Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Warren Easton dubbed first Solar School

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 10:29 PM

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In this week's Green Matters, I take a look at the New Orleans Solar School Initiative (click the link for the full story). This morning, Entergy Corporation, Nike and the initiative's partners formally announced (and unveiled) the nearly $1.7 million effort that's been in the making since 2007.

This morning, Warren Easton Senior High School principal Alexina Medley proudly claimed her school as having the largest social array in New Orleans, and potentially, the state. Medley and partners in the New Orleans Solar school Initiative, in front of cameras, press, and, most importantly, students, offered  a rundown of the program and plenty of formal thank yous and best-of-luck-to-yous.

But on the roof, where only a few days before installers with South Coast Solar were wrapping up the finishing touches, there's something interesting. Still scribbled on tin roofing and cement are HELP and SOS messages — reminders of being trapped while the federal flood surrounded Mid-City. Now, riding shotgun with those messages, is a $500,000, 6,634-square-feet, 37,000 kilowatt-hours-producing solar panel installation, enough power for three houses. The system is capable of saving the school approximately $4,000 in utility costs, and could reduce emissions of up to 50,000 pounds of carbon a year.

The roof is entirely flat and whitewashed. By noon, it's blinding. No wonder it's a prime location. Rod West, president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, says Warren Easton was the first draw for the initiative (three other schools are slated for similar systems — up next is Joseph A. Craig Elementary) for several reasons: the school's history (96-years-old and still kickin'), central location and "where it was before and after the storm." The "unprecendented opportunity" for greenovation, he says, is one from Entergy's commitment to environmental responsibility and fiscal prudence.

At the unveiling, environmental sciences teacher Frank Coco lined up a group of students for a photo. Coco's classes will get to use the software that reads in real-time the panel's progress — charts, graphs, real-time statistics, all plainly laid out to see the system at work. "It's an educational opportunity,for real types of projects using alternative energies," West says. The day was hailed as a great day for young people by coordinators, who see the project as a launchpad for green jobs and kickstarting a green economy as early as high school.

Then again, one needs only to peer over the side of the building and see an endless row of cars parked along Canal Street. New Orleans won the battle today, but its war on carbon is only beginning.

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New Study Spot: Antoine's Coffee Shop?

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 10:16 PM

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Antoine's Restaurant (pictured with staff during its 150th anniversary in 1990) has a reputation for deep-running French Creole tradition and a resistance to change that has made its menu practically a museum exhibit. But some business moves since Hurricane Katrina are giving that reputation a run for its money.

After the disaster, the restaurant added brunch service for first time. Last spring, Antoine's transformed one of its many dining rooms into the Hermes Bar, the first bar in the restaurant's 169-year history.

The next planned move is to open a coffee shop and casual café on Royal Street, right around the corner from the restaurant. It will be called Antoine's Annex and serve coffee drinks, gelato, pastries and light lunches, such as sandwiches and salads, according to Charlie Daroca, chief operating officer of Antoine's.

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John Georges Sure is Acting like He's Running for Mayor

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 10:11 PM

John Georges and Quit Davis

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Photographs courtesy of Greg Rhoades

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John Georges hasn't officially come out and said that he's running for mayor -- he came just barely shy of saying so on the radio -- but considering his actions of late, you could pretty much count on it. See that picture up there? That's Georges with Jazzfest founder Quint Davis (far left in white jacket) on the back of a car at the head of the Young Olympia 125th Anniversary Second Line back on Sunday. See that bag Georges is holding in his lap? Well they were full of these:

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Georges for Mayor Bracelet

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He was also handing out plastic cups and Mardi Gras beads with the same slogans on them. Oh, and GeorgesforMayor.com has been booked, meaning somebody (probably Georges) has bought the rights to the URL and is creating a site for it.

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We were there filming second line footage for our brass band documentary and noticed Georges handing out the trinkets. With all the people that were out on Sunday (not sure on the actual count but it had to be in the thousands) I can't think of a better grassroots effort than giving out plastic cups at a second line -- most of which were promptly filled with booze.

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Now far be it from me, a humble sports and entertainment writer, to do any political prognosticating. But when someone who has already run for governor of Louisiana is talking about his possible platform on the radio on one day and is then handing out "Georges for Mayor" trinkets on the next, it's a good chance that that person is most likely running for mayor. Official announcement or not.

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Oh, and it always helps to have a guy like Quint Davis on your side. That should keep people from making any references to Tommy Carcetti from "The Wire" (though he did become Mayor of Baltimore and then Governor, so that may not be a bad thing).

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Quint with Georges wristband

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Landrieu/Vitter Amendment Rejected

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 10:11 PM

In a conference committee meeting held today to resolve differences in the House and Senate versions of the 2010 Energy and Water Development Appropriations bills, the committee declined to include the Landrieu/Vitter “Pump to the River” amendment as part of the legislation. The amendment, co-sponsored by Senators Mary Landrieu and David Vitter, provided funding for the Corps of Engineers to conduct a peer-reviewed, feasibility and cost analysis study on the proposed plans for permanent pump stations at New Orleans three outfall canals.

Aaron Saunders, communications director for Landrieu’s office, says the senator attended the meeting and attempted to explain to the House and Senate Energy and Water Committee, that the amendment had the unanimous, bipartisan support of the Louisiana congressional delegation, Jefferson Parish Council, New Orleans City Council and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board. House members of the committee objected to the amendment’s language, saying they believed it would delay protecting New Orleans. Landrieu countered by stressing the 18-month feasibility study would take place simultaneously while the Corps initiated “option-neutral” construction of the pump stations.

There are three proposals — Option 1, 2 and 2a — for constructing the pump stations at the 17th Street, Orleans Avenue and London Avenue canals. Option 1 would allow for new pumps that would only be used during a storm event when floodgates would be closed, and the newer pumps would work in tandem with Sewerage and Water Board pumps to drain rainwater. Numerous critics of this option have said the plan still relies on pumping water through the designed and storm-weakened floodwalls of the outfall canals.

Option 2 would create permanent, all-purpose pumping stations, used when the floodgates are open or closed. Under Option 2, outfall canals would be deepened and paved, so water would gravity-flow to the pump stations, and some of the S & W pumps would no longer be necessary. Option 2A, or “Pump to the River,” would provide all of the improvements of Option 2, and would include a plan to add a pumping station in Old Metairie to send water directly to Lake Pontchartrain rather than through the 17th Street Canal.

The Corps has maintained that it only has congressional authority to build Option 1. In a report from earlier this year, the Corps estimated that Option 1 would cost approximately $804 million; Option 2, $3.4 billion and Option 2A, $3.5 billion.

Despite Landrieu’s attempts to get committee members to understand the amendment would not prevent the Corps from starting the project, committee members chose to drop the amendment. Landrieu says she hasn’t given up the fight, adding that today’s failure was prompted by actions from the Corps of Engineers.

“Today’s decision by House and Senate Energy and Water Committee leadership to drop our Pump to the River amendment is unconscionable,” Sen. Landrieu says. “This move seriously impedes our progress in establishing a truly integrated system of storm surge protection and interior drainage for Orleans and Jefferson Parishes. Today, the people in harm’s way – the citizens in Southeast Louisiana -- have been failed once again by Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps’ arrogance has led them to ignore the unanimous voice of local leaders and residents, ignore public hearings and ignore a vigorous floor debate on this issue. The Corps stubbornness ultimately subverted the House-Senate negotiations and today the bureaucracy won the battle. But this fight is not over. I will work closely with other Louisiana Delegation members in the coming weeks to take this issue directly to the White House and seek all available means to advance the Pump to the River project.”

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Wake Up, America — You've Got Levees!

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 6:41 PM

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In a recent Freedom of Information Act request to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, a local grassroots organization has discovered that the majority of the nation’s population, 54.83 percent (156,615,630 people), lives in counties that contain levees. Sandy Rosenthal, founder and executive director of Levees.org, which made the FOIA request to Homeland Security six months ago, says the rest of the nation needs to realize that the levee breeches that occurred in New Orleans are not isolated incidents.

“Levee failure and flooding is not a sea level issue; it’s not a coastal issue,” Rosenthal points out. “As exemplified by those poor souls in Georgia, it’s something that can happen in every continental state.”

The number of people living in counties with levees seems to be growing at an exponential rate, at least according to the federal government. At a congressional caucus, “Levee Protection: Working with the Geology and Environment to Build Resiliency,” held just last year, the accompanying agenda stated that 43 percent of the U.S. population lived in areas with levees.

“That’s a huge percentage difference over 43 percent,” Rosenthal says.

Considering the sheer number of levees, 883, (In a 2006 report, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers determined that at least 122 of the country’s levees were deficiently maintained) and the recent flooding in Atlanta, Rosenthal thinks it’s time Americans stopped blaming Mother Nature for all of its water woes.

“Flooding is almost never a natural disaster,” Rosenthal says. “It’s almost always manmade.”

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Bistro Battles On, Plans October Reopening

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 6:28 PM

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The fire that ripped through the Tropical Isle bar at the corner of Bourbon and Toulouse streets in May damaged more than the French Quarter nightclub.

The blaze also forced the closure of the bar's neighbor, the Bistro at Maison de Ville. But more than four months later the restaurant is gearing up for a come back.

"We're still committed," says chef and co-owner Greg Picolo. "With any luck at all we'll bounce back."

Picolo says smoke from the Tropical Isle fire did most of the damage to the Bistro. Among other things, the blaze next door consumed hundreds of cases of tall green cups kept in storage for the Tropical Isle's patented Hand Grenade cocktail, releasing plastic fumes. Rehabilitating everything at the Bistro from air conditioning ducts to the artwork after that exposure has been a huge undertaking.

The end for repairs is in sight but a firm reopening date is still a bit elusive, Picolo says, "because of all those reasons people in New Orleans are all too familiar with after Katrina to hear about again." Still, he's shooting for some time in late October.

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Wednesday morning news dump

Posted By on Wed, Sep 30, 2009 at 4:26 PM

SURPRISE WITNESS: Greg Meffert takes the stand.

LA TRAVIATA AND A BIG-ASS BEER: Opera makes a return to Bourbon Street.

SHRIMPING SQUABBLE: Jeremy Alford reports shrimpers and seafood processors are fussing and feuding over prices.

ACTION JACKSON: Lisa Jackson, 9th Ward native and director of the Environmental Protection Agency, discusses the Obama administration's proposed "green economy."

FINE ARTS LEAGUE: The ever-wacky Running With Scissors troupe is presenting a one-night-only staged reading of John Waters' Female Trouble Oct. 20.

DOES MEYER MAKE TINFOIL HATS?: The H1N1 vaccine is coming down the pike, and the genius commenters over at nola.com are all over the government conspiracy to kill you and subjugate you to the will of the state with the flu shot. It is "a bio-tech soft-kill weapon designed by eugenicists within our government and pharmaceutical industry," notes one commenter, before going off on the fluoridation in our water. There's also something in there about 666 and Nazi concentration camps, but by then we were off to read Garfield.

• AND FINALLY: Enjoy the perfect weather. Humidity (but not heat) returns Friday.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Saints linebacker Scott Fujita: in support of same-sex marriage

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 10:31 PM

In an interview with The Nation's sports editor Dave Zirin, Saints linebacker Scott Fujita has taken an unusual stance for an NFL player: openly stating his support for same-sex marriage.

Zirin's story, "Can the NFL Tackle Homophobia?," includes quotes from a Huffington Post essay by Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo, who wrote:

If Britney Spears can party it up in Vegas with one of her boys and go get married on a whim and annul her marriage the next day, why can't a loving same sex couple tie the knot ... But now here in 2009 same sex marriages are prohibited. I think we will look back in 10, 20, 30 years and be amazed that gays and lesbians did not have the same rights as every one else.

Fujita agrees:

I hope he's right in his prediction, and I hope even more that it doesn't take that long. People could look at this issue without blinders on...the blinders imposed by their church, their parents, their friends or, in our case, their coaches and locker rooms. I wish they would realize that it's not a religion issue. It's not a government issue. It's not even a gay/straight issue or a question of your manhood. It's a human issue. And until more people see that, we're stuck arguing with people who don't have an argument.

Fujita has spoken out on other social topics before, including Japanese-American interment during World War II (his grandmother, Lillie Fujita, was forced to relocate to a government camp in Arizona in the 1940s). In a 2006 interview with ESPN.com, Fujita said, "Any prejudice has to be unacceptable."

Zirin reports that Fujita has endorsed the Oct. 11 National Equality March in Washington, D.C., and concludes, "When athletes like Fujita and Ayanbadejo speak out against homophobia, they are not only challenging the status quo but redefining a warped vision of manhood in the process."

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Canal Place Cinema: Dead Man Walking

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 7:41 PM

For a few more weeks, anyway. The cinema, thought to be DOA after a change in operators earlier this month, effectively got a stave of execution thanks to the New Orleans Film Festival, explains longtime manager Brian Jones. Quietly, Canal Place has continued screening films to record-low crowds on its regular schedule throughout September. "I would say that we're showing more films," Jones says, adding that Michael Moore's Capitalism: A Love Story, which opens Friday, will do so with an extra matinee.

Custody of the funky, beloved film house transferred in early September from Los Angeles-based Landmark, its operator for the past 21 years, to locally owned Southern, which runs the Grand Theatre 16 in Slidell. The decision was made to keep screening through the NOFF (Oct. 8-15), and new films have continued shipping to Canal Place — unbeknown to most, apparently. "My first five phone calls today were: 'Hello, are you open?'" Jones says.
The cinema will indeed close after the festival for a full-scale renovation, Jones reaffirms, adding a fifth screen and provisions for a drafthouse-like setup with food, beverages and more comfortable lounge seating. As for an ETA on the reopening, Jones is appropriately vague-yet-cinematic: "Spring 2010," he says, hands outstretched.

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Carville blasts Vitter

Posted By on Tue, Sep 29, 2009 at 4:49 PM

Political consultant James Carville has penned a gloves-off fundraising billet-doux for the Senate campaign of Charlie Melancon, taking square aim at Melancon's opponent, Sen. David Vitter. An excerpt:

After running around all summer scaring people about health insurance reform, Vitter decided a couple of weeks ago to endorse a plan that calls for eliminating all employer-based health insurance. The nearly two million Louisianians who have employer-based insurance should be scared about Vitter's plan: if Vitter gets his way, they'll be on their own.

And don't get me started on his record when it comes to supporting our military personnel. He offers paeans to troops — which I sure hope they enjoy, because if they're depending on Vitter, that's all they're going to get.

And, yes, the letter Goes There:

All these qualities would make Charlie an outstanding U.S. Senator. But he's also got one that matters more to me than all the others.

He's an honest man — which to me means you can figure out what he's going to do by listening to his words. He doesn't preach family values. He lives them in his more than 37-year marriage to his wife, Peachy.

Ouch. Tell us how you really feel, James.

Vitter is sure to respond; we'll bring you that letter, too.

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