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Saturday, April 22, 2017

Undeveloping

Future's so bright.
The richest large economy in the world, says Temin, is coming to have an economic and political structure more like a developing nation. We have entered a phase of regression, and one of the easiest ways to see it is in our infrastructure: our roads and bridges look more like those in Thailand or Venezuela than the Netherlands or Japan. But it goes far deeper than that, which is why Temin uses a famous economic model created to understand developing nations to describe how far inequality has progressed in the United States. The model is the work of West Indian economist W. Arthur Lewis, the only person of African descent to win a Nobel Prize in economics. For the first time, this model is applied with systematic precision to the U.S.

The result is profoundly disturbing.
It's interesting that the unraveling of the American economy has played out on about the same timeline and pace as the dangerous effects of climate change have become more readily manifest. Both events have played out such that we've raised two generations (Xers and Millenials) under a cloud of dread.

It's not apathy, though. There are plenty of smart, motivated, and mobilized people desperate to do something.   But when we're being honest, nobody expects matters improve regardless of what we do. That's what I worry about most; that what we think of as even the most intolerable of conditions are actually quite sustainable; that oppressive political systems can succeed for extended periods of time as long as the elite classes remain at consensus; and that we haven't even begun to test the limits of our endurance.

Man vs Nature vs Lunch

There is a breaking wildlife emergency at City Park.
New Orleans City Park Police worked by boat and from shore Saturday morning (April 22) to remove a husky, 5-foot alligator from a lagoon just outside the New Orleans Museum of Art.

City Park Policeman Greg Joerger said when the agency encounters alligators roaming the park or swimming in the lagoon, they try to relocate the reptiles because of how populated the area is, especially around the springtime.

Joerger said small children often congregate near the lagoon, and park patrons don't realize the small water body is sometimes home to alligators.

"People go there thinking it's just turtles and fish, and it's not," Joerger said. "That's lake water."
"Husky"? Good looking out there and not fat shaming the gator, y'all.  Stay woke.

It's the time of year when nature attacks from all angles. Must have something to do with Earth Day. There are huge black crows nesting on our street right now. They are extremely territorial and given to swoop down at perceived intruders. The caterpillar activity is reaching a critical mass. This morning two of them tried to knock me off my bike. And now the gators, who we should have known were up to something, frankly, are making their move.

Well the standard procedure in this monster movie scenario is we convene a panel of scientists who can figure out how to... oh wait... they're busy today.

Meanwhile, the situation continues to deteriorate.




God bless our first responders. They are bravely enduring quite a taunting at the moment.
"Right now he's showing off," Joerger on Saturday said of the elusive gator. "He's hungry."

Just before 12:30 p.m., Joerger said, City Park police abandoned a previous strategy involving a kayak and were working to get a bigger boat.

New Orleans 2017 in a nutshell

Exhibit 1:



Maybe the tweet embed is a bad format here. This is the part the mayor may not have read.
Douglas S. Noonan, a professor in the School of Public and Environmental Affairs at Indiana University, has studied cultural districts and questions their effectiveness as urban policy. Such areas “usually don’t do much in terms of alleviating poverty or bringing in new jobs,” he says. “Their largest impact probably has been in terms of increasing property values.” That, in turn, leads to what some refer to as the SoHo effect: People of means like the big, open loft spaces that developers renovate—supported in Maryland by tax credits—which leads the artist population to be priced out.

The reality, says Dr. Noonan, is that “cities are competing for people who are drawn to cultural areas, who tend to be rich or upper middle class. It raises the question of why is government supporting this group of people.”
The answer, of course, is the neoliberals who direct urban policy are rich or upper middle class and therefore believe cities should work in ways that suit them. For the upper class careerists in government and politics, the work is primarily about promoting and enriching themselves and their friends. Whatever notions you may have about social justice or participatory democracy are seen, at best, as means to suit their ends and at worst, as annoyances to be put down.

Here, for example, is Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni (and we'll call this Exhibit 2) on Twitter congratulating "smart and capable people" like Suzie Terrell's daughter on their having found jobs in the Trump administration
Julie Radford — who like her boss is a mother of three young children — was chosen to work for the first daughter after being recruited in February by Powell.

A graduate of Southern Methodist University, Radford, 34, first connected with Powell as a consultant to Goldman Sachs’ 10,000 Small Businesses initiative, which was overseen by Powell in her previous job. Based in New Orleans, Radford oversaw Goldman Sachs’ entrepreneur-boosting programs in Florida, Louisiana and Texas.


As a supplement to that background, please enjoy this 2013 video from Aspen where Mitch Landrieu and Goldman's Lloyd Blankfein chummily talk up the 'treps. At the end of the day, everybody here is on the same page. Solutions and good governance come from the bankers and capitalists. The politics stuff is just a bunch of noise.

Democratic Party professionals are doing pretty well raising money off of their #Resistance brand. So it serves well to kayfabe for the cameras as principled anti-Trumpers whenever the opportunity arises. But, really, these elite careerists all have more in common with each other than they do with anything most of us experience in our daily struggles.  We're getting ready to kick off a new round of municipal elections in Orleans Parish.  Seems as good an opportunity as any to start thinking about ways to change that.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Who are we? Why are we here?

The Democratic Party has no idea what it is for.
Shattered is sourced almost entirely to figures inside the Clinton campaign who were and are deeply loyal to Clinton. Yet those sources tell of a campaign that spent nearly two years paralyzed by simple existential questions: Why are we running? What do we stand for?

If you're wondering what might be the point of rehashing this now, the responsibility for opposing Donald Trump going forward still rests with the (mostly anonymous) voices described in this book.
The problem here is that most of the people in charge of the Democratic Party figure the thing runs just fine the way it is. It doesn't really matter how many elections they lose as long as they are supporting the right, corporate friendly candidates to keep the donor money rolling in, everything is fine.  This is a machine that can run forever. If the elites running the show raise enough money to keep themselves ensconced in their roles, nothing has to change. 
Washington politicians tend to view everything through an insider lens.

Most don't see elections as organic movements within populations of millions, but as dueling contests of "whip-smart" organizers who know how to get the cattle to vote the right way. If someone wins an election, the inevitable Beltway conclusion is that the winner had better puppeteers.

It's fine with them that the party doesn't really stand for anything. That's actually kind of bad for the brand, frankly. 

Also, the Clintons are so nice. Can't imagine why people get such a negative impression...
This traced back to 2008, a failed run that the Clintons had concluded was due to the disloyalty and treachery of staff and other Democrats. After that race, Hillary had aides create "loyalty scores" (from one for most loyal, to seven for most treacherous) for members of Congress. Bill Clinton since 2008 had "campaigned against some of the sevens" to "help knock them out of office," apparently to purify the Dem ranks heading into 2016.
These people are still running things. And they have clearly learned nothing. 2018 should be lots of fun.

Protections and responsiblilites

What would Jesus drive?


I don't see anything in here that offers any "new protections" to bicyclists or motorists.
Bicyclists in New Orleans will get new protections — and some additional responsibilities — under a package of ordinances passed unanimously Thursday by the City Council.

The new rules, recommended by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, explicitly prohibit motorists from driving in designated bike lanes or harassing cyclists, clarify that pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks and require that bikes must be equipped with lights or reflectors plus bells or other devices that can provide an audible signal to those nearby in emergency situations
In effect, all this really does is provide a new pretext for police to randomly stop people just for being outside. It's stop and frisk on wheels. So, you know, stay in your lane because they are serious about that stuff these days.

Another problem with bicycle policymaking in general is that it always combines the worst possible panders to the motorists who hate bicyclists with the worst possible panders to the bicyclists who love bicycling a little too much. Bikes and cars are different in the same way that cars and pedestrians are different. Cars are big and dangerous and the rules and infrastructure should protect everyone else from them. This is different from simply demanding that all vehicles on the road should have to follow exactly the same traffic laws.  That doesn't make any sense no matter how cranky and loud drivers tend to be about it.

Meanwhile here's every cycling activist asking to be saddled with "additional responsibilities."



Stop doing that. Nobody cares. There are many great and good reasons to get around the city by bicycle when you can. But these are the top two.

1) It is convenient to be able to tie up anywhere instead of worrying about where and how expensive the parking might be.  But a look around town will show you the universe of arbitrary rules is offering less and less protection there.

Do not lock to post

No Parking Bikes

Securing of bikes

No bike parking

Obnoxious signage at Muriel's

2) It is the best way to avoid getting snagged in one of these.
NEW ORLEANS -- Police will be looking for drivers under the influence Thursday night.

The New Orleans Police Department is conducting a sobriety checkpoint at an undisclosed location from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
(FYI: The "undisclosed location" was Louisiana and Tchoup last night, if the reports are to be believed.) Now that police have got a reason to watch for non-compliant bicycles just like they go after expired brake tags, I guess this advantage is going away too.  Maybe the best answer is just for everyone to never leave the house. 


Also, what kind of protection does a "bell or other device" offer that just saying "excuse me" with one's own voice can't?  Let's leave the horns on the trains where they belong

12-4

You can still go 12-4 after starting 0-4, right?  Happens all the time. Although,  if they do start 0-4... and the schedule strongly suggests that is possible... it might get the coach fired during that Week 5 bye. Yay, 4 months til football season.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Hard headed attorneys

Believe it or not the legislature has a better than even chance to accomplish something significant this session. A package of modest criminal justice reforms could, according to the task force recommending them, reduce the state's prison population by 13 percent and save about $300 million in the process. Louisiana is frequently cited by human rights organizations for its first in the nation incarceration rate.

Unlike the governor's surely doomed tax reforms, much of this stuff can probably pass. Some of it, in fact, probably has to. Here, for example, is the context behind Dan Claitor's bill to curb life sentences without parole for juveniles which just made it out of committee this week.
The legislation is largely motivated because the state is in violation of two U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

One court ruling, Miller v. Alabama found that life without the possibility of parole for juveniles was considered cruel and unusual punishment and could only be used for the rare, incorrigible cases of juvenile convictions. A subsequent decision Montgomery v. Louisiana found that the prohibition on life sentences for juveniles should be applied retroactively. 
Another reason for optimism, the broad support for reform from conservative groups and individuals who, in the past, one would assume to hold a lock-em-all-up position. Here they all are at a recent breakfast hosted by the Kochs' organization.  The Advocate report on that event also links to a part of the recent Reilly survey of Louisiana residents itself titled. "Large Majority Favors Criminal Justice Reform."  So there's significant momentum.   The only remaining obstacle... the Louisiana District Attorneys.  We mentioned this the other day, but don't take it from us. The Kochs' people are also bewildered.

Law enforcement generally start off opposing such efforts in other states, said Mark Holden, the general counsel for Koch Industries Inc. and the featured speaker at the event. But he expressed surprise that Louisiana’s district attorneys are uniformly opposed to the revamp.

“Deep red states like Texas and South Carolina and Georgia passed it and found that it works for them,” Holden said in an interview. “You’d think that they would find comfort in the experiences in those states.”

The two brothers that head Koch Industries contribute liberally to conservative causes and have pushed criminal justice reform as a way to lower crime as well as save money for cash-strapped state governments.
When you find yourself positioned to the right of a majority of Louisiana voters, the Kochs as well as David Vitter and Tony Perkins who were also in the room that morning, maybe it's time to rethink things.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

The world that made Juicero

It is our world. The one we are living in. And it is the worst.
When we signed up to pump money into this juice company, it was because we thought drinking the juice would be a lot harder and more expensive. That was the selling point, because Silicon Valley is a stupid libertarian dystopia where investor-class vampires are the consumers and a regular person’s money is what they go shopping for. Easily opened bags of juice do not give these awful nightmare trash parasites a good bargain on the disposable income of credulous wellness-fad suckers; therefore easily opened bags of juice are a worse investment than bags of juice that are harder to open.
Everyone is laughing at the juice bag juicer. But the premise, that idiots will pay a premium for anything if you sell it to them in the right context, is one of our most cherished core values. Here, for example, is what was on sale in the "South Market District" (itself a crass marketing invention) just last Friday.

& smiles

They actually don't care if we go off the "cliff"

The big flaw in the budgetary game of chicken we've been playing all year is this.
The question of what to do with tax exemptions will be central during the 60-day regular session — which began its second week Monday — with lawmakers needing to figure out how to solve next year's fiscal cliff caused by the expiration of a temporary one-cent increase in the state sales tax as well as a host of temporary tax breaks.

No one — not even anti-spending conservatives — has put forth a credible plan to end the fiscal cliff through spending cuts alone in the $9.5 billion part of the budget financed by state taxes, royalties and fees.

Edwards has proposed making up $800 to $900 million of the fiscal cliff by having the state impose a corporate tax on sales, a plan that business lobbyists oppose and that has found little favor among legislators.
"Anti-spending conservative" lawmakers don't actually care what gets cut and how badly as long as they don't have to do the cutting themselves.  They're just there to protect the exemptions and privileges that benefit their narrow constituencies.  If they leave a big hole in the budget, the governor has to fix it. If they refuse to find him any revenue, he has to cut everything.  There's really no way for them to lose this game. 

Update: John Bel is giving the commencement address at LSU next month. I guess by that point he can talk about why the fiscal cliff is making him close the university and sell the land to Exxon or somebody. Will be some good "optics" there, for sure.

Butler Watch: Begin The Buttling

Soon, all of our problems will be solved and all of our questions answered.
The New Orleans Saints and New England Patriots, if they so choose, can officially discuss trade terms for cornerback Malcolm Butler.

Butler signed his restricted free agent tender from the Patriots Tuesday, according to the NFL transaction wire.
My favorite thing about Butler that we've learned so far is that, in the great tradition of high profile corners the Saints have acquired over the years, he's actually not very good.  
The biggest knock on Butler is that he isn't an ideal 1-on-1 matchup against some of the bigger receivers that dominate the NFC South -- such as Julio Jones and Mike Evans -- at 5-foot-11, 190 pounds. That's one of the reasons why New England decided to spend $13 million per year on bigger free agent Stephon Gilmore this offseason -- which opened the door for Butler to possibly be traded.
For those of you who were afraid you might only get to see the Saints fleeced by the Patriots one time this offseason, here is your big break. Please be ready with your number 11 pick when you get to the front of the line.  

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The STR based economy

No To STRS

Did you know the real estate market of the French Quarter was entirely dependent upon short term rentals? Bob Ellis seems to think so
Ellis said he's never seen so many for-sale and for-lease signs when he walks through his neighborhood, and some landlords and owners are worried. "There are a ton of people that have vacation rentals here," Ellis said. "That's how they offset the cost of owning a home here. It's going to be extraordinarily hard on people, and I think that's why you see so many listings right now."
Now look who's worried about STR regs and their effect on real estate prices.  Isn't that something. It's only a tragedy when rich people make slightly less money, of course.  Nobody cares if your rent is too damn high.

As funny as that is, though, I'd like to call attention to this little bit that may not be mentioned often enough. 
There is one exception to the French Quarter ban -- the Vieux Carre Entertainment District in the liveliest section of Bourbon Street, a seven-block stretch where city officials hope property owners will develop the vacant upper floors of their buildings into homes.
LOL "homes." Sure. Anyway, remember this as we continue reading and talking about how the city's plans for Bourbon Street.  A city street converted into a quieter, more restricted entertainment courtyard (perhaps where the bars even close) might make those "homes" more appealing to the luxury tourists who live in them.

Speaking of which, I still haven't figured out how these.. I guess.. barricades(?) are supposed to work, exactly. I only noticed them during French Quarter Fest.  I kind of want to race them downhill somewhere.

Yellow wheelie bollards

Spoiler alert

This is just a typo. And if I had to bet, the mistake is a Business Report editor's and not Alford's. (Update: It was Alford's typo and he's corrected it. We're still going with this joke, though) Unless it's, like, a Freudian typo, or maybe Alford knows something we don't know about Neil.
But the bigger concern for the administration is not members of the House Democratic Caucus. The real worries reside on the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, which could inflict more damage on Edwards this year than any other legislative group or faction.

When asked which plan or approach he favors, Ways and Means Chairman Neil Abramson, R-New Orleans, has been telling colleagues that he prefers his own plan, which includes just one bill—his House Bill 456 to call a limited constitutional convention. Coupled with the new conservative votes added to the committee recently, via the appointments of Reps. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, and Clay Schexnayder, R-Gonzales, the Ways and Means Committee looks like a one-stop shop of horrors for the Fourth Floor.
As far as we know Neil hasn't switched parties just yet, although nearly everyone expects it's something he's considering if he wants to run for State Senate in the next election. In the meantime, he's taking his current job as seriously as we might expect. As Chair of Ways and Means, Abramson is responsible for managing the session's most vital task.  His committee's actions will determine the shape and scope of reforms to the tax code the governor has asked for. But, as Alford discusses in this column, the governor's agenda is rapidly losing momentum. Neil's solution is to take no position on any of it and punt everything to a "limited constitutional convention," whatever that is.

It's possible the situation could change now that the details of Edwards's  CAT tax proposal are out of the bag (sorry). This could become an opportunity to start making a more compelling argument. John Bel says, and the Louisiana Budget Project has backed him up on this, that the overall effect of his plans should amount to a tax cut for 95 percent of Louisiana families. This is premised, however, on the assumption that multiple moving parts come together more or less according to what he has asked for. For example, the LBP report singles out a proposal to lower income tax rates while eliminating the federal deduction without which, the entire scheme falls apart. And look how hard that is to accomplish.
This part of the proposal is critical for making Louisiana’s overall tax structure more equitable. Without eliminating the deduction for federal income taxes paid - which if passed by the Legislature would also require a vote of the people - the overall tax package would not improve Louisiana’s regressive tax system.

So it's not surprising that both friends and enemies are skeptical. But it's not even the ostensible Democrats like Abramson who are at the root of the problem. They're really just following the lead of the House Republicans. And, as Stephanie Grace writes this morning, those Republicans seem pretty well set on leading everybody over a "cliff."
The thinking behind the Legislature's decision a year ago to bail out the current budget with a stopgap emergency plan was that it would be forced to come up with a more stable framework this year. That was the idea behind the temporary increase in state sales tax, which took effect immediately but will drop off the books next year, creating what's become known as a $1.3 billion "fiscal cliff."

Right about now is when they were supposed to be staring it down.

This is the last fiscal session before the tax expires, which means it's the last time lawmakers will be able to raise taxes in a regularly-scheduled session as opposed to a special session. And the next fiscal session two years from now will hit just as everyone's running for re-election, which makes raising taxes on some — even if the proposal includes reducing them on others — especially daunting.

Rather than coming together and tackling the challenge once and for all, though, the opposite could happen.

Politically, the Republicans have no incentive to do anything but keep saying no. If the legislature fails to act and the "fiscal cliff" causes more budget cuts, they and the voters will just blame the governor. Poor John Bel's only real tool he has left is to keep threatening to make everyone stay after school. But, after a while, even that loses its stroke. The cumulative effect of one failed special session after another every year is the appearance of ineffectual leadership.

Still, it does look at this point like that's next on the governor's itinerary.  What choice does he have? Who knows what the future may hold for Neil, though... regardless of whatever spoilers and hints Alford may be laying for us.


Where is my invite?





I kind of feel like I should get at least a bit of nod having pushed the toppling parties for well over a year now.  Maybe I can bring a casserole or something. Anyway, yes, let's do this.
As the City of New Orleans decides whether to award an over-budget contract to remove four Confederate monuments, Take 'Em Down NOLA is moving ahead to envision a public party for the monuments' removal.

It should be "one of the greatest celebrations this city has ever seen," the group's co-founder Michael "Quess" Moore said at a press conference Monday (April 17).

Fears of violence have shadowed the city's planned relocation of the statues of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard at the City Park entrance and Confederate President Jefferson Davis in Mid-City, and the Battle of Liberty Place monument near the foot of Iberville Street.

But surely, Moore said, a city that can throw second-lines for celebrities could and should publicly mark an advance in "the greater struggle for racial and socio-economic healing."
They had a second line for the opening of a goddamned COSTCO. You'd think they could pull together something for this. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Public space, private space

Wisconsin Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner had a novel solution last week for constituents upset over his vote to allow Internet Service Providers to scan, record, and sell information about all of their online activities.
In the video, first made public by the liberal super PAC American Bridge, Sensenbrenner responds to a woman asking about Congress’s decision to roll back Obama-era internet privacy laws.

“Well, you know, nobody has got to use the internet,” Sensenbrenner told the woman.
It's hard to imagine anyone would find this credible in 2017.  Of course people have got to use the internet. At least anyone who wants to live anything resembling what we would consider a normal modern life has to use it. We use the internet to do our work. We use it to apply for work. Even the most menial jobs hire via online application. We use it to apply for loans. We use it to apply for benefits. We use it to apply to school. We use it to do our taxes. We use it to talk to our friends, family, and neighbors. We use it to read the news.  We use it to watch TV. The internet is in our TVs It's in our phones. It's in our cars, our speakers, our air conditioners and microwaves (sort of, maybe).

Look, this is stupid. It's a self-evident fact that the internet is a necessity, not a luxury for anyone expecting to engage in even the most modest of lifestyles. Unless you are a retired Jedi living off the grid in a cave, you're gonna have to use it for stuff.

The implication thrown around by people like Sensenbrenner or by Jason Chaffetz who wants you to choose between your iPhone and health insurance, is that not everyone deserves even the most modest of modern lifestyles and that it's fine if our public policy actively excludes people from that.
Sensenbrenner's iteration is a direct denial of the notion that the internet should be regulated as a public utility. Republicans especially, are heavy into denying that even public utilities should be regulated as public utilities these day. The disastrous results there should be a clear enough warning against further privatizing the public commons on the internet.

Under the regulatory regime signed into law this month, ISPs, the police, advertisers, and anybody who can pay for it, get to know everything about what you do on the internet... which is to say, they can know pretty much everything you are up to ever. Even day to day activity as passive as reading and searching, is fodder for commercial exploitation or state inquiry. Meanwhile, it isn't quite the same the other way around.
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — The White House announced Friday that it would cut off public access to visitor logs revealing who is entering the White House complex and which officials they are meeting, breaking with the Obama administration’s practice and returning a cloak of secrecy over the basic day-to-day workings of the government.
So even as the private lives of individuals are exposed to a wider scope of surveillance and commercial exploitation, the public records of the public's business conducted in the public's spaces becomes even more opaque. This is what happens when we abandon the idea of public goods and services. Everything that can be appropriated by the rich and powerful will be.

I thought about all of this again when I saw this weekend that the AZ story about Tom Benson's theft of La Salle Street had been picked up by WWLTV. Remarkably, a security guard tried to run the TV station's photographers out of the space as they tried to shoot some footage there.
Meanwhile, public access to the street has been blocked at times, usually for private or special events run by the LSED’s property management contractor, SMG. That has added to confusion about whether the 1400 block of LaSalle remains a city street. When WWL-TV set up a camera this week on what used to be the LaSalle Street roadway, a security guard from the Zelia-owned Benson Tower office building told the photographer he couldn’t shoot video there.

“Actually, all this is private property. It’s not a street,” the guard said, his voice captured on video.
Even if any of the pretense were true, if the street was clearly Benson's private property, that's some high level arrogance. The open air environs of perhaps the city's most iconic building are gonna draw photographers. Here are runners lining up for Saturday's Crescent City Classic just aiming their little camera phones any old direction. Hopefully they didn't accidentally land on anything classified.

Line up


By the way, I finished in 48:31. That's my best time in over a decade. Maybe not entirely relevant information, but it was bound to come out sooner or later given the realities of today's internet. Race organizers fit each runner's number with an RFID tag and post the results on their website even thought Jim Sensenbrenner keeps telling them they don't have to.

Just give us our money

This month's Antigravity features a look at how little of the bounty produced by the city's "economic engine" actually gets allocated to benefit the city’s residents. As others have been pointing out for years, most of the tax revenue generated through the the hotel/motel tax only goes right back into tourism related infrastructure and marketing. And, of course,  the industry itself is more accurately described as an inequality where a small circle of politically powerful owners and speculators squeeze profits out of low wage, non union workers.

Oddly, the AG article skims these issues and focuses too much on lauding  the conservative "reform" non-profit Bureau of Governmental Research and its crusade against any and all dedicated tax allocations. BGR's proposal to just blow everything up and start all over is problematic from a policy standpoint It's a sloppy, almost Trump-like move to flip the table and declare a big do over. Also, from a political standpoint, many of these dedicated millages are the on the books through direct ballot referendum. To simply invalidate all of them at once would be as undemocratic as it is unwise.

There are better ways to identify and address specific ills in the tax structure.  In this case, our objective should be to pry our public money out of the hands of the oligarchs who run the tourism racket. Let's focus on that for now.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Getting close to the end of an era

Stuart Fisher is almost out of options.
The Louisiana Supreme Court on Thursday declined to take up a lawsuit against the city of New Orleans over the former World Trade Center building, a legal challenge that has held up redevelopment plans for more than a year.

A company called Two Canal Street Investors Inc., one of the losing bidders for the redevelopment project, argues that the city's process for selecting a contractor ran afoul of state law.

He's still got one more trick shot to try in bankruptcy court but...  well, it was a helluva run, wasn't it?

Leon's hard line

Leon Cannizzaro just wants to protect you from the "flock" of dangerous weed smokers. But unfortunately a "stupid" law won't let him do that.
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro called a city ordinance that lowered penalties for pot possession “stupid” during a talk at a meeting of the Rotary Club of New Orleans on Wednesday.

Speaking in response to a Rotarian’s question, Cannizzaro suggested that both marijuana users and dealers will flock to the city in response to the ordinance, which made first-offense marijuana possession punishable by a $40 fine.

“Stupid legislation, that’s all I can say about that. If you wanted to change the law, go to Baton Rouge and make it uniform throughout the state of Louisiana. Don’t have a special provision which decriminalizes or lessens the penalty for marijuana, a crime, in the city of New Orleans,” Cannizzaro said.
He does know that some of our legislators have been trying to push statewide decriminalization for years now and making only headway, right?  He has to know that. He should know since the Louisiana District Attorneys Association played a role in undermining the last serious attempt in 2015.  The DAs are loathe to give up any coercive tool they can use to beat pleas and testimony out of people as Cannizzaro himself demonstrated just this week.
New Orleans victims advocates are against the use of material witness warrants to force victims of domestic abuse and sex crimes to testify in court.

However, Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro says in some rare cases, it's necessary to put a victim or witness in jail to get a dangerous criminal or sex offender off the streets.

"If I have to put a victim of a crime in jail, for eight days, in order to...keep the rapist off of the street, for a period of years and to prevent him from raping or harming someone else, I'm going to do that," Cannizzaro said.

Tuesday, the judicial watchdog group "Courtwatch NOLA" released a report, taking issue with the use of material witness warrants.

"What kind of picture this paints for folks coming victims that are scared and want to come forward, to call police and talk to law enforcement if they know they are going to be incarcerated," Courtwatch NOLA Executive Director Simone Levine said. "We think this is a real disincentive."
This year the DAs are standing in the way of more substantial criminal justice reform for similarly bullheaded reasons.
Louisiana sends more nonviolent people to prison, per-capita, than any of its neighbor states. And this difference is not driven by crime. Louisiana has a similar crime rate to South Carolina and Florida, for example, but sends nonviolent offenders to prison at twice the rate of South Carolina and three times the rate of Florida.

When they hear this fact, the district attorneys balk. They say that many of those people have pled down from violent charges; they say that others have committed additional crimes in the past and therefore should be considered dangerous. They make these excuses and claims without data in an attempt to distract from the task force's comprehensive and data-driven assessment of our state's criminal justice system.
Leon and pals want to be able to arrest you for holding weed, throw you in jail if you are afraid to testify, and  keep  you in jail for a long time for the crimes you might have committed other than those you have actually been convicted of.  All of this flies in the face of public sentiment, by the way, which appears to be lining up in favor of reform.
Large majorities favor three criminal justice reform proposals included in the 2017 Louisiana Survey: Shorter sentences for people convicted of non-violent crimes (75 percent); more alternatives to prison – such as drug treatment or rehabilitation programs – for people convicted of non-violent offenses (86 percent); and abandoning mandatory minimum sentences in favor of more flexibility for judges to determine sentences (72 percent).
Maybe the sentiment of the "large majorities" will prevail in the legislature despite the hard line taken by Cannizzaro and the DAs. But you never know with those guys. They are pretty famous for passing "stupid legislation" in their own right.

#MNOFA?

So Scurlock is gonna run one of those campaigns, I guess...
Scurlock could best be called “The Fun Man.” A 54 year-old Republican, Scurlock coined the phrase “Make America Fun Again,” and selected “Make New Orleans Fun Again” as his campaign theme. Scurlock currently earns a damn good living building floating water parks around the globe. Several weeks ago Spurlock completed a marathon 10-day, 10-city tour to meet with government officials interested in bringing his style of economic development to their regions. Scurlock boasts that he will open 40 water parks “somewhere in the world” during the next 60 days. He would also like to redevelop the Lincoln Beach site in eastern New Orleans.
The guy sure does have a lot of projects on his plate.  Also he apparently owns five cell phones for reasons of some sort. Apparently he has also already been running TV ads though I haven't spotted them yet. Also, much like the other potential novelty candidate Sidney Torres, Scurlock's political career has a brush-with-crime origin story. 
Scurlock says he was carjacked at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon in 2010. After sitting for two hours in the district station to give a statement, “I came to realize that it was worthless to make a police report,” said Scurlock. He plans to change political party affiliation in the near future.
That's funny. The old saw conservatives like to throw around used to say most Democrats are Republicans who haven't been mugged yet. But in heavily Democratic Orleans Parish, Scurlock is going the other direction with that.

Also of note in that Columbus column, Jason Williams confirms he is out of the mayor's race. No surprise there. A bit more of a surprise is that Desiree Charbonnet is leaning towards in. I don't know if we're allowed to have a Charbonnet and a Bagneris in the same race. Somebody should check the city charter. Also LaToysais being squeezed a bit... at least according to Columbus she is. 
Cantrell is passionate and a tireless worker. Not having run city-wide previously, Cantrell had to step out early to build name recognition. Rumors abound that Cantrell’s fundraising is moving slowly, and she is not expected to report more than $300,000 in the next filing, only a fraction of what is needed for a successful mayor’s race. Critics also say that Cantrell has on several occasions flip-flopped on issues and retreated from promises when pressure was applied, making it difficult for those affected to always rely on her. 
It's true that she does try to finesse a lot of things. One could call that "flip-flopping" although one could also observe that all politicians do it. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

If you can complain about the cameras but keep the money...

Troy Carter wants clearer signage and he wants it now
Taking aim at New Orleans' traffic cameras, a bill has been filed in the legislative session that would require "clearly visible" signs to be placed near speed cameras to alert drivers of their presence.

Filed by Sen. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, the bill calls for signs to be placed within 500 feet of any fixed or mobile speed camera. Anyone ticketed for speeding by a camera without a sign nearby would be off the hook, according to the bill.
For a state legislator who is entertaining the notion of running for mayor it's hard to know just how to handle the traffic camera problem.  On the one hand the cameras are very unpopular. Nobody likes getting a ticket from a robot. Since they first showed up on our streets, questions have been raised about their accuracy, their constitutionality, and even their efficacy in promoting public safety which is supposed to be, you know, the point of them in the first place. 

On the other hand, everybody knows their primary purpose is to generate revenue. The city is counting on collections near $24 million in its adopted 2017 budget. The fact that people know this only leads to more suspicion, though. It's especially grating to know that private contractors like Redflex and American Traffic Solutions are getting rich off of the scheme. Or that cities have been caught engaging in such trickery as shortening yellows in order to juice the rate of violations.

So you can see why Carter would want to make sure his constituents feel he's protecting them from unclear or misleading signs. If we're going to come after your money, the least we can do is not be quite so sneaky about it.  Of course, there is always the option of doing away with the cameras entirely. There is a bill in the legislature this session that could do exactly that, in fact. But, if you are Troy Carter, and you are thinking about maybe being mayor soon, are you probably aren't going to be keen on creating a $24 million hole in your own budget right now.  Better to focus on the signage thing first. At least that's the safe way to go about it.

The problem

The legislature is back in session. You may already be aware of this having felt the customary disturbance in the force. This is going to be a fun one. The governor is trying to raise the minimum wage, guarantee equal pay for women, reduce the prison population and reform our backwards and broken tax system. Meanwhile, the Republicans who run the House zoo are going to fling poo at him. We'll see how much of that sticks.

Much more on all of this later.. and probably on the fake radio show if we get one in this week. But for now I'd like to at least highlight this Louisiana Budget Project study of the overall effect of the governor's plan. The headline grabbing aspect, we suppose, is this since the Advocate leads with it.
A tax package proposed by Gov. John Bel Edwards would raise taxes on the wealthy while giving 95 percent of Louisiana families a tax cut, according to a study released Wednesday.

The largest effective tax cut under the governor’s plan would go to the middle 20 percent of taxpayers – households that earn between $36,000 and $56,000 per year – while only families earning at least $203,000 per year would pay more, according to the Louisiana Budget Project, a left-of-center, Baton Rouge-based nonprofit.
We're a long way from seeing any of this put into action, of course. Ways and Means only just started furrowing brows at things. God speed to them, though. As Tyler Bridges notes in his article, they do have quite a problem to deal with.
Louisiana’s tax system currently is regressive, meaning that the poor pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than the wealthy, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, a Washington, D.C.-based group that works with the Louisiana Budget Project. Families that earned $17,000 or less in 2015 paid 10 percent of their income, the group found, while families that earned at least $470,000 paid only 4.2 percent.

What the hotel/motel taxes pay for

It's neat how there's $65 million available to do "moving walkways" and "sleek overhangs" on a refurbished Convention Center Blvd Linear Park but nobody can figure out a way to keep RTA passengers waiting on the ferry from getting rained on.

RTA happens to be one of the few city agencies* that actually benefits from the hotel/motel tax, by the way.  It just happens that the Convention Center gets more.   In any case, both entities are heavily focused on serving the tourism industry even though saying so will make Nadine Ramsey mad at you.


*RTA is sort of a city agency, anyway. It's management is contracted out to global monster Transdev in one of our city's more notorious public-private ventures.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Witness intimidation

Look, just hope nothing  bad ever happens to you in this city. Even the DA isn't really on your side if it does.
In one 2016 case, a female rape victim was jailed for more than a week after the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office issued a material witness warrant for her arrest. She was incarcerated at the same facility -- the Orleans Justice Center -- where her accused rapist was also being held, said Simone Levine, the executive director Court Watch NOLA.

In another case, an attorney for an attempted murder victim told a watchdog group his client was too scared to speak with the watchdog group or media about being jailed for refusing to testify or failing to show up in court.

The two cases mentioned above were among at least six in 2016 in which victims of crimes were incarcerated on material witness warrants for refusing to testify against an offender or failing to appear in court, Court Watch NOLA reported in an annual report issued Tuesday (April 11).
 

Nungesser's gut

Is this literally a thing he said or is Grace paraprhasing? Either way, bravo.
This is a guy who boasted during his first, failed run for the job that he'd think outside the box and follow his gut. I'm not sure his gut's doing him much good these days.

The nothing matters administration

When everybody is finished with the United Airlines outrage, we're about to be on to a cycle of reaction to this nugget from Sean Spicer.
(CNN)White House press secretary Sean Spicer, in an effort to shame Russia's alliance with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his use of chemical weapons, said Tuesday Adolf Hitler "didn't even sink to using chemical weapons" during World War II.

While Hitler did not use chemical weapons on the battlefield, Hitler and the Nazis used gas chambers to exterminate Jews, disabled people and others.
 
Spicer, asked for a clarification by a reporter about the comments that Hitler did not use chemical weapons, said: "I think when you come to sarin gas, he was not using the gas on his own people the same way that Assad is doing."
Expect many words to be written and hours of cable news talk to be filled. But all that's happening here is the Trump Administration, like every administration before it is invoking the permanent US foreign policy doctrine of whoever we are trying to bomb or invade this week is, by definition, "worse than Hitler." They're just phrasing it in a stupid and unsophisticated way.. which is how they do everything they do. The fact that they put so little thought into stuff like this is precisely what their supporters like about them. But, essentially, it's just a continuance of longstanding policy. 

Lucky number 11

Larry Holder looks at what the Saints draft position might portend.  It doesn't look good.
Your days leading up to the draft may be ruined when I reveal the Saints' history of selecting a player at No. 11. Think about chugging a gallon of milk that's baked in the sun for about a month.

That might help your gag reflex when I serve you this dish.

The Saints have made a draft selection with the No. 11 overall pick three times in franchise history. Wait, are you queasy? Oh, no! You see what's about to hit you.

With the 11th pick in the 1996 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Alex Molden, cornerback, Oregon.

With the 11th pick in the 1987 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Shawn Knight, defensive end, BYU.

With the 11th pick in the 1979 NFL Draft, the New Orleans Saints select Russell Erxleben, punter/kicker, Texas.
Those guys aren't just busts who faded out of the league, they are spectacular flame-out busts who helped define the worst of what an NFL bust can be. All at number 11.  Maybe the Saints really should trade it away to New England. 

Monday, April 10, 2017

Direct action Billy

So the city is having trouble finding a contractor. And there are a couple of (very long shot) bills in the legislature aimed at stopping their removal. But even with all that the time may come very soon   for Billy Nungesser to throw his (not unsubstantial) body in the path of the machine.  
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is worried that three bills aimed at keeping New Orleans' Confederate monuments in place could die a quick death once the Louisiana Legislature opens on Monday (April 10), he told WVUE Fox 8. So Nungesser says he's asking President Donald Trump for some help outside the Capitol, and is also consulting with lawyers from the Louisiana Attorney General's office, the TV station reported.

"Some of the lawyers for the state are looking at it to see if the lieutenant governor's office has any grounds. I know a lot of people are hanging their hat on the legislation in Baton Rouge," Nungesser told Fox 8. "My concerns are the committees that those bills are being put in are not favorable committees for those bills to get out of committee and we need to be honest about that."
Well, okay, but while the "lawyers are looking at it," somebody is gonna have to stall for time. Expect Billy at Lee Circle any minute to climb up and chain himself to the monument just like one of those #WildIsFree protesters.  Or maybe Billy can't quite manage that. In which case we have a showdown to look forward to.

The bulldozers and cranes have arrived. Lt. Gov Billy Nungesser stands between them and the monuments. The moment is tense, almost exactly like Tank Man at Tienanmen Square. Billy nervously wipes the sweat from his brow.. and the rest of his face from which he is basically always sweating... and produces a single can of Pepsi. The contractors turn and go home. The Confederacy is saved.

Probably next month sometime. Watch for that.

Update: Whoa! Hey! Now I think we know why Billy is hiding behind the ol Generals. 
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser has been using a Lower Pontalba Building apartment and space in other state museum buildings in the French Quarter for his personal benefit and has engaged in a pattern of political interference with the agency's operations, the Louisiana State Museum's interim director said Monday while resigning in protest.

Nungesser’s interference includes attempting to override museum officials and board members who objected to plans to loan U.S. Sen. John Kennedy artworks for his office in Washington, D.C., and threatening to sell museum works of art on eBay to raise funds, said Tim Chester, a museum consultant who took the interim position in October.

“I have never encountered anything like this in the 40 years I’ve worked in the field, ever,” Chester said. “I’ve seen some pretty strange crap come down in museums, but this one takes the cake.”
We didn't get a chance to talk about that thing where Kennedy wanted to take state owned artworks to Washington with him.  It's pretty funny given his previously expressed feelings about public art. But that's not the important matter at hand right now. What is is the "strange crap" that seems to follow Billy Nungesser wherever we find him. Billy is probably the stupidest corrupt person in the entire state of Louisiana.. and, yeah, that is certainly saying something.

But let's do a quick review here. The charges levied by Chester aren't actually all new. We hadn't seen the stuff about the Pontalba apartments and the disputes over use of museum facilities.  But we had previously noticed the threat to sell parts of the collection on ebay

Prior to that, there was the time Nungesser's communications director resigned saying his office "was not a comfortable environment." That was probably related to the bizarre event where Nungesser fell for a phishing scam involving the Iraqi oil minister and a shipyard and a guy selling medical equipment by mail order or something... anyway. It was some "pretty strange crap."

And that's only what's happened since he's been in the Lt. Governor's office. Before then, there was lots of worse stuff. Consider Billy's cynical efforts to "save" Plaquemines Parish by.. selling it off to oil and chemical companies.  (See also here) There's also, of course, the matter of Nungesser's name showing up on the clients' list at the Canal Street brothel that David Vitter once helped to make famous. The "strange crap" associated with those stories eventually put Vitter's career to an end.  Nungesser's is still alive, though. Life is funny that way.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

How many Truths

A week or so ago, when LaToya Cantrell (kinda sorta quietly) announced her candidacy for mayor, she did so by putting up some clumsy language on her website about the "two truths" of New Orleans.
But New Orleans is also a city of two truths. The first truth is that of a rapidly growing city where the average income is rising and new businesses are flourishing. New construction is filling the CBD and many of our public schools, recreation centers and libraries have been beautifully rebuilt. This is a truth LaToya has nurtured and helped advance in Broadmoor and across New Orleans as a City Councilwoman.

But there’s another truth. It’s the one LaToya encountered on her college bus rides from Uptown to Xavier. This truth is about crime and illegal guns, pockets of blight, flooded streets that are covered in potholes. It’s a place where many opportunities are out of reach for too many people who do not earn enough to support their families despite all their hard work.

The mind goes immediately to a series of worn out images. "Two Americas" "A Tale Of Two Cities" It's all very hackish and about what we have come to expect down here in the minor leagues of political rhetoric. At the same time, it's not entirely without meaning.  For example, one of those "Two Truths" is described in a recent United Way report by which we learn over half of New Orleans households are either at the poverty level or barely struggling to get by.
The report notes that more Louisiana homes were struggling to stay afloat in 2014, even as the regional economy appeared to chug along -- the state's population is increasing, there are more jobs and wages are inching upward.

Why is that? The report points to a rising cost of living throughout the state. Low-wage jobs also continue to dominate the Louisiana economy. About 68 percent of all jobs in the state paid less than $20 an hour, and two-thirds of those jobs offered wages below $15 an hour.
So here are your "two truths." The economy "chugs along" but the benefits do not accrue to most of the people doing the chugging. Wages are low. Cost of living is high. Specifically the cost of housing is ridiculously out of step with what most residents can afford to pay. It's not something LaToya mentions in her Tale Of Two Truths. Possibly, in part, because she voted to allow this.
The city of New Orleans has issued the first licenses for people to rent their homes on short-term rental services since the practice became legal on Saturday.

As of Wednesday morning, the city had approved 340 properties. It has issued licenses to about 150 of them; the others are awaiting payment of fees ranging from $50 to $500.

Overall, about 1,300 applications have been filed. That’s nearly twice as many as our count on Friday afternoon.

Last fall, an Airbnb tracking service estimated there were 4,500 Airbnb listings citywide.
We're probably on the high side of 4,500, frankly, but it's going to be hard to get an accurate count.  The numbers the city is compiling now can only count the property owners who actually apply for permits in the first place.  The essential ethic of "disruption" being what it is, there are bound to be a significant chunk who won't bother. One particularly stinging aspect of the current tally we should point out though is this.
Owners of multiple units.

While arguments for legalizing short-term rentals tend to focus on people renting out a portion of their home to tourists to make ends meet or fund needed renovations, opponents pointed to cases where operators with multiple listings as an indication that many were running full-scale businesses

Dozens of people have applied for multiple licenses.
As of this writing the leading applicant, with 23, is an agent for a national vacation rental company called "Stay Alfred." As of last July, Stay Alfred was already estimated to be operating at least 40 STRs in New Orleans.  In December, LaToya and her colleagues could have done something about this but refused to act
Councilman Jared Brossett tried unsuccessfully to change the legislation by requiring short-term rental hosts to hold a homestead tax exemption, which can only legally be held by someone who owns the home. It also would have limited short-term rentals to two per block, which has been favored by historic preservationists. That attempt failed, 5-2, with Brossett and Councilwoman Guidry voting in favor of the ordinance.
The Advocate counts "dozens" of multiple license applicants currently. It has been estimated that 66 percent of all STRs in the city are operated by owners of multiple properties and 76 percent of all STRs are "whole homes or apartments."  That data is two years old and matters likely have not improved since then.

It's possible to tell a story of "Two Truths" in New Orleans. But it's probably better to tell the one truth about a power elite of real estate and tourism interests hoarding more and more wealth at the expense of exploited and defenseless workers, renters, and what's left of lower and middle class homeowners. LaToya doesn't want to talk about it that way, though. Better for her that the Two Truths are mysteriously unrelated. That way we can congratulate our friends and donors at the top while appearing concerned for their victims at the bottom.

It's also important that we don't get too specific about what we're going to do about it. Notice the language on Cantrell's site decries the ills of crime but not poverty, blight but not homelessness, and potholes because... well.. those darned potholes, amiright?  Even the words LaToya uses to evoke the hardships of the poorer classes are carefully minced neoliberal morsels about "opportunity" and "earn" and "hard work."

We've already seen how her policy preferences match this language. LaToya has spoken about the proposed rental registry law in terms its benefits for neighboring homeowners regardless of the effect on renters. She has promoted an "inclusionary zoning" density bonus as a sop to luxury developers under the pretense of adding affordable housing. And she has been quite clear in her promotion of surveillance equipment and expansive police powers because, "my constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue."

All of which leads us to wonder who LaToya believes her "constituents" actually are. And which "Truth" of New Orleans are they living these days? 

Never made right

One aspect of Katrina that doesn't get talked about quite enough is the way middle and working class people were actually penalized for holding wealth without debt
Since many of the homes in the community were handed down through the generations, it was often hard to establish clear title -- important to obtaining rebuilding money in the mostly low-to-moderate-income neighborhood. Those who could prove ownership were likely to receive insufficient money to rebuild under a government program; greater sums were given to the owners of homes with higher market values.
It just didn't compute that people with moderate incomes living off the grid of servitude to some bank could possibly be restored to such a state. This is still a problem
But selling the Make It Right house has been a challenge because of a sort of catch-22. Chambers said the house is for sale for $164,000, but because of a 15-year pact with Make It Right, the house must be sold to someone with a relatively low income.

The buyer's income must not exceed 120 percent of the average median income in New Orleans, she said. For an individual, that's around $50,400, she said. The trouble is, most people who earn that amount can't qualify for a loan. So, she said, the house sits.
The Make It Right house in that article is listed in foreclosure, by the way. It's only one house but I think the circumstances there indicate just how far out of sight the notion that people living on moderate incomes are entitled to a bit of "The American Dream" really is anymore.

Instead, we're meant to be beholden in one manner or another to a bank, a landlord, or.. I guess one of these people. 
The developers were able to purchase the land at a discount in return for building housing for low-to-moderate-income residents. Most are still in various stages of organizing financing or preparing to build.
The AP story doesn't detail this very well but there's more in the local press. NORA "sold these properties to five developers (Habitat, Perez, The St. Bernard Project, Neville, and Jourdan Valley.)  Each has a distinct plan for its parcel.  Some of that is explained here. You can see, for example, that Habitat and St. Bernard are doing very different things.
Jamie Neville of Neville Development declined an interview request. Perez and Harmony did not respond.

Habitat has identified 50 lots where it wants to build a mix of doubles and single-family homes. The NORA program will allow the nonprofit to expand what executive director Jim Pate refers to as incubator housing.

These units will be dedicated to renters who have $2,000 or more in debt. After they erase that debt, they will have a chance to become property owners. In the few spots where Habitat has designated incubator housing, the experiment has been successful, Pate said.

Most of the new homes planned for the Lower 9th Ward will be occupied by owners who put in Habitat's standard "sweat equity" to subsidize their purchase.

The St. Bernard Project plans to build 36 doubles, and all 72 units will be rentals, CEO and co-founder Zack Rosenburg said, explaining he intends to seek Low Income Housing Tax Credits to finance the development.

His objective is boost the limited inventory for affordable new rental property and at the same time bring enough residents to the Lower 9th Ward to attract supporting development, he said.
Meanwhile, the Jourdan Valley development looks like some sort of hippie commune for the sharing economy age. 
Allen said anyone living in the neighborhood who doesn’t want to be part of the communal aspect of Jourdan Valley doesn’t have to be. For those who do, landscaping and design will be used to add a sense of connectedness between their homes, which provide the privacy people need, and the common areas that provide the community many naturally crave.

The houses will be sold at market rate, with the 26 new units offering between 700 and 1,200 square feet.

Allen said cohousing can be an affordable option because homes don’t need to have extra bedrooms, laundry facilities or office space because of what is provided in the community building.

While the communal aspect of a cohousing development may be radically different from a traditional neighborhood, legally speaking, it functions much like a condominium or homeowners association, and there really aren’t any significant zoning hurdles to the project, Allen said.

Jourdan Valley won’t have any kind of selection process for the people who want to live there, she said.

She said the point is that it’s a cross-section of the community — people of all ages, races and creeds, in various stages of their lives, with children and without.

All that matters is that they buy into its philosophy.
Oh dear.  I read a lot of complaints about NORA sitting on properties as part of some nefarious scheme to prop up the housing market. But if they're willing to unload land on this crap, they'll sell to anybody.  Imagine how many bouncy castle communities Frank Scurlock could have built on Jazzland by now if NORA had purview over that.

All that aside, the big picture in the Lower 9  is this.  A lower middle class neighborhood of struggling but mostly stable homeowners was eradicated by a man made disaster.  The displaced homeowners were never made right. Their land now belongs to developers willing to provide some "affordable housing" provided the residents conform to various stipulations of "sweat equity," or "communal philosophy" or... "please sign here so that we can get our tax credits thank you very much."

And maybe it's better than fallow lots and an underhoused population.. if you believe that really is the only other alternative. But the important thing is, as always, that there's money to be made.  As James Gray said in February,
New Orleans City Councilman James Gray said the projects are a “great deal” for the area and would be a key element of its continuing redevelopment, alongside commercial projects such as CVS and Family Dollar stores and the reopening of government facilities such as the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission’s Sanchez Center.

I’ve been saying to people, you need to go ahead and invest your money in the Lower 9 if you want to make some money,” Gray said.

Saturday, April 08, 2017

City Council Senioritis

The councilpersons are always cranky when they get this close to the end of the their terms.
Uproar over a public letter. A derisive rehashing of one City Council member’s allegedly callous attitude toward constituents. Charges that the same member allowed a corporation to influence some of the rules for advisers to the public agency that acts as its watchdog.

All of it characterized the explosive finale to Thursday's City Council meeting, which quashed any hope that the council’s two at-large members, Stacy Head and Jason Williams, might repair their fractured relationship.
Actually this time it's even weirder since we're having an election this fall but not turning over the offices until next spring.  You can see how stressful and confusing that might be for everybody. Anyway, they are snippy. 
But Thursday’s fight was particularly bitter, driven by Head’s recent comments to news outlets about her colleagues’ actions in recent weeks.

Her letter to the Uptown Messenger described “a vested interest by some to quietly move” the cost of consulting contracts out of the public’s view, so that “politicians and their donors get rich.”

She also railed against the council’s December decision to award new contracts to the three longtime consultants and said Williams, as chairman of the Utility Committee, “refused to review” offers from other firms.

In conversations with two newspaper reporters this week, she called Williams' and other members’ push to have the consultants weigh in on the guidelines that would help govern their actions akin to “the fox drafting the security plan for the henhouse.”
Of course that depends on who is considered the fox and who are the hens in this situation.  Head's concern is primarily with how the consultants are chosen and paid.  It's a legitimate complaint but she's mostly making it only because these contracts are in somebody else's patronage downline.

Meanwhile, there are folks who might consider the fox in this henhouse to be Entergy.. since that is, after all, the utility we're supposed to be regulating here. But Head appears to be working with them, actually.  
Williams called Head’s characterization problematic, considering that she claimed to have talked to Entergy about those same rules. When Head insisted that statement was a mistake made by Cheron Brylski, her political consultant, Williams pounced.
Oh dear, we've thrown poor Cheron Brylski under the bus again. You might remember her from such political moments as "Mayor Landrieu: Productive Asshole"  "The Leslie Jacobs Explosion" and, of course, this thing Williams mentions. 
“The same Cheron Brylski that was involved in council issues very recently, that became very racially charged? Is that your statement?” he asked, referring to an email Brylski sent in 2015 to two French Quarter neighborhood groups. That email, which was accidentally sent to local media, suggested that the mostly white groups should find black people to speak on their behalf and that the council was racially divided.
Of course, Brylski is always "involved in council issues." She's a political consultant. Jason knows who she is so, you know, the shocked shocked act is a bit much.  Besides, Stacy provided enough fodder for these broadsides on her own as Williams does go on to demonstrate. 
“I really thought that you evolved past blowing kisses at disenfranchised poor people,” Williams continued, referencing a kiss Head blew from the council dais a decade ago to people angered by the council’s vote to tear down several of the city’s public housing complexes.
Anyway, as fun as all of this is, it's also a little bit sad. Basically you've got councilmembers fighting over whether each is owned by Entergy or by the lawyers ostensibly in charge of regulating Entergy. It seems like, since both are true, it should be easy to find common ground here and everybody can go back to running his or her own racket.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Why do Americans hate media elites?

Can't imagine why that would be.  Probably because they see too much "Fake News" that should be censored or something.  Or maybe it's something else....







See also Pareene from about a month ago.
Here’s what you have to understand about the sort of people who become anchors, nonpartisan pundits, centrist columnists, and cable news political correspondents: They didn’t sign up to be the resistance. They don’t want Donald Trump to fail. They want him to “pivot” and “act presidential.”

Yeah, there are guys (and it is guys, for the most part) out there who spend their whole careers trying to be Dan Rather staring down Nixon or Cronkite turning on Vietnam—or even just Tim Russert making some elected mediocrity stammer with a patented “tough question”—but mostly these guys want to be witnesses to Great Men Making History. They want to Respect The Office Of The Presidency.

Here’s another thing you should understand about these guys: The only thing the elite Washington press corps likes more than a bipartisan commission on debt reduction is a stack of flag-draped coffins.
Bonus: Why do Americans hate elite establishment Democrats?  Can't imagine why.  
Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-New York, said, "Making sure Assad knows that when he commits such despicable atrocities he will pay a price is the right thing to do." 

He added: "It is incumbent on the Trump administration to come up with a strategy and consult with Congress before implementing it. I salute the professionalism and skill of our Armed Forces who took action today."
 Also
(CNN)Hillary Clinton called on the United States to take out Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's Air Force on Thursday, days after a chemical attack killed more than 70 people in the war-torn country. 

Totally validated

Remarkably, the city has had little difficulty identifying some companies willing to suck profits out of a public asset
New Orleans could stand to make as much as $55 million upfront and another $76 million over a 40-year term under one of five proposals submitted by companies interested in leasing the Public Belt Railroad.

In fact, all five firms that have expressed interest in taking over the city-owned railroad crossed an initial hurdle this week in the city's nearly two-year effort to reach a long-term deal that could net tens of millions of dollars for the city.

The Public Belt includes 26 miles of track that connect six major rail lines serving the port and industrial facilities.

The companies that responded to the city's request for qualifications include Illinois-based Anacostia Rail Holdings; New York-based MidRail; Colorado-based OmniTrax; and Watco Companies, a Kansas-based transportation firm. Another response came from a joint team of Connecticut-based Genesee & Wyoming and Oaktree Capital Management, a California global asset management firm.
That's kind of a funny lede.  One would get the impression from the opening paragraph that it's all great news.  It's much more complicated than that. AZ has been on this story for months. Do take a look at that for background, for coverage of the public meetings, and even an interview with the mayor.  There a several issues and concerns involving labor contracts, agreements with warehousing and port services companies, long term development strategies, etc. Jason sums up the fundamental question here.

Probably the biggest question mark with the RFQ is the nature of the current agreement the NOPB has with the Port of New Orleans. Right now, because the structure of the NOPB is designed to solely serve the Port (not necessarily generate a profit), the Port has a $1/year lease agreement with the railroad. If a private entity takes over the NOPB, that agreement will most likely be renegotiated...if the Port even chooses to do business with the new entity.
Whatever way you slice it, this is a proposal to turn a public asset into a profit vehicle for a private third party. So it's really no wonder the city would find at least five bidders ready to leap at the opportunity.  Ryan Berni says the mere fact of this "totally validates" the decision to privatize in the first place.
"It totally validates that there is a lot of interest from major players to invest in this asset and to give the taxpayers a greater return on their investment," said Ryan Berni, a top aide to Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Berni attends Public Belt board meetings as the mayor's representative.
LOL at that "greater return" to taxpayers.  The Landrieu Administration is stuck in the conservative ideology of the early 90s. Everything is better if it's run like, for, and preferably by a private business. The logic validates itself just like it always has.