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Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Rabbit hole

If you're looking for one to crawl into for a while, this gallery of 1930s New Orleans photography I picked up via The Lens's Twitter feed isn't a bad one.

I kind of wish the captions were more informative, though. Here's a "saloon on Decatur Street"  Where? What was it called?  Here is a "Negro street" Which street, though? 

This one is called, simply, "street scene."  But.. um.. it could definitely benefit from a more detailed explanation.

What's up, District B

Mayor Landrieu's rolling budget extravaganza pulls into Uptown tonight.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu will hold the fourth of five town-hall meetings on the 2015 city budget tonight at 6 p.m. in City Council District B. It will be held at Touro Synagogue, 4238 St Charles Ave.

Self-censorship

We spend a lot of time talking about how telecoms and entertainment conglomerates are contriving ways to have you and your non-conforming opinions kicked off of their internet.  And, to be sure, that is the overarching concern right now.

But we talk less about how our we're self-censoring our way off the internet through our own behavior.
WASHINGTON (AP) — People on Facebook and Twitter say they are less likely to share their opinions on hot-button issues, even when they are offline, according to a surprising new survey by the Pew Research Center.

The study, done in conjunction with Rutgers University in New Jersey, challenges the view of social media as a vehicle for debate by suggesting that sites like Facebook and Twitter might actually encourage self-censorship. Researchers said they detect what they call the “spiral of silence” phenomenon: Unless people know their audience agrees, they are likely to shy away from discussing anything controversial.

In other words, most of us are more comfortable with ice-bucket challenges than political banter.

“People do not tend to be using social media for this type of important political discussion. And if anything, it may actually be removing conversation from the public sphere,” said Keith Hampton, a communications professor at Rutgers University who helped conduct the study.
The study cites social pressure and hints at worries over government surveillance issuing from the Snowden revelations.  There's also the concern what you say on social media might affect future employment prospects or even  your credit rating.

Personally, I've always believed the best reaction to this is for everyone to just say fuck it and let it all hang out anyway. But I also think this preference has to do with the peculiar time during which I and the internets came of age together.

I grew up experiencing a.. mostly.. analog social environment. I mean... the 80s and 90s weren't exactly the dark ages. We had Nintendo and cable TV and personal computing devices. But until I was in my 20s, the internet was something you dialed into on occasion and even then for less than an hour at a time, usually.

In that environment political discussion was something that happened within your limited circle.. or more often between you and the television set.  The official narrative was set by big corporate media companies and it flowed in one direction.   When the internet finally afforded large numbers of us access to web publishing platforms like the one I'm typing on right now, it was incredibly liberating. Suddenly a whole mess of us were not only talking back to the screen but  we could hear each other doing it.  The benefit of knowing you're not alone is a difficult thing to impress on people these days.

People have already forgotten the profound changes it brought to local and national politics. Or at least I think we take a lot of it for granted now.  But as commercial media absorbs more and more of the internet we're in danger of ceding back what ground we had gained plus a whole lot more.

I've tried to point out the chilling effects of the digital panopticon numerous times in recent years. I'll pull out my favorite Dan Savage quote once again, though.
Savage playfully pandered, saying, “I’m a print guy, and I think books are magic.” But he added a very real and sobering message: not all kids can risk getting caught with an incriminating browser history, nor do many kids have access to YouTube at school.

The book is for them, Savage said, and challenged school librarians to put it on the shelves where kids in need might find it and “read it surreptitiously, if that’s what they need to do at that point in their lives.”

Here again, Savage linked the subversive quality of his YouTube and book project to the knowledge dissemination mission of libraries. It puts LGBT adults in touch-if indirectly-with the LGBT youth who need to hear their messages.
I was lucky enough to become an adult well before anyone had to worry about whether the very act of pursuing a line of intellectual inquiry would be recorded, and scrutinized.. potentially forever by everyone. The panoptic internet could be conditioning us to fear, not only overt expression of controversial opinion, but even the act of investigating and formulating those opinions in the first place.

What do we do now to ensure that people can be educated while feeling safe to think independently?

There are a number of things, in fact, but the first and easiest thing we can do is to defy the "spiral of silence" on social media. Because unless everyone is yelling back at the screen, it begins to feel as though no one is.

The Victor Butler Era

11-5 with a road playoff win in Philadelphia.  All in all, not a bad period in Saints history.  Good job, Victor. Best of luck.
Butler was a 2013 free-agent acquisition who previously spent four seasons as a role player with the Cowboys.

Butler was with Dallas from 2009-12 and played almost every game as a backup with two starts.

He spent two seasons in Dallas under defensive coordinator Rob Ryan, who was in Dallas from 2011-12 before taking the Saints job. Butler signed a two-year contract with the Saints, with a reported $750,000 signing bonus.

Butler was expected to ease the transition and possibly earn his first starting job as Ryan transitioned the Saints from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4. However, that never materialized after Butler tore his ACL in the final week of OTAs last summer.

So sue us

On Monday, the city Civil Service Commission went ahead and approved Mayor Landrieu's so-called reform initiative despite the opposition of the police and firefighters unions, the Civil Service staff, and the lone member of the commission elected by city employees. 
Clark said he couldn’t “in good conscience” vote in favor of the proposal because the commission did not have enough time to review the administration’s latest changes. He also was perturbed that the administration didn’t provide the commission with a marked-up copy of the new rules so that members could easily identify the latest additions and omissions.

“How can you vote on something that you just received?” Clark asked. “We are the Civil Service Commission. We have the power of legislation. We can write the rules in two ways. We can W-R-I-T-E them or we can R-I-G-H-T them.”
Throughout the process questions were raised about the constitutionality of the rule changes. The commissioners decided to risk an expensive court battle anyway in the hope that at least some of what they threw against the wall would stick.
As the meeting begins, employee groups, including the police associations and Randolph Scott, come out in opposition to changing the Rule of Three. There are still some questions as to the constitutionality of the change, because the current rule closely mirrors the Louisiana State Constitution. The comments are brief, and shortly after that, Cohn moves to approve the proposal as offered. He moves to make any provision found to be unconstitutional severable from the remainder.
Monday evening the Fraternal Order of Police had apparently already filed for an injunction.  The Lens released a copy of their lawsuit here.  I imagine there will be more about this in the coming days. 

The mayor will appear at the District B Community Budget Meeting Tuesday night at Touro Synagogue (4238 St. Charles Avenue) Maybe he'll address the issue there.

Meanwhile, journalism is dying

We keep hearing about how there's no money for journalism or to pay journalists.  Thank goodness there's enough to build a Crystal Palace for the King of Louisiana, though.

Digital privilege

Here's one of those things that should be obvious to a lot of people but isn't
Yes, much of the Internet is free. But it takes time and energy to develop the skills and habits necessary to successfully derive value from today’s media. Knowing how to tell a troll from a serious thinker, spotting linkbait, understanding a meme, cross checking articles against each other, even posting a comment to disagree with something–these are skills. They might not feel like it, but they are. And they’re easier to acquire the higher your tax bracket.

Everyone this side of Fake Jeff Jarvis ought to be able to see that many people do not have the luxury to act as their own media ombudsman.

If I work as a security guard or at the counter of a Wendy’s, our media environment is significantly more difficult to track. Not everyone has their Internet time subsidized by an employer who asks them to sit in front of a computer all day. In fact, many people have jobs that forbid them from doing just that, with bosses who will write them up if caught checking their phone. These people–we often refer to them (derisively) as “average Americans”–are removed from the iterative, lightning-fast online media cycle for hours at a time and often for the entire day.
In an ideal world, media professionals would understand their responsibility to use the tools at their disposal to inform their readers rather than perpetually compete for their distracted and confused attention.  But the economic incentives created by the professional media world tend to work in exactly the opposite way.

In an ideal world, professional educators and librarians would understand their responsibility to promote an environment and transmit the skills necessary to help a distressed and time-stressed population navigate these hazards.  But I often wonder how many of them understand the problem at all. 

Monday, August 25, 2014

Swipe-ables

It's Katrina Week so get ready for the run of obligatory retrospectives.  Not that there's anything wrong with that.  I don't count myself among the number who would tell you this is old irrelevant news.  On the contrary, there's almost nothing going on in New Orleans today that can be understood without first understanding the effect of the flood.  So it's worth it for everyone to take time for reflection and examination. 

On the other hand, this is the week where national news outlets and producers of commentary feel obliged to weigh in with gross distortions and harmful agenda-laced false narratives.  For example, here is an article suggesting that the forced upheaval of so many lives actually held a "silver lining" for displaced residents. Get ready to read more of this as we perfect our rationalizations for the subsequent gentrification of New Orleans.  Ask around the (relatively) more affluent corners of New Orleans these days and you might be surprised to hear how many people seem to think Barbara Bush was right all along. Not that anyone you ask will remember that quote... especially if they've only recently moved here.

Anyway, what else is there?  Oh yeah clickbait. Professional media runs more on clickbait now than it did nine years ago so there will be plenty of that.  Keep an eye out for Buzzfeed's Katrina Remembered In GIFs of Beyonce Making Funny Faces.. or maybe they've got another slideshow of Six Flags photos to share. 

If you're looking for a less cynical presentation of images, though, this T-P Then and Now gallery is worth a moment of your time.

Where are the big secret money piles?

It's my observation that most New Orleanians do not appear to be sitting on top of huge piles of money.  So the fact that so much of it is being spent on housing remains a mystery.

Likely this is your observation as well.  If you know where the piles of money are, though, please tell me.

Citizens On Patrol



Sure was a wacky Police Academy movie
Several dozen civilians would be trained in some police duties, paid and deployed to the French Quarter and adjacent areas under a plan that Mayor Mitch Landrieu made public Thursday.

The patrol cops — who would be unarmed and have no arrest powers — would assume traffic control and other non-emergency duties to free up sworn New Orleans police officers to focus on more serious crimes, according to a summary prepared by the Mayor’s Office.

Landrieu’s office is calling the plan NOLA Patrol.

“We’d like to fast-track this,” Stephen Perry, president and chief executive officer of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Thursday when asked about the plan. “The response we’re getting from the tourism industry has been very positive. We want to have a cleaner and safer French Quarter for tourists and residents.”
Wait.  Why is Stephen Perry talking to us about a law enforcement initiative?  Because, The Citizens On Patrol Temp Police will be paid by the hotels.  
The funds for NOLA Patrol would not come from the cash-strapped city budget but from a special levy that New Orleans hotels began assessing on themselves April 1 to market the city, under a 2013 law passed by the Legislature.

The self-assessment adds 1.75 percent to a hotel bill, with the proceeds going to the Convention and Visitors Bureau.

One-seventh of that assessment, or 0.25 percent of the hotel bill, would go to the city for NOLA Patrol. That money — estimated to be about $2.5 million per year — would be used to hire 50 “ground patrol officers” and pay for 12 new vehicles.

While the city would not provide the money for NOLA Patrol, the City Council would decide how to spend it under a cooperative endeavor agreement that Perry expects the visitors bureau to sign in the next week.
It says that the Citizens On Patrol will be unarmed but I think it might be fun to at least let them borrow the snow camouflage.. at least on special occasions.  Maybe during Christmastime they can go around caroling in historical garb.  They are tourism employees after all.  Law enforcement for and by a coalition of private businesses with heavy political influence sounds totally constitutionally legit.  I feel safer already.

It certainly can't get any scarier than the State Police hanging around past Labor Day
NEW ORLEANS - This summer Governor Bobby Jindal approved 50 extra Louisiana State Troopers to help patrol the streets of New Orleans through Labor Day weekend.

State and city officials now confirm the additional manpower will be sticking around well past the September 1 deadline.

You've likely observed the extra blue uniforms and hats patrolling the French Quarter, Marigny, Central Business District, and other tourist attractions across the city. The additional manpower was approved by  Jindal at the Landrieu Administration's request.
They don't get to wear snow camo either, I guess.

But they are pretty good at fudging the details when people in their custody are mysteriously shot so it's no surprise they're welcome to stay.  But after a while, we should probably get them trained up on taking room reservations. Just so they know who they're working for.

Gutting Civil Service

The Lens will live blog today's vote on Mitch's "reform" initiative.
The mayor’s plan also would remove the current employee rating system, replacing it with a so-called “performance evaluations system” administered by Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin. Under the current proposal, direct supervisors will do these evaluations, and someone above them will review them for fairness and compliance with the rules.

Landrieu has said that his changes will not affect employees’ disciplinary protections. But that was not clear under the first two versions of his proposal, which said employees could not appeal poor performance evaluations. In the current system, employees can appeal their service rating.

However, in the new proposal up for vote on Monday, evaluations would be subject to review by an appointed panel, the Civil Service Department and ultimately, the Civil Service Commission.
Maybe people will think that's good enough.  But moving the evaluation process from Civil Service over to the CAO's office means politicizing the entire system.  This should have been obvious to everyone from the start.

Let's hook our private lives up to the giant omnipotent banking machine

What could possibly go wrong?
It’s only natural that the less fortunate, under the burden of austerity, are turning their kitchens into restaurants, their cars into taxis, and their personal data into financial assets. What else can they do? For Silicon Valley, this is a triumph of entrepreneurship — a spontaneous technological development, unrelated to the financial crisis. But it is only as entrepreneurial as those who are driven — by the need to pay rent — into prostitution or selling their body parts. Governments might resist this tide but they have budgets to balance: Uber and Airbnb will eventually be allowed to exploit this “gold mine” as they please, boosting tax revenues and helping citizens make ends meet.

The “sharing economy” won’t supplant the debt economy; they will coexist. The increased liquidity of data, combined with more and better tools of analysis, already allows banks to tap the techniques of Big Data to extend credit to “unbankables” while identifying and excluding the true deviants. This would only raise anxiety over debt. Start-ups like ZestFinance, which studies 70,000 data points — including how you type and how you use your phone — already help banks decide whether online applicants are worthy of a loan. A scheme pioneered in Colombia by Lenddo, another tech-savvy lending start-up, links the approval of credit cards to applicants’ activity on social media, so now their every click can affect their suitability for credit — a point not lost on Douglas Merrill, the co-founder of ZestFinance, who says that “all data is credit data”. Well, if all data is credit data, then all life — captured by digital sensors in the world around us — beats to the rhythms of debt.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Beautification

The best way to make that space look more inviting to visitors is to put up a big fence.
One week after the city removed about 160 homeless people from an area underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway, the City Council voted Thursday to turn much of the area into a fenced-off parking lot, provided that the state agrees.

A second measure, which appeared aimed at making it easier to crack down on future homeless encampments, was deferred after a period of debate made clear that the council was divided on the idea.

Both measures were introduced by Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration.
The proposed tent crackdown is actually just a slight adjustment in language to what is already an existing section of city code.
Likewise, city law already prohibits the obstruction of streets, sidewalks or other public land by “any debris … or any other articles whatsoever.” On Thursday, Cantrell will ask her fellow City Council members to add the following sentence to the law, spelling out more specifically that tents, mattresses and furniture are unacceptable obstructions as well:
Unless lawfully permitted, the erection or placement of any tent, item of household furniture not intended for outdoor use, or other semi-permanent structure shall be considered an encumbrance/obstruction when placed on any of the public places or rights-of-way set forth in this Section. Permanent obstructions shall be prohibited.
The original law — which applies citywide — already contained that idea, but the new language puts that intent into writing. The language, Cantrell said, should assist the NOPD and other city agencies when they are dealing with the issue.
The law is pretty egregious as it is already. It includes language prohibiting the the installment of basketball goals near streets or sidewalks.  Plus there is this section. 
If any person by performance of any outdoor act or activities causes a crowd to gather, and if the crowd makes passage by pedestrians inordinately difficult or conducts activities which impede access to the public rights of way the department of police shall have the authority to order such person(s) to cease performance of their act or activities
Pretty much anything can fall into that category.  It's interesting language to encounter while the Ferguson, MO demonstrations are still going on.  Police don't need much of an excuse to break up an assembly, it seems.

Anyway back to this parking lot idea.  I'm a little confused since I thought it was already a parking lot.  It's a paved space with street access where people often park cars (particularly during Saints games.) That is usually a pretty big giveaway.   So what's the angle?
The ordinance authorizes the mayor to enter into an agreement with the state to transfer control of four sections of the site — all between Simon Bolivar Avenue and Carondelet Street — to the New Orleans Building Corp., the public-private entity that operates as the city’s real estate arm.

Cantrell did not mention the former encampment when explaining her support for the measure.
“Given the need for parking in the CBD, I am encouraged that we would make the most of all available space we have for parking,” she said.

The proposed agreement, between the NOBC and the state Department of Transportation and Development, calls for the NOBC to manage and operate a parking lot at the site on behalf of the city. The agreement would be in effect for five years.

Landrieu aide Eric Granderson said the Mayor’s Office has not decided whether the area will be used as parking for city employees or leased to a third party to operate as a private lot. The second option would require further City Council approval.
Oh, of course.  There are potential leases to sign and fees to charge.   Problem isn't fully solved until we've taken a public space and turned it into something someone can profit from.


Friday, August 22, 2014

The rent is too damn high

New Orleans's gentrification problem extends into football.
New Orleans is the only team in the division with an average price above $200 for the season. The current average price for New Orleans Saints tickets is $245.42, 30% above the next most expensive average in the division.
After decades of hearing about how New Orleans lacks essential "corporate support base" present in model Sun Belt cities like Atlanta and Charlotte, this comes as a bit of a surprise.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Basically they just went to West Virginia to play golf

Typically the third game of the preseason is supposed to be when teams take the longest look at their starters in action.  Coincidentally, this week is when we're seeing many Saints who missed a bunch of time during the first part of training camp come back to practice.

Dirty job but somebody has to...

There are two seats up for reappointment on the SLFPA-E and nominations are due next week.  Depending on how the nominating committee decides to package things, the process could result in opponents of the board's lawsuit against oil and gas companies gaining a majority.  The guy who is supposed to tip that balance sounds really enthusiastic.
Morgan said Wednesday that while he “didn’t really want” to serve on the board because of the time and work involved, he felt compelled to submit his name after being asked to do so by officials including Jindal’s former coastal protection chief Garret Graves, who is now running for Congress in the 6th District. While serving in state government, Graves was one of the leading opponents of the suit.

Jay Lapeyre, the chairman of the nominating committee, said Wednesday that he was among the people who encouraged Morgan to put his name in for the position, and he said he has encouraged anyone qualified to do so. Finding qualified candidates for the authority has been difficult in the past.

“I encouraged, as I always do, everyone with ability and competence to run,” Lapeyre said.

If he is appointed, Morgan is expected to be a fifth vote against the lawsuit.
Graves and Lapeyre must have appealed to his noble sense of civic duty.. or something like that. 

Luckily, they put it all on TV

Video from last night's coastal restoration discussion hosted by The Lens is up at.. The Lens.

NOPD: We see your ice bucket challenge and we will meet it

With overwhelming force.

What did New Orleans law enforcement buy?

Here are some pieces of military equipment sold to police in New Orleans:
  • Eight night-vision sniper scopes
  • 20 snow camouflage parkas
  • A “rough terrain” forklift
  • 40 “laser modules
  • 14 thermal sights
  • 21 7.62 mm rifles and two 5.56 mm rifles
  • 30 survival axes
Snow camo also good for tracking down the elusive Gulf Walrus.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Coastal conversation

Really bummed I couldn't be there for this.  My daily schedule right now is precisely calibrated such that I am always unavailable for any event either personal or professional. 
Wednesday night at 6 p.m., The Lens will host a panel discussion among state and environmental leaders about how to foot the bill for the coastal restoration effort. Joining us:
Fox 8 News’ John Snell will moderate.
Anyway, they say there will be video available at that link so that's good.  I hope they archive it, though since I won't have time to watch live. 

Qualifying week




Think of it as pre-season but for political candidates.

 NOLA.com is giving us roster updates.
11:25 a.m.: Frank Marullo came in to correct some paperwork. At 74, he's too old to run for another term as Criminal District Court Judge, according to the current state constitution, which sets the limit at 70.

However, Marullo was elected before the constitution was adopted in 1974, when the age limit was 75. In an interview this morning, he said that he should be grandfathered in and legally allowed to run again.

Furthermore, it's a question of morality, according to Marullo. Forcing judges to retire because of an age limit amounts to "ageism" he said. "This is 2014 not 1928."
Also DA Leon Cannizzaro is being challenged by Lon Burns and his rhyming slogan.
His unofficial campaign slogan: "You can't preach what you don't know, and you can't lead where you don't go."
Other exciting things happened. Yolanda King had trouble filling out a form, for example.  Many other candidates qualified.  Were you one of them?  Better check the list to make sure.

If the mousears fit

Your Guide To Dizneylandrieu

Sometimes they just come out and say it. I always prefer when they do that. 
The plan leaves room for another major future component not directly included in this expansion, officials said: Tulane University’s major parcel along the river, currently leased to Mardi Gras

That property was once considered for a “Riversphere” facility that would include educational and research components, and Convention Center officials support Tulane’s plans in that direction.

Whatever Tulane does, they said, would only be a further draw for convention-goers to return to New Orleans.

“What we want to do with this is make it a new experience in New Orleans,” said convention center general manager Bob Johnson. “It’s the old Disney theory: Every two or three years, Disney opens a new attraction and people that are familiar with Disney will go back. … It would also put Tulane’s brand in front of a million people a year.”
What we're talking about here is allocation of public resources and tax dollars to the construction of a privately run hotel with condos, retail space, and various other attractions  including (possibly) a yacht harbor and a "moving sidewalk"  in order to give conventioneers a more "Disney" type of experience and "put Tulane's brand in front of a million people a year," which must be very important.. to Tulane.

What's important to New Orleanians might be different from what's important to the tourism industry, though.  Despite the industry's relentless insistence that everything it does is a great benefit to the community, the tax revenue it generates actually contributes almost nothing to the city budget.

To his credit, Mayor Landrieu proposed (ever so slightly) altering this arrangement during the recent legislative session but was unsuccessful in his modest effort. 

The mayor is currently holding a series of community budget meetings where he answers public comments about the city's priorities.   At those meetings you hear a lot about fixing streets, hiring police, and paying firefighters.   Nobody says much about building Disney stuff or promoting "Tulane's brand." 

Tonight's District A meeting is at the Lakeview Christian Center: 5885 Fleur de Lis Drive beginning at 6:30.  It will be live-blogged by The Lens

Busy man

Cedric Grant could have his hands on a lot of money spigots over the next year or so.
Should it pass, Grant will be in charge of not only major improvements to the city's sewerage and water systems, but also an estimated $9 billion in repairs to its notoriously pockmarked streets.

That means for the first time in recent memory, the persistent problems that most often rankle New Orleanians -- from broken streetlights and potholes to flooded roads and poor water pressure -- could fall to one man.

It was the only way he would take the job, Grant said Tuesday in a wide-ranging interview from his office at the water board's St. Joseph Street headquarters.
Optimistically, this might be like having a more competent Ed Blakely around.

On the other hand, it's still kind of like having Ed Blakely around.
"I was coming over here to do this. If they didn't want this done, I'm not the one (for the job)," he said. "I've been in infrastructure my entire career and I've seen it all, and this is what needs to be done to make this city work."
See what I mean?

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

New New Orleans

New Orleans is now ranked second in the US in income inequality.
Inequality is growing nationally, but the speed of growth in New Orleans is faster than that in many other cities. New Orleans' Gini coefficient rose 5.39 percent since 2008. Only 14 of the 50 cities included on Bloomberg's sortable list saw inequality grow faster.

The Gini coefficient for the United States as a whole was .4757, according to Bloomberg, which updated its figures in April. According to the CIA, which hasn't updated its figure for the United States since 2007, when its Gini Coefficient was .45, America ranked 41st for income inequality, between Uruguay and the Philippines.
Update:

That, more or less, is the great failure of post-Katrina New Orleans.  Sure, there's growth and "vibrancy" resulting from massive investment in rebuilding.  But the benefits of this growth have accrued into the hands of a small and isolated caste for the most part.  This needs to be examined more thoroughly.

For example, here is a problem we were discussing on the parallel internet a few weeks back.
Offering a direct view of City Park, this just-listed 4,137-square-foot house has hit the market for, ahem, $700,000. The listing is straight-up with the fact that "a total renovation is needed to restore this home to its former glory."
Housing prices are out of control.  But who are the buyers? Not anyone I know.. or know of.. or can even imagine I might know anything about right now.  Every personal story I come across has to do with friends or acquaintances being priced out of neighborhoods not buying into them. So, who is buying in?

We can talk about our pet theories of gentrification all day long.  Are the majority of these huge sale prices investment properties? Are they full time homes or vacation rentals?

One reason I'm interested in the Airbnb trend is, in some cities, it encourages a practice where investors buy up the housing stock and put it to use in the tourist trade (although unlicensed and untaxed). It sounds like this is happening here but I really wish someone would dive into explaining the extent of it.

Anecdotally I hear "a lot of people are moving here." And that's fine but please also tell me where these people are getting $700,000 to blow on fixer-uppers.  I've heard some say "doctors" and "film people" are buying houses but there's little I can do to confirm these guesses.

New Orleans is not exactly a city of millionaires. Or at least it hasn't been.  So what is actually going on? The housing market suggests there is money coming into the city from somewhere.  Where?

"Is this America"?

Pretty much the dumbest question anyone can ask about Ferguson. If you don't recognize what's going on there as fundamentally American, you haven't been paying attention.
It does matter what toys the cops get to play with, but the context for their behavior matters more. That’s what it’s worth noting that Ferguson’s police force is almost entirely white, in a city that’s 60 percent black. The same applies to the town’s mayor, city council, and school board. And then there’s the fact that the city itself, as it exists today, was dramatically shaped by the racist housing discrimination practice known as “redlining.” The city’s very geography is the product of racist public policy and business practices.

None of which makes Ferguson unique. Coates begins “The Case for Reparations” with a story of one man’s experience with redlining in Chicago—just one more example out of millions.
Nor is this the first time that America’s long history of racial oppression has set the stage for confrontations with the police. The 1967 Kerner Commission, established by President Johnson to explore the root causes behind the race riots of the 1960s, placed America’s racial caste system at the center of their analysis. When historian Blair L.M. Kelley writes that “Ferguson is America,” she’s not wrong.

And like Ferguson, America is a place stricken with far more than just police militarization. If we’re going to even begin to ameliorate this country’s root-deep racial inequities, we need to do more than relieve the police of their grenade launchers. We need to remedy centuries of malicious practices that have etched themselves into the topography of this nation.

See also:
The outpouring of anger on the streets of Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal police shooting of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown is partly a reaction to a long history of marginalization experienced by African-Americans, a process exacerbated by gentrification, argue experts. It should be no surprise, they say, that the latest racial flashpoint is not in the inner-city but in the modern suburb.

Ferguson is an outer suburb of St. Louis, the 16th fastest gentrifying city in the U.S., according to Census data. Not unrelatedly, a 2011 study by Brown University showed that the St. Louis metropolitan area was the 19th most segregated city in the U.S.

The social and economic inequality in the St. Louis area, which is divided along racial lines, is a microcosm of a problem playing out across the U.S.: Wealthier, typically white residents move into a previously economically disadvantaged neighborhood in the city, pricing out black families and displacing them to suburban outskirts, according to a recent Brookings report.

In 2008, the population of poor people in suburbs across the nation grew twice as fast as in city centers, the report said. By 2008, U.S. suburbs were home to the largest share of the nation’s poor.

Emergency management

From last night's District C Budget hearing.
Landrieu: "The interior streets in this city are awful, they're awful ... I'm going to tell you how big it is: $9 billion ... Currently we do not have a long-term plan to fix the interior streets." He says S&WB director and former city infrastructure head Cedric Grant is negotiating with FEMA over funding for interior street repairs.
We're reaching a point where this might not sound convincing to people anymore but many street repairs in New Orleans are still flood recovery issues.  Ten days from now marks the ninth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and we're still depending on FEMA for major infrastructure work.

Good thing, too, unless you guys have $9 billlion laying around.  Well, OK, maybe some of you "entrepreneurs" have it. That's what NOLA.com keeps telling me, anyway.  But probably keeping the feds involved is a good idea. 

In fact, we really shouldn't have to rely on the pretext of disaster recovery for federal support of urban infrastructure. But that's just crazy talk, I know.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Budget Barnstorming

The first stop on the tour is tonight.  Given today's events, this should be a fun evening with the mayor.  I'm pretty sad that I can't go.  But not too sad since The Lens is live-blogging it.

Never Forget

Ronal Serpas participated in a panel discussion at Rising Tide 5.

Hail to the Chief

By the way, RT 9 is happening September 13.  Most of the schedule is published here. I am given to understand there is more to come so stay tuned.  I had trouble this morning figuring out how to register but I figured it out so I'll save you the trouble.  Just click here. 

As for Serpas, it looks like he's gonna be just fine.  Thanks for asking, though. 


Do we do the do-over over?

Yet another challenge to a decision on the airport construction.
NOLA Airport Builders argues in its protest that the Aviation Board improperly jettisoned that competition because it did not show "just cause" as required by Louisiana law.

The protest also says that the Aviation Board's Review Committee, which judged the most recent competition, gave "erroneous and arbitrary" scores, dolling out too few points to NOLA Airport Builders and too many to Hunt-Gibbs-Boh-Metro. It also calls out the board for putting Kenneth Schwartz on the Review Committee, saying his inclusion presented a conflict of interest.

Robert Boh, chairman of Boh Bros. Construction, is an emeritus member of the board at Tulane University, where Schwartz is dean of the School of Architecture. The Boh family are noted Tulane donors, according to the protest.
Recall that "NOLA Airport Builders" (then known as Odebrecht-Parsons)  had their "win" in the first round of this process thrown out, at least in part, because of... conflict of interest issues.
Adding another twist to the already tangled awarding of a contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars — and potentially giving ammunition to a challenge by the losing bidder — it was reported this week that New Orleans Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant previously worked for one of the companies he recommended should oversee construction of a new terminal at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

Grant worked for Parsons Corp., one of the firms involved in the Parsons Odebrecht joint venture that he and other members of an evaluation committee last week scored as the best choice to manage construction of the $546 million terminal.
Maybe, if we keep trying, someone will submit a bid involving nobody who knows anybody. It might take a while to do that.. especially in this town.   Good thing we're not trying to get this thing done on some sort of timeline.
The $828 million construction project should create 13,000 jobs, according to materials handed out by the mayor’s office, and is scheduled to be completed in May 2018 — not so coincidentally the date of New Orleans’ tricentennial celebration.

Serpassed

See usually these kinds of things are announced on Monday morning so as to minimize their impact on the news cycle... wait.. that's not right.  Are we sure this didn't actually happen two days ago and is only being publicly disclosed today?

Anyway, wow!
Ronal Serpas is out as police chief in New Orleans.

After four often-rocky years on the job, Serpas will announce his retirement as New Orleans police superintendent at a news conference today, according to a source with knowledge of his plans.
What Serpas plans to do next is unclear.

Lt. Michael Harrison, police commander of the 7th District, will serve as interim NOPD superintendent.
The announcement was sudden, but shouts for Serpas’ resignation punctuated much of his tenure. The loudest came from police officer groups embittered about several issues, including reforms to the off-duty detail system and a stiff disciplinary regime that led to the termination of scores of cops on grounds that many viewed as specious or arbitrary. Serpas, the chorus went, never had their backs.

As recently as last week, newly elected City Councilman Jason Williams suggested in a little-noticed web broadcast last week that at least five members of the council were prepared to terminate Serpas — a power bestowed by the city charter but never before exercised.

Recently elected At-Large Councilman Williams is turning out to be an interesting fellow so far.  Put a pin in that for now, though.

The bad news is, now it's likely some of these goofballs will claim credit.
Demonstrators marched two miles Sunday from the Marigny to the Saint Claude neighborhood to protest Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown Aug. 9.

Nearly 60 people participated in the protest that began at Washington Square Park on Frenchmen Street and ended at the New Orleans Police Department's Fifth District headquarters, nearly two miles away at North Robertson Street and North Claiborne Avenue.

The New Orleans Anarchist Bookfair organized the protest on Facebook, though no one at the protest claimed responsibility for setting it up or being a member of the Bookfair.
The first rule of Bookfair is don't talk about Bookfair.

Often the worst actors in any situation like Ferguson are the clueless white kids in other cities out for what amounts to public masturbation. I hope they had fun storming the castle.

Anyway, if you'd like to discuss any of this with the mayor, he will be available tonight at the first community budget hearing.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu kicks off his annual tour of New Orleans' City Council districts Monday, fielding questions and concerns from residents and business owners before crafting his public spending plans for 2015.

The meetings mark the first public steps in weeks-long number-crunching that must end with the council approving the city's annual budget before the end of the year.

His first stop is in District C, the city's most diverse district and marred by a rash of high-profile violence, including a deadly shooting spree on Bourbon Street and a police officer firing on and striking a suspect in Algiers during a traffic stop. Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey has hosted several town-hall style hearings on public safety, but she did not immediately return messages left with her and her staff Monday (Aug. 18) asking for details on her priorities for 2015.
If you're driving over there this evening, the good news is there very probably will not be a sobriety checkpoint in effect. So BYOB.  

And now, please, this

Jon Bois's The Tim Tebow Chronicles begins today. Please enjoy.

"As simple as training your dog"

Here are cops in Ferguson, MO tonight threatening to shoot people for filming them.



Here is the result of a second autopsy on Michael Brown's body.  The independent examiner determined the unarmed boy was shot 6 times.
One of the bullets entered the top of Mr. Brown’s skull, suggesting his head was bent forward when it struck him and caused a fatal injury, according to Dr. Michael M. Baden, the former chief medical examiner for the City of New York, who flew to Missouri on Sunday at the family’s request to conduct the separate autopsy. It was likely the last of bullets to hit him, he said.

Mr. Brown, 18, was also shot four times in the right arm, he said, adding that all the bullets were fired into his front.
It's disappointing that this is still going on after a full week.  Obviously the decision to impose a curfew hasn't helped matters. The police description of events is suspicious.  The "premeditated coordinated instigators" line sounds dubious as do the multiple references to "Molotov cocktails" which one always hears knocked about in these situations. 

And even if you believe the police version of these events, they haven't exactly reacted to that in a smart way.  For example, if you really think a crowd is armed with fire bombs, launching tear gas canisters at them (which spark on impact) is probably a bad idea.  As I'm typing this, CNN is reporting that the National Guard has been called in.  That probably won't go well.. although it also can't go much worse. Or maybe it can.
The 131st Bomb Wing is a unit of the Missouri Air National Guard, stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Knob Noster, Missouri. If activated to federal service, the wing is gained by the United States Air Force Global Strike Command. It is an associate unit of the active-duty 509th Bomb Wing, which falls under the Eighth Air Force.

The 131st Bomb Wing is the only Air National Guard wing to fly the B-2 Spirit, as well as the only nuclear-capable Air National Guard bomb wing.
Ok but we still can be pretty secure in our belief that this won't end with the nuking of St. Louis.  This is not to say it ends well, though.



By November, Republican congressional candidates will celebrate police "heroes" and realize a fundraising windfall from it. Already the foundations for that are being laid.
ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Frustrated with the national coverage of protests surrounding the death of Michael Brown, the unarmed black teen who was fatally shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, a few dozen people showed up in downtown St. Louis on Sunday afternoon to show solidarity with the officer who killed the 18-year-old.

Since officer Darren Wilson shot Brown on Aug. 9, there have been nightly protests in Ferguson. But the counterprotesters said they wanted the country to know that not everyone supported the Ferguson demonstrations, and wanted Wilson and his family to know that there were people who backed them.

The protesters gathered outside KSDK-TV, a local station that they said has been biased in its coverage of the controversy.
Beyond that, the most likely result is something like what we always see after such shocks: Limited to zero police accountability combined with a general acceptance that strong-arm tactics are a thing people can expect to see in the future.  Or as the pro-police demonstrators put it,  we're being trained to put up with it.
"They're going to keep pushing the envelope," he said of demonstrators who've gotten violent during protests in Ferguson. "There's no reason to stop. ... It's as simple as training your dog. If you don't tell them stop biting, guess what, he's going to continue to bite."

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Griftopia

Can't really improve on this headline

Gov. Bobby Jindal's efficiency experts hike price to $7.4 million

The price tag has nearly doubled for Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring of an outside consulting firm to recommend new ways to balance the state budget.

The contract for Alvarez & Marsal was worth $4.2 million when the New York-based company was hired in December. But the contract since has been bumped up to $7.4 million, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office.

Friday, August 15, 2014

King Of All Louisiana Media

John Georges buys four Baton Rouge area local weeklies.
The Advocate is acquiring four weekly newspapers to increase its coverage of the Baton Rouge area as it continues to expand across south Louisiana.

The papers are the Zachary Plainsman-News in Zachary, The Watchman in East Feliciana Parish, The St. Francisville Democrat in West Feliciana Parish and The St. Helena Echo in Greensburg.
The terms of the agreement between Capital City Press — the parent company of The Advocate — and Louisiana State Newspapers weren’t disclosed.

The sale of the four newspapers includes the assets of their websites and a free “shopper” publication, the Zachary Plainsman-Xtra.

Advocate Publisher John Georges, who bought Capital City Press in 2013, said the move builds upon the company’s strategy to give advertisers and readers more options for local news, in print and online. The Advocate recently upgraded its weekly publications in Ascension and Livingston parishes and started a weekly Southside Advocate in a section of East Baton Rouge Parish.
In order to further expand coverage, Georges is looking into several BR area church bulletins and probably one of those papers that runs people's mugshots soon as well.  

Nobody got shot in the head

Hands up

Menckles and I went down to see the National Moment of Silence vigil in Lafayette Square. Pat was there. So were a few other people I recognized and talked with a bit. The Advocate was there. I didn't talk to them. There were probably between 250 and 350 people there once the crowd filled in.

Lafayette Square

Mostly it was just people milling about with their hands in their pockets (or taking pictures of one another.) The organizing group wanted people to sign in and give them contact information but that didn't strike me as the best idea.

Speechifying

There were a few minutes of speechifying. Then someone read off some names of "victims of police brutality" and then there was a... well... a moment of silence.

During the moment of silence, attendees were encouraged to raise their hands the way people have been doing in Ferguson. But, as you can see from this picture, they all looked like they were at a Christian rock show. It was pretty cheesy.

Hand raisiness

After the moment of silence the crowd broke up. A portion of them broke into a march and weaved their way downtown. 

After vigil march

Some signs

I saw later that they went inside the 8th District Police Station and hollered.  We had already ditched and were having dinner at Lucky Rooster while this was happening but, thanks to the internet (and in particular thanks to Twitter user @Small_affair who gets around to these sorts of events pretty often) I was able to locate some video footage.



This kind of made me feel bad for the poor cops who had to sit behind the desk and listen since they were just.. you know.. at work and had nothing to do with any of this but whatever.  Looks like they were in good humor anyway.




Anyway, I got pictures of the part I saw and put them on the internet since that is what one does. 

It's times like these when it's good to remember just what a valuable luxury the ability to do that is.
But I’m not quite sure that without the neutral side of the Internet—the livestreams whose “packets” were fast as commercial, corporate and moneyed speech that travels on our networks, Twitter feeds which are not determined by an opaque corporate algorithms but my own choices,—we’d be having this conversation.

So, I hope that in the coming days, there will be a lot written about race in America, about militarization of police departments, lack of living wage jobs in large geographic swaths of the country.

But keep in mind, Ferguson is also a net neutrality issue. It’s also an algorithmic filtering issue. How the internet is run, governed and filtered is a human rights issue.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Budget time

Might not have mentioned yet here but the Mayor's Traveling Budget Circus is indeed happening.  It begins Monday in Council District C at L.B. Landry High School. (District C gets a Westbank meeting. Sometimes East Bankers try to organize their own but I haven't heard anything about that yet.)

Anyway here is the rest of the schedule.

Many fun things to be discussed this year. I've got a draft post that talks about some of those things in greater detail which I hope is up next week.

But one budget-related item that post probably won't go into is the Wisner trust fund where there is action this week for the first time in a while. You can catch up on that business via Dambala here and here.  And here is a new Lens report on the contentious process by which Wisner money is distributed to local non-profits. 

More to come next week. 

Update: See also, this.
Over the objection of the Fraternal Order of Police, which called for using the money to increase officers’ salaries, the City Council voted Thursday to transfer more than $4 million in surplus cash from the New Orleans Police Department’s 2014 personnel budget to pay for other city obligations.

State of Gentilly

You probably have never heard a State of Gentilly address before today.  Please allow District D Councilman Jared Brossett to help you with that.
"We have built a better community," City Councilman Jared Brossett told a crowd outside the store.

"Today signifies the state of Gentilly is stronger than ever and the spirit of its residents will not be broken. ... This site, which was once a symbol of blight and neglect, is now a symbol of resiliency and determination."
What symbol of resiliency and determination was he talking about?

A Wal-Mart opening, of course. 

Peace gas

Tear gas is technically a no no... if you're at war.
Despite its ubiquity across the globe and in United States, tear gas is a chemical agent banned in warfare per the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993, which set forth agreements signed by nearly every nation in the world — including the United States. The catch, however, is that while it’s illegal in war, it’s legal in domestic riot control. That means Turkey got to use it on its protesters last year. That meant Bahrain got to the do the same. And now, in Ferguson, cops are likewise blasting residents protesting the police for the killing of an unarmed teen named Michael Brown.
It's one of our most peaceful chemical weapons. 

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Where do they get those wonderful toys?



Here's a video stream of police breaking up an apparently peaceful protest in Ferguson, MO with tear gas and rubber bullets tonight. 



A few hours before this action, two reporters from national outlets were roughed up and arrested at a McDonald's in Ferguson for taking pictures of the police.

Note: Everyone is well within their rights to photograph or film police.

And who can blame them for wanting to? Cops these days are flashing some pretty sweet swag. They're practically begging to have their highly dramatic pictures made.

Police departments all over America are armed to the teeth with advanced military equipment as well as imbued with an increasingly militarized sense of mission.
What would it take to dial back such excessive police measures? The obvious place to start would be ending the federal grants that encourage police forces to acquire gear that is more appropriate for the battlefield. Beyond that, it is crucial to change the culture of militarization in American law enforcement.

Consider today's police recruitment videos (widely available on YouTube), which often feature cops rappelling from helicopters, shooting big guns, kicking down doors and tackling suspects. Such campaigns embody an American policing culture that has become too isolated, confrontational and militaristic, and they tend to attract recruits for the wrong reasons.

If you browse online police discussion boards, or chat with younger cops today, you will often encounter some version of the phrase, "Whatever I need to do to get home safe." It is a sentiment that suggests that every interaction with a citizen may be the officer's last. Nor does it help when political leaders lend support to this militaristic self-image, as New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg did in 2011 by declaring, "I have my own army in the NYPD—the seventh largest army in the world."

Unfortunately local political leaders revel in these images.   Here is a famous photograph of a former New Orleans Mayor and Chief of Police brandishing weapons acquired for NOPD via one of the federal programs outlined in that WSJ article.



Public officials often score political points comparing the law enforcement situation in New Orleans to a "war zone."  A few years ago State Rep. Austin Badon told a public forum he wanted to see NOPD "kicking in at least four doors a day."

Media personality Norman Robinson recently advocated "stop and frisk" in response to a shooting on Bourbon Street. The Louisiana State Police, in town in response to that same incident, stopped and assaulted local musician Shamarr Allen.  John Georges's newspaper thanked them for their service.

On Monday a New Orleans Police officer shot a 26 year old man in the head during a traffic stop but did not report the shooting. 

At a hastily called news conference Wednesday evening, Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas described the matter as an embarrassing oversight. He said police had prepared a news release on the incident Monday, and, for some reason, did not send it out.

“I personally authorized a press release,” Serpas said. “Clearly it fell through the cracks.”

“I’m very disappointed and angry,” he added. “We normally put this information out right away.”

The NOPD has been dogged for years by questions about the possible overuse of deadly force by some officers and its failure to fully investigate some of those incidents. The federal consent decree the department signed with the Justice Department in 2012, which mandates a series of reforms, had its roots in a series of poorly investigated shootings and beatings by police in the days after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

On Thursday NOPD are expected to evict a homeless encampment from under the Calliope Street overpass. Thursday night they will conduct another of their signature traffic checkpoints.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Thursday August 14, 2014, beginning at approximately 9:00 P.M. and will conclude at approximately 5:00 A.M.  Motorists will experience minimal delays and should have the proper documentation available if requested, i.e., proof of insurance, driver’s license, etc.
If there happen to be any shootings during the traffic enforcement operation, let's hope someone remembers to write them down.

Be safe.

Enough beds

Technically, sure. But not everyone fits in them.
Even with enough beds to temporarily house everyone in the camp, there will always be people who choose to stay on the streets because they enjoy the freedom, said Biaggio DiGiovanni, executive director of the Ozanam Inn.

"A lot of people like the independence and flexibility. They can get up when they want, do what they want, go to bed when they want. Some people think the shelters are too confining," he said.
Turns out people still like the "independence and flexibility" of being able to decide when their own bed times are.  Imagine that.  

The market has decided you are screwed

Lloyds of London asses the risk to coastal cities due to global warming.

A bulletin from Lloyd’s of London warns that, “as sea levels rise, ground levels in coastal megacities are also falling – with potentially disastrous implications for insurers. Insurers of large property portfolios in the world’s great coastal cities will have factored the effects of climate change into their catastrophe models – including rising sea levels and more frequent storm surges. But what’s often missed is that many of these cities are sinking faster than the water is rising. In some, subsidence outstrips sea level rise by a factor of ten to one.”

The subsidence heightens the potential losses from rising sea levels. Combined with “sea water inundation and flood damage, this can have disastrous consequences for the built environment – and property and business interruption insurers.” Gilles Erkens, of the Deltares Research Institute in Utrecht said: “We’re going down and the sea is coming up. Potential losses could run into hundreds of millions of dollars every year.”

As an example Lloyd’s singled out the “surge that overwhelmed New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, and the subsequent cascading collapse of critical infrastructure,” which it said “offered a glimpse of the sort of scenario underwriters fear.”
Via The Lens's tweeter tube

Damn the torpedoes. Wait. Are there torpedoes?

Remember back with us all the way to the year 2011 when then Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson told us she would do whatever it took to protect the city from the threat of loose barges crashing into levees along a swollen spring river.
City Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson on Thursday told barge owners and operators who don't moor their vessels that the city will sink all untethered vessles.

"We can't afford to have barges breaking loose, breaking levees," she said.
We had some fun with that at the time

What we didn't know then, though, was that had Jackie decided to take command of the Washington Square Artillery and fire on any incoming vessels there was actual ordinance available to her.
The cannon was given to the state museum system in 1908. It's been sitting in front of the Cabildo, pointing towards Jackson Square for more than a century. Recently the maintenance department decided to look inside, guess what they found? They couldn't believe it, there was a cannon ball at least 150 years old, down the muzzle.
Too bad Jackie's naval career ended a few years later when she failed to become a ferry pilot or something like that. 

I do miss her, though.  No doubt she'd know exactly what to do about the homeless encampment under the overpass. I wonder if she will submit an entry to the "design intervention" contest.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Beautification

Everything Jefferson Parish has tried over the course of its quest to make Veterans Boulevard look less like.. Veterans Boulevard has only succeeded in making it look even more like Veterans Boulevard. Only in an even more tacky way than before.

This scheme is certainly no exception.
To Giorgio, who poured money into decorating his own property there with Roman columns and waving palms, the static canal between Tolmas Drive and Causeway Boulevard was, if not an eyesore, at least a wasted opportunity. Think of what developers do in Las Vegas, where water features are a bauble rather than a blemish. Couldn't Jefferson install similar fountains here?

"I have been to Vegas, and they have the Bellagio. And how beautiful is that?" Giorgio said.

Metairie will find out soon. In late August, contractors will break ground -- or, water -- to install Giorgio's vision: six illuminated fountains that can change color in the Veterans canal, surrounded by landscaped canal banks.
Nobody likes this fetid drainage water we've got running down the middle of the street.  I know! Let's fire it at them through a cannon!

Roman columns, waving palms, and "Vegas" style fountains.  They just... could not be any more Metairie if they wanted to.

No fly zone

Rumors about people "shooting at helicopters" will be familiar to New Orleanians.... and other connoisseurs of official bullshit, of course. 
It’s not unusual for local police departments to request flight restrictions over potentially dangerous zones, and it’s typically done to clear airspace for police helicopter operations. The Ferguson restriction, however, may make it more difficult for news media to get aerial footage of the town as the Brown story continues to develop.
Anyway, you can go watch the news from Ferguson happen on CNN... well okay not much of it there. Try another cable news channel..  Alright well you can look at Twitter. 

But for some context, here is an ACLU report on the militarization of local police forces

Also Matt Taibbi's new book is pretty on the mark.
Taibbi's core hypothesis is that, just like the widening wealth-gap, America has a terrible problem with a widening justice gap. Since the Clinton years, the American state has treated poverty as a crime, turning the receipt of state aid into a basis for the most invasive intrusions into your personal life, for a never-ending round of barked accusations and cruel threats to your freedom, your family, and your future. Meanwhile, Eric Holder's "Collateral Consequences" doctrine -- conceived under Clinton, revised under GWB, and perfected under Obama -- tells federal prosecutors to punish big companies carefully, even for the worst crimes imaginable, in order to protect the innocents who work for those companies and rely on them.

The net effect is a society where HSBC can be found guilty of laundering billions for brutal Mexican drug-cartels who torture and murder with impunity, pay a fine equal to a few weeks' profit, and partially defer bonuses for a few of its executives. But on the same day, across America, poor and mostly brown people are locked into inhumane prisons for selling a joint or two of the weed those cartels control.

Maybe make it two out of three?

The losing side in the airport bidding do-over is considering its options
The team lost a competition for the contract last week when a selection committee of the Aviation Board opted to recommend rivals Hunt-Gibbs-Boh-Metro. However, NOLA Airport Builders has until Aug. 17 to protest the committee's decision.

Asked whether the joint venture intended to file such a protest, a spokeswoman for the team said in a statement that its member firms "respect the selection committee's decision," but "we are evaluating our options moving forward."
Not sure what those options are now.  Was someone on the selection committee taking Ambien and using NOLA.com in a strange fashion?  That's a popular ground for appeal.

"Due to other conditions"

Probably Ebola.  Maybe Mayans.  Are Mayans still a threat?
Gulf Coast oyster harvests have declined dramatically in the four years since a BP PLC oil well blew wild in the nation's worst offshore oil disaster. Even after a modest rebound last year, thousands of acres of oyster beds where oil from the well washed ashore are producing less than a third of their pre-spill harvest.

Most worrisome to Slavich is the dearth of oyster larvae - future generations of oysters - once found in abundance on shells in the lake, east of the muddy bends of the Mississippi River.

Whether the spill contributed to the decline is part of an ongoing study; hurricanes, overfishing and influxes of oyster-killing fresh water had already put pressure on the industry.

"To the extent that oyster populations are down, data from government studies have indicated it is likely due to other conditions," Geoff Morrell, a BP senior vice president, said in a statement.

John Georges supports the troops

Tom Aswell speculates an Advocate editorial thanking the State Police for beating up Shamarr Allen protecting New Orleans this summer is really more about John Georges looking to butter up State Police Superintendent Mike Edmonson.

Certainly the timing of the editorial had nothing to do with the controversy swirling around the secretive passage of an obscure Senate bill during the last day of the recent legislative session that proved financially beneficial to Edmonson.

And certainly it had nothing to do with the fact that Advocate publisher John Georges wants to keep Edmonson happy because Georges holds a majority ownership in seven firms which provide video gambling machines and other services to gambling establishments—and because Edmonson oversees gaming through the State Gaming Control Board chaired by Ronnie Jones who served as Edmonson’s confidential assistant prior to his appointment to the Gaming Control Board. He is still listed as Edmonson’s confidential assistant on the State Police web page even though Jones says he resigned from that position last August.
Okay, maybe.  But it's going a bit far to say the Advocate has swept the business about Edmonson's retirement under the rug.  It's not a difficult story to find in their archives.  Although, there is this prior Editorial blurb that more or less just says everything is OK.  I was looking to post a Gill column which was more critical of Edmonson but it's not currently accessible on the site.

Whatever the reason, Georges' paper is thanking the troopers. And that seems dubious enough as it is.

Or else what?

What happens to "public health hazards" who won't move
NEW ORLEANS -- A renewed effort is being launched to clear the growing homeless encampment underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway, as city officials began handing out letters calling for people to vacate the area below the structure.

The very visible population of homeless who often live in tents under the expressway were given letters Monday evening saying they had 72 hours to move out from the area and take their belongings with them.

"The area under US 90/Pontchartrain Expressway from South Claiborne Avenue to St. Charles Avenue has been declared a public health hazard," states the letter.
Probably there are mental competency issues involved in a lot of these cases but still one assumes that if the "upwards of 50 like-service minisitries in this town that have open beds," (according the director of The New Orleans Mission) were preferable to sleeping under the bridge, people wouldn't be there in such high concentrations. 

Not that it sounds all that great.
Martha Kegel, executive director of UNITY, said 126 people were sleeping at the encampment as of June 18. Scores more drift in during the day. Dozens of tents and couches dot the underpass from St. Charles Avenue all the way to South Broad Street. Many who live there aren’t just staying for mere days but have set up shop in what they describe as a permanent shanty town. They say the highway provides shelter, a sense of safety and even emotional support.

However, neighbors and homeless advocacy groups say the area has become a plague and an eyesore, a rodent-infested and lawless sector in the middle of the city’s downtown where police presence is rare and drug use and violence are rampant.

“The tents attract drug dealers, who move in under cover of the tents, preying on the vulnerable homeless population, many of whom have co-occurring mental illness and substance use disorders,” Kegel said. “Women get raped in the tents, vulnerable people have their disability checks stolen, and violence has become common.”

City officials acknowledge the area presents a significant threat to health and safety but say they are hamstrung by budget constraints, constitutional protections and the complexities of dealing with a diverse population with a host of substance abuse and mental health issues.
So for various reasons, this terrible situation is often the best alternative for over hundred people on a given night.  But the city, thought "Hamstrung by budget constraints, constitutional protections (etc)" is determined to do something tough and action-y anyway.  

So we've got this 72 hour ultimatum before Serpas comes out to... what? Shoo people away with broom?  Arrest them? For what?

Can't bring people battling mental health issues to jail, anyway.  Gusman says he isn't ready for them.