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Saturday, July 22, 2017

Asymmetric Cliff-fare

John Bel is changing tactics
Gov. John Bel Edwards told House Speaker Taylor Barras Thursday (July 20) that the governor won't call a special lawmaking session to address a looming billion-dollar hole in Louisiana's finances unless he is confident that a plan to replace expiring taxes would pass the House.

"I am hesitant to convene another special session without meaningful input from, and a concerted effort by, House leadership to identify a viable path forward. Specifically, I need a good faith commitment to remove the partisan barriers and solve this problem," wrote Edwards, a Democrat, in a letter to Barras, a Republican from New Iberia.

"Accordingly, at this point, I do not intend to call the legislature back for a special session prior to next year's regular session," the governor wrote to Barras.



Rather than threaten House Republicans with more special sessions, he's now threatening no special session ahead of next year's "fiscal cliff" manufactured emergency unless he gets...  *sigh*... "a good faith commitment to remove the partisan barriers."  Yeah, that's not happening for a whole host of reasons.

But most importantly right now if you're going to play chicken with the radical right over a "fiscal cliff" you're going to lose every time.  They don't actually care about solving the problem as you perceive it. To them, the problem is rich people pay too much in taxes. The only way to "remove the partisan barrier" is to just give them that. Otherwise, it's off the cliff everybody goes.

This is why Grace, I think, makes an error when she compares this cliff with the "replace later" strategy Senate Republicans are considering with health care right now. As far as McConnell is concerned, "replace later" can mean "replace never" so long as the big tax cut passes.  That's all they're really after anyway. So it doesn't do any good to seek "bi-partisan solutions" in hopes of avoiding a cliff.  Not when your opponent is indifferent to the cliff either way.

"Nobody really wants to deal with it"

This is your 2017 municipal election cycle right here in one quote.
Reform groups like the Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, which loudly denounces Gusman at many of his public appearances, would seem like natural supporters for a candidate challenging the incumbent. But Yvette Thierry, a steering committee member for the group, said reformers could not find a suitable candidate to step into the race.

“We never had an ideal candidate,” Thierry said. “If they ran against Gusman, they would be inheriting all of his problems, and I guess nobody really wants to deal with it.”
We keep hearing about all the great new grassroots political organizing going on around town in the Age Of Trump.  Having attended some of those gatherings, marches, meetings, Facebook threads, etc. I heard a lot of preaching about how making real change begins at the local level. And yet this major local election is an exclusively insider affair with which the various new movements have little or no interface.  Wonder why that is. 

First NBC is having an interesting week

The thing about Ashton Ryan's money club that got it into trouble in the first place was it was specifically designed to be a conduit for turning post-Katrina rebuilding grants and tax credits into piles of money that well placed socialites in the local "philanthropy" circles could play with. It's complicated but it's basically the laundering process through which New Market housing credits end up financing something like the WWII Museum expansion. Accordingly, the swells made Ryan into a hero.
First NBC was the creation of Ashton Ryan Jr., who chose a name that recalled First National Bank of Commerce, a prominent New Orleans bank that was acquired by Bank One in 1998.

As the new bank grew, so too did Ryan's celebrity, earning him status as the city's best-known banker, even though his bank was far from the biggest. He earned roughly $1.6 million in total compensation in 2015.

Over the years, he's been a regular presence within many of the city's civic groups, including the boards of Greater New Orleans Inc., the University of New Orleans Foundation and Junior Achievement of Greater New Orleans.

He's also been recognized for his civic contributions, including by the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice, which awarded Ryan its annual Weiss Award in 2014.
Now that the scheme has fallen apart, the direct line it draws through that whole scene is interesting.
Cantrell said the couple refinanced their home in 2013 in order to pay off the debt, with a portion of their regular mortgage payments intended to go toward their tax bill. Parish records confirm the couple obtained a mortgage from First NBC Bank that year for $210,000.

But the IRS apparently never received those payments from First NBC, and the agency put a lien on the property the following year, Cantrell said, blaming the bank for the error.

Cantrell said she expects the IRS to issue a letter soon indicating that the problem has been resolved, but she would not say whether she and her husband have paid off the entire tax bill at this point.

Whitney Bank took over the mortgage after First NBC went bust this spring, and Cantrell said she has asked that bank to provide a letter confirming her description of what happened.
I don't actually think LaToya's tax bill is a big deal. Bagneris's taxes are also in this story. It's not a scandal either. In LaToya's case it looks like a failed bank has screwed up her paperwork. It's not uncommon.  It is kind of a fun deal that the failed bank is First NBC, though.  Maybe that's a coincidence. It's a small town. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Camera shy

Everybody hates those dang traffic cameras 
New Orleans Mayoral Candidate Latoya Cantrell generated a lot of buzz this week when she made a campaign promise to suspend the city's controversial traffic cameras.

The ticket-writing, photo-snapping, eyes in the sky are certainly unpopular with most drivers.

While some see them as a necessary evil for safer streets. Cantrell isn't convinced.

"We really don't know if it's actually reducing or making us safer," Cantrell said.
Well, OK, LaToya doesn't like them. Or so she says. There was some confusion
LaToya Cantrell's campaign went from a pledge to suspend the use of all traffic cameras to a more narrow policy targeting only the several dozen set up in the last year and then back again -- all over the course of a day.
Desiree also says she doesn't like them but, for some reason, doesn't approve of campaigning against them. 
Charbonnet agrees the matter needs more study, but she's not prepared to suspend the program.

"If in fact they are having a positive effect on public safety or traffic safety, if I went in and just pulled them out then that could be a mistake," Charbonnet said. "We need to be careful. We can't just ploy for votes."
Bagneris thinks they are "just a money grab." But, apparently, money grabs are good?
"I still believe the cameras are just a money grab," candidate Michael Bagneris said.

Bagneris maintains the money should be dedicated and not just go into the city's general fund.

"If we're going to grab that money, let the people use that money in a way that they think is necessary and that is fix our streets," Bagneris said.
Scurlock says he thinks they're "unconstitutional" but somehow is still OK with putting them in school zones. Maybe children are exempt from the sixth amendment? Who knows? 

Unfortunately, voters won't get a chance to find out the candidates' actual position on this matter until one of them is elected mayor and presents her first municipal budget. That is... unless one of them presents an idea for coming up with another $25 million between now and election day.

Hold that Tiger Swan

The state board in charge of such things has denied Tiger Swan, the para-military security firm hired to spy on NODAPL protesters, a permit to operate in Louisiana.  This sounds like good news but nobody should expect this means they or some similar outfit won't be here.  Governor Edwards recently signed Louisiana onto an agreement that might actually circumvent the permitting process under certain circumstances.  Also the Governor received $5,000 in contributions from Energy Transfer Partners during the last election.

The money pit

Hammer's report on the still shuttered and bankrupt African American Museum in Treme has all sorts of fun stuff going on including Irvin Mayfield, First NBC, and Wisner Trust funds which I think may be some sort of super trifecta. 

Some of this is just the comedy of organizational chaos. But it's also a window into the way the local non-profit sector spreads public subsidies around among the same familiar circles of professional fund-raisers, bankers, and lawyers operating in New Orleans.  Some of them, like the unfortunate Mayfield, tend to get themselves into sticky situations and become scapegoats.  But, really, it's a whole system of backslapping corruption that brings together neighborhood associations, historic preservation purists, and start-up entrepreneurs along with the aforementioned money people to direct public and private money toward feel good projects that don't really help anyone not invested in tourism or real estate. 

This sector has done well for itself under the Landrieu administration. As the post-Katrina money begins to dry up, the party may be ending for the con-profiteers. It's never a bad time to have a friendly mayor in the pocket, though. LaToya Cantrell, you may notice, delivered her platform vision thing speech last week at Irvin's Jazz Market.  There's probably more to that than just symbolism.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Solving the homeless problem

One way to do it is to remove the homeless
Metropolitan New Orleans area has seen almost a 90 percent drop in its homeless population in the last decade, from nearly 12,000 individuals to about 1,300 in a count this year, according to Ellen Lee, director of the Office of Community Development for New Orleans. Some 300 people left the streets in the past year alone, an achievement she attributes to outreach efforts by the city and nonprofit groups.

Counting Coleman and her children, Grace at the Greenlight has helped 1,003 people into a home — most of them in cities outside New Orleans, said Sarah Parks, the group’s executive director.
Back in December LaToya Cantrell fought like hell to keep the city from opening a low-barrier homeless shelter in Central City because some charter school assholes didn't want to have to look at it. They moved it to, like, a dumpster behind the VA hospital or something. But, I guess, a bus out of town is ideal, really.

Politics is a struggle for dominance

The controversy du jour is just another iteration of the same argument we've been having since the "dangerous people of the internet" began to challenge elite consensus media back in the early 2000s.  Politics is actually about real things that affect real people. Too much of the professional blathering about politics is done by detached upper class careerists who, at best, are indifferent to outcomes and at worst have a material interest in maintaining the power relationships of the status quo. Anything that challenges that status quo is deemed "uncivil" and therefore not how you're supposed to do politics. It's a sucker's proposition and it needs to be burned and buried.

Anyway, if you want to dive into it today, here's one point of entry.
Ignoring that politics is about dominance is therefore deeply dangerous as well as oblivious. You can’t escape the game by pretending it isn’t happening, you can only lose it. Republicans recognize that the aim of politics is to crush the other guy; Barack Obama spent eight years refusing to recognize this. There’s nothing noble about being too polite to fight for dominance; it just mean that the people you’re supposed to fight for will continue to be the ones dominated. In Heer’s pejorative use of “dominance politics” we can get a good insight into why Democrats are bad at politics: they actually seem to be uncomfortable with the idea that you’re supposed to be trying to win. In this worldview, compromise is a goal rather than a tactic, and it’s almost tawdry to say that you believe your side should win and the other side should lose.

Delicious but deadly

The lead is in your pipes.
If you are living in New Orleans, you may be – or may have been – exposed to elevated lead levels in your drinking water without even realizing it, a risk that could spike as the city of New Orleans embarks on a $2.4 billion infrastructure overhaul.

That is the finding of a new report released Wednesday (July 19) by the New Orleans Inspector General’s Office. It calls on the city and the Sewerage & Water Board to be more targeted and proactive in warning residents of the risk of higher lead levels in the water. It also recommends the city take specific steps to help residents protect themselves, like handing out water filters and developing incentive programs to help low-income families remove lead service pipes on their property.

“Other cities are making great efforts in communicating with their citizens about this problem,” Inspector General Ed Quatreveaux said. “We need to take the small level of energy we have here around this issue and intensify it, because this is a serious problem.”
Serious as the problem may be, Cedric Grant says it might be more your problem than it is his.
Lead, once valued for its malleability and durability, was widely used for city service lines and home plumbing up until the mid-20th Century when we started to learn more about its toxicity. A ban on the installation of lead pipes came into effect in 1986.

Homes built before the late 1980s, which includes much of New Orleans’ housing stock, may still have lead service pipes, which can release the toxic metal into the water.

Grant with S&WB has long emphasized the agency is only responsible for replacing lines on public property. “There are public and private responsibilities here,” he said.

There may also be public lead service lines still in service under our roads. Grant said the agency replaces any lead lines it encounters during regular work, though, because lead was once an industry standard, it does not have a catalog of where those lines are. (The city started taking inventory of the city’s 140,000 service lines last fall. So far, 3,000 service lines have been recorded, 800 of which were lead.)   
Can't afford to protect your family from the poison that enters your home thanks to an old building code that has nothing to with you?  Too bad. You probably should have been more "responsible." What are you thinking trying to live in this city if you can't meet the cost of paying for your own resilience anyway?

Voice Of The People

Sidney is finding the efficiencies and making the synergies happen through disruptive innovation as he often does.
In his post on Friday, Torres said little about why he eventually decided not to run but took aim at the city’s political establishment as he announced the creation of his PAC, “The Voice of the People.”
Already getting results
Charbonnet also calls for increased use of technology, including license plate readers, crime cameras and equipment that can detect gunfire and direct officers to the source. In addition, her plan calls for tracking NOPD vehicles and issuing officers cellphones whose GPS can be monitored to determine their location.

The proposal calls for better community policing and cites as an example the private patrols set up in the French Quarter by businessman Sidney Torres, who flirted with an entry into the mayor’s race for months before bowing out last week.
That is one strong Voice, Sidney has brought to bear. Seems like everybody who is anybody is listening. 




Congratulations to Sidney on hacking our democracy with his Voice.  How does he do it?

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A new form of communication

Mayor's Meeting

I'm sorry to see the mayor has parked his traveling budget circus this year. I tried to attend as many of these as I could over the years.   As Grace hints here, they were never part of a true participatory budgeting process. Not that there's anything wrong with that. But it is true that these meetings were often sold as something more than the glorified townhalls they actually were.
There's always been some debate over just how much the citizen input influenced the budgeting process. But that aside, the meetings were often satisfying exercises in democracy, sometimes rowdy and unfiltered but usually substantive and respectful.
Whatever the circumstances, the more opportunities the riff raff are given to show up and yell at the electeds, the better. These meetings were sometimes boring but more often they were hilarious.  Probably the most exciting thing that ever happened was Sandra Hester getting herself arrested in 2012.  But there were other more revelatory moments as well. Like Jackie Clarkson telling us that gentrification is good, Mitch saying things he probably didn't mean about Gusman's jail, or tipping off his intentions about the Public Belt railroad, or just Mitch getting yelled at by some whackadoodle about monuments or potholes or that one guy who looked at them funny the other day.

Anyway, it's a shame to see them go. It would have been especially delicious to watch these meetings go on during an election season. This is probably a big reason why they are putting them off, frankly. I mean, I'm not exactly buying the mayor's line about wanting to try out this exciting "new communication method."
NEW ORLEANS – On Tuesday, July 18, 2017 and Wednesday, July 19, 2017, Mayor Mitch Landrieu will host telephone town halls to discuss budget priorities as the City begins its 2018 budget process. The 2018 budget proposal will maintain the priorities outlined in 2017 and help maintain fiscal stability during the transition to the next mayoral administration.

For Mayor Landrieu’s final budget proposal, he will host two telephone town halls to give residents the opportunity to discuss their priorities ahead of the City’s July 31 budget proposal to City Council. This is a new communication method that allows elected officials to conveniently interact live with hundreds of constituents from the comfort of their homes through town-hall-style meetings.

The town hall on Tuesday, July 18 will cover priorities for Council Districts A, B and C. The town hall on July 19 will cover priorities for Council Districts D and E.
Interact live with elected officials from the comfort of your own home using that modern technological marvel known as the telephone. It's like tweeting at them but less convenient... and less effective, probably. See what you do is go over to this website, enter your phone number (no idea how many third parties will use it to spam you) and then wait around to be called. Don't make any plans or anything.

But if you want to participate in something like a budget meeting this year, that's the best you're going to get. Hopefully the next mayor will bring back the in-person meetings or something like them.  I'm not sure all of the candidates have quite got the hang of the new communication methods yet.


Monday, July 17, 2017

Beat the clock doctrine

The first two decades of the 21st Century may be the golden age of Disaster Capitalism. Naomi Klein's coinage "Shock Doctrine" has become popular almost to the point of cliche as a means of describing the political opportunism that follows and feeds off of crisis events. Wars, terror attacks, natural or man-made disasters furnish the means of subverting laws and systems that would ordinarily slow or prevent ethical abuses ranging from petty graft on up to civil and human rights violations. As Ray Nagin once said, "There is big money in disasters. Huge money."

This is nothing new, of course. Emergencies have always presented these kinds of opportunities. But the reason Klein's description is particularly relevant now is it suggests a stage of capitalism where the "big money" seems to be made during the course of destructive rather than creative events.  We aren't bending the rules and passing out money under the table to build bridges and roads or put a man on the moon. Instead we are spending it on "recovery" from the disasters we have brought on ourselves or "resilience" against the disasters we will bring on ourselves in the future.  The very term "resilience" implies fatalalism.  These are pessimistic, cynical times. We expect bad things to happen. Our leaders aren't planning to overcome or prevent the bad things. They are scheming to help themselves and their peers profit from the bad things as they happen.

Mitch Landrieu talks about resilience all the time.  So much so, in fact, that he stretches the term beyond meaning altogether. Now we can have a resilient affordable housing plan, a resilient COSTCO, a resilient bike share gimmick, a resilient Four Seasons Hotel, and so on.

Naturally, we also have a resilient French Quarter "security" plan.  For some reason, this involves street and sewer line repairs.  Probably we shouldn't complain too loudly about that.  Essentially what's happened is the mayor has talked the convention center into paying for millions of dollars worth of necessary infrastructure work. He shouldn't have to jam that into a wholly unnecessary surveillance and policing project in order to get access to this money. But it's one way to take advantage of the "shock" of a perceived crime wave in order to get around structural budgetary obstacles.

Of course, it also helps get around a few other inconveniences like the public bidding process, for example.
Rather than put the centerpiece of Landrieu’s $40 million citywide public safety plan out to bid as a capital project -- as is typically done for work of this size -- the city used an existing pavement maintenance contract to get the project started more quickly.

The three-year specialty pavement maintenance contract was put out to bid in December and the city selected Hard Rock Construction’s low bid of $3.9 million on Feb. 2. That was a little more than a week after Landrieu unveiled a public safety plan that included sprucing up Bourbon Street, fixing its long-standing drainage issues and converting it to a pedestrian mall.

But Hard Rock’s vice president, Jan Langford, said her company had no idea when it was selected that its pavement maintenance deal would be used to perform the far more involved Bourbon Street work.
It's pretty nice when you can just rush through all these details. That way nobody has time to worry about little stuff like  which Landrieu cousin might be coming out ahead.
Adding to the political intrigue with this project, Landrieu’s critics took to Facebook in recent days to complain that his cousin Renee Landrieu’s company, Landrieu Concrete and Cement Industries, had trucks on the job.
Maybe that's unfair. There are so many Landrieus running around out there that odds are anybody you encounter in the course of your daily business has about a 1 in 4 chance of being one.  So let's not judge. Instead, like David Hammer does in this story, we'll be sure to mention the fact but distance ourselves by sourcing it to "Facebook critics."  We also enjoyed the way Hammer explains that Hard Rock contributed $2,000 to Mitch AND $2,000 to Nagin during the 2006 mayoral election suggesting to us that as long as you bribe both sides there's probably nothing unethical going on.

But let's not get too bogged down in all that. Instead, the key bit from that story comes where Hammer asks Public Works Director Mark Jernigan what explains the irregular process.  The answer is, we're in a hurry.
Asked why such a complex and critical project would not be bid out separately as a capital project, Jernigan said there wasn’t enough time to go through such a long contract-procurement process.

He said the project needs to be finished by the end of the year. Asked what the rush was, he said it was important “to minimize the construction impacts and also to make sure it's integrated with the citywide public safety program.”

Asked if it had to be done by the end of the year to avoid construction during the city’s 300th anniversary celebrations in 2018, he repeated that it was important to finish the work as soon as possible.
And there we see the standard Landrieu move come back into play.  You don't need an actual disaster in order to play disaster capitalism. It turns out you can create an emergency situation simply by imposing a deadline.  Not every ticking clock needs to be attached to a bomb.  All that's necessary is to get people to buy into the premise.

Call it Beat The Clock Doctrine. It's been the primary motivator of Mitch's agenda throughout his term in office.  It was absolutely imperative that we finish the Loyola streetcar in time for the Superbowl.  It was crtical that we open the St. Roch Market in time for the tenth Katrinaversary. It's important that we finish Bourbon Street before the Tricentennial. No time to consider the long term consequences, of course. Does that streetcar to nowhere improve public transit or just move tourists around slowly?  Will the festival marketplace  be an affordable food source or a luxury entertainment? Will Bourbon Street be a public place or Disneyfied pedestrian mall? Que sera with all that. The important thing is that we get it all done right now.

Friday, July 14, 2017

So many Charbonnets

If you are voting in District E you will have the opportunity to double down on Charbonnets this fall should you find that you are so inclined.
Meanwhile, seven new contenders jumped into City Council races Thursday, including a former interim District E council member, lawyer Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet, who is seeking his old seat.

Charbonnet, a second cousin of Desiree Charbonnet, temporarily replaced Jon Johnson in 2012 after the latter resigned. Johnson pleaded guilty that year to conspiring to funnel federal rebuilding money, which was intended for a nonprofit he owned, to his unsuccessful 2007 campaign for state Senate.

Ernest Charbonnet unsuccessfully sought an at-large seat once his District E term was up and later a Juvenile Court judgeship.
If the Mitch model is any indication, it's important for a mayor to have lots and lots of cousins. It doesn't matter what they do or what sort of spectacle they make of themselves in the process so long as they're there to keep the universe in balance.

Anyway today, the key entertainment at the Clerk's office involves Frank Scurlock and Sidney Torres jockeying to see which of them gets to run out of the tunnel last. Yesterday we learned that Sidney has supposedly prepared a Happy video to go with the Sad one that got.. um.. "leaked."  Maybe we'll be blessed with that this afternoon some time. 

Policed Enough Already

I wonder if perhaps we've got the beginnings of a PEA Party here.
The new pay structure, Landrieu said previously, aims to build a "larger," and "more professional" police force.

However, a group of about 15 protesters outside City Hall on Thursday questioned why other city employees did not receive similar raises. The protesters, organized by a group called the New Orleans People's Assembly, said other areas of the city's wellbeing are ignored in the city's budget.

New Orleans People's Assembly spokesman Jeff Thomas said the percentage of funding used for prison expansion and police pay is too high. He said he does support pay raises, but they should be implemented in areas where more people would be affected.

"The pot can't be shared until we make it equal," Thomas said. "They should be looking for children, families and job development first."
Most of the headlines as well as comments (some in musical form) from candidates after the first two days of qualifying tell us the municipal elections are supposed to be all about crime.  Certainly crime will be an important issue but it can't be considered in isolation from its causal factors. Low wages, housing displacement, poor transit, neglected health and educational services, all contribute to the desperation of an impoverished population isolated from what city leaders continue to sell as a glowing story of recovery and progress.  All of this needs to be reeled in. But the easy thing to do instead is simply demand more money for police. So that is what the candidates are doing. 
“The people have spoken. They’re scared. They need a leader who’s strong and can make tough decisions,” she said. “I’m prepared to do that. I’m prepared to reduce violent crime significantly and rebuild the Police Department and do that without raising taxes.”

Charbonnet didn’t offer specifics but said she would “scrub the budget” to find the money to pay for her plan.
"Scrub the budget," is a phrase that may induce Buddy Roemer flashbacks for those of us who are of a certain age. But that isn't the only reason it is discouraging. The next mayor needs to take a more holistic view of the city's problems.. including the crime problem.. and not just throw money and platitudes at police.

Busy day today

It's been a busy week, really. Which might explain why the posts here have been crappier and fewer than usual even while so much is happening. We'll try and catch up later but it also promises to be a busy weekend. Anyway, in the meantime, have a show.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Well this answers one question

About a month ago, the city announced with much fanfare the first round of STR enforcement hearings.  They began in the French Quarter because, we were told, that was where the violations were the most cut and dry cases.  
“At this point, if you’re still advertising your short-term rental without a license, it’s a violation,” Director of Safety and Permits Jared Munster said Monday. “We pushed the cutoff as far back as we reasonably could. At this point, it’s time to either comply or stop” advertising.

It’s little surprise that the first properties to face a formal hearing are all in areas of the French Quarter where short-term rentals are entirely banned.

We started in the French Quarter because that’s the place where it’s easiest to identify that you can’t do this,” Munster said.
Some of us, then, immediately wondered how long it would be before even this supposedly easy zone of enforcement faced its first legal challenge.




And now one month later, we know the answer to that
One French Quarter property owner is offering tourists and locals a deal: Buy a party catered with 20 po-boys for $595 and get one free night's stay in a Vieux Carre house, an arrangement offered on a short-term rental website.

The owner of 821 Gov. Nicholls St. is now challenging the city's enforcement of a ban on short-term rentals in the French Quarter in a lawsuit on the argument that what's being purchased is catering services -- not a short-term rental -- because the free night's stay is merely an optional bonus.

Despite the lawsuit, a city administrative hearing officer Wednesday (July 12) fined property owner 821 Gov Nicholls LLC $3,000 for six violations of the city's short-term rental ordinance. Officials showed a VRBO.com listing for "Melba's Mansion" during the hearing.
This is sort of like the loophole that lets drive through daiquiri shops operate so long as they hand you the drink and the straw separately. I wonder how many more will follow this sandwich rental model if it proves successful.

Delicious but deadly

That good ol Crescent City Clear 
The New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office are notifying residents citywide of the possibility of temporary elevated lead levels in drinking water as crews begin to dig up roads in coming months. The work, which has started in earnest in Lakeview and ramps up citywide headed into fall, affects a number of neighborhoods including New Orleans East, Gentilly, the Lower Ninth Ward and the Audubon area Uptown.
Extremely Mitch voice: Hey y'all wanted y'all's streets fixed, right?

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Hey what is Scurlock's position on "Blue Lives Matter" laws?

Because, while the video here clearly shows Scurlock being an annoying dickhead, it does not show anything like an "assault" against a police officer.
City prosecutors on Wednesday raised the ante in their case against businessman and mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock over an incident involving a New Orleans police officer.

Scurlock — who has not yet filed his official paperwork to run for mayor — was charged in a bill of information with assault and crossing a police cordon. Police accused him of bumping Officer Clinton Lawrence, who was trying to maintain order amid protests over the planned removal of the Jefferson Davis monument in Mid-City on May 6.

The municipal assault charge represents an escalation by the City Attorney’s Office, given that Scurlock was initially booked by police on a single municipal count of obstructing a public place.
Since Scurlock's mayoral campaign (should such a thing actually materialize this week) isn't going anywhere, it's probably okay to enjoy the show he and his lawyer (who happens to be Thomas Robichaux, amusingly enough)  are providing now that the City Attorney has taken the bait. 
On a Wednesday conference call with his attorney and a reporter, Scurlock said the new charges against him were an example of "typical Louisiana politics at its finest" before Robichaux interrupted him to say a written statement would be coming soon.

Robichaux added to those allegations in a statement he sent by email.

“This new bill of information amounts to perjury on the part of the city attorney, and a blatant and willful disregard for the truth and the basic constitutional rights of the citizens of New Orleans,” Robichaux said. “Mitch Landrieu is drunk on his own ego and will do anything to discredit my client. It's time for City Hall to focus on real crimes instead of abusing their power.”
As absurd as the entire situation is, this is actually a legit point. Police and city officials have no right to bully anybody like this... no matter how ridiculous that person happens to be.  

Events

Louisiana Budget Project is hosting a series of public information meetings on the status of the health care bill. There are two in the New Orleans area. Gambit has a list of times and locations.  You probably won't see your Senators in public again before a vote happens so this will have to do.

Nobody wants to be mayor

Qualifying begins tomorrow.. by which I mean today since it's just after midnight while I type this. I haven't been by the Clerk Of Court's office this evening so I don't know if any candidates are camping out to get a good spot in line or anything.

As it stands now, here is your Advocate dance card. If it stays as is, this is a terribly lame turnout.  Much was made of the move to a fall election cycle in the cause of generating more public interest.  So far it hasn't generated many candidates. The contests of note are in council districts A, B, and C.  Otherwise, matters are oddly quiet. Even the open At-Large seat looks like the field was deliberately cleared for Helena Moreno.

It's remarkable that nobody wants to even try and challenge Marlin Gusman. Even though nobody is clear on what, exactly, the Sheriff does under the current consent decree arrangement, it's still a plum of an office. The lesser offices are strangely quiet too. Nobody wants to run for any of this stuff.

Strangest of all, it seems virtually nobody wants to be mayor of New Orleans. Maybe that will be different by the end of the week. But it's getting more and more difficult to imagine how.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

So many Landrieus

There is news from Sorta Deputy Cousin Ken's road rage trial. The victim of Cousin Ken's rage testifies:
Landrieu was wearing a six-pointed badge pinned to his shirt. He asked Harris whether he was drinking and smoking and threatened to call his “boys” to arrest him, Harris said.

“So I just went full submission. I said, 'Yes, sir, I’m not going to say another word' ... and he puffed up his chest and said 'Good,' and started driving,” Harris said.
Harris said he feared that Landrieu could have shot him.

He was beet-red, angry. It looked like his blood pressure was through the roof. He was obviously extremely pissed off, angry,” Harris said.
The phrase, "Beet-red angry man pulling out gun" is in that headline, by the way. And it's so perfectly American a thing that I almost saluted when I read it.

Also Cousin Ken's defense is not very convincing.
Defense attorney Thomas Calogero sought to show that Harris decided to call police only because he believed that a member of the Landrieu family was involved. Harris testified that his wife was able to deduce that the license plate on Kenneth Landrieu's car belonged to Landrieu Public Relations, a firm controlled by Phyllis Landrieu.
There are so many Landrieus running around loose in the world, though. Like, pantloads of Landrieus.  Any incident that happens near you in this city involving more than two persons, and especially if any of those persons could be described as "beet-red angry,"  assume at least one might be a Landrieu. The odds are pretty good.

Oh yeah I totally could have won....

LOL Walt Leger.
But Tuesday, a day before qualifying starts, Leger emailed supporters to say he would not be running.

"The decision was not an easy one, mostly because it presented such an amazing opportunity to serve this great city, but also because I am certain a path to victory was clear," Leger said. "However, my public service has never been about titles or jumping to the next best thing. Rather, I remain focused on working hard, studying issues, and relentlessly pursuing policy initiatives in a professional, reasonable and bipartisan manner."
It was clear that I would have whipped everybody. But that just didn't seem very nice so, enjoy being mayor, then, whoever.  Ok, Walt. Anyway, we knew Walt was out the same week Desiree got in. But it's been fun.

Meanwhile... is that Troy Henry's music
Troy Henry, the business consultant who in the 2010 New Orleans mayor’s race finished a distant second to Mayor Mitch Landrieu, said Tuesday that he is pondering jumping into this year’s mayoral fray.

His consideration of a second run is fueled by a desire to solve city ills such as violent crime, unequal opportunities for residents and gentrification, he said in a prepared statement.

“We can't continue going from one administration to the next with the same problems that continue to plague every Mayor and Council,” Henry said. “Something different has to happen to benefit the citizens not just in talk or political rhetoric, but in REALITY!”
Hey look it's a business guy who makes loud, self-aggrandizing statements in all caps with exclamation points.  That' new.

You may also remember Mr. Henry from such political follies as:

Going to the mat in favor of corporal punishment at St. Aug.


Having also been employed by a company attempting to privatize water systems in New Orleans and in Atlanta... but also lying about his specific role with that company.  

Having been at Enron during an interesting time.
After a dozen years with IBM, Henry was recruited to help launch an energy-services branch at Enron. He moved his family back to New Orleans while he commuted to Houston.

As vice president for North American operations, Henry recalled putting in long hours to take "a business that was floundering and give it some direction." But in mid-2001, Henry said he was startled to see an earnings report that appeared inflated.

Henry said he was told by superiors that Enron simply was engaging in aggressive bookkeeping with its accounting firm's blessing. He left the company on Sept. 7, 2001, just as revelations began to emerge of a massive accounting fraud that led to Enron's collapse in one of the largest corporate scandals in U.S. history.
Having had his 2010 campaign basically ended by one rebuke from Sybil Morial.  

So, yeah, he should be fun to have around this fall. Anyone with a chip on his shoulder this big fits right in with the current zeitgeist.
He might also appeal to voters who are fed up with the current slate of long-time politicians and want an outsider to shake things up -- a profile Henry appeared to be cultivating in his statement Tuesday.

“I have been successful without the politics, despite being unfavorably treated by the current administration and the power structure of the city,” he said.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Serpas signals no

This was a long shot rumor anyway.. I think.

Ronal Serpas is taking a pass on politics.

The former New Orleans Police Department superintendent, who was rumored to be considering a bid to challenge Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman in the fall, said Monday he would not be running.

"I am very happy here at Loyola University New Orleans," Serpas said in an email in which he flatly rejected a bid.

Serpas, who has never sought elected office, secured a tenured post as a "professor of practice" at Loyola shortly after Mayor Mitch Landrieu tossed him from the police chief's job in August 2014 after four tumultuous years.
Qualifying begins in a few days. Seems like nobody wants Gusman's job (such as it is right now.)  Hardly anybody wants to run for Mayor either, it seems.  More on that later. 

Do not keep a handgun, just in case

Just in case John Kennedy, who famously told you you'd better keep one, decides stop and frisk, instead of love is actually the answer.

Update:  One more thing here.  What is Gambit's opinion on Stop and Frisk?  The way this is worded suggests they have issued a ruling.
Though "stop-and-frisk" is controversial, it's not unconstitutional, though in 2013 a federal  judge ruled part of New York's implementation of the practice to be unconstitutional. An analysis of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy, conducted by the New York American Civil Liberties Union, found "innocent New Yorkers have been subjected to police stops and street interrogations more than 5 million times since 2002, and that black and Latino communities continue to be the overwhelming target of these tactics. Nearly nine out of 10 stopped-and-frisked New Yorkers have been completely innocent." The department has gradually stepped down the practice since 2011.
Not sure why that is written, "it's not unconstitutional" rather than the more accurate, "it has not technically been ruled unconstitutional."  The explanation is fine but also sort of incomplete.  In the New York case, the judge ruled that the NYPD police "as applied" was most certainly unconstitutional because 1) It violated Fourth Amendment protections against reasonable search and seizure and 2) The clear racial bias evident in the NYPD stop and frisk operations violated the Fourteenth Amendment's equal protection clause.

The FactCheck.org bit Gambit cites allows that the judge did not technically rule all "stop and frisk" policies are inherently unconstitutional allowing for a standard established by precedent.
In fact, Judge Scheindlin pointedly wrote in her opinion that she was “not ordering an end to the practice of stop and frisk.” She said they could continue if the city complied with court-ordered remedies to make sure that the stops and frisks did not violate the Constitution. (Scheindlin called these “Terry stops,” referring to Terry v. Ohio, in which the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968 ruled that a police officer can stop and frisk individuals where there is a reasonable basis for suspicion.)
But the Terry standard is itself controversial. So much so, in fact, that it's difficult to see how it prevents the sort of abuse the judge ruled against in the New York case. Note Justice Douglas's dissent quoted here.
In theory, this (Terry) seems like a reasonable compromise. But applying the standard in practice is fraught with potential dangers. Chief Justice Warren warned that "in determining whether the officer acted reasonably in such circumstances, due weight must be given not to his inchoate and unparticularized suspicion or 'hunch.'" But it's hard to avoid the conclusion that vague hunches are in fact responsible for many stop-and-frisk searches. As Justice William O. Douglas warned in his dissent, without ongoing vigilance, it's easy for the stop-and-frisk regime to devolve into a norm where "the police can pick [someone] up whenever they do not like the cut of his jib."
It's easy to see how any stop and frisk policy quickly opens the door to casual everyday violations of civil liberties. The New York case happens to be one where the data made the story crystal clear.  This is different from the experience in other cities such as, say, New Orleans where, yes, in fact, Stop and Frisk has been in open operation already.  Unfortunately for us, our Inspector General was either unable or unwilling to make a strong case against its application. From 2013:
The purpose of the IG's report was to determine whether officers "were compliant with legal requirements to stop individuals only when there was reasonable suspicion" and whether "when conducting stops and frisks, NOPD appeared to apply the constitutional standard of reasonable suspicion equally to all persons, regardless of their age, gender or race."

But auditors were not able to do so, the report says, because of various holes in the data. Though officers are required to fill out field information cards for each stop, they often did not complete the forms in full, the report says, and they sometimes listed multiple subjects on a single form.
The cops aren't filling out the form so I guess... ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ (the pose one assumes when stopped for a search)

It's worth noting also that Kennedy specifically refers to the New York practice in his whining. In other words he is arguing for the very application of the policy that has definitely been ruled unconstitutional. His argument, like Michael Bloomberg's is, basically, "This works so STFU, everybody."
"Throughout the trial that just concluded, the judge made it clear she was not at all interested in the crime reductions here or how we achieved them. In fact, nowhere in her 195-page decision does she mention the historic cuts in crime or the number of lives that have been saved."
Leaving aside the validity of Bloomberg's assertion, it isn't the judge's task to weigh the effectiveness of a law against the fundamental civil rights if violates in order to achieve its effect. Does Mitch Landrieu's "mentor" not understand this or does he just not care?  In any case, it's probably not a good idea for Gambit to issue its own legal opinion. No reason to embolden these bad actors.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Failson privilege

This morning we read that yet another luxury hotel development is coming to a formerly modest New Orleans neighborhood. That's not likely to catch anyone's eye these days.  This bit did catch ours, though.
Kupperman's firm, 1507 Magazine LLC, has scheduled a July 17 community meeting to gather feedback about the project. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. at Felicity Church, 1220 Felicity St.

Kupperman did not return a message seeking comment Thursday.

Kupperman was a co-founder of Dinner Lab, a New Orleans-based membership-driven catering and events business that expanded to more than two dozen cities before abruptly pulling the plug and filing for bankruptcy in 2016
Dinner Lab (once described as "the darling of the New Orleans entrepreneurial community,") was a scam that sucked up about $10 million in venture capital and roughly $3 million state tax credit subsidies before declaring bankruptcy and suddenly firing 30 people. Apparently somebody gave that guy some more money to burn through on this project. Historic renovations often qualify for tax credits too, you know.. .

Anyway, how is it that Kupperman keeps getting handed sacks of cash with which to do trendy but unsustainable things? Well, that's just Donald Trump's America, isn't it?  If you're already somebody, you're likely to stay somebody.  It's all about wealth accumulation through failsonnery
In April 2016, as Donald Trump was on the cusp of clinching the Republican nomination for the White House, he sold two luxury condos near Manhattan’s Central Park for less than half the price his company had said they were worth. The lucky buyer: Trump’s son, Eric.

Such family-friendly deals would normally incur hundreds of thousands of dollars in gift taxes.

But in this case, Trump appears unlikely to have been on the hook for anywhere near that, thanks to benefits only available to real estate developers.

Eric Trump bought the two condos on the two top floors of the Trump Parc East building at 100 Central Park South for $350,000 each. Trump Organization filings show that, as of February 2016 — two months before Trump sold the apartments to Eric — the condos were priced at $790,000 and $800,000. A similar one-bedroom condo on a lower floor at the same building sold for $690,000 in 2014.

The transactions illustrate the unique advantages that real estate developers like Trump have when passing down valuable assets between generations.
This ethos also explains Sidney Torres, by the way. Something to keep in mind when or if he starts putting up "his own" money for a mayoral campaign. 

It was all those dang mayors

According to Danae Columbus, the "many many friends" urging Karen Carter Peterson to get into the mayor's race were America's other mayors who wanted her in their club.
During her recent trip to the U.S. Conference of Mayors convention, several mayors from around the country encouraged her to run and made commitments to help with fundraising. Bolstered by their support and the large number of self-proclaimed undecided voters in the early mayoral polls, Carter Peterson began making phone calls to potential supporters on Friday.

After several days of reflection, Carter Peterson realized her path to victory was not clear enough.
In particular, Peterson's path would have been most occluded by her "dear friend" Cantrell who is counting on a similar (though not identical) base of support. And since nothing in politics is worth doing if it isn't super super easy to do, KCP decided not to do it.

At least that appears to be Columbus's take.  I'm still willing to entertain other theories.  For instance, one would think someone of KCP's stature and experience would know how to explore her prospects in a quieter way that doesn't embarrass her "dear friend." So there must have been some purpose to the very public deliberation.

I've seen it suggested it may have been an attempt to push LaToya out of the race. I've also seen it suggested the purpose was actually to boost LaToya's chances.  Yet another theory I've heard is that the feint was more about feeling the landscape out generally. Somebody wanted to see which donors or backers might rethink their approach to the race if Peterson's head suddenly popped up. Or maybe it's something else entirely.

One thing we should mention in light of Columbus's offering is that the new President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors is Mitch Landrieu. If the push to get KCP in the race was coming from that direction, it's reasonable to assume Mitch's hand was in there somewhere. Why? Well, who knows? (See all above) But whatever it is it probably isn't good.

Here is a video of Landrieu's speech at the conference.  Before he gets too far into his pretty goofy remarks about the awesome might of the mayors or whatever, he takes a minute to thank his "mentor" Michael Bloomberg who is among others he cites as, and I am not making this up, "the mayors who are Making America Great Again." Mitch is on record saying that he is "not going to walk away" from city politics. And his NOLAPAC has about $140,000 cash on hand as of the June filing. If his involvement in the election is going to be purposed toward furthering the cause of Bloombergism in New Orleans, that's worth keeping a wary eye on.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Bill is a real big boy

After everything every political pundit in the state wrote about how what a stand up guy Bill Cassidy is for doing the bare minimum work of listening to the public at public forums, it's pretty funny that he's hiding from constituents behind a building manager and some JP deputies today.
METAIRIE, La. —

Three people were arrested Thursday morning while protesting in the building which houses U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy's office in Metairie, officials said.

Hailey Saucier, 26, Mark Darensbourg, 33, and Laura Welter, 29, were arrested on charges related to violating a state statue for "remaining after forbidden."
For some reason a stupid office park's private property concerns take precedence over constituents wanting to talk to their Senator about health care
JPSO deputies booked them for criminal trespassing for "remaining in place after being forbidden," a misdemeanor that can carry up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $500.

Moments before JPSO prepared to put her in plastic hand ties, Saucier explained she suffers from a polysaccharide immune deficiency, which she calls an "extremely rare, extremely complicated and extremely expensive" condition previously covered through her father's insurance under ACA rules expanding coverage to children up to age 26. She now is covered through Medicaid under Aetna, which Saucier says will likely drop her from coverage because of costly treatment. Saucier says treatment without insurance tops $40,000 a month.

"I don't want to get arrested — I want to be able to live with dignity," she said. "I'm not doing this for fun ... I wouldn't be putting myself in this position if it wasn't life or death ... I'm acting out of desperation and trying to stay alive."
Update: If you get picked up by JPSO for "remaining after forbidden," you end up having to pay $500 plus in bail money. That's after they leave you sitting in jail for nine to ten hours. I'd say this is typical of how millions of Americans interface with the criminal justice system, but in most cases, it's actually more violent than that. 

No, really.. What was it all about?

Tim Morris asks almost the exact same question here about Karen Carter Peterson that we asked yesterday. The closest he comes to an answer is speculating that maybe someone wanted to talk LaToya into dropping out. Who knows? There has to have been something more to this stunt than just KCP's goofy whim.

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

The next mayor's problem

What to do when that "projected revenue growth" doesn't materialize.
For the first two years, the money for the raises would come from sales of city assets, including some connected with the lease of the former World Trade Center building for redevelopment into a Four Seasons hotel and condos, Landrieu said.

The administration settled on that approach after floating the idea of putting a tax increase before the voters, something that members of the City Council opposed.

In later years, officials are projecting that growth in city revenues and money that is freed up as unrelated city debts are paid off will cover the higher pay levels.
Ok Well, best of luck there. We're all counting on you to be right about this. Or at least your successors in office are. Same goes for anyone in danger of being press ganged into police work should the next mayor decide to explore a revision of this  policy.
Previous moves to swell the ranks included a 15 percent salary increase in 2015, stepped-up recruiting efforts with a national hiring campaign, the relaxation of education requirements for recruits and changes to make the hiring process more accessible.

We don’t have a mandatory draft. I can’t make people be police officers,” Landrieu said. “But everyone asks how to fight crime — one way is to join the Police Department.”

So what do we reckon that was all about?

Last week we learned that KCP was suddenly "very seriously" considering getting into the mayoral race. She took the holiday to think it over. And then, just as suddenly, she wasn't so serious about it anymore.   What was that all about? It's possible that she just wanted to take one last look at her prospects one week before qualifying. These political types do like to have their egos stretched as often as possible.

But the timing here was a bit weird. Even the idea was strange. Not that KCP couldn't have been a strong contender,  but jumping into the race at this point would have landed her squarely on the toes of her "dear friend" and presumptive front runner, LaToya.  Why would she do that?

This morning WDSU reported on a pair of polls one of which was conducted for the Cantrell campaign. Peterson's name does not appear in the results.
In the Cantrell poll, 600 people from various backgrounds were polled. If the elections were held today, here's how things would break down:

Cantrell has 23 percent, Charbonnet is at 14 percent, businessman Sidney Torres received 13 percent, Bagneris is at 8 percent and New Orleans-based state Rep. Walt Leger is at 6 percent.
Notice neither Torres nor Leger is an announced candidate. Was this poll question open ended or were respondents provided a list of names to choose from? If it was the latter, why were Leger and Torres included but not Peterson?

Was KCP ever really serious about running? Or was she putting her name in the mix temporarily for some other purpose? We may never know the point of this exercise but it sure  was odd.  Meanwhile,  there's still plenty room for someone else to jump in. We realky could use a few more candidates here. But there's only a week left to find them.

By the way, the good news for KCP is her hypothetical campaign qualified her to participate in the first edition of Wheel Of Mayors which debuted during the second hiur of this week's Hunkerdowncast. You can catch that here, btw.

You can always be a little bit more cruel

We've been kicking and shaming and making life more difficult for poor people for so long now, it's a wonder there's anything more we could possibly take from them.  Garret Graves is working on it, though.
When Graves says in his press release, “It’s become a lifestyle for some to actively choose government assistance over work,” it’s another dog whistle: White conservatives take a kind of perverse and ignorant pride in their work and in their value as members of society. They would only take public assistance if they absolutely needed it.

But for others, it’s a lifestyle to actively choose not to. This plays into the idea that the poor and needy have morally failed somehow, that they choose their poverty– and therefore, it’s fair to disdain them, shun them, and make their lives more difficult by adding onerous requirements such as this one. (It’s no coincidence that the bill introduces requirements for SNAP recipients similar to probation: These requirements reflect a conservative belief that being poor is a moral failing that shows someone to be untrustworthy and of low character.)

This isn’t serious legislation. It is cruelty marketed as conservatism, Changes to federal law as part of the welfare reform of 1996 already prohibit anyone able-bodied, age 18-49, and with no dependents– the same people targeted in Graves’ bill– from receiving this benefit for longer than three months at a time. 

The emphasis is original to the piece. I decided to leave it in there since it points out that twenty years ago Bill Clinton decided the best way to answer Republican cruelty was to latch himself on to the brand.  Just agree to the basic principles of conservative policy so they can congratulate you on your bipartisan wisdom and everyone can get on with their lives.

Of course for many of us, getting on with our lives means being ground into the dirt by unnecessary obstacles to basic necessities placed in our way for the sake of political expediency.  But hey, that's "compromise," right? Sometimes you have to give up a little now in good faith to ensure they won't come back for more later.  Until they do. Then what? Compromise again, I guess.  You'll be a hero.

It turns out Democrats still think like this.  Even in the face of a Republican threat to "end Medicaid as we know it," party leaders are promoting a "bipartisan" compromise response this week they say is meant to attract more Republican support. Of course it won't.  If Donald Trump and the Republican majorities in Congress continue decrying Obamacare as "socialism" and if Garret Graves can come back decades after Clinton and rail against imaginary welfare cheats, it should be clear by now there is no bipartisan solution that is going to satisfy them. However cruel you agree to be for them, they can always demand you be a bit worse.

 So, we have to ask what is it Democrats actually want?
But today, the political dynamics are there - precisely because CAP cannot win this fight. The odds of any CAP-crafted healthcare bill making it through Congress as an alternative to Trumpcare are effectively zero. The GOP may fail to pass Trumpcare, but if that happens it will be because of the GOP, not because of any clever maneuvering from CAP.

Once we dispense with the pragmatic-compromise explanation for the MSPRA, it's much easier to understand what CAP is doing. They are proposing a "bipartisan" patch on Obamacare, not because they think they can win through compromise, but because they largely agree with what Republicans want to do. They are promoting market-based healthcare instead of embracing popular support for single payer because they do not want to see single payer succeed. There's no counter-intuitive chess game going on here; liberals are telling the left exactly what they want, and we would do well to take them at their word.
(I added the emphasis that time. I was also tempted to put it in 72 point flashing type just for fun.)  

School is a depressing place to be

Especially if you go to school some place where they put the students in handcuffs. Imagine if they sent you home for being depressed, though.  
It wasn’t the first time this school has caught the state’s attention this year. In January, Craig suspended a boy who school leaders thought was depressed until he saw a psychiatrist. That’s not a legitimate reason to keep a child out of school.

Nothing would ever get done.

Worst Ghost Hunters Episode Ever

To be fair, The Gas Chamber would be an appropriate title for a Clay Higgins podcast. It's just not, you know, an appropriate venue for one.
The Auschwitz Memorial on Tuesday condemned a video posted over the weekend that shows U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins inside a former gas chamber at the concentration camp, speaking to the camera.

“Everyone has the right to personal reflections. However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence,” the Auschwitz Memorial tweeted from its official account. “It’s not a stage.”
Also, lol at the notion of Clay Higgins having a personal reflection. Good one, Auschwitz. 

Monday, July 03, 2017

It's good to define our terms

Woke:
NEW ORLEANS -- Essence Fest is always a big deal for New Orleans, and Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the festival and New Orleans are a perfect match.

The festival's organizers agree.

At Friday's empowerment seminars, organizers presented Landrieu with an honorary "Woke" award. They said being "woke" is being aware of social problems in the community.
They recognized Mitch for "awareness."  What he's actually done about these problems he's aware of is a different story. Yay, we took the monuments down! But Mitch's role in that has mostly been absorbing a disproportionate amount of credit.  Boo, violent crime continues to be a problem! But Mitch's actions in response to that range from vapid demagoguery to draconian demagoguery, neither of which is especially helpful but boy does he ever demonstrate awareness of the problem.

The flipside of all this is he's also taken too much blame from racist pro-monument people as well as from anyone who thinks the mayor is directly responsible for waving a magic crime prevention wand but who cares what such people think, right?  Anyway, stay woke.

Here comes trouble

There will be plenty of time to talk about this later but I've got this feeling that Ted Ginn is going to be a big headache for Saints fans this year. That's nothing new as Katzenstein points out here Ginn has burned the Saints on several memorable occasions during his career.  But he also has a habit of burning his own team. 
Drops have plagued him throughout his career, and his production hasn't measured up to expectations for a ninth overall pick, which he was in 2007. Ginn also has 20 career fumbles, though he's somehow lost just four and just three of them came on offense. That doesn't excuse the 17 fumbles or muffs on special teams, like one kickoff return in Week 2 last year when he let a mortar kick bounce in front of him and then saw an opposing player recover at the 2-yard line. His other fumble in that game, however, happened on a punt return when one of his teammates interfered with him.
We've already seen a few optimistic comparisons to Devery Henderson. That's probably a good read on the role the Saints have in mind for Ginn. But I'd also point out that Devery's successful years with the Saints came after he more or less got a handle on the drops. By the time he hit his prime years, in fact, the bad rap was just that.  I'm not sure Ginn is as consistent.

Assuming the 75 year old receiver manages to stay healthy, there will inevitably come a point in the season where he does something to make everybody very mad at least for a few minutes.  So.. just be ready for that.

If some candidates forum in a forest and there's no one there to report on it...

What is the deal with Justice and Beyond going full Sean Spicer on their municipal candidates' forum last week?
Organizations that host candidate forums during election season usually want as many people as possible to hear how the candidates respond to questions about what the group considers to be the major issues.

So it was a bit strange that the organizers of a forum held last week by the groups Justice and Beyond and A Community Voice seemed determined to block any coverage of their event.

After a round of introductions at the forum for mayoral and City Council candidates put on by the two community organizing groups, Justice and Beyond head Pat Bryant announced that the entire affair would be off the record.

That’s the norm for Justice and Beyond’s regular meetings. The group’s gatherings have devolved into fiery disputes often enough for its leaders to know that reports in the news about the contentiousness may not reflect well on the organization.

But it’s unusual for a candidate forum — in which the focus is on the contenders’ statements, not the identities of those in the audience — to be completely off the record.
Also I guess we will accept your lame jokes about "safe spaces." Please submit them at the desk. 

Sunday, July 02, 2017

New Orleans runs on exploiting poor people

This is from James Gill's column today about Harry Cantrell
If Cantrell lacks sympathy for the poor, perhaps it is because he can hardly imagine what their life is like. The law practice he was allowed to operate on the side when he was court commissioner did so well that he declared $1.5 million in income for 2001, although he paid no taxes until the IRS secured a lien 2003. He then paid then some $300,000, and refused to cough up any more until a federal court in 2014 ruled that he had met only half of his liability.

Cantrell's law practice may have been lucrative, but it evidently overstretched him, for he was sanctioned by the state Supreme Court in 2003 for neglecting his clients. When he was elected magistrate, Cantrell converted his old law office and rented it out for $245 a night through Airbnb.
I had forgotten about the Airbnb thing.  Kind of neat that was happening while City Council was crafting the short term rental legalization that LaToya eventually supported.  Also kind of neat that she has a chance this year as a candidate for mayor to take a strong stand against excessive bail.  Recall that she helped to pass a municipal reform measure last year that was supposed to rein these practices in.  But, as this lawsuit indicates, clearly that wasn't enough.  This city appears to run on exploiting poor people. Our municipal elections should be all about examining how this happens and how far the candidates are willing to go to change it.

"The E.P.A. is acting"

Trump put out a wresting tweet this morning. Everybody is talking about it. There's nothing new about that except that it involves a 7th grade level degree of video editing skill that we all agree is beyond the President's capacity. So the revelation here is that the unhinged tweets are not simply Trump acting alone.

Maybe that isn't significant but it does lend credence to the "distraction" theory popular among Trumpologists. I have been and am still skeptical of going too far in this direction. But the general admonition is that we (we being the entirety of the popular and media observation) are too focused on the carnivalesque antics of the President while teams of evil geniuses working behind the scenes quietly dismantle civilization.  I'm most often skeptical of this analysis where it regards the Russia investigations. 

Conspiracy theorists of the "radical center" apply this mode of reasoning to Russia when they should be using Occam's Razor.  They construct grand narratives about secret agents working to undermine freedom when what they're actually looking at is a story about corrupt international business dickheads and their ethically conflicted relationships.  The enemy here isn't a shadowy state conspiracy. It's just mundane everyday global kleptocapitalism. Not that that's necessarily better. It's just different and less fantastic.

This doesn't negate "distraction" theory entirely, though.  Trump's absurdities, intentional or otherwise, can take attention away from the real damage his administration is doing. In some cases they can even mask a dangerous competence at work.  Take, for example, Scott Pruitt's E.P.A.
Mr. Pruitt’s supporters, including President Trump, have hailed his moves as an uprooting of the administrative state and a clearing of onerous regulations that have stymied American business. Environmental advocates have watched in horror as Mr. Pruitt has worked to disable the authority of the agency charged with protecting the nation’s air, water and public health.

But both sides agree: While much of Mr. Trump’s policy agenda is mired in legal and legislative delays, hampered by poor execution and overshadowed by the Russia investigations, the E.P.A. is acting. Mr. Pruitt, a former Oklahoma attorney general who built a career out of suing the agency he now leads, is moving effectively to dismantle the regulations and international agreements that stood as a cornerstone of President Barack Obama’s legacy.

“Just the number of environmental rollbacks in this time frame is astounding,” said Richard Lazarus, a professor of environmental law at Harvard. “Pruitt has come in with a real mission. He is much more organized, much more focused than the other cabinet-level officials, who have not really taken charge of their agencies. It’s very striking how much they’ve done.”
The problem Trump presents doesn't have anything to do with his own perceived lack of "competence."  This is a chaotic and often bumbling administration. But often enough it's an active sort of bumbling that has real and dangerous consequences.  In Naomi Klein's words, it's important not to underestimate how good Trump is at being an idiot.
“I think he is a showman and that he is aware of the way that shows can distract people,” she says. “That is the story of his business. He has always understood that he could distract his investors and bankers, his tenants, his clients from the underlying unsoundness of his business, just by putting on the Trump show. That is the core of Trump. He is undoubtedly an idiot, but do not underestimate how good he is at that.”

Beyond that he has, presumably wittingly, “surrounded himself with some of the world’s most expert crisis profiteers”. Men who have made billions out of meltdown and financial crisis, such as Wilbur Ross, the “king of bankruptcy” who is now secretary of commerce, or the various crash-plutocrats recruited from Goldman Sachs and elsewhere. (“In any other moment,” Klein says with a laugh, “the very fact that the CEO of Exxon Mobil is now the secretary of state would be the central scandal. Here we have a situation where there is so much else to concern us it is barely a footnote.”)
And, of course, Pruitt fits into that group well. They're getting a lot done. Even while it seems like their boss is falling apart.

Saturday, July 01, 2017

Friends don't let friends run for mayor

Or maybe they do?  State Senator Karen Carter Peterson, who we thought had ruled this out, tells Gambit she is seriously considering running for mayor.
Peterson said she has been “encouraged by many, many friends” to enter the race based on the current announced field. That field includes former Judge Michael Bagneris, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet and businessman Frank Scurlock.

Peterson says her due diligence includes polling, strategy, talking to potential campaign team members, assessing her own and her potential opponents’ skill sets — and meeting with at least one other announced candidate: Cantrell, whom Peterson described as “a dear friend.”

“Because we truly are dear friends, I had to meet with LaToya and let her know that I was seriously considering the race,” Peterson said, emphasizing that she has not yet made a final decision to run.
"Many friends.." are encouraging KCP to run. Other friends are the current presumed front runner. The only poll published to date has LaToya ahead with 21 percent. Here closest contender, in fact, is hypothetical candidate Sidney Torres which probably explains why someone like Peterson might see an opportunity.

Friday, June 30, 2017

what

State Senator Beth Mizell (R-Franklinton) thinks all you guys who got out in the streets and made this monument thing happen aren't "real citizens."  So that's nice.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Donald Trump: Republican

Alex Parene patiently explains what some of us have nearly exasperated ourselves trying to say all the while.  The substantive policy direction of the Trump Presidency is proceeding precisely the way any Republican presidency would be expected to. Yeah Trump is also exceedingly crude and stupid. But that's just style points, really.
Trump himself is abnormal. The actions of his administration, with a few notable exceptions, are not. Democrats need to disabuse the Amy Siskinds of the country of their belief that more genteel Republicans would act more responsibly.
The hook may change with the fashion of the day, but the program remains the same. We tried to point this out a few years ago when people were trying to explain there is some sort of difference between Steve Scalise and David Duke we are supposed to care about. We thought that was nonsense.

Now here we are in the time of Trump and Scalise is back in the news. Yes, he was the victim of a horrific shooting incident which we all condemn. But he also just voted to pass AHCA out of the House enabling probably the most deadly of Trump's policy initiatives to date not including the ones that involved actually dropping bombs on people.  Certain folks seem to think that there's some significant difference between the Republicans making the policy and the Republican selling the policy this time around for some reason. Not sure why that is.

Time bombs

Lots and lots of American Can type projects all over town are going to mature from "mixed" housing into the Nice Things For Rich People they were built to be in the first place.
A former can manufacturing plant was transformed into the American Can Apartments in 2000 with the help of $39 million in public resources, including bonds and grants. In return, developer HRI Properties had to keep at least 20 percent of the 268 units at affordable rates when the property opened a year later.

In 2013, HRI Properties sold the complex to Georgia-based Audubon Communities Management. Attorneys for the complex didn't respond to a request for comment.

The lower rents expired in March, but the complex is allowing those affected to stay until the end of October at the reduced rates, said Hannah Adams, an attorney with Southeast Louisiana Legal Services who worked with Esnault.

The length of subsidies in New Orleans varies from development to development, ranging from as little as five years to 15 years or more, said Ellen Lee, director of housing policy and community development for Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration.

Affordable-housing subsidies for about 1,200 units will expire in 2021 with another estimated 5,000 scheduled to expire 10 years later, she said.
Meanwhile, wages remain stagnant, and the short term rental market is turning more and more of the housing stock over to tourism.  No mayoral candidate has a plan to curb STRs. The nearest any of them comes to a housing plan is more "incentive" programs tied to luxury development. That's not gonna get it done

Here comes Tiger Swan

They go wherever the pipeline goes.

Baton Rouge, LA -- TigerSwan, the mercenary firm under fire in North Dakota for using counterterrorism tactics against water protectors opposing Energy Transfer Partners’ Dakota Access pipeline at Standing Rock, has applied for a license to operate in Louisiana.

While the application process does not require the firm to indicate who they will be working for, Energy Transfer Partners spokesperson Alexis Daniel said the pipeline company anticipates work to begin on the Bayou Bridge pipeline in the third quarter of this year.
We'd complain to the Governor but he's on Energy Transfer Partners' payroll. We'd complain to Mitch but he actually likes to hire mercenaries for beefing up security. It's actually kind of his thing.