A Note

To anyone out there who may occasionally check in on my blog:
I've obviously been away from writing here for awhile. That will probably continue, as I'm in the middle of some transition. My time in New Orleans is winding down at the end of April. I will still be involved with my program here -- in fact, it should be bigger and better than ever. But I will no longer be living here. I should be situated in Boston by mid-May. By that time I will have decided if I'm going to keep this particular blog. It's been a great tool for me to share some stories, to raise awareness about things going on in the New Orleans area. I just have to see if the next phase of my life includes a blog with a similar purpose or mission. Thanks to anyone who has taken time to check it out from time to time.


A Great Quote

Crediting ESPN Radio Host Colin Cowherd, who said the following today while discussing with several callers how he prefers to spend his time and money on doing things with friends as opposed to spending money on material things:

"I'm more about experiences than I am about things".

I loved that. Having just returned from the wedding of a good friend in San Francisco, a trip that cost me a small fortune at a time when money is tight, I can totally relate. The trip wasn't without its hiccups, but overall it was a great time as I got to see some friends I haven't seen in years, hang out with guys I rarely get to hang out with, and drink beers and catch up with my brother and some buddies in bars and restaurants in one of the best cities in America.

By the way, talk about being thrown for a loop. I was walking out of my hotel Sunday morning to go across the street to a store, and as I stepped off the sidewalk I heard someone shout, "Scott Stolze!" I turned around to see this guy staring at me. I walked back, and as I did, I recognized him, but couldn't remember at all who he was. I said, "yeah, who are you again? I know you look familiar but I'm not remembering at all." Turns out he was a guy who lived on my floor in my dorm my freshman year in college. That was 1990!!! Not only did he recognize me, but he remembered my full name. I'm not sure if I was more blown away by running into a guy I went to college with in central Florida all the way across the country in the middle of downtown San Francisco, or by the fact that he could remember my name like that. He was a good guy. He introduced me to his wife. They live in South Carolina and were in town for his work (Earnest and Julio Gallo wines, not a bad gig!).

NOTE: My digital camera broke when I was on my trip in January-February, so I'm currently camera-less, hence the lack of new photos (Pic of the Day is now more like Pic of the Year!). I'm trying to keep my eye out for good and relevant pics online that I can post, stuff related to New Orleans, Katrina relief, and St. Bernard Parish. It's just a bit of a harder task these days given time constraints, and unfortunately having a new camera at this time is more of a luxury than a necessity.

Follow Up

A follow-up to my posting last week about the "raise" that ICF International received from the state of Louisiana (see below, Stunning Numbers, posted 3/13/08)......
Here's excerpts from a story in today's Times-Picayune:

Jindal Wants to Broaden Inquiry Into Raise for ICF
By Bill Barrow

BATON ROUGE -- The Jindal administration has asked the state inspector general to join the legislative auditor in examining former Gov. Kathleen Blanco's decision to grant a raise to the firm that runs the state's much-criticized Road Home grant program.

Paul Rainwater, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, said Monday that he asked for the expanded review at the urging of Gov. Bobby Jindal, who has criticized the $156 million raise that his predecessor approved for ICF International five weeks before she left office. The company has been widely questioned over bureaucratic delays and failures that greatly slowed the process.

Legislative leaders, meanwhile, ratcheted up their rhetoric over the issue, with House Speaker Jim Tucker and Senate President Joel Chaisson II saying the Legislature will consider hiring its own counsel for a comprehensive inquiry into ICF International's two-year relationship with the state.

The latest Road Home wrangling follows revelations last week of the Blanco administration's late-hour decision that ICF, a Virginia firm that Blanco selected in 2006 to run the $7.5 billion Road Home program, could receive up to $912 million for its work, a 20 percent increase over the $756 million cap under the company's original contract.

Since The Times-Picayune reported the increase, Blanco and her top budget adviser have defended the raise, arguing that ICF must process more applications and pay out more grants than the initial contract assumed, even as lawmakers and others decry the possibility of paying more to a company whose performance has been so roundly criticized.

Answering criticism from legislators who said they were not informed about the raise, former Commissioner of Administration Jerry Luke LeBlanc suggested that a wide range of officials were involved.

Blanco released an e-mail statement from France, where she had public speaking appearances: "It was my understanding and belief that any contract change would be publicly noticed. I encourage Steve Theriot, the legislative auditor, whose office was consulted during negotiations, to continue to audit ICF and to hold them accountable for every dollar of their contract."

How much has work grown?

The December agreement bases the raise on the likelihood that ICF will pay out far more Road Home grants than originally expected. The document says the number increased from 100,000 to about 160,000. Yet the program launched expecting to pay more than 114,000 grants, and estimates for total grants have now dropped to as low as 128,000.