The Saints’ Long March

For most of their history, the New Orleans Saints have actually been the worst franchise in American sports history [1] – though that didn’t stop me from becoming a die-hard fan. The Saints didn’t even have their first winning season for twenty years after joining the NFL, and didn’t win their first playoff game until 2000, 33 years after inception. With the current season offering long-suffering Saints fans their best ever shot at a Super Bowl and a championship, I thought I’d take a look back at how far today’s Saints have come, in graphs:

This graph, showing the Saints winning percentage by decade, makes the progress more obvious:

With the incredible (still going!) season that the Saints are having, we have closed out our first winning decade! This is a far cry from the 60’s and 70’s teams that typically won 3 games a season. Here’s to establishing a tradition of winning in New Orleans, starting in Miami this year!

[1] On what grounds do I, a loyal Saints fan, categorize the Saints as the worst franchise in sports for most of their history? For starters, the Saints were the last team in the NFL to win a single playoff game (exluding the Texans, whose history is only eight seasons long). When looking at other sports, consider that even the Los Angeles Clippers have been to the postseason as many times as the Saints, and they did it in fewer seasons.

All data for the graphs can be found here.

A Quiet Louisiana Success Story

Louisiana is not generally known for its success in economic development terms, and post-Katrina the nation’s view of Louisiana as corruption-ridden and inefficient has (justifiably) grown considerably worse. Update: I hope Bobby Jindal’s election represents a turning of the page in this regard!

I thought I’d highlight an area of economic development success for Louisiana government and for the current governor’s administration in particular. Kathleen Blanco appointed Johnny Bradberry, a former energy company executive, as head of the Louisiana Department of Transportation at the beginning of 2004. Bradberry has done an excellent job at the La. DOTD, and has specifically driven forward the TIMED program, which is responsible for widening key highways throughout Louisiana from two to four lanes.
Read the full entry (261 words) …

New Orleans, Build Upward

To the extent that any development in New Orleans makes sense, vertical development makes sense. New Orleans historically was a narrow sliver of a city curving along the banks of the Mississippi, where the only liveable high ground in the city was to be found. Historical neighborhoods like the French Quarter, Warehouse District, Faubourg Marigny, and Central Business District are thus densely developed areas with a majority of structures possessing multiple floors. Even Uptown New Orleans, a primarily residential area, possesses many multi-family homes and multi-floor homes built on relatively compact lots.

Why then are so many in neighborhoods across New Orleans and the metro area fighting vertical development? As developers trot out plans for high rise condominium and apartment buildings as a means to rapidly increase the housing supply, many neighborhood groups and even the city council are fighting to curtail growth. But what other options exist in a city that has an average elevation somewhere between zero and ten feet below sea level? High rise towers provide a much greater level of protection to residents and their property; many living in existing modern high rises experienced relatively little property damage even from Katrina. Since downtown New Orleans predates the automobile era, it also possesses human-sized blocks perfect for dense, pedestrian friendly redevelopment.

While the historical character of New Orleans’ architecture should be preserved in redevelopment, many projects are being sidelined due to height restrictions, minimum parking requirements, and other zoning restrictions. But if New Orleans is to accelerate the recovery and redevelopment process, its politicians and citizens will have to accept that higher density development is the only viable route forward. Vertical development can help minimize the threat posed by future storms while rapidly increasing the area’s housing stock. Let’s hope that the powers that be accept this and move projects to fruition with the expediency that true recovery dictates.

A trailer is not a gun show!

I grew up on a country road outside the small town of Leesville, LA. At the entrance to the road was a trailer where a friend of mine used to live. Some time after he moved away, the trailer became “Bunn & Sons Gun Shop,” with a red arrow painted to indicate the “gun show” around back. Why was a gun show in continuous operation behind a trailer on my road?

I didn’t know it at the time, but it turns out that the “gun show” was a response to the Brady Bill, enabling Bunn & Sons to use a loophole in the bill to sell handguns without a mandatory background check. Now, since this was the rural south, folks would always complain about how somebody was trying to take away their 2nd amendment rights. What is the actual text of the 2nd amendment?

A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed. – Bill of Rights, Amendment II

Reading these words, and interpreting them literally, it seems that the second amendment protects the right of the people to bear arms as part of a well-regulated militia. While the NRA would like to delete the first clause of the Amendment, it defines the right in the context of a militia, as noted in this summary at Thomson Findlaw.

The courts have clearly decided that the right to own a tank, rocket-propelled grenade launcher, or even a sawed-off shotgun is not necessarily protected under the 2nd Amendment. In the US v Miller, 1939, the Supreme Court Justice McReynolds wrote,

“In the absence of any evidence tending to show that possession or use of a ‘shotgun having a barrel of less than eighteen inches in length’ at this time has some reasonable relationship to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, we cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees the right to keep and bear such an instrument.”

Federal firearms regulations also regulate the sale and transfer of firearms through the aforementioned Brady Bill and other legislation. Until recently, they also banned an entire class of semi-automatic weapons known as assault weapons.

Back to Bunn & Sons, and their “gun show”: all Bunn may have been trying to do was increase his business by removing the hurdle of an electronic background check from the sales process. In a larger context, the NRA has fought to keep the private-sale loophole available, in order to eliminate the background check process where possible. But why is the NRA so afraid of background checks? They argue that the overwhelming majority of American gun owners are law abiding citizens; then why not subject gun sales to the same level of scrutiny placed on prescription drug sales? For better or worse, guns are a part of American culture, and European-style gun restrictions will not and should not take place here. But with the advent of instant background checks, is it too much to ask that we control gun sales at least as much as we control sales of heart medication?