Tuesday, November 12, 2013

See no evil

La. Supreme Court upholds ruling against N.O. anti-begging law.
Between 2010 and May, nearly 1,300 people were charged under the law at New Orleans Municipal Court, according to figures provided earlier this year by Court Clerk Chris Sens.

He did not respond to requests last week for updated figures; Municipal Court was closed for Veterans Day on Monday.

After Hunter’s ruling, the city attorney told the Police Department to no longer enforce the ordinance, said Tyler Gamble, a spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Gamble said the city is researching how to amend the law to comply with the judge’s decision.

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry, a lawyer, said after Hunter’s ruling in May that there was no evidence the council had ever been informed of the law’s flaws.
Nice touch with that "Guidry, a lawyer," thing they did there.  I can't decide if this means she's saying, "Nobody told me there was a problem here," or, "You can't prove we had any knowledge there was a problem,"  or which of those would be worse.

Of course this isn't the first time Guidry, a lawyer, has had difficulty comprehending First Amendment issues so we shouldn't be too surprised.

On the other hand, maybe she's got a point. Councilmembers seem to left out of all kinds of things lately.
The budget does not, however, include more than $1.5 million in Wisner-funded grants the city usually gives to local charities. As long as the lawsuit is winding through appeals courts, the city doesn’t plan to allocate any Wisner grant money. That could put some of those charities in a bind.

But even if the money were included, Landrieu’s General Counsel Erica Beck said, the council would have no control of it.

“The council has traditionally not appropriated any of that grant money,” Beck told the council. “We’ve received no indication from the judge that we need to change.”

But as blogger Jason Berry recently pointed out, New Orleans Municipal Code appears to give the council control of the fund. In fact, Berry reported, that “check and balancewas central to the city’s argument that the fund should be declared public.

“If there is in fact council oversight,” asked Head, “and there is a check and balance for this government fund, when do I have that council oversight that is part and parcel to that check and balance?”

During her remarks on the Wisner Fund, Head also objected to the process for handing out NOLA for Life grant funds, saying it wasn’t transparent, which led to funds going to charities that lacked proper financial documentation.

Berry adds here that the administration's attempt to have it both ways on the question of city oversight grants the Wisner fund an amorphous "Public-ish-iness" quality.

I watched some of that meeting on TV. My favorite part of the discussion on oversight of the Wisner property was when Jackie Clarkson, a real estate agent, blithely accepted Beck's argument at face value agreeing  that it was basically none of the Council's business.  But unless we can produce "evidence the council had ever been informed" of the city's arguments in the Wisner case, they'll keep pretending not to see them.

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