It's the question that has haunted New Orleans' recovery from Hurricane Katrina: When will New Orleans finally turn the corner on crime?
Maybe the answer lies in the stars.
Asked at a Jan. 9 press conference to predict 2008 crime trends for the weary city, the Orleans Parish District Attorney and the head of the Louisiana FBI referred a Gambit Weekly reporter to NOPD Superintendent Warren Riley. The chief said his beleaguered force would do its best to stem the rising tide of murders, shootings and armed robberies. But as for any predictions, he sardonically suggested the reporter consult a psychic.
So we did.
Nationally recognized astrologer Lynn Wilson predicts the crime-weary city probably will not see any relief until after the summer.
'I don't think things will get better before next fall, and yet I do believe this police chief is doing all he can," Wilson says.
Moreover, Chief Riley could receive a rollout of "accolades" beginning around Thanksgiving, she adds. However, the stars forecast "extremely" tough times ahead for Mayor Ray Nagin this year, with adversity continuing through 2011.
On the other hand, the city itself could experience a "golden period" in 2009, Wilson says, though she does expect New Orleans to flood again. At the same time, if an old prediction holds true, the aging scion of a political family may be around to help the city heal, yet again.
Based in Nashville, Wilson (www.lynnwilson.com) is no stranger to New Orleans or its local luminaries. She earned a master's degree in counseling from UNO in the 1980s before setting up shop for several years here as a full-time astrologer. In fact, we consulted her for a Gambit cover story nearly 15 years ago ('Stars of the Stars," Aug. 3, 1993).
At that time, she predicted that then-state Rep. Mitch Landrieu (Leo) and then state Sen. Marc Morial (Capricorn) would both surpass the fame of their fathers, both of whom served as mayors of New Orleans. Wilson also said then that Marc Morial's "professional peak" was 20 years away. Not long after our story appeared, Morial was elected mayor twice. He served two terms and now heads the National Urban League, a civil rights organization based in New York City. Wilson also predicted that Mitch Landrieu, then 32, would make a "radical shift" in his 40s. Despite being tagged as an ultra-liberal Democrat in a conservative state, Landrieu won a statewide race for lieutenant governor in 2003 at the age of 43. He was re-elected last year.
In 1993, Wilson said the star chart of then-state Rep. David Vitter (Taurus) showed his career peak was a "long way off," and suggested a "very complex and enigmatic man," with "many anxieties." Vitter was later elected to the United States Senate. Last year, he admitted to an unspecified "sin," after his phone number turned up in an investigation of a "madam" in Washington D.C.
Wilson also predicted high public approval ratings for Hoda Kotb (Leo), then a news anchor for WWL-TV, who now is a national anchor for NBC-TV.
Wilson uses incorporation dates when charting the future for businesses and other entities. New Orleans (Incorporated Feb. 17, 1805) is an Aquarius. Fifteen years ago, Wilson said the stars show that New Orleans unlike other American cities is "accustomed to chaos and strongly resists being ordered." She added that efforts to make New Orleans like other American cities would be "self-defeating." She noted that crime is best fought through "alternative styles of education" as opposed to traditional punishment. "If we don't find ways to make the system more flexible, there will be more anarchy and more crime," Wilson said then.
The following year, New Orleans suffered a record-breaking homicide rate that still stands today: 421 people killed. In addition, the city was wracked by police corruption scandals that captured headlines worldwide.
Wilson says her astrological reading of the city's characteristics and her recommendations for battling crime have not changed.
Today, Wilson says, a reading of the astrological charts of the city, Mayor Ray Nagin (Gemini) and Chief Riley (Capricorn) tells an interesting story. "There is a forced restructuring of some sort going on in New Orleans, literally a tearing down of the old structure and a rebuilding of the new," she says. "This could apply to the housing shortage, but I'm looking at it also as a political restructuring."
Pressure on the city to restructure will be "very strong" in August of 2008 (the third anniversary of Katrina). And overall, there is "pressure on the powers that be to make truly fundamental changes" in city operations. Mayor Nagin will feel pressured to respond, she says.
Nagin has a "very stressful" chart, Wilson notes. Just as New Orleanians have sometimes found Nagin to be incomprehensible, Hizzoner is also apparently a rarity for astrologers, too. Nagin's chart is a "grand square," Wilson says, an unusual alignment of planetary influences. "It is literally a square, with four planets (Mercury, Mars, Pluto and Saturn) at 90-degree angles to one another," she said. "People with grand squares tend to live more stress-filled lives, from childhood on."
Of the 11,000 people whose charts she has read during a career that exceeds 25 years, Wilson explains, fewer than 50 have grand squares like Ray Nagin.
Looking ahead, the mayor will be tested this year in early July and November. February 2009 will be a period of "extreme stress and major forced changes." A protracted period of difficulties will peak in 2011, Wilson says.
By comparison, the stars will smile on Police Chief Riley. "He has a wonderful period between Thanksgiving 2008 and the spring of 2009, and my sense is he's being congratulated for things he's doing," Wilson says. "I do think he'll receive true accolades and he'll receive funding in February 2009, which tells me everything is dependent on a change in the national administration.
'I like this man's chart. He might sometimes promise more than he can deliver, but I think the delivery problem has to do with the bureaucracy he's dealing with, not with his intentions. He aims to do an excellent job and to leave something solid in place that will outlive him."
What do the stars reveal about how the mayor and the police chief work together? "The police chief on paper looks like a much mellower personality," Wilson says. "The mayor's chart is very high-stressed."
Both officials feel "misunderstood" by each other at times, she adds. "Both can react quickly, which is good in an emergency situation. But they may overreact to each another. I have a feeling each of them wants to be heard by the other."
Overall, Wilson says, any miscues between the mayor and his top cop are "more a difference of how they express themselves, rather than a difference of opinion."
Riley was born Jan. 15, 1959, and the Mayor on June 11, 1956.
Meanwhile, New Orleans' astrological forecast brightens beginning later this year. "The city could go into a golden period through the year 2009, and I sense it starts picking up steam in the fall of 2008 after going through a tense August." Early next year marks the beginning of a "wonderful period of renaissance with good press and money available."
However, the stars suggest that the city will eventually flood again. "I think everyone realizes New Orleans is going to go back underwater at some point," Wilson says. "I've always seen the city as a Caribbean island, and I think it literally will become one in our lifetime."
In the short term, this city that "celebrates death" near the end of the river will remain unlike the rest of urban America.
'I don't see it ever being a clean, efficient, crime-free city," Wilson says. "And I think people who live there need to love it for what it is a celebration of the senses and a place where you can immerse yourself in the creative juices caused by this flow, which can serve as a form of compost for creativity and soul work."