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Subject: I'm headed for New Orleans 

Hey Bart

I am packing up the younger kids and heading to New Orleans for Anavie's debut at the House of Blues
My oldest son Josh plays guitar in the Indi rock band As a mom/groupie, 
I am totally proud and hyped also a little nervous about going to the "murder capital" of the United States. 
I have been to New Orleans a few times since Katrina, but I haven't had the occasion to stay overnight, 
so I had to do a little research about the state of the Crescent City since Katrina Bush drowned the city.

A little background, I work for a big real estate company. I work in the Commercial Division, so I have had 
a "pulse" on the re-growth of real estate in south Louisiana. According to Rich Stone, VP of commercial sales 
the recovery has been proportionate to the depth of flooding the deeper the water, the slower the recovery. 
All of the places with little or no flooding have recovered nicely. The French Quarter and the Central Business 
District are fine.  Class "A" office space is at about 90% occupied and 97% of medium to large businesses 
are back. The sales tax is at 88% of pre-storm.

The areas that flooded the heaviest were also the areas with the highest poverty rates. The lower 9th ward
was devastated. This is sad in and of itself, but there are no records of who left and where they went
(and we know that the search for the dead was cut short to avoid further embarrassment) so it is hard to 
know who is coming back to New Orleans. There has been an effort to rebuild the lower 9th ward by 
Brad Pitt and his Make It Right  Foundation,  also, 9th ward formed 
its first ever homeowners  association in 2006. In March of 2008, 71.8% (142,317) Orleans Parish 
households were receiving mail compared to about 61% in March of 2007.

So now what to do if my kids get sick on our little journey? Only 57% (13) of pre-Katrina hospitals 
have re-opened, there are fewer clinics  and the Louisiana governor is not going to re-build the 
Charity Hospital, so there is a definite wait at any emergency room in New Orleans. 
Note to kids, do not get sick.

Okay, will we be safe. The criminal Justice System in New Orleans was woefully inefficient before 
Katrina and left in shambles after the storm. Although New Orleans has the 6th highest per capita of 
law enforcement to residents in the United States, an even higher that pre-Katrina that does not 
translate into a low crime rate. New Orleans is the "Murder Capital" of the US. Ray Nagin said that 
he believes that some of the thugs are coming home from places like Houston because the Judicial System 
is in such disarray here that they're in less danger of spending long stretches in prison. 

In January 2008, nearly two and a half years after the flood, the headquarters for New Orleans Police 
Department was repaired. While police officers who work at headquarters were finally able to move out 
of trailers and into their repaired building, one district police station still operates out of FEMA trailers, 
and two others that were destroyed by flooding are operating out of donated space provided by local 
philanthropists. New Orleans police unveiled a new facility in June of 2008 to replace Central Lockup, 
a building that had been used since 1966. Governor Jindal has said that the Louisiana National Guard 
will stay in New Orleans thru 2008. So National Guard, more police coverage and a bigger lockup 
and a repaired NOPD, I feel safe already.

Fortunately I don't have to stay in one of those FEMA travel trailers. You know the contaminated ones. 
At the end of May there were still about 16,921 trailers still out there in Louisiana. The funniest thing is 
that while FEMA was sending out letters telling the inhabitants that they were being poisoned by the 
formaldehyde, FEMA was also sending out letters offering to sell the trailers to the  same inhabitants. 
Of course you can still buy these trailers if you sign a "Hold Harmless" addendum to the contract. Wow.

However, I have to say that I did get a great rate on my 4-star hotel. Of course you can always get a 
good rate in the summer months because of the HEAT and HUMIDITY! The summer months have 
always been a challenge, but this year looks bleak because of economics and GAS PRICES. 

Tourism is the second largest industry in Louisiana, and accounts for 35% of New Orleans annual budget. 

Tourism has not fully recovered, but has seen real improvement. Pre-Katrina brought about 8.5 million 
visitors in a good year. In 2006 New Orleans saw only 3.7 million, in 2007  New Orleans had 7+ million 
visitors , and  2008 looks to be a great year great with the BCS championship game and the Sugar Bowl 
bringing lots of tourist dollars. The Morial Convention Center (OMG what a horror filled memory) 
completed a 60 million dollar renovation and is projected to be at 90% since Katrina, so I guess you 
can say that the tourism industry is going to survive.

Since I will have my kids with me, I won't be able to play any slots at Harrah's Casino, but I guess I 
won't be the only one not laying my money on the table. The casino industry was up and running less 
than a year after Katrina hit. However, a sluggish economy and record gasoline prices are keeping 
travelers closer to home and off the gambling floor at Southern casinos. March to April 2008 Louisiana's 
state-licensed casinos recorded a 7.2 percent drop, according to state regulatory agencies. Both months 
traditionally are big ones for casinos, as income tax refund checks are issued. 
And don't forget those stimulus checks!

Getting to New Orleans is not hard. All of the roads are open, and the majority have been repaired. 
By March 2008, FEMA had paid Louisiana 93 percent of the $6.6 billion allocated for infrastructure 
repairs, yet only 47 percent has reached localities. The state of Louisiana continues to hold more than 
$3 billion in infrastructure repair monies that are destined for hurricane-affected parishes. As of March,
Orleans had received only 35 percent of the funds allocated to it for infrastructure repairs and Plaquemines 
had received only 18 percent of its allocated funding. The reason for the slow disbursement of funds is 
to prevent corruption.? What?

As for our esteemed state legislature? This year Katrina recovery has not been the focus of the 2008 session, 
they have been busy giving themselves a 200% raise (they wanted 300%). The Louisiana Legislators have 
increased their salary from just over $16,000 to a little over $37,000. Not bad you say? In addition to their 
salary the legislators get  $6,000.00 per year in un-vouchered expenses, $2000.00 per year in vouchered 
expenses, an additional $125.00 per day per diem, government subsidies apartments, 75% of their healthcare 
is paid for by the citizens of Louisiana. The legislators have state paid aides that are also receiving pay raises. 
The Louisiana Legislative session is only 60 days in even years and 45 days in odd years, and is described 
as a part time job in the Louisiana Constitution.  Sure we have a few special sessions that add 20 or so days 
to the yearly commitment of the congressmen and congresswomen's workload, and these men and women 
have to make appearances but that sounds like the kind of job I want. I can think of a lot of things I could
accomplish on the 285 days or so that I would not be working while making more money than I currently take in.

Since Katrina the French Quarter is really clean. The company that New Orleans contracted with picks up 
garbage 3 times a day. That special urine-and-vomit smell of the Quarter is also gone...the sidewalks are 
washed every night by lawnmower-sized street cleaners. The beggars are very nice and state plainly that 
they need money for beer, cigarettes, and that order. 

Great trip, just be sure to have lots of $$$$ when you go. 

So, getting back to my journey to New Orleans, I have to pack for our little adventure. I am thrilled that
my son Josh has the vision to follow his dream he is a self taught musician, and has always wanted to 
be on the stage.  Yes college is important, and he will do that again in the fall but how many chances
do you get to play the House of Blues main stage!

Keep Hammering!
 Proud Mom

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