Thursday, May 22, 2014

NO:LA Nightwatch: Campaign Seed Final Details (Part Eight)

The last of the pre-campaign bits and pieces I distributed to the players. IN this one I wanted to set up the feeling of the tensions in the city. I believe this was the last thing I handed out to the players before the campaign began. A couple of thoughts about this campaign. One, I like the idea of handed out snippets before a campaign starts. Not a game bible, but little bits and pieces. I think perhaps I did too much work with this one, especially since a good chunk never made it to the table. I need to consider how to more tightly focus what I present. Two, I really like the idea of the PCs picking up the pieces and trying to restore honor to the idea of heroes. I think that's a compelling origin story for a group. And it allows the GM to re-build a setting if they want. I can imagine using Microscope to set up the groundwork for something like this.  


CURRENT ISSUES IN NEW ORLEANS
[Quotes below taken from an article in the Guardian Unlimited]
While Katrina was diverted from a direct landfall on New Orleans, the hurricane did damage across the Gulf Coast. In New Orleans flooding, damage to the levies and an inept evacuation plan exposed problems with local, state and government responses. However, squabbling over responsibility and money meant that by the following year, little had been done to fix the situation. Even before the disaster of Sunder, New Orleans had had a series of problems with sewage overflows, toxic mold closing whole neighborhoods, and an inadequate attempt to solidify the city's power grid. Sunder arrived in an already wounded city and created more havoc-- forcing a massive badly managed evacuation, flooding as certain primary levies were destroyed, and widespread physical damage.

The year since then has seen some hopeful responses-- charitable organizations and churches working hard to provide for those left homeless, the restoration of many of the port facilities, and the re-opening of the Superdome. But the federal response has been weak, at nest. Much greater attention has been given to Boston and areas of the north. As well, money has been strangely disbursed with cash going to areas in Louisiana and neighboring states only marginally affected by the disasters. This has bred a degree of resentment and hostility.
Here are a few of the current major issues facing New Orleans.

Murder
Though Philadelphia and Baltimore are often referred to as the "murder capitols" New Orleans actually has a murder rate three times that of those cities. Part of the problem lies in the Louisiana Penal code--

"In recent years, the Orleans Parish district attorney's office has released hundreds of suspects under Article 701 of the Louisiana code of criminal procedure, which states that suspects cannot be held for longer than 60 days on felony arrest without an indictment. Reasons given for the lack of charges filed in 701 cases range from incomplete police reports to overburdened assistant district attorney's who were simply not able to file an indictment before the 60-day period expired. Unsurprisingly, the city's drug business began getting the message that felony crimes-even murder-would most likely end in a 701 release...In 2006 alone, there were nearly 3,000 such releases, a five- or six-fold increase over pre-flood levels."

Sunder's assault only made the situation worse. In certain cases, especially those involving paranormal criminals, the DHS was able to step in and file new charges. However, this has meant the shipping of these criminals to detention facilities not unlike Guantanamo and charging them as terrorists. This controversial decision drew more negative publicity and overlooked the number of super-criminals who did manage to evade prosecution and imprisonment.

Today's gang members refer to the practice as "misdemeanor murder"-- that a killing will likely only net them 60 days before they're released. Incredibly the mayor, police chief and others have managed to avoid addressing this issue or even talking about the inadequacies of the DA's office and other law enforcement divisions.

Corruption
While the South has always been stereotyped as corrupt, the scale of current problems in Louisiana and New Orleans cannot be overstated. While there are honorable public officials, it has become clear that they are fighting an uphill battle. Reconstruction finds have gone missing, projects implemented have had no oversight, and materials and supplies intended to help locals never reach their intended destination. On top of that a successful lawsuit by employees of the New Orleans District Attorney's office for racial discrimination in their firings may cost the city several million dollars. The DA office has told the city council that if they do not cover the costs of that suit, the office will have to even further curtail prosecution activities.

Another serious problem has been terrible management in the offices handling building permits and city planning. Complicated paperwork and regulations have made it increasingly difficult for homeowners to rebuild and return to the city. While some claim the steps are necessary to prevent future disasters, recent reporting by the local newspapers has suggested a pattern to the roadblocks-- with certain neighborhoods targeted for more rigorous inspections and increased delays. In turn, these properties have been snapped up by other buyer-- some with suspicious backgrounds or clearly operating through dummy operations. Accusations of corruption have also been leveled at the groups deciding where redevelopment will be permitted and where they land will simply be leveled. As a result, New Orleans remains at a population of less than half of pre-Katrina and Sunder.

Adding to the uncertainty has been recent work by the federal government to limit protections for whistleblowers. In New Orleans these protections have been even more scarce. Several sources for recent articles on corruption have been found dead or gone missing

Gangs and Organized Crime
All of this has left an open space that has been filled by various criminal groups. The Hurricane Mafia, so-called because of their connection to post-disaster reconstruction projects throughout the south, is said to have heavily invested in making this city a new power base. As well due to the high port traffic, it is believed that certain Chinese Triads have been making a play for increased influence. Many of these gangs have strong establishments in Brazil and other South American countries and are making that a jumping off point to reach this entry into the US criminal network. But homebrew organized crime has also spread. 

Perhaps most notable of these are two gangs. The first, Brick 14, began to grow after Katrina. Popular legend has it that the leaders of this gang were left to die when authorities abandoned a local jail. Housed in Block (or Brick) 14, they managed to survive and escape. Their influence has grown and they've managed to push out other gangs-- many of whom had members flee during both disasters. When those criminals returned they found themselves faced with a choice of joining up, leaving, or getting killed. The other prominent gang, B-Zerk, is has more questions surrounding it. It has been suggested they are tied to another criminal organization or that they have some super leading them. Little is known about them besides their penchant for highly visible violence.

Lastly
"Perhaps the most serious blow to New Orleans' ailing criminal justice system is the recent election of former Republican Congressman Bobby Jindal as Lousiana's governor. Mr Jindal has boasted that he will turn New Orleans-which is already profoundly suffering from a lack of public resources-into a model of far right privatisation politics on such issues as education and healthcare.

So, New Orleans speeds along to the sort of wholesale destruction than even Katrina could not have wrought without anyone in major leadership positions stepping up to stop the bloodletting. "The trouble is," University of New Orleans criminologist Peter Scharf told me recently, "there is no willing to stand up and say 'This is fucking nuts.'"

DHS Conference on Paranormals to Meet in New Orleans
The Department of Homeland Security has selected New Orleans as the site for national conference entitled, "Security and the Parahuman: Issues and Options." Dedicated to developing a coherent national blueprint for handling parahumans, it agenda will consider risk management, liability, and terrorism. Scheduled for the first weekend of April, 2008, the conference is the first of its kind to draw across many fields including governors, law enforcement, scientists and others. "New Orleans should be a stark reminder of the problems with face in America," stated conference organizer and deputy FBI chief Moses Barks. "We hope the backdrop of this city will encourage participants to take the need to develop policy seriously."

Water Problems
The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board announced today a second boil warning for residents in selected parishes. Following the collapse of a set of major feed pipes, the board has had to divert resources to maintain pressure. As a result a certain amount of untreated water made its way into the water supply. Officials estimate that water should be safe to use within 48 hours. This is the second major water incident in the last two weeks. Some officials have begun to question the competency of the NOSWB. There have been further calls to privatize other facilities under the board's control, despite previous problems with corruption in that area. In 2001, AquaAlliance, a wastewater treatment company was convicted on ten counts of bribing officials in return for preferential treatment in the bid process.

Water and wastewater treatment are two primary needs of people in a community, so in addition to everything else you need to do, you have to have that capacity in place before can rebuild," says James N. Jensen, Ph.D., professor of civil, environmental and structural engineering and director or the environmental science program in the UB School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. Jensen estimates that there were probably about 100 million gallons of wastewater in the system in New Orleans when Sunder shut the city down, and he says the EPA estimates that 200 wastewater treatment plants and 1,100 drinking-water facilities in New Orleans were affected by the event.

Cybercrime Expansion
The City Council approved increased funding for the NOPD Cybercrimes division after a series of well publicized crimes. The break up of a major organized identity theft team operating out of St. Bernard Parish in May brought the first attention to the topic. That the criminal had managed to operate through Sunder's assault and keep up their infrastructure despite the devastation to the parish around them have made police nervous that other like criminal cells may be operating in areas given less attention. As well, the discovery last week of a fourth victim of the so-called "MySpace Killer" has caused additional outcry. Cybercrimes division chief Natalie Deveraux said that the money would go towards improving the group's operations in terms of personnel and more advanced equipment.

Marine Research Development

Adams Braeburn broke ground on his latest project, an advanced Marine Research and Development facility in Plaquemines Parish. The facility will look at the changes to marine life in the Gulf Coast region, the impact of local environmental shifts, and research new technologies and techniques to make use of the local marine resources. Located in a remote area cleared by damage from Katrina, the facility should eventually provided 100+ jobs for the local area. "Eventually as we expand our vision, we hope to employ even more locals," said Braeburn. This project represents the sixth groundbreaking for the noted developer-industrialist since he came to New Orleans. Despite having been Boston-born, Braeburn came to New Orleans after Sunder's assault to offer aid and commit money and resources to the redevelopment of the city. "So many people have turned their back on New Orleans, but Braeburn Futures will not."