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Ernie

While I'm dismayed to see Andy and Ashley at odds in such a high-pitched fashion (to use a music metaphor), I'm glad for the opportunity to learn about Habitat's MV project, and also to learn about Ashley's reasons for objecting to the name of the project. A lot of good work is being done here in New Orleans, and I think that the MV is one strong example. Does it have the optimal name? Maybe not.

Would a better name help more musicians? Maybe, but that would be one of those things that is tenuous and hard to prove. But the debate seems to be about proving something, and I guess that's what all debates seem to try to accomplish.

I would rather be reflective, and appreciative for the efforts that people like Andy and others have made, be they celebrities who love the city even though they now live somewhere else, or people who aren't celebrities and live here or come here with church or civic groups.

Sometimes I feel like I'm at a family table where everyone really has the same desire: to help our community. And yet, some deep psychic wound that is built on distrust causes everyone to argue. I believe that people help other people because it is the right thing to do. And doing the right thing also happens to make you feel good, if you do it for the right reasons. I think Andy and the folks at Habitat are doing the right thing, and I think they are doing it for the right reasons. There are many many other organizations and people doing things that compliment or even compete with Habitat's efforts. That's great for the community and I'm all for it. Competition is good in the realm of community activism, just like it is everywhere else. I'm glad that we all have the benefit of different voices and views. I just wish sometimes that we'd find ways to articulate them more compassionately. And I wish we sometimes spent more time looking for common ground, rather than points of disagreement.

Musicians Village is going to help a lot of people no matter what it's called. It already has. That doesn't mean it has the best name. Maybe Habitat for Humanity was too enthusiastic in choosing a name that doesn't tell the whole story. I now know the whole story, and I'm ready to move on. But I do appreciate what Habitat has done. And I plan to take Andy up on his offer of a personal tour of their project.

Aaron

Having answered the questions affirmatively and responsibly, I feel you justified the project, Andy. What you said is what we (I at least) were hoping to hear.

Thank You.

ashley

My information came from Offbeat, the Times-Picayune, and personal interviews with musicians. Mr. Lee claims that the articles in Offbeat and the T-P were full of factually incorrect information.

I've simply been writing based upon what I read, believing it to be true. The initial Offbeat story and the T-P article were written by Soros Fellowship winning author Katy Reckdahl, and the Offbeat interview was conducted by Alex Rawls. I had no reason to believe they were fabricating anything. Mr. Lee says the authors are fabricating everything.

If Mr. Lee's numbers are correct, that approximately 75% of the homes in the MV will be inhabited by musicians, then that's great.

However, when I have Mr. Lee telling me that everything in the articles I have read is wrong; and when the articles are telling me that musicians are not getting in...well, at this point, I don't know who to believe.

Will

On your last comment, Ash, I think it's pretty simple:

Either Reckdahl had a conflict of interest that was not disclosed, i.e., that she was a Habitat home applicant herself, or Andy just completely fabricated that from whole cloth.

If the alleged conflict of interest is true, then that is obviously a gross breach of ethics and nothing else she wrote on that topic can be taken as credible.

If Andy just completely invented that to bolster his argument, nothing else he wrote can be taken as credible.

Given that Andy's assertion is objectively verifiable, I know which scenario seems more likely to me.

On another topic...does the statement at the top of your post imply that you are retracting your accusation of Habitat as complicit in Shaver's murder?

ashley

I retracted and apologized for that a few weeks ago, Will.

Here, let me make you and Andy happy, as you both bring it up with every comment and avoid the main points of the issue: I was wrong. Habitat had nothing to do with the murder of Dick Shavers, and was in no way complicit.

Now, if anybody mentions it again, I'm purging it.

local girl

Just wanted to add that the deal the musicians and non-musicians is actually terrible like indentured servitude. the house is $75,000 but you have to personally live in it for 20 years to get that price. If you need to move for any reason you are obligated to pay $140-150,000, the 'full' price of the home, except that these homes are made with cheap donated materials on extremely tiny bits of land, and may not appreciate like other construction.
How is it doing Katrina survivors a favor to put any of us in a class of people who cannot transfer property for an unreasonably long time without causing extreme financial hardship? I could see 10 years. What if you have extraordinary circumstances like needing cancer treatment in a city with health care? What if you sing the blues and your neighbor is a phish-head and what if you two just really can't stand each other (hypothetical extreme to play out the question) and what if he turns completely obnoxious with dirty minnesota hippies overflowing into your yard and your other neighbor is REALLY REALLY loud and your wife just wants some piece and quiet, what then? What if you find out you don't like it there after a year? Would they let you move or would you be on the hook for paying twice as much as the house is worth with no way out? A house is only worth on the open market what 'comparables' are selling for so if they sell for $75k they are worth $75K and no-one's going to buy that house from you for $150k because it simply is not a hundred and fifty thousand dollar house.

I just don't think financially its that good a deal they're offering. I would love to see their books. If the materials are donated and they aren't paying for architectural drawings, minimal if any for permits, what for land, free labor, what is the $75k for? I would like to see a full accounting and then we'd know if that was the best deal they could offer.

I agree 100% Ashley it was heavily advertised as musican housing and hasn't manifested that way, and Harry and Branford are coming off like arrogant disconnected boobs. I don't care if some donated money is used to pay off some credit issues to help real musicians get in. We all had some bullshit bills and life in the city is hard. Do you think Harry or Brandford ever had help from their parents with their bills when they were starting out? Well you know we don't all have family able to help us like that. You shouldn't get rejected if you're who they are looking for and you have some credit bumps. They should be able to help you on your feet and sell you the house for $40k at most and as long as you make your $400/mo payment for 10 years no problem. I'm tired of missionaries wanting to micromanage the people they're claiming to help- like Brad Pitt and Global Green, a similar situation with far less local benefit.(none) just a lot of noise, no real help.

Our condition is being used to prop up their do-gooder image that's all.


Andy Lee

Ashley, to help you “know who[m] to believe” – a reporter or me – let’s narrow the issues and the “main points” a little. This is important –I don’t know how many people have read your original posts, but it’s worth it to me to set the record straight – for them, if not for you.

(1) First, I definitely never said that the T-P and Offbeat articles “fabricated everything.” I merely stated (and find myself repeating) facts, many of which they overlooked, including that plenty of musicians DO live at MV, and plenty more are coming, willingly. Most importantly is the error of the central premise of both articles (and your blog posts) -- namely that musicians will not be in – or will be the minority in – the Village. Without that argument, the rest of the reporter’s thesis falls apart. Over 70% -- it’s verifiable. They just plain got it wrong! Was it intentional? I don’t know. (In December, when I was interviewed for the T-P article, I told this reporter that 120 musicians were in the pipeline for the program. They later corrected this omission.)

(2) The articles Ashley relies on were written by the same reporter – yes, the Soros Foundation recipient whom the Times-Picayune subsequently admitted (by Correction printed Feb. 10 '07) had a conflict of interest because she, herself, was a Habitat home applicant (along with a brass-band musician companion of hers – wonder why she focused so much on brass band musicians? -- this, by the way, is a totally separate conflict, not disclosed, that should have disqualified her from writing the articles).

(3) This reporter wrote her first (Offbeat) article on the subject shortly after Habitat broke ground, just as the project was getting started, just as the outreach to musicians was underway. That, in fact, did a disservice to many musicians because – as we later learned – many musicians self-selected and did not apply after reading the article because they didn’t think they could qualify! (Mark Fowler of Tips Coop wrote a Letter to the Editor in response and said it would happen, and it did.) The reporter then wrote essentially the same article several months later, and this time she quoted numbers that were just flat wrong. Her erroneous numbers are one of the legs of the three-legged stool that is Ashley’s entire line of attack – it was unsound, so is this.

(4) I know that Offbeat continues to beat the drum (not in an article, mind you, but in editorial comments in the margins of an interview), but the editor you mention by name was this reporter’s editor on the first piece (and Offbeat has yet to publish a correction). And this is the same editor who makes a blanket statement that no news article “printed in New Orleans” revealed that non-musicians would live in MV. [Your False Advertising / Scamming point.] As Will notes, this statement is objectively-verifiably false (I cited to two such articles “printed in New Orleans” at the outset of the MV).

As a clearly educated guy, Ashley, you should be able to determine who’s relying on facts here. Will gets it. Even Aaron figured it out. You can, too.

And it seems like, once you recognize that your multiple rants have been wrongheaded, you should CORRECT them. You have referred to Habitat supporters with choice terms, which we won't get into. And you even said about Harry/Branford (among other things) this: “what the hell do [they] care about preserving New Orleans music”? (This was you talking, not the reporters.) The answer is, quite a lot. Born and raised here, trained here, support the culture here, music label that records NOLA jazz masters, hiring bandmates from NOLA (Lucien Barbarin, Leroy Jones, Mark Mullins, etc.), regularly paying homage to their mentors, the list goes on and on and on.

One last thing. You really shouldn't be financially supporting an organization that you don’t believe in. You haven’t disagreed with me on that. In fact, here’s what you’ve said about how victimized you have been:

“I donated, other people donated because we thought our money was going to be used to target musicians who needed housing. It is … disingenuous and false advertising. (Mar 8)” “You [Me, Andy] should certainly be ashamed of taking donations for a ‘Musicians Village’ when you know that the money will not be targeting musicians.” (Mar 8) And earlier: “ ... fools like me donated to the Village, to keep our musicians here” (24 Jan 2007) “This ain't why I donated... (24 Jan 2007) “I just think that I've been scammed, the other donors have been scammed, and worst of all, the musicians have been scammed.“ (25 Jan 2007)

Despite the fact that your premise is flawed, I have stated that it’s Habitat’s desire to get your donation back to you, and I’m going to make sure that that happens. However, I told you above that the organization has no record of any donation from you, at any time. I’ve asked you to verify it – when you made it, by what method, etc. – and I’ll ask again. You have my contact info. Give me a receipt if you can, and I will make this happen. That is, unless you never donated in the first place, in which case there’s nothing left for me or you to do.

Thanks to those of you read this and who care about the truth and solutions for the recovery for our city and its culture. Out.

ashley

Again: All I care about is getting housing for musicians.

The articles I relied on stated that musicians were not being housed in the Musicians' Village. The author of these articles should have stated that she had applied for the Musicians' Village, as this would have let us know of her bias beforehand.

Everything I wrote was based upon these articles. So evidently, I've been barking up the wrong path, after being led there by Katy Reckdahl.

I think instead of making it your one-man crusade to discredit me, you should go after the sources of the articles. I would have never said word one about this had I not read those articles in the first place. Also, she's the one getting paid for writing these articles, I'm just drawing attention to what she presented.

I don't like you making condescending comments like "Even Aaron figured it out". Go ahead and slam me all you wish (that's been your technique in every single comment), but do not slam anyone else here for no reason. That's petty, even for you. Do not assume that you are superior in intellect to anyone, despite your sheepskin and ego.

Finally Andy, as I've said repeatedly (and you keep ignoring it): keep the money. It seems to me that Habitat staff should have better things to do than search for a donation to return so that you can feel vindicated.

Yes, I donated; no, I'm not interested in getting it back; and yes, you're a jerk for implying I never donated anything in the first place.

ashley

I have written Ms Reckdahl, and posted her comments as an update to the original post. After listening what she had to say, I tend to believe her version.

I really doubt that the Times-Picayune would allow a story with all of these factual errors (as claimed by Mr Lee) to run.

As someone trying to find the truth, it is somewhat amusing to watch a journalist (Ms Reckdahl) joust with a litigator (Mr Lee). One would not think that the truth would be so malleable.

In every comment made by Mr Lee in this post, he attempted to attack me personally, rather than attack the factual content of what was written. He set up an array of talking points, rather than address the issues. Finally, Aaron told him point blank to address two questions. He answered them in a roundabout manner, and still managed to get in a few swipes at me. Also, I don't know why he keeps bringing up returning my donation in every single comment.

Don Henley, among others, said "There's three sides to every story, yours and mine and the cold hard truth". I think that you should read all of the post, the links from the posts, and all of the comments in order to get your own version of the "cold hard truth".

I've found my version of the truth.

gentilly rick

no good deed goes unpunished.

sleep well tonight big man.

i tend to believe when your head hits the pillow you will sombulate with a clear soul.

you are one of the good guys as you play above the board.

damn you abita strawberry harvest. you got me typing woids i cant spell.

Marco

I haven't read all of the comments. It would take me me few weeks. I didn't realize that the comments were still happenin'. Ashley, you're a musician and I gotta give it up to ya', you're fighting for the housing of musicians. Being a frustrated former musician myself and music lover, at least I know a something about the importance of New Orleans and musicians. I do like Carmen's suggestion about bringing back Storyville. My bulldog Aldo likes my kazoo playing, can you get me into the village? I would do anything to move down. I know you have connections with all the those polyticians and all. I saw the pictures.

Aaron

So it turns out Andy was lying? Wow. I guess I jumped to conclusions by believing him.

I still support initiatives like Habitat and what should be the Musician's Village, even if I'm publicly insulted by their spokespeople. Sounds like you were fabricating a story by saying the stories were factually incorrect, Andy, and also twisting other facts to say she was an active and disgruntled applicant when you spoke with her BEFORE you wrote all of these comments and knew that she was both beyond the credit application (passed), and therefore probably not disgruntled and that since then she's not even an applicant anymore by voluntarily withdrawing her application.

Let me give you a hint, if you want people to believe you, don't tell lies to prop up your arguments - even the whitest lie, when revealed, makes everything you say suspect.

Ray

There has got to be some corollary to Godwin's Law about what happens when the drummer starts quoting Don Henley.

Andy Lee

Ashley, it's nothing personal, pal. I appreciate that you and I are passionate about the same thing. I just don't appreciate that you attacked Habitat in the way that you did, labelling its actions criminal (and you have NOT retracted that in any POST), later calling Habitat's people "mooks," liars, and other choice terms. You take as a personal attack questions about your logic. I am in no way intellectually superior to you, Ph.D. or not, and don't pretend to be. My comment "even Aaron" was a response to his earlier suggestions that you were right. As far as I know, Aaron is just as smart as you, and has a Ph.D., too. It's of no moment.

Katy's comments are interesting. I don't care to get into the multitude of factual errors about this. There is no "Habitat spin team" that I know of. I'm just one guy, volunteering (as I have been for 15+ years), and I take it personally when good people with pure motives (and no interest in financial gain) are attacked.

Andy Lee

No, Aaron, I'm not lying. Please read on.

Ms. Reckdahl’s response is appreciated. She didn’t give me this much explanation before her article ran, when I asked her whether she was going to disclose her conflict. (During that discussion, just a few days before her article ran, I told her that, according to Habitat, her application had NOT been withdrawn by her or her companion, but was still active. This was in December 2006. She told me that she thought Kid Merv had withdrawn it; I told her he had not done so. And, although she and he had missed a few appointments, that is not unusual in this process.)

KR: “As far as my conflict of interest goes, I did date Kid Merv, a local jazz musician and when he applied to the Musicians' Village, he put me down as a co-applicant.” I now have the actual application (with personal information redacted). It shows that Ms. Reckdahl, but not Merv, signed the application. So can you believe her when she says that “he put me down as a co-applicant”?

KR: “We broke up in April 2006 and -- as I understood it -- he phoned them in subsequent months, telling them that he was applying on his own.” Since she brought it up … this call came in on January 3, 2007, the day AFTER her article ran.

KR: “If that wasn't clear then, Andy Lee and another Habitat staffperson I had a discussion in September in which I made it clear that I was no longer an applicant.” In fact, Ms. Reckdahl put this in an e-mail in September 2006: “Yes, I did file as a co-applicant on Mervin ____’s application.” (That is not consistent with what Ms. Reckdahl says, above, that Mervin “put her down as a co-applicant,” is it? Nor is the correction/clarification consistent, because it says that the T-P failed to disclose that “Katy Reckdahl and a companion who is a musician had submitted a credit application for housing in the village.”) Nowhere in her emails -- at any time -- did Ms. Reckdahl state that she was withdrawing her application -- or that it had been withdrawn. Again, this call didn’t come until months later, and AFTER the Times-Picayune piece ran.

KR: “Think about it -- if I had passed the initial credit check, what would be my motivation to anger Habitat for Humanity?” I think I know, but I don’t need to spend more space getting into it, and it would be an educated guess on my part, and a pretty good one. The point is that a newspaper’s readers are entitled to know about this connection, and make their own judgments. Apparently the T-P agrees on this.

Ms. Reckdahl doesn’t address her brass band member closeness, and how that may have motivated her (now obvious) bias. She did reveal this in her September email to me: “I also know lots and lots of local musicians because Merv and I dated for
seven years, and so musicians are constantly asking me about the Musicians Village.” I will tell you, however, that many, many prominent brass band members are now “in that number.” No, we won’t release the names because her “understanding” about the “publicity waiver” is wrong. Just because she is most interested in brass band musicians -- one specific genre of New Orleans music -- by the way, doesn't mean that by virtue of her closeness to brass band members, she gets information about them. (Again, as I told Ms. Reckdahl repeatedly as she was preparing her story, the MV isn’t finished, although some might wish that it were.)

One last thing, we are all interested in “housing for musicians.” Habitat offers a certain type of housing – home-ownership – and that point has been lost in this discussion. It is not the only solution, by any means. And if you want to donate to rent assistance or “rent-to-own” solutions, please do so. In such cases, Habitat isn’t your vehicle.

Thanks to those of you who care about the truth, for reading this.

Aaron

Andy Lee said: "There were many, many quotes taken out of context, many negative themes that were transparent, in that article. Oh yeah, they also tried to correct the inaccurate numbers they reported. Surprisingly, unlike the NY Times and other reputable papers, the T-P doesn't attach the correction to the online article.)"

Ms. Reckdahl said the following: "Then Habitat decries the numbers THEY GAVE ME -- that out of 116 total families in the final stages of Habitat's process, 28 families -- about one in four -- were musicians. Now Habitat is saying that there are 120 "musicians in the pipeline." How is that possible, when the spokeswoman told me that, in 2006, New Orleans Area Habitat had 2000 applicants in 2006 and that 200 of them were from musicians, 28 of whom had become “partner-families”?"

And also the following:

"I've been a journalist for a long time. And I'll be honest, if someone really picks apart a lengthy story of mine, they can usually find some factual error. But Habitat didn't find ONE, not one, incorrect fact. And it wasn't for lack of attention -- my editors and I spent hours scrutinizing my piece and then going through the facts step by step, until I proved everything to their satisfaction."


The statements from the two of you conflict in material ways, specifically you said the numbers were inaccurate in her story and she stated that she not only was supplied the numbers from habitat but that her editors reviewed all the research and agreed with her. That makes someone a liar. And like I said before, when you base your argument even loosely on a lie, in this case character assassination of Ms. Reckdahl, it makes the whole of your argument suspect.

And by the way, I don't have a phD, but I do have a BA, a BCL and a JD. While you may not have meant what you wrote as an insult, you should definitely review your words before you submit them to a forum open to the public because it appeared to many people the opposite way.

ashley

"There has got to be some corollary to Godwin's Law about what happens when the drummer starts quoting Don Henley."

Kick 'em when they're up, Kick 'em when they're down;
Kick 'em when they're up, Kick 'em when they're down;

As a drummer, Don was a great singer, although I do like the tasteful timbale lick in Hotel California.

Katy Reckdahl

I'd like to see some more factual information about the project. Most of these (below) are questions I asked, without answer, when I was reporting for my piece.

What about actual numbers, about how many musicians and non-musicians are in each stage of Habitat's process? How about telling us how much money, including in-kind donations, has been thus far raised for Habitat New Orleans and for the Musicians' Village? Also, how much has been raised separately for the Ellis Marsalis Center for Music?

Habitat's own April 25, 2006 press release talks about a much larger Musicians' Village:

"Dave Matthews Band announced today that it has issued a $1.5 million challenge grant to help build the New Orleans Habitat Musicians’ Village. The Village is a Habitat for Humanity project that seeks to build more than 300 homes in the city’s Upper Ninth
Ward with musicians and other New Orleanians who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina."

Other Habitat information also describes the Village as a larger entity. So why is Habitat now determined to only give information about the "core site's" 70 houses? Was the number pared down deliberately? Or is this just Habitat being inconsistent in how it describes its project to the public (and potential donors)?

Andy Lee

So I guess I'll spend my lunch on this, cause I want to get this straight, esp. for Aaron. I haven't responded to every single thing, but it looks like I'll have to because I value my integrity, which you, Ashley, and Katy have questioned. Before I do, as I explained above, please understand that I meant no aspersion to you in the "even Aaron" comment. Sorry if you took it that way. Ashley suggested that I'm projecting intellectual superiority. Sorry you took anything that way. I do know a lot about this program, though, so here I go again.

1) Regarding the numbers, I went through this ad nauseum with the T-P editors, both in writing and in person, all on my own time. Just because they decided to stand behind Ms. Reckdahl on most (not all) of what she did doesn't mean that she got it all right (and she didn't get it all wrong, either). She reported certain things; she omitted certain things. For instance, she chose to omit that Dinerral Shavers had cleared his credit with Habitat's help -- a stark contrast from the Offbeat article where Shavers was her first-paragraph example of Habitat's failing to deliver on promises to musicians. (Regarding other errors, I can share the letter to the T-P with you if you like, but there is some serious stuff there, that justified my spending an enormous amount of time on it.) Like I said, I'm not suggesting that she made anything up, just that she got things wrong. There's a difference. (I can assure you that, at this point, I've spent more time investigating this than she has, and it's not my job to do this.) The main difference between what she says -- 28 of 116 partner (approved) families are musicians -- and what was explained to her, is that:

(a) The 116 number is TOTAL partner families, throughout NOLA, not just in Musicians Village (we are building in 3 parishes, soon to be 4, and in several areas of New Orleans proper; whereas all 28 families, the number of "partners" at that point, were going into the MV) -- this objectively verifiable fact was explained to her, but she didn't report it this way. And though she blames Habitat for the error, 70 houses and 10 apartments in the core site wouldn't fit 116 families anyway, would it?

and (b) Regarding the question she posed -- how it's "possible" that 120 homeowner applicants "in the pipeline" are musicians, out of 200+ applicants: answer -- several had already been approved, or dropped out. The numbers regularly change -- Habitat gets dozens of applications each week, and applicants progress into various stages of the program as time moves on. Good thing is that Habitat staff doesn't get bogged down in things that journalists seem to obsess over -- they just keep doing their job, and keep 1,000 volunteers a week busy building houses.

2) Another thing that I forgot to mention about the conflict. In September 2006 (AFTER the Offbeat article where her theme was set), Ms. Reckdahl wrote this in an e-mail to Habitat staff:

"my ex-boyfriend Mervin ____ intends to re-apply on his own, a move I support. So my joint application with him WILL BE MOOT VERY SHORTLY." (my caps)

"Very shortly," as in LATER, as in FUTURE TENSE. So, the Offbeat article (published months prior to this Sept. '06 email) was written when Ms. Reckdahl's application was, by her own written admission, ACTIVE. (In fact, despite her prediction of "very shortly," no withdrawal happened until the day AFTER the T-P ran her article, i.e., AFTER I had brought to KR's attention that she had an obvious conflict that should be disclosed.) CONTRAST this to Ms. Reckdahl's statement, in her comments above, that she had a conversation with Habitat "in September in which I made it clear that I was no longer an applicant." And that shouldn't have been necessary, because she understood it was withdrawn before that -- BEFORE the Offbeat article. Her e-mail message doesn't support this. Before you use the "L word" again, I'm not accusing Ms. Reckdahl of lying about the e-mail; as far as I know, she just forgot.

Look, I'm not a journalist, but I believe that an addendum to the oft-cited public's "right to know" is its right to know that the reporter may have a horse in the race. Assume that the reporter's application was "inactive" (as opposed to withdrawn, which it wasn't) in the fall of 2006; that's still months AFTER the Offbeat piece ran, and the same ethics should have applied at Offbeat, right?

Indeed, the T-P piece in a couple spots lifts -- nearly verbatim -- statements from the Offbeat piece. Which indicates to my untrained eye that her bias was set when she wrote the Offbeat piece, i.e., when even she would have to admit her application was active. The T-P is merely a regurgitation of a biased Offbeat piece, that should never have been written, by her. It's not my job to divine how a reporter's personal interest in something would play itself out by way of bias. But as you'll see below in an Letter to Offbeat's editor from a rep of a totally separate organization, I'm not alone in seeing the bias.

3) I read Ms. Reckdahl's last comment to suggest that Habitat's work is scandalous. Within reason, I would be happy to sit down with ANYone who wishes to approach this objectively, to show everything that we're about, and everything that the MV is about. Please know (a) that land is difficult to come by in NOLA, and (b) much of the NON-"core-site" land (i.e., homesites) is in flux on account of absent site-owners, city records in disarray, etc. Habitat continues to encourage musicians to apply, and many will make it, if not into the Core Site, into the surrounding area or elsewhere in the service area. But we can only build on land that we own. If the MV "core site" of 71 single-family homes fills up, then we will find space (and we are) to build houses. We're on a pace to build a couple hundred this year -- throughout the service area. Habitat is working as hard as any other housing organization to get property, including in the surrounding upper 9th Ward, despite bureaucratic hurdles. So far we've built a dozen or more houses surrounding the MV, on sites that we've received by donation or purchase. I'll share more of this info with just about anyone who wants to know, everything that I can.

I won't make time, however, to sit down with a reporter whom I'm convinced has reason to misrepresent the project. Heck, we haven't even gotten into the rest of the two articles, e.g., credit woes of certain applicants and what's being done to help with that, and I won't, but it's substantial. We have touched on the brass-band-member bias, which stands alone.

And this isn't just me talking. Tipitina's Musicians Coop's Mark Fowler wrote this about the Offbeat article after it appeared (Letters, Offbeat, Aug 06):

"I read [the article] over several times to make sure I wasn't seeing a negative bias where one didn't exist, and I have to say it reads as though it was written to discourage musicians from applying to the program. Nowhere in the article did I see an explanation of what the program actually is - an opportunity to purchase a home with 'sweat equity' instead of a cash downpayment and an interest-free, 20 year home loan. It is an opportunity to change from a rent-payer to a homeowner - the first step in building any personal wealth and financial stability. I have worked with many local musicians here at Tipitina's Music Office Co-Op, some of whom have applied to Habitat and are having a successful experience with the program...."

Thanks Mark. Nuff said.

Aaron

Kudos on spending the lunch hour clarifying. I understand the core issues of the controversy deal with misunderstandings between parties: habitat and public, habitat and the reporting, etc. What has not been helping is a distortion of what has been said.

I think it's helpful to point out at this point that everyone involved in this debate has been interested in helping out the musicians applying to the program; we share a common goal.

If the latest numbers supplied by Andy are factually correct, I think we're moving in the right direction. If the numbers were different before and they've changed since to reflect a positive direction towards helping musicians I'm willing to forgive and forget, and I think a lot of other people are as well.

Katy Reckdahl

I doubt that the numbers that Andy gave are accurate; they don't match up with what I was given -- when I had spoken with the Habitat for Humanity spokeswoman for this story, we had backed out people who were vying for houses in other neighborhoods besides the upper Ninth Ward. It would be nice to see some numbers of applicants, musician and non-musician, by Habitat stages. I requested that but could never get it.

My other questions were also pretty specific and I don't see that any of them were answered.

Charity

The Musicians Village is not just housing musicians, but is still collecting donations?

The Arabi Wrecking Krewe no longer wrecks homes but is still collecting donations.

Musicians Village supporters Wynton Marsallis and Harry Connick are outsiders?

The New Orleans Musicians Relief Fund is run by displaced New Orleans musicians and is still collecting donations.

The Musicians Village does not guarantee homes to all applicants?

New Orleans Musicians Hurricane Relief Fund, now called Renew Our Music, only gives grants to band leaders and is still collecting donations.

The Musicians Village has a difficult application process?

Sweet Home New Orleans takes no direct applications as an umbrella group, and it is still collecting donations.

All this blood in the sandbox is probably just due to the shrinking donor base.

Will

In her last post, Katy Reckdahl wrote: "I doubt that the numbers that Andy gave are accurate; they don't match up with what I was given..."

Perhaps that's because you didn't speak to the "Habitat spin team?"

Your bias is showing all over the place. I think the phrase I am looking for is "hatchet job"

liprap

Nice. I'm getting a touch of this guy's vitriol. Check the comments on the link.


http://liprapslament-theline.blogspot.com/2007/03/this-times-picayune-series-is-talk-of.html

Tara

OK, let's start with my background. I'm a drummer, my husband is a singer/songwriter and apro musician or almost 40 years. We are in the process of building our Habitat house in the Musician's Village. To date, we have been working on this process for about 2 years now (from the time we heard about it, went to the meeting held at Tip's, filled out the application, got denied, Habitat called us and got us hooked up with Andy Lee and a few other lawyers to help get the credit issues dealt with, finished the app process, signed the parnership agreement, did all the workshops and homebuyer's education classes and credit counselling, putin 250 hours of sweat equity on other peoples houses, waited til a lot large enough for our 4 bedroom house to be built became available, and now our foundation has been poured.) I understand what you're saying about the musician's village thing. But here's the deal. They are doing whatever they can to help musician's get approved. I had given up that there was no way to take care of my debts to get us into Habitat's program, but THEY called ME to hook me up with Andy to get things rolling. They'll work with you. The only way musician's aren't getting approved is if they won't take the time to do what's neccessary to get their ducks in a row. It took us about a year to get my credit issues settled, but it's done (and what a relief to know you have no outstanding debts!) and we're gonna own a house! (FOr the person thinking it;s not a good deal, from my understanding, and grant me I have a pretty good one as I;m doing it, the interst-free mortgage is from approx $75K, the cost of the land (around 5 to 10 grand, materials (they're not all dontated), contractors (HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Conctrete, carpet installation, and a few other things-I can send you a list of their contractors if you like ) Inspections, etc. Right off the bat, it's a pretty good deal, cause with a traditional mortgage for the first, I don't know 10 years of a 30 year mortgage, you;re hardly paying down the principal at all. The difference between the interest-free mortgage against the house (and that $550/mo payment includes taxes, flood insurance, home-owners insurance, and a yermite contract) and the "appraised value" of the house (generally, I think the appraised value is around $100K) is a "soft second" mortgage. It is for about $25K and after 5 years in the house the soft-second drops to $20K and 1 grand every subsequent year for the remainded of the 20 year note. Also, if you do decide that you don't want to live there anymore for some reason, Habitat reserves the right of first refusal, so they'll probably buy it back from you. Any ?'s) For that, jump through some hoops dangnabit! My house note is going to be almost half what I'm paying in rent now for a 700sqft apartment right now (twice the space for half the price, and no crazy ass landlord who wants to jack up my rent - not the current one, he rocks, but you know what I mean..plus new construction with no gaps in the floorboards letting out the AC..woo hoo!) The reason they do this is to make sure that folks don't lose their houses (From my info, Habitat has less than 1% of their houses go into default and repossessed)

I guess the other reason I'm posting here is your constant references to "New Orleans music" What is New Orleans music? My hubby has been a street musician here in New Orleans off and on (when he wasn't signed to contract) for over 30 years. I've been playing music with him for going on 10 years now. We play predominantly folk/blues music (though I do play with a "traditional" brass band now and again). We're not what you would probably refer to as "New Orleans music". But we were back in New Orleans the day after they let us back into our zip code (in Mid-City October 5th, 2007). We came back with our children (at the time 4 and 1) to a badly flooded house. no power, no water, no open stores on this side of the river. After 2 days of getting over the shell shock, we went back out to Jackson Square and set up to play music like we always do for the few locals that had returned, bocou emergency workers and a lot of National Guard and State Police. We gathered a large crowd of people longing to hear "New Orleans music" for a sense of normalcy. They sat down with us, listened to our music and we all cried together. Many people who only ever used to pass by stopped to say "thanks for bringing back the music. It hasn't felt right not hearing any music". I may not have been born and raised here, and I may not play "New Orleans music", but I'm as much a Y'at as a "traditional" brass band musician. Diversity Darlin'. Most of my musician friends are "traditional" horn players. We respect each other. I guess what I'm trying to get at is If the city is in your soul, it's gonna come out in your music and that's what makes it "New Orleans music" This is my home and I'm fighting every day to stay here. Habitat is helping to make that possible. I may not agree with everything that's going on with them, but the bottom line is they ARE helping people in general and musicians specifically. If you want to own a house, there are hoops you've got to jump through. Habitat makes the hoops a lot easier to get through, especially with the credit cruch going on. I don;t know of any bank that would accept my income "calendar" as proof of income, though I do file my taxes, so maybe I'd be OK. Habitat is building little clusters of houses all over the city. Musicians will probably be in some of those homes as well. Musician's Village is the spirit of trying to help musicians own their own home affordably. Yeah, it would have been nice if someone would have paid off my debts from when I was in college that had been hounding me. But have you any idea how good it felt to send them a check with my name on it to pay them off all my myself (with help from Andy to get them to settle for less than half what they orignially wanted). I'm not a dog and pony show but it felt good to jump through that hoop.

Thanks for reading and for forgiving my insanely late night rambling post with horrible grammer, sentence structure and spelling!

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