Thursday, May 31, 2018

Dark smoke success fail

In only the latest of a long line of self-authoring punch lines to come out of our fine city, the Sewerage and Water Board issued a public notice yesterday assuring us that the plume of dark smoke is normal.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -  Residents may see dark smoke rising from The Sewerage and Water Board's Carrolton Power Plant Thursday.

The smoke is part of a test for the board's recently-repaired power turbine.

Turbine #5 is one of the main turbines that runs the city's drainage pumps.
The result of the test is even more confusing than that. It says here that the test failed.  But it also says that means the turbine works.
A newly repaired turbine at the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board's Carrollton Plant failed a test run using diesel on Thursday, though it is still "fully functional" when using natural gas as its fuel, the utility announced Thursday.

The Thursday test was aimed at seeing whether the repairs would allow Turbine 5 to be switched to diesel in case its main natural gas fuel supply was interrupted during a storm. But officials concluded that "additional repairs are needed" before it'll be able to switch to that backup fuel supply, according to a news release.

After the diesel test, the turbine was tested with natural gas and "continued to show strong performance," according to the release.
Okay, well, good. Congrats on your auspicious, dark smokey failure.  They're still working on the six year money pit that is Turbine 4, by the way. 
Officials had hoped that Turbine 4 would be brought back online by the start of hurricane season on Friday. The current schedule calls for it to be fully tested later in June, though the S&WB may be able to use it if necessary before the tests are complete, Rainey said.
Sure, give it a whirl if you're feeling lucky.  I wonder what color smoke that will make. 

"Most risk-reduced"

What an odd phrase.
The pumps were formally declared complete by the Corps, which is responsible for building $14.5 billion in flood protection upgrades in the metro area.

They've now been turned over to the Flood Protection Authority, which is responsible for the rest of the system of floodwalls, levees and gates that surround the east banks of Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes.

That system is designed to handle storms that have a 1 percent chance of occurring each year, though Col. Michael Clancy, the Corps’ commander and district engineer for the New Orleans district, warned that storms could exceed the its capabilities.

“We still live in a high-risk area and it’s a matter of fact that the full fury of Mother Nature can overwhelm our system as great as it is and it’s safe to say we’re the most risk-reduced city, structurally, in the world,” Clancy said. “But we’re still a high-risk city. With the surrounding area, we’re essentially an island in the Gulf of Mexico.”
Also the word "robust" shows up in this article so, you know, trigger warning. Also, I don't know about you guys, but I am gonna ride out the next storm at the pumping station. 
When needed, the pump stations can operate more or less autonomously. When run in what Derek Boese termed “storm mode,” the stations will automatically determine the water levels in the canals and make adjustments to the pumps accordingly.

Crews can also control the pumps using computers from within a safe-house inside the station or manually at the pumps themselves.

All three buildings are designed to withstand the sustained winds of a Category 5 Hurricane and 200 mph gusts of wind.
Anyway, Happy Hurricane Season.  

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Show em what they've won

All those questions we had last week about what the city was giving up to host the Superbowl, the Lens went out and got some answers.  The answers are, predictably, bad. Also they are incomplete because they still don't have access to the full bid.  Also it will get worse because apparently, according to Beau Tidwell, “We are in the early days of this process,” of giving away public money and resources to this giant corporate monster.

Many many Flints in waitng

This is a national problem as much as it is a Louisiana problem.. but it definitely is a Louisiana problem.
Of the state’s roughly 1,300 drinking water systems, about half operate infrastructure that is more than 50 years old.

Other systems have some of the problems — and they will be on a list eventually — but the 10 are the closest to crisis. The governor’s task force plans to work with these 10 systems before they get to the emergency level that the northeast Louisiana town of St. Joseph’s did in 2016, when dangerous levels of lead and copper required the total replacement of the pipes, filters and equipment at a cost to taxpayers of $9 million.

Eight of the targeted 10 systems are under state administrative orders for not addressing the problems inspectors have found. The state has issued 300 administrative orders to systems over the past three years.

Four of the 10 systems on the list have found traces of lead in single or multiple tests and didn’t properly inform the water customers. But lead findings alone didn’t get the systems on the list.
It's a critical public health challenge that could be met with a massive investment but that isn't likely to come any time soon. The federal policy at the moment is more about privatizing infrastructure than revitalizing it.  Meanwhile at the state level, we're... well.. I think we know.

Tone deaf

New boss goes to old boss in record time. 
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is raising concerns about the City Council's "tone" and "demands" made in a letter to the Sewerage & Water Board shortly after the council took office on May 7.

Cantrell sent the May 24 letter to City Councilman Joe Giarrusso, who issued the original letter after obtaining signatures from all of his fellow council members. In Giarrusso's original 10-page letter, he criticized the embattled agency for "terrible customer service, lack of transparency and poor efforts to engage the public," which he said has led to "severe mistrust."
It's impressive, in a way.  But we shouldn't be too much surprised given what we know about LaToya by now. Giarrusso's response is subtle (gotta watch that tone, you know) but he gets the point across. 
The letter serves as a snapshot of Cantrell's transition from the City Council to the city's highest office, a position that often requires defending the actions of city employees or acting swiftly to correct them. After several city neighborhoods flooded Aug. 5, former Mayor Mitch Landrieu began dismantling the Sewerage & Water Board's executive team, which had relayed misinformation to the public about the state of the city's drainage system.

Giarrusso said he understands the position the mayor is in now. Although she acknowledged in the letter that as a council member she had "the same frustrations over lack of information and transparency," Giarrusso said she now "wants to stand up for her people."

"While all that is understandable, our job is making sure we're getting these reports and that we're asking questions," Giarrusso said. And, he added, "The questions we're asking are questions we're getting from our constituents."
Another way of putting that is, there just isn't a whole lot of there there regarding Cantrell's political motivation.  What does she believe in?  What was her campaign for mayor about? Apart from the proliferation of empty cliches like "spreading the love," I mean.  All politicians are ciphers to some degree, but she seems to have a special capacity for hollowness. That can be a useful talent during campaign season.  But it also can lead to a rudderless and ultimately conservative governing style.

If your campaign has not articulated a cause beyond merely putting one individual into office, then the agenda for executing that office is going to hew closely to the status quo. If your raison d'etre in politics is all about "finding balance, "rather than implementing a program based on well-defined principles, then that is an inherently conservative position.   You're basically just going along to get along. And typically that means getting along with entrenched power.

And this is exactly how you end up with tone deaf actions like trying to hire a public safety official who enabled the Danziger cover-up and then blaming the community for its own "upticked" response. Or the similarly tone deaf empowering of a panel of Confederate sympathizers to decide the fate of Confederate monuments.  Or today where we see this tone deaf and defensive response to the "tone" of the City Council's criticism.

Giarrusso points out that she shared in these criticisms and in their tone right up until only a few months ago. But nothing has changed between that time and now except for the personal circumstances of LaToya Cantrell. In other words, LaToya is concerned only with the who rather than the why of power.  She is the person making the appointments therefore they need to be defended against even the slightest perception of a critical tone. These are "her people" now and she wants to stand up for them. 

When you elect a mayor solely on the strength of her own personal brand instead of any particular belief in anything, then personal loyalty is going to be the beginning and end of that mayor's public policy.  Get ready for four more years of tone deaf tone policing. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

Return to Jaegertown

Always love to pull out our old friend, the NOligarchs Map.  Yes, it needs updating. But for now, please find Jaegertown. (It's the purple strip along the river.

It was on hold for a while but now it is back in play. Thanks, of course, to a healthy public subsidy by way of the Convention Center.
The latest proposal comes after years of stalled negotiations with the same local businessmen, Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger, who previously were negotiating to build a larger, $1.5 billion development that would have included the hotel as well as retail space, restaurants and entertainment venues on a 47-acre site upriver of the facility.

Under a timeline discussed last week, negotiations for the hotel alone are expected to wrap up by July, with construction potentially beginning in late 2019 and the hotel opening by April 2023.

The development team now also includes Matthews Southwest Hospitality, a Texas-based real estate firm, and Preston Hollow Capital, a Texas-based finance company, as well as Omni Hotels.

Under the latest plans, the total project costs are estimated to be more than $550 million. To help cover them, the developers are seeking $41 million from the Convention Center, as well as a rebate of hotel occupancy taxes equal to 10 percent of gross revenues and 4 percent of other revenues until the bond debt is repaid — roughly 40 years.

In the first year, the hotel is projected to generate almost $57 million in revenue from rooms — making that rebate worth about $5.7 million, according to financial documents that were included in the developers' proposal. It is projected to generate about $44 million in food and beverage sales, making that rebate worth almost $1.8 million.

The group is also seeking a break on property taxes, under an arrangement that will see the hotel owned by a nonprofit
Now we could go on our usual harangue here about how, yet again, the public money generated by the hotel/motel tax isn't going to fund badly needed infrastructure projects in the city, or to benefit any of the wage earners who actually make that revenue possible in the first place but is instead being shoveled into the pockets of the NOligarchs.  But that is just the standard way we go about things.

So let's skip it for now and recall instead that Joe Jaeger, along with tons of help from the Advocate in the form of serial news features, editorials, and an especially flattering in-depth profile by Tyler Bridges here, just got finished leading a personal crusade against a Harrah's deal he and they swore up and down was a shady abuse of political power.  It is by sheer coincidence, of course, that that would have put a competing (and likely unionized) hotel right down the street from his publicly subidized development.

Don't expect too many questions about this, though. 

Countdown to Shutdown

Cameron has decided we're gonna at least push this to another special session. That's pretty much what this is about.
Henry said he hasn't filed a budget proposal, in part, because he didn't think the Legislature should start to vote on a budget "until we know exactly much money we have." Nailing down exactly how much money might be available to be spent could take a few more days, as the tax bills continue to move through the legislative process. By that time, it would be too late to move a budget bill in this special session -- and a third special session for the Legislature this year would be needed to finish up the budget process.

"At this point, I'm trying to find a way around it," said Henry, of a third special session. He mentioned he is working with Attorney General Jeff Landry and State Treasurer John Schroder, both Republicans, on a strategy for speeding up budget approval.

Henry also said a replacement budget bill will would require the House Appropriations Committee to hold another round of budget hearings and public testimony, which typically takes a few weeks. The Legislature has moved budget bills in special sessions previously without going through the whole budget hearing process over again.
Ha ha ha  "working with" Landry and Shroder. OOKAY.

Yesterday they spent the holiday afternoon passing Lance Harris's crappy sales tax bill plus a bill by Katrina Jackson that will limit on income tax deductions. Those tell us we will have some money although they aren't going to be enough money.  In any case, it's more money than was in the "pretend" budget the Governor just vetoed so you'd think it would be time to start making the new one.

But that logic only applies if you assume everyone here is acting in good faith toward the goal of averting the pain of the fast approaching fiscal cliff.  And if that is still your assumption by this point, you really haven't been paying attention. Thus the passage of the revenue bills didn't jump start the budget process at all and instead touched off a farce concluding in a stubborn troll move by Henry to call a vote on overriding the Governor's veto. This is from Sue Lincoln's account of that bit of theater.
“I call HB 1 for a veto override,” he said. “I know we’re all desperate to go home, and I’m with you. We override; we can have a budget; and we can supplement it with another bill. If y’all are so concerned about not having a budget, we can have one right now.”

Rep. Sam Jones rose to question the chairman.

“This seems like a reaction to the previously heated debate. Are you sure this is what you want to do?”

“It makes it all easier,” Henry replied. “It’s what I’ve been working on for the last several days – trying to work around having to do the full $30-billion budget again.”

“You said earlier you’ve been meeting with the Treasurer and the A.G. Have you discussed this at all with the administration or the Senate?” Jones asked.

“No, I haven’t talked to the administration in oh…four months,” Henry said blythely.

“Was this your plan all along?” Rep. Major Thibaut asked, clearly stunned at the malicious turn the discussions had taken. “You said you’re ready to get home. I’m ready to do the people’s business!”

Next, Leger rose, and Henry turned away, announcing loudly, “I’m going to stop answering questions. Let’s vote.”

And they did, 52-48 in favor of a motion that required 70 votes to pass.
So, long story short, there's still no budget and it's looking like there won't be one.  Which again raises the question, what are we gonna do during the shutdown?  Back in March we were still thinking about doing a crawfish boil on the Capitol grounds but the season has already peaked. Surely some sort of picnic is in order.  This week, Step Up and The Poor People's Campaign are already doing some demonstrations. A shutdown might be an opportunity to ramp that up a bit.  

Sunday, May 27, 2018

This still exists, apparently

Extra long and #content packed for the Memorial Day/Looming Disaster weekend

Friday, May 25, 2018

Not even enough time to do some rehearsals

Ready or not, hurricane season is happening, guys.  Actually, why would we even bother to write it that way? Everybody knows we are not ready.  
Two different reviews of the New Orleans area levee system by the Army Corps of Engineers raise troubling questions about the ability of much of the system to withstand surges caused by a major storm nearly 13 years after Hurricane Katrina. The reviews also question the ability of local levee districts to keep up with costly maintenance between storms, as required to remain eligible for the National Flood Insurance Program, records show.

One of the reviews, completed in 2011, gave the 350-mile levee system the second worst classification - "Urgent (Unsafe or Potentially Unsafe)" -- in the corps' Levee Safety Action Classification system. While preliminary because post-Katrina improvements were not finished, the classification remains accurate to this date, a corps New Orleans District spokesman confirmed recently.
The reasons everybody knows this are clear enough.  Anyone living in New Orleans during the post-Katrina saga should be well aware that even the new "risk reduction" system of levees and floodwalls is only rated to perform well during a "100 year" storm event. And, as everyone knows, this just ain't gonna be good enough.
The bad rating was caused instead by the potential threat of even stronger storms that could occur less often. In a 200-year event, levees throughout the New Orleans area would be overtopped, Needham's assessment said. There's a 14 percent chance of a 200-year event occurring in the lifetime of a 30-year home mortgage.

Storms of that magnitude or higher would make a breach in the levee system likely, Needham's presentation said, which "would significantly increase consequences."

Scientists have concluded that the Katrina surge that overwhelmed the Mississippi Gulf Coast was a 400-year event, while the surge in Lake Borgne that overtopped St. Bernard Parish and New Orleans levees was a 200- to 250-year event.

There's a 5.8 percent chance of a 500-year event occurring during the life of a 30-year mortgage.
Aaaand as everybody also knows, phenomena like coastal erosion and climate change are actually making those percentages worse.  Which might explain, for example, why we're getting a tropical event in freaking May now
Yeah, it is raining now as I write this, actually. That alone is kind of a different atmosphere for the approach of a storm like this. Usually we're all walking around outside saying cliches about how oddly "nice" it is today.  Instead we're all hunkered down before the hunkerdown.  It's unusual but not without precedent. The NWS tells us there have been 14 named storms in May since 1951. But, still, we are correct to be thrown off.

For one thing it's only our new mayor's first month on the job and we aren't even sure if she's ordered her official city logo emblazoned tactical fleece yet. What even are the fashion rules at this stage of the pre-season?  During last week's.. um.. not dry.. run flooding event, she was spotted in the command bunker decked out in seersucker. Because we aren't even quite to Memorial Day yet, this raises even more questions we will probably never get the answers to.  As of this writing, there is still no indication as to when the next emergency press conference might happen so we assume there is time to get these wardrobe issues resolved.

We are very much looking forward to hearing what the mayor has to say, though. After the events of last week, she said certain things we'd like to get updated or clarified if possible. For instance, how is the unclogging of the bottlenecks coming along? Or, I guess, more to the point, has Mitch called in about this?
Much of what Cantrell had to say about funding focused on federal money that she said has been stymied by slow-moving design firms and other factors that have prevented the city from putting resources into capital projects. She sought to cast blame on her predecessor, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, in discussing why projects had "languished in the design stage."

Cantrell said her administration has been "unclogging the bottleneck we've seen within the administration that we've inherited," adding, projects "have been on hold for far too long, and we cannot tolerate that moving forward."
At the end of his eight year term, there were still some problems Mitch was blaming Nagin for. Some of that was legitimate, even. But it's nice to see the tradition carried forward in any case.

The fun thing about LaToya, though, is that she is much more prone than Mitch was to just saying whatever.  Often she begins talking before the thought she wants to convey is fully formed which means a lot of the words that come out are just filler.  For example, there are multiple trains of thought in this statement, each running in a completely different direction and never really getting to where it was supposed to take us.  What does anything that follows the phrase, "in terms of paying," have to do with "paying"?
"Well, in terms of paying, it really speaks to, again, trying to be proactive and trying to building in incentives to help our people live with water and mitigating water on their properties and collecting water, keeping it from running into the drains," Cantrell said.
There's definitely a main idea somewhere in there. The trick for the listener is picking out what it's supposed to be.  Here, she seems to tell us that FEMA wants her to "push" already severely cost-burdened renters in New Orleans into buying insurance. If that is the case, then how on Earth does she bring herself to describe that as "help"?
Cantrell also outlined recent discussions she's had during recent meetings with FEMA. She cautioned that the agency doesn't respond to disasters until 72 hours out, and said officials urged her to tell residents to get homeowners insurance. She said she also asked about renters and was told "push them to get rental insurance."

"What we're seeing, really, at the federal level is that they're willing to help us, and they're ready to," Cantrell said.

A lot of success in politics issues from a person's ability to be vague. That talent comes in various forms. Sometimes it comes from a calculated obfuscating rhetorical style. Sometimes it comes from just not knowing that the hell you're talking about.  Cantrell does a little bit of both but there are days when she definitely tends to favor the latter.

Health and Wellness matters, guys. Eat your ice cream.

Hopefully the fro-yo helps boost preparedness too. But we'll have to wait until the next presser to ask about that.

Countdown to Shutdown

On yesterday's episode of the Sinking of the Sixth Special Session, we saw the Ways and Means committee reject the Governor's preferred 4.5 cent sales tax proposal  and pass Lance Harris's wholly inadequate 4.3 cent alternative.

Of course the Governor's proposal is regressive and bad but we already know this thing is circling the drain anyway. And at least that bill, had it passed, would have represented a good faith compromise measure toward covering a substantial part of the shortfall.  But good faith went out the window well before we reached this point. Harris all but admitted as much yesterday during a particularly testy committee meeting
"You have to work with the other sides and you have to talk to them," Rep. Major Thibaut, D-New Roads, told Harris Thursday. "I think we have to start working together and not going into our little rooms."

Harris said he is attempting to compromise. He doesn't like taxes and he never thought he would sponsor legislation to retain a higher sales tax rate. Neither did his spouse. "My wife told me not to come home last night," said Harris.

Harris said he would be unwilling to increase the amount of money that his sales tax bill would raise, even from $369 million to $400 million. House Democrats said that means Harris is not willing to work with them or with the Senate, whose members are likely to want more tax revenue.

"It's a compromise that I'm even bringing this bill," Harris said.
It's a compromise that we're even here yelling at each other in the first place.

What is even happening? On today's episode, so far they've already rejected Walt Leger's expansion of the Earned Income Tax Exemption. This was one of several points of compromise Democrats were asking for in order to commit to any sort of sales tax measure.  So it's no surprise tight now that it doesn't look like they're ready to hop on board
NEW ORLEANS, LA - In response to the proposed extension of sales taxes, State Rep. Gary Carter, Jr.  (D - New Orleans) issued the following statement:

“Either today or very soon, we will be asked to vote for a continuation of the sales tax. During the last legislative session, I explained in the below video why I am against the sales tax: 1) It is harder on working people than on the wealthy; 2) It doesn't raise enough revenue to prevent drastic cuts; and 3) There is still no funding in the budget for additional infrastructure and additional educational opportunities.”

Representative Gary Carter added that until the proposal takes these considerations into account he will remain opposed to the continuation of the sales tax.
Floor debate is about to get started this afternoon.  This very bad sales tax bill is the only game in town revenue wise.  Hope everybody has their plans set for the Shutdown holiday.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

It might be time to dump Transdev

The T-P ran a pretty good feature last weekend on one of the more striking failures of the "Regional Transit Authority."  It has never managed to become "regional" in any respect other than its name.  Parish participation in RTA is voluntary and, over the years, all but Orleans Parish have opted out leaving the region with separate and largely incompatible transit systems.

This is particularity frustrating for riders in Jefferson and Orleans who need to cross between the state's two most populous parishes on their daily commutes.
No one has tallied exactly how much this hurts riders and our region's economy. But hurt it does, experts agree. Like Stevens, riders must spend hours taking several buses, many of which require a transfer from one parish's transit system to another -- a burden that tends to disproportionately affects lower-income workers who most rely on public transit.
I should point out there are some problems with this article. Despite this bit about the "burden on lower-income workers" the story gives too much emphasis to the needs of employers and of people like Michael Hecht who really just need the transit system to be efficient at getting the low-income workforce in and out of the gentrified city where they obviously are not expected to live anymore.

Also, in that vein, it repeatedly asserts that transit problems were a knock against the New Orleans area in the Amazon HQ sweepstakes, again, under the assumption that "winning" that race to the corporate welfare bottom was actually a desirable outcome.

All that aside, the articles do point out one commonality between RTA and JET.  Both systems are currently operated by the same private company.
One idea floated during interviews is to consolidate the operations of neighboring transit agencies under a single operator. Sharonda Williams, the most recent chairwoman of the RTA, says that could theoretically be done through a multi-parish cooperative endeavor agreement.

It's not a stretch of the imagination: RTA and Jefferson Transit are both currently managed by Paris-based Transdev , though the two parishes have separate contracts with the company. Transdev also runs ferry service for RTA from Algiers to Chalmette in St. Bernard Parish, marking a rare stroke of regionalism loosely organized around one company.
Unfortunately no one in this story asks why we couldn't consolidate systems and boot Transdev out anyway. Its RTA contract is expiring next year. Transit activists and watchdog groups are already suggesting that RTA consider other options before renewing.
TransitCenter unveiled a study last year that criticized the RTA’s lack of in-house oversight of Transdev, depicting the arrangement as an example of the pitfalls that can occur under such public-private partnerships.
The groups don't explicitly say the PPP model should be abandoned but they do suggest looking at different operators and the structure of the working relationship.  Interestingly, the newly appointed interim director had a hand in a Landrieu administration push for more hands-on control from the RTA side of things.  Not sure what that means going forward but one thing that does deserve attention is the relative inefficiency of the current arrangement.
RTA collected more than $75 million in state and local sales taxes, and about $18 million in fares last year, according to its financial statements. Compare that with the roughly $13 million total budget approved this year for Jefferson Transit, which makes around $3 million annually in fares and $6.5 million from two millages.

"We don't have extra money," said Sharon Leader, JeT's executive director. "For transit, you need a lot of money."

Ride New Orleans' annual report acknowledged that high costs pose a barrier for more service "both in terms of pure cost and in rallying public support and trust for additional founding." The advocacy group said among 20 comparable peer transit agencies, the RTA had the second highest operating costs in 2015 at $134 per bus operating hour. Only Detroit was higher.
 What is the point of contracting out operations at all, let alone to Transdev in particular? 

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Countdown to Shutdown

A little over a day into it and it's not looking great for Special Session II The Enspecialing.
Wednesday (May 22) on how to go about fixing Louisiana's budget or what taxes have the support to be renewed or raised before June 4, when the special session ends. There is not even agreement on how much money needs to be raised overall between the governor and Republican-controlled House.

"I realize why Louisiana is shaped like a boot. Because we are the kick-the-can state," said Rep. Barry Ivey, R-Central.

There is already discussion from both Democrats and Republicans that a third special session will be necessary because lawmakers are not confident they will be able to finish their business in the next 13 days, when the current special session ends.
Already a third installment?  You know typically the reason these franchises keep getting sequels is because they actually make money. But I think this particular cinematic universe is more narrative driven.  The audience is going to see this train go off the dang cliff and we're gonna make it happen, dammit. We don't care what it costs. 
Some budget must be in place by July 1 to avoid a state government shutdown. About $1.4 billion in temporary state taxes expire June 30, creating the fiscal crisis. 
I believe we here at the Yellow Blog were the first this year to call the shutdown a likely, if not inevitable outcome. So, you know, spoiler alert, I guess.  There's still some time for the showrunners to change things up on us but I don't think they're going to.  The Republicans don't care if the budget gets fixed at all. The Governor thinks they're going to help him fix it if he just gives them whatever they want. And the Black Caucus are the only people in the room smart enough to have seen through any of the bullshit at all.
The head of the House Black Caucus, state Rep. Randal Gaines, D-LaPlace, said his members would refuse to vote for a sales tax bill when it came up on the House floor, unless some other measures -- possibly those affecting income taxes -- came along with that proposal.

Gaines also said any sales tax legislation that passed must keep taxes higher for businesses as well as individuals. "It is a nonstarter without that," he said.
 Tell me how any of this changes before the shutdown happens.  I'd love to hear some fan theories. 

"Vocal minority"

Eric Bay is getting real close to saying anti-STR activists are "paid actors" here.
Eric Bay, president of the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, a local group short-term rental supporters, said in an interview Wednesday that he's concerned the council is acting at the behest of a small group of New Orleans residents opposed to short-term rentals. He estimates that as many as 1,000 permits renewals will be denied when they expire between May and August.

"To have this knee-jerk reaction without properly studying real-time, independent data and statistics is simply bad policy, and a blatant attempt to appease a vocal minority," Bay said. He also said he's concerned the city hasn't properly warned short-term rental operators, saying, "the city is not informing license-holders that actions are being taken against their right and privilege."
Don't worry, I'm sure he'll get there eventually.

Anyway, we're coming off a municipal election where voters consistently said affordable housing was at or near the top of their list of concerns. A majority of the new council believes, at least for now, that the impetus to tighten STR regulations was part of the mandate that won them their seats. But maybe if ANP continues to hammer at this "vocal minority" characterization all summer, eventually some of these elected people will start to buy it.

Also, Jared Brossett has been a reliable anti-STR vote in the past.  Seems like his addition would cement the "veto-proof majority" brought up here.  Where is he on this motion?
According to a City Council agenda released ahead of their Thursday (May 24) meeting, Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer has already convinced three of her fellow council members to co-author the proposal, indicating their support. Those four council members -- Palmer, Jason Williams, Joe Giarrusso and Jay Banks -- constitute the majority needed for approval of the ordinance.

One additional vote will make a veto-proof majority, though Mayor LaToya Cantrell hasn't weighed in on the matter.

#CityOfYes we still randomly stop and search your car

It's been a while. Or maybe I just haven't been seeing the notices in a while. But I believe this is the first official police checkpoint under the new mayoral regime. 
NEW ORLEANS - The NOPD's Traffic Division will conduct an upcoming sobriety checkpoint within Orleans Parish.

The checkpoint will be in operation from 8 p.m. on Thursday, May 24, 2018, through Friday, May 25, 2018, at 4 p.m.
Drive carefully. If they nail you for a brake light, there's a way to address that this weekend


Well guys, I am afraid I have some bad news and some good news.  The bad news is we're gonna have to deal with another one of these horror shows
The NFL awarded the 2024 Super Bowl (58) to New Orleans after the city secured a unanimous vote during Wednesday morning's single-city ballot process among NFL owners, snapping New Orleans' two-bid losing streak for the NFL's championship game. 
With each return of this comet, the rate at which our civic democratic institutions and public spaces are corrupted and left weakened by corporate welfare is accelerated. This is from a Lens examination of the city's concessions to the NFL in 2013 and the offer it was making in a bid to bring it back in 2018.
In 2013, local government bodies, including the city and the Orleans Parish School Board, agreed to refund up to $800,000 in local taxes to the league and member teams.* The actual refund came to about $500,000.

Finally, Kopplin wrote that the city could not agree to the NFL’s request for the right of first refusal to buy public-transit ads. A private company, Laurel Outdoor Advertising, controls ads on RTA buses, streetcars and shelters.

“It is understood that Laurel has long-term commitments on such advertising, but they have committed to the Host Committee to provide as much available inventory as possible to the NFL and/or their sponsors,” Kopplin wrote.

The city agreed to every other NFL request without objection, including:
The city also agreed to some items that would not require any city action, such as allowing alcohol service until 4 a.m. at certain venues. And odds are it wouldn’t have had to do anything to meet one NFL requirement: equipment and services to deal with a snowstorm.
Are we going to get a look at what the city gave away this time around? Or is every media outlet going to just publish thousands and thousands of words of breathless cheerleading? For example, here is Jeff Duncan already writing without the slightest hint of irony...
We might not be able to fix our streets or drain them when it rains, but we know how to host a big event and throw a party. And events and parties don't get any bigger than the Super Bowl.
Jeff goes on to prattle on about "economic impact" without interrogating what that actually means much less to whom the benefits of such an "impact" accrues.  No time for that when we've got PR copy to write for Gayle Benson and "civic leaders" who aren't technically even employing Jeff now but who knows maybe someday. 
And it's possible, the mega-events will take place in a glitzy, renovated Superdome if state and Saints officials can execute their plan to upgrade the stadium in the 2020-2022 offseasons. Considering the state of the state's finances, that's a big "if."

Wednesday is a day to celebrate. Landing Super Bowl 2024 is a major triumph for the city. The civic leaders who collaboratively worked to land the big game deserve a toast. Their diligence paid off.
The Advocate doesn't really have a Duncan in the sports department. But it does have Nick Underhill who, at least, knows a thing or two about football and does a serious job writing about it. When he's writing about the people in charge of football and the business of football, though, he does a serious job of flattering them.
The victory was the result of six months of hard work by the GNOSF’s Jay Cicero, Joffray and others, who went back and forth with the league to meet all their demands and ready the presentation. While that group led the charge, they also worked alongside the Saints, Edwards, Cantrell, former mayor Mitch Landrieu, the Mercedes Benz-Superdome and SMG, Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport, as well as several hotels and hospitality venues on the bid.

Committing to make upgrades to the Superdome was not part of the bid process or a requirement to be awarded the game. However, during her remarks following the announcement, Gayle Benson said there would be many changes made to the building before the 2024 Super Bowl.
What did they commit to, though?  What did all that "hard work" produce?  We don't know.  We do know it was "competitive,"  though. Which is a neat trick to pull off when you haven't actually been asked to compete for anything.
The process for bidding on Super Bowls changed this year. Instead of having several teams present competing bids, the NFL worked solely with Arizona for the 2023 and New Orleans for the 2024 game. The league realized the benefits of such an approach last year when it tapped Tampa Bay to fill in for Los Angeles, which was facing delays with its stadium construction, in 2021.

Not only did the league realize that it can generate competitive bids by taking this approach, but the new process also cuts back on the bitter feelings losing teams and city’s often harbor after failing to land the game. New Orleans knows all about that after losing its last two bids to Minnesota and Atlanta, which were both rewarded for building new stadiums.
Minnesota was also rewarded for offering the most embarrassing package of incentives and payoffs yet reported on.  Maybe that's why we've gone to this non-competitive bidding process. Fewer opportunities for something like that to leak.

Oh yeah, I also have some good news. The good news is, thanks to any or some combination of factors such as, greater exposure of the untenable health risks of football, the sinking of the city into the sea, or the dissolution of the entire nation into fascism,  the odds of there actually being a Superbowl or a New Orleans by 2024 are so slim that the prospect of a Superbowl in New Orleans is probably not something we're going to have to worry about.

It's always boil order o'clock somewhere

Venetian Isles today.
Venetian Isles will remain under a precautionary boil water advisory Wednesday (May 23), the Sewerage and Water Board said. The advisory covers areas east of Textron Marine & Land Systems on Chef Menteur Highway.

S&WB officials said testing began overnight to see if contaminants had entered the water system. The results are expected to be back around midnight Wednesday.
Too bad there's no money for infrastructure work.  At least not until Gilbert Montano finishes "literally" unclogging the big money pipe by literally poking at a wad of bills with a literal stick probably.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

John Bel sounds kinda desperate

This is from his speech this afternoon in Lafayette.  Everybody is out of ideas other than the ideas the Republicans have been pushing all along.  John Bel's big idea for the special session is to retain a half penny of the sales tax.  Maybe permanently.
That tax plan is a shift in the governor's position from just a year ago. Edwards had said for months that he did not want to adopt a higher sales tax rate on a permanent basis and would only accepted as a "bridge" to making other changes. In recent months, however, he has become more open to accepting a higher sales tax rate permanently -- an approach Republicans favor.
This is not a compromise most of them are likely to accept.. or even acknowledge, really. Already a glance at the #lalege Twitter tag finds dozens of Republican activists and politicians critizing the Governor's "tax and spend polices."  Amusingly, though, Billy freaking Nungesser (who appeared with the Governor at his event today) is clapping back at some of them. Who knew Billy would turn out to be such a cuck, right?

Meanwhile, the Legislative Black Caucus held a townhall meeting this morning to discuss the special session.  Back in March, they took a particularly hard line against the sales tax. It will be interesting to see if they hold that line in the face of all this (failing) bipartisanship the Governor has become mired in. 

Session gavels in at 4PM.  They have 14 days to figure this stuff out. Or not. 

Oh come on

This is because we moved the embassy to Jerusalem isn't it
A sinkhole has developed on the White House’s North Lawn, reporters observed Tuesday.

Did these guys finally get what they were after?
The Rev. John C. Hagee, a televangelist who gave the closing benediction, has said the Holocaust happened because God’s “top priority for the Jewish people is to get them to come back to the land of Israel,” a prelude to the Second Coming. In an email, Mr. Hagee said his comments, in a sermon about the problem of evil in a world of God’s creation, were taken out of context, and he has apologized for any offense.

David M. Friedman, the American ambassador to Israel who presided over the embassy dedication, said evangelical Christians “support Israel with much greater fervor and devotion than many in the Jewish community.”

“You’re running a country, you need friends, you need alliances, you need to protect your people,” he said in an interview.

So.. some people really were in that number

What exactly happened here? Yesterday the Saints sent out emails informing people that their "number had been called" on the season ticket wait list and they had thus attained the privilege of buying Saints tickets if they still wanted to.

I got one. But that was weird because I'm not on the wait list.  We've actually had season tickets as part of a group since 2006.  We just renewed those, in fact. I already ordered my J.T. Barrett jersey and everything. Anyway, I'm not on the wait list but I am on the Saints' email list. As are a lot of people who got these messages yesterday
The offer, apparently intended only for members of the waiting list eligible to buy tickets, instead went to a much broader batch of names in the organization's database, including current season-ticket holders, people who had never signed up for the waiting list and some who had had no history of buying Saints tickets in the past.
Soooo at least some of the people who got the emails were meant to get them.  It would be interesting to find out how many.  Have the Saints announced anything regarding renewal numbers this year?  They seem to say at the end of the article that the wait list is 100,000 names long. I've been wondering about that for a few years now.

Also what is the deal with the Benson sports franchises and screwing up online ticket sales lately?  I'm starting to think that maybe the only person in the office who knew how to work the emails was Tom. 

Pressing pause again

Who knew that when LaToya found that "pause" button during the Riley flap that she'd be starting a new rhetorical trend?
The New Orleans City Council could vote this week to temporarily halt the issuance of new licenses for short-term rentals of entire homes and bar the renewal of those licenses in residential areas until it decides whether to overhaul the long-term rules that legalized such rentals last year.

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who returned to the council this month after a four-year absence, has drafted a measure to “push pause” on some short-term rental licenses and plans to put it to a council vote Thursday.
Or maybe it's just that shutting things down "until we figure out what is going on" is a standard move in the Trump era. Either way, it looks like that's what we're doing. Sort of.

What Palmer is proposing here is an Interim Zoning District that freezes the issuance of certain types of STR licenses in certain areas for a certain period of time. Because those licenses don't expire all at once,  though,  this means that many or possibly most of them will continue to operate through a substantial part of the "pause" period. In other words, don't expect this action to suddenly shut down every Airbnb on your block.

Meanwhile she's effectively pushing back the timeline on getting to a more permanent solution. The other part of the motion extends the scope of a "study" aimed at revising the STR ordinance thus also delaying the possibility of action from the summer on back toward the end of the year.

There is a risk that such a delay moves us further from the political mandate on this issue generated by the recent elections and thus dampens momentum toward the tougher restrictions voters clearly demanded. One would hope that momentum could carry through but it is concerning to read that some councilmembers are already starting to talk more about "balance" and acceptance of things that "aren't going away" while speaking in support of this measure.
“We understand that there are competing interests here,” said Councilman Joe Giarrusso, one of the co-sponsors. “We’re trying to balance something here that we know is not going away with making sure that quality of life for people who live here is at its highest.”
It would be a shame if that "pause" turns out to be a prelude to a full stop. But don't discount the possibility that that's where we are headed.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Everybody sues Ashton

How many like this are there?
But a decade later, First NBC Bank and St. Theresa are both closed, and in the aftermath of First NBC’s collapse, the Liljebergs’ borrowing is the focus of separate civil lawsuits in which they are both suing and being sued. One of the suits accuses Ryan of fraud.

The Liljebergs borrowed almost $40 million in a nine-year span, much of which, they now allege in court documents, was done without their approval and at Ryan's behest. They say the First NBC president and CEO issued them new loans so that they'd be able to make payments on older ones as they came due. His goal, they claim, was to “fraudulently improve” the bank’s finances.
So far this is only the second such civil case that may have to be stayed while the federal criminal probe against FNBC proceeds.  This "community bank" had a lot of loans out there in the, uh, the community.  Of course all of the recipients are going to claim they were being taken advantage of by Ryan.  But there's probably more to it than that in a lot of cases. I wonder how many we're going to learn about as this goes on.

Resilience fatigue

Take a look around outside this week and see how many palm trees you can spot that are starting to come back now and which ones may not have made it through the Blizzard Of 2018. The chances are most of them did okay

Palm tree

You can see a lot of them like this around with the green coming back in on top. A similar indicator is observable at the Broad Theater, by the way.

The green shoots aren't always so easy to spot, though. Especially in places where they've had to re-sprout multiple times already.
The rising flood waters came as a frightening sight for Sonnier who runs Gabrielle Restaurant.

"We were probably going to open, I want to say maybe, we were planning to open the week after the flood."

The waters gave Sonnier flashbacks of what happened last year. He says just as he was about to finish renovations, it was hit twice by the July and August flooding. Before that, Sonnier had been waiting 12 years to reopen since Hurricane Katrina took out his old location on Esplanade.

"I was very much thinking of starting to raise equipment and get everything off the ground to prepare for the water to get inside," Sonnier said. He can't even imagine what would have happened if the rain didn't stop when it did.
 Well we might get another chance to ask, what would happen this weekend
 Eh but what are you gonna do? We live in a "City That Floods," right?

Atomic Cannon

Vice President Nixon: "Congratulations to this young weightlifter or whatever."

Because Menckles is not from Louisiana, yesterday I found myself in the unusual position of having to answer the question, "Who is Bill Cannon?"  That took a while to explain but I think I started with, "Paul Bunyan but for Louisiana football," or something like that.  Anyway, this is a better explanation.
Nationally, LSU’s best known sports figures are probably “Pistol” Pete Maravich and Shaquille O’Neal. But on the home front, Cannon is the legend of legends.

Nearly 60 years after he stepped off the field at old Tulane Stadium after his final college game in the 1960 Sugar Bowl, Cannon remains the standard by which all LSU football players are judged. It is easy to get all hyperbolic over the latest five-star recruit as being the best this or that. But there are still plenty of Tiger fans who will look at the helium-filled recruiting rankings and huff, with justification, “He’s great, but he’s no Billy Cannon.”
The window flags on every RV in the state are gonna be at half-mast for the rest of the year. 

Fear not for the fading of your myths, though, Tiger fans. Legends do indeed continue to walk this earth
They're rare at LSU, famous for its night games. All but three were played in the evening last year with one 11 a.m. tucked in Nov. 11 against Arkansas. A handful of former Tigers recalled the locker room scene that preceded that brunch in Baton Rouge.

Ed Orgeron got primal before that morning game.

"He walked in there and said it's time to set your jaw," said former Tiger offensive lineman K.J. Malone. "And started punching himself in the jaw."

Astros pitcher Ken Giles recently went viral for smoking himself in the face. That was punitive.

Orgeron, LSU's 56-year old head coach, sacrificed for motivation.

"Punch yourself in the face in the morning if you're not ready," center Will Clapp remembered was the message.
Self harm is kind of the unofficial state passtime anyway.  We'll be right back at it tomorrow, in fact.

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Are they playing chicken or egg? Or just playing chicken?

How did we get here?

The spring special session was called so that we could find more revenue. But that failed because the Republicans all said we we didn't need more revenue. They said we had a "spending problem" that just needed to be fixed with responsible budgeting.

So we went to the regular session where the House very responsibly passed a horror budget that closes hospitals and throws people off of Medicaid.  But when the Governor announced that the horror budget would do horrible things, they all said this was premature. The implication was either 1) Somebody would find us some more revenue. 2) Their horror budget would not be the budget because the Senate would fix it.  But it couldn't be 1) because, responsible budgeting, remember?

So the Senate passed a "pretend" budget that  puts money back into health care by, basically, removing it from everything else which, of course, nobody thought was a viable solution in the first place. Hence, the "pretend."

Both the horror and pretend versions of the budget being bullshit, the Governor has decided to veto them. This way we can start again in the summer special session by going and getting the revenue first this time because, it turns out, that's how this is supposed to work.
Edwards, a Democrat, had avoided saying publicly in recent days whether he would veto the budget, which called for deep cuts to state agencies but protected funding for health care.

"It's obvious now, I think to everyone, there simply isn't enough revenue forecasted for next fiscal year to fashion a reasonable budget," Edwards said.
Ha ha ha ha ha ha is it "obvious to everyone" now or is this the dumbest chicken or egg game yet played?  Seems like if it were that obvious, we would have figured this out in the spring... or last year.. or the year before that.  But here we are in late May and the fiscal cliff is still there. It can only be that way because it's what the Republicans wanted all along. They've been playing chicken with the budget for three years, there's no reason to believe they're gonna give that up next week.   Maybe that isn't obvious to everyone, though. 

Is that how it's supposed to work?

What are you gonna do? It just floods here
WWL: Is the system working to capacity?

Rainey: That's a hard question. Capacity means many different things. Our pumping stations are all now working the best they can. We do have five pumps out, but we have 115 of 120...

WWL: So, is this as good as it gets?

Rainey: The system right now is operating well, we’re not having any issues with it, it’s just hard. It’s hard to keep up with these fast-moving, heavy-dumping rain storms.’
 I guess one idea would be to just lean into the branding opportunity.
Numbers from the Sewerage and Water Board said Friday 115 out of 120 pumps in the city were working, and all of those working were at full capacity.

"We have these rain events and we are prepared as much as possible, but we are a city that floods," Cantrell said. "If we get too much (rain), too soon, we're going to see street flooding as we have always seen."

When asked if this was as good as the flash flood protection gets, Cantrell replied "this is as good as it gets right now."
We are a "city that floods."  It is exactly as "we have always seen." 

Is it, though?  I guess if we all agree and don't ask too many questions then it can be. If we adopt such a conceit, though, how will it affect our decisions regarding the way that "whole new drainage system" we're going to need works?  A lot of interested parties would like a hand in shaping the way that question is answered.

Friday, May 18, 2018

What was the fight about?

So many jokes about and head shaking over the incivilitude of legislators punching one another in a bar but almost no attention paid to what they were actually fighting about.
The incident happened at the River Room on Laurel Street.

"He's not happy with me over a bill," said Bishop, who as chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee blocked a bill from Chabert.

Chabert is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Neither man identified the bill in question.

The argument began on the House floor earlier Tuesday before spilling outside of the Capitol later that night.
Titillation aside,  isn't "the bill in question" really the more relevant bit of information in this story.  Lawmakers are mad at each other. Okay, there's the hook.  But you have to tell people what they are mad about. Otherwise, you aren't reporting on politics. You're just doing celebrity gossip.

It took forever for anyone to figure out what this was about.  The Advocate reporters did. (Four of them are credited in that story! This was an all-hands-on-deck situation.) Here's what happened. 
Chabert said the incident stemmed from ongoing arguments on coastal issues between the two and not a specific bill. Bishop is chairman of the  House Natural Resources and Environment Committee; Chabert is chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

Bishop said the fight was over a bill to alter the make-up of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority Board. Chabert's bill, Senate Bill 433, would grant voting power to two legislative members on the executive-branch board, which Bishop changed through amendment.
There's more detail on that bill from Mark Schleifstein here. But even that doesn't get to the heart of the matter which is Norby Chabert wants to be able to dip into the Coastal Protection fund in order to pass out patronage projects to affiliates. I don't know what Bishop's angle is exactly. But there's probably money at stake.

Upticked off

Shorter LaToya: Warren Riley is very good at being in charge of things and you guys just can't handle it I guess, oh well.
But here in New Orleans: the pain is too great. The untreated and lingering trauma so many of our residents still struggle with, the post-traumatic stress that still informs how we all look back to that flashpoint, makes it untenable to move forward with Mr. Riley as part of our new administration.
Cantrell says she did some "listening" to people's objections, but clearly she missed the point.   It is fine to recognize the "lingering trauma" caused by the experience of the flood, and specifically the outrageous police violence that occurred in its wake.  But the actual question before the mayor here involves stewardship of institutions not psyches.  Can we expect Warren Riley to act in the public interest when those institutions fail?  Jarvis DeBerry describes, here, why the public may not be so confident. 
With two people dead, four people wounded and seven of his officers originally charged in state court with either murder or attempted murder, should we believe Riley's claim that he didn't read a report of what happened?

It's obvious why he would say he didn't read it.  If he had said he read his department's report of what happened on Danziger and did nothing to punish the officers who were obviously lying, then he would be admitting that he was a huge part of what was wrong with NOPD in the years after Hurricane Katrina.

Then again, if he didn't read it, if he was purposely trying to avoid knowing of his officers' alleged criminality, then by not reading he's indicating that he's a huge part of what was wrong with NOPD in the years after Katrina.
Cantrell's statement glosses over the issue entirely and suggests, instead, that the upticked community is incapable of thinking rationally because of trauma.  That's kind of insulting, isn't it?  It's definitely in the category of a "sorry if you were offended" apology. Stephanie Grace's "It's not me, it's you" description is also apt.  Of interest also is Grace's use of the term, "rookie mistake."
What really made the situation untenable isn't the lingering trauma but the reality of what happened on Riley's watch, and the problem lies with the new mayor, not the people she represents. The sooner Cantrell acknowledges that and learns from her rookie mistake, the better.
We're about to see if the rookie mayor has learned anything as she deliberates over the fate of the Confederate monuments. She's on a different listening tour with regard to that issue. DeBerry describes who is involved in that.
Thanks to the public records request mentioned above, we now know that the Monument Relocation Committee is made up of Frank Stewart, Geary Mason, Mimi Owens, Richard Marksbury, Charles Marsala, Pierre McGraw and Sally Reeves.

Frank Stewart is the businessman former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu called out last year for not using his wealth to help make sure the monuments were replaced with something non-offensive.  Mimi Owens is "Mikas Eaux," the administrator of the Facebook page "Forever Lee Circle" and the person we have to blame for this year's Robert E. Lee throws during Mardi Gras.

From the minutes of one of the committee's meeting: "We represent the following: Monumental Task Committee, Louisiana Landmarks Society, SaveNOLAHeritage.com, Beauregard Monument Association, Lee Monument Association and two of us were plaintiffs in legal procedures hoping to prevent the city from removing the monuments."

We should expect those members to do everything they can to return those monuments to a place of prominence -- a place where they will remain visible.
Previously, LaToya told Gambit that she wants monument supporters to decide what happens to them because, "you know, reverence matters." But we'll wait to see what happens when she is finished weighing everyone's relative traumas or whatever.

In any case, I don't think this is as much about "rookie mistakes" as it is a mayor elected without a distinct policy-based mandate. Was our recent municipal election actually about anything?  What was LaToya's platform? What did she say she was going to do for us if we elected her?  Specifically, I mean. Not just, "spread the love" and such.  On the monuments, she talks about "listening" and "reverence" without ever speaking to the political purpose of the Jim Crow propaganda they represent.  On housing she talks about "balance" in a way that weighs the needs of stressed residents against those of "the landlord community." On crime, she... well, actually she is pretty clear on crime saying over and over she sees surveillance cameras as an "innovation," praising Sidney Torres's app, and so forth. Oh and she thinks the guy who looked the other way at Danziger is "uniquely qualified" to be in charge of public safety.

All of this proceeds from a politics divorced from tangible consequences that depends wholly on individual bios and credentials for motivation. It produces government via condescension and phony pop-psychology subject to the mercy of various occasional upticks.  Expect more of the same to come.

They need to hear from the mayor

OPSB put off a decision on that Industrial Tax Exemption we were just talking about.  I wanted to highlight one quote in particular.
Board member Ben Kleban, who proposed the resolution, moved to defer it because the school board hasn’t gotten buy-in from the city.

“We need to hear the voice of our new mayor on this issue, because it does cross multiple government entities,” Kleban said.
It is common to rebuke anyone who tries to bring up education policy during the mayor/council election cycle with a dismissive, "But they don't have anything to do with the schools!" type comment. Obviously, that isn't true in practice since we're in the bizarre position of having to weigh school funding against "economic development."

One issue that hasn't been discussed yet is the way certain of the local charter operators depend on donations from companies who benefit from the tax exemption. In other words, a select community of privileged business owners gets to choose which schools benefit from their contributions. Inequality is baked into the charter system in a myriad of ways. This is one the school board has the power to undo.  It's something they're going to study.. "aggressively" now.
Thursday, the board approved a substitute resolution that creates a working group to develop a long-term strategy for the program.

The group must present its recommendations by October, which Kleban praised as an “aggressive timeline.”

He said he was optimistic that the group could come up with a plan that could do more than a one-time allocation.

“Though this isn’t the same as my original proposal,” he said, “it has the potential to be even bigger.”
Waiting on the mayor now, I guess. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Only took two years to get started with this

We've been hearing a lot lately about the negative effects of state level preemption over municipal governing policies. In Louisiana, the state legislature has interfered with the ability of local governments (New Orleans in particular) to establish their own laws regarding all sorts of things including gun control, minimum wage, even zoning regulations.    It's a fundamentally anti-democratic practice and a never ending source of frustration for local elected persons who find themselves effectively blocked from carrying out the will of the people they represent in many cases.

Given the growing controversy over this practice, it is strange that certain local authorities have been slow to take advantage of an opportunity to bypass one of its most damaging manifestations.  In 2016, the Governor signed an executive order that grants local taxing authorities a greater degree of control over the Industrial Tax Exemption
The most significant change in the executive order may be that approval of the tax exemption now requires a resolution of support from local taxing agencies. Also, the order shortens the maximum length of an exemption from 10 years to eight years, and in the final three years, the property tax exemption will be capped at 80 percent rather than 100 percent. Those changes should trim the program's costs by at least 25 percent.
There are complications but, basically, what this means is local school boards and sheriff's departments who have been especially crippled by this massive corporate giveaway now have the power to reject or rescind it.  It wasn't until February of this year, however, that anyone actually exercised this new power. Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator denied an applicant a small exemption  worth $6000 over 8 years. That seems insignificant but it sets a precedent which hasn't gone unnoticed.

Last month, teachers in Baton Rouge began agitating the local government to tighten its leash on the tax exemption.   And this week, the Orleans Parish School Board introduced a resolution by Ben Kleban to impose a three year moratorium on granting the exemption. According to Kleban, here is how the Industrial Tax Exemption affects Orleans Parish schools.
According to Kleban's resolution, the "intent of the Industrial Tax Exemption program is to create jobs and stimulate the economy, recipient companies of industrial tax exemptions in Orleans Parish promised to create over 4,500 jobs since 2000, but the actual change in jobs was a net decline of 76 jobs."

The school system's tax exemptions in 2017 totaled $3 million, which could have been used for education programs, Kleban said Tuesday during the board's finance committee meeting.
Even if we accept the premise that there's ever a justification for diverting tax dollars intended for education over to private sector "job creation," this program fails according to its own metric. The bigger picture is even worse than what Kleban's numbers describe.  In December, Together Louisiana presented findings to the City Council about where that money goes.  All in all they found that the exemptions up for renewal this year had delivered a total loss of 279 jobs. Also there's a breakdown.
Here are  the top six incentive recipients in Orleans Parish, the subsidies they received and the jobs they created as a result of the incentive, according to Together Louisiana.
  • Folger Coffee Co., $105.5 million in subsidies, 121 net jobs created
  • Brookfield District Energy USA, $17.2 million in subsidies, 14 net jobs created
  • Air Products and Chemicals Inc., $16.7 million in subsidies, 24 fewer jobs after the tax break was approved
  • Southern Recycling LLC, $15.6 million, 80 net jobs created
  • Entergy New Orleans, $13.9 million in subsidies, nine fewer jobs
  • Textron Marine & Land Systems, $9.6 million in subsidies, 51 net jobs created
All of which costs the city $10.6 million altogether and the school board, as stated, $3 million.

So Kleban's moratorium seems like a no-brainer, right?  Well the school board isn't so sure just yet. They're gonna wait for the Business Alliance to tell them what to do.
A representative for the New Orleans Business Alliance asked the School Board to defer voting on the measure and to give the group an opportunity to present findings to the group.

The committee chose to forward the resolution to the full board for consideration without a recommendation.

Update: I should have known there would have been a more detailed story about all of this at The Lens.  The full school board is expected to vote on the tax exemption today. 

Well that's one

Julie Stokes is going to run for Secretary of State. She says she wants to protect us from "illegal voters."
In a campaign announcement video, Stokes says she's running to "protect the integrity of our elections, and to defend it from illegal voters and cyber attacks, because good government never flows from corrupt elections."
For a rebuttal from the anti-voter suppression side in this race, we turn to.... well, actually, nobody because Stokes is the only announced candidate.  Who else wants this plum of a statewide office?

A couple of weeks ago, Mark Ballard wrote that there were "15 Republicans and 5 Democrats" mulling it over.  But he didn't name any of them.  Ok, that's not exactly true. He references, the speaker of the House and "The Mayor Of Turkey Creek" in the first line of that article. We know the former is Taylor Barras. 

The Mayor of Turkey Creek is a person named Heather Cloud. Here she is in a Facebook video promising to "bring in the full force of the law" against individuals in possession of drugs in a local park. That probably doesn't bode well for her on voter's rights. Neither does this story which says she's already had one election result reversed by suing to have her opponent's votes disqualified. 

This is a November 6 special election. It would be nice to know if any candidates who actually support the right to vote are planning on getting in.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Quote of the day

"Stop interfering with our work"

Must have been one of the "crazies."

Senate Secretary Glenn Koepp was heard asking who the "crazies" were.

The group of about 30 people from the Poor People's Campaign, all wearing similar t-shirts, were moved out of the Senate chambers by the sergeant-at-arms. They were escorted out of the State Capitol and told that they would be arrested if they tried to reenter.

The never ending Bourbon Street project

They will be digging in these blocks until the next Tricentennial or until the money runs out whatever comes first.
A sewer pipe improperly connected to a drainage line under Bourbon Street backed up into the bathroom of the True Religion clothing store in the Astor Crowne Plaza Hotel on Canal Street, revealing a problem missed during the months that crews were rebuilding the roadway and the pipes beneath it.

The oversight means contractors will, once again, have to tear up a portion of the first block of Bourbon, just months after that part of a project plagued by delays and cost overruns was thought to have been completed.
It's probably a good thing since the more money they have to spend digging up the street, the less they'll have for surveillance cameras and rent-a-cop squads, right?  I think the original pile of money Mitch got for them to do all of this stuff was $40 million. If so, they've already blown a quarter of it. 
The first phase of the work, covering the 100 through 400 blocks of Bourbon, was expected to cost $6 million and last from April to June of last year. Instead, it wound up with a $10.3 million price tag and didn't wrap up until January.
This story also says the city is about to put out bids on digging up the next 4 blocks.  This would be different from the process used for the first four