Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Fight against LSU-VA medical complex in lower Mid-City continues
by Bill Barrow, The Times-Picayune
Friday February 13, 2009, 9:23 AM

Despite insistence from Louisiana State University System officials that they have made a final decision to build a new academic medical complex in lower Mid-City, opponents of the plan continue to lobby for an audience with Gov. Bobby Jindal and his administration's top health care executive.

Their hope is to convince the governor and Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Alan Levine that gutting and rebuilding Charity Hospital from within represents a better option for taxpayers, future medical students and patients.

"We're considered obstructionists, but we're offering a better plan, " Sandra Stokes of the Foundation for Historical Louisiana said in a recent interview, explaining that she wants Jindal and Levine to hear it directly, something neither has done to date.

Levine said he is willing to hear what the group has to say. A Jindal spokesman said the administration "will continue to make folks available to hear their concerns, " but did not commit the governor's time to the matter.

The historical group has discussed its ideas with Louisiana Recovery Authority chief Paul Rainwater, who reports to Jindal.

Jindal and Levine support LSU's proposal for a $1.2 billion, 400-plus-bed academic medical center that would be built alongside a 200-bed U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs hospital.

The two campuses would cover about 70 acres bound by Tulane Avenue, South Claiborne Avenue, Canal Street and South Rocheblave Street.

The historical foundation plans are detailed in a September 2008 report from the Philadelphia architecture firm RMJM Hillier. The alternative would have LSU rebuild within a stripped shell of Charity Hospital, with the VA building its new complex on the lower nine or 10 blocks of the larger Mid-City footprint. The idea calls for LSU to take over the existing VA campus adjacent to

Charity for support buildings or future expansion.
The pressure directed at Jindal and Levine comes amid increasing public acrimony between LSU officials and the groups that oppose the university's plan.

The two sides have traded letters and reports, including documents written by the state facilities office that reports ultimately to the governor, disputing various claims about the respective proposals. State facilities chief Jerry Jones and LSU administrators say rebuilding Charity would be neither cheaper nor faster than constructing a new campus, as the Hillier report says.

The preservationists, as well as patient advocacy groups that want Charity reopened, have intensified their efforts in recent months as LSU's financing plan has come under increasing scrutiny. LSU's project budget depends on getting a $492 million reimbursement from the federal government for Hurricane Katrina damage to Charity and then securing about $400 million on the private bond market. Neither is a sure bet.

The preservationists have met with LSU System President John Lombardi and Dr. Larry Hollier, chancellor of the school's New Orleans medical operation. The university says publicly that the issue is settled, particularly given that the Legislature already has appropriated $74 million for land acquisition and other initial costs, while including another $226 million in long-term credit through the state's five-year capital construction budget.

"These groups say they have not gotten their say, when in fact they have just not gotten their way, " LSU spokesman Charles Zewe said in a recent interview.

That attitude, Stokes said, makes it all the more important to get to Jindal.

Stokes said her group has made at least four attempts to schedule meetings with both Jindal and Levine, including an opportunity for the governor to preview the Hillier report before its release. Levine had one meeting scheduled but had to cancel, she said.

Levine said: "I'm willing to be an audience. I just don't know that I can offer them anything" when discussing the "complexities of engineering and architectural" debates. "That's just not my expertise."

Bill Barrow can be reached at or 504.826.3452.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

HANO - HUD Goat Rodeo

HUD HANO Goat Rodeo (Cont)
By Professor William P. Quigley

Just when it seemed like HUD and HANO, who tore down thousands of fixable low cost apartments with a plan to only to replace them with only hundreds, could not give New Orleans any worse news, the Times-Picayune reports a multi-million dollar squabble over payment for the demolition of the CJ Peete housing development.

Sam Bailey, a former public housing resident himself, started a demolition company and got the over $1 million contract to tear down the CJ Peete housing development. But the Atlanta company who hired him still owes him $700,000. The Atlanta company, Dalyrymple Corp., says they are still owed money from HANO and the major contractor McCormack Baron out of St. Louis. Three other subcontractors claim they are owed another $400,000 and change too. Everyone is going to court and filing liens and pointing their fingers at everyone else.

If HUD and HANO cannot figure out how to pay to tear the thing down, under what circumstances would we believe they can figure out how to put it up correctly?

HUD and HANO have already decided that New Orleans will get, at a maximum under all plans, two-thirds less affordable housing than we had before Katrina. And that assumes that CJ Peete will be rebuilt and a hundred or so public housing families will get to return to the site where nearly a thousand lived at one time.

While tens of thousands remain displaced from New Orleans and the Disaster Housing Program is set to terminate, HUD and HANO continue their stumbling ways.

There is a term in the country when things are messed up beyond belief, they term it a goat rodeo. The Army calls it FUBAR, or " ___ ed up beyond all repair." Goat rodeo or FUBAR, HUD and HANO are at it again while thousands remain in need of affordable housing. Pull up a chair, it looks like it is going to be a long wait.

Professor William P. Quigley is Director of the Loyola Law Clinic & the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University in New Orleans.