced a breakthrough in the fight to bring low power FM radio licenses to thousands more cities and towns. On June 21st, Congressman Mike Doyle (D-PA) joined Congressman Lee Terry (R-NE), as well as Senators John McCain and Senators Maria Cantwell, to introduce the Local Community Radio Act of 2007. This bill -- H.R. 2802 in the House and S. 1675 in the Senate is a chance for community radio hopefuls from Omaha to Orlando to get new licenses to build their own low power FM radio stations.

The Senate spoke up in 2005 and 2006 in support of low power FM -- passing bills out of the Senate Commerce Committee to expand the service twice.

This is the first time in seven years that the House of Represenatives has considered expanding low power FM radio to your community.

Since June 21st, 23 members of Congress have signed on to cosponsor H.R. 2802, the Local Community Radio Act.

Grassroots support has been vital to getting this legislation moving through Congress.

For example, because local community radio supporters at WRFU-LP contacted their Representative, Congressman Tim Johnson, a Republican from Urbana Illinois, and asked him to expand Illinois' access to great community radio stations like WRFU-LP, Rep. Johnson will be signing on to the legislation to expand low power FM radio.

Because Jay Inslee (D-WA), the Democratic Congressman who represents the Seattle area, heard from so many great local folks that they want low power FM in the Northwest, he has moved to cosponsor this vital legislation.

And Congressman Mike Doyle recently asked the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) if they continued to support expanding low power FM radio to America's cities -- all five Commissioners agreed.

To continue this momentum and get more Congressmembers to support low power FM radio, grassroots organizers are trying to get more Congressmembers to cosponsor this bill over the next week before Congress goes on vacation in order to set up a call for a vote to expand community radio in the fall.

Learn more about how Congress limited low power FM radio in most American cities here:

Saturday, July 21, 2007

7/21/2007 Community Gumbo

Listen | Democracy Now (7/18/07)
  • Senate Democrats Hold All-Night Debate on Iraq
  • Professor and Preacher Michael Eric Dyson on Hip Hop & Politics, Don Imus, the “N”-bomb, and Bill Cosby

District Attorney Eddie Jordan Defends His Office

Photo: Chris Granger, The Times-Picayune

New Orleans District Attorney Eddie Jordan answered heated criticism, including calls for his resignation or impeachment, after his office dismissed charges against defendants in two high-profile murders -- the murder or Hot 8 Brass Band drummer and teacher Dinerral Shavers, and the execution-style slaying of five teenagers last summer. The City Council Criminal Justice Committee called Jordan to testify.
  • Criminal Justice Committee Chair James Carter opens the meeting | Listen
  • D.A. Eddie Jordan opening remarks | Listen (complete | abbreviated)
  • Council President Arnie Fielkow questions Jordan | Listen
  • Councilwoman Stacey Head questions Jordan | Listen
  • Criminal Justice Committee Chair James Carter questions Jordan | Listen
  • Councilwoman Shelley Midura questions D.A. Eddie Jordan | Listen (complete | abbreviated 1, abbreviated 2, abbreviated 3)
  • Rev. Kasner(?), public comment | Listen
  • State Representatives Cedric Richmond & J.P. Morrell | Listen
  • Malcolm Suber, public comment | Listen
  • Ursula Price (Safe Streets), public comment | Listen
  • Robert Hardin, public comment | Listen

Note: Two small portions of the proceedings were removed due to background electronic noise from the Council press feed, and about 15 minutes at the end was lost due to the length of the meeting.


March Against Crime, Community Gumbo, 1/13/07

The Rabouin Marching Band Hits the Parade Route, Community Gumbo, 2/17/07

Jazz Funeral for Helen Hill, Community Gumbo, 3/03/07

Gwen Filosa, "For Jordan, Firestorm Has Long Smoldered," The Times-Picayune, 7/22/07.

Gwen Filosa, "N.O. district attorney rejects scapegoat role," The Times-Picayune, 7/19/07.

Music Played:
Nina Simone, Why? (The King of Love is Dead), The Best of Nina Simone, BMG, 1970.

Nina Simone, I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free

Friday, July 13, 2007

7/14/2007 Community Gumbo

*SORRY* -- Technical difficulty today. A Tulane network administrator conceded that work on the network today has interrupted the studio connection to the transmitter. We are working on resolving the problem to restore the broadcast.

Listen | Democracy Now (7/12/07)
  • The Other War: Iraq Veterans Speak Out on Shocking Accounts of Attacks on Iraqi Civilians
  • Iraq War Vets Describe "Brutal Techniques" Used by U.S. Military Against Iraqi Civilians
  • If Soldiers Came From Another Country And Did This To My Family, I Would Be An Insurgent Too” – War Vet Describes Iraq House Raid

Friday, July 06, 2007

7/07/2007 Community Gumbo

Listen | Democracy Now (7/04/07)
  • We Shall Overcome: An Hour With Legendary Folk Singer & Activist Pete Seeger.
  • Also recommended, Former U.S. Ambassador Joseph Wilson Reacts to Bush’s Commutation of Lewis “Scooter” Libby Jail Sentence in Outing of Valerie Plame, on Democracy Now (7/05/07).

Listen | A Gentilly 4th of July

Photo Gallery

It’s difficult to gauge the progress of New Orleans neighborhoods still recovering from the great flood unleashed by the failure of the levees during Hurricane Katrina.

One of the hardest hit areas of New Orleans was the expansive Gentilly neighborhood. Despite the vast devastation caused by floodwaters over 8 feet deep, there are at least some reports which suggest the neighborhood is on the rebound.

There were, for example, encouraging conclusions drawn from a Dartmouth College survey of just over 16,000 Gentilly properties in March. Researchers reported that just 4 percent of those properties remained untouched since Hurricane Katrina. Meanwhile, 31 percent are occupied or completely restored.

On the other hand, the Dartmouth researchers calculated that 57 percent of homes are gutted or under construction. As everyone in New Orleans knows, however, there’s a big gap between gutting a home and rebuilding it.

After fighting with insurance companies, after wading through the red tape of federal rebuilding grants, the inflated price of materials and contractors makes rebuilding all the more difficult.

That fact that there are 2500 FEMA trailers in Gentilly might be taken as a sign that the neighborhood is being re-populated, but that’s a relatively small number of trailers. Moreover, the presence of trailers might suggest that the neighborhood is being repopulated, but many of those trailers don’t appear to be regularly occupied.

Again, there were signs of promise in a recent study which reported that the New Orleans population has grown to 262,000 residents, a 17 percent increase from July of 2006. On the other hand, there are still 200,000 residents who haven’t returned, and now, almost on the eve of the two-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, these are very likely some of the city’s most productive residents – homeowners who may have started to build careers and lives elsewhere while their lives here in New Orleans remain on hold.

Because statistics can be deceptive, and because there’s a lot to learn by listening to individual narratives, I decided to set out for the Gentilly neighborhood to find out how residents were celebrating the 4th of July holiday.

I hoped to find more activity in Gentilly on the 4th of July. I really hoped to find some backyard barbecues.

What I found instead was a piece of America still under siege. It isn’t an inspiring sight. On the other hand, as with most things in New Orleans, what inspires is not the work yet to be done, but the spirit of tenacious citizens fighting to reclaim their own little piece of land, despite the odds, despite the difficulties. Like the homesteaders of another era, these New Orleanians are 21st century pioneers, creating new homesteads out of the wreckage of a devastating flood almost two years ago. These too are proud Americans … struggling to reclaim their neighborhoods … and the heritage of their city … on the 4th of July.

Corps flood risk assessment

Dartmouth survey


Coleman Warner, "Survey shows Gentilly on the rebound," The Times-Picayune, 4/26/07.

Bruce Eggler, "New Orleans population reaches 262,000 in May," The Times-Picayune, 6/28/07.

Mark Schleifstein and Sheila Grissett, "Corps releases flooding risk maps," The Times-Picayune, 6/20/07.

Music Played:
Pete Seeger, "You are My Sunshine," American Favorite Ballads, v. 4, Folkways, 1961 (re-issue).

Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, "Tryin' to Win," Midnight Special, Fantasy Records, 1977.

Johnny Cash, Troublesome Waters, "Ultimate Gospel," Columbia Nashville Legacy, 2007.

The Staple Singers, "A Better Home," Great Day, Milestone Records, 1975.