Ben Watson has spent 11 years in the NFL, winning two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots, then playing with the Cleveland Browns before putting on #82 for the New Orleans Saints. But there is so much more to Ben than just being a tight end.
Shortly after the NFL Ray Rice controversy, I heard Ben speak at a domestic violence event, saying loudly and clearly that any kind of abuse is unacceptable. And within 24 hours of the Ferguson grand jury resolution, Ben wrote his thoughts on Facebook, and they quickly went viral, elevating his status as a serious thinker and a spiritual learner.
Ben is a veteran football player but he is also a very proud husband and father of four (soon to be five!) children, and perhaps most importantly, he is a man of God, and that is the message in all that he does.
Ben was our guest on "An Open Mind" this afternoon and I know you're going to love hearing what he has to say, not just about football and the Saints, but about race, family and spirituality in 21st century America.
To hear my full interview with Mr. Watson, click the link below.
As the Saints make whirlwind trades and acquisitions preparing for a new season of football behind the scenes... the back and forth legal maneuvers splashed across TV, radio and dot-coms continue. The billion dollar question--who will ultimately own the teams?
Three psychiatrists completed their examinations of Tom Benson. Will they find him competent to decide who he leaves his empire to? Or, will they reveal that the patriarch of New Orleans' first family could have been manipulated to change his mind leaving the Saints to his wife… not his daughter and grandchildren?
Tom Benson has only been seen publicly once since he sent his daughter Renee and grandchildren, Rita and Ryan a letter cutting them out of his life saying they would be financially taken care of, but would not be part of any of his business holdings, including the Saints and Pelicans.
That letter started the legal gamesmanship that we Saints fans are watching with both fascination and concern.
But one man, who had access to Tom Benson for almost a week, is New York Times journalist Ken Belson. He's a sports reporter who writes about the business of sports. Belson recently filed a report about what's happening off the field.
At 3pm today, Ken Belson was our guest with attorney & legal analyst Tim Meche. Our hope was to gain insights into the psyche of Tom Benson as he & his family are locked in an inheritance dispute. And, to get a greater understanding about what the latest legal moves mean in what may be the saddest game in Saints history.
New Orleans has a very high rate of people who rent rather than buy homes... but how many of those rental units are substandard apartments? We all know that rents have skyrocketed in the last ten years, but the quality and conditions of those properties have not even come close to keeping pace. What's the answer?
New Orleans City Councilman Jason Williams believes that renters need protection from landlords, some of them 'slumlords,' who don't hold up their end of the bargain. He and Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell want to create a rental registry to make sure that rental properties are registered and regularly inspected to meet minimum standards.
"To put it simply, a rental registry is a way of certifying that all of our rental stock in this city meets certain minimum standards of qulaity, health, having working smoke detectors, proper plumbing and electrical. We're not talking about making it fancy, just about the basic needs that should be met as part of our existing code."
What percent of our rental stock is not meeting that standard? How big of a problem is this in New Orleans?
"When you lok at other cities, one intersting thing is that they dont have as large of a rental population as we do. We have over 50% of our citizens renting homes. By the very nature of that volume, we have more folks who are landlords who are not meeting minimum standards. Since 2005, Prices have gone up and standards in which people are living have stayed the same, and thats affecting our quality of life."
So what does that mean for the city as a whole?
"We talk a lot about crime, about young people involed in crime, but just focusing on that one criminal act and not looking the quality of life issues that are causing that person to commit a crime is like focusing on the headache and not focusing on the brain tumor... we've got to start addressing our povery issue in New Orleans, and this rental registry is the begninng of that."
Did you get a number of calls from people saying "I live in a dump and my landlord wont help me?"
"That's part of it, but the other part of it is just keeping pace with protections of citizens in the rest of the country. A lot of cities are putting this in place to ensure their renters have a certain standard quality of housing, and we need to do that too."
To hear the full conversation with Councilman Williams and a Q&A session with our listeners, click the link below.
Welfare in America didn’t start with Lyndon Johnson and his vision of a great society. It started when President Franklin Roosevelt psigned the Social Security Act in 1935 during the desperate time of the Great Depression. At that time, one out of four Americans had lost their job, some families ended up living in parks and millions of children suffered from a lack of nutrition.
Tacked into the Social Security Act was a Federal national welfare system… one that FDR didn’t think would last long, as the Depression diminished and people went back to work. He even expressed his concern for the long-term effects of welfare. President Roosevelt expressed that concern a speech before Congress…
“The lessons of history, confirmed by the evidence immediately before me, show conclusively that continued dependence upon relief induces a spiritual and moral disintegration fundamentally destructive to the national fiber. To dole out relief in this way is to administer a narcotic, a subtle destroyer of the human spirit.”
President Roosevelt got the nation through a painful crisis, but his hope of less need for welfare was never realized. According to the Heritage Foundation, over 100 million Americans are on some form of welfare. The tab: one trillion dollars and growing.
What can be done to stem that growth? What can be done to make the system more efficient for those in real need? And, how can we weed out those abusing welfare programs? The House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee is looking at all of these questions.
So today we’re talking about true welfare reform in America with a man in a position to do something about it… the man who will be leading the charge, Louisiana Congressman and Chairman of the House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Charles Boustany of Lafayette. That's today at 3pm and we hope you join us.
Crime is out-of-control in and around the French Quarter. What's the solution when the NOPD is short staffed, criminals are brazen and not afraid to rob or accost residents and visitors day or nighttime… and citizens are afraid to leave their homes? State troopers made a difference, but had to leave. Should the state make the French Quarter & safety in this high tourist/historic area a top budget priority?
Today we went in-depth about the crime in the French Quarter & nearby neighborhoods with Superintendent of Louisiana State Troopers Colonel Mike Edmundson, City Council member Nadine Ramsey, President of the French Quarter Business League and owner of the Court of Two Sisters Alex Fein, and business owner and French Quarter resident Sidney Torres - who, it should be noted, is himself the recent victim of a home burglary.
We need the state police here for a year or two while we bulk up NOPD. We need help and we're going to need it for a while. I asked Col. Edmundson: can we have extra state police officers that long?
"My deployment is not going to be permanent, but I can promise you it's going to be strategic. What I mean by that is, when they call us, we've been coming. Ony any given day I have 40 to 50 troopers working in the city... I have officers patrolling around the city. I have officers in gaming enforcement, narcotics, special task forces, inspecting trucks. On a daily basis, we are here. But Angela, I just don't have the manpower to bring 100 troopers down here and leave them, because I have to take them from someplace else.
What about 50? Could you take 50 officers to create a more uniform presence?
"That's what the criminals look for - when they see that uniform presence, they don't want to be in that area. And here's why we've been so successful - we engage the public! When I'm down in the Quarter, the Marigny, Bywater, New Orleans East, wherever we go... we engage the public. We ask them what's going on. We go in the business, we knock on the door, we say 'why is your window broken? Why is that not fixed?' We go after that and we try to make a difference. We made over 1,000 arrests during our earlier time period in the city!"
But when you left, bad guys came back in, and now people are scared again. So what does it take to keep you here? What does that cost?
"Over the summer we spent about a million and a half dollars."
My reaction? We send four hundred million dollars to the state every year. Yes, it would be taking troops from other areas of the state, but if the Governor would simply say, 'you know what, we need to solve this problem. We're going to take a few more million dollars and we're going to let you hire more.' What then?
"At the end of the day, when I start getting phone calls from sheriffs and chiefs around the state who say 'wait a minute, we've got problems in our area! My murders are up, my burglaries are up. When you leave, the sheriffs and city police have to do more, so why am I different?'"
"Look, for Louisiana to be economically successful, New Orleans has to be successful, I know that. I've been here 34 years. I get it. What I can do to make a difference I'm certainly going to do that. But we've got to have a plan. I've got to hear from New Orleans - what is your plan? What are the numbers? For me to put that plan together, I need to know New Orleans' plan. I want to do it together."
"At the end of the day, the public could care less about the color of our uniform or the shape of our badge. When they call for the police, they want to know we're coming, we're well trained, and we're going to treat people with dignity."
To hear the rest of the discussion with Col. Edmundson and the rest of our wonderful guests, click the link below.
It has been the “good news/bad news report’’ on crime in New Orleans. Murders are at a 30 year low, but other violent crimes are way, way up.
NOPD salaries are going up five percent. We have new patrol cars and body cameras for cops, but we are still in need of 400 officers.
We can talk the good news, bad news all day, but at the core of all of this…the public does not feel safe. And the voices are getting louder that something more needs to be done.
A rally last night in Jackson Square was the public crying out for help. The large signs hanging in the French Quarter telling visitors to walk in groups for safety are the brain child of concerned residents.
We are concerned for our own safety and for that of the visitors we welcome.
We need help.
It’s not the total answer, but of major importance is the request for the state police to return with a contingent who can help us until we can rebuild the ranks of the NOPD. When the state police arrived in late summer and stayed for months, it made a huge difference in both a drop in crime and a major boost in morale for citizens, who had become afraid to walk down their own streets.
We can spend our energy pointing fingers at Mayor Landrieu for a hiring freeze at the NOPD four years ago, or we can look beyond the past and spend our energy appealing to Governor Bobby Jindal to prioritize the safety of a city that returns over 400 million dollars a year in tax revenue to the state from the events it hosts and the hotels it fills.
We need help…not forever, but for now.
We shouldn’t have to apologize for asking.
The city has been and continues to work on building a bigger and better police force. It’s going to take time. During that time we can fight the escalating fears of all of us with the help of the state police.
New Orleans doesn’t think it is any more important than the rest of the state, but it does think it is more in need at this time.
We are doing a lot on our own to battle crime. We just need extra help… for a while.
No apologies… just tremendous appreciation.
TODAY AT 3PM: Angela goes in-depth about the crime in the French Quarter & nearby neighborhoods with Superintendent of Louisiana State Troopers Colonel Mike Edmundson, City Council member Nadine Ramsey; President of the French Quarter Business League & owner of the Court of Two Sisters Alex Fein & business owner & French Quarter resident & recent victim of a home burglary Sidney Torres.
He has been a Congressman for 6 years and was just re-elected to another term, and while in Washington DC, Steve Scalise has worked his way to a top leadership position, now serving as House Majority Whip, the third-highest position in the House.
As his new term begins, he and all of Congress face many tough issues. An $18 trillion dollar debt, our role in international crises, a diminishing belief in compromise and an American voter weary of the lack of action by both parties.
How do we get Congress working again?
"I think you saw a first step in this last election, when you had a shift in the Senate. Over the years, we've passed a lot of bills out of the House, many of them bipartisan, to get our economy moving again, to get control over spending, to bring strong immigration reforms where we can secure our border and push back on some of the things we're getting from President Obama... a lot of those have been bipartisan solutions that have gone nowhere in the Senate. I think people want to see these issues debated and have some of these bills that solve problems end up on President Obama's desk."
What happened that brought an end to the sense that problems could be solved through true compromise?
"There have been incidents where we've been able to come together to solve problems. The most recent that I was involved in was flood insurance... I led the effort in the House with Bill Cassidy and others. We were able to pass a bill that actually solved the problem and it was Republicans and Democrats working together and ultimately the President signed that bill. We did the same thing after Deepwater Horizon but ultimately we came together to pass the RESTORE program. We passed that bill through both the House and the Senate, and it was bipartisan. It showed Congress is able to come together to get things done, and there's many more examples."
But there is the sense that people have become more polarized - what can be done to pull us together?
"Ultimately we are still a divided nation. When you look at the last few Presdiental races, you look at the red state blue state breakdowns - were very divided on a lot of fronts. But there are some issues that shouldnt be partisan that are - balancing the federal budget has somehow become a paristan issue."
Click the link below to listen to my entire interview with House Majority Whip Steve Scalise.
The question is, what contributes to violence in our community? Is it race? Is it education? Is it unemployment? Is it family life? When did this "culture of violence" begin? What can we do to end it?
These were some of the issues discussed for two days at Mayor Landrieu's "NOLA for Life" symposium which ended yesterday. Joining me in studio today were two men who were there. Dr. Charles Corprew is an Assistant Professor of Psychological Sciences at Loyola, and Flozell Daniels, who is President and CEO of Foundation for Louisiana.
There are communities that don't have a culture of violence, so why do we? "That's a tough one... there was a bit of the conversation that really started to dig into the history that informs our current conversation, taking a really hard-nosed analysis at the many ways in which we sometimes celebrate violence as part of the American value system. There was even an analysis around our tradition of dueling as a means of settling issues," Mr. Daniels said. "There's a history here that informs youth development and how communities think about how they respond to stresses that is an important part of that conversation."
Dr. Corprew has a problem with the term "culture of violence" outright. "My thoughts of culture are that that encompasses an entire group of people. Violence is only something that is attributed to a small population of black men and boys growing up in circumstances that make them deal with our settle situations in a violent manner," he said. "Having this 'culture of violence' statement bothers me, because it says that all black men and boys are violent. I'm not violent!"
"Looking at where children experience neglect was a major scientifically-identified source of challenges as it relates to later potential for violent behavior," Mr. Daniels continued. "Understanding exposure to violence, and how that relates to youth development and things of that nature - part of that conversation was targeted at specifically understanding how we might intervene earlier by way investing in children and youth and families in our communities so we can begin to reverse some of these trends that we're seeing."
It was a fascinating and important discussion, and you can hear the entirety of it by clicking the link below.
I invited former NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas to come on "An Open Mind" today to talk about what his life is like now after decades of putting on a uniform each day, but an incredible news story broke that demanded our attention.
New Orleans Police and the Office of Inspector General today say five NOPD SVU detectives failed to properly investigate serious allegations of crimes. The report finds the five police officers botched hundreds of sexual assault and child abuse cases, failed to properly investigate allegations of many adult rapes and child abuse or molestation and lied about other sex crimes investigations.
Those five detectives have been removed from that department but are still on patrol and many are calling for them to be dismissed outright.
Did Chief Serpas recognize these problems on his watch?
"Absolutely. Early in the summer they [The Inspector General] brought attention to me some of the issues that they discovered and we said 'absolutely, get to the bottom of this, go for it.' Here's all the records, turn everything over... and I appreciated that and I'm glad that was done because now you can build and continue to get better."
Everybody wonders how in the world the overwhelming number of errors in processing rape and child abuse cases could be allowed. Were other peers in the department not aware?
"That is the ultimate question. We know in law enforcement that what stops police brutality is other officers saying 'Im not going to be around that' and they report it. We have to move it to the next step. This was about one third of the detectives in that unit. They had a Sergeant that they worked for, and that Sergeant had a Lieutenant they work for. Someplace in there, the whole thing needs to be reviewed and analyzed, and that's exactly what Mr. Quartreveaux is good at."
Is it because those particular crimes are more complex that these lapses occured?
"Those are incredibly complex cases. There's no question about that, but it just means you have to step up your game. If you're a detective in that unit, you don't get to say 'I dont believe what the victim is saying.' I think your job to prove what the victim is saying is true. In this case, we all should look at this and ask what the breakdowns were along the way. Those are going to be numerous and they should be obvious and the right thing to do is to embrace the work that Mr Quatrevaux did on this."
Should these detectives be fired if the investigation proves the IG's report to be true?
"Absolutely. Absolutely... we arrested 86 police officers while I was Chief. That's not something to be proud of, that's something to say to the public 'Yeah if it's there, we're going to act on it.' This is a day we can look to and say there was transparency in the police department, there's going to be accountability."
To listen to the rest of our interview, click the link below.
Protecting historic buildings means protecting us.
The video of the building collapsing in the French Quarter last week is a haunting reminder that we can lose irreplaceable gems in a blink of an eye.
The investigation into why the three story house, made into three apartments, disintegrated before our eyes isn’t over.
But those who treasure these historic structures have their own thoughts about what might have happened… and have concerns that 810 Royal Street may not be the only loss in the near future.
Two hundred year old buildings, not only in the Quarter, but all around historic areas in New Orleans cannot survive on their own. They need our attention and care. They need to be protected from outside forces that may cause damage.
One day a new building will be constructed at 810 Royal Street, but it will not have been part of the history of one of the most remarkable neighborhoods in America.
We need to protect the structures that millions of people from around the world come to admire and enjoy.
We need to protect these buildings that represent who we are as a people and a culture, and we need to do it now.
To help understand how it can be done, I spoke today with Meg Lousteau of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates and Robbie Cangelosi, President of Koch & Wilson Architects and a preservation expert. Click the link below to listen to our conversation.