Wednesday, January 04, 2017

Master Plan Amendments Part 3: Every Major Street

I started off with the easy stuff in Part 1 and got into the bigger changes in Part 2.  This is Part 3, and it is the last of this series to really deal with Master Plan Map changes. It will only involve one proposed change, but this one is a doozy.

While you read this, remember that City Planning has already scheduled their public hearings for January 24 and 31. If you want to get your thoughts to them about any of this, the deadline is coming soon.

Again, I want to make sure I first remind readers that I didn’t get all this information alone. Hours of reading through these Master Plan amendments was completed by individuals I would love to cite. Because I am doing what I can to spread the word about these changes on the internet, however, they have chosen to remain quietly in the background. Additionally, because my post is primarily an expression of my own opinion, it wouldn’t do to associate their work with my thoughts. Like many reasonable people, there are places where we disagree.

That said, I want to thank them. They know who they are, and they are doing tremendous work helping keep the community informed.

The Change

Request by Councilmember Jason Williams to move every spot currently designated Mixed Use Low Density (MUL) to Mixed Use Medium Density (MUM), if it is located within 500 feet of a designated transit corridor.

This proposed change is so big and so sweeping it doesn’t even really have a Request number, and would affect the Master Plan land use map city-wide, but it would have a tremendous effect in Mid-City. The change is so far reaching, CPC staff just added it to the Planning District maps shaded in gray. You can see this here:
http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1007_FLUM_Amend_PD4-1_1.pdf

In Mid-City this affects almost every major transportation corridor.

  • On City Park Ave at the I-10
  • On City Park Ave from the Cemeteries to Bienville Street
  • On Carrollton Ave from Ulloa to Orleans 
  • On Canal Street between Helena and Anthony 
  • On Canal Street from Bernadotte to St. Patrick 
  • On Canal Street from Hennessey to Galvez
  • Every block between Canal Street and Bienville Ave from Carrollton to Jefferson Davis Parkway
  • Jefferson Davis Parkway from Canal to Toulouse
  • Properties adjacent to the Lafitte Greenway from N. Anthony Street to N. Carrollton, from Conti to Toulouse Street
  • Between Toulouse and Orleans Ave from N. Carrollton to N. Cortez
  • Between Conti and the Lafitte Greenway from Jeff Davis Parkway to Claiborne Ave
  • Broad Street starting at Banks Street and going all the way out to O’Reilly Street (just this side of St. Bernard) 
  • Between the Lafitte Greenway and Toulouse Street from the Bayou to N. Rocheblave, bumping out to St Peter Street along the way
  • Along Ulloa Street between S. Scott and S Telemachus
  • Along d’Hemmecourt between S. Clark and S. Lopez
  • Along Baudin from S. Dupre to S. White


That’s a lot. And that’s just in the Mid-City area. But this is a city-wide change. I can’t believe more people haven’t heard about it, because this is a big one.

But What Does This Do? 

In Part 2, I talked about how the power in many of these Master Plan Land Use Map amendments come from the zoning designations they allow according to the law. While moving from the alphabet soup of MUL to MUM doesn’t sound like a whole lot, the trick is just how many different zoning designations come into play when an area is zoned MUM. This change is significant.

Here’s what to think about, when the Master Plan and CZO were adopted, the MUL designation already represented a move to larger scale (size), intensity (use), and density (how many people could live there). MUL would open zoning that allows smaller Neighborhood Business Districts (HU-B1 and HU-B1A), as well as a zoning designation called Historic Urban Mixed-Use (HUMU).

While everything is dependent on the size of the parcel, HUMU zoning allows three story buildings up to 40 feet tall, which could include up to 5000 square feet of ground floor commercial without requiring additional parking, and residential units (apartments or condos) on the second and third floor. When considering changes to MUL on the Land Use Map, a good example to think of is Freret Street between Jefferson and Napoleon, especially by Cadiz Street. (http://czo.nola.gov/Article-12#12-1)

(Picture of what is already allowed.)



Any move from MUL to MUM opens zoning designations that go even bigger in scale, higher intensity, and higher density. While this would include the rather innocuous Multi-Family Residential Districts (HU-RM1 & HU-RM2), even those can put hundreds of apartments or condos on a block if the parcel was big enough and developers applied for high enough density bonuses. (http://czo.nola.gov/Article-11#11-1-D).

But the big changes with MUM on the land use map comes from Medium Intensity Mixed-Use 1 (MU-1). This is the 60 foot tall, 5 story, ground floor commercial, above ground residential zoning that’s best Mid-City examples would be the American Can and the recently approved Edwards Communities apartments along the Greenway. (http://czo.nola.gov/Article-15#15-1-D)

My Thoughts

First of all, when they start talking about this proposed change, we’re going to hear a lot about lack of housing and affordability and how we’ll have a more equitable city if we can just add more (luxury) units in the inevitable condo towers and apartment complexes that will result from this change. Developers and builders will get “density bonuses” for adding affordable units that should help struggling renters, at least in theory. We’ll also hear a lot about “transit oriented development” and how important it is this city allow developers to pack as many people into 600 square foot apartments as possible. Real estate experts will trot out years-old market studies that say there are millions of millennials and young professionals with cash in their pockets who would move to New Orleans and help improve our city and expand our tax base if we just find places for them to live. They’re all supposed to show up without cars, hip to ride bikes and streetcars and buses and Uber to their jobs.

We’ll hear about how we need to upzone and deregulate and lower parking requirements, and that will be the key to New Orleans’ burgeoning economic revival.

I don’t buy that fairy tale for a minute. You know why? We already re-mapped, we already upzoned, and we already lowered parking requirements. All of that happened in the Master Plan and CZO years ago, and the promised development never showed up.

Oh, it showed up on Freret Street and Magazine Street. There are plenty of shiny new 2 and 3 story buildings with ground floor retail and residential apartments upstairs. Stuff like that is already eligible in every one of these MUL areas, provided it is zoned correctly. And based on how easily the city hands out zoning changes, anyone who applies pretty much gets what they want.

(Picture of what is already allowed.)



But in Mid-City? At major intersections (transit hubs), we got drive through pharmacies and drive through banks and new stand-alone ER’s and proposals for fast food joints. Land use and zoning isn’t the problem in our neck of the woods, because folks can already build a whole lot in all of these areas that area already mapped MUL.

And let’s not forget all the areas of Mid-City that are already remapped MUM. All the old warehouses over by the Greenway, where the Edwards Communities apartments are going to go? They were remapped MUM over 5 years ago and upzoned MU-1 in the CZO. Edwards was the first group of folks to take advantage of those rules, and they demanded density bonuses AND tax breaks to do it. The other spots that were remapped and upzoned the last time around were all along Tulane Avenue, and we’re only just now seeing the promised redevelopment over there.

What if the thing they were waiting for was the next Master Plan amendment process? With sweeping changes like this one, I have to wonder if the Master Plan having the “force of law” really has any meaning whatsoever.

Because this change puts properties in play you never thought would be in play. The brickyard between St. Patrick and Alexander? How much more is that worth as 300 luxury condominiums? All that city land between the Greenway and Lafitte Street? How long before we hear about some public/private partnership to put hundreds of luxury apartments like a wall between the neighborhood and the bike path? Who knows where else.



Some of y’all reading this are probably thinking “hell yeah, let’s build some more luxury condos in Mid-City.” That’s fair. But say so. My problem with all this is how it hides behind alphabet soup of designations and urban planning buzzwords. You want a bunch of 65 foot tall apartment buildings along the Greenway from City Park Avenue to Claiborne, say that and let the voters hear you say it.
Because a lot of those theories aren’t holding up elsewhere when they run into the details.

How much pressure would this change put on empty lots and historic homes in that footprint? How much would this change affect the price of housing? It sure isn’t going to make it cheaper, that’s for sure. When the folks with the market studies tell me I’d be getting an affordable deal by spending $200,000 on a 700 square foot condo, we’re either living in a real estate bubble or it is time for me to move my middle-class address to a different neighborhood.

Thing is, this type of thing is going on in cities all over the country, and it isn’t working. What they’re starting to see is that potential property values are killing affordability. Think about it this way: if you’ve got a $300,000 Mid-City home on one lot and a $3,000,000 five-story condo tower down the block, how much is an empty lot in the middle worth? How much are those fixer-uppers in the middle worth? What incentive does a property owner have to maintain their old rental unit when they could just let it fall down or catch fire and get in on the 5-story luxury condo game? The MUL to MUM change puts an awful lot of dynamics like that in play. http://www.strongtowns.org/journal/2016/10/23/portland-housing-prices

So, yeah. You could say I’m not a fan of this change. I didn’t move to Atlanta 10 years ago, I moved to New Orleans. And I didn’t move to the CBD or the Warehouse District when I chose a place in New Orleans to live. I chose Faubourg St. John, Parkview, and Mid-City.

Thanks for reading. This is all for the Master Plan Map changes. Amendments are up next.

Now, let’s be clear. Everything I just wrote is my opinion and my opinion only. If you see something on here you don’t like, or something that you do, don’t complain to me. I’m only some guy writing stuff on the internet. Ain’t nothing I can do for you I ain’t already done.

If you want to fuss at someone who CAN do something, contact a city decision-maker. For stuff like this, that’s the City Planning Commission and your City Council members. You don’t have to be some sort of expert. This is America, all you have to have to talk to your government decision makers is an opinion. We live in a participatory democracy, so feel free to participate!

To tell the CPC what you think, email CPCINFO@NOLA.GOV. They’ll put your thoughts in the public record for any proposal. Full contact info here for letters & phone calls: http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/contact-us/.

If you want to take it a step further, tell your City Council members: http://nolacitycouncil.com/meet/meet.asp?id=45.

Remember that no matter where you live in New Orleans, you have 3 representatives on the Council, your district reps and the two at-large members.

And don’t forget to share your thoughts with your neighborhood organization. Neighborhood organizations don’t have any power and can’t do much, but they do host meetings and communicate with the city on a regular basis. Letting them know how you feel can go a long way to amplify your voice.

If you’re in Mid-City, you can reach Mid-City Neighborhood Organization at (board@mcno.org).

Citations

Back in 2008, the citizens of New Orleans voted to amend the City Charter and give the Master Plan the force of law. I was one of the folks who voted for it, because everyone I knew who was engaged in a land use or zoning situation complained about the capriciousness nature of the process and the mysteries that clouded every decision. Like so many reforms, the intent was to make city planning and land use decisions more transparent, easier to understand, more equitable, and more accessible. It was thought that giving the Master Plan the force of law would remove some of the ad hoc decision making from the process.

Some of these reforms worked. Others didn’t. But one thing the Master Plan did require was a formal amendment process. Guess what time it is? You got it. Amendment time.

City Planning has already scheduled their public hearings for January 24 and 31. You can see what amendments will be on which agenda on their website (http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/).

I didn’t make any of this up, y’all. You can find all the information online at the CPC website. And if you’re not in Mid-City, don’t worry, there are plenty of Master Plan amendments for your neighborhood, too. You should talk to your neighbors about them.

New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments webpage:
http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/

New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments (itemized):
http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/master-plan-amendment-submissions/

You can also view where the proposed Master Plan changes are on a map of your neighborhood. Go to the above link, scroll to the bottom, and click on your neighborhood map.

Mid-City is in Planning District 4 with Treme:
http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1007_FLUM_Amend_PD4-1_1.pdf

Sunday, January 01, 2017

New Orleans Master Plan Amendments Part 2: Getting Bigger

I started off with the easy stuff in Part 1, but here’s where we’re getting to the bigger changes, and I mean that literally. These are the proposed Master Plan changes to allow buildings that are bigger in scale (size), higher in intensity (more activity allowed), and higher density (more people). Each of these Master Plan Amendments are located in Mid-City, the neighborhood where I live.

First of all, I want to say something about the research that is the foundation of this work. Please keep in mind that hours of reading these Master Plan amendments is a task that was completed by individuals I would love to cite. Because I am doing what I can to spread the word about these changes on the internet, however, they have chosen to remain quietly in the background. Additionally, because my post is primarily an expression of my own opinion, it wouldn’t do to associate their work with my thoughts. Like many reasonable people, there are places where we disagree.

That said, I want to thank them. They know who they are, and they are doing tremendous work helping keep the community informed.

Alphabet Soup

Before we really get into the proposed amendments themselves, it is important to have an idea of how the Master Plan Land Use Map directly affects your community and quality of life. Often when the community discusses Master Plan issues and the zoning allowances that result, we inevitably end up using an alphabet soup of acronyms that are sometimes difficult for citizens to understand. This is by design. The power in many of these Master Plan Land Use Map amendments come from the zoning designations they allow according to the law, but those allowances are anything but obvious to the casual observer.

Think about it this way, if you live in a neighborhood of traditional New Orleans shotgun doubles, and someone comes to you and asks if they can build a 60 foot tall, 5 story building with luxury condominiums with 5,000 square feet of ground floor commercial space that doesn’t require extra parking, you and your neighbors may immediately become alarmed and make time to call the City Planning Commission (CPC) and City Council about how you don’t like that idea.

On the other hand, if the same person comes to you and asks to change the “FLUM” in the Master Plan from “RDL-Pre” to “MUM,” you may not really know what that means, so you don’t say anything. You also may not know what it means six months later when they ask to change the zoning from “HU-RD2 to MU-1,” so you don’t say anything then, either. Fast forward a month later where you get invited to a community meeting and they show you the plans for that 65 foot tall luxury condo tower and the trendy restaurant they plan to open on the first floor. You and your neighbors become alarmed and go to the city, but the city tells you the applicant has been “working with the community for a year” and “nobody had any problems with this plan in the last 12 months.”

Then the city tells you that the zoning allows the applicant to build what they’re asking for. The applicant has already gone through the process, secured the proper land use map changes, and those changes made the zoning changes “consistent with the Master Plan,” and now there isn’t a whole lot that can be done about the decision. CPC and City Council approve the project, some folks on the internet complain about the “corrupt” process, but when you go back and look, everything was done within the letter of the law.

Now, if you ask me about this process, I would tell you there’s a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. My biggest problem isn’t in a “corrupt” system, it is in an obscure system where citizens and voters and taxpayers never really know what is going on in their community until it is too late to say anything about it. I personally find that incredibly undemocratic, and I believe processes like that tear at the fabric of strong communities. While that sort of thing is all technically above board, it breaks the public trust through omission and obfuscation, and citizens throw up their hands and take a fatalistic, disengaged attitude toward their own city government. Sound like any place you know?

That’s why the following amendments are so important – they’re part of an alphabet soup of changes proposed to the Master Plan Land Use Map and they determine the zoning allowed in your neighborhood. These changes may not look like very much when viewed as a combination of letters on a public notice, but they mean a hell of a lot in the legal process of what zoning designations they unlock.

Getting Bigger

Together the Future Land Use Map and the zoning designations they allow determine the scale of buildings (how big they are), the intensity of land use (how much activity they involve), and the density of land use (how many people can live in an area). The following items are on the agenda for the January 24th meeting of the CPC. A list of all Future Land Use Map changes can be found here: http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1216_FLUM_Tables_Final.pdf


  • Request Number PD-4-6: Councilmember LaToya Cantrell request to change the land use map for 2545-2627 Banks Street from Residential Low Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre) to Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). The big land use change any time you move from RLD-Pre to MUL is the “mixed-use” part, because that increases the kinds of commercial uses available for an area. This is primarily an increase in land use intensity, because commercial uses generate more traffic than residential uses.

    MUL would open zoning that allows smaller Neighborhood Business Districts (HU-B1 and HU-B1A), as well as a zoning designation called Historic Urban Mixed-Use (HUMU). While everything is dependent on the size of the parcel, HUMU zoning allows three story buildings up to 40 feet tall, which could include up to 5000 square feet of ground floor commercial without requiring additional parking, and residential units (apartments or condos) on the second and third floor. When considering changes to MUL on the Land Use Map, a good example to think of is Freret Street between Jefferson and Napoleon, especially by Cadiz Street. (http://czo.nola.gov/Article-12#12-1)

    My main concern with this proposal is the encroachment of commercial uses into residential areas, and the pressures that will put on the residential units to become commercial units. Thing is, with the VA hospital a block away, Tulane Avenue redevelopment within 200 feet, the Broad Street commercial corridor on the same block, commercial use here may be a foregone conclusion.



  • Request Number PD-4-7: Councilmember LaToya Cantrell request to change the land use map for multiple addresses bounded by Canal Street, S. Broad Street, Cleveland Ave, and S. White Street from a combination of Residential Low Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre) and Mixed-Use Low Density (MUL) to Mixed-Use Medium Density (MUM).

    Here’s a change where things could get really big in a hurry. The way this block is laid out already, you’ve got Mixed Use Low Density (MUL) along Canal and Broad, with Residential Low Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre) on several empty lots facing Cleveland and White and the smaller houses on the other side of those streets. Remember how MUL was described above, and think of Freret Street as an example. That can already happen here, but this proposal is asking to go even bigger.

    MUM opens up a lot of zoning designations that go bigger scale, higher intensity, and higher intensity. While this would include the rather innocuous Multi-Family Residential Districts (HU-RM1 & HU-RM2), even those can put hundreds of apartments or condos on a block if the parcel was big enough and developers applied for high enough density bonuses (http://czo.nola.gov/Article-11#11-1-D).

    But the big changes with MUM on the land use map comes from Medium Intensity Mixed-Use 1 (MU-1). This is the 60 foot tall, 5 story, ground floor commercial, above ground residential zoning that’s best Mid-City examples would be the American Can and the recently approved Edwards Communities apartments along the Greenway. (http://czo.nola.gov/Article-15#15-1-D)

    My opinion? I can see MUM working on Canal Street on the downtown side of Broad, where the monolithic hospital complexes and larger scale buildings are already located. It makes sense to see larger buildings driving towards the skyline downtown. Above Broad, however, the scale of traditional development along Canal is much less monolithic, and I’d like to see it stay that way. There’s already plenty of room and scale to develop property along Canal, since so much is already in the MUL land use map, which already allows a whole range of uses.



  • Request Number PD-4-17: City Planning Commission request to change the land use map for 2644 Palmyra Street from Residential Low Density Pre-War (RDL-Pre) to Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). This is a change like PD-4-6 above, where a residential area is being moved to allow additional commercial uses. This actually increases my concerns about the commercial encroachment I mentioned before with PD-4-6, because this is on the other side of the same block. Though I have to wonder if this is more about the properties facing Broad that are already mapped MUL than anything about this individual property.


  • Request Number PD-4-18: City Planning Commission request to change the land use map for multiple addresses bounded by S. Galvez, Banks, N. White, and St. Louis Street from Mixed-Use Low Density (MUL) to Mixed-Use Medium Density (MUM).

    This is a problem for me, because it makes a blanket land use map change on specific properties within a large area without really letting the folks that live nearby know what is going on. And let’s not mince words here, there are a lot of folks who live nearby one of the properties that will change if this is amendment is approved.

    When the Master Plan was adopted, the parcels along major thoroughfares were remapped and upzoned to encourage larger scale, more intense, and more dense development along those streets. This is why along Canal Street, Broad Street, Galvez Street, and the Greenway the land use map already has most parcels listed as Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). As I’ve already noted and Freret Street has proved, you can already develop an awful lot of residential and commercial spaces within the allowances of MUL land use.

    But since the adoption of the Master Plan and the CZO, that development didn’t happen. Now, in what I think is an attempt to incentivize investment, we’re seeing proposals like this one to allow even larger scale, higher intensity, and higher density uses. What we will be told is that “this isn’t a very big change,” but as I’ve shown above, MUM can get real big real fast.



  • Request Number PD-4-48: Owner initiated request to change the land use map for 3100 Banks Street & 416 S. Lopez Street from Residential Low Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre) to Mixed-Use Medium Density (MUM).

    This one is another in a long set of proposals for this property. The owners have already submitted proposals for zoning changes separate from this Master Plan amendment. Those have been through CPC and will be on the City Council agenda soon enough. (http://cityofno.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=2&clip_id=2523&meta_id=353934)

    The thing is, making one lot Mixed Use Medium Density (MUM) right here in the middle of a low density residential neighborhood does not strike me as the intent of the Master Plan at all. Honestly, if there’s no rhyme or reason to Master Plan land use mapping, and the city will just approve changes like this without regard to the surrounding neighborhood’s historical development pattern, why on Earth do we have a Master Plan or a Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance at all? Proposals like this remind me how many people really just want New Orleans to be Houston where anyone can put any type of building anywhere for any reason.


Now, let’s be clear. Everything I just wrote is my opinion and my opinion only on items of public interest and public policy. If you see something on here you don’t like, or something that you do, don’t complain to me. I’m only some guy writing stuff on the internet. Ain’t nothing I can do for you I ain’t already done.

If you want to fuss at someone who CAN do something, contact a city decision-maker. For stuff like this, that’s the City Planning Commission and your City Council members. You don’t have to be some sort of expert. This is America, all you have to have to talk to your government decision makers is an opinion. We live in a participatory democracy, so feel free to participate!

(Just make sure that when you do, identify your opinion appropriately according to the correct Request Number.)

To tell the CPC what you think, email CPCINFO@NOLA.GOV. They’ll put your thoughts in the public record for any proposal. Full contact info here for letters & phone calls: http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/contact-us/.

If you want to take it a step further, tell your City Council members: http://nolacitycouncil.com/meet/meet.asp?id=45. Remember that no matter where you live in New Orleans, you have 3 representatives on the Council, your district reps and the two at-large members.

And don’t forget to share your thoughts with your neighborhood organization. Neighborhood organizations don’t have any power and can’t do much, but they do host meetings and communicate with the city on a regular basis. Letting them know how you feel can go a long way to amplify your voice. If you’re in Mid-City, you can reach Mid-City Neighborhood Organization at (board@mcno.org).

Citations

Back in 2008, the citizens of New Orleans voted to amend the City Charter and give the Master Plan the force of law. I was one of the folks who voted for it, because everyone I knew who was engaged in a land use or zoning situation complained about the capriciousness nature of the process and the mysteries that clouded every decision. Like so many reforms, the intent was to make city planning and land use decisions more transparent, easier to understand, more equitable, and more accessible. It was thought that giving the Master Plan the force of law would remove some of the ad hoc decision making from the process.

Some of these reforms worked. Others didn’t. But one thing the Master Plan did require was a formal amendment process. Guess what time it is? You got it. Amendment time. City Planning has already scheduled their public hearings for January 24 and 31. You can see what amendments will be on which agenda on their website (http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/).

I didn’t make any of this up, y’all. You can find all the information online at the CPC website. And if you’re not in Mid-City, don’t worry, there are plenty of Master Plan amendments for your neighborhood, too. You should talk to your neighbors about them.

New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments webpage:
http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/

New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments (itemized):
http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/master-plan-amendment-submissions/

You can also view where the proposed Master Plan changes are on a map of your neighborhood. Go to the above link, scroll to the bottom, and click on your neighborhood map. Mid-City is in Planning District 4 with Treme:
http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1007_FLUM_Amend_PD4-1_1.pdf

Saturday, December 24, 2016

New Orleans Master Plan Amendments Part 1: Smaller Changes for Mid-City

Back in 2008, the citizens of New Orleans voted to amend the City Charter and give the Master Plan the force of law. I was one of the folks who voted for it, because everyone I knew who was engaged in a land use or zoning situation complained about the capriciousness nature of the process and the mysteries that clouded every decision. Like so many reforms, the intent was to make city planning and land use decisions more transparent, easier to understand, more equitable, and more accessible. It was thought that giving the Master Plan the force of law would remove some of the ad hoc decision making from the process.

Some of these reforms worked. Others didn’t. But one thing the Master Plan did require was a formal amendment process. Guess what time it is? You got it. Amendment time.

City Planning has already scheduled their public hearings for January 24 and 31. You can see what amendments will be on which agenda on their website (http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/).

Wait. You didn’t know? It feels like nobody does. The most surprising thing to me is how few people even realize this process is going on right now and how important it is to your quality of life and cost of living. This is by design. At this point in the process, many of the amendments aren’t very clear about what they would do or how they would impact the lives of New Orleanians. Make no mistake, though, when folks start getting into the nitty gritty in the Spring and Summer, and these changes are closer to becoming law, you’re (hopefully) going to hear a lot more about them. I’m just trying to get ahead of the curve.

When I moved to New Orleans over a decade ago, there was a robust group of engaged citizens bird-dogging city planning and land use decisions. The front pages of now-defunct daily newspapers relayed proposals from this committee or that commission, talk radio shows were dedicated to what the future New Orleans would look like, neighborhood groups held meetings of citizens who were going door to door to tell neighbors what was going on, and bloggers would spend hours of free time pouring over public documents and connecting the dots between the deep pockets and city officials in a way that put many decisions in context.

Several of those profiles weren’t flattering. At one point, a former mayor told a press conference that the bloggers were undermining the recovery of the city. That mayor ended up in jail while bloggers and journalists won awards for reporting. Good times.

What I’m doing here is far more boring than that. It won’t win any awards and it hopefully doesn’t end with anyone going to jail. But the city of New Orleans is in the process of amending its own laws in ways that will affect my life and the lives of those in my community. Participatory democracy requires participation to function, and if you don’t participate, decisions will be made without your input. Complaining about it later won’t do too much good.

There’s also a lot of ground to cover, so I’m breaking it down into something less than a lecture. These are my opinions alone, based on research done by my friends and I, with links to public documents. This isn’t any official statement from any organization of which I am a part. I’ll do my best to describe what these amendments mean to me and what I think about them.

If you agree with me or even if you don’t, I encourage you to communicate directly with your city decision makers. The City Planning Commission wants to hear from you. Your City Councilmembers may not want to hear from you, but they’re the final decision makers. And if you want your neighborhood organization involved, you’ll need to tell them what you think about this stuff. No one can read your mind, and complaining on the internet can only do so much. You can bet the folks who want to change the laws are down at City Hall right now, talking directly to our civic decision makers. If you don’t like what they’re proposing, you’ve got to at least send an email or make a phone call.

I’m going to start with the easy stuff. These are the Master Plan Amendments for Mid-City, the neighborhood where I live. They also aren’t the whole list of Master Plan Amendments for Mid-City, just the ones I find the least controversial. After that 600 word introduction, I figure I’ll lead with some softballs.

The Smaller Changes

Each of these items are amendments proposed to something called the Future Land Use Map of the Master Plan. This Future Land Use Map is supposed to help guide city planners, appointed officials, and elected city council members as they make decisions about the scale of buildings (how big they are), the intensity of land use (how much activity they involve), and the density of land use (how many people can live in an area). These are items on the agenda for the January 24th meeting of the CPC. A list of all Future Land Use Map changes can be found here: http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1216_FLUM_Tables_Final.pdf


  • Request Number PD-4-12: Councilmember LaToya Cantrell request to change the land use map for 2739 Palmyra Street from Residential Low Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre) to Residential Medium Density Pre-War (RLD-Pre). This request brings the Master Plan Land Use Map into alignment with a previously approved up-zone at this location that allows a higher density – more residential units – in the space.

    Context: the existing up-zone was inconsistent with the Master Plan, but approved in support the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative (http://jpnsi.org/), New Orleans first public land trust. This project is an attempt to create permanently affordable housing in New Orleans, and is based on a model that has been successful in other cities. From a zoning and land use standpoint, there ought to be a better way for our laws to allow neighborhood scale multi-family residential developments like this one without unlocking the potential problems and legal allowances that come with designating it “medium density,” but for now no real middle ground exists. Zoning inconsistently with the Master Plan followed a few years later by lot-specific Master Plan amendments is probably not the best way to do this, but absent a better solution for this spot, here we go.

  • Request Number PD-4-31: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for multiple addresses at the intersection of N. Carrollton Ave and Dumaine Street. The lots in this area currently mapped as Neighborhood Commercial (NC) will be re-mapped Mixed-Use Low Density (MUL). As I understand it, this is part of a city-wide proposal to use the NC designation in more suburban neighborhoods and the MUL designation in the more urban neighborhoods. Despite the name change, the differences are relatively minor ones, as all these lots are already mostly “neighborhood commercial” and “mixed use low density.” If the shoe fits. (This is a similar type of change to PD-5-5 below, and changes like this will be found all over the city.)

  • Request Number PD-4-40: The City Planning Commission staff request to change the land use map for 501 S. Bernadotte Street from Open Space/Parkland (OS) to Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). This is the triangle of property on the outfield side of St. Patrick Park, between the neighborhood and the railroad tracks and I-10. Remapping this space would allow the private property owner to do something with this property that could include residential or commercial uses depending on what zoning it applies for.

  • Request Number PD-4-52: The City Planning Commission staff request to change the land use map for 2901 Canal Street. from Transportation (TRAN) to Industrial (IND). This is the RTA HQ Streetcar/Bus Barn. This is a nominative correction to the map that should have little impact. I doubt the City of New Orleans is going to abandon this important public facility and sell it off to some factory. But the noise and activity involved with the streetcar and bus barn justify the “Industrial” designation from a land use intensity perspective.

  • Request Number PD-5-3: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for 5290 Canal Blvd from Cemetery to Residential Single Family Post-War (RSF-Post). Some of the land owned by the church probably got mapped into the cemetery, and this corrects that so the church can do something on their property. Yeah, it is outside Mid-City. This is across City Park Ave in Navarre, but you always want to look at proposed changes nearby.

  • Request Number PD-5-5: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for multiple addresses between City Park Ave, N. Hennessy St, St. Ann St., and N. Murat Street. The lots in this area currently mapped as Neighborhood Commercial (NC) will be re-mapped Mixed-Use Low Density (MUL). As I understand it, this is part of a city-wide proposal to use the NC designation in more suburban neighborhoods and the MUL designation in the more urban neighborhoods. Despite the name change, the differences are relatively minor ones, as all these lots are already mostly “neighborhood commercial” and “mixed use low density.” If the shoe fits. (This is a similar type of change to PD-4-31 above, and changes like this will be found all over the city.)

  • Request Number PD-5-6: The City Planning Commission staff request a change to the land use map for 615 City Park Ave & 5501 General Diaz. This is Delgado Community College, and the change would remap from Open Space/Parkland (OS) to Institutional. Institutional is the designation usually associated with uses like colleges and hospitals. This is also outside Mid-City, on the other side of City Park Ave in Navarre, but you always want to look at proposed changes nearby.

  • Request Number PD-5-8: An owner-initiated request to change the land use map for 5068 Pontchartrain Blvd. from Residential Single Family Post-War (RSF-Post) to Mixed Use Low Density (MUL). This is on the other side of the Interstate from Mid-City, so I don’t really have an opinion. Just looking at proposed changes nearby.


Now, let’s be clear. Everything I just wrote is my opinion and my opinion only. If you see something on here you don’t like, or something that you do, don’t complain to me. I’m only some guy writing stuff on the internet. Ain’t nothing I can do for you I ain’t already done.

If you want to fuss at someone who CAN do something, contact a city decision-maker. For stuff like this, that’s the City Planning Commission and your City Council members. You don’t have to be some sort of expert. This is America, all you have to have to talk to your government decision makers is an opinion. We live in a participatory democracy, so feel free to participate!

(Just make sure that when you do, identify your opinion appropriately according to the correct Request Number.) To tell the CPC what you think, email CPCINFO@NOLA.GOV. They’ll put your thoughts in the public record for any proposal. Full contact info here for letters & phone calls: http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/contact-us/.

If you want to take it a step further, tell your City Council members: http://nolacitycouncil.com/meet/meet.asp?id=45. Remember that no matter where you live in New Orleans, you have 3 representatives on the Council, your district reps and the two at-large members.

And don’t forget to share your thoughts with your neighborhood organization. Neighborhood organizations don’t have any power and can’t do much, but they do host meetings and communicate with the city on a regular basis. Letting them know how you feel can go a long way to amplify your voice. If you’re in Mid-City, you can reach Mid-City Neighborhood Organization at (board@mcno.org).

Citations

I didn’t make any of this up, y’all. You can find all the information online at the CPC website. And if you’re not in Mid-City, don’t worry, there are plenty of Master Plan amendments for your neighborhood, too. You should talk to your neighbors about them.

New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments webpage: 
http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/

New Orleans CPC Master Plan amendments (itemized):
http://www.nola.gov/city-planning/mpamendments/master-plan-amendment-submissions/

You can also view where the proposed Master Plan changes are on a map of your neighborhood. Go to the above link, scroll to the bottom, and click on your neighborhood map. Mid-City is in Planning District 4 with Treme: 
http://www.nola.gov/nola/media/One-Stop-Shop/CPC/2016_1007_FLUM_Amend_PD4-1_1.pdf

Monday, September 05, 2016

The Fraudulent Case of Saint Teresa

Mother Teresa is a rock star. Her reputation is that of one of sacrifice and a life dedicated to the poor and the good. If you scratch the surface of the products of her life though, you would open a window into someone who dined with despots, praised warmongering dictators, and humbly received tens of millions of dollars in gifts in the name of the poor, only to have about 7% of those dollars actually trickling down to the ones in need. Her scandalous promotion to "Saint"makes me want to nominate Don Vito Corleone. He was a good Catholic too and at least the people in his neighborhood actually loved him.

CRIMINALLY FRIENDLY

Mother Teresa claimed many friends. From the Royal Family of the United Kingdom to our own conservative hero, Ronald Reagan. All lined up to shake hands and took their turn in line as she embarrassingly received offering after offering just so they could hear a few words of wisdom from such a pure and holy woman.

Among those, you could count Jean-Claude Duvalier in the early 1980s. Jean-Claude, before his overthrow in 1986 was the dictator of  Haiti, beginning in 1971. Before fleeing his country to exile in France, thousands of his citizens were killed or tortured, and hundreds of thousands fled the country in fear. While he lived a life of luxury, making millions in the drug trade and selling body parts from dead Haitians to medical schools overseas, poverty among his people was considered the most widespread of any country in the western hemisphere. He was apparently an okay guy to our newly appointed saint, who in 1981 flew to Haiti to accept the "Legion d'Honneur" award, and receive a quick donation(from embezzled funds from the state). In return, she showed her gratitude with public statements of support. She praised Duvalier as "loving their poor" and that "their love was reciprocated". Her testimony on their behalf was shown on  state-owned television for weeks.

The other questionable friend I will mention was Charles Keating. He was a Catholic fundamentalist who would become famous for his role in the Saving and Loan scandal of the late 80s, where he was convicted of fraud, racketeering and conspiracy for his involvement in a scam which cost the federal government an estimated $3 billion dollars and left 23,000 customer with worthless junk bonds, many losing their entire life savings. Keating donated millions to Mother Teresa as well as unfettered use of his private jet when she was in the United States. As he was awaiting sentencing, she wrote a letter on his behalf asking for clemency. In the prosecuting attorneys own words in response to this letter; "No church...should allow itself to be used as salve for the conscience of the criminal." He also pointed out the money he donated was stolen money, and pleaded for her to do the right thing and give the money back to whom it rightfully belonged: "You have been given money by Mr. Keating that he has been convicted of stealing by fraud. Do not permit him the 'indulgence' he desires. Do not keep the money. Return it to those who worked for it and earned it!" Saint Teresa never replied to this letter.

Keating and Duvalier are just two examples(among countless others) that illustrate the level of filth Mother Teresa actively advocated for and called friends.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

The question then goes to, "okay, well at least she could do some good with the money regardless where it comes from, right?" Man that would be almost acceptable except that just wasn't the case.

While she received untold millions of dollars from despots, criminals and what you would call legitimate royalty, the money never actually trickled down to those who needed it. Independent accountants trace the lion's share of the funds(92-93 percent) was spent two ways. It was either for the founding of more nunneries, over a five hundred counted, to train more female personnel in the dogma of the Church or the cash went straight back to Vatican City itself. That left almost nothing to actually help any of the poverty stricken people that she was championed for.

You would think that given her well-funded programs, that she would make the places she represented better than when she left it. But one consistent theme was the complete lack of improvements where money was donated.

In one particular nursery, noted writer Christopher Hitchens asked where specifically $25,000 dollars went that was raised a few months prior to an official visit. The contributions was given on the pretense of buying cribs, diapers, formula and medicine. The nursery was exactly the same months after receiving this money.
According to Hitchens:

"The sister in charge said something to the effect that they had to give the money to the main MC(Missionaries of Charity) office-or something like that. They never saw a penny of it. One of the babies died during our visit-of starvation. He could have been saved very easily."

DEPLORABLE CONDITIONS

Saint Teresa was mainly known as nursemaid and "helper of the poor", with her hospice Home for Dying Destitutes in Calcutta serving as her flagship station all run by her Missionaries of Charity order, which she established in 1950. Despite routinely receiving millions of dollars, what is shocking is how criminally ill equipped the clinics were as well as how untrained the staff was.

The best you could say the clinics were rudimentary and haphazard, and at worst they were unsanitary and dangerous. There are many accounts, directly from volunteers that have testified to the inadequate care for the dying. No proper beds, just lines of cots on a dirt floor. No tests were performed to determine ailments, thereby no separating contagious patients. No modern medical equipment was available. Needles were constantly reused without proper sterilization, which led to her nuns spreading AIDS and hepatitis. Toilets were used as a cleaning source. No visits by friends or relatives. Patients were restricted to their cots and no excessive movements were permitted.

Multiple journalists noted that there were many patients, in these "Houses of Dying" that Mother Teresa herself called them, that had curable, treatable diseases. Questions of transporting these patients were consistently rebuffed. Reasons given ranged from "well, they all might want to be cured" to in Mother Teresa's chilling own words; "their pain brings me closer to God."

MOTIVATION OF OTHER'S PAIN

People suffering from terrible, painful diseases such as cancer were not given painkillers or anything stronger than aspirin. There were multiple instances of Saint Teresa's wish to keep poor in their place of suffering. Her main priority was to convert the sick and poor to her religious dogma(and use them as a fundraising source).  Providing for the care and needs of the poor was not at all part of her program. In her own words:

"I think it is very beautiful for the poor to accept their lot, to share it with the passion of Christ. I think the world is being much helped by the suffering of the poor people. "

On another occasion, Teresa told a terminal cancer patient, who was dying of extreme pain, that he should consider himself fortunate, because: "You are suffering like Christ on the cross. So Jesus must be kissing you". She then freely related his reply, which she seemed to not realize was a passive rebuke: "Then please tell him to stop kissing me."

Ex-nun Kelly Dunham who worked directly with Mother Teresa in a convent in New York, was troubled by her experiences. She says that the thing that Mother Teresa should be accountable for is the "cult of suffering" that she has created. Kelly was moved by the pain and misery of the residents, but angered by her instructions on how to deal with it.

    "One of the goals of Missionaries of Charity is to love people but one of the things
we were instructed to do is cut ourselves off from loving people."

"They are in the business of alleviating suffering, but I think that they believe a lot IN suffering, and it's really tough to do both at the same time."

Most neutral observers of her activities found a troubling "Cult of Suffering" in Mother Teresa's activities. As she stated earlier, "their pain brings me closer to God." It seems clear that she was motivated by the religious conviction that keeping others in a poverty stricken, painful state was essential to her own spirituality. It should be noted when her own health started to fail, she spared no expense in getting the best possible medicines and kept her last days as comfortable as possible. I guess her "great sacrifice" was fostering millions(yes millions) of others to suffer so she wouldn't have to.

HERO? I DON'T THINK SO

Mother Teresa was a great Catholic. Vatican City loves her. She promoted the Church and its principles(especially its views on contraception) better than even some popes in the past hundred years. Her timing in being canonized couldn't be better for the Catholic Church who is seeing their numbers plummet due to being turned off by its Bronze Age values in modern times(never mind its pederast scandal) and need a hero to bounce back from a PR nightmare. 

I just wonder if the average person actually knows what she was all about before cheering for their new saint, because as Hitchens said, either Fanatic, Fundamentalist, or Fraud all seem more appropriate.

*Quotes and information was taken from various sources including; Christopher Hitchens "Hells Angel" documentary, Penn and Teller's BS series, and various articles from Patheos and Huffington Post. Any opinions interpreted are my own.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Letter to the Brunswick News Submitted in Response to UGA/FL on Saint Simons


To the Editor, 

           The purpose of this letter is to properly inform you of the results of the so-called "success" of Georgia-Florida weekend according to Dale Provenzano. As far as the local businesses and those who work them it cannot be described as anything other than an unmitigated disaster. I have informally talked to people who work at or own over 30 businesses, ranging from bars, high end restaurants, retail stores, garment stores, rental companies, to taxi services and have yet found a positive answer regarding the weekend. The responses ranged from 20%down to over 70% down. I'll say that again. 70% DOWN.  From busboys and bartenders, to renters who depend on this weekend to pay costs for the off season, this has had an incredibly negative effect on near everybody. This weekend for all of the aforementioned businesses is the real Black Friday for Glynn County. It is the last and busiest weekend of the year we can count on to cover our costs and get us through the winter. I know this may sound hyperbolic, but I can attest that Christmas is literally cancelled for hundreds if not thousands of people in the county. It was cancelled through the aggressive and, to be frank, offensive campaign Mr. Provenzano waged on "Frat Beach". He effectively put a huge KEEP OUT sign outside our community and it worked. I question the wisdom of putting that kind of sign outside a TOURIST community. 

             The scary side of this is what the tourists that actually came said. I heard repeatedly how they did not feel welcome, and they won't be coming back ever. These were not underage students. These were twentysomething to thirtysomething alumni who were so offended by their experience, they wouldn't come back on any other weekend as well. That's a lifetime of lost revenue for the county for every person offended. They did not feel comfortable going anywhere with a minimum of 5 pairs of eyes attached to a badge. Who wants to vacation to a place where anywhere you go, you are surrounded by police officers?  Never mind the well publicized letters Mr. Provenzano wrote to the universities as well as the newspapers, which, in my mind, as well as those who came for the weekend, sent the message, "We don't want you here".

             The police officers presence just flat out made everyone feel uncomfortable and seemed excessive.  That "6,000 people on the beach" is just a scandalous lie. According to officers who were there, a more accurate estimate places it at 1,500. Even the picture in the paper was used from two years ago. Besides, I got more complaints on people unable to get to the beach. One complaint was lack of parking. The reason for that, at the coast guard station at least puts the first FORTY spaces occupied by police cruisers across the state. These foreign cops were antagonistic to the locals as well(despite the glowing review of Mr. Provenzano).  I know of at least one restaurant owner, who had four cruisers parked right in front of his front door, politely request "gentleman, I know you have a job to do, but you are making my workers as well as my guests uncomfortable, would you mind just parking across the street?" only to be rudely rebuffed. This is a poisonous environment for the entire tourism industry.

            I understand there was an outcry for a more controlled island during this weekend. Something probably has to be done. However, the tactics used herein offended myself as resident, and has proven overbearing and incredibly shortsided financially for the county. While this particular weekend will only force a few hundred restaurant, retail, and hotel workers(just to name a few) to sweat and stress their personal bills entering the slow season, I don't think it is overstating that the economic future of our community is in question considering the actions and attitude of this commission.

John Jersey Koedderich

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Kim Davis Should Be In Jail or Impeached


This is a no-brainer for me. She has a job to do, she outright refuses to do it, so she should be fired. There's not another job in the country where a boss goes to an employee and says to do their job, the employee flat out says "No", and said employee keeps their job. Time for her to take the train.

That being said, she is an elected official. It's not that easy. Though I think firing her is the proper course of action, that elected official thing puts it into a more complicated box. According to Andrew Wolfson of the Louisville Kentucky Courier-Journal;

 "Kentucky law allows a commonwealth’s attorney to indict county judges-executives, justices of the peace, sheriffs, coroners, surveyors, jailers, county attorneys and constables for malfeasance in office or willful neglect in the discharge of official duties, for which they can be fined up to $1,000 and removed from office upon conviction. But for some reason lost to history, the statute doesn’t include county clerks". 

This says that a simple pink slip doesn't exist in this situation. The Kentucky House of Representatives would have have to charge her with an impeachable crime, then the Senate would try her. Kentucky governor Steve Beshear would have to call a special session of the General Assembly in order to pursue impeachment. This is the obvious, costly, long-winding approach.

Even as someone as repugnant as I find Kim Davis, I will throw her one bone. This new law was passed after she got elected and started her post. While I think that she should just do her job like the law instructs her, otherwise be dismissed/impeached for willfully neglecting her official duties.  I'd be willing to give her an  (overly)reasonable compromise.

Since she ran and won her post before this "offensive" law was put on the books, she can remain as County Clerk throughout her current term without necessarily participating in the one law she has a problem with, as long as others in the office perform the duties prescribed without her interference. Then, in the next election, Mrs, Davis, or whoever wins that election must perform the duties of the land in accordance to the law of the land.

Funny thing, is that is almost the exact compromise Judge Bunning of the United States District Court offered her. The court offered her a HUGE olive branch. Instead of issuing licenses contradictory to her religious beliefs(bigoted, ignorant, and downright hateful that they are), they said to let others do her job for her, and for her to just not sabotage the process. She was jailed because she defied the court's orders, not because of the religious beliefs she held. Even after her release, she has undermined the process by trying to say that all licenses issued without her participation are illegal(even though the District Court has assured those obtaining them that all issued licenses are legal). She has even gone so far as to alter the licenses themselves. According to John Cheves of the Lexington Herald-Leader;

"Davis changed the wording of the marriage licenses so they no longer carry her name or the words "Rowan County Clerk," which she says would wrongly suggest her approval. Next to that place, now crossed out, are the words "pursuant to federal court order," followed by the case number of one of the lawsuits against her, and then Bunning's initials.
Also, the deputy clerks who issue licenses must sign as notaries public, not as Rowan County officials"


Read more here: http://www.kentucky.com/2015/09/14/4035866/kim-davis-deputies-can-issue-marriage.html#storylink=cpy

This is blatant defiance of the Court's orders. She should be put in jail immediately.

My own personal feelings is that this is a hypocritical, awful woman that is truly giving Christianity a bad name, even if other Christians don't realize it. She is promoting her stance of hate and intolerance with the shield of Christianity wrapped around her.

Kim Davis is not a trailblazer for religious freedom. Far from it. She is a prime example of deceptive language religious oppressors use to elicit favorable reactions to their one-sided policies. She is using her power as an elected official, to defy the law of the land and even a specific court order, in order to force others to adhere to her own bigoted religious beliefs. Those beliefs, twisted as they are, are absolutely hers to practice. Nobody is saying that she, herself has to marry another woman. However, the law of the land, including the First Amendment I might add, says that no government agency can force the citizens to adhere to any religious beliefs. Kim Davis is an elected official. The law says she can believe in whatever she wants, but she cannot in any way, use her public office to encroach those beliefs on her fellow citizens.

Kim Davis is not Rosa Parks. She's the bus driver.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

What These Monuments Stand For

So I actually have a nuanced and complex opinion on the monuments and street names in New Orleans that honor the mythology of heroes to the so-called Confederate States, the cause they fought for, and the cause these monuments were built to celebrate. But since so many of the folks who want to keep these monuments and street names and all they represent, who defend them with bombastic and hyperbolic statements as if this is some simple issue, I feel it is only right that I return the favor with my own oversimplified position.

Throw these things in the damn lake and let them be buried in the mud.

These are monuments and honorifics that celebrate people who took up arms against the United States of America and for four years of open warfare attempted to destroy our nation. They fought for the "rights" and "freedom" of some human beings to own and enslave other human beings deemed inferior due to the color of their skin.

The period of open warfare did not achieve these political goals, and instead  secured the Union, ensured emancipation, and provided for the expansion of civil rights to previously enslaved Americans. A period of insurgent warfare and terrorism followed, as adherents to the old system attempted to restore the old order of things, where the rights of newly freed citizens would again be diminished due to the color of one's skin. There are monuments celebrating this warfare as well, right here in this city.

These are not questionable assertions or theories. These are the facts backed up by the historic record, often written by the very hands of the men who fought to destroy the Union and the men who fought to destroy the rights of others after the Civil War ended. These writings and statements of purpose we considered so uncontroversial that the very organizations that would later hold these men up as paragons of Southern patriotism and pride would preserve the very writings and statements of purpose that make up this historical record. They would do so unashamedly.

They would be able to do so because the simmering and unending insurgency in the South became too expensive for white Northern sentiment to justify.  White Northern sentiment, after all, was not a monolith thrown behind support of civil rights. In the end, the old temptations of power and money conspired to undermine the projects of Reconstruction and civil rights. In the end, certain interests in both the North and South realized what could be achieved with white sectional reconciliation, and what material wealth could be gained by keeping millions of citizens just above the institution of slavery, in the strangling arms of Jim Crow.

That white sectional reconciliation, that return to something close to the old order, was something to be celebrated. And what better way to celebrate the eventual "victors" of an issue than by building grand monuments to them, in places of public note? What better way to honor them than to have grand thoroughfares graced with their names? What better way to enshrine their "restored" legacy than to name schools for them? All of these are the ways our culture and civilization celebrate the giants among men.

What better way to say "we told you so" than to place the losers of a war in the highest pinnacles of cultural honor and, in the process, legitimize and polish away the ugly motivations behind the cause they fought for and attach some higher civic meaning to the military loss?

And once that higher civic meaning was attached, and the ugliness of "they fought to own other human beings" was washed away from their legacy with stories of defense of home and hearth and question of rights, all white Southerners were encouraged to buy into the fantasy (or discouraged from challenging it too fiercely). Many could now double down on the belief that superiority of skin color was real, that forces for "good" might have lost on the battlefield but won out in the end. Whole cults of personality grew up around the mythology of these men and reinforced the social hierarchy with laws, social behavior, and violence if anyone got too far out of line.

When monument defenders talk about the "history" they so desperately want to preserve, that is the history they are preserving whether they want to believe it or not. There are no footnotes of fine print on these statues and street names that say "we know this is complicated, but..." If such footnotes existed, if such context was added, then this may not be such an emotional issue for so many.

Look at the opposition, after all. The most popular online petition in support of keeping these monuments to heroes of slavery's cause demand the Mayor "stop talking about them." That's because even the civic conversation itself is dangerous - the very discussion of why these monuments were built puts the lie to the heroic mythology. Uncomfortable truths aren't usually welcome, and many individuals in the South are deeply invested in the bedtime story of what these men on those monuments represented. They aren't interested in the real context, the real history, or facing how the legacy of that history still runs deeply within our civic DNA to this day.

And those who would scold us for "erasing history" by moving these monuments out of their places of public prominence to places where appropriate historical context can be provided? They are defending monuments that served specifically to erase a more accurate accounting of history. They are defending monuments used to rewrite the cultural narrative of the South and celebrate the violent failure of Reconstruction's nascent civil rights project. They are defending trophies of propaganda to the Lost Cause. There are no footnotes or fine print on those statues and street names, after all.

There are plenty of places to put truth to the lies these monuments tell. General James Longstreet of the Confederacy moved to New Orleans after the Civil War and became a strong civic leader in this town. He was one of the officers in command of the integrated Metropolitan Police when the White League attacked the State House in New Orleans in 1874. He was pulled from his horse and was shot and injured. His actions for the Reconstruction government of New Orleans and Louisiana did not endear him to those who believed in the Lost Cause. Despite all his investments in New Orleans, there is no monument to James Longstreet in this town. But there is a monument to those who attacked him and his men at the Battle of Liberty Place.

PGT Beauregard of the Confederacy returned to his home in New Orleans after the Civil War. While he was no fan of Reconstruction or social integration, he grudgingly accepted political and economic rights of newly freed citizens. In the interest of calming New Orleans - violence was bad for business - he spoke eloquently on the topic. These words were not palpable to the Lost Cause, so do not appear on his monument on Esplanade Avenue.

Finally, at the corner of Carrollton and Banks, there is another monument. It is a plaque at the base of a flagpole, dedicating Carrollton as the "Avenue of Palms" to veterans of a different war, a forgotten war, Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1991. There is no proud US flag on the rusty flagpole, the plaque could use a good powerwashing to really make out the words, and the base itself is off-kilter and surrounded by litter.

You'd think that, with all these signatures and speakers loudly defending the history and deep meaning of New Orleans' monuments, at least of few of them would mention this humble bit of metal and concrete as worth of at least a little attention. But we know it isn't really about the monuments themselves, it is about what they represent. And uncomfortable truths aren't usually welcome.