TOWN TALK with Colette Lottinger

FIRST-HAND LOOK. Presidential candidate John Edwards takes a photo-op poverty tour in New Orleans to personally see what the city needs to grow and prosper.

Stopping by Cafe Reconcile to meet presidential candidate John Edwards on Monday was suggested to me by Cafe Reconcile’s director Craig Cuccia.Cuccia is also my son-in-law, so when I stood in line and shook Edward’s hand I introduced myself as Colette Lottinger, president of St. Charles Social Concerns, and Craig Cuccia’s mother-in-law.

Edwards was on a photo-op poverty tour to see first-hand what could be done to help the situation.

Someone said he really didn’t need to go to any other states; he could’ve just stayed in New Orleans to get the picture.

While at Cafe Reconcile I met Sharon Jones who, hailing from West Virginia and having worked with job placement there, decided she needed to help in New Orleans.

Jones said she filled out an application for a FEMA job to come to New Orleans and was one of the 20 chosen out of thousands who applied. But, she told me she was one of the “good FEMA people.”

I asked her why she thought money was coming in so slowly to New Orleans, and she suggested it was all the red tape the funds had to go through first to know where to go.

The layers of bureacracy created for it to go through are: Road Home, Louisiana Recovery Authority, and whatever else is out there.

She and I both agreed that those programs seemed unnecessary and added confusion and burden to a system that could have been simplified by the Governor’s just handing money to a staff that should have been competent enough to hand it to the right people.

On a lighter note; we enjoyed “Chicago” at the Tulane Summer Lyric Theater offering at Dixon Hall.

The main reason I wanted to go was to see Ricky Graham who is a joy to watch in anything he plays.

He played Roxie Hart’s husband Amos and sang the Mr. Cellophane song in the production. Elizabeth Argus was Roxie and she excelled in this part. Leslie Castay played Velma Kelley to the very last T.

The bubbly and vivacious Castay is originally from LaPlace and we first met her at a Saenger production party in 1998 when she played in Beauty and the Beast. She now lives in New Orleans with her husband and two children.

If you’re ready for some delicious food in New Orleans on River Road … park in the Dante’ Village parking lot and dine at Brigsten’s Restaurant. It is open at night and you’ll need reservations – but you’re in for a treat.

We took the three international teenage girls who stayed with us three nights last week to Bethany and Lito’s new 90 West Restaurant (formerly Sal’s) to get a taste of Louisiana cuisine.

Dai from Argentina is used to food not quite so spicy. Kali from Columbia wasn’t used to seafood at all but seemed to enjoy it and Mo from Kenya seemed appreciative of it all. They all splashed catsup on everything.

The St. Charles Rotary Club members and others hosted 52 teens as the last leg of a year-long stay in the United States.

They suffered through our intensely hot weather but got to cool off in the Willowdale Country Club pool. Jeanine Granier was in charge of accommodations.

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