The Wall St. Journal had an article last week (not online) about the city’s feverish demolition of blighted houses. This would be a good thing, except that the City is accidentally demolishing many houses that it shouldn’t be. (See similar MSNBC story) My friend Harold owns some property that he plans to renovate, but recently found out it’s slated to be demolished. Oops.
As we approach the two year mark of Katrina a lot of people are fed up with the widespread incompetence. The Road Home program was not only poorly administered, but also inadequately funded. The District Attorney has been releasing criminals because his office can’t find the witnesses, even though news reporters find them by simply going to their last known address.
If the unrelenting incompetence doesn’t make you call a moving
company then the rampant corruption surely will. Bill Jefferson hasn’t
been convicted yet but he had $90,000 in his freezer because he
apparently thought it was safer there than in a federally insured
bank. As a result, many people have dispensed with the presumption of
innocence and reached the sensible conclusion that he’s corrupt. I’d
always presumed that Oliver Thomas (the politician most likely to
succeed Nagin) was a decent guy. But today, in a development that
caught everyone by surprise, Thomas pled guilty to taking bribes and resigned from the City Council.
Which democratic politician will he testify against as part of his plea
deal? No one knows. But we’re still recovering from the shock of
Senator David Vitter’s admission that he’d hired prostitutes. How
could we have been so misled? One minute the moralizing Republican is a
rapidly rising political star, and the next he’s spiraling back to
earth in a vapor-trail of hypocrisy.
Incompetence, corruption, and hypocrisy. Apparently, these are the
raw materials of our "recovery effort." I came back after Katrina
thinking that things would change and we’d take advantage of a unique
opportunity to create a new foundation. Now, I’m thinking I should
have sold my house and moved to a new city.
The new assessors have issued their edicts, and guess what?
Property assessments have gone up. My dad’s condominium is worth much
less than it was before Katrina. But it costs significantly more to
insure. The utility payments are higher and the taxes will be too. I
don’t know what my house is worth, but I’m pretty sure that it isn’t
worth more than it was pre-Katrina. It’s likely to be worth less. Oh,
and speaking of assessments, some people haven’t received the forms
that they need to file for their homestead exemptions. And the deadline
for filing for the exemption is coming up in a few days. A friend of
mine had this problem and had to go to City Hall: she said that it took
her all day because the office was inundated with people who hadn’t
gotten their forms, or who were trying to have their property
reassessed. Given the rampant incompetence, you just know that there
is at least one guy who waited in line at City Hall for hours to file
for his homestead exemption, only to later find out that his property
was ‘accidentally bulldozed.’
Oh and don’t try to cheer yourself up by talking about the weather.
We’ve also been having an incredible heat wave (on Saturday the heat
index was over 120 degrees). The weather was a big topic for
politicians last year. Back then city officials were worried about
major climatic threats: e.g., catastrophic hurricanes caused by global
If I were a politician today I’d be more worried about violent revolution.
Update: Someone emailed me and asked how one would find out
which houses were slated to be demolished. I don’t know exactly, but
one resource that provides a good start is this list compiled by Karen Gadbois. Anyone else have better information?
Second Update. Here is an exerpt I received from a friend about her experience at City Hall:
"I had to go to City Hall today to submit an appeal. The line to get on the elevator was incredibly long – at least 200 people. The police officers in charge made people wait in line even if they were just submitting an appeal. According to the letter, I shouldn’t have had to wait. Finally, after 45 minutes, I was allowed to go to the fourth floor to submit my appeal. (I was determined to get this done no matter how long I had to wait!)
When I finally saw the deputy assessor, he gave me a hard time. But, of course, I wouldn’t have it and stood my ground. He ended up telling me right before I left that he had to give me a hard time. I looked at him and said so did I.
But you are right. A woman standing in line told me that she had not received any notification about the assessment and that she took the day off from work and drove from Baton Rouge to take care of the situation. Of couse, if she actually got to talk to the assessor is another question. The line only moved one inch in the course of my 45 minutes."