Monday, March 27, 2017

Hello, Slippery Slope

My post at DaTechGuy blog this week is about the slippery slope that we now find ourselves facing now that the 5th Circuit has approved removal of the NOLA Confederate monuments.

Have you seen the list of names that Take 'em Down NOLA wants changed?  It's incredible.

Can anyone tell me why Lane Street is racist?  Perhaps one of the apparently many offended people in New Orleans might know.

Maybe Mitch could tell me.

Maybe not.


Monday, March 20, 2017

Politicians Fiddling Around With Flood Relief Dollars in Baton Rouge

My topic at DaTechGuy blog this week covers the tragic fact that the victims of the Baton Rouge flood last August have not received one dime of the federal money that was allocated back in September.

The politicians are fiddling around trying to see who gets the biggest slice of that pie while people are living in gutted houses, tents, and campers.

The state wants to award a $250 million contract to a company to oversee flood recovery when there are already non-profits like The Cajun Relief Foundation who are in place and doing what needs to be done.

Go here and read my post.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The 5th Circuit Confederate Monument Ruling is a Slippery Slope

By now everyone knows the 5th Circuit came back with a disappointing ruling against the New Orleans Confederate monuments.

Be sure to read Jeff Sadow's column in The Advocate:

At best, that’s a shortsighted argument. Each of the generals’ statutes, after more than a century of residence, have become part of the local landscape, in addition to gaining listings in the National Register of Historical Places. Important period sculptor Alexander Doyle, who has several other works scattered around the city, executed each monument. Two figures played a positive role in area race relations after the war. Beauregard, who served as a state and local official, advocated during Reconstruction for voting rights for blacks. Lee, by his battlefield surrender and counseling in favor of peace and against continued military activity, helped spare the South from complete ruin and speeded the end of slavery.

As predicted, this move to remove Confederate monuments is now spreading to other parishes:

The Confederate monument removal frenzy has now spread from New Orleans to Lafayette, Louisiana. A monument dedicated to Confederate General “Alfred” Mouton should be removed, according to activists with the group Move the Mindset. A member of the group, Frank Crocco, says that he agrees with New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu that Confederate statues “don’t represent the community anymore.”

Where does it end?

Previous Posts at DaTechGuy blog:
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Solution to 172 Murders: Equity Circles (12/26/16)
Removal of Historic Confederate Monuments in New Orleans Thwarted -- For Now (12/21/2015)
Report from Louisiana: Update on the Confederate Monument Removal Controversy (1/18/2016)
The Lives of My Ancestors Mattered Too (2/1/2016)
The Ongoing Battle of the Confederate Monuments: An Update (4/18/2016)
Confederate Monuments and Unintended Consequences (6/27/16)
Report from Louisiana: Revisionist History and Confederate Monuments (9/19/2016)
Report from Louisiana: Mass Shooting in New Orleans While Landrieu Fiddles (11/28/2016)

Previous Posts on This Blog:
The Confederate Battle Flag Rises Again in South Carolina
Can the Violence in NOLA be Alleviated with Equity Circles? (12/26/16)
Shreveport Work of Art Still Needs Funding for Restoration (10/22/16)
Can You Help Clio? Restoration Fundraiser is Now Underway (9/5/16)
Epperson Demands UDC Remove Confederate Monument Within the Year (7/6/16)
Epperson's Continued Attack on the Confederate Monument (6/22/16)
Report from the Caddo Commission Meeting in Which Ken Epperson Blasts "Jake-Leg Bloggers" (6/9/16)
Caddo Parish Confederate Monument Under Attack (5/19/16)
Joseph Welsh Texada's Life Mattered Too (1/31/16)
The Heartbreaking Removal of the New Orleans Confederate Monuments (1/17/16)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

CPAS: "A Broken Jaw Isn't Extremely Painful." Please Help BJ

BJ
Update:  BJ is free and with a foster now. Turns out he might be Catahoula - he is a beauty.  He is headed to a veterinarian tomorrow.  Nice job by all volunteers and rescue involved and thanks to CPAS for working with them.

Added: This post has been slightly modified from its original version to reflect the fact that there are indeed some compassionate workers at CPAS and that BJ was given pain meds for his jaw. It is to their credit that CPAS put BJ in a kennel by himself for observation. But, is that enough?

This is BJ.  You see the pollen tassels on his cage?  He's outside in this cold, in a concrete slab kennel, with a broken jaw at Caddo Parish Animal Services.

BJ is of unknown age and breed because he was brought in as a stray. CPAS doesn't bother with those details in stray/hold.

BJ came into CPAS probably Friday March 10, and was put into the stray/hold kennels with several other dogs. To their credit, the workers at the shelter noticed something was wrong with BJ so they took him outside and put him in medical hold.

Carrie Zamora spotted BJ in the outside hold area and noticed he had not eaten and had thrown up bile in his kennel. Unable to chew his food, he swallowed it whole and then threw it up. She alerted a vet tech and as it is obvious that the dog has a broken jaw, (you can see his tooth is askew in the photo), Carrie asked that he be given soft food. Susan Votaw, also with POLA, tried to feed BJ some soft food from her hand, but he simply couldn't do it.

Carrie offered him some peanut butter from her finger but he could barely take that.

Carrie asked for a veterinarian evaluation and she and her team were told that BJ does indeed have a fractured jaw but that it probably isn't extremely painful.  BJ didn't appear to be in any pain when the vet looked at him but he was given an injection Friday for pain just in case. It's unknown if he got another shot.

But let that sink in for a minute.

It probably isn't extremely painful.  A broken jaw.  Which leads to starvation.

Let's recap: Caddo Parish Animal Services brought in a stray dog several days ago. The dog has an obvious facial indication that he has a broken jaw. They did not do a medical evaluation on him on intake, but instead put him in a kennel with other dogs. Eventually someone noticed something amiss and moved him outside where he threw up bile after trying to eat hard, dry food. This drew the attention of rescue workers who asked for an evaluation and were told that a fractured jaw isn't all that painful. They did concede to giving him soft food, which he still can't eat.

That's where we are right now with BJ.

BJ is a sweetheart of a dog: he is probably a lab/hound mix and he wants to please. Look at Susan's video of him: you can see he is wagging his tail as he looks up at her. He wants to please her but he can't eat the food she is offering. Look at the expression in his eyes. Don't shy away from it - this is our reality at this shelter.

POLA Foundation is monitoring BJ and plans to go into the shelter today and feed him via syringe. There's no way of knowing when he ate last and how dehydrated he is because he hasn't had a thorough veterinary evaluation that would include an x-ray for the jaw.

Volunteers Deanna Robinson, Stacy McKeever, and Donna Gill along have been working with Carrie and Susan to help this dog, but he needs all our help now.

In a humane shelter, this dog would be on IV fluids if needed and under veterinary care rather than outside on a cold slab with nothing but a bowl of food he can't eat and water he can't drink.

But CPAS is not a humane shelter: remember, Caddo Commissioner Mike Middleton pointed out on multiple occasions that CPAS "is not a rescue." While CPAS has made token steps toward improvement, there is a very long way to go. There are some compassionate workers there, but in so many ways their hands are tied.

POLA needs donations to help this dog. He will be taken to their veterinarian tomorrow, Monday, for x-rays and probably surgery. Hopefully there is no infection yet, but there likely is. If you can make a donation to help BJ, go here and click on the DONATE button.  Put "BJ" on the notes line and you
Cody
will know that your money is going directly for his care.

How many other dogs like BJ are at CPAS?

There's at least one more.  This is Cody. He came into CPAS a couple of weeks ago and was pulled by Donna Gill who is fostering him in her home because he is severely emaciated and sick. CPAS put Cody into an outside kennel with a larger dog so obviously Cody has been having to compete for food for at least the past few weeks and has continually gotten weaker. He's now in a proper foster situation, but how many more are there?

When will this city get tired of this and demand change?

Addendum: Perhaps CPAS used good protocol by putting BJ in medical hold and erring on the side of caution before giving him an anesthetic to look at the jaw. Perhaps BJ is not in real pain and as I said, I'm told that he received an injection for pain. My main concern is that this animal is at the shelter over the weekend, unable to eat or drink, and could be dehydrated. My issue is that he needs funds and donations to be pulled by a rescue for medical attention. I am at least grateful that CPAS lets volunteers and rescues in who can identify and help with these problems.





Saturday, March 11, 2017

Animal Shelter Success Stories: Why Can't Caddo be one of Them?

By now it is no secret that conditions at Caddo Parish Animal Services are deplorable.

The first-hand, documented cases of animal abuse and neglect have been exposed nationwide and it is now far past time for members of the Caddo Parish Commission, in whom authority over the Caddo Parish Animal Services lies, to take action.

The time for excuses and obfuscation is over.

I am challenging Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, Assistant Administrator Randy Lucky, members of the Animal Services Board, members of the Caddo Animal Shelter Advisory Board, the Caddo Parish Commission Animal Services Committee, and all members of the Caddo Parish Commission, to work together and turn this shelter around.

Don't let this travesty define your legacy.

Huntsville, Alabama brought their shelter from one that adopts out 30% of their animals to one that now adopts out over 90% through a higher volunteer presence and a spay/neuter program that has reduced the overall number of unwanted animals in their community.

Lafayette, Louisiana has turned their shelter around through an alliance with the Target Zero organization which has implemented changes in ordinances that now allows rescue groups to pull dogs more easily.  The city also found ways to fund a new animal shelter which allows their adoptable animals to be more easily seen and seen in a more favorable light.

In Baton Rouge, the Companion Animal Alliance negotiated with the city and took over their shelter. At the time the shelter had an 80% euthanasia rate; it is now around 30% and has empty cages. They've just broken ground on a new facility. The shelter is working with rescues to facilitate adoptions and has implemented a TNR program.

Hesperia, CA Animal Shelter cited lack of leadership as one of their problems and has turned their shelter around. They now have a 20% euthanasia rate and "some physical changes at the shelter include the addition of an X-ray room for shelter Veterinarian William Connelly, a policy and training manual, a dog ID engraving machine, a new work space environment for staff and an emphasis on social media and community engagement."

Longview, TX turned their shelter around from a 70% euthanasia rate to 40% currently and still falling. Their city leaders toured successful shelters across the country and then brought in a new leader who knows how to run a shelter. The shelter is now focused on spay/neuter programs, microchip programs, and has built a new facility.

In Waco, TX, the city has partnered with the Humane Society and has  dropped their euthanasia rate to 29%. They have made tremendous gains in improving the health conditions at their shelter by sealing floors, ripped out ceilings stained in rat droppings, and replacing AC systems. Puppies are isolated from larger dogs and the city is taking a hard line on back-yard breeders.

Shelters all over the country are cleaning up their act, lowering euthanasia rates, taking steps to control sanitation and prevent spread of disease, working to create family-friendly shelters where animals can best be shown in a favorable environment.

There is no reason why Caddo Parish can't do the same.

I challenge the Caddo Commission obstructionists to drop the egos, drop the politics, and take a step toward change.  The time for token "policy review" is over - we've heard that for at least a decade.

There is simply no reason why Shreveport should be stuck with an antiquated shelter with little concern for sanitation, with too many untrained workers, many of whom show no compassion. There is no reason why we should not have a shelter that is a true shelter, modern and up to date, family friendly, with meeting rooms for potential adoptions, with an on-staff veterinarian, an x-ray machine, working cameras to monitor kennels and situations, and with a strong alliance with rescue groups and volunteers.

Don't let this hell hole of abuse and neglect be your legacy.

Be the change.


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Caddo Parish Animal Shelter Remains an Embarrassment to the Parish

Will: Pulled from CPAS by Big Fluffy Dog Rescue
Text of my post on DaTechGuy blog, a nationally circulated blog with much higher traffic than my little blog. It's time to shed some national light on this problem as it seems the current power structure is unwilling to embrace the humanitarian change that must be made at this shelter:

SHREVEPORT – Bear with me, readers, for this week I’m bringing you a local problem but it is one that needs national attention in order for it to be rectified. Your help is needed.

Our local animal shelter is deplorable.  The city of Shreveport has a population of just over 200,000 people, and are the third largest city in the state of Louisiana, yet we can’t seem to figure out how to run a humane animal shelter. The problems at Caddo Parish Animal Services are epic and have been going on for years. Any attempt to solve the problem has only been a token one.

Consider the following:

July 2007CPAS director fired for failing to properly perform his duties, for example: failing to do rabies tests on a racoon that had scratched a man, among other offenses.

September 2007: CPAS adoption coordinator Raymond Abney resigns his position, citing multiple, horrific cases of torture, neglect, and abuse at the shelter.

2010: CPAS has a 78% euthanasia rate.

2011: CPAS has 80% euthanasia rate.

2012: CPAS has 83% euthanasia rate.

2013: CPAS has 81% euthanasia rate.

October 2013Karen Dent’s Golden Retriever escaped her backyard when a tree fell on a fence; CPAS picked up the dog. Dent called the shelter and was told she could claim her dog, but when she arrived the dog had been euthanized.

October 2013: A puppy was found in September in a Shreveport storage locker, abandoned and left to die. Literally at death’s door, he was rescued and taken to the emergency vet clinic and then transferred to Benton Animal Hospital. By October he was in foster care with a vet tech and making a nice recovery at which time CPAS comes to their home and seizes the emaciated, still very fragile dog, as evidence of the animal abandonment crime. “Braveheart” was heartlessly placed in a kennel at CPAS rather than allowed to stay in foster care under the attention of a vet tech. Massive public outcry resulted in animal cruelty charges against the owner of the storage locker. (Braveheart’s story has a happy ending.)

2014: CPAS has 79% euthanasia rate.

August 2014: Adoptions volunteer Reed Ebarb resigned his position at CPAS after director Everett Harris verbally attacked Ebarb and his attempts to move more dogs into rescue and off the euthanasia list. Ebarb was vigilant in compiling and reporting monthly euthanasia rates to the public which was often well over 70%.

2015: CPAS has a 78% euthanasia rate.

March 2015: Two malnourished dogs, dubbed Lucky and T-Bone, were picked up by CPAS after a citizen complaint of neglect, found to be full of parasites, yet when PetSavers Rescue offered to take the dogs and vet them, director Everett Harris denied the request, igniting yet another firestorm of public outcry.

August 2015: Amanda Middleton was travelling through Shreveport, blew a tire, and her dog, Libby ran off and got lost. Libby was lost for two days before being found and taken to CPAS where a microchip was scanned and her family identified. A Humane Society volunteer had permission from the eight-months pregnant Middleton to retrieve the dog and meet Middleton halfway to return the pup, but director Everett Harris refused to release the dog to anyone but Middleton, despite written permission from Middleton to do so. Middleton drove all the way back to Shreveport from Houston to get her dog.

August 2015: CPAS director Everett Harris was placed on administrative leave, and then resigned, after posting an offensive photo on Facebook of dogs with a Star of David and Nazi symbols drawn on their heads and the caption “How to deal with the difficulties of life.” He said he meant to post the picture to a private account rather than the public CPAS page. Harris was on paid leave for several months, then terminated.

June 2016: Chuck Wilson, former assistant director of CPAS, is appointed new director of CPAS.

October 2016: Amber McMillan’s two dog were euthanized despite her multiple visits to CPAS searching for them.  McMillan contends that her dogs were not in any of the stray hold kennels she was shown when she went to the shelter. She showed photos of her dogs to the employees at the shelter and filed paperwork. The dogs were killed nine days after intake.

November 2016: DeAnna Robinson adopted a large breed dog from CPAS; he weighed only 30 pounds when she brought him home. He was emaciated and could barely walk. He had been housed in a kennel at the shelter with five other dogs.

December 2016: A stray dog, “Ellie,” wanders into a man’s yard; the man brings his own dog outside and orders it to attack Ellie who subsequently dies from her injuries. The event is captured on video which creates a social media firestorm. CPAS fails to press charges, thereby sanctioning the inhumane attack.

December 2016: “Tini” was picked up by CPAS on December 30 after being hit by a car; her owners determined that Tini was at the shelter but they were not allowed to pick her up for four days, despite that fact that the dog had a broken jaw and other injuries and needed immediate medical care. Because of the New Year’s Eve holiday, Tini had to stay in the shelter rather than be reunited with her family.

January 2017: In two separate events, two dogs tagged for rescue were accidentally euthanized.

January 2017American Boston Terrier dog rescue attempted to pull several dogs but the dogs either starved to death or were euthanized before the rescue arrived.

January 2017Big Fluffy Dog Rescue out of Nashville TN, came to CPAS to pull two dogs but left with 17, and later came back for more, because of the deplorable conditions in which they found the dogs in the CPAS shelter, which included inadequate medical care for broken bones, malnourished dogs, and overcrowded kennels. BFDR is urging public outcry against the abuses at the Caddo Parish shelter.

January 2017: A citizens meeting to discuss continued problems at CPAS is attended by two Caddo Parish Commissioners who cite lack of first-hand accounts as one reason why no change has been made at CPAS.

February 2017: CPAS kennel worker placed on leave, and then fired, for having sex with a dog. The act was filmed by another CPAS worker. Where this act actually took place has not been revealed; reports are that it was not at the shelter, but does it matter?

Obviously, the problems at the shelter are ongoing and it doesn’t seem to matter who the director is.  Meanwhile, literally hundreds of dogs (and cats) are euthanized each month.
Euthanasia at CPAS
The shelter’s euthanasia rate is right around 50 to 60% right now, down from previous years where there was a 77% or more euthanasia rate. This decline is due to the help of some tireless rescue groups and an improved willingness by the current director to work with rescues.

There are volunteer rescue groups that work to pull dogs from the shelter and take them to states “up north” where stricter spay/neuter laws have resulted in lower numbers of available pets. Our dogs have a much better chance at adoption there.

That being said, this shelter still needs major change. State inspections have taken place but they are announced at least ten days in advance which gives the shelter time to clean up their act. After the public meeting in January, two Caddo Commissioners toured the shelter, but again, it was announced.

The Parish Administrator, Dr. Woody Wilson, has control over this situation. He works for the Caddo Parish Commission, but his oversight of CPAS operates is completely independent. There is no system of checks and balances and Wilson has the final, and only, voice.

Granted, we have a huge problem here in unwanted animals; too many people in this area see animals as property and all too often refuse to get their animals spayed or neutered. The director’s job at the shelter is a huge one. But it’s clear to me that this director has lost the faith of the public by this most recent string of allegations, and something must be done.

For years, and years, we’ve been told by the Parish Administrator that they are revisiting and reviewing laws, policies, and procedures yet we are still battling this issue. The public outcry rises, we get lip service, public outcry dies down, and the cycle continues. When public outcry rises, we are dismissed as crazy animal people who get their information from social media. When citizens go to shelter board meetings to voice concern, they are quickly shut down if their experience is not first-hand.

Caddo Parish Animal Shelter
It appears that the only thing that might work is a national outcry. This shelter administration needs to be completely rebooted. They all need to go. If qualified, they can be rehired; if not, more the better.

This shelter needs to be cleaned up, literally; all policies need to be examined, updated, revised.  Dogs in stray/hold, for example, are kept in outdoor pens regardless of the weather. Too many dogs are crowded into pens thus creating feeding issues and fights. When Big Fluffy Dog Rescue pulled their thirty dogs, they wrote:
Caddo Parish Animal Shelter in Louisiana has been the subject of serious complaints for years. In January, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue took in more than 30 dogs from this shelter. Most of the dogs were emaciated, many had serious health issues and most had bite wounds consistent with fighting for resources. Big Fluffy Dog Rescue attempted without success to determine whether the cause of the animals' suffering was the shelter itself or if the dogs came in to the shelter in that condition. Caddo Parish did not appropriately investigate the issue and the concerns of animal rescuers were largely swept under the carpet and derided by the local government as unfounded. Local media covered the story.
There is a veterinarian “on call” but not on site. Dogs with broken bones or other injuries languish. There is no feral cat or TNR program; there are no online records – everything is still done on paper.  If a volunteer speaks out or complains about conditions or abuse, they are banned from the shelter. Quite often they choose to remain silent so they can continue to help the animals in the shelter. Any online presence is due to the work of volunteers. If you go to the shelter’s page and click on animals for adoption, you might find a few, but these are out of date and do not nearly reflect the number of available animals.

The issues are epic. But at the very least, the neglect, abuse, and miscommunication must be stopped. And sex with animals? Please. Is this the best we can do with vetting our employees (this woman was a paid employee – not a volunteer!).

To be clear, I’m not calling for the firing of current director Chuck Wilson; while he may not be perfect, many of the volunteers appreciate his efforts yet Wilson is hogtied by the current structure of oversight. The source of the problem lies in the fact that the control is all with the Parish Administrator Woody Wilson who has shown very little interest in making this shelter a safe and humane shelter for animals.

Please share this with any animal rights advocates or organizations you know that might be able to help the citizens of Caddo Parish clean up this shelter and turn this situation around.  Ideally the shelter should be privatized or turned over to a competent, established rescue with a humanitarian mission. Please email or write letters, polite and respectful letters, to Parish Administrator Woody Wilson, and the Assistant Parish Administrator who is reportedly working Woody Wilson’s job while he is being investigated on a residency issue.

A national outcry is the only thing we haven’t tried. There are plenty of citizens here who want to make a difference; the problem is in the politics. We need help and you can contribute by helping to shine light on this issue.

Points of Contact:

Randy Lucky, Parish Administration – rlucky@caddo.org

Dr. Woody Wilson – wwilson@caddo.org

Louisana SPCA. Humane Law Enforcement: dispatch@la-spca.org

Louisiana Animal Welfare Commission:  http://lawc.la.gov/report-cruelty/

Shreveport Mayor Ollie Tyler: mayor@shreveportla.gov

Added:  Thanks to The Dead Pelican for the link!




Outside Reading:
Local Animal Advocates in Uproar... (KTBS 1/9/17)
Two Pets are Dead...(KTBS 1/13/17)
Animal Rescue Groups: There is Something Not Right at this Shelter (The Times: 1/14/17)
Animal Activists Still Looking for Answers... (KTBS: 12/9/16)
Facebook Post About Dog Attack Triggers Social Media Storm (KTBS 12/5/16)

Previously: 
Sex with a Dog? Caddo Commission Must Act
An Open Letter to Every City and Parish Public Official (12/21/16)
A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property (12/20/16)
Save Spot the Stunning Super Dog (8/14/16)
The Lucky and T-Bone Story Gets Personal and Nasty (3/18/15)
Change is Needed at Caddo Animal Services (3/15/15)
Snapshots from the Braveheart Trial (1/29/15)

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Sex With a Dog? The Caddo Commission Must Act!

Kennel worker: arrested for having sex with dog
The problems at Caddo Parish Animal Services have been epic and have gained national attention for the neglect, abuse, and high-kill rate that is ongoing at this facility.

Many of the neglect issues are documented here in this post.

One would think that it couldn't get much worse, but one would be mistaken. Consider the latest news this week that a CPAS worker has now been arrested for "crimes against nature," specifically, having sex with a dog while a co-worker filmed the event. Via KSLA news:

A Caddo Parish Animal Shelter kennel worker is out on bond after her arrest on a charge of crimes against nature and a former CPAS employee is accused of recording the act on video.  
According to Shreveport City Jail booking records, 24-year-old Celina Ann Cabrera of Shreveport was arrested Friday after police investigated a report that she had sex with a dog and that she had videos of the act. A former CPAS employee was also arrested Friday in connection with the case. 41-year-old Booker Talioterro Thomas, Jr. of Shreveport was booked into the Shreveport City Jail, charged with principal to crimes against nature.  
Booking details indicate Booker recorded Cabrera having sex with his dog. Caddo Parish Public Information Officer Krystle Grindley initially said Monday that Cabrera was placed on administrative leave immediately after the commission was made aware of the arrest, but later confirmed that Cabrera had already been on leave since February 15. 

What is it going to take for the Caddo Parish Commission to do something about this place?

Was it not embarrassing and disgraceful enough when a large national rescue came in and cited terrible neglect, starving dogs, and horrendous facilities as rationale for pulling dozens of dogs from this facility?

It wasn't enough that several dogs over several weeks were "accidentally euthanized" after being tagged for rescue?

It wasn't enough that at least one dog starved to death in his kennel?

It wasn't enough that the agency failed to bring charges against a man who sicced his dog on a hungry stray who wandered into his yard - this dog then died from her injuries. No charges filed.

It wasn't enough that they held a sick and injured dog, refusing to let her owner reclaim her until the four day hold was up?

Now this?

Is THIS enough?

The Caddo Commission must act to regain the public's trust in this issue. The leadership and operation of this facility must be changed immediately.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Celebration of Sicilian Heritage in Shreveport Hosted by Norla at Red River Brewing

Norla: Love Your Sicilian History
On February 19, the Norla Preservation Project hosted an amazing event at Red River Brewing in Shreveport in which four Sicilian Shreveport families shared stories, memories, memorabilia, and history in a panel discussion to a large crowd.

If you've been in Shreveport longer than five minutes, you can't miss the profound effect that these families, and many others of Sicilian descent, have made on this city.  Their restaurants, grocery stores, and other businesses are legendary and even more profound, their work ethic, their love of family, and their spirit, has made Shreveport a better place to be. They became business owners, doctors, lawyers, writers, clergy, accountants, you name it.

Many of these families migrated to Shreveport through New Orleans. As you will see in Joe Fertitta's speech below, many were escaping civil strife and a poor economy in Italy. They came to America for opportunity and they became productive, working citizens. Then they became employers, many opening their own businesses. They shared their culture with their new country and they assimilated into the fabric of society while still keeping close their family ties and communities.

The event had a standing room only turnout. There were delicious home-made Italian cookies and
Pre-event beer tasting
iced tea. You could, of course, also choose from one of the many fine craft beers on tap at Red River and a dollar from each beer sale was donated to Norla. (If anyone has the recipe for those cookies that were jam filled, send it to me, please!)

The panel opened with Lynn Mandina who spoke about her family memories, many of which centered around food. Her family lived in Oil City. She and Vita Gregoria tag-teamed their discussion as one memory often provoked another one. They had plenty of memorabilia on a display table next to the panel filled with family photos, books, and documents to share with the audience.

Joe Fertitta was the third speaker and focused primarily on the restaurant industry. I was a bit late in starting my video of his discussion, but he was kind enough to share his notes with me and so I have transcribed the video for you and filled in the beginning that I missed on tape.  Joe and his family have been major contributors to the restaurant and grocery industry in Shreveport.

Here is Joe's speech:
Early Migration of Italians and Sicilians to Louisiana began in the 1870's after the unification of Italy by Giuseppe Garibaldi an Italian general, politician and nationalist. After the unification, Sicily was left with a failing economy, its fishing and agricultural economy had little or no industry while the northern part of Italy grew with the industrial revolution of the 19th century.  
This led to the migration of job seeking immigrants in the rural south who were trying to rebuild their economy after the civil war. New Orleans was the port of entry for many of our Sicilian ancestors and as they were able to find work, many of them went from workers, to employers of others as they established their own businesses as farmers, fishermen, laborers in the trades of plumbing, electrical, and construction businesses and as distributors of the food products these families looked for in their new country.  
Fertitta Family
 From the growth of these endeavors, grocery stores, restaurants and boarding houses that served meals to their boarders led to a thriving food service business in New Orleans and surrounding areas.  
Later some of these families migrated to Shreveport, Alexandria, and Monroe. One of these food distributors was Charles Pisciotto, a small family distributor, who drove a truck from New Orleans to north Louisiana and sold his wares from the back of the truck, going house to house to sell to the Sicilian families in each city.  
 Another company was the Uddo & Taormino Importers. Their office and warehouse was in the French Quarter at the corner of St. Ann and Chartres Street next door to Saint Louis Cathedral. They later expanded their products to grocery stores in the New Orleans area and throughout the state and their brands, Little King Pasta, Flag Brand Olive Oil, and Progresso brands still survive today and are still distributed under the Progresso Brand labels.  
 In Shreveport these foods were the basis of the early Sicilian food sources that led to the growth of corner stores, that also served hot lunches to working men in our city. Many were small corner grocery stores that served some basic homemade foods and later became restaurants: The Despot Family bought the Columbia Cafe on Market Street in 1927. Although the family was not of Sicilian descent they were an early forerunner of the following great restaurants:  
 Mr. Joe Brocato's Spring Street Restaurant. It was relocated and later moved to Kings Highway and called the Stopmoor Restaurant. Its menu featured steak and seafood, and the everlasting staple, spaghetti and meatballs. The location is still open as the Stone Fork Restaurant.  
Tony Sansone and Vito Cefalu opened Sansone’s also on Kings Highway. This fine dining establishment expanded the menu to include many gourmet Italian and French
Family photos
recipes.  
Ernest and Gladys Palmissano who came from New Orleans…worked downtown as a bartender at the Gardener Hotel. Later he opened up a place in a building called Le Chat Noir, The Black Cat, corner of Kings and Youree, corner to the west of there. They ran that business for several years then he moved to the riverfront and he opened up the Shreve Landing Club with Orlando Hawkins, his financial backer and then later they turned it in to Ernest’s Supper Club and the Stable Club which later became Dino's and Italian Restaurant that was owned by Anthony Maniscalco.  
There was The Florentine Club, a grand Victorian mansion owned by the J. V. Sclifo family, classiest restaurant in the city of Shreveport – candlelight dinners, white tablecloths, and two guys playing piano: Ferrante and Tiecher. That’s where they got their start, in Louisiana. Mr. Ferrante actually lived in Shreveport until about 1966 or ’65. He moved to Florida. They continued to tour, he and Teicher, both of them are now dead, but they started here in Shreveport on Austin Place.  
You had the Joe Dolce family; they owned the Picadilly Restaurant located on the corner of Snow Street and Louisiana right across the street from the Union Station, the Kansas City Southern Railroad. Upstairs was the Rio Hotel [laughter] …they had those cute girls out there, I remember…they used to deliver food down there too.  
Then you had Greco’s Restaurant, corner of Mansfield Road and Kings Highway. Mr. Greco later moved from there out to the lakefront, Cross Lake. He opened a place there called Greco’s and then it later became the Aid Station, it’s been through several different changes along there but Jimmy Rosso ran that for a while, Jimmy Sr.  
Also, near Kings Highway, you had right where the BioMedical Center is today, there was a drive-in CaliBurger – fifteen cent burgers. You know where the idea came from? Mr. Joe Tempa; he had been out in California, he had seen it, and he was actually the original McDonalds with the fifteen-cent burger!  
The Pedro Family opened a restaurant on Linwood Avenue and Wilkerson Street. Phillip Pedro and his son Sam were the proprietors. The building featured a basement Rathskeller bar that served drinks and had live entertainment.  
Charlie Rinaudo, the original Mirror Steakhouse, started right down the street here on the corner of Louisiana and Short Line – it’s called Fairfield now, part of Fairfield. Later he moved to the corner of Kings and Highland into a former movie theater that he renovated. A large glass etching done by a Shreveport artist by the name of Minor Vinck graced the dining room.  
 From there, moving on to some of the other families, my family owned a grocery store, it’s still there, on the corner of 1124 Fairfield, it used to be Powell Street, my grandfather started in 1927, my father took it over after the war in 1947 and my sister is still running it today, it’s the oldest family owned grocery, or business, in the city in that area.  

Memorabilia Table
After apprenticing in Baton Rouge at Leon's Italian Kitchen, the Village, and in New Orleans at Brennan's Restaurant, Joe and Mickey Fertitta opened, L'Italy Ristorante at 6301 Line Avenue in 1970...the name later changed to Fertitta's 6301 Restaurant, and in 2010 became the Anvil Restaurant Bar & Grill. Other restaurants opened by Joe Fertitta included, Central Station Restaurant and Railroad Museum, The Medical Corporation Food & Spirits, and The Huddle Club in Shreve Square. 
 The Cariere and Rosso families started Monjuni’s restaurant, their families both put out a lot of good food.  
Giuseppe Bruca came to Shreveport in 1976. All Sicilians. Where Ernest’s is today that was called Gambrinos. Vincent Campanella a cousin of Giuseppe, opened Firenze and Olive Street Bistro. That family, the Giacalone Brothers, now own Chianti and L’Italiano.  
The Cush family opened the Village on Louisiana Street in a quite intimate setting and operated there for many years.  
 Not to be left out of the Culinary scene, Bossier City, had the Spataro Family, they owned the studio Steakhouse, (you and I got thrown out of there before, cuz!), right there on East Texas St just east of the Kickapoo. Those of you who didn’t know the Kickapoo Motel, you could [bunk] for a dollar – it was great. If you couldn’t drive back home just go down there and see Sammy or CJ or Bubba and say I can’t drive they’d say go get a room, throw you in a bed, bunk and sleep it off and you could go home the next morning.  
 And you have Notini’s Restaurant on Airline. I can’t leave my family out, Peter’s. Although it was a grocery store, they make the best Italian sausage in the city.  
All of these were contributions made by the Sicilian families to this area and all of us have been around to enjoy it. I love your story about Sicily – I remember the first time I went there and the carpet rolled out…and I filled up on pasta and I shouldn’t have because there were nine courses after that.

Following the speeches by the panel, there was an extended question and answer period which soon dissolved into a general mingling and spontaneous family reunion by attendees.

Kelly Rich of Norla promises another event soon featuring the Greek heritage in Shreveport. Follow their Facebook page for updates on that.

A rather poor video of Joe Fertitta's speech is below; I apologize for the wobbly-ness of it and the sketchy sound. I was using my phone rather than video camera and was not prepared for how very cool this event was going to be. I wish the entire thing had been professionally recorded.

I would dearly love to see a repeat of this event, extended to more speakers, and I would love for some historian to capture the stories and priceless anecdotes of these families in a book. As we were reminded yesterday: one's heritage is something that must be nurtured and preserved.

If any of the families see this post and want to send me their stories, I'd love to compile them. My email address is in the sidebar or you can contact me through Joe, Jerry, or Mickey Fertitta.



Added:
Italians in the Delta: Pioneers of Monroe

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Yesterday Was a Good Day to be Clio

Rusty Brenner and Clio: February 11, 2017
It's been quite a journey, but our Clio now has her hand back.

One day last June, Steve and I were at the Caddo Parish courthouse and noticed that Clio, the Muse of History, part of the Caddo Parish Confederate monument, had a broken hand. It was lying at her feet in several pieces.

The monument was designed by Texas sculptor Frank Teich for the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the early 1900s during the monument building phase of that organization, and now it has been restored by another Texan, Rusty Brenner of Texas Cemetery Restoration in Dallas, Texas.

As soon as the damaged monument was discovered, the alarm went out and the UDC president, Jackie Nichols, was notified.

An investigation was done, cameras were checked, and the culprit was found. A transient trumpet player had climbed over the decorative wrought iron fence, climbed up the steps, climbed atop the busts of Confederate dignitaries, and either pulled himself up with Clio's arm or rested his foot on it while he played. The arm was broken and her hand shattered.

I was dispatched to the security office in the basement of the courthouse to retrieve the pieces of the hand and it was a pretty dismal sight:

Clio's hand as retrieved from security office: June 2016

To add insult to injury, not long after Clio's arm was broken, a vandal threw paint on the monument.

Paint vandalism: 2016

The monument is owned by the Shreveport Chapter #237 United Daughters of the Confederacy and stands on a parcel of land donated to the chapter for use in perpetuity by the Caddo Parish Police Jury. As the police worked their dual investigation into the vandalism, the chapter immediately began collecting estimates and fundraising for the monument repair.

Enter Rusty Brenner of Texas Cemetery Restoration. UDC Chapter president Jackie Nichols found out that Rusty working in Shreveport's historic Oakland cemetery on a couple of large restoration projects and she had him look at Clio's hand; at the time of Rusty's examination, the paint vandalism had not yet occurred.

The arm had been previously broken and poorly repaired and Rusty really wanted to repair the arm properly, stabilizing it, and using more advanced materials than what was used in previous repairs.

Clio: June 2016
I met Rusty at the monument on a blazing hot June morning. I opened the cardboard box and he examined the pieces of the hand and then he scrambled over the fence and examined the entire monument up close. Rusty is a good ol' Texas boy with an easygoing manner and a serious dedication and love for his work.  He fell in love as a teenager with the art of the craftsman while working with his father who had a monument company in Crocket, Texas. By the time he was nineteen he decided to form his own company for the purpose of preservation and restoration of historic cemeteries and monuments, and now his reputation is pure gold.

While Rusty compiled his estimate, the UDC got busy fundraising. Soon a very generous, anonymous donor stepped forward to finance the lion's share of the restoration which would include not just Clio, but also the paint damage. The donor wanted to honor his Confederate ancestor who fought at the Battle of Mansfield and who very likely had attended the monument dedication in 1905.

After all the bids were compiled, the UDC accepted Rusty Brenner's offer and so work to clean and restore the monument began. The TCR crew rented a cherry-picker lift-type vehicle to reach the top of the monument and treated it with a bio-cide which literally works from the inside out, over a period of weeks, to eliminate the algae and discoloration of the monument caused by street traffic, trees, and other agents in the air.

"You see that sort of pink color on the busts," Rusty pointed out to me yesterday. "That will disappear over the next few weeks and get rid of the discoloration" on the monument.

As for the broken arm, he reassembled the hand and then in preparation for reinstalling it on the arm, used a system of braces and clamps while pins and adhesive in the arm hardened.

Clio: February 11, 2017

Then the hand was reapplied.

Clio: February 11, 2017.

By the end of the day yesterday, Clio was once again intact.

Clio: February 11, 2017

As I said, the cleaning process is ongoing as the bio-cide leeches out the staining and discoloration, but Clio is on her way to being almost as good as new. The scroll that was once in her left hand was broken years ago and there is a poor repair job on that left arm. Rusty says he knows a carver that could recreate the scroll and perhaps even redo that entire arm with a scroll for better stability.  There are options.

But that takes more money.

The United Daughters of the Confederacy is committed to the maintenance and restoration of the monument and thanks to their work, the fabulous donors, and Rusty Brenner, it was a good day to be Clio!