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Saturday, June 24, 2017

How's the #Resistance doing?

Pretty well, it looks like.  Many of its founders are already getting rich Making American Great Again. 
Other Democratic lobbyists have found that their corporate clients’ interests align with the Trump administration. Some, like Podesta, are taking financial planning industry cash to work on the fiduciary rule.

Steve Elmendorf, a former senior advisor to Clinton’s 2008 run, maintained a high-profile role with Clinton’s 2016 run, raising $341,000 for the campaign. He is now one of the most prominent corporate lobbyists in Washington, D.C. Records show that Elmendorf, too, lobbied on the fiduciary rule. His client, the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association, a trade group for firms like Prudential, has made delaying the rule a major goal and celebrated Trump’s move to delay implementation.

UnitedHealth, the health insurance giant, is also an Elmendorf client. Filings made to ethics officials on Capitol Hill reveal that Elmendorf is helping UnitedHealth work on issues related to the Affordable Care Act, including the health insurance industry tax, a provision of the ACA that UnitedHealth has made clear it seeks to repeal or delay. Congressional Republicans have said that, if they are successful with their overhaul of the law, the tax will be gone.
Meanwhile we're still arguing over whether Democratic candidates who run in conservative leaning districts should advance a progressive agenda or just drift along to where the money is.  If you're in the club who gets paid no matter who wins, you can see how this might not seem like an important matter to you.

So.. just bigger barricades, then?

Somebody must have some bollards to sell.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to turn several blocks of Bourbon Street into a full-time pedestrian mall as a security measure was dealt a blow Friday by a traffic study commissioned by his administration.

Instead of the round-the-clock closure of Bourbon between Iberville and St. Ann streets that Landrieu’s administration has been calling for as part of a French Quarter-focused security plan, the study by the international consulting firm AECOM recommended only modest tweaks to the existing closures on Bourbon and Royal streets.

The major change the company recommends would add bollards that could keep vehicles from ramming — intentionally or otherwise — into crowds, replacing the relatively flimsy police barricades now in use.

It also suggests the city consider closing Bourbon for more hours each day, while still allowing deliveries to bars, restaurants and other businesses on the internationally known nightlife strip.
When I read this the first time, I thought they meant to close the intersections entirely so that traffic would not even be able to cross Bourbon during the closed hours. But that isn't clear and I'm starting to think, no, they just recommend installing fancier barricades.  Also some fancy cameras to make sure the fancy barricades are being used appropriately. 
Emergency vehicles and trash collectors could also be given keys that would let them move the bollards out of the way if they needed to drive down Bourbon. Surveillance cameras would monitor the intersections to make sure the barriers were being removed only for authorized reasons.
Or we could just stick with what we're doing. It's cheaper, less oppressive and every bit as effective against the few incidences of violence that actually occur there. 

 

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Always good to be validated

Although, in this case, maybe this is a sign one is one the wrong track.

Clancy DuBos today says this election reminds him of something.

No two elections are alike, but this year’s race for mayor of New Orleans reminds me (so far) of the 2002 mayor’s race. Ray Nagin won that contest, but don’t panic. I don’t see another Nagin in our future. What looks familiar is the slow pace at which the field is taking shape and the lack of a clear front runner, at least as this stage.

Clancy goes on to enumerate some additional parallels none of which is this one, exactly, but I would like it thrown onto the pile anyway.  Last month, some idiot on Twitter said:




Yes, I plan to elaborate. But later.  If I could have anything I wanted for this election it would be about 8 more candidates to enter the field. But for now it looks like we're going to the circus with the clown car we have. So, yeah, Clancy is right about the slow pace.  Maybe something fun will happen next month.

The Hayride is a garbage website

Look, if you don't agree with the mayor then just criticize the mayor.  Lord knows we do it all the time. But don't make shit up. It's not necessary and you look like a dumbass.  But, then, why does this surprise us?

One Big Lie

Call it what it is.

Also call your Senators and yell at them.  It won't change their votes and they will tell Big Lies in response but they need to be yelled at.
Leaders of the 10 insurance companies told Mr. McConnell that proposed caps on federal Medicaid spending would cause “an enormous cost shift to the states,” which could force them to raise taxes, reduce benefits, cut payments to health care providers or eliminate coverage for some beneficiaries. Among those signing the letter were top executives of AmeriHealth Caritas, Molina Healthcare, Blue Shield of California and Healthfirst, in New York.

But Senator John Kennedy, Republican of Louisiana, said the Medicaid provisions were one of the bill’s chief attractions for him.

“In my state,” Mr. Kennedy said, “we are now spending 47 percent of our budget on Medicaid. That’s up from 23 percent in 2008. It’s crowding out money for universities and roads and public safety and coastal restoration, and it just keeps climbing.”

There are no "moderate" Republicans

Since the day the House passed it's version of ACA repeal, we've been assured by pundits that the more sober and deliberative Senate would mitigate the damage or perhaps stop the bill entirely.  The Louisiana press alone has produced several volumes on the subject of Bill Cassidy's "compassion" over the past month alone.

It's all nonsense, of course. There aren't actually any "moderate" Republicans in the world's most conservative governing chamber. The only compassion that obtains there is reserved for wealthy taxpayers.

It would also repeal virtually all the tax increases imposed by the Affordable Care Act to pay for itself, in effect handing a broad tax cut to the affluent, paid for by billions of dollars sliced from Medicaid, a health care program that serves one in five Americans, not only the poor but two-thirds of those in nursing homes. The bill, drafted in secret, is likely to come to the Senate floor next week, and could come to a vote after 20 hours of debate.
Since there aren't any moderate Republicans coming to save us from this, one would like to think that at least the opposition party could find the will to mount something like a coherent counter. But that doesn't seem likely either.

One of Ossoff’s more well-circulated ads (entitled “Table”) found him sitting alone at a kitchen table, aping a line from Margaret Thatcher to bemoan how “both parties in Congress waste a lot of your money.” In the folksy imagery and call to reduce the deficit, he invoked a trope that’s been circulated for years by pollster Frank Luntz and other right-wing goons to justify painful spending cuts: if hard-working American families have to make tough choices about their finances, then why doesn’t Washington?
One party gleefully steals your health care money and uses it to pay off its wealthy donor base while the other sits down at your "table" to lecture you about making tough choices. Nobody in this picture seems to be of much help. We'll keep looking for those moderate Republicans, though. Let us know if you find any.  Maybe they'll know what to do.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

All hail the enforcement regime

We are given to believe this constitutes a "hammer" drop.

New Orleans brought the hammer down on a handful of short-term rental owners in the French Quarter on Wednesday, levying the maximum fines against owners of half a dozen properties accused of breaking the new regulations.

In all, seven property owners who were found to be listing their properties on Airbnb, VRBO and similar sites are now facing a total of $17,000 in fines after an adjudication hearing Wednesday morning.
Big haul, there. City budget problems solved forever, I guess. Individually,  the most any one operator is hit for here was $3,000. For individual property owners that might be a lot. But if you are a bigger player than that, and a lot of these STRs are owned by bigger players, that might just be a minor cost of doing business.

Now here's an affordable housing set aside we can all get behind

What happens when you have displacement in a city that invests too much in building nice things for rich people?  You take that shit and redistribute it.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

You say you want a revolution

Well...  
A billionaire-backed “movement” is dangerously close to calling a constitutional convention of states under Article V of the U.S. Constitution. If realized, it would be the first constitutional convention since the 1787 Philadelphia Convention, which replaced the Articles of Confederation with the U.S. Constitution.

After an active start to 2017, proponents are now allegedly seven states away from reaching the needed 34 states (two-thirds) to convene a convention. According to Article V, which lays out all the ways the constitution can be amended, any amendments proposed by the convention would then need to be ratified by 38 (three-fourths) of the states.

Analysis of email blasts from proponents and a new op-ed shows that an emboldened group of paid pro-convention campaigners are advocating for a convention to go far beyond its professed purpose of passing a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA). Their proposals include the creation of a national identification card.
There doesn't seem to be much there to backstop such a thing. The so-called opposition party can't even defend its somewhat popular health care law from a brazen, secretive, and wholly unpopular move to repeal it.  You could tell them maybe they aren't doing themselves any favors by staking their fortunes on candidates who refuse to defend their stated values. But, as they love to tell you, they are much smarter than you are and certainly know what they are doing.

This worked out better than it could have

It's almost old news now but it looks like they're all clear to go through with this deal between the city and the port over the Public Belt Railroad. Theoretically, a contiguous public space stretching the length of the riverfront from Bywater on up to Canal Street is going to be a nice thing to have.  I don't like the way the mayor calls it an "opportunity," though. 

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Monday (June 12) a property exchange with the Port of New Orleans gives the city the final piece -- two French Quarter wharves -- to create "the largest contiguous riverfront footprint in the United States of America" connecting Crescent Park to the upriver side of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

"There will be no other city in America that's got that level of opportunity on the river," Landrieu said.
"Opportunity" for whom?  For most of us, a public park along the river is a pleasant place to be, to watch the boats, to attend a festival, maybe. It's an "opportunity," though, for people with money to invest in real estate or in tourism-related businesses. And that means we're about to go through several rounds of arguments over whether zoning laws, building codes, and such should be tweaked to their advantage.  It will probably go badly. 

The good news is the Public Belt isn't going to be privatized which means the Port and the various businesses who depend on it will continue to function without having to pay an unnecessary toll to some interloping firm with a railroad monopoly.  In the long run, even that may not matter much. But, for now, it's a pretty good outcome.

Feudal order

After decades of conservative and neolib orthodoxy, shrinking state and local budgets, and privatization of everything, we barely even notice the thousand little ways governments use their law enforcement mandate as a means of revenue generation. Hilarity ensues.
Thousands of local motorists have been hit with speeding tickets from New Orleans traffic cameras this year, especially with the number of cameras nearly doubling since January, when 55 new locations were added.

One of the new locations is on Leake Avenue near Short Street, the route Joyce Hamilton has used to commute to work for the past 36 years. She said she was shocked when she received a citation in the mail.

“I was like, ‘Where is this camera? Where is this speed limit sign? I drive on that street almost every day and I had no idea,” Hamilton said.

Turns out that hundreds of other drivers also had no clue, because the city didn’t install a new 25 mile-per-hour speed limit sign until May 11, city records show.
Of course it's bad enough when the bounty is collected by a faceless contractor via some camera robot. It's different when an actual bounty hunter is empowered to kidnap you.
When Egana couldn’t make payments on his bail bond fee, a bounty hunter arrested him at work. He was taken to Blair’s Bail Bonds and told he needed to find someone to pay $800 if he didn’t want to go to jail. Egana’s mother emptied her savings account to pay the money. After arriving at the office, she was told she had to pay an additional $1,500.

On another occasion, a bounty hunter grabbed Egana on his way to court in Orleans Parish. He refused to listen to Egana’s pleas to allow him to attend court, telling him that he would soon have a warrant for his arrest. He dragged Egana across the street, handcuffed him inside of the Blair’s Bail Bonds office and held him against his will for hours until his family brought money.

The bounty hunter told Egana: “We will see how much money we will get today!”

Hi, Cindy

It's a special moment when a storm first earns its name.
The storm system churning in the Gulf of Mexico has officially been named Tropical Storm Cindy, the National Hurricane Center said in an update issued around 12:40 p.m. Tuesday (June 20). Cindy is the third named storm of the 2017 hurricane season, which forecasters predict could be more active than usual.
It's a solemn event; a rite of passage. This tradition by which professional scientists, news media, elected leaders, and, really, society at large agree that it's perfectly normal to anthropomorphize a potentially dangerous weather anomaly is a mystery that demands only the utmost seriousness of mind.




Do not taunt Cindy lest you invite her wrath, basically. That seems logical. Hard to believe so many TV weathermen are climate change deniers.

Also we should think about Cindy's feelings. This is her time to enjoy herself in her full glory before she smashes herself to death on one of our shores later this week.  Not all Cindys get this opportunity.  Some of us are so old now we remember the last Cindy to come this way in 2005. She wasn't actually given a name until a day or two after she was already gone.  I remember going in to work the next day and talking to everyone about how surprised we were at the strength of the wind the night before.  What we thought was going to be just a lot of rain from "Tropical Storm Cindy" had blown up into a hurricane overnight.  And then she was gone before we even knew her real name.

This year's Cindy isn't expected to do that either. As of right now it's projected to head off to Houston by, probably, Thursday. But I'm sitting here watching this radar loop and I don't see it making that westerly jog just yet. In any case, Southeast Louisiana is going to see a great deal of rain and coastal flooding even if the current track holds.
RAINFALL:  Cindy is expected to produce total rain accumulations of
6 to 9 inches with isolated maximum amounts of 12 inches over
southeastern Louisiana, southern Mississippi, southern Alabama, and
the Florida Panhandle through Thursday. Rainfall amounts of 3 to 5
inches with isolated maximum amounts of 6 inches can be expected
farther west across southwest Louisiana into southeast Texas through
Thursday.

STORM SURGE:  Inundation of 1 to 3 feet above ground level is
possible along the coast in portions of the Tropical Storm Warning
area.
So, you know, Carl and Mitch and the 500 people behind Mitch's podium are kinda right. But just because a storm is worth taking seriously doesn't mean we can't also laugh at it.  Certainly we can laugh at them, anyway.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Game on

Hope everybody is ready to play storm season.
With a tropical system that is expected to bring heavy rains to south Louisiana hovering in the Gulf of Mexico, state and local officials began Monday to prepare for a foot of water or more in some areas.
So if you are inclined to think of this as a "dry run" that's probably not the phrase you are looking for. Apart from the rain, there are also tides to worry about. Even the modest storms push enough surge to cause serious coastal flooding nowadays.  We all know the reasons for that.

I wouldn't mind voting against a police chief or two

LaToya mentioned this idea at her "kickoff" party
One possible way to make the police department more responsive, Cantrell said to applause, would be to change the city charter to elect a police chief independently instead of making him a political appointment by the mayor.

“It’s working in our sister parishes. It’s working in other communities across the country,” Cantrell said. “It’s something we do need to be mindful of, and I want to have that conversation as your mayor.”

The idea is just a topic she wants to explore thus far based on ideas from constituents, and would ultimately require a vote by the public to change the structure of city government, Cantrell said. But it would offer one definite advantage of providing autonomy and consistency in the city’s police force that is insulated from the whims of changing mayoral administrations.


It's not the first time this has come up.  A few years ago, J.P. Morrell  proposed merging the Chief's and NOPD's functions with the Sheriff's office. He's continued to advocate for an elected Chief since then. 
In an interview Thursday, Morrell acknowledged that merging the two agencies would be an enormous undertaking, practically and politically.

But he argued that New Orleans taxpayers aren’t getting their money’s worth from the existing arrangement, where the police force answers to City Hall and an independently elected sheriff manages the local jail.

“We’re paying for two different police departments, and only one (of them) polices,” Morrell said, alluding to the fact that Sheriff Marlin Gusman’s office is tasked mainly with operating Orleans Parish Prison, rather than patrolling or investigating crimes. “The system has been broken since the 1970s.”

Morrell pointed to Jefferson Parish, where the Sheriff’s Office acts as the police force for most of the parish, bolstered by separate departments in municipalities such as Kenner, Harahan and Westwego. “We’re the only parish that elects a warden,” Morrell said.
It's an interesting coincidence, then, that a different rumor has former Police Chief Ronal Serpas considering a run for Sheriff. That development wouldn't merge the offices, obviously, but it would at least suggest the possibility.

"non-establishment"

You can be neoliberal AF in your approach to service economic development and basic service delivery. You can be authoritarian AF in your approach to law enforcement and public safety. You can cozy up to bankers and hoteliers and corporate "partners" as a general matter of course.  You can be the son of a mayor and brother of a three term US Senator. You can have an extensive resume in politics at the local and state level. You can serve as Lt. Governor of your state and as a two term mayor of a major American city.  But, as long as you don't actually work in D.C., you still somehow qualify as a "non-establishment politician"
Democrats bruised by their upset loss in 2016 say they’ve learned the lesson of needing the right candidate for the right time. Even as Hillary Clinton, the consummate political insider, won the presidential nomination last year, Democrats saw excitement continue to grow around Sen. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont Independent who was the ultimate outsider.

Now, as the party looks to rebuild, Democrats say Landrieu and other non-establishment politicians like him could be the future of the party.

For Landrieu, it means increasingly fielding questions about a White House run in 2020.
If you say you've "learned the lesson of needing the right candidate" instead of Hillary Clinton and your response is to go out and find a candidate who replicates her policy program exactly, then you've learned the wrong lesson. This isn't an examination of party and what it stands for. This is a cynical re-branding exercise.


But, then, if the professional Dems are intent on sticking with cynical politics, Mitch is probably their man. For whatever reason, he and his handlers prefer to lie about their obviously coordinated effort to push the monument speech out to a national audience rather than just tell us it's something they thought the country should hear. We've said this before. The speech was pretty good. But because Mitch Inc. is constitutionally incapable of not treating us with sneering condescension, they can't own up to the fact that we, in New Orleans, weren't the primary audience. Also check this out.
Ryan Berni, the deputy mayor of external affairs under Landrieu, said the monuments speech was “never intended for a national audience.”

But he said the address, which was written by the mayor himself, stood out “as a way to move forward” on race issues.

“It was genuine, and that’s why it was able to resonate beyond the local audience it was intended for here,” he said, adding “It’s always flattering to have your work recognized.”
Again, all they have to do is admit that they have some speechwriters and PR people on the task. Nobody would fault them for that. The lie here is an outright act of contempt. All of which is to say you're not going to find a more establishment Democratic politician than Mitch Landrieu.  His m/o fits their failed 2016 model to a tee. 

Here is a brief second line video just because

The Perfect Gentlemen Father's Day parade and second line came within porch-sit participation distance for us this weekend. It only rained on them a little bit.


Saturday, June 17, 2017

Nobody actually lives there

The world's cities are becoming playgrounds for luxury travelers. People don't live in them anymore
Italian cities are the latest subjects of concern that Airbnb is pushing permanent residents out of historic city centres and aiding a trend in 'Disneyfication' in places such as Florence, according to a new report from the University of Siena.

The authors behind the report claim that up to one in five properties in the historic centre of Florence is being rented out through Airbnb, turning the feted city into a “theme park for tourists”.

“Almost 20 per cent of the entire housing stock in the historic centre of Florence is listed on Airbnb, which is a lot,” said Stefano Picascia, one of the authors behind the report. “Every single flat on a short-term let is one flat less in the regular long-term market.”

Picascia and his colleagues claim locals are increasingly being pushed out by tourism, which is affecting the character of Italy’s cities.

“The centre of Florence is now 'Disneyfied',” Picascia told Telegraph Travel. “It’s basically a theme park for tourists.”
Despite the fact that the STR market has been pressuring renters in New Orleans for several years now, it has only recently shown up on policymakers' radar.  But rather than doing anything helpful, last year, city council passed a massive liberalization of the city's enforcement regime becoming a partner in the "Disneyfication" of neighborhoods in exchange for what it hopes will be increased revenues collected in fees and property taxes.

Early in the process, LaToya Cantrell  signaled that renters would not be a priority to her. Speaking at this Tulane Hillel forum on gentrification two years ago, Cantrell answered questions about Airbnb driven displacement by saying only that she was interested in a "balanced" approach that would increase revenue. She also reminded the audience that it was important to remember New Orleans is a "destination city." She would go on to vote with the 5-2 majority of councilmembers who passed the (non)regulation package last December.

Today, Cantrell appeared along with Michael Bagneris at a mayoral candidates' forum hosted by Indivisible NOLA. From what I gleaned via Twitter, the Indivisibles did ask about housing this morning, but I didn't see anyone talk about short term rentals explicitly.  That's a shame since LaToya, especially should have to answer for her vote to approve the legalization during this campaign.  Plenty time left, I guess.

Cruel June

The Saints' 2017 season is only a few minicamp workouts old and they may already be in wait-til-next-year mode.  Here's the Terron Armstead story I read this morning. Let's see if I can recall the entirety of the damage without re-reading it first.

So there's Armstead out for what will be half the year at least. Unger is optimistic that he can come back from a Lisfranc injury by opening day. But those are actually pretty tricky so I wouldn't bet on it. Nick Fairley's heart is exploding. He might never be back. Umm.. who else... oh there's something wrong with Ellerbe again.  Is that all of them? Let me know if I missed something.

Anyway the trouble with the whole season being off the rails in June this time around is there aren't very many Payton/Brees years left.  I'd had it at 50/50 that this is the last one, in fact. And that was before it started looking like a lock for 7-9 again. So who knows if there will be a next year to wait for. But on the off chance that there is, maybe next June let's just lock everybody in the hyberbarric chamber until it's safe to play outside again.

Friday, June 16, 2017

That problematic Danae Columbus column

This Medium post by Jordan Flaherty is probably going to get some circulation. The attention-grabber at the top is a story about how political consultant and current Uptown Messenger columnist Danae Columbus was fired from her job as a City Council PR specialist in 2006 for using a racial slur.  Not everyone thinks this is a big deal, apprently. Already the social media response has included a fair amount of shrugging. I've seen various iterations of "It was ten years ago and widely known," popping up.  OK. And Uptown Messenger publishes this column anyway.  Is that worth asking about?  A lot of people don't seem to think so.

But before we pretend to be surprised at this, we should remember that the punditing profession continues to employ despicable racists, sexists, and homophobes like David Brooks, Thomas Friedman, Ross Douthat, and Bret Stephens.. and that's just at the New York Times!   So let's not flatter ourselves with the conceit that Columbus is violating a professional norm just by being racist.

Flaherty also calls out Columbus's massive conflict of interest given that she often appears to use her column to promote the agendas of candidates and officeholders who also happen to be clients of hers.
Columbus, who also was caught using ethically dubious tactics in a 2012 city council race against LaToya Cantrell, writes for the Messenger while maintaining her job as a publicist for local politicians, and her columns read more like press releases than political analysis. A March, 2017 column about Stacy Head, a client of Columbus, is an uncritical list of Head’s accomplishments. Columbus describes Head as a popular candidate who “soundly defeated” her opponents..

It would be more accurate to say that Head, one of the city’s most racially divisive figures, is popular among white voters and deeply unpopular among Black voters. In her first election, Head likely only defeated Black incumbent Renee Gill Pratt because most Black residents of the district were still displaced after Hurricane Katrina. Pratt, who was under federal investigation at the time, was still more popular than Head among the Black residents of the district. Head won her 2010 election in that same district with 98 percent of the white vote and 30 percent of the Black vote. In Head’s 2012 primary race for the city council at-large seat, Head received 96% of the white vote and 5% of the Black vote.
So the complaint is Columbus is a racist writing promotional material for paying clients to a largely racist audience. To put it another way, she's pretty well in line with the standards and practices of political punditry at large. There are a number of underlying reasons for this which I don't intend to go too far into here. This CJR piece by Farai Chideya on diversity in newsrooms is a good place to start although there is a more expansive power and status analysis to tack onto it. But, like I said, it's more than I want to deal with here.

Instead I thought it was worth pointing out the conflicts and motivations that animate a lot of what Columbus produces in a column which I do read regularly. It's a good source for local political rumors as they tend to surface there before other outlets. And, yes, one supposes that is the brand Columbus sells to the Messenger; Juicy insidery poop with a healthy side of questionable ethics and a dash of racism. Still, if one is willing to wade through it, one is likely to learn a thing or two.

For example, Columbus's latest column is one of her worst. She takes shots at the group, Indivisible NOLA who are hosting the first public forum of the mayoral election this weekend.  It turns out that only Latoya Cantrell and Michael Bagneris are able to make it. Columbus's objection, though, is that pro-monument carnival barker quasi-candidate Frank Scurlock wasn't invited.

In an especially gross turn, Columbus even goes so far as to invoke this week's shooting incident endangering the life of Steve Scalise to suggest that a progressive group's exclusion of the Bouncy House guy from its meet and greet is a furtherance of that violence. Because, of course in such times, it is incumbent upon Indivisible to reach out to the guy who was arrested "defending" the Jefferson Davis monument. This is the only way the healing can begin.  At least he seems to think so. When "reached by text" Scurlock basically told Columbus that they are the real racists here.
Reached by text in Singapore where he is attending an international amusement parks convention, Scurlock said he believes INO’s decision was “all racial.”

Anyway here are the details on that forum, again. Scurlock has made it known that he intends to show up and "protest" whatever that means. So be ready for fun.

Update: Scurlock says he is a victim of "reverse racism" But also, according to Gambit, "Scurlock has said he plans to formally kick off his campaign in early July." Dude has already had two "official kick offs" to his campaign. One was a sort of press conference at Armstrong Park. The other was something he called "Cinco de Scurlock." Is he even going to actually qualify?

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Ok but why make that specific choice?

I guess I'm going to have to read this book to understand it better but what I was hoping to get from this story was a clearer understanding of what caused SBA to emphasize fast food franchises over healthier food retail in poor, minority dominated neighborhoods. The answer suggested here is that it was just The Market at work.
But why were fast-food franchisees so frequently the recipients of these SBA loans, rather than grocery stores or independent restaurants? One is that profit margins for fast-food can be as high as 6 percent, compared with 1 percent for grocery stores, as Jou writes. Grocery stores also often require significantly more square footage to operate space that can be hard to come by in a densely populated area. In 2009, for example, Subway franchisees received $27.7 million in SBA loans from the federal government, whereas all the combined grocery stores in the U.S. only received $4.1 million, Jou writes.
Is that all it is, though? Or are there other factors relating to, for example, the outsized influence of fast food companies on policy via their pressure groups. In any case, it's another episode of The Market not always making the best choices for us.

South Louisiana is a thrill ride

Sometimes when I'm just sitting here, I like to throw my hands up and say, Wheeeeee! Try it. You can feel the drop a lot better that way.
Land along Louisiana's coastline is sinking 50 percent faster than was estimated just two years ago, according to a new map published Wednesday (June 14) as part of a study by Tulane University geologists. It says the average subsidence is 9 millimeters a year, more than one third of an inch.
That's subsidence alone, by the way.  Add in the sea level rise and you come to understand that you may get wet on this ride. 

Something about quality and shortcuts

A few weeks ago an episode of this took a bit longer than usual to edit and upload. At the time, Varg asked why it always takes so long which was a weird thing to ask because it wasn't really true then. Since then, though, it's somehow become a self-fulfilling complaint. Sorry about that. There are reasons but they aren't important. Anyway, here is this. It's got stuff about the UK General Election and later some stuff about Mitch and Cannizzaro's ineffectual and/or brutal reactions to a recent spike in violent crime. In both cases we argue for moar socialism. Well... some of us argue that. Varg just thinks the problem is British people ruined the world. Which is true, actually.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

What was the point?

Everybody is ok with passing the budget this time. It's pretty much the same budget they couldn't pass last time.
The Louisiana House gave preliminary approval Wednesday (June 14) to a $28 billion budget plan that is very similar to the one the Senate endorsed last week -- but that the House leadership had refused to bring up for a vote. Had the House voted for this budget on Thursday, the last day of the 2017 regular session, the Legislature might have been able to avoid the current special session that is costing the public $60,000 per day.
Not all sewn up yet. But one wonders why throw the fit in the first place but for the political theater. I think the House Republicans believe they benefit from looking like they fought real hard and stuff. Maybe this was enough for now. They'll all be back before the next regular session anyway.  Gotta do something about that "fiscal cliff."

There's more than one TV/Movie trope that applies to battle near a chasm. I hope everyone is aware. 

This is not the housing policy you're looking for

It's probably some sort of progress that we're even having a discussion about the effectiveness of these tax giveaways to developers in the first place. But the context is still an assumption that tax giveaways to developers are the best way to do housing policy.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu plans to unveil a new economic incentive policy in about five months and won't support property tax breaks for new residential real estate projects that don't include reduced-rate units in the meantime, the administration's head of economic development said Tuesday (June 13).

The mayor's office is working with consultants HR&A Advisors on a study of real estate development tax breaks and a wide range of other economic incentives, ahead of a new policy being released later this year, said Rebecca Conwell, Landrieu's senior adviser for economic development.
Love to hire private consultants to weigh in on policy for us. This firm, in particular, always has a sweet gig somewhere. 
HR&A Advisors previously worked with the city developing a resilience strategy in 2015 and also studied the state's film production tax credits at the request of the movie industry, amid debate among state lawmakers over rolling back the credits.

I'm not a news media professional but my first question about the consultant would be, do their clients also include private development companies and other organizations looking to "unlock value in underutilized assets"? Because that's what their website says.




HR&A provides a full suite of real estate development services.

We provide critical thinking for development projects, advice to public, private, not-for-profit, and institutional clients—including municipal governments, counties, quasi-public agencies, BIDs, large medical centers, universities, foundations, public development authorities, private owners, building portfolio managers, national developers, performing arts centers, and museums—to unlock potential and transform assets and places.

HR&A creates coordinated real estate strategies to unlock value in underutilized assets.

We help clients identify short, medium,  and long term actions that support organizational missions while creating value from their real estate portfolios. We recommend solutions that are flexible enough to respond to changing market conditions and evolution of our clients’ long term strategies.

I'm guessing they collect a fee from everybody no matter what the policy outcome eventually is so it's probably fine, right? Anyway it's a strange time for the city to hire a consultant to look into housing tax credits when all they really have to do is watch this Frontline report on the faltering federal Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

In a joint investigation, NPR — together with the PBS series Frontline — found that with little federal oversight, LIHTC has produced fewer units than it did 20 years ago, even though it's costing taxpayers 66 percent more in tax credits.

In 1997, the program produced more than 70,000 housing units. But in 2014, fewer than 59,000 units were built, according to data provided by the National Council of State Housing Agencies.
Or they pay attention to the ways in which "inclusionary zoning" and affordable set aside policies in other cities are not making much of a dent in the housing crisis but are definitely causing nice things for rich people to be built. Or they could remember the last time one of these trickle-down "incentive" programs backfired in New Orleans.

Actually, according to the article, they are at least indirectly acknowledging that last one.
While the study is ongoing, the administration won't support property tax reductions for any projects that fail to include a "permanent affordability" component -- typically considered at least 50 years -- or affordable housing for low-income and middle-income renters.
Still, all of this tells us we've still got a long way to go before we can say decision makers in New Orleans understand that housing policy is a human service instead of a private partnering opportunity or even something to be described with loaded business analogies like this. 
After the meeting, Conwell said there's an opportunity for the city to align the use of economic incentives with the city's various strategic plans for housing, equity, resilience and other areas. Part of that will be to scrutinize how the city benefits from incentives.

"The city is making an investment," Conwell said. "If we give up the taxes, if we forgo taxes, it's like making an investment. It's not unlike a bank making an investment ... you want some certainty in return on investment."
Like we said at the top, it's probably good that we're at least subjecting some of these incentive programs to greater scrutiny. Anything that produces a less egregiously corrupt conduit for public money to enriched developers is better than nothing.   But we're still not anywhere near to developing an effective housing policy. Not sure when that starts happening.

Q: Do you think we should just keep building nice things for rich people?

If we can't ask the mayoral candidates that, then Pat's list will do in a pinch.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A little air out of the cushion

The very notion of an unspent "cushion" in a budget that hardly meets basic and dire needs is an insult to begin with. It's also probably not necessary.  But here we are. They've managed to talk the reactionaries out of about half of it.
The House Appropriations Committee on Tuesday advanced a budget proposal that backs away from the chamber's push for the state to spend less money in the coming year but aims to leave about $100 million in projected revenue unspent in the coming year.

The committee's approval sends the latest action in ongoing negotiations over the state budget that's slated to to begin July 1 to the full House for consideration on Wednesday, with five days left in the special session focused on the state's finances.
They'll whine and complain either way but if this is the compromise budget that passes, the Henry-Harris faction will have won the point. 

Ok and then what?

It's hard for me think of any way breaking East New Orleans off from the city helps anyone at all. But I especially can't imagine how it would benefit East New Orleans residents. Nevertheless they persist.
NEW ORLEANS – Residents in New Orleans East will continue talks Tuesday about the possibility of seceding from the city.

Eastern New Orleans maintains a reputation as a dangerous and poor area largely ignored and neglected by city leaders. It’s that perception that has spurred a new effort: seceding from the city of New Orleans to form a new city that would be known as East New Orleans, which would include the Lower 9th Ward.
The mayor's office is expected to issue a "response" at tonight's meeting. 6 PM tonight at St. Maria Goretti on Crowder Boulevard. 

In the future all news from Capitol Hill will be Senators Periscoping each other

They can't be on TV anymore.
Senate Republicans on Tuesday shocked the Capitol with an apparent crackdown on media access that immediately drew criticism from reporters and lawmakers.

Reporters were told they would no longer be allowed to film or record audio of interviews in the Senate side hallways of the Capitol without special permission.

Television reporters will need permission from senators, the Senate Rules Committee, the Senate Sergeant at Arms or the Senate Radio and TV Gallery, depending on location, before conducting an on-camera interview with a senator anywhere in the Capitol or in the Senate office buildings, according to a Senate official familiar with the matter.
Gonna be real weird when all you can see on C-SPAN is just John Kennedy vlogging about different kinds of mayonnaise

Nobody actually lives in the French Quarter

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

The city announced a first round of citation hearings for violations of the new STR law. They're starting in the Quarter which is both the easiest and most difficult neighborhood to deal with. It's the easiest because it's where the violators are easiest to find.  Simply put, if you're in the Quarter (except on one short stretch of Bourbon St.) and you're Airbnbing your place, you are breaking the law. So far the city has found ten violations.
Of those 10 properties, two owners have mailing addresses in California, one in Fort Worth, Texas, and four in Louisiana outside New Orleans.

Some of the properties continue to be listed on short-term rental websites, said Jennifer Cecil, director of the city’s One Stop permitting center.
Recently the T-P also noted that some of the violators continue to be listed on Airbnb's website despite the companies agreement to begin taking such listings down.  Of course there's no mechanism in place to cite Airbnb for violations so we'll just have to depend on their good word that they'll get it in gear eventually.

Meanwhile, enforcement in the Quarter is also the most difficult since this is where one imagines the first lawsuits over the law itself are likely to emerge.  If some out of state investor, or sovereign wealth fund, or criminal front,  or  rich asshole with a pied-a-terre is going to court over their god-given right to profit maximization it's going to happen over one of these Quarter properties.  Which one, though?

Monday, June 12, 2017

New old names

The Advocate mentions two new City Council candidates in today's political blurbs. The candidates are new to this race but the names are not.
They are Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, a community activist and Yellow Pocahontas Mardi Gras Indian, and Kenneth Cutno, a community development and housing consultant. They say they will sign up for the District D and Division 1 at-large seats, respectively.
Add a Batiste to a ballot that already includes a Bagneris and a Charbonnet in the mayoral slot and you've got yourself one heck of an #authentic NOLA-branded field.  We should look into selling Brass Passes or something. If anything it further highlights the absence of any Landrieus whatsoever.  Especially strange given that there are millions of those.

Cutno's name is less familiar but he himself has run for office previously. Granted that was more or less what one might consider a vanity campaign against Cedric Richmond last year. Jumping into a citywide At-Large race with little experience or name recognition would seem much the same way.  But that's fine because minor candidates hoping to catch fire are important. Often they are free to focus on policy positions more established figures may find risky but which deserve to be heard.
Cutno is calling for the repeal of a comprehensive set of regulations for short-term rentals that the City Council approved last year, a $17 million investment in affordable housing programs and the removal of the city’s traffic cameras, among other things.
Not that other candidates aren't talking about housing. But few have directly called for a repeal of the STR regs even though it's already clear they will have to be revisited one way or another.  I also believe Michael Bagneris has criticized the traffic cameras. But is he even a major candidate at this point?

"Career fraud people"

This was an enjoyable bit of background on our old friend Stuart "Neil" Fisher. The fact that he finally agreed to an extended interview is probably an indication that even he thinks his options for fighting the WTC development in court are exhausted. Fisher and his associates may be "career fraud people," as one attorney refers to them in this story, but career fraud people do get to know things in the course of their work. The next phase of this story may be enlightening.
Meanwhile, Fisher is refusing to give up. He’s got a hearing in the bankruptcy case scheduled for next month; in court records for that case, he lists as a potential asset the money he would make from filing a malpractice claim against Davillier. And while the court system in New Orleans hasn’t been kind to him, he said his next step is to expose the city’s "conspiracy and corruption" before a national audience.

"This is the next '60 Minutes' article,” he said. “I’m telling you."
It's also very possible is a public threat by Fisher to go public with embarrassing information he may or may not have. In which case he's expecting, as usual,  to be bought off.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

The 2018 disaster

Democrats should know they are not gonna be able to Ossoff their way through this. Naturally, they have no clue.
It is unclear, however, whether Democratic activists across the country will tolerate an army of Ossoff-type candidates in 2018, when party leaders believe the path to capturing the House runs through purple-hued suburban districts that are somewhat less Republican than Georgia’s Sixth.

Friction has already flared between Democrats heavily invested in Mr. Ossoff’s race and activists closely aligned with Mr. Sanders. In April, Mr. Sanders declined to say if he considered Mr. Ossoff a progressive, causing an uproar that he calmed by urging Mr. Ossoff’s election.

Nina Turner, a former Ohio state senator who is on the board of Mr. Sanders’s political organization, suggested in Chicago that Democrats risked slumbering through the revolution, offering an unofficial slogan for the party: “Hashtag, ‘Not Woke Yet.’”
Probably what will happen (if the polls are to be believe which.. who even knows anymore) is Ossoff will win. The Democrats will assume this means 2018 should be all about entitlement cuts and tax credits for "the Uber of..." the next whatever. Capture the magic, you know. 

We regret to inform you that the Krewe of Nyx is at it again

Did you buy your J.P. Morrell special customized Nyx license plate yet? They're only $25 and all proceeds go back to the krewe which is comforting because...
Carnival krewes typically spend money on beads, floats and bands. So, when one krewe's credit card shows a $7,000 charge for a Gulf Shores vacation, it raises serious questions.
"There are several in there that raise red flags to me," says CPA Patrick Lynch of Rogers, Lynch & Associates.

The $7,000 charge was apparently for a condo rental at Gulf Shores, Alabama.
A few weeks after Mardi Gras in 2016, Nyx credit card records show charges at an Office Depot in Foley, Alabama, at a Walgreens in Gulf Shores and at Papa Rocco's Restaurant, also in Gulf Shores. Someone also charged $212 at The Hangout.

A source gave FOX 8 News about 23 months' worth of credit card records for the Krewe of Nyx, which is a non-profit organization. A review shows dozens and dozens of charges that raise questions.

"Being a nonprofit, any and all monies they expend should be furthering the mission of the nonprofit and it should not be benefiting any individuals," Lynch says.
It's interesting to note some of the reaction on social media. This organization and, in particular its captain, has made a spectacle over the past few years of combining attention seeking stunts with questionable ethics. Still there is an implication in some of the commentary that its the former and not the latter that has gotten them into trouble. There are echoes of the Mayfield story here.  As bad as the one bad actor gauche enough to get in trouble might be, the real issue no one wants to address  is the de-facto sense of entitlement present in all of the social-cultural-economy non-profits who dominate the local polity. 

This is also why there probably won't be serious consequences beyond just a little embarrassment.  To confront the substance of the issue would be to upset too many lobster trees. 

The DA is a bully

Court Watch NOLA writes in response to Cannizzaro's outbursts this week.
As one member of the business community said in the aftermath of Mr. Cannizzaro's attack on our organization, "Why is it that some public officials are allowed to be severely criticized in our city, and other public officials scare us into submission when we offer them a suggestion?"

Grover Norquist is not into Kansas anymore

Another grand experiment failed.
In 2015, Grover Norquist, who has successfully defined unconditional opposition to taxes as the defining tenet of party orthodoxy, waxed enthusiastic about one state in particular that was leading the way for the nation. “Kansas is the future,” he told an interviewer. “Kansas is the model.” Kansas was the state where Sam Brownback, the former congressman who mentored a young staffer named Paul Ryan, implemented supply-side tax cuts that, Brownback promised, would usher in prosperity and fiscal stability.

Now Brownback’s tax cuts have failed so dramatically and incontrovertibly that the state’s Republican legislature overrode Brownback’s veto to eliminate them. Incredibly, a majority of the Republicans in both chambers of the state legislature voted against the tax cuts. In a new interview with Russell Berman, Norquist insists the failure in Kansas does not tell us much at all about anything. “If you’re a Republican looking for a model,” he says, “Kansas is not the model.”

 How many more austerity experiments need to be run?  There seems to be no limit.
One might think that the economists who designed this now-repudiated plan would have been cast out of the party, or at least embarrassed into rethinking their assumptions. Yet nothing of the sort has taken place. Stephen Moore and Art Laffer, the supply-siders who crafted the failed Kansas experiment, are also taking the lead in designing Donald Trump’s tax plan.
Why does this keep happening?  Last month we found the answer was, "because fuck you," basically. From that, also, we understand it keeps happening because we continually fail to wrest power away from those who benefit from the fuck you policy. Do we really have to wait around for things to fail so miserably that even the Republicans, as Chait notes there, finally decide to buck the trend? Keep in mind that while we wait for reason, or shame, to prevail, people suffer in the meantime.

The latest failure of the Louisiana legislature to pass a budget follows directly from the fact that Republican members' slavish devotion to Norquist's anti-tax voodoo continues to obtain. They have proven their willingness to sacrifice critical state services and infrastructure in pursuit of an experiment whose conclusion is, by now, settled science. How much more do we have to endure before we become the next "not the model"?

Friday, June 09, 2017

Whose grass?

Tracks Can Kill

As the road work along St. Charles between Louisiana and Jackson has progressed these last few months, I've noticed they've also been raising the curb of the neutral ground and filling in fresh sod on the outside of the streetcar tracks. While that's been going on, separate crews have been up above Louisiana just kind of shoveling dirt around on the neutral ground.  I've been curious about what that's been about but now I think it might have something to do with this.
Officials in the city of New Orleans have considered installing artificial turf along parts of the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground to protect it from the wear and tear of both large crowds at Mardi Gras and even the daily activity of runners.


Last year, the department had previously requested $2 million for a “St. Charles Avenue Neutral Ground Restoration” that would repair landscaping in the neutral ground using “grass pavers” between the streetcar tracks along the Mardi Gras parade route, and a form of artificial turf called “Celebration Bermuda” along the rest of the neutral ground. That request did not receive funding in the current year’s budget, and the department dropped it from its list of proposed projects for the next year, department director Ann Macdonald told city planners last week.
So they've been trying different kinds of grass. But they're also afraid everything they've tried is going to be too expensive because, no matter what they choose,  a bunch of Chads will kill it with tents every Mardi Gras. Of course, we can't do anything about that.  Better to scapegoat joggers and pedestrians, right?
The department has also considered green infrastructure pavers in the neutral ground, but officials with the Regional Transit Authority oppose the idea, MacDonald noted, because they worry it would encourage even more people to use the streetcar tracks for running.
RTA, in keeping with its character as of late, just can't abide the public using public space when they're trying to entertain tourists on it... which, let's face it, is what the St. Charles Streetcar is for. Maybe if someone figured out a way to charge a fee for running there, though. One of those run-keeper phone apps with a per-mile billing function that kicks in when you're on the tracks? I'm sure the mayor's Innovation Team can get on that. 

Groundhog Day

So let's see. You may recognize this scenario.  It's the last day of legislative session in Louisiana and the House is in chaos. Months of committee hearings, floor votes, conference deals, and late night negotiations have come down to a last minute scramble over the state budget. The budget has to pass or else everyone has to come right back in special session and start all over.

The latest version with Senate revisions is in. The task is nearly complete and everybody really wants to go home but things are bogging down because the Republican leadership is cranky.  Unwilling to bend on the last $50 million compromise, the bill's author is refusing to bring it to the floor for a vote.
State Rep. Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, was the sponsor of the main budget bill and disagreed with the version of the spending plan Edwards and the Senate supported. The governor and senators had proposed allocating all of the money available to state agencies and government, but asking those entities to reserve a total of $50 million in case of a budget shortfall.

Henry was pushing to make $100 million worth of cuts to the state budget upfront. He wanted to use that $100 million to cover any midyear budget shortfall that might come up. Edwards and the Senate would not agree to that plan.

"I don't know that there is much more I can do to prevent us from coming back here," Henry told the House. "I am looking forward to the day when I can miss all of you. We are not there today unfortunately."
Everything comes down to a race against the clock as parliamentary whiz Walt Leger tries a series of maneuvers to call a vote without the cooperation of the bill's sponsor or the House Speaker. The clock runs out. Everyone feels bad.  The Governor comes out again with his sad face and sighs that he wishes everyone would just "grow up." Stephanie Grace calls him a "disappointed dad" again.

It all starts again from the beginning this weekend on Monday (because what's the hurry, really?) When do we get to the part where we finally break out of the loop?  Does it happen before or after we go off the "fiscal cliff"?

Thursday, June 08, 2017

Something something something #DrainTheSwamp

Comically corrupt businessman's administration hires comically corrupt businessman.  (Again.)
Bruce Greenstein, the former Louisiana health official who fought charges that he perjured himself during a state contract investigation, has landed a job in President Donald Trump's administration. He's been appointed chief technology officer at the Department of Health and Human Services, Politico reports.

Bucket list

I think Stacy Head might be trolling municipal employees in addition to trying to steal their modest retirement savings.
NOMERS isn't in bad shape or in fiscal turmoil, this is just irresponsible policy. Councilwoman Head has even said that taking on pensions was "on her bucket list" before leaving the council.

In New Orleans, the average public employee pension is about $21,000 annually -- a modest amount that helps workers retire with dignity after putting in a career of service to our community. Councilwoman Head's proposal would make drastic cuts to our already modest pension, especially for employees with less than 10 years of service or future employees. An analysis by The Times-Picayune found that the average pension benefit for our public servants would be reduced almost $8,000 annually or $670 a month. That's a monthly rent payment, family grocery budget or mortgage.
You see, typically, a "bucket list" is something that a person who is comfortably retired has time and money to work on.... 

Cannizzaro sure is writing a lot of letters to the editors

What is up with Leon Cannizzaro? It's strange that he'd be picking public fights like this right now. It's especially strange that he would attack the mayor here given that Mitch's own posturing on crime this week is quite scary-fascist enough, thank you very much. Cannizzaro acknowledges this in his letter, actually. But he also criticizes Mitch for not being harsh enough.. or at least not sincere enough in his cruelty.
In a recent news conference, the mayor discussed his plan to address what he describes as a “concerning recent uptick” in the rate of violent crime. He indicated that recently implemented strategies to increase enforcement by the New Orleans Police Department, including recent arrests by the Major Case Narcotics unit, should help to stem the tide of this violence. NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison specifically referenced a 20 percent increase in self-initiated drug stops. Throughout the news conference, the mayor repeatedly expressed a desire for the NOPD to be “more proactive.”

I believe an aggressive enforcement strategy against violent criminals is a full-time job and not simply a talking point to be used in a news conference when a desperate citizenry is begging for assistance. To shift blame away from himself, the mayor went on to infer that the spike in violence and decline in solve rates have been caused by a lack of witness participation in the criminal justice system. He said, “We cannot do our job if people won’t come forward.”
It's not enough for Cannizzaro that the mayor is endorsing his preferred policies. He wants him to actually mean it. He wants to wage war on people.
Ensuring public safety is a full-time job that demands a sustained and consistent approach from leaders. In espousing tough-on-crime policies on one day and then pacifist policies the next, this mayor has repeatedly placed politics above public safety.
Cannizzaro is a scary dude. His tone assumes the citizens he prosecutes are enemy combatants. That language from someone who holds a powerful office like his should frighten the hell out of everybody.

The DA isn't up for reelection until 2020, anyway. Why is he making such a spectacle of himself now? Here he is also writing this week to the T-P to complain about his critics in a different matter. 
The District Attorney's Office recently has been attacked for its use of material witness warrants.  The law allows for the issuance of these warrants to ensure that prosecutors and defense attorneys can compel the appearance of necessary witnesses in criminal proceedings.
Cannizzaro's office bullies witnesses and victims of crime into testifying through compulsory warrants or through false pretenses. They have even gone so far as to bully opposing defense attorneys by prosecuting them directly on trumped up charges. He displays remarkable chutzpah in this letter justifying these actions. 
Court Watch NOLA boldly claimed that my office uses these warrants to haphazardly incarcerate "sexual assault victims."  This narrative was mindlessly parroted by the media and the New Orleans City Council despite the report's finding that it only occurred in a single instance.  
"How dare they mindlessly accuse me of doing that thing that I certainly did and am now arguing that I should be allowed to do all the time."  On the day Cannizzaro hauls you into court, see how far you get with this they-only-found-that-I-did-it-once defense. 

The DA's office is out of control and these letters suggest it is under the direction of a dangerously unhinged person.  The question remains, though, why is he choosing to be this publicly unhinged at this particular time?  There were some off the wall suggestions that Cannizzaro might become a mayoral candidate himself. But those petered out and, frankly, I never put much stock in them. But there's something going on here. Remains to be seen what it actually is, though.

Day of anti-climaxes

Comey is talking right now. Check your nearest internet for updates. It's all fun and games until nobody impeaches anybody because the Republicans control Congress. But enjoy anyway.

Despite some slightly hopeful polling indicators a week ago, it's looking like the UK elections are going to be a disaster for Labour. Which is what everyone thought they would be in the first place. Which is why May called this election. Which is why nobody need be shocked.

The Legislature isn't going to solve the budget problem today and everybody will spend another two weeks in Baton Rouge also not solving the budget problem. This, too, was pre-ordained. Heck, Clancy already wrote up his Winnas/Loozas column yesterday. (Everybody loozes. As uzual.)

Wednesday, June 07, 2017

Serpas Signal

This is... actually I don't know what this is yet. But here it is.
A familiar name has emerged as a possible opponent for Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman in an October election that has received scant attention amid the hubbub of the New Orleans mayor's race.

Ronal Serpas, the former New Orleans Police Department superintendent, is rumored to be mulling a run against Gusman, who is seeking his fourth full term in what has long been considered the city's second-highest political perch.

Serpas, now a Loyola University professor, declined to confirm or deny his interest in the job, even as he coyly acknowledged the rumors of a possible run for political office -- and for the sheriff's post in particular.

"That's the most prevalent one that's out there," Serpas said as he spoke by phone from Ireland, where he said he's working with local police.
It's a strange circumstance given that the consent decree has left us with a Sheriff who currently doesn't actually have anything to do.. sort of.  But that's temporary and this is a plum position.  Still it's widely thought that Gusman is unbeatable so.. who knows what is going on here. 

Who is watching the watchers who also watch the watchers?

The VCC is supposed to keep entitled real estate dickheads like Sidney Torres from doing whatever they want to do.  But for some reason, they aren't able to summon the will.
It looks like Sidney Torres, the reality TV star and rumored mayoral candidate, has reached a compromise with the local officials he ran afoul of over renovations to his historic mansion in the French Quarter.

The Vieux Carre Commission on Wednesday agreed to overlook the fact that his contractors began the work without getting the commission's approval in exchange for assurances that he will tweak some of the work that's already been done.
The tweaking involves some skylights and some door frames and a bunch of stuff that most of us probably don't care about, really.  But the principle at work here is frustrating.  If VCC or any of the several historic district governing boards throughout New Orleans were more like to "compromise" with individual homeowners of lesser means over similar issues, that would be fine. But this is Sidney Torres, potential mayoral candidate and noted real estate "genius" as seen on TV.  Sidney not only should be expected to know the law but also clearly can afford to comply with it.

And yet it's Sidney who gets shown some deference by the Commission. Why is that?
Not requiring that he completely restore the mansion to its former state means Torres will get away with "asking forgiveness rather than permission," said Meg Lousteau, head of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates.

But VCC Chairman Nick Musso argued that coming to an agreement could ensure at least some aspects of the home were restored rather than taking a chance that Torres would appeal to the City Council.

"I really don’t want to see confrontation, I certainly don’t want to see confrontation with the City Council," Musso said.

"I really don't want someone that is relatively uninformed, meaning the City Council, to make a tectonic decision," he added.
So, because the VCC is afraid of losing control over its little fiefdom through some "tectonic decision" of a City Council it clearly assumes would be manipulated or intimidated by the land baron flaunting the building codes, they're going out of their way to make exceptions for him.  And that is how decisions get made in this town.

Who will disrupt the disruptors?

It's almost as if nobody thought this through. (Although we know that not to be the case since this is exactly what opponents of this arrangement said would happen.)
Dozens of illegal Airbnb listings in New Orleans remain on the short-term rental website nearly a week after the deadline the company agreed upon with the city to remove noncompliant properties.

The Airbnb listings, seen available on the website Wednesday (June 7), show properties for rent across the French Quarter, a neighborhood where short-term rentals are largely not allowed based on an ordinance passed in December. Also, there are about 160 properties across New Orleans advertising sleeping space for more than 10 people, a limit established as the maximum occupancy for short-term rentals in another ordinance. And at least a dozen Airbnb listings advertised occupancy offerings greater than they were permitted to do so by the city.
Okay, looks like Airbnb is violating the agreement. What is the city's response in this situation? Keep in mind that Airbnb's response is, basically, "Tough shit, y'all."
Laura Rillos, an Airbnb representative , said the city is responsible for enforcing its short-term rental ordinance, and that the company's "new registration system gives (the city) the information needed to quickly check permit numbers and address violations."
She goes on to say they are delisting violators in a "continuing process," but, according to the article, there are plenty to found on the site today.  As we've noted very recently, these "disruptive" app companies aren't exactly the most reliable partners in a lot of cases.  So I do hope somebody has a plan.

Back when this partnership passed at City Council, Jason Williams assured us that it contained some mechanism by which "we will be able to use their disruptive technology to disrupt them," if need be.  Might want to get that thing ready... whatever it is.

Happy Comey Day

It is this Thursday. Have fun! Prepare for much tweetings of the game theory and such. Of course, if the guy really wanted to help, he'd spend his entire testimony just reading the torture report into the record. But Comey is not all that interested in helping.

Tuesday, June 06, 2017

Doomed

Le plus ca change, right?
The left lies sputtering on the mat, unable to maintain its ground, much less make any material gains. It’s hard to disagree when our gestures lack bite and our political parties—and most of our unions—are feckless at best, and capitalist quislings at worst. Whether it takes the form of insular campus activism, reactionary internet sermonizing, or impotent calls for general action, what passes for “the left” today is both parochial and completely disconnected from power. To put it bluntly, we have lost; we are decimated and we are feeble. What’s worse, we refuse to admit our failures, repeating them over and over and over again, castigating anyone who might question this pattern.
The article is about how to do better organizing but, given how many times we've seen the movie.... 

The resort has a shuttle boat

It used to be a public ferry. Commuters would use it. You could bring your car. It was a dollar to take it into town and free on the way back. They decided not to run that anymore, though, figuring there would be more money in finding a private patron to serve instead. 
Costello and members of the Algiers Point Association both said they would like to see the existing terminal remain and receive minor upgrades, such as a paint job or new art on its walls.

While there is little money available for any sort of improvements, the RTA hopes to attract private dollars under a partnership that would need to be cleared by the state Legislature, Augustine said.

Under such an arrangement, the agency would issue a request for proposals. A private developer then could agree to finance improvements or build a new terminal in exchange for receiving ferry fare revenues or some other form of payment from the RTA.
The Legislature passed the law permitting such a partnership just yesterday. It awaits the Governor's signature.  Today we learned more about who the potential partner might be.
Gulf Properties LLC, led by developer Pieter Stoffels, is presenting plans for NOLA City Beach, which would sit on a newly constructed elevated wharf, most of it covered with sand. The property would house a pool and lounge area, a two-story building with a restaurant and upstairs multi-use venue and festival grounds overlooking the river with a movable stage for performances.

Stoffels declined to say how much the project will cost. He said he has secured a 99-year lease for the privately owned property near the Algiers ferry terminal.
So what's the deal? Are the beach and pool bar people going to paint the terminal, at least? There isn't enough information.
Stoffels said his team is in talks with the Regional Transit Authority and Transdev, the RTA's private operator, about extending ferry service hours because of the anticipated increased demand from NOLA City Beach. He estimates 60 percent of customers would arrive via the ferry, including tourists staying in downtown hotels.
All that says, really, is the little pedestrian ferry might run a bit later to meet the venue's needs.  Of course it would close at 11 PM so we're still not any closer to a late night ferry that might help service industry types get home from the Quarter after a shift. But why would we build a transit service that prioritizes getting residents around town over getting tourists to attractions anyway?

Suspiciously sleepy election

Here's a look at everything the Advocate can compile for us about the City Council races right now.

The most interesting ones so far:

District B is wide open now that Cantrell is running for mayor. Uptownmessenger reports today on Jay Banks' campaign launch party.  Notice that some candidates are at least talking about "displacement" this year... even if it is an afterthought.
“Every citizen — no matter their race, their religion, their disability or their sexual orientation, including those who just got here and those who have been here for generations — should have the opportunity to benefit from all this new explosion of interest in Uptown,” Banks said. “We have to make sure that all our residents benefit or, at a minimum, are not displaced by the progress.
If Kristin Palmer really is going to try and make a comeback in this slot, it could make the District C election a microcosm of the mayor's race which I think.... actually let's save that for another post.

District E could also bear watching, if.. you know.. if it doesn't secede. Dawn Hebert has a catchy slogan, anyway.
In District E, Gray will have at least one challenger: Dawn Hebert, a retired U.S. Postal Service employee and community activist who said she’s entering the race to ensure that New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward are not forgotten as other city neighborhoods grow more prosperous.

“The time has come for District E to share in the wealth of New Orleans,” Hebert said.
Are there any Share The Wealth clubs active in New Orleans right now?

Also of interest are the races that might not happen at all for the At-Large seats. Jason Williams is still unopposed. And Helena Moreno is virtually unopposed with only Joseph Bouie considering a run apparently out of courtesy.
Another high-profile politician eyeing the at-large race is state Rep. Joe Bouie, who said Friday that calls for him to run for the Division 1 seat have been growing since Brossett decided against the idea. Head, who is term-limited, will vacate the seat next May.

“In order to afford an option to the citizens, I am seriously considering it,” Bouie said.
It's early but the field for every major municipal office is, not only thin, but also dominated by establishment insiders likely to run a quiet, close to the vest campaign. But voters in this city right now are facing dire uncertainties where basic necessities like housing, health, child and family services, transportation are less and less accessible/affordable. If our politics at such a moment become just another elitist yawn then something is not connecting.  We've got the summer to figure out what that is.