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Wednesday, December 20, 2006 by Blogger

CenLamar Has Moved!!!! And Changed!!! Check out the new CenLamar at: www.cenlamar.wordpress.com Don't worry the domain's coming soon. Enjoy exploring. By the way, this site will remain as CenLamar's archives.

by Blogger

Big Changes in Store for CenLamar As promised several months ago, CenLamar will be moving away from the blogspot address and onto its own domain, www.cenlamar.com. But there are many other changes in store, and I just wanted to give you guys fair warning:

  • The new CenLamar will not allow anonymous commenting. But don't freak out, anonymice. You'll simply need to register a user name (or several user names), and you'll still be able to write under a pseudonym.
  • The new CenLamar will feature an interactive, team-blogged nightlife and music section.
  • The new CenLamar will also feature free classified advertising. Kinda like our own miniature Craig's List.
  • And most importantly, the new CenLamar will be written by a group of writers. If you are interested in writing for CenLamar (sorry, we can't pay you yet), send a writing sample and a letter to lamarw@gmail.com.
  • One more thing: the new CenLamar will graduate from the blogger software onto WordPress, which is way cooler and much more intuitive.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006 by Blogger

Foster Campbell Says He's "99.9%" Certain That He's Running for Governor The current Louisiana Public Service Commissioner, Foster Campbell (seen on the right, sullenly walking a horse), is expected to announce his candidacy for governor of Louisiana in the near-future. Campbell, a self-described populist, claims to have learned a lot about Louisiana's unique energy policies and would seek reformations if elected. From the News Star:

He is pushing a plan to end severance taxes, corporate income taxes and personal income taxes, a cut of about $3 billion, while levying a 5 percent tax on all oil refined in the state, foreign or domestic, which would generate about $5 billion per year in revenue, he said.

He said coastal erosion caused by the network of canals and pipelines that act as a central hub for the country's oil supply is a huge problem that is being ignored.

"It's a shame what's happened because more people care about special interests than people's interests," Campbell said. "We should be the most progressive state in the South, but we haven't put our money where we should.

"We ought to make our state clean and literate, instead of illiterate," Campbell said. "In some parishes, 50 percent of kids live in poverty."

The solution could come in the form of the oil and gas tax, which Campbell said he is pushing for in 2007.

"It takes sound financial planning with a good purpose and making sure the money is spent well.

by Blogger

John Schneider, New Owner of the Hotel Bentley, Answers Six Questions for CenLamar, Says Bentley Will Regain Original Grandeur.

1. What attracted you to the Bentley? Brace and I trace our family roots to Bayou Chicot and Turkey Creek respectively, therefore, the status of the Bentley as the area’s most prominent historic landmark has been long known to both of us. In our prior dealings with Bob Dean involving Baton Rouge downtown properties, he had suggested that we take a look at the Bentley. We politely set aside that notion until Harry Silver and Martin Johnson made an impromptu visit to our offices in late July and passionately requested our assistance in returning the Bentley to economic commerce. Although we tried to emphasize to them that all of our focus, energies and resources needed to be on our Baton Rouge properties, we ultimately could not ignore their arguments of timing, civic pride, legacy and economics. Therefore, we elected to use our cache with Bob Dean for the mutual benefit of all parties by signing the purchase agreement. 2. Where would you like to see the Bentley in five years? Ten? We have developed a goal for the Bentley that encompasses both a five and ten-year perspective. Our goal is for the Bentley to be the anchor of a thriving, vibrant, revitalized downtown Alexandria that is a destination location for CENLA residents, Louisiana citizens and national and international visitors. The achievement of this goal will produce civic pride, legacy and economic benefits.

3. What's going to happen to the Bentley Room and the Mirror Room? Our intent is to bring back both rooms to their original grandeur. 4. Will you be reducing the number of hotel rooms?

Preliminary planning calls for us to make renovations to the public areas and approximately half of the 178 rooms prior to the spring opening. Once the renovation is complete on these rooms, the renovation will commence on the other rooms. The entire renovation cycle is targeted for completion in time for a formal grand opening of the Bentley coinciding with the 100th anniversary of its initial opening on August 10, 2007.

5. What types of cosmetic and decorative changes will you be making?

We are currently meeting with our design consultants to establish the specific cosmetic and decorative changes that will be incorporated into the renovation plans. Our design goal is to return the Bentley to its original grandeur reminiscence of the vision achieved by Buddy Tudor in his 1984 renovation program. 6. How has the community responded to your plans?

The community support has been the principal reason why we elected to ignore those initial thoughts that we should continue to solely focus our time, resources and energies on our Baton Rouge projects. We held our initial press conference last August on the steps of the Bentley for the dual purpose of announcing the signing of a purchase agreement as well as to gauge community support. If community support was not evident, we had a 30-day window out of the purchase agreement. The crowd in front of the Bentley and on the steps and rooftop of City Hall convinced us that there was a need and desire to return the Bentley to economic commerce. We were sold on our mission and we have not looked back.

Monday, December 18, 2006 by Blogger

Town Talk Publishes Letter Claiming Islam is a Threat to America Yesterday, the Town Talk published an opinion piece written by Donald Fuhrmann, Sr opining on the "threat" of Islam to the freedoms we all share as Americans. The senior Fuhrmann's letter was written in response to an opinion piece published and authored by Cynthia Jardon, editor of the editorials for the Town Talk, concerning America's multiculturalism. Ms. Jardon's column was actually written in response to another story: that Representative Keith Ellison would be using the Koran in his swearing-in ceremony. Although I accept Ms. Jardon's thesis that America should embrace her future as a multicultural and inclusive society, unfortunately, the story about Representative Ellison is a hoax that was created and perpetuated by conservative talk show radio host Dennis Prager. As previously reported, the Bible is not used during the House of Representatives swearing-in ceremony, and therefore, this story, however captivating, is not accurate. (By the way, the Town Talk published yet another article about this fake story today, an op-ed piece written by Jack Daniels, not the one of whiskey fame). Perhaps most interesting is the way mainstream media has run with this story in its op-ed sections, without any editorial oversight or fact-checking. See, the truth is that Ellison will be carrying the Koran; he won't be including it in the official swearing-in ceremony. The Christian Science Monitor may clear it up a little bit. Jane Lampman writes:

In Congress, newly elected representatives do not put their left hands on any book. They raise their right hands, and are sworn in together as the speaker of the House administers the oath of office. Some do carry a book, according to House historians, and some choose to photograph a private swearing-in afterward with their hand on the Bible. One senator is known to have carried an expanded Bible that included the Book of Mormon.

The Constitution says: "The senators and representatives ... shall be bound by oath or affirmation to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States."

Some confusion may come from the long-standing tradition of presidents taking the oath with a hand on the Bible. But this is a choice and matter of custom, as is the phrase, "so help me God." President John Quincy Adams took the oath on a law book including the Constitution. President Theodore Roosevelt didn't use a book.

"The United States is not a Christian state or even a generically religious state," says Derek Davis, a church-state expert at the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor in Belton, Texas. "We've worked hard for 200 years plus to uphold a principle of religious freedom for all citizens."

Somehow, though, despite the facts, radio talk shows, conservative bloggers, and the editorial sections of newspapers throughout the country have been using this fake story as a means for engaging in a discussion about Islam's role in American society. Perhaps this fake story speaks to a collective fear about the extent of "multiculturalism," and perhaps the senior Fuhrmann believed that this fake story represented a fake threat of Islam impeding on a fake tradition. Either way, Fuhrmann Senior is wrong and so is the Town Talk, though Fuhrmann's opinions are much more reactionary and misguided. Mr. Fuhrmann writes, in entirety:

I feel compelled to respond to Cynthia Jardon's Dec. 10 column in The Town Talk regarding her definition of "Our greatness lies here: with liberty, justice for all." Her apparent understanding of Islam is no better than her understanding of the Judeo-Christian history of the United States of America.

Americans have fought and died for our liberty and justice for all which Islam opposes with their teaching and practices. Islam opposes religious freedom and only recognizes the teachings and writings of Allah. If you want proof of this truth, you only have to look at the nations where Muslims control the government. Where is the religious freedom in Saudi Arabia, Syria, Iran and other nations under Shiriah Law? Would Ms. Jardon be allowed to walk around in Saudi Arabia in Western garb and writing editorials criticizing Islam? I think not! The Nazis also, like the Muslims, wanted world domination and the citizens of the United States would never have stood for an elected American official taking his oath to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States while placing his hand on "Mein Kampf."

World Islam does not plan to preserve and protect the Constitution of the United States. They want Shiriah Law to rule America. Islam must be understood that it is not just one of the many religions of the people of America. A Muslim can be assured of paradise after death only if he dies in a war, Jihad, with infidels. Infidels are all non-Muslims, such as Christians and Jews. Ms. Jardon seems to believe by her words that, "The Koran and the Muslim religion are not things to fear." If she would just spend a little more time studying the history, beliefs and goals of Islam, she would then understand that we are not facing just a mere religious affiliation but a religion, a way of life and a way of governing.

It is not just a matter of respecting the rights of Muslims with whom we disagree but recognizing the threat of a religion bent on world domination, including the United States of America. Our test is one of protecting our way of life from an evil empire determined to eradicate Judaism and Christianity.
Mr. Fuhrmann's opinion represents the extreme radical right, and I find it to be xenophobic, ignorant, and intolerant. As a side note to this, I have a degree in Religious Studies and an extensive academic knowledge of the Islamic faith, and therefore, I feel confident, speaking on behalf of a body of knowledge, that Mr. Fuhrman's understanding of the "history, beliefs, and goals of Islam" is completely misinformed. Mr. Fuhrmann expresses his ignorance in each and every sentence. I can only imagine what a Muslim family must have thought when, yesterday, they read in bold in their local paper (or on the Town Talk's internet site, of which his letter was a featured editorial) that their faith represents the extension of an evil empire. Unfortunately, Mr. Fuhrmann confuses religious belief with political freedom, while, at the same time, he asserts that the world is locked into some type of religious war. I understand that there are many people who prefer to conflate religion with politics; it's a convenient habit. I suppose, however, we should hold the Town Talk most accountable. Earlier this week, it was noted that the Town Talk has allowed a handful of habitual, reactionary writers to become "de-facto" columnists. They frequently fail to check their facts. They frequently express racist and bigoted opinions. One has to wonder about the prerogatives of the Town Talk's editorial staff. Why do they continue to publish the opinions of a small handful of misinformed and bigoted individuals? Does this sell newspapers? Should the Town Talk press for more letters from a more representative cross-section of our community? Is there an agenda at work here? What's going on?

Saturday, December 16, 2006 by Blogger

CNN: John Edwards to Announce Bid for Presidency Here in Louisiana According to "official" sources, former Senator John Edwards (D-NC) will be announcing his candidacy for President later this month from the Lower Ninth Ward neighborhood in New Orleans, a neighborhood that was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. CNN reports:

Edwards also plans to travel from New Orleans through the four early presidential nominating states -- Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Among Democrats, Sens. Hillary Clinton of New York and Barack Obama of Illinois are drawing the most attention almost two years before the actual vote.

Edwards, however, is in a strong position as the leading candidate in Iowa. He was a top fundraiser in the race for the nomination in 2004 before he became Democratic Sen. John Kerry's running mate.

by Blogger

Jacques Roy's Commencement Speech Delivered to the Students of LSUA's Class of 2006

December 14, 2006

Good morning graduates, Dr. Cavanaugh, esteemed faculty, other public officials, and guests and families of our graduates. I am honored to be included in your commencement exercises—an event in my own life which seems not so long ago.

Being a commencement speaker is a lot like being from the IRS. When they stick you in the middle of the room, people have to look and listen, but they do not want to hear much from you.

Being a commencement speaker is a hard task. You are supposed to be slightly irreverent. I know I am supposed to identify with young folks, at least that is what I am told everyday. I need your help to make sure I deliver the right speech, A or B, so how many of you are SOTAS? Oh, maybe that is a faculty term—(SOTAS)(students older than average)(Improvise)

On a more serious note, in this public setting, I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge the loss of two public servants—indeed two mayors in the last month. How tragic these events are, and how they remind us we truly do not know our last hour, and therefore must commit to engage ourselves in our lives fully—the subject of which much of what I will share is focused.

Your life is yours to make of what you will. This may seem like a platitude, a boring one, even. To some, it may even seem cruel, since you do not yet believe in yourself enough to know your power. I have recently learned what daring to go back to that dreamer time in life means—that childhood state of believing you can make a difference.

I think about a study recently put out about the most efficacious age for someone to enter public life; what do you think that age is, by the way I am 36, was 35 when I ran for office?

Right, but I started thinking about why that was as opposed to the proof of how efficacious leaders who entered political life at that age were.

I believe it is because one is old enough to have lived through some hard knocks, maybe had a family, been married, maybe lost a family member or two, a child, a wife. On the other hand, that person probably still has a belly full of fire to make a difference, like you do now as much as you ever will.

Jon Stewart, whom many of you probably know well, said of your time in life:

...the unfortunate, yet truly exciting thing about your life is that there is no core curriculum. The entire place is an elective. The paths are infinite and the results uncertain. And it can be maddening to those that go here, especially here, because your strength has always been achievement. So if there's any real advice I can give you it's this.

College is something you complete. Life is something you experience. So don't worry about your grade, or the results or success. Success is defined in myriad ways, and you will find it, and people will no longer be grading you, but it will come from your own internal sense of decency ….

Love what you do. Get good at it. Competence is a rare commodity in this day and age. And let the chips fall where they may.

I beg you to be engaged, seize life. No, I will not be cliché and say “carpe diem.” Well, I guess I got it in . . .but I will not talk about The Breakfast Club or Sixteen Candles although I know you have seen them too.

But, I will tell you my own philosophy:

We are measured not merely by how we deal with adversity—or life’s tough hands. Most assuredly, we will get dealt bad cards.

However, what I believe measures you is more based on how you deal with fickle Fortune when she chooses to shine on you.

So, remember, what measures you is your engagement of fortune. Like the opportunity to commence something.

Commencement. Have any of you ever thought about why this is called commencement?

You know of course it means beginning or start. For some it will be the beginning of a long series of partying until you have to get a job . . . or until mom and dad kick you out of the house. You know a bunch of you live at home, still.

But, commencement is a time when a new part of your life begins: your adult life, your life after being exposed to opportunity to craft a worldview for yourself. Do not let people take that from you easily. Guard it; it is yours.

I thank academia for its contribution to our lives—the enrichment, the sacrifice, and even the humor. Dialectic exchange, the arrival at truths by question and answer, the exchange of information—the so-called “Socratic” method—is critical to our lives.

I would like to share a line that exists at the top of one of the greatest memorials in our nation:

I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny imposed upon the mind of man.

Jefferson was talking about freedom; the freedom for all of us to think, but not necessarily act, as we wish.

Remember, your actions must be tempered by respect for others’ rights, but we should express within bounds what we wish.

I encourage you to be critical thinkers, and never forget this time of your life. For, in a very real sense, this will be the freest your mind will ever be. As you get older, you will settle in your ways; you will find yourself more judgmental, and even saying things “your daddy would say.”

Oscar Wilde said, “Education is an admirable thing, but it is well to remember from time to time that nothing worth knowing can be taught.”

Didacticism, a fancy expression for very formal exchanges of moral, logical teaching, has a place in undergraduate life, but so does community engagement, friendship, partying, the opposite sex, and a host of other instructional items. One must be careful not to let those latter ones fall out of balance.

On the banks of the River, a few weeks ago, I also noted Jefferson for his cautioning of us about acting in an ignorance-is-bliss fashion.

He said, we should guard against those people who shun thinking and the free marketplace of ideas (which is the quintessence of academia, by the way), who never want any change and who dread reformation, and who exert all their faculties to maintain the ascendancy of habit over the duty of improving our reason and obeying its mandates.

Your life is changing. Change is not a bad word; it need not even be scary. Embrace it. Fear of change, in a very real sense, is simply the fear of the unknown. It is our mind perhaps protecting us from the unknown. Throughout history, change at times altered man’s course in negative ways.

But, change can be quite positive. Indeed, it is natural and necessary.

When I campaigned, I made it clear we were not campaigning on a message that Alexandria needed to change by turning away from its past. Instead, we maintained the changes had happened as they inevitably do, and we need to seize on those changes, those positive forces of Fortune, to move forward powerfully; to measure ourselves later by how well we did.

I believe our community reacted strongly to that message.

In a movie with Denzel Washington a few years back, the writers authored a line which struck me as something I had uttered or thought before a hundred times in life. I do not remember the line, but I will give you my rendition of it applied to my life.

There are certain moments in life that eclipse most other moments, and you sort of see them coming. You have a sense that they are on the way even before the moments arrive, and you know that your life will be changed after the moment passes or the thing arises, forever.

I think this may be almost an intuitive vestige of our most primitive self—a warning system within the deepest recesses of the brain. I saw an example of that intuition, that feeling something was coming, come to fruition. I hope you will be careful thinkers, and watch for those moments and seize them.

But, remember, you cannot always overthink matters. There is an old adage that even the wrong decision is better than no decision. Another corollary is that no decision is a decision. While the truth of these statements can be debated, what is certain is that you must be active, make decisions and move.

In this region, we celebrate a renewed spirit; we look to the promise of the blossom of this campus as it inches toward Alexandria with housing opportunities and extensions to its infrastructure and as it finds its full potency as a four-year institution; we look for the promise of young minds committed to staying home, or coming back, to give their best to Alexandria and this region; we look to the first “mass returners” as I have come to call you. I hope you will make the decision to stay here or return after short sojourns in the world to help craft a sustainable community.

While some of you may go to New York City, California, and abroad, remember where your home is, where your degree was conferred, and return, come back to make our community better—to place your mark on our common heritage.

I want to close with reminding you about two critical virtues: integrity and kindness.

I learned much about those two from my predecessor. You should be kind to people because it costs you too much energy not to be.

I should know a little about this, having just been de-anthropomorph-ized into a pig and compared to worse.

Well, my family is from Avoyelles, and I do plan to trade in the black tie inaugural affair for a cochon de lait, so maybe .. . well, that is for another day.

Seriously, integrity is not something you lose and get back from others—dignity, perhaps, but not integrity.

You possess it, or not. It is really cultivating the incorruptibility of your core values and spirit. My predecessor, Mayor Ned Randolph, was a kind person with immense integrity. He will be missed.

Be persons with integrity; think for yourselves. Practice life with heaping amounts of intellectual skepticism.

I wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors. I hope you do not let anyone around you define you, limit you, belittle you, or hold you back.

Like I have said of this region, I believe you are at a crossroads point in your life. You, like this region, stand at the proverbial crossroads with the awesome responsibility to capitalize on your situation, on your education, on your ability to reach behind you, give back, and pull someone else forward.

There is a new consensus building: one born of changes in law that forced us all to work and study and matriculate together which now makes it so our hearts and minds are being changed.

I am proud to be part of the generation which will reap the harvest of desegregation and its promise of a shared vision for America. It will save our nation and the South, and locally, we can be a powerful example for progressive change.

It is time to get on board, or you may be left behind. Be inclusive; have no intolerance for others except for those who are intolerant, and even then, listen. You might learn something, even if it is simply what not to do—something your teachers will tell you can be the most powerful of lessons.

The Paradoxical Commandments by Dr. Kent M. Keith People are illogical, unreasonable, and self-centered. Love them anyway. If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish ulterior motives. Do good anyway. If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies. Succeed anyway. The good you do today will be forgotten tomorrow. Do good anyway. Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable. Be honest and frank anyway. The biggest men and women with the biggest ideas can be shot down by the smallest men and women with the smallest minds. Think big anyway. People favor underdogs but follow only top dogs. Fight for a few underdogs anyway. What you spend years building may be destroyed overnight. Build anyway. People really need help but may attack you if you do help them. Help people anyway. Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth. Give the world the best you have anyway.

I wish I was sitting where you are in many ways. Have fun tonight and this weekend and congratulations. Be careful, guys. If you have something to offer to me, to this community, my door is open to you. Good morning, God bless you, and God bless LSUA and our region with the promise we so much deserve. The promise of your return to us to be a part of our bright future.

by Blogger

Ouachita Parish Sheriff Department Fires "Blogger" In the Midst Anyone know the whole story here? From the News Star:

Fewell terminated Greer for violating the following departmental policies:

  • Obedience to laws and regulations;
  • Conduct unbecoming of an officer; and
  • Security of office business.

    This wave of discipline follows the recent Internet postings of anonymous sources that revealed the identity of Metro Narcotics Agent Mike Rowlan several weeks ago. The postings also included a reported stolen document that is allegedly a handwritten confession by Rowlan that he snorted cocaine more than 20 years ago during an undercover investigation

  • That's Jacob Greer on the right. Read more on www.copwatch.net

    Thursday, December 14, 2006 by Blogger

    Is the Media Treating Governor Blanco Unfairly? Earlier this week, in what is being described as "a bad joke gone awry," the Monroe Chamber of Commerce auctioned a dinner with Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco for one dollar. "The meal sold to the first bidder," reports the Baton Rouge Advocate, which fails to mention that others had attempted to bid on the dinner. I suppose the auctioneer thought it was plain hilarious that someone had the gall to bid a dollar, even though the opening bid was set at $1000 (then quickly dropped to $500), and so she decided to end bidding immediately. It's worth noting that the Monroe Chamber of Commerce has since apologized for the incident and the man who won the dinner decided to donate $1000 for the meal after all (the most ever donated for a dinner with the governor). No matter, though, because the botched joke made for a funny headline, and it's been reported everywhere. The AP wires picked up the story. The Washington Post covered it. And even our very own KALB thought it newsworthy enough to write about. Perhaps they all believed it to be a sign of the times here in Louisiana. Perhaps they believed it was an indication that Louisianans have little respect for our governor. The truth, however, is that it was a poor attempt at humor and that ultimately, the dinner did, in fact, fetch the asking price of $1000. Of course, Governor Blanco isn't exactly having a fun time right now. Our State Legislature is split among party lines. Don Hines, a Democrat from Bunkie and President of the State Senate, was so incensed at Blanco axing funding for a syrup plant (which would have directly financially benefited his family) that he, along with members of the Republican Party, effectively blocked Blanco's special session agenda, in which nearly a billion dollars worth of funding was to be allocated for infrastructural repairs (at a time in which Louisiana needs them desperately) and teacher pay raises, among other things. We can dance around these issues all we want to. The Republicans would like to claim that they were exercising fiscal responsibility; however, the surplus represents monies that need to be directly invested back into the state, and the attempts to thwart this dispersement should be seen for what it is: party politics. I don't necessarily support everything Governor Blanco has done; there are many relevant questions we must ask about her handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina (though it didn't help that our Commander in Chief was somewhere in California, unreachable to our Governor, playing the guitar while New Orleans went underwater). But I believe Governor Blanco has attempted to steer the state in the right direction. By the way, she had a big role in helping Alexandria land Union Tank Car, the largest new employer in the state of Louisiana in twenty years, and she is actively petitioning other large employers, including Toyota, to open shop in our state. Perhaps we should ask this question: Is the media treating Governor Blanco unfairly? No state has ever suffered something like the twin tragedies of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The two storms killed thousands of people (directly and indirectly), left hundreds of thousands without homes, and devastated one of America's finest cities. These disasters were not the fault of any one politician or public servant, though the destruction brought upon New Orleans was exacerbated by substandard levees and a poor evacuation plan. We want our politicians to be human, yet when they demonstrate human emotion, like weeping at the site of said devastation, they are lampooned by the media. Chad Rogers over at The Dead Pelican seems to think it's absolutely hilarious that Governor Blanco became emotional after Hurricane Katrina. It seems that every chance he gets he likes to publish this picture of a distraught Blanco after Katrina next to an unrelated story about policy. It's supposed to humiliate her: Look at this woman, crying, when she's supposed to be leading. The Washington Post even carried the same picture next to the article about the Monroe Chamber of Commerce auction. It's not relevant; it's intended to be embarrassing and-- get this-- funny. But when I see that picture of Governor Blanco, I am struck with a different emotion. I am reminded of the lives lost, of people punching through the roofs of their homes in order to seek refuge from the rising waters, of vast and total destruction, and I find it humbling and human that our governor was so affected by this tragedy. To me, the photo of Governor Blanco doesn't capture helplessness; it captures empathy, and those who use this image for their own political gain (like the website www.dontblamemeivotedforjindal.com) and those who use it in an ill-conceived attempt at humor (from a bully pulpit) are undermining this tragedy; they're exploiting the image of a woman who is grieving for her state and for the City of New Orleans. Louisiana wasn't attacked by a sovereign nation or a group of terrorists; we were attacked by a natural disaster. Again, I don't agree with everything Governor Blanco has done during her tenure, but I have to wonder what our reaction would be if President Bush or Representative Jindal was photographed weeping for Louisiana. Would the media say the same to those two men? Would they say, "It's hilarious that you're distraught. It must be a sign of poor leadership"? Or, instead, would they say, "Here is a man publicly distraught over the lost lives, a man who understands that the foundation of true leadership is empathy, a man who cares and is in touch with the effects of this disaster?" Perhaps we'll never know. Though I hope that somewhere, such a photo exists.

    by Blogger

    Where in the World is Louisiana's Own David Duke? He's in Iran at the annual Holocaust-deniers convention! (He says it's really about freedom of speech). Yesterday, he and Wolf Blitzer got into it on CNN's "The Situation Room." (Yes, I know the picture is from the Country of Scarborough). Watch the entire clip here. Wonkette provides this excerpt:

    BLITZER: … if we invited you on, why is there a Zionist conspiracy if we’re letting you on television right now? How do you explain that? DUKE: How do I explain that? I think that you can’t affect the news. You’ve got — I think you have to put some spin on what’s happening in Iran. BLITZER: But we didn’t have to invite you on CNN. DUKE: And you want to — it’s an attack mode, always an attack mode when people like myself come on there. But you thought you could handle me with your 11 connotations of the Ku Klux Klan. BLITZER: All right, let me… DUKE: But you know something? You can’t handle me, and you can’t handle the truth, and the fact is, you are an agent of Zionism. You work for AIPAC…
    To CNN and MSNBC, instead of crediting Duke as "Former Louisiana State Representative," why not credit him as "Current Ranting Lunatic and Phony Intellectual." (Apparently, they're giving out phDs in prison now).

    Wednesday, December 13, 2006 by Blogger

    Michele Godard Interviews Alexandria's New COO, Kay Michiels.

    by Blogger

    Babs Zimmerman Leaves KALB for KLAX According to my sources, long-time KALB assignment editor Babs Zimmerman has left KALB to become KLAX's news director.

    by Blogger

    Upcoming Holiday Events: Tipitina's Grand Opening. December 23, 2006. 5:30- 7:30: Live Music at the Kress Theater featuring performances by: Wien Denley, singer-songwriter and rubberband killer. Aaron Sibley Rodessa Meteoyer, community activist and former school board member. And Mark White, singer-songwriter and my brother. Followed by a reception at Tiptina's on DeSoto Street, with a performance by the Mike Foster Project (who will be playing afterwards at Alex 1805). And speaking of Alex 1805, count down to 2007 in style at Alex 1805's first ever Casino Royale Night. December 31, 2006. 7PM until close. Featuring: Live entertainment by New Orleans's own Government Majic (Horatio says "If you like Papa Grows Funk, you'll love Government Majic"). Poker and Blackjack tables (all proceeds to benefit CLASS). Gourmet cuisine. Complimentary champagne and party favors. A balloon drop at midnight. And a heated outdoor tent. $20 a ticket. Buy yours today from Ann at CLASS, Horatio at House of Java and Alex 1805, or Ingrid at the Rapides Foundation. Gentlemen, wear a tuxedo and get your first drink for free.

    by Blogger

    Presidential Hopeful Senator Brownback Spends the Night at Angola! The sleepover had something to do about promoting faith-based programs in prison, which, I understand, Angola is already doing. The Associated Press (thanks for the picture too) article had this to say:

    The Kansas Republican had no expectation that the drug cartel hit man, serial rapist or other convicts in his cell block would vote for him.
    And I'd sure hope not, considering that convicted felons can't vote anyway. Senator, welcome to Louisiana. We hope you were treated with gracious Southern hospitality. Read more about Senator Brownback's night in the slammer here.

    Tuesday, December 12, 2006 by Blogger

    Welcome to the Internets, Tom DeLay. Quick question: What happens when disgraced former Congressman Tom DeLay (see mugshot on right) allows anonymous posting on his new Internet blog site? Answer: A not-so-friendly reception that had to be permanently deleted within 75 minutes. Thankfully, someone saved those precious comments for posterity and reposted them on another blog, tomdelaydotcom.blogspot.com. Check it out.

    by Blogger

    Open Thread: What the Heck is Happening in Jena? It seems like our neighbors up in Jena are having a difficult time with their teenagers (and with racism). Back in September, a group of white students were suspended (not expelled, as many parents had hoped) for putting a pair of hangman's nooses in a tree on the campus of Jena High School. Then, someone burns the school down. And now, four kids are being charged with attempted second degree murder in a bizarre story involving a stolen gun.

    by Blogger

    CenLamar At 100,000 This week, CenLamar reached a big milestone, recording its 100,000th hit since its creation in March of this year. A special thank you to everyone in the Cenla "blogosphere" community for continuing to read and contribute.

    by Blogger

    Again, the Bible Is Not Used In House of Representatives Swearing In Ceremony For the second time in as many days, the Town Talk published a letter from a concerned citizen upset at the allegations fabricated and perpetuated by conservative talk radio host Dennis Prager that a new member of the House of Representatives will be placing his hand on the Koran in his swearing-in ceremony instead of the Bible. Readers should be aware that this story is a complete and total lie. The swearing-in ceremony, according to the Office of the House Clerk, consists of members "raising their right hands and swearing to uphold the Constitution." The Bible is not a feature of the ceremony. I find the story interesting for a number of reasons. First, the fact that someone can just INVENT a story, pitting a Muslim against alleged Christian "tradition," is alarming, but what's more appalling is the way the mainstream media, including our very own Gannett paper, has perpetuated this story without a single retraction or correction of the record or the basic facts. Here's an excerpt of today's letter, written by Peter Gunn of Bentley:

    It is a sad state of affairs when this great nation of ours, which is only 230 years old is trying to remove the Bible from all swearing in of elected officials. May God show mercy on our souls.
    I'm not sure where on earth Mr. Gunn read that America was trying to remove the Bible from "all swearing in" ceremonies. Perhaps this is just more hyperbole perpetuated by those radio talk show hosts. And from yesterday's letter, by Ruth Barden of Boyce:
    Keith Ellison, D-Minn., Reporter, has written: "The first Muslim elected to the U.S. Congress, has announced that he will not take his oath of office on the Bible, but on the bible of Islam, the Koran."
    To Mrs. Barden (and the Town Talk), Keith Ellison is the Muslim representative, not the reporter.

    Sunday, December 10, 2006 by Blogger

    Only In Louisiana: Congressman Jefferson Reelected By Landslide, Despite 90K Found In His Freezer by the FBI. I'm going to disagree with WeSawThat on this. It doesn't matter whether or not this guy voted for or against the Patriot Act (or whether or not he's been indicted YET), he shouldn't have been reelected. WeSawThat, what about the fact that Jefferson wasted precious time and resources during Hurricane Katrina when he directed rescue workers to his Uptown mansion so he could spend 45 minutes collecting his things? Here, take a look. Carter couldn't win-- despite the fact that she outspent him five to one and had a significant netroots movement-- Jefferson had the machine and got the big endorsements, like Mayor Nagin and Sheriff Harry Lee, who probably broke campaign finance laws when he spent out a mailer to chronic Jefferson Parish voters concerning Karen Carter's statement in Spike Lee's documentary about Katrina.

    Friday, December 08, 2006 by Blogger

    Tonight in Alexandria: Dash Rip Rock, Live at Spirits, 10PM

    Thursday, December 07, 2006 by Blogger

    Work in Progress: What Is Smart Growth, Really? And What Could It Mean for Alexandria? During the past four months, we've been talking a lot about smart growth and what it could mean for Alexandria. We elected a mayor who made smart growth the central theme of his campaign. But still, for many, smart growth may seem like a witty rhetorical device, a catchy phrase with vague and uncertain implications. However, smart growth is a real, definable concept, with its own logic and set of rules. Earlier this week, Babs Zimmerman of KALB wrote that "smart growth hammers on parochialism," which, if I understand her correctly, means that smart growth upends narrow-minding thinking; it encourages creative solutions to planning problems. It's funny that Mrs. Zimmerman uses the word "parochialism," because it's actually a word that critics of smart growth like to use against it. They claim that "smart growth" is too narrow in its focus, that it represents a "Disneyfication" of American cities, and that it limits the ability of the free market to determine and direct growth. They point to planned communities, like Seaside, Florida, as examples of the type of generic and nostalgic developments championed by smart growth proponents. If you've never been to Seaside, I recommend it. (You'd probably recognize Seaside; it's the setting for the movie The Truman Show). Seaside is one of the first projects undertaken by famed urban planner Andres Duany, and indeed, it is known as the "first manifestation" of New Urbanism. It's a charming, resort town, but I'd caution those who look to Seaside as "the model," because, frankly, smart growth has many different applications. Smart growth has been used in re-codifying and redeveloping hundreds of American cities, including Providence, Portland, Austin, Los Angeles, and throngs of medium-sized cities. (DPZ, the company created by Andres Duany, is behind the redevelopment of downtown Baton Rouge, which witnessed an 11% increase in property value during the past year; overall property values in Baton Rouge only increased by 3%). So what is smart growth exactly and how can it be used in Alexandria? Smart growth is a recognition that the zoning codes and development patterns undertaken by advocates of sprawl will create long-term sustainability problems, threatening a city's quality of life and thinning out its resources. Consider something often mentioned by Mr. Roy during the campaign: In the early 1960s, Alexandria was a city of 9 square miles and a population of 48,000 people; today, Alexandria is a city of approximately 26 square miles, yet our population still hovers around 48,000 people. Alexandria tended to grow in finger-patterns; we're a good example of suburban sprawl. (Forty years ago, Suburban Garden Restaurant was, literally, suburban; today, one can drive fifteen miles from the city's center before entering the "suburbs"). For many years, Americans had a tendency to think of sprawl as good, a healthy reflection of a city's growth. Consider the City of Houston, Texas. Since the 1950s, Houston has been sprawling in every direction, and perhaps as a result, it attracted millions of people and scores of Fortune 500 companies. It may have worked for awhile. But now, Houstonians recognize that this sprawl came at a big cost: Their inner-city core was drained, their most historical neighborhoods were blighted (incidentally, some of the redevelopment plans for these neighborhoods were ill-conceived and counter-productive), and taxpayers were overly burdened by funding developments in the outer fringes of the city limits. Additionally, as fuel costs increased, so did the burden on their middle class, the backbone of their economy. Costs of construction have also increased, but instead of redeveloping affordable housing in the city's core, the middle class, for many years, followed the trend and continued to look for cheaper land in the suburbs. There's probably not an easy solution for Houston, but they've been taking steps in the right direction: light rail transportation that connects its downtown with the medical center, the encouragement of multi-use developments, and the revitalization of downtown (and therefore, housing in the city's center) through key investments- a new basketball arena, a baseball stadium, an arts complex, and a massive convention center). As a result of these efforts, property values in the city's core have increased substantially, and the city's core is thriving again. (This hasn't come at the expense of the suburbs; they're replicating this condensing and becoming independent communities). And this is what Alexandria must learn from, lest we repeat the mistakes made by other cities during periods of sustained growth. Smart growth in Alexandria means putting a check against unfettered expansion. It means thinking of creative solutions for affordable housing in existing neighborhoods (and not simply creating a bunch of new housing developments on cheaper land in the city's outer reaches. Again, affordability must also require access to resources). Fortunately, Alexandria is at a point where smart growth can be realized. We can use concepts like the Katrina Cottage to create an attractive and functional solution to inner-city affordable housing, which is already being done in cities all across the nation. We can re-codify. We can encourage the development of our downtown through targeted marketing and a package of unique incentives, like the Renewal Zone Incentives. We can also encourage mixed use developments throughout the city and planned use developments in the city's suburbs. We can smartly manage our traffic flow by building new connections and arteries. And the best news is that this is all possible, provided that our city government facilitates this process through events like charettes, which enables the entire community to actively participate in the planning process, and through re-codification and increased code enforcement.

    by Blogger

    The Season of Giving and CLASS The Central Louisiana AIDS Support Services needs your help. Executive Director Ann Lowry explains:

    This year has been particularly hard at our agency. Many of my employees have worked at CLASS as long as I have (7 years). This year alone, we watched 20 clients at our agency die from this disease. We lost 17 clients in 2005. It might surprise you to know that more than half of those who died were women, many of whom left behind children. It is particularly heartbreaking for us because we know our clients so well that it feels like losing a family member.
    Our agency serves more than 300 people who are infected with HIV. Sixty percent of our clients are women. We are fortunate that advances in perinatal treatment have greatly reduced the number of children who are born HIV positive; however, we do have 2 children who have contracted this virus from their mothers (both are orphans). We also provide supportive services to more than 100 children who are affected by this disease because a parent is infected.
    Our clients come from all walks of life. Some work, some don't, some can't. Some are white, some are black. Nearly all of the women contracted the disease through heterosexual contact. Some of the men did too. Forget everything you ever thought you knew about who gets HIV. HIV does not discriminate.
    Our agency provides case managment services, medication, transportation, housing and utility assistance, support groups, free HIV testing, education, and HIV prevention counseling, all in an effort to help keep our clients healthy themselves, to reduce the risk that our clients will infect someone else, and to educate the community about HIV. We also operate a food bank for our clients. We rely primarily on grants to operate, but many of our grants do not allow us to provide for many of the basic needs of our clients, all of whom live in EXTREME POVERTY.
    CLASS is a 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation. Any donation you care to make would be fully tax-deductible. There are lots of ways you can help.
    You can: 1) Write a check;
    2) Adopt a needy family for Christmas or year round;
    3) Donate food, cleaning supplies, personal hygiene items to our pantry;
    4) Donate a few blankets, towels, sheets, electric heaters;
    5) Drop off your gently worn clothing, especially CHILDREN's coats,
    or buy a new one or two.
    Those are just a few ideas. You may have others.
    Of the many worthwhile charities in Alexandria, CLASS is often overlooked. If you are able to help CLASS without neglecting your favorite charitable organizations, I would be forever grateful. CLASS is located at: 904 13th St Alexandria, LA 71301 (318) 442-1010

    Tuesday, December 05, 2006 by Blogger

    Everett Hobbs Named President of the City Council; Louis Marshall Named Vice President.

    by Blogger

    Roy Asks Kay Michiels To Become Alexandria's Next "Chief of Staff" Yesterday evening, Jacques Roy announced that he will be appointing Kay Michiels, an Alexandria attorney and former educator, to become his operational assistant, a position his predecessor, Ned Randolph, referred to as chief of staff. Michiels has agreed to the appointment and states that she looks forward to working in the Roy administration.

    Monday, December 04, 2006 by Blogger

    Roy Sworn In As Alexandria's New Mayor Earlier this afternoon, Jacques Roy was sworn in as Alexandria's 23rd mayor in an outdoor ceremony held on the banks of the Red River. Prior to the ceremony, around two hundred people crowded the pews of St. Francis Xavier for a mass service. After the service, the Peabody Marching Band led Roy and several others, including Ned Randolph and his wife Deborah, in a small parade down Third Street and up Jackson to the Riverfront Center. The theme of the inauguration was "In Celebration of a Renewed Spirit," which mimics Randolph's inaugural theme twenty years ago, "In Celebration of a New Spirit," and several speakers, including Randolph himself, stated their belief that Alexandria's spirit had, in fact, been renewed by Mr. Roy's campaign. Roy began his speech by recognizing and honoring the service of Mr. Randolph. And I quote:

    Ned Randolph carefully laid the foundation for this City—from a time when some, rightly or wrongly, felt there was no hope—and by doing so, by loving Alexandria and keeping his word to the City, we will benefit by building ever upward on that solid ground, that concrete example Ned's pure integrity and deep kindness to his fellow man. Integrity and kindness: would that those two descriptions be said of us all. But, alas, we are blessed to reap the blossom of those powerful seeds; indeed, those twin virtues were mixed by Ned Randolph into the mortar which holds our City together—that glue that binds us has proved critical to us on more than one occasion, from attacking each other and from letting misfortune render us hopeless—like when racial tension has spiked or when we faced the closure of England Air Base.

    In a very real sense, this excitement we feel now is the fruition of years of hard work and plantings; it is the promise of a bountiful harvest; it is also the burden with which you have charged me; with your trust, you say you will expect no less than full commitment to your City.
    Roy's inauguration was attended by over 500 people, including several members of government and representatives from the offices of both David Vitter and Mary Landrieu. Roy received a congratulatory phone call from Governor Kathleen Blanco about an hour before the ceremony. Later: Roy's Inaugural Address.

    Sunday, December 03, 2006 by Blogger

    James Howard Kunstler's View on the Future of American Cities My friend over at Cenla Education Watch sent me a link to this brilliant article concerning the future of American cities. Here's an excerpt:

    I hasten to add it is a mistake to suppose that the US industrial economy has already been replaced by a so-called "information" economy or a consumer economy. In reality, manufacturing activities have been insidiously replaced over the past twenty years by a suburban-sprawl-building economy – and the mass production of suburban houses, highways, strip malls and big box stores is just a different sort of manufacturing than making hair driers and TV sets. The sprawl industry also drove a reckless debt creation racket and multiple layers of traffic in mortgages and spinoffs of mortgages (such as the derivatives trade based on bundled, securitized debt) which represents, at bottom, hallucinated wealth that in turn has spread false liquidity through the equity markets and is certain to affect them badly sooner or later. All this is what we have been calling the "housing bubble" and it is now beginning to fly apart with deadly effect. Much of the suburban real estate produced by this process is destined to lose its supposed value, both in practical and monetary terms as energy scarcities get traction. So, on top of the sheer distortions and perversities of the glut in bad mortgage paper, America will be faced with the accelerating worthlessness of the collateral – the houses, Jiffy Lubes, and office parks – as gasoline prices go up, and long commutes become untenable, and jobs along with incomes are lost, and the cost of heating houses larger than 1500 square feet becomes an insuperable burden. All this is to say that the suburban rings of our cities have poor prospects in the future. They therefore represent a massive tragic misinvestment, perhaps the greatest misallocation of resources in the history of the world. It is hard to say how this stuff might be reused or retrofitted, if at all, but some of it, perhaps a lot, may end up as a combined salvage yard and sheer ruin. Another major impact of the coming energy scarcity will be the end of industrial agriculture. Without abundant and cheap oil and gas-based fertilizers, pesticides, herbicides, and fuels for running huge machines and irrigation systems, we will have to make other arrangements for feeding ourselves. Crop yields will go down – a big reason, by the way, to be skeptical of ethanol and bio-diesel alternative fuel schemes based on corn or soybean crops. We will have to grow food closer to home, on a smaller scale, probably requiring more human and even animal labor, and agriculture is likely to come closer to the center of economic life than it has within memory – at the same time that mass production homebuilding, tourism based on mass aviation, easy motoring, and a host of other obsolete activities fade into history. I think this will lead to an epochal demographic shift, a reversal of the 200-year-long trend of people moving from the farms and rural places to the big cities. Instead, I believe we will see is a substantial contraction of our cities at the same time that they densify at their cores and along their waterfronts. A preview of this can be seen in Baltimore today. The remaining viable fabric of the pre-automobile city is relatively tiny and concentrated in the old center around a complex harbor system. With little need for industrial workers, vast neighborhoods of row housing built for them are either abandoned or inhabited now only by such economically distressed people that abandonment is inevitable. The pattern of contraction may not be identical in all American cities.

    by Blogger

    Revisiting the Sports Arena And Other Observations on Alexandria's Future (Warning: Rant Alert) Way back on August 2nd, the Town Talk published an article about plans to build a multi-use sports arena near the Pineville Expressway. The proposed site is eligible for Superfund money, because it is currently listed as a public health hazard (and has been on the EPA's national priority list since 1999). The Superfund program is administered by the Environmental Protection Agency. At the time, most of us dismissed the need for such a facility, pointing out that Alexandria already has a multi-use facility in the Rapides Parish Coliseum and that the City should be focusing on other projects instead. But perhaps in our haste to form a consensus, we missed a crucial point: This site has been deemed environmentally hazardous, and it needs to be cleaned up. Indeed, this need has been nationally documented for nearly seven years. And what's more, the federal government will literally give us money to redevelop and clean up the site. There's a reason I'm revisiting this issue. The City of Alexandria is currently attempting to convince the Southwestern Athletic Conference to locate their headquarters here. We're competing against several other Southern cities, including Shreveport, Houston, Dallas, Jackson, and Birmingham. During this process, it is important for Alexandrians to recognize that this "bid war" is indicative of the type of competition we are up against all the time, and although our location represents one key asset, our lack of facilities ultimately may prove to be our own undoing. From today's Town Talk:

    "Some cities don't want to host everything," Sharp said. "Shreveport has great facilities.... They possibly would be able to host championships in all 18 sports that we offer."

    At least initially, Shreveport appears to be a viable contender among the bidders: the SWAC wants 20,000 to 25,000 square feet of office space for its 12 employees, roughly $400,000 a year from local businesses and use of area sports venues for its conference championships.

    I believe that our new airport has set the standard for Central Louisiana's future, and as such, it is critical to complement our airport with other activities and facilities that add to our overall quality of life. Many believe that Alexandria should instead be focusing its attention toward the construction and development of a riverfront marina, which is perceived to be a more important project. But such an opinion (which I once held) is based on the assumption that Alexandria is only capable of doing one thing at a time. It undermines our ingenuity, our resourcefulness, and our ability to multi-task. The only way Alexandria will grow effectively and become competitive in attracting jobs, events, tourists, and industry is if we're all on the same page. There are some hard truths we must all recognize:
    • Our workforce is getting older.
    • We're having an incredibly tough time attracting and retaining young people.
    • Cities like Shreveport and Lafayette are competing for the same jobs, conventions, and events. And they're doing a better job than we are.
    • If we only grow one way, we'll be starving off the rest of our city for years.
    • There are several influential opinion-leaders in Alexandria who undermine efforts at inclusive growth by wrongly insisting that "value" is limited to a certain area of town. (This is perhaps our greatest stumbling block-- convincing those leaders and businesspeople that their opinions represent an antiquated understanding of the ways in which 21st century American cities must grow in order to remain competitive).
    Pardon me for being a young know-it-all punk, but we need to face reality. If Alexandria can't attract and retain young people and if we can't recognize that we're only as good as our worst neighborhood, then it won't matter how nice our airport is-- we'll still be suffering. Last week, I referenced an article from the NY Times about cities competing over the "cool factor." The "cool factor" may scare some people here. But it's important to remember that cities create their own individual definition of "cool." What's cool in Portland or Providence or Austin may not work here in Alexandria. So we'll need to figure out what will work. And that's where the blogosphere can play a role. I understand that some people don't believe in downtown revitalization. They think it is a waste of taxpayers' money; they believe that the City shouldn't invest in "dying neighborhoods." (Strange and selfish logic). In case it's not already obvious, I completely and totally disagree with those who dismiss downtown. And there are plenty of good reasons:
    • Downtown cannot be replaced by a "new area." Some people, including the Town Talk, are calling 28-West the "new downtown." In my opinion, this reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of what downtown really is. It is the home of our great institutions- banks, churches, and courthouses- and these institutions do not simply pack up and move to another area of town just because of a new, handsome subdivision.
    • Downtown Alexandria is centrally located and on the Red River. (It's inherently valuable property).
    • Downtown Alexandria is intuitive. It's walk-able. It's a reflection of the basic principles of smart growth.
    • It contains many of our most historical and architecturally significant buildings.
    • And most importantly, thriving downtowns attract industry and young professionals. I've said this before, but it bears repeating: When a visitor arrives in Alexandria, their impression of our overall health is based on two things: our airport, which is awesome, and our downtown, which is struggling but emerging.

    Saturday, December 02, 2006 by Blogger

    NY Times: The Garage Apartment is Back in Vogue In today's New York Times, Janny Scott writes about the reemergence of the garage apartment in suburban and exurban areas. The garage apartment or the "mother-in-law" unit allows people "who would otherwise be priced out of the housing market to live close to their jobs and relatives," Scott states. She writes:

    Hundreds of communities across the country have rewritten their zoning rules in recent years, to eliminate longtime bans on apartments in single-family houses and encourage new ones to be built.

    The revisions — allowing, say, backyard bungalows in Santa Cruz, Calif., and efficiency units in farmhouses in Vermont — have occurred largely in suburban and exurban areas where growth and efforts to control it have driven housing costs up.

    Once fairly common in large houses but prohibited by zoning ordinances after World War II, so-called accessory apartments in places like garages or attics are now seen as one way to expand the supply of moderately priced rentals. They are intended for older people on fixed incomes, young people starting out and workers needed for essential but relatively low-paying jobs.

    For a homeowner, a granny flat can be a source of rental income to help cover property taxes and other costs.
    Perhaps, as a complement to mixed-income developments, Alexandria can encourage the construction of garage apartments in new developments and existing neighborhoods. By the way, garage apartments are a common feature of many of the nicest and most exclusive neighborhoods in the country. They can serve a variety of functions, and they increase property value. In Alexandria, I believe there are clear restrictions against building more than one residence on a single lot and that this precludes building garage apartments throughout the City. Of course, the Garden District features many homes with garage apartments, but these homes were built years before such restrictions became commonplace. I found this particularly insightful. From the article:
    “The reason we don’t have affordable rental housing and legal accessory housing is because people believe the myths about rental housing,” said Marge Rogatz, president of Community Advocates, referring to suspicions that renters raise the crime rate and do not pay for the services they use. She added, “People do not want to have people come into their community who don’t look like them or don’t speak like them. There is a racist undercurrent that keeps these myths alive.”

    by Blogger

    Conservative Pundit Tells Muslim Congressman-Elect: Put Your Hand on the Bible Despite the fact that the swearing-in ceremony for the House of Representatives never includes a religious book, conservative pundit Dennis Prager (seen here playing the accordion) is demanding that Congressman-elect Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, place his hand on the Christian Bible while being sworn in. ThinkProgess has been covering this story (non-story) for about a week, and it's generated some interesting commentary. Prager wrote an op-ed piece on Townhall.com (and he's been talking about this on his radio show ad nauseum). From the op-ed:

    First, it is an act of hubris that perfectly exemplifies multiculturalist activism -- my culture trumps America's culture. What Ellison and his Muslim and leftist supporters are saying is that it is of no consequence what America holds as its holiest book; all that matters is what any individual holds to be his holiest book.

    Forgive me, but America should not give a hoot what Keith Ellison's favorite book is.

    Again, I repeat, the swearing-in ceremony does not include the use of any religious books. But even if it did, you'd have to admit that in this time of war, as we battle an enemy, many of whom perceive this as a religious struggle between Islam and Western Christianity, nothing would send a better message than coercing one of our leaders into swearing by the Bible. Even though it would be unconstitutional (Sarcasm, guys).

    Friday, December 01, 2006 by Blogger

    Airport Opens With Grand Reception... And A Quick Talk With Senator Landrieu. Tonight, the new terminal of the Alexandria International Airport opened with a packed reception featuring community members, prominent community leaders, and dignitaries. Among those who spoke include Wayne Denley, Jon Grafton, Representative Rodney Alexander, Charlie Dewitt, and Senator Mary Landrieu. The airport is awesome, by the way. For those of you displaced Central Louisianans, trust me: Our new airport will knock your socks off. It's beautiful. I was fortunate to be able to personally meet and speak with Senator Landrieu earlier today, before the reception. Landrieu emphasized her commitment to smart growth principles as a way of planning the future of Louisiana. Senator Landrieu may be considering the creation of a panel of Louisiana mayors to discuss and evaluate solvent smart growth methods. The Senator also spoke of the need to pass the upcoming vote on the offshore drilling bill, which, she claims, has been the result of several years of work. Landrieu is in the process of ensuring that fellow Senators explain the need for this legislation to their colleagues in the House.

    by Blogger

    1999 Centcom Report: Even With 400,000 Troops in Iraq, We'd Still Be In a Mess According to a report first published in 1999 (and made public in early November 2006), the United States would face significant stability problems in Iraq, even if it deployed a force of 400,000 troops. At the time of the invasion, the report was largely dismissed by the neoconservatives at the Pentagon, even though it was based on a strong body of research conducted by Centcom. It's important to note that the Pentagon planned the invasion of Iraq, and Marine General Anthony Zinni (ret), who conducted a series of war games as a part of the report, had warned members of Congress on numerous occasions of deficiencies in their pre-and post-invasion strategies. From the abstract of the report:

    Washington D.C., November 4, 2006 - In late April 1999, the United States Central Command (CENTCOM), led by Marine General Anthony Zinni (ret.), conducted a series of war games known as Desert Crossing in order to assess potential outcomes of an invasion of Iraq aimed at unseating Saddam Hussein. The documents posted here today covered the initial pre-war game planning phase from April-May 1999 through the detailed after-action reporting of June and July 1999.

    The Desert Crossing war games, which amounted to a feasibility study for part of the main war plan for Iraq -- OPLAN 1003-98 -- tested "worst case" and "most likely" scenarios of a post-war, post-Saddam, Iraq. The After Action Report presented its recommendations for further planning regarding regime change in Iraq and was an interagency production assisted by the departments of defense and state, as well as the National Security Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency, among others.

    The results of Desert Crossing, however, drew pessimistic conclusions regarding the immediate possible outcomes of such action. Some of these conclusions are interestingly similar to the events which actually occurred after Saddam was overthrown. (Note 1) The report forewarned that regime change may cause regional instability by opening the doors to "rival forces bidding for power" which, in turn, could cause societal "fragmentation along religious and/or ethnic lines" and antagonize "aggressive neighbors." Further, the report illuminated worries that secure borders and a restoration of civil order may not be enough to stabilize Iraq if the replacement government were perceived as weak, subservient to outside powers, or out of touch with other regional governments. An exit strategy, the report said, would also be complicated by differing visions for a post-Saddam Iraq among those involved in the conflict.

    The media has known about this report for several years, but its specific recommendations had not been reported until recently.

    CNN issued a quick story on the subject the day it was released, November 4, 2006. But not surprisingly, the story was drowned out by election coverage. It has been suggested by many Republican pundits and politicians that in planning for the war, the Pentagon and President George W. Bush relied on the best intelligence they had been provided. This report is yet another illustration of how the Bush administration selectively chose intelligence reports to build its case for war. Considering the report was published by Centcom and relied on the expert testimony of a Marine General, it seems hard to believe that its relevancy was simply not noticed. Rather, more likely, the report was dismissed for political reasons by the Pentagon.