Tuesday, July 31, 2018

The Billy Village

The French Quarter is a Neighborhood

The idea of the French Quarter becoming a big theme park is maybe an overused metaphor. It's a reliable way to describe the deleterious effects of tourism and gentrification there and in other neighborhoods.  Those things are very bad, of course. And they do cause the Quarter to be treated like an immersive theater for tourists instead of a place where real people go to work and shop and, yes, still, actually live.

But actually going the whole nine and just making it into a park? That's actually way more complicated a deal than what Billy Nungesser's brain is likely to get a grip on.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser wants to see the French Quarter safer, cleaner and perhaps a little bit more "family friendly." The solution? He proposes turning the historic district into a Louisiana state park.

"If we want to change things, we have to think outside of the box," Nungesser said in an interview Monday (July 30).

Nungesser, who oversees state parks and historical sites in his role as lieutenant governor, said a public designation for the French Quarter would come with its own set of rules, separate from other parks, because of its existing businesses and occupants.

"But we could have a park ranger on every corner and a contract to keep it clean. It would be a focus for me, just like I focus on keeping our state parks safe,"  he said.
Inside Billy's mind: "Hi I'm Billy and I'm the Sheriff this whole territory and all the security and sanitation contracts contained within." But there are so many other matters to consider. How much property has to be acquired or expropriated? Which governmental body has authority over what. What is the role of the Vieux Carre Commission, the French Market Corp., the twenty other non-profits and quasi-governmental boards who have their fingers in the pie down there?  It's a lot of stuff to deal with.

Also, isn't Billy's department out of money anyway?
The lieutenant governor also didn't say that turning the French Quarter into a state park would lead to more funding for public safety or cleanup. Tight state budgets in recent years have resulted in maintenance delays at state park facilities. Before the current state budget was finalized last month, parks were facing possible closure because of a lack of money.

Nungesser has worked to get private financing for state parks, including exploring sponsorships and naming rights.
Don't know about y'all but I for one cannot wait to take a stroll down Maker's Mark Bourbon Street before heading over toThe Gayle and Tom Benson Foundation's Jackson Square presented by Dixie Beer.

Actually, this is all just a scheme by Billy to head off any effort to take down the Jackson statue, isn't it?

Monday, July 30, 2018

Only 17,000

Despite the loudly expressed objections of every city councilmember, editorial writer, and... well.. pretty much everybody in town, the Sewerage and Water Board is going to resume shutting off people's water next month. Probably they will start at Joe Giarrusso's house.
The announcement follows a letter the New Orleans City Council sent Friday, urging the Sewerage & Water Board "to reconsider its plan to shut off water until complete confidence in the (utility's) billing processes has been restored." The letter, which Councilman Joe Giarrusso penned, followed a day-long City Council meeting Tuesday at which all six council members present said they did not support resuming shut-offs.

"We understand that the (Sewerage & Water Board) has critical funding shortfalls and share the valid concern of increasing the agency's revenue," said Giarrusso, who chairs the City Council's public works committee. "Moreover, we understand the importance of increasing the fund balance and ensuring (Sewerage & Water Board) has the proper resources to serve the community."
Don't worry, though. This action will only affect about 17,000 people.
In its news release, the utility reiterated that shut-offs would only apply to the roughly 17,000 customers who have not formally disputed their bills and are more than 60 days late on unpaid balances totaling more $50. Those 17,000 customers mark about 12 percent of the city's roughly 136,000 customers and collectively owe more than $21.8 million, the news release states.
Thanks to S&WB's as yet unresolved issues with its billing software, many of these so-called delinquencies are just very confused residents trying to figure out what they actually even owe much less how to go about "formally disputing" it.  It's hard to imagine how shutting off service to that many people is going to accomplish.  Maybe they just want to bring the water pressure up a bit before the next boil order happens. 

Thursday, July 26, 2018

The "spirit" but not necessarily substance of public input

They're making a big to-do over the GNOF-led public meetings about their proposed TIF district but the actual decision about what happens to Charity is up to these guys.
The LSU Real Estate and Facilities Foundation has selected three developers — the same groups that were picked in an earlier attempt to redevelop Charity — as finalists and asked them to submit proposals by Aug. 20. Those will be evaluated by a committee made up of state Commissioner of Administration Jay Dardenne and officials from LSU, its foundations and medical schools.

On Thursday, the foundation released portions of the submissions from the three firms that landed them on the finalist list. Three other firms also applied, though their names and submissions were not released.

The documents released are essentially resumés for the development firms. They only hint in general terms at what their final proposals will look like, offering no details about what mix of uses might eventually fill the former hospital building.
It doesn't matter if they say what they want to do, anyway. Each proposal is likely to resemble the next with the decision coming down to who has the most pull with the committee.
On Thursday, the LSU Foundation responded to concerns voiced at the meeting about transparency and released the initial responses from developers in the state's selection process. The state used those developer letters earlier this year to pick the three finalists from a total of six. The development groups are New Orleans-based HRI Properties, Matthews Southwest and a partnership between El Ad US Holdings and CCNO Development.

Those letters contained a variety of information about the firms and their commitment to redeveloping the hospital, but they were spare in detail on what they'd ultimately propose in terms of possible tenants or the ultimate use of the building.
If I were guessing I would say they're going with HRI. But the only reason I say that is because it would make a more elegant addition to the boundaries of Kabacoffia (shown on the NOligarchs map in pink below) than it would to Jaegerton (shown in purple) should it go to the Matthews group.


It could be they just pick something at random.  We would never know. Instead the public is being asked to focus its attentions on helping Andy Kopplin get his TIF, although the reason for doing that is also highly dubious.
Ultimately, the aim of the effort being led by Kopplin is twofold: to create a master plan for the mainly rundown blocks surrounding the former hospital and to serve as a vehicle for tax-increment financing that could redirect tax revenues back into the district, for the redevelopment of Charity or other purposes.

Maybe the developers get some of it. Maybe it's for "other purposes." Who knows?  They do get to say they held some meetings and got some "public input," though. That automatically makes this a very legitimate process, right?

Can't take your wage theft with you

Which, I guess, for Tom Benson, is a good thing.  What does he care about $400,000 now?
The New Orleans Saints violated federal labor law by failing to pay overtime wages to the former personal assistant of late owner Tom Benson, according to an NFL arbitrator who has ordered the team to cough up nearly $400,000.

The arbitrator ordered the Saints to pay $100,000 in unpaid overtime to the ex-aide, Rodney Henry, as well as a fee of about $105,000 that his contract guaranteed him if he was dismissed by someone other than Benson.

Arbitrator Harold Henderson also tacked on another nearly $190,000 to cover Henry’s attorneys’ fees, capping off a legal battle that began three years ago when Henry was fired and concluded Wednesday, documents obtained by The Advocate show.

Henderson had previously rejected Henry’s claims that he had been fired from his post in retaliation for, among other things, complaining to a superior that Benson’s wife, Gayle, had made racially derogatory comments about him while on the clock
The best part of this is where Gayle claimed it didn't matter what she may have called Henry on account of the fact that she really isn't liable for anything that happens. 
For example, responding to questions on whether she might have had the influence to get Henry fired, Gayle Benson replied: “I did not work for the Saints organization. … People in the Saints organization – I don’t have any power here. I’m Mrs. Benson. I’m married to my husband, and that’s it. The employees aren’t going to listen to me.”

That portrayal contrasts with Tom Benson’s public statements that Gayle Benson had long been taking “an active part” and “working with” the leaders of his sports franchises, as she prepared to inherit control of his billion-dollar business empire after he cut his daughter and grandchildren from a previous marriage out of his life.
 I guess she lost that Mrs. immunity when death did them part?

Anyway, hey, training camp opened today!

Really capturing the magic

John Bel is a regular juggernaut, I tell ya.
Louisiana has one of 16 Democratic governors (the other is independent), and John Bel Edwards, who is starting to gear up for his reelection bid in 2019, just eked into the top half. His approval rating is 49 percent, just shy of the magic number of 50 but well ahead of his 35 percent disapproval rating.
Grace kinda sorta reads that as encouraging news for our Governor.  Next year is gonna be a ton of fun. 

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

What does this blog even do?

Sometimes it is just pictures of food. For example, in the nearly fifteen years of me doing posts here on the yellow blog, few have gotten more circulation than this 2007 shrimp creole recipe. Of course that was before there was Twitter so people had a lot more time on their hands.

Anyway, the head-on shrimp were running $4.99 a pound a Rouses this week. That's actually kind of high. You can get a better price at the West Bank market but who has time to drive all the way out there? It's a great price for Rouses, though, so, yesterday, we fired up the Magnalite.

Shrimp creole

Oh also there was this yakamein I did back in April. If I ever get through the backlog of stuff here I'll post a recipe for that too. Don't let me forget.


The money tap is dry

I was just wondering about this.
The Sewerage & Water Board’s cash reserve has dropped to about 106 days' worth of expenses, down from 132 days at the end of January. If the agency allows it to sink below 90 days, it would fall afoul of its bond covenants at year's end, jeopardizing ongoing projects and its ability to sell bonds in the future.

Having heard those figures, Councilwoman Helena Moreno asked the utility’s new finance chief, Yvette Downs, whether she is concerned.

“I am very concerned,” Downs said, adding later, “We also need to be able to pay our vendors.”
Last week, when putting together this post about the possibility of privatization at S&WB, one of the questions I had was about the decision to put this $114 million bond issue on hold.  The above suggests they don't think they have the credit.  Anyway, one of the key reasons both candidates in last year's mayoral election gave for not being too keen on folding the current S&WB entity back into City Hall was they wanted it to retain its independent bonding authority. But what happens when that's not of any use?

Spirit of Charity District

This public input process for redeveloping Charity is curious. Tonight's public forum hasn't been publicized very well. Also, it's not really even about the building itself.  We don't know what the proposals are for that yet
A meeting being organized by the Greater New Orleans Foundation, which is leading the public engagement effort for the "Spirit of Charity Innovation District," will hold a community workshop to help residents envision what the district will look like. Design Jones LLC is assisting GNOF with a strategic plan for the district, and is helping gather public input for what it will look like.

But there will be a big piece missing from Wednesday's meeting, which will be held at the Delgado Charity School of Nursing's seventh-floor gymnasium starting at 6 p.m. at 450 S. Claiborne Ave. Although planning for the district surrounding the 1.2 million-square-foot hospital has largely been kept in public view, the plans for the building are still under development and are being overseen by the LSU Foundation (the school owns the building, a legacy of the hospital's status as a teaching institution).

The three developers -- HRI Properties, Matthews Southwest and a partnership between El Ad US Holdings and CCNO Development -- were supposed to turn in proposals five days after Wednesday's meeting, but LSU officials said on Tuesday that the date had been pushed back to Aug. 20.
A month or so ago, when we noticed the finalists had been selected, we tried to guess a little bit about what they might be up to by looking at what was on the table  during a previous round of bids that ended up being scuttled. Note that HRI was a finalist then as now. Also Matthews Southwest is in the mix. They're also a partner in the Berger/Jaeger Convention Center hotel project.  BGR put out a report this week criticizing the use of public subsidies in that endeavor. It is worth paying attention to how they are used at Charity as well.

As the T-P article linked above says, the meeting tonight is really about this "Spirit of Charity Innovation District" thingy. Here's more about that from earlier this month.
With the Spirit of Charity district, Kopplin said that city officials will be able to use a key incentive to ensure the eventual developer complies with goals set for disadvantaged business enterprise participation, as well as pursuing a mix of training and job opportunities. The tool is known as tax-increment financing, or TIFs, which is typically used for building infrastructure, using the projected future tax growth from the investments.

"There's no reason a TIF couldn't support all of those things including potentially spur economic activity around biomedical research," Kopplin said. It will require coordination between officials at the state and city levels to create a path to governance within the TIF district.

"The state and city partnership is vitally important," Kopplin said. "The city administration and the state administration seem to share a view of creating a district around (Charity Hospital) as critically important."
That is some extremely vague language explaining what the TIF would be used for but it is "critically important" that the money be put into a pile for some purpose. Partially because that's what the team of "experts" who spent five days in New Orleans  back in November said. One of them also said New Orleans is a state capital, though, so maybe not the most reliable information there.  It's also what this consultant the Landrieu people hired told them to do more of so, it must be worth something.  Look here they're trying to make one happen to help Barry Kern pay for turning the Times Picayune building into some kind of indoor golf playground. That seems legit. Anyway, TIF first and ask questions later is the order of the day.

So even though tonight's meeting won't give us any information about the plans for Charity, we can assume there are opportunities to ask them what they want to do with this TIF. Attendees could ask what exactly does it fund? They can't just say "infrastructure improvements" or "incentives" without saying specifically who benefits from them. Who gets the money? Who manages it? Who pays the taxes that fund it? What would that revenue would otherwise fund?

Most importantly, what's in it for us, if anything? Spirit? Innovation? The kids these days seem to be interested in affordable housing. Maybe someone should explain how this is supposed to help with that.

NOPD checkpoints are back in action

Be very careful if you get caught up in one of these.
NEW ORLEANS - The NOPD's Traffic Division will conduct an upcoming sobriety checkpoint within Orleans Parish.

The checkpoint will be in operation from Friday, July 27, 2018 9 p.m. to 3 a.m. on July 28, 2018.

During this time, motorists will experience minimal delays at the checkpoint and should have the proper documentation available if requested by officers (proof of vehicle insurance, driver’s license, etc.)
In addition to the normal documentation, officers may or may not be asking after your bicycle registration or perhaps even your proof of citizenship.  Try not to make them too mad. 
Gomez said neither of the arrested men identified himself as an NOPD officer when he encountered them in the Mid-City Yacht Club, which is in the 400 block of South St. Patrick Street, near his house. Gomez said both men were white, and one said he didn't like the military camouflage shirt and pants being worn by Gomez, who is Hispanic.

"He asked me if I was American. I told him yes, and he got mad because he said I was fake," said Gomez, who described himself as a U.S. native who was raised in Honduras before returning to live in New Orleans.
Just this week Mitch Landrieu was asked whether or not the ICE brute squads terrorizing immigrant families all over the country should be abolished. In addition to indicating he felt worse for Trump officials being confronted in restaurants, he also said ICE is really like NOPD.  Turns out he was right about that one.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Simple solutions

Abolish the death penalty. Problem solved. You are welcome.

What is killing journalism?

No it is not the internet. We love to talk about how horrible it is but, really, what the internet has done over the past 20 years is expand the reach and engage more people with the news than was previously possible by a very large stretch.  The internet helped people connect with and care about journalism.  It's hard for some to see that through the daily chaos but it is true.

Anyway,  capitalism is what's killing journalism.

In the late 1990s/early 2000s, media companies bought up newspapers. They then took those newspapers, profitable operations mostly and profitable by double digits, and tried to make them profitable by triple digits.

They did this by cutting the stuff that made them profitable in the first place because that stuff was expensive.

Journalists are not expensive. Journalists are cheap.

First they cut the distribution, or pared it down. They cut out printing popular sections. They cut out delivering on people’s porches, and eventually, to people’s homes. They cut in-house distribution and farmed it out to non-union mouthbreathers who were as likely to throw the paper in the bushes as get it to the customer.

They cut marketing, too, at a time when the housing market was booming and people were moving place to place at accelerated rates, so that you had no idea when you moved into a community what papers was yours.

What else could they combine or cut? Editorial design. Centralize it and put it in the hands of people who wouldn’t notice if a place was misidentified or spelled wrong. Copy editing! Who cares about spelling, anyway? Local opinion coverage, because syndicated columns about how young men need to pull up their pants are obviously more relevant to readers!

Shockingly, these things didn’t magically make the papers more money. In fact, they started bleeding readers, and the advertisers followed. You’ll notice I haven’t talked about THE DASTARDLY INTERNET yet. That’s because while all this was going on the Internet barely existed.

Monday, July 23, 2018

Story time

Should be a hoot.
The Sewerage & Water Board is set for a second round of grilling by the New Orleans City Council on Tuesday (July 24), when a public works committee meets to continue discussion on the utility's billing system, unpaid bills and construction projects. The meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. in City Council chambers.

The council committee is expected to seek a detailed rundown of how the Sewerage & Water Board addresses billing issues, including an overview of the entire billing process from when a meter is read or a bill is estimated to what triggers an administrative hearing on a disputed bill. The council is also expected to ask for information about how the Sewerage & Water Board's billing department is staffed and what training staff receiving in how to manage the utility's new billing software.
They also want to hear from you. At least, that is what this says.

Expecting to hear a few stemwinders in there. 

The stupid season

We are in it now.
Can't cool off this summer? Heat waves can slow us down in ways we may not realize.

New research suggests heat stress can muddle our thinking, making simple math a little harder to do.

"There's evidence that our brains are susceptible to temperature abnormalities," says Joe Allen, co-director of the Center for Climate, Health and the Global Environment at Harvard University. And as the climate changes, temperatures spike and heat waves are more frequent.
It must be affecting me already because even though I can see on the chart that we're basically halfway through the worst of it, I, you, and everyone know in our guts if not in our brains that September is going to suck.

The math says it's supposed to start getting cooler then but it will not.  It never does. It just makes you hate the hot even more once it has overstayed itself. 

Anyway, I started typing this thinking I would share some good news about how the worst will be over soon and I've already almost forgotten that was the point. See what I mean about stupid season?  Also, hey remember that it snowed this year?  The palm trees still aren't all the way back from that, even.  I spotted these green tops on Saturday.

Palm trees

The talking show is back

It's been one per month in 2018 for whatever reason.  We'll probably do more now that we know we aren't getting that Saints play by play gig after all. This one was a week or so ago so no jaguar stories, unfortunately. But there's some good stuff about Hall and Oates so it works out.

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Are they going to try and privatize it?

Flood zone

Matt McBride has never been the most optimistic analyst. But, then, when it comes to flood water, a half full city is bad enough however you choose to look at it.  Anyway when you hire McBride to tell you how your system is doing, odds are he's going to say it's worse than you thought it was.
The Sewerage & Water Board's power system came "dangerously close to complete collapse" months before flooding last Aug. 5 revealed severe problems in the utility's power and drainage facilities, according to an engineer the city hired to assess those facilities. He also found water pressure dropped twice to "dangerously low levels ... without anyone noticing."

After reviewing activity logs from the Sewerage & Water Board's power station, engineer Matt McBride discovered all four of the utility's 25-cycle power turbines either failed or were already down during the five-day period last year from March 7-11. He emailed his assessment to a former top  city official on Sept. 29, 2017, amid emergency repair efforts by the utility to patch the aged power turbines.

McBride's findings, reported exclusively by NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, offers startling new insight into the state of the Sewerage & Water Board's power generation system shortly before two summer deluges flooded the city in July and August.

"The events from March 7th forward are far worse than what has been publicly revealed," McBride emailed.
So that makes for fun reading on a Friday afternoon.  Toward the end there is a status report on the turbines. It says Number 1 is down currently and the long troubled Turbine Number 4 is being tested to see if it is suitable for "emergency use."  There are rumors that testing hasn't gone well but that isn't in the story so we'll wait to hear more.

Meanwhile, almost a full year after the bulk of its leadership was swept away in the wake of a flood, the Sewerage and Water Board has settled on a new director.
The board voted unanimously to hire Ghassan Korban over his fellow finalist, former New Orleans city attorney Avis Marie Russell, after an hour-long closed session.

Korban, 56, has been commissioner of the Milwaukee agency since 2011, a job that includes oversight of the Wisconsin city's water department. He has held various executive roles within that office over the past 31 years, a résumé that impressed city officials.

What it boiled down to was the overall experience that Mr. Korban brings, but also, what our needs are right now in the city of New Orleans,” said Mayor LaToya Cantrell shortly after the board’s vote.
That's right. She said, "boiled down to."  It's fine. For a while the interim director was a guy named Rainwater.  We live in a very bad TV show. Everybody knows this.  Anyway, apparently, Korban is a people person.
Duplessis, the utility president pro-tempore, added that not only did Korban's experience in utility services set him apart, but he also scored high marks in the "people portion" of the selection committee's criteria.

"...He had a sincere dedication to connecting with the people," Duplessis said, "not only looking inward in terms of our organization, making sure that we do right by employees and put them first, but also being that public face and talking to our citizens and making them very much a part of the process."
It's important that the new S&WB "do right by employees" given that they seem to have so much difficulty retaining them.
Amid calls for more staff, utility officials have acknowledged hiring managers have been taxed with daily and emergency responsibilities on top of scheduling interviews with job candidates and recommending who to hire. The July 13 hiring day should help managers plug many vacancies at once.

"This agency's greatest asset is our team and in order to work at our full capacity we need hardworking individuals to answer the call to serve their city," Jade Brown-Russell, the utility's acting executive director, said in a statement.

As of May 31, the Sewerage & Water Board's human resources department reported the utility had 534 total vacancies. Much of the staffing shortfall is traced to 463 newly budgeted positions added over the past two years, as well as the retirements, resignations or terminations of 395 employees since June 2016, according to the utility's news release. In all, the utility says 574 new employees were hired between June 2016 and April 2018.
It might help if the leadership over there wasn't so quick to blame their "greatest asset" when things go wrong. But contempt for workers is such a long standing tradition in New Orleans, the reflex is almost involuntary. When a botched cutover to a new software system threw the entire city's water bills into chaos, S&WB accused employees of laziness and incompetence saying they "never took to" the new system.  Employees told the  Times-Picayune  that S&WB management regularly belittled and intimidated staff rather than listen to their concerns. 
Amid calls for more follow-up training, former and current utility officials have declared the system itself, provided by Canadian firm Cogsdale Corp., is not the problem. They argue the problem rather traces to under-supported, short-staffed meter readers and billing personnel, some of whom they claim stayed loyal to the old billing system.

But two Sewerage & Water Board employees with direct knowledge of the utility's billing department and new billing system insist the software still has technical problems, particularly in how it estimates monthly water bills.

These employees agree follow-up training has been sorely lacking, but also say the initial training did not match up with real-world scenarios once the system launched in late 2016.

"It makes us seem like we're illiterate and don't know anything," one employee said. "That's not the case."
The classism embedded in the work culture of New Orleans is born of a deep and abiding racism. Every tossed off comment about incompetence or laziness resonates with echoes of vestigial racial hierarchies.  On the first day of my first job out of college, one of the first things my boss said to me was, "The problem with New Orleans is people here don't want to work." This wasn't an accusation directed at me, exactly. It was meant as more of a just-between-us-white-guys helpful hint. "Those kinds of people" of which there are a lot in New Orleans, need to be kept in line.  It's the deep internalization of these social presumptions that have made New Orleans a company town through and through. Only the boss is assumed to have any rights. Everyone else is probably trying to get away with something.

Hostility and suspicion directed at workers permeates everything. We confront it even when may not recognize it for what it is. It manifested itself last year in the scorn Saints fans displayed for the players' anthem protests. It also drove the obscene displays of reverence for their boss that came pouring out from every corner of the political and media establishment during his funeral. It is why "tourism leaders" and university presidents sit on every local municipal board and make decisions affecting the use of millions of dollars in public funds with little or no input from the workers whose exploitation produces that wealth.

These attitudes also color our relationship with public services such as those provided by the Sewerage and Water Board.  Which is why a basic provision like clean water is only understood in terms of its effect on profits.  It's why we're able to be so cruel and dismissive as to shut off service to rate payers victimized by the billing SNAFU. It might even be why Gambit didn't bother to give us an option in this poll for "They should never do that."

How well does LaToya Cantrell understand any of this?  Not very.  Her remarks at recent job fair had her using S&WB employees as kind of a human shield against public criticism.
"No longer will we tolerate disrespect as it relates to the Sewerage & Water Board," Cantrell said. "And I don't care where it comes from, because you all deserve respect every step of the way, and you have a mayor and you have leadership in place within the Sewerage & Water Board, again, to ensure that you succeed."

Cantrell's remarks follow a letter she sent May 24 to New Orleans City Councilman Joe Giarrusso, in response to a letter he had penned that referenced the utility's "terrible customer service, lack of transparency and poor efforts to engage the public." Cantrell, in her letter, chided the "demands and perceived tone" of Giarrusso's letter, calling it discouraging to the utility's staff and leadership morale.

"As we hold them to high standards, we must remember that neither the board members nor the (Sewerage & Water Board) employees are our enemies," Cantrell wrote. "It is incumbent upon us to work with them to benefit the people of our city."
As we've tried to show above, though, the "disrespect as it relates to Sewerage and Water Board" is coming from inside the house. It's management who isn't respecting the rank and file employees. LaToya is flattening the difference between the board and the employees in order to mischaracterize justifiable public criticism of the way the agency is run as an attack on the people with the least power to do anything about that. Leadership can abuse its charges however it wants. But criticism of leadership from outside is not allowed.

This kind of deliberate class blindness is a staple of Cantrell's political style. As she herself put it in her primary night speech last year, "I'm not talking about taking from the rich and giving to the poor and all that kind of crap." Indeed it is often her purpose to protect the rich from the poor by denying the existence of a conflict between the two.  LaToya defines her approach to housing policy, currently our city's hottest flashpoint of wealth inequality, as a search for "balance."  Her land use decisions as a council person frequently favored spot zone requests for short term rentals as well as incorporating the best "incentives" for developers and what she referred to as "the landlord community."

Cantrell supports these class distortions using a rhetoric peppered with Orwellian slogans and soft bullying phrases calculated to elicit fear and conformity.  #CityOfYes is, of course, the most famous of these but there is more. She's not using "It's got to be we" so much anymore but the spirit of that is still alive in her take on S&WB criticism. It ran throughout a chilling letter she sent to city employees during her first week in office. In that letter LaToya asked the employees not to think of her as a boss but as the head of a family.
First and foremost, I want you to know that you matter to me. We public servants have to stick together, and I think of each and every one of you as my family, because I care about each of you individually and I want you to know that you are seen, you are important, and you are recognized for your work serving our city.


And we beseech you, bend you to remain
Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye,
Our chiefest courtier, cousin, and our son

Or even Mitch Landrieu's "One City One Voice" provides a more immediate comparison. Mitch was an egomaniacal bully too but it's LaToya's penchant for framing professional functions in terms of personal familial relationships that is most disturbing. It is an authoritarian tendency; less a genuine expression of affection than a demand for deference. 

And so the condescension drips from every pipe. Got a problem with your water bill?  Better watch your tone there, buddy.  Trying to figure out what's going on with all the road work? Here's a goddamn garden gnome to explain it to you like you are some kind of child. Which is why we're starting to get a little tired of asking questions at all. Like why is that just as the city has (finally) secured $2 billion from FEMA for infrastructure work that S&WB is "pressing pause" on a $114 million bond issue  that would get some of that work started? Maybe that's a stupid question. If it is, though, it would be nice to think we could get a straightforward answer instead of a huffy brush back or some sort of puppet show.

But, okay, at the risk of all of that, what do we suppose is going on here
The task force was created in a bill sponsored by Rep. Stephanie Hilferty, a Lakeview Republican. It will be comprised of eight people — a member of the New Orleans City Council, a representative of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, a representative of the Sewerage & Water Board, a representative of the Inspector General, plus engineering, business and tourism leaders — and is charged with examining whether the agency should continue to function.

“Over the last several years, many residents, business owners, and local officials have questioned whether the Sewerage and Water Board is the best entity to manage sewerage, water, and drainage facilities and services in the city of New Orleans,” Hilferty’s bill states. “Suggestions abound regarding the best management options for the city’s sewerage, water, and drainage facilities and services, including but not limited to public-private partnerships, granting control to the city, or allowing the Sewerage and Water Board to retain control.”
Maybe the gnome will weigh in later but this looks an awful lot like a first step toward privatization. If so, it's hardly a bolt from the blue. It's something that has been building for a while and, now, the pieces are in place at the city, state, and federal levels that could make it happen. Take a look at these parting comments from Mitch Landrieu  just before he left office.
While stopping short of endorsing specific plans, Landrieu suggested that the city's aging drainage system is too far gone for mere repairs. He also said incoming Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who takes office May 7, should put the effort at the top of her to-do list.

"This ought to take priority over every other thing we're doing in the city," Landrieu said.

Regardless of the exact form it takes, such an endeavor would be costly and difficult, and Landrieu warned that residents would likely have to foot the bill with little help from the state or federal government. But he cast the changes as essential to the city's survival and said that deciding on and funding such a plan should be of top concern.
Now that McBride's report is public we have a better understanding of what Mitch meant by "too far gone."  That "residents will have to foot the bill," is a little cryptic, though. Let's talk about that. Major infrastructure work, such as replacing an entire municipal drainage and water system, depends on federal support. This is true even when the federal government is in the hands of 19th Century robber barons as it is today.  When Mitch is saying residents will have to foot the bill this time, he means they will have to pay more of the bill than they previously would have been hit with.  He knows this because he's seen Trump's infrastructure plan.
The meagerness of the federal contribution — just $200 billion over ten years, or less than 0.1 percent of GDP over that period — was already clear from the State of the Union. Half of those funds are allocated to an Incentive Program intended to support surface transportation and airports, passenger rail, ports and waterways, flood control, water supply, hydropower, water resources, drinking water facilities, wastewater facilities, storm water facilities, and brownfield and Superfund sites. Just listing everything the President’s plan claims to address for a federal expenditure of just $100 billion makes the inadequacy of the plan obvious. But there’s more.

The Incentive Program requires states and localities to put up 80 percent of the cost of any project in order to get a federal match of 20 percent. This turns the traditional approach to infrastructure investment on its head. The federal government typically provides 80 percent of the funding for such projects. It is wishful thinking to imagine how cash-strapped states and cities — already on the hook for extensive local infrastructure spending — will be able to find new public sources of financing, especially now that the recent Republican-passed tax law has severely limited their ability to raise taxes to pay for such undertakings.
No, we won't be able to afford that on our own.  Which is where the essence of the Trump plan really comes into play. It's all about privatization.
Trump’s plan turns infrastructure investment on its head in another way as well. Traditionally, the selection of projects to be funded by the federal government emphasized benefits to the public. The administration’s plan weighs the ability to attract sources of funding outside the federal government at 70 percent when considering whether to support it; economic and social returns from the project count for just 5 percent. Federal funding will go to projects that are most attractive to private investors, rather than to those, like clean water, that meet the needs of communities.
Profitability of private investment is everything. The social benefit of building the infrastructure in the first place, counts for almost nothing. Public-private grifting is the order of the day. There isn't a lot the city can do about that. But we should at least demand that our elected leaders resist this piracy.  Unfortunately, given the way they talk about public-private partnerships, "balance" inducing tax incentives, and their flat-out dismissal of the role of class in politics, our elected leaders don't seem to be equipped to do that very well at the moment.

None of this is to say they're definitely going to privatize Sewerage and Water Board. The other finalist for Director was actually part of a group who tried that once and she didn't get the job. maybe that counts for something. Still it may take a fair amount of upticking in order to steer us away from this path we're on. Which is to say the "tone" may have to get worse before things get better.

Thursday, July 19, 2018


Totally normal stuff going on in Property Management.
A month after Hogues was suspended, Cantrell's nascent administration gave the boot to the department's director and deputy director, George Patterson and Edward Sens.

In a rambling interview with The Advocate, Hogues, 73, acknowledged he was unusually close with female colleagues, saying he would often lend a sympathetic ear to their complaints about workplace spats and low pay. Inside his office, he added, some would even pull up their dresses and dance for him, displays he said were “innocent horseplay.”

“One thing is, I am an older guy, but I play,” said Hogues. “Not sexually, but I do play. They come in and they ask me advice: ‘Do you know anybody that can help me? Help my children? I need a better job. I need some money, Mr. Herman.’

“They come in and they play, they do the booty pop, and show themselves, they would do that,” he said.
That's pretty off the wall. And it seems to have gone on like this for a number of years. So that's worse. It also says that the Landrieu Administration was aware of some of the complaints, but it isn't clear how far along in the process that stuff was before they left office. It's possible that a similar action would have taken place even if this hadn't been a transition year.

As always, though, there's probably more to this than meets the eye. The subject of these complaints was already retired. The people LaToya fired were his supervisors.  That certainly would be appropriate if they weren't taking the complaints seriously.  The two supervisors offer different takes on that. The deputy tries to throw the director under the bus a little bit. He may have a point since the director seems to think 1) the allegations were not proven but also 2) he was not aware of the allegations. So that's fishy.

Still, it's possible they were both aware of the circumstances and taking what they thought were the steps required.  In any case, it wasn't enough.
Still, Cantrell was frank about the matter in an interview last week, calling it proof of a "cesspool" culture of harassment that her administration is determined to clean up.

"There was no accountability," Cantrell said in an editorial board meeting with The Advocate, adding that she has since tapped interim leaders to replace those she ousted. A “complete overhaul” is in the works for the Property Management Department, she said.

Was the office really a "cesspool" or was there just one problematic employee undergoing the normal disciplinary process?  It's worth asking because there are a lot reasons why a new mayor might want to do a "complete overhaul" of the Property Management Department that go well beyond the admittedly very bad behavior of one retired employee.

Mutant ninja squirrels

They had one of those Everybody Yell At Entergy days today at City Council which I am always here for.
Councilman Jay Banks told the Entergy group he has received nine automated text messages since April 2017 telling him the power was out at his home. He questioned why the recurring problem had not been identified or solved in that time.

"If it's a transformer, if it's a line, if it's mutant ninja squirrels -- whatever it is in that area -- there is clearly a problem there," Banks said.
That sounds pretty scary. But maybe they should worry about threats to the infrastructure from the real world animal kingdom such as escaped jaguars who can chew through steel cables. 

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

"War Eagle LLC"

Come on, guys
Berrian Eno-Van Fleet, the city's short-term rental administrator, read through several pages of evidence and complaints from neighbors near the home at 923 Orleans Ave., dating back to June 2017. A letter received earlier this month described the property as a "horrifying STR with abusive guests."

The city learned the property was listed on the websites VRBO and FlipKey, even though it did not have a short-term rental permit. Lauren Griffin, a local attorney representing the Oklahoma ownership group, War Eagle LLC, said the home hasn't been used as a short-term rental. She insisted that the owners' family and friends have been staying there but could provide no proof of her claim.

War Eagle LLC was fined $3,000 for similar violations last year. Griffin, who said that ruling is under appeal, argued that the complaints submitted to the city were "hearsay," although Eno-Van Fleet said such comments are permissible in the adjudication process.

"Your argument has to be something more than 'nuh uh,'" she told Griffin.

Can't believe Auburn fans are running something "horrifying"

Can't use the ring to do good, Frodo

I think the point of greatest point of departure between me and much of the current "left" movement is its optimism. Specifically, I worry that the expectation of taking power is going to be its undoing.   Power is concentrated wealth. The purpose of a leftist movement is to de-concentrate and redistribute wealth. You can't just take the ring and use it to do good. It corrupts everything it touches and always has to be destroyed.  (I'm very sorry. I despise nerd stuff.)

The point is, the work of a leftist politics should not concern itself with taking power but with dismantling it. So called late capitalism may be devouring the world and possibly itself but this doesn't presuppose the emergence of a more just order in its place. The most likely future is entropy, chaos, neo-feudalism, really.  Anyway here is an article for you to read.
The demise of capitalism so defined is unlikely to follow anyone’s blueprint. As the decay progresses, it is bound to provoke political protests and manifold attempts at collective intervention. But for a long time, these are likely to remain of the Luddite sort: local, dispersed, uncoordinated, ‘primitive’—adding to the disorder while unable to create a new order, at best unintentionally helping it to come about. One might think that a long-lasting crisis of this sort would open up more than a few windows of opportunity for reformist or revolutionary agency. It seems, however, that disorganized capitalism is disorganizing not only itself but its opposition as well, depriving it of the capacity either to defeat capitalism or to rescue it. For capitalism to end, then, it must provide for its own destruction—which, I would argue, is exactly what we are witnessing today. 

I might actually be more pessimistic than Streeck there. The way I see it, concentrated wealth and power tends to be a self-sustaining phenomenon. Any individual who amasses a significant amount of it thus becomes part of the problem.  There's no rational reason to believe "socialism will win." Thus far it has managed to defy that expectation, anyway.  I see no reason it can't go on this way pretty much forever.

That doesn't mean you don't keep pressing on in the face of all that, of course. It's just that the state of political equilibrium is always going to involve someone tilting at windmills. Understanding this as the fundamental permanent condition can be liberating. It frees us to do whatever work we can, however futile and insufficient, to mitigate the damage.

Predicting the future is boring anyway.  We can assume everything is going to shit (it is) or we can assume everything is going to be fine. Either way, if our response is to value only the things that directly affect our own personal success and welfare regardless of the fate of the world around us well then we are still just useless assholes.  And if taking and exercising power is the ultimate goal of any leftist political movement, then that is always going to be a losing proposition.

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Let them eat resilience

Best of luck everybody!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was already supporting 692 federally declared disasters when hurricane season started last year. Then came the most destructive disaster season in U.S. history, causing $265 billion in damage and forcing more than a million Americans from their homes. FEMA was overwhelmed.

So the agency has a novel suggestion for Americans as the 2018 disaster season heats up: Don’t rely on us.

In a report last week evaluating its response to last year’s disaster, FEMA details “how ill-prepared the agency was to manage a crisis outside the continental United States, like the one in Puerto Rico,” The New York Times reported. “And it urges communities in harm’s way not to count so heavily on FEMA in a future crisis.”

Slightly less reliable than walking

Did you see RTA released a new app this month? It is very helpful for letting riders who have smartphones guess how long they might have to wait on the next bus.  It doesn't actually make the buses come any sooner, of course, but hey information is power, right?
To take an RTA bus from Hollygrove to her old restaurant job in the Warehouse District, Amanda Soprano used to leave home an hour and a half before the start of her shift.

Between a Tulane Avenue bus she says is chronically late in the afternoons and a streetcar transfer, Soprano often encountered delays that would make her late for work; a fact that grated on her, knowing she could have driven to Biloxi, Mississippi in the same amount of time it took to go downtown on public transit.

Leaving work, she’d face a long bus ride home or an expensive Uber trip. She’s known dishwashers and cooks who spent the night on Canal Street after working late and missing their buses home
It's an hour and a half to get downtown from Hollygrove if everything is working normally.  RTA doesn't tell you this part but there is another app in your phone that estimates how long it takes a person to walk that distance. Let's pick a random spot in Hollygrove and see what that says.

Wow that really is valuable information.  I know you're thinking what about a bike but you don't want to risk getting a thousand dollar ticket. Invest in a decent pair of shoes and you're all set.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Time to run for governor again

John Bel Edwards. Is he a "winna" or a "looza"?  The third and therefore specialest of this year's legislative special sessions ended last month. Unfortunately, for those of us always interested in reading the post-game box score, it seems as if the year's governance marathon left Clancy DuBos too tired to declare the results in his accustomed affected colloquial style. Last week's brief column half-heartedly takes us through the motions of declaring winners and losers without going into too much detail and, sadly, without even bothering to arrange them in a listicle under those adorable "winna" and "looza" headings. It wasn't like this when the regular session ended  back in May.  Clancy was so excited then that he proudly announced the "35th annual edition" of his breakdown on Twitter. I guess he's saying we're only supposed to get one of these per year.  But, really, aren't we also only supposed to have one session?  It's a dynamic political environment.  Our media should probably be more agile.

On the other hand, it's been a busy couple of weeks for Clancy's outfit. I had a few hiccups trying to even locate the winner/loser column after Gambit broke its website by merging it to the crap-pile of broken URLs and impenetrable archives the Advocate publishes. This is a new era where the "Alternative Weekly" lives as a division of the major local daily. We still aren't sure what the Georges Media Concern's plans are for the new brand they've acquired.

It was interesting, though, that days after State Senator (and possible gubernatorial candidate) Sharon Hewitt was given space in the Advocate to push out a pile of nonsense about "wasted, fraudulent or questionable" Medicaid spending, the Gambit side of the website published a refutation of that nonsense.  This is just one example and it's early in the merger but it's concerning to think that Georges Media is adopting a CNN Crossfire style format where we get a Gambit  "on the left" (but not too left) take on the same item The Advocate covers "from the right."

If this really is the strategy then, now doubt, they're hailing it in the office as a triumph of "balanced" reporting. But, in reality, the full effect of such a point-counterpoint where one side is purposefully lying and the other is not necessarily writing in good faith either is just to legitimize the lies.  Is anyone served by this? Who cares as long as we get the eyeballs of market segments on #bothsides. I wonder if this means we're in for a Dan Fagan version of "winnas and loozas" in the future.   We'll keep an eye on this as they "work out the kinks."

Anyway, if we're looking for a more fleshed out winners/losers recap of the special session, we are in luck.  T-P reporter Julia O'Donoghue put together her own assessment  for that other bad news website.  It's more thorough than Clancy's effort and she got just enough things wrong to fill in perfectly for him so let's take a look at that first.

Don't misunderstand me. The reporting here is good. I just don't get where she's coming from with these scores. The most baffling contradiction comes where she manages to name the Governor a "winner" even though the comprehensive tax reform agenda his supporters have been pushing for three years is a "loser." About that, O'Donoghue writes, 
Edwards and Louisiana lawmakers have been promising since 2016 to create a more diverse and comprehensive tax base -- one that wouldn't rely so heavily on sales taxes that are harder on poor people.

Several legislators also promised to look carefully at the business tax breaks Louisiana gives to see if any were worth eliminating.

In the end, Edwards and the Legislature didn't end up making any major changes to the tax system. They simply resolved the state's financial instability by passing a slightly lower sales tax rate on a temporary basis again.

Business tax breaks are also still in place, though some are slightly less generous than they used to be. 
In other words, John Bel Edwards failed. After three years of contentious legislative brinksmanship, a task force report that came to basically nothing, an out-of-left-field Commercial Activity Tax proposal, and countless backroom negotiations with "stakeholders," we've ended up exactly where we started; inadequately funding government services on the backs of the state's poorest residents.

So, what did the Governor win, exactly? "Compromise," presumably for its own sake.
The Democratic governor was able to strike a deal with the Republican-controlled Legislature that hopefully pulls the state out of the financial turmoil it has experienced for several years.

"The encouraging things is we have demonstrated it can be done. That we are not Washington, D.C., where they are still paralyzed by dysfunction on every major decision they have to make," Edwards said Sunday.
So John Bel wins because the "financial turmoil" is swept under the rug?  Just taking the fiscal cliff off the agenda for a few more year, while averting a total disaster, doesn't deliver results for the poor and working class constituents we ostensibly elect Democrats to represent. Maybe the Governor doesn't care about that. (He doesn't.)  He still doesn't really win any political advantage. Does the Governor think the budget deal takes tax policy off the table for next year's elections? Try telling that to Sharon Hewitt.

Regardless of his failure to win a fairer, more progressive tax system for Louisiana, conservatives are going to continue to hammer away at the Governor as though he had confiscated 90 percent of Tom Benson's estate and used the money to buy every man, woman and child in the state a shiny new jetpack. That would be great, of course. But it's not happening. And the fact that nothing even remotely like it is happening is a sure sign that radical right activists should be counted among the "winners" here.  Naturally, that isn't what O'Donoghue's column says.
LOSER: Anti-tax advocates Anti-tax advocates -- particularly the local branch of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity -- have been bombarding legislators with direct mail and advertising campaigns, encouraging them to not vote for taxes at all. They even had volunteers knock on doors in some legislators' districts.

In the end, the Republican-controlled Legislature voted not to cut government programs despite these campaigns. Instead, they renewed a portion of the sales tax  in order to keep programs such as the TOPS college scholarship whole.

But, again, all that's happened is a continuance of the status quo. AFP, and right wing policy groups like it, successfully defended corporate and upper income privileges while ensuring the budget gap is filled by taxing poor people. 

Similarly, O'Donaghue names as "losers" Lance Harris, Cameron Henry, and Alan Seabaugh. But this score relies on a distortive analysis of these conservatives' goals. For example she asks us to take at face value Harris's own 4.33 percent sales tax proposal rather than the 4.45 that eventually passed. But the actual rate was never the point of the exercise.  It was always about loudly arguing and voting against whatever the Governor asked for.  Harris didn't give a shit if a tax bill got passed at all.  He said so himself. O'Donaghue reported it here.
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.
Harris got what he wanted. Henry also got what he wanted. His war chest/slush fund isn't going to suffer one bit as a result of his actions this year.  And Seabaugh is well on his way to becoming a federal judge. All's well that ends well for these guys.

So is the Governor a Winna or a Looza? He can try to parse an essentially stalemated legislative year any way he likes. But as Mark Ballard correctly points out, so can his opponents.
John N. Kennedy, the U.S. senator and putative GOP gubernatorial candidate next year, tweeted: “Heck I don’t think even good ol’ Abe Lincoln could get reelected if he raised billions in new taxes like Gov. Edwards has done.”

Putting aside that President Lincoln is father of the income tax, yet was reelected, Louisiana legislators of both parties voted overwhelmingly in March 2016 to raise $1 billion in taxes for two years to give them time to repair a fiscal system that annually fails to raise enough money to pay the bills. Roughly two years later, legislators had made no fixes and had suggested no meaningful funding cuts to state services.
Since no one's material circumstances are demonstrably changed by any of this, voters can believe whatever they like. And in a state where confirmation bias strongly favors the Republican narrative, the burden of proof in these matters continues to rest on the Governor. All of which is to say that with a year to go before the reelection campaign kicks into high gear, John Bel is well on the road to being ousted by a clown.   Whether that clown ends up being Hewitt, John Kennedy, Jeff Landry or Ralph Abraham remains to be determined. But, leaving aside the improbable surfacing of any "serious sins" we're currently unaware of, any of those loozas looks like more of a winna than John Bel at the moment.

Number nine on the list is if you are supporting this event you are crossing a picket line

NOLA.com is fine running an Amazon commercial for you at the top of the page (just under the red bar header about the death of a fox.)  The commercial doesn't anything about the strike, though.  Wonder why they're comfortable running that.

Update: See also

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just limit everybody to one

Yesterday's CPC meeting on short term rentals had its share of the usual attendant goofiness and melodrama. Eric Bay coined a new hashtag. Some people told some very personal and questionably relevant stories. A lady made her young daughter tell a story. Bingo cards were filled out. Props were introduced.  Ben Harwood (this Ben Harwood) got told.
Ben Harwood — a developer with more than a dozen STRs in Treme — said he now has vacant properties and projects-in-statis with the recent moratorium and has “no idea what’s going to happen.”

“It makes me want to sell my properties and move to another city,” he told the CPC.

One group at the meeting shouted, “Please do!”

It was weird enough. But it wasn't quite as wild as these confrontations have been in the past.  Mostly everybody said their piece according to a now well-established script. Also there wasn't a whole lot at stake yet.  That doesn't come until we start to see what the new regulations produced by this process actually look like. And the encouraging thing about that is, there's growing consensus around perhaps the most critical change people have asked for.
But operators and STR critics now are largely on the same page when it comes to demanding a homestead exemption requirement, which the previous City Council had briefly considered before abandoning in its final STR rules.

That requirement would stipulate that the owner of the STR must also live on the property. It currently is part of the conditions for “accessory”-type rentals, like a spare room or guest house or half of a shotgun double.

It would effectively wipe out temporary rentals as they’re currently defined.
As always, much depends on details so we'll wait to see how this principle we all seem to agree on now is applied to the law.  Ideally the new regulations should eliminate the tiered definitions of STRs  leaving only the "accessory" variant permitted. It should also ditch the multifarious and easily manipulated permissions applied differently according to zoning. Just limit everybody who wants to rent out their home to... their one home.  If we end up with a situation where these South Market properties financed with public money can fill up with STRs or companies like Marriot (who is getting into the business now) can own and operate a hundreds of them in neighborhoods all over town then the we still will not have gotten this right.

Sense of foreboding

Fresh off of making an ass of himself by exploiting the harrowing experience of a Thai youth soccer team for publicity purposes, Elon Musk is threatening to open a Tesla service center in New Orleans "soon." 
The center, which could be the first of its kind in the Gulf Coast, will come as welcome news to local enthusiasts of the electric-car maker.

Plans for the center have not been formally unveiled, although a demolition permit for the building's interior was issued in April and work is underway at the site, at 2801 Tchoupitoulas St.

The center will include a nearly 16,000-square-foot repair garage and office and an adjacent 30,000-square-foot warehouse, with space for about 70 vehicles, according to plans filed with the city.
That's a pretty appropriate location. If I were going to pick a spot from which to sell $70,000 toys for rich nerds in this city, I think a "haunted lot" where a plantation house once stood is pretty good choice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What "employment centers" though?

Weird tidbit in this story about RTA's new ferries.
Justin Augustine III, the vice president of the RTA's manager, Transdev, described the ferry boat's trip Tuesday as "history in the making." The two boats will replace existing ferries built in 1977 and 1937.

In particular, Augustine highlighted the new boats will have a far greater range of mobility that the old vessels, which only travel straight from one bank to the other in downtown and Algiers. The new boats, Augustine said, will be able to branch out across the river as well as up and down, opening the possibility to service areas beyond the two terminals.

"Hopefully, we can serve the employment centers up and down the river to build ridership, to get better utilization of the river and to create a sense of better utilization of the commercial waterways of the Mississippi River for passenger purposes," Augustine said.
Okay but there are only the two terminals.  What are the other "employment centers" these boats are going to? Where will they pick people up? Where would they take them?

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Mitch 2020: Fuck Your Feelings

There's a lot we could pick on in this Politco piece. There's the "gee-wiz a white southerner isn't overtly racist" framing along with some other condescending observations about how a person can both say "y'all" and also be literate. ("OMG he quoted a thing JFK liked to quote from Tennyson!") Many other annoying things happen.  Mitch is buds with Obama. Mitch is buds with Michael Bloomberg.  He's gonna be on Oprah's podcast.  There is this sentence: "He doesn’t have consultants, other than a rickety breakfast-nook cabinet of Donna Brazile, James Carville and Mary Matalin."

But you don't have to read all that stuff. You can probably predict most of it anyway.  The true key to understanding what's the matter with a Mitch for President campaign is right here in this paragraph where the potential candidate tells us he doesn't know what everybody is so upset about.
“We are not in a place where the world is about to take us over, and we ought not be in a position of crouched fear and hunched-in and isolated. We ought to be feeling much better about ourselves. But here’s the thing: We’re not,” Landrieu says. “And so I’m not trying to diminish people’s feelings. I think the question is, why do we feel that way? Because there’s an answer there, and I don’t know what the answer is at the moment.”
Mitch doesn't know the answer. Why should he? This whole running for higher office gig is just one of several options available to him, anyway.  And, hey, good for him. Inherited wealth and status is pretty nice but there are some people who manage to screw up in spite of all that. Mitch made sure he didn't squander his many opportunities. This is why he's able to dazzle Politico with his adequately educated adult's level of reasonably expected erudition.  But for someone so concerned about why people feel the way they do, you'd think he'd be able to empathize maybe a little bit with the problems that real people face. Or at least exhibit a passing familiarity with those problems.
So why does a large subset of workers continue to feel left behind? We can find some clues in a new 296-page report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of advanced and advancing nations that has long been a top source for international economic data and research. Most of the figures are from 2016 or before, but they reflect underlying features of the economies analyzed that continue today.

In particular, the report shows the United States’s unemployed and at-risk workers are getting very little support from the government, and their employed peers are set back by a particularly weak collective-bargaining system.

Those factors have contributed to the United States having a higher level of income inequality and a larger share of low-income residents than almost any other advanced nation. Only Spain and Greece, whose economies have been ravaged by the euro-zone crisis, have more households earning less than half the nation’s median income — an indicator that unusually large numbers of people either are poor or close to being poor.
Mitch can't possibly guess why an immiserated American working class isn't "feeling much better" about itself.  He's fine. His friends are fine.  Why is everybody else so pissed off? It's a mystery.

It's not just Mitch, of course. He's only one product of a political system that rewards insular networking among a privileged class of donors, office holders, and complicit media rather than working class organizing and power building. The glad-handers who rise to the top in this system have no clue what people outside of the circle actually have to deal with.

Think again about LaToya Cantrell's reaction when we had to tell her not to put a guy who helped cover up the Danziger shootings in charge of Homeland Security.  Somehow she didn't see the "uptick" coming.  But even after a week of meetings with concerned parties, her conclusion was just that we were all too "traumatized" to make a sound judgement. LaToya never really got what the issue was there because people like she and Mitch aren't capable of ever getting it. The successful politicos can fake their way past it well enough but there is a fundamental disconnect between the self-serving careerist priorities of the professional administrative class and the life and death crises faced by the people who live with consequences of those ambitions.  This is why none of them can ever really be trusted. They can be made to act correctly given enough pressure, but at a basic level, they are incapable of actually giving a shit.  

Mitch Landrieu, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, and the Carvilles are not among the "unusually large number of people who are poor or close to being poor." They are very interested in who gets to rule those people, though, so maybe some homework is in order at some point. Otherwise the Landrieu 2020 campaign's message is just a dressed up version of "Fuck Your Feelings" and I thought the whole point of this was to offer an alternative to Trumpism. Is this really the best we can do?

Are you sure we have the technology to make this work?

LaToya has a "compromise" idea for the traffic cameras. The Advocate calls it a compromise, anyway. Is that really the term for what this is, though? I mean  the person she is compromising with in this case is herself.
Although she once pledged to remove all of the scores of cameras along the city's major thoroughfares, Cantrell said she now wants to retain them in school zones but only during the hours when reduced speeds are enforced to protect students on their way to and from school.

The rest of the cameras could be removed in phases, so that the millions of dollars the city derives each year from camera traffic tickets won't fall off the books all at once.
It's also not clear if Cantrell ever came to a "compromise" estimate the actual amount of revenue the cameras produce. During the campaign she often diluted the Landrieu administration's figure as overinflated. In any case, this article says the new scheme would still mean an overall loss of $15.8 million next year. I assume the plan is to make that up by writing more thousand dollar tickets to bicyclists.

But the other question that hasn't been asked yet is, how can we be sure the cameras will actually limit themselves to ticketing vehicles during school zone hours. After all, we still aren't sure we can even get the warning lights to flash at the right times. Could end up having to reach a lot of compromises over disputed tickets.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The man who lost to Ray Nagin

Surely that is who should run against the Naginesque President, right?
14. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu: Landrieu is among the 2020 contenders with whom former president Barack Obama has spoken about the future of the party. He remains perhaps the most legitimate dark horse here.

Bullshit ticket is bullshit

While police don't hesitate to write thousand dollar tickets to people with "unregistered" bicycles, it turns out that nobody actually wants to register your bike.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Oh hey they found Irvin (maybe)

Seems like we should follow up on this.  Irvin missed a fantastic opportunity to embark on a globe-trotting adventure as a fugitive just to come back to New Orleans during July. Seems like a bad choice, right? Especially so considering he came back just to be arraigned again.

Mayfield and partner Ronald Markham again pleaded not guilty at Monday’s arraignment, just as they had to the original charges in January. The government did not ask for a new bond and they were released to continue their music careers as they await an October trial date.

Mayfield’s less famous partner, Ronald Markham, walked in and out of court with his attorney for Monday’s hearing and proudly flashed a copy of Mayfield’s latest album.

But Mayfield, who was declared indigent and appointed a federal public defender, managed for the second time to avoid the cameras and get in and out of public defender Claude Kelly’s office without being seen.
Wait! Are we absolutely sure he was there? 

The Nagin Presidency

I dunno.. I thought that might be a catchy descriptor a year ago.  But the comparisson isn't really so close anymore.  I mean, it's true the hillariously brazen corruption of the Trump people is somewhat reminiscent of what it was like here under Nagin.  But the scale of the damage left in its wake is too grand now for that to make sense.

The only true analog to Trump era licentiousness is the Bush Administration.  The Trump record is almost that bad.  He still hasn't matched the Bush gold standard by starting a catastrophic war that murders and endangers untold millions of people for generations. But give him time. He might get there.

In the meantime, another cartoon villain is jettisoned for being even too ridiculous for this level of unreality.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of ethics controversies, President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday.

"I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," Trump tweeted. "Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this."

Pruitt's resignation follows months during which the EPA administrator has been embroiled in one ethics controversy after the next.
As over-the-top as Pruitt's pile of "ethics controversies" had gotten, it still pales in comparisson to the actual policy damage he was able to do during his short time in the post.   If anything it shows us just how openly and stupidly corrupt you can be in this government as long as you're handing over protected forrests, waterways, skies, etc to polluting industry.   Is there even anything left for Pruitt's successor to sell off?