Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Every haunted house story is really about gentrification

And New Orleans is "the most haunted city in America."
Locals in certain neighborhoods have been complaining about short-term rentals for the past few years. But until the new law passed, it was difficult to know exactly how many there were and where they were concentrated. Since April, the city has been tracking licenses issued to people who want to rent out their rooms, houses or apartments. The Lens and HuffPost partnered to analyze the data.

We found signs that short-term rentals are contributing to the transformation of a handful of the city’s most distinctive neighborhoods, particularly the ones closest to the French Quarter. In 15 neighborhoods, including Treme and Bywater, short-term rentals make up at least 3 percent of residential addresses. That’s a considerable slice of the city’s most desirable real estate.

In the Marigny, next to the Quarter, one in 10 residences are registered as Airbnbs. In the Central Business District, which is seeing a boom in luxury condos, 5.8 percent of residential addresses are licensed for short-term rentals.

More than half of the units in a new building called the Maritime are registered as short-term rentals. In another building, Saratoga Lofts, it’s 28 percent. DeDecker’s housing group has filed a complaint over both buildings, saying their government-backed mortgages don’t allow short-term rentals.
The only thing that Lens and Huff-Po collaboration is missing is a comment from our next mayor saying she doesn't think any of this is a big deal.
“This seems to be in conflict with your cry for more affordable housing,” Head said to Cantrell. She explained later, “I do not believe we should allow the creeping into neighborhoods that are otherwise residential by changing the zoning to commercial.”

The short-term rental issue should not be blamed for the city’s lack of affordable housing, Cantrell shot back. That, she said, was the result of intentional efforts by city leaders after Hurricane Katrina.

“Affordability and the crisis that we’re in in the city of New Orleans is not because of short-term rentals,” Cantrell replied. “It’s because the issue of housing was not a priority in the post-Katrina environment. Resources allocated for the city of New Orleans, millions in fact, were reallocated because there was sentiment coming from policymakers in this city that New Orleans was on the path of having too many affordable units.”
Be safe trick or treating tonight. Here's some stuff we got out and saw this season. 

This year was the 25th for the House Of Shock Horror Show in Jefferson.  They say it's their last. But they've said that before so we'll see.

House Of Shock 25 years

Here is the Skeleton House on St. Charles and State.

Skeleton House

The puns are always pretty good.

Habeas Corpus

This is Ghost Manor on Magazine Street. They added Jack-O-Lanterns this year.


This is a somewhat out of focus video I shot of the skeletons singing Thriller.

There's more to the light and sound show than just that.  Stop by and see it if you are in town.  There are plenty of places to stay in that neighborhood.... 

Monday Night Debate Ball: Expense account edition

So I'd like to move on to Part 2 of the "How to lose an election" series I'm writing about this very bad mayoral race.  But it turns out that first we're going to have to spend a moment being bogged down in this credit card story.  I had specifically determined not to worry about the petty back and forth of an election whose outcome was determined months ago. In fact, the first thing I'd like to say about this late expenses controversy is that it probably won't have much bearing one anyone's decision to vote for either candidate. Still, it's not exactly nothing.
State law prohibits using public money for personal or campaign expenses. And while Cantrell paid back the money, Charbonnet's camp argued that amounted to a tacit admission the law had been broken or ignored.

Cantrell reimbursed the city on 11 different dates starting on October 2013. In five cases, she made the reimbursements from a personal account. Six were reimbursed by her campaign account, according to the Charbonnet camp's analysis.

Cantrell's campaign said Wednesday that the reimbursements show Cantrell's commitment to ensuring that no personal expenses were made on a card paid for with public money. And it denied that the timing of a July check reimbursing $4,433 worth of expenses, covering almost the entirety of Cantrell's time in office, had anything to do with her campaign for mayor.
That's all very much worth asking about. Fronting public money for campaign expenses seems like it violates at least the spirit of ethics laws even if the campaign fund pays the money back.  Throw in the bit about "personal expenses" eventually paid for by campaign donors using the public money as a conduit and then you're raising serious issues.

There is also this nugget that might mean a lot or a little. But it's in there so it bears mentioning. 
When taken together, the expense records, the lien the IRS placed on Cantrell and her husband’s home in 2014 for unpaid income taxes and their bank’s foreclosure on their home in 2013 suggest the councilwoman can’t be entrusted with the city’s purse strings, said Stuart, the Charbonnet spokesman.

“The simple truth is if she can’t manage her own finances, she can’t be trusted with a billion-dollar budget,” he said.

Cantrell's campaign has said the unpaid taxes occurred because of a dispute over how much she and her husband owed the IRS, and then that debt wasn't paid because of an error by First NBC Bank.

The Advocate has done a good job of pulling on the FNBC thread. I've tried to keep track of their reporting here.  Long story short, though, it's about some very important people making questionable use of federal grant money to leverage financing for their preferred projects.  Maybe LaToya just happened to have a home loan from them by coincidence.

Anyway, there's something to this even if it doesn't rise to the level of a major scandal. (It might! But also it probably will go away after the election regardless.) It's already being "both sidesed" because that's easy enough to do. Either way it's not something that should have any effect on the outcome. (I say "should" for a reason. But I'm getting to that.)

If nothing else it makes social media feeds amusing when a bunch of people who once upon a time howled about Ray Nagin's credit card expenses suddenly have nothing to say about this. These little hypocrisies permeate our politics. Petty corruption is only bad when it makes somebody else's friends rich.  I'll link back to a favorite example of mine for now because I plan on talking more about it in future posts.  The point is, for LaToya supporters, the narrative has already been set.  They're the "good guys" and the other side is a "corrupt machine."  No amount of evidence muddying those waters was ever going to change their votes.

So even going in this direction is a highly questionable move for the Charbonnet people.  But they've already spent the year running a lazy campaign about nothing so it shouldn't surprise anyone that this is all they know to do at this point.  I would have considered arguments about the value in going after undecided or less committed Cantrell voters but that was before the D.A. showed up
NEW ORLEANS - A criminal complaint has been filed against mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell for her extensive use of a city credit card, and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office forwarded the complaint Thursday to Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Cannizzaro is a vocal supporter of Cantrell’s opponent in this month’s mayoral election, Desiree Charbonnet.
Surely no one will think that suspicious.  I know it's Halloween and all but maybe we could be a little less mustache twirly in our melodramatic villainy.  It's tempting to think Cannizzaro is deliberately trying to undermine the whole line of attack here. Whether he means to or not, he's likely forfeited whatever slight difference the credit card news would have made for Charbonnet.  People hate Cannizzaro. He's guaranteed to ruin any message just by associating himself with it.

Not that he cares.  Most people probably aren't going to believe this but I think it's likely the D.A. is acting on his own accord in this matter. It obviously hurts the campaign so badly it's difficult to imagine they would have asked him to do this. Meanwhile Leon is happy to jump at any opportunity to promote himself. He's possibly up for consideration as the next U.S. Attorney. It probably won't hurt his chances with the decision-makers there to show that he can harass a potential New Orleans mayor over petty bullshit.  Or maybe he really is just this dumb.  In any case, he's definitely very ethical. At least that's what he paid this ethics lawyer to tell everybody.   
On Monday, Cannizzaro's office released a letter by R. Gray Sexton, the former longtime general counsel of the Louisiana Ethics Board, offering a full-throated defense of Cannizzaro's action.

The DA acknowledged after releasing the opinion that Sexton billed him about $1,000 for offering his view. A spokesman said Cannizzaro planned on paying Sexton personally, not with public money.

Anyway, like I've been saying, the result of the election is already determined. I'll get back on track trying to explain all of that later. Unfortunately, we still have to go through the motions of silly season.  Last night's debate was dominated by this silly slap fight. The candidates had to talk about the credit card stuff in response to the very first question and came back to it several times throughout the night. It's hard to say who looked worse.

Assume for a second that there are voters who honestly care about the credit card business as though it were a serious election determining matter.  I don't think there are many but if there are, LaToya probably didn't convince them of much. First she insisted that nothing she spent any money on violated any rules and instead, "advanced the City of New Orleans."  So Dennis Woltering went into the specifics of some of those expenditures reported on here by David Hammer to which she only repeated herself. Also I think she said "best practices" a few times.  It's really difficult to convey just how much condescension drips from LaToya's voice when she talks about this stuff and how grating that is. It's a good thing for her there aren't many undecided voters who are persuadable based on this issue. 

Next, LaToya asserted that Desiree "manipulated the documents" without explaining how the facts are any different due to that "manipulation."  Remarkably, this was enough to put Charbonnet on the defensive but only because Desi allowed it to. During one particularly stupid bit Desiree exclaimed,  "I DID NOT TOUCH YOUR DOCUMENTS"  before offering, "the campaign did all that." This will surely reassure voters who may have had concerns about Desi's independence.

The good news is none of this was any less depressing than the rest of the debate which saw the candidates climb over each other to show who would do the most to "incentivize business" through tax giveaways and various offers to "cut red tape."  Go back and watch if you want to have a big laugh about all that.  My favorite part was either Charbonnet saying, "President Trump has made infrastructure a priority," or LaToya talking about how she wants to ensure we aren't "being punitive toward the landlord community."  Sheesh!

But, look. The thing to get here is the election is not about the awful candidates or the things they say or the dumb ginned up controversies of the final weeks. The candidates are bad people. But candidates are always bad people. What voters actually have to do is look past the bad candidates and chose which set of elites is going to have the inside track on profiting from key policy decisions over the next 8 years. A lot of that will not affect you very much even as it makes certain individuals richer.

But some of it will affect you. The set of these corrupt elites backing one candidate may be somewhat more enthusiastic about privatization and "running government like a business" than the other set. One set of corrupt elites is slightly more friendly to Airbnb. One candidate's set of corrupt elite backers is decidedly more hostile to the rights of workers to organize. Maybe that stuff is important to you. Maybe it isn't. Vote for whichever you think best fits your preferences. But that's how the election will eventually touch most of us. 

Maybe some future election will be different. Maybe some day we'll find better people to be candidates. And in that future, if you want to win that election, I will tell you how for one million dollars. But for now, this is what we have to deal with. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Running it like a bidness

It turns out privatizing the Sewerage and Water Board operation is not too hard to do so long as you keep saying over and over that you aren't privatizing the Sewerage and Water Board. 
WWL-TV asked the mayor about these privatization concerns in August, back when he first hired the current Emergency Management Team.

“We are not privatizing the Sewerage and Water Board,” Landrieu said on Aug. 16. “Now, people have a lot of ideas about what that is. Public-private partnerships equal that for some. I'll let them argue about that.”

Landrieu also was very clear that any contracts for outside management would be temporary, nothing beyond his term that ends in May 2018.

“What I need to do is bring in some really strong people to stabilize it and then work through what's going to happen next with the other folks. But I'm not going to bind the next mayor and next administration,” Landrieu said.

Malek-Wiley said Landrieu is going back on that promise with this request for proposals from contractors.

“You're talking about six months to three years,” he said. That sounds like tying the hands of anybody and the council into the future.”

Did the neoliberal ideology ever really go out of style in New Orleans?  One would be hard pressed to prove the case.  The branding is a bit different now which seems to satisfy some credulous observers. For example, it was six years ago, during the nadir of Naginism, that Clancy DuBos declared the Era Of Running Government Like A Business officially over.
Don't try to run government like a business. This is a lesson for us all. Businesses are dictatorships; our government is a democracy. The two are not designed to work the same way. The next time you hear some puffed-up businessman saying we should run government like a business, remind him that Greg Meffert and Mark St. Pierre were successful businessmen — and ask him if he likes how they ran things. If nothing else, we now know the danger — and the folly — of running government like a business.
Despite the danger and the folly and such, we forged right on ahead anyway. It turns out you can continue right along subverting the deliberate and transparent democratic process with only the slightest bit of re-branding.  Enter the era of the "public-private partnership."
August 13, 2010

New Orleans, LA - Mayor Mitch Landrieu today announced appointments to the NOLA Business Alliance board and launched the city’s first-ever public-private partnership for economic development, a structure that will deliver unprecedented coordination for economic development across the city.

“This is a landmark step for our city,” said Mayor Landrieu.  “For the first time, both the public and private sector will partner in a single coordinated effort to deliver new jobs and economic opportunities for this city.  And we will facilitate economic growth by linking government, the private sector and the nonprofit sector while leveraging our resources.   It’s another step in our goal to restructure and transform city government by implementing best practices that improve our quality of life.”

Studies by both the RAND Corporation and the International Economic Development Council demonstrated that a transformational structural change was needed in the City to improve the effectiveness of our economic development efforts. 
To that end, a new corporation named the NOLA Business Alliance was formed to serve as the official public-private partnership entity.  NOLA Business Alliance is governed by a 17-member board of directors of which seven (7) seats originate from the public sector, seven (7) seats from the private sector, and three (3) seats from non-governmental organizations.
That press release puts Mitch's name on The Business Alliance, but it's important to note the process that birthed it really started back with Nagin. The change from Nagin to Mitch is falsely described in media as a turning point of the post-Katrina period.  In fact there is a traceable continuity of governing philosophy that runs straight through the entire period with many of the same players calling the shots along the way. Under the Nagin and Landrieu administrations, the public-private model was applied to practically any governmental function we can name.  A few examples:

Mitch's NOLA For Life initiative
Aside from vague explanations, it’s difficult to determine precisely how and why 23 recipients of the money were selected out of 64 applications. Applicants with experience were rejected while new groups were awarded grants. And one politically influential recipient of the highest-level grant of $40,000 hasn’t followed through on other city and state grants it was awarded several years ago — nor did it provide required financial information in its grant application.

The public could be forgiven for thinking this is a public grant process.

Landrieu and other city officials initially took credit for securing a $1 million donation from Chevron to finance the grants, and they promised to contribute another $250,000 at the city’s disposal. But the administration and Chevron say the company’s donation was a private transaction with the foundation — the company said Landrieu’s acceptance of the donation on stage was “ceremonial” — and there’s no official pledge to donate city money to the effort. Therefore, the city said, how a private foundation chooses to make grants from a private donation is not subject to state sunshine laws or Landrieu’s own reform procedures, put in place his first days in office.
Mitch's Office of Technology
Still, the foundation’s work goes on largely outside the usual scope of accountability, even though documents abundantly demonstrate a working relationship between the foundation and city officials in the Office of Information Technology and Innovation.

The official line from City Hall is that the foundation isn’t working for the city.

“The New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation is not signing a contract or doing business on behalf of the city,” said Landrieu spokesman Berni, speaking on the proposed Sierra contract before it was scuttled.

Sidney Torres in a number of capacities, but most notably with regard to policing.
A $75,000 donation from developer and hotelier Joseph Jaeger will help keep the off-duty New Orleans police officers of the French Quarter Task Force on patrol through the month June.

"What Mr. Jaeger has done is not just an act of generosity, but also leadership," task force founder Sidney Torres IV said in a release announcing the donation. "This is exactly the kind of support this program and our city need in order to tackle the crime problem."
Housing in all sorts of ways.
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.
Replacing the "Big Four" incorporated a trick from even further back that became a staple of post-K housing policy.  
Several other builders had tried to develop the American Can project but failed to come up with the necessary financing. Mr. Kabakoff used public-private partnerships to finance the deal. His first mortgage consists of $29 million in tax-exempt bonds from the State of Louisiana's private activity bond cap program. The program mandates that 20 percent of the housing units be set aside for low-income renters.

How did that one turn out?

Look, there are a lot of these. They touch on practically every aspect of government; transit, drainage, pretty much anything where there's been a surplus of public money available to be vacuumed up by a contractor, a startup, or a non-profit  with minimal transparency or oversight.  Basically no service is worth providing for people if it doesn't help some third party get rich in the process. Here is a fun one where Paul Rainwater helped Bobby Jindal kill rural broadband access.
But, while noting that it was the Board of Regents that applied for the grant, Commissioner of Administration Paul Rainwater said that, "from the start, we've always said there were implementation and sustainability problems in the grant that had to do with a top-down, government-heavy approach that would compete with and undermine, rather than partner with, the private sector and locals."
And now Rainwater is playing a prominent role in the privatization plans at Sewerage and Water Board. Brand it whatever you like. After all this time, we're still stuck on the notion of running government "like a business" for the benefit of businesses and the political people connected to those businesses.

The latest version of that brand depends heavily on the coolness cache of the tech industry. For today's futurist-utopian progressives, selling out the fundamentals of democracy to corporate "partners" has never been more cutting edge.  Evgeny Morozov has written extensively about the interplay between the tech industry and modern neoliberal politics.  This recent column comments on Alphabet (Google) and its dabblings in urban design and management. 
Alphabet’s long-term goal is to remove barriers to the accumulation and circulation of capital in urban settings – mostly by replacing formal rules and restrictions with softer, feedback-based floating targets. It claims that in the past “prescriptive measures were necessary to protect human health, ensure safe buildings, and manage negative externalities”. Today, however, everything has changed and “cities can achieve those same goals without the inefficiency that comes with inflexible zoning and static building codes”.

This is a remarkable statement. Even neoliberal luminaries such as Friedrich Hayek and Wilhelm Röpke allowed for some non-market forms of social organisation in the urban domain. They saw planning – as opposed to market signals – as a practical necessity imposed by the physical limitations of urban spaces: there was no other cheap way of operating infrastructure, building streets, avoiding congestion.

For Alphabet, these constraints are no more: ubiquitous and continuous data flows can finally replace government rules with market signals. Now, everything is permitted – unless somebody complains. The original spirit behind Uber was quite similar: away with the rules, tests and standards, let the sovereign consumer rank the drivers and low-scoring ones will soon disappear on their own. Why not do this to landlords? After all, if you are lucky to survive a house fire, you can always exercise your consumer sovereignty and rank them down. Here the operating logic is that of Blackstone Urbanism, even if the techniques themselves are part of Google Urbanism.

Google Urbanism means the end of politics, as it assumes the impossibility of wider systemic transformations, such as limits on capital mobility and foreign ownership of land and housing. Instead it wants to mobilise the power of technology to help residents “adjust” to seemingly immutable global trends such as rising inequality and constantly rising housing costs (Alphabet wants us to believe that they are driven by costs of production, not by the seemingly endless supply of cheap credit).
During the debate Wednesday, LaToya and Desiree were asked a question about the ability of politics to respond to change on people's behalf.  I've transcribed the candidates' very different answers.
Q: "Proposed changes such as those in the Urban Water Plan may make dramatic changes to the physical face of the city. How will you address environmental justice concerns?"

CHARBONNET:  "Well you have got to make sure these changes don't just affect poor neighborhoods and those with the lesser voices in town. It's hugely important. We do have to accept change. That is just part of growth. However, I hearken back to the days of my parents' time when they had to put that Interstate over Claiborne Avenue. And how that was such a thriving neighborhood and how it changed that neighborhood forever. And there has always been the feeling that it was done in that neighborhood because it was a primarily African American neighborhood. We cannot make those mistakes again. We've got to change. But we also have to consider the lives of the people in these neighborhoods who are going to be affected."

CANTRELL: "Ensuring environmental justice has to be a priority in the city. And even as we talk about advancing the building on high dry ground. That is something that has not been well received. Even in this post-Katrina environment. Often times I get complaints about.. oh.. blocking my view to the point where, uh, me and my staff, we say it's a 'I have a view' speech. So we really have to encourage people to adapt to change. But it's all about protecting the environment. Protecting the lives of all of our people. Through the history of our city, we know that there has been definitely a disservice to predominantly minority communities. We know that. But in terms of mitigating those environmental hazards, it needs to be a priority. And it will be one under my administration. But putting in also incentives uh so that future development can occur... again with not damaging the environment." 

The question doesn't state this explicitly but Charbonnet interprets it to address the social and economic impacts of urban environmental policy.  Her concern here is making sure those with "lesser voices" don't bear the highest costs associated with implementing the Urban Water Plan.  Another way to put that is politics has a role to play in ensuring the poor and voiceless aren't bulldozed in the name of progress.

Cantrell, on the other hand, seems to discount even the idea of dissent. She tells us about a joke she and her staff have about constituent complaints about land use issues. To her the problem is more about convincing the disaffected to "adapt to change" than it is about taking seriously the harsher effect of change on those with lesser means to adapt.  Although she does express some concern for how it might affect developers.  They still need "incentives" for some reason.

It's a remarkable answer coming from a person who got her start in politics complaining to the city about the "green dot" a water management plan once placed over her neighborhood. But it does fit in well with the prevailing "Google Urbanism" Morozov is describing. No doubt the next mayor will have no trouble running her administration "like a business" too. It looks like the current mayor has already given her a head start with Sewerage and Water Board, anyway.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

Wednesday Night Debate Ball

Here's a nonsensical tweet thread about was being said last night at a mayoral debate hosted by the Urban Conservancy and the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana.  Tweet threads are dumb and hard to follow, though, so here is a video of the whole debate.

At this point in the race, the two candidates have memorized their scripts pretty well.  So you aren't likely to get any major revelations out of an event like this. (Gambit warned everybody about this back in July.) This debate, focused on flood control and environmental issues, was an almost absurd manifestation of that phenomenon where both candidates just said the same rote cliches they've learned to apply to these questions over and over by this point in the race.

The first exchange was almost exactly this.

LaToya: "Build effectively, leverage resources, implement plan, partner with organizations, think regionally"

Desi: "Think differently, new ideas, teach these new ideas in schools"

LaToya: "Resiliency plan, Urban water plan" "Get things done"

It went on like that for most of the night. One thing I noticed, and this was very subtle, was LaToya made a deliberate effort to always throw something in about how any action she might take will "encourage development."

This was most stark when the candidates were questioned about the effect of commercial and industrial water usage on subsidence. Desi talked about imposing fees or doing some other kind of non-specific punitive enforcement. LaToya, instead, stressed "incentives" for developers adding that "Developers are seeing an added burden" from standards embedded in the CZO.

LaToya was also less aggressive with regard to joining the multi-parish lawsuit against the oil and gas industry. Back in July the mayor and council deferred taking any action on that just yet.  The next mayor could have different ideas. LaToya didn't sound very enthusiastic, though. Instead she repeated a lot of the rhetoric Garret Graves used when he was Bobby Jindal's coastal czar about preferring to working with the industry toward voluntary efforts at coastal mitigation.  Desiree took a more direct course. "The lawyer in me says sue," she said in what was the most firm sounding commitment from either candidate to anything all night.

There were a few other interesting exchanges but mostly it was just a recitation of familiar phrases. Watch the video and see what else you can pick out. LaToya does say "skin in the game" for the millionth time this year so be ready to do your shot. 

Why do Democrats lose a lot?

Because in the minds of their most prominent figures, a "right thinking" person and a person who holds and fights for actual principles is are two different kinds of people. And only "right thinking" people get elected.
"I kind of realized the mayor of New Orleans has to take positions that are gonna be different than what the people of the state of Louisiana would take. And I think anybody whose watched me be the mayor of New Orleans and all of the hard decisions that I've made here, knows that I wasn't doing that with an eye toward being the governor of the state of Louisiana," he said. "I mean no right thinking person who wants to be governor takes down Confederate monuments in Louisiana. You just don't do that."
Aside, maybe, from bringing an end to the longstanding problems with the firefighters' pension system, lending his voice to those of the activists and citizens demanding the monuments come down was probably Mitch's greatest achievement at mayor.  Good thing he wasn't trying to be governor anymore by that point, I guess. 

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Last week was not the "trap game"

This week, on the other hand....
Chicago has been able to play a ball-control style of offense because the defense has been fantastic, particularly up front. The Bears rank seventh in the NFL in total defense, 14th in scoring defense, 11th against the run, ninth against the pass, and Chicago hasn't allowed an offensive touchdown in its last nine quarters. Everything starts with Chicago's formidable pass rush. Former Saint Akiem Hicks has blossomed into a Pro Bowl-type talent for the Bears on the interior, and he leads Chicago with six sacks, but the Bears have also gotten edge pressure from Leonard Floyd and Pernell McPhee, who have four sacks apiece. 

Meanwhile the Saints are without Larry Warford which won't help them deal with Hicks inside. The Saints opened up as 8 point favorites. That's a worrisome spread against a tough defensive match up.  I'm not necessarily saying it's guaranteed doom or anything but it is something to think about.

Standing offers (reminder)

I am still available to be Inspector General or one of the several Inspectors inspecting the Inspector General's office at any given time in the future.  I may also consider a spot on the Sewerage and Water Board but only if I am also Inspector General concurrently.  Call me.

Monday, October 23, 2017

How to lose an election Part 1: Crime and cynicism

The mayor's race is over.  LaToya Cantrell's campaign worked harder and smarter than Desiree Charbonnet's in the primary such that the situation for the latter is pretty much unrecoverable.  In the next few weeks, we'll have to watch a runoff campaign unfold knowing its conclusion is already a fait-accompli.  So rather than fixating on the surely irrelevant daily back and forth, I'd like to post a few observations about how we got to this point and what it says about city politics right now.   I've got a lot to say about that so I think it would be best to break it out into a series of posts.  Later, I'll talk about the candidates' differing strategies for voter turnout, how they handled key policy questions like flood control and economic development, and how each candidate embodies the persistent racial and class divide that defines New Orleans politics.  But to start things off we may as well look at what every candidate and pundit tells us over and over is supposed to be the "number one issue" on voters' minds always and forever.  Of course we are talking here about Confederate monuments public masturbation  crime.

The first thing we need to be clear about here is both of the remaining mayoral candidacies are deeply cynical operations. But it's the Desi campaign that has the added distinction of also being lazy. Charbonnet's advisors started with a basic idea about how to win a generic New Orleans mayoral election but never bothered to think about how the particulars of this election fit into that template. Nor did they do any of the groundwork necessary to connect their campaign to any actual human voters. This showed on primary night. Not only did Desiree finish second, she ceded key sections of her presumed base districts in the process to a harder working (though, of course, equally cynical) opponent.

After the WDSU debate, I said Desi's campaign style was reminiscent of  Hillary Clinton's.  I believe her campaign's strategy is flawed in similar ways to Hillary's as well. Desi's advisors are playing a detached, elitist brand of politics that considers voters as manipulable market segments instead of people with actual concerns and interests. The campaign has no message or purpose. It only has calculated pitches to specific demographics.  It's an incoherent approach that separates the question of how to get voters to your side from an honest consideration of why they should be there.  In 2016, Hillary took struggling working class voters for granted in pursuit of white suburban Republicans who were never going to vote for her in the first place.  Similarly, Desiree is chasing after a block of voters who are actively campaigning against her while ignoring others she may have had a better chance of persuading. 

This morning we read that her campaign is doubling down on this losing strategy.
Charbonnet argues that she can make headway in winning Bagneris backers and other voters by highlighting her plans to fight crime. In an interview last week, she said the primary campaign taught her that public safety remains the No. 1 issue for voters.

“I’m going to continue to let citizens know that if they are concerned about crime, I am the candidate,” she said.
They have no idea what they're doing.  Polling says voters consistently rank crime among their chief concerns.  But not all "crime" voters are alike. If your plan is to move voters who are "concerned about crime," you had better first understand which segment of those voters are yours to move and why.  The Desiree campaign is treating all "crime" voters as though they are Bagneris voters.

But the "Bagneris vote" is an explicitly anti-Charbonnet vote. There is no possible way to reach it.  The fact that the campaign still thinks it's as simple a matter as talking about "crime" tells you everything you need to know about how little effort they've put into this.  Their biggest miscalculation by far was the assumption that Leon Cannizzaro's endorsement would prove to be some kind of asset.

Cannizzaro endorses Charbonnet

Instead it is a millstone around Desiree's neck as Cannizzaro's outrageous abuses continue to draw the ire of criminal justice reformers who, only a year ago, were pointing to Charbonnet as an example of someone who took their cause seriously. She's lost those votes now.  And, while, it's probably fair to say the "Bagneris backers" really do want to see NOPD go out and crack skulls with Leon's blessing, they still wouldn't come out for Charbonnet if she announced this program from the base of a restored Liberty Place Monument.

More to the point, there are significant numbers of  "crime" voters who are appalled by Cannizzaro's retrograde tactics. There are an even larger number of voters whose neighborhoods and families are directly harmed by them. These voters also say they are "concerned about crime" when polled. We're all concerned about crime.  We have vastly different ideas about what policies address these concerns. By and large, Desi's approach has been to pander to the hard-liners while expecting her base to understand that it's just politics.  That's not gonna fly.  

Meanwhile, the Cantrell campaign developed a more sophisticated (if still cynical) way to play all sides of the crime issue.  The slogan LaToya borrowed from this early 2000s Los Angeles anti-gang campaign "Nothing Stops A Bullet Like a Job," positions her to the left of Cannizzaro but not too much so. It tells some voters that the candidate feels their pain by superficially acknowledging the relationship between crime and poverty. Meanwhile it subtly speaks to conservative Bagneris voters too by suggesting Cantrell will make those people get a job.

Cantrell took this message out on a "listening tour" of neighborhoods and various civic organizations several months prior to the primary where she managed to make inroads with voters in precincts Charbonnet's spreadsheets determined would be hers by default. Charbonnet didn't talk to anybody about anything until well after qualifying day.

It's strange that this issue should have opened such a wide gap between the two candidates. There is little substantive difference in how we should expect either to approach it as mayor. The Cannizzaro endorsement, like the similarly disappointing Charbonnet "crime plan," is all about campaign positioning.  It's right and good that criminal justice reformers criticize her for running on those planks. But they could just as soon lean on Cantrell for her platform which is scarcely any sort of improvement. Or they could interrogate Cantrell's support of tactical gear for police or surveillance cameras in the French Quarter. Or they could talk about her father-in-law's role in the exploitative cash bail system they've pegged some of Charbonnet's supporters for. Charbonnet has been slammed (again, rightly) for a nonsensical ad in which she proposes to make some sort of Uber but for police app.  But in perhaps the most shameful moment of the campaign to date, Cantrell praised Sidney Torres's app to Sidney Torres when asked by Sidney Torres to talk about Sidney Torres's app at Sidney Torres's sham forum

Frankly, both of these campaigns are nothing short of shameful in their approach to an issue most voters put at or near the top of their priorities list. At a time when more progressive movements are making surprising gains in local races across the country by taking serious stands against abusive and racist police tactics, the top candidates for mayor in New Orleans offer only smarmy platitudes and insincere triangulation. Voters deserved a thorough public debate about our dysfunctional, dangerous, and corrupt criminal justice system.  Instead we've had to settle for a dismal contest of cynical tactics.  And in that contest, Cantrell's more competently deployed smarm has been enough to weather Charbonnet's ham fisted flailing.

We're no nearer to solving this problem. But we are nearer to electing a mayor with no clearer mandate to right the ship than the previous one had. And, really, isn't that what it's all about? It's been an inspiring year. This is only the first of post of this series and already I want to drown in a flooded street.

Next we'll continue to draw inspiration by looking at how the infamous "natives vs transplants" dynamic has managed to distract from more serious and relevant issues to practically everyone's detriment... except LaToya's.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

I've never eaten at a Besh restaurant

I was just thinking the other day about how weird that is. We go out for maybe three or four special occasion type dinners every year. There are enough Besh-flagged places that we could have gotten to at least one.  I hadn't been avoiding them for any particular reason. That might be a bit different now.
During an eight-month investigation, 25 current and former Besh Group employees told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that they were victims of sexual harassment while working at BRG or at a number of its restaurants.

Nine women agreed to have their names published in this story, including Robison and two female colleagues who left BRG the same week she did: Vy Linh Ky, who held jobs in BRG restaurants as well as its corporate office beginning in 2012; and Lindsey Reynolds, the company's social media manager for six months.

Taken together, they and other women described a company where several male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and – in a few cases – tried to leverage positions of authority for sex. Several women said female colleagues, including in some cases their immediate managers, warned them to beware of "handsy" male supervisors – at times on day one on the job. Those who complained of sexual harassment were berated, ostracized or ignored, the women said.
As a lot of people are already saying, though, this isn't isolated merely to one company. The food services business, like so much of the hospitality industry in general, tends to treat workers as disposable objects. Women, in particular,  suffer under this exploitative dynamic. Changing that is critical to the future of the city's working class.  The Besh company didn't even have an HR department, let alone any semblance of an organized and mutually supportive workforce.  Instead, it had some women in management positions.
Besh repeatedly cited a number of management level women at BRG as evidence contradicting the culture described by the women alleging sexual harassment. Referring to female managers still working at the company, Besh said: "These are talented women who wouldn't stand for that crap," meaning sexual harassment.

Asked where Reynolds should have taken her complaint if Besh Group lacked a human resources department, Besh said she should have brought her complaints to one of the women managers.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

US Attorney Cannizzaro pros and cons

What is Leon Cannizzaro's stance on Sanctuary Cities? This article cites gun control as one potential sticking point in a possible Cannizzaro nomination for US Attorney but immigration might be another one to think about.  That law enforcement issue, in particular, has been the major point of conflict between the mayor's office and the various Louisiana Republican demagogues thinking about running for Governor.  One of those demagogues is John Kennedy. And since he is the person who sends these nominations forward, one would think Cannizzaro's position would be of interest to him. Or maybe it's enough that he's just quiet about it.

If Cannizzaro plays it cool enough to get the job and then turns out to not be the beast the Sessions DOJ might be looking for there, then it's conceivable that this isn't such a bad move. USA Cannizzaro would probably be less of an immediate terror to the public at large in New Orleans than DA Cannizzaro certainly is. It also opens up the DA's office more reform-minded candidates. Jason Williams's name always comes up in these conversations for example.

On the other hand, it's worth paying attention to who is running the US Attorney's office in the coming years for other reasons
NEW ORLEANS – The cost of emergency repairs for the Sewerage and Water Board’s power plant and drainage system keep rising as the board tries to address major failures from March, July and August.

Emergency costs were initially pegged at $48.5 million after a sudden thunderstorm caused major flooding Aug. 5, but have now risen to $54.5 million, according to an update from the Sewerage and Water Board’s emergency manager, Paul Rainwater.

The 12 percent increase raises questions about whether the Sewerage and Water Board will have enough money to meet critical power and drainage needs, in addition to the massive capital improvement projects already under way.

The board’s former Chief Financial Officer Robert Miller, who left for a job in Jackson, Miss., last week, has said the New Orleans drainage system is cash-poor and relies almost entirely on federal aid for capital improvements. The Drainage Department has less than $10 million in cash on hand from three dedicated tax millages.
A few weeks ago S&WB declared a state of "extreme emergency" with regard to its work on the infamous Turbine Number 4. Here is what that does.
The declaration gives the agency's executive staff free rein to buy any parts and equipment and hire any outside specialists to finish a repair job that ballooned to $24 million and has stretched on for more than five years.  
From the Hammer report, it looks like the "extreme" emergency is a separate declaration from two others that had already been necessary to free up money back in March and again in August.
The Sewerage and Water Board started tapping into that money in March with an emergency declaration that hardly anyone noticed. At a March 9 committee meeting, then-Executive Director Cedric Grant, then-President Pro Tem Scott Jacobs and then-General Superintendent Joe Becker -- all of whom resigned or were fired after the flooding of Aug. 5 – reported that the massive turbines used to power the drainage pumps and some of the potable water pumps had gone down.

But there was no discussion of what happened at the full board meeting two days later. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said his two deputy mayors serving on the board, including Grant, failed to “ring the bell” and tell him about the emergency. Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Hebert said he approved the emergency declaration without knowing how significant that power failure was.

It turns out it was quite significant. Emergency repairs to Turbines No. 3 and 5 will cost $15.5 million, up from an initial estimate of $13.1 million. That’s just the cost of putting those two power sources in working order and doesn’t count the $40 million in federal money already approved to fully refurbish them.

“I mean these are old turbines,” Rainwater said. “The first one was bought (in the 1920s) when Calvin Coolidge was president.”

Then, after the widespread power and pump failures of Aug. 5, the board issued another emergency declaration, reporting that emergency work at the power plant, pump stations and additional staff and management teams would cost $35.4 million. Rainwater’s latest report says that cost has risen to $39.1 million.
So there is a lot of money flying around very fast ostensibly to speed up work that was originally expected to have finished up years ago. The firm contracted to do the turbine job is CH2M Hill.* From what I understand, they're about to be on their fourth project manager since taking over the gig.  All of this could be the sort of thing that attracts the attention of a federal prosecutor eventually.  That might depend who the US Attorney is, though. And on who his or her friends or enemies are at that time.

* According to the last round of campaign finance reporting CH2M Hill gave $1,000 each to the Cantrell and Charbonnet campaigns.

Friday, October 20, 2017

In the Bags for LaToya

This is kind of funny in a few ways. Bagneris could have gone the other way with this endorsement but it wouldn't have been worth anything.  The voters who pulled his lever in the primary were going to LaToya anyway. They were, first and foremost, an anti-Charbonnet vote and weren't really his to deliver.  Here, on The Lens's map,we find the bulk of the Bagneris vote. (Shaded blue) It is situated in Lakeview and in the deepest, whitest, wealthiest Uptown precincts around Audubon Place and the Garden District.

Those are the voters and donors who locked in on Bagneris early when he went to Frank Stewart's house got all "both sidesey" about the monuments. Remember that?

Recall also that the anti-Desi "Not For Sale NOLA" PAC  was funded by a cohort of reactionary "business leaders" dead set against what upper class white people in this town snidely refer to as a "machine."  The Not For Sale group also donated heavily to Bagneris.

So really what we're looking at here are a block of white conservative voters with sympathies for old confederates who were looking at buying a primary candidate and will now buy a different one in the runoff. They are, themselves "not for sale" by anybody to anybody and they will be the first to tell you that.  The Advocate decided to accompany the story about this transaction with a photo that featured a "Black Lives Matter" banner in the background.  Somebody over there has a keen sense of irony.

Comparing Presidents is sophistry

George Bush was a very bad President.  This week, many liberal commentators are using him this week as some sort of comparative barometer of decency for a cynical political purpose. The cynical political purpose isn't even that valuable. They merely mean to say, in so many words, Trump is gross.  That seems obvious enough. We shouldn't have to make ridiculous compromises with the Bush legacy in order to say that.
In his speech on Thursday, Bush criticized the Trump administration's immigration policies, remarking, "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America." But when Bush was in office, he deported thousands of Muslim immigrants after the 9/11 attacks. As Glenn Greenwald noted at the Intercept in 2015, the former president also "quickly and secretly implemented an illegal scheme of warrantless domestic eavesdropping aimed largely at Muslims."

Before Trump took office, there was concern that his administration would create a database of Muslims, which he repeatedly threatened to do (before denying he made those threats). But Bush did actually create such a database, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), that, according to CNN, "disproportionately targeted Arabs and Muslims and was a point of contention between rights groups and the federal government for nearly a decade." (Barack Obama's administration ended the system, saying it had become outdated.)

Trump has created a commission to study "voter fraud" in an obvious effort to intimidate voters and drive turnout down—Bush did the same thing. Trump has appointed unqualified cronies to important posts—Bush nominated his White House counsel, who had never been a judge, to the Supreme Court. Trump's administration denies climate change is a problem—so did Bush's.

It's not just that Bush was bad too. (Bush was very very bad too!) The point is that the bad Presidencies of Bush and Trump (and yes I would throw Obama in with them) do not exist in isolation from one another. One shapes the world in which the other can exist. Bush is the context from which Trump derives. Trump is a monster. Bush was one of the monsters that begat this one.  One implicates the other. There's no honest way to do a favorable/unfavorable comparison.  But there are a lot of dishonest people out there.

It was twice as big

Ho hum, nothing to see as usual.

Will the new hotels be unionized?

I wonder which "vast new hotel development nearby" the Unite Here organizers were talking about here.
Lila Zucker, a bartender at Loews New Orleans Hotel, said her chronic health issues would prevent her from working without the $10 a month health insurance she's able to purchase through the hotel's union contract. Odell Brown, who works as a banquet steward at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, called for workers to receive a larger piece of the company's more than $10 billion in annual revenue. Gabby Bolden, a banquet server at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, mentioned rumors of a vast new hotel in development nearby.

"It is our business to make sure that [any new hotel] jobs are union jobs with decent wages and benefits," she said. "We all deserve a fair wage."
It says, "rumors" so I thought first of the so-called Trade District development expansion of the upriver Convention Center property. On our NOligarchs map (which needs some updating, btw) we were calling this area "Jaegertown" because Joe Jaeger and Darryl Berger appeared to have an inside track as developers there.   But just this month, we read that project has been "mothballed" for the time being. So what's the big thing in the works now?

There's Four Seasons moving into WTC (eventually) but that's much more than a "rumor" at this point. Heck, its projected revenue is already part of mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet's budget plans.  Speaking of which, I guess neither candidate made it out to the Unite Here rally. That's kind of a shame given that organizing hospitality is going to have to be a top priority for anyone committed to battling economic inequality in New Orleans under the next administration. (We're still not sure LaToya Cantrell even believes inequality is a problem.)  There were a couple of council candidates out there, though.
Bolden also urged elected officials to support local organizing efforts, but two City Council candidates who attended the rally already had pledged their support. James Gray, the incumbent District E councilman currently in a  Nov. 18 runoff election against opponent Cyndi Nguyen, donned a red UNITE HERE shirt and vowed to assist to the union in contract negotiations if he is re-elected.

Jay Banks, who faces Seth Bloom in a runoff for the District B City Council seat, also spoke, saying he would be "a friend" to unions if elected. "Making sure that families can work and afford to live is crucial to the survival of this city," he said.
Banks has also served on the Convention Center board so it's significant that he's aware of the need for stronger unions in hospitality.  Bloom is the only candidate on the citywide slate I've seen actually oppose a $15 minimum wage. So that's a pretty stark contrast. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

GOMESA Went missing

Okay nevermind the title. We'll workshop it.  Here's what's happening.
An unexpected shortfall in Louisiana’s share of offshore oil and gas royalties could force the state to delay or cancel coastal restoration projects scheduled to start as soon as 2019, according to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Officials said Wednesday that the state’s share of revenue next year from the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, will be about half of what they had expected.

Until recently, Louisiana anticipated a payout of about $175 million, the maximum allowed under the royalty-sharing agreement. The first major payment was to come in the spring.

Of that, $140 million would have gone to the coastal restoration authority. Now, the agency expects to receive just $60 million to $70 million.
That's... a lot less than expected. What's expected is nowhere near the tens of billions of dollars that are needed just to somewhat satisfactorily mitigate the catastrophic land loss we're already certain to experience in the coming decades.  Also, Trump wants to scrap the GOMESA fund in his budget plan.  This comes after we had to beat back a different plan by the Obama Administration to reallocate the money as well.  Good thing we've got nothing but time here, right?

Standing offers

I would just like to remind everyone I am willing to accept the post of Inpector General or one of the 10 other Inspectors General whose jobs will mostly be about investigating one another once those positions become available. I'm pretty confident there's money to be made in a job like that if you know how to play the angles.

Also I am available to manage or advise a campaign for anybody running in the next local election cycle who wants to win.  I will tell you exactly how for one million dollars. Oh and don't worry I don't think this gig will interfere with my duties as Inspector General. In fact I can think of some ways these roles could prove complementary. 

Amazon is not coming here

New Orleans is not going to win the big national corporate welfare sweepstakes to lure one of the country's most notorious labor abusers to build a headquarters here. This is probably a good thing. It means local poor people won't be subsidizing whatever package of "tax incentives" are required to bring in the "quality tech jobs" that won't go to them anyway.  The local booster crowd needs to find a new obsession.

This does NOT mean they should get any ideas about handing whole neighborhoods over to tech conglomerates so that they can turn them into EPCOTs. Somebody already thought of that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

So far behind that nobody actually lives here

A lot of cities suffer from this kind of local inferiority complex combined with cluelessness (to put it charitably) among the political leadership.  New Orleans is an especially bad example.
Researcher Jeffrey Goodman has looked into short-term rental ordinances across the U.S. He says when it comes to city regulation, there are typically three waves. First, there’s the original ordinance on the books, usually from the 1950s, that doesn’t work to accommodate any short-term rental arrangement, because it doesn’t include any enforcement mechanism. Next, cities usually try to work with the rental platforms.

“They were like ‘we’re hip, we’re cool,’” says Goodman of what he has observed of city governments’ attitude toward working with the companies in recent years. “And they worked with these companies not realizing that it’s regulatory capture. Not realizing that having the companies have a lot of influence in writing their own ordinance led to bad outcomes, and a lot of cities felt played.”

The third wave, according to Goodman, is currently unfolding in places like Anaheim and San Francisco, with cities requiring more of the companies and the latter responding with litigation.
New Orleans officials like to brag about their "first of a kind" short term rental regulations.  In truth, they're really just behind the curve again. What happens when we get to the "third wave" described above?  That will depend on who is running things at that time and what their attitude might be.

Primary post-mortems

Posting here has been kind of slow because I'm writing up a bunch of stuff about the primary results. The short version is the mayor's race is over and the reason for that is the Charbonnet campaign blew it big time on many fronts. What I'm writing are a series of posts that examine several of those fronts in detail.

To understand why it's over, one need only  take a look at The Lens's precinct maps. Specifically, look at all of these Cantrell precincts (in green) in the Lower Ninth and in East New Orleans that Charbonnet needed to carry in order to have any shot in the runoff.

I'm going to write more about why it went this way later. But just know, for now, Charbonnet isn't going to dig out of that hole.  Cantrell is looking at something like 60% of the vote in the runoff now.

There's a lot more to say about all of this. In the meantime here is a starter question to think about.  This week, Cantrell's backers (and some ostensibly neutral observers) are heralding her "progressive" and even "populist" campaign.  Why is it none among them seems to have noticed this one quote from election night picked up on only (as far as I can tell) by me and conservative TP columnist Tim Morris
Cantrell, meanwhile, will be trying to assure her doubters that she is not the radical community organizer of their nightmares and that her experience representing City Council District B has prepared her to become mayor.

"I'm not talking now about taking from the rich and giving to the poor and all that kind of crap," Cantrell said in a telling moment of her victory speech. "What I'm talking about is creating balance so everyone feels like they're winners. We all can win. It is not a zero sum game as we have been made to believe. We will not be pitting neighborhoods against one another, we will be building up neighborhoods."
I'll come back to that as well as ton of other stuff later. But I'd love to hear Cantrell voters, in particular, describe what they think it means.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It happens all the time

We really only hear about the big ones. But even those are pretty low key compared to the big one.
An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The Delta House floating production facility about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil from early Wednesday to Thursday morning, according to closely held operator LLOG Exploration Co. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident.
Sounds serious, right? It barely registered in this news cycle. (In part thanks to an different oil rig exploding in Lake Pontchartrain, by the way.) But really it's all just business as usual.
Even a few thousand gallons of spilled oil is consequential. Even more consequential are more than 30,000 of those so-called small spills each year. Which is probably the bare minimum spill estimate, says Manthos of SkyTruth. Really, it's hard to know if this figure is complete, and even harder to calculate the volume of oil being leaked. Some new oil equipment is smart enough to know when, and measure how much, it leaks. But those sensors can malfunction. Plus most oil infrastructure is way older. Most of the time oil companies, activists, and the US Coast Guard are all doing some version of educated guessing.
Basically, oil is always spilling or leaking into the gulf. Every now and then we get to hear about it.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Who watches the watchers of the watchers and why?
Adding to the palace intrigue already engulfing his office, retiring New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux on Monday fired a top deputy who authored a report that said the office was plagued with the same kind of corruption it was created to root out.

Quatrevaux called the report by Howard Schwartz biased and aimed at impugning a potential rival of Schwartz's. The IG terminated Schwartz, the assistant IG for investigations, just days before he was due to take over the office on an interim basis.

However, Schwartz's firing won't change that, according to Ethics Review Board Chairman Allen Miller, who earlier this month tapped Schwartz to replace Quatrevaux temporarily when the inspector general retires on Thursday.

Schwartz is also a candidate to succeed Quatrevaux permanently, a decision that will be made by the Ethics Review Board, which oversees the inspector general's work.
Or to put it another way, anybody who tells your they're just here to get the politics out of politics is probably also politically motivated. Why do we even have an IG's office other than for the purpose of keeping up appearances?

It's actually worse if you impeach him

This is a separate question from whether or not he ought to be impeached. There's plenty reason to believe any of the many threads of corruption that constantly spool outward from Trump will lead us to that. We're not quite there yet but it's not hard to see. Of course, it will never happen with a GOP Congress but that's a third question already and we really just started this with a notion to consider one.  That question is, after Trump is removed, will it be worse?  Yes it probably will.
A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Congratulations Mayor Cantrell

More on this later because today is a Saints game and I gotta go to the Dome. But just for handicappers out there check out Grace this morning.
There was some expectation that Charbonnet, whose family has deep roots downtown, would dominate those precincts, and that Cantrell would perform best Uptown, where she represents City Council District B. Cantrell did indeed own the precincts above Canal Street, with the exception of some largely white areas that Bagneris won. But she also showed surprising strength in what was supposed to be Charbonnet's home base, where she won a quite a few precincts outright. That's got to be a concern to the Charbonnet camp.
Grace goes on to say a few things there I think are either misleading or flat out wrong but, like I said, we'll come back to that. The above paragraph is the story.  This thing is over. You might as well stop the fight here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Free Ray

I'm sure there are many people who are worried about the implications of the McDonnell case for the future. And I'm sure those people have some good points to make about that. But all things being equal, Nagin has probably suffered enough already. There are plenty of public officials who have done worse and been punished less severely for it.
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has asked a federal judge to throw out his corruption conviction, citing a recent Supreme Court decision making it more difficult to convict public officials of bribery.

Acting as his own attorney, Nagin filed a motion Wednesday "to vacate, set aside or correct" his 10-year sentence for bribery, "honest-services" wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering and filing false tax returns.

Nagin argues that his case is identical to corruption cases recently overturned by U.S. Supreme Court concerning former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and by a federal appeals court concerning former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Nagin's case was reassigned Thursday to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. The judge who presided over Nagin's trial retired last year.
One thing we could stress about Nagin's case, though, is it's important to remember how he came into office in the first place. Once upon a time, Ray Nagin was sold to voters as an innovative entrepreneur who was going to run city government like a business.  A vote for Ray was a vote against the "corrupt machine."

Of course, in New Orleans politics, "corrupt machine" is a term applied to traditionally black political organizations. There are plenty of powerful and corrupt white operators in town but they're usually described as "business leaders." It's a convenient shorthand for signaling to racially motivated voters even when there is no actual white person among the major candidates. This terminology persists in campaign 2017 coverage.

The lesson of Ray Nagin should have been that one need not be part of the "corrupt machine," to engage in corrupt practices. But the "business leaders" have since revised the story to the point where nobody is able to agree as to which side owned Nagin in the first place. And, of course, since nobody remembers anything that happens, we'll have to go around like this again and again.

On the other hand this year's business leader reform candidate may have an easier time of things.  If the McDonnell decision can vacate Nagin's conviction, it may prevent the next Nagin from even being prosecuted. Given the arbitrary nature of the justice system as it is, that may not be a bad thing altogether. Although, one can imagine that current and future public officials might feel emboldened by this and, well, all sorts of things.

The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans has declared an "extreme emergency" to hasten the repairs of an unusual electricity-generating turbine that's been in disrepair for more than a decade.

Without so-called Turbine 4, the agency can't produce enough electricity to power the city's aging drainage system during heavy thunderstorms, S&WB deputy superintendent Bruce Adams wrote Sunday (Oct. 8) in a letter calling for the emergency.

The declaration gives the agency's executive staff free rein to buy any parts and equipment and hire any outside specialists to finish a repair job that ballooned to $24 million and has stretched on for more than five years. 

How much money is Ron Forman's con-profit stealing this time?

Do we even ask that sort of question anymore? Or is it just a matter of course that the oligarchs always get a cut?
Another point of confusion over how far along designs are for the bridge depended on the involvement of the Audubon Nature Institute, which Berni said "will be in charge of construction" of the bridge and will "take part in the design process." The mayor's office's announcement last week revealed the new bridge would be built on property owned by Audubon and connecting with the nonprofit's Aquarium of the Americas. Berni said Wednesday that the city is currently working out a cooperative endeavor agreement with Audubon to make use of the property for the bridge.
Meanwhile, they're having trouble explaining to councilmembers why the pedestrian bridge costs so much.  One thing they are sure they don't want to spend any money on, though, is giving homeless people a place to get out of the rain. Even if that means, you don't get one either.
Pressed by Guidry, Berni further hinted that aside from added costs, one impetus for keeping the bridge roofless might be to discourage homeless people from being there.

"Yeah, I think that's probably one reason," Berni said. "But I'm sure there are many others, including cost."

Can we please finish the War On Halloween first?

No discipline in this administration. Just going to keep blundering into wars at full speed.
Trump, nine months into his presidency, has found it harder to get things done than the ease with which he made promises on the campaign trail, making speeches to adoring audiences like Friday's in Washington key to boosting the President's morale. And the audience at the Values Voter Summit, an annual socially conservative conference, didn't fail to deliver.
"We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," Trump said to applause, before slamming people who don't say "Merry Christmas."
"They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct," Trump said, complaining that department stores will use red and Christmas decorations but say "Happy New Year." "We're saying Merry Christmas again."
Congratulations on finally getting us back to the Bush years. Not only culturally but strategically as well. And, yes, yes, of course Obama mostly stayed the Imperial course foreign policywise. But we're getting back now to overt neocon bluster here. Maybe this is what MAGA was always about.  

Real quick cheat code to the mayor's race

In one corner, you have the following.

Sidney Torres
Frank Stewart
Anne Milling
Neil  Abramson
Leslie Jacobs
Boysie Bollinger
Lane Grigsby
Jay Lapeyre

In the other corner, you have what the wealthy white plutocrats listed above and their allies in local media  refer to as a "corrupt machine" because that is how you dogwhistle in New Orleans politics.  Like we've been saying all along, this is 2002 all over again. I think the result is likely to be similar as well.

Meanwhile, here's the show we recorded this week. It expands on the above points. Sorry it's so long but there was a special guest and a lot of stuff to talk about.  We cover the election in the first hour (just after the hurricane talk) and included in that coverage is a minor scandal we're pretty sure is an exclusive.

We'll write more before the polls close tomorrow. Here are a few items we've posted previously that might be worth review.

In August we looked at the controversies over Bagneris's and Charbonnet's respective donors and what that means in the bigger picture. 

Last week we took notes on the WDSU debate and hashed out the four "major" candidates' positions and strategy.

Also here is the AntiGravity No Nonsense Guide which I always find helpful.

Oh and last week's podcast had some stuff on Torres's involvement.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump is "normal"

That is to say, the Trump phenomenon our friends in the professional political establishment prefer to view as some sort of aberration is actually nothing of the sort. Instead it's just the latest waypoint in a long running American trudge to the far right that shows no signs of slowing.
Several leaders of key activist groups held a news conference Wednesday to denounce Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team, accusing them of ignoring grass-roots conservatives and hitting them for the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare.

“This pattern of failure from McConnell’s gang of five leadership team while loathing and attacking their own base, the most loyal bloc of voters that has elected them and all of their caucus members, can no longer be tolerated,” said Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has supported conservative challengers take on GOP incumbents.
There is always room on the right to outflank even the most reactionary Republicans. The signatories to this attack on McConnell know. They've only been at this forever
First there’s Richard Viguerie, basically the inventor of right wing direct mail fundraising. In many ways Viguerie invented clickbait and fake news decades before the Internet. He’s 84.

Then there’s Brent Bozell. Bozell has lived his entire life in the sinecure right wing activism world, which some very unnice people are ungenerous enough to call the world of ‘wingnut welfare’. He founded the Media Research Center in 1987 – full-time yakking about ‘liberal media bias’. His father was L. Brent Bozell, Jr., partner with Bill Buckley is launching much of what we know as movement conservatism today. Among many other things he ghosted Barry Goldwater’s ‘Conscience of a Conservative’, a bible of young conservatives in the early 60s which helped launch his 1964 presidential run.

To the extent that Trump is something ‘new’ in the GOP firmament, these folks are as old as it gets. The other three all predate Trump and in key cases predate the Tea Party. Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots is the ‘newest’ person on the list.
It's a little weird that Marshall goes on almost to discount the significance of this even as he recognizes it. 
There’s no new anything. Trump is the candidate of the most unreconstructed elements of movement conservatism. In many ways, the folks modern conservatives don’t want to associate with publicly anymore.
Not sure what he means by "modern conservatives."  If he thinks they're anything apart from the movement that spent the last several decades getting us to Trump, he's wrong about that. Also I would argue there's nothing to stop them continuing on in this direction indefinitely.