Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Changing landscapes

Pretty soon you won't be able to recognize Tulane Avenue anymore.  That was bound to happen once the medical center was complete and I don't mean to say it's altogether good or bad.  In a lot of cases, it's just a matter of replacing one ugly thing with another ugly thing.  Here, for example, they're replacing an ugly motel with an ugly office building.
Despite opposition from a few neighbors and the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans, the demolition of the former Le Petit Motel has been approved.

The New Orleans Neighborhood Conservation District Advisory Committee approved a request to demolish the former auto motel on 2836 Tulane Ave at its regular meeting Monday. The committee previously deferred the vote so developers could bring the plan to the Mid-City Neighborhood Organization for input.

Two people spoke in opposition of the demolition, including Erin Holmes of the Preservation Resource Center of New Orleans. Holmes said the former hotel has architectural merit given it’s mid-century design and expressed concern about a large development on the Tulane corridor.
"Mid-century design."  I mean, OK, I guess. If you're really into preserving cheap kitsch for its own sake, that might have some value.  Here's the motel as it looked in October when I happened to be in the neighborhood.

Le Petit Motel

Maybe they'll keep the little piper when they knock it down.  You could probably sell that to whoever opens a trendy bar or something in the new building.

It isn't that hard to figure

Is this really a "classic Catch 22?"
It's a classic Catch-22: Tear it down and run the risk that a half-finished design, with only half its construction funding secured, never gets built. Leave it up and risk delaying a signature wish of Mayor Mitch Landrieu and public transit officials to revitalize New Orleans' central locus in time for its tricentennial.

Not to be lost in the debate are the commuters and tourists who rely on the ferry service to shuttle them back and forth to Algiers.
I'm don't see how this is so much a puzzle. It should be pretty easy to set some priorities here. Ideally we would first (1) Determine whether the plan serves the public's transit needs. Next, (2) make sure the funding is in place. And then, later, much later (700), worry about the mayor's stupid vanity timeline.

Of course, in reality, those aren't the only factors being considered.  Primarily, decisionmakers here are concerned with tourism and real estate concerns.  I doubt the other stuff figures in much if at all.

"Button allergy"

Sidney Torres's AMA had a few LOLs.

When does the book come out?

This FBI agent's allegations about corruption and cronyism permeating the Louisiana criminal justice system from top to bottom are worth taking seriously.  His suggested remedy, on the other hand,  which would involve agents or cops going over the heads of prosecutors to facilitate indictments, probably isn't.  In any case, one does wonder why he would consciously take this step given what he understands about the consequences.
"This letter will anger many powerful people, prosecutors, former prosecutors, defense attorneys, politicians and FBI management," Zummer wrote. "If I am wrong, then urge the Justice Department to prove it. Open up the files and let the American people see for themselves."

"I love fighting corruption in Louisiana," he added. "This is where I belong, but this letter most likely means my time is over here and possibly in the FBI."

Zummer portrayed the letter as a last resort, saying the FBI had gone to extraordinary lengths to silence him.  

"Although this is not the normal procedure to handle this sort of legal issue, the FBI's conduct has left me no choice," the agent wrote. "The victims, witnesses and investigative team should know, and they deserve to have the public know, why this plea agreement (with Morel) was made."
Unless he's got a book deal in the works.  That's got to be it, right?

Secretary of Honeydo

This is fine. It's not like Tillerson actually does anything, given the way the Trump Administration is structured.
I didn’t want this job. I didn’t seek this job,” Tillerson told IJR’s Erin McPike, the lone reporter to accompany the secretary of state on his trip to Asia, who noted that the secretary does not appear to harbor regrets about accepting the job. “My wife told me I’m supposed to do this.”

Neigborhoods without neighbors

Sunday, we experienced an unusual harmonic convergence. The Uptown Mardi Gras Indian "Super Sunday" event fell on exactly the same day as the Feast of St. Joseph when the Indians typically come out again after dark. There was a time I would have been pretty excited for that.  But nowadays, things are different. NOLA.com's Chris Granger touched on it a bit here.
Covering Super Sunday as a photographer has become increasingly challenging. With the Indians' immense popularity, crowds swarm the area with smartphones and iPad cameras, elbowing each other for a close up of the Indians' feathers and finery.
I know what he's talking about. I go out to Second and Dryades every Mardi Gras morning and it can get kind of cramped with photographers.

Lots of cameras

Bo Dollis Jr

Not that that's a huge problem in and of itself. We live in a time when almost everybody has some sort of camera on them practically all of the time and people like to document things they are seeing. That's fine. Still, there's something weird about it and people should be aware of how it looks.  Here's a pack of photographers chasing after a second line tribute to Uncle Lionel Batiste during Jazzfest a few years ago.

Photo frenzy

Again, the issue here isn't really that everybody likes to photograph things.  And it's not just that the crowds at Super Sunday are getting heavier, although they certainly are.  It's more about the way these neighborhood celebrations have become prime attractions for a destructive sort of "authenticity tourism."

We're used to there being a lot of activity in our area during second lines and stuff. But Sunday was different. This was out of state plates taking up all of the parking on the block indicating the short term rentals were full. This was sitting out on the stoop watching Uber drivers headed the wrong direction on one way streets. As I was carrying a sack of clothes into the laundromat, I had to step around a pack of visitors coming out of the Airbnb across from us. They were discussing, and I swear I am not making this up, which Treme character was their favorite.   Next year I'm going to make a Bingo card to track this sort of thing. It's only likely to get worse.

The reasons it's going to get worse:

1) National publications for wealthy readers are still producing travel pieces about our "authenticity" product.

2) Nobody can afford to actually live in our "authenticity" themed neighborhoods anymore.
  • 81% of Airbnb’s U.S. revenue – $4.6 billion – comes from whole-unit rentals (those rentals where the owner is not present during the time of the rental), rising from 78% in the prior year.

  • Each of the 13 cities studied saw an increase in the total number of listings by multi-unit hosts. In Nashville, Seattle, Oahu, and New Orleans, the growth of the number of units managed by multi-unit operators more than doubled -- and Nashville saw an increase of more than 160%.

  • The markets with the highest share of total revenue derived from multi-unit hosts are Miami (57.9%), Oahu (53.5%), and New Orleans (42.3%).

3) This is only going to exacerbate the already intolerable situation with housing costs in New Orleans.
At the start of March, New Orleans is still ranked No. 15 for the city with the most expensive rent in the United States.

According to Zumper’s National Rent Index, the average price of one bedroom apartments in New Orleans is $1,142, and two bedroom units are an average $1,353. In considering March of 2016, rent has increased 15 percent from last year.

To understand the role of STRs here, take a look at this study of Airbnb's effects in New York. The authors examine the loss of available housing to STRs as well as a pronounced Airbnb "rent gap."
Here the relevant metrics are less about housing units and more about money—revenue flows through the urban housing market. As Neil Smith explained nearly forty years ago, gentrification is “a back to the city movement by capital, not people”.

The existence of a rent gap means that, systematically across a neighbourhood, landowners can earn more money from some different use of their property than from the existing use, which creates an incentive to reinvestment and hence gentrification. As I discussed above, we normally think of rent gaps leading to new capital investment—renovations and redevelopments—but in the case of Airbnb this generally won’t be necessary. Property owners will just switch their units from residential leases to short-term rentals. So if there has been an Airbnb-induced rent gap, we shouldn’t expect to see big new capital expenditures; instead we should expect to see routine housing revenue flows (which are mostly composed of rent and mortgage payments) diverted into Airbnb.
In terms of gentrification, Airbnb is perfect for New Orleans in that it is an anti-personnel weapon.  It (mostly) leaves the scenery in place but clears out all the troublesome residents. This way the appearance of what was once a vibrant neighborhood is retained for the benefit of the temporary occupants to whom it is sold.

I know I say this a lot but the STRs are completely taking over in Central City. It's made the scene during Mardi Gras a little more uncomfortable every year.  Its effect is even worse during events like Super Sunday and the time around Jazzfest when the "authenticity" quotient is high.  This month the city's registration program began officially and The Lens has begun mapping applicants. As of Monday, they've counted 294. But given, the 4,500 listings tracked by InsideAirbnb, we know there's a lot of space left to fill.

Unfortunately space is running out for those of us just trying to live in the city. Incidentally that includes the individuals who create and maintain the now hopelessly commodified cultural events and folkways that made our spaces attractive to authenticity tourists in the first place. It isn't hard to imagine a point when these celebrations lose their meaning entirely.  If the traditional parade grounds of Indian gangs and Second Line organizations are no longer the places those people actually live, what is the point of even staging these events?  What is a neighborhood parade without a neighborhood? What is a neighborhood without neighbors?

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why this and why now?

Everybody here is wondering why there's so much momentum behind this particular highway project.  The best the people at this meeting can come up with is some vague combination of "corruption," "bureaucracy" and inertia.
Louisiana is also dealing with one of the largest budget deficits in state history, and many are perplexed as to why the Louisiana Department of Transportation is focusing on an expensive plan that is not only opposed by the community, but offers limited commercial value.

So the question remains, who benefits from the roadway's construction? Calhoun said he doesn't know, but wouldn't be surprised if "this is just more of Bobby Jindal's people getting money," referencing the rampant corruption in Louisiana politics. But he also suggested that perhaps this is just an infrastructure project that has floated around the state's bureaucracy for so long that it's attained a weight of its own, being pushed by nobody in particular, but advancing nonetheless. "I don't even think our elected officials have been told the real deal on this," he said. "They're trying to promote it just to promote it."

Ultimately, what many Ninth Ward residents say is most frustrating is that they feel ignored. Those attending the public meeting said they believe the state is withholding information and that even if they were fully informed, there isn't anything they can do to stop the project. Many saw the meeting as only a façade of public outreach, meant to check a bureaucratic box rather than truly hear and integrate community concerns.
But I think there must be something else in play.  I've got some ideas as to what it may be but I'd rather ask around before speculating. 


Have we talked lately about how much we love Stuart Fisher?  The dude will not stop.

The firm that has asked Louisiana’s highest court to consider its suit challenging the World Trade Center building’s redevelopment in New Orleans has filed for bankruptcy in a Florida court, a move that could let it dodge much of its more than $6 million in debts.

The company's owner sees the bankruptcy and related court proceedings as a Plan B, should the Louisiana Supreme Court refuse to take up the World Trade Center case.

“The best thing I can do is to bring it (to Florida) and see if I can get a fair shake,” said Stuart “Neil” Fisher, owner of Two Canal Street Investors Inc. “If I’m wrong, I lose. If I’m right, (the WTC project) would probably go for a rebid.”
It's a little disappointing to see Fisher has abandoned the tack of challenging the constitutionality of a state law passed last year at the mayor's urging specifically to shut down this lawsuit. It's a bad law.  Maybe we can come back to that at some point in the future. But for now, it's remarkable that despite everything the mayor and his allies have done to push this project forward through Fisher's obstructions... nevertheless he has persisted.

He can't just be doing this for sport, though, right?  For a while it looked like he was angling for a buyout. Fisher famously bought Two Canal Street Investors Inc for $10 after its bid had already failed.  If he were looking to flip it over into a quick profit, he should have completed that deal by now.  If that's the play, it's well past time to call in Sidney Torres and film a Very Special Episode of The Deed 

But I'm starting to wonder if something else is up.  Fisher says his goal is just to force the thing back up for rebid.  Who would benefit from that?

Congratulations, Ruptured Achilles Guy

Very sorry. We do not do fake girlfriend jokes on this website. Fake girlfriends are a serious matter that afflicts untold numbers of Americans today.

KHON2 in Honolulu, Hawaii, first reported Monday evening the news of Te'o agreeing to terms with the Saints.

The 26-year-old Te'o, a native of Hawaii, entered the league in 2013 out of Notre Dame as a second-round pick (38th overall) of the then-San Diego Chargers, where he played four seasons.

Te'o's arrival reunites him with Saints linebackers coach Mike Nolan, who served in the same capacity on the Chargers coaching staff in 2015.

Under Nolan, the 6-1, 241-pound Te'o enjoyed his best statistical season, starting 12 games and producing a career-high 82 tackles (62 solo). He added a 1/2 sack, an interception, a forced fumble and two passes defensed in 2015.

Te'o, who suffered a season-ending Achilles tear in Week 3 of the 2016 season, has appeared in 38 career games (34 starts) over four seasons and totaled 233 tackles (160 solo), 1 1/2 sacks, two interceptions, a forced fumble and nine passes defensed in that span.
About that torn Achilles, here is a 2009 study of pro football players who have incurred that particularly nasty injury.  It finds that 32 percent of them never play again. The news is especially bad for linebackers.
There was a 95%, 87%, and 64% postinjury reduction in power ratings for linebackers, cornerbacks, and defensive tackles over a 3-year period. On average, players experienced a greater than 50% reduction in their power ratings following such an injury.
So, you know, welcome aboard!

Monday, March 20, 2017

What is Mitch running for?

The first half of this article is about the Landrieu administration's support for the newly hired RTA chairman despite questions about his use of public funds in prior appointments.  The second half is a blurb about the mayor's frequent outspokenness on national issues. The article only cites three instances from this month.
But his tendency to do this has steadily increased over the past year or so.There are members of Congress who don't issue statements this regularly on what's happening in Washington. But at least no one is in any doubt on where Landrieu, whose term as mayor ends in a little over a year, stands on national issues.

What's he up to?

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Krewe Of Chad's Day

St Patrick's Parade 2006

Last Saturday afternoon we were sitting out on the porch watching the vaguely Irish themed revelers coming back from the Irish Channel Parade. The current route doesn't come as close to us as the old one but it's enough to make for festive people watching. One such festive individual stumbled up to us and offering high fives. 

His tux and kilt indicated he had been marching that day. His salutation, "I'm fucked up" confirmed it. He said he was trying to get back to Constance and Josephine where his car was apparently parked. We pointed him off in the wrong direction, though, because 1) helping him drive in that state probably would have made us accomplices to something and 2) he had already wandered pretty far from there in the first place so maybe we could keep that going. 

In any case, St. Patrick's Day in New Orleans is basically the Feast Of St. Krewe Of Chad. Be safe out there if you're participating.

Enjoy your tax-free balconies

The city has agreed to hold off on the "air tax" for a while. At least until "we can figure out what is going on" or until something else captures people's attention.
New Orleans will hold off on charging property owners for balconies, galleries, steps and other architectural features that hang over city sidewalks, administration officials said Friday.

The fight over whether property owners have to pay for the "air rights" for portions of their building that are above city property began in late 2015, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration began aggressively enforcing a policy that had been on the books for decades.

All of a sudden, property owners who went to the city to pull permits were forced to agree to sign agreements that in some cases promised to pay thousands of dollars a year to lease those features, even ones that dated back centuries or predated the city streets themselves.

The issue has been particularly acute in the French Quarter, though properties citywide have been affected.
I dunno... speaking as someone who does not and is not likely to own this kind of fancy property, I can't say I'm all that worried about those who can afford to pay such a tax.  On the other hand, if you are looking for a policy likely to make the city's architecture less attractive, this is probably a good one for that. 

Congratulations to Mike Yenni

They're gonna have him to kick around some more.
With 20 days left before the April 6 deadline, the group pushing to oust Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni over a sexting scandal has conceded it won’t have anywhere near the number of necessary signatures to force a recall election.

Recall Yenni leader Robert Evans III said Friday morning that even after spending $120,000, collecting the roughly 90,000 signatures required "cannot be achieved before the deadline."
If only there had been more jokes about this during Mardi Gras  the recall effort might have reached enough people.



Bernie Sanders, the most popular politician in America, on why the Democrats are missing their opportunity to meaningfully oppose Trump.
Sanders himself put it this way in his usual blunt style in an interview with New York Magazine this week when asked about whether the Democrats can adapt to the political reality said “there are some people in the Democratic Party who want to maintain the status quo. They would rather go down with the Titanic so long as they have first-class seats.”

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wating for the pivot

Garret Graves is taking a "wait and see" posture with regard to Trump's devastating... er... um... "transformational" cuts to Louisiana coastal research funds.
U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, R-Baton Rouge, who was previously chairman of the state's Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said he's still taking a wait and see attitude on Trump's budget, at least until details of the budget are delivered to Congress in May.

"I do think it's important to look back at the history of presidential budgets, where you often see the shifting of the deckchairs, you don't see a lot of fundamental changes of form," Graves said. "But as the president talked about extensively on the campaign trail, he wanted to do something transformational. I embrace transformational change and some disruption because that absolutely needs to happen and I came here to take part in that." 

This is what they've always wanted

There is an increased stirring among allegedly respectable conservatives to separate themselves from the president* and his more manic supporters in the Congress and out in the country. To hell with them. Like Haman, they're dancing on a gallows they spent years devising. This budget represents the diamond-hard reality behind all those lofty pronouncements from oil-sodden think tanks, all those learned disquisitions in little, startlingly advertising-free magazines, all those earnest young graduates of prestige universities who dedicated their intellects to putting an educated gloss on greed and ignorance, and ideological camouflage on retrograde policies that should have died with Calvin Coolidge—or perhaps Louis XVI.

This is it, right here, this budget. This is the beau ideal of movement conservative governance. This is the logical, dystopian end of Reaganism, and Gingrichism, and Tea Partyism, and all the other Isms that movement conservatism has inflicted upon the political commonwealth.
Any discussion of this budget that begins with the supposition that Congressional Republicans can't or won't vote for it is dead wrong.  This is the stuff of their very DNA. It's everything modern conservatives have run on since the beginnings of their "movement."  They will pass this. It is what they've always wanted. 

Karen Carvin

This is one of the most respected political consulting firms in New Orleans.
Fur is flying in the race for a seat on the Civil District Court bench in Orleans Parish, with the release this week of scathing mailers and TV ads from candidate Rachael Johnson, daughter of Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson.

The ads target both of her opponents — attorneys Suzanne "Suzy" Montero and Marie Williams — in the race for a seat left open when Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods moved last year to the appeals court bench.

Williams is the subject of a pair of political fliers, one of them distributed by Johnson's campaign, that feature her mug shot from an arrest in September in New Orleans on an attachment from Jefferson Parish.

Williams called the fliers an unscrupulous attack that falsely paints her as a criminal over a brief arrest from her failure to appear in 2015 at a hearing related to her bitter divorce.

No one has taken credit for the first flier, which appeared late last week on doorsteps in Algiers. It shows her mug shot under the fictitious masthead of the "New Orleans Times." The headline reads: "Marie Williams Arrested!"

Karen Carvin, a Johnson campaign consultant, said that flier didn't come from anyone in Johnson's campaign, but that once the details of Williams' booking were verified, the campaign sent out its own version of the attack mailer this week.
I got one of the anti-Montero fliers in the mail yesterday. It's kind of funny in that it says, "Lien on me" which goes with the musical theme of the TV spots 
Meanwhile, Johnson has launched a series of ads attacking Montero over a $15,000 tax lien that the IRS filed against her in 2011. The ads include a campaign mailer and a pair of TV spots set to a pair of classic tunes: the Everly Brothers' "Wake Up Little Susie" and Eddie Cantor's "If You Knew Susie."
Both attacks are clever. But also kinda dumb and not especially relevant. If only our elections could actually be about things...

Mary Landrieu is garbage

Clearly the electoral woes of the Democratic party can be cured by following the lead of former senators Begich, Hagan, Lincoln, and Landrieu, all of whom couldn't win re-election. Of course, DC lobbyists Begich, Hagan, Lincoln, and Landrieu might not be all that concerned with the electoral fortunes of the Democratic party
Every cowardly piece of shit Important Person in Louisiana politics and media will praise her wisdom, though. 

Tomorrow he will talk about the monorail

Today's presentations at IDB from the perpetual Six Flags bidders didn't go well.
Three offers to buy the decaying Six Flags park in New Orleans East failed to win favor from a review committee of the Industrial Development Board on Thursday (March 16), leaving the future of the 227-acre property murky again.

A three-member committee of the Industrial Development Board, which owns the shuttered park, decided not to recommend any of the three buyout offers, pointing to concerns about accepting a deal without knowing whether the buyer has the financial backing to quickly clean up and redevelop the park.

"We're anxious to see something happen with Six Flags, but we're not anxious to see it wind up for an unknown period with blight," said board president Alan Philipson.
I'm sorry, I've lost track. This is like the third or fourth go-round for the IDB in this process. It might help matters along if the same people didn't keep showing up to bid time after time.  But no such luck.  Here is Frank Scurlock's latest pitch. It has a little bit of everything. 
During the meeting Thursday, Scurlock unveiled his team's new plans for the property, holding up a poster wrapped in brown paper. "In this sealed package is the future of that property," Scurlock said. He peeled away the wrapping paper to reveal an aerial map of the Six Flags park marked with areas for a water park, theme park, zip line area, a resort hotel and a Hurricane Katrina museum. Scurlock suggested he'll have more to present at the board meeting Friday.

The "Katrina museum" is a new one on me.  A few weeks ago he said there would be a monorail too. Maybe that's what will wow the board and turn this whole thing around. 

Everybody gets paid along the way

Today the Aviation Board voted to expand the scope of the new terminal at MSY.
The latest estimate for the new North Terminal puts the total cost at $993 million. The price tag includes about $136 million to expand the terminal to 35 gates. That figure that has risen by nearly a quarter since its initial design phase last fall in order to add more space and make it more efficient, including additional ramp space for airplane movement and baggage facilities.
This pushes the completion date into 2019 so they're not gonna make it in time for the big Tricentennial now.  But that's the price of progress, right?

So back in January, we noticed that this expansion became possible after the city announced it had "hit its triggers" in terms of additional airlines and flights over a relatively short period.
"In 2016, the growth of the Louis Armstrong International Airport exceeded our
expectations yet again," Landrieu said. "With increased service via 17 airlines and 59 non-stop destinations, including 7 international destinations, we have hit the triggers
for additional expansion.”
How did they do that, we wondered.  What sorts of things does the city do for the airlines in order to ensure these triggers are met? Nobody was really saying anything about that.  At least not in the local press, anyway.  But if you go look at the cities we were out-competing like Pittsburgh, for example...

It used to be that airports provided a fairly standard waiver of landing fees and marketing help to entice airlines. But now they and their partners are offering much more, as the competition for new routes intensifies.

That’s especially true in mid-sized markets like Pittsburgh, where a nonstop flight to a sought-after destination like London is seen not only as a way to cut travel times but as a driver for economic development.

“The secret’s out. Local airport service is one of the pillars of economic growth. Everybody knows that and everyone out there is trying to improve air service,” said Blair Pomeroy, a longtime aviation strategy consultant who has worked for airlines in the past.

While incentives always have been part of the efforts to attract coveted service, what has changed is the willingness by cities or airports to offer cash subsidies or risk sharing schemes to minimize the carrier’s financial exposure, Mr. Pomeroy said.

“Now it’s part of the game. You want a new flight to a big city, you’re going to have to come up with launch incentives, marketing, and risk sharing,” he said.
In other words it's kind of like fighting over a major league sports franchise. Ownership is going to locate wherever they're sucking down the most public money.  As it turns out in this case, New Orleans was offering British Airways just a little bit more. 
In addition to Wow and Condor, the airport authority has offered cash incentives to British Airways to start coveted nonstop service to London from Pittsburgh International, CEO Christina Cassotis said.

She would not divulge the amount but described it as “substantial.”

The airport lost out last month when British Airways awarded a London nonstop to New Orleans, with the city’s tourism bureau chipping in $1.4 million a year for three years to help with the flight.

Mr. Pomeroy believes New Orleans offered more than the county airport authority to attract the flight. But Ms. Cassotis said money was not the reason Pittsburgh didn’t get the route.
One supposes this means NOTMC coughed up the $1.4 million.  NOTMC is one of those agencies that takes in gobs and gobs of public hotel/motel tax money that could be funding city services and turns it into a bonanza for "tourism leaders" and their friends and benefactors. Count the airlines among that number too. 

No more streetcars to nowhere

The Trump budget proposal is terrifying
WASHINGTON — President Trump will send a budget to Congress on Thursday that sharply reorders the nation’s priorities by spending billions of dollars on defending the southern border and bolstering the Pentagon while severely cutting funds for foreign aid, poverty programs and the environment.
Trump proposes to cut EPA by 31%, Health and Human Services by 18%, eliminate entirely the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities and end public broadcasting. Those are just the highlights.  If nothing else the cuts would mean massive layoffs under a Presidency that has promised 4-6 percent or greater economic growth.  Adding this fiscal anti-stimulus to the similarly depressing monetary policy announced by the Fed this week makes this projection seem even more unlikely.

Locally the budget proposals would hit especially hard. Louisiana's flagging battle against the rigors of climate change and coastal erosion will not be helped by cuts to NOAA. The Community Development Block Grant program which basically paid for the post-Katrina rebuilding of New Orleans is set to be eliminated.
Trump has proposed cutting the $3 billion community development block grant program entirely. New Orleans initiatives to build affordable housing, mitigate homelessness, fight blight, and subsidize summer employment and recreation activities could all take a hit. The city spent $11.3 million last year through the block grant program. The Trump budget also calls for the elimination of the HOME Partnerships program, which helps with affordable rental housing and homeownership for low-income families. New Orleans spent $2 million last year through that program.
There's more in there that is going to cause severe pain in New Orleans and in cities across the country.  But this is just another consequence of the Democrats' having failed to make a convincing argument against Trump that connected with every day American voters.  Take, for example, New Orleans' experience with the TIGER grants.
Trump wants to eliminate the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grant program, a signature of the Obama administration and a resource for New Orleans Regional Transit Authority in recent years. The TIGER program helped pay for the Loyola Avenue streetcar project and has appropriated additional funding to redo the Canal Street ferry terminal. The budget also eliminates similar grant funding through the Federal Transit Administration to shift construction costs to local governments.
Now TIGER is a great program. Investment in public transit is one of the best things we can do with federal money. But when the neoliberals in charge of putting these funds to use decide to use them on toys for tourists or real estate development gimmicks  like our new streetcar lines and the new ferry terminal, you can start to see how the voters might not be too enthusiastic about defending your corrupt party. Even when the wolves are at the door for all of us.

Where did they go eat?

This article is completely unhelpful.
The New Orleans Saints welcomed cornerback Malcolm Butler to town Wednesday evening as they try to determine what they'd be willing to spend to add him to the defense.

After Butler arrived, he went to dinner with some members of the team, according to a source, though it's unclear exactly who dined with the 27-year-old cover man.

According to an ESPN report, the vibe at dinner was good, and Butler seemed comfortable.
That's great that the vibe was good and all. But where did they eat?  We don't even know from this who was there. If the team was taking him out, then it was probably Emeril's. The Saints always take people to Emeril's for whatever reason.  If it was just a players' thing then it could have been anywhere. (Probably not Jimmy John's but who knows.) Anyway, everyone knows Saints fans are at least as interested in what was for dinner as they are in what the team might be up to. This needs to be revised.

By the way, Menckles and I got a chance to try Altamura last week. This is a relatively new restaurant that opened in the Magnolia Mansion last year. The idea is to do "Northeastern-inspired" Italian-American, as in not the "Creole-Italian" style you find all over New Orleans at places like Vincent's or Irene's or Venezia or in a lot of people's grandma's houses. Instead the model is New Jersey, as the proprietors told Gambit,  
Jack Petronella and executive chef Coleman Jernigan have been working on the plan for the Northeastern-inspired Italian restaurant for the better part of three years, since the duo opened their Prytania Street coffee shop together in 2013.

The restaurant’s menu is largely inspired by Petronella’s childhood in New Jersey.

“I’m so excited about what we’re doing here,” Petronella said. “We did not reinvent the wheel, but this was about bringing the Northeastern feel that's in every Italian restaurant on every corner in New Jersey and New York.”
So we were curious.  But I don't think the sort of place they evoke when they say that aspires to be quite as fancy Altamura does. Certainly it can't be as pricey. The design is described as "retro-chic" but, to us, the medium-bright lighting, plain white tablecloths, and sterile decor just felt like a hotel restaurant. This place is located at the corner of Jackson and Prytania so the crowd was extremely uptown Garden District types. Older couples and a table full of fancy ladies.  Lots and lots of unnecessary jackets and pearls everywhere.

The food was OK. The best thing was probably the spiedini mozzarella, which is fried bread and cheese soaked through with anchovy olive oil and capers. I ordered clams casino because nobody serves clams anything in New Orleans for the most part. There was a lobster ravioli that we thought was fine and a veal parm that she didn't like at all. (Too thick a cut. Soft breading that "tastes too much like fried fish.") I don't want to complain too much. It's just that I've paid less for better Italian.

Anyway, I'm sure Malcolm Butler could afford it, although I hope the Saints didn't try and land him by bringing him there.

Will the Republicans pass the Obamacare repeal: A handy guide

1) Does the Obamacare repeal bring with it a massive tax cut for the wealthiest of Americans?

2) Yes it does.

3) Then the Republicans will pass it.

All the other stuff about unhappy Tea Partiers or differences with Trump is... not entirely bullshit... but basically irrelevant. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Also wasn't Trump promising like 4% growth or something?

Not sure how that happens now. Tax cuts for rich people, though. It's the only thing there's ever any consensus about.

Solicited by whom?

The odds were never very high that Ken Polite would run for mayor. But apparently somebody asked him to.
Polite acknowledged that he'd been solicited for a political run, but denied putting much stock in the idea.

"I tried to be as candid as possible with people about my lack of interest in doing anything like that," he said.

Polite told WWL-TV -- which first reported this week that he wouldn't seek the mayor's office -- that he hasn't ruled out a future in politics. But he said he wouldn't want to launch a campaign for office without the money to remain independent, a virtue that Torres has trumpeted in his own public flirtations with a mayoral bid.
That bit about wanting to "remain independent" is interesting too.  Who was pushing Polite to run? And what did this person or group of people want in return that made him uncomfortable?

Never gonna get that "Seal Of Death" to work

This is from the introduction to Matt Taibbi's book on the 2016 election. He's talking about something a colleague of his has termed the "Seal Of Death" which is the traditional exercise by which the press exploits a gotcha moment (The Dean Scream is the prime example he cites) to ritualistically murder a public figure it has judged outside the acceptable bounds of The Discourse. 
In the case of Dean, TV stations around the country played the “scream” tape a whopping 633 times in the first four days after Iowa, according to the AP. They were like piranhas skeletonizing a waterfowl. It was viral media be­fore YouTube. As Dean’s campaign manager, Joe Trippi, later put it, “The establishment wanted to stop us and they did.”

Trippi’s comment implied that reporters were part of that establishment, which was a pretty damning criticism. But it was true. And people noticed.

It’s impossible to overemphasize the toxicity of this dy­namic. Politicians and political journalists were volunteer­ing to be trapped in an endless conversation with one another about which candidates, and by extension which ideas, were and were not suitable for consumption by the American people.
Trump was different, though.  Taibbi writes that, despite multiple opportunities for the media to apply the Seal Of Death to him during the campaign, it never stuck.
America’s population of otherwise Smart People was stunned. How could the electorate not care that a billionaire admitted to not paying taxes? Why was no one troubled by the threat of a child rape lawsuit? How was the “pussy” thing not fatal? What about the mountain of extant lawsuits— 75 open cases, according to some reports— for offenses ranging from simple nonpayment for services to sex discrimination? Why did no one care? Incredibly, the popular explanation floated inside the nY- Washington- LA corridor was that this was the media’s fault, that reporters were “not calling trump out” while simultaneously overfocusing on issues like Hillary clinton’s emails. But this explanation itself was a continuation of the same original misread of the public. Here was this massive new revolutionary movement rising out of the population, and the first instinct of the establishment was to turn  other members of the establishment for an explanation of why this was being allowed to happen. As in, where’s the Seal of Death? Why haven’t you vaporized this guy yet?
Several months after the revolution, the defeated establishment faction still doesn't grasp the problem.  They're still out looking for the one magic fact that will bring down Trump.  This is why MSNBC has deteriorated into McCarthyesque obsession with rooting out perceived Russian sympathizers.  It's also why Rachel Maddow was keen to run with a "scoop" (likely leaked by the White House) that Trump paid $38 million in taxes a decade ago. But none of this stuff, not the details of Trump's possible relationships with foreign agents, nor his many obvious conflicts of interest arising from his business dealings, nor whatever might eventually come to light via his tax returns is ever going to matter and here is why. None of it has anything to do with politics.

Here's something else Taibbi observes about 2016 election coverage.  He's trying to explain that Trump benefited from an insane amount of "free media" which is true. But far more interesting is that the reason for that reveals a key blind spot of the establishment punditry.
This part of Trump’s rise really was the media’s fault.

Trump was a legitimate news story. He had to be cov­ered. He was leading a historic revolt against his own party, after all. But so was Bernie Sanders, who got nearly as many votes as Trump in the primaries. Yet Trump received some­thing on the order of 23 times more television coverage than the Vermont senator.

Long segments of Trump’s speeches were broadcast un­interrupted, which seldom if ever happened with Sanders, even on traditionally left-leaning cable networks. If we in the media asked ourselves why that was the case, we came up with some damning answers.

It wasn’t just that Trump was outrageous and sensa­tional and lurid, while Sanders dryly pushed substance over salesmanship. Nor was it just the car-wreck element to Trump’s performances that kept audiences glued to the screen, wondering what crazy thing he might say next.

It was also the content. Trump sold hate, violence, xeno­phobia, racism, and ignorance, which oddly enough had long been permissible zones of exploration for American television entertainment. And the news media was becom­ing more and more indistinguishable from entertainment media.

Meanwhile, Bernie Sanders talked about poverty and inequality, which are now and always have been taboo. On a level that is understood by news directors in their guts if not their minds, hate is sexy and sells, while the politics of Ber­nie Sanders were provocative in the wrong ways.

A news director who made the decision to run a Sanders speech in its entirety would worry about being accused of making a “political statement.” Meanwhile, running Trump all day long would be understood as just business, just giv­ing viewers what they want. Editorially the press denounced him, but it never turned the cameras off.
In other words, the political press establishment refuses to allow political coverage to be about actual politics.  Whether or not the tax return story can be termed a "nothingburger" by anyone is really kind of beside the point.  Maybe.. probably.. there's all sorts of things to examine in Trump's financial records, should we ever see the rest of them. But none of that is what will determine his future in office.

Or, at least, there are no revelations to be unearthed that will in and of themselves lead directly to an impeachment. Given what we know about how impeachment works, there's probably enough already anyway whenever the Congress might want to run with it.  The question, really, is what might make them want to do that?
A simmering rebellion of conservative populists loyal to President Donald Trump is further endangering the GOP health-care push, with a chorus of influential voices suspicious of the proposal warning the president to abandon it.

From headlines at Breitbart to chatter on Fox News Channel and right-wing talk radio, as well as among friends who have Trump's ear, the message has been blunt: The plan is being advanced by congressional Republican leaders is deeply flawed - and, at worst, a political trap.

Trump's allies worry that he is jeopardizing his presidency by promoting the bill spearheaded by House Speaker Paul Ryan, Wis., arguing that it would fracture Trump's coalition of working- and middle-class voters, many of them older and subsisting on federal aid.
Things have gotten so weird now that the only thing standing in the way of Congressional Republicans depriving 24 million people of health care is... Donald Trump.  I don't buy the speculation that the House GOP is conflicted about this at all. Repeal of Obamacare means a big tax break for rich people. That's all they care about.  If Trump helps them deliver that, then there is no problem.  If he becomes an obstacle, though, well then we'll see if they can apply their own "Seal Of Death." But if establishment Republicans are suffering from the same lack of judgement as the establishment press, it might actually end up being their funeral and not Trump's.

Congrats to the Nimbys

They've successfully located the "low barrier" homeless shelter away from where anybody will notice it which is, of course, the important thing.
The former Veterans Affairs hospital site in downtown New Orleans has been picked for redevelopment into a new low-barrier homeless shelter in a joint project of the Downtown Development District and the city with financial backing from tourism and convention groups, according to a draft agreement.

The old hospital has been replaced with the new VA medical facility in Mid-City, although a renovated wing of the building still houses a day center for the homeless to access services at 1530 Gravier St.
Congrats, also, on apparently squeezing some money out of the Convention Center to help pay for it. For some reason they have too much control over too much money that really ought to go to the city directly for things like this.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

So, uh, free agency is still going on, right?

Is this really all the Saints have left to pick from now? If so, we may have seen all the fireworks we're gonna see until Draft Day.  That's when we all get to complain about how badly they will blow whatever value they derived from the Brandin Cooks trade. Now that we've been sufficiently scolded by the Company Men about having expected too much in that deal, is it safe yet to say that the roster is still objectively worse regardless?  Or do we have to wait until after they blow the number 32 pick on Christian McCaffery or something?

(Actually I am going to laugh my ass off at the reactions if they take a receiver with one of those picks. Also... I kind of think they might need to do that.)


Paul Ryan just wants you to have the freedom to drop dead.
House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (R-Wis.) said Sunday that he doesn’t know how many Americans would lose coverage under his proposal to revise the Affordable Care Act, which is under fire from fellow Republicans, AARP and virtually every sector of the U.S. health-care industry.

“I can’t answer that question,” Ryan said in an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation.”

“It’s up to people,” he said. “Here’s the premise of your question: Are you going to stop mandating people buy health insurance? People are going to do what they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country.”
It's up to you. You can choose the live saving cancer treatments, or you can have your 218 iPhones.  That's what America is all about. Ryan says this is about freeing us from the yoke of the individual mandate. But actually he means to replace it with one that insurance companies can collect on.
The individual mandate — the loathed requirement that nearly everyone get health insurance or pay a penalty — would be eliminated in the GOP repeal bill introduced Monday. But House Republicans have come up with their own cudgel to compel healthy Americans to purchase coverage, with the goal of offsetting the costs of insuring sicker patients.

Their plan would require individuals to maintain “continuous coverage” — or pay a penalty. People who let their coverage lapse would face a 30 percent surcharge on their monthly premiums for one year when they next buy coverage. The idea, like Obamacare's individual mandate, is to prevent people from purchasing insurance only after they get sick.
I do not know if you can get out of it by buying your insurer an iPhone. I am amused, in the meantime, about the ongoing parlor game over guessing whether the "principled conservatives" in the congress will sink the repeal over issues they may pretend to have with these replacement bills.

Of course Republicans will pass the repeal. Why? Because it does the one thing they actually care about
Two of the biggest tax cuts in Republican proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act would deliver roughly $144 billion over the coming decade to those with incomes of $1 million or more, according to a congressional analysis.

Logical conclusion

The Trump budget proposes to blow up everything. This is literal in the sense that the proposed $54 billion increase in military spending means more things can be blown up. But that's not the only sort of destruction he's aiming at.
The spending budget Trump is set to release Thursday will offer the clearest snapshot of his vision for the size and role of government. Aides say that the president sees a new Washington emerging from the budget process, one that prioritizes the military and homeland security while slashing many other areas, including housing, foreign assistance, environmental programs, public broadcasting and research. Simply put, government would be smaller and less involved in regulating life in America, with private companies and states playing a much bigger role.
Remember also there's really nothing there to push back against the coming of the new Gilded Age. Not only does a hard right Republican Party control the Congress, but the #Resistance, such as it is, is comprised of a Democratic Party who has swallowed whole and promulgated this exact ideology for decades.  Trump is only bringing it to its logical conclusion.

The real problem, though, as it always has, lies with the faithless Democrats. Every time you heard Bill Clinton tell you, "The era of Big Government is over," this was the logical outcome.  Every Democrat who has held hands with Wall Street bankers or Silicon Valley venture capitalists has pushed the ball further in Trump's direction. Every "Public Private Partnership" trumpeted in Aspen has furthered Trump's argument.

Now Trump is here to blow everything up. And the "opposition" is too steeped in complicity to present anything like a credible counterargument.

More meetings and happenings

VCPORA is hosting a public Q&A with CAO Jeff Hebert about the Mayor's Surveillance Scheme tonight.
The meeting, which is open to the public, is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at the St. Jude Community Center, 400 North Rampart St.

Landrieu's security plan is a sweeping, multifaceted proposal to improve safety in the French Quarter and across the city in the wake of several violent shootings. But questions remain over just how the estimated price tag will cover the changes in a city with little wriggle room in its annual budget.
Remember, if the only people showing up at these events are the pro-Disney faction, the city assumes that's where the consensus view lies.

Also this series of NORA community engagement events is ongoing.  
The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority is holding community engagement meetings throughout March to update residents on its investments throughout the city and discuss future opportunities for properties and housing in each area.

The goal is to keep residents and businesses informed on the progress of economic development of properties in each council district.

NORA Executive Director Brenda Breaux and members of the senior management team will present the organization’s sales history, disposition methods, current property inventory, updates on non-compliant Road Home properties and opportunities for housing development, commercial revitalization and land stewardship.

Remember, if the only people showing up at these events are the pro-Airbnb real estate speculators, the city assumes that's where the consensus view lies. The first of these meetings happened last Thursday, by the way. I haven't seen any reporting on it so it looks like the only way to know what's happening there is to go yourself.

Update:  Forgot to mention. NORA is meeting with the public "future opportunities for properties and housing"  at the same time that the city's STR licensing system goes live. So it's pretty clear who these meetings are probably for.

It’s later than you think

Daylight savings. Everyone complains about it. No one does anything.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Monuments should say something

We didn't fight to take the monuments down because we were uncomfortable with social and political statements in our public space. We wanted them down because we are hostile to the social and political statements those monuments made. We should replace them now with statements that are equally as potent as but which refute those we removed. This task must be considered within that context. It can't become a banal exercise in happy civic/tourism boostering. Unfortunately, that's what is most likely to happen.

Extreme vetting

RTA has a new Executive Director. Congratulations.
After The New Orleans Advocate asked later about reports that Cook used a public agency's credit card for a personal flight while serving as a transit executive in Ann Arbor, Michigan — and was separately terminated from another job in Georgia — the board said in a statement late Friday that it had discussed those allegations with Cook.

“Based on the information and references received, the board decided to proceed with making an offer to Mr. Cook, and is confident in his abilities to perform the duties of executive director,” the statement said.

But in an interview before that statement was released, Cook said he was never questioned about those instances specifically.
On the other hand, once you've gone and privatized operations and more or less repurposed the organization into an entity primarily concerned with buidling toys for tourists, what does a little petty corruption matter anyway?

Especially when the guy is a lifelong company man.
As for the latter instance, he said, Veolia paid him six months' severance after it released him from a job in Cobb County, Georgia. That proves he didn’t leave on bad terms, he said.

But in his conversations with the local RTA board members and hiring committee, "we never went through all that," he said.

Cook also has worked for Veolia in Las Vegas, served as general manager of the Salem Area Transit Authority in Oregon and was director of the Gainesville transit system in Florida, according to his résumé. A search of his name in newspaper coverage in those places didn't reveal any similar problems.

Most podcasted Mardi Gras ever

This is the third part of the Mardi Gras recap for this year.  Carnival is a sprawling and diverse event. There's no way to see or do all of it. There's not really even a correct "it" to do.  But I think, among the three of us on the show, we covered a pretty good sampling of events and perspectives. I thought that really came through well when we got to Fat Tuesday here.

We also get into the class politics of Carnival a bit if you're interested in that sort of thing.  Also, Part 1 and Part 2 are available as well.. again, if you're interested in that sort of thing.

Friday, March 10, 2017


I don't mean Helena Moreno is a boring candidate. It's just boring that all of the set pieces in the 2017 municipal election diorama are arranging themselves exactly as everyone predicted they would.
It’s official: State Rep. Helena Moreno is running for an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council.

Surrounded by dozens of supporters on the top floor of Basin Street Station on Thursday, Moreno confirmed her candidacy in the October election, one of the first major announcements of the city’s political season.

“I’ve really enjoyed working on state policy. I have,” said Moreno, a former television news anchor.

“But I’ve been listening to you, and I’ve heard you, and there’s more to do right here at home.”

She said she will seek the Division 1 at-large seat now held by Stacy Head, who is term-limited.
And then we get into the pro-forma discussion of "Who-is-White" and "Who-is-Black" and which At Large seat each is supposed to run for. It's a symptom of a lackluster political environment when everything is set up in advance before most voters are even paying attention.

I'm starting to worry about this with regard to the mayoral field as well.  Conventional wisdom currently holds that Jason Williams is out of the running there. And, although we hear often that JP Morrell and Walt Leger are considering it, they could both end up passing.  And assuming Torres is just faking everyone out for attention, that would leave us with, what? LaToya, Bagneris, and Troy Carter?  Jesus, why should anyone even bother?

One gets the impression Clancy DuBos may be just as bored. Because why else would he throw these names out? It can't possibly be because he's actually heard anything... can it?
Dubos also expects a wild card or two, possibly a well-known businessman -- the daughter and sister of former mayors -- and a sitting district attorney.

"Sidney Torres is a potential wild card," DuBos said. "So is Monique Morial. So is Leon Cannazzaro."(sic)
Leon for mayor is a pretty funny idea. Maybe we should do this. Cannizzaro can run for mayor. Williams can be DA. Mitch can run for Sheriff and Gusman can go be on the City Council.  Every 8-10 years, everybody just swaps departments. Every now and then somebody goes to jail, though. In which case that person has to sit out a few rounds until they get a radio show or something.

Anyway, the actual worry here is there is so much going on in the city of New Orleans right now that people at the grass roots level are worried about; inequality, lack of opportunity, a failing and corrupt school privatization scheme, a broken and brutal criminal justice system, an affordable housing crisis, and an official preference for serving the tourism industry at the expense of residents.

The establishment politicos currently shuffling from job to job barely care about any of these issues. Or, at least, when they do, they tend to interface with it from the point of view of the privileged classes in which they themselves circulate. We need a politics that responds directly to the people on the bottom.  It doesn't look like this round of local elections is going to give us that.

The Zulu thing

Who knows what Paul Tuennerman actually meant when he launched the Facebook comment heard round the world. But CW Cannon's interpretation is very close to what I thought when I first read about this dust-up.
To me, Paul Tuennerman’s comment is a critique of media, not a critique of blackness. It suggests his awareness that certain forms of expression are so explosive that they can’t be digested at all by national media, with its inability to process the ironies and inversions of carnival expression. It shows his well-founded fear that the frightened and dishonest world of America’s “conversation about race” is likely to cry “racism” whenever it sees an image that might be racist in some other, very different context.
That might be it.  It might not, though! Unlike the multitude of clubbish yuppies rushing to the Tuennermans' defense this week, I'm suspicious enough of our city's white, professional liberalesque con-profit class to believe most of them are actually pretty racist. But I also think Cannon is probably correct. He's got a pretty good handle on the rest of the context there, anyway. 

Where's the Mardi Gras re-cap?

This way to parade

Y'all I really want to puke out my parade notes onto the internet because, as always, there are a lot. But there hasn't been a whole lot of time.  This is partially because we podcasted most of it Saturday night. Editing that alone has been enough of a chore. Here's part one. And here is part two. Part three is still forthcoming!   There's also been the matter of "curating" and tagging 700 photos from the season (which are here, btw some of them are good.) If I get a chance to write up something substantial, this weekend I'll do that.

Otherwise, you're stuck with "Rex Duke" which is, itself, something of a disappointment this year for eschewing the old parade ratings system.   They try to pass this decision off as some sort of half-woke class consciousness but, really, they're just afraid of dealing with the feedback. Besides, there's no need to compare a fun little day parade like, say, King Arthur, directly with the sort of spectacle Bacchus can afford to put on. One would think "Rex Duke's" five crown rating system could easily take this into account. Both of those parades can be rated the same number of crowns based on what each sets out to do.

I actually think about this every year when I rate parades. But, because I put all them together on one list, it doesn't necessarily come off that way. But that's fine because I think it's funnier. And anyway what I'm doing here is presenting a very subjective view based on one person's first hand experience of being at these events. Orpheus is ahead of Morpheus because, well, there is more to see in Orpheus, but also because my memories of Morpheus are far hazier.  But it should go without saying that they're all fun. Otherwise, what would be the point? Anyway here is this year's final parade list. Every uptown parade besides Mid-City and Okeanos are ranked.  Detailed explanations may or may not be forthcoming.
  1. Thoth
  2. Muses
  3. Orpheus
  4. Rex
  5. Proteus
  6. Zulu
  7. Tucks
  8. Bacchus
  9. D’Etat
  10. Hermes
  11. Iris
  12. Femme Fatale
  13. Babylon
  14. King Arthur
  15. Nyx
  16. Chaos
  17. Morpheus
  18. Pygmalion
  19. Pontchartrain
  20. Sparta
  21. Druids
  22. Carrollton
  23. Choctaw
  24. Alla
  25. Freret

Participation Trophies: Oshun and Cleopatra. For gamely rolling in a heavy downpour on a cold first Friday night.

Thursday, March 09, 2017

"Kick me"

No idea what your councilmembers are actually squabbling about here. The action in question was already approved by citywide referendum in November.  It looks like they're just arguing over whose name goes on the ordinance. Or, I guess, over who gets "kicked" in the process.
All four of the council members who voted with Brossett said they came to the council meeting prepared to vote on the ordinances. Both Head and Guidry said they were led to believe the ordinances would go through committee. At one point, Head accused Brossett of using Thursday's meeting to "kick" Guidry and called him "horrifically unprofessional."

"There's still some subtle reason I haven't figured out that we're not going through" the normal process, Head said. "Let's assume it's a perfect ordinance. Why is it not going through committee when there are concerns articulated by your colleagues?"
Not sure why Guidry would even care all that much about credit since she's retiring anyway. As for Head, I think it's interesting that she cares so much about eh "normal process" here given that she ran ahead with her plan to gut city pensions before the legal review process was complete there. But that's a whole other can of worms. 

Is the plan for Peat to stay at guard forever?

That looks like the way he slots into the projected line-up even after the Warford signing. (One assumes Jahri Evans is really leaving this time.) Anyway, the talk about Peat all last year was that they were asking too much of him to keep switching positions all the time. Is he going to just stay at guard from now on? Or will he have to slide in at tackle when either the fragile Armstrong or 30,000 year old Strief inevitably misses time?

Is there a problem with contractor fraud in the French Quarter?

Jeff Landry's office (maybe a little too preoccupied with trying to dictate police and/or immigration enforcement practices in New Orleans) found itself wholly unprepared to handle the quite predictable heavy load of contractor fraud cases in the wake of last year's floods. A Baton Rouge TV station asked him about it. He basically yelled at them for being "fake news."

Trump Presidency somewhat bad for Louisiana

Do you live in a low-lying coastal region where sometimes you worry about hurricanes, maybe?  Prepare to be made great again, buddy.
The other reason that the coastal property bubble is about to burst is that the Trump administration is taking active measures to boost U.S. emissions and gut clean energy programs. The United States may or may not stay in the Paris Agreement, but its leaders are actively working to reduce our ability to warn coastal residents of hurricanes and storm surge in a timely fashion — and they are working to gut coastal adaptation programs.

Donald Trump has appointed climate science deniers to almost every relevant position, and he has floated budgets that would gut not just climate science, but devastate our ability to monitor ice melt and to forecast extreme coastal weather such as hurricanes.

So if you own or invest in coastal property, or insure coastal property, or write 30-year mortgages for such property, it seems pretty clear that the bursting of the coastal property bubble is closer than you might have thought.

South Miami mayor Philip Stoddard has warned that “coastal mortgages are growing into as big a bubble as the housing market of 2007.” He points out that when this bubble crashes it will never recover, but prices will continue to drop as sea levels and storm surges get higher and higher.
The good news, I guess, is Mar-A-Lago is going under too. So, we'll have that.

Connick: "Leave Leon Alooone"

The notorious former DA thinks the current DA is doing a heckuva job.
Louisiana law gives the district attorney sole authority to decide who will be prosecuted for crimes in his jurisdiction and only the district attorney decides the charge. The Orleans Parish DA alone is responsible for this and neither the mayor, the council nor the Metropolitan Crime Commission has standing to suggest otherwise. So those who want to suggest alternative policies for the DA should back off and let the DA do his job.
That's Harry Connick writing in to the Advocate today to cheer on Leon Cannizzaro, for some reason.  It might have something to do with these criticisms of Cannizzaro's aggressive and out-dated prosecutorial practices
Cannizzaro's office also leads the state in invoking the state's habitual-offender law, sending away far more inmates under the statute than any other DA. That law allows prosecutors almost complete discretion to ratchet up prison terms based on a defendant's prior convictions, going up to 20 years to life on a fourth felony offense.

New Orleans, with less than 10 percent of the state's population, now accounts for 29 percent of the 2,645 state inmates who are serving 20 years after being sentenced under the repeat-offender law, the data show.

Cannizzaro's frequent use of that law raises the stakes for many defendants facing allegations from a DA's Office that accepts criminal charges against 85 percent of felony arrestees, on average.

That pace of prosecution, which has drawn pointed criticism from the City Council, far exceeds the rates of Cannizzaro's predecessors, former DAs Harry Connick and Eddie Jordan.
Leon locks 'em all up. It's precisely these sorts of policies that have come under fire in recent years for having spurred our national mass incarceration nightmare. The U.S. locks up more people than any other country. Louisiana locks up more than any other state.  The effects of this cruelty have been utterly devastating.

In some ways, we're beginning to come to grips with it. For example, many observers are expecting to see some positive movement on criminal justice reform in the coming legislative session. The New Orleans City Council has taken steps in the past year to reduce the number of people arrested for minor non-violent offenses.  Here is Councilman Jason Williams (and perhaps future DA candidate) knocking Cannizzaro's use of the habitual-offender law. 
Williams argued that the DA's reliance on the habitual-offender law is "an abuse" and a relic of a failed war on drugs.

"Doing that today is flying in the face of a smarter criminal justice system," Williams argued. "A lot of these felony convictions are low-level drug abusers who are getting double-digit (prison terms). We're not any safer than we were. By and large, too many people that none of us are scared of are getting large prison terms."
Cannizzaro's response in that article is basically, "Yeah, well Connick did it way more," which is pretty funny and may also explain why Harry has rushed in to defend him. There's also the matter of Robert Jones whose wrongful conviction was overturned (after 23 years) because attorneys were finally able to show a "clear pattern" of misconduct and evidence suppression existed while Connick was in office.  Cannizzaro seriously considered re-trying Jones before reluctantly backing off.  No doubt Connick has this in mind when he tells us we should "let the DA do his job."

James Gill's commentary on the Jones case said of Connick,  "He has gone down in history as the man who introduced the concept of prosecutorial misconduct to the masses." Cannizzaro must be exceedingly proud to have garnered his endorsement.

Wednesday, March 08, 2017

Actually all news and politics is "disputed"

The world is a big place where people have profound disagreements about the way things should work. We try to resolve this as best as possible by fostering open societies and democratic forms of government. But that's pretty much the best we can do as far as system design is concerned.  The rest is up to us to work out through constant argument and struggle.  Because, again, different groups of people have vastly different ideas and interests to look out for.

We should expect a healthy democracy and "public discourse" over such differences to be contentious and passionate. I would be highly suspicious of a multi-billion dollar business asserting its obligation to "tamp down" on that.
The "disputed" tag is part of Facebook's grand plan to crack down on fake news as the company tries to tamp down the controversy over its role in the spread of misinformation that sharpened political divisions and inflamed discourse during and after the presidential election.
Ideally election time should be marked by "sharpened political divisions and inflamed discourse."  The alternative to that is apathy and/or suppression.  So there's no secret formula or algorithm that can.. or even should.. make it go away. Anyone who tells you different is either still in the fifth grade or, more likely, is lying in order to tilt the playing field to their advantage. Here's Tom Frank.
Yes, I know, the web is a wild west sort of place, with fake news lurking in every corner. But follow our prestige media for a while and you will start to notice an uncanny unanimity of opinion. From TED talks to NPR, from the DNC to the Washington Post and on to the award-winning blogs, they all agree with each other, echoing and quoting and linking back and forth in a happy conversation, all the comfortable insiders welcoming one another with praise and prizes. What they don’t agree upon, meanwhile, is simply ignored. It is outside the conversation. It is excluded.

A world without fake news might really be awesome. So might a shop where every bottle of wine is excellent. So might an electoral system in which everyone heeds the urging of the professional consensus. But in any such system, reader, people like you and me can be assured with almost perfect confidence that our voices will be curated out.

Will the Republicans pass the Obamacare replacement?

Well, let's see, is it a big tax cut for rich people?  Yes, it is.
4) Taxes repealed

Finally, Ryancare repeals almost all of the other Obamacare taxes, meaning it probably won’t pay for itself. Repealing the Obamacare taxes on the rich is just a big giveaway to the rich.
That's really the only criterion that matters here. Yes, they will pass it. 

Stacy Head still hates poor people

After all this time, this is still what she's all about. 
New Orleans City Councilwoman Stacy Head is proposing changes that would make the city’s main pension plan less generous for new employees and those hired in the past 10 years — changes she said are necessary for the long-term viability of the system.

The changes would mean newer employees — who make up almost two-thirds of the workers enrolled in the New Orleans Municipal Employees’ Retirement System, or NOMERS — would accrue benefits at a slower rate and new hires would have to work longer before being vested in the system or becoming eligible for retirement.

The proposal also would either do away with cost-of-living adjustments for all retirees until the system is nearly fully funded or else require the city and employees to kick in extra money to fund those increases.
She's on her way out of office this year. This must be the goodbye kiss. 

Meetings and happenings

This series of NORA meetings (one in each council district) begins in District B tomorrow night.
The New Orleans Redevelopment Authority is holding community engagement meetings throughout March to update residents on its investments throughout the city and discuss future opportunities for properties and housing in each area.

The goal is to keep residents and businesses informed on the progress of economic development of properties in each council district.
I believe this is a follow up on a City Council directive to the agency to "collaborate with the community" on ways to put the 3,000 or so properties it holds via the Road Home program to use in alleviating the affordable housing crisis. It's probably a good idea to go there and talk the folks. Otherwise, they'll probably hear from a bunch of flippers and short term rental vultures.

Later in the month (March 25), the Office of Neighborhood Engagement will host a breakfast at Cafe Reconcile where officials are supposed to provide updates on STR licensing as well as the mayor's creepy surveillance plan.

Again, these events can either be genuine opportunities for grassroots input or they can be more face time for insiders, landlords, and developers depending on who shows up. 

Tuesday, March 07, 2017

What about us brain dead slobs?

The Six Flags endgame may be at hand. And it is looking pretty darn hilarious. The bidding parties, after having failed multiple times to wear down the IDB on their own, have decided to see what happens if they gang up.
Two developers who have made separate offers to buy the abandoned Six Flags amusement park site in New Orleans East are considering making a joint offer for the property.

Frank Scurlock, the owner of Scurlock Entertainment, said Tuesday that he's been talking with Henry Klein of 30/90 Development about teaming up to try to buy and redevelop the park.

“We are in communication ... and are exploring the possibility,” Scurlock said.

Klein confirmed that it was “highly likely" the two men would present a joint proposal to the Industrial Development Board, the public board that manages the city-owned site.
Let's see, if we take your worthless twice rejected bid and combine it with my worthless, rejected bid, well then, worthless X worthless =....   Hey, you know when you've got one Billy Joe at quarterback and that's not working out so well and you think, OK but what if we had TWO Billy Joes at quarterback!  That's kind of what this is like. 

Also what is Scurlock still doing here? When we last saw him he said he was giving up on Six Flags and taking his Noah's Ark or his Zip Line or whatever (his idea has changed several times) and scooting off to Jefferson Parish never to speak on this again. 

Turns out he was just there to pick up a new friend.
Scurlock has hired former Jefferson Parish President John Young to represent him before the board.

During a board meeting last month, he offered $4.5 million in cash for the property but then said he was pulling the offer after board members declined to consider it on the spot.

At the same meeting, Klein said he’d pay $5.5 million but conceded that he didn’t have all of the money available immediately.
Ok well let's welcome John Young aboard to whatever the new scheme is. We also should emphasize that Klein's proposal at the last meeting was basically just him jumping out of the audience and, on the spot, offering the $5.5 million he didn't have. He also didn't have an actual proposal he could describe in much detail.  
As the board heard from the two groups making purchase offers as listed on the agenda, Henry Klein, an attorney who said he represents 30/90 Development, said his group wants to offer $5.5 million for the property, while giving no details who's involved in the group or their plans for the Six Flags site. Klein left the meeting while it was still ongoing.

IDB member Justin Augustine said people jumping out of the audience to make an offer is "not a professional process" and urged the board to use a more professional method to receive offers. Board members noted that analysis of offers will go beyond the purchase price and include a look at what's being proposed on the site and the financial capacity of the developers.
At the time, that struck us as particularly funny.  We're always on the lookout for monorail salesmen when it comes to land use stuff around here. When we read about Klein's stunt, we went and got the meme out and everything.

Shelbyville idea

But that's kind of a tired gag now, anyway. Surely we aren't still dealing with the sort of people who... oh goddammit. 
If the board chooses him, Scurlock said he plans to open what he called the first phase of his project — essentially a preview of the rides that would eventually be open at the park — on Memorial Day weekend.

That preview would include smaller attractions that would be set up in a parking lot outside the abandoned park’s gates, as well as tram rides that would take visitors on a tour of the soon-to-be constructed park, he said.
Well, okay. Good luck to all involved. The next IDB meeting is March 17.