Monday, July 31, 2017

Your landlord doesn't actually live here

I buy houses

I think these property management mediators are popping up now mostly as a means for large scale investors to park money.  But the business model can rope in a lot of smaller operators as well.  Which is what makes this NYT story scale down to a relatable level. 
Mr. Bahr’s unconventional path to ownership is one that was carved in the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis. After millions of distressed homes flooded the market across the country, some large institutional investors, like Blackstone, began buying and transforming single-family homes — a symbol of American upward mobility — into rental properties.

While publicly traded companies like American Homes 4 Rent and Colony Starwood Homes are major players in this market, most single-family rental properties are owned by small-time investors, like Mr. Bahr. In 2015, 85 percent of the 17.5 million single-family rental properties in the United States were owned by investors with portfolios of 10 properties or fewer, with 45 percent of those houses owned by investors with only one property, according to the Housing Finance Policy Center at the Urban Institute, a research institution.

Mr. Bahr found his house through a California-based company called HomeUnion, a one-stop shop for small-time investors that helps people buy, renovate and rent properties in 11 markets around the country. HomeUnion charges an acquisition fee of 3.5 percent of the purchase price; management fees of up to 10.5 percent of the rent; and a 10 percent fee for renovations over $2,500.

In exchange, Mr. Bahr can be a landlord at arm’s length. He has never visited his property and does not know the name or occupation of the person who rents it. “Sometimes I wish I was more involved,” he said. “A big part of my savings went into that property, and I feel like I should help out, but they’re doing it all for me.”
So, at the very least, you can see how when the rent is too damn high in New York that drives the rent too damn high in other places as well.  The model is particularly good for any large or small players wanting to get into the short term rental business. At the budget presentation this morning, the mayor is already talking about one way the city is already in on this racket.

Budget Day

Mitch Landrieu will present his final budget proposal as Mayor of New Orleans today at 10:00.  Remember there weren't any community meetings this year and the mayor just took a few phone calls instead. Less entertaining.

Anyway I wonder what it will say about the traffic cameras. Allegedly all the major candidates want to phase them out but none has any idea how to make up the $20 million plus in revenue they supposedly produce.

Friday, July 28, 2017


We live in a weird echo of the Ancien Regime where law enforcement agencies and courts fund themselves directly though funds raised by stopping and fining people.  District Attorneys have a lot of leverage in such a system. They're finding new ways to make it work for them.

The Lens asked seven district attorneys, covering 11 parishes, for records on their traffic diversion programs. Those DAs are diverting as many as half of their traffic tickets, according to the records. Several said their programs are growing.

Meanwhile, the courts in most of those judicial districts are handling fewer tickets. Statewide, there has been a 30 percent drop in tickets processed by courts over the past five years, according to data collected by the state Supreme Court.

In East and West Feliciana parishes, the number of traffic tickets processed in court has fallen 35 percent in the last five years.

The local district attorney has diverted about half of all tickets since 2013, according to public records.

District Attorney Sam D’Aquilla acknowledged his program keeps money out of the court system, but he said he needs it. For instance, one program requires his office to pay officers overtime for working extra hours to write traffic tickets.

“And that’s kind of why we started the diversion program, we just weren’t making the money,” he said.
Across the state, it appears that more tickets are being written even as fewer tickets are being processed through the courts which means, more money is going directly to the DAs. The Lens notes that we don't see this exact issue in Jefferson or in Orleans Parish. 
The district attorneys in Orleans and Jefferson parishes don’t run traffic diversion programs, although tickets have dropped significantly. In New Orleans, that’s due to the police department’s decision to move officers from traffic enforcement as it deals with understaffing.
In New Orleans, of course, we are filling the gap with cameras which may not fund the courts or the DAs directly but do account for an estimated $24 million in revenue to the city (after American Traffic Solutions takes its 30% cut) so everybody is subject to some version of this. 


There is no such thing as a "hero" among US Senators.  These are all detached millionaire babies who spent last night toying with the idea of making your already bad health care system worse.  John McCain isn't a hero.  He's a preening attention junkie who could have voted no on the motion to open debate.  Two Republican Senators actually did that. They aren't being celebrated today they way John is. He also had the option of not even showing up. McCain could have stayed in the hospital where he had a perfectly good excuse to be absent. But, no, he had to come put on a "show" so that the press would write about this was all about him and not about the hundreds of thousands of mobilized voters and activists who have been fighting the repeal for months. Congratulations.

Obamacare is a conservative policy. It protects insurers and needlessly imposes often unbearable costs upon those it does cover. We need to move past it. We need a single payer system that provides care for everybody.  But our politics is so screwed up that we can't allow the debate to expand beyond whether or not the baby millionaires who rule us will act to give us something worse.  This time they didn't act and we are relieved. It's the best we are allowed to hope for.

Also, this isn't over. ACA repeal is not dead until the Republicans lose a house in the midterms and/or we legitimately begin the push toward single payer. Until then, there will be more opportunities to pretend the millionaire babies are heroes.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Yeah they are gonna pass it

It's been fun theater all week but here we are.
Momentum appears to be gathering behind the so-called "skinny repeal" of ObamaCare, which is expected to include a defunding of Planned Parenthood for one year and a repeal of ObamaCare's individual and employer mandates.

But GOP senators stressed after the closed door meeting that they view any legislation that they pass as a vehicle to get them to a conference committee to the House, where they could work out a deal on repealing ObamaCare.
Inevitably this will trigger another round of analysis from pundits trying to make "moderate Republicans" and "Jimmy Kimmel tests" into things that actually exist in real life.  All the while they've only had to ask one question.  Is this a gigantic tax cut for the wealthiest Americans? If so, then, yes, it will pass this Congress.

Ok let's kick it while it's down

This is actually something Menckles wrote on a parallel internet back in March after we had dinner at Altamura which is apparently closing.  The restaurant opened on the basement level of the Magnolia Mansion on Prytania and Jackson.  It was supposed to be "traditional east coast Italian American" as opposed to, you know, New Orleans Italian. Which is why we were curious in the first place. But I don't think the sort of place they evoke when they say that is quite as fancy and pricey as this in, say, New Jersey. Altamura was white table cloths and bland hotel-ish decor and an EXTREMELY UPTOWN clientele of Garden District folks. A lot of unnecessary jackets and pearls.  The food was ok in my opinion but I've certainly paid less for better Italian food. I said pretty much this at the time only to find that she had a much stronger take which I've gone and dug up for you here.
I was less enthused even than Jeff. Maybe it was b/c we went late and they had their "reserve" sous cooking or something--though it WAS a Friday night at only 8:30/8:45, and that alone would speak to poor choices and bad planning--but both entrees had a slightly "been sitting around a bit" aspect that is distinctly unappealing. His lobster ravioli had soggy bottoms and there was a whiff of fried fish in the breading of my veal parm. And I always judge Italian food by veal parm, unless I can get eggplant parm to judge a place by, b/c, on the one hand, you really have to know what you're doing to make either dish sublime, but​ on the other, you really have to mess up royally in order to make either one inedible. (Eggplant is much fussier than veal in my opinion, and so is a keener test of skill for a chef.) This place was at the low end of middling; the veal was much, much tougher than it should have been, having not been pounded at all, and so subsequently over-fried. I'm from Baltimore, and have been all over that city, New York, Trenton, and Philly, and had exactly the kind of "take your moll to a fancy restaurant in 1961" food dynamic they're going for; it's fabulous, but these guys haven't achieved it. I refused to get the cannoli, as there's no way they have a pastry chef, so we went with a chocolate-pistachio semifreddo, which was my favorite thing we ate. The mozzarella bread with oil, capers and anchovies was second for me, but really really good. The espresso was perfect and the bottle of Valpolicella was outstanding. However, we've had MUUUCH better food at both Vincent's and Pascal's Manale--food that neither Jeff nor I could make better ourselves, which this place can't really boast--for less money. Meh, I say! Meh.
Anyway, in the wake of the Cafe Henri "Is it a neighborhood joint or a fancy airspace temple" conundrum, I thought maybe this was another example of someone trying to straddle that line and failing to be either. 

Benson's branding bucket list

Tom Benson is bringing Dixie beer back to New Orleans because there clearly aren't enough breweries in town now. 
Tom and his wife Gayle Benson said Wednesday (July 26) that they purchased a majority of Dixie Brewing Co. LLC for an undisclosed price. Longtime owners Joseph and Kendra Bruno will keep a minority interest. As part of the agreement, a brewery will be built in Orleans Parish within the next two years, possibly in New Orleans East.
The Brunos bought Dixie in 1985 which happens to be the same year that Benson bought the Saints.  Maybe that's only interesting to me.  Anyway it's just kind of funny that Tom thinks he's stimulating the economy by bringing back manufacturing jobs.   
"Here's something that represents New Orleans for me," Tom Benson said Wednesday. "I think this is a good thing for New Orleans. This is why I wanted to get involved. I believe we need a little stimulus here in our city. We need something that's made here."
Sort of reminds you of Trump's Carrier stunt.. or at least Michael Bagneris and his "Nuts and Bolts" or whatever.  Either way, it's clear Benson is on his own personal locavore's version of a #MAGA journey.
The Dixie deal didn't come easily. About two years ago, Benson asked his team to look into buying New Orleans brands in the "ain't dere no more" category, iconic companies that were struggling or dead, his executives said. 

Saints President Dennis Lauscha said they had exploratory talks with at least 10 companies. "We all said that the one we all would love to bring back was Dixie Beer," Lauscha said. "Word on the street, though, was the owners weren't very interested in selling Dixie Beer ... We knew we had to convince them that this was the right thing to do, that we were the suitor that was going to bring it into the next generation."
So in the coming sunset years of Tom's life we can expect to see him present us with more undead brands. People had some fun with this on Twitter yesterday. "Tom Benson's Hubig's Pies" "Tom Saver" 'Tom's Ruth's Chris" "K&B&B" "Tom's Tastee Donuts" "TomBenzie's" and on and on. He's already managed to make Tom's Tulane Stadium happen. So, really, anything is possible.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Un-Fix My Streets

That federal inspector general's report we first learned about back in January has been made official.   
A federal inspector general is recommending that the Federal Emergency Management Agency take back the entire $2 billion global settlement earmarked to help New Orleans repair city streets and underground pipes damaged by Hurricane Katrina's floodwaters.

Were the agency to accept the central recommendation of an eye-popping report released Wednesday, it would devastate the city’s hopes of improving its creaky infrastructure. The $2 billion lump sum is the bulk of what the city has on hand as it starts work on an estimated $9 billion backlog in repairs.

City officials said Wednesday that they have spent $350 million of the aid — money that would have to be repaid were the IG's recommendation followed.
According to this story, nobody seems to think a clawback of the money is actually going to happen.  But keep in mind these are Trump times and crazy things are not to be discounted off hand. 

They are going to find the votes

See, the thing about "moderate Republicans" is... there are no "moderate Republicans."

It's about 3 PM on Wednesday right now. Since making a big show of opening debate yesterday, they've voted down the BCRA (Senate repeal/replace bill) and, just a few minutes ago, they voted down a straight up repeal.   All of this was expected, though. The strategy was to go through these exercises before taking up some version of the so-called "skinny repeal" or whatever semblance of the House bill they can squeeze by to make it to conference. They're still on track to do that.

One way or another, they're eventually going to find the votes to do this. In the meantime it would help if our Louisiana press would stop looking for "moderates" among our own Republicans to do anything to stop it.  Those do not exist.

Nobody actually eats there

That was fast.    
Bywater restaurant Cafe Henri (800 Louisa St.)  will close, the owners announced Monday.

The announcement was made on the restaurant’s Facebook page by co-owner Neal Bodenheimer and comes a little more than a year after the restaurant opened.

The Cure & Co. team launched the restaurant as a family-friendly neighborhood joint with chef Jason Klutts at the helm. But after weathering a particularly slow summer, the owners shifted course, debuting a more upscale cocktail and wine selection, and hiring Chicago chef Alfredo Nogueira who revamped the restaurant’s menu.

In the end, they didn't find a workable plan for the spot.
I'm tempted to type some pithy comment about how time flies these days. But I'm more concerned that time may not exist anymore on this post-post-post-modern plane of reality we've entered.  What is happening anymore? Where are we? When are we? It can't be The Future because that already came and went.

It seems like only yesterday (whatever that means) that the corner of Louisa and Dauphine was absorbed into the higher dimensions when in that spot was born the "blogstaurant."  
Booty’s is a project from Nick Vivion and Kevin Farrell, partners who recently moved here from Seattle and now live above their future restaurant. They also run a gay-themed news and culture Web site called Unicorn Booty, which partially explains their restaurant’s name. Their global menu is also part of it.

“It’s tied to the pirate history of New Orleans. Our food comes from all over the world, just like pirate booty,” says Vivion.

In a way, he says, Booty’s will be a physical manifestation of their Web site’s brand. Social media and online marketing will be a key part of the concept, he says, explaining that they’ve taken to calling it a “blogstaurant.”

“People see food as a type of content now. They talk about it online, they take pictures of it. It becomes pixels before they’ve even enjoyed it,” he says. “We want chefs to be Tweeting and sharing the food from the kitchen and we want people to convene at our restaurant like they do online now.”
It was the Unicorn of the Apocalypse that disrupted our notions of time and space. Now we could draw sustenance from pixels. An evening around the table was no longer a shared experience. It was shareable #content.  Where we shared it to or from was no longer of any consequence. As Jules Bentley explained, appropriately enough, in Antigravity Magazine,  all terrestrial barriers were being transcended
Booty’s owners, Kevin Farrell and Nick Vivion, met at Burning Man. I would urge anyone keeping tabs on the cultural forces shaping New New New New Orleans to note the ubiquity of Burning Man as a touchstone among the moneyed white Disruptors lately making their marks on our city’s blank slate. “[W]e affectionately say that it’s always Burning Man in New Orleans,” Farrell told the Austin Chronicle in the same interview where Vivion asserted that, given the choice between South by Southwest and Mardi Gras in New Orleans, “I’d much rather go to SXSW. It feels like everyone who is anyone I would want to meet is there.”

The Booty’s narrative centered on their role as Bywater pioneers. Farrell told the Chronicle, “No one was doing anything else here before we put this here.” Out Magazine, one of many out-of-town outlets in which Farrell positioned himself as a New Orleans expert and guide, said “Booty’s has in short order become an anchor in a formerly unmoored neighborhood,” a business that “exemplifies the neighborhood’s transition.” That’s a lot to put on an establishment that, as a Gambit commenter pointed out, had at the time been open less than a year. In a 2013 blog entry, Farrell claimed “taxis literally and uniformly refused to drive to Bywater for the year we spent building Booty’s,” news no doubt confounding to the cabbies who lived and worked in the Ninth Ward before the Booty’s types who Kabacoff and Cummings lured in rendered it unaffordable.
Taxis now could go where no taxis had gone before so now Mardi Gras could be Burning Man which could also be SXSW.  The New New Orleans was limited only by what one could imagine.

Or maybe not.  It turns out the dimensional limits of the New New reality are defined sharply by what one can afford if nothing else. And it is by this paradox that the Blogstaurant seems to have eaten itself
The shades were drawn at Booty's on Tuesday afternoon (Jan. 5). Butcher paper covered the glass doors. Before the holidays a sign, since removed, said the Bywater bar and restaurant at 800 Louisa St. would take an "extended winter break."

Nick Vivion, who owned Booty's with Kevin Farrell, confirmed however that Booty's was closed for good.

But when the Unicorn's horn punctured space time, anomalies were set loose which continue to persist. Not only do the taxis go to Bywater now, so too is our perception of space and distance disrupted by Ubers and Lyfts.  A "sharing economy" perhaps born when the first pixel was shared out of the Booty's kitchen has consumed the entire neighborhood

And it turns out that in the sharezone, not only does space and time fold in up on itself but so do aesthetics.  This is an article from about a year ago on a minimalist decorative sensibility known as "Airspace."  The idea is that Airbnb travelers want the places they stay to retain a familiar interchangeable look and feel.  So short term rental hosts plug into the brand by cultivating a taste for upscale homogeneity. And that style then spreads across the landscape warping the reality it interacts with.
The connective emotional grid of social media platforms is what drives the impression of AirSpace. If taste is globalized, then the logical endpoint is a world in which aesthetic diversity decreases. It resembles a kind of gentrification: one that happens concurrently across global urban centers. Just as a gentrifying neighborhood starts to look less diverse as buildings are renovated and storefronts replaced, so economically similar urban areas around the world might increasingly resemble each other and become interchangeable.

In their introduction to The Fabric of Cultures: Fashion, Identity, and Globalization, the fashion scholars Eugenia Paulicelli and Hazel Clark write that this "aesthetic gentrification… divides the new world map in the light of a softer post-Cold War prejudice: the fashionable and the unfashionable world." In other words, we are experiencing an isolationism of style versus one of politics or physical geography, though it still falls along economic lines. You either belong to the AirSpace class or you don’t.

The homogeneity induced by this division can become stifling, to that point that opting out appears the better option. Rochelle Short was an Airbnb Superhost in Seattle (the designation requires many guests, high response rates, and perfect reviews). She started on the platform in 2013 and became a kind of guru for hosts through her blog, Letting People In. But she stopped hosting this year, as Airbnb itself has in a way become gentrified.

"I think the demographic started to change," Short says. In 2013, Airbnb felt like a true social experiment, "pioneering new territory, attracting people who were open-minded, easy-going, don’t worry if there’s a fleck on the mirror in the bathroom." By 2016, she explains, it "became the vanilla tourist who wanted the Super 8 motel experience. I don’t like these travelers as much as the earlier days."
Airspace ended up affecting Cafe Henri as well. Or so say the proprietors. According to their story, their original plan for the restaurant was a hard dive against convention.  If everything around them was dissolving into Airspace, they would stake out a niche for themselves by bucking that trend.  That didn't work out the way they hoped.
When Cafe Henri opened in Bywater last summer, the owners, Kirk Estopinal and Neal Bodenheimer of the Uptown cocktail bar Cure, called the menu "dad food." By that, they meant a steak, a lasagne, a wedge salad and a cocktail menu with nothing more complicated than a Manhattan or a rum and Coke. The kind of food their own dads would understand. Unfussy, comfort food.

Did their dads like the place?

"They liked it," Estopinal said, but there was a lot of hesitancy in his voice. "It was a hard concept to explain. And to be brutally honest, I don't think we nailed the execution."

More than anything, Estopinal and Bodenheimer misjudged Bywater. They thought the area could use a low-key neighborhood restaurant, the kind of spot where you might stop in a few times a week.

"We thought the neighborhood needed services," Bodenheimer said. "We thought more people actually lived here."

It turns out a lot of their neighbors were short-term rentals
Now is where we should acknowledge our cosmic observations may be corrupted by lack of a control for this experiment.  It's possible that Henri's failure to "nail the execution" on their steak and lasagna contributed as much to its problems as did the shifting contours of the environs.  This week, the local Twitterati had a lot to say about where to lay the actual blame for the restaurant's struggles. But whatever the cause,  the effect was a clear and deliberate lunge toward Airspace. 
Estopinal and Bodenheimer set about changing everything but the name at Cafe Henri.

The classic cocktails were replaced by drinks more like what is served at Cure. The wine list was upgraded. And most importantly, they brought in a new chef.

Estopinal had been friends with chef Alfredo Nogueira for years. The two played in bands together, both in New Orleans and Chicago, where they both ended up after Hurricane Katrina. Estopinal came back to New Orleans in 2008. Nogueira stayed in Chicago and starting cooking Louisiana food at bar called Analogue.

"What makes Analogue worthy of your patronage is the fearlessness of its chef," wrote the Chicago Tribune's Kevin Pang in a 2014. "Nogueira extracts more funk from chicken liver and gizzard than Curtis Mayfield can with an E7+9 chord."
Fearlessness and funk extraction notwithstanding, it was only a day or so after we learned of its "retooling" that the restaurant announced it would close.
The changes, however, were not enough to rescue the restaurant.

"In the end, we failed to fully understand the dynamics of an evolving neighborhood shaped in part by the short-term rental market as well as by the loss of Hollywood South," wrote co-owner Neal Bodenheimer in a Facebook post. "Despite those challenges we remain optimistic about the future of Bywater."

After taking a few months  re-examine culinary trends, the owners announce they will once again be closing while they attempt to better understand the marketplace. We wish them luck.

Currently our understanding of the marketplace is that nobody actually lives there and that, in a related matter, the rent is too damn high.  Maybe this isn't the sole factor in the failure of Cafe Henri but it probably did steer its owners' decisions. Neighborhoods are being absorbed by short term rentals. Local businesses are adjusting their strategies.

Here's another scenario playing out across town
A development company called DensityBump LLC, headed by Lawrence Linder and Richard Ehret, is proposing the “Freret Mews” project on the Neighborhood Housing Services property that spans the block between Freret and Lasalle streets alongside Cadiz Street. The buildings would have ground-floor parking with two-bedroom, two-bath townhouses above, and the project would maintain a driveway between the Publiq House building and the new homes, according to the proposal sent to the City Planning Commission.

We mentioned this development in passing the other day.  It's clearly being drawn up with STRs in mind. The article notes opposition to and support for the project. Notice where each side's interests sit. 
The original plan for the project called for 10 townhomes, but developers reduced it to nine following neighbors’ concerns about density. Though the townhomes will be sold, not rented, some neighbors worried that the new owners would simply use them for AirBnB rentals.

“I strongly oppose the construction of any of these townhouses,” wrote Jena Street neighbor Annie Jane Laurence. “I see this as out-of-town developers looking to make money off my neighborhood.”

Business owners in the blocks around Freret voiced support for the project, however, according to the developers’ notes from a neighborhood meeting in April.

“Thank you, Lawrence, for coming up with a creative way to beautify an ‘ugly’ parking lot and make it useful,” wrote Ross and Ria Turnbull of Piccola Gelateria. “We support this project.”
This suggests we have opposition from people who actually live in the neighborhood and support from some who see profit in bringing in more people who don't.  Maybe the "Mews" will rip the cosmic fabric on Freret the same way the Unicorn did in Bywater.  It's difficult to observe the event horizon of such phenomena until it's already been crossed.  Our scientists are preparing an experiment, though.  Does anybody remember the number for United Cab?

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

AirBnBucket List

Shorter Stacy: There aren't enough short term rentals in New Orleans.  Let's sell off what's left of our public housing units so we can make more.
At the heart of this latest dispute is whether HANO should be selling, rather than redeveloping, its small apartment buildings.

Head has said the sale of such sites to private developers would place them back on the tax rolls and bring more revenue to the city, while Fortner has said keeping them and renovating the buildings allows HANO to turn a profit over the long term at a time of declining federal funding for the agency.
It's ok, y'all. She's almost gone. That is to say, she's almost through with her council term which is one reason she's working so hard on her to-do list full of stuff that screws over poor people.  The other reason she's so serious about doing all that stuff is she probably wants to run for a state office sooner or later and is burnishing her "business friendly" bona fides to that end in the meantime.  But we'll worry about that later.

Monday, July 24, 2017

"Density Bump LLC"

That's pretty funny.
A development company called DensityBump LLC, headed by Lawrence Linder and Richard Ehret, is proposing the “Freret Mews” project on the Neighborhood Housing Services property that spans the block between Freret and Lasalle streets alongside Cadiz Street. The buildings would have ground-floor parking with two-bedroom, two-bath townhouses above, and the project would maintain a driveway between the Publiq House building and the new homes, according to the proposal sent to the City Planning Commission.
"Freret Mews" is also funny but maybe just dumb funny instead of ha ha funny.  Anyway, the whole thing is just a great big Airbnb farm so there's no actual "density" being achieved if nobody will actually live there. 

Eventually they are going to find the votes

It's a great big tax cut for rich people. They're probably going to pass it.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Easy to see who isn't in the club

The candidates who aren't in the club are the ones being sued by the club.
The gloves came off last week as New Orleans residents filed lawsuits attempting to oust seven candidates for various municipal and parish offices, a week after qualifying ended for the fall elections.

Candidates running for City Council Districts D and E, City Council at-large Division 1, sheriff, assessor and clerk of Criminal District Court were targeted in suits that mainly hinged on the question of unfiled tax returns.

The challenges mostly seek to disqualify political newcomers running in races against incumbents or veterans seeking a different office.
Hardly anyone outside of the elite circles has lifted a finger to present a serious challenge in these elections. So in light of that, this seems like overkill. But I guess we can never be too careful.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Asymmetric Cliff-fare

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Nobody really wants to deal with it"

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

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

First NBC is having an interesting week

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 21, 2017

Camera shy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Hold that Tiger Swan

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

The money pit

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

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

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

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Solving the homeless problem

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

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

Politics is a struggle for dominance

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

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

Delicious but deadly

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

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

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

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

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

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

Voice Of The People

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

A new form of communication

Mayor's Meeting

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 17, 2017

Beat the clock doctrine

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, July 14, 2017

So many Charbonnets

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

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

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

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

Policed Enough Already

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

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

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

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

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

Busy day today

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

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Well this answers one question

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

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

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

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

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

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

Delicious but deadly

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

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Nobody wants to be mayor

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

So many Landrieus

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

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

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

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

Oh yeah I totally could have won....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, July 10, 2017

Serpas signals no

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

Ronal Serpas is taking a pass on politics.

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

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

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

Do not keep a handgun, just in case

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

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

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

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

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