Sunday, March 18, 2018

Super Sunday is cancelled

Today, it is actually just postponed due to weather.  Tomorrow, the story may be different.
Those who made New Orleans famous for its culture — its Indians, musicians and social-aid-and-pleasure-club members — simply aren't making enough money to cover costs of living. It's "discouraging and heart-wrenching," said bass drummer Ellis Joseph, who leads the Free Agents Brass Band and is a music instructor at a public school, but was saddled with student loans and rent that just rose by another $100.

Joseph will move into an apartment at Bell next month, but a long list of bandmates and musical friends are now on Bell's waiting list, he said. One musician had moved into a sketchy area, because it was affordable, only to dodge bullets when he gets home from gigs, Joseph said. Another was forced out by a landlord turning the rental into an Airbnb, leaving him sleeping on a family couch in eastern New Orleans, far from where his gigs are.
We love our neighborhood cultural traditions but nobody actually lives in those neighborhoods anymore.   It's fine, though. As long as there is a market for the simulacrum of these folkways on display at Jazzfest, the Airbnbs that replaced them should keep property values high enough to sustain the illusion.

What did the mayor know and when did he know it?

Well, if he read the reports...
A consultant found 17 Sewerage & Water Board pumps and two power turbines out of service last May, months before heavy rains in July and August caused widespread flooding in New Orleans. Outlined in a draft report presented Wednesday (March 14), the inspectors' findings reinforce the notion that agency officials had recourse to be aware of startling problems facing the utility's drainage system prior to the summer floods.
Maybe they didn't put it in bold face on the front page or something.  Or maybe he wasn't at the meeting that day.   There's a bill in the legislature that is supposed to address that problem. 
If passed, the bill would return a City Council member to the board, require either New Orleans' mayor or the city's chief administrative officer to attend board meetings and tighten rules on quarterly reports submitted by the utility to the council. Its author, state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, says it's high time for more accountability over Sewerage & Water Board's top ranks after flooding last summer revealed severe deficiencies in the utility's power and drainage systems.
Ok but you do have to wonder how they enforce that. Maybe it involves the threat of house arrest

Also it's worth pointing out that this is a partial walk back of the very S&WB reforms Morrell and the New Orleans delegation pushed through only a few years ago at the Mayor's urging. Last year, those reforms were called into question in The Lens by Jacques Morial which prompted a response from Morrell defending them.

So this new bill indicates J.P. agrees something needs to change, at least.  It doesn't go far enough unless it takes the damn university presidents out of the selection process. To this day, I still have no idea why these professional fundraisers get a say in so many local governance issues.  In any case, there's more than one S&WB issue that needs to be addressed.
The utility has previously said the drainage system is short more than $50 million in projected brick-and-mortar costs, while an estimated $80 million in emergency work is rapidly drawing down cash reserves. Black & Veatch's report accounts for a roughly $82 million shortfall by 2021. To help mend the gap, the utility's board of directors last month began the process to secure a bond sale to finance $27 million for drainage improvements.
Not sure what sort of reform the next mayor might put forward to deal with that.  Maybe we should ask the co-chair of her transition's infrastructure committee
Troy Henry and Bruce Thompson co-chair an infrastructure committee made up of four subcommittees: a subsurface committee looking at Sewerage & Water Board systems, a surface committee looking at roads and bridge, and committees looking at transportation and the implementation of a citywide water management plan.
Certainly Troy has all sorts of interesting ideas
Nevertheless, Troy Henry, the southern regional manager of United Water, is convinced that private water providers can do a better job than public utilities. He readily admits that his company and Atlanta city managers have had problems “dealing with the complexities of the system” in Atlanta and says the company is spending “multiple millions of dollars [to] win back the citizens’ and mayor’s confidence.” A biomedical and electrical engineer and former manager at IBM, Henry argues that private companies can do for water delivery what Big Blue did for computing — revolutionize technology and attract “the best and the brightest and most talented people.”

Friday, March 16, 2018

The day he truly became President

Here is a chilling thought.
With tariffs done, Trump’s sights are now on the Iran deal—and, possibly, the Russia investigation. “The president is finally realizing he is the president,” a former White House official told me. “He’s just making these decisions on his own.”
Which, okay, maybe. But what does it mean? That article talks about the possibility of firing Sessions and replacing him with Scott Pruitt who we can presume will be replaced at E.P.A. with a literal bag of coal. This might be an improvement, actually.

All of that is amusing to a certain degree. But I feel sorry for people whose job it is to parse some sort of strategic policy direction from Trump's constant personnel shuffling.  Currently there's a consensus forming around the notion that making a crusader ideologue Secretary of State, putting the torture lady in charge of CIA, and trying to figure out how to place a crazy war hawk as National Security of Advisor indicates a deliberate rightward shift in foreign policy.  The shoes all fit so maybe. On the other hand it could just be that he's finally coming around to Bolton's mustache.

Anyway, maybe Trump really is starting to feel his oats in the presidenting chair.  Or maybe someone will write the same thing when everybody is fired again in a few months.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Striking the right "balance"

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

Last week Latoya Cantrell and Jason Williams called a fair amount of attention themselves for suggesting that it might be time to take some (limited and dubious) action on the short term rental front. Cantrell's bold idea is what they're calling a "soft cap."

Under the current law, people who own property in most non-residential zoning districts are guaranteed the ability to get commercial short-term rental licenses, which allow them to rent entire homes or apartments every day of the year.

There’s no limit on the number of such licenses in each building, so an apartment building can become, in effect, an Airbnb hotel.

Some large apartment buildings in the city have dozens of commercial, short-term rental licenses. The Lens recently reported on a small Bywater apartment building that’s in the process of being converted to full-time Airbnbs.

Cantrell’s proposal would allow just two commercial, short-term rental licenses in each building. Anything beyond that would have to be vetted by the City Planning Commission and approved by the city council — hence the council’s description of the limit as a “soft cap.”

The proposed change would apply to two types of zoning districts: one type of mixed-use district and one type of low-density, commercial district.

Notably, it will not affect some downriver neighborhoods, including Faubourg Marigny and Bywater, which have some of the highest concentrations of Airbnbs in the city.
The vetting process here is the same as one that applies already where there are limits in place. Most of the city is already under a "soft cap."  This process has already come under criticism for being a glorified system of spot-zoning where the determining factor in each decision tends to be the amount of money and influence on the city council an individual property owner can wield. For example, in a few weeks, we'll see how much political sway the developers of the Sun Yard hold. Their poshtel/pool bar proposal was rejected by the Planning Commission. But Counicl can override that for any reason if they want to.

LaToya and Jason also agreed it is time to do a "study on the effects of short-term rentals." That is encouraging. A good time to start learning about a problem is a year or so after your supposed remedy has been enacted into law.  Also the information they're looking for is already available. JPNSI has been compiling and distributing it for a few years now. They're releasing a study this month, in fact. One thing they've found, unsurprisingly, is concentrated wealth.

A few corporations and individuals are gobbling up chunks of New Orleans real estate to profit from the expanding short-term rental market.

"We're talking about 10 individuals (or corporations) that have taken 568 homes off the market and have redirected them toward tourists," said Breonne Dedecker with the Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative. "Every unit of housing that is removed from the long-term-residential market has an affect on the market around it."
The city's law is, still, in this very story, described by Mitch Landrieu's spokespeople as "a model for other cities trying to limit, regulate and tax short term rental platforms." But their model is just turning neighborhoods into resort villages to the profit. It needs substantial revision.

LaToya Cantrell would tell you it needs "balance" and that she will do some listening or whatever to determine how that works. But there are obvious actions that should be taken immediately. Here are the two most popular ideas. Short term rentals of "whole home" units should be be banned from residential neighborhoods.  Licenses should be limited to one per individual.  Those are the two most direct means of stopping the conversion of structures into virtual hotels via the STR process.  LaToya's spokesperson claims she is against that.
"The mayor-elect does not support converting structures into virtual hotels via the STR process, especially when those structures can house our residents. She is currently working to strike the right balance on this issue so that the right regulations are in place that protect the cultural fabric of neighborhoods," Mayor-Elect Cantrell's Communications Director Mason Harrison stated in an emailed response.

Recall that Susan Guidry proposed limiting licenses to one per homestead exemption in the original ordinance. LaToya made a big to-do during the mayoral campaign of her having voted for that amendment (although it was clear it wasn't going to pass at the time.)  So why isn't she offering a similar proposal now? 

Jane Place points out that much of the luxury condo development in the CBD has sustained itself through the STR market. 
Dedecker recently took to Twitter to point out two corporations, Stay Alfred and Sonder, have more than 100 STR permits in New Orleans each. 

Stay Alfred, which is based in Spokane, Washington has more than 30 permitted STR in The Maritime apartment building in the Central Business District.

Neither Stay Alfred or The Maritime returned FOX 8's request for comment. 

"[The Maritime] has 106 apartments in it. As of last week, there were 61 permitted short-term rentals in the apartment building with another 21 permits pending, which means 82 out of 106 units are currently or about to be used as short-term rentals. That is 80 percent of a residential building basically being utilized as a hotel," Dedecker said.
Last week, we mentioned Sonder, in relation to its presence in another faux-tel development in Mid-City.  That development's owner, Joshua Bruno, has a history of getting LaToya to listen to him and "balance" things in his favor from time to time. Until she makes a solid commitment to clamping down on STR expansion, we have to assume she's still listening to people like Bruno.

And that is a problem because next they will want to "balance" the French Quarter too. This morning's T-P allows Quarter landlords to whine that the total ban on STRs there is cutting into their racket now.

Michael Wilkinson, also of French Quarter Realty, said that some of his clients have been converting short-term rentals into "what they should've been in the first place: Long-term rentals."

"We're seeing that, which we kind of expected, and some people are keeping them for themselves," he said. "It's put a lot of things on the rental market because of that."
But the large inventory of long-term rentals has made things challenging for landlords. John Ferrara, a longtime French Quarter landlord and a former resident, said it's as challenging to find long-term renters as ever.

"People who had condos and second homes in the Quarter, they used them periodically and then they rented them out the rest of the time. Now they can't do that," Ferrara said. "You can't rent -- I have vacancies for over a year now."
Wither the pied-a-terres? It sounds a lot like the ban is actually doing what it's supposed to do. Notice nobody in this story ever takes a minute to wonder if the problem might have to do with the rent being too damn high. The pro-Airbnb and YIMBYist crowd loves to talk about the sacred value of "supply and demand." At least they do as long as those dynamics are favorable to the investor class. When it doesn't, though, somehow that's a bad thing.
For years, he said French Quarter Realty used to have handouts with listings of apartments and corresponding photos running one to two pages. But now, "we have four pages of apartments."

"I have one client that just rented a $1,200 apartment, a guest quarters behind the main house, that he had on the market and after a year he finally got someone," Ripley said. "It's just been very difficult because it impacts the investment buyer, and now is competing with a whole new market in the CBD."
The "whole new market in the CBD" is where all the STRs are, of course. Real estate just isn't very successful in New Orleans if it is wasted on housing people who actually live  here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

How we live now

This is a good article to read for #NationalWalkOutDay. It is primarily about, you guessed it, the damn interminable gun debate.  But it is also about the reasons that debate appears to be so intractable. Mostly, it is because our politics, dominated by neoliberalism as it is, is bad.  
What is neoliberalism? The many competing definitions can be confusing and even misleading. And, since the history of neoliberalism has played out in many different countries, what the word denotes in one place is not necessarily the same in others. But we shouldn’t let nuance and complexity dissuade us from using the term, because neoliberalism is an incredibly powerful concept for understanding not just contemporary American life and politics in general, but our reactions to gun violence and school shootings specifically.

Neoliberalism is at once a subspecies of capitalism and a model of governance, a vision of what politics can and should be. It sees political and social life almost exclusively through the lens of the free market, and asks us to consider ourselves and our fellow citizens primarily in terms of our economic activities: as consumers, as workers, as competitors, as human resources. Under neoliberalism, in other words, the individual is less a human subject with rights that entail obligations from the government, but rather a variable in a broader calculus of efficiency, a site for maximizing revenue and minimizing expenditure. Simply put, neoliberalism is about the withdrawal of government responsibility for political problems in favor of market-based “solutions” and individual “choices.”
It doesn't have to be this way, of course.  There are other ways of organizing politics that emphasize democracy and basic human dignity.  We don't have to swallow this crap forever.  Somebody should really tell the Democrats about this.   
The Senate on Wednesday passed the most significant loosening of financial regulations since the economic crisis a decade ago, delivering wide bipartisan support for weakening banking rules despite bitter divisions among Democrats.

The bill, which passed 67 votes to 31, would free more than two dozen banks from the toughest regulatory scrutiny put in place after the 2008 global financial crisis. Despite President Trump’s promise to do a “big number” on the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, the new measure leaves key aspects of the earlier law in place. Nonetheless, it amounts to a sweeping rollback of banking rules aimed at protecting taxpayers from another financial crisis and future bailouts.
That's 16 Democrats voting yes. Way to go, guys.  Is that the over/under on Democrats who will vote to confirm the Torture Lady as CIA Director?  I'm gonna take the over there.

Fortunado finally read the other poll

Yenni's Risky Business
"Yenni's Risky Business" Krewe D'Etat 2017

Guess he's not Yenni's friend now.
"I do not and will not ever endorse Mike Yenni for any election in Jefferson Parish," Fortunato said Wednesday.

But during a forum broadcast Sunday night by WDSU-TV, Fortunato said he did not think Yenni should have resigned in the wake of the scandal and answered "Yes" when asked if he would support Yenni in the 2019 re-election cycle.

When moderator Eric Paulson pointed out the inconsistency between the two answers, Fortunato responded, "I said that I would support Yenni. As the sheriff of Jefferson Parish, I understand what it is to have to work with all parish government officials."

The Prodigal P-Rob

The Saints have finally made their big splash in the free agency market this week and it is this.
Cornerback Patrick Robinson is returning to where his career began.

The New Orleans Saints and Robinson agreed to a four-year deal two hours ahead of the start of free agency, a source familiar with the situation confirmed Wednesday (March 14) afternoon.
This makes me very happy. Much better than if they had brought Jimmy Graham back.  Now.. about this business right here...

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Does Fortunato think he's got this?

This must mean the guy pretty much already thinks he is going to be the Sheriff, right?
Nearing the end of a relatively lackluster campaign, Fortunato made headlines and raised eyebrows by saying that embattled Parish President Mike Yenni was right remain in office, despite calls for him to resign following reports that he'd been involved in a sexting relationship with a teenager. During a televised WDSU debate against interim sheriff Joe Lopinto, Fortunato also went on record supporting Yenni's reelection next year.
Maybe he is putting a lot of stock in this UNO poll that showed him with a 16 point lead.  Most people aren't, though. 
The pollsters noted that Lopinto has closed the gap since that time, picking up a significant percentage of voters who had been undecided last fall. But Fortunato holds an overwhelming advantage among west bank voters, the survey found, leading Lopinto by some 30 percentage points there.

The Lopinto campaign said that the automated UNO poll, known as an interactive voice response survey, "did not follow best practices for accuracy" and did not call cellphones or screen for likely voters.
In any case, he doesn't seem too worried about touching any live wires.  Same goes for this, I guess
Fortunato told the students he would not tolerate racial profiling under his administration when asked about policing difference in black and white neighborhoods.

"It's important that you know that I'm going to do my absolute best, that when you get out of your cars and are walking through the neighborhood, some police officer is not going to come around and decide to mess with you. That's not going to happen when I become sheriff."
Fortunato is gonna try real real hard not to do any racism.  That's probably the best you can expect from a JP Sheriff anyway. 

Not that Lopinto sounds much different. These two candidates seem to agree on a lot of stuff. At the very least, the both have more sense than Steve Scalise. Their differences are more about the bizarre follies and inside baseball of parish politics. This Advocate article parses that as a philosophical difference in approach to the office but I think that is mostly campaign code-speak.
Fortunato and Lopinto have made such disparate pitches to voters that it sometimes seems like they are running for different offices.

Fortunato has portrayed himself as a no-nonsense, old-fashioned lawman who will put public safety above everything.

Lopinto likens the job to being chief executive officer of a major company, pointing to the agency's $125 million budget and 1,500 employees. He cites historic lows in crime in the parish and says there's only so much a sheriff can do to prevent certain crimes.

Campaign finance reports suggest that Lopinto has emerged as the establishment favorite, receiving contributions from several local officeholders, law firms and contractors that do business with the largest law enforcement organization in the state. He also is supported by a number of political action committees as well as businessman Shane Guidry, the biggest Republican contributor in Louisiana politics, who has given Lopinto $75,000 through his various companies and raised another $50,000 for him.
Basically Lopinto is the "insider" at the moment insofar as he is Newell Normand's anointed and therefore receiving favor from most of Normand's network of allies.. which is pretty substantial. Fortunato is the "outsider" at the moment which just means that he would like to be the person benefiting from the favor of the people Lopinto currently is. If he becomes Sheriff, this will undoubtedly happen for him.

Anyway, right now he's kind of acting like he's got it in the bag.  At least, that's how I read that Yenni endorsement. Maybe he's just careless. Or dumb. Which is to say, maybe he's Sheriff material after all.

Update: See what I mean about not believing that UNO poll?
But a third-party poll from JMC Analytics and Polling conducted March 10 reveals a much-tighter race, with Lopinto ahead of Fortunato by just 2 percentage points.


Drew Brees
“I love my agent. I think he’s the best there is. ... But at the end of the day, my intent was much different in regards to building the team," said Brees, who noted that it was interesting to hear what other teams were willing to pay him for the first time in 12 years, since teams were free to negotiate with Condon when the "legal tampering" window opened on Monday.

"I've never had a chance to hear that, except for when I was hurt back in 2006,” Brees said. “But in most cases when my agent would begin to open his mouth about another team, I would not even let him finish the sentence."
We all know Brees is a hypercompetitve workaholic weirdo, a soulless brandwhore, and a credulous acolyte of the worst manifestations of the American security state.  He's basically the Stepford Wife of quarterbacks.   He's also the best we've ever seen play the position.  The desperate run to squeeze one more Superbowl out of his career is going to be a hell of a ride. I'm writing "Thoughts and prayers to Tom" in the notes field of my season ticket renewal check as I am typing this.

Human jukebox accepts coins

Putting your explicit request for kickbacks into writing seems like a good idea.
BATON ROUGE- A lawsuit against Southern University, its band director and a number of other campus officials claims the university's band director asked for a kickback to have the famous Southern band perform at an event.

White Enterprises of Louisiana LLC and Octagon Media sued the university asking for damages it incurred from having to pay out refunds after the band didn't show up for events.

"It was going to be for East Baton Rouge Parish school kids to come to Southern to hear the band play," Attorney for Octagon Media, Amy Newsom said.

The lawsuit alleges Nathan Haymer asked for a ten percent kickback to have the band and Dancing Dolls perform at events they scheduled.

Attorneys wrote in the lawsuit Haymer sent a text message asking to be paid: "The ten percent needs to be made payable to me so that the staff can be properly compensated. I am asking for you to hide this ten percent in your percentage charge from your business. If this cannot be done, please let me know."
You know, the Southern band performs at a lot of events. That would suggest the hidden percentage is actually standard operating procedure and most everyone else pays it.  Here they are leading the Krewe of Femme Fatale this year.  I wonder if the parade paid the tithe. Hard to argue it isn't worth it.

Some would say New Orleans East is a rural area

I mean they've got wild hogs, and alligators, and Grunch monsters, and all sorts of things out there. 
So this hardly seems like a disqualification.
On Monday, Transdev - the Paris-based company that manages RTA's day-to-day operations - confirmed through spokeswoman Taslin Alfonzo that DOT had not awarded a TIGER grant for the transit center. In an email, Transdev noted that only one grant was awarded to a Louisiana project -- $13 million for the St. Bernard Port, Harbor & Terminal District to patch up two wharves on the Chalmette Slip.

It's unclear why RTA lost out on the transit center grant, through DOT stressed in a news release that special consideration was given this year for projects in rural areas. Transdev says it intends to "request a debrief from the federal government."

Oh well. At least we got all those streetcars to nowhere and pedestrian-only boat rides for tourists while the money was still coming in. Ideally it would be nice if East New Orleans residents could get downtown to see all that stuff once in a while but that's never been a priority. 

Monday, March 12, 2018

"Help is on the way"

Some of us may remember a few months ago The Advocate published a friendly profile of Scott Angelle's time in Washington as Trump's top safety deregulator in the Interior Department. Mark Ballard' article described Angelle as an "impactful political warrior" who may "enrage environmentalists" but is really just an aw-shucksy family man trying to do the things he believes are right.

What are those things again
While attention has been focused on President Trump’s disputed decision in January to reverse drilling restrictions in nearly all United States coastal waters, the administration has also pursued a rollback of Obama-era regulations in the Gulf. Those rules include safety measures put in place after the explosion and sinking of the Deepwater Horizon rig in 2010, a disaster that killed 11 people and resulted in the largest marine oil spill in drilling history.

Smaller oil and gas companies, many backed by Wall Street and private equity firms, say they need the relief to survive financially, and the top safety official at the Interior Department appointed by Mr. Trump has appeared an enthusiastic ally.

Help is on the way, help is on the way,” the official, Scott Angelle, said in September at a gathering in Lafayette, La., of oil and gas executives from so-called independent companies, which focus on drilling alone rather than the extended drilling-to-gas-station operations of bigger competitors.

But an analysis of federal inspection data by The New York Times found that several of the independent companies seeking the rollback, including Energy XXI, had been cited for workplace safety violations in recent years at a rate much higher than the industry average. Their offshore platforms suffer in some cases from years of poor maintenance, as well as equipment failures or metal fatigue on aging devices, records show.

Good looking out, Scott.  You sure do know your constituency. 

Number 64 is no longer eligible

Once you've got enough that you are sure you don't have to do it anymore, there is no reason to spend one more second running around a football field destroying your brain than is absolutely necessary. 
Veteran right tackle Zach Strief announced his retirement on Monday, bringing an end to a 12-year career spent entirely in New Orleans.

Drafted out of Northwestern in the seventh round of the Saints' pivotal 2006 class, Strief spent five years as a backup tackle before ascending to the starter's role and becoming one of the locker room's enduring figures, a leader in the offensive line room and a standout player at right tackle.
There are far more enjoyable and less strenuous ways to destroy brains anyway.   Good luck, Zach. You were a pretty shitty tight end.

Speaking of which, as shitty tight ends go, this one was a pretty good receiver.

Wonder if Drew asked specifically for that in contract negotiations.

Saturday, March 10, 2018

The Resilience Exemption Privilege

Drain leaves

Flood control is everyone's job, dontchya know.  You guys don't have any business criticizing the sloppiness and neglect resulting from corrupt patronage at the Sewerage and Water Board until you have adopted your own storm drain. Don't any of you lazy takers understand personal responsibility anymore?

Ok, well, not you, though, Costco. We know you didn't mean it.  Besides, how could you have even predicted this would be an issue? 
The city offered a statement, that reads New Orleans’ understanding and relationship with water has changed dramatically over the decades and its water policy has improved with it.

“We now know that living with water will be paramount to the City’s future success. As the City has learned more about this relationship, through publications like the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, published in 2013, the City has worked tirelessly to implement aggressive storm water management requirements for new developments and redevelopments.”

“In 2015, New Orleans City Planning Commission adopted a storm water management requirement through the comprehensive zoning ordinance (CZO) requiring developments or redevelopments over 5,000 square feet of impervious surface to detain and filter the first 1.25 inches of runoff for the whole site.

"Additionally, the City’s Resilience Strategy, Resilient NOLA, released in August 2015, adopted the urban water plan and committed the city to investing in comprehensive and innovative urban water management. The Comprehensive Endeavor Agreement (CEA) with Costco finalized in July 2012, long before these new and important requirements were made into law.

So you see, when we wave our shaming finger at residents for not bootstrapping up their own infrastructure we don't mean to point at our good corporate job creator friends. We just mean the stupid poors who were here before you. They're the ones who were supposed to have known about resilience and stuff before we did.

Anyway, just to prove how not mad we are at Costco.. or any company with the money to do a big development project from here on out, we're offering them an opportunity to buy their way out of their obligations.
As for the fee program, developers would have to first document to the city's Department of Safety and Permits that they made a good-faith effort to comply with the mandate to include green infrastructure, but couldn't due to landscape or design hindrances. Developers who opt out would then pay a fee of $44 per cubic foot of property that otherwise would have been devoted to a drainage feature on the property.

Officials last week estimated around 20 percent of large real estate projects undertaken over the last years in New Orleans would likely have qualified for the opt-out fee. Other cities with stormwater management programs also have a fee-in-lieu setup, officials say. They argue that it's better to have the city produce bigger green infrastructure projects rather than rely on smaller drainage features on individual properties to reduce flooding after heavy rains.
It is better to have the city just do collectively funded bigger infrastructure projects.  Of course, to do that, we'd also need a competent and honest agency in charge of the work. But since we prefer to drift toward the semi-privatized grift factory model, we're gonna go with opt-in funding for the wealthy and public shaming for the poor. Everybody seems happier that way.

Not a great time to go messing with teachers

In Kentucky
Hundreds of Kentucky teachers cheered Friday as Republican lawmakers decided not to vote on a bill that would cut retirement benefits for one of the nation's worst-funded public pension plans.

The GOP-led Senate was scheduled to vote on the pension bill Friday, but lawmakers quickly called a recess to talk about the bill in private for several hours. They finally emerged shortly after 1:30 p.m. to announce they were sending the bill back to committee for possible changes.

"Individuals wanted more time to consider the position that we are in," Republican Senate President Robert Stivers said.

Outside, teachers cheered when they got the news before erupting into chants of "we won't back down." The showdown comes at a time of growing unrest among public educators across the country, led by thousands of West Virginia teachers who walked off the job for nine days to secure a 5 percent pay raise from the state legislature.

Teachers in Arizona and Oklahoma are considering similar action. In Kentucky, some teachers say they are willing to strike. But Stephanie Winkler, president of the Kentucky Education Association, said striking is illegal in Kentucky. She said the only way it could happen is if superintendents agreed to close the schools, adding: "We hope it doesn't have to come to that."
The wildcat strike in West Virgnina was "illegal" or, technically, unlawful, too.  But we may have reached a pivotal point in the degradation of labor where that question no longer has any power.
Though it is illegal for public employees in West Virginia to strike, they struck anyway. Highlighting the long tradition of taking illegal action to win a righteous cause, many strikers here made homemade signs saying, “Rosa Parks was not wrong.” The state initially threatened to file injunctions to end the strike, but it was forced to back down. At moments of mass struggle, in other words, legality becomes a question of a relationship of forces. If a strike has the strength, the momentum, and the support of the public at large, it is hard for the ruling elite to crack down.

A willingness to flout the law will be particularly crucial over the coming period. The constraints of the legal and institutional structure of US labor relations have already set up the union movement to fail. This will become even more the case if, as expected, the Supreme Court eliminates crucial labor rights in the public sector. But as the experience of West Virginia shows, it is possible to fight and win even in the face of the most draconian legal obstacles.
Teacher evaluations and job security are on the agenda in the Louisiana legislature this session.  Lawmakers ought to know this may not be a good year to antagonize them. 

"Political opinion aside..."

Public art can be appreciated best if we separate it from its message.
Political opinion aside, the wooden sculpture charmingly blends the suggestion of digital-age government surveillance with old-fashioned birdhouse carpentry. Passing drivers may very well smile as they slow down for fear of receiving a robotic speeding ticket.
After all, that is why we kept all those Confederate monuments up for so long, right?

Friday, March 09, 2018

So that happened

About this time next year, we'll all be just recovering from the March 5 Mardi Gras.  So, really, it's good that this three hour recap of Carnival 2018 is coming out just now. It serves to get us acclimated. Anyway, you know, Mardi Gras. It's big, it's busy, it's sublime, it's cathartic. There's no right way to do it.  I hope that all comes across in here. Enjoy. Or just skip ahead to the next one where we talk about the legislature or something.

Keeping up appearances

The Short Term Rental "debate" (because every terrible thing has to be framed in bothsidesey terms) where we take a series of actions that don't actually accomplish anything but for the sake of appearing to take action.
Cantrell’s proposed change is a scaled-back version of what she offered last year while running for mayor. If it becomes law — which would require another council vote — it would apply to certain non-residential areas in certain parts of the city.

Under the current law, people who own property in most non-residential zoning districts are guaranteed the ability to get commercial short-term rental licenses, which allow them to rent entire homes or apartments every day of the year.

There’s no limit on the number of such licenses in each building, so an apartment building can become, in effect, an Airbnb hotel.

Some large apartment buildings in the city have dozens of commercial, short-term rental licenses. The Lens recently reported on a small Bywater apartment building that’s in the process of being converted to full-time Airbnbs.
Also they still have to draw up an ordinance. Who knows what that will actually say.  After that there will be a "study," naturally.
At the council’s next meeting, Cantrell said, she and Councilman Jason Williams plan to call for a study on the effects of short-term rentals, with an eye toward changing the city’s short-term rental law.
 That ought to buy them some time before anything else has to happen.

Thursday, March 08, 2018

He really is gonna do the Bobby Jindal thing

The annoying thing about Mitch's big leap into national politics is the corporate press has a slower learning curve spotting the phonies positioned as corporate centrists than the ones who come from the hard right.  Which is why we're gonna have to put up with a longer period of fawning promotion from the very same pundits who saw through Jindal right away.

It doesn't help that Mitch has better chops. Mitch is every bit as brutal, self-centered, and unprincipled as Jindal was. But he pulls off the stagecraft much more professionally. It's hard to imagine Landrieu launching a campaign for President with a "Look, a turtle!" surveillance video, for example.   Although, he does have the equipment available to shoot such a video should he somehow decide to do so.

This is probably not a great time to go messing with teachers

They're seeing their unions come under attack in court. They were pushed all the way to the wall in West Virginia.  They're talking about pushing back in Arizona.  This might not be a good time for adventurous state legislators in Louisiana to go poking a bear... no matter how much they may hate the Governor.
Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday he will support bills that would reduce the value of student test results in teacher evaluations and make it easier for teachers to earn a form of job protection called tenure.

Those and other proposals will be debated when the Louisiana Legislature begins its 2018 regular legislative session on Monday at noon.
As we saw in the special session, House Republicans are doing everything they can this year to attack Edwards ahead of next year's election.   Ordinarily, they'd be fine beating up on some teachers in service of that cause.  This might not be the best year for them to try that.

Wednesday, March 07, 2018

Sometimes it really is best to do nothing

Now that the book is out, Mitch can say he is pretty much done with statues.  And that's fine, actually.  Apart from the dubious idea to put a big flag up on Jeff Davis and Canal, this is the best way it could end.  We just wanted the Confederate crap down. There's no need to replace it with anything.

Nobody actually iLives there

Is the concept supposed to be, "smart" apartments, I guess?
The apartment complex, the MidCity iLofts, is billed on its website as a "luxury complex" with perks such as bocce ball courts, stainless steel appliances and built-in Dolby 8.1 surround sound speakers, all priced to attract young professionals.

But now the apartment complex has become something different: It's basically a hotel.
It's zoned mixed use so our crappy ordinance allows for unlimited short term rentals there. What's fun about that is some entities do get long-term leases. Notice the developer's tricky way of describing a deal to rent his building to this hotel operator.
City records indicate MidCity iLofts, owned by Bruno Inc., has leased apartments to Sonder Inc., a San Francisco-based company operating more than 100 short term rental properties around New Orleans through sites like Airbnb.com and HomeAway.com. Its website notes it also operates in nine other cities.

Joshua Bruno of Bruno Inc. described his company's lease with Sonder as "multi-year," but did not offer specifics, nor did he directly address whether his company has deals with Sonder for other properties.

"It's great for the city, and it works for the city," said Bruno, who characterized the renters taking advantage of Sonder-managed properties at MidCity iLofts as corporate, "longer term rentals" with contracts for "one year, two years."
See, it's one big "long term" tenant. Sonder is an out of town tourism-speculator using STR platforms to leverage distressed urban housing markets to its advantage. To do this they need to partner with dishonest property developers like Bruno. They never seem to be in short supply. Of course they also need local elected persons to enable the dishonest developers by treating them as legitimate parties whose interests need to be "balanced" against the housing stressed people of the city they're taking advantage of. 
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, as councilwoman, originally proposed changing the commercial short-term rental designations in mixed-use zoning districts. Mason Harrison, a spokesman for her transition team, said she "is currently working to strike the right balance on this issue."
I'm sure they'll work out a nice both-sidesy deal that preserves all the investors' profits. This is gonna be a fun couple of years.

Tuesday, March 06, 2018

Back from the winter palace

Your City Councilors have returned from their tour.

On the March 8 Agenda:

The owners of some of these denied STR spot-zoning requests are appealing the Planning Commission's decision.

A proposal to limit "by attrition" the number of strip clubs allowed on Bourbon Street.

The "surveillance ordinance" is supposed to be on this agenda but I don't see it. Correction: Here it is   There were rumors it might be deferred again. Understandable given the significant amount of local and national pressure.

Traveling abroad

I wonder if this is a family of 16. Where are they staying?
City regulations bar short-term rental owners from advertising a capacity that exceeds two people per bedroom, meaning this particular short-term rental could only advertise the rentals for four people. A spokesman for Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Craig Belden, said the owner of the property at 1265 Esplanade Ave. was sent a violation notice on Feb. 26 for exceeding capacity and for not displaying the correct permit license.

Belden said that if the property is not brought into compliance by March 13, the owner may face fines or revocation of the short-term rental license. The assessor shows the owner is Shaun and Barbara Scott, both of New Orleans. A message sent to the host of the property was returned without a comment on the listing and a statement that the host was traveling abroad with his family.

Rock and roll is a folk art form now

I don't remember where I read that recently but it sounds true. Anyway I'm glad they still make it.

Monday, March 05, 2018

What were they even arguing about?

Anyone should be able to see here the answer is, not much, actually.
Who would pay more

Different plans yet to be approved by the state Legislature seek to address a looming $1 billion budget shortfall. None of the measures would cost any taxpayers more than 1 percent of their income per year.

0.25 percent increase in the state sales tax

Families earning less than $25,000 per year would pay: $40

Families earning $100,000 to $125,000 per year would pay: $60

Ending the state and local tax deduction

Most families earning less than $200,000 per year would pay: $0

Families earning more than $200,000 per year would pay: $400 to $600

Compressing tax brackets

Families earning less than $50,000 per year in taxable income would pay: $0

Families earning $75,000 per year in taxable income would pay: $500

Families earning $100,000 per year in taxable income would pay: $1,000
Of course the "ideological" frame is in play. Conservatives don't like progressive taxation, yadda yadda.   But the numbers here are small enough that we should expect reasonable people negotiating in good faith to come to an accommodation. But if the purpose of any of this was about negotiating in good faith, we wouldn't be where we are now.  The simple fact is the Republican leadership has been using the budget process as a cudgel against the Govenor's reelection chances for a few years now.  There isn't any negotiating with that.

Saturday, March 03, 2018

The "adults" are running out of time to do any adulting

It's already March.  Carnival season is over and it's time for media outlets across South Louisiana to fire up their clickbaity... okay, useful but still clickbaity... crawfish price index thingies.  WGNO's is the first one to come up in my google search result so I guess they are winning right now. Let's see what they've found.
The average for live crawfish is $3.12 per pound, while boiled is running $4.46 per pound, as of Thursday, Feb. 22.
Yeah, I think that's high too. Still, it's not as bad as I thought it might be given the freeze last month.  But I'm no expert on aquaculture. I only know what I read in the papers.  And that says the freeze may delay production this year but it won't necessarily hurt it once things start rolling.  In any case, I'm hoping there's still enough available come early July. That is when we will need to have a big crawfish boil on the state capitol grounds. It will be fun way to pass the time during the shutdown.
With the special session just hours away, neither House Republicans nor Democrats had come to a clear agreement on whether it would successfully pass anything. Edwards has said that he doesn’t believe that the Legislature will pass a budget during the regular session that begins March 12, without an infusion of additional revenue because the cuts would be too drastic. That would force another special session after the regular session ends June 4. A budget must be approved by July 1 or there would be a state government shutdown.
The cycle should be familiar by now.  Thanks to a decade of gimmick budgets and costly tax giveaways to wealthy special interests, the state is broke.  Every year brings a new round of devastating cuts, primarily to health care and higher education.  Every year the legislative session ..and the accompanying special session(s).. features a mad scramble to plug a budget shortfall.  This is accomplished precariously through more gimmicks and cuts and temporary sales taxes nobody likes setting up another round of the same battles the following year. This is the year several of those compounded tricks and gimmicks come due as a number of revenue measures are set to sunset creating what has become commonly referred to as a "fiscal cliff."

While it's tempting to regard the absurd cycle with a fatalist sigh about political incompetence or pithy comments about our state's supposed backwardness, there's actually a more straightforward explanation. We have not arrived at the legislative impasse by accident. We are here as a result of deliberate strategy executed by the Republican leadership. If it continues to be successful, and there's little reason to believe it won't, we're more than likely headed for a shutdown in July. Which, again, is why it's a good idea to keep an eye on crawfish prices.

Less than a year into Barack Obama's first term as President, Mitch McConnell famously declared “The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president.” McConnell may not have accomplished that goal. But there's a strong argument the Republican strategy for obstructing Obama's domestic agenda was largely a success. Most notably, Obama's signature achievement health care reform was watered down, delayed, and is now on the verge of unraveling thanks to Republican stubbornness. McConnell was even able to steal a Supreme Court nomination from Obama by sitting on his hands for months. There are numerous other examples but suffice to say the GOP #Resistance to Obama provides a model of how to effectively run an opposition party.  If the Democratic #Resistance movement manages to flip the Congress this year, it will be interesting to see if their party's leadership learns anything from it.

In the meantime, though, Louisiana Republicans understand the model quite well. It's been an open secret around Baton Rouge that their legislative strategy has prioritized limiting John Bel Edwards to one term as Governor above all other concerns. They've managed to resist progressive budgetary reforms for the past two years and are preparing to leverage the continuing crisis against Edwards during the next election.

Now that the next election is already beginning to take shape, the incentive to maintain the bugetary status quo has become even stronger. The current special session has been punctuated with cameo appearances by potential Republican gubernatorial candidates offering advice. On the day the session opened, Ralph Abraham gave a talk where he said he was against any "new taxes." This week, Steve Scalise said the problem has something to do with "the vestiges of Huey Long." John Kennedy said something stupid about art. Jeff Landry has been relatively quiet, but he's been dealing with a lot of things lately. Rest assured, he'll have something to say eventually.

For his part, the Governor has been doing some campaigning as well.  Last week he took some time during one of many extended House recesses to tell the St. Tammany Chamber he would be "as flexible as I can about how we fix the (fiscal) cliff." But added, "I will not be flexible about whether we fix it, because we have to." And that pretty much lays out the stakes of this session, politically.  The Governor needs to fix the cliff. The Republicans need him to fail. All of the breakdowns and antics we've seen during the session proceed from that conflict.

Republicans opened fiscal cliff negotiations (such as they have been) demanding a number of things that don't actually have anything to do with fixing the cliff. Mark Ballard describes some of them in this column. He also momentarily capitulates to the conceit that any of these is a "fiscal reform" but nevermind that for a sec.
A wrinkle is that Republicans have insisted that any tax bills that come out of their chamber include a rider that says the tax increase won’t go into effect unless one of their fiscal reform measures also passes.

These revamps — the so-called Ohio checkbook, a hard spending cap, and changes to Medicaid — provide political cover for those who were elected chanting “the state has spending problem, not a revenue problem.”

But the riders are kind of insulting to the age-old legislative process of people giving their word and keeping it, state Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, said when the first one was amended onto Dwight’s bill.

If the riders make it easier for House Republicans to vote for sales and income taxes, though, then James said he’s OK with them. “They’ll be stripped off when the adults get these bills in the Senate,” he added.
Some version of that "adults" comment shows up during every legislative session and it always makes me laugh.  It's true that the Senate can and often does undo some of the stupidest damage done in the House. But they've never been able to un-fuck the budget. And recently it seems their efforts are more and more likely to end in tears. This session, the "adults," haven't had an opportunity to do much of anything at all.  And time is running out so when or if they ever get around to fixing the House's mess, it might just prove too much to negotiate.

And make no mistake, wasting time is the primary purpose of the Republican bills.  The "Ohio Checkbook" Ballard refers to is just a website.
As president of LABI, Waguespack is paid to ensure that legislators prioritize tax cuts and exemptions for corporations above anything else, which is why, rather than confront the immediate crisis of a $1 billion shortfall, he is pitching a website that tracks government spending.

Never mind that Louisiana already has such a website; it’s too “clunky.” Ignore the fact that the non-partisan organization United States Public Interest Research Group ranks our state’s current website seventh in the entire country, praising “Louisiana as a ‘leading state’ in offering an easy-to-use website and providing data on an array of expenditures,” as Devon Sanders of LSU’s Manship News Service reported only two weeks ago in The Daily Advertiser.  And pay no attention to the fact that it will take years before it could even be operational. Louisiana Checkbook, we are told, will help us finally solve our budget woes by shining a brighter light on wasteful government spending.
As a "transparency" tool it is redundant.  As conservative propaganda it might serve some purpose... at the expense of Louisiana taxpayers, of course.  As for Medicaid reforms, there are two bills in play. One of them imposes more strict eligibility requirements. The other one... well, it turns out the other one doesn't actually do anything.
The Louisiana House voted 69-29 for legislation Friday (March 2) that was originally aimed at requiring some Medicaid recipients to work to receive their government health benefits, but that has been altered such that Medicaid recipients who refused to work couldn't actually lose their health care.
During committee debate Republicans continually insisted that their work requirement bill was not an attempt to deny health care to anyone. So Marcus Hunter (D-Monroe) called the bluff with an amendment that explicitly says no one can be separated from Medicaid for failing to meet the work requirements. The amendment passed and so here we are with a bill that doesn't do anything... besides cost money, of course. These "fiscal hawk" Republicans do seem to love their wasteful spending bills.

The reason we're still having to deal with any of this nonsense during a fiscal session is because the fate of those bills along with a measure to tighten the state spending cap were attached to the key revenue bills in committee by something Ted James (D-Baton Rouge) called the "Michael Jordan of amendments." 
But then came the “chain” amendment, shackling passage of Dwight’s bill to passage of seven others: HB 2, HB 3, HB 11, HB 12, HB 29, HCR 2, and HB 15. Those include work requirements for Medicaid, as well as co-pays and premium payments. In addition, the Speaker’s measures for lowering the state spending cap and for establishing the Louisiana checkbook must pass for Dwight’s bill to take effect: all or nothing.

Baton Rouge Representative Ted James began laughing, incredulously.

“This is amazing!” he said. “This is like the Michael Jordan of amendments! Dwight, are you okay with this amendment?”

Stephen Dwight's (R-Lake Charles) bill would "clean" four pennies of the existing sales tax which is to say it eliminates certain exclusions and exemptions. It also extends a quarter of the otherwise expiring fifth penny. The Democrats say they absolutely hate having to balance the budget with higher sales taxes because, as they correctly assert, the sales tax is the most regressive way the state can raise money. It overburdens the poor at the same time that the state tax code is full of special carve-outs and subsidies for global industrial corporations, movie production companies, and various other business"incentive" schemes of questionable benefit. Naturally, the House Republicans are fine with all of these giveaways.  It remains something of an open question whether they're even going to list them on their spending "transparency" website. In any case there's a lot of revenue potential left on the table while the legislators argue over pennies.

This is one reason the Black Caucus has drawn a line in the sand demanding at least some sort of income tax adjustment
The House Black Caucus, which holds most of the House Democratic votes, told Barras Monday morning that its members would only vote to keep a higher sales tax rate in place for three more years if a measure to raise income taxes passes as well.

The Republicans don't like voting for any taxes, but find a sales tax hike less offensive than other options. The Black Caucus said sales tax increases are harder on poor people, and its members would prefer an income tax increase. 
The only bill that does anything with income taxes was filed by Walt Leger.  House Bill 8 would reduce the amount in federal itemized deductions Louisiana taxpayers could take on their state returns. So it's technically not really an income tax increase. But it is a slightly more progressive means of raising revenue than the sales tax.  It's the closest anything will come to meeting the Black Caucus's demand, anyway.

But Leger's income tax bill also has a "Michael Jordan amendment" attached.  This is thanks to the efforts of Alan Seabaugh (R-Shreveport) who has been doing his best to submarine both the sales tax and income tax bills and therefore the entire session.
Rep. Alan Seabaugh, R-Shreveport, said he also heard a deal had been struck, "but I'm not part of it."

"I'm going to object (to the income tax bill) and make people vote and note those who take a walk," Seabaugh said. "There's no way I'm letting that bill out without a vote, and anybody that does vote for it is likely to find themselves voted out in the next election."
Seabuagh also managed to irk Democrats by adding yet another sunset provision to the sales tax bill and by calling the Governor a "bald-faced liar" from the House floor.  Reporters were saying that Edwards asked to meet with Seabaugh in his office afterwards but that meeting never happened. Donald Trump is considering Seabaugh for a federal judgeship.

Given all of this, it's no surprise House members spent "Do or Die Friday" not doing a whole lot. They gaveled in late and almost immediately gaveled out for meetings.  The meetings were not very productive so they went to lunch. They tried to pass Leger's bill but that darn Michael Jordan amendment took to blocking some shots. They met with the Governor. They huddled. They mini-huddled.  They walked in and out of the room. Some of them even managed to vote from outside of the room
Members are only supposed to vote for themselves according to House rules, but Henry's vote on the income tax deduction changes was recorded, even though he was absent all day. Present or not, Henry has said he won't be voting for any tax bills this session so his vote wouldn't help get the vote passed.

Eventually they decided they weren't getting anything done so they will have to try again on Sunday.
They'd better get this mess over to the Senate by then. Otherwise the "Adults" might never get a chance to fix it.
Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego, said the Senate won't be able to accept tax bills after Sunday night and get them legally through the full legislative process before the Legislature's session ends Wednesday.
There's very little reason to expect that they will make that deadline. As anyone who has been paying attention will tell you, fixing the mess isn't what any of this is all about. Barry Ivey has been paying attention.
Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central, said some of his colleagues have been driven by politics and the goal of preventing Edwards from being a successful governor. (An assertion that Harris later rejected.)

"We don’t want a Democrat to get re-elected, and we don’t want to give him a political win by doing tax reform – that was something that was told to me,” Ivey said. "We've placed politics ahead of our constituents. We should all be ashamed. Myself included.”

That's been the strategy since Day One of the Edwards Administration and there's little reason to  believe the Republican leadership is going to deviate from it now that the next election year is so near up on us.  In other words, we have every reason to believe we're headed for a big posturing government shutdown come July.  We're gonna need a lot of crawfish.

Friday, March 02, 2018


The DA was in danger of losing a conviction due to the use of "fake subpoenas."  But Leon figured out a way to make it stick.  He used his other favorite tool, the habitual offender law. Basically, it's just bullying.
Under the deal, Johnson agreed to drop his petition for a new trial and agreed not to pursue an appeal. In return, the DA’s office agreed to shave two years off his sentence and drop a request to add a habitual offender enhancement.

The DA’s office filed a “multiple bill” seeking the sentencing enhancement after Johnson’s conviction. Boyle unsuccessfully objected to the move, citing Johnson’s age — he’s 59 — as well as health problems and the fact that the jury’s guilty verdict wasn’t unanimous.

One of the 12 jurors found Johnson not guilty. Louisiana is one of only two states that allow non-unanimous jury verdicts in felony cases.

Boyle also brought up DA Leon Cannizzaro’s disproportionate use of multiple bills compared to the rest of the state, which means someone convicted in New Orleans is more likely to receive a long sentence than someone with a similar criminal history in another parish. Boyle argued that violates defendants’ constitutional right to equal protection under the law.

Critics argue that the DA’s office uses multiple bills to force plea deals. “You’re making a Hobson’s choice when you have an unnecessarily punitive system,” Boyle said.

Lost causers

The St. George separatist movement is back.
Supporters who want to create a city of St. George in East Baton Rouge Parish announced Friday that they're launching a renewed petition drive.

In a video posted to the group's Facebook page, the group says it's ready to "reignite their efforts to make East Baton Rouge Parish a better place to live and raise a family for everyone."

Mayor President Sharon Weston Broome has opposed the movement, which seeks not only to create a new city in the unincorporated southern portion of the parish but also to create a new school district independent of the parish school system. A 21-month petition drive fell just short of getting on the ballot in 2015.
Broome has had kind of a rocky first year in office. The St. Georgers might be trying to capitalize on that a bit.  It won't work (probably.) But they're nothing if not persistent.  

Thursday, March 01, 2018

Judge Vitter left a few things out

President Trump has nominated Wendy Vitter to a federal judgeship.  She has the backing of both Louisiana Senators and is highly likely to be confirmed. Nevertheless Vice points out something that might have been a stumbling block for her if Democrats played this game by the same rules as Republicans. A number of President Obama's judicial nominees were stalled or denied outright for exactly this sort of thing.
Wendy Vitter, who was nominated in January to serve as a federal judge on the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana, left at least three speeches, one interview, a letter to the editor, and a campaign ad off the questionnaire she submitted to the committee (not all were related to abortion).

Nominees to the federal bench are required to tell the committee about every speech and interview they’ve ever given, and about every article they’ve written, so senators can evaluate whether they’re fit to serve as judges.
Again, were this a Democratic nominee, this might actually cause a problem. But since Democrats are more interested in norms and "civility" than they are in leveraging the process to any substantive political advantage, they aren't likely to jam up a judicial candidate just because she left a few things off of her application.  Not even a candidate as odious as Vitter. 
According to a YouTube video posted in November 2013, Vitter led a panel entitled “Abortion Hurts Women's Health” at a Right to Life Louisiana event. One of the panel’s speakers was the anti-abortion activist Angela Lanfranchi, who told attendees that abortion increases women’s risk for breast cancer — despite the fact that the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has found no causal link between abortion and a woman’s risk for breast cancer.

In the video, Lanfranchi also encouraged panel attendees to take at look at her brochure entitled “The Pill Kills.” That brochure claims women on the contraceptive pill are more likely to die a violent death, because they are more likely to cheat on their male partners, to face fertility problems, to have unhealthy children, and to have poor relationships with their partners. The brochure concludes, “It is not unreasonable to suspect that such effects could also influence rates of intimate partner violence.”

After Lanfranchi spoke, however, Vitter told attendees to pick up one of her brochures.
 Anyway, unless something very improbable comes of this, congratulations to Judge Vitter.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Aylin Maklansky's father's Airbnb clinic

They're trying to sneak this in before Maklansky's boss, Nadine Ramsey, leaves the City Council in May.
Acikalin, who has contributed $5,810 to Ramsey's campaign since 2015, is currently operating one of the properties, at 920 Frenchmen St., as a short-term rental. He's barred from having guests there more than 90 days a year under its current residential zoning. He's told neighbors he wants to open a medical clinic once the site is rezoned.

But that's raised skepticism among neighbors such as Eugene Cizek, a longtime architecture professor at Tulane University who has been involved in City Planning issues in the Marigny neighborhood since the 1970s. Cizek said he's concerned that granting Acikalin's request would return the city to the "spot zoning" problem that proliferated before a citywide master plan was adopted in 2010.
Just for the sake of context, these spot upzone maneuvers have quickly become the mode of choice for property owners looking to back door their way in to the short term rental business. Typically the owner proposes some sort of commercial use for the property that just happens to also have space for STRs available. But the goal is a commercial short term rental license.
Increasingly, homes near tourist areas are being bought specifically for the purpose of converting them to AirBnBs, and a single person might masquerade as the “occupant” of numerous homes that are rented out all the time – and some companies even hire local people to play that role, Dedecker said. Property owners are also increasingly asking for spot zoning changes on homes from residential to business zoning to fit into the third category of short-term rentals, commercial, which allows more tenants and can be rented year-round.
There are a lot of these in various stages of discussion right now.

Here's one at the former Zara's Supermarket on Prytania Street.

This one, which appears to be a no-go at this point, would have been, ostensibly, an ice cream shop.

Here is a property owned by Pat Swilling.  He asked for a commercial spot-zone without even specifying what sort of business he might like to pretend to want to open there.
Councilwoman Stacy Head asked for clarification.

“I can’t tell you I’m not going to, but I’m going to do something else as well, like a mixed use,” Swilling said.

Head pressed him further.

“So you’re going to do short-term rentals. Just tell us the truth here,” Head said. “What do you want to do? That’s the question here. You said a coffee shop. I’ve got a whole list of things that have been promised to the Council that have never come true. … I’m so tired of being lied to by developers not giving us what they promised to give us.”

Head turned her question to Cantrell, asking whether it would be a coffee shop or not. The zoning requested would allow for that, Cantrell said. Swilling added that coffee shop, ice cream shop and others were all under consideration.

“Now it’s not a coffee shop,” Head retorted, saying that Swilling had failed to give the Council his vision for the property.

“That’s very disrespectful,” Cantrell said quietly as Head concluded her questioning.
Note that in all three of the above cases, LaToya Cantrell intervenes on behalf of the would-be Airbnb owner one way or another.  Here is one LaToya supports even without a bogus front business scheme. It's just a developer who wants to do STR condos.  It does help to have councilmembers on your side.  Here is a property on Bienville Street the council voted to upzone despite the Planning Commission's denial.  There's a list of CPC denials that could still be overridden depending on the Council's disposition.

And that's the real trick with regard to Maklansky's dad's "clinic."  The plan in that case was to jam the thing through before Ramsey and the rest of the Winter Council* leave office.  The attention has probably spoiled that.  The real fun begins in May when we learn, to everyone's shock, no doubt, just how pro-Airbnb the new Council and, of course, Mayor Cantrell end up being anyway. But we've still got a few months to pretend otherwise.

*I've been calling the lame ducks the "Winter Council" but the weather hasn't cooperated much with that term for almost a month now.  They're gonna be around for a while, still. Maybe we need a new thing.