Thursday, November 08, 2018

Never Concede While Votes Still Count

If we really cared about American democracy as much as we all say we do, it would be perfectly normal for a political campaign not to concede electoral defeat until all the votes were actually counted. Instead, a refusal to concede quickly is almost always controversial. This is part of the cultural sickness that infects American political life: we'd rather bullshit each other than actually do the work to count the damn votes and figure out who won. Waiting until the votes are verified is considered bad sportsmanship, despite the fact that in the face of all our machines and broken processes, we don't actually know the final counts for days after an election.

But we're so socially obsessed with the perception of winners and losers, we want to see an immediate result, and we want to see it even if we know the process we used to get there was pure garbage. In order to pretend that garbage doesn't exist, our toxic culture bullies people into giving up early even if the score could be close. We would never accept that kind of behavior in sports, but we do it all the time in politics. That's because our society views sports as more comfortable competition than politics, and despite the hours of political news we see every day, that news is a mile wide and an inch deep.

One reason I am thankful for the transformative Stacey Abrams campaign: every election cycle we see endless examples of our badly managed voting process from state to state. Just like clockwork, once every election cycle is over, the news rolls right past those critically important stories about our democracy breaking down. That sort of mass media amnesia helps give an impression of legitimacy to what are essentially preliminary election results, and generally keeps citizens from correctly identifying - and then fixing - those problems.

Not this time.



Even if Republican Brian Kemp ends up moving in to the Georgia governor's mansion eventually, the whole of his campaign - orchestrated from the Secretary of State's office that manages elections - casts a lasting shadow over the supposedly democratic process of electing leaders at the ballot box. It is tough to take the election day faux pas trophy any time Florida goes to the polls, but Kemp pulled it off. Not to take anything away from him on that matter: Kemp has been dedicated to destabilizing Georgia elections for a long time.

Promoting civic participation in voting should be the core mission of civil government, but Georgia under Kemp failed that test very badly. From the byzantine voter registration rules that allow citizens to be thrown off the voting rolls, to the voting purges that somehow started in the states of the So-Called Confederacy as soon as the Voting Rights Act was sunset, to leaving voting machines in the warehouse to ensure long lines in population centers and predominantly minority neighborhoods, to suspiciously forgetting to include power cords with voting machines that were actually delivered to population centers and predominantly minority neighborhoods, so many things contributed to put obstacles in the way of voter participation it strains credulity to believe these were accidents. This wasn't a new fight, either, as Kemp has spent years accusing Abrams of encouraging too many citizens to vote. He even threw up a Hail Mary in the last days of the campaign, accusing Democratic Party members of hacking voting machines in a howler of a political attack so unsubstantiated it may have well been an interview for a job at Fox News.

Still, despite all of those structural advantages, Kemp is only the "apparent" winner of the Georgia governor's election. The decision itself was such a razor-thin margin, there are enough outstanding votes, provisionally cast votes, and absentee votes still uncounted, there's little faith in the actual outcome of the election at this point. And what happens when your Secretary of State has already vaporized his own credibility? How do you even trust the folks who are counting the ballots?

And that was Abrams' next big move: she refused to concede until every vote was counted.

A refusal to concede a razor thin election until every vote is counted is such an important stand for a Democratic candidate to take, it bears mentioning that Florida gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum initially conceded his election chances before he even realized the margin was so thin, Florida law requires an automatic recount. It is almost as if every Democratic candidate has been more scared of being called a "Sore Loserman" than they were interested in actually winning elections. That's not a good look for the political party that should be making a bigger deal of counting every vote, encouraging more people to engage in American civic life, and investing policy solutions to address widespread structural voting obstacles.

Abrams is changing the culture on this point with her refusal to concede, and her affirmation that every vote must be counted. This is a critical stand to take, and a critical time to take it. With so many eyes on Georgia, she is focusing the lens on an issue our American public life would prefer to ignore. I hope future candidates and campaign workers are paying attention. Especially on the Democratic side of politics.

.




Monday, February 19, 2018

In the Mail: Opposition to New Orleans Power Plant

Usually, when I send a letter to my elected officials, I feel calmer at the end of the process, because I have participated in my democratic institutions. For this one, I was angrier by the end of the letter than I was when I sat down to write it. 

Sent to the Utility, Cable, Telecommunications, and Technology Committee (UCTTC) of the New Orleans City Council:

As someone who works and lives and pays a power bill in Orleans Parish, I would would like to go on record in opposition to the proposed New Orleans Power Station in New Orleans East. My opposition is founded in the unjustified higher cost of living approving the power plant will create for residents, a lack of demonstrated need for this power plant, and the environmental concerns made plain by the July 22 and August 5 flooding in my neighborhood.

One of the biggest issues of last year’s election cycle was the ever-increasing cost of living in Orleans Parish, and how these increasing costs are constantly squeezing residents. Despite our already-high power bills, residents and businesses also endure an unacceptable number of power outages every year. Entergy blames a shortage of local power generation, but the truth is that our power transmission infrastructure is simply not up to the standards of most American cities of New Orleans’ size.

I’ve lived here long enough to remember the Storm Restoration Charges that were supposed to assist recovery from damage done by Hurricanes Gustav and Isaac and improve our transmission lines, but those additional charges to consumers never seemed to translate into more resilient infrastructure. Looking forward, how much will rate-payers be asked to increase their bill in the inevitable event that a power plant in New Orleans East floods due to storm surge or a rain event? Rate payers will be stuck with the triple cost of Storm Restoration Charges, paying for the new power plant, and then paying additional money to repair future damage to the power plant. That’s a whole lot of money ratepayers could be stuck with, without a whole lot to show for it.

When it comes to this civic decision-making process, Entergy is a regulated monopoly. Rate payers like me do not have another option to choose when it comes to electricity delivery, and the only recourse we have is for our elected officials to hold the company to the highest possible standards. I have been following the issue as closely as I can in my free time, and I feel that Entergy has not made convincing case for this power plant. As my elected representative, I ask that you consider our needs and research in making this decision.

I also believe the decision is moving forward without adequate civic notice or understanding of the issue. While you may feel this is being done by holding the minimum required number of public meetings before Council committees – I’ve read various media reports that the process has been going on for over a year – many of my neighbors do not understand what decision is being made and how it will impact their cost of living. This feels like yet another public decision where the New Orleans City Council serves as a final arbiter of whether Entergy gets to stick us with a higher bill for this power plant, while few New Orleanians even know this issue is being discussed.

Workers in this city should not have to arrange to take time off work to attend the few hosted meetings while attempting to understand intricate impacts of a new power plant, especially when we are the ones being asked to foot the bill for a wealthy corporation. For a capital expenditure of this nature, Entergy should be required to make presentations to citizens across the city, and the City Council and Mayor’s Office should help facilitate those meetings. We know Entergy has the time and money for such meetings, as we can see their endless advertising on social media. I got yet another email from them today. It’s insulting to see Entergy use our hard-earned money to advertise a project with a guaranteed return on investment of 11% (from NOLA.com: http://www.nola.com/business/index.ssf/2017/04/entergy_recharges_its_new_orle.html).

My savings account doesn’t get that good of a rate.

Finally, there are numerous environmental concerns with the project. For a city that strives for resiliency in policy making, I’m not sure how the City can justify the location of a new power plant in the environmentally fragile area of New Orleans East, which is experiencing the highest rate of ground subsidence in the Parish. Power plants are major users of groundwater, a use that is unregulated in our state but that we know contributes to subsidence. We should be seeking to keep as much water in the ground as we can, not extract millions of gallons for a fossil fuel-dependent plant that will exacerbate climate change and relative sea level rise.

 City leaders constantly refer to New Orleans as the “tip of the spear” when it comes to both our environmental risks and our innovations in sustainability; our risks from climate change and global warming, today and in the future, are existential crises. To green light a new fossil fuel-dependent power plant—to ask New Orleanians to pay out of their pockets for increased environmental risks—is unacceptable.

Thank you for your consideration,

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The Brunch Scene

A Democratic representative and  Republican representative who have known each other for years meet for brunch one day...

Dem: "Let's order some eggs for breakfast."

GOP: "I'm not ordering food until you get folks at the next table to eat some Tide Pods. Those things look delicious."

Dem: "No way. Tide Pods aren't food."

GOP: "Well I guess you don't really want eggs, then."

GOP (loudly, to room): "THE DEMOCRATS DONT WANT ANY OF YOU TO HAVE EGGS!"

Dem: "You said to get eggs, we'd have to make the folks at that table eat Tide Pods." (points)

Folks at the Next Table: "We don't want to eat Tide Pods, that's dangerous!"

GOP: "But they look delicious!"

Dem: "Tide Pods may look delicious, but they're really laundry detergent. You can't eat them, you use them to wash clothes."

GOP: "Why can't we do both? You're taking away Real Americans' God-given freedom to eat Tide Pods!"

Dem (incredulous) "What?"

GOP: "WHY DO YOU HATE AMERICA?"

Dem (aside, exasperated): "This happens EVERY time we try to hang out."

Guy in MAGA Hat from Another Table: "One of my friends back home ate a Tide Pod once and he was fine. Said it was way better than bath salts."

(A NYT reporter suddenly appears and asks to interview Guy in MAGA Hat.)

Dem (loudly, to room): "OK folks I've looked up the list of ingredients in Tide Pods."

(Dem reads long list of complicated sounding ingredients in monotone voice. Adds emphasis to a word no one has ever heard of.)

-Intermission-

(Dem finished reading list of Tide Pod ingredients.)

Dem: "And that's why you shouldn't eat Tide Pods." (Sits)

Guy in MAGA Hat (to GOP and NYT reporter): "Is she still talking?"

GOP: "Too focused on ingredient politics."

NYT reporter (writes) ::Tide Pods divide hurts Dems in Heartland::

Dem: "OK maybe we can work across the aisle and come up with a bipartisan solution. How about we compromise an a la carte Tide Pod with every order of eggs?"

GOP: "Nope. The Folks at That Table have to eat the Tide Pods, or we're not getting any eggs for brunch."

Dem: "The Folks at the Next Table don't want to eat Tide Pods for brunch! But maybe they'd agree to Tide Pods on their plate."

Folks at the Next Table: "No, actually we don't want Tide Pods anywhere near our food, thanks." 

Dem: "Sorry. The American people want bipartisan solutions."

GOP: "Well, actually, the American People want the Folks at the Next Table to eat some Tide Pods, and they want Democrats like you to stop obstructing the rest of us from eating eggs."

Guy in MAGA Hat: "Yeah!"

 NYT reporter (writes) ::Are Dem Policies Creating Egg Shortage?::

-Scene zooms out to restaurant kitchen-

Server Working the F***ing Brunch Shift: "They. Are. Arguing. About. Eating. F***ing. Tide. Pods."

Line Cook Working the F***"ing Brunch Shift: "Those are the same ass****s who couldn't tell the difference between a s***hole & a s***house last week?"

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.