Progress on New Orleans Plan

New Orleans The recovery czar, Ed Blakely, pirouetted importantly this week in New Orleans and revealed the 17 (not 15) areas where the City of New Orleans was committed to investing a billion dollars in focusing infrastructure improvements. Importantly, the largest single targeted investment was highlighted at $147,000,000 for the Lower 9th Ward. This is a HUGE VICTORY and hopefully represents a turning point in the potential recovery of the entire city.

ACORN was the only organization invited to the announcement and the only citizen organization outside of public officials and others on the recovery staff.

Mayor Ray Nagin, following the announcement, deliberately came over to Vanessa Gueringer, Chair of the ACORN Lower 9th Ward group, and went down towards his knee and bowed while kissing her hand.

The picture in the Times-Picayune of the announcement showed the bow from the back and wrote about it in the article with a quote from Vanessa about the progress this represented.

The picture in the New York Times was again of the ACORN houses on Delery Street finished last month with ACORN signs in front of the houses.

The picture on the front page of the Times-Picayune on the story of the plan showed three hands pointing to the circle in the middle of the Lower 9th Ward. The hands belonged to ACORN leaders Gwen Adams and Vanessa Gueringer as well as New Orleans Head Organizer Tanya Harris. Gwen caught me in the hall on Friday afternoon and said, “Wade, it’s time for there to be ACORN jewelry!” I asked her what she was talking about and all she said then was, “It’s in my hands!” Later looking at the picture again, I got it!

And, everyone is now getting it after more than 18 months of struggle, we have finally come around the corner and there is a concession that the Lower 9th will be coming back as well as New Orleans East and other key areas where ACORN and its allies have worked. There is a lot of crow being eaten by a lot of people in a lot of places, but importantly for the people of New Orleans, finally the message is being sent by the City through the fog of war in the wake of the hurricane that people are going to be helped — finally — to come home.

All of the people to all of the homes!

Ps. Whatever I have said about Commissar Blakely, he is a quick study and is ALL about the politics. He may make it in this city after all!

Lower 9th Ward residents Tanya Harris, Vanessa Gueringer and Gwendolyn Adams look over the recovery profile maps to see how their homes will be affected by the new plans (3/29/07).

Rising Inequity

San Francisco        After two straight days of meetings of the Tides Network boards, including the Tides Foundation and the Tides Center, my head seemed to be spinning with numbers.  Nonetheless, it was arresting to see the results of the analysis by Professor Emmanuel Saez at UC-Berkeley and his colleague Professor Piketty of the Paris School of Economics documenting from Internal Revenue data in excruciating detail the spreading inequity between the richest and the poorest of America.  Somehow on both ends of the economic ladder we have managed, each on our separate rung in no small manner thanks to the tax giveaways of the current White House and the continuing boomlets of war and Wall Street, to achieve the greatest level of inequity since 1928 and the Great Depression.  What an accomplishment!

    The top 1% (people with incomes greater than $348,000 per year) and the top 10% (people with income over $100,000 annually) both managed to achieve these contemporary records.  The average income of the top 1%, according to the professors, was more than $1.1 million, a jump of 14% or $139,000 — the jump alone would have put them in the top 10% for example!

    If the “pie” of total income collected by everybody in America was put together, then the top 10% in 2005 (the year of these calculations) took almost half of the pie since they received 48.5% of what was in the pan (the record seems to be 49.3% in 1928 — a small and non-existent comfort).  The top 1% though gorged themselves since that little 1 out of 100 Americans ate almost one-fifth of the pie (19.8% — with the record being 23.9 in 1928 when gluttony was really something to see no doubt!).  

    Still keeping score?  The professors also figured out that the top 1/10th of 1% averaged $5.6 Million per fat head (up almost a million – ok, $908,000 to be exact) and the top 1/100th of 1% had an average income of $25.7 Million, having soared by $4.4 Million to make that mark.  These are bond daddies, brokers, movie stars, and a lot of other people that in all likelihood most of us have never met, I would bet.

    Not me though.  I had a meeting the other day in San Francisco with a gorgeous view of the Bay with a hedge fund head who reportedly made almost exactly that 1/100th of 1% average north of $25 million.  I calculated that the hour I met with him had he worked a full time on a standard work week of 2080 was worth more than $12,000.  Of course he must work more than a straight 8 to make $25 mil so with healthy overtime he surely does 2500 hours per year so the meeting only cost $10,000 for him.  If he was an 80 hour a week guy with no vacations then maybe it was only $8,000.

    This is all out of control!