Friday, May 30, 2014

He must finally be vested in the pundit pension plan

Bobby Jindal has written enough op-eds by now. It's about time he started adhering to the customary standards and practices.  This is a pretty good step in that direction.
WASHINGTON -- Gov. Bobby Jindal didn't disclose in his newspaper column this week supporting for-profit colleges in their fight with the Obama administration that his brother, attorney Nikesh Jindal, represented the schools' association in an earlier legal fight with the administration.

Might as well make the money now

If we were to play devil's advocate for a minute with regard to gentrification, it's worth pointing out that the State of Louisiana isn't very well invested in the city even being here for much longer.
The Louisiana Legislature finally approved a bill Friday morning saying it opposes and wants to kill the levee board lawsuit seeking recompense from 97 oil and gas companies for environmental damage to the wetlands.

The state Senate voted 25 to 11 to concur with House amendments. Senate Bill 469 now goes to Gov. Bobby Jindal for his signature.

The legislation would reach back and change the conditions under which the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East, called SLFPA-E, could sue.
So long as the coast is falling into the sea anyway, our legislators figure they might as well allow the extractive industries who dominate the state's economy pull all the money they can out of it in the meantime, right?

I suppose we could say the same for the high priced playground for tourists and adventurers we're building in New Orleans.  It'll all be gone in less than a century anyway.  Might as well let the dominant players make their money now.  What are the rest of us even doing here?

Let go or be dragged

Earlier this week, the mayor likened the post-Katrina changes in New Orleans's housing market to a laboratory experiment. WWL asked how that's going
The most recent report on apartment occupancy in the New Orleans area indicates landlords have no reason to lower rents.

Local real estate consultant, Wade Ragas, expects occupancy rates will remain high in the region for, at least, the near future.

"Because we have gone through a number of years, trying to replace the damaged housing stock," Ragas says. "The market here has grown in population, particularly in Orleans Parish, and the result is that all the better quality apartments are pretty much full or they're at 94, 95 percent occupancy."

And, as occupancy rates go up, rental rates follow.

"I don't think we've seen a top in either," says Ragas. "There's not that many new units coming into the market. There's some growth of new units in and around the CBD, but they're very expensive units and they're in high-rise type properties, mostly."
Building nice things for rich people to live in does not relieve the pressure on housing costs for the rest of us.
The real estate website Zillow says the percentage of income spent by New Orleanians on housing was a steady 13 percent during the 1980s and 1990s. That number shot up to 35 percent in the past few years.
It's weird that people who understand what trickle-down economics is don't get that focusing on the needs of the wealthy doesn't magically bestow benefits on the population at large.  All we're doing in New Orleans is building nice things for rich people. The rest of us are being displaced or, as the Mayor enthusiastically put it yesterday, experimented upon.
"New Orleans has become the nation's laboratory for innovation and change," Landrieu said. "The work you see going on especially in housing, from homelessness to low-income housing to the private sector creating public-private partnerships with us, is doing spectacular stuff. You see what it means when I said we did not rebuild New Orleans back the way she was, we built New Orleans back the way she always was supposed to be."
Last month during the height of a controversy over the proposed conversion of the former Holy Cross High School into a luxury condo tower, the PR consultant running a phony campaign in favor of the condos put this more bluntly.
Velocity also created the Revive Lower 9 website and Facebook page. The site notes the connection to Perez. The Facebook group says Revive Lower 9 is “is a group made up of New Orleanians with big plans to bring jobs, community outreach and opportunity to the Historic Lower Ninth Ward.”

The Facebook page has posts about the revitalization of New Orleans and the Lower 9th Ward, as well as calls to support the Holy Cross project. One post Monday:
In just 3 days, this city has a choice to make.

Will you stand in the way of progress, or embrace the development and growth New Orleans has been waiting for?

This is our chance. Together, we WILL ‪#‎reviveLower9‬ !
Another post Monday didn’t go over as well with a few people:
New Orleans named America’s Top New Brainpower City by Forbes. …

This city is taking off – if you can’t keep up, let go or be dragged.
If you've grown up in New Orleans, you tend to have a bad attitude about being told to "let go."  At least that's what any number of songs, T-Shirts, and marketing campaigns would have you believe.   So it follows that a lot of us will just have to brace for being dragged.  One way we are told we can manage this is by, literally, doubling up in our homes. Or.. "sharing" them.. as the term of art goes.
While San Francisco has recently cracked down on some particularly high-volume Airbnb renter-hosts, Chiu and other “sharing” advocates are trying to pass legislation to make the practice legal. In its defense, Airbnb says San Francisco residents need their service so they can afford to pay their rent — ignoring that San Francisco housing costs have been pushed so high in part because of the influx of exceptionally well-paid tech employees who work at places like Airbnb, currently valued at $10 billion.

Across the U.S., high costs of living are driving more of the employed toward “side hustles,” i.e. unprotected freelance work, the kind fostered by the sharing economy. Where workers don’t have the start-up investments necessary to participate — the cars, homes, kitchens to rent — then they can just rent those too. Lyft’s new luxury service is aimed at encouraging non-car owners to drive for the company, giving them a lease option on impractical “custom” “premium” Ford Explorers.

The sharing economy’s success is inextricably tied to the economic recession, making new American poverty palatable. It’s disaster capitalism. “Sharing” companies are not embarrassed by this — it appears to be a point of pride.
If you're a heretofore urban dwelling person of modest means, the message is plain.  Unless you're willing to make some pretty uncomfortable sacrifices, you're just not good enough to be where you are anymore. Let go or be dragged.

Of course the idea of Airbnb as a bootstrapping machine for the downtrodden is mostly bullcrap. While surely some Airbnb hosts are using the service in order to keep from having to "let go" this can't be anyone's permanent solution to escalating housing costs.  It may work as a temporary stopgap for the young and childless but families aren't likely to jump at the "opportunity" to share their homes with strangers just in order to pay bills.

Instead they're likely to ship on out to suburbia sooner or later.  If they're lucky maybe they can commute back to their now gentrified neighborhoods.  It remains to be seen how New Orleans might handle the inevitable strain on transportation.  In San Francisco, line cooks are getting Uber gift cards. So that's nice.

Meanwhile, the real potential of Airbnb is as a means of profiting from residential real estate without having to sell or rent to long term residents. As New Orleans becomes even more dominated by tourism this is an attractive prospect to investors. 

Yesterday the City Planning Commission met to discuss possible revisions to the city's short-term rental enforcement measures.  The Airbnb issue is starting to generate more attention locally as this recent WWLTV report attests.   Thursda's meeting, though, was attended by a "handful" of Airbnb proponents including former City Attorney Bob Ellis (Yes, that Bob Ellis) so you know they're clearly just average folks looking to scrape by.

In any case, NOLA.com cheeringly, as always, saw fit to call them a "movement." Like their counterparts in San Francisco, this "movement" is interested in legalizing and regulating the short term rental market.
The short-term rental supporters, which included some lawyers, identified themselves as members of a new group called the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity.

One of them, Bob Ellis, told the Planning Commission that the group was created specifically to come up with a plan to legalize short-term rentals, which have multiplied in recent years thanks to websites like Airbnb.

Ellis said that the group was working on an economic impact study focused on the effects of informal rentals on the economy and an ordinance that would legalize, tax and regulate them.
As of now, the city's plan is to tax the hell out of residential properties whether they are short-term rentals or not.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s proposal to nearly double property taxes for police and fire protection got the approval of the state Legislature on Thursday, putting the question before voters statewide and in New Orleans in the coming months. The portion of property taxes that go to police and fire protection could rise from about 10.5 mills to 20 mills. That would cost the owner of a $150,000 house about $143 more a year.

Before that would happen, voters statewide and in Orleans Parish would have to approve the increase in November. Then New Orleans voters would have to approve it again in an election set by the City Council.
The reason the tax increase has to go through so many hoops is because it requires a constitutional amendment.  It's also apparently not subject to the homestead exemption which means property owners will pay this tax regardless of whether they're occupying the property or renting it out.. perhaps via Airbnb.

So obviously they'd want to at least have the option to do that. Otherwise they'd be faced with a choice between cashing out of a superheated housing market now or staying in and paying double their property tax millage. You know, "let go or be dragged."

Count the days to French Quarter Gun Fail Day 1

This certainly can't end any way but well.
They call themselves the French Quarter Minutemen and are made up of all volunteers who possess concealed handgun permits.

The founder told WDSU they are not vigilantes, but additional eyes and ears in an area of the city very sacred to them.

"We all share a common love for the French Quarter and we want its beautiful history to be preserved," said Aaron Jordan.

Jordan said what inspired him to form the group was the severe beating of jazz musician Doug Potter, who was attacked after a gig in the Quarter right outside the 8th District Police Station.

"That would lead me to believe more citizen involvement can only help," Jordan said.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014


The city took over control of HANO today.
"New Orleans has become the nation's laboratory for innovation and change," Landrieu said. "The work you see going on especially in housing, from homelessness to low-income housing to the private sector creating public-private partnerships with us, is doing spectacular stuff. You see what it means when I said we did not rebuild New Orleans back the way she was, we built New Orleans back the way she always was supposed to be."
We could have been talking today about the rising cost of living and the attendant pressures on working class residents of New Orleans's ever diminishing stock of public housing. Instead we're talking about experimenting on people and drawing allusions to an imaginary ladder out of homelessness.

"Where there’s no dredging, there’s hardly any land loss. It’s an inescapable conclusion."

The political battle over the SLFPAE's lawsuit was featured on PBS last night. Here's the segment.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Club members passing each other money

BP lost another round in appeals court today.
NEW ORLEANS – The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals denied BP’s motion to keep a stay in place to block thousands of business claims payments while the oil giant appeals its settlement to the U.S. Supreme Court.

But that does not mean the payments can start flowing again. The appeals court usually takes seven days to issue a mandate lifting the stay, and that seven days typically starts with the court's last ruling on the matter.

The ruling Tuesday was not unexpected. The same appeals court had just shot down BP’s effort to reinterpret its multi-billion-dollar claims settlement with private businesses. BP had argued that more than 1,000 undeserving  businesses had been paid by the settlement’s court-appointed claims administrator.
There's a SCOTUS appeal pending, of course. And that leads us to perhaps the most perfect passage in this whole ongoing saga. 
BP has a potentially powerful ally in that effort. The Supreme Court justice assigned to the 5th Circuit is Antonin Scalia. He has granted such special injunctions in the past, in one case acting on his own to delay a settlement payment for eight months, even though the Supreme Court ended up not agreeing to hear the case.

Also, Scalia’s son, Eugene, is a partner at Gibson Dunn, the law firm representing BP in its appeal.
 Because of course all of the players here are inappropriately interrelated in all sorts of ways.

Keep that in mind as you pick through the latest AZ post featuring interview segments with ousted DHECC  attorney Lionel Sutton.

Better build some more luxury housing

We've got all sorts of neat stuff we need to pay for.
With the exception of City Park, which falls under the auspices of the state of Louisiana, New Orleans foots the bill for these green spaces out of its general fund (though the city uses $1 million in federal Community Development Block Funds for recreation expenses.) Crescent Park and the greenway alone will add roughly $1 million more to a maintenance budget that tops $7 million. Parks and Parkways, which keeps up road medians, some parks and other public spaces, now swallows up $3.3 million per year. The New Orleans Recreation Department Commission is up to $3.1 million, and operating and maintenance for Crescent Park is $659,000. The greenway is still under construction, but the city estimates it will add $300,000 to the yearly maintenance tab. There have been discussions about putting a parks millage on the ballot, but nothing official has yet been announced.
As we've seen time and again, the city's official policy response to rising infrastructure costs continues to be a campaign to attract wealthier residents who can pay higher rents and property taxes. In order to keep them, though, we may have to build even more parks.
Recently, the Downtown Development District (DDD), the fastest growing census tract in town, created an advisory board to find a way to bring more parks to downtown New Orleans. Developers creating luxury and warehouse apartments in the district told the board that the professionals they rent to rank greenspace near the top of their required amenities. Sarah Olivier from the Trust for Public Land’s New Orleans office, who served on the advisory board, says that the DDD’s research showed that the district’s new residents like urban areas but they are also looking for ways to escape. “They want parks,” Olivier says.  
It's either a virtuous or a vicious circle depending on whether you're a wealthy newcomer (or "snowbird" if you like) who can afford to play the parks and condos game or if you're among the rest of us who'll be moved out of the way in order to make room for it to proceed.

The new City Hall or the old one?

Seems like the proposed new City Hall would make a more appropriate setting for this.
More than 200 people are expected to gather in front of City Hall at Duncan Plaza Thursday (May 29) to demand that Louisiana expand its Medicaid program.

The rally, scheduled for 5 p.m., is being organized by the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, which is holding its annual conference in New Orleans this week.
But I guess this is the best you can hope for from a rally organized by people in town for a conference.  Everyone at City Hall who has gone on the record seems to agree with their position anyway. 

Saturday, May 24, 2014

"The gravity of discontent pulls to the right"

Pretty good TV segment with Chris Hayes and Thomas Frank.
Thomas Frank appeared on Chris Hayes' show Friday night to discuss Kansas after Hayes' in-depth look at what has been going on there, from the failure to expand Medicaid to nullification of all gun regulations.

"The gravity of discontent pulls to the right," Frank said. He also said it was "a failure of Democrats to win places like Kansas."

It's hard to imagine Democrats winning big in a state like Kansas where so much of the political lubrication comes from Koch Industries and their converts. Still Frank has dished up some real food for thought for Democratic voters and the Democratic party as a whole.

When Chris Hayes suggested that Democrats are trying to win by running on a "lets get back to the center" strategy, Frank shot back with a stinging indictment. "The people who are saying that are very well-intentioned, but you can't have a center if you don't have a left!" He went on to explain.
For Democrats the strategy right now seems to be not to rock any boats, keep the bankers happy, and appear to be the relatively sane party  until "demographics" make them the permanent majority or whatever.

This is a dubious strategy. For one thing, it didn't work that way last time
Now that was a demographic time bomb that encompassed the most radical left-wing young generation in history. And guess what happened?  A powerful conservative movement happened that culminated in the election of Ronald Reagan just 14 years later. Perhaps it’s not genetics that is determining their behavior but rather their own experience.

This is not to say that millennials will not be much more liberal than their baby boomer forebears turned out to be, but it would likely have been predicted by many after 1964 that the Republicans had better figure out how to cater to “the youth” or they were doomed. But they didn’t. They catered to fear and resentment and anger and loss and they built their movement around it.
I wouldn't bank on fear and resentment going out of style any time soon. 

Friday, May 23, 2014

We must have skipped a season

I didn't see a single buckmoth caterpillar anywhere this year. And now we've already moved on into termite season.
Formosan termites are swarming throughout the New Orleans area on Thursday night (May 22), as a combination of meteorological conditions provided just the right conditions for the winged, reproductive version of the insect to leave their nests.

Hundreds of termites were flittering around light poles in the French Quarter, and were reported flying at Zephyrs Field where an AAA baseball game was underway.
Time.. flies.. as it were. Only a few more weeks until roach season. 

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Justice system works fine for elites

This probably serves to further illustrate the previous post. Here we see Renee Gill Pratt is deciding to employ the very popular Chewbacca Perricone defense.
Former New Orleans City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt asked Thursday for a new trial in her federal corruption case, arguing that former prosecutor Sal Perricone "was inciting the prejudice" against her with anonymous comments posted on NOLA.com.

In a motion filed by her attorney, Michael Fawer, she seeks an evidentiary hearing to explore how Perricone's conduct and his comments about Gill Pratt's case tainted her indictments and trial. The motion also said the government leaked information to the press about related cases involving members of the family of ex-Congressman William Jefferson.
Basically we're at a point where any politician who has ever been the subject of an unflattering opinion expressed online is automatically immune from prosecution. That's just how democracy works now.

It's all about them

Dambala has been writing about the BP claims process forever now. In the introductory text to this interview with attorney Lionel Sutton, he describes one crucial lesson he's learned that many others seem to have missed.
The problem is, this story isn't a dichotomy. There is a third party, the most important party, the people of the Gulf Coast who have been devastated by the BP oil spill and will continue to suffer for decades. The reality is both BP and the "good ol' boys" running the show aren't nearly as divided with each other as the two entities are against the people to whom they are supposed be providing relief. That complexity seems to be too difficult for MSM outlets like 60 Minutes, The New York Times, The LA Times, WWL-TV and a host of others to wrap their heads around.
BP vs. the claims attorneys seems like an obvious way to frame this story. So it isn't surprising to see most reporters set out to tell it that way. On the other hand, maybe the assumption that this process will result in justice for the actual victims of the disaster which set in motion is a little naive.  

Matt Taibbi's new book is called, The Divide. It's about the emergence of a bifurcated system of American justice where the poor are held starkly accountable for most meager offenses and the wealthy are treated more softly and in many cases are even above the law. This is from a recent interview with Taibbi in Salon.
Morally, it doesn’t work anymore. You just cannot have a society where people instinctively know that certain people are above the law, because it will create total disrespect for authority among everybody else. And that’s completely corrosive. You need to have people believing in the system to some degree — even if it’s just an illusion, you need to have them believing. And that was … another thing I was trying to get to in this book, the difference between what happened in the Bush years, with the scandals with Adelphi and Enron and Tyco, and what happened now, [when] they just stopped seeing the necessity of keeping up appearances. They didn’t even make a few symbolic prosecutions, and so it leaves the entire public with this glaring statistic that there were no prosecutions and there was massive crime. How does that make anybody else feel? How does it make you feel when you pay a speeding ticket, you can’t write that off, but HSBC can write off its $1.9 billion fine for drug trafficking? People start to think about these things, and they start losing their faith in the system and it doesn’t work anymore.
Is this process a farce entirely?  Well, no, it's more complicated than that.  But should someone be asking whether its more about protecting BP and enriching the attorneys who play ball with BP than it is about remunerating victims and exacting justice?  Yeah someone should be asking that.  Probably more than just one person, though. 

Good shot

"Poll show Mitch Landrieu has good shot at becoming LA gov."
A Southern Media and Opinion Research poll on the 2015 governor's race shows Landrieu, a Democrat, tied with Republican Senator David Vitter in a hypothetical primary. Both get 29 percent in the survey, well ahead of any other potential candidates.
"Good shot" Sure, that is unless the two frontrunners make the runoff together (crazy thought, I know) in which case, according to the same poll,
The same poll shows Vitter leading Landrieu 53 percent to 42 percent in a runoff.
Similarly, we might have read this March poll showing Edwin Edwards leading the pack among Sixth Congressional District hopefuls and concluded he also has a "good shot" at winning.

Edwards even does better than Mitch in hypothetical runoffs vs his Republican opponents.
In two runoff scenarios, Claitor and Graves both beat Edwards by an identical margin of 52-47 percent.
So, for some reason, these results mean that Mitch has a "good shot" while we're still wondering, "Should we take Edwin Edwards seriously?"  Why is that?

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

If you didn't want to flood you wouldn't have so many dang levees

Here is the majority consensus among the Louisiana Legislature.

If oil and gas production is going to cost us  the entire southeast portion of the state it's pretty much worth it. Also if we really cared about flood protection, then we probably shouldn't have built all that flood protection.
“This bill is a 110 percent get out of jail free card,” said Gladstone N. Jones, a New Orleans lawyer representing SLFPA-E, said of the bill’s impact on the oil and gas industry’s failure to cleanup after itself.

Dove questioned Jones on why SLFPA-E sued only the oil companies and not the lumber interests, federal government and others who might have contributed to coastal erosion.

“It’s a good question,” Dove said.

“Not really,” Jones replied.

Oil and gas industry activity is responsible for 36.7 percent of the coastal loss, according to studies, Jones said.

Dove responded: “Did the oil companies build the levees on the Mississippi River?”

Much of the coastal damage also was caused by levees channeling the soil carried in the Mississippi River off the continental shelf rather than replenishing the wetlands.
So long. Thanks for all the oil. 

There have been a lot of terrible people being terrible in the legislature this session

Hard to say any individual has been more terrible than Katrina Jackson.
Jackson, a Democrat from Monroe, described the measure as “one of the pieces of legislation that will be most impactful to this state regarding the pro-life movement.”

Abortion-rights groups say doctors who provide the procedure have difficulty getting hospital privileges, not because of their credentials, but because hospitals are leery of the attention those privileges could draw.

Proponents say the measure will ensure women have access to proper care if they have complications from an abortion, describing possible medical problems like hemorrhages, cervical injuries and infections.

Opponents say the restrictions are medically unnecessary and designed to limit abortion access. They say the legislation will shut down all abortion clinics south of Shreveport, creating the need for a five-hour drive each way for women who live in the southeastern end of the state.
Meanwhile, the legislature managed to pull off one last abortion for the road.
A Louisiana House committee Wednesday voted to specifically kill the lawsuit filed by a New Orleans-area levee board.

The House Committee on Natural Resources amended Senate Bill 469 to say that the Louisiana Legislature wants this measure to apply retroactively and that lawmakers oppose the lawsuits filed last year by Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority — East against 97 oil and gas companies claiming environmental damage to the marshes.

So how soon do we get to start Airbnbing our beachfront propety?

A hundred years sounds like a long time but fifty is beginning to hit the range of a decent long term investment.
"Got that sinking feeling?”

A set of slides from a recent presentation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration makes clear that the familiar figure of speech isn’t just a state of mind for residents of coastal Louisiana.

A set of slides from a recent presentation by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration makes clear that the familiar figure of speech isn’t just a state of mind for residents of coastal Louisiana.

It’s a reality – and one that poses serious challenges to the region’s future.

Produced by LSU researchers, the slides project Louisiana’s growing vulnerability to storm surge through the end of the century, as we get hit with a double-whammy: rising Gulf waters and the continued subsidence of a mud-starved coastal plain.

The projections show that by 2050, the combined forces could raise Gulf surges as much as four meters (13.1 feet) above current land elevations in the metro area. By the end of the century the entire coastal zone — all the way to the northern shorelines of Lakes Pontchartrain and Maurepas — would be vulnerable.

A house is not a motel

Short term rental enforcement is hard work, apparently.  Also there's a lot of it to do.
Websites like airbnb.com and vrbo.com show that there are hundreds of illegal short term rentals on the market in New Orleans.

The phenomenon is destroying neighbors quality of life and changing the fabric of neighborhoods that are primarily residential, said Caron.

“I would say probably one in every eight to 10 houses now is an illegal short term rental or bed and breakfasts,” said Ken Caron, of his Marigny neighborhood.
The problem, though, is building a case against violators given the structure of the regulations.
Currently, the city says it would have to prove that a landlord didn't just advertise the property, but sucessfully rented it out short term over the course of at least a year "non-residents," a term that is not clearly defined.
Based on my own observation I can point to a couple of buildings in my neighborhood that have been "successfully rented out short term over the course of at least a year" but I'm not in the business of turning people in to the cops.. or to their mortgage company.. or to whomever might have some authority.. it's not clear that anybody has much.

In any case my working theory is that the city isn't interested in stopping any of this activity.  From their point of view these are non-blighted properties which they can tax (at a much higher rate soon if things go their way in the legislature) and not have to share the revenue with the several state tourism entities who get most of the hotel/motel tax. 

This vision for New Orleans is ultimately an expensive resort based on around  tourism serving more tourism. Whether or not that's very appealing to us doesn't matter. Fiscal and economic viability from the point of view of the elites is what matters. To the city, it doesn't matter if every house is really a motel.. or if anyone really lives in your neighborhood anymore.

Could you make it anywhere?

This graph put together by NPR  based on a recently released government data set purports to show median incomes of American cities adjusted for the relative cost of living there within certain strictures of subjectivity. For example,
What is interesting about this data set is that it accounts for the things that people actually buy in each city. For example, while owning a car may be way more expensive in New York City than it is in Kansas, car ownership is relatively rare in New York City, so it's not going to figure as prominently in a New Yorker's cost of living.
Anyway, the idea is to arrive at some comparable measure of affordability across various metro areas.  One interesting comparison involves New Orleans which adjusts a median income of $29,489 to a "feels like"  rating of $28,939.   New York City adjusts a median income of $37,064 down to $28,799.

In other words, if you're making the median income in either city, you're doing basically just as well.  The reason we keep hearing about how much more "affordable" New Orleans is compared to other places, though, is because the people telling you that are almost always pulling down an income significantly higher than the median. They can afford it. So something must be wrong with you, right?

Political hits

At the beginning of the legislative session we were told that the only reason Mitch Landrieu's tax increase proposals stalled last year was because of political disgruntlement within the New Orleans delegation. J.P. Morrell, in fact, called it a "political murder victim."
Last year, the mayor’s legislative package included the property tax hike as well as a bid to reduce the number of juvenile judges in New Orleans. Landrieu — like others — thought the judicial downsizing bill would pass. Plans moved forward on a new courthouse that would accommodate only four courtrooms, not enough room for the existing six-judge setup.

The judge bill failed, however, and the property tax hike met a similar fate, dying in the Senate.

State Sen. J.P. Morrell, who supports the tax increase, blames the failure on political spite. “There was a hit out on Mitch Landrieu bills, and unfortunately, that bill got caught in the crossfire,” Morrell, D-New Orleans, said Monday.
But, we were also told that the mayor's sweeping reelection victory had put all of this to bed and so there should be no problem with any of this stuff this time around.  So the question is, what's the excuse this time? Two of Landrieu's proposed tax increases have failed and a third (admittedly the big property tax millage) is still in play but barely.

Maybe these New Orleans lawmakers don't have the stroke to call out political "hits" on people the way they thought they did.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Pimp my not-pothole

Sure, Gambit, go ahead and run your "pimp my pothole" contest after ours is filled in.

Yes, that description dares to ask, "Where is New Orleans most iconic pothole?" I don't... I can't...

Look, never mind that right now. I'm not entirely sure our sinkhole is even disqualified.  Sure, it's been filled, technically speaking. But it hasn't exactly been fixed.  It's just a big break in the street filled in with dirt and bricks.

Oh and also some potting soil.  We put that there in order to plant sunflowers.  They're doing pretty well so far.


Sunflower seedlings


Sunflower plants

Still there

Still a ways to go, obviously. With any luck they'll begin to flower just as the city arrives to repair the curb and pave them over.

Fingers crossed

Maybe they won't make us do it this time.
The last time New Orleans captured a Super Bowl, the final two obstacles were Minnesota and Indianapolis.

That’s the case again Tuesday. But instead of having to defeat the Vikings and Colts, respectively, this time it’s a battle with the cities they call home for the right to host Super Bowl LII in 2018.
I cannot fathom why anyone would actively root for the NFL to bring its big bloated corporate shit show here.  It's basically a living exhibition of everything that's wrong with "the business side of sports" and therefore America paraded before everyone's eyes.  Oh and your team probably isn't even playing in it.

We're not yet in quite the bad shape that other cities hosting major sports events against a backdrop of  gross inequalities are but it's the direction we appear to be headed.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Shit my Jackie says (bonus edition)

Even from beyond retirement, Jackie informs us that NOPD closes at 1:00 am.
The new ordinance leaves the rescheduling of rained-out parades to the mayor. There previously had been a schedule dictating when each parade would run if it had to be rescheduled because of bad weather.

“This is because we ended up with five parades one night until 1 o’clock in the morning, at which time there is no safety and no security,” Clarkson said. “We have to start getting a little more serious about this.”
"No safety and security," none at all in the morning hours... unless the police/fire property tax millage passes, of course in which case help is certainly on the way.

Anyway, besides helping Jackie Clarkson and Latoya Cantrell get to bed on time, the new ordinances  also limits the number of parades to 30. There are currently 34 but the number is expected to reduce by attrition. In order to facilitate this, it creates something called a "Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council." 
The ordinance also establishes the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council, made up of representatives from each Carnival organization that paraded the previous year, as a committee that reports directly to the mayor. The body, among other things, will consider applications from prospective Carnival krewes and make recommendations to the mayor about whether a permit should be granted.
In other words, any upstart newcomer to the parading schedule must meet the approval of the already existing community of parading clubs. Thus the trend away from 19th Century style elitism and toward a more open and democratized Carnival is, at least in some small way, reversed.  Very retro.

Leger's razor

Not sure why he feels like we need to go all the way up to Grover Norquist to find someone to blame.
State Rep. Walt Leger III, D-New Orleans, blames Grover Norquist. Norquist leads Americans for Tax Reform, a politically powerful organization that opposes tax increases. Gov. Bobby Jindal is a disciple. New Orleans, on the other hand, is a Democratic stronghold.

“They’re taxes. We live in a state where many members of this Legislature have signed pledges not to raise taxes, ever,” Leger said.
But the very same article points out that other cities in the state have gotten local tax increases through the legislature this session. Why not just blame Steve Perry? He's right there.
Stephen Perry, CEO of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau, said Landrieu must have turned a blind eye to the shark fins in the water, particularly when it came to the hotel tax.

The night before the deadline to file bills, Landrieu summoned Perry, Audubon Nature Institute CEO Ron Forman and Mercedes-Benz Superdome boss Doug Thornton to his office. The mayor laid out his legislative agenda, revealing that — among other things — he wanted to bring in $18 million by increasing tourists’ hotel room taxes.

For two hours, the meeting unfolded before ending with niceties. Perry offered to help on everything but the hotel tax, then waited to see if the mayor would take his advice.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Just living life from Superbowl to Superbowl

Why do anything just for its own sake?
Big stakes are involved. The new airport terminal is part of a second-term push by Mayor Mitch Landrieu to revamp the city’s aging infrastructure, all with an eye toward showing off New Orleans for a potential 2018 Super Bowl during the city’s tricentennial.
When the mayor finally convinces everyone to move City Hall over to Charity Hospital, he should look into installing a permanent SuperBowl Preparation Task Force Bunker. Perhaps the new "Chief Resilience Officer" can have a desk there. 

Admittedly, it's hard work competing for these events.  You have to go in front of the NFL owners and put on a skit for them like on Glee but with really fancy payola.
The formal wooing commenced last week when every NFL owner received a personalized handcrafted cypress box. A list of the 10 previous Super Bowl hosted by the city is emblazoned on the inside cover. On the other side, an iPad jam packed with all of the ins and outs of New Orleans' bid (more than 200 pages in a paper copy) along with personalized messages for each owner.

Familiar New Orleans voices are heard throughout the tablet, with the likes of Archie Manning and Harry Connick Jr. being just two of the city's personalities joining in the pitch.

So far, the presentation has been well received among the league's owners.

"The Saints are a great barometer of how the rest of the league feels about our presentation so far, and everyone we've shown it to is like 'Wow!' It's a very creative and very unique presentation," Cicero said.

Neither Cicero nor Joffray wanted to tip their hand by revealing more details of the bid. Joffray simply described them as a "game changer."
It's important they don't "tip their hand" about those "game changers."  Your competetion is always on the lookout for weak spots.  Here is a report on the paranoia in the Indianapolis camp

Keeping secrets

Melangton doesn’t expect to use many of the tactics from the city’s previous bid process.

“Everyone realizes we have to raise the bar and to do that we have to have some out-of-the-box thinking,” she stressed.

Don’t expect Melangton to tip her hand on how the bid will be delivered or what’s in it.

“We won’t divulge any of that until after it’s delivered,” Melangton said.

In fact, some of the plan could be altered at the last minute.

“We’re constantly measuring what everyone else is doing,” she said.
In Minneapolis they've even got "secret weapons" 
Off the top, Davis said he wouldn't reveal "themes or secret weapons" in the bid or the details.  The panel is concerned about the other two cities monitoring the news and gaining an edge.

He asked reporters in the room to "be a visceral competitor for this city."

At the center of the bid, he noted, is the "iconic" new stadium set to open in 2016. He and the others talked about the cutting-edge facility. Davis dismissed the stadium opponents with, "We're going to build a new stadium; get over it."
They even busted out an "iconic" structure for the purpose.  And those "visceral competitors" in the local press can't hurt. I'm not entirely sure what that means but it sounds serious.

 Not sure how we're gonna match that.  Maybe if we built an extra airport.  

Expiration date

One thing that's come out of this is we can now assume the shelf life of your typical "good government reform" effort is about 8 years.
The political independence of these two regional flood protection authorities relies hugely on their status as political subdivisions. They are units of local (not state) government. They serve our metropolitan area flood protection needs and are no longer controlled by the governor, as metro-area levee boards were pre-Katrina.

These repeated legislative assaults on the political independence of the flood protection authorities would move them away from the protections of local government, weakening them by treating them as state agencies subject to the governor’s control.

That’s not what Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans fought for in 2006. That’s not what Louisiana voters approved when they passed the 2006 constitutional amendment.

But that is what SB 553 is now trying to accomplish, by chipping away at the authorities’ powers and treating them differently from other levee districts and political subdivisions in Louisiana.
Political scientists will thank us for this measurement tool.  We should give them a name for this unit that honors its discoverer.  We could call it a Jindal but that's already the amount of time a sitting governor spends out of state campaigning for President.  "Adley" has a nice ring to it, though.  One Adley = about 8 years.

Dust to dust

It is widely hoped that the state of Louisiana's part of the federal litigation against BP for damages issuing from the Macondo spill will accrue to the state's coastal fund where it is badly needed in order to prop up coastal restoration projects.

So here's how the Governor wants to pay for  the litigation.
Dupuis said the Jindal administration has identified available money to pay the costs, which don’t include general state tax dollars.

Among the possible funding sources he listed: the state’s coastal fund, Gulf oil spill penalty money already flowing to Louisiana, and a set-aside fund that includes fees, taxes, penalties and other money paid by the oil industry to cope with spills.
Jindal and his allies are fond of criticizing public interest lawsuits against oil companies as nothing more than a boon for trial lawyers. Seems like they're doing everything they can to make sure this is true.  

Friday, May 16, 2014

Well that was wrong

This is a great conversation about Net Neutrality from a recent Bill Moyers show featuring David Carr and Susan Crawford.

Toward the end of the segment, Crawford says something very optimistic.
BILL MOYERS: The FCC is voting on May 15th to move forward with the proposal or not. That's less than two weeks away. What do you think people can do to be heard at that May 15th meeting?

SUSAN CRAWFORD: The uproar in the country is already causing the FCC to walk back from Wheeler's initial statement that he was never going to move towards treating these guys like a utility. That's already happening. Keeping that pressure up is only going to help because then they have to keep all these options on the table and act like a regulator. So writing into the FCC, writing to your congressman, keeping in touch with your senator. That really is making a difference. The White House is responding.
Yeah well that didn't happen

You can write and yell at these people all you want but they aren't going to listen to you. 

How hard did they try?

This is an op-ed by David Garcia whose development firm was a partner in the Gatehouse project to renovate the WTC building. Garcia is obviously miffed at the city for ditching Gatehouse's proposal after having initially approved it via the RFP process so take that into consideration.

Still it's worth noting, he basically accuses the city of employing shakedown tactics and negotiating in bad faith before abandoning the project altogether. 
But when we jumped over the city's bar, the city moved the bar inexplicably higher. The city's final lease proposal required more than $100 million in present value, with more than $1.5 billion in projected lease payments during the 99-year term. Based on our team's experience with similar large, mixed-use developments and other 99-year leases across the country, we considered this lease demand to be unreasonable and un-financeable - killing the feasibility of our WTC project.

The city did not seem interested in discussing these realities. Our team was allowed to have only three brief meetings with city staff during our eight-month negotiation period - and we were never allowed to speak with the mayor, City Council, or any city economic development leaders to potentially assist. We were unsuccessful in our repeated attempts to increase communication, or broaden our discussions to include other third-party experts the city may trust. Negotiations imply two sides engaging fully, and that simply was not the case here.
And, hey, maybe the Gatehouse plan was bad from the get-go.  But it was the one the city picked, for whatever reason. 

Fuck it

Welp, it's been fun

If they knew

Elizabeth Warren's source might actually be overestimating us here.
On Wednesday night in DC, at Public Citizen’s annual gala, Warren spoke about the trade deals in some of her most direct remarks to date on the issue—and revealed some inside details about the debate in Congress.

“From what I hear, Wall Street, pharmaceuticals, telecom, big polluters and outsourcers are all salivating at the chance to rig the deal in the upcoming trade talks. So the question is, Why are the trade talks secret? You’ll love this answer. Boy, the things you learn on Capitol Hill,” Warren said. “I actually have had supporters of the deal say to me ‘They have to be secret, because if the American people knew what was actually in them, they would be opposed.’”
I wouldn't go that far.  What that person really means is they'd have to spend some money on an ad campaign.  And right now all that money is tied up in fake Obamacare horror stories.

I'd say wait until after the midterms but then it's time to start getting the Benghazi movie ready for 2016.  So, ok, yeah, maybe just keep it hush hush for now.

Property over people

Hurricane season is only weeks away now.  The Lens has provided us with a refresher course about what our brand new better than ever flood protection system actually does.

“It’s as if your poorly built, three-story house collapsed, so the contractor said, ‘Ok, I’ll replace it with a well-made, two-story house,’” said Mark Davis, director of the Tulane Institute on Water Resources Law & Policy.

“The corps has rebuilt a system to a lower standard of protection than its poorly built system that collapsed during Hurricane Katrina,” Davis said.

Is the storm protection system around New Orleans better than the old one? “Absolutely,” Davis said. “Is it what we were supposed to have? No.”

That shift has had two important effects, Davis and others say:

It lowered the design height of walls defending a city located on a sinking delta during an age of rising sea levels.

And it changed the purpose of the system from protecting lives to protecting property – a lesser challenge for designers.

“That’s what Congress did” in directing the corps to build to a lesser standard, Davis said, “and that’s not what the law says they must do. People should be asking the city, the state, and their representatives in Congress how this happened. Someone should be telling that story.”

These adjusted design purposes were a specific focus of a presentation by Tim Ruppert at Rising Tide 5 called "When can we get some dam safety in New Orleans?"  I tried to dig up the video yesterday to no avail.  Luckily, Tim drew up some notes and links to supplementary materials you can still access here.

Meanwhile The Lens is hosting a web chat today with Davis and with Ken Holder of the U.S. Army Corps which should be starting just as soon as I finish typing this.  Click here to watch.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Serpas Signal

Busy week for the chief.  He's having to beat back yet another round of allegations that his department manipulates statistics in order to downplay serious crimes.
Responding to an inspector general’s audit that uncovered dozens of misclassified rapes, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas acknowledged Wednesday there is room for improvement in the department’s crime reporting, even as he disputed the audit and insisted no one under his watch has attempted to “game the stats.”
Only one thing that can take our minds off of this unpleasantness and that's padding the stats on less serious violations.
The New Orleans Police Department’s Traffic Division will conduct a sobriety checkpoint, in Orleans Parish, on Thursday May 15, 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.
Drive carefully. 

Bobby Jindal's perpetual media tour to nowhere

You never know where Bobby and/or his byline is going to show up next.

Jindal stopped at Liberty University over the weekend in order to tell the young freethinkers there about the First Amendment and what it means to them.
Jindal felt right at home. A Hindu-turned-”evangelical Catholic,” he knew how to package his First Amendment defense for maximum appeal to clean-cut Christian conformists. Anti-gay bigotry was recharacterized as an expression of traditional Christian views. Discriminating against homosexuals by denying them jobs or goods and services — that’s simply practicing one’s religion.

As the demons in this travesty of New Testament theology, Jindal ominously evoked a vast liberal elite, intolerant of religious-based speech that also happens to be anti-gay. You see it’s the free speech crowd — not the censors at a place like Liberty U — who are the small-minded one in Jindal’s world. The “politically correct crowd is tolerant of all viewpoints, except those they disagree with,” he opines in a press release from the governor’s office. (Your tax dollars at work!) It’s a switcheroo tactic he used to defend anti-gay comments by Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson, much like the “liberals are the real racists” meme that the right has been peddling so hard recently. Bigotry seems more justified if you see yourself in the oppressed group.

Last weekend, the St. Louis Rams made history by selecting 2013 SEC Defensive Player of the Year Michael Sam in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. Sam becomes the first openly gay football player to be drafted in the NFL.  At first glance, this may seem to you like progress. But apply a little Jindal logic and you'll see the "real bigots" are Christian athletes who, of course, will never recover. They'll always have Twitter, though.

That's former Saints linebacker Scott Shanle expressing solidarity with Florida State linebacker Demarcus Walker who clearly knows what's what. 

You see, Tim Tebow was going to be the Jackie Robinson of Christian athletes. Unfortunately, thanks to the unrelenting scorn of the godless hordes who comprise American football fandom, he was never given the chance break down the barriers to Christian participation in professional sports and showcase his remarkable talents.  Because of this tragedy we may never see an openly devout professional athlete in our lifetimes.

And now that one openly gay player has been picked in the final round of one draft, Christians everywhere are under assault.  The "double standard" at work is intolerable. Or at least that's the gist of the article Saints tight end (no snickering, please) Benjamin Watson links to here.

Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton added his voice by manually retweeting Watson's tweet.

If you look through that thread, you'll notice that Lofton was applauded for having "the courage to express your opinion" via this retweet of someone else's approval of another person's opinion.

In any case, as you can see, Jindal's lecture on the "real victims" of religious discrimination does not fall on deaf ears... for better or for worse.

Oh and one more post-script.  John Barry has been in the news a lot this year as Bobby Jindal's primary foil regarding the oil and gas industry's culpability for destroying Louisiana's coastal wetlands.  It's worth pointing out, also, that Barry's most recent book is an examination of the historical roots of American religious freedom.  As fond as Jindal is of this topic, perhaps we should see about getting him a copy.

Banana Republic

Basically we're just moving approximately 100 jobs about 80 miles to the west so that Bobby Jindal can hand out another multimillion dollar corporate incentive package.
The article goes on to quote a private business owner that employs 10 people that will be impacted as well so the math indicates Mississippi has lost around $1.3MM in annual rental payments plus somewhere between 100 and 110 jobs. To get that, Louisiana’s taxpayers are now giving Chiquita around $1.3MM in annual tax subsidies to nab those 110 jobs. Leaving aside the imaginary line that is the state line, this deal takes money out of the local economy on two levels.
Seems legit. 

Welp, it's been fun

Internet is dead. What are we gonna do now? If we can afford it I guess we'll stream a limited selection of movies.

The worst person

State Rep. Katrina Jackson
An anti-abortion bill that could potentially result in the closure of many of the state's abortion clinics passed the La. Senate Wednesday. Rep. Katrina Jackson’s (D-Monroe) HB 388, the “Unsafe Abortion Act,” passed the Senate 34-3.
Please see Lamar here and here

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Obviously the thing to do now is build two new airports

I see no other way to resolve this.
The selection process to choose a firm to oversee construction of the city's new airport terminal ended in a tie today, and it's not yet clear how the tie will be broken. 

The city's proposal Review Committee was tasked with selecting between two joint ventures hoping to manage the $546 million construction project to build the new North Terminal.
Just build another one. Say you need it to handle the increased banana volume or something.  Put it on the Jazzland site and solve two problems at once.  

Movie time

Thirty years ago this week the World's Fair opened in New Orleans. The Fair was never a financial success but it left several lasting marks on the city and its riverfront. It's also a persistent source of nostalgia for the olds around here.

So gather 'round all you old folks and watch four (four!) freaking hours of fair coverage from 1984 Channel 6.

These are the good times

Did you know?
Will this be the year the USA's luck runs out?

With the Atlantic hurricane season starting June 1, the nation is enjoying two record streaks for a lack of hurricanes: It's been nine years since the last hit from a "major" hurricane and also nine years since a hurricane of any sort hit Florida, traditionally the most hurricane-prone state in the nation.

Both streaks began on Oct. 24, 2005, when Category 3 Hurricane Wilma slammed into southwest Florida with 120-mph winds.

A "major" hurricane is a Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity; the minimum wind speed for a major hurricane is 111 mph.

"This is the longest period on record with no major hurricane landfalls since 1878, when reliable landfall records began," says Colorado State University meteorologist and hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach.

"Don't expect much other than bad times"

Russel Honore speaks to a St. Tammany community meeting about the Helis Oil fracking proposal Sunday. Yesterday the Parish, for all practical purposes, gave Helis the green light to begin work.

Adding: To be clear, the state and not the Parish has to approve Helis's drilling permit although that is likely a fait accompli particularly now that the local officials have approved Helis's "compromise". There is also the issue of a wetlands permit from the Army Corps of Engineers although one imagines that won't be a problem either.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


The saga of Jazzland continues
With the search for a developer of the former Six Flags park stagnating, the head of the New Orleans Industrial Development Board on Tuesday proposed hiring a national consultant to seek relocating or expanding companies and show corporate leaders the potential commercial sites around the city.

Alan Philipson, the economic development board's president, said over the past few months, the board has been forced to cancel meetings for lack of proposals or viable projects on the table.

He said city leaders, the New Orleans Business Alliance, and other local groups "are working diligently, around the clock" on bringing commerce to the city.

"I think we need to do our part," Philipson told the board at a meeting Tuesday. "I would like to propose that we try and find our own rainmaker out there."
Lots of positive thinking type comments in there. They're hiring a consultant so at least that means somebody will be making some money off of this property.

Still, nobody wants to develop this land for some reason.  Maybe it's just not "cool" enough.  You know, the way Arabi apparently is now. Or it could be something else.  What could that be?

The rent (for the public parkways) is also too damn high

"We have not established a fee schedule"  but here is the fee schedule.
The Bucket Brigade's experience appears to be the city's first attempt to impose a new "fair-market value" system of fees for use of the bayou and, possibly, other public spaces.

If applied across all city parks, (LA Bucket Brigade director Anne) Rolfes said, such prices would devastate nonprofits like Bucket Brigade that rely on the use of public spaces for fundraisers.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office declined to make any officials available for an interview regarding its fees for the bayou or other parks.

"At this time, we have not established a fee structure," Tyler Gamble, a Landrieu spokesman, said in an email.

Rolfes provided NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune with a copy of the fee schedule given to her by the city. It shows a graduated schedule of prices, based on the number of attendees at the event. Events with 5,000 attendees or more would be charged $7,500 per day.

The rent (in the projects) is too damn high

Public housing residents in New Orleans could see their rents increase by as much as 35 percent in the coming months.
The Appropriations Act now requires as of June 1 that all new flat rent tenants pay at least 80 percent of fair market value.

In New Orleans, the fair market rent for a one-bedroom apartment is $765 and 80 percent of that is $612; a $948 two-bedroom will be $758; a $1,190 three-bedroom will be $952; a $1,440 four-bedroom will be $1,152; and a $1,656 five-bedroom will be $1,324.

Previously, there was no minimum rate set for flat rates though housing agencies were asked to base them on "annual rent reasonableness assessments," HUD spokesman Brian Sullivan said.

For those people already living in housing based on the old model, HUD will only allow housing agencies to raise their rent by 35 percent.

The current HANO flat rate for a one-bedroom is $254 and a 35 percent increase brings that to $342; a $299 two-bedroom could go for $403; a $373 three-bedroom for $503; a $418 four-bedroom for $564; and a $481 five-bedroom for $649.
At his inauguration festival last week Mayor Landrieu asked rhetorically (but only rhetorically)  "What will we have done to open the circle of opportunity and prosperity to all?"  So far, we're making housing less affordable. So that's a start.

Just the tip

St. Tammany Parish and Helis Oil have reached an agreement.
The proposal by Helis President David Kerstein calls for the company to drill vertically, analyze its data and proceed with horizontal drilling and hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, only if commercially-viable quantities of oil are present, the parish government said in a news release.

The proposal, which the parish has agreed to, was announced Tuesday afternoon by Parish President Pat Brister, Parish Council Chairman Reid Falconer and state Sen. Jack Donahue. It comes a day after some 300 people, most of whom appeared to be opponents of the fracking project, gathered at the Castine Center near Mandeville to express their concerns and obtain information about Helis' proposal and fracking in general.
So Helis agrees not to spit chemicals into the aquifer until they've made really really sure there's some money in it for them. In which case, everyone is fine with it then.  Is that really what this was all about?

Train to Disneyworld

Do it! 
Megabus recently expanded with a route from New Orleans to Orlando, but officials are hoping that's only the beginning of new ways to get across the Gulf Coast. The Southern Rail Commission recently submitted an application to the feds for grant money to plan a train route between the Crescent City and the City Beautiful.

The Commission is asking for about $1 million from the U.S. Department of Transportation to plan the rail line, which would bring back service that has been offline since Hurricane Katrina. Prior to 2005, Amtrak's Sunset Limited made stops in Pascagoula, Biloxi, Mobile, Pensacola, Tallahassee and Jacksonville.

Probably should wait until Jindal is out of office so we can build one that levitates.

Kicking you off the internet

It was always going to happen this way sooner or later.
In case you haven’t noticed, the Internet revolution has been corporatized: Google promotes its own services in its search results and is investing in original content, Amazon has become a publisher and charges for placement on its homepage and in its mailings, Facebook and Twitter enjoin users to “pay to promote” their status updates, and so on. These corporations, now some of the most powerful on the planet, are more dependent on advertising dollars than the television broadcasters and newspaper publishers of yore, which means much of what we encounter online reaches us not due to merit but thanks to marketing budgets. The digital sphere is becoming less of a level playing field every day, and the end of Net neutrality will only exacerbate this growing inequity, limit diversity and further marginalize non-commercial expression.
Probably too late to do anything about it.  Really it's kind of like climate change in that regard.  It was nice living in this space while it lasted.

Ducking back in?

Come back, Vance!
McAllister, who announced May 3 he would not be a candidate after a surveillance video was leaked showing him kissing a married staffer, said he's been told that perhaps he rushed the decision.

"I can tell you my intent is not to run for re-election," McAllister said during an appearance in Alexandria," according to the Town Talk of Alexandria. "To say, I'm 100 percent sure, I would never box myself in like that."

End of the line

Old Streetcar ties

That there is a pile of old and rotting rail ties removed from the St. Charles Streetcar line earlier this month.  Don't look so hot, do they?  A quarter century ago, though, those were supposedly the top of the line product.
The wooden cross-ties have not been replaced since 1988, when the RTA undertook a $47 million program to renovate the St. Charles line's cars and replace all 13 miles of track and track bed. That project was the first complete overhaul of the line, which began operating in the mid-1830s.

At the time, the agency used azobe, a tropical hardwood that officials described as the longest-lasting option available, one that would preclude major repairs for at least two decades.

RTA officials say termite and weather-related damage has taken a toll on the cross-ties which are showing signs of breakage and rotting that could pose a threat to safety.

This time, the RTA will use a recycled plastic composite that transit executives say has become the industry standard.
Insert your preferred purple prose about New Orleans and its beautiful decay here, if you like.  Or, if you prefer, you can substitute an equally acceptable sarcastic remark about the termites or the climate or the fact that nothing works.  If you want to be really pretentious you could pull a quote from somewhere.
I came upon a boiler wallowing in the grass, then found a path leading up the hill. It turned aside for the boulders, and also for an undersized railway-truck lying there on its back with its wheels in the air. One was off. The thing looked as dead as the carcass of some animal. I came upon more pieces of decaying machinery, a stack of rusty rails. To the left a clump of trees made a shady spot, where dark things seemed to stir feebly.
In any case, I take it this is a pile of the new stuff. 

Streetcar ties

I actually don't go in for the popular schmaltz that romanticizes New Orleans as some dysfunctional pseudo-"third world" tableu vivant. So I don't think it's uniquely charming that a project like this would run behind schedule.  Rather it's just the normal course of events.  Unforseen complications arise. A dispute with a contractor causes delays. Neighbors complain, weather happens. Nothing ever gets done on time but that's okay because nothing is really supposed to.

Besides, the end of this project is clearly within sight. I could stand to be corrected on this point but, as far as I can tell,  the stretch of St. Charles between Louisiana and Jackson is all  that remains to be done and work there is currently underway.  Also there's this statement from RTA back in December. 
A spokeswoman said the entire project is scheduled to wrap up by the end of April, when presumably the buses once again will disappear from St. Charles
So they're pretty close to it now. That's pretty good, all things considered.  Trusting sort that I am, I'm going to assume that, since 2011 when this story was written, they've worked this bit out as well.
While the crossties are nearing the end of their useful lifespan, Augustine said, the track will remain functional for several years. The more critical issue, he said, is a requirement that much of the federal grant money being used for the project must be spent by 2013.
Probably depends on what they meant by "much of."   Either way it's good to see this is about done so we can get back to watching them tear up all the other roads Uptown for the SELA project.

Send them some parkettes

We keep hearing about the magic revitalizing "vibrancy" that comes with artificially imposed arts districts or high rise condo developments. But that's all stuff you see happening in places the wealthy are already interested in.  Why is no one trying to "revitalize" neighborhoods that are actually in decline?
This is not an indictment of Cobb County in particular. Rather, what’s happening in Cobb is a microcosm of the dilemma facing suburbs nationwide: a rapid spike in the number of poor people in what once were the sprawling beacons of American prosperity. Think of it as the flip side of the national urban boom: The poverty rate across all U.S. suburbs doubled in the first decade of the millennium—even as America’s cities are transforming in the other direction, toward rising affluence and hipster reinvention. If the old story of poverty in America was crumbling inner cities and drug-addled housing projects, the new story is increasingly one of downscale strip malls and long bus rides in search of ever-scarcer jobs. We can’t understand what’s working in America’s cities unless we also look at what’s not working in the vast suburbs that surround them.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Peak NOLA?

I asked this sort of as a joke last week but it really might be worth exploring.  At what point do people currently investing in the red hot New Orleans real estate market begin to consider cashing out before the long term value starts to crash?
The collapse of large parts of the ice sheet in West Antarctica appears to have begun and is almost certainly unstoppable, with global warming accelerating the pace of the disintegration, two groups of scientists reported Monday.

The finding, which had been feared by some scientists for decades, means that a rise in global sea level of at least 10 feet may now be inevitable. The rise may continue to be relatively slow for at least the next century or so, the scientists said, but sometime after that it will probably speed up so sharply as to become a crisis.
Of course, "the next century or so"  is more of a mileage-may-vary sort of proposition.  We probably aren't on the generous side of that.

All ur backyards are belong to us

There's only one reason it's even within the realm of possibility that Helis Oil won't drill its proposed fracking well in St. Tammany Parish. And that reason has nothing to do with what the residents there might want. Rather, it has to do with how far afield the location is along the targeted "Tuscaloosa shale formation"
The wells range from 10,500 to 14,500 feet deep and cost about $13 million each to build. That’s compared with the $10 million average price tag to drill and complete a well in north Louisiana’s Haynesville Shale, a natural gas field that also runs under parts of Arkansas and Texas.

Although it controls potentially as much as 60,000 acres in St. Tammany, Helis has proposed drilling only a single well so far, at a depth of about 13,000 feet. But what has some industry experts scratching their heads isn’t the depth but the location of the well, dozens of miles southeast of the Tuscaloosa formation’s core.

Overall, interest in the shale drilling effort has surged in the past year, the experts say. Most of the acreage has been leased by a few key players, and by most accounts, Helis Oil & Gas is not one of them.
If it wasn't something of wildcat operation the objections of the local NIMBYs would amount to exactly nothing.  To get that all you have to do is look around at everywhere else in the USA where we are reasonably certain about the prospects of drilling.


This (via B&G Review) is from just signed Saints rookie free agent quarterback Logan Kilgore when asked, for some reason, to compare himself to a Manning.
“You know, I think I’m more like Eli. I think I’m a little bit…uh…maybe take that as a good thing or a bad thing.”
Anyway go look at the B&GR post. There are animated GIFs of all the free agent signees. This may be the only time you'll see many of them in action. 


At the outset of the recent mayoral election, Stephanie Grace characterized Michael Bagneris's candidacy as  "a campaign about nothing."  In a way she was right. Bagneris's campaign was so nonchalantly run and often tone deaf that it might as well not have been.

On the other hand, had it not been such a terrible campaign, it could have been about something. Grace pointed us to what the campaign about nothing could have been about in her weekend column about Landrieu's inauguration. 
In fact, the speech contained numerous echoes of Landrieu’s chief challenger’s campaign — not the personal conflicts and interagency grievances, but the emphasis on crime and opportunity for all in a city where spotty prosperity coexists with chronic unemployment among African-American men.

Landrieu had acknowledged these ongoing challenges during his campaign against retired Judge Michael Bagneris, of course, but he also painted a more positive overall picture. His speech Monday suggested that, personal animosity aside, the two weren’t really so far apart in assessing the city’s most daunting problems.

Bagneris halfheartedly fumbled around these themes but never really seemed to grasp them.Which probably means he cared more about, "the personal conflicts and interagency grievances" than, "the city's more daunting problems." So Grace is correct. The two men really weren't very far apart.

Anyway, I could have saved myself a whole lot of typing last week by just linking to Mitch's speech and pointing out these two statements.

There's this.
After years of trial by fire, we as a people have changed – New Orleans, we as a people have now found a new way.

The old way of ‘divide and conquer’ is gone, replaced with a new unity of purpose.

Old mistrust between business and government gives way to the mutual benefits of cooperation
 And then later there is this.
Our mission is to create a City of peace where everyone can thrive and no one is left behind.

Four years from now may seem a long way away, but time flies.

Those 1460 days will pass in a second. And what will we accomplish in our short time together?

What will we have done to open the circle of opportunity and prosperity to all?
This whole bloated thing was basically a long way of saying that if you truly buy into that first statement, you'll never be all that committed to the second.