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Thursday, May 26, 2016

Nobody cares what's in the platform

Of course it's a good idea to do whatever one can to move the party away from blind fealty to hyper-militant Israel. But I hesitate to use even the word, symbolic, here to describe the actual significance of this.
The presence of Dr. Zogby and Dr. West on the 15-member panel, which also has six appointees of Hillary Clinton and four from the party chairwoman, does not guarantee their views will prevail. But it raises the prospect that one of the party’s most sensitive issues will be open to public debate while Mrs. Clinton is in a fight to unify her party and appeal to voters turned off by Donald J. Trump.

It also laid bare a steady shift in the Democratic Party, whose members have been less willing to back Israel’s government than in years past. According to a Pew Research Center survey in April, self-described liberal Democrats were twice as likely to sympathize with Palestinians over Israel than they were only two years ago. Forty percent of liberals sympathized more with Palestinians, the most since 2001, while 33 percent sympathized more with Israel.
At the end of the day, though. Nobody cares what the platform says or who was on the committee. The actual candidate for President is Hillary Clinton. And we know where she stands

Who Trumped?

My guess is whoever smelt it...
While waiting for Trump in the windowless conference room under bleachers in an arena, several delegates jokingly bickered over which one was the 1237th before Trump made his entrance.

Having it both ways

The Lusher Charter School board could have just accepted the results of a petition drive with the support of 60 percent of its teachers and chosen to recognize them a bargaining unit. Instead, they opted to force an NLRB administered election.

Some of you may recall that way back in 2009, some of us were pushing for the Employee Free Choice Act. This legislation would have, among other things, ended the unfair advantage held my management in setting the terms under which a union is formed. You can read more about that here. But President Obama and the Democrats who held large majorities in congress at the time sold out labor yet again and failed to advance EFCA. And so here we are.

Which is why the Lusher board was able to declare itself "neutral" and state that it would not countenance administrative coercion of teachers while simultaneously ensuring that such coercion would inevitably occur. Which it did.
The National Labor Relations Act prohibits employers from interfering with their employees' right to unionize. That includes limiting the extent to which employers may coerce workers or poll them on how they plan to vote.

But six members of the United Teachers of Lusher spread fistfuls of anti-union letters and postcards onto a coffee house table Saturday. Some came to their homes; they have received emails and calls at their personal addresses and numbers as well, they said.

One letter was signed by the organization's six top leaders, including Riedlinger and all three principals. Several came from the director of a competing, dues-based teacher support group. Some were anonymous, giving the return address of a mailbox and shipping center on Magazine Street, but spoke of "our" community and school, using Lusher's colors, logo and school principles.

The pressure came in person as well, said high school teachers Terry Marek, Beth Rota, Julie Sanders and Jerome White, and second-grade teachers Gigi Boesch and Bonnie Bowler. They said Riedlinger had pulled teachers into her office and asked them to vote no. Administrators stood up at faculty meetings and said they personally felt a union would be bad for Lusher, they said.

It's hard to go against what your boss says, Rota said: "It's intimidating, it's not comfortable and it's not fair."
The Lusher board and administration took full advantage of an NLRB process they knew would be weighted in their favor.  And then today they're turning around and saying the whole thing is illegitimate anyway. Just in case anybody gets any ideas about complaining.

In an effort to stave off any future attempts by teachers to unionize, Lusher Charter School administrators on Tuesday fired off an appeal of a recent ruling that the National Labor Relations Board has the right to oversee union elections at the Uptown school.
Meanwhile, an effort by International High School of New Orleans teachers to unionize has been decried by leaders at that school, who also have questioned the federal agency’s jurisdiction and have criticized the union in emails to teachers.

Lusher attorneys on Tuesday filed a request for review with the national office of the National Labor Relations Board, challenging a regional director’s decision that the agency has the right to oversee union elections at the school.

International High, which also was found to be under the agency’s jurisdiction, has not yet decided whether to file its own appeal.

The dogged resistance to union organizing showcases the divide between unions and charter schools in New Orleans. Only two charters in the city — Benjamin Franklin High School and Morris Jeff Community School — have approved teachers unions thus far.
This issue isn't going away. It's only going to become more important as the state run Recovery School District turns oversight of local charters back over to the Orleans Parish School Board.  By the way, do we know who is running for OSPB seats this year, yet?

Hard to pick out the best quote

The Gusman hearing is full of fun testimony. "They just have no clue" what they're doing. Mental health support is "abysmal."  A lot of people are refusing to pull a lot of punches. But, probably the most telling comment comes from the judge.  
Africk, who has presided over the jail litigation for four years, has been reluctant to micromanage Gusman or intervene in the sheriff’s funding battle with Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration. But he made clear Wednesday that he is entertaining the government’s request that he sideline Gusman.

I’m not waiting around another five years” for change, the judge told one of the sheriff’s attorneys during one spirited exchange.
Something has to happen.  The conditions at the jail are deplorable and everyone knows it. This doesn't mean there aren't reasons to be skeptical of a motion to remove a citywide elected official my judicial fiat. Gusman has a legitimate point there. His jail sucks but he does have a point about that.
It's also worth noting that the mayor has more to gain in purely cynical political terms from this action and that his comments aren't necessarily motivated by concern for the inmates either. 

Everybody is a hack

Look, if you've intentionally created a "personal brand" and specifically sought to monetize your public self in order that a media company can continue to sell ads, you have ceded moral authority when it comes to criticism of that company's product. In other words, if you're getting a check for it, it's probably not a holy vocation of any sort.

I mean, I know the pay is shitty, but accepting it is tacitly a statement of personal compromise. It also means your product - and under the "personal branding" paradigm that means your actual person is the product - is sold off to the company and marketed for public consumption.  And the public reads and reacts to that. That's the whole point.  You don't get to shout back down and shame the public for reacting. You're the ones who sold out in the first place.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Congratulations, Governor Landry

A few weeks back the Louisiana House attempted a minor coup. (They seem to do this a lot.) I'm not sure they've picked the ideal figurehead, though.
The Louisiana House Appropriations Committee voted 17-6 Monday (May 9) for a proposal that would give Attorney General Jeff Landry power over his own budget -- taking that oversight away from Gov. John Bel Edwards.

The measure passed on a mostly partisan vote. It still has to go to the House floor -- and then the state Senate -- for approval.

"We don't support the bill," Edwards said at a press appearance in Baton Rouge Monday. "I don't think it will become law."
Landry also would have been granted extraordinary powers to enforce the absurd "sanctuary cities" bill that just went down in flames this week.

Nonetheless,  Governor Landry is proceding just as though the coup had gone according to plan.
Attorney General Jeff Landry believes that Gov. John Bel Edwards' executive order protecting LGBT state workers and government contractors from discrimination cannot be legally enforced.

"The order has no binding legal effect," reads the eight-page opinion issued Wednesday (May 25) by Landry's office. "The Governor's constitutionally valid function is to see that the laws are faithfully executed and enforced, not to make any of the laws." 

The opinion doesn't do much on its own. Landry can't declare Edwards' executive order null and void simply by releasing his opinion. But it could be used as the basis for a lawsuit to challenge the legality of the protections Edwards extended to the LGBT community.
I already miss Governor Kennedy.

Nobody actually lives there

Airbnbed in Reykjavik
When Nicholas Herring’s landlord informed him that he was being evicted so that his apartment could be converted into a full-time Airbnb rental, he was distressed but unsurprised. This is the way of things in Reykjavik now. Herring’s story is not uncommon.

If you want an apartment for the weekend in Iceland’s capital, a small city of 122,460 people, Airbnb offers thousands of options. If you want an apartment to live in year-round, though, those options evaporate. In a recent search, the city’s only apartment rental website, leigulistinn.is, listed just nine apartments for rent in downtown Reykjavik. There were 22 in the entire city.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Congratulations! We didn't do it!

Not that there was ever really any shot but a lot of us are nonetheless relieved this afternoon
Charlotte, N.C. -- The NFL regular season doesn't start for another four months but Atlanta already has won a big contest against league rival New Orleans.

The NFL awarded the 2019 Super Bowl to Atlanta on Tuesday in a hotly contested bid competition with New Orleans at the NFL owners' spring meeting at The Ballantyne Hotel.
Okay well Jeff Duncan seems to think this constitutes some sort of win for Atlanta. We, on the other hand, do not. For one thing, we're well aware of the NFL's policy of using the game as yet another tool to extort city and state governments to grant billionaire team owners new privileges and build them new stadiums. For another, we're also familiar enough with the massive burden hosting these events imposes on residents to.. well.. wish it on our worst enemy.

So, good luck, Atlanta. I think Drew Brees will be 40 years old by the time this game happens. If he's really gonna play until he's 45 (as he once suggested he might) maybe we'll win one of these games in your backyard.

Fixing that public benefit corporation shield law

The mayor's displeasure with one project almost led to a really short sighted law.  At least for now it looks like that law won't be quite as bad as it could have been.
The legislation, with a key amendment, is headed to the House floor for a final vote after being approved by the Committee on Civil Law and Procedure.

The original bill attempted to make it more difficult for a losing bidder by requiring the developer to post cash or security to file a lawsuit. The amount would have reached into the tens of millions of dollars for projects like the World Trade Center, which is owned by the New Orleans Building Corp. The requirement -- which would have applied to current and pending lawsuits -- was scratched under an amendment by Committee Chairman Raymond Garofalo.
Anyway, they're still going to court in October. There's a remote possibility that the judge will make them restart the bidding process. But then there's also a remote possibility a sinkhole could just swallow the whole building by then.

Still waiting on that toppling party

Remember way back in December when we were wondering if the monuments would come down before the New Year?  Yeah, well.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration has scrapped its request for bids on a contract to remove Confederate monuments from the city, citing a court order.

The bids were due to be opened Monday (May 23), but the city canceled the solicitation.

Landrieu's attempt to remove monuments to Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard has been put on hold since March 25 when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued an order saying the statues had to be kept in place while it considered a request by preservationists to block removal altogether.
So, you know, yay. We'll still have monuments to kick around for another summer. Which is fine by me (as long as we eventually get to take them down.) In the meantime, it's one of my favorite issues to watch people argue about.  Which is what they were doing last week when Tulane Hillel hosted a monuments edition of its public debate series. I'll let you go read Alex Woodward's account of the meeting but allow me to quote his concluding paragraph.
As futile as these meetings seem, and as intense as they get, misinformation aside, they're worth having. All the public meetings on the monuments — from the Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities to Tulane to the City Council Chambers — have attempted to find that common ground. Instead, at nearly every debate or hearing, someone mentions how "divided" the city has become under Landrieu's watch, specifically, that black New Orleanians are speaking against the monuments, in public. If this is the first time monument supporters are hearing the aftershocks of slavery and Jim Crow, they haven't been listening at all.
I agree that these meetings are worthwhile.  I'm less interested, though, in finding  "common ground" with racists so much as I am interested in seeing them display the full ugliness of their ignorance. It is an abundantly instructive exercise and this monuments issue has been excellent for it.

Alex also points out at the opening of this article that as the same day this meeting was convened, the Louisiana Legislature was passing an obnoxious law that says persons unfortunate enough to find themselves in conflict with police could be prosecuted for "hate crime." I wish someone at the Hillel event could have asked one of the monument defenders if this means the White League rioters the Liberty Monument celebrates committed a "hate crime" against the police they murdered that day. But oh well.

Today our ineffectual Governor confirmed that he plans to sign the monstrous Blue Lives Matter bill.  No doubt John Bel thinks this is the best way to find "common ground."  But that's the trap such rhetoric sets for us.  The only way to defeat racism and abuse is to overthrow it.  And as long as our political leaders are content to reward police for their violent licentious racism, there's no reason to seek "common ground" with them.

Why the Democratic Party won't change

This is a worthwhile op-ed by Louisiana AFL-CIO President Louis Reine railing against the soon to be ratified Trans Pacific Partnership.
Labeling the TPP a "trade deal" narrows the debate to a false "pro" versus "anti" trade frame. It allows supporters of corporate giveaways that masquerade as trade policies to declare inaccurately that unions on principle, regardless of what the provisions are, are opposed to trade. And it ignores the reality that corporate-driven trade has been used to try to permanently enshrine a whole host of harmful economic policies, virtually all of them "trickle down" — not just in the United States, but around the world.

But we have learned from decades of stalled wages that make it hard to do simple things like send kids to college or enjoy a family vacation: trickle down trade doesn't work any better than any other trickle down policy. The game is rigged. It enriches corporate CEOs and leaves hard-working families with crumbs, often struggling to pay for basic necessities.

That's why millions of Americans from all sides of the political spectrum oppose the TPP and are working hard to stop it in its tracks. Our focus this election year is rewriting the rules of our economy so that working families can live a decent life. Our economy can create broadly shared prosperity and rising wages, or it can continue to create spectacular wealth for the few at the top who write the rules to benefit themselves. The TPP is one more set of rules that the CEOs and Wall Street wrote to benefit themselves. If it becomes law, it will be an obstacle to a better, fairer economy for America and for the world.
Unfortunately, TPP is a fait-accompli.  The President is enthusiastic about it. Despite her equivocations during the heat of a campaign, the next President is also clearly supportive. It's easy to say the Democratic Party needs to change its neoliberal "free trade" outlook if it wants to continue to rely on the support of the people they habitually betray through trade policy.  But that's not true.  Not as long as AFL-CIO continues to "fall in line" behind Democratic candidates no matter what they do. Politics is mostly inertia. And we really can just go on like this forever as long as the important people continue making each other feel important.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Gotta make them come to you

I know we said this last week but here is Tyler Bridges in today's Advocate to drive the point home.
Edwards appears to have two cards to play to entice enough Republicans to support higher taxes.

One is that the budget approved by the House shorted the Taylor Opportunity Program for Students by $72 million — and fully funding TOPS appears to be an absolute must for House Republicans because the program mainly benefits middle- and upper-income taxpayers who want to keep the program.

The other card is one all governors play: agreeing to provide money for a road, a sewer system, a ballfield and the like to a legislator in exchange for a vote to raise taxes.
Maybe some day in the future we can have a discussion about how TOPS is not the ideal way to make college affordable and accessible to people. But, for now, it (sort of) does that and we would like to be able to fund it. And now we're more likely to get some help from House Republicans who also want it funded.

At least they say that's what they want anyway.  Earlier they were willing to close hospitals in order to do it. Now they don't have that option anymore. So, good job.

You can't solve the housing problem by just building more nice things for rich people

In addition to offering a supply side canard to developers and politicians who want to avoid the gentrification issue, it often also turns out to be part of a larger scam for parking money.
Half of every completed complex marking Miami’s skyline appears half-empty. At night you can count the dark vacancies, void of any patio furniture, electricity or life.
These units aren’t owned by snow-birds; they are owned but unoccupied.
Foreign investors, we were told, from Brazil and elsewhere. They viewed Miami as a legitimate and safe place to invest. While this might be true to an extent, the recent release of the Panama Papers confirms some things haven’t changed: Miami’s booming high-end real estate market is at least partially used to launder money and a majority of units purchased are through offshore shell companies that hide true ownership and serve as a legal way to evade taxes.
Yet developers keep building at a fast pace, rents continue to increase beyond any local’s affordability, all while small businesses close one after another.
We've talked about this before.  In fact the Treasury Department has already begun monitoring the real estate market in selected cities for just this sort of activity. 
Concerned about illicit money flowing into luxury real estate, the Treasury Department said Wednesday that it would begin identifying and tracking secret buyers of high-end properties.

The initiative will start in two of the nation’s major destinations for global wealth: Manhattan and Miami-Dade County. It will shine a light on the darkest corner of the real estate market: all-cash purchases made by shell companies that often shield purchasers’ identities.
New Orleans-if the press is to be believed- continues to take on more and more of the "luxury travel" character that made Miami a center of parked money condo development. Are we doing anything to keep from being exploited? Or are we actively seeking ways to encourage it?

A Trump in every town

Every city is getting its own now.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - 

New Orleans businessman Sidney Torres told FOX 8 on Wednesday that a mayoral run may be in his future.

"I'm not ruling it out. I'm seriously considering it," Torres said during an interview about an upcoming show on the network.

Torres said several polls put him as one of the frontrunners for New Orleans mayor in 2018.

Torres started in real estate, then made millions with a trash business in the French Quarter. He has most recently gained national attention with his French Quarter Task Force crime app.
Real estate mogul with garish tastes and inherited wealth famous lately for capitalizing on people's paranoia about a supposed criminal element.  Sounds pretty familiar now. 
"I'd seriously consider it depending on who steps up to the plate," he said. "I think this city needs someone that's going to understand how to operate a business, how to deal with different departments, that doesn't have a lot of debt, that's well off, that cannot have to worry about money as their main goals, and trying to figure out how they structure deals, and how do they do deals with lobbyists and how they do certain things in the community and focus on helping the community and other people," Torres said. 
You know what we need is an independently wealthy guy who doesn't "have to worry about money" and will run the city like a business. Those always seem to be in season, don't they. 

The discourse

The easiest way to shut down dissent is to fixate on the "the discourse" as the real victim. Historically speaking, though, "the discourse" is almost always a stand-in for an oppressive establishment.
To maintain its potency, vulgarity should certainly be the exception rather than the rule. And there will always be Jacobin and its kin for the more genteel set. But there are certain people to whom one must be mean, certain circumstances in which one must be crude. A politically effective propriety means knowing when to use one’s manners, and when to tell an ostrich-themed dick joke.

And of course, vulgarity isn’t inherently subversive. Even when politicized its effects are often mild and mostly cathartic. When anonymous Twitter trolls deluge establishment journalists with bon mots like “I will eat your ass like McRib,” it may not be particularly revolutionary. But it is not at all unprecedented; it’s not even particularly shocking if you know a little history.

The left will always need its journals and polemic and academic writing, but there are times when it is both right and proper to terrify the bourgeoisie with your own feralness. Reclaiming vulgarity from the Trumps of the world is imperative because if we do not embrace the profane now and again, we will find ourselves handicapped by our own civility. Vulgarity is the language of the people, and so it should be among the grammars of the left, just as it has been historically, to wield righteously against the corrupt and the powerful. We cannot cede vulgarity to the vulgarians; collegial intellectuals will always be niche, but class war need not be.
 Furthermore, the hacks who fetishize "discourse" are well aware of what they are up to. Fuck them.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

The time Monica Lewinsky saved America

NYT Magazine interview with Thomas Frank.
You mention in the book that the Clinton administration was discussing plans to partly privatize Social Security when the Monica Lewinsky scandal broke, which was news to me. Imagine putting a big piece of Social Security in the stock market in the late ’90s. You’d have millions of retirees who would have gotten hammered, because the Nasdaq collapsed. And then a couple of years later, there’s the collapse of the housing bubble, and then the financial crisis. I mean, I thank God every day for Social Security. And Franklin D. Roosevelt.
We're in for a mighty depressing future once the Clintons get a second crack at running thjngs. And that's the best case scenario now.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Beach town of the future

I'm as puzzled by this WWL-TV report as anyone.
Now, one developer has plans that could change that serene feeling. On YouTube you can find an animation of a project that a company called Gulfwater Properties presented to the city and Algiers residents back in February. Shortly after Eyewitness News inquired with the company about the project, the video was taken down.

Instead of quiet views of the city skyline, the project would offer a restaurant, seminar room, snack bar, raised deck, swimming pool and even a beach.
Yeah, a beach on the river makes zero sense now. But remember this is about the future, or something.
Others, like Wayne Munster said change is inevitable. "I think it's the future. Future’s so big that you're not going to be able to stop it."
Maybe they mean the future when the actual Gulf Of Mexico is located in Algiers because that is coming. But who knows? Again, we really have no idea what this is about since we're reading a report about a deleted YouTube video and some man-on-the-street reactions to it and no other context.

We do know that around this time last year, there were plans in the works for that strip of Algiers riverfront.  Here's how that discussion was going.

Landrieu informed the Algiers residents that New Orleans is the hottest real estate market in the country and that waterfront property in every city is considered prime real estate. As for height restrictions he says you can either have long, skinny buildings along the river where "no one can see anything" or you can have tall buildings (I suppose suggesting that these tall, skinny buildings are somehow less of a hindrance to viewing the river).

He then went on to break the bad news to the Pointers (Algiers) about "what's not going to happen". The residents of the Point were not going to be able to say "I gots mine and nobody else can have theirs"...essentially confirming their worst fears about what probably "is going to happen" regarding development plans for the batture.

Interesting he would frame it that way. Right now the batture is green space that everyone can share. The Mayor's logic seems to be that the residents of Algiers Point are selfish for wanting to keep sharing it that way.
Beach or no beach, it sure sounds like some publicly shared space is fixing to go "back into commerce" one way or another.

Good incrementalism and bad incrementalism

The Hillary wing of the Democratic Party is so far off the rails now, it's hard to even understand them anymore.  We hear a lot from them about how important it is to "work across the aisle" and get things done incrementally.  Obamacare is supposedly a good example of incremental change.  Sure, it's fundamentally bad policy. It's an insurance reform that technically extends (poor) coverage to more people but mostly it favors insurers and Big Pharma.  It's not single-payer, say the Hillary wingers. But it's the best we could have gotten until.. someday*

The New Deal, on the other hand, is apparently bad incrementalism now
Covert’s beef is that to get the votes of racist Southern congressmen, FDR had to craft his programs to exclude black workers. This is both true and awful, though it’s not clear how they would have gotten through Congress otherwise.

But instead of saying that the New Deal was a good partial model, something that should be built upon — probably the only period in American history when a sense of the collective, and not competitive individualism, dominated our political thought — she emphasizes only the exclusions, and identifies them as the source of the nostalgias that Donald Trump, not previously known as a friend of social programs, has been basing his campaign on.

Neither Bouie’s tweet nor Covert’s op-ed makes any sense unless they’re trying to discredit an ambitious social agenda. That is precisely what the Hillary Democrats are doing to fight off the persistent Sanders threat that just won’t go away. (That despite the fact that, as Gallup recently reported, a majority of Americans support a single-payer system. The least popular option is Hillary’s position, keeping Obamacare largely as is.)
I have no idea what these people actually believe in besides keeping their own donors happy.

*Spoiler: Someday is actually "never ever"

Friday, May 20, 2016

We were washed clean

Yeah I know it's not worth reacting to every stupid NOLA travel piece that comes around anymore. There are so many now it's hardly worth bothering to keep up. An especially vapid one from Vogue got passed around this week. Go find it if you're really desperate. 

This isn't to say they don't do harm. They do. They promote New Orleans as a luxury for and by moneyed assholes. And the frequency at which these advertisements are produced only reinforces that notion. That has real life consequences for us poors living here now in terms of things like the cost of food and housing, and public services. It also affects our general relevance in local politics as our civic leaders tend to prize the needs and opinions of visitors over our own.  

And, of course, they like to be flattered by the narrative many of these pieces are still propagating about how Katrina saved us from "corruption."
Given the new demographics—and the fact that Katrina managed to blow apart such entrenched institutions as a corrupt city hall and an outdated levee board—the pre-Katrina culinary scene now seems insular and narrow. 
Aren't we all grateful for that.

Ken Havard is somewhat portly

No fatties, though. Amirite, Ken?
State Rep. Kenny Havard said Thursday he won’t apologize over his “joke” legislation that sought to ban exotic dancers from being overweight or older than 28 years.

He took a firm stand on Thursday, despite numerous demands he apologize, blaming the firestorm his comments created on the delicate sensibilities of a nation that he said is overly concerned with being politically correct.

“I don’t know if I’ll ever apologize for being politically incorrect. It’s just not in my nature,” Havard said in an afternoon press conference. “Political correctness, in my opinion has ruined the country, and it looks like it’s ruining the state now.”
Okay but the "politically correct" bill he was taking a stand against was meant as a response to growing concerns about a human trafficking problem.  Some have argued that this age restriction isn't the most effective remedy for that, but Havard voted for the bill anyway.

So what was his point? Trolling, basically. There's a sub-genre of right wing humor predicated on the notion that freedom is advanced by saying things that might offend the delicate sensibilities of a conservative's mental caricature of a liberal.  A lot of Donald Trump's schtick is rooted in this.

Which is why the absolute worst way to react to it is by, well, actually getting offended the way Grace does here.  There's no use in that. It's what Trumpites want in the first place. By stopping to 'splain how rude their shock jock behavior is, you're just confirming its premise.

Far better to just give it right back to them.  Donald Trump has tiny hands.  Ken Havard is maybe not one to talk about people's proscribed weight. I mean I looked at his House bio page and didn't see text listing his weight and age. Maybe we should pass an amendment.  But I did see this.



I didn't know what this guy looked like before this happened but somehow this isn't a shock. Anyway, get with the time, Ken. The Golden Age of the Doughy Guy is long passed now.


Drumbeat

The problem: Short term rentals are eating up the affordable housing stock and are eating into legitimate B&B operators' business.

The solution: Build more affordable housing, right?  Nah. You'd think that, sure. But apparently the answer is build a "poshtel."
The New Orleans City Council on Thursday approved a scaled-back version of an upscale 185-bed hostel and boutique hotel proposed for a stretch of vacant land along the Mississippi River in Bywater.

Plans for the $16 million project — bordered by Royal, Mazant, Chartres and Bartholomew streets — call for a mix of shared hostel-style rooms and private rooms, as well as a restaurant, coffee shop, laundromat, bar, pool and parking lot.

The project — dubbed “Stateside” — has drawn the ire of many neighbors since it was proposed late last year.

The so-called “poshtel” concept — which has sprung up in major cities like Chicago and Miami — merges the potential thriftiness and social aspects of a hostel with the modern amenities of a boutique hotel.
To most of us, that seems a little counter-intuitive. But Stacy Head is listening to a different "drumbeat" than we are.
Following the Planning Commission’s unanimous rejection, Kelso scaled back the project from 48,000 to 32,000 square feet and switched New Orleans-based architectural firms, from Eskew+Dumez+Ripple to studioWTA.

He said the revamped plans were “brought into scale with the neighborhood” and the project “has been redesigned to have a negligible auditory impact on neighbors.”

Council members who supported the project Thursday called it a tough decision to balance some neighbors’ opposition with the prospect of padding the city’s tax revenues, creating new jobs and redeveloping a vacant lot.

There’s been a consistent drumbeat of requests to move tourists into other neighborhoods than the French Quarter and the CBD,” Council President Stacy Head said. “That is what this does.”
In Stacy Head's world, the people are clamoring to be booted from their homes in favor of tourists.  Weird, I know. but at least she admits that is her specific policy goal.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

So are we gonna give this one a name?

Pretty nice circulation this little spring thunderstorm had going here.

May storm

Fence goes up, fence comes down, fence goes up

Look, first of all, there are perfectly good reasons to put a fence up along Bayou St. John during this festival. Every year people jump in the damn bayou and swim around as if everything is perfectly okay with that.  As if there aren't 50 million forms of flesh eating bacteria and brain eating amoebas in there. As if there aren't aggressive alligators. As if there aren't abandoned vehicles and sometimes also corpses littering the bottom.

But, apparently, that wasn't what the fence was actually for
The temporary fencing, which blocked off the Moss Street side of Bayou St. John was erected "to encourage more people to participate" in the free festival, according to a Facebook post signed by the MotherShip Foundation, which organizes the annual event. The idea, it seems, was that by blocking off one section, it would push more festival-goers into the official grounds, where they can buy the drinks and merchandise that fund the event.
Also it has been theorized that they're experimenting with ways to cordon off and charge admission to their event. Also it was to keep the unsavory folks out. Sort of like this
NEW ORLEANS —New fencing going up along Calliope Street underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway is forcing homeless to go elsewhere.

“I'm out here just trying to get a job, get my SSI before my arms and legs give out,” said Kunta Smith.

He has several health problems and lives under the Pontchartrain Expressway in downtown New Orleans. Smith said the new fencing going up is forcing the homeless out and elsewhere.

“Once they put the gates up we have no place to go. The next thing to do is go to parks, someplace to sleep,” said Smith.

As the homeless are being forced out, new paid parking lots will go in. In a statement issued by the city of New Orleans:

“Four parking lots under the Expressway along Calliope Street from St. Charles Avenue to S. Rampart Street/Loyola Avenue will be fenced so that they may be returned to commerce as managed parking.”
I know our eyes glaze over at the sight of things being "returned to commerce" now. But wasn't this public space?  Isn't it more accurate to say it's being turned to commerce?  Either way, the goal is to limit access to the unclean. And it's nothing new. This article is about New York, mostly, but it could describe many urban places. 
Today it is common for public spaces to be designed to discourage the homeless — think of how nearly all city benches have partitions to prevent sleeping — but this did not begin in earnest until the mid-eighties.

In Grand Central, for example, Metro-North removed all but one set of benches to prevent congregating and sleeping. In Port Authority, officials replaced wooden seats with flip seats that “require so much concentration to balance that sleeping or even sitting for long is impossible.”

But these initiatives failed for the same reason homeless people still congregate in public spaces today: they have nowhere else to go.
Jackie Clarkson once famously led a similar effort in Jackson Square.  This is from 2002.
Benches in Jackson Square, often used as daybeds by the homeless, have been removed and will be re-installed with built-in dividers to prevent people from lying down. In a city known for its tolerance for public drunkenness, the police have been quicker to arrest the obviously inebriated. 

The cleanup has been compared to the transformation of Times Square under Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani. 

''I took my cue from Giuliani,'' said Jacquelyn Clarkson, the City Council member who has led the cleanup.
Sadly, Jackie has retired from public life and is back at her first love, enjoying the ungodly fortune she made in real estate. But her successors are carrying on her work today. The sooner you can fence the undesirables out of a space, the sooner you can turn a profit from it. Looks like Bayou Boogaloo had a similar thought. Unfortunately for them, it wasn't just some homeless people's space they wanted to put "into commerce." 

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Bombs and Roses

Cameron "Frogman" Henry, Bryan Adams karaoke, Chris Rose, Ruby Rose, Wendell Pierce, an on-site report from a Cure concert. Plus lots more. This is one of the better fake radio shows we've done, I don't mind saying.

"Equivalent value"



What could Benson possibly offer that is worth that?
U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo ruled that the fact that the values have yet to be determined does not change Benson’s power to make substitutions.

Milazzo rejected the arguments of trustees Mary Rowe and Robert Rosenthal, appointed to guard the interests of Benson’s daughter Renee Benson and her children, Rita and Ryan LeBlanc.

“Clearly, the grantor (Benson) has the unilateral power to effect the substitution, provided that he certify that it is of equivalent value,” Milazzo wrote. “The trustee must then verify that the substituted assets are indeed of equivalent value. The trusts do not say, however, that he may delay the substitution while such a verification is made.”
Probably they won't accept one of the horses. 

GOP will be fine

Whatever danger their Presidential nominee is supposed to put their down ballot candidates in is sure to be mitigated by the utter cowardice/incompetence/indifference of their opponents.

Bomb in the beehive

Monday evening, the Louisiana State Capitol building had to be evacuated after what police termed a "credible" bomb threat was called in to them.  "Credible" is a funny word to use to describe someone's "visions from God" but OK. 
A male caller told the Baton Rouge Police Department that “he’s having visions from God that bombs are being placed in the State Capitol,” said Baton Rouge Police Cpl. L’Jean McKneely Jr.

The caller has also repeatedly placed calls to the Police Department since the first call was made and hangs up, McKneely said.
We might forgive our prophet if the "bomb" in his visions actually had turned out to be Cameron Henry's budget. The Lord's revelations are always tricky to interpret after all. And a budget proposal that forced the House to choose between horrific unacceptable cuts to state hospital services for the poor or fully funding the TOPS program is a pretty suspicious package.  Fortunately the lawmakers on hand had already managed to defuse that device.
But in a Thursday night vote, House members narrowly voted in favor of cutting $72 million from TOPS to shore up funding for the public-private hospital contracts to run the safety net health care services, including those that host medical training programs. An effort to partially reverse that move, giving half of the money back to TOPS, was defeated Friday afternoon.

“For this session, the priority of health care and our hospitals takes precedence over TOPS,” said Rep. Rob Shadoin, R-Ruston. “We’re going to fund TOPS — maybe not at the level that some people want, but it’s not going away. The hospitals, on the other hand, might.”
Legislators have had to make a ton of tough choices this year. But this one didn't have to be as dramatic as the House Republicans made it appear. The budget proposal they submitted deliberately forced this argument by fully funding TOPS at the expense of the hospitals and the Inspector General's office.  It was never a serious proposal and everyone seemed to know it.
That plan finally was unveiled Monday by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Cameron Henry. Swiftly approved by committee members, many of whom had not read the amendments, it has been criticized ever since.

Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, referred to Plan Henry as “a scheme.” Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards called it a “political stunt.” And Dr. Rebekah Gee, whose mammoth Department of Health and Hospitals bore the brunt of the proposed spending cuts, called it “leprechaun financing.”

The independent, nonpartisan Council for a Better Louisiana called the plan a “faux budget that appears to score some political points in one corner, while exacerbating serious problems in another.”
Henry's "political stunt" was meant to set the debate parameters in two important ways. First, it was an assertion that Republicans want to fund their priorities through cuts only rather than through new revenue measures in a possible special session later this year. More on that in a minute. Secondly, it was an attempt to bait liberals into an ill advised argument over whose "entitlement" is more important.  As it turned out several did, in fact, take this bait. Most notably, our friend Lamar here.
State Rep. Henry and many of his colleagues appear to still be suffering from denial. Make no mistake: Fully funding TOPS isn’t their number one priority because it’s the most critically endangered program in Louisiana. Right now, due to a lack of funding, foster children sleep on the floors of local offices of the Department of Children and Family Services. It’s their number one priority because the vast majority of those affected by cuts to the program are white kids from middle-class and upper-class families, families that are more likely to vote Republican, more likely to donate to Republican campaigns, and more capable of influencing public opinion.

Instead of even entertaining the prospect of targeted and responsible tax increases in order to solve a problem they created, Rep. Henry and his colleagues would rather defund health care for poor people. Because, to them, that is nothing more than an entitlement program. The $300 million a year that we spend to subsidize college tuition for predominately white kids (75%) from predominately affluent families (58%), well, that’s a scholarship!
There's additional context here having to do with a decade of cuts to higher ed funding courtesy of Bobby Jindal, Cameron Henry and friends. Those cuts are what have caused the price of tuition - and therefore the TOPS program- to grow out of control. So it's really Republican fiscal irresponsibility that has us in this situation. Lamar explains all of this in his article so he clearly understands it.  But Republican "starve the beast" scheming is always meant to set up otherwise avoidable choices between perceived white or minority benefits. Why even engage them in such a toxic dialogue? It's obviously what they want.

Besides, now that they've been made to take the money back out of TOPS in order to save the hospitals, Henry's faction has lost bargaining leverage over the coming special session. Once there, the governor will want to focus on finding revenue by eliminating special privileges and inequities in the tax code.  Republicans are far more likely to help him do that if there are items in the budget they still want to fund.
The special session would be the second time this year that lawmakers have been asked to consider raising revenue to fund state services. Earlier this year, lawmakers agreed to raise the sales tax and increase the cigarette tax, as well as remove some sales tax exemptions, to try to infuse more money into the state’s coffers.

Edwards has charged a tax and budget task force with coming up with recommendations for how the state can come up with more money to fund the coming year. A second special session likely would focus on some exclusions in the tax code.

By law, the budget that lawmakers pass this session must be balanced, so they can’t account for money expected in the special session. That means the budget approved will likely contain deep cuts to some programs that lawmakers can try to back-fill if they raise revenue.
In other words, it matters that the hospitals are fully funded now and TOPS is not yet because TOPS is the program Republicans are more likely to help "back-fill" later on. So every Democrat in the House should have jumped all over this strategy, right?  Well, as it turns out, #NotAllDemocrats.
Fourteen House Republicans broke with their political party and voted for the hospitals to receive the $72 million intended for TOPS. The measure passed 49-43 on Thursday night. Two Democrats, New Orleans Rep. Neil Abramson and New Roads Rep. Major Thibaut, voted against it. 
Oh dear, there's our friend Neil again.  For the umpteenth time this year we find Abramson pointedly aligning his position with the Barras-Henry wing on a high profile issue. Neil's support for Taylor Barras over Walt Leger as Speaker helped secure his own chairmanship of Ways and Means.  From that post, Neil supported Republican efforts to scale back the "penny scrubbing" sales tax measures during the first special session. And now he's voting in support of Cameron Henry's attempt to save TOPS by bombing hospitals. What gives?

When we asked what gives, Team Neil responded.




But, as we've just taken pains to explain above, that's exactly backwards.  What we're trying to do here is fund the hospitals now so we have a better chance at forcing Republicans to help "back fund" TOPS later.

I'm sorry if it looks like we're trying to "vilify" the guy. But the current operating theory supposes that Neil is setting up for a break with the party in case he wants to run for Senate as a Republican next time around. And after a while these little incidents add up to what we might consider a "credible" threat.  Or maybe we're just having visions.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Hand yoga

Saints rookie receiver Michael Thomas has discovered the Fre Flo Do for a new generation.
The secret? Hand yoga.

This might sound odd. No, it does sound odd. It also seems there might be something to this.

Thomas said he has seen measurable growth in his hands since he began doing the exercises as part of his routine. His mitts registered at 10.5 inches at the scouting combine, which is bigger than all but three players over the past three years.

If nothing else, he has the goods to back up his claims.

“It stretches them and stuff,” Thomas said. “It’s a little secret I do. I know the exercises and then, when I get massages, I get the knuckles massaged out.”

The scary part is that Thomas doesn’t think there is a limit to how much he can stretch his hands. He was measured again by ESPN after the combine, and his hands had grown a quarter-inch.

Thomas was asked in jest whether he thought there was a limit to how far his hands could stretch. Some number beyond a foot was thrown out.
Does Donald Trump know about this? Or is "hand yoga" too frou frou a term for his idiom?

"Death of the GOP"

Supposedly Donald Trump winning the nomination has DESTROYED/EVISCERATED/MELTDOWNED the Republican Party forever and ever.  Except that no, it totally hasn't. Trump losing to Hillary Clinton should work out fine for them. The party will certainly still control the US House of Representatives. They might even hang on to the Senate.

More importantly, they will definitely continue to dominate most states.
How big is the GOP advantage in state legislatures? Well, they control about 7 out of every 10 chambers, and when you combine that dominance with their 31 governors, they have full control of 21 out of 50 state governments — compared with just seven for Democrats.
They will be fine. They will go right back to winning local elections by pretending they are the righteous victims of an unpopular President. It's what's worked for them this entire decade. 

What are they even about?

This isn't hard to figure out. Atrios gets mostly there in three paragraphs. But I would like to stress one thing that he doesn't really get all the way to saying. The missing but inevitable conclusion is "incrementalist" Democrats actually believe the status quo is the best of all possible worlds.

They really do believe in an insurance-driven health care system. They really do believe in austerity fiscal policies that punish the needy by shrinking the social safety net. They really do believe in privatized education. They really do believe in the union busting, benefits slashing, freelance based sharing-tech economy. They really do believe "broken windows" policing and gentrification is good for cities. They really do believe in massive state surveillance and bombing foreign peoples into Freedom.

If they had the slightest bit concern about any of this stuff, they wouldn't have spent the past 10 months shouting down and vilifying the dirty hippies mobilizing against it. That's what the entire primary has been about. What do Democrats believe in most? They believe that, if you aren't doing well in this best of all possible worlds, it's because you are a loser and really just need to STFU so they don't have to feel so bad.

The people in the mainstream money wing of the Democratic party are not stupid or ignorant. They are just on the wrong side. And they are on the wrong side on purpose because that's where their core values are.

"Politically toxic"

How so, exactly?
“I don’t think we can make a good decision about any of this until we address the elephant in the room,” Stokes said, referring to “Stelly” — a politically toxic moniker among many voters.

The tax design was devised by then-Lake Charles Rep. Vic Stelly and was approved in a statewide 2002 vote. Generally, it lowered sales taxes and paid for it by charging more on personal income taxes.

Gov. Kathleen Blanco rolled Stelly back a little. Gov. Bobby Jindal rolled it back a lot. Both decreased personal income tax collections.

While income tax collections went down, sales taxes stayed low, leaving state government with $800 million to $1 billion less, depending on who is doing the counting, to pay obligations, which also didn’t decline significantly.

As a state senator, Noble Ellington voted for a Stelly rollback. It was politically popular at the time and seemed the right thing to do. Now the administration’s legislative liaison, Ellington says that vote was a mistake.
Just to be clear here, when Ellington and Stokes say a thing is "politically toxic," what they mean is their backers and the powerful lobby groups who spend all day schmoozing with them are unhappy with it.  But when Stelly went before the actual voters in 2002, it passed by almost 30,000 votes. 

Stelly plan 2002

The Legislature is probably going into special session next month. There, they will have to find the revenue necessary to clean up the mess left in part by the mistake of rolling back Stelly. Let's hope they take up the task with a clearer idea of what is and is not "politically toxic" this time.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

At least she wasn't doing any math

What the hell is even going on anymore?
Near the end of his Southwest Airlines flight from Chicago to Albuquerque in December, Gill Parker Payne decided he had to take action.

Seated a few rows in front of him was a woman he had never met before. She was wearing a religious headscarf, known as a hijab, which Payne recognized as a Muslim practice. He stood up, walked down the aisle and stopped next to her seat. Looking down at the woman, Payne instructed her to remove the covering.

“Take it off! This is America!” Payne, 37, later recalled saying. When she didn’t do it herself, Payne did: He grabbed the hijab from the back and pulled it all off. Violated, the woman, identified by the Justice Department only as K.A., quickly pulled the hijab back over her head.

Friday, May 13, 2016

They lied about the lying

Last month, a lobbying group made headlines with an aggressively dishonest as asserting that Governor Edwards had "lied" about his position on the school voucher program. The pro-voucher group calls itself the "Louisiana Federation For Children" which, as James Gill pointed out the other day, is maybe a little bit pompous.
In the middle of a budget crisis — the state is short $600 million short for the upcoming fiscal year — there is no more obvious place to start cutting than the voucher program, which cost $42 million last year. Edwards wants to reduce that to $36 million.

His proposal has produced loud squawks from an outfit with the sole purpose of promoting vouchers, which calls itself the Louisiana Federation for Children. Voucher doubters do not regard themselves as a federation against children, however.
The Federation For Children is headed up by former State Senator and Mitch Landrieu aide Ann Duplessis. Probably most people remember Duplessis for her legislative pay raise bill back in 2008 which, whatever your feelings about the pay raise itself, you might have still have thought her victory dance over its passage in the legislature was... maybe a little bit pompous.

Anyway today, we have this.
An official with ties to a Baton Rouge school that had a role in a pro-voucher ad that called Gov. John Bel Edwards a liar are disavowing the ad and said it made questionable claims.

The comments were included in a letter from Walter K. Williams, chairman of the Parish Council for St. Francis Xavier Catholic Church, to Ann Duplessis, president of the Louisiana Federation for Children, which launched the TV campaign.

Duplessis’ group accused Edwards of lying to voters when he said state aid for vouchers would not be slashed.

Edwards denied the charge and said voucher dollars may drop from $42 million to $36 million because the state faces a $600 million shortfall.

Two students wearing St. Francis Xavier Catholic School shirts were in the initial, 30-second spot.
Williams said in his letter that the producers of the ad “were not forthcoming about the objectives and goals of the ad.

“Plainly, they did not realize they were participating in a political ad and feel that information was withheld from them purposefully,” according to the letter.

“We believe you have endangered the fate of the scholarship program by portraying its supporters as being more concerned with the political nature of the program than in ensuring its continuance,” the letter says.
Sounds like Williams thought the ad was maybe a little bit pompous. Duplessis, more or less stands by it anyway.
“We recognize our commercial ruffled feathers,” Duplessis said. “We must point out the letter was not signed by any of the parents.”
Well see the commercial "ruffled some feathers." Very James O'Keefian.

Rotten banana scam is rotten

Everybody is dismayed
Two years after a celebrated homecoming, the Chiquita company is considering moving its cargo business elsewhere, and New Orleans port officials were scrambling Thursday to try to keep the company from again leaving the city that was once the country’s top banana importer.

The departure of Chiquita Brands International, one of the world’s largest banana and fruit shippers, could cost upward of 350 jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of projected economic activity that were expected to flow through the local port over the next decade.

Port leaders and state officials were working to get a better handle on whether Chiquita is indeed planning to leave and, if so, whether it could be talked into changing its mind.

Still, the rumor had circulated “around the docks” that the North Carolina-based company is on its way out, port President and CEO Gary LaGrange said. When he first heard the news, he said, he felt “dismayed.”
But, if we think back, we might remember the deal, like every other deal ever done by Bobby Jindal's Economic Development office, was  based on tax subsidies and direct payoffs. So it's hardly any wonder this result would be tentative.

On the cusp of bug seasons

Mid May Caterpillar

This guy was out on the sidewalk Thursday. Kinda thought we'd be done by these by the time the termites started swarming. But, no, we're treated to both at once. At least for this week.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

So that happened

These actually happen more frequently than many realize.  This one is just big enough to get a little news blurb.

NEW ORLEANS -- The Coast Guard is responding to a crude oil spill from an underwater Shell pipeline Thursday.

Shell officials said they believe about 2,100 barrels of oil were released in the spill. Authorities said Shell has isolated the leak and shut production of both fields about 90 miles south of Timbalier Island, La.

Cities of rich and poor

It's happening everywhere in the country. But there once was a time when we talked about how proud we were to "buck the trend." What happened to that?
In cities across America, the middle class is hollowing out as more households move into either higher- or lower-income groups. New Orleans, Lafayette and Baton Rouge were among cities in a report that saw the biggest gains in upper-income residents from 2000 to 2014.

The widening wealth gap means fewer households remain in the middle, the Pew Research Center report said.

According to Pew, Lafayette and New Orleans saw an overall gain of 13 percentage points in the share of adults who were upper income. Baton Rouge had an 11 percentage point gain. The national average went up by 1 percentage point during the 14-year period.
So here is the interesting part as far as we are concerned.
Pew notes that the cities that had the largest percentage gains in upper-income jobs are heavily dependent on the energy industry, such as Odessa and Midland, Texas, which were tied at the top of the list with a 26 percentage point gain. Baton Rouge also has benefited from a boom in petrochemical construction, while Lafayette has seen more health care jobs and a burgeoning tech sector.

The energy sector has seen big hits since 2014 because low oil and natural gas prices have drastically reduced drilling activity.
So, when does it go bust? More importantly, when it goes bust, does that necessarily change the wealth inequality problem? My guess would be it does not. The boom times are when the real dynamism happens. We chose to direct the boom in such a way as to redistribute wealth upward. The bust times are just the stagnant period when the new bad status quo remains in place. Maybe we'll do better next time. Probably won't.

Bike share in name only

The mayor's bike share idea is not about providing a new public transit service. Rather it is about sanctioning a new fully privatized bike rental business and granting that business local monopoly status. And when you take a service that should be designed with the public good in mind and replace that approach with a profit driven business model, other public good problems are compounded.
Those bike-docking stations, however, also give Fleming pause. He resists using the term "bike share" to describe them. Instead, they are "bike rental kiosks," he said.

His reasoning is economic. He worries that a kiosk in a low-income neighborhood would give landlords with properties nearby license to label that block "up-and-coming" and raise rents.

In other words, he sees a bike-sharing program as a harbinger of gentrification and its unsavory cousin: the displacement of the poor.

"If one of these pops up in quote-unquote transitional neighborhoods, it's an open excuse to raise the rent," Fleming said. "New Orleans right now is having a huge housing crisis, and if this becomes an aid to gentrification, a lot of poor people are going to be pushed out by something I love: bicycles."
But this is the Landrieu neoliberal philosophy in a nutshell. Let's implement half of what might be a good idea under different circumstances. We'll look like we mean well even as the real life effect only exacerbates the wealth divide in the community.

Probably something similar is happening here
Rodents and snakes, rampant mold and water leaks that have collapsed ceilings and floors are among the vast list of complaints from tenants of New Orleans slumlords. But when it comes to seeking action against them, tenants seldom raise a fuss because they risk being evicted.

It's these residents who stand to benefit the most from the city implementing a rental registry, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said. She plans to write legislation to put one in place, anticipating the matter to come before the full council this summer.
Sounds like a good idea. There are a lot of slumlords and substandard conditions out there.  But unless a measure like this is part of a more comprehensive affordable housing policy (new public housing, rent controls, STR bans, etc.) then most likely what we'll get is a tool that takes property out of the hands of small time landlords and puts it into the hands of large real estate management companies. Or at the very least makes Airbnb an even more attractive alternative for landlords.

On the surface it all seems very reasonable. But the real world effect is likely to be bad without further action. The further action never comes, of course, but this is the con the phonies are running. We do little things that may someday be of help, but in the meantime just create opportunities for the lords to steal more from the peasants. What they don't tell you is we always live in the meantime. So things get shittier and shittier for you little by little all the while the Mitches and Latoyas of the world get credit for their good intentions.  And that's "incrementalism." 

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

We may live to see the end of this

Out on lower Napoleon Avenue this afternoon, work crews were applying dirt fill to what looks like a nearly complete portion of the SELA project.

SELA dirt

One can almost picture the restored neutral ground now.

Napoleon Avenue summertime

Does anybody remember the Ho-Zone?

They've been slowly bringing the same concept back piece by piece. The latest effort is centered in what we've dubbed "Jaegerton" on our Oligarch's Map of Downtown. The way things are going lately, they'll probably get their way this time.  But here, at least, is a negative review from BGR.

One fact of note here I wasn't aware of. The mayor isn't supporting this plan. (At least not openly.)
Although the mayor's office opposes the plan, the BGR report notes the project and the infrastructure work would exceed the convention center's $222 million in reserves. "If that is not enough, they said they would use the HB 1056 taxing authority."

BGR was also critical of using tax increment financing to pay for Trade District work, which the bill would permit. The authority has not said it intends to pursue a TIF deal, which typically relies on a sales tax to subsidize private development.

In the report, BGR said it is not taking a stance on the merits of the Trade District or on whether the convention center board should invest public resources in the project. But in repeating a call made in its November 2015 review of New Orleans' tax structure, "The $1 Billion Question," the bureau suggests an assessment and prioritization of the city's various levies is needed.
Anyway, even though they're in the right this time, BGR's stance is predictable. They're pretty much going to come out against any new taxing plan until we start talking about comprehensive municipal finance reform.. or at least until they get bored with the notion. I'm not opposed to looking at a big reform package, but in the meantime we still have to do stuff. Just not this particular thing. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Beach town

New Orleans isn't a beach town. Not yet, anyway. We're kind of working on that in more than one sense. In one sense, we're not putting up much of a fight against the encroaching Gulf of Mexico so it's likely we'll be ocean-front property soon enough.  In another, we're purposefully patterning our land use policies to match what you might find in a sleepy beachfront resort.
But New Orleans is not a beach community that can just cut down trees and bulldoze houses for more condos to satisfy a seasonal tourism demand. New Orleans has a limited supply of historic housing, and by virtue of that housing being historic, we can’t just build more of it. That limited housing stock and the neighborhood culture it nurtures is the very selling point that brings millions of tourists to town every year. The demand created by those millions of visitors competes directly with residents for housing. While that competition is fiercest in specific neighborhoods, all the studies show it is a city-wide phenomenon. And it is year-round competition. Unlike seasonal tourism elsewhere, New Orleans is a destination all year, and spends millions of dollars marketing itself as such.
Actually, if we really think about what that paragraph means, the situation here is even worse. We're intentionally making this place a permanent resort town, not just a seasonal one. I've been talking about this for a long time now, in fact. The trouble is, up until very recently, this was a real city where people actually lived.  The people who own it don't really want it to work that way anymore.

Update: I forget that I wrote this one, but on the day the mayor was inaugurated into his second term, there was this long winded post where I tried to sketch out where all this was going. Two years later it still looks this way to me.

Still don't have the money to hire the pre-cogs

More police patrols don't necessarily prevent crime
The French Quarter is the heart of New Orleans, with the city’s tourist economy largely dependent on its success, and despite millions spent on trying to bring down crime in the quarter, a WWL-TV analysis shows over the past four years, overall crime has continued to climb.
They may help you do a better job of responding to and solving crimes. Because that is their actual job. But beyond notions of indirect "deterrent" or "broken windows" type effects - which we aren't really sure how to measure - prevention is not what you're paying for when you hire cops.

Confusion on that point leads us to a weird place and some highly questionable practices.
People call the task force through a mobile app developed by former trash mogul Sidney Torres.

“About 25 to 30 percent of what we deal with are app calls,” said Bob Simms, the manager of the French Quarter Task Force.

"It's a proactive response team that responds to information that comes through the app. They can backup officers when they hear calls coming in over the radio, but they're really a proactive team,” said NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison.
Sidney's app is making quite an impact.  It's not doing anything to prevent crime in French Quarter, of course. But, in other cities, it is helping people more efficiently gentrify their neighborhoods
After hearing about the app’s implementation in New Orleans, Jim Whyte, the head of a St. Louis neighborhood security group that operates outside of city law enforcement, wants to pay the $1,200 subscription fee to adopt the technology and pressure police to crack down on “quality of life” issues, such as public urination or homeless people sleeping on the street. Many of those offenses aren’t technically crimes, and people who call 911 to report them may not be taken seriously.

Whyte offered an example in his neighborhood, in which a young woman called the police to report that a homeless person was standing in the lobby of her apartment building. “The dispatcher wanted to know if the homeless person was doing anything wrong, making the woman doubt herself about having called 911,” according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Whyte patrols a “transitional” neighborhood filled with “students, visitors, foreign exchange students” and the Washington University Medical School, and says permanent residents want a way to report suspicious people.
If you see something, say something. Say it into your phone and someone will come and remove the offense. 
Last year, the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C. was slammed for an app that effectively reported innocent black people to police, simply because they didn’t look like they belonged in the predominately white, upper-class community. Operation GroupMe was developed for residents and businesses to report suspicious activity to law enforcement in real time, but African Americans accounted for 70 percent of the suspects. Comparable platforms, including SketchFactor in New York and Nextdoor.com in Oakland, California, were also used to racially profile black people.
So thanks, Sidney Torres, for your visionary entrepreneurship in the field of.. well.. not crime prevention, but harassing people.  Do you have something we can use to report suspicious math on planes?  

Saving money to lose money

The legislature took a jackhammer to the capital outlay budget this week.
A Louisiana House panel cut hundreds of millions of infrastructure projects from the budget Monday, in a move its chairman said was needed to end a bloated process because of the state’s financial shortfall.

State Rep. Neil Abramson, the committee chairman, told members of the Ways and Means Committee that politics played no role in his decisions, but he said a summary list of which projects would continue and which would be jettisoned would not be available until Tuesday.
They say they're reigning in a "bloated" spending process. But it's good to remember that every dollar held back now that would have gone to maintaining roads and bridges today becomes a significantly greater amount in emergency "off the cuff engineering" repair jobs later.   On the other hand, we do like our sinkholes. 

Monday, May 09, 2016

Who is planning to run for OPSB?

Every day this looks more like something we need to keep track of.
The vice president of the board that governs the Choice Foundation, a three-school charter network in New Orleans, urged Lusher Charter School teachers last week to vote against forming a union, highlighting long-standing tensions between unions and charter schools.

Lusher is not among the schools run by the Choice Foundation.

Robbie Evans, who also is chief executive officer of the trading company Con-Tech International, said he decried unions in an email to dozens of Lusher teachers because he sees unions as an impediment to charter schools’ progress.
Ha ha the anti union charter school guy works for something called "con-tech." That's almost too good.

Anyway it will be worth watching who is running for the school board this fall (as well as who those candidates' friends are) as we get closer to turning a measure of power back over to that body. Still not sure how much power, though.
What’s made the Peterson bill particularly controversial, though, are the provisions aimed at making sure schools don’t face meddling from board members.

In a way, the bill — the product of long, intense negotiations — creates a new kind of school system. It says explicitly that “the local school board shall not impede the operational autonomy of a charter school under its jurisdiction” in the areas of curriculum, hiring and firing of personnel or collective bargaining, among a raft of others.

The bill also shifts the balance of power in favor of the local superintendent, who can only be removed by a supermajority of the seven-member board.
Well that's one way to put the Superintendent in position to make a lot of money anyway. Maybe we need to keep track of who his friends are too.