Friday, June 30, 2017


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.

Kicking you off the internet

Cox thinks maybe you guys are being a little too online AF nowadays.
Cox Communications is going to set data caps on Louisiana home internet usage in July, and the small number of customers the company says are the heaviest users of streaming video and music will have to pay more.

Beginning July 6, most Cox customers in south Louisiana will have a data plan that allows them to upload or download 1 terabyte of data. That's enough to watch 140 HD movies, 150 hours of standard definition television, 1,500 short web videos, surf the internet for 3,000 hours and listen to 30,000 songs. Customers who have Cox G1GABLAST service will be capped at 2 terabytes. Those who go past the cap will be charged $10 for each additional 50 gigabytes of data used.
Here is where they finally break the promise of net neutrality. If you can only afford to use X amount of internet, and if all the big media conglomerates want to deliver their TV and movies to you via the internet, then you probably can't afford to spend much data allowance viewing or creating independent content. You probably can't afford to use the internet for connecting with peers. Eventually big media crowds everybody out.

We've probably been picking on LaToya too much

It's probably just that she's been the most accessible thus far and so there is so much material. In truth, all of the mayoral candidates are very bad. We'll get to that in due course. But this one, especially is bad.
Scurlock, a businessman who has also pitched a plan to redevelop the Six Flags site in New Orleans East, was arrested May 6 on the neutral ground near the Davis monument. He said he was not at the site as a protester but rather to talk with people on both sides of the issue.

He said he was hoping to alert police to what he had learned when he was arrested.
To be specific, Scurlock is a bad candidate because he is supposed to be the joke candidate who livens up an otherwise boring field but instead he is painfully unfunny. He's not the loveable eccentric he thinks he is. He's more like a cross between a morning zoo shock jock and a racist NOLA.com comments guy. And since everyone is waiting for Torres to swoop in later and be Trump anyway, Scurlock is just a lame placeholder.

The real matter of interest in this item, though, concerns the judge.
Municipal Court Judge Paul Sens recused himself Wednesday from hearing the case against New Orleans mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock, who was arrested last month during a protest near the Jefferson Davis monument on Canal Street.
Sens doesn't know if he, or any other judge, can ethically sit on a case that could affect his former colleague Desiree Charbonnet's election prospects. So if you are looking for a potential get out of jail free card between now and October, consider running for mayor.*

*Caveat: Actually becoming mayor could itself be a ticket directly to jail so be warned.

Life during crisis time

A couple of weeks ago at her mayoral campaign kickoff event,  LaToya Cantrell addressed the controversial but intriguing notion of electing a police chief. She seemed, at the time, to have given it some thought. Or, at least, she certainly talked as though she had.
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.

“How can we stabilize public safety in our city that’s not tied to a specific leadership style of a mayor?” Cantrell said in an interview after the event.

Even the most law-abiding of residents feel a lack of trust in the police when they call to report problems and it seems like nothing is done, Cantrell said.

“What I’m hearing is that there will be greater accountability. The people will then hold the chief accountable,” Cantrell said. “What people are feeling right now is that we’re not being very honest about our city in terms of its safety.”
Wednesday morning, though, we read that she's having second thoughts about it now
Cantrell's campaign turned down a request to interview the councilwoman about her idea. Her spokesman, David Winkler-Schmit, put some distance between the proposal and the candidate, saying Cantrell heard the idea from the community.

Asked if she was in favor of it, Winkler-Schmit said, "she did think about it and it's not something she can get behind because we have a crisis."

He added that Cantrell intends to appoint a new police chief if she is elected mayor. The idea of an elected police chief was floated to underscore Cantrell's view that the department needs accountability, he said.
Oh dear, "we have a crisis." All thoughtful discussion must cease until such time as the "crisis" has passed. If we ever determine what the crisis actually is, that is. One supposes they're saying they're concerned about the "crisis" that is our failing criminal justice system.  But, when it comes to police and public safety, policymakers most frequently invoke the word, "crisis," when they mean to short circuit debate over difficult problems and impose authoritarian solutions. It's typically the rhetoric of bullies, autocrats, and, yeah, active political candidates.

One bully, who happens to be John Georges's business partner, was granted space to publish a special guest column in John Georges's newspaper Tuesday. According to that guy, the crisis is that civil rights are not being violated fast enough to keep the "suspicious characters" off of his lawn. Maybe LaToya doesn't understand "crisis" in quite this way. Or maybe she does. Recall LaToya's aggressive statements in favor of Mitch Landrieu's "proactive" French Quarter surveillance scheme. That plan was announced over six months ago. Has the crisis gone on that long?  Maybe it never ends.

That would be convenient for mayoral candidates who don't want to stray too far outside of the conventional narrative.  Nobody wants to buck the paranoid trend during a crisis. Otherwise we might have to talk about the "crisis" facing the city's poorest victims of a criminal justice system this lawsuit claims is operating a "debtors' prison."
The lawsuit says that despite longstanding U.S. Supreme Court precedent that the government cannot imprison people just because they are poor, New Orleans officials routinely use jail and threats of jail to collect court debts from thousands of the city's poorest people. The result is an illegal, unconstitutional and unjust modern debtors' prison, the suit claims.
Among the officials named as defendants in the suit is Judge Harry Cantrell. He seems nice.

Cantrell routinely refuses to set bail below $2,500, regardless of the facts of a case or a defendant’s ability to pay, the suit claims. In most cases, the judge forces defendants to seek the services of a commercial bail bondsman, which in Orleans Parish charge a non-refundable 12-percent or 13-percent fee on the total bond amount.

“We don’t go any lower than $2,500 in this court,” Cantrell told one defendant’s attorney. “This court never goes any lower than $2,500,” he said in another case. “I don’t got any lower than $2,500 on my bonds,” he said in yet another. In one instance, he told a lawyer he was going to set bond at $2,500, regardless of what information the lawyer provided.

The suit provides examples of Cantrell threatening to hold defense attorneys in contempt of court for asking that their clients be released on their own recognizance, rather than on financial conditions. In one case, Cantrell pushes back against an attorney’s request by warning that he’ll revoke a previous release order for another of the attorney’s clients.

“Defense counsel is placed in the impossible position of having to weigh her own personal freedom against her obligation to advocate for her client’s constitutional right to a meaningful bail hearing,” the complaint says. “The threat of jail time in retaliation for an attorney’s basic oral advocacy would have a chilling effect on even the most zealous advocate and constitutes a gross abuse of authority.”
And, yes, that is LaToya's father in law. Over the next few months, we'll hear more about how unfair it would be for voters to take out any distaste they may have for his behavior on her. But, then again, when they're also being told that "there needs to be accountability" in the midst of a crisis, who knows if they'll have time to stop and parse all that out.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Doing it like DAPL

Among the fruits of the recently concluded legislative session we find,
On June 19, Louisiana’s Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards signed a bill into law which will enter his state into the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC).

EMAC is the compact which last year gave out-of-state cops the legal authority to flood into North Dakota during the protests against the Dakota Access pipeline, owned by Energy Transfer PartnersThe Louisiana bill, SB 151, was signed as Energy Transfer Partners has another pipeline proposed to run through Louisiana, the Bayou Bridge pipeline. Bayou Bridge is an extension of Dakota Access, set to run from Nederland, Texas, to refinery markets and export terminals in Louisiana.

The compact, signed into existence by President Bill Clinton in 1996, was created in the aftermath of Hurricane Andrew with the intent of expediting and bolstering natural disaster response efforts. But the federal legislation creating the compact also has language allowing for a governor of a state to issue an emergency order in the case of the rise of an “insurgency or enemy attack.”

The Louisiana legislation, which got rid of its previous membership in the Interstate Emergency Preparedness and Disaster Compact, passed unanimously in both the House of Representatives and the Senate without debate.

According to state campaign finance data, Governor Edwards received a $5,000 campaign contribution from Energy Transfer Partners during his successful 2015 run for governor, with the company serving as one of his biggest donors. In February, Edwards endorsed Bayou Bridge.
As we've noted previously, Energy Transfer Partners didn't just bring "out of state cops" into North Dakota to shut down protests. It brought in these very scary modern day Pinkertons
As people nationwide rallied last year to support the Standing Rock Sioux’s attempts to block the Dakota Access Pipeline, a private security firm with experience fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan launched an intrusive military-style surveillance and counterintelligence campaign against the activists and their allies, according to internal company documents.

Its surveillance targets included everyone from Native American demonstrators to the actress Shailene Woodley, along with organizations including Black Lives Matter, 350.org, Veterans for Peace, the Catholic Worker Movement, and Food and Water Watch. The records label the protestors “jihadists” and seek to justify escalating action against them.
Among the concerns raised by the presence of Tiger Swan, (that's what the paramilitary spy company calls itself) and other private firms like it, is the subversion of the constitutional protections that typically limit what police and other government agencies can do.
A private security company probably doesn’t face the same prohibitions, legal scholars say, but the close collaboration between TigerSwan and local, state, and federal authorities detailed in the firm’s internal reports raised red flags with them. Several legal experts described the contractor’s tactics as highly disturbing and perhaps unprecedented.

“It’s like a big brother society, with a private corporation — with even less restraints than the government — totally interfering with our right to privacy, free speech, assembly, and religious freedom,” said prominent civil rights attorney Jeff Haas, who works with the National Lawyers Guild and represents several of the nearly 800 people arrested while opposing the pipeline.

If the government can’t do it, he added, “Why should a private corporation working for another private corporation be able to?”
As activists continue to organize in Louisiana against Bayou Bridge, it's worth asking what sort of surveillance, defamation, harassment, or worse they will be subjected to by privatized commandos operating with the blessing of Governor Edwards. 

Meanwhile it's worth continuing  just what Mitch Landrieu paid another private security firm Trident Response Group to do in New Orleans during the monument removal events. Lee Zurik looked into the Trident contract last week and found more questions there than answers.

The city signed the contract with Trident on May 4; the final monument was removed on May 19. The city's homeland security department says its representatives worked hand in hand with Trident, and monitored their work daily.

But apparently, a line-by-line account of employees' hours and duties doesn't exist. For one week, all we know is that an average of six field operators worked 345 hours - their rate, $250 an hour.

"Gary" was a strategic adviser for 68 hours - his rate, $250 an hour. And "Bob" worked 83 hours at a $275 rate. So, in seven days, "Bob" worked 83 hours as a strategic adviser at $275 an hour.

Friedman says we can't confirm whether "Bob" worked those hours. "We don't know if he did it," he says. "We don't know what he did. We don't know whether what he did was necessary or is just padding. And I'm not saying that it was improper - my point, in response to your question, is we don't know. That's the problem. It's the lack of monitoring in a situation where they're using public money when the city is strapped for funds."

"We believe that the invoices are sufficient, knowing that the homeland security office has gone over the details before processing payment," Berni tells us.
Beyond the suspiciously sparse billing items, we still have little idea what the firm was actually doing. The Advocate reported earlier this month that Trident had targeted groups on "both sides" of the monument controversy. This encompasses a large number of people and community groups who lent their voices to the Take Em Down coalition.  Landrieu's people have since claimed that they "did not spy on local groups" but refused to provide any substantiating evidence of this.  Recall that Mitch purposefully distanced himself from local grassroots movements in order to claim their share of credit for himself as he moves onto the national political stage. There's no reason anyone should have to trust him.

This morning's Advocate published an unhinged "guest column" from a crazy racist man demanding the city "take back our streets" from criminals by dumping the NOPD consent decree and beefing up security with privatized patrols.
Fortunately, there are additional steps we can take to stem this tide of senseless violence. Most importantly, we need to complement the NOPD with a private security force in the French Quarter and the Central Business District.
It's funny to me that there are people who think the anti-crime rhetoric and policies deployed by our current leaders are somehow any less authoritarian than what this guy is arguing for. Mitch and John Bel are already giving their blessing to unaccountable secret police.  How much worse do you want them to be?  But clearly someone thinks there's room to push the window further to the right. Otherwise, why would the Advocate have published this letter?

Democracy dies in branding

The beacon of freedom Wa-Po tells its writers they better not say anything bad about the advertisers
A new social-media policy at the Washington Post prohibits conduct on social media that “adversely affects The Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.” In such cases, Post management reserves the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment.”

Because that's how they're gonna protect us from the fascists, I guess.

Perfect example of "politics" as a meaningless pejorative

John Bel is vetoing some stuff today. (Yay! Punish the Republicans. Burn Them All just like we said he should) The rhetoric he's using to explain what he's doing, though, is nonsensical. Take this transportation bill, for example.
Under current rules, the House and Senate transportation panels can nullify projects authorized by DOTD but cannot add them.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Neil Abramson, D-New Orleans, would have allowed panel members to do so.

Jones said the change would undo reforms enacted four decades ago by former U. S. Rep. Richard Baker, then a state lawmaker.

Abramson disputed Jones' concerns.

The addition was made Senate by Senate Transportation Committee Chairman Page Cortez, R-Lafayette.

The governor said the bill was amended to change its initial mission, and became too political.
It's fine that the Governor wants to veto this. It punishes House Republicans by denying them access to one specific lever of patronage. But that decision is still "political." Everything they do in Baton Rouge is. 

Monday, June 26, 2017

A tale of two mayors

Nothing Mitch said in this speech makes a lick of sense. It did repeat a lot of the creepily authoritarian newspeak he's made his trademark over the years. Nonsense phrases like "Radical center," and the "One Voice" thing abound. There's a KatrinaTM reference and accompanying boat metaphor that unwittingly endorses disaster capitalism as a governing model.  Most disturbingly, there is this "people over politics" assertion which itself negates the basic concept of democracy.  Democracy is people empowered by politics. In Mitch's model, a "leader" ignores the politics to make decisions for them. On whose authority and at whose behest, these leaders act, though, is unspoken. 

Anyway, we've heard all of this a thousand times from our mayor now and, as distressing as it is to consider how far it's gotten him, we're a little bored with it.  So, instead, go read this Democracy Now interview with Chokwe Lumumba. The segment begins with Lumumba's speech to the People's Summit in Chicago. There the newly elected mayor of Jackson Mississippi offers a refreshing contrast to Mitch's elitist anti-politics.  
And so, ultimately, it becomes greater than a question of color and more a question of ideas and what are the best ideas and what are the worst ideas. And what the worst ideas are, is that you can be oppressive to anyone. And so, we now demand—we now demand that our leadership looks at how we include the people’s voice in the process, and that we have a—we have two choices. We have a choice of economics by the people and for the people or economics by a few people for themselves. And so, we’re demanding, right now, right now, that we begin to rescue ourselves. Right now, as my comrade said, we have nothing to lose but our chains.

Would Cam Jordan like to revise his statement now?

Nick Fairley is out for the 2017 season.

Hard to find a rock to stand on in South Louisiana

Protesters against the proposed Bayou Bridge Pipeline are setting up a camp anyway on whatever kind of ground they can find. They aren't saying where just yet.
The protest group is modeling their new camp after the one established near the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation in North Dakota, said Cherri Foytlin, with Bold Louisiana, an environmental advocacy group. The camp opened Saturday in Louisiana along the route of the proposed pipeline. Protesters are not disclosing the exact location of the camp.
Let's hope they are careful. These rural Louisiana Sheriffs don't have the best of reputations when it comes to protecting the civil liberties (or the lives, frankly) of individuals within their jurisdictions.  They don't need any reason to feel emboldened. Or any outside help for that matter.

Elections are giving us bad democracy

The premise of this We Should Just Randomly Select Our Legislators Rather Than Elect Them article is a big eye catching gimmick, of course. But it's a gimmick that leads to some solid analysis. Here, for example, is the part that sold me on the concept.
Even if you managed to remove some financial and institutional barriers to entry for would-be legislators, you’re still left with the fundamental problem that, ultimately, 100% of the candidates you end up with are people who actually want to be in Congress. Inevitably, elections will disproportionately select those who most want to win them, and the people who most want to win elections are disproportionately likely to be venal and self-serving. It is an ancient cliché that those who want power are the least suited to have it. Just think about the people you know in your daily life, the ones who enjoy being the first to speak at meetings, and willingly make decisions on behalf of the group. Most of these people are awful. You might be able to think of one who’s marginally less awful, but still, if you had a choice in the matter, you wouldn’t want 535 clones of them making rules for the entire country.
This is 100% irrefutably true. Any person who takes it into his or her mind that they are cut out for leadership in any capacity is necessarily exactly the sort of psychopath who should never be trusted with power. Until now, I always assumed the only way around that was to engage via a kind of populism that relentlessly attacks even those least bad office holders we begrudgingly vote into office by default in order to force them to behave a little bit.

But maybe this idea of just randomly putting people in Congress is better.  Sounds more fun, anyway.

Today's propaganda

Cam Jordan might have a future in political spin.
“We’re building a team to win a Super Bowl,” defensive end Cam Jordan tells Greg Bishop of SI.com, who guest-wrote Peter King’s Monday Morning Quarterback column this week. “We’re not building for the future. It’s hard not to believe in our team. We’re ready to win it now.”
Way to turn, "Our quarterback is 500 years old and playing on a one year contract and when he goes we're in the wilderness," into, "This is the year!"  This has to be the year. There is no future to build towards. 

Disappointed Dad spares the rod

John Bel is running out of opportunities to bring his runaway legislature to heel. Here is one more.
Gov. John Bel Edwards is facing the first of several key decisions centered on a single question: Should he try to gain more leverage over the Legislature by selectively punishing several of the lawmakers who thwarted his initiatives on the budget and taxes this year?

The governor will have the opportunity to strike at those he labels “obstructionists” when he decides this week whether to veto any projects in House Bill 2, which lists all of the infrastructure projects — roads, bridges, sidewalks, sewer systems and the like — scheduled to receive state construction dollars for the new budget year that begins on July 1.
Stephanie Grace has often likened the Governor's demeanor at the end of a session to that of a "disappointed dad." Here is Kathleen Blanco with some parenting advice.
“You don’t reward your children when they have defied you,” said Blanco, who is a mother of six. “You reward them when they have behaved appropriately. Of course, legislators aren’t children, but the principles are the same.”
She sounds so confident that legislators aren't children. That's different. Anyway he's probably going to pass on this advice. We read here, in fact, that the governor's strategy for "fiscal cliff" negotiations appears to be let's  just leave it all up to the kids.
Citing a heap of stalled tax bills, Edwards suggests the special session on taxes that he and other legislative leaders have said was inevitable to close that gap might not happen after all, unless he can get House buy-in for a tax plan.

"I will be looking for leadership in the House of Representatives to tell me that there is a plan that they're going to push toward. If there is not, why would we come back and do what we just did at the cost of $60,000 a day?" Edwards said.
That's probably not going to work. From everything we've seen so far, these children need boundaries. Instead,  by allowing the possibility of fiscal meltdown, John Bel appears to be giving them more of what they want. And if he doesn't do anything to ensure that they feel the consequences of their own actions in their own districts,  he's only going to spoil them further.

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

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

STORM SURGE:  Inundation of 1 to 3 feet above ground level is
possible along the coast in portions of the Tropical Storm Warning
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.


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?