Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Dead Ringer?

Go check out the latest at SaveCharityHospital.com. Last week LSU President Dr. John Lombardi made some rather impolitic remarks at a university get-together in New Orleans to discuss the floundering hospital process.

Make sure you go take a listen.

I mean, c'mon. Which one is John Lombardi and which one is Uncle Junior? Even he'd have to admit the resemblance is quite striking.

They're both equally foul-mouthed apparently, too.

Oyster once pointed out that Dr. Lombardi has apparently had some issues with his language in the past. See this column referring to an incident that occurred while Lombardi worked for the University of Florida.

He got into more hot water not long after that for allegedly bullying some visiting law school deans.

Not classy, not at all.

UPDATE: James Gill has also picked up on Lombardi's salty tirade.

Pearls before swine is putting it mildly. The sparkling intellects of LSU offer New Orleans a lifeline, but the populace is too stupid and backward to be roused from its torpor. Time is running out to get the rabble in line.

So says LSU President John Lombardi, who nevertheless remains determined to save New Orleans from itself. Lombardi is just the man for the job, being, as he is fond of pointing out, from the efficient north.


LSU, of course, would never do that. It doesn't deal in such small sums. For a few hundred million, however, it will let its superior imagination run riot. In seeking the full replacement cost of $492 million for Charity, LSU provided an account of the storm damage that was wildly exaggerated.

Doctors and military personnel who worked at the hospital immediately after the storm have testified that the hospital had been readied for re-use within weeks, and have produced photographs to prove it.

But LSU told a tale of terminal destruction in hopes of grabbing the maximum loot. FEMA was smart enough to see through the misrepresentation, setting fair compensation at $150 million.

Far from being embarrassed by its duplicity, LSU still hopes to get the full $492 million on appeal. Lombardi told his audience that the feds "owe" the state that much and that it is "the critical linchpin point amount." Does that mean the medical complex won't happen unless LSU can pull the wool over FEMA's eyes? That must be a challenge even for the geniuses who run LSU.

It may not be enough anyway, for LSU will still need to borrow at least $400 million, and state Treasurer John Kennedy said last week that bond underwriters will laugh LSU out of the room when they see its business plan for the medical complex.

Kennedy uttered those unkind words just hours before Lombardi addressed the troops, assuring them that the business plan had, in fact, been "validated by every smart consultant in the western world." You'd have to be as dumb as Lombardi thinks we are to believe that.

Gov. Bobby Jindal isn't. The LSU plan, he declared Monday, is inadequate.


Anonymous said...

What was with this little crack to the effect of, Oh, some people think you can fix up old buildings, but that's a silly notion. What a snot. Even if you're pro-redevelopment of Lower Mid-City .. sheesh!

Yeah, New York should get rid of that Empire State Building, which is older than the Charity building in question. Why don't we tear down the US Capitol? I imagine wiring it for the Internet must've been hellish.
-- Ray M

Anonymous said...

Whether the tone or the language was as blunt as it was, as of now, however, is there still any doubt that if the preservationist crowd were to be able to block LSU's plans that they would not at least give a hard look at relocating everything to Baton Rouge and saying "So Long..." to a New Orleans where they feel unappreciated? Or is there still any question that if they don't or can't build the new building that they would still do everything to avoid having to use the 1939 Charity Hospital building or pour any meaningful investment into it? Maybe this project will never come to fruition, for whatever reason or reasons, and those who oppose it will have their way, but, for the life of me, when I see this it's only well reinforced in my mind that in such a scenario New Orleans can't possibly come out a winner. What else do we have going for us in terms of major corporate or industrial presences or transportation centers or military bases or universities that are top-tier research centers? Yes, we still do have the port but even that's become more and more mechanized. Tulane is a private university wth some pretensions but in reality not Ivy League or even anything much more than around the fringe of the top 50 and has never been the one of most important research centers (and how can they be now, with the engineering school gone?). UNO for their part is fighting for their very life. And as for medical centers, obviously New Orleans has already let a lot of places pass her right by. People act like development is unimportant or doesn't matter as much as preservation but with the way things are and have been economy-wise in this city for at least 25 years I have to feel about the same toward such an attitude as Mr. Lombardi does.

E said...

It's most definitely false to argue that the choices are preservation or development. I believe that we can build a new facility in the Charity shell and use that as a world-class anchor for a biomedical district. Rather, I think the real dichotomy is wasteful 1980s sprawl development or sustainable 2000s urban development. I chose the latter. LSU insists on the former.

Anonymous said...

It has nothing to do with bluntness. That wasn't so much blunt as appallingly stupid, just cantankerous and ignorant. When did old architecture equal bad architecture? When did new anything become better than old anything? Was it the newer flood control structures that fell during Katrina, or the older ones?
--Ray M

E said...

Cantankerous! That's the word I've been looking for all day! Yes!

Puddinhead said...

My opinion is this one's essentially over, and New Orleans is the big loser. The "Save Charity" crowd has done what the Republican noise machine has perfected over the past few decades--taken certain aspects of a particular situation and combined them to present to the public a completely bogus choice.

LSU, the VA, and various City and State entities announce an intention to build new adjacent campuses for the LSU teaching and VA hospitals, designed from the start for the delivery of modern medical care, rather than remain in the buildings currently housing both, one of which was designed based on the medical care model of the 30s…not to mention with it’s physical plant equipment in a flood-susceptible basement. Retrofitting to get all that equipment up to a floor above flood levels would probably approach the 51%-of-total-value threshold on its own. Despite a certain Senator's efforts to reward his benefactors by steering the VA out to suburban Jefferson Parish both the VA and LSU settle on a site--a depressed area just lake-side of Claiborne and the expressway, which had always served as a psychological border hemming in NOLA's downtown. City officials see it as a chance to rejuvenate an area best known before Katrina for abandoned businesses and boarded up former residences, and to spur the redevelopment of Tulane Avenue and Canal Street using the regional medical center model that has been successful elsewhere. (Interestingly, just the promise of the project has already led to a boomlet of additional housing along Tulane) Effective health care for "paying customers" delivered at the same facility and by the same doctors as equivalent health care for the poor, with the former helping to subsidize the latter.

Puddinhead said...

The "Save Charity/Developers Are Spawn of the Devil" folks for their own reasons (some of which I can speculate upon) need to present the public with a different picture if they are to garner widespread support for recreating the poor-only medical ghetto that was Charity, and this is where the old shifteroo comes in. One, paint the selected site as full of "historic" structures that must be saved at all costs...for of course, New Orleans has such a surfeit of "real" historic structures and neighborhoods that we have to designate any pile of bricks and sticks over four decades old as "historic". Give the selected site a new name, too..."Lower Mid-City", which I'd never heard uttered in my 49 years as a New Orleanian. But it makes the site sound so...well, so Banks-and-Telemachus-y, doesn't it? If you ignore all the vacant parking lots ringed with barbed wire, anyway.

But "Save Lower Mid-City" didn't seem to be gaining the same kind of traction with New Orleanians that "Save Actual Mid-City" would have (for good reason), so another front was opened. A "false choice" was set up for the general public's consumption--now a new medical district meant the destruction and demolition of the 1939 art deco structure that formerly housed the LSU teaching hospital. Now, the only ones who mention the words "demolition" and "old Charity building" in the same breath are the Save Charity crowd--the demolition of that building had never been any part of the announced plans. Indeed, seeking some type of adaptive redevelopment of the building has been advanced as the desirable goal by proponents of the project from the start.

Puddinhead said...

But that’s not enough for the Save Charity crowd. Because it’s never really been about “preserving” the actual building itself. It’s not really about “saving” a “picturesque” neighborhood, or about providing improved health care for the poor. See, what absolutely has to be the end result is a literal recreation of exactly what was in place before Katrina…the Charity medical ghetto for the poor and only the poor, the de facto segregated medical care absolutely has to go right back in the exact same building. The building where the poor, and only the poor, will willingly go for any reason other than a gunshot wound or a knife in the chest. Meaning a result that ensures that the medical model that has worked elsewhere, that of poor and not-so-poor getting what can evolve into world class medical care at the same place, and which has shown to be the kind of model that can just demand the creation of loads of good paying jobs, will not be duplicated in New Orleans. Because that kind of project would mean profits for developers—and we all know developers are Satan incarnate. It also would mean, eventually, fewer New Orleanians reliant on low-paying tourism jobs, and a lower percentage of the population actually being poor. And you know, you can’t have real New Orleans without having most of it’s population being poor. That would be inauthentic, and mean we were somehow as “cultureless” as all of those cities that have prospered over the past four or five decades while we’ve sat here studying our navals, convincing ourselves that we really didn’t want to have a populace that could afford to pay for the decent schools and roads and parks because it would mean we’d somehow “sold our souls”. One thing you’ll find as a constant among the Save Charity crowd—the only “real” New Orleans culture is “poor” New Orleans culture. And if you don’t have all of those folks living in poverty any more, then how will you still have real New Orleans? I mean, it’s so wonderful to live the lifestyle of poor New Orleanians…or rather, it’s so wonderful to be just well-off enough and financially secure enough that you don’t have to worry about the crappy public schools, or whether or not your teenaged son is going to see his twenties or die a “soldier’s death” on the street at eighteen but you can still go enjoy the good parts of the lifestyles of poor New Orleanians and then go back home to your safe(?) enclave.

Well, as I said at the beginning of this overlong diatribe, I think it’s essentially over. If there is to be an LSU teaching hospital, it won’t end up being in the old Charity building—I don’t see you guys getting the State to accept that at this point. And there’s been enough sniping such that the money for the project on the new site won’t be secured, either. I see either a new LSU teaching hospital, in Baton Rouge, or no new hospital at all. The poor will get State “vouchers” for health care redeemable at private facilities who care to participate…and I only expect them to “expose” their “paying customer” base to the poor if they’re able to gouge the state with inflated costs for every procedure and exam offered to the poor.

Anonymous said...

The previous poster has it pretty well summed up. The prospect for a new teaching hospital in New Orleans appears dim and, not only that, it's almost impossible for me to envision a re-establishment of the 1939 Charity Hospital building as the modern-day anchor of the biomedical district (also because, as the poster said, it's very much a product of the vision of medical care of that era). Now if it were torn down and new building built at that same spot, another story, but like the poster said, there's the major issue all of the (antiquated) building systems in the basement and subject, of course, to flooding and those would have to be moved to upper floors, which I can't possibly imagine would cheap or easy or quick to accomplish, if possible at all. Also, how do you have a modern hospital without a rooftop heliport or a heliport somewhere and there's no place for that, of course, in a 1939 building. I would hardly blame LSU for being upset and at least wanting to pull up stakes on New Orleans altogether, whether or not they'll actually be able to do so.

What the heck is "2000's urban development?" Is that like "Lower Mid-City" (which can easily be seen as a made-up name given that in New Orleans "upper" and "lower" have to do with upriver and downriver, e.g. Lower Garden District")?

The LSU critics completely fail to grasp this truth: the 1939 building was built hand in hand with the Long regime's LSU Medical School complex to rival Tulane's medical school. It was always regarded as part and parcel of LSU's medical school campus on any map so this notion of prying it completely away from LSU is a false one.

Tulane, moreover, has had their own more modern facility for years -- and I see that that does not get mentioned very much by certain people.

Back to Long and co. their idea for LSU was always most definitely "biggest, best, latest...." Huey would have torn the 1939 building down today if he were around just like he tore the governor's mansion in Baton Rouge -- against some peoples' wishes -- down and built a new one. Huey was never, ever a preservationist and would have had zero patience with them. That can be totally clear. Yes, Huey was dictatorial and blunt. Of course, lots of the seersucker suit wearing crowd howled and claimed that he was running roughshod over everyone but of course they were only thinking of themselves. They were praying for him to die when he got shot and was hanging on in the old Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. The other side is where would this state be if not for the Longs, all of them. The seersucker suits (which the Times-Picayune still pretty much represent) that Long had to shove out of the way have never offered any kind of progressive economic vision. Things have been "preserved" precisely because of a lack of economic activity to give impetus to tearing down the old and building up the new. Now it's them plus the patchouli crowd and maybe a few carpetbaggers looking for bargain condos for part of the year. I would rather New Orleans to be a fully functioning economically vibrant place with plenty of good-paying jobs available. I would rather be celebrating that than celebrating the scuttling of LSU's plans which will lead to New Orleans being the major loser. When the preservationists and professional protesters are having their big party when that news comes out, they might as well invite David Vitter and Scott Cowen and the Ochsner people, too.

Puddinhead said...

Right on target, Anonymous. The professional protester crowd might not conciously be aligning with Vitter, Cowen, and Ochsner, but they're the instruments being played by the aforementioned virtuosos.

"I would rather New Orleans to be a fully functioning economically vibrant place with plenty of good-paying jobs available."

Apostate! What, you selfishly expect there to be a healthy enough econmomic situation here in the future such that your children can raise their children? Dude, decent-paying, non-tourism jobs in NOLA belong to the children of just the Tulane "elites" trying to scuttle this project...not for the kids of a downtown Ninth Ward lug like myself, UNO 4.0 Dean's List status notwithstanding. Mine will get to use his psych degrees to either do "social work" for peanuts here or earn a living with a private practice...after moving somewhere like Birmingham or Charlotte. That's OK, though...Biff has a spot waiting in Daddy's partnership when he wants it.

Christ, I get so sick of some of those who consider themselves to be our local "progressives". They're as rigidly doctrinaire as the conservatives they claim to oppose in that they don't oppose wanton, ill-conceived development--they oppose ALL development, and as such condemn our city to continue it's status quo slide into total economic irrelevance.