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Good News and Bad in the Crescent City

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Thursday, January 18th, 2006

New Orleans, Louisiana

GOOD NEWS AND BAD IN THE CRESCENT CITY

Did you ever notice how Louisiana is shaped like a boomerang?? Where ever you throw it out there or whatever might happen, things always seem to come back and knock you off balance.? Living day to day in the Bayou state is a roller coaster ride; a yo-yo with highs and lows, the good and the bad, the successes and failures, the victories and the what could have beens.? There never is much in between.

The first few weeks of the New Year have been surreal.? The world read daily reports of one murder after another, in a city where the law-enforcement system continues to be dysfunctional. In 2006, the Crescent City was the murder capital of America.? Right now, New Orleans is well on its way to both repeat and break last year’s abysmal record.

It’s almost like a Kafka novel.? The police are often both feared and hated, and seven officers are changed with first degree murder which could bring them the death penalty.? Even doctors are on the defense because during a crisis, those who give us medical care are charged with murder.

There hasn’t been a murder conviction in New Orleans in over five months, and less than 12% of those arrested for murder end up going to jail. To many, New Orleans is a city descending into chaotic hell.

The state coffers, some 90 miles up the road, are loaded to the hilt.? I mean seething with money.? $2.5 Billion in surplus and still growing.? Billions in rebuilding funds and federal recovery dollars that have been sitting around for months.? And they can’t give it away.? Most states are on the ropes and talking about tax increases.? And try as they may, here in Louisiana, they can’t give the money away.

In other southern coastal states, officials have been working nonstop to solve their growing property insurance crisis.? In Florida, the legislature joined the Governor on three-day retreat to learn and pick apart the nuances of insurance reform.? Newly elected Governor Charlie Crist even canceled his inaugural ball so he can concentrate on finding ways to give the sunshine State more affordable insurance rates.

In Mississippi, the legislature and the governor have joined in several special sessions to deal with insurance issues, and the Attorney General has sued insurance companies who unfairly treated property owners along the coast.

How about Louisiana?? Katrina hit some 17 months ago, and except for a few hearings and a one time rebate to property owners, any significant reform is a standstill.? The most recent suggestion from the Governor and the insurance Commissioner is to do away with the single commission that has been looking out for consumers.? Louisiana is one of the few states that have no consumer protection office.? And let me tell you how bad it is.? ? The Attorney General is prohibited by law from looking out for consumers when insurance companies reap huge insurance increases.? That’s right.? Louisiana is about the only state in America where the chief law enforcement officer is prohibited by law from appearing before rate making bodies, like the Louisiana Insurance Rating Commission and the Public Service Commission, to question what he might feel to be charges that are out of line and way too high.

The successes usually come on the weekends.? The Saints and the LSU Tigers have been a rallying point for thousands of locals.? No, football is not any real answer to what ails the Crescent City and the State.? But I can tell you from the daily calls ins I receive on my radio show at thenew995FM.Com that the present Saints run for the Super bowl has been a significant diversion from the anger over? the slow recovery and the fear that grips daily life in the Big Easy.? It’s almost like a whole way of life is at stake, and football offers a small ray of hope that if you just keep the faith and work hard, some form of normalcy could be just around the corner.

So can a city and state’s consuming desire to win a football game really have any lasting effect on an immersing and seemingly endless process of putting the pieces back together again?? Maybe not.? But did you know about the local legend that the Superdome was initially constructed on the site of an old Indian burial ground, and that the disturbed spirits have cursed both the city and the Saints for the past 30 years? Remember that the arena football team that has played in the Dome is called the VooDoo.

Superstition?? Of course.? But who knows.? With another victory or two, a football team could end up being the first step in a turn around that has taken far too long to happen. And you know what?? Down in this part of the country, our folks will take just about any good news they can get.

New Orleans is my essence, my soul, my muse, and I can only dream that one day she will recapture her glory. I will do everything within my power to make that happen and to help in any way I can to ease the suffering of my city, my people!

? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? Harry Connick, Jr.

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Peace and Justice.

Jim Brown

Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in a number of newspapers throughout the State of Louisiana.? You can read Jim’s Blog, and take his weekly poll, plus read his columns going back to the fall of 2002 by going to his own website at http://www.jimbrownla.com.

Also, tune in Jim’s radio show on thenew995fm.com from New Orleans.? It is streamed live on the worldwide web at www.thenew995fm.com? from 8:00 until 11:00 am, weekdays.

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