Tuesday, November 21, 2017

"Better than I ever imagined"

Remember back in January when Mitch got the convention center to pay for a bunch of "anti-crime" stuff in the Quarter?  There were a number of controversial points to that plan. Among these were restricted access to Bourbon Street, a 3 AM closing time for bars, and a requirement that all bars equip themselves with cameras feeding into NOPD's panopticon.

After some public outcry, the mayor's people walked back the 3AM thing. And they said they weren't interested in doing the interior cameras. But it turns out, today, they're still working on getting that to happen.
Landrieu said his administration is working with the City Council to write legislation that would require bars to install surveillance cameras that will feed into the center.

It’s better and better than I ever imagined,” said Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. “This is the right step in the right direction at the right time.”
Nice of LaToya to throw in her two cents there. Just so we know what side she's on.  Not that we had much doubt from the beginning.
The department won’t specify where the cameras will be located, but said they would be stationed first in high-traffic areas and crime hot spots.

“Crime is out of control, shootings are up,” said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. “We need to be proactive in terms of catching criminals and deterring crime.”

Cantrell stresses that the readers are not for profiling or harassing people on the street, but for tracking vehicles used in crimes.

“It has nothing to do with profiling at all,” she said. “It doesn’t show you who’s in the vehicle, what they’re wearing, their skin color. It’s totally focused on that license plate as well as the make and model of the car.”

Cantrell said it will be a tool in the crime-fighting arsenal that the city so badly needs.

“My constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue. They not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe.”
LaToya is exactly the sort of bullying simple thinker who shouldn't be anywhere near police powers. But even our supposed liberals are pretty fascist these days so it's no surprise we elected her mayor. Anyway the surveillance state is "better than she could have imagined."

Meanwhile, speaking of keeping the public under constant uncomfortable surveillance, this came out during today's press conference.

Well that's different.  Just a few days ago, she was a definite "Y" on dumping the cameras altogether. Wonder what happened.

LaToya and traffic cameras has been a long and interesting saga.  It's pretty funny that she spent so much time talking about her vast "experience" in city government when it turns out her experience as a camera opponent only began when the campaign kicked off. Also, even at that point, nobody on the campaign, including the candidate seemed to know what their actual position was. 
On Tuesday evening (July 18), Cantrell delivered a wide-ranging speech on her platform as one of 18 mayoral candidates. Here's what the City Councilwoman said in that speech.
"We don't know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer," Cantrell said. "As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended."

But then, The Advocate reported that Cantrell said after the speech she only wanted to suspend part of the traffic camera program. Mayor Mitch Landrieu expanded enforcement by 50 cameras earlier this year.

The significance of that statement apparently hadn't become apparent to her campaign, however, because spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday morning spoke to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about how the program's suspension could affect the budget. Tickets issued through traffic cameras are projected to generate about $24 million for the city this year.

During the debates she was adamant in saying the city's estimate of $24 million in traffic camera revenue is wrong.  Is she going to "evaluate" that again now too?  When she does that, will she take into account the contributions of camera contractor American Traffic Solutions to her campaign?  If she does that would be incredibly disappointing.  I mean, Boysie Bollinger and Leslie Jacobs put together a whole PAC to warn us that the other candidate was the corrupt one.  You don't think they were being less than up front with us about that, do you?  Why would they do that?

Kicking you off the internet

When we look back at where the most lasting damage was done by the Trump Presidency it's going to be everything going on at the EPA and this.

Federal regulators unveiled a plan Tuesday that would give Internet providers broad powers to determine what websites and online services their customers can see and use, and at what cost.

The move sets the stage for a crucial vote next month at the Federal Communications Commission that could reshape the entire digital ecosystem. The FCC’s Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, has made undoing the government's net neutrality rules one of his top priorities, and Tuesday's move hands a win to broadband companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

Pai is taking aim at regulations that were approved two years ago under a Democratic presidency and that sought to make sure all Internet content, whether from big or small companies, would be treated equally by Internet providers.

It was always going to happen sooner or later.   The internet is simply following the same pattern of previous mass media toward more centralized and less democratic control. It's what capitalism does.  You'll see some false moralizing from #Resistance types for a while but they'll never overturn this. Eventually we all belong to Verizon.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Election Day

Election Day

Get on out there and capture the magic. Here are some tips for those placing wagers on things.

Cantrell 62% Charbonnet 38%  Spread could actually go higher so watch for that

Banks 50% plus just a little itty bit over Bloom The Cantrell wave in the turnout would ordinarily favor Bloom but a lot of people also seem to hate him so.. it will be close

Gray 54% Nguyen 46% Tthis is just based on the primary numbers plus some educated guesses but if it goes differently don't come yell at me

Schroder 60% Edwards 40% The Democrats could have gotten their shit together and actually try to elect a Treasurer. They didn't.

More to say later in the day.  Have fun. 

Friday, November 17, 2017

Preview of the 2019 Governor's race

Jeff Landry or John Kennedy (probably both will be running):  "New Orleans is a Sanctuary City! It is coddling teh illegals!"

John Bel: "No, it isn't!  Jeff Sessions gave them a certificate. See? We all hate the illegals the same amount."

Jeff and John:  "Jeff Sessions is clearly in jail by now, though"

They lie

This is a lie. Paul Rainwater is lying.
While the meeting covered a range of problems that continue to plague the agency, workers who filled the council chamber were particularly incensed by a plan to hire a company to bring in workers for some engineering and other technical positions that have remained unfilled.

Rainwater said the company chosen would bring in about 14 workers for up to a year, though the terms of the bid would allow for nearly 40 people to be brought on for up to three years.

That, many workers and residents argued, was an attempt to sneak in a private company to run the public utility.

“It sounds like privatization,” Angelina Elder said.

Rainwater said explicitly the workers to be hired are not an attempt at privatization but rather are needed to fill highly technical positions.

“This (bid) is not for privatization of the system, I want to say that loud and clear,” Rainwater said.

But council members said they were not convinced those positions cannot be filled with local, permanent workers.

“My question is, are we absolutely sure there’s no one here that can fill those 14 jobs?” Councilman James Gray said. “I have trouble believing there’s no one here that can fill those 14 jobs.” 
Actually there are something like 300 vacancies which they have made no honest effort to fill. There are various reasons for this. Some of them have to do with gatekeeping and patronage. Some of them have to do with plans to eventually privatize the system or at least move it out of Civil Service as this bill by J.P. Morrell would have done
Senate Bill 247 has languished in the Local and Municipal Affairs Committee since Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, proposed it in April. The lack of action signaled the bill was effectively dead on arrival.

The proposal would have ended civil service participation for employees hired after Dec. 31, 2017. It was a first step in a grander strategy to rewrite the public utility's employment benefits and protections. Grant had also indicated he wanted to phase out the board's pension program in favor of a portable 401(k) retirement benefit that he said would appeal to the next generation of workers.

Grant and Morrell had argued that removing the bureaucratic hurdles of the civil service system and giving employees more flexibility in their retirement benefits would help the S&WB attract younger, specialized talent.
J.P. changed his mind and killed it after Cedric and Mitch decided they were losing the argument for the time being. Instead they moved to contract out the management function. But that is an end-run toward the same purpose. That and cutting in the various consulting firms who are already profiting from the general process of demolition by neglect.
On Aug. 14, nine days after the flooding, Donald Case from the S&WB’s machine shop texted then-General Superintendent Joe Becker on the progress in fixing broken turbines.

“CH has pulled in a lot of staff to make sure the contractors don't put the screws to us... how do we know that CH isn't putting the screws to us?” he asked, apparently never getting a response.

Four days later, Bruce Adams, now the highest ranking official left at the S&WB, sent another text to Becker, pressing the issue further.

“Has it occurred to you that CH2 might be so anxious to junk these turbines to protect their liability?” Adams texted on Aug. 18, implying that the agency’s four old turbines were suffering repeated failures by design, to force the S&WB to scrap the refurbishment effort altogether.

“Absolutely,” responded Becker, who was later forced to resign over the S&WB’s response to the flooding. “I‘m not sure they have thought that far through. I am sure they see a t4 (Turbine No. 4) disaster turning into our t4 savior. I don‘t see much that we can do about it. Do you want to be the one that slows down this train?”

If you watched last night's final mayoral debate, you didn't see either candidate directly address this issue.  They each answered "no" to a yes or no question about privatization. But that's easy for anyone to do. Charbonnet talked about the need to fill the vacancies. LaToya said the employees need a "raise."  Neither gave a clear indication as to how they would achieve that. Each has received donations from CH2M just like the current mayor has.  A former CH2M engineer is serving as the interim director of operations.

Do we expect anything to change when the next administration takes over?  Jacques Morial has suggested folding S&WB into a city department. LaToya Cantrell, who is going to win tomorrow based partially on her penchant for seeming to take two or three different positions on any issue in the space of one breath, said last night that she would maybe think about this later. But now there is no time. There's plenty time to contract everything out, though. Wonder what's going to happen.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

What did they agree to?

Mitch Landrieu and Chief Michael Harrison had a meeting with Attorney General (for now) Jeff Sessions today about New Orleans's status as a so-called "Sanctuary City." Cedric Richmond was supposed to be there. But something happened that we aren't clear about.
The stage was set Wednesday for continued discord when the mayor's office issued a statement saying there was a dispute over who Sessions and Kennedy would allow to take part in the next morning's meeting. The mayor wanted Congressman Cedric Richmond, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison and City Attorney Rebecca Dietz to join him in the discussion. Sessions' office had said Richmond could not attend, and either Harrison or Dietz -- not both -- could join.

According to the mayor's communications, Richmond could not reschedule a conflicting event and did not take part, but Harrison and Dietz joined the mayor.
Both versions of why Cedric wasn't there come from the mayor's office. I guess they can both be true. But it's unclear what happened.  Also unclear, what exactly was agreed to at this meeting. 
"We are pleased that the attorney general and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along -- New Orleans is not a 'sanctuary city' and the NOPD's policies have maintained consistent compliance ..." Landrieu said in a statement.

Asked for comment after the meeting, Sessions' office issued a statement saying New Orleans "has committed to sharing information with federal law enforcement authorities ..."
One way to interpret this is Mitch and Harrison agreed to rat out to ICE any undocumented immigrants they detain. Another way to see it is Sessions agreed that the terms of the NOPD consent decree dictated their current policy anyway so there is really no way to say they aren't in compliance with the law.
Landrieu and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison have repeatedly contended the department's policies adhere to the letter of the law. Harrison has also argued that going any further would risk alienating immigrants in the city, discouraging victims from reporting crimes and making witnesses more reluctant to come forward.

The policy is required by a sweeping federal court consent decree that oversees the police department. The consent decree was negotiated with the Justice Department, but during President Barack Obama's administration.

A federal Justice Department spokesman, Devin O'Malley, indicated that as of Thursday, the agency no longer considers NOPD's policies at odds with federal law.
But it could also be both. They city could be perfectly willing to inform on immigrants to the feds without actually holding them.  That, both sides agreed, is Marlin Gusman's job. Which is a convenient thing for all of them to say because Gusman wasn't there.
Sessions, according to Kennedy, requested the city notify federal immigration agents at least 48 hours before releasing any arrested undocumented immigrants from jail, and also asked that agents be allowed to interview inmates while in custody.

Both those requests appeared to apply to the Orleans Parish jail, a facility run by the independent Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, which is covered by a separate federal consent decree. Sheriff Marlin Gusman was not included in Thursday's meeting.
And, as the story here strongly implies, Gusman's policy may also be in compliance with the dictates of a consent decree. But that isn't explicitly clear.  Anyway this may or may not get Sessions off the city's back. It probably won't satisfy John Kennedy and Jeff Landry, though.  Not with a Governor's election looming in 2019. Which is a lot closer than you might think.

Parties and sleepovers

Not sure how this settlement, if these are the terms, actually changes anything.
Asked Wednesday (Nov. 15) why he decided not to continue to pursue the lawsuit, Wolfe replied, "Getting old." He also said he will abide by the city's request to keep the property off short-term rental websites, saying he will use it "for our business as well as having parties and sleepovers."
A "sleepover" is different from an STR, how? It's not listed on Airbnb, maybe?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Okay but what if I just want to mute the crime?

This seems like a fantastic idea
NEW ORLEANS -- The New Orleans Police Department introduced a new system Wednesday that allows residents to report certain crimes online.

Now, residents can reports crimes like property damage, lost property, thefts, and additions to existing cases without having to call or wait for a police officer to make a report. There is also an option to download police reports for free.
Overreacting to everyday annoyances has never been easier. Soon we will have all the data on everyone's neighborhood lawn maintenance disputes in one convenient place. Can they sell that to creditors, maybe? Should solve some budgetary problems that way.  What about partnering with NextDoor? The platform for this already exists over there.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017


Rob Maness who apparently hosts a radio show
But his tone changed abruptly when the caller, who identified himself as "Flaming Liberal," said that even Cruz had asked Moore to step down. "If you're to the right of Ted Cruz, you're an extremist," he said.

"Whoa, you just called me an extremist, brother," said Maness, a retired Air Force colonel who went on to outline his military background, including top-secret clearances.

"I've done everything this country has ever asked me to do. How dare you call me an extremist," he said. "I'm the most investigated, stable man that the country could have ever given the keys to nuclear weapons to, so you can blow me! You can blow me and get out of here if you're gonna talk like that and call me an extremist."
Could we have given him the keys to a nuclear weapon? How did we pass up the chance to do that?

Probably they should fire some more team doctors

The Sewerage & Water Board's Turbine 3, much like Delvin Breaux,  has suffered a "setback" and will now miss the remainder of the season.
At a special City Council meeting held last Tuesday, no additional questions were asked about what was going on with the turbine, but employees told WWL-TV that the machinery suffered far more than just a tripped breaker. Sources say the turbine is still out of commission and the repairs will be extensive.
Justice and Beyond is hosting a townhall event on S&WB tonight at 5:30  at Christian Unity Baptist Church (1700 Conti Street).

Gabbo details

Here's what Governor Edwards and an assembly of VIPs told us yesteray afternoon about the DXC subsidy
About $25 million of the state's estimated $120 million in economic incentives for DXC is being targeted at the local higher education system. The money will go toward grants over five years for faculty, curriculum and other instructional resources linked to DXC.

The state also offered the company $18.7 million in performance-based grants payable over five years, a $2.2 million parking assistance grant and a $1.5 million demolition grant.

DXC will also take part in Louisiana Economic Development's FastStart program, which assists new or relocating companies in ramping up their work force.

The company is also expected to use Louisiana's Quality Jobs Program, which provides up to a 6 percent cash rebate on 80 percent of gross payroll for new direct jobs for up to 10 years. Starting July 1, 2018, the rebate will be available for 100 percent of gross annual payroll. The program also offers a rebate on capital expenditures or a 1.5 percent project facility expense rebate on the total capital investment, excluding tax-exempted items.
That's at the bottom so you have to read all the way past John Bel's and Mitch's and Michael Hecht's bullshit to get to it. None of them has the courage or the basic moral decency.. not that it requires much.. to say what is actually happening.

What is actually happening is the state of Louisiana is using taxpayer money to subsidize the profit-taking operations of a downsizing and outsourcing vector formed from the remnant bits of two other tech companies. DXC was formed this year out of a merger of parts of CSC and HP. Their strategy since that time has involved a series of big "cost-cutting" announcements designed to keep investors interested. These are mostly about slashing pensions, cutting staff, and "consolidating" real estate holdings. They're in New Orleans as part of that strategy.  
DXC, created earlier this year by the combination of CSC and Hewlett Packard Enterprise's Enterprise Service business, has been working to reduce its expenses since the merger.

On a conference call, DXC executives said cost-cutting efforts are proceeding according to plan, including workforce reductions, reducing real estate and facility expenses, and implementing "supply chain efficiencies and consolidations."
"We continue to achieve key merger integration milestones," president and CEO Mike Lawrie said. "We're executing our synergy plan, and we're on track to meet our targets of $1 billion of year-one cost savings, as well as a billion and a half [dollars] of run-rate cost savings exiting the year."

Lawrie said the company cut its costs by $110 million in the quarter, including reducing its workforce by about 4 percent.
The move to New Orleans demonstrates to shareholders an effort is being made to reduce labor costs
But in an earnings call to investors on Nov. 7, DXC chairman president and CEO John Michael Lawrie suggested the company would be opening new facilities in U.S markets where labor costs are lower.
This is accomplished in part because a tech company can afford to pay lower wages here, and in part because of the "incentive package" including a cash payroll rebate from the state.  Also, and this is important, they don't even have to actually ramp all the way up to "2,000 jobs" in New Orleans in order to meet their strategic goals.  All they really have to do is show the shareholders that they are executing a "synergy plan."

In other words, it means as much or more to DXC to announce that they are making this move than it does that they actually make it. It remains to be seen just how committed the company is to bringing "2,000 tech jobs" here. Next year they plan to hire 300.
DXC plans to fill 300 jobs — largely information technology and business positions — in 2018, then ramp up to 2,000 jobs over five years. Its local payroll is expected to exceed $133 million by 2025.
But, really, there's no need for them to go all the way there. The case of IBM's Baton Rouge Client Innovation Center isn't precisely analogous. But it is close enough to note that just because a company is willing to take advantage of your subsidy, this doesn't mean it's going to deliver everything you expect in return.

The DXC case, though, looks especially suspicious. The one thing that might be okay about it is it activates grant funding that can go toward STEM fields at local universities. But even that shouldn't be so tightly tied to corporate "partnership." But really, the primary beneficiaries are DXC and the boost its stockholders. The secondary beneficiaries are our preening political idiots who take credit for "2000 tech jobs" in the face of practically zero critical thinking from our docile and booster-heavy media. The tertiary beneficiaries are probably real estate vampires in New Orleans.

Meanwhile, most New Orleanians, who are not in tech, and aren't going to "learn to code" all of a sudden, are left behind by a high profile economic development effort that basically ignores them. This is materially important but also symbolically important. It sends a signal as to which kinds of citizens the political leadership actually considers a priority. And, of course, our tax burden continues to fall heavily on poor people who disproportionately pay more than anyone through sales taxes, regressive fees, etc. The state is turning around and handing that money to DXC in subsidies. So you get an upward wealth redistribution effect on top of everything else.

In a Guardian op-ed this week about the so-called "Paradise Papers" story, Occupy Wall Street organizer Micah White  reminds us of the importance of thinking globally.
The fundamental lesson of the Panama and Paradise Papers is twofold. First, the people everywhere, regardless of whether they live in Russia or America, are being oppressed by the same minuscule social circle of wealthy elites who unduly control our governments, corporations, universities and culture.

We now know without a doubt – thanks to the incontrovertible evidence provided by the Panama and Paradise Papers – that there is a global plutocracy who employ the same handful of companies to hide their money and share more in common with each other than with the citizens of their countries. This sets the stage for a global social movement.

Second, and most importantly, these leaks indicate that our earth has bifurcated into two separate and unequal worlds: one inhabited by 200,000 ultra high-net-worth individuals and the other by the 7 billion left behind.
It is only when we see the larger context that we understand where we fit into this picture. In this  case the state and city are being used as pawns in, at best, an international downsizing strategy. At worst, they're being used as pawns in a stock primping strategy. Either way, it's at least in part dependent on questionable uses of public money.  And yet we're going spend the rest of the week watching every elected official (and candidate) pat themselves on the back for it mostly to cheering applause.  Be sure and congratulate them when you see them. They worked really hard on this.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Gabbo is coming

What is it? Who is it? What does it want from us? Will it please just tell us what to do?
Gov. John Bel Edwards is set to make a major economic development announcement Monday (Nov. 13) afternoon, according to a press release, which called the upcoming news "one of the most significant economic development announcements in Louisiana history."

The press release was light on details, noting only the time and location of the announcement: 2 p.m. outside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
No, I don't think it's Amazon. That is, unless it's one of Amazon's hellish, labor exploitative distribution centers. But even that isn't likely.  Probably something oil and gas related. Either that or  a monorail. There's always room for monorails.

Update: Show them what they've won!
Daily Report has confirmed that the major economic development announcement Gov. John Bel Edwards will make in New Orleans this afternoon involves Virginia-based DXC Technology, which will set up operations in the Crescent City and eventually create 2,000 permanent high tech jobs.
2,000 jobs is nice. Probably not much immediate help for local New Orleanians in that number. Some. If you happen to be in the "high tech" field. Are you?  Oh well. It's okay, they'll bring in some people. 

See, DXC's strategy here is all about finding "low cost" labor in "lower-cost facilities."
But in an earnings call to investors on Nov. 7, DXC chairman president and CEO John Michael Lawrie suggested the company would be opening new facilities in U.S markets where labor costs are lower.

Lawrie told investors the company was “rethinking how you bring people in … and it’s about a whole different approach to where we set up our locations. I’ve said before we are looking at creating some lower-cost facilities in the United States and moving some of our workload there.”
What this means is they're looking to locate in places where the cost of living compares favorably with national tech hubs such that workers will take less in wages to relocate and still come out ahead. You might need to get out of their way, though.  In any case, congratulations on being fodder for the  big workforce and real estate cost reduction efficiency finding synergy plan.
On a conference call, DXC executives said cost-cutting efforts are proceeding according to plan, including workforce reductions, reducing real estate and facility expenses, and implementing "supply chain efficiencies and consolidations."
"We continue to achieve key merger integration milestones," president and CEO Mike Lawrie said. "We're executing our synergy plan, and we're on track to meet our targets of $1 billion of year-one cost savings, as well as a billion and a half [dollars] of run-rate cost savings exiting the year."

Meanwhile, we still don't know how much of your ever-increasing sales taxes will go to the "incentive" package that subsidizes all of this. Guess that's what the big press conference is all about.

By the way, the headline writers are already took the bait provided by the Governor's PR department last night calling this "one of the most significant economic development announcements in Louisiana history."  This clearly does not come close to meeting that expectation.  Today we're seeing the qualifying correction.  I wonder if anyone will notice.
The business expansion represents "the most permanent jobs for a single LED (Louisiana Economic Development) project in state history," said the source, who was not authorized to speak on the record.
 Maybe this is specifically LED's biggest whale. That's not saying a whole lot though.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

Down here in the content mines

Been a little quiet this week on the blog. That's partially because the fake radio show can be a pain in the neck to book, record and edit. Maybe it's worth it. I don't know.

Meanwhile, I've promised more on the election which I plan to get to. Also the Saints are having an interesting year and I think it's time to review some items there. Anyway. Plenty time left. We'll get to it.

Inside the Money Club

The FDIC report on the First NBC collapse is out. The Advocate doesn't report anything especially juicy although they point out that it does confirm key elements of their prior reporting on the story.

If you've been following along, you will have already understood that the central issue here is Ashton Ryan and his friends were passing out free money to each other.
While focusing much of its criticism on First NBC's founder and CEO, Ashton Ryan Jr., the report also deplores a lack of oversight by the bank's board as well as by federal and state regulators.

Based on years of confidential bank examination reports, which rarely become public, the FDIC report also notes an unusual transaction that smacks of a conflict: a $2 million loan to Ryan from a First NBC customer who had recently obtained a $9 million unsecured loan from the bank.

Ryan, a former partner at a Big Five accounting firm, founded First NBC in 2006. It drew a local who's who of backers and grew at a remarkable pace into a nearly $5 billion institution. But the report suggests that the bank's trajectory was lifted partly by its willingness to pay high interest rates for deposits, which were in turn used to make loans that were bigger than many larger banks in the area were willing to take on.

This doesn't go too far into explaining that often the source of the free money was a scheme to shuffle around questionable investments in post katrina disaster recovery grants and tax credits. The larger story we've been reading all year is how the bank became a conduit for turning those funds into windfalls for important people in the political, entrepreneurial, and cultural non-profit circles who own and operate New Orleans nowadays.

It does quote some lawyers pointing out that it's going to be difficult to prove "criminal intent" in all of this. Because, as with most white collar crime, you probably don't have to worry as long as you've been stealing on behalf of the right people.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Bringing in the experts

About a month ago, an entity known as the "LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation" announced its intention to start up the next round of the What Do We Do With Charity Hospital game.  To show how very serious they are, they announced also they would spend an undisclosed amount of money on a "land use study" to be conducted by the Urban Land Institute.

The Institute's services begin with an assemblage of out of national real estate consultants and investors with little to no understanding of the historical political or cultural context of the building and neighborhood. Because that is how true expertise is gained. The team of experts spent a full five days in New Orleans  including one full day of "interviewing stakeholders" before making some announcements at a press event today. They learned some interesting facts!

 The panel also had some things to teach us about the importance of good branding and also the importance of getting people "to the table."
"Consistency is important in branding," said John Walsh, the Texas real estate consultant leading the presentation said.

The group of 10 volunteers spent five days in town — and a day interviewing local stakeholders — at LSU's behest, and former Pittsburgh Mayor Tom Murphy said getting representatives from LSU and Tulane University, among other institutions, to the table is crucial.

They still don't know what to do with the building but, being the land use experts, they do have some ideas to share about how wealthy developers would best like to have public money and resources gifted to them. They would very much like it if we created a TIF district for them, for example. Or yet another PILOT. Or any of the fascinating ideas listed here. 

I, myself, am intrigued by "Other Economic Development Incentives."  We truly are limited only by our own imaginations. Anyone who has paid any attention to the mayor's race knows how excited LaToya Cantrell is about finding new "incentives" for developers so strap in. 

And remember, the ULI group is only here to tell us how best to help the rich get richer. They won't presume to tell us what should happen to the building in the process.  So remember to dream big.

Going monorail

Desi vs LaToya is running out of steam. We're already familiar enough with the depressing or disingenuous answers each will recite given a topic by now. I suppose if we get a chance to see the video of this latest forum, there will be some vague novelty we can pick out. But going by Gambit's description, the candidates stayed on script.

Well, okay there was one thing.  Apparently there is some law of nature which states that any time two or more talking heads discuss economic development in New Orleans East, at least one of them is eventually going to talk about something in the monorail category.
Other ideas from the candidates included light rail transit and development at the Grand Theater site in New Orleans East (Cantrell); and a $15 wage for City Hall employees and funding for the Orleans Public Defender's office to work on expungements (Charbonnet). An audience of more than 200 people clapped enthusiastically and gave out the occasional whoop of support.
Like I said, I'm probably going to have to watch this. What did she mean? Does the train go to the Grand Theater site? From where? Maybe it could just take visitors on a ride around the property to offer views of the murals which, admittedly, are pretty nice.  Maybe this could work.

Grand Theater

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Sounds like a challenge

That Wa-Po piece on Hugo Holland is yielding some good things.
A New Orleans attorney on Thursday asked state officials to open a "payroll fraud" investigation into Hugo A. Holland, one of the most influential prosecutors in Louisiana, accusing the outspoken death penalty proponent of breaking the law by working full-time in multiple judicial districts.
Holland doesn't seem like the kind of person who is going to be intimidated or humbled in any way by that. So this should be fun to watch. 
Holland denied the allegations in an email, insisting the position of assistant district attorney is considered part-time under Louisiana law. He told The Advocate in an interview earlier this year that he holds commissions from 18 Louisiana district attorneys, often flying around the state in a four-seat RV-10 to prosecute high-profile cases in largely rural parishes.

"An individual may hold as many part-time appointed positions as he or she desires," Holland wrote. "I can be a commissioned ADA in all 42 jurisdictions if I so desire and if the DA's in those jurisdictions approve."

He also said that it was "horses--t to claim I am a paid lobbyist," adding, "I simply don't fit the definition."

"I defy any of these ass----s to produce a shred of evidence that I have 'double billed' or 'double dipped,'" Holland said. 
Maybe none of the "ass----s" will take him up on the dare. On the other hand, maybe they don't like being called out like that. 

The end of the Trump Presidency

Atrios made a useful observation yesterday.  Tax reform is the last big ticket on the Republican agenda and, to them, it is far and away the most important.  Protecting and exacerbating the concentration of wealth is their bedrock cause. Once they get their big tax cut, the whole Trump adventure will have been worth it for them.

More to the point, it will also be over. With nothing left to play for, it's probable that we'll see a lot of Republicans quickly lose interest in protecting Trump as his legal problems worsen. They won't need him for anything important anymore so why bother.

Another possibility is the tax cut goes down in flames like the Obamacare repeal before it. That's less likely since the Congress is taking it more seriously this time around.  But it could happen. In which case,  it will be on to the midterms with no big legislative win to brag on.  Either way, the Trump Presidency.. or at least the worst days of it.. might be just about over.

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

Riders always come last

RTA (and Ron Forman's con-profit) have begrudgingly agreed to build a pedestrian bridge to the new Algiers Ferry terminal. They weren't going to do this initially but only agreed to do so after repeated pleas from riders who would very much not like to be run over or made unnecessarily late by trains on their way to work. 

Even after agreeing to build the bridge, though, the decision-makers absolutely refused to cover it.  This was because 1) they hate hate hate homeless people and 2) that's about it.
Pressed by Guidry, Berni further hinted that aside from added costs, one impetus for keeping the bridge roofless might be to discourage homeless people from being there.

"Yeah, I think that's probably one reason," Berni said. "But I'm sure there are many others, including cost."
"Cost" couldn't have been too big a factor there. We know this now because they're thinking about buying all this fancy stuff
Since late July, records show the firm designing the bridge, Manning Architects, has sent city and transit officials several preliminary budget drafts detailing costs. A first draft of that budget, dated July 20, pegged total estimated costs for the bridge at just under $5 million, up from officials' initial estimate of $2.6 million to $3 million in March.

Eight days later on July 28, the bridge's draft budget swelled to between $7.8 million and $8.3 million, largely due to the appearance of a new line item called "Add LED." That item - which later budget drafts revised to "Add Video Board" - would cost between $1.5 million and $2 million.

Manning's preliminary budget has also included three "contingency" costs, fluctuating in draft iterations from around $400,000 on July 20 to above $1.2 million on July 28 then back down to about $750,000 in the budget's most recent Sept. 27 draft.

It's unclear what exactly the "Video Board" line item represents, or if it would make it into the final budget cut. Officials say that budget, as well as the bridge's final design, would be set only after a cooperative endeavor agreement is signed by RTA, the city and the Audubon Nature Institute, which owns land next to its aquarium where the bridge is expected to be built.
In recent years, commuters who had depended on the ferries have endured fare hikes, limited hours, and limited functionality as the car-carrying boats were replaced with pedestrian-only service. They've had to jump up and down just to get this bridge included in the terminal design.  But Audubon can always get whatever they want just by adding a line item in the plan somewhere. Just another reminder of who the city leaders believe they're actually providing services for.

The New Orleans model

Post-Katrina New Orleans has so much to be proud of.  We were the laboratory of innovation where 21st Century disaster capitalism was born.* Our model is being replicated all over now.
The guerrilla campaign to open schools is running headlong into a separate effort from the top, to use the storm to accomplish the long-standing goal of privatizing Puerto Rico’s public schools, using New Orleans post-Katrina as a model. Last month, Puerto Rico’s Public-Private Partnerships Authority director spoke optimistically about leveraging federal money with companies interested in privatizing public infrastructure.   

Puerto Rico’s Education Secretary Julia Keleher has already called New Orleans’s school reform efforts a “point of reference” — tweeting last week that Puerto Ricans “should not underestimate the damage or the opportunity to create new, better schools.” She repeated these sentiments on Monday, saying that the aftermath of Maria provides a “real opportunity to press the reset button.”
Congratulations, Puerto Rico. You're officially the latest in a line of proud "blank slates" now. Good luck. 

*Domestically, anyway.  A lot of groundbreaking work was done in Iraq too.

Just say No-pioid

Jeff Landry has this fascinating idea that a major national health crisis has come about because medicine isn't expensive enough.
Since Louisiana expanded Medicaid, 441,000 more people in the state have enrolled and are receiving health care coverage. The Louisiana Department of Health says Medicaid expansion has helped more than 13,000 people receive substance abuse treatment.

Prior to the expansion, Landry said, Medicaid covered about 500,000 prescriptions compared to the roughly 900,000 prescriptions covered today.

“We already know that we’re having an epidemic, so when we put a program in place that about doubles the amount of free prescriptions available to people, think about that. That’s literally like putting drugs on the street for free,” Landry said.
One supposes we shouldn't have to justify this with a response.  Grace does anyway.  Meanwhile, Landry will be happy to accept your leftover pain pills if you want to bring them to him. Surely this makes more sense than treating people for addiction.  

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

The next phase on Freret

Some interesting comments here from the owner of Freret St. Po-Boy and Donut Shop.  This was one of the first restaurants to open there during the post-Katrina "Freret renaissance." The city used CDGB money and a Main Streets grant to promote development there. It's a longer story than I want to write here but just know that the scene on Freret was created by policy choices and not just the random magic of entrepreneurship. In any case, this entrepreneurial venture is closing now.
Business on Freret was complicated in part by a street project that dragged on for years beyond its original scope, but also by the pressure of a changing neighborhood. Major pre-Katrina businesses, like Freret Garden Center, also sold their land and gave way to newer construction, such as the building that houses the national Halal Guys and Blaze Pizza chains, and even parking became more hard to find as free spaces were converted to paid.

“A lot of the regulars, I didn’t even see them anymore,” said Freret Po-Boy owner Myra Bercy in a telephone interview on Tuesday morning. “I guess some of them moved out of the neighborhood.”

Bercy said she struggled in recent years to make her rent payments, and they continued to go up. By January, her rent would have been nearly double what she originally paid when the business opened, so she closed for good the last week of October.

“The combination of all of that put me in a position where I was not making enough to stay in business,” Bercy said.
The landlord says, yes, the rent was always supposed to go up. That was the point of all this.  And by necessity, that means the small mom and pop businesses with neighborhood customer bases are going to be replaced by national chains with deep pockets oriented toward Tulane students and, very likely, Airbnbers. Again, all of this is by design. It's deliberate policy choice.  It's presented as "laissez-faire" but that isn't really accurate.   
Bercy said she is unsure whether she will try to open another restaurant elsewhere, as closing the business left her in debt. In the meantime, she said, she believes the city should think of ways to continue supporting longtime small business owners as the economy of New Orleans begins to change.

The city needs to do something about this, I feel,” Bercy said. “In New Orleans we have a lassiz faire way of doing business, where it makes a little easier for the biz owners dealing with landlord-tenant situation. 

“When people come from out of state, they don’t have the same respect for our culture,” she continued. “To a lot of people, the things I did might have meant a lot. But to them, it doesn’t really mean anything. We were just small time.”
The city has already made its choice, though. 

Virginia Gov

I don't have a magic crystal ball or anything but my guess is Gillespie is going to win a close election there leading the clueless Democrats to conclude that their candidates will need to be more racist next time.


The New Orleans City Council is holding a special meeting today where the public will be allowed to ask about ongoing Sewerage and Water Board issues. Specifically, this will be an opportunity to express concerns over the mayor's proposal to begin the process of privatizing key functions of the agency's staffing. The meeting begins at 10:30 and likely will be available to stream. If you can't make it,  consider contacting your councilpersons with your comments.

Monday, November 06, 2017

Can your team win 6 in a row?

Maybe.  Would it help if I told you they got to play this schedule?

Cam Sandals

The Fightin' Cutlers

One-Ankle Matt Stafford (almost blew that one, actually)

No, The Other Brett

Ryan Pace's Genius Draft Trade (almost blew that one, too, actually)

This Idiot (minus a shoulder)

Yeah, I'd say there's a chance you can pull that off.  Don't get me wrong. I'm not exactly saying this thing is a "fluke."  But since most NFL results are pretty much random in the first place, I'm also not NOT saying that. The good news is the whole NFC is especially bad this year so, if you want to go "all in," feel free to go right ahead and do that.  It's fun when they win. And we watch these games for fun so... yay!

But also don't be too upset when the wheel spins the other way.  That's coming sooner or later.   We started this thing hoping to see the team make history by finishing 7-9 for a fourth year in a row. The odds of that are pretty slim now so already we've been a little bit disappointed. Anyway, it's the halfway point so we'll have to update this soon.   Sean's poll numbers are up, it would seem.

Update: Bonus words of wisdom from Cam.
The 28-year-old quarterback had been asked about Devin Funchess, who had five catches for 86 yards in his debut as the Panthers’ top wide receiver in the wake of the Kelvin Benjamin trade. Newton noted that Funchess is “growing into the role,” then provided this insight into Benjamin’s departure:

“Yeah, we just lost a great player, but nevertheless, the Titanic still has to go.”
It really does. Eventually everything will. 

Airbnb compliant

There's a housing crisis in New Orleans. Luckily our policymakers and real estate investors are coming up with solutions that meet the demands of their most important constituents and clients.
Developer Jerard Ward on Oct. 31 broke ground on The Saxony, a 75-unit, five-floor condo building at Burgundy and Bartholomew streets in Bywater. With units ranging in size from studios to three bedrooms and amenities that include a pool, courtyard and private balconies, marketers tout the site's "historic" surrounding neighborhood and its proximity to the Mississippi River.

Also, the units will be "Airbnb compliant," Latter & Blum Marketing Director Stephen Waring noted. With pricing on the units ranging up to $645,000, or $450 a square foot, the ability to put a unit to work as a short-term rental could be crucial for some owners.

It's a different story when you aren't just polling high school students

The mayor's race is over.
Questions surrounding LaToya Cantrell's use of a taxpayer-financed credit card have done nothing to diminish her commanding lead in the New Orleans mayor's race, according to the first poll to be publicly disclosed since the Oct. 14 primary.

Instead, the survey by the education advocacy group Democrats for Education Reform found Cantrell's nine-point advantage that night over former city judge Desiree Charbonnet has doubled despite the whiff of scandal.

Cantrell, a sitting city councilwoman, was 18 points ahead, 44 percent to Charbonnet's 26 percent, when the polling concluded Nov. 2. The survey began Oct. 24 with plans to target 600 likely voters, but the research firm LJR Custom Strategies added another 400 after news broke about Cantrell's spending.
The only caveat here is "Democrats for Education Reform" is a national anti-union group with a clear interest in promoting Cantrell. Still I'd be surprised if this isn't close to the actual spread in the runoff.

Sunday, November 05, 2017

Zombies and monsters

Hugo Holland is the prosecutor/lobbyist who succeeded at watering down this year's criminal justice reform package during the legislative session. He has a fascinating origin story.
The incident that cost Holland his job started in December of 2011, when he and another prosecutor, Lea Hall, falsified documents in an attempt to obtain eight M-16 rifles for themselves through a Pentagon program that gives surplus military equipment to police departments across the country. Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator said that the two prosecutors ordered the guns without his knowledge, and that he wouldn’t approved if they had asked.

This raises the question of why a couple of prosecutors would want a cache of M-16s in the first place. Back in 2009, Hall and Holland formed what they informally called the “Zombie Response Team.” It began as a bunch of prosecutors who got together on their days off to shoot guns and engage in tactical training. It eventually morphed into something quasi-official. Citing deposition testimony, the TV station KTBS reported in 2015 that the prosecutors had “equipped their vehicles with emergency lights and sirens, pulled motorists over, conducted surveillance work and accompanied police officers when warrants were served.” Some members of the “team” also began wearing SWAT-like clothing during work hours, and had designed a patch and license plates with the zombie team’s logo. (One member of the team is now a district court judge.) KTBS quoted from the deposition of one Caddo prosecutor who found it all pretty disturbing: “I went to law school. I’m supposed to go stand in court. I’m not supposed to be at crime scenes … I’m thinking about how stupid it is that they want to go out and play cop.”

He didn't stay "fired" for long. In fact, you could say it was, as the cliche goes, the best thing that ever happened to him.  Holland quickly resurrected his career. And, much like a zombie, perhaps, it became all the more terrifying.
But that forced resignation would prove to be a boon to both Holland’s career and his bank account. Holland recently told the Advocate that he was idle “for about two days” after his resignation before he began to receive freelancing offers from other DAs. Even Caddo, the same parish that fired him, quickly hired him back on a contractual basis. By the end of 2014, a year and a half after his resignation, six parishes were paying Holland between $8,000 and $24,000 to prosecute or review cases. He made at least $126,000 from freelance prosecuting in 2014, already more than the $120,540 he made during his last fiscal year as a full-time prosecutor.
From there it only gets worse. Holland's lobbying on behalf of the Louisiana Distict Attorneys has blunted or beaten back most statewide efforts at sentencing reform, has preserved the death penalty in Louisiana, and placed greater fiscal stress on the state's already underfunded public defenders. It has also greatly supplemented his "freelancing" income. That Post feature itemizes Holland's various billings he has charged to taxpayers along the way in the employ of this or that Parish DA.

In short,  Holland is a monster and a major obstacle to true criminal justice reform. There's much more in this article to keep as reference. I'd encourage you to bookmark it.

For example, there is this helpful summary of the exploits of our friend Leon.
Orleans Parish DA Leon Cannizzaro, for example, has often been touted as a reformer. In 2014  He set up a conviction integrity unit in the office to work with the New Orleans Innocence Project to uncover wrongful convictions. Given the legacy of Harry Connick, that seemed like a welcome break from the old culture.

But Cannizzaro hasn’t strayed far from his predecessor. Since taking office in 2009, he too has been accused of withholding exculpatory evidence in murder cases. His office was recently found to have been knowingly (and illegally) issuing fake subpoenas to intimidate witnesses, and was just hit with a lawsuit on the matter. He has also recently come under fire for locking up rape victims to compel them to testify, and faced accusations that he had a defense investigator arrested in retaliation for that investigator’s exposure of misconduct in Cannizzaro’s office.

As much of the country talks about decarceration, Cannizzaro has locked people up at a rate far exceeding even his punitive predecessors. New Orleans has seen a 15 percent increase in state prisoners since he took office, even as the state’s overall prison population dropped by 5 percent. Cannizzaro too spoke out againstreforming the state’s marijuana possession laws, and once used the state’s habitual offender law to argue for a life sentence for a man arrested for stealing $15.

A report published last year concluded that Cannizzaro “chooses to transfer children to adult court in almost every possible instance,” including children with mental disabilities, and children who played a minor role in the alleged crime. And a 2015 report from the Phillips Black Project found that only Los Angeles handed down more life sentences to juveniles than New Orleans in the past five years.

Cannizzaro eventually stopped asking for funding for his innocence unit, and the entire project was scrapped barely a year after it started.  Since then, when defense attorneys have produced witnesses who recant their testimony in potential innocence cases — often attributing their wrongful testimony to threats from police officers — Cannizzaro has had those witnesses arrested and charged with perjury. Perhaps it’s not surprising, then, that Connick himself recently wrote a letter to the editor praising Cannizzaro.

Monsters everywhere.   In a recent interview with NOLA.com Governor Edwards suggested there won't be much effort to push further on this year's incomplete criminal justice reforms in the next legislative session.  Which is to say, the monsters are winning.

Saturday, November 04, 2017

Congratulations, Mayor Charbonnet

As far as I know these are the first poll numbers since the primary and they are overwhelming.
Apparently the teenage demographic is breaking for Desiree Charbonnet in this year's mayoral contest.

At least that was the case in a mock vote Friday after a debate moderated by students from local high schools. The youngsters — casting their votes by cellphone, of course — went for Charbonnet over LaToya Cantrell by 82 to 41, though most of those present did not vote at all.
"Most of those present did not vote," is an easy frame for a cheap shot. Let's see if anyone takes it.  
The head of the Lower 9th Ward Voters Coalition, the Rev. Willie Calhoun Jr., said the organization put on Friday's event to get kids involved with the political process and encourage students from different schools to work together toward a common goal.

He lamented that the mock vote results were indicative of a larger problem, however.

"We had about 600 kids there, and only 100 voted," Calhoun said.
Well, no, the only problem this indicates is a lot of high school kids had to sit through a bullshit assembly which, being normal kids, they resented.  Okay so maybe it is a metaphor for this race after all.

Anyway, congrats to Desi. Way to go out and capture a big chunk of the ineligible vote.

Friday, November 03, 2017

Above their pay grade

On NOLA.com, Bob Marshall laments that, at a recent forum on coastal and environmental issues, the mayoral candidates appeared to lack a basic grasp of "existential threat" of climate change to the city of New Orleans, let alone any sort of plan to deal with it. But see if you can spot the problem here.
But when it came to addressing climate change they left the audience troubled. Almost every question on warming and rising seas led to another discourse on improving drainage or higher levees -- even improving the work force to do that work. The candidates apparently didn't get what that educated audience already knew:  Without addressing the causes of warming, none of those other issues can be solved.

The concept isn't complicated.

Better drainage and S&WB management? We can have an all-star cast operating the best combination of pumps and green infrastructure in the world, but the continued warming of the oceans and atmosphere will mean more of those 10-inches-in-a-few-hours rainfalls that will overwhelm that system and flood homes.

Better levees? Engineers admit even the state-of-the art, $14.5 billion system now in place probably will be overtopped by the storm surge from current Category 3 storms. And as sea level rises due to warming in the future, that same Cat 3 storm will have much higher storm surge, pouring even more water over those levees and posing a real threat to that improved drainage system.

Supporting the state's coastal master plan? Absolutely. But the 2017 plan admits that without reducing the current rate of emissions sea level rise is likely to consume another 2,800 square miles of a coast by 2065 -- even if all those projects are completed. That greatly increases the threat of storm surge against the levees and the drainage system -- and possibly makes some of the current marsh creation projects obsolete.
Consider, though, that better drainage, levees, and "supporting" the coastal master plan are much closer to the actual job of being Mayor of New Orleans than is solving the global crisis of climate change. We're talking about stuff that happens way way way above the mayor's pay grade.

Marshall goes on to cite Mitch Landrieu's "Climate Action Strategy" as an example of what he'd like to see and hear from the candidates. But, frankly, that document is nothing more than a pamphlet meant to bolster Mitch's personal brand as much as anything else.  The next mayor can and probably will sign off on it. And that's fine. Anything to contribute in some small way to "the discourse." But it's also pretty much the extent of her power to do anything. Her role in this, like the the mayor of any one town will be little different from your household recycling bin's role in cleaning up the Pacific Garbage Patch.  It's symbolic, at best, and infinitesimally small.

On a more depressing note, this also indicates why we're never going to avoid this hazard. The politics of climate change are incongruous with anything that would suffice as a "solution." The problem is enormous. Its remedy requires global agreement. By comparison our political jurisdictions are tiny and represent opposing interests who are irreconcilable. 

The disaster is bigger than we are. It is already here. All we can do politically is fight over who bears the worst of its burdens. Who will pay the higher costs of  drainage, protection, insurance, and ultimately relocation? Whose losses will be remunerated? Whose operations will be subsidized? If you want to ask the next mayor what her plan is for climate change, ask her about it in that context.

Welcome to the runoff, everybody

District B third place finisher Timothy David Ray has some things to say which you may find interesting.
I have recently reached a decision and have decided to offer my endorsement to a candidate in the run-off. I reached my decision after deep consideration of both candidates; their policies and their characters
He then goes on to.. um.. very deeply consider the character, in particular, of Seth Bloom. He finds it lacking.
Seth Bloom has habitually displayed a lack of self-restraint, professionalism, respect, and sincerity as he has campaigned for another public office. I am convinced that Seth Bloom is volatile, hostile, and vindictive - the residents of District B deserve better. The City of New Orleans deserves better.
It goes on like this for quite a while. The first (of the very many times) I read Ray's treatise I had to stop and count how many paragraphs we were already into it when we get to, "There is much more I can say about the complete lack of respect and smugness of Seth Bloom." The answer is 17.

Anyway, so, enjoy that. Early voting begins today, by the way. Here is where you can do that.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Every haunted house story is really about gentrification

And New Orleans is "the most haunted city in America."
Locals in certain neighborhoods have been complaining about short-term rentals for the past few years. But until the new law passed, it was difficult to know exactly how many there were and where they were concentrated. Since April, the city has been tracking licenses issued to people who want to rent out their rooms, houses or apartments. The Lens and HuffPost partnered to analyze the data.

We found signs that short-term rentals are contributing to the transformation of a handful of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods, particularly the ones closest to the French Quarter. In 15 neighborhoods, including Treme and Bywater, short-term rentals make up at least 3 percent of residential addresses. That’s a considerable slice of the city’s most desirable real estate.

In the Marigny, next to the Quarter, one in 10 residences are registered as Airbnbs. In the Central Business District, which is seeing a boom in luxury condos, 5.8 percent of residential addresses are licensed for short-term rentals.

More than half of the units in a new building called the Maritime are registered as short-term rentals. In another building, Saratoga Lofts, it’s 28 percent. DeDecker’s housing group has filed a complaint over both buildings, saying their government-backed mortgages don’t allow short-term rentals.
The only thing that Lens and Huff-Po collaboration is missing is a comment from our next mayor saying she doesn't think any of this is a big deal.
“This seems to be in conflict with your cry for more affordable housing,” Head said to Cantrell. She explained later, “I do not believe we should allow the creeping into neighborhoods that are otherwise residential by changing the zoning to commercial.”

The short-term rental issue should not be blamed for the city’s lack of affordable housing, Cantrell shot back. That, she said, was the result of intentional efforts by city leaders after Hurricane Katrina.

“Affordability and the crisis that we’re in in the city of New Orleans is not because of short-term rentals,” Cantrell replied. “It’s because the issue of housing was not a priority in the post-Katrina environment. Resources allocated for the city of New Orleans, millions in fact, were reallocated because there was sentiment coming from policymakers in this city that New Orleans was on the path of having too many affordable units.”
Be safe trick or treating tonight. Here's some stuff we got out and saw this season. 

This year was the 25th for the House Of Shock Horror Show in Jefferson.  They say it's their last. But they've said that before so we'll see.

House Of Shock 25 years

Here is the Skeleton House on St. Charles and State.

Skeleton House

The puns are always pretty good.

Habeas Corpus

This is Ghost Manor on Magazine Street. They added Jack-O-Lanterns this year.


This is a somewhat out of focus video I shot of the skeletons singing Thriller.

There's more to the light and sound show than just that.  Stop by and see it if you are in town.  There are plenty of places to stay in that neighborhood.... 

Monday Night Debate Ball: Expense account edition

So I'd like to move on to Part 2 of the "How to lose an election" series I'm writing about this very bad mayoral race.  But it turns out that first we're going to have to spend a moment being bogged down in this credit card story.  I had specifically determined not to worry about the petty back and forth of an election whose outcome was determined months ago. In fact, the first thing I'd like to say about this late expenses controversy is that it probably won't have much bearing one anyone's decision to vote for either candidate. Still, it's not exactly nothing.
State law prohibits using public money for personal or campaign expenses. And while Cantrell paid back the money, Charbonnet's camp argued that amounted to a tacit admission the law had been broken or ignored.

Cantrell reimbursed the city on 11 different dates starting on October 2013. In five cases, she made the reimbursements from a personal account. Six were reimbursed by her campaign account, according to the Charbonnet camp's analysis.

Cantrell's campaign said Wednesday that the reimbursements show Cantrell's commitment to ensuring that no personal expenses were made on a card paid for with public money. And it denied that the timing of a July check reimbursing $4,433 worth of expenses, covering almost the entirety of Cantrell's time in office, had anything to do with her campaign for mayor.
That's all very much worth asking about. Fronting public money for campaign expenses seems like it violates at least the spirit of ethics laws even if the campaign fund pays the money back.  Throw in the bit about "personal expenses" eventually paid for by campaign donors using the public money as a conduit and then you're raising serious issues.

There is also this nugget that might mean a lot or a little. But it's in there so it bears mentioning. 
When taken together, the expense records, the lien the IRS placed on Cantrell and her husband’s home in 2014 for unpaid income taxes and their bank’s foreclosure on their home in 2013 suggest the councilwoman can’t be entrusted with the city’s purse strings, said Stuart, the Charbonnet spokesman.

“The simple truth is if she can’t manage her own finances, she can’t be trusted with a billion-dollar budget,” he said.

Cantrell's campaign has said the unpaid taxes occurred because of a dispute over how much she and her husband owed the IRS, and then that debt wasn't paid because of an error by First NBC Bank.

The Advocate has done a good job of pulling on the FNBC thread. I've tried to keep track of their reporting here.  Long story short, though, it's about some very important people making questionable use of federal grant money to leverage financing for their preferred projects.  Maybe LaToya just happened to have a home loan from them by coincidence.

Anyway, there's something to this even if it doesn't rise to the level of a major scandal. (It might! But also it probably will go away after the election regardless.) It's already being "both sidesed" because that's easy enough to do. Either way it's not something that should have any effect on the outcome. (I say "should" for a reason. But I'm getting to that.)

If nothing else it makes social media feeds amusing when a bunch of people who once upon a time howled about Ray Nagin's credit card expenses suddenly have nothing to say about this. These little hypocrisies permeate our politics. Petty corruption is only bad when it makes somebody else's friends rich.  I'll link back to a favorite example of mine for now because I plan on talking more about it in future posts.  The point is, for LaToya supporters, the narrative has already been set.  They're the "good guys" and the other side is a "corrupt machine."  No amount of evidence muddying those waters was ever going to change their votes.

So even going in this direction is a highly questionable move for the Charbonnet people.  But they've already spent the year running a lazy campaign about nothing so it shouldn't surprise anyone that this is all they know to do at this point.  I would have considered arguments about the value in going after undecided or less committed Cantrell voters but that was before the D.A. showed up
NEW ORLEANS - A criminal complaint has been filed against mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell for her extensive use of a city credit card, and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office forwarded the complaint Thursday to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Cannizzaro is a vocal supporter of Cantrell’s opponent in this month’s mayoral election, Desiree Charbonnet.
Surely no one will think that suspicious.  I know it's Halloween and all but maybe we could be a little less mustache twirly in our melodramatic villainy.  It's tempting to think Cannizzaro is deliberately trying to undermine the whole line of attack here. Whether he means to or not, he's likely forfeited whatever slight difference the credit card news would have made for Charbonnet.  People hate Cannizzaro. He's guaranteed to ruin any message just by associating himself with it.

Not that he cares.  Most people probably aren't going to believe this but I think it's likely the D.A. is acting on his own accord in this matter. It obviously hurts the campaign so badly it's difficult to imagine they would have asked him to do this. Meanwhile Leon is happy to jump at any opportunity to promote himself. He's possibly up for consideration as the next U.S. Attorney. It probably won't hurt his chances with the decision-makers there to show that he can harass a potential New Orleans mayor over petty bullshit.  Or maybe he really is just this dumb.  In any case, he's definitely very ethical. At least that's what he paid this ethics lawyer to tell everybody.   
On Monday, Cannizzaro's office released a letter by R. Gray Sexton, the former longtime general counsel of the Louisiana Ethics Board, offering a full-throated defense of Cannizzaro's action.

The DA acknowledged after releasing the opinion that Sexton billed him about $1,000 for offering his view. A spokesman said Cannizzaro planned on paying Sexton personally, not with public money.

Anyway, like I've been saying, the result of the election is already determined. I'll get back on track trying to explain all of that later. Unfortunately, we still have to go through the motions of silly season.  Last night's debate was dominated by this silly slap fight. The candidates had to talk about the credit card stuff in response to the very first question and came back to it several times throughout the night. It's hard to say who looked worse.

Assume for a second that there are voters who honestly care about the credit card business as though it were a serious election determining matter.  I don't think there are many but if there are, LaToya probably didn't convince them of much. First she insisted that nothing she spent any money on violated any rules and instead, "advanced the City of New Orleans."  So Dennis Woltering went into the specifics of some of those expenditures reported on here by David Hammer to which she only repeated herself. Also I think she said "best practices" a few times.  It's really difficult to convey just how much condescension drips from LaToya's voice when she talks about this stuff and how grating that is. It's a good thing for her there aren't many undecided voters who are persuadable based on this issue. 

Next, LaToya asserted that Desiree "manipulated the documents" without explaining how the facts are any different due to that "manipulation."  Remarkably, this was enough to put Charbonnet on the defensive but only because Desi allowed it to. During one particularly stupid bit Desiree exclaimed,  "I DID NOT TOUCH YOUR DOCUMENTS"  before offering, "the campaign did all that." This will surely reassure voters who may have had concerns about Desi's independence.

The good news is none of this was any less depressing than the rest of the debate which saw the candidates climb over each other to show who would do the most to "incentivize business" through tax giveaways and various offers to "cut red tape."  Go back and watch if you want to have a big laugh about all that.  My favorite part was either Charbonnet saying, "President Trump has made infrastructure a priority," or LaToya talking about how she wants to ensure we aren't "being punitive toward the landlord community."  Sheesh!

But, look. The thing to get here is the election is not about the awful candidates or the things they say or the dumb ginned up controversies of the final weeks. The candidates are bad people. But candidates are always bad people. What voters actually have to do is look past the bad candidates and chose which set of elites is going to have the inside track on profiting from key policy decisions over the next 8 years. A lot of that will not affect you very much even as it makes certain individuals richer.

But some of it will affect you. The set of these corrupt elites backing one candidate may be somewhat more enthusiastic about privatization and "running government like a business" than the other set. One set of corrupt elites is slightly more friendly to Airbnb. One candidate's set of corrupt elite backers is decidedly more hostile to the rights of workers to organize. Maybe that stuff is important to you. Maybe it isn't. Vote for whichever you think best fits your preferences. But that's how the election will eventually touch most of us. 

Maybe some future election will be different. Maybe some day we'll find better people to be candidates. And in that future, if you want to win that election, I will tell you how for one million dollars. But for now, this is what we have to deal with.