Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cultures of Criminality: By New Orleans Standards, Chicagoans are Flash-in-the-Pan Amateurs

Sunday in the Big Easy. In the dog days of August.

Last night as we left the movie theater around 8:00-ish, my stalwart Toyota told me that it was still 97 degrees outside. Today, we're forecast to tiptoe around the century mark with about 437% humidity, and I worked up a sweat this morning just setting out the oscillating sprinkler to green-up the parched patch of grass in front of Moogie's Mansion, so I'm understandably feeling a tad peckish.

And New Orleans is frankly getting on my last nerve.

Just in the last few days, multiple examples of the culture of criminality that runs this town have been reported in the local newspaper, The Times-Picayune. Those examples don't even include the Jefferson clan with all their creative high jinks, some of which are still pending trial, or other former Councilmembers.

In Friday's Metro section alone -- (1) former Nagin-administration "Technology Chief" Greg Meffert and his vendor-accomplice, Mark St. Pierre, along with Meffert's wife, were granted another postponement of their trial on kickback and bribery charges. One reason offered by the defense in support of its Motion to Postpone was the need for additional time to prepare to defend a "superseding indictment" handed up by a grand jury in early July that refined and clarified its earlier indictment to include "deprivation of 'honest services' by public officials." We're talking more than 63 felony counts, here, for defrauding the public of a million dollars. Sadly, everyone also had conflicting schedules, so the trial was postponed again, and we taxpayers must cool our heels -- again -- until late January, 2011.

(Don't you love how so many New Orleans public officials engage in "family-time crime?" The family that conspires together . . . .)

Plus, -- (2) last week, a federal judge sentenced three guys to varying prison terms after conviction "for their roles in a kickback scheme that bilked almost $300,000 from the project to widen Interstate 10 in Metairie." At least that one had gotten to the sentencing part. I don't know when that crime occurred, but they've been working on widening Interstate 10 since about the Louisiana Purchase, so there's no telling.

Then today. Today's article sent me over the edge.

It has to do with gravedigging in the seven city-owned cemeteries. About the gravedigging thing: it seems that there is none, and that there has been none since Katrina. Except, of course, for the gravedigging services creatively supplied -- for cash only -- by a city employee.

You really do need to read this article to get the whole flavor, but for those who don't have the time, here's a brief synopsis:

You apparently must go to the Division of Cemeteries (a unit of the Department of Property Management) to make arrangements to bury a loved one, and a Mrs. Wilson did just that in regard to her late mother-in-law. Mrs. Wilson met with the Interim Supervisor of Cemeteries ("interim" since Katrina, 5 years ago) who handed Mrs. Wilson a seven-page application, without requesting proof of relationship, and demanded a fee, explaining that the fee:

"was for $450: $100 to open the grave, $350 for the gravediggers -- and don't
bring anything but cash because the gravediggers get really upset about having
to deal with anything but cash

You see where this is heading, don't you?

The $350 gravediggers didn't show up as scheduled, so Mrs. Wilson went to complain to the Cemetery Supervisor's supervisor, the Real Estate Administrator for the Department of Property Management. The Supervisor's supervisor was aghast, and explained that the city doesn't supply gravediggers -- that 's the bereaved's responsibility -- but it does collect a $100 fee to cover a "supervisor to ensure that the grave is being dug correctly."

As it stands today, after that very first complaint e-ver about a gravedigging scam, (A) a new city policy requires the payment of the gravedigging-supervisor fee to be paid by check or money order only, and (B) the Interim Supervisor of Cemeteries is still listed as a city employee.

I'm not sure what happened to poor Mrs. Wilson's deceased mother-in-law, but if I were Mrs. Wilson, I'd watch my back after ratting out the gravedigging scam.

City government seems to pay a whole lot of folks to duplicate one another's efforts and to supervise one another. I wonder how I can get me one of those $100-per-grave supervisor jobs? I'd be willing to stand out in the merciless sun to do it, cooling myself with a funeral-home fan; and I know a hole when I see one. I'd be perfect for the job!

And so it goes in the City That Care Forgot.

Chicago's public thieves can't be nearly as colorful.


  1. Moogie. Girl. I KEEP tellin' ya: "ignorance is bliss." You just pay too danged much ATTENTION! ;-)

  2. Moogie, we'd like to invite you to become one of our Authors in Alexandria. Invitations have been extended to you by email as well.

    You may mirror your existing posts from here or elsewhere or produce original posts there, on anything you wish, as you desire. For your contributions and participation we will blogroll you with no reciprocation required. See our Guidelines for Authors for full details.

    Come contribute your perspectives and opinions to the ongoing conversations there or, even better, start new ones of your own. Contact us through the site for full invitations and instructions.

  3. Moogie, as a life-long NW Louisiana boy (except for those four years I lived in Colorado), I have always held a certain disdain for The Crescent City.

    It always seemed to me that NO dragged our State down...took more than it gave, etc. I do not know if I was correct in all those assumptions or not. But, I know for certain that no matter how corrupt the rest of Louisiana is...without NO, we would certainly be pikers compared to other States.

    In fact, if we chopped off the city proper, and made it a State unto itself (which it kinda is), none could rival it for Statewide corruption. It's a mess. It always has been, at least since the 1700s.

    I can't tell you anything you don't know about it. Just make sure your burial plot is reserved somewhere north of I-10...better yet, north of I-20. Or I-30. (wink)