Saturday, June 30, 2018


They say winning begins at the local level, in your state house, city council, congressional district, etc. These guys are taking it seriously.
But all over the nation, people, particularly women, are working with near supernatural energy to rebuild democracy from the ground up, finding ways to exercise political power however they can. For the middle-aged suburbanites who are the backbone of the anti-Trump resistance, that often means shoring up the Democratic Party. For younger people who see Donald Trump’s election as the apotheosis of a rotten political and economic system, it often means trying to remake that party as a vehicle for democratic socialism.
It's a modest start but, in the long run this is how to win. The game for Republicans now is a rush to do whatever they can to make winning irrelevant.  They might pull that off.

Bowl for the people

New Orleans needs to do this when Gayle's SuperBowl comes to town in 2024.
The FIFA World Cup is currently taking place in Russia, and a network of Saint Petersburg-based civil society activists and social entrepreneurs have launched a campaign called “Cup for the People,” providing an alternative program for hundreds of thousands of soccer fans arriving from all over the world. From guided tours held by local residents about LBGT rights or environmental issues to a map of responsible consumption, the campaign hopes to spread awareness about different aspects of social life in Russia, while fostering diversity, tolerance and sustainable development within the food, retail and tourism sectors.

Behind the campaign is Olga Polyakova, a 31-year-old activist engaged in civic education, citizen cooperation movements and circular economy.

"I was in Hamburg, Germany, when the G20 meeting took place there [in 2017], and I saw what kinds of alternative programs local activists carried out – with actions, discussions and performances,” she says. “In almost every country there are people who are critical of such mega events, which are normally financed with public funds but benefit mostly politicians and corporations. So I thought about creating a similar alternative program for Saint Petersburg."

Friday, June 29, 2018

"Detailed look"

On the very first official day of her campaign for mayor, LaToya Cantrell's very first campaign promise was about traffic cameras.  It was a confusing promise even then.
On Tuesday evening (July 18), Cantrell delivered a wide-ranging speech on her platform as one of 18 mayoral candidates. Here's what the City Councilwoman said in that speech.

"We don't know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer," Cantrell said. "As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended."

But then, The Advocate reported that Cantrell said after the speech she only wanted to suspend part of the traffic camera program. Mayor Mitch Landrieu expanded enforcement by 50 cameras earlier this year.

The significance of that statement apparently hadn't become apparent to her campaign, however, because spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday morning spoke to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about how the program's suspension could affect the budget. Tickets issued through traffic cameras are projected to generate about $24 million for the city this year.
After further prodding, the campaign decided that, yes, in fact, the promise would apply to all of the cameras.  Still, after the election, the transition team recommended that she leave them in place taking the position that $24 million in revenue is not something we should just let go of.

 But this argument had already come up during the campaign. At the time, Cantrell said that she doubted the figure.  Today, her CAO says they're going to take a "detailed look" at it.
In a statement, Cantrell's spokesman Beau Tidwell said the Mayor's stance on the traffic cameras remains unchanged.

"As you know, the revenue was built into the 2018 budget," Tidwell said, which is why Cantrell couldn't remove traffic cameras upon taking office. "We have to make any changes responsibly and with a full understanding of what the fiscal impact would be. So yes -- the CAO is taking a detailed look at the issue before we proceed."
Couldn't take them offline when she got there. But I guess this means there is a possibility that the next fiscal year could begin with the cameras suspended until we can figure out what is going on.

If so, they'd better have an idea in place as to how they're going to handle that NOPD deficit. That thing just keeps growing.
The New Orleans Police Department is already projecting a need for at least $9.2 million in new city spending in 2019 due to police pay raises and other factors. For City Councilman Joe Giarruso, that expansion in police spending is leading to questions about how much removing all traffic cameras could cost. On Thursday, he said the cameras were projected to generate as much as $25.2 million.

The beastly drafts folder

Too much things happen. I collect a lot of links but don't always write the thing. Eventually it leads to this.

Of particular concern are the stores of notes on short term rentals and on S&WB which keep getting bigger and more difficult to put together the longer they sit unpublished.  It seems stupid... is stupid, I guess But this is a burden on me. I use this blog as a way to keep track of the news. It's how I force myself to think about the stuff I've read. Otherwise, I'm just going to forget everything that happens and it will be like none of us was ever here and... you know maybe that wouldn't be so bad...

The police burden

The new administration has identified a $7.8 million NOPD budget deficit for this year. A few weeks ago they said it was $3.6 million. So maybe I'm missing something in there but that is not an encouraging trend.  In any case, this is bound to cause a problem for everybody once we get into municipal budget season. (Hey when is that going to kick into high gear, again?)

The Louisiana model

So proud to see our state's wildly successful version of "economic development" via klepto-capitalism catching on in other enlightened regions.
The incentive package passed by Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled legislature, during a special session last August, will offer the company $1.5 billion to offset payroll costs and another $1.35 billion for capital expenditures. The state will give Foxconn $150 million in sales tax exemptions on construction materials, and it plans to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on road improvements near the new factory.
The town of Mount Pleasant, where the factory will be located, will offer $763 million to help pay for the project, and Racine County gave the company $50 million to acquire the land.
In total, Wisconsin, Racine County and Mount Pleasant gave the company nearly $4.8 billion in tax breaks, incentives and taxpayer dollars for improvements. If Foxconn delivers all 13,000 jobs it has promised, that works out to about $370,000 per job.
“Foxconn is a great deal for Foxconn and an absolutely terrible deal for Wisconsin,” said Richard Florida, an urban planning expert who heads the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute. He called the deal “a complete and total waste of taxpayer money.”
See there? Even Richard Florida (who admittedly is claiming to have found religion these days) hates this shit.  The local folks are still super gung-ho, though.
GNO Inc., Louisiana Economic Development and the New Orleans Business Alliance teamed to secure Accruent's commitment. The company is expected to receive Louisiana's digital media tax incentive and a tax break from the state's Quality Jobs program. Both are performance-based incentives, meaning the company only receives them as they create new jobs. The 350 hires are a company goal and not tied to the incentives, according to Louisiana Economic Development.

The digital media perk provides a 25 percent tax credit on qualified payroll for in-state hires and 18 percent for qualified production expenses. Accruent can only receive the tax break for its jobs directly related to digital media.

Other positions not related to digital media production can apply for the Quality Jobs tax break, which is a state income sales tax rebate of up to 6 percent on 80 percent of the company's gross payroll for new jobs. The incentive is good for five years, after which the company can apply for a final five years of eligibility.

Well you gotta start somewhere

Congratulations to Louisiana on (barely) no longer being the Incarceration Capital Of Earth.
The state's prison population is now under 33,000 for the first time since 1998. The probation and parole population is also at its lowest level in eight years, said Jimmy LeBlanc, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Thursday (June 28). As of the end of March, the state's prison population has dropped 7.8 percent since the end of 2016.

Louisiana has also dropped below Oklahoma as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation for the first time in years -- a significant shift that was announced earlier this month.

"I made a promise that, by the end of my first term, Louisiana would not have the highest incarceration rate in the nation," said Gov. John Bel Edwards at a press conference. "We have fulfilled that promise to Louisiana."
That is great news. And as the Governor is happy to point out, it is one of a few areas where the people who elected him cannot judge his first term a complete failure. (The other non-failure being his easy decision to accept the Medicaid expansion. The positive impact of that is being steadily undermined at the federal level, of course, but that's hardly John Bel's fault.) 

There's a lot more that could happen on this front a lot faster. But the sheriff's brother who signed the "Blue Lives Matter" bill and who helped pave the way for security contractors to protect an oil pipeline probably isn't the governor to get those things done.

So sad about the "uncivil" left

Look what they reduce our country's poor beleaguered mayors to.  
A Pennsylvania mayor is apologizing for posting Facebook images urging police to "bring the hoses" against protesters and blast them with water cannons, evoking images of the civil rights era.

Karen Peconi is the mayor of Arnold, a suburb of Pittsburgh.
I'm just glad there's nothing to eat in suburban Pennsylvania besides Dairy Queens and bar wings otherwise some very bad people might deprive her of a nice meal or something.  And that, more than anything else, would make the Advocate sad
Here in food-centric Louisiana, where the dinner table is the altar of civic and social life, the thought of turning someone away from a meal seems especially off-key. That’s what happened Friday night when President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a Washington, D.C. area restaurant by the owner, who dislikes the president’s policies.
Okay let's stop right there for a sec because the anonymous troll who writes these editorials is already leaving some important facts out.  To begin with, the restaurant owner quietly and asked Sanders to leave after having asked her employees whether or not they felt comfortable serving her. They voted no. Rather than force them to work under morally compromising conditions, she respected their decision.

The Advocate erases the staff entirely and assigns all agency to the owner who they say "dislikes president's polices."  The editorialist(s) deliberately obscure(s) circumstances here because it is his/her/their intent to diminish the actual reasons for the restaurant staff's differences with the Trump Administration in the first place. Rather than name the abhorrent "Zero Tolerance" immigration brutality that has been ripping families apart and placing them into camps, the Advocate troll(s) merely say(s) "The president and his politics are deeply controversial." They then go on to lament the damper this has put on their ability to enjoy their own charmed little lives.
But in Louisiana, we know perhaps more than most about the value of breaking bread with friends — and even adversaries. It’s a way to affirm our basic humanity amid sometimes painful differences.
Imagine wanting to "break bread with" and "affirm the basic humanity" of someone who is systematically locking thousands of humans up in cages. Most of us can't do that.  The reason the Advocate can, though, is because staying within the relative good graces of the monsters who rule us is essential to the success of any commercial media operation. And a favorite means to this is  negating legitimate anti-establishment criticism by way of the "civility" trope. A recent episode of the Citations Needed podcast explored this rather thoroughly. This is from the episode description.
Mean words or questioning motives are signs of declining civility and the subject of much lament from our media class. However, op-eds explicitly advocating war, invasion, sanctions, sabotage, bombing and occupation or cutting vital programs and lifelines for the poor are just the cost of doing business. What’s rhetorically out of bounds - and what isn’t - is far more a product of power than any objective sense of "civility" or “decency.”

The norms fetishists at the Advocate are sufficiently isolated from the real consequences of the politics they are paid to report on that they can afford to chummily "break bread with friends -- even with adversaries," as they say in their op-ed.  Their professional culture incentivizes flattering politicians and the donor class. By necessity it also minimizes empathy with their victims.

This is why they can pretend the unpleasantness that characterized this year's legislative sessions was a mere matter the governor and Republican leaders not getting together over a plate of catfish.  Louisiana residents who depend on medicaid and SNAP funds for their survival may find this metaphor obscene if not downright uncivil.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wasting no time

The Koch people are ready to drop in the paratroopers.
Now that the ruling has come to pass, the group plans a flood of social media, mail, email, cable television ads, op-eds and phone calls to spread the news about employees’ opportunity to cease paying union fees. Along with going door-to-door, the anti-union activists plan to visit government buildings at which public employees work.
Similarly, the Heritage people have been ready to drop in SCOTUS nominees since before Trump took office
As the conversation evolved, an idea emerged: What if Trump could present to the public a list of Supreme Court nominees? DeMint enthusiastically volunteered to help provide one. When he returned to Heritage’s offices, though, some senior staffers balked. One concern they raised was that it would be counterproductive for Heritage to explicitly endorse possible judicial appointees: Because the think tank was considered to the right of the Republican mainstream, its approval of candidates could make them toxic in the confirmation process. But DeMint was adamant, insisting that this was an opportunity Heritage should not pass up. The head of Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, John Malcolm, ultimately wrote the list in the form of a post for Heritage’s news and commentary website, The Daily Signal. By then, Trump had already singled out Heritage at a news conference, announcing that it was one of the groups he was working with on a Supreme Court list.
That's the genesis of the list he will be working with now
President Trump said Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement will come from a list of 25 possible nominees that was released by the White House in November.

Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday, saying he will step down effective July 31.

One of the possible nominees, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, tells CBS News he would "of course" accept an offer to serve on the high court.

Mr. Trump released a list of 11 potential nominees after securing the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, one that was heavily influenced by the conservative Heritage Foundation. His campaign expanded the list in the fall of 2016, and it eventually grew to the list of 25 names released last year.
Trump is nutty but the oligarchs have money and they have plans. It would take an act of amazing stupidity for him to mess this up for them.

Supreme Court Justice Roseanne Barr


WASHINGTON — Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he would retire, setting the stage for a furious fight over the future direction of the Supreme Court.
Well, you know, in the interest of civility, the Senate really ought to put off consideration of the nominee until after the election..... oh wait... no that was the old thing. This year the op-eds will say,  civility demands we give SCOTUS nominee Attilla the Hun a fair hearing and "up or down vote."  Chuck Schumer will probably say it first, actually.

Leon is delinquent

What happens if you ignore a fake subpoena? Is it any less or more a penalty than ignoring an order to turn over your files on fake subpoenas?
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office still has not provided information to the New Orleans City Council about its use of fake subpoenas, more than a month after Cannizzaro told council members he would. And Council President Jason Williams wants to know why.

In a letter to Cannizzaro obtained by The Lens, Williams is requesting that Cannizzaro provide the information, which the council requested last fall. At the time, Cannizzaro estimated it would be available by mid-May.

“We are now beyond the timeline you provided for disclosure, however several items remain outstanding,” Williams wrote. Williams’ spokeswoman Katie Hunter-Lowrey said the letter was delivered Wednesday morning.
Or maybe it's not an order. Williams only "requested" the information from Cannizzaro's office, right? But then I guess a fake subpoena isn't really an order either so we're back to the original question.

Fittingly, the answer is, the deadline isn't really a deadline.

In a letter to the council, Cannizzaro said that compiling the additional information would take time because it doesn’t keep a centralized inventory of documents in its case files. Finding it would require a manual review of 150,000 cases. That review had begun, he wrote, but it could take “as long as six months.”

“It has now been over seven months since your response to the Council, and we have received no supplemental information,” Williams wrote in his letter. “I hereby request that you provide the supplemental data … or provide justification for why this information is being withheld.”

Earlier this month, Cannizzaro’s spokesman Ken Daley told The Lens that the six-month timeline “was an estimate, not a deadline.”
This is probably as okay with Jason as it is with Leon. It means he can keep writing letters and asking about this for several more months getting us closer to the time when the two end up running against each other anyway. 

How long until Mark Janus is laid off?

The gross Supreme Court issued another gross ruling today.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a major blow to organized labor. By a 5-to-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.

The ruling means that public-sector unions across the nation, already under political pressure, could lose tens of millions of dollars and see their effectiveness diminished.
The plaintiff in this case was a child support specialist from Illinois named Mark Janus. He has a job right now thanks to a union he doesn't want to join
A drastic provision in the state’s “last, best, and final offer” in 2016 would have given Governor Rauner the right to outsource and privatize state employees’ jobs without accountability. Our union is all that’s preventing critical public services from being privatized.

Our agency would be at particular risk, because Illinois already has a longstanding contract with a scandal-ridden, for-profit corporation called Maximus to perform some of our agency’s functions. They modify child support orders and interact with employers about income withholding—pretty simple tasks, yet state employees regularly have to correct their work. If they were to take over more complex tasks, we can imagine how badly that would go! Their concern is for profit, not kids.

If the governor could get away with it, it’s very likely he would expand the Maximus contract to privatize jobs like mine and Mr. Janus’s. He already did something similar to nurses in the prison system. But our union has to be consulted before the state can outsource anything. And when they do outsource, we monitor the contract and discuss how long it will continue. I go to those meetings for our union. Right now, instead of letting management expand its deal with Maximus, we’ve been pressing to cut that contract.

Stop and frisk on wheels

Uptown Swingers

This weekend we walked for a few blocks with the Uptown Swingers parade and second line. It was very hot out. Luckily there were some guys in the crowd pulling coolers of water and other beverages for sale. Nobody asked if they had permits to do that. Nobody called the police. Maybe it would have been different if they were on bikes.

That is very nearly a $1,000 ticket just because a cop decided to check and see if the dude had a $3 to $35 tag on his bike. Is that real? Jules is reliable source and all but, geeze, is that real?

It's real.
So, there Louis was in the empty pre-dawn, riding that raggedy bike in a striped bike lane, only now he was pedaling against the ghosts of would-be traffic. That is technically a violation, though one every cyclist in the city can attest to breaking. Louis himself has done it plenty of times before because he feels safer knowing cars aren't coming at his back.

That's when two New Orleans Police Department cars rolled up on him, lights flashing.

"I immediately went to the 'don't shoot' position," Louis said.

An officer ran the driver's license Louis handed over while Louis called his father, and he sat on the curb, thinking it all over.

He did not, Louis reasoned, look like somebody out to commit a crime.

So the local bicycle wars have been a subject of some interest here on the ol' Yellow Blog over the years so I feel obliged to say a few words about the political background to these rather expensive citations.

As bicycling has become more popular over the past decade or so, authorities in city government and law enforcement have sought to exert more control over it for various purposes most of which are bad. The city is interested in new ways to shake down residents for fees and fines . Politicians and real estate people like to cultivate at least the appearance.. often only the appearance.. of "bike friendly infrastructure." And, of course, law enforcement is always looking for new pretexts to do stop and frisk.

Here is a Gambit article from 2010 about a proposal to "reinstate a bicycle registration program that hasn't been enforced since before Hurricane Katrina." The fees it proposed were ridiculous, as you can see in the section below, but the reason the measure ended up getting tabled was because it was clear NOPD couldn't be trusted with it.
Jatres says the MBC's biggest concern is the fee hike — a 500 percent increase for non-commercial registration. As for the "commercial" fee, the ordinance does not make clear who would need the $75 license.

"A lot of people bicycle for economic reasons, that's their form of transportation. Having low income people (pay) a $15 fee can be a significant burden," Jatres says. "The $75 fee for commercial use — it's left fairly vague. Could be couriers, bike rentals, anything. If you use a bicycle as transportation for work, could that be broadly defined as commercial? It left it vague enough where that line between commercial and personal could be blurry."

The ordinance does not spell out how NOPD would enforce registration, which Jatres and other cyclists fear could result in potential harassment. The MBC says it's received complaints from cyclists saying NOPD officers have stopped them and told them to ride on the sidewalk or to wear a helmet, neither of which are laws in Louisiana.

"There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding among at least some officers within the department, which leads to the concern — here's one more tool that can be interpreted or misused, either out of ignorance of the law or intentions to harass cyclists," Jatres says. "That was what hit Councilman Carter, 'OK, we really need to get everyone in a room to talk about this.'"

Every now and then a new NOPD initiative proposes to crack down on existing but dormant regulations.  Last year City Council passed an ordinance presented as "protection" for bicyclists but really it just created new ways to bring them under the enforcement regime.  Jared Brossett's quote tips it.  The primary purpose of this was to crack down on cyclists. 
The new rules, recommended by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, explicitly prohibit motorists from driving in designated bike lanes or harassing cyclists, clarify that pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks and require that bikes must be equipped with lights or reflectors plus bells or other devices that can provide an audible signal to those nearby in emergency situations.

“All roadway users have a responsibility to use roads safely,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who sponsored the ordinances.

At the same time, the city has heralded its placement of bike lanes all over town as a signal of its progressive orientation.  But cycling advocates have complained the painted lanes are more ornamental than useful and often are safety hazards themselves.  This suggests our new bike centered infrastructure, including the recently launched for-profit bike share program, isn't designed to meet transit needs as much as it is to boost real estate values.
Those bike-docking stations, however, also give Fleming pause. He resists using the term "bike share" to describe them. Instead, they are "bike rental kiosks," he said.

His reasoning is economic. He worries that a kiosk in a low-income neighborhood would give landlords with properties nearby license to label that block "up-and-coming" and raise rents.

In other words, he sees a bike-sharing program as a harbinger of gentrification and its unsavory cousin: the displacement of the poor.
Blue Bikes downtown

Over the weekend, I heard a few stories about bikes tied up near the convention center receiving warning stickers that they had been improperly parked. In recent years, new prohibitions against parking bikes in what one would think are harmless places have sprung up in an ad-hoc fashion all over town. We've documented some of these. It's probably a coincidence that we're being made to feel less free about riding our own bikes in downtown neighborhoods at the same time that the Blue Bikes monopoly is spreading out over the same area. But the lifestyle is becoming more regimented in any case. A thousand dollar ticket for not being "registered" is sure to make anyone more wary.
"That's more than my rent. That's more than a number of different things," Louis said.

"I think the police has a lot of discretion in terms of issuing a citation," Charlie Thomas, Louis' attorney said.

Thomas works with the firm Huber, Thomas and Marcelle. They are statewide attorneys for bike law. He is calling the prices for these citations outrageous and believes there is no use registration ordinance in the city.

"Even though NOPD might have your bicycle information on file, we're unaware of any circumstance where this has led to the recovery of a stolen bike or really any sort of benefit," Thomas said.
The benefit to NOPD doesn't have anything to do with solving bike thefts, though. It's just a tool for city officials to use as they continue to embrace widely discredited "broken windows" policing techniques. LaToya's recently expressed enthusiasm for surveillance "Quality and Neighborhood Safety" cameras indicates that's not going to change any time soon.

On the other hand, that WWLTV story does say that the mayor personally emailed Louis about his ticket this afternoon and is "willing to work with him," whatever that means. So the lesson here for cyclists is, if you get stopped and harassed by a cop, (and manage to avoid getting shot, of course) make sure you get yourself on the news.  This mayor seems to respond if the uptick is big enough. Not sure if that really scales up as a citywide policy but, to be fair, I have not yet fully grasped the #CityOfYes ethos. Maybe it has something to do with being intentional.

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

Diving deep to new heights

The T-P asked LaToya what the heck "being intentional" means.  She explained it by saying a bunch of words. They didn't make any sense, of course.
"Meaning, touching that family to take these deeper dives, to do the outreach that's necessary, to understand what your people are dealing with," Cantrell said, telling a story about one family she spoke with recently.

"Five children and no one is sleeping on a bed in the property, just on the floor. You can't make it up. But once you know ... as we're building our partnerships to therefore meet their need in a way that is not only intentional, but it helps to elevate the family and build that relationship. Because it does matter, and it also sends the message that we care."
You have to reach out and touch the family so that you can dive deep down in order to elevate them.  Or something.  There is more quotable nonsense in that article but I guess that's what happens when the object of the story is to expound upon the meaningless and annoying "City Of Yes" sloganeering that doesn't look like it's going to abate any time soon.  It's basically Cantrell's version of MAGA. It would be nice if we didn't set out to write articles that legitimize that kind of thing.

Sunday, June 24, 2018


Gill's column today  is about an ethics complaint the Southern Poverty Law Center has lodged against Louisiana DAs  pretrial diversion programs. The Advocate reported on the complaint earlier this week.

There are several problems here beginning with the establishment of a de-facto tiered system of justice that allows a relatively convenient way to avoid prosecution for those who can afford to pay for it.  It also allows the DAs to vacuum money out of local courts and public defender's offices who (perhaps unwisely) are dependent on fines for operating funds.

But the most egregious element is the DAs' use of off-duty traffic officers to shake down motorists with what are basically the "fake subpoenas" of traffic tickets.  Gill writes,
Some district attorneys make sure the money keeps rolling in by hiring off-duty cops just to pull drivers over. They even have their own tickets printed up with instructions on how to pay. It makes a lot of sense to do so; that keeps insurance companies out of it.

Those special tickets also include a warning that, if you sign up for diversion and fail to pay, your driver's license will be suspended, which is a lie. Prosecutors have no authority to impose penalties, but then they have no authority to issue subpoenas either and that has not always stopped them.
SPLC's complaint doesn't name Orleans Parish. Of course we have a system that allows a private contractor to profit off of traffic enforcement by deploying robots all over town.  Hey, LaToya campaigned on taking those down.  What's going on with that? 

Nobody actually lives here

It turns out that when all you build is nice things for rich people, then only rich people will be able to use the nice things.
Now, the city is attracting attention from a new sector of the hospitality industry: timeshares, or at least a new version of the half-century-old business model.

A handful of recently restored apartment buildings and hotels that are now listed for sale could likely go this route, according to some hospitality leaders — a shift that’s partly driven by a recent zoning law change that allows timeshares in areas of the Central Business District where they previously faced permitting hurdles.

One property on Elk Place already changed hands — a move that will displace scores of residents at a time when many neighborhoods are feeling squeezed by rising housing costs and the influx of short-term rentals.

“We all had a sense of place and continuity, and ... to purge us for this purpose, for timeshares, just broke any sense of community,” said Peter Scharf, 73, who lived in a one-bedroom apartment at 144 Elk Place for about three years before moving out in April.
Several of the downtown properties this article names were renovated post-Katrina using public money in the form of historic and new market tax credits.  (The "incentives" LaToya is always so proud to talk about being able to offer developers.) The zoning changes that will allow them all to become timesharse had to be approved through city council. 

When your elected persons make these decisions with your money, ostensibly on your behalf, they use facile justifications based in tricke-down "suppy and demand" dogma. The language they use emphasizes putting "property back into commerce" rather than meeting the housing needs of a stressed population.  They are as clueless as they are corrupt. And unless they and their whole outmoded way of thinking are replaced, they are going to keep selling you out until there is nothing left in this city for you and nobody can actually live here.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Can dance contented to the sound of money

Guys, I believe they may have done it.
The Louisiana House has advanced a sales tax measure seen as a compromise and significant movement in a chamber that has struggled on the issue through three special sessions.

The House had been locked in impasse over whether to renew half or two-fifths of an expiring 1-cent sales tax. Under one scenario, the state sales tax rate would go from 5 percent to 4.5 percent on July 1; under the other, the tax rate would go from 5 percent to 4.4 percent.

In a 74-24 vote and after little discussion, the House agreed to advance a bill that would renew nine-twentieths and set the state sales tax rate at 4.45 percent.

And by, it, I mean they have managed to escape this year's labyrinth of sessions without having achieved anything of substance.  Now everybody can go home and start the 2019 campaign complaining about the same untenable status quo we came into 2018 with. This suits most of the Republicans just fine which is why this ultimately passed. Not sure how the Governor is going to make out.  But, the field is clear for anybody who wants to challenge. That may change now that the script is a little more obvious.

The money pumps are broken

What this says, in so many words, is that S&WB's billing system was working at one hundred percent of like forty percent of actual capacity. 
The billing system "was not sufficiently tested prior to implementation," the letter states, "and does not fully interface with the (current finance accounting system) causing delays and errors in reconciling the billing system to the (utility's) General Ledger on a daily and monthly basis."
Except for some people it ended up billing at like 200% capacity which was also a problem. Anyway they're asking to have their audit delayed. At least until the back end of hurricane season.

70 votes is an absurd threshold

It isn't the sole reason for the "extreme deadlock" but a 2/3 majority is a ridiculous hurdle just to pass a bill.
Morrell and Alario's resolution might have an advantage over tax bills that have stalled in the House. The senators think it only takes a majority of lawmakers -- at most 53 members of the House -- to approve. Tax bills need two-thirds majorities, which come to 70 votes in the House. But it's unclear whether the House will agree with the Senate that the vote threshold is lower for this measure.
Alario and Morrell think they might have a workaround for that.  See the rest of that article for that.  Anything they can think of is worth a try.

But the problem here is systemic. The 2/3 rule is a deliberately anti-democratic impediment to progress. The fact that it is a primary obstacle to averting the fiscal crisis in Louisiana is no accident.  Even the House has demonstrated that votes to raise the necessary revenue exist if such a measure required a simple majority. But the 2/3 rule allows a minority of Republican hardliners to obstruct those efforts.

It's also important to note the anti-democracy reflex in American politics is deeply rooted in the tradition of elite white supremacy. We've talked about James Buchanan a few times this year. He plays a pivotal role in maintaining that tradition.
Over time, Buchanan and his allies tacitly admitted that they had no popular constituency; that the voting public — even those who had supported Reagan and cheered the congressional “Contract with America” — hesitated “when they learned that freed markets would leave them with sole responsibility for their fates.” The solution, first floated in the early debates over Social Security privatization and starkly evident in tortuous repeal of the Affordable Care Act, is to “crab-walk” around the issues, to claim that frontal assaults on popular social insurance programs are efforts to “shore them up” rather than destroy them.

The second, and more chilling, solution is to junk the rules entirely; to tilt an already unlevel playing field decisively and irrevocably against the popular will.

The American political system is already strewn with veto points and eagerly attentive to the demands and resources of the wealthy. But, for the Right, holding sway in “the least responsive of all the leading democracies to what the people want and need” is not enough; the goal is to make it “all but impossible for government to respond to the will of the majority unless the very wealthiest Americans agree full with every measure.” Calhoun would be proud.
Buchanan and his associates advised the framers of Pinochet's Chilean junta to design a “constitution of locks and bolts,” that required super-majorities for any action undertaken by a representative body.  Presently the Louisiana House finds itself bound by similar restraints.  If Alario and Morrell can figure a way to pick the lock, they ought to try to do that.

Fake radio show

Kind of hovering around a once a month schedule as of late. About as frequent as legislative sessions, I guess.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

Okay but did Irvin make it back yet?

All this says is that Irvin Mayfield is going to face additional charges now that he is back from Soweto.  He did come back, right?

In a related matter, the American Library Association is holding its annual conference in New Orleans this weekend. What do those people do, exactly?

Object permanence

So by now I believe even CNN is starting to get a handle on the fact the executive order Trump signed yesterday doesn't have anything to do with "caving" on child detentions but is instead another move toward establishing a legal right to detain everybody indefinitely.

 Anyway here is a look at what comes next.
What happens if the government fights it up to the Supreme Court, and the Supreme Court says that detaining kids is totally fine?

They might well decide that detaining kids is fine! It’s hard to say. I mean, the Supreme Court did issue a decision this March basically stating that immigrants in long-term detention have no constitutional right to a bail hearing because—get this—they are not legal “persons” and are not, as a matter of law, “present in” the United States. I mean, they’re physically here, but they’re not legally here, you know? “Why do we allow people to become judges who are apparently too stupid to grasp the concept of object permanence,” you may be thinking, and you are correct. Any court that would accept reasoning that morally callous and comically divorced from reality is really capable of anything.

If the Supreme Court gives the green light, the government could keep moms and kids interned together in longer-term detention facilities. This will have a number of consequences. One is trauma to children: being ripped away from your parent is horrific, but being trapped in a jail or a camp surrounded by armed guards is also horrific.

They might get the 4.5

Signs they might be ready to put this year's fight to bed.
House Republican leaders are pushing the 4.4 percent sales tax rate in House Bill 10 by Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge. House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia, is a co-authoring this legislation.

Davis did promise Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee that if her bill came back changed -- or with a higher tax rate -- that she would allow it to come up for a vote. That means if Edwards and the Democrats can get the support for a 4.5 percent sales tax, Davis might not stop her bill from being changed.

House Democrats, particularly the Black Caucus, have said they aren't willing to vote for less than 4.5 percent or cut some government services.
Maybe they still won't find the votes for it. But there's an argument to be made that Republicans have thrown enough fits this year to score all the political points they need to go into next year's elections.  They've also managed to stave off more meaningful and lasting reforms. They've managed to protect the bulk of the corporate privileges bleeding the rest of us dry.

Also of note, Cameron Henry has attached his proposed budget re-vamp to the Davis bill.
It’s co-authored by Speaker Taylor Barras, and the amount of revenue it generates served as Appropriations chairman Cameron Henry’s number for the amounts he plugged into his supplemental spending bill, HB 1, on Wednesday evening.

“This removes the priority list in the original budget bill, and appropriates the money from the Davis bill,” Henry told his committee. “I picked the Davis bill, because we needed something to get the conversation going, We need to move along and get something over to the Senate.”
Even if the Senate revises it to a 4.5% sales tax that barely funds state government as it is. It also preserves what most Democrats consider an intolerable burden on the poor and it effectively "denies the Governor a win" by ensuring a continuance of the argument we've been having for the past few years.  It might be time for Republicans to declare the mission accomplished and allow this thing to end. They've done enough damage.

Update:  Wait a minute. Somebody might have found them some free money
WASHINGTON (AP) — States will be able to force shoppers to pay sales tax when they make online purchases under a Supreme Court decision Thursday that will leave shoppers with lighter wallets but is a big win for states.

More than 40 states had asked the high court to overrule two, decades-old Supreme Court decisions that they said cost them billions of dollars in lost revenue annually. The decisions made it more difficult for states to collect sales tax on certain online purchases.
This just happened so I'm not sure how much revenue this produces. A law passed earlier in the year provides for Louisiana to take advantage of the ruling immediately. Although how immediately is also in question.

Upperdate: Here is a full clarification as to what today's SCOTUS ruling means for Louisiana's fiscal crisis. In short, not much. 
The Supreme Court ruling doesn't actually allow any state to start collecting more internet sales taxes. The court has decided to send the case, which involves a South Dakota sales tax law, back to a lower court for another trial. It could be years before the ruling has any effect on state revenue.

"It's not going to result in immediate income to the state," said Rep. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe.

Even if the Supreme Court ruling could take effect immediately, Louisiana isn't ready for it. States that want to collect more internet sales taxes must have a streamlined system and central collection point, according to the ruling.

Louisiana has none of these things.

"Louisiana is probably the farthest from being in compliance," Drenkard said in an interview. 
So much for that, then.  Of course, Cameron Henry's Facebook page hasn't weighed in from alternate reality yet, so we'll see. 

Meanwhile, the House rejected Davis's bill at 4.5% this evening so, so much for that as well.  They still haven't moved any revenue bills.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Constitution can kicked again

One thing that seemed like a possibility going into the latest special session was a deal to pass the 4.5% sales tax in exchange for getting the ball rolling on a constitutional convention. We've already talked about why that would be a bad idea if you would like to review that. In any case we don't have to worry about it now because  it doesn't look like that's going to be the deal.
On separate 3-3 votes Wednesday, the House & Governmental Affairs committee, rejected two resolutions that would have organized a study commission to consider the feasibility and possible issues surrounding the possibility of changing the state constitution to better address the state’s ongoing fiscal problems.

Democratic New Orleans Rep. Neil Abramson said 13 mid-year corrections and a string of special sessions, including this one, to address ongoing budget problems underlined the need for fundamental changes in the way state government collects and spends taxpayer dollars. The most efficient way of accomplishing that goal would be to change the financial structure in the constitution that, among other things, locks away money for specific programs.
Don't worry. Neil will be back with more of the same ideas next year. But first he's sponsoring the least helpful of all the sales tax bills that came out of his committee today.
Bills now advancing to the floor, where they will need 70 House votes, a two-thirds majority of the chamber:

House Bill 10, sponsored by Rep. Paula Davis, R-Baton Rouge, would extend .4 percent of a one-cent sales tax set to expire June 30 and suspend some sales tax breaks.

House Bill 9, sponsored by Abramson, to extend .33 percent of the expiring sales tax and also suspend some sales tax breaks.

House Bill 4, sponsored by Rep. Stuart Bishop, R-Lafayette, to extend half of the expiring sales tax for the start of the next budget cycle but automatically drops to .2 percent over time. It does not address the sales tax breaks, commonly called "cleaning pennies" on existing sales taxes.

None of the bills that advanced out of the House Ways & Means Committee exactly matches the half-cent and "clean penny" proposal backed by Gov. John Bel Edwards and narrowly defeated in the last special session.
Bishop's bill would get most of the trick done, if you consider the trick just getting us out of this mess and into another one in a year or so unless some dramatic tax reform package gets done between now and then but I think the time is well passed for that kind of optimism.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Actually, transit should probably be transit, primarily

I'm as excited as the next guy for New Orleans-to-Baton Rouge passenger rail and all.  But I'm not exactly holding my breath for this.
Planners in charge of the long-discussed Baton Rouge-New Orleans passenger rail service will unveil conceptual designs for the two rail stations in the Capital City Tuesday evening at a public meeting designed to gain input and provide and update on the project.

The East Baton Rouge Redevelopment Authority and HNTB, the consulting firm hired to explore the rail service project, will host the meeting at 6 p.m. in the Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church at 185 Eddie Robinson Sr. Drive. The organizations in recent months have conducted technical analysis, met with political and community leaders in the proposed areas and designed the preliminary concepts for two “state-of-the-art, multi-modal” rail stations.
"Conceptual," is the operative term in that first paragraph.  Rest assured we're not anywhere close to getting anything built yet. Not with this state fiscal climate or the current federal political nightmare serving as context.  You aren't going to get any infrastructure built without first raising a ton of money from people who can't afford to pay and second handing that money over to one or several corrupt "private partners."

So it's probably a good thing that this thing isn't especially close to being a shovel-ready project at the moment. Otherwise we wouldn't be designing transit for people so much as building some developer's "economic development engine."
Jones said the rail stations could also include retail, residential or office developments, as well as sponsorships, to make them into economic development engines.

"The most successful projects of this type around the country are not transit centers in and of themselves but are part of a more attractive development that includes a lot of commercial and pedestrian activity," Jones said.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Best of intentions

She's always talking about "being intentional." What does that even mean?

I'm especially curious what it might mean to be "intentional about the bonds with the children" since she tweeted this at the same time that Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were at the Convention Center endorsing the Trump Administration's policy of intentionally separating children from their families and putting them into cages.
Speaking at the opening session of the National Sheriff's Association annual conference, Sessions suggested that people entering the country illegally are endangering children in order to avoid prosecution.

“We cannot and will not encourage people to bring their children, or other children, to the country unlawfully by giving them immunity in the process,” Sessions said.

The attorney general also said that if the country builds a border wall and passes legislation to close some "loopholes," then "we won't face these terrible choices."

The sheriff’s association gave Sessions a lifetime achievement award before his speech, garnering a standing ovation from the crowd at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Meanwhile, outside, "at least 5 people were detained" as a group of protesters confronted sheriff's deputies who may or may not have been 1) on duty or 2) within their own jurisdiction.
At least five people were detained outside the convention hall Monday morning. Deputies from the St. Charles Parish and St. John the Baptist Parish sheriff’s offices, who were in attendance at the conference, were seen physically restraining protesters.
Some of the protesters were spotted getting intentionally kneed in the back.  Others were intentionally run over by a truck.  I don't know if anyone has asked the mayor for comment yet. But, in light of her concerns about "the bonds with the children in our community," somebody probably should.

Specifically, they should ask her whether or not her office's attitude toward immigration policy differs at all from Mitch Landrieu's. Recall that just six months ago Sessions met with Mitch and Police Chief Michael Harrison to discuss city's practice of sharing information with federal enforcement entities such as ICE.  Sessions came away from that meeting pleased with what he had learned.
"We are pleased that the attorney general and Senator Kennedy have come around to agreeing with the point we have made all along -- New Orleans is not a 'sanctuary city' and the NOPD's policies have maintained consistent compliance ..." Landrieu said in a statement.

Asked for comment after the meeting, Sessions' office issued a statement saying New Orleans "has committed to sharing information with federal law enforcement authorities ..."
Over the course of the last few years, we also learned that Mitch and Harrison used tools like Palantir, private security firms like Trident Response Group,  and a network of surveillance cameras wired in to a 24 hour monitoring center to collect and analyze data which, again, according to Jeff Sessions, they were obviously willing to share with federal enforcement agencies.

Recently, our new mayor along with members of the city council announced a major expansion of that surveillance apparatus involving a highly questionable partnership with yet another unaccountalbe private contractor.  They were very intentional about it.
“Any assistance I can provide from this position I am in, y’all can count me in,” said Banks, who began his first term on the council earlier this month.

(Jason) Williams, who is in his second term, added, “It’s not whether we can afford to do it. It’s that we can’t afford not do it.

A focal point of the partnership’s $1 million first phase involves plans by Bryan Lagarde’s ProjectNOLA group to install more than 300 street-facing surveillance cameras on places of worship and congregation members’ homes in neighborhoods such as the 7th Ward, Gert Town and Central City, all of which are plagued by drugs and violence.
Today, Willliams co-signed a largely symbolic City Council resolution condemning Sessions's "zero tolerance" immigration policy.
"I will continue to publicly condemn the Trump administration and Attorney General Jeff Sessions' enforcement of their new immigration policy to separate families," said Council President Jason Williams. "Forcibly separating children from parents as a matter of course is inhumane and unnecessary, and as an African American and a descendant of American slaves, this policy is evocative of some of darkest days in this countries young history. This policy is truly self-inflicted wound, and like many we have seen from the current administration, is antithetical to American values and basic humanity."
That sounds pretty good.  But if he's making these statements at the same time he is supporting a dangerous surveillance network that feeds the very beast he's performatively railing against, what do those words really mean?   What does it mean to be "intentional" about protecting families when those intentions don't match up with your actual policy decisions?

So who gets to keep the money?

Joe Jaeger says his new hotel will actually belong to the people of Louisiana.
But despite its potential significance, the long-discussed project is likely to come at a high cost to the Convention Center and other local agencies, at least if the development team — which includes local businessmen Darryl Berger and Joe Jaeger, as well as Matthews Southwest Hospitality, a Texas-based real estate firm, and Preston Hollow Capital, a Texas-based finance company — gets its way.

Jaeger, the biggest hotel owner in New Orleans, defended his group's proposal, describing the new hotel as "a difficult project" that will ultimately end up back in public hands.

"In reality, this is a Convention Center hotel that will ultimately be owned by the Convention Center,” he said.
And who could argue?  We are going to be paying for it, after all.
To help cover the hotel’s cost, the developers are seeking $41 million in cash from the Convention Center, as well as a complete rebate of a 10 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 4 percent sales tax on all hotel revenue from sources other than room rentals until the hotel's $516.5 million 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.
This is the controversial hotel/motel tax revenue we've been hearing about for years. New Orleanians have long argued that the public revenue generated through the so-called "economic engine" that drives the city should address the city's dire infrastructure needs, or the worsening housing crisis, or anything that might meet the needs of the  the workers who make that revenue possible in the first place. Instead the bulk of the money goes right back into subsidies and support systems for profiteers like Berger and Jaeger.
The BGR study estimated that the hotel taxes generated $165.9 million in 2015. After accounting for all the pass-throughs and levels of distributions, the watchdog group estimated that about $126.8 million -- 76 percent -- went to tourism-related entities. The remaining 24 percent went to public services such as city government, transportation and education.

No other major American destination city devotes a smaller share of its hotel taxes to local government than New Orleans, according to a recent study by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. On average, the 17 cities in the study dedicated 65 percent of hotel taxes to basic services. New York dedicates 100 percent to its city government.
There's really no reason Jaeger would need $500 million in free money to finance a project like this. 

But, hey, there is some good news. 
After the project's debt is paid off, decades from now, the board that governs the Morial Convention Center could take control of the hotel, or it could lease or sell it and retain the full proceeds.
Because we're putting all these millions of public dollars into building this privately managed hotel is that, after 40 years or so, we "could" end up owning it.  But, really, why wait?  If we're building the thing with our money now, why not just keep the revenue?  If it's our money in the first place, there's really no need to just hand it over to some oligarch like Jaeger. 

Saturday, June 16, 2018

Which side are you on?

Kristin Palmer
Four months after she defeated incumbent Nadine Ramsey in a brutal New Orleans City Council District C election that included issues such as short-term rentals, Kristin Gisleson Palmer made a surprising move.

She quietly applied for and received a short-term rental license. Palmer would later withdraw it, realizing that it was extremely likely she would have to vote on short-term rental regulations. That came true last month when it was Palmer's own legislation -- a sweeping ban on whole-house rentals in residential areas -- that is threatening to permanently change the short-term rental game in New Orleans.
 Four months after an election when she and others elected to this council supposedly rode in on a strong anti-STR mandate.  It was an especially critical issue in Palmer's district. She herself made an issue out of Airbnb contributions to her opponent's campaign.  Turning right around and putting her own property up to tourists seems a strange decision.

The T-P story does its best to explain it away, though. We are asked to sympathize with the Gisleson clan and the difficulties with having so much family money tied up in speculative real estate.
Palmer's own brief journey with owning a licensed short-term rental began in Algiers, where she lives and operates a business renovating and selling historic houses. The home for which she obtained an STR permit, a 3,400-square-foot house on Brooklyn Street, had long been a dream of Palmer's to renovate. She finally acquired it for $129,000 in 2016.

To help with the financing, she brought on her brother, Pittsburgh attorney John Gisleson, as a partner. As the renovation took shape, an early potential buyer saw the property as an investment opportunity, Palmer said, and planned to turn the house into a short-term rental. But that didn't feel right to Palmer, who said she turned down the initial offer.

The property sat without any serious offers for about six months. The costs of owning an empty home -- insurance, taxes, utilities -- began to weigh on Palmer, she said. She felt badly that her brother was helping pay those costs without seeing a return on an investment, so in January she began the process of applying for a short-term rental. The license was issued on Feb. 9, but Palmer said she withdrew it two days later upon recognizing the potential for conflict. She had yet to host guests there.
It doesn't say exactly why Palmer didn't "feel right" about the buyer seeing an "investment opportunity" in a property her professional flipping concern was clearly trying to turn a profit on. Besides, her brother needed a return on his investment. That must have felt okay.  But Kristin was elected as an ostensible anti-STR candidate so she's gotta play the role for a little while. At least until all this blows over which will probably happen right around the time her IZD delaying tactic expires. 

In the meantime Kristin hopes she hasn't hurt too many feelings in the landlord community.  She understands what they're going through. It's important for her to say that.
"I started looking within and at my family dynamic and all the things that happened, and I realized that this is a microcosm of what's happening citywide," Palmer said in a recent interview. "I want people to know that I see the benefits, and I can see how they help developers and homeowners and neighborhoods if they're done right."

Uh oh is Irvin coming back?

Looks like that festival Irvin Mayfield left the country to go play is running into some weather related problems or something.
The organisers of the Soweto International Jazz Festival have cancelled the second day activities of the inaugural musical event.

“We regret to announce that due to unforeseen circumstances, today’s planned festival activities and evening concert are cancelled.”

The programme for the second day of the festival was supposed to be themed under the ‘Power of Women’ and include workshops from 10am to 4pm.

The evening concert was scheduled to feature the likes of American R&B singer Deborah Cox, Jamaica’s Kreesha Turner, New Orleans artist Yette Summer, Zamajobe Sithole, Lady Zamar and more.

All media interviews with artists were cancelled.

The festival got off to a slow start on Thursday with performances beginning several hours later than the set times. The event was moved inside the Soweto Theatre venue due to the cold weather.

There festival is supposed to be a four-day event that sees artists of different genres from around the world perform and entertain music lovers across the board.

Saturday and Sunday line-ups include performances from Charlie Wilson, Neville Brothers, Marion Meadows, Third World and Spyro Gyro, Irvin Mayfield, Gordon Chambers, Ernie Smith and Micasa among many others.
I'm trying to find out more about this Soweto International Jazz Festival. I think this is the first one although it is described here as "iconic" which is a little confusing. Most of the press I can lazily google up suggests, at the very least, that it is relatively new.  This article talks about its aspirations
"We want young people to see themselves represented. We want people who can afford to buy a ticket and to support local vendors to generate revenue in Soweto,” said Baynes, adding that there would be significant free tickets and discounted tickets for Soweto residents.

But the festival is aimed at the entire city – the entire planet, in fact. International Night will also feature a multigenre line-up, among them Grammy winners, including Deborah Cox, Third World, Bob James, Spyro Gyra, The Neville Brothers and, in his first performance in South Africa, R&B legend Charlie Wilson.

His first ever performance in South Africa, the legendary @ImCharlieWilson, alongside the dynamic local gospel artist @khayamthethwa will be gracing our stage this year! A tribute to Hugh Masekela and Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday.

"We love jazz, but the economic reality of a purely jazz line-up is limited in scope. We are attempting to duplicate the New Orleans Jazz Fest, Newport Jazz Fest or Montreal Jazz Fest models,” said Baynes.

After attending an event at the Soweto Theatre last year, his plan to host a jazz fest became an imperative. His ultimate goal is “to have Pan-African, American and European music fans descending on Soweto”.
If they're trying to duplicate Jazzfest, they're going to have to be a little bit tougher about the weather.  How bad could the cold have been?  This is sweater weather, right?

Also it is difficult to discern how much of the program was actually cancelled. Some stories say "the second day," was cancelled. Some say last night was. And others suggest the whole thing is off.  According to the festival's Twitter account (33 followers) part of the slate is going to be replaced with a "jam session."

So.. if you happen to be in Soweto this evening, maybe stop by the theater to check in on Irvin. Dress warmly!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Which side are you on?

If the City Council really is going to "war" with Airbnb, as the title of this Clancy DuBos column suggests, a lot will depend on which side the mayor decides to enlist in. At the moment, she's still claiming neutral status.
Through a spokesman, Cantrell told Gambit she supports the study, which began while she was on the council, and she plans to let the council do the legislating. The spokesman added that Cantrell “wants to find the appropriate balance that will serve the residents who rely on the potential income with the needs of their neighbors and neighborhoods.”

Exactly what that “appropriate balance” is could determine whether some New Orleans neighborhoods retain their historic local character — or become overrun with tourists
At this late stage, it's confounding to think that the mayor hasn't made up her mind about this. We're reaching a point where talking about "balance" really just means looking for any excuse to show deference to the real estate vampires while pretending  "show the love" to residents.  But we'll find out soon enough.

In the meantime, keep an eye on your councilpersons for signs of defections.  Even Kristin Palmer who is frequently held up by the anti-STR side as a staunch advocate talks out of both sides of her mouth sometimes.  Here she is in a recent WWL story sneaking in a few lines about "balance" and "blight reduction" as well.

They're going to do whatever they want

Remember that "leverage" some people thought John Bel had going into the special session?  Yeah, well, not everyone agrees that is real.
House Appropriations Committee chairman Cameron Henry, R-Metairie, said he wants to reopen the discussion about health care spending and whether sheriffs can absorb a major reduction in the money they're provided to house state prisoners and parole violators.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat, and Senate leaders are not interested in having that debate again. The governor's official call for the special session released last week restricted discussion of budget changes to technical adjustments, without allowing for a re-vote on the spending plan itself.

There is a disagreement about whether the governor's call restricts the Legislature from voting on a reworked budget though. Because the technical change to the budget bill has been included in the call for the special session, the entire budget bill is open for debate, according to Henry.

"You can't open up a section of a bill. It is all of it or nothing," Henry said. "We confirmed that with the (House) clerk."
I'm not sure if opening the whole budget back up for debate means we lose the one the Governor has already signed (thus sending us back on the path to a shutdown.) It probably doesn't. But it does greatly increase the workload for the new session which would mean there's a much better chance that nothing gets accomplished.  And, like we said earlier in the week, Republicans don't care if anything gets funded at all. So getting nothing accomplished would suit them just fine. 

The prohibitionist reflex

From time to time people try to explain to me what is about neighborhood associations and their aversion to liquor licenses. I don't think I'll ever understand it.
The restaurant needs a conditional-use permit from the city — which includes alcohol sales — in order to open on Magazine Street, so the owners held their required Neighborhood Participation Plan meeting May 21. Addressing some of the neighbors’ concerns, the owners said they were looking into the possibility of valet parking, although services such as Lyft and Uber have reduced parking needs.

Some neighbors were also concerned about permanently adding alcohol sales to the building, in the event that the restaurant does not remain at the location.

“We are very concerned about these unanswered questions and others and reiterate our opposition the concern and our opposition to the liquor license being for the building, and not for your specific business,” nearby neighbor Donald Maginnis wrote in a letter a week after the meeting.
Anyway, they're turning Jim Russell Records into a ramen restaurant. Maybe. 

Budget season is coming

Latoya at the podium
Then Councilmember LaToya Cantrell addresses the District B Community Budget Hearing July 2016

Sorry, I know the legislature still has another special session to do this year so I need to be more specific.  City budget season is coming and we're all very interested to learn about the new mayor's approach to the process. Already she's got a few things to say about how her predecessor went about it.
To provide New Orleans police officers with a pay raise starting in 2018, former Mayor Mitch Landrieu tapped into an initial lease payment to the city from the team redeveloping the former World Trade Center. Over the next two years, the Four Seasons project will remit $20 million to City Hall.

Even with that money, the NOPD faces what current Mayor LaToya Cantrell calls a "structural deficit" of around $3.6 million for the current fiscal year. While the Four Seasons lease payments have gone toward NOPD raises, they aren't enough to cover the overtime officers earn at the higher pay rate.
There isn't enough space here to go through the whole WTC backstory. But for now, just recall that Mitch strong-armed and restarted the bidding process a few times. This resulted in years of delays, litigation, and legislation, before we finally arrived at the current deal with Four Seasons. That  may not, in fact, have been the best deal as its scoring appeared to be inflated by estimates of future property tax revenue based on speculative assumptions about the real estate market.  But, it's the deal Mitch wanted.  And now LaToya isn't happy with the way he's used part of the one-time lease payment* to cover recurring costs in the police department.

This probably won't be the last time we hear her complain about the way Mitch appropriated funds, by the way.  The Landrieu administration has also been criticized for improperly redirecting property tax revenue dedicated to various purposes in order to fill obligations to a state pension fund.  There will be more like this as the Cantrell people dig further into the nuts and bolts of how things work. Wait til they get a look at the Wisner trust, for example. Also, here is a recent FOX 8 interview where LaToya says some things about replacing contractors and architects Mitch had working on S&WB projects she isn't happy with. Also there is a "FEMA bottleneck" to deal with. (There is always a FEMA bottleneck to deal with.)

Anyway, the point is even mayors who have six month transition periods still have a pretty steep learning curve to deal with once they get their hands on the city budget. Right now they're still figuring things out. As the years go on, we'll learn more and more about how the Cantrell people decide bend the rules in exactly the same way Mitch did except in service of slightly different priorities. Sunrise, sunset, etc. etc.

Meanwhile, summer is here and as budget season... um.. heats up, we're curious as to whether or not Cantrell wants to continue Mitch's program of community input meetings such as the one pictured at the top of this post.  If so, we should expect to see a schedule soon.  It isn't a given, though.  These meetings have been criticized in the past as pointless dog and pony shows. There was never any evidence that the public input collected there ever had much effect on the actual budget.  But they were fabulous venues for people to show up and yell at the mayor about whatever was bugging them and I always think we need more of that whatever the circumstances. 

LaToya likes to talk about how important is for her to "listen to my people" so you'd think this sort of thing would be right up her alley. On the other hand, they're also the sort of place one is likely to encounter a "community uptick" from time to time. It's not clear whether she thinks those are good or bad, exactly.  Maybe the answer to that will help determine the fate of the meetings.

*The city was also due a one million dollar payment from Four Seasons recently that it declined to collect for some reason. Maybe that needs to be revisited too.