Saturday, August 19, 2017

What did the mayor not know and when did he not know it?

An under reported bit of context to the whole drainage saga is Mitch Landrieu and Cedric Grant have been trying to dump Civil Service for quite some time now.
Human Resources Director Sharon Judkins told the board of directors Wednesday (Aug. 16) that the S&WB was short 290 people at the end of July, based on its budget for 1,500 employees. It also has 240 workers eligible to retire, including 121 who are participating in the agency's five-year deferred retirement option program, or DROP.

Those averages have plagued the board for months, if not years. In response, outgoing S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant earlier this year had tried to eliminate civil service requirements for all future employees. But he failed to sway the state Legislature.
It wasn't just Grant trying to lobby Baton Rouge for these changes. The mayor has a hand in that too. Mitch spent last week implausibly feigning ignorance of some basic information about the status of pumps and turbines.  Here he says he was never notified of a power failure back in March of this year.  But longtime subscribers to regular water service in New Orleans find this dubious given the near constant attention these issues have gotten from one boil order to the next throughout Landrieu's term in office. Even the most casual observers are aware there have been problems.

In fact, in his 2012 pitch for a rate increase, the mayor wanted to "be very clear" about the danger we were in
"I want to be very clear about this, the city is in a position of danger right now. The power plant at the Sewerage and Water Board has broken five times since Katrina," Mayor Landrieu said in an address back in 2012.
And this was after a 2010 post-boil order examination where new emergency protocols were supposedly put in place. 
But at a news conference a few days later, Sneed said that message didn't arrive for several hours and that it didn't include an official copy of the advisory, which Sneed insisted was needed in order to issue the alert.

"In the middle of the night, e-mail is good, but it needs to be followed up by phone calls to ensure that we got those messages," he said. "All those problems have been corrected, and we feel confident that the issues won't happen again."

St. Martin and Sneed said on Friday that they have changed their emergency protocols as a result. In the future, they said, they will call senior city officials at their home and cell phones -- or dispatch police to rouse them, if necessary -- when major problems occur at night.
So somewhere along the line we went from, "we will send a cop to knock on the mayor's door at 2 am if necessary," to, "nobody told the mayor for months that the turbines were on fire."  It's possible this happened after Cedric Grant took over. I guess Mitch really really trusted him for some reason.

Until he didn't.
Sewerage & Water Board Executive Director Cedric Grant will leave much sooner than he indicated, possibly starting his retirement as early as next week, sources told WWL-TV Friday.

His departure would clear the way for a soon-to-be-named management team which apparently will be made up of at least five state and national experts from various fields.
Grant will be fine, as we are all well aware by now. He's got a big pension waiting for him. That's more than we can say for most of the S&WB line employees, though. And as city leaders move ahead with plans to "reform" municipal pensions or contract more and more work out, that's only going to get worse.

It's still highly likely that the incoming team of "experts in various fields" will favor more privatization, regardless of the "vehement denials" we read about here.
The state senator now plans to introduce a bill to put City Council members back on the utility's board of directors, which would undo changes in state law that he had helped Landrieu and the council make four years ago.

Morrell said Thursday (Aug. 17) that his proposal is a direct response to accusations that the Landrieu administration is attempting to privatize the 119-year-old public utility. The mayor and his spokespeople have vehemently denied any plans to privatize, saying they are hiring outside companies under temporary contracts to figure out what went wrong during the Aug. 5 flood and to help right the S&WB ship.

The final straw for Morrell came from an opinion piece by Jacques Morial, which was posted on The Lens website Wednesday. In it, Morial blasted Morrell and state Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, for carrying legislation in 2013 to remove council members from the S&WB. Morial equated that action to a first step toward privatization.
J.P. might be taking this a bit personally. But at least he's pushing in the right direction now. He has to because Morial's argument is correct.  The recent reforms are fundamentally undemocratic and S&WB needs better public oversight than that. Morial actually proposed doing away with the board altogether. But if we can't have that, at least let's have more accountability to the citiznery and less to the freaking university presidents.

The move to push Grant out the door sooner in favor of yet to be named consultants, doesn't bode well, though. At the end of the day, it's still more or less impossible for the Mitch Landrieus of the world to imagine any solution that isn't heavily flavored with public-private partnerships.  When in doubt, contract it out.  And there's never more doubt to work with than in the middle of a crisis.  So far we're only vaguely aware of how this crisis impacts upper management at S&WB. They're "retiring" with upper management pensions.   The consequences for the employees there are likely to be far worse.

Congratulations to Jason on taking down Steve Bannon

No idea why anybody want to write for David Brock's bullshit outlet but, well, the timing on this was pretty sweet.
The Washington Post focused primarily on the bizarre fact that Bannon listed the Opechee Drive house as his place of residence, despite living in California. The article lightly touched on the state of disrepair in which Bannon left the house — including a bathtub apparently destroyed by acid.

But the truth turns out to have been much worse than that.

When Curtis first saw the house, the real estate agent, Beatriz Portela, told him the previous tenants “were not very upstanding people” and had “severely damaged” the property.

They had “put padlocks on all the doors, installed video cameras, and had ruined the bathtub, kitchen counter, and floor.”

Worse, though, was that it had been a “party house,” she said, known for frequent drug use.

Carlos Herrera, who owned the house with with his wife, Andreina Morales, painted a picture of what initially seemed to be a normal tenancy but soon evolved into an almost daily parade of debauchery and drug use, including run-ins with the police.

“The conclusion is she was probably cooking meth in here,” Herrera said of Bannon’s ex-wife. That would have explained the damage done to the bathtub and kitchen sink.
The Wa-Po story he references was pretty famous at the time. And I don't think it's entirely accurate to say it "lightly touched" on the thing that became a major conversation piece for months.  But it certainly was worth following up on.  I'm still not sure Shareblue is the appropriate venue for that follow up. Anything that appears there tends to be delegitimized regardless of the intent or professionalism of the reporter. This is not because of anything having to do with "bias" or partisanship. It is because David Brock is a dishonest propaganda merchant who nobody should produce content for.

In any case I am wrong because it clearly worked this time.
President Donald Trump's chief strategist Steve Bannon has been fired, multiple White House officials told CNN on Friday.

Sources told CNN that Bannon's ouster had been in the works for two weeks and a source said that while Bannon was given the option to resign, he was ultimately forced out. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders confirmed Bannon's departure, but claimed the decision for him to leave was mutual.
Of course, Bannon doesn't actually have to be in the White House anymore. Having won the 2016 election by helping to pull the center of American politics even further to the ultra right than it had been, his mission is already accomplished. In fact, by leaving now and setting himself up as the scapegoat he's actually helping to further institutionalize this latest re-positioning of the window. A significant segment of the press is bound to cast a post-Bannon Trump admin as more "moderate" in some way. And this,i n turn, is bound to give a newly independent Bannon room to go stake out territory further to the right. Meanwhile Steven Miller and Seb Gorka are still there.... for now, anyway.

More importantly, though, Paul Ryan is still hanging around waiting to put your grandma on a catfood diet just as soon as everything calms down enough to pass laws again. And, thanks to all of the above, he represents the "centrist" wing now.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Slow and store

Looks like there's a problem with the money pump.
In its most recent financial tracking report from June, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development labeled the city of New Orleans a “slow spender” because it had yet to tap into the National Disaster Resilience Grant – an award the city won in January 2016 following a ballyhooed national competition.

More than $100 million of the $141 million New Orleans received is supposed to go to eight so-called urban water – or green infrastructure – projects across the Gentilly section of the city. Some add retention ponds to parks, water-absorbing landscaping and sunken-garden neutral grounds similar to those seen on Canal Boulevard in Lakeview.
The "green infrastructure" in question here is a number of projects in the city's Urban Water Plan which you can check out here. Interestingly these projects are based on the "slow and store" concept of water management which also turns out to be what's happening with the grant money.  Although, the reasons for this seem pretty understandable.
Hebert said it took a year to get a final agreement to use the HUD money. It was finally signed on former President Barack Obama’s last full day in office, Jan. 19. Then, Hebert said, the city was afraid to start spending its own money to get reimbursed by the feds because President Donald Trump announced plans to defund some HUD programs.

Hebert said the city didn’t feel comfortable spending any of the HUD money until the Trump administration gave final approval to the plan in June.

“We didn't want to encumber city funds before we got that document because we did not know what the Trump administration was going to do at HUD,” Hebert said.
That's a pretty reasonable approach given that the Trump Administration recently threatened to claw back $2 billion designated for street repairs.  But since it doesn't look like there's much of a federal infrastructure plan forthcoming any time soon, we might as well get on with things around here.

Anyway there's a fair amount of talk about this and other drainage issues in the new one of these.

They all look the same, eh, Tom?

Finally, the details about how out of it Benson really is are starting to leak.
At one point, Henry's attorney, Chris Williams, asked Benson why he had testified that Henry had been with him during the Saints' Super Bowl victory when Henry had not been working for him at the time.

Benson acknowledged that he remembered neither where the Super Bowl had been played — Miami — nor who his assistant was at the time.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

"Who is this?" Williams asked.

"It's Rodney and a basketball player," Benson said. "Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he's a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no."

Williams said Anthony Davis.

Benson said, "Yes, that's it."
Before you get too worried, though, just remember that brain damage has been very very good for Benson over the years, financially speaking so this is probably fine.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Money for Bags

Michael Bagneris won what Tyler Bridges is calling the "Frank Stewart Primary." 
Michael Bagneris has won the Frank Stewart primary, and that could pay dividends for a New Orleans mayoral candidate who has lagged in the polls and in raising money.

Stewart, who built a nationwide funeral home and cemetery business that was sold in 2013, is not only supporting Bagneris but also organized a breakfast for the former judge last week with some three dozen friends and associates capable of writing big campaign checks.

“My candidate knocked the socks off all 38 people,” Stewart said Wednesday. “They all said he was so impressive that they would support him. I was overwhelmed.”

Stewart's profile in New Orleans politics got a lift earlier this year after he published full-page newspaper ads denouncing Mayor Mitch Landrieu and his decision to push for the removal of four Jim Crow-era monuments, including the statue of Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle

I wonder does this mean we have to ask Bagneris about the monuments now? Actually, wait, we did do this. Or at least Bridges did in an earlier article.
Michael Bagneris, a former Civil District Court judge, lamented that the debate over whether to take down the monuments “divides the races.” He said Landrieu should have put the decision to the city’s voters.

“Everybody would have had a chance to express their view,” he said. “Whichever way it would have come down, people would have been satisfied.”

Bagneris declined to say how he would have voted.

Asked for a clarification of his views, he chose to have a spokesman issue a written statement. “At this time,” it said, “there is nothing further to say on the subject as it distracts from the real issue facing our city: solving the violent crime problem.”
Tut tut at the "divisiveness," fail to take a stand on the issue, and go full bore into "Murders Not Monuments."  That's some bold leadership right there. No wonder Stewart and friends are impressed. They also like a guy who isn't here to coddle the damn kids today.
Besides Stewart, Jay Lapeyre, another prominent New Orleans businessman, hosted a meet-and-greet with Bagneris at his Uptown home on Aug. 3 with about 20 friends. Lapeyre said that afterward he decided to support Bagneris and contributed the maximum $5,000.

“Michael has the personal accomplishments needed to understand how important it is to create opportunities that are aspirational for other people,” said Lapeyre, who runs a major manufacturing company and has headed powerful business associations such as the Business Council of New Orleans. “You can’t think it’s just about what do we need to do to make it more comfortable. It’s about how to challenge people, especially young people.”

Meanwhile, here is Peter Athas's debut column at the Bayou Brief. It's a brief summary of some recent mayoral elections with some good commentary on the candidates and their coalitions. I'm not 100 percent in agreement with Peter's characterization of certain people and events but it's a very worthwhile piece.  I've been looking specifically at 2002 as a comparable scenario to this election for a few months now.  Peter seems to agree with that.
There were two frontrunners at the start of the 2002 campaign: State Sen. Paulette Irons and Marc Morial’s respected police chief, Richard Pennington. Irons’ well-financed bid to be the city’s first female mayor fell apart because of a somewhat casual acquaintance with the truth, as pointed out by the Gambit‘s Allen Johnson in a piece entitled “The Perils of Paulette.” Irons was also the subject of an intense opposition campaign. As to the late Chief Pennington, he was a great cop, a nice man, and a terrible politician. His biggest mistake was allowing Dollar Bill Jefferson’s organization to run his campaign. White voters still took a dim view of the Congressman in 2002, and with good reason. His friends and relations spent the aughties looting the school board. Dollar Bill’s finger in the Pennington pie meant that the man who should have been the perfect racial cross-over candidate was viewed with suspicion by white conservatives and goo-goo reformer types alike. It didn’t matter that he’d reduced crime dramatically and cleaned up a corrupt department. Palling around with Dollar Bill killed his chances.
Typically, New Orleans mayoral elections end up being less about individual candidates and platforms and more about the interest groups and power player who coalesce behind the campaigns. In a year like this year, when none of the candidates is a dominant personality, the behind the scenes jockeying becomes even more important.  Broadly speaking, though, the pattern tends toward a struggle between two broadly defined power bases. And, yes, those broad bases have a lot to do with race. There's always a "black" candidate and a "white" candidate regardless of the actual races of the individuals.

To explain this a little, let's look back at this (rather hostile) Advocate article  from a few weeks ago about Desiree Charbonnet's donors. The article points out, as most people will, that Desiree is pulling in a large share of the donations from contractors who do business with the city. That's worth raising an eyebrow at. But it is also true that these firms always put money into elections and that they do this because they believe it's a way to remain in good standing with the winners. (Notice a lot of them are hedging their bets by dropping Cantrell a little money as well.) Still, yes, there is a pay-to-play aspect to this even if it is merely implicit. And, yes, this is quite obviously an inherent and pervasive problem not only in local New Orleans politics but in.. you know... politics everywhere you go.

Charbonnet was always going to be the primary beneficiary of this from the moment she got into the race. The reasons for this have to do with her family name, and her institutional connection to a system of political organizing and patronage. This system can justifiably be criticized for the climate of petty corruption and insider dealing it tends to engender. But keep in mind that it has also played a significant role in achieving some semblance of racial and economic parity in a city where the levers of power and influence were traditionally reserved for an insular class of white plutocrats.

So to bring this back to 2002, Pennington at that time, ran with basically the backing Charbonnnet has now.  It's more complicated than just that. But it was generally understood to be a continuance of the Morial administration and so everyone who was benefiting there would naturally want to stay the course.  Pennington was opposed by Ray Nagin who had the support of the "business community" such as the cabal of tech bros who founded Idea Village as well as the philanthropic clubs and old line Carnival types.  "Goo-goo reformers and white conservatives" aren't always in the exact same camp but they do tend to find each other during mayoral elections. When the runoff comes, they will almost certainly be on the same side.

Right now, though, the white vote is pretty loose and all three major candidates are scrambling to nail down what bits of it they can.  It looks right now like a the "goo-goo" side which I would define as middle class white liberals are still kicking the tires on LaToya while the plutocrats haven't been fully accounted for.  That is, until Bagneris started picking up a few of them this week.

Anyway, I hope all of this helps put this last quote from Bridges's article into context.  It's about where the players are lining up.. or at least where Bagneris would like them to. 
Asked if he made any promises to the businessmen at Stewart’s gathering, Bagneris said, “What promise would you give to any of the individuals? They are already independently wealthy. These are not contractors who need a city contract.”

Charbonnet, who had $645,000 in hand through mid-July, compared to Bagneris’ $180,000, has been criticized for taking numerous $5,000 contributions from city contractors.

Somehow Billy Nungesser is owned

Remember back in April when Billy begged for Trump's attention over monument removal? Totally ignored.  Today, though, Trump is all about some statues. Nobody ever listens to poor Billy. 

Anyway, we've just finished up our course in monument removal here. If America wants to borrow our notes, they are welcome.

Flip This Shipyard

I buy houses

So from this we gather there's probably another buyer in the works for Avondale. But first it's in the hands of this glorified house flipping concern.
Assuming it moves forward with buying the property, though, Hilco's past track record may offer a glimpse of its possible plans, such as entering a commercial joint venture for the site with another company or perhaps the Port of New Orleans, which has floated the possibility of such a venture in the past.

Other options for Hilco could include trying to sell off Avondale's assets piece by piece or simply flipping the property to another buyer.

Hilco is no stranger to New Orleans. One of its business units, Hilco Real Estate, has worked with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority to auction vacant structures and lots. In April, it held a two-day online auction for more than 100 such structures and vacant lots, generating more than $2.5 million.
It looks like it's going to end up in the Port's hands. This would jibe with the conventional wisdom stretching back to the beginning of the Public Belt story, anyway. But first we've got to get some financial intermediaries a chance to collect some rents.

What was the Civil War fought over?

Today's Advocate literally cannot say it was about slavery.
The Civil War involved a central question of civil society. Would we be a nation bound by a common commitment to constitutional order, or a country compromised by the chaos of factionalism? The conclusion of that conflict, purchased by the blood and anguish of an America divided against itself, was supposed to make us whole once more.
The Civil War happened because people weren't bi-partisan enough, apparently.  Who writes the Advocate editorials? I just think if they're gonna blame "both sides" for the Charlottesville violence then they ought to at least put their name to it. 

Update: See also Chris Lehmann on the kind of Bothsidesism in evidence at the Advocate today
The above-the-fray notion that “both sides do it” is a species of magical thinking perpetrated by those with a deep institutional investment in upholding status-quo power relations: network presidents, centrist pundits, the Atlantic’s editorial politburo, and moguls of various monotonous description. So by both sociopathic personal temperament and class outlook, Trump has adopted the same blame-dodging as protective coloring (as it were).  

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

HANO's waiting list is the new normal

This article does a good job of demonstrating that the policy is deliberately creating the problem it has set out to create. More people desperate for less housing is what "the market" wants. The "public-private partnership model" is all about getting that done.
The Housing Authority of New Orleans's first experience with the public-private partnership model came when HRI converted the St. Thomas housing development into the River Garden neighborhood in 2004, anchored by the city’s first Wal-Mart.

HANO then began regularly leasing its complexes to private developers under a plan that was speeded up following Katrina, when many hundreds of units were flooded and otherwise damaged.

After Katrina, HANO demolished its Big Four projects — C.J. Peete, St. Bernard, Lafitte and B.W. Cooper, which accounted for about 60 percent of public housing in the city — in order to make way for new housing models. In some cases, by 2015, fewer than half the new units had rents comparable to those in public housing. Some were market-rate, and others were in-between.

As subsidized units declined, the number of housing vouchers for privately owned apartments rose — as did the waiting list for people waiting to get them.

There are 24,207 families on the local waiting list to receive vouchers, according to Andreanecia Morris, executive director of HousingNOLA. She said the problem could get worse under the budget proposed by President Donald Trump.

HANO, she said, would be severely impacted by a proposed 68 percent cut in public housing repair funds, a $300 million cut to the Housing Choice Voucher program and elimination of Community Development Block Grant funding.

And, of course, Ben Carson is here to tell us this is pretty much "Mission Accomplished."

Carson said that "lessons have been learned" about some of the developments built after Katrina, in that "early on, some of the contracts did not involve setting aside enough units as affordable units."

He also said that while "there's a lot of anxieties about budgets," he is working to make HUD "extremely efficient" with the funds now in place and to run things on "business principles" rather than "bureaucratic principles."

One way to do that, he said, is to continue to develop smart public-private partnerships when designing new housing models meant to incorporate low-income tenants.
Just so we're clear on what this means. When we hear municipal candidates talk this fall about affordable housing strategies based on pub-private-partnerships and set-aside requirements from luxury developments, it's worth remembering this is already the official Trump Administration policy. 

Delvin Breaux's leg has always been on fire

What did the doctors know and when did they know it?
The Saints were ready to move on from Delvin Breaux.

Now they're moving on from members of their medical staff.

After learning that Breaux actually has a fractured fibula, and not a bone contusion as initially believed, the team has fired orthopedists Deryk Jones and Misty Suri, according to a source. ESPN first reported the news.

Breaux is expected to miss 4-6 weeks with the injury. The injury was discovered when he visited an independent doctor.
Benson is looking for a new medical staff. Probably through Veolia.

Saints fans have actually been wondering about this for several years stretching back at least to 2009-2010 when the team always seemed to be burning through excessive numbers of DBs and running backs over the course of a season. Players have also complained from time to time.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Jeff Landry picked a great day to defend racist policing

Turns out he's super mad that the NOPD consent decree won't let cops sick dogs on people and say the "n" word.
The 129-page decree mandates numerous policy changes, from off-duty details to paperwork filing. It disrespects law enforcement, coddles criminals, and creates wide-open opportunities for suspects to flee. It not only dictates the tone officers must use with criminals, but it also prohibits “inappropriate” and “insensitive” words. It requires officers to get permission from headquarters before they can utilize canines to apprehend violent criminals; only after asking for surrender three times in the criminals’ native tongue, may the canines be deployed. What’s more: when dangerous criminals flee, officers are prohibited from setting up roadblocks, laying spike strips, or using any sort of obstructions.
I blame the "alt-left."

Veolia and CH2M

When in doubt, throw some money at a "management study".
City officials will hire the French conglomerate Veolia to assist the city in analyzing what has gone wrong with the the city's troubled drainage system, but it remains unclear who will ultimately take over temporary private management of the Sewerage & Water Board.

It's also not clear how much it's going to cost to execute two key contracts, including the one with Veolia. In addition to that contract, which Mayor Mitch Landrieu's spokesman Tyronne Walker said will pay for a "resiliency and asset management study," the city plans to hire New Orleans-based engineering firm CH2M to provide management, emergency operations and maintenance for the city's drainage system and its power supply.
I hope the study doesn't end up recommending privatization as the bestest way to do "resiliency" because Mitch already promised he wasn't interested in privatizing anything. I especially hope Veolia's study doesn't recommend turning management over to Veolia. Their track record isn't so good.

As for CH2M, they've already been working on one turbine for five years. In 2013 they were expected to keep at it for another "seven to eight months."
Of the plant's four turbines, No. 4 has been out of commission for about six months, with another seven or eight months left in its federally subsidized overhaul. FEMA has poured about $12.5 million into repairing it, Becker said.

It's still not working.  But that won't stop them from going to work on the rest of these now.
CH2M will plan to return the three out-of-service turbines to service and acquire  backup power sources. Walker said that CH2M has "intimate knowledge of S&WB systems" and will be able to "ramp up" to a more robust effort that will be focused on turbine and power capacity building. The firm will hire a number of subcontractors to assist in that work, although it's not yet clear how many or at what cost.
It's a good thing they've spent so much time acquiring all that "intimate knowledge." That comes in handy around here. 

New Orleans: So far ahead we're.. well, we did this stuff first

So gratifying to see, here in the first year of the Nagin Presidency where a buffoon and his corrupt idiot friends are in charge of everything, that the nation is in the throes of the same Mounment Wars that dominated local politics all last year.  We're starting to get used to saying, "been there," to the rest of the nation down here in our supposed backwater.  Check with us again when you're ready for some advice on rotting infrastructure or losing whole cities to sea level rise.

Oh and since the Bronze Tom fad is spreading as well, just let us know when you're ready for us to show you how to knock those down too.  We're working on it. Trust us.

It's a day that ends in y...

.. it means we're building more nice things for rich people.
The site of the former L.A. Frey & Sons meat packing plant in the Bywater will soon be converted into a 75-unit condo building.

Site work has begun at 900 Bartholomew St. for the condo project called The Saxony, according to a news release from Latter & Blum Builder/Developer Services. The developer is Ward Investments.
The five-story building will include 75 units with studio, one-bedroom, two-bedroom and three-bedroom layouts priced between $189,000 to $642,500. The project also includes gated parking, a pool, and fitness and meeting rooms.
Are we doing it on purpose? You bet we are. Here is a thread.

Update: Here also is Desiree Charbonnet's housing plan.  Like pretty much anything you find on a candidate's website, it's intended to blow smoke.  For example, the bit about short term rentals seems ok but notice how the notion of what might be "possible" shows through.
3. Improve and develop policies and programs to preserve and protect established residential neighborhoods, including additional restrictions on short-term rentals (STRs) and improving planning and enforcement processes. I will support amending the Short-term Rental Ordinances (covering, for example, AirBnB and VRBO) to place greater restrictions on STRs. Possible additional restrictions include limiting the number of STRs in neighborhoods zoned for single-family residences, possibly to one per block, and requiring the property owner to have a homestead exemption. Additionally, I support fully maintaining the prohibition on STRs in the French Quarter.
The highlight proposal, though, is a plan to dedicate some percentage of city revenue generated by property and sales taxes on new developments toward "housing programs." The housing programs in question are not specified in the plan. There is a lot of language about finding public, private, non-profit, and financial "partners" to do, well, something. It doesn't really say.  But the idea here is, in the future, when we build nice things for rich people, we'll be sure to spread the benefits of that around to.... well, nominally, to the housing stressed residents, although something tells me the "partners" come a little higher in the pecking order. 

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eat the tourists

Seems like we every few months another one of these stories comes along.
By the end, some of Altamura's staff were accepting less pay and delaying paycheck deposits in an effort to keep the restaurant going.

Altamura closed at the end of July, just shy of a year from its debut last summer. Employees like Risbourg said they received scant advance notice, lost out on pay and never got answers to their complaints from the restaurant's owner, Jack Petronella.

“We found out three days before the restaurant closed, and when I deposited my last paycheck, it bounced,” she said.

About a week later, on Aug. 7, Altamura’s one-time sibling business, the bakery and cafĂ© ManhattanJack, also closed, though there was talk of rebooting the popular Uptown spot. ManhattanJack employees too report not receiving their final paychecks.
A lot of people depend on these kinds of service jobs in New Orleans. The restaurant industry is scarcely organized and offers little in the way of benefits or job security. But it does account for over a third of the new jobs created here since 2010. In other words, our largest and fastest growing industry doesn't support our workforce very well. That's going to have to change or else we should find something else to live off of.

Always fun to get out and play with the robot

We hadn't  had a Suspicious Package game in a while. Seems like a couple years ago they were happening every week for a while. Anyway, let's see what we won this time.

Eh... I would say throw it back and fire up the claw machine again but I'm afraid that's enough excitement for one day.  Thanks again to Homeland Security looking out for us in case anybody happened to be doing any reading in the vicinity.

Candidates agree flooding is bad

It's a bold stance, I know.  For what it's worth, Bagneris probably has the closest thing to a point here.
The clamor grew louder after revelations that the S&WB had put out misleading statements about the capacity of the drainage system during the flood, even as Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for senior S&WB officials’ resignations and said he would hire a private firm to find out just what went wrong and to temporarily run the embattled agency.

Bagneris on Thursday urged Landrieu to hire two separate firms to conduct an assessment of the S&WB’s failures and to manage its operations in the short term.

“If one firm does both, we will never get a TRUE picture of what happened, only one firm’s analysis and how they can supposedly fix the problem,” he said.
It's still very likely that it could happen that way. 

Sunday, August 13, 2017

"Former white suprmacist"

Odd little caption from the EWE birthday tribute at NOLA.com yesterday under a photo from 1991.
Edwin Edwards, left, and David Duke, prepare to discuss their candidacies on WDSU's "Meet the Press," November 10, 1991, in New Orleans. Edwards beat Duke, a former white supremacist, in the 1991 gubernatorial election to serve his last term. Both Edwards and Duke's success embarrassed Louisiana. Edwards had been plagued by government corruption scandals during his prior time in office. Duke was a high-profile racist.
I guess he must have come out of retirement recently.  I kind of get what they're saying, though.  In 1991, Duke really was selling himself as a "former white supremacist" in order to pretty himself up for politics. Most people didn't believe him, of course. But he still got a fair amount of "on many sides" benefit of the doubt in the press anyway. Would he even need to pretend today?  

Saturday, August 12, 2017

This is why it's always good to ask what's up

Because we asked, Mitch felt obligated to come out and explicitly say, "'I do not intend to privatize the Sewerage and Water Board" today. That's good to hear even though it's still worth paying close attention to the details of the coming management reshuffle.

Anyway, a week ago, we were being told that, because the rain would have overwhelmed the pumps even if they had been at 100 percent of full capacity, that it didn't make any sense for us to ask about them.  It's true about the rain. But it turned out that it was worth asking anyway.  It's always worth asking.

So anyway, who bought Avondale?

There's so much excitement this week, it seems like this would have been a bigger deal otherwise.
Two years after it was put up for sale, the former Avondale shipyard has found a buyer, but few details have been released about the idle West Bank facility's future.

Huntington Ingalls Industries executives disclosed the development Aug. 3 in an earnings call with analysts. The Daily Press of Newport News, Virginia, where the defense giant is based, first reported the news Tuesday.

"We signed a purchase-and-sale agreement for the sale of the property," Chris Kastner, Huntington Ingalls' chief financial officer, told analysts, according to the report. "While this is a positive step toward an eventual sale, a comprehensive due diligence process will now be initiated before the potential buyer is obligated to close."

Beci Brenton, a Huntington Ingalls spokeswoman, confirmed the agreement Wednesday but declined further comment.
Nobody is saying who the buyer is but it's obvious a lot of people know. The article points out some things a lot of us in the public already kind of know.  For example, there had been speculation that Avondale would end up as part of the deal between the City and the Port over the Public Belt Railroad. My understanding was that the occupants of the soon to be demolished Gov. Nicholls and Esplanade wharves might be relocated to Avondale. But then we read recently that they're moving to a facility on France Road.
On Thursday, the port's governing board approved the broad outlines of an arrangement that would terminate TCI's current lease in favor of a new deal for property the port will purchase for $10.5 million at 4325 France Road, along the Industrial Canal.

TCI's new lease will be for 20 years and will allow it to occupy the France Road property immediately. It will pay no rent for two years to cover relocation expenses.
That's pretty nice for the tennant that they're making it worth their trouble.  It's also nice they were able to arrange the shipyard purchase at such a steep discount. Really helps spread the wealth around a bit.
In recent months, Huntington Ingalls dropped the asking price for the Avondale property to $95 million from $125 million, Jerry Bologna, president and CEO of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Commission, said.
Speaking of which,  it also works out well for the France Road property owner that the Port is apparently able to pay almost twiced the assessed value.
The France Road property is now owned by Gulf Coast Shipyard Realty LLC, land records show. That company is owned by a group with ties to Shane Guidry, the chairman and CEO of Harvey Gulf International Marine, a marine transportation company.

The Orleans Parish Assessor's Office values the France Road property at more than $5.5 million.
That looks like a pretty sweet deal for Shane Guidry. Wait. Who is Shane Guidry, again?
During the last three years, Shane Guidry has become Louisiana’s most generous campaign contributor. In addition to serving as the CEO of Harvey Gulf, Guidry is also the special assistant to Attorney General Jeff Landry, where he collects a $12,000 annual salary and oversees the department’s criminal investigations unit. Landry was once Guidry’s personal lawyer.
Please enjoy that article, by the way. Guidry has a lot of friends besides Landry. Billy Nungesser, Cameron Henry, Newell Normand... pretty much all of your favorites and ours show up in there somewhere.  Certainly can't hurt your chances of getting in on the big deals like this.

Anyway, can't wait to find out who bought the shipyard.

Friday, August 11, 2017

So how big as that "fiscal cliff" anyway?

About $1.5 billion, it turns out.
BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Louisiana’s looming mid-2018 budget gap is projected to be $1.5 billion. That’s the official price tag in documents to be presented to lawmakers Friday, the first update since the legislative sessions ended in June. Most of the shortfall projected for the budget year that begins July 1, 2018, is tied to the expiration of temporary sales taxes enacted by lawmakers last year.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

When in doubt, just privatize everything

You know, the term shock doctrine tends to get thrown around a lot these days....
Landrieu spokesman Tyronne Walker said the administration is attempting to arrange for a private company to come in "as a temporary arrangement, for a finite time frame to be determined to allow for the stabilization of the system."
You know.. just until we can figure out what's going on..

The pumps have always been on fire

Due to certain recent events, the new official policy is to actually tell people about it. In very dramatic fashion, I might add. Thanks to a 3am text alert and emergency press conference,  a lot of us are starting today on less than 100 percent of a full night's sleeping capacity.

If we understand the mayor correctly there, the points of particular interest are: 1) The turbine they lost last night is in addition to what sounds like one or two that were already down for repairs for quite some time now. This further underscores the insult of the "Shut up, everything is working fine" party line that just got everybody fired this week. 2) The new outage happened somewhere around 8:00 last night. This makes us wonder why they waited until 3am to sound the alarm. Maybe they did it out of spite. Or maybe they wanted to wait until the witching hour had passed in order to make James Gray happy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

Here's how you can tell which is not the serious candidate

At a recent Council At-Large forum, Keith Hardie asked candidates an interesting question about the city's "Balkanized" parks management system. 
Keith Hardie, a Carrollton neighborhood activist, reminded the candidates that a proposed property-tax to support the Audubon Institute had failed, in part because voters wanted their tax money to go to a wider range of recreation activities. The city, however, has no unified public parks system — it has individual boards that govern specific properties like Audubon Park, a recreation department, and even a Parks and Parkways department that handles other green spaces.

Would the candidates be in favor of uniting this “Balkanized” collection of agencies, Hardie asked, into a single public parks department like other cities? And would they then support a new property tax dedicated to funding it?

The worst of those individual boards serve as little semi-private fiefdoms people like Ron Foreman use to turn public subsidies into six figure salaries. The NORDC model introduced by Landrieu also engenders a kind of territorial jealousy over the best use of amenities that tends to favor friends wealthier interests and commercial partners. There are other concerns but Hardie's question was primarily about the most equitable use of public resources.  Judging from the answers only Joseph Bouie seemed to understand this.
What the parks and the schools have in common, said State Rep. Joe Bouie, is that both have suffered from the post-Katrina trend of “privatizing” governmental services — through chartering the local schools to individual nonprofit boards or outsourcing the parks to the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission.

“We are actually privatizing almost all of our public assets. I have serious concerns about that … to take the community’s voice out of their tax dollars,” Bouie said, noting that the school were open to more neighborhood events before charters took them over. “Prior to the privatization of our schools, that’s how we used the schools.”
Helena Moreno had actually brought up the schools first but in a slightly different sense than how Bouie means it.  She suggested more "partnerships" between schools and parks. That's fine if she means it the way Bouie does when he says school facilities can host community events sometimes. But, in her version, the school facilities and the "open to the public" parks facilities really ought to be the same thing. That's a less good thought. 

To be clear, though, her answer wasn't bad. It was just incomplete. Only Bouie talked about the privatization problem.  Which means, of course, he is not the serious candidate in this race.

Eat the tourists

Don't act so surprised. That's what it's supposed to do.
The New Orleans Regional Transit Authority’s largest new transit infrastructure investment since Hurricane Katrina — its North Rampart streetcar line — actually reduced convenient access to jobs in nearby areas, according to a new report.

The report was released by RIDE New Orleans, a transit advocacy group that has long argued that the RTA should prioritize buses, which carry almost exclusively local riders, over the more picturesque streetcars, which appeal to tourists.
We know that's what it's supposed to do because they told us that's what it was supposed to do when they were planning it. In this meeting, Justin Augustine didn't say anything about getting people more efficient transit. He talked about "revitalizing a corridor."
Justin Augustine, the agency’s general manager, said the project will take about two years to complete once the work gets started. As with the Loyola Avenue spur, which opened in January 2013, city officials hope the investment will pay off by generating economic development in a part of the city where revitalization efforts have proceeded in fits and starts.

“When we first introduced the concept, we wanted to revitalize and renew parts of the city, and we knew that along that corridor, you’d be touching five historic neighborhoods,” Augustine said, referring to the French Quarter, Iberville, the Treme, the Marigny and the Upper 9th Ward. “We’re hoping with all of our projects that we spur economic development.”
In this meeting, Pres Kabacoff explicitly said the way to revitalize the corridor was to make the transit slower and less reliable for people trying to get anywhere on time.
Pres Kabacoff, a real estate developer from the Bywater neighborhood, said he thinks the streetcar will help spur business. Kabacoff even argued that slowing down vehicle traffic might be a good thing, since having cars whip by "is not conducive for good retail development."

He added, "To the extent that people have a difficult time in traffic getting down the street it may cause them to want to live in the area and use an effective streetcar."
Of course nobody actually lives in the area. It's all Airbnbs um.. overnight po-boy parties and such there. But, hey, the corridor is "revitalized." Tourism is doing that. It's also killing the city.

Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Scurlock is a Sharknado candidate

There are bad movies and there are bad political candidates.  There are big bloated terrible blockbuster movies that everyone has to suffer whether they want to or not. Like Avatar or whatever the new comic book movie is this week. And there are big bloated avatars of institutional political awfulness that everyone has to suffer like Bobby Jindal or Mitch Landrieu.

Then there are bad movies which, yeah, maybe they fail and they make you feel bad but they're also kind of funny and pathetic because of how shitty they are. There's a whole pop culture industry in finding the humor in their failure. Ray Nagin and probably George W Bush fit here. There's a pop culture industry and finding the humor in them too.

And then there are movies which are intentionally bad. There are films now designed to be mocked. They're ironically bad but they aren't satire. There's no good or bad artistic vision to them that fails or succeeds. They're just there as cynically devised fodder for the internet's attention.  We're talking here, of course, about the Sharknado phenomenon.
But for those of us with a genuine love for bad movies, who seek out treasures of terribleness, the Sharknado social media storm was kind of like when everybody discovered rap music via Vanilla Ice. That’s not the genuine article — it’s a plastic, artificial, manufactured substitute.

Because truly great bad movies can’t be made that way, with this kind of snickering, ironic snark-viewing in mind. A genuinely bad movie — a Manos, a Miami Connection, a Hobgoblins, a Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, a Troll 2 — is a found object, and intention is everything. The people who made those movies didn’t think they were making bad movies; they were striving for greatness.
There's no there there to Sharknado. Its only purpose is to claim it made you look. Turns out we're starting to get political candidates like that too
While floodwaters were still rising around New Orleans on Saturday, mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock entered a social-media debate about the city’s removal of Confederate monuments and suggested that the flooding was result of God’s displeasure with the city.

“God has washed and flooded the City twice in 2 weeks. Maybe he is not happy,” Scurlock wrote around 8 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 5. He added about 15 minutes later, “God gave man Freewill and instructions on how to Live. Perhaps erasing history and not honoring the past is not in liking to him and his ways….”
Does he mean any of that?  Could anybody really? Okay well don't answer that second question. Just know that Scurlock doesn't mean this or probably most of what he says. He's a joke candidate. We've had joke candidates in the past. Actually, I think Manny Chevrolet is on the ballot again this year, in fact. But usually a joke candidate runs as an actual parody of the process, or as a self-deprecating lark, or, well some of them are just nuts. But Scurlock is different. He's a premeditated and manufactured joke. And it's not an especially funny one.

More capitalism won't solve gentrification

You are never going to build your way out of the housing problem if all you do is build nice things for rich people.
The idea of filtering, as well as the premise that new construction will bring down rents, means little when housing can be, and often is, used as an investment. Boosting the number of housing units doesn’t necessarily mean people who need homes will get them. Increasingly, what we see in so-called “global cities” is a proliferation of housing as a global commodity, not a basic necessity.
Here's a fun project. During the next forum you attend during this year's election, try asking the candidates if they think New Orleans is a "global" or "destination" city and what they think that means.

Eat the tourists

"Hospitality" work is drudgery. It is the repetitive tedium of changing beds. It is the self-debasement of waiting tables. It is the phony salesmanship of booking rooms. It is the gross corruption involved in selling tours and souvenirs and condos and timeshares. It is the daily terror of being forced to maintain a shallow smile or else. It undermines one's enjoyment of a local culture seen twisted into a cheap commodity. It rots one's regard for basic human interaction.  It is bad for the soul.

Tourism is the largest employer on earth and it is one of the most massive drivers of inequality. The wages are low. The job security is nonexistent. The work is dehumanizing, and the collateral damage is devastating.
The anger isn’t limited to Europe. In Cambodia, citizens were evicted from their fishing villages so that foreign-built resorts could rise on the pristine beaches. With record crowds and mounds of litter, the once romantic Ipanema beach in Rio de Janiero now features drunk tourists infuriating the locals. Cities across North America, from New Orleans to Vancouver, have issued regulations on Airbnb rentals after citizen complaints that their neighbourhoods were being overwhelmed by unruly tourists and rising rents.

It is no longer possible to dismiss criticism of exploding tourism as elite snobbery, of high-end cultural tourism versus T-shirt-clad visitors squeezed on a tour bus. Or a question of who has the right to travel and who doesn’t.

The dimensions of the industry have grown so vast so quickly that it has become a serious issue of globalisation, as pertinent to the communities at risk as shuttered factories have been to the American and British rust belts.
That's a pretty good essay from Elizabeth Becker. I'm not so happy with her use of New Orleans's Airbnb regulations as an example of governmental pushback, though. In reality our local ordinance is more about enabling rather than limiting the short term rental plague. On the other hand, this is an important point. 
Only governments can handle runaway tourism. Few major industries fall so squarely into their hands – local, regional and national. Governments decide who is eligible for visas: how many cruise ships, airlines and trains can bring in visitors, how many hotels receive building permits, how many beaches are open to development, how many museums and concert halls are open, even how many farmers receive subsidies to raise food for the restaurants and cafes that tourists frequent.

After years spent tracking the explosion of tourism, I came to the obvious conclusion that without serious and difficult government co-ordination, mayhem can follow. The current biggest disrupters are short-term rental companies, such as Airbnb, and cruise ships.

Most governments still measure tourism success simply by the number of visitors. The more, the better. For the moment, officials have been reluctant to regulate tourism to the benefit, first of all, of their own citizens.
We're in the midst of a major municipal election here in one of the most tourism dependent and therefore tourism threatened cities in America.  The deleterious effect of this exploitative industry should be a front and center campaign issue.   Is it, though?  Will it ever be?

Monday, August 07, 2017

The climate change era

Mitch does a pretty good job here covering for/clarifying some dumb stuff Cedric Grant said over the weekend. I'm not sure he's right, though.  Sounded to me like Grant meant what he said.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu said Monday that he disagrees with Sewerage and Water Board Executive Director Cedric Grant's assertion that climate change is the culprit for the recent flooding in the city.

He called Grant's comments a bit "out of context" and "tone deaf."

Grant said Saturday's rains, as well as similar flooding that happened July 22, are part of the "climate change era" the rest of the country is experiencing, and any upgrade to the city's drainage systems would cost billions of dollars it doesn't have.

"I think that was just kind of said in the spirit of the moment," Landrieu said, addressing a question about Grant's comments. "[Climate change] may have a little to do with it. But, generally speaking when you have a major event like that ... we're going to have a water event in the city of New Orleans."
I like that phrase, the "spirit of the moment."  Currently our spirit in bit of transitional moment with regard to climate politics.  We're moving from a spirit of denial (It's all a hoax so making difficult or expensive changes is unnecessary) to a spirit of condescending acceptance (Yes, it's real but it's too late/expensive to make any difficult changes so just get used to it.)   One thing's for sure, though. Nobody is going to make any difficult or expensive changes. Remarkable constancy of spirit to fit any moment. 

Kamara hype

There sure is a lot of it.
So far, he’s been able to impress the coaching staff with his ability in the classroom, which is a positive sign for the rookie. Payton even invoked the name of one of the running back’s idols when discussing Kamara’s level of intelligence.

“There are some traits that Alvin Kamara has that remind me of Marshall Faulk, with regards to his intelligence and his ability to run routes,” Payton said. “(Faulk) was as good as there was in that element of the game, and probably one of the top three or four backs of all time. He was one of the smartest players I ever coached.”
Are we buying it though? We didn't us Marshall Faulk as part of our metric here but still, so far, it looks like, yes.

Dare to be stupid

This is gonna be a fun week.
The New Orleans City Council will hold a special meeting at 1 p.m. Tuesday (Aug. 8) to discuss the flooding that resulted from as much as 9 inches of rain falling in parts of the city Saturday afternoon. It was the second extreme downpour in as many weeks that put storm water in vehicles, homes and businesses in multiple neighborhoods.

President Jason Williams summoned council members Sunday to call the meeting. Officials with the Landrieu administration, the Sewerage and Water Board, and the Army Corps of Engineers are expected to respond to questions about the city's vulnerability to quick inundations.
Well that was quick. Must be an election on. Actually, despite the obvious politically motivated buffoonery of it all, I'm glad to see city councilpersons and candidates all asking questions about the drainage. I mean, sure, they are asking a lot of dumb questions so far 
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell posted to Twitter early and often, going on a tweet storm as she talked about policy in the context of the flood. She had videos and photos to illustrate her point.

" ... We all deserve functioning infrastructure, and ensure that adequate infrastructure across our city is a TOP priority. We can do better, and we will. Rain events like this are more than Orleans Parish. We need to think and act regionally. NOLA gov't leaders have worked hard on this issue, and we will continue to work on this."
When they string it together like that, it sounds like it almost makes sense, even if it doesn't mean a whole lot.  But watching the candidates spit stuff out in real time this weekend was more like following a bunch of bots meant to spit empty phrases at random.  Here is LaToya working in "small businesses" to her rant.  Michael Bagneris seems almost more worried about "the biomedical corridor that will be a powerful economic driver for our city and region," than he does about anyone stuck in a stalled car or watching the water come into their home.  They all leave the impression that either none of them knows what they're talking about with regard to drainage or that they just fumbling for a way to shoehorn their lame ass campaign themes into the story, or both. It is both, actually. 

But as embarrassing as all that is for them, and as shameless and stupid as they all are, it is kind of their job to do this sort of thing and they have to start somewhere. There has to be a public conversation about what happened. Even a dumb one.

When flooding like this happens repeatedly something has to be done. And no amount of smug condescension about the designed capacity of the current system will change that. We know the rainfall was greater than what the pumps are designed to handle. But shut the fuck up about that for a second and consider that it is still worth asking:

1) Did the system actually perform even up to its presumably inadequate capacity? There's nothing but Cedric Grant and Ryan Berni's word to confirm that. Maybe you like ... um.. carrying water for those assholes. I don't see the use.

2) If this is the best the system can do and this kind of flooding keeps happening anyway, isn't that a problem too? There is a whole world of inquiry to be made into the efficacy of our proposed "resilience" strategy for re-thinking our drainage system. Right now there are some compelling ideas on the verge of implementation but it's important to stress what we're talking about in that regard can mostly be described as pilot programs. What we actually need is a total systemic reevaluation and overhaul and we need that to happen like several years ago.

Point is we aren't where we want to be. Something needs to change and the way to start the ball rolling with that is to let your idiot councilpersons ask their grandstanding and clumsy questions. And then try to help push whatever momentum that starts in the right direction.  Until today, the game in this election was seeing who could promise to throw the most "public safety money" away on more police, surveillance, and prisons.  But what if we had a chance to talk about spending that money on actual public safety instead?  Flood control seems like a great opportunity to have that conversation.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

"Substantial compliance"

I'm curious if there is some wiggle room between that term and "full compliance" with the NOPD consent decree. The latter term is supposedly the trigger to begin the exit plan whereas the former is the goal the mayor's office has set for itself while implying that they are basically the same.
The contract extension means the federal consent decree -- a set of court-ordered changes for the police department -- will be in place for at least three more years. Exiting the consent decree requires Morgan to find NOPD in full compliance with mandates in the order, which has not yet happened. Once the judge finds NOPD is fully compliant, a two-year period of "sustained monitoring" must follow.

Landrieu said in a news release Friday his office expects the department to come into "substantial compliance" by the end of his term in 2018. If that happens, and the judge is later satisfied that the department remains in compliance during the two-year "sustained monitoring" period, federal oversight of NOPD will end.
The reason the mayor might be fudging is obvious.  Setting an artificial goal for 2018 allows him to add something to his list of end-of-term accomplishments even if the work isn't actually going to be done for a few more years at least.  Also, it's a thing to say we've gotten done in time for the Tricentennial. Which is good because when Bienville descends from the heavens at that time, perhaps he will judge us just a bit less harshly. 

Friday, August 04, 2017

The rent is too damn high

What are the reasons that the rent is too damn high? Well, there are a few reasons but one of them is....
Regulators wary that Airbnb is eroding affordable housing availability have a new piece of evidence in their arsenal: A new study finds that spikes in Airbnb listings were strongly linked to rent increases in some of the largest US metro areas.

The new independent study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, is the first to analyze the impact of Airbnb listings by ZIP code in 100 of the largest metro areas. Using rental and home price data from Zillow, the researchers found that for every 10 percent growth in Airbnb listings, a ZIP code’s average rent increased by 0.4 percent.

Authors Kyle Barron, a research assistant in economics at MIT; Edward Kung, an assistant professor of economics at UCLA; and Davide Proserpio, an assistant professor of business at USC, analyzed data from 2012 and 2016 to consider a causal relationship between Airbnb growth and housing prices. They caution that the study’s findings are still preliminary.

Previous research in cities with tight rental markets has found a link between Airbnb growth and increased housing costs. A study released last year by Keren Horn and Mark Merante found that Airbnb had a direct impact on increased housing prices in Boston.
In particular, it's a problem in places where landlords are allowed to own multiple Airbnb properties in which nobody actually lives.
ZIP codes where the majority of landlords are owner-occupiers—those who rent out an extra room or rent for short periods while they are away—experienced minimal increases in housing costs. But ZIP codes with more absentee landlords—those who do not live in the homes they rent out—were especially influenced by increased Airbnb listings.

Huntington Beach, California, for example, has a high owner-occupancy rate of 51 percent. Between 2012 and 2016, Huntington Beach experienced 48 percent growth in Airbnb listings, but rent prices grew only 2.7 percent a year.

Hollywood, on the other hand, has a notably low owner-occupancy rate of only 5 percent. In turn, the number of Airbnb listings grew by an average of 50 percent per year, and rent prices grew about 6.4 percent.
Buy, you know, the 2018 city budget anticipates an additional $2 million in sales taxes from legal short term rentals, so don't expect current policy to change much just because you can't afford your rent.

Louisiana made

I just wanted to point out that Trump did not invent this absurd situation.
The Secret Service has vacated its command post inside Trump Tower in Manhattan following a dispute between the government and President Trump’s company over the terms of a lease for the space, according to two people familiar with the discussions.

Previously, the Secret Service had stationed its command post — which houses supervisors and backup agents on standby in case of an emergency — in a Trump Tower unit one floor below the president’s apartment.

Tom Benson did.
For years, the state has been paying Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson and his family for 19,000 square feet of Poydras Street office space that has sat empty, even as former Attorney General Buddy Caldwell rented offices for employees elsewhere in the New Orleans area.

With a new governor and attorney general — and with the State Capitol wracked by a historic budget crisis — the state will no longer be paying for a vacant floor in Benson Tower.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

The War On August

We're just a couple of days in but our pals at Rouses are just as ready to fast forward through this shit as we are.

Halloween candy

So many Bronze Toms

How many does the world need? Also what if they are horcruxes?
CANTON, Ohio -- Tom Benson now has a stadium named after him, with a statue to go with it.

The first major step in a nearly $800 million project at the Pro Football Hall of Fame has been the renovation of an aging high school stadium located next to the hall itself. The New Orleans Saints owner donated $10 million to the renovation.

On Thursday, a 9-foot statue of Benson was unveiled at the 23,000-seat stadium that Hall of Fame President David Baker called "the finest small venue stadium in the world."
The now renamed Tom Benson Hall Of Fame Stadium is actually the second football field to bear Tom's name. There is also a "Tom Benson Field" at Tulane's Yulman Stadium. One day it will be dug up by archaeologists to discover a Terra Cotta Army of Bronze Toms buried beneath.  

Also this, of course, is not the first statuary Benson known to us.  The original Bronze Tom continues to darken Champions Square until such time as the #TakeEmDown movement finally gets to that spot on its list. But that's not all. There is also Mini Bronze Tom seen here being contemplated by Tom Himself at the original statue's dedication ceremony.


My idea is to mass produce a souvenir 16oz beer stein shaped like that which you can serve Dixie from at the Superdome for like $20 during Saints games.  (If they do this, I would like my cut please.)

Po-Boy Party

I have a strange suspicion that Melba's is going to end up winning this lawsuit.
The owners of 821 Gov. Nicholls St. were ordered to pay $15,000 — the maximum daily fine of $500 for 30 days — after keeping a short-term rental ad posted online despite being found in violation of the law last month. The owners, who include Melba’s Po’Boys restaurant owner Scott Wolfe, have argued in Orleans Parish Civil District Court that they’re not guilty of short-term renting because customers pay for a $595 po-boy party catered by Melba’s. The night’s stay at the French Quarter house is merely a free bonus, they said.
And in doing so they might send the whole STR debate back to square one, which would be bad but maybe also an opportunity. 

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Science proves water wet again

Yes, of course, your boss, your elected officials, etc. are brain damaged sociopaths. But just in case you needed some data, here it is.
The historian Henry Adams was being metaphorical, not medical, when he described power as “a sort of tumor that ends by killing the victim’s sympathies.” But that’s not far from where Dacher Keltner, a psychology professor at UC Berkeley, ended up after years of lab and field experiments. Subjects under the influence of power, he found in studies spanning two decades, acted as if they had suffered a traumatic brain injury—becoming more impulsive, less risk-aware, and, crucially, less adept at seeing things from other people’s point of view.

Sukhvinder Obhi, a neuroscientist at McMaster University, in Ontario, recently described something similar. Unlike Keltner, who studies behaviors, Obhi studies brains. And when he put the heads of the powerful and the not-so-powerful under a transcranial-magnetic-stimulation machine, he found that power, in fact, impairs a specific neural process, “mirroring,” that may be a cornerstone of empathy. Which gives a neurological basis to what Keltner has termed the “power paradox”: Once we have power, we lose some of the capacities we needed to gain it in the first place.
Remember this the next time you find yourself in a situation where criticism of your supposed betters is met with the standard retort, "Well what is your plan? Why don't you run for office?" or some such.  This is a trap. Desiring power is bad for you.  Those who hold power are bad for the rest of us.  Don't listen to them. 

We were probably better off not knowing

They just had to go digging under Bourbon Street. What they found was... well, it was bad.
The rebuilding of Bourbon Street began just over three months ago but already is at least two months behind schedule, officials said Tuesday.

One reason has been heavier than usual rainfall. Another is major problems discovered underground: sewage lines connected to drainage pipes, drains leading into electrical conduits and other issues encountered in trying to update the utilities under the city's most famous entertainment-oriented street.
And to think people were skeptical that something like the "Shock Pole" could exist.

Wait a minute, Jeff, what the hell is a Shock Pole?  Well you probably missed Episode 35 of Hunkerdown. (No big deal. Plenty time to catch up. The show won't be back to regular recording until Alli gets back from vacation, at least.) Anyway, there's this longstanding urban legend about a place in the French Quarter where thrill seekers can hold onto some poorly grounded piece of electical equipment and also to a nearby metal pole and receive a tickle of electricity.  People have talked about this for years but not many know exactly where it is supposed to be.

Because Varg brought it up on the show, we were lucky to receive a tip from a listener who pointed us to a pay phone situated halfway down the 300 block of Chartres Street.  So one night, we went to check it out.  Unfortunately, when we got there, we found the pay phone had been recently removed. (Hey it's 2017, you know.)  So we weren't able to perform the precise test we would have liked.

However, the post where the phone had been was still there.  The phone and its housing had been cut away leaving a hollow pole and, two exposed wires.  So, in the name of science, one of us (I won't say which. Just assume it was the stupid one) decided to touch the wires together, you know, just to see.  The resulting loud pop and bright blue spark, thankfully, didn't injure anybody but it did give us a start.  And it leads us to conclude that the Shock Pole, even if it doesn't exist anymore in quite the form it once did, is still a very plausible rumor.  I like to think the mess they're finding under Bourbon Street now only adds to its credibility.

New Jersey!

Congratulations to the Gulf Dead Zone on finally reaching the size of a state you might immediately notice on a map.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — There’s an unwanted record in the Gulf of Mexico: This year’s “dead zone,” where there’s too little oxygen to support marine life, is the biggest ever measured.

Scientists say the oxygen-depleted region is about the size of New Jersey, covering 8,776 square miles (22,720 square kilometers).
Seems we were stuck on Connecticut for a few years there.  A Delaware got in at one point.  But, hey, Jersey now.  That's big time, guys.  Imagine a whole New Jersey of open water completely incapable sustaining any life. Except for Chris Christie and his family just floating around on vacation probably. 

Tuesday, August 01, 2017

The drug war is toxic

Lamar has an interview out this week with Ethan Brown about last year's Murder In the Bayou. They don't talk about the Boustany thing which is a good decision because, while I do still wonder why nobody decided to follow up on that, it isn't the central issue in the book where there are plenty more enticing threads to pull on.
That milieu, the psychology of that place is rife with, as Brown puts it, “institutionalized corruption.”

Jennings is situated directly off of Interstate 10, in between Houston and New Orleans and in the center of one of the biggest drug corridors in the country.“This specific area is sort of a drug tunnel. It’s a major trafficking route,” Brown said. “That creates a big problem in and of itself. The second thing is: The drug war is so inherently corrupt that it leads to (this).”

It also helps to explain why all of these murders remain unsolved.

“It seems like there’s a feeling that this thing is an impossible mess. You can’t trust anyone. The witnesses are crap. There’s a lack of physical evidence,” Brown said. “On the other hand, you start looking at this, and it leads to power. It leads to people in the Sheriff’s office, people who are prominent in the community.”

And this drug interdiction gambit as a proverbial "aorta of corruption" is not unique to Jeff Davis Parish.  It happens all over the place.
The FBI raided the offices of the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office and the Hammond Police Department on Thursday, seizing computers, cellphones and case files in simultaneous searches stemming from a broadening U.S. Justice Department investigation of a federal drug task force.

The daylong raids closed down two government buildings in Hammond as agents conducted interviews and carried out at least two search warrants related to a nearly year-old inquiry into a U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration task force accused of stealing cash from drug dealers, selling confiscated narcotics and tampering with witnesses.

Two former members of the New Orleans-based task force — both of whom worked for the Tangipahoa Parish Sheriff's Office — are facing federal charges, and one pleaded guilty earlier this year to state drug conspiracy charges.
I do still hope there is follow-up with regard to the Boustany allegations. But it also seems like there's a lot more to be uncovered that goes well beyond just that matter. 

This is why I was always wondered if we should even have an IG's office

Eventually it just ends up eating itself.
A top official at the city agency tasked with ferreting out corruption in local government in New Orleans is herself facing allegations of misconduct, leveled in a scathing internal report.

The document accuses Assistant Inspector General Nadiene Van Dyke of steering contracts to friends, altering the findings of reports to fit “her personal agendas,” suggesting that receipts be falsified and running off employees who raised questions about her behavior.

The allegations against Van Dyke, who heads the agency’s Inspections and Evaluations Division, echo the kinds of charges the Office of Inspector General regularly levels against other city agencies.
At the end of the day, the office that is supposed to ferret out all the political corruption, is itself just another political office used for political.. and sometimes corrupt political.. purposes. 
Much of the report focuses on Van Dyke’s relationship with Paula Pendarvis, a media consultant hired by the office who is a personal friend of Van Dyke’s. The contracts given to Pendarvis in recent years add up to about $178,400 since 2014, some of which the report argues amount to duplicative services. Contractors working for Pendarvis received another $100,000.

Tim Meche, an attorney for Pendarvis, said his client had not seen the report and denied that she had ever been paid twice for the same work and said there was no case in which she was paid for work she didn't do.

According to the report, Van Dyke set up some of those contracts as cooperative endeavor agreements rather than putting them out to bid so that the contracts could be given to Pendarvis. The report says Van Dyke told an OIG employee who has since left the office, “Paula’s my good friend, we go out to dinner all the time, she does great work, and I’m going to give her a contract.”
And maybe that's kind of petty but that's also kind of the point. At its best, the IG's office discourages ethically questionable favoritism that sometimes may or may not lead to inefficient service delivery in government. In this case, though, we find it's actually participating in that.

At its worst, it inhibits oversight of police abuse.
The internal report also includes allegations from several current and former employees that Van Dyke treated minorities in the office in a demeaning manner. And it recounts clashes — some with racial overtones — between Van Dyke and Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson, suggesting those conflicts planted the seeds for the feud that ultimately led to the splitting of the two offices.
So we have to ask, again, what is this office for, exactly?