Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Stah-mi-nah

Every now and then we get the impression that Susan Guidry is done with politics. At one point there was talk that she wasn't interested in running for reelection. She did, though, and easily won her second term.  Maybe that contributed to my impression that she was done after this one was up but, well, here she is.
New Orleans City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who is term-limited in her District A seat, is considering a run for one of the council’s two At-Large seats this fall, and two attorneys from Uptown and Lakeview are planning to run for the seat she will vacate.
Like all councilmembers, Guidry has made some bad decisions in office. But she is very far from the worst of this lot. She made a good effort to make the recent Short Term Rental deal less bad. Unfortunately her proposal to tie STRs to homestead exemptions failed, but it's something voters should remember if she runs citywide.

More recently, she did this which is a big deal
NEW ORLEANS -- After a tie vote in September, the City Council unanimously approved a bail reform ordinance Thursday during a city council meeting.

The ordinance would allow people who've been arrested for relatively minor, non-violent offenses to be released without posting bail on a promise to appear in court. The reform applies to municipal and traffic courts.

Introduced by Councilmember Susan Guidry in September, the ordinance was developed to address the concern among various legal and civil rights groups that the existing bail system for minor offenses unfairly punishes poor defendants.
With idiots like Leon Cannizzaro and Jeff Landry deliberately trying to ruin people's lives for the sake of their own political advancement, it might be good to that Guidry is thinking about sticking around.

Mary Landrieu loves pipelines

This week an "extremely large number" of protesters gathered at a public hearing in Baton Rouge to speak against Energy Transfer Partners' proposed Bayou Bridge pipeline across the Atchafalalya basin. This pipeline would form the ass end of ETP's infrastructure associated with the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline you may have heard about. 
The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would form the tail end of the now infamous Dakota Access route. The Dakota Access Pipeline would carry crude oil from the North Dakota oilfields to an oil tank farm in Illinois, where it would then be transported to Nederland, Texas. A newly completed pipeline connects Nederland to Lake Charles, Louisiana.

The Bayou Bridge Pipeline would carry 480,000 barrels of oil per day a final 162 miles across the state to refineries and ports, through eight watersheds and long stretches of fragile wetlands.

Climate change activists, indigenous residents, crawfishermen, rice farmers, health care professionals, conservationists, and Louisianans who live along the proposed route all showed up to protest the pipeline’s construction. The hearing lasted five and a half hours, as speaker after speaker weighed in on how the pipeline would affect them.
Speaking on behalf of the ETP was career oil stooge Mary Landrieu.  
The Bayou Bridge builders argue pipelines are the safest way to transport crude oil that would otherwise use less efficient trains or trucks to get to refineries. Former Democratic senator-turned-energy lobbyist Mary Landrieu was among the proponents of this argument at Thursday’s hearing.

I would be testifying for this pipeline [even] if I did not work for them,” she said, amid boos and jeers from the audience.

But past pipelines have proven to be less airtight than the industry claims.

A new report by the Bucket Brigade found that there were 144 oil and gas pipeline accidents in 2016. Many of these accidents were caused by corrosion or ruptures in the pipe, prompting the advocacy group to conclude the existing pipelines are in “deplorable condition.”
Even if she did not work for ETP Mary would have just gone there and talked about the pipeline. It's a personal passion of hers, apparently. 

All they care about is tax cuts for rich people

I've been reading a lot the past week about "moderate" Republicans  (among the moderates in that article, hilariously, are Bill Cassidy and Rob Portman) getting ready to rescue Obamacare... or at least "the good parts" of it... at the last minute. 

That's not gonna happen. Republicans only care about tax cuts for rich people.  Repealing Obamacare is, basically, a huge tax cut for rich people. Of course, they're going to repeal it. No need to worry about what comes next.

Friday, January 13, 2017

None of these guys has his own one word billboard yet

By that measure, at least, they've got a ways to go before they're ready to replace The Toya. If that is what they want. All three of them certainly sound interested in this article.
When City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell recently announced that she was mulling a run for mayor of New Orleans this fall, she also set in motion consideration of who might succeed her in the District B seat — and so far, the possible field includes former School Board member Seth Bloom, Zulu king Jay Banks and economic development expert Eric Anthony Johnson.
Read the rest of that if you want to see their opening pitches. Short version: Bloom thinks "tough on crime" talk isn't the best way to fight crime, Banks is worried about gentrification, Johnson spits out a word salad about "bringing community groups together to create a forward-thinking progress agenda blah blah blah zzzzzz." Oh and he says inequality is bad. So there.

Also Seth Bloom sent his constituents a "Happy New Year" post card this month. So we know he's thinking about us. We'll know more about all of this after Cantrell officially announces for Mayor.

Un-fix my streets

I know at least one federal auditor who is not interested in getting purged by Trump.
A draft audit by a federal inspector general recommends taking back most of the $2 billion for repairs to streets and underground pipes that the Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded to New Orleans in a global settlement for damage related to Hurricane Katrina.

The award was meant to pay for harm done to the city’s streets and other infrastructure by the flooding caused by 2005’s levee breaches. But the audit — first reported Friday by nola.com — says there’s little evidence that the poor condition of streets and pipes around the city is attributable to the floodwaters.

“We found strong documentary and other evidence that New Orleans’ sewer and water systems were in very poor condition before the hurricanes due to years of deferred maintenance,” the audit says in part. It does not allege any misspending by the city.
God forbid we spend one cent more helping cities rebuild their infrastructure than we have to.  At least not until we make sure the right people's friends have a piece of the graft
Trump wants to “invest” $1 trillion in fixing and building roads, bridges, water pipes, and other infrastructure. But by “invest” he means using massive tax breaks to convince private investors to spend the money.

As Michelle Chen at The Nation writes, “The goal isn’t fixing bridges so much as fixing the corporate tax codes to promote privatization and unregulated construction with virtually no public input.”

All he wanted was a little attention

When a bullying demagogue like Jeff Landry shows up in your town looking to take advantage of your local anxieties in order to further his own cynical political advancement, it's actually not difficult to shut him down. All you have to do is call his bullshit out for what it is once or twice.  That's what the mayor and the police chief did last week.
The conflict came to a head last week, when Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, in a pointed letter, invoked the city's home rule charter and bluntly warned Landry that he lacked the authority "to engage in active law enforcement in New Orleans."

"He's putting the lives of my police officers and the lives of state troopers at risk," Landrieu told The Advocate on Friday, referring to Landry. "He doesn't seem to understand that policing is a partnership."
If he persists in his stupidity after that, the best course is to ignore it and go about the regular business. We're used to seeing politicians with statewide ambitions use New Orleans as a straw man to beat on. That's mostly what Landry is up to anyway. There's not much anyone can do to stop him. But as long as no one humors the stunt he'll probably get tired of it after a few months and go away.

So now is the time to keep calm and not enable the... oh... goddammit.
The city's sheriff, its district attorney and the head of one of its two main police unions are siding with Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry against New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the debate over a small but controversial anti-crime task force.

All three men have written letters of support for the task force that Landry has dispatched into New Orleans in recent months to fight violent crime.
Oh well. Congratulations, Mr. Attorney General. You've successfully placed yourself as a gamepiece on one of the stupider checkerboards of city politics. Guess you can hang around a while. Have fun.


These signs are posted all over town so maybe you've seen them.  Anyway, just passing it along.

Anti Trump Rally

Maybe you're not the protesty type. Maybe, like Bernie, you're already exasperated with your fellow "Anti-Trump" travelers. There are a lot of us. We're 51 percent of the US population. So it stands to reason we're not all gonna get along with each other.  But it might be worth getting out on Jan 20 anyway. Or not. Whatever you like.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Congratulations, San Diego

I mean that sincerely.  No city should stand for being abused by billionaire sports magnates in this way. It takes courage to stand up to them, even when you know they can gut you emotionally like this. But they don't deserve to wield that kind of power.
At the very least this allows us to finally dispense with the fiction that the NFL and its owners care about their fans, or about anything but profit. Sports Illustrated’s Jack Dickey nails it: These are land barons, and the only true currency in the NFL is property. The real money is not in attendance, or merchandise, or even in TV contracts—though there is plenty there. The real money is in obtaining a shiny new stadium, because of what that stadium does for the sale price of the team. The relocation may double the value of the Rams; Dean Spanos looked at that and said “me too.” From the second they buy an NFL franchise, owners are focused on one thing: selling it.
The difficulty with standing up to the bully is that the bully can and will hurt you. As fans and as citizens we imbue our cultural assets with a value incompatible with the cold logic of capitalism. Sports fandom is an act of participatory community. As a civic ritual it evokes a spirit of shared purpose and identity in a (mostly) constructive vein. It creates a platform for creative expression and elaborate riffing. It brings strangers together and makes them neighbors.

It is also a stupid diversion. But stupid diversions are among the richest of life's luxuries.  Our cultural assets need not be monetized in order for their true value be realized. In fact it is this very commodification of the civic spirit that drains it of its worth to the advantage of undeserving oligarchs.  We were just talking about this with regard to Carnival season, in fact.   We deserve better than such a fate.

We also deserve better than to have our pride and joy held hostage by real estate speculators. Good on the people of San Diego for not giving into Spanos's threats. Shame on him for hurting them in response.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Hotelier In Chief

Here's Trump's plan to solve the "emoluments" problem.  Unsurprisingly, there are issues.
The plan that Dillon, a partner at Morgan, Lewis & Bockius, laid out falls far short of what multiple legal experts say is necessary to comply with the Constitution. Even if Trump doesn’t keep the profits from foreign governments booking rooms at his hotels, those hotels will keep the largest share of every dollar, ruble or yen paid to them, to cover costs, taxes, fees, catering and any other overhead they deem necessary. In 2013, the average profit margin of a luxury hotel was between 6 and 15 percent, according to industry analysts.
So under Trump’s plan, his hotels will hold onto more than 85 cents of every dollar they collect from foreign governments that book overnight stays, events and meetings at Trump hotels. Of the remaining percentage, whatever Trump donates to the U.S. Treasury will be a tax-deductible contribution, just one more benefit to Trump’s bottom line.
Over the longer term, as more foreign governments choose to patronize Trump’s hotels over others, his hotels become more profitable, and the value of his business increases — benefiting Trump and his family.
On the other hand, we've learned in New Orleans that it's best just to give the "Tourism Leader" what he wants. America is a destination country, after all. Hoteliers are "job creators." 

How long before John Bel quits?

He says he's running for reelection but it's starting to sound like he doesn't want to do the job anymore.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Wednesday morning that state budget  problems mean it would be "very difficult" to win legislative approval for a $700 million tax and fee hike for roads and bridges.

The increase was recommended last  month by a task force named by the governor, and the issue is expected to be debated during the 2017 regular session.

Edwards, in an hour-long meeting with the editorial board of The Advocate, said while state transportation needs are tremendous ongoing state budget problems will make it hard for a major boost in road and bridge spending.

While the task force did not spell out a specific way to raise $700 million annually, it said state gas taxes are the most reliable way to generate dollars.

Any such increase would require the approval of two thirds of the House and Senate during a session that begins April 10.

"Is it going to be hard to raise the gas tax? Absolutely," Edwards told reporters and editors.
The task force's recommendations are already comically milquetoast.  It's a shame that Governor is already publicly backing away from even that benchmark.  If he really does want to keep the job, this isn't the way to do it.  The way to establish yourself when the other side already has the knives out for you anyway is to go in and have the fight with them. Edwards already tried playing "disappointed dad" last year. That hasn't won him any advantages.

Everybody loves the deep state

I would bore you by recapping the maddening rounds of bullshit I went with people on the Parallel Internet last night.  Suffice to say it's pretty amazing what all these enlightened believers in liberal democracy who swear up and down how much they hate "fake news" are willing to take at face value from "a person who has claimed to be a former British intelligence official" so long as it fits their immediate political objective.

As far as I can tell that immediate political objective isn't about actually opposing Trump. Instead it's more a desperation on the part of Democratic Party elites to avoid responsibility for their own failures combined with an even more desperate display of virtue signaling from the sort of people to whom "America has always been great" appealed most. Sure it's bad to them that Trump is going to privatize the VA and kill Medicare and do away with public education as we know it. But it's far more important to them that we all be told that Trump is "Not My President," that they as individuals do not see their norms and values reflected in the person who happens to have been elected President.  Politics for so many Americans... particularly of the social climbing liberal variety... is mostly about narcissistic bullshit like this.  "Look at me. I am on the good and smart team."

Anyway, I said I wouldn't bore you with the re-cap.  In short, liberal America is never going to be ready to deal with Trump until it is willing to grapple with some fundamental truths about itself and the corrupt degrading empire it functions within. One of these fundamental truths is that the CIA is actually, you know, bad. The consequences of allowing it to wreak havoc on the rest of the world have been dire enough. Let's not cheerily welcome it into our domestic battles as well.  Here's Greenwald making precisely this point.
The serious dangers posed by a Trump presidency are numerous and manifest. There are a wide array of legitimate and effective tactics for combatting those threats: from bipartisan congressional coalitions and constitutional legal challenges to citizen uprisings and sustained and aggressive civil disobedience. All of those strategies have periodically proven themselves effective in times of political crisis or authoritarian overreach.

But cheering for the CIA and its shadowy allies to unilaterally subvert the U.S. election and impose its own policy dictates on the elected president is both warped and self-destructive. Empowering the very entities that have produced the most shameful atrocities and systemic deceit over the last six decades is desperation of the worst kind. Demanding that evidence-free, anonymous assertions be instantly venerated as Truth — despite emanating from the very precincts designed to propagandize and lie — is an assault on journalism, democracy, and basic human rationality. And casually branding domestic adversaries who refuse to go along as traitors and disloyal foreign operatives is morally bankrupt and certain to backfire on those doing it.

Beyond all that, there is no bigger favor that Trump opponents can do for him than attacking him with such lowly, shabby, obvious shams, recruiting large media outlets to lead the way. When it comes time to expose actual Trump corruption and criminality, who is going to believe the people and institutions who have demonstrated they are willing to endorse any assertions no matter how factually baseless, who deploy any journalistic tactic no matter how unreliable and removed from basic means of ensuring accuracy?

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

John Neely Kennedy is a weird dude

Did the technicians forget to change his tape after the election? He's still spouting this nonsense today during Jeff Sessions' confirmation hearing.
Kennedy managed to work in a line he frequently used during this fall's campaign against Democratic rival Foster Campbell in quizzing Sessions on his views of gun owner rights.

"In Louisiana, senator, we believe that love is the answer, but we also believe that we have the right under the Constitution to own a gun, just in case," Kennedy said. "Could you share with me your thoughts on the Second Amendment?"
Also worth noting...

Bourbon Main Street USA

It's really the heart of Dizneylandrieu.  Right down to the hyper-surveillance of everyone and everything.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu is working on plans for new permanent security measures along Bourbon Street, an effort to prevent a repeat of two shooting incidents that each claimed one life and wounded nine on the city's most famous entertainment strip in the past few years. The idea also is to head off a potential terrorist attack.

Ideas floated by the mayor in discussions with other officials include more centralized surveillance and more restrictions on vehicular traffic.

A preliminary version of the proposal carries a $30 million price tag and calls for closing portions of Bourbon Street to vehicles during most hours; setting up a $12.6 million command center to monitor a network of cameras; installing new lighting; and taking measures that would allow officers to respond in force to emergencies more quickly, according to excerpts of a draft proposal and interviews with people involved in the discussions.

The city may also step up enforcement of laws preventing performers and artists from blocking sidewalks or business entrances and prohibiting vendors from operating without permits.
As is ever the case with security theater, none of this actually does anything to prevent the types of incidents it proposes to prevent.  Instead this is about keeping up appearances.  
“When bad things happen on Bourbon Street, it garners worldwide attention,” said Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, who represents the French Quarter. “Everyone was in agreement that we needed to make some huge changes. I think this is certainly a very good start.”
What's important is that we look like we're spending money to help people (tourists, primarily) "feel safe" as The Toya put it recently.  And, of course, we'll take every advantage of the new excuse to harass street artists and performers.  Clamping down on that stuff has been a longtime dream of "tourism leaders." And the city is always happy to step up citations. So here is an opportunity.

But be careful, says this strip club owner. The last thing you want to do is encourage people to exercise their right to free expression.
At least one business owner who has been privy to the recent discussions is keen on some of the ideas. Plans for a centralized command center that would monitor activity via cameras, more lighting and other infrastructure improvements were welcomed by Robert Watters, owner of Rick’s Cabaret and a past president of the French Quarter Business Association.

Giving Watters pause, however, is the plan to block all vehicular traffic along several blocks of Bourbon. “I think it’s something that needs to be investigated very carefully,” he said.

Notably, he said, making the street a pedestrian mall could give rise to street performers, religious protesters and others wishing to exercise their First Amendment rights. “And if you don’t really have a firm plan for how you are going to handle that, you could create some chaos,” he said.

Gabbo is coming

One word. So mysterious. What could it possibly mean? Everyone is talking about it.
That's where Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell comes in. If you haven't seen it already, there's a huge billboard next to Interstate 10 between Carrollton Avenue and Jefferson Davis Parkway with her first name: No last name name, big block letters, and no indication she's running for mayor or any other office. And perhaps most notable of all, there's no indication who paid for it, which is required under state campaign laws.
Maybe it's just and ad for something we don't understand yet called "The Toya."  This is the same billboard that hosted a big ABV (Anybody But Vitter) ad during the most recent Governor's election.  At least that one complied with the campaign disclosure laws.

Anybody But Vitter

It was clearly labeled "Paid For By GumboPAC."  The style is similar, though. Maybe somebody associated with that knows what's up with this.

Monday, January 09, 2017

Welcome to Kern World

Last week, Cousin Pat wrapped up a series of informative posts diving deep into the murky waters of zoning and land use. (Part 1 Part 2 Part 3)  If you're interested in knowing why this stuff is so important, here's what he has to say about that.
Now, if you ask me about this process, I would tell you there’s a difference between the letter of the law and the spirit of the law. My biggest problem isn’t in a “corrupt” system, it is in an obscure system where citizens and voters and taxpayers never really know what is going on in their community until it is too late to say anything about it. I personally find that incredibly undemocratic, and I believe processes like that tear at the fabric of strong communities. While that sort of thing is all technically above board, it breaks the public trust through omission and obfuscation, and citizens throw up their hands and take a fatalistic, disengaged attitude toward their own city government. Sound like any place you know?
I only differ with him here in that I'm fine with calling something "corrupt" if this is what it looks like. Deliberately obscure systems that steer policy choices toward the benefit of an exclusive circle of insiders meets that threshold for me. In any case, the only remedy is finding ways to facilitate greater transparency and participation.  That isn't easy, of course.  Mostly what happens is developers and oligarchs get whatever favors they ask for.

We're just now finding out what Barry Kern and Joe Jaeger are asking for with regard to their recent investments.  Imagine, for example, the Times-Picayune building as the new American Can Company.  It's beginning to look like Kern might.
The group of local investors who bought the former Times-Picayune building last year are requesting mixed-use zoning from the New Orleans City Council — suggesting yet another major redevelopment in the works along the Pontchartrain Expressway.

The 9-acre property at 3800 Howard Avenue housed The Times-Picayune from the late 1960s until printing moved out of state in 2016. It was sold in September to a development group called 3800 Howard Investors LLC, which included developer Joe Jaeger, Barry Kern of Mardi Gras World, and Arnold Kirschman who recently redeveloped the 4500 block of Freret Street, according to a report in the New Orleans Advocate at the time.

The group does not specify its intentions for the property in its application, but says that mixed-use zoning will help pave the way for the future project.

“This site is currently zoned BIP Business Industrial Park District, though it is unlikely that offices or a business will be the new use here,” according to a letter submitted with the application. “The owner has therefore proposed changing the property’s zoning to MU-2 High Intensity Mixed-Use District, which would allow for the site’s full redevelopment.”
According to Uptown Messenger, the CPC staff is recommending against this change saying, among other things, that the requested designation is  “too intense for this physically isolated site, given the limited surrounding infrastructure, and the fact that the site is not easily accessible for vehicles or pedestrians.” That seems reasonable enough.  But when Kern's group bought the building, they clearly understood that those circumstances could change.
Jaeger's group also includes float builder Barry Kern, president of Mardi Gras World, developer Arnold Kirschman, whose family operated furniture stores in the metro area for nearly a century, and Michael White, a businessman.

"They have no specific plans or projected uses," Aamodt said. "They just want to participate in the growing New Orleans economy, and feel like the neighborhoods surrounding that location continue to get better."
They're so high on the location, in fact, that they've also purchased a warehouse not too very far from there. (Although getting from one building to the other is a bit convoluted because... well... CPC is correct about the area, basically.)  Anyway, they want to make that into an "indoor trampoline facility" which is apparently a thing you can have.
Kern is planning “an indoor trampoline facility” inside a 51,000-square-foot warehouse at 3035 Earhart Boulevard, just off South Claiborne Avenue, according to the application he filed with the city.

“This facility would be the first of its kind in the city of New Orleans, and would represent a great addition to the family friendly entertainment options the city has to offer,” Kern wrote. “This request would not greatly alter the fabric of the zoning district, but, if granted, it would expand the options for families looking for a safe, supervised place for their children to play.”
Anyway, Kern's group obviously has plans for the area. And Kern and Jaeger being who they are probably means that whatever plans they have are probably going to be permitted with or without CPC's approval. Because that is how this works in case you haven't been paying attention.

This also means we get to add KernWorld to our ever-expanding NOLigarchs map.  It isn't fully developed yet. And it's also probably a lesser dependency of Jaegerton for now. But, well, we know where it is, rougly.

New Camera Day

Might be a good time to get out and check the school zone signs again to see if they're flashing. Also time the yellows lights. Wouldn't want anyone to get caught unaware. Or maybe we would.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration, which announced this fall that the city would be expanding its traffic camera program in 2017, has released a list of 32 public and private schools where cameras will be helping to catch speeders and other traffic law violators in the new year.

Landrieu is pitching the expansion, which will nearly double the number of locations where speeders and red-light runners can be cited by cameras, as a safety measure, though it is also expected to help generate about $5 million a year in new revenue for the city.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The most popular health care policy option is...

The one we are the furthest away from at present
Well over half of Americans want to replace Obamacare with a single-payer system. That figure, amazingly, includes 41 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents — even though the wording of the question specifies that the program would be "federally funded." (Mind you, more than half of Republicans oppose the idea.)
Maybe if the Democrats had nominated the candidate who didn't say this would "never ever ever" be possible things would be different.

Naah. It's probably Putin's fault. 

Ambition makes you look pretty ugly

Louisiana Attorney General... um... Governor... er... US Attorney General Jeff Landry is here to undo the NOPD consent decree.
For Landry, the incident is proof that his agents can make a mark in cases where NOPD officers are hamstrung by what he called a "hug-a-thug" federal consent decree. He said NOPD policy would have prevented officers from embarking on the pursuit. "It places virtual handcuffs on the NOPD," he said of the department's sweeping reform agreement with the U.S. Justice Department. "That is not going to take violent criminals off the street. It has a plethora of problems."
Is he clear on just what the consent decree is supposed to have "hamstrung" NOPD from doing
The reforms aim to transform a culture mired in excessive force, unconstitutional searches and seizures and discriminatory policing, according to a copy [pdf] of the decree posted online. The NOPD has long been plagued by allegations of corruption and brutality, which resurfaced after the storm.

FRONTLINE has been investigating six cases of questionable post-Katrina police shootings for more than two years with our partners at ProPublica and the Times-Picayune. Federal investigations were opened in all six cases; 10 officers were convicted or pleaded guilty in the shootings of six unarmed civilians on the Danziger Bridge and ensuing cover-up, and three more were convicted for shooting civilian Henry Glover, burning a car containing his body and covering up the incident. (One of the convictions was overturned and the two remaining officers have filed appeals.) Another officer was convicted for shooting civilian Danny Brumfield outside the convention center where evacuees gathered in the storm’s aftermath.
Maybe these are the thugs he wants to hug. 

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Have a Convivial Carnival!

There they go. Don't blink.

And there went the sum of the action that was our annual ritual trudge out to wave at the Phunny Phorty Phellows regardless of weather conditions. Friday night those conditions were cold and rainy so we didn't spend quite as much time standing around drinking beer on the neutral ground as we might normally have.  But that's fine. Twelfth Night is really more of a moment of observance than it is a full-on celebration anyway.

On the other hand, that might be changing a little. Public Twelfth Night activities have expanded in recent years. That's pretty cool.  Did you know the Joan of Arc parade is already nine years old? This year the weather postponed them a day so we're celebrating a two-day Feast of the Epiphany this year.

And that's not all.  Here is Doug MacCash (I know, I know. That's who they sent.) covering the Not So Secret Society Of Champs-Elysees' inaugural ride on the Rampart streetcar.
Yet another new Mardi Gras custom may have been born Friday (January 6) in the chilly Crescent City, as a rolling Twelfth Night party rumbled along the tracks of the recently opened St. Claude Avenue/Rampart Street/Loyola Avenue streetcar line. The nascent krewe known as La societe pas si secrete des Champs-Elysees, or The Not So Secret Society of Elysian Fields, or simply The Society of Champs-Elysees, chartered a car in order to welcome in the 2017 Mardi Gras season with Champagne, king cake, conviviality, and a touch of chaos.

The evening began at Kajun's Pub, with fireworks and fanfare to greet guests and krewe royalty, including rhythm and blues maestro Al "Carnival Time" Johnson and activist Kathleen Barrow.  Despite a relatively stiff rain, the forty-member costumed rabble rambled to a red streetcar that waited two blocks away and climber aboard. With a lurch and a round of cheers, a new element was added to the growing downtown do-it-yourself Mardi Gras scene that has mushroomed since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The Society of Elysian Fields is similar to the venerable Phunny Phorty Phellows krewe that has ceremoniously ridden a St. Charles Avenue streetcar on Twelfth Night since 1982, though perhaps a tad more bohemian. In fact, rattling along with the costumed Not So Secret Society passengers was like finding oneself in the belly of a Bob Dylan song ... in the best way.
I'm sure the Champs-Elysees event was fun.  I thought I had read earlier that the group had planned a series of stops along the way that would have engaged more onlookers with something closer to the rolling street party feel one gets at an actual parade. The weather probably tamped that down a bit, though. That's a shame. But, still, congratulations them for doing a thing.

Anyway, if MacCash means to contrast the supposedly "more bohemian" nature of the Champ-Elysees with the supposedly more stuffy PPP, why does he write about it like a 19th Century society fop describing a romp at the estate of some lesser lord? Or, to put it another way, why does he write it up exactly the way Nell Nolan describes a deb party?
The beautiful clubrooms of the Pickwick Club were filled with distaff loveliness and festive formality when Mr. Pickwick hosted his 66th annual Debutante Presentation. Guests mingled from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. with the presentation punctuating the conviviality at 8 p.m. Two hours later, breakfast was served. And then the lively dancing commenced to the music of the Jimmy Maxwell Orchestra.
One thing's for sure This is to going to be one hell of a "convivial" Carnival.

Or maybe it won't be.  Hostilities are already beginning to rise in some quarters. For example, just as we thought we had finally gotten past the bad feelings engendered by interminable policing of premature king cake consumption, along comes the Worst King Cake Ever Created to rile everyone back up.
Food Network's Semi-Homemade host Sandra Lee is infamous for her "Kwanzaa cake" (Anthony Bourdain once called it "a war crime on television") and white chocolate polenta (which is exactly what it sounds like, plus thyme) , but what she calls a "Mardi Gras king cake" may be just as bad. It calls for one package of Pillsbury breadstick dough and a container of pre-made frosting — no cinnamon, no spices, no filling, no fun.
On the other hand, this may be an indication that the year over year search for the most absurdly elaborate king cake has finally imploded.  Sandra Lee is just here to blow it all up because nothing matters now.

Another indicator that the conviviality has yet to set in fully, the Krewe of Chewbacchus is still setting people off. Jarvis DeBerry explains in a recent column.
In January 2016 there was a second-line in the French Quarter for British pop star David Bowie, and in Treme in April those mourning Prince's death paraded there.

But neither of those second-lines was as controversial as the Krewe of Chewbacchus' announcement last week that it would lead a second-line for Carrie Fisher, the actress who played Princess Leia in the Star Wars franchise.   If you didn't know before that New Orleans is in a period of civil war, you know it now. People on each side are self-important and therefore needlessly antagonistic.

Davis Rogan, the musician and radio personality who became a character on the HBO show "Treme," wrote online that the Carrie Fisher parade was the one time he wished somebody would shoot up a second-line. Rogan later apologized on Facebook:  "In a discussion about cultural appropriation, I made a thoughtless and vastly inappropriate joke," he wrote. "It wasn't funny, even in context, and taken as an out-of-context screenshot, it looks horrific... I want to make it absolutely clear that I bear the Krewe of Chewbacchus no ill will whatsoever. I do not condone violence. I abhor violence, and I am sickened by violence at second lines. I apologize to everyone who was offended."
There's a lot of stupidity to litigate in this story and DeBerry does a good job of it.  He doesn't mention, though, that as asinine as Rogan's comments were, no sensible person should have interpreted them as an actual threat and informed the police of them which is what the Chewbacchus people did. So nobody is without blame here.

Still, one thing I wouldn't do is blame a Carnival club themed after Star Wars (and other sci-fi) fandom for paying tribute when one of its inspirations passes.  Maybe there are good reasons to ask why so many celebrity deaths seem to merit second line parades in New Orleans lately. Or maybe not. I don't really know.  But if we are gonna go down that road, the Carrie Fisher parade probably isn't the place to jump off from.  Besides, Jarvis DeBerry points out in his column that there are far more examples of questionable parading going on around conventions and corporate events. If you're really upset about the supposed cultural appropriation at work, it's probably best to start with those.

The NolierThanThou culture wars are tiresome. Like all culture war politics they tend to obscure the fact that the actual irritant at work here is class.  It's not really this simple but, roughly, we'd do better to stop arguing over cultural appropriation and think more about cultural commodification. This means we need to stop nit-picking each others' subjective style choices and start asking what it is that actually threatens our ability to enjoy our own.  There are infinite ways in which people experience and express joy. All of them have validity even those that don't happen to be your favorite. What obscures that, though, is the conversion of  folkways by which people express their joy into luxury goods.

What we once considered the simple pleasures of life in New Orleans; the food, the music, the so-called "street culture" of parties and parades became products packaged and sold for the enjoyment of tourists.  This isn't unusual and, to a degree it's fine. But we passed a point where the commodification has also meant exclusion. Central City is a popular parading ground for Mardi Gras Indians and second-lining organizations.  This makes it an ideal neighborhood to sell on Airbnb to tourists looking to #FollowTheirNOLA to an authentic experience. Sooner or later nobody actually lives in Central City anymore. Remember what the Native Americans of Grand Bayou said about being forced to leave their homes? "If you leave, you become someone else. You are no longer the same person. No longer the same people." 

The context of all of this is things that were once cheap or free but of great value culturally are being claimed by capitalism. And people are being deprived of their homes and their culture in the process. That's the source of the anxiety.  But we respond to our anxiety over that by attacking each other's aesthetic sensibilities rather than those who are monetizing ours. The problem isn't "hipsters."  The problem is the developers, hoteliers, and landlords getting rich off of your culture and turning it into something a hipster can conspicuously consume.

But none of this has anything to do with our capacity to experience and enjoy as much of the diversity of Carnival as we care to. These are public events that invite participation and elaboration regardless of how and by whom they are staged. I mean, most of us weren't born into the right family of corporate defense lawyers so we're never getting invited to the Rex ball. But a lot of us do like going to see the Rex parade. We're not all 'treppish transplanted comic book geeks either but Chewbacchus is a cool event too. There's a lot to see and do in the next month and a half. Do as much or as little as you wanna. As long as you can still afford to actually live here, you might as well actually live, right?

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Safest to just avoid the Quarter

For years I disagreed with the trope that real New Orleanians will advise visitors to avoid the quarter. I've probably spent more time in the bars there than I have in any other part of town. It helps to have worked down there, I guess. But I'm sure I'm not an exception.  Locals hang out in the Quarter. There's nothing wrong with that.

Or, at least, there wasn't until we started policing it with all these oddball semi-private and/or political goon squads the latest of which serves at the command of the Attorney General.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry on Thursday (Jan. 4) touted the work of a special task force in his office that made 11 arrests in New Orleans in the last quarter of 2016 - in messages to news organizations and on social media that highlighted violent crime in the city.

The move, and Landry's other recent messages about New Orleans crime, elicited a sharp response from the New Orleans Police Department accusing the attorney general of playing politics and vowing that the department would not be used as a "prop in political agendas."

Many political observers believe Landry may run for governor in 2019. Landry, in announcing the arrests, insisted the task force's work was about public safety and "not about politics."
Nine of the six arrests made by the "Violent Crime Task Force" were for marijuana possession.  Heckuva job.  On any given night, visitors can find themselves accosted by Aspiring Governor Landry's campaign props. That doesn't sound very safe. Maybe people should avoid the area. 

Hey Joe, you gotta go

The untouchable Joe Vitt has been touched.
NEW ORLEANS -- The Saints fired several assistant coaches, including former interim head coach Joe Vitt Thursday.

The Saints fired Joe Vitt, Bill Johnson, Greg McMahon, Stan Kwan and James Willis according to WWL-TV reporter Lyons Yellin.
Joe Vitt will always be remembered in New Orleans for two things; his entertaining press conferences during his brief 2012 stint as interim head coach and the strange fact that he kept hanging around on the staff through successive defensive overhauls.  Maybe the statute of limitations finally ran out on whatever dirt Vitt had on the Vicodin thing.  

The Year of Evictions

2017 and thereafter promises to be fun in New Orleans.
New Orleans' subsidized housing market is likely to see similar evictions in the coming years as federal grant programs expire and property owners begin flipping previously "affordable" units to market rate and luxury apartments. Breonne DeDecker with Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative told WWL-TV that "what's happening at the American Can we're going to see play out over and over again in coming next 10 to 15 years here in New Orleans."

About 1,200 subsidies are set to expire by 2021, and nearly 4,900 will expire by 2031. These expirations will effect more than 100 New Orleans housing developments, including apartment complexes in the CBD and more in Mid-City. Mid-City is soon to get another large-scale apartment development with the construction of a 382-unit apartment complex set just behind the American Can building on the Lafitte Greenway. That development will have a dozen affordably priced units as part of a "density bonus" allowing developers to build bigger than allowed under the area's zoning as long as they open units to lower-income residents. District B City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell proposed instead that developers instead chip $644,000 into a housing assistance fund to provide up to $46,000 to help with a down payment on a house for low-income families in the area; many housing advocates say that undermines the goal of creating more affordable units, particularly as mortgages still would be well out of range for most lower-income families.
LaToya Cantrell's ineffectual response there is telling.  She's gearing up to run for mayor this year and that means keeping the landlords happy. Cantrell's base support combines young 'treps, real estate developers, and Get-Off-My-Lawn neighborhood association types.  Yeah there are some contradictory faults in that coalition, but most of them agree on Cantrell.  It makes her an early and obvious frontrunner. But it also frequently requires her to turn a blind eye to the city's most vulnerable.

LaToya once told us 2015 would be "The Year Of Enforcement"

A few years later we see Cantrell has led the way in ramping up its enforcement apparatus against people who commit minor traffic violations, homeless people, and.. I guess... anyone who wants to shelter homeless people too close our nice things.  Meanwhile the crime (assuming LaToya meant violent crime) and the short term rentals and such, we're still pretty permissive of. 

So as long as we're living in the Year Of Enforcement for the poors but not for the rich, we're going to also be living the Year Of Evictions now and on into the future.

Wednesday, January 04, 2017

No need to change the tune

Grace wonders if Senator Kennedy's Appropriations Committee assignment will have any bearing on his insufferable rhetoric.
As for Kennedy, he ran for election as a wise-cracking critic of exactly the sort of tightly targeted expenditures that Appropriations members often try to land for their own constituents — things like research into Swedish bunny massage, which was actually aimed at improving injury recovery for humans. We'll see if he changes his tune now that he'll be the guy doing the appropriating.
But, really, there's no need. Kennedy can keep up the folksy bromides against medical research or public art or whatever other thing he wants to misrepresent as wasteful simply because it doesn't benefit anyone he depends on.   Meanwhile he can go right on making sure the Bollingers, for example, get whatever they might want out of the next Water Development bill and nobody will notice.

The thing to remember about "the tune," though, is that the song is about you. It isn't about them.

They won an actual bowl of citrus

What with the busy holiday and everything, this is a fun fact I must have missed.
LSU’s celebration of the 29-9 win over No. 15 Louisville swallowed Camping World Stadium on Saturday afternoon, moving from the field, to the locker room and spilling out into a tunnel underneath the 65,000-seat structure.

Orgeron was doused in a post-game Gatorade bath. In an on-field celebration, players tossed lemons and oranges into a small, but roaring, LSU fan section, swiping the fruit from the bowl of the Citrus trophy and hurling them into the stands.

They danced in the locker room, their coach doing a jig that had players chuckling. They celebrated with fans during the walk from the locker room to the busses, and their coach, in the same tunnel, posed for photos with his mother, Coco, and other family members.

“Bayou comes to Orlando!” Orgeron yelled while hugging his mother.
Also, Ed Orgeron is a complete nut. But that fun fact has been lost on no one. 

Fake news

What does the phrase mean? Who knows? Can mean anything, really. I'd say deliberate use of a large platform to spread demonstrable falsehoods is a pretty ok definition. But by that definition, the news has always been fake.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Retreat and resilience

We aren't going to save the Louisiana coast.
For 10 years, Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan has represented the state’s vision for preventing its bottom third from being consumed by the Gulf of Mexico.

That vision got a lot grimmer today with the release of the 2017 edition of the plan.

It predicts that even if everything works as planned, 2,800 square miles of coast still could be lost in the next four decades, and about 27,000 buildings may need to be floodproofed, elevated or bought out, including about 10,000 in communities around New Orleans. That’s under the plan’s new worst-case scenario for sea level rise and subsidence.

About 5,900 of those are in St. Tammany, including Mandeville, Covington and Slidell. That includes about 900 that may need to be bought out.

The new plan also has dropped the long-held claim that the state would be building more land than it’s losing by 2065.

Scientists in charge of the Coastal Master Plan said the more dire outlook can be traced to one striking fact: The worst-case scenario for human-caused sea level rise in the 2012 plan, 1.48 feet, has become the best-case scenario in the 2017 edition. In fact, the National Climate Assessment now estimates sea levels on U.S. coastlines could rise 4 feet by 2100.

At one point, many years ago, we could still think of coastal loss as a problem we could solve (as in halt the destruction and reclaim a bit of what was lost) given the necessary amount of money, political will, "awareness", etc.  Later it became a problem we couldn't solve anymore, but one we could possibly mitigate (as in slow the destruction and possibly protect what was still salvageable)... again, assuming the necessary factors and "stakeholders" could come together and get things done.

None of that happened. Because, of course, it was never going to happen.  That isn't how politics works.  Now, we're in a place where the disaster is going to happen no matter what we do.  And the game is more about deciding who bears the greatest costs of that disaster vs who maintains status or even comes out ahead.  Which is to say, we're finally onto the part of the dispute that politics can settle for us.

Given the way our politics is presently oriented, the dispute will be settled in a way that benefits the wealthy and scatters the poor. (Here is an example of that dynamic we highlighted last month.) The part of the coastal master plan that addresses who gets protected vs. who gets scattered is, naturally, the section about "Resilience."

In the 2017 draft, an entire section is devoted to “Flood Risk and Resilience.” It calls for spending up to $6 billion to protect — and in some cases, vacate — properties in areas that can expect flooding during the so-called 100-year storm.

Such a storm has a 1 percent chance of happening in any year. That’s the level of protection provided by the upgraded levee system around metro New Orleans, and it’s the threshold banks use to require flood insurance on mortgaged properties.

The agency says under the current worst-case scenario for sea-level rise, about 27,000 structures in 32 areas along the coast would qualify for one of three types of assistance depending on how badly they would flood. That’s even if the state achieves everything it sets out to do.

The communities include much of the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain, Houma, towns on the west bank of the river in Plaquemines Parish, and a swath of communities stretching from Lake Charles to Morgan City.

It is 2017 Are the monuments down yet?

The last we heard was the city wanted a heads up when the ruling was coming. So if you see the tactical gear State Police deploying again without explanation you'll know something might be up.

Monday, January 02, 2017

It wasn't that bad

I'm pretty sure that if you had looked around at everyone's preseason guesses about the Saints this year, 7-9 would have been a popular pick.  I know Varg and I agreed on that number on the fake radio show.  But it's interesting to consider the reasons we and the rest of the conventionally wise men had for arriving at that tepid prediction.

Most of us were worried about the injuries in the defensive secondary and the overall questionable offensive line.  As it turned out, neither of those things really doomed the team.  The DBs were problematic but not disastrously so. The defense overall improved significantly. The offensive line was far better than anyone expected. We're still not sure how that was even accomplished. What actually killed the Saints' playoff chances this year were a handful of pivotal accidents that turned against them in one-score games. Most of these occurred on special teams which we all agree were atrocious.  But that's football. Freaky close losses are still losses and Cliche Man is here to tell you that you are what your record says you are.

Having said that, this 7-9 team was far more entertaining to root for than the two that preceded it. The Saints showed the fans one of the NFL's best offenses featuring exciting young receivers who helped their Hall Of Fame quarterback pile up an unprecedented fifth 5,000 yard season.  Michael Thomas set all of the rookie records. Mark Ingram ran for 1,000 yards. The Ws and Ls don't reflect this but the quality of play generally appeared to improve throughout the season. Certainly there was never a time where fans would have gotten the impression the team had checked out.

So, it's been fun... enough, right? Well, not everybody thinks so.  Scroll through Twitter on any given Sunday and you'll find any number of irate pitchforks on the march after Loomis, Payton, or even Brees. That seems premature to me.  At least by one season, anyway.

It's too early to say how the offseason is going to go. But we do know the Saints have more money to play with than they've had in a while. We also know that they know that 38 year old Drew Brees knows his contract is almost up. Yeah yeah Drew wants to play until he's 45 or something. But let's be reasonable. He showed this season that he can still play at a high level. It's likely that he can do it again next year too. After that, though, it might be ok for him to go ahead and do the Joe Montana in Kansas City thing if that's what he wants. There's nothing wrong with that. If the plan is to bring Drew back for one last run (and there's no reason that shouldn't be the plan) then it follows that you'd probably want to retain the coach he's had so much success with for that final run as well.

That is, if the coach wants to come back.  Despite Payton's publicly expressed love for potholes and amoebas and stuff, the annual rumors about his departure are back. And this time there might be something to them.  Payton says here, "it would be silly" to comment about the reports that he might be traded. He then goes on to comment about the reports.
Hours later, sources told Larry Holder of NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about an hour-long meeting between Payton and Loomis following the game in which they discussed Payton's future.

"I've read Larry's report, for instance, about Mickey and I meeting, which was completely false," Payton said. "Mickey and I for the last 11 years after every game share the same locker room. We come in; we have a Gatorade. The first thing I ask Mickey every game is (about important officiating calls). We go through every penalty. Then, we go through and we eat a cheeseburger, and then we get on the plane.

"But if I'm going to answer questions to a report like that that's inaccurate, then we only just feed or turn the rumor mill, and I won't. And that's just the way it is, and you know what? That's tough."
So that's weird.  But it's been a weird year.  I happened to think it was more good weird than bad weird. Certainly enough to merit one more try with this head coach and QB if they both want to come back.  If it doesn't work out then, sure, we can talk about burning it all down next year. There's always time for that, though. 

Only seven more months until qualifying day

There's no rest for New Orleanians weary of politics in 2017. Under ordinary circumstances, this would have been a quiet year. But as it happens folks will need to keep their voting arms good and warm for a full round of municipal elections happening this fall.

The scheduling change was enacted a few years back in an effort to move the elections away from the busy winter/spring social season. This is probably for the best. But, since we aren't moving inauguration day until the following cycle, we do end up with a weird little one-time quirk.
The swearing-in switch would be delayed until after June 1, 2018, a political compromise that lets Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the current council serve full, four-year terms through May 2018 regardless of the vote's outcome. But that also means the next round of city leaders, if elected in October 2017, would have to wait more than six months to take office.

The first January inauguration would take place in 2022.
So, after the November run-off, we're going to go through an awkward transition where we have a newly elected government just kind of hanging around in the background all the way into May. Ray Nagin used to complain about the "shadow government" in this city but this takes things a bit literally. Imagine a local version of the uncomfortable dual Presidency we've been enduring for the past month and a half but extended for half a year. Should be fun.

That's just about the same amount of time, by the way, between now and the July deadline for candidates to qualify for these races.  So, sure, let's start trying to figure out who is running for mayor.

We're pretty sure LaToya Cantrell is in.  She was most recently spotted delivering this demagogic over-the-top praise of the city's latest installation of surveillance cameras.
The department won’t specify where the cameras will be located, but said they would be stationed first in high-traffic areas and crime hot spots.

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

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

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

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

“My constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue. They not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe.”
Never mind the confused bit about racial profiling. That is, of course, always a concern. But it isn't the primary complaint against panoptic tracking of everyone's public movements by the police which we probably shouldn't have to point out is just inherently bad.   But it's that "My constituents not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe," comment that really floors me.  LaToya clearly doesn't recognize these cameras as the quintessential example of  ineffective, expensive security theater that they are. In fact, she seems to be describing them as precisely the opposite of that. This is worrisome.

We also know Michael Bagneris is in although nobody can figure out, exactly, why.  Back in October, Bagneris told Danae Columbus that running for mayor "is in my DNA." Medical science has not yet developed a treatment for this condition. 

J.P. Morrell might run. He was a vocal opponent of City Council's disastrous decision to legalize short term rentals last year. Affordable housing figures to be a major issue in these elections.  Morrell also recently held a high profile fundraiser at the home of wealthy trash magnate Jimmie Woods which could signal big plans.

Speaking of wealthy trash magnates.  This guy exists.
"One of the reasons I like private [solutions] is because I am looking at my bottom line," he said. "I'm not looking at what's politically correct. I'm not looking at what makes sense in how I am going to get to my next office or who's going to vote for me so I can keep my job as a politician."

Coincidentally, Landrieu's term ends in 2018, and Torres is said to be considering a run of his own. Until that decision is made official, "Trashanova" is returning to the trade that first proved profitable. With the noncompete clause from selling his waste business in 2011 expiring in June, Torres is launching a new waste-management company, IV Waste, slated to begin serving private customers in early August.

"Business leaders should get involved — not just financially involved, but get their hands dirty and find a cause to help out," he said. "I think it's important."
At first glance, Torres would appear to have at least two things working against him.  First, the local political memory still retains at least some of the lessons it learned from its last experience with putting a not-a-politician "business leader" in charge of stuff. Second, it's not clear that New Orleans voters really take Sidney all that seriously. He won "Best Potential Candidate For New Orleans Mayor" in the most recent Gambit "Best Of New Orleans" poll which most readers took to be something of a joke. Sidney took out a full page ad to thank them anyway.

Thanks from Sidney

At the same time, there's this annoying familiar feeling in the back of our minds here. Something about a wealthy, charismatic entrepreneur/reality TV guy who nobody took seriously until it was too late.  Can't quite place it, though. It's probably nothing.

Jason Williams is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate. This is mostly on the strength of the impressive victory by which he was elected Councilman At-Large in 2014.  In that seat, though, he's possibly dampened enthusiasm a bit. Councilman Williams often seems cautious to a fault.

When he ran, Williams was emphatic about his belief in the council's role as "a check and balance on the administration."  "It's not supposed be a rubber stamp," he said. And yet, during the STR debate, Williams proved to be among the more gullible followers of the administration's party line. Williams parroted the prevailing argument about the overwhelming imperative to "appease the platforms" insisting that we could always go back and "tweak" the permissive ordinance later.  Hilariously, at that very same time, Williams' Facebook page featured an obviously hollow statement of support for the DAPL protesters.

State Rep. Walt Leger has certainly sounded at times like he might be running. That shouldn't be too surprising given that things didn't go as he'd hoped in Baton Rouge last year.  He's also not the only member of our local delegation who might be fed up with the situation up there. Karen Carter-Peterson, for example, may have had quite enough of that cake already. There's also State Rep. Helena Moreno who, though her name has popped up regarding the mayor's race, is more likely to run for Stacy Head's Council At-Large seat.

Is that everybody?  Probably not. Clancy DuBos also mentioned Troy Carter and Nadine Ramsey during a recent TV blurb. We'll see about that.  There's also this guy @LarryLarmeu from Twitter who has threatened to run for various offices every few months or so for years now. Larry now says he is moving to England. We'll see about that too, I guess.

What we really need now, though, is polling data. It's never too early. This has been frustratingly difficult to come by in recent local elections.  So this year we're not waiting around for UNO or SMOR to throw out their one anti-climactic survey a week before the election. Instead we're making our own.  Poorly, of course, but so what. What is our method? Well, we just threw a bunch of names into a Twitter poll. There were... um...  problems with this.

First off, Twitter only allows you to create polls with four options.  But, as you can see from all of the above, we've identified quite a few more potential candidates than that.  So we had to put them into two separate groupings. The names appeared in these groups randomly in the order that I happened to think of them.  As it happened, the first grouping received almost 20 more total votes than did the second. Does this make the second group the "kiddie table"? Maybe. Is this in any way fair or valid? Hell no. That's not really our purpose here today or ever, really.

Suffice to say, even for a Twitter poll, the methodology here is highly suspect and pretty stupid generally.  So we're looking forward to doing more of these periodically at least until qualifying day. Anyway here are the results. You can click here to see the groupings. Or, if you like, I've tallied up the total number of votes for every candidate along with each candidate's percentage of the 126 total votes cast. And so, here is your very first, very blurry snapshot of the 2017 race for Mayor of New Orleans.

J.P. Morrell  19%  (24 votes)

LaToya Cantrell  17% (22 votes)

Larry Larmeu 15% (19 votes)

Jason Williams 14% (18 votes)

Karen Carter-Peterson 11% (14 votes)

Sidney Torres 9% (11 votes)

Walt Leger 8% (10 votes)

Michael Bagneris  6% (8 votes)

The big takeaway here, I guess, is that things are pretty tight at this early stage!  And, hey, look at all those votes that suddenly become available once Larry leaves the country.  Anybody's game, right?

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Happy New Year

New Year's Eve

We welcomed 2017, as we have the last few years, by taking a walk out along the St. Charles Avenue streetcar tracks.  There's a spot right around Felicity Street from where you can get a decent view of the fireworks coming up off the river. Afterwards the walk back is a great way to hear the surprising amount of supplemental ordinance being detonated in the surrounding neighborhoods. We bring a bottle of champagne with us to swig along the way. The weather was drizzly and overcast last night so the walk was muddier than usual. Although the higher fireworks tended to disappear into the haze, most of the display was quite visible. I can never photograph fireworks with my phone, but imagine them in the top right quadrant of this picture.  It was nice.

This might seem absurd now but I remember feeling especially hopeful last year during that walk.  I don't remember specifically what the reasons were but I was looking forward to 2016. I'm an old now so my memories are more feelings than they are details, I guess. Anyway, I remember feeling like a corner was being turned and we were on to bigger and better things.

Well, that didn't work out so well. As Don Lemon might tell you, 2016 was awful. And that's not just because of the election or because of the superficial meme built around celebrity deaths. This was a difficult year personally for several reasons I guess I shouldn't get into here. Besides, it wasn't a total disaster. Compared to a lot of people's problems, this was more like a long hard slog of annoyances and inconveniences.  We made it through ok. That should count for something.

So what I think I'll remember most about last night is feeling grateful we're still here and we still get to do the things we enjoy. Maybe 2017 will go all to shit too.  But it doesn't necessarily have to.  And we can be here to find out.  That counts for something.

Anyway, break out the black eyes. Here we go again.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Do better, years

Sure sure 2016 was The Worst Ever. We're all so convinced of that for whatever reason. But consider, for a moment, that [CURRENT YEAR] has always been terrible.

Which is what we were thinking on New Year's Day 2016

And at the end of 2014

And 2012

And 2011

And, well, it kinda just goes on like this

The lesson, I think, is that we're never satisfied at this point every year and that's probably not such a bad thing.  Our world is full of injustice and things that make us sad generally. There's no reason to sit around and content ourselves with it.  2017 is likely going to be a lot like 2016 was except Donald Trump will be the President.  That's pretty fucked up, right?  Why should we normalize these crappy years? The 2010s have been rubbish.  We need to to better.  We can do better.  But doing better starts with admitting there's a problem.

So, yeah, let's tell 2016 to fuck off.  But let's also not expect our problems to magically go away when we flip the calendar. This is no time to tune out.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Or we could just build and maintain affordable housing for people

As long as our preferred policy involves giving money to developers so they can build nice things for rich people and then banking on their sense of "moral obligation" later, this is going to keep happening.
Some of the complex's tenants who are in low-income apartments - including a 95-year-old woman and many with disabilities - have been told they have to leave by the end of the year as the company converts those units to market-rate apartments.

“This is the beginning of a movement and we’re here to say that as long as these tenants want to stay we’re going to stay with them,” Gavrielle Gemma said. “We shall not move.”

At the end of the rally, tenants and supporters filled the lobby of Landrieu’s office calling for a meeting with the mayor. Walker said the mayor was unavailable but held a meeting with several tenants and administration officials including Councilwoman Susan Guidry, Landrieu's Chief of Staff Brooke Smith and Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Hebert.

“We think it’s absolutely important that when those timetables are done, when they’ve met their legal obligation, there’s a moral responsibility that companies have to work with their residents to give them enough heads up that those affordable units will change and we expect this company should work with their residents as well,” Walker said. When asked whether the administration considers American Can to be acting in an immoral fashion, Walker said, “I wouldn’t say that.”
Notice here as well that in the opinion of the Landrieu Administration, it's perfectly within the scope of that "moral responsibility" to kick the poors to the curb so long as you "give them enough heads up."

Let's "save" everything by killing it dead

The Trump Presidency is going to be so much fun.  Here is how this will go. The Republicans, who control basically every branch of government at every level for at least the next two years, are going to dismantle everything they can find and sell the parts of it to the wealthiest oligarchs.
President-elect Donald Trump is considering moving the Department of Veterans Affairs toward privatization, a transition team official said Wednesday, a policy decision major veterans’ groups have said they would oppose.

Mr. Trump is considering changing the department to allow some veterans to bypass the VA heath-care system completely and get care exclusively from private-sector hospitals and clinics, the official said. It is an option that could give veterans full choice over their health care, but which many veterans groups argue is the first step toward privatization and one that will reduce the quality of health care over the long term.
Next, Trump, will bray and tweet and boast about the tremendous job he himself did of very bigly saving the VA or public education or urban infrastructure or whatever the thing is we're actually turning over to robber barons that week.  Medicare first, probably
A great many medical providers adjust their prices based on how defenseless the patient is, and bleed the weakest ones for every last red cent, often with preposterously inflated charges for things like aspirin and bandages. A 2015 study looked at the worst price gougers in the country and found 50 hospitals that charged uninsured people roughly 10 times the actual cost of care.

Key to this practice is something called "balance billing," and it's why the American Medical Association is strongly supporting Donald Trump's pick of Rep. Tom Price (R-Ga.) to lead the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees Medicare. Balance billing is forbidden for Medicare enrollees, but Price wants to allow it — thus allowing doctors and hospitals to devour the nest eggs of thousands of American seniors.
And, since we've seen this cycle play out so many times now we know that it gets followed up by a lot of "both sides" punditry and resolute decision on the part of Democrats to definitely not put up much of a fight

The only problem here is this is where we used to say, "And that keeps on going until they blow up Social Security..." but that's pretty much where we are now.  So what even happens next?