So often in New Orleans, we write about the negative. Actually, the horrible, the gut-wrenching, the insane, the god-awful. And along with it goes the blame: the backwardness, the ignorance, the greed, the corruption, the incompetence which are often so easy to find, particularly in local governance.
But today Iíd like to give some credit where credit is due. First award: to the NOPD. Yes, I said it. While Iím still disturbed about the shooting of Adolph Grimes, I need to give credit to the NOPD for catching the rapist/burglar who has been assaulting people in the 6th/7th wards.
Like anyone in this city, I have often doubted the ethics, tactics and culture of the NOPD. And for a variety of reasons, some of which are entirely out of their control, I also have concerns about their ability to actually find violent criminals. With so many unsolved murders in the city, I had very little faith that the creep who beat my friend in the head with a beer bottle while trying to rape her in her apartment would get caught. Starting with a tip from someone in the neighborhood, the NOPD found this guy and heís now in jail.
Frankly, I know thereís a lot of good people in the NOPD, just like there were a lot of good people in the projects, trying to do their best in utterly untenable situations. And frankly, the NOPD doesnít get paid enough to do such a stressful job.
Second: Kudos to Gambit writer Alison Fensterstock for her coverage of hip-hop in New Orleans.
This one is long overdue. I wrote roughly a year ago about the failure of (white) arts and culture periodicals and radio stations to cover New Orleansí huge and idiosyncratic hip-hop scene. Now you may like hip-hop, or you may hate it. You may find it vapid, regressive, crude, repetitive and/or uninspired. Iím not a big fan of a lot of hip-hop either, frankly. I get sick of bounce pretty quickly, and thereís only a couple of Mystikal songs that I donít skip over on the CD player.
But hip-hop is here and itís here to stay; more importantly hip-hop is the musical and lyrical expression of the lives of African-American youth, and we are still in a majority black city. It deserves to be examined.
Fensterstock (likely with no prodding from me) stepped up to the plate. Her articles in Gambit about the “sissy” scene and Lilí Wayneís national success were excellent. Such attention has spilled over into the T-P: what prompted the hilarious Times-Picayune living section article comparing Lilí Wayne and Celine Dion?
And finally… a big thank you to LPSC member Lambert Boissiere, III.
(NOTE: The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) is the body that regulates utilities in the state of Louisiana, including our very favorite monopoly, Entergy Corporation. So if you wonder why your power bills are so high, I recommend that you start paying attention to what the LPSC and the New Orleans City Council Utility Committee, which regulates utilities in our city, are doing, and arenít doing, in your name.)
The LPSC did two very important things on January 14, 2009, and both were spearheaded by Lambert Boissiere. First was to pass an ethics rule prohibiting commissioners and staff from receiving free meals from regulated utilities. For practical purposes, this is only a step; LPSC members need to stop taking campaign contributions as well. However in direction this was a major change, and I was impressed as all hell by Boissiereís leadership on this one. Credit also needs to go to Foster Campbell, Commissioner from northern Louisiana, who has long championed this very sort of ethics reform to a mostly unsympathetic commission. For the record, Jimmy Field voted for the new ethics rule as well.
Second, the LPSC re-opened an inquiry into the feasibility of passing the stateís first Renweable Portfolio Standards (RPS), which, if passed, would require that utilities purchase a set portion of their power from renewable sources, such as wind, solar and biomass, a number that would increase modestly year by year.
For so many reasons- not only CO2 emissions but also energy independence and freedom from volatile fuel prices- this is huge. It may take a lot of political push to get it passed (thanks to the recalcitrance of our friends at Entergy) but if it does it means strengthening rural economies and the beginnings of clean, safe, reliable energy sources for the state.
Thatís all for now. So before I start sounding like Sheila Stroup, be sure to check in next week when we will return to our regularly scheduled programming of terror and failure. We would not want to let you down.