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!

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Confederate Battle Flag Rises Again in South Carolina

Old Joe (via AmRen.com)
My topic at DaTechGuy blog this week is the ongoing battle over Confederate monuments.

A clip:
In Florida, “Old Joe” has been standing on the grounds of the Alachua County Administration building in Gainesville since 1904. The statue of the Confederate soldier is now facing removal and perhaps donation to a local history museum.  
As one activist said, “It’s a symbol of slavery.”  
 Perhaps to him it is, but to others it’s a symbol of the sacrifices of ancestors who fought to defend hearth and home. The overwhelming majority of the soldiers who fought for the Confederacy did not own slaves. Why does one perception of a symbol get to override another? Why are we all so offended all of the time?  
And in perhaps the lamest argument ever proffered against a monument, there’s this:  
David Gold of Gainesville, an Army veteran who was an infantry soldier during the Vietnam War, said Confederate sympathizers should not be allowed to have a statue in downtown Gainesville. "You Confederates lost the war, and you don't get to have a statue in the middle of our small downtown," Gold said.

Jazz Shaw at Hot Air also noted the resurrection of the Confederate battle flag in Walhalla, South Carolina, on a memorial that is located on private property.

Pop over to DaTechGuy for the whole post.


(Photo of Old Joe from AmRen.com)

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:
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)



Saturday, January 14, 2017

Problems at Caddo Animal Control Gaining National Attention


Elsie: broken leg. January 2017. CPAS
UPDATE: This post is apparently becoming fluid as I am hearing about more and more examples of abuse and neglect. If you have a story to share please email me. If you know someone that has a story or experience to share, please encourage them to email me. 

In early December, a stray dog wandered into a man's yard in Shreveport. She was not leashed, had no known owner, and was just looking for something to eat or a pat on the head. The property owner went inside his house, got his own dog, and rather than just chase the stray away or call animal control, he instigated an attack on the stray dog who would then die from the injuries she sustained in the attack.

No charges were filed on this man for this inhumane and cruel action.

This is the event that prompted me to write a letter on December 21 to the Caddo Parish Commission who oversees the Caddo Parish animal shelter. The purpose of my letter was to draw attention to the problems at the shelter and in our perception of animals in general. I made four very basic suggestions although there are many, many more things that need to happen as well. I realize the changes that need to be made can not happen overnight.

I mailed a copy of my letter to twenty-seven city and parish officials and leaders. Only one city leader, Caddo Commission President Matthew Linn, bothered to respond. He offered no answers, but he was gracious and I appreciate that he took time to answer me.

I received one other response: Lex Talamo from The Shreveport Times. Her report is here.

I also verbally shared concern with Amanda Atwell at KTBS when we were discussing another issue, and she has now run two stories on the shelter.

After the attack on Ellie, the stray dog, many advocates became outraged primarily because no charges were filed against the property owner. This is infuriating because it reflects the "animals as property" mentality that exists in this city. "It's just a dog," right?

I refer back to the Ellie story because that was the spark that ignited animal advocates to once again seek change at CPAS.

Consider the revelations that have come out in just the weeks since the Ellie attack in December:

Rascal: tagged for rescue. Euthanized.Jan. 9


No reason was ever given for the decision to euthanize Rascal who was a young dog in perfect health:
"I get a message that the dog had been euthanized. And um, they didn't know why," said Mandy, who preferred to remain anonymous. She volunteers for a local rescue, and regularly picks up dogs from CPAS, and fosters them until transporting them to other dog rescues in North Texas. She was supposed to pick up Rascal, a small Boston Terrier mix on January 9. Instead, she received a message saying the shelter opted to euthanize him, with no immediate explanation given.

The same thing happened with Roxie, a four-year old dog


Roxie:headed to rescue. Euthanized Dec. 21

CPAS said in a statement to KTBS that Rascal was not tagged for rescue and that Roxie was aggressive.  She doesn't look very aggressive to me in that picture.

Along with the accidental or inadvertently euthanized dogs, there is growing concern over feeding protocol at CPAS.

Big Fluffy Dog Rescue, located in Nashville, came to CPAS in January to pull two dogs. They left with seventeen:

January 4, 2017

So now we're getting national attention. This rescue has over 720,000 followers on their Facebook page. The rescue posted a follow-up a couple of days later:

January 6, 2017

One of the dogs they pulled on a previous visit in December is a St. Bernard named Barton Fink.  This picture on the left is what he looked like when they pulled him: wet from being hosed down in his kennel at CPAS, pneumonia, miserable. On the right is the same dog in a photo posted by BFDR on January 6:
Barton Fink: December to January

Yes, it's the same dog.  Now, why would CPAS leave that dog in that kennel without medical attention?  If a citizen treated a dog this way, it would be animal cruelty.  Not, of course, that anyone would prosecute that charge -- we don't seem able to prosecute the animal cruelty laws in this city very often.

Another out of state rescue, American Boston Terrier Rescue and Rehabilitation, in Texas, is also shocked at the conditions in our shelter:

Posted January 9, 2017

And a few days later:

Posted January 13, 2017
This is Marley, the dog they pulled:

Marley

To be fair, this dog was emaciated on intake - CPAS did not cause this, however, to feed this dog in the same way as you would dominant, healthy dogs, is inadvisable. This dog needed immediate medical care.  This dog, and many of the emaciated dogs you see on social media right now at CPAS, likely have Refeeding Syndrome and simply can't be cared for in the same way as healthy dogs.  To do so is tantamount to abuse.

Lex Talamo's story in The Shreveport Times documents the following euthanasia numbers at CPAS:

From The Shreveport Times: January 14, 2017


The improvement is due primarily to the new director, Chuck Wilson, working with rescues and allowing more dogs to be pulled than the previous director, however there still remains a fear among rescues and volunteers that speaking out about abuses they see will hurt their ability to pull more animals. This is a justifiable concern but isn't something wrong with that?  Doesn't that sound punitive?  

I will allow that Mr. Wilson inherited a terrible situation. I'm thankful he is working with rescues and allowing more animals to be saved. And to be fair, he can't do one thing about the people in this town who won't spay/neuter their animals. They just keep pouring into the shelter and there is literally no end to it.  

Section 8-63.(h) of the animal control ordinances under which Mr. Wilson must run this shelter states:

"Any person adopting an unspayed or unneutered animal from the department must sign an agreement to have the animal spayed or neutered within 30 days or by six months of age for a female or nine months of age for a male, and must leave a deposit in an amount established by the director with the department to be applied toward such veterinary services...The department shall perform follow-up investigations to confirm compliance with this section, and failure to comply shall constitute a waiver of all rights of the adopting party and in and to the animal, returning full custody of the animal to the department ..."

Does that happen? Is any follow-up EVER done?  Does he have the manpower for that? Does anyone really want CPAS to go out and "reclaim" adopted animals?!  We need a spay/neuter program. Mandatory spay/neuter.

The list of things we need is long: a feral cat program, mandatory heartworm prevention, an active social media presence from CPAS to network adoptable dogs. The shelter apparently needs more space because kennels with five and six dogs in them who must then fight for food is unacceptable. We need a public education program. CPAS needs a veterinarian on site at all times. One of my suggestions in my December letter was to install a tag making machine in the lobby at CPAS; no dog should leave the shelter without an ID tag. Many of the strays could be reunited with owners if they only had identification.

Although many things need to be done, the most critical needs right now is to ensure these animals are properly fed, that they aren't sitting in kennels with broken limbs or in pain, that they receive veterinary care, that kennels aren't hosed out with dogs in them (bleach or other chemicals must be used to combat disease - simple compassion would suggest taking the dogs out during this process). 

It just seems to me that with a budget like this...

Caddo Animal Services Budget 2016


....that we can do better.  Any rescue in town would love to have a budget like this.

While I strongly disagree with any social media voices that come across as unhinged ranting, I agree with their intent. Our quest to effect change at CPAS should not be a witch hunt. Calm, rational communication is needed and specific facts and documentation. 

That being said, I think it is clear that Mr. Wilson has lost the trust of the public and should perhaps step down and the Caddo Commission should recruit a new leader with bonafide credentials in humane and compassionate animal shelter management who will then employ compassionate kennel directors and other staff members who will clean this shelter up and foster a reputation as a low-kill, humane shelter for our animal population.

Added:
As long as this post is documenting neglect and abuse, I was remiss in failing to record Tini, the dog who was hit by a car and picked up by CPAS on December 30:

Tini

The owners were told they could not reclaim their own dog until January 3, five days later.  After picking Tini up, the owners discovered she had been housed in a filthy outside kennel with a broken jaw, untreated:

Posted January 3, 2017

Tini's owner rightfully wants to know why if someone was answering phones at the shelter on Friday and Saturday that she could not pick up her own dog. They told her she could not get the dog until January 3. Simply unacceptable.

Outside Reading:
Caddo Commissioner on Animal Shelter: "I Need First-Hand Facts" (The Times: 1/18/17)
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:
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)


Monday, December 26, 2016

Can the Violence in NOLA Be Alleviated With "Equity Circles"? Mitch Landrieu Thinks So.

This blog post is a revised and updated one from my November 28, 2016 column at DaTechGuy blog. With the decision from the 5th Circuit imminent on the Confederate Monuments, I wanted to bring my work at DaTechGuy over to this blog so it is available both places. At the bottom of this post I've linked previous columns on the subject. You can read today's post at DaTechGuy.


“It will be back to business as normal. Nobody cares.” That statement from a woman who has worked in the French Quarter for six years is simply tragic.

 “Nobody cares.”

 Early Sunday morning, November 27, around 1:40 a.m., ten people were shot near the intersection of Bourbon and Iberville in the historic French Quarter. The gunfire sent tourists and locals running in panic. Some of the clubs closed their doors to keep out the violence. One of the reported shooters is dead and there are several arrests. It’s a tragedy all around but the sad thing is that this happens in NOLA more often than not – it’s only when it gets close to the tourist areas that you hear about it.

 New Orleans is a beautiful, culturally diverse, fascinating city. Under the guidance of mayor Mitch Landrieu it has degenerated into a violent, lawless disaster. I hate to say it because I love New Orleans. It’s a city that gets in your blood and lures you back. The food, the music, the eclectic street vendors, and the people above all, are for the most part intoxicating.

Sadly, the policies of Mayor Landrieu are going to kill the tourist trade if something isn’t done. Landrieu is more focused on things of lesser importance than the blood in the streets, things like removing monuments, for example. Landrieu spent much of 2015 fighting against the four major Confederate monuments in the city. I’ve written about that issue here, here, and here on DaTechGuy blog. Once that issue was safely nestled into the lengthy court dockets and appeals process, Landrieu moved on to gun control laws. A decision on the monuments is imminent from the U.S. Court of Appeals and tensions are already high.

In April 2016, Landrieu proposed a new series of gun control laws which was passed and signed into law in September. Most of the ordinances are already on the books so it was an exercise in redundancy at best. New Orleans had 165 murders in 2015, up from 150 in 2014. As of October 17, 2016, NOLA is on pace to meet or exceed that number with 134 murders. Note that number does not include shootings that don’t end up as murder statistics, such as those nine non-fatal victims in this most recent shooting. As of today, December 22, that murder number is now 172.

Recently a commander of the police department issued a warning to women not to travel alone after dark in the city due to a rising number of robberies and car jackings:

 “I would suggest to any female, if they can prevent it, do not travel alone overnight,” said Second District Commander Shaun Ferguson. “If you absolutely have to, stay on the phone with someone and let them know where you’re going. Keep them abreast of your whereabouts.” A female college student from Tulane was carjacked early Tuesday when another car struck hers from the rear. As she got out of the car, three men from the other vehicle got out and one of them pushed her to the ground. That man got into her car, while the other two jumped into their vehicle and fled. 

The Confederate monuments are clearly not the problem; the problem lies in Landrieu’s failure to address the violence in the streets in any meaningful fashion. In recent protests at Lee Circle after Trump’s election, vandals were tagging the monument and other prominent buildings with paint, setting fires on the lawn at the circle, blocking traffic, and running rampant through the streets. Unconfirmed reports were that Landrieu told police to stand down and let them “peacefully protest.”

 There is a small group of private citizens who watch over the monuments in New Orleans. They patrol nightly to ensure that no vandalism is occurring and should someone tag one of the monuments, the group removes it quickly. Citizens are policing their own city because the mayor has ginned up such hate and divisiveness that it’s the only way to protect the history and culture of the city.

And the locals are worried: with Mardi Gras season just around the corner, how will the increased violence affect tourism? Will it be safe to go into massive crowds to attend parades? The comments on news reports of the most recent shooting indicate people’s anxiety:

 “And this is why we no longer stay in NOLA…..Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his city council need to concentrate on crime and not on tearing down history….We will be staying in Biloxi next weekend for the Saints game! So sad……” 

 “New Orleans is out of control. Our Mardi Gras is going to be a blood bath if things don’t change and I don’t see a change coming.” 

Landrieu's latest plan to combat the violence? Equity Circles. No, I'm not kidding:


On Sunday, Dec. 11, 2016, the Carrollton Circle of the Welcome Table New Orleans (WTNO)—Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s citywide initiative focused on race, reconciliation and community building—will unveil a newly-constructed seating area on the neutral ground at Jefferson Davis Parkway and Cleveland Avenue called the Equity Circle.
At 2 p.m., the entire community is invited to participate in the unveiling of the Equity Circle. In collaboration with the Department of Parks and Parkways, the Equity Circle is designed to bring together diverse groups of New Orleanians to share stories and experiences, build relationships and learn from each other. The Equity Circle will create a more attractive neutral ground for the community and enhance the beauty of one of the most diverse neighborhoods in the city. It will bring residents of all backgrounds and experiences together for one reason—to create a better, stronger New Orleans. 
 
 New Orleans is stuck with Mitch Landrieu until 2018. That’s almost 200 more lives in the balance.



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:
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)

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Every City and Parish Public Official

Update (12/23/16): Matthew Linn responded to my letter via email; he said (in part) :

"Please reach out to your friends that live in each commission district and get them to send the same effective letter you sent me to the other eleven commissioners. This type of statement from you helps us make the correct decision. A few of us on the commission need as much help as we can get in changing policy and procedure within the Animal Shelter, I am 1 vote out of 12."

He encouraged me (and others) to come speak at Caddo Commission meetings on this issue.

I thank Mr. Linn for his response.



Following is a modification of yesterday's post in the form of a letter which I'm sending via USPS to every city official I can find. Feel free to copy/paste or modify as you wish and do the same. Unless there is some public outcry over the animal problem in this city nothing will change. Be the change.



December 21, 2016

Mr. Matthew Linn President, Caddo Parish Commission
615 Rutherford
Shreveport, LA 71104

 RE: Caddo Parish Animal Ordinances

 Dear Mr. Linn:

I'm hoping for some positive change in our area in 2017 with regard to our unwanted animal population.

You are no doubt familiar with the story of Ellie, a stray who in early December wandered into a man’s yard perhaps looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water. The property owner went inside his home, brought out his own dog and ordered it to attack Ellie because she was in his yard. This was captured on video by a brave young woman and was reported to Caddo Parish Animal Services and other officials. Ellie died of her injuries despite an heroic effort to save her. CPAS declined to press charges on the man for animal attack because he was in his own yard and Ellie was not leashed. Ellie's owner has never come forward.

The point of that story is this: Ellie is not an anomaly. There are hundreds of Ellies throughout our area. All you have to do is look in our animal shelters which are overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats despite the very best efforts of several strong, dedicated local rescue groups who work diligently to pull and adopt out these animals. The cycle is never ending, though. The shelters remain filled.

The problem exists on several levels: first and foremost is that too many people in this part of the country see animals as property rather than sentient creatures who need love and companionship. Too many people think dogs are just something to put in the backyard and feed once a day. But hey, at least those dogs have a home, right? No: it's not good enough. That is the basis for the "dogs as property" mindset.

Then you have the segment of our population who will refuse to spay or neuter their animals. Their excuses run from not wanting to change the dog's personality to a conviction that the animal will never reproduce or breed with another animal so what's the point? With organizations like Robinson's Rescue, who offer low-cost spay/neuter procedures, cost is not a valid excuse. And before you know it, here comes another litter of unwanted puppies. Who follows up on those vouchers when animals are adopted to ensure they are in fact spayed or neutered?

The third factor contributing to our unwanted animal population and overflowing shelters is the backyard breeders. Go on Facebook or Craigslist and you can find hundreds of people hawking puppies born of some poor kenneled female used only for breeding and then discarded when her productivity is done. These people have no compassion for the animals whatsoever but are only interested in the dollars they will receive after finding someone to buy these poor puppies (who will probably also then be used for breeding).

And finally, a fourth factor we must consider is the lack of enforcement of our existing animal abuse laws and the slap-on-the-wrist justice doled out on the cases that ever actually do get prosecuted. The most egregious that comes to mind is the Braveheart case where after a three day long trial and agonizingly clear evidence that this dog was left by the defendant to starve to death in a storage locker in a Louisiana August, the verdict was a misdemeanor. A slap on the wrist. An animal's life does not matter. It's just a dog.

So what is the answer? How do we change this? Why is our community willing to stand by and watch hundreds of animals euthanized each month because the shelters have to make room for incoming animals? Why does our community tolerate backyard breeders, people selling animals in parking lots and on Craigslist, when so many in shelters need homes? Why does our community accept a verdict like that in the Braveheart case or in Ellie's case? Why is it acceptable for a man to kill another dog because it wandered into his yard just looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water? Why do our fine, upstanding city leaders not get outraged when dogs are chained to trees, porches, fences, and left out in all of the elements with inadequate shelter? Why are the meager laws that do exist not properly enforced?

I think changes need to be made. These are just for starters:

Number 1: Existing laws need to be strictly enforced and the laws we do have need to be either clarified or made stronger. For example, in the Braveheart trial – the distinction between felony animal cruelty and misdemeanor was so indistinguishable to the jury they simply opted for the lesser charge.

Number 2: Pet owners should be required to have identification tags on their pets. This in itself would reduce the pet shelter population. Install a tag making machine in the lobby of the shelter and the parish could even make some money from it. Just as we require pets to have a rabies tag, no pet should leave the shelter without identification.

Number 3: Get tough on spay/neuter laws. Reduce unwanted animals and backyard breeders. Enforce laws that prohibit puppy sales in parking lots and on the roadside.

 Number 4: Any pet owner who brings their pet to a shelter as “owner surrender” because it no longer fits their lifestyle should have to tour the kennels and pick which animal will be euthanized to make room for their animal.

It’s true that nobody wants to see the sadness. Nobody wants to watch the video of Ellie being attacked or laying on the driveway bleeding to death. So why do we continue to let this happen?

We have got to have tougher laws and we have got to have consistent enforcement on these laws. We have to educate our children that animals are not property to be discarded when you're tired of them, when they aren't cute anymore, when you move to a new house, when it no longer fits your lifestyle. It starts with the children. We need to run PSAs and educate them.

It's time for our community to change perspective with regard to our animal population. We owe them that much.

And finally, I challenge you and every member of city government to walk the kennels at Caddo Parish Animal Services and look into the eyes of those animals. Spend some time with them, walk a couple of dogs, show up on euthanasia day and look into the eyes of the selected, watch a couple of adoptions. Look into the eyes of the rescue workers and volunteers who are burning themselves at both ends to save these animals. Then tell me things are okay the way they are.

Sincerely,

 Patricia Austin Becker

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

A Call for Change: Animals are Not Property


Rudy: currently needs a foster family. Details below.
I'm hoping for some positive change in our area in 2017 with regard to our unwanted animal population.

If you aren't familiar with the story of Ellie you should go here and read about her.  In early December, Ellie wandered into someone's yard and the property owner went inside his home, brought out his own dog and ordered it to attack Ellie because she was in his yard. This was captured on video by a brave young woman and was reported to Caddo Parish Animal Control and other officials. Ellie died of her injuries despite an heroic effort to save her. CPAS declined to press charges on the man for animal abuse because he was in his own yard and Ellie was not leashed. Ellie's owner has never come forward.

The point of that story is this: Ellie is not an anomaly. There are hundreds of Ellies throughout our area. All you have to do is look in our animal shelters which are overflowing with unwanted dogs and cats despite the very best efforts of several strong, dedicated local rescue groups who work diligently to pull and adopt out these animals. The cycle is never ending, though. The shelters remain filled.

The problem exists on several levels: first and foremost is that too many people in this part of the country see animals as property rather than sentient creatures who need love and companionship. Too many people think dogs are just something to put in the backyard and feed once a day. But hey, at least those dogs have a home, right?  No: it's not good enough. That is the basis for the "dogs as property" mindset.

Then you have the segment of our population who will refuse to spay or neuter their animals. Their excuses run from not wanting to change the dog's personality to a conviction that the animal will never reproduce or breed with another animal so what's the point? With organizations like Robinson's Rescue, who offer low-cost spay/neuter procedures, cost is not a valid excuse.  And before you know it, here comes another litter of unwanted puppies. Who follows up on those vouchers when animals are adopted to ensure they are in fact spayed or neutered?

The third factor contributing to our unwanted animal population and overflowing shelters is the backyard breeders. Go on Facebook or Craigslist and you can find hundreds of people hawking puppies born of some poor kenneled female used only for breeding and then discarded when her productivity is done.  These people have no compassion for the animals whatsoever but are only interested in the dollars they will receive after finding someone to buy these poor puppies (who will probably also then be used for breeding).

This is what a "misdemeanor" looks like.
And finally, a fourth factor we must consider is the lack of enforcement of our existing animal abuse laws and the slap-on-the-wrist justice doled out on the cases that ever actually do get prosecuted.  The most egregious that comes to mind is the Braveheart case where after a three day long trial and agonizingly clear evidence that this dog was left by the defendant to starve to death in a storage locker in a Louisiana August, the verdict was a misdemeanor. A slap on the wrist. An animal's life does not matter. It's just a dog.


So what is the answer? How do we change this? Why is our community willing to stand by and watch hundreds of animals euthanized each month because the shelters have to make room for incoming animals? Why does our community tolerate backyard breeders, people selling animals in parking lots and on Craigslist, when so many in shelters need homes? Why does our community accept a verdict like that in the Braveheart case or in Ellie's case? Why is it acceptable for a man to kill another dog because it wandered into his yard just looking for a bite to eat or a drink of water? Why do our fine, upstanding city leaders not get outraged when dogs are chained to trees, porches, fences, and left out in all of the elements with inadequate shelter? Why are the meager laws that do exist not properly enforced?

When will our community have enough of this and demand something be done?

I'm the person who changes the channel when those ASPCA commercials come on with the sad shelter dogs looking desperately through the cages. Nobody wants to see the sadness. Nobody wants to watch the video of Ellie being attacked or laying on the driveway bleeding to death. So why do we continue to let this happen?

We have several excellent rescue groups in our area working to pull dogs from shelters and send them to homes in communities with tough spay/neuter laws where there are low numbers of unwanted dogs. Some of these rescue volunteers have been known to jump out of their beds in the middle of the night to rescue a dog stranded in the middle of an interstate or sit for hours in a field behind a building working to gain the trust of a terrified stray who won't come to anyone. These people are burned out at both ends and cannot be expected to continue to carry the responsibilities of an entire community on their own shoulders when it comes to looking after the animals in our city.

As a community: Shreveport, Bossier, Springhill, Minden, Mansfield, Keithville, all of us -- we have got to stand for change. We have got to demand change. We have got to have tougher laws and we have got to have consistent enforcement on these laws. We have to educate our children that animals are not property to be discarded when you're tired of them, when they aren't cute anymore, when you move to a new house, when it no longer fits your lifestyle. It starts with the children. Educate them.

What can you do? Educate yourself. Visit the shelter. Go to Caddo Animal or go to Bossier. Visit PetSavers.  Do some research. Learn what the kill rate at the shelters is. In Caddo it used to be almost 80%. That number is down because Caddo is working harder with rescues these days, but there is still so much more room to improve.

Write your city officials. Write the mayor. Write your representatives. Demand change. Otherwise, cases like Ellie's and like Braveheart's will continue to be a source of outrage and tragedy. I'm going to print out the Shreveport animal control ordinances (linked below) and annotate changes that need to be made and then I'm going to send a copy of that to every city council member and every Caddo commissioner, and the mayor.

It's time for our community to change our perspective with regard to our animal population. We owe them that much.


Contact the City Council.

Contact the Caddo Commission.

Contact Mayor Ollie Tyler.

Caddo Parish Animal Control.

Bossier Parish Animal Control.

Shreveport Animal Control Ordinances.


(Photo of Rudy courtesy of POLA Foundation. If you can foster him contact POLA.)

Friday, November 25, 2016

Time to Fill Up Your December Calendar

Having now survived Thanksgiving and my food coma, we are looking forward to that busy last month of the year.  We've already got some events penciled in that look fun and at least two of them support local charities!

First up is the annual Battle of the Bloody Marys at Nader's Gallery on Saturday, December 3.

This year the good folks at Naders will donate a percentage of their sales for the day to Holy Angels and Gingerbread House.  We went to this event last year and sampled terrific Bloody Marys and took care of some Christmas shopping at the same time.  I am usually #teamedward on the Bloody Marys but willing to try new things!

The next event on my list is The Spirit of Christmas Brassed at the Broadmoor Presbyterian Church on Grover St. at 7:00 on Saturday, December 3.  This event is $10 at the door and will benefit The Salvation Army.  I love a great brass section so I'm really looking forward to this.   Here is a sample from Vimeo of the brass quintet:


The I-49 Brass Quintet at Broadmoor Presbyterian Shreveport from Frank Moore on Vimeo.

And then there is the classic It's a Wonderful Life at Shreveport Little Theater, this time as a radio play. This production runs December 1-11 and is sure to sell out, so order tickets ASAP if you want to see this.



We went to see The 1940s Radio Hour last year which was fabulous and I think (but don't know) that this will be the same sort of format - It's a Wonderful Life as a radio play.  Can't wait!

Finally, Stage Center on Common Street in downtown Shreveport is performing A Christmas Story through December 3.



It's not Christmas without A Christmas Story.

This Saturday, November 26, the annual Rockets Over the Red begins at 3 with fireworks closing the evening. If you're into crowds and fireworks this is a fun show.

I'm sure there are many more cool events going on that I haven't discovered yet; if you know of something please post in the comments and I'll follow up.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Okay Jerry, I Updated my Blog


A picture of Grumpy Cat. Just because.
I was chastised last night for not updating my blog more frequently (I'm looking at YOU, Jerry...) and it's true; it's been too long. I have some really good excuses though.

Excuse number one, and I know you will appreciate this, is that I'm so sick of election blather, political jibberish, and intolerance on both sides that I just could not make myself post anything on the election.  I did try...I posted on early voting, sort of, but really, I just couldn't.

Excuse number two: I have a real job. I've got three preps this semester (one of which I have not taught in fifteen years), and I've been working really hard trying to find strategies to improve the reading level of my kids and to get them EOC ready. (EOC is the state mandated End of Course tests).  My class begins testing on December 7 and I hope that's not an omen.

Excuse number three: I've been finishing my book on Cammie Henry. It is now once again in the hands of my editor. This will be her third read-through. The last one had very few suggestions and edits for me to make, so I'm hopeful that we are getting close to the end of this part of the process. We still have some things to do before publication that include getting maps made and selecting photographs. The index needs to be done. First we have to get the words right so I've been focused on that for several months. I'm SO ready to get Cammie's story out there. Her time has come.

Excuse number four: I've recently undertaken Administrative duties on the new Facebook page for the Shreveport Chapter #237: United Daughters of the Confederacy.  I've had to do a little research on the best way to set that page up, and put together a presentation for our group. The page has now launched and we are dedicated to using the page as a place to educate and share history.  It is non-political and non-controversial, so if you'd like to follow the page, please do! I feel like it is a huge responsibility that they have entrusted me to run this page and I want to do well for them.

Anyway, that's enough excuses as to why I haven't been up to date here as I should be. But add in to that the fact that I have a life outside of the keyboard (sort of) and that I also have a weekly blog post at DaTechGuy, and well, anyway...

We are out this week for Thanksgiving break and I plan on getting rested up for the final three weeks of the semester. I'm making as few plans as possible this week!  Thanksgiving dinner will be simple and small. On Wednesday you can find me at Flying Heart where growler refills are half-price!  We might make a run to Jefferson, Texas one day this week (Jerry, you in?). Other than that, I will be sitting outside on the swing reading a book with a fire in the fire pit and a cat beside me.

And maybe I will do better on updating my blog.