(Photo credit: C.Pipes)

A friend of mine has a night -blooming cereus that she named Eudora, in honor of course of the famous Southern author Eudora Welty who had one in her own garden and was known for celebrating its buds with all night parties. When my friend’s cereus produced buds last week, rather than throw an all night party she sent a group text with a photo. Her message was filled with as much glee as Miss Eudora must have felt at her own blooms.  The flower finally burst into bloom last night and my friend stayed up all night long taking photos of it.  My text stream was filled with the evolution of a cereus this morning. By dawn the bloom was gone, closed up.

Miss Eudora has been much on my mind in past weeks as I picked up a volume of her collected stories recently. I have not read any of them in quite some time – since college, perhaps.  One exception would be “A Worn Path” which I use when I teach a creative writing class; other than that, the treasures of “The Wide Net” and “Clytie” have been long forgotten.  I spent several weeks this summer sitting outside under the shade of my magnolia rediscovering Miss Welty’s lovely southern prose and relishing the rich atmosphere she creates with her words.

There’s nothing more rewarding to me than picking up a book and rediscovering an old, favorite author.  While I read widely, both fiction and non-fiction, my preferences tend to Southern writers. Give me a Rick Bragg memoir, Flannery O’Connor, or even Faulkner and I am consumed with the words.

In the course of writing my soon-to-be-released biography of Cammie Henry I discovered the short stories of Ada Jack Carver, a bright light in the 1920s but who never produced anything of note after that.  Carver’s stories are rich in atmosphere and many have memorable characters such as old Baptiste in “Redbone” who initially seems to be celebrating the birth of a son by going into town to get drunk but there is more to the story…

What is it that makes Southern writers so distinctive?  Some critics contend that the Southern literary renaissance that began in the 1920s is still ongoing and I tend to agree with that.  When H. L. Mencken declared the south “The Land of the Bozart” and insisted that southern writers had produced nothing of substance, he fired up the pens and typewriters of every warm-blooded southerner who had a desire to prove him wrong.

The literature of the South is as unique and beautiful as its climate and its people.

I know that’s a matter of opinion — but it’s my opinion.

How long before this literature is targeted for criticism and banning as the Confederate monuments are?  Is that too much of a stretch?  Look at it this way: critics of the Confederate monuments say that the South lost the war, that the war was treasonous, that the Confederacy held slaves (as if the Union did not), and that the monuments were erected in the Jim Crow period; apparently their point with that last one is that these monuments are intended as some sort of subliminal white supremacy symbol.

This is all fallacious reasoning it seems to me.  These monuments were commissioned to honor the family that fought to protect their homes and their way of life.  And no, “way of life” is not code for slavery.  The way they lived was agrarian, it was slow and peaceful, it was with a work ethic and independent spirit.  Of course there were bad people who did bad things, but that has been the case throughout history.  Never has an entire culture been targeted because of that as is the case now.

One of our most beloved Southern writers was Harper Lee whose To Kill a Mockingbird is nothing if not a message on equality, tolerance, and dignity.  In Scout Finch we see the innocence of a child who has never been taught to see color in a person and who has never learned hatred or prejudice.  Those things are learned from adults and Atticus Finch’s lesson to his children was “put yourself in their skin and walk around in it.”  What are we teaching our kids now?

How many of us are living that way now?  How much of our hatred is learned and passed along to others?  How much of this monument mess and national anthem protest is just mob mentality?

And where does it end?  People ask that question often, but think about it.  For years overly sensitive lemmings have tried to ban books often citing The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Animal Farm, and of course To Kill a Mockingbird among many, many others as offensive in one way or another.

How is that different than monuments?  These books are in public libraries just as monuments are in public places.  What’s the difference?

To me, both books and the monuments are works of art and should not be subject to censorship.  I disagreed when the Ten Commandments were removed from courthouses and schools but at least I understood the reasoning behind it (“separation of church and state”).  You could point me to a legal position that made that clear.

Perhaps I’m oversimplifying things because of course books don’t equate to monuments in literal sense but censorship is censorship wherever it lies.

If our society does not stop with this over sensitive offended culture we are perpetuating there is literally no end to it.  Everything is a target.  If you are traumatized by a monument how could you possibly read Delta Wedding?  When will the book burning start?

Miss Welty abhorred the Civil War: she had one parent from the North and one from the South and she saw what the war did to Mississippi where she grew up (long after the war, of course).  “Ravaged” was the word she used. But she also knew that there are two sides to everything; her parents taught her that.

As we consider the modern debate of monuments, we need to remember that there are two sides to everything and that the men we see carved in these granite and bronze monuments were men – they were not without flaw and they were not perfect but they were human, just like we are, and we can learn from them still and we can admire their dedication to home and family.  My fear is that we want to remove them now but in another decade or two we will regret this choice and it will be too late.

The night-blooming cereus blooms only one night of the year. Their blooms are fragile and temporary and draw people to it in admiration and awe, but then it is gone until next year. Welty called them “a naked, luminous, complicated flower,” and maybe that’s what our monuments are. Perhaps we all just need to spend more time looking at the beauty of a thing.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – I read Tim Imholt’s post a few days ago on this blog with great interest.  I’ve done more than my fair share of “monument blogging” to the point that I’m wary of ever writing about another monument in my life, but it is a cause I think is important.

Tim makes a great point and one I appreciate; the media wants us to be freaked out about this.  They want controversy, they want protests, they want huge crowds of protesters with signs and firearms.  Drama sells.

I watched the “protests” in Dallas, too.  It made me sad to see the statue removed. I didn’t know the Robert E. Lee replica house was back there and that makes me feel a little better.

In Shreveport, I have been a little anxious as we have a “rally” coming up in a week or so.  There’s been a “call out” on social media for attendance (on both sides) at a rally around our Confederate monument.

Our case is a little different that those we are seeing nationwide.  Shreveport’s monument is on private land that just so happens to be in front of the courthouse.  The land was given to the United Daughters of the Confederacy in 1903 along with a $1,000 donation for the monument, and all this is recorded in the minute books of the governing body at the time, the Police Jury.  Our monument was commissioned in 1905 and dedicated in 1906.

So removing it is a bit more of a problem for opponents than in other cities.   The issue is now in the courts.

As far as the protests though, everyone saw what happened in New Orleans.  The problem there is that many locals didn’t want the monuments there removed.  Poll after poll proved that; of course a few did, but most did not.  The protests we saw on television and social media were driven by outside agitators.   One lady came from Oklahoma, dressed in Confederate garb and carrying a battle flag; as much as I admire her dedication and spirit, she was not from NOLA.  Another woman was from Florida and a man from Oklahoma.  These people brought protesters out in force because of their high-profile social media status and then comes the media.

What happens then is that perception is distorted.  In truth, on a local level, these monuments have stood with dignity and peace for over a hundred years in many cases. This sudden outrage is questionable.  The local people, as we saw in Dallas, aren’t outraged.  These monuments are part of their landscape and most people don’t even know what they are or who they represent, it’s just “a guy on a horse.”

A while back, an attorney in Shreveport appealed his convicted client’s case because the attorney said the monument interfered with the man’s right to a fair trial.  (He lost the appeal).

Shame on the media for perpetuating this nonsense. Let the locals decide what they want to do with their monuments and stop encouraging the frenzy.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Despite what anyone tells you, Common Core is alive and well across the country.  It’s not always called Common Core anymore because of all the negative connotations and observations after its launch, but it’s still there.

Some states have renamed the program.  In Louisiana, it’s called Louisiana Believes.  In New York, it is now called Next Generation.  Iowa now calls it The Iowa Core.

It’s still Common Core; the standards and tenets are still there.

It is an endless barrage of scripted lessons, mindless graphic organizers, and multiple standardized tests.  It’s mind-numbing.

In districts with scripted lessons, teachers must follow the script, use the pre-written slides, and read prescribed texts.

Yes, they’re called simply “texts” now, not stories, novels, or literature.  Students read predominately non-fiction now; treatises on how microbes work in the human body (in an ELA class), or foundational speeches.  There are a few token fiction pieces, but there is little opportunity for students to read “stories,” to get lost in the prose of Eudora Welty or Harper Lee.

Even worse, under a scripted curriculum, teachers lose the freedom to be inspiring.

Note this article in The Atlantic by one teacher about her experience. Her district was using a strict curriculum:

The sense of urgency in the building was palpable, and the pressure on teachers to increase student achievement was often overwhelming. The district required us to teach a curriculum rigidly aligned with a 15-year-old reading textbook containing outdated articles about Ricky Martin, ice fishing, and cartography in an attempt to provide relevant, entry-level reading for students. I refused to teach from this text on the grounds that it was both condescending and uninteresting. But district personnel insisted that teachers use the textbook, citing evidence that it brought up test scores.

And she rebelled.  She and her co-teacher used a variety of outrageous, engaging strategies to inspire their students:

A body of research illustrates the self-evident reality that students’ interest in what they’re learning is critical to their achievement. And student engagement, according to various studies, is often a direct result of teacher engagement. When Alice and I decided to teach outrageously, our attitudes about our work improved, which data suggests improved our students’ attitudes.

Scripted curriculums are proving to be a large cause of teacher burnout and contributing to an exodus of veteran teachers from the profession as it becomes clear than anyone can read a script and their veteran experience is no longer valued:

“…letting an ill-equipped teacher do what she pleases isn’t smart policy. But does a top-down trickle of scripts and mandates detached from students’ day-to-day lives really improve a teacher’s effectiveness? It could have the reverse effect, forcing educators who might otherwise gain a real knack for teaching over time come to rely on others to make decisions for them and become stunted in their ability to improve.”

There’s nothing wrong with rigorous standards or high expectations for both students and teachers, but these scripted curriculums should be used as a platform for teachers to pull from rather than as a rote teaching experience.  Students don’t all learn the same way and teachers don’t all teach the same way. After years of Harry Wong and Kagan, Jane Schaffer models and others, it’s clear that this is just another fad or flavor of the month in education, but at what cost?

Even the creator of LearnZillion indicates that teachers should retain some autonomy in their classrooms and that these scripted curriculum programs should be used to ease the burden of creating a curriculum rather than stifle teacher creativity, but not all districts use it that way.

The endless testing in and of itself is stifling to kids.

As parents we need to be aware of what’s happening in the classroom.  Just because it doesn’t say Common Core doesn’t mean that it isn’t.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – In a move that should be a surprise to no one at this point, the Orpheum Theater in Memphis has pulled the 1939 film, Gone with the Wind, from its annual summer screening after 34 years, citing complaints from offended citizens.

In a statement to the New York Times:

Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum Theater Group, said … “The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population.”

The slippery slope is now in our rear view mirror, folks.  We’re done here.

We can’t screen certain films because they are “insensitive to a large segment” of the local population?  Just imagine where this will now lead.  Let your mind wander and just imagine the films that could be offensive to any large group of people.  The list could be staggering.

I expect we won’t be seeing To Kill a Mockingbird on television or in libraries anymore, or The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, or even Harry Potter, because certainly people might be offended.

Let me guess – these are probably the same people walking around in their Che Guevara t-shirts.

The merits of the film are long established and don’t need my small voice to vouch for it; it won ten Oscars including one for Hattie McDaniel who was the first black woman to win an Oscar.

Margaret Mitchell once said that the theme of her novel is survival.  “What quality is it that makes some people able to survive catastrophes and others, apparently just as brave and strong, go under?”

I’m not sure the history of our nation will survive censorship.

The point is less the film itself but that our selective outrage has moved from statues to film.  We truly are in Ray Bradbury’s world.  When will the book burnings begin?

As for The Orpheum I would have applauded them had they had the nerve to stand up to intimidation and rejected censorship.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – The tragedy unfolding in Houston and surrounding areas in the wake of Hurricane Harvey is difficult to watch.  Forecasters are predicting flooding of “Biblical proportions” that will be ongoing throughout the week.  The devastation is hard to imagine.

The city of Houston accepted many refugees from Hurricane Katrina who are now reliving the nightmare.

As of Sunday afternoon, parts of Houston had taken on over 27” of rain; social media was filled with photos of flooded interstates, impassible roads, and desperate animals caught in the flood.

As the storm approached the coast as a Category 3 on Friday, Texas Governor Greg Abbott urged anyone who could evacuate to do so immediately. Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner on Friday tweeted “please think twice before trying to leave Houston en masse,” sending mixed signals to local residents.  For that, Turner is coming under fire by some.  The mayor defends his decision, saying that evacuation would have created a traffic nightmare.

By early Sunday, over 2,000 rescues had been executed as people went to their attics then to the roofs of their homes to wait for help.

Just as they did in the August 2016 Louisiana flooding, the Cajun Navy jumped into action and by Sunday afternoon The Texas Navy had been organized as citizen assistance became a critical component in the rescue efforts.  These citizen rescue groups coordinate with local officials and work with them rather than outside of them to maximize efficiency and to not hamper official rescues.  What the Cajun Navy is doing, still, in response to the Louisiana 2016 flooding has been amazing and now Texas is hopefully going to benefit from their experience and aid.

The Cajun Navy mobilized and headed to the Houston area Sunday afternoon.  If you want to listen in to the Cajun Navy as they work go here for instructions to download Glympse and Zello which works like a walkie-talkie.  You may need a password for the Zello Cajun Navy channel; if asked, the password is “help”.  You can go to the Cajun Navy page for more details.  I spent a while Sunday afternoon listening in as calls went out for fuel, gasoline, water, and baby formula in Dickinson, Texas. The coordination of the group is impressive to listen to, but chitchat is not encouraged.  You are asked not to speak unless you are actively rescuing, have a boat, or are mapping.

The Cajun Relief foundation set up a CrowdFunding site after the Baton Rouge floods last year that is still helping desperate flood victims when the federal government only fiddled and lagged in their response.  A similar site should soon be developed for Texas victims as soon as needs are assessed.

Within moments after the creation of the Texas Navy Facebook page, people began reporting locations of stranded people and animals.  A call went out for flat-bottom boats and soon volunteers from all over Louisiana and other areas began mobilizing to Texas.

Another Facebook group, Hurricane Harvey Animal Rescue, was formed for animal rescue and shelter needs.

A haunting image appeared on social media Sunday of women in a Dickinson, Texas nursing home, sitting helplessly as water rose around them. Many doubted the validity of the photo because it was so horrible, but the truth of the photo was confirmed and the women were airlifted to safety.

Late Sunday afternoon the city of Dallas made plans to open the Kay Bailey Hutchinson Convention Center to house another 5,000 evacuees in addition to the other shelters currently open in the city.

The flooding will be a problem even after the storm moves on, of course.  Rivers, creeks, and runoff will keep water levels high for some time throughout the affected areas.

There are ways that you can help from wherever you are.  Obvious organizations are the Red Cross and the Salvation Army.  But don’t forget the animal rescue groups that are transporting and housing animals, keeping them safe until they can be reclaimed by owners.  One of those is Austin Pets Alive and they could really use your donations.  NOLA has a growing list of hospitals, shelters, and charities that need help.

WFAA-TV streamed live on Sunday as school buses were mobilized to evacuate people from areas in south Texas from Galveston to Houston.

Early Sunday afternoon Ben Taub Hospital in Houston, a Level 1 trauma center, was being evacuated and was taking on water in the basement.  Houston Hobby Airport was closed until perhaps Wednesday as runways flooded.  George Bush International Airport also closed.  Thousands of travelers were stranded as all flights were cancelled.

KHOU news in Houston began flooding Sunday morning and had to evacuate the station; WFAA TV in Dallas began broadcasting KHOU’s ongoing coverage.

Meanwhile, New Orleans was bracing for up to 8” of rain from Harvey and Mitch Landrieu is still trying to get pumps up and running in the city after the last flood debacle a couple of weeks ago.  Mayor Landrieu held a press conference Sunday afternoon to assure residents that the city is ready for any flooding and reminded residents not to drive through flooded roads.

President Trump has announced that he will travel to Houston and other nearby cities on Tuesday.

Without question this has been and will continue to be a terrible disaster for some time to come. Rains will continue throughout the week and will begin moving toward north Louisiana by the end of the week.

Please continue to keep Texas and Louisiana in your prayers and donate where you can.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT – If you have not yet done so, please read DaTechGuy’s post on the Saturday protests in Boston.

I’m a college educated, professional woman and I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around all of this.  The irony is too great.

I’m trying to allow for the fact that I may have bias (my ancestors fought for the Confederacy), and certainly I don’t expect everyone to agree with my point of view.  Over a decade in blogging will teach you that right quick.  I support and even applaud your right to have a differing opinion and certainly support the right for everyone to be able to peacefully protest and express their opinion.

For me, from my perspective, I can’t help but tie these protests to New Orleans and the fact that Mitch Landrieu opened the door by moving the monuments there.

In Charlotte last week:

The group had gathered to protest plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee, and others arrived to protest the racism.

And we know what happened: the protest turned violent and a man ran into the crowd with his car, killing one woman and injuring others.

This could have easily happened in New Orleans as well; protests there during the removal of the Jefferson Davis monument were terribly intense and many protesters on both sides had visible weapons.  What happened in Charlotte could happen anywhere.

What’s this all about, though?

Is it about statues?

Is it about Trump?  What does Trump have to do with monuments that have stood for over a hundred years?

Why do we all hate each other all of a sudden?  Can’t we differ without hating each other?

I’m not a tree-hugging liberal singing Kumbaya by any means. I’m a Reagan conservative and I support leaving these monuments where they stand because they are part of our history.  You can’t change history.

Here in Shreveport, Louisiana, our city has been embroiled in the Confederate monument controversy as well, although thankfully without these ugly protests.  A committee of local historians and officials was formed and they voted to keep the Confederate monument in its place on the courthouse grounds; they’ve also voted to erect flaking monuments to Civil Rights and Reconstruction and to erect signage with a lengthy denouncement of the monument, including this language:

“This monument, erected in 1905 is in memory of those who defended the cause of 1861 to 1865 and the cause itself. That cause was the attempt, beginning in December 1860, in South Carolina, by Louisiana and twelve other states unilaterally to withdraw from the United States of America and establish the Confederate States of America in order to preserve the institution of slavery of Africans and their descendants. …

…It was erected after the Civil War ended, after slavery and involuntary servitude had been ended by the 13th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America (“except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted”), after the abridgment of the right to vote “on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude” had been prohibited by the 15th Amendment, and after the attempt at establishing state and local governments inclusive of former slaves and their descendants known as Reconstruction had failed due to their being disenfranchised by poll taxes and literacy tests, and by terror and threats of terror, including lynching, by whites. Thus, although they constituted 47 percent of Louisiana’s population in 1900, former slaves and their descendants had no say in whether or not or where the monument would be erected.”

Well.

There are some factual errors in that language and clearly some editorializing and bias, but the opposing side has the right (should the Caddo Commission approve this) to pay $10 a letter to put up this sign.

But why all this sudden fuss about monuments and statues?  Where does it end?

And why are we all of a sudden all fascists, Nazis, and white supremacists if we voted for Trump or if we support monuments?  THAT offends ME.

As DaTechGuy said in his post:

I was completely beside myself over this first of all Donald Trump won the majority of voters in 29 states. If a man can’t safely walk through Boston Common with that banner [“Make America Great Again”] no matter who is there that’s an incredible escalation as it is the dubbing of any person supporting Trump a fascist or a Nazi.

That’s just sad and frankly, wrong.

These protests happened all over the country during the weekend.  One in Dallas, “against white supremacy,” required police to chase protestors out of a Civil War cemetery which holds a Confederate monument:

Dallas police are using horses to try to break up a scuffle at a cemetery between people rallying against white supremacy and supporters of Confederate monuments.

Officers riding on horseback had waited as the confrontation became more intense, but they moved in to break it up around 9 p.m. It happened at Pioneer Park, a Civil War cemetery that houses the memorial to Confederate soldiers.

But wait – I thought the protesters wanted monuments out of courthouse squares and into museums or cemeteries!

The rules have changed?  Just that fast?

Where will it end?

Are we heading to another civil war?

It’s all too crazy for me.  As long as it was peaceful protests and working things out through legal channels, we can have that discussion. But when ANTIFA starts roping monuments, toppling them, burning them, without judgment or prosecution, things have gone off the rails.  Everyone does not get a trophy, you do not always get your way, and sometimes compromise is necessary.

We need a return to common sense and civility or our nation is finished.  We have to work out our differences peacefully. There is no other way.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  In the wake of last week’s flooding in New Orleans and the epic fallout of blame that has deluged us in the media, it is worth noting that the mayor of the city, Mitch Landrieu, has taken no blame whatsoever for the disaster that left many city residents and businesses all wet.

Saturday, August 5, New Orleans took on large amounts of rainfall in a short period – in some areas up to nine inches of rain – more than city pumps could keep up with:

New Orleans is prone to large rainfall events during the spring and throughout hurricane season. The city sits below sea level and is protected by a complex system of drainage pumps operated by the Sewerage and Water Board. After Hurricane Katrina battered New Orleans in 2005, the federal government sent billions of dollars to New Orleans for improved flood protection, better drainage systems and enhanced levees. In the aftermath of the flood Saturday, there needs to be an accounting of how all of those dollars have been spent.

After the disaster, through the week, the blame game heated up. Heads rolled. People were fired or resigned.  Landrieu tried to stay unscathed.

It’s important to note that Mitch wasn’t even in the city. He was at a conference in Aspen, CO for the purpose of beefing up his presidential credentials.   He didn’t address the people of the city for two days:

[When the flooding began], Landrieu was attending a “security conference” at the Aspen Institute and did not bother to address the people of New Orleans until two days after the storm.

In effect, Landrieu placed his Aspen Institute conference above the citizens of New Orleans. Any true leader would have taken the next flight back to New Orleans to direct the city government’s response to the flood. Instead, Mitch Landrieu hid behind his administration officials and when they failed to meet expectations, he blamed them, fired them and tried to convey to the citizens a false image of engaged leadership.

As it turns out, after a series of false numbers, 16 of the city’s pumps were offline or undergoing maintenance when the storm hit.  Sixteen pumps not working during hurricane season.

As of Saturday, seven days after the storm, Landrieu has still not reviewed Water & Sewerage Board log to assess the problem:

“I have not looked at the logs personally,” Landrieu said during a Saturday morning press conference called to give an update on the status of a turbine that generates electricity for many of the city’s pumps.

The Times-Picayune is calling for Landrieu’s head:

Landrieu must carry a lion’s share of responsibility here. He appointed public works director Mark Jernigan, who apparently never got around to using $3 million earmarked for catch basin repair and maintenance. The mayor also maneuvered Cedric Grant into his role of executive director of the Sewerage & Water Board as a way to overhaul an agency that has been described “as a den for contract-peddling and sweetheart deals for those with the right connections.”

And while Landrieu claims he had no idea things were this bad, his own people cry foul:

But the mayor’s version took a hit late Thursday (Aug. 10) when Sewerage & Water Board president pro-tem Scott Jacobs announced his resignation and criticized Landrieu for blaming employees when the mayor was well aware of all the problems before the storms hit.

If the public is angry with anyone, Jacobs said it should be at the Landrieu administration “for not saying years ago, ‘You are at risk.’ This is not the first time we’ve had turbines down. This time, we got caught.”

Perhaps this will be the event that finally forces Landrieu’s supporters to see him for the career politician that he is and shut down Landrieu’s presidential aspirations.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  New Orleans flooded this weekend.  Again.

A heavy deluge of eight to ten inches fell on the city in a short time Saturday flooding homes, cars, businesses and creating havoc throughout the city.  People in New Orleans realize that their city is basically a below-sea-level bowl and flooding is always an issue, but there is also an extensive system of pumps, drainage, and catch basins that work to keep what happened this weekend from happening.

Last year the New Orleans City Council approved $3 million to work on drainage infrastructure and repairs, however the Landrieu administration has not yet started repairs because they’ve been waiting on an environmental review…for over a year.

The Department of Public Works contends that just because the $3 million hasn’t been tapped, they have not been ignoring daily repairs and cleaning of catch basins.

Obviously drainage was not a Landrieu priority last year; Mitch was much more focused on monuments and equity circles.

In a press conference Saturday, Cedric Grant, head of the Sewerage and Water Board attributed much of the problem to climate change, saying this type of flooding will happen more often.

As their city flooded once again, many residents took to social media to deride Landrieu for spending money on monument removal rather than drainage.

For his part, Landrieu suggested citizens clean out their own catch basins:

“These no-notice rain and flooding events can be very dangerous, but luckily, there was no loss of life,” Landrieu said. “Today, we begin the hard work of assisting those who flooded and getting our streets passable for regular traffic. With additional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encourage all of our residents to clean in front of their catch basins.”

It’s admirable and expected that citizens to take responsibility for their own safety of course. There are over 68,000 catch basins in the city:

The Department of Public Works’ maintenance department is responsible for cleaning and clearing catch basins of debris. There are 68,092 catch basins in the City. Each year the City budgets resources to clean approximately 3,500 catch basins.

The broken and clogged catch basins have been a source of conflict for over a year as some members of the City Council question the lack of maintenance from the Department of Public Works. In April, a dead body was found in one catch basin and workers had to dig out clogs and termites to get to the body of Joseph Consonery who had been murdered.

New Orleans, after Hurricane Katrina, supposedly put drainage and the pump system as top priority:

Sewerage & Water Board officials have said city’s drainage pumping system is designed to handle an inch of rainfall during the first hour of an event and a half-inch each hour thereafter. Officials said all 24 pumping stations were on and working on Saturday. The temporary pumping stations at the ends of the 17th Street, London Avenue and Orleans Avenue canals only operate when the floodgates blocking water from Lake Pontchartrain are closed, and thus are not operated during a rainfall event. The three permanent pumping stations under construction at the ends of those canals are not yet complete, but will operate in the same way.

Officials said the city’s public safety agencies, including police, fire and emergency medical services, responded to more than 200 emergency calls related to flooding.

City residents are not satisfied with their capacity, however, as the social media outrage reflects. Even the French Quarter, and Bourbon Street, which seldom floods, was inundated and several beloved restaurants took in up to three inches of water.

Once again it seems that Mayor Landrieu’s priorities are askew. We can’t fault him for a significant rain event (can we?) but certainly it is under his leadership and responsibility that the pumps and drainage system are properly maintained.  And to send his minions out to blame the mess simply on climate change and tell people to clean out their own drains is, well, just typical of him.

If what’s in my catch basins are termites and dead bodies, I’m probably not going to be too excited about that project.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  I’ve done a lot of ranting and raving in this space over the past months about the rising crime rate in New Orleans.  I don’t live in New Orleans, but the city is one of our top tourist spots in the state and is known for many wonderful things like music, a diverse and fascinating culture and history, beignets, Mardi Gras, the best food in the world, and on it goes.  The city (and our state for that matter) has certainly had its share of corrupt and/or inept leaders through the years, and Mitch Landrieu certainly falls into the inept category in my opinion.

Landrieu’s focus has been on things like removing Confederate monuments and building Equity Circles instead of fighting the rising crime rate in his city.  Infrastructure crumbles, citizens grumble, but Landrieu continues with his own agenda.

The Advocate reported last week that as of this point, 400 people have been shot in New Orleans.  And I’ve often pointed you to the murder map, which as of this morning tells us that 103 murders have occurred in the city this year.  This makes New Orleans one of the most dangerous places in the country.  Simply unacceptable.

All that being said, there is no shortage of crime in my part of the state, either. The City of Shreveport, also led by a Democrat mayor, for what that’s worth, is in a spiral of crime and daily shootings; there is much senseless violence in this town.

Not a day goes by when we don’t wake up or turn on the news to hear of another shooting or murder. And what’s our mayor working on?  She’s lobbying to build a new arena (we already have two, by the way) in hope of recruiting a D-league basketball team to town (a couple of which have come and gone for lack of support).

The latest act of senseless violence in Shreveport occurred Saturday night at a Mexican restaurant. The family is known and much loved by loyal customers. The parents are immigrants, they and the kids are hard-working.  The children have assimilated beautifully: one attends Baylor Law School and another Louisiana Tech University.  The father died tragically last year so they’ve struggled onward, the boy left school to help run the restaurant with his family.  They are a beautiful example of the American Dream and what you can attain through hard work and dedication.

Saturday night, the boy’s mother was leaving the restaurant around 11 p.m.  Two thugs were waiting for her outside and demanded her purse. She screamed and her son, Juan, ran to her defense.  The armed robbers shot him two times in the chest.  He’s now in critical condition and has had his right lung removed.  It’s a horrible tragedy.

Two GoFundMe accounts have been set up for the family which have raised almost $40,000 in about 24 hours. One is here and the other is here.

But what are we worried about?  A basketball arena.  Our city is working under a huge shortage in the police department, much like New Orleans.

I’m not sure what the answer is: if it’s the mismanagement of city resources, the lack of jobs and a struggling economy, or maybe we are just more aware of these things these days.  Maybe it’s a combination of all of this and more.  We still have our Confederate monument – maybe that’s what it is.

What I do know is that the wide open spaces of neighboring Texas is looking better to me every day. Give me five acres of land in the middle of nowhere, a few cows, a couple of goats, some dogs, and I’ll be perfectly happy.

I don’t want to live in a city where young, bright kids with a fine work ethic is shot down for defending his mother.

I don’t want any part of it.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.

By:  Pat Austin

SHREVEPORT —  Last week Mark Rougeau at Rolling Stone wrote about the “hardcore” Pokemon Go players in the Los Angeles area. A casual player, Rougeau found himself in the world of hardcore Pokemon Go players after a post he made on Reddit begrudging gym turnover in his neighborhood brought him more attention than he intended.

Many are under the impression that Pokemon Go died after the initial flurry of play when the game launched but one look at ticket sales at the embarrassingly epic fail of Pokemon GoFest in Chicago this weekend would belie that.  Thousands of players descended on Grant Park in Chicago hoping to catch rare Pokemon and capitalize on special bonuses released just for the event.  Sadly, Niantic, did not plan well. Servers crashed, players were shut out, and the CEO of Niantic was booed from the stage when he came out to apologize for the problems.  Epic fail.

Scoff if you will, but some of these players came from all over the country and even from other countries. They bought airline tickets, hotel rooms, planned vacations, only to be stuck in long lines waiting to get into Grant Park and then shut out of the game once they got in.

By mid-afternoon Niantic was refunding ticket prices due to the “degraded experience” and giving players $100 in Pokecoins which can be used in the store to purchase a variety of items such as Pokeballs, extra storage, and incubators for hatching those eggs you get from Pokestops.  When problems persisted and the live stream wouldn’t even work, Niantic finally released two of the “legendary birds” in Chicago and then the rest of the country to appease wildly disgruntled players who were burning up social media in disgust and frustration with the mismanagement and poor planning.

Pokemon Go players are indeed hardcore.  The casual players have moved on but the ones that are left are serious:

When Pokemon Go launched in July 2016, it became an instant cultural phenomenon. It seemed like everyone was playing it, and if you weren’t playing, you were marveling about how it had caused the world to go crazy. Mainstream news outlets covered the “Pokemon Go craze” while players gathered in the hundreds and thousands to hunt for rare Pokemon in large cities like Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.

By the fall, the world appeared to have moved on, their precious Pokemon trapped forever in Poke Balls that would never again be tossed.

There are people that have become mini-celebrities over this game, famous on YouTube or famous in their own community for hitting top levels and holding down gyms for extended periods of time.

Intense rivalries can sometimes arise between teams (Mystic, Valor, Instinct) in areas and most players are hardcore angry about “spoofers” or cheaters.

I’m sort of a casual player of the game and have been since its launch (level 34, Mystic); most players I’ve met watched the show when they were kids and collected cards. I’m too old for that but I did buy cards for my son who collected them. He’s twenty-five now and he plays the game, too.  We play it together and it’s been a sort of fun thing we do together. Even Rougeau notes that aspect of it:

In a game with players as dedicated as those who love Pokemon Go, it’s inevitable that some ugliness will emerge. But many of the players I spoke with also said Pokemon Go is their social life. It’s how they met their friends. It takes them to places they’d never normally go, and they’ve gone on adventures that they cherish.

After Niantic’s release of the “legendary birds,” my son and I spent the day with 50 or 60 local players in a Telegram call-out group running from gym to gym to battle and collect these pixelated creatures.  It’s crazy, I know. But somehow it’s fun, too.  From a cultural aspect it is simply amazing to me to see literally 50 or 60 people (just in OUR group, there are others) descend from locations all over the city on one gym to battle a Lugia or Articuno.  It’s intense. Are there better things we could be doing?  Maybe. Are there worse things we could be doing?  Definitely.  Is it any different than the guy going out to play golf or the lady going out to shop garage sales? Nope.

The people I’ve met on these runs are great people and are of all ages and professions. There’s a chef, a marine, a commercial fisherman, a landscape man, a couple of stay-at-home moms, a teacher…it’s not just pimply kids that live in mom’s basement.

And it’s fun.

Niantic has invested a lot in this game and has worked hard to keep it engaging for players with special events, a slow rollout of Pokemon creatures, various challenges and now the epic fail event. Hopefully they will figure out what went wrong with the Chicago event and do better next time. Meanwhile, people are still spending money to play the game. You can play for free but I doubt you’ll find a hardcore player who hasn’t bought an incubator or some Pokeballs in the shop.

As the initial infatuation with the game has faded, the hardcore players remain and Niantic is cashing in. The subculture of players is huge and they are serious.

This isn’t about a bunch of pixels to them.

Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport.