Friday, August 31, 2018

Bringing in the best

Just going to put the reminder up here that Cantrell's CFO was hired as the result of a national search
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell’s pick as chief financial officer of New Orleans once held the same position under disgraced former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, who is now serving a 28-year sentence in federal prison on corruption charges.
At that time the best the  Advocate could do to reassure us about White with regard to Kilpatrick's scandals was to say,  "Those controversies in many cases followed a pattern that began before White's tenure as chief financial officer, and it’s not entirely clear what role he played in continuing them."

So, okay. Keep an open mind.  Here's what that gets us so far.
In an interview, Brossett said he was disappointed with city Chief Financial Officer Norman White's lack of preparation and his failure to give the committee any idea of what the budget impact would be if changes were made to the traffic camera program.

Instead of a long-term budget outlook for 2019, White provided the council with data on traffic cameras mounted in school zones. They are among the biggest revenue generators because they have a lower trigger point for issuing tickets -- vehicles 6 mph or faster over the limit are ticketed during school hours versus 10 mph for cameras in non-school zones. The school zone cameras are also placed along some of the city's most traveled thoroughfares.

Council members questioned some of White's numbers because they conflicted with a report they received given in July during a revenue estimating conference, where officials get an update on tax receipts and other sources of city income. School zone cameras are projected to generate $12 million during non-school hours in 2018, according to the July report. White's presentation put the amount at $7.1 million.
Well, alright.  Maybe give him some time, though.  It says here he has a considerable amount of experience figuring out how best to maximize revenue from drivers. 
The plaintiffs are Kayla Friess, 25, of Detroit, who has received numerous parking violations by the city of Detroit over the years. At least one of the tickets was for $45. She paid the fine within 10 days, but was still charged the full amount.

Issa Haddad, 40. of West Bloomfield is the other plaintiff. He also has received numerous parking tickets in Detroit, including at least one for $45. 

The lawsuit, filed by attorney Shaun Godwin, is seeking class-action status.  The defendants  are the city, Wisconsin-based parking meter contractor Duncan Solutions; Detroit parking director Norman White; and James Canty, manager of the city's parking violations bureau.
Maybe they should let him look at S&WB. 

Everybody's gotta figure out their cut

They've spent the better part of this year trying to get Avondale "back into commerce" as a transshipment facility. I think the progress supposedly being reported here is that Jefferson Parish is giving them a PILOT. It's complicated by the fact that there are sooo many entities for the new operator to wring money out of.
But there is much more than tax negotiations to be resolved for the complex Avondale deal to close:
Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the West Jefferson Levee District and the parish government also have some interest in the matter.
The T-P story doesn't say much about how many jobs this might mean. The WVUE story it cites says 2,500 although there's little information as to what the conditions and quality of that work will be.

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Moving in the direction of looking

So here is some more math for you.  If you stare really hard at $25 million does it start to get any smaller at some point?
On Thursday, here's what council members wanted to know.

"Are you moving in the direction of removing cameras?" asked Councilwoman Helena Moreno.

"We are moving in the direction of just looking at the data, so clearly we are looking at this," said White.
 We're getting into budget season. Pretty soon they're going to have to decide whether or not they can afford to keep the founding promise of their mayoral campaign. (They can't)

How many potholes does $5000 fix?

I realize this is a second consecutive post about math but it's worth asking. I can't imagine it's very many potholes. Like maybe three? I mean, that's fine. We'll take the money. Especially seeing as how we don't actually have to do the commercial if we don't want to.
Do not get any hopes up for a sweeping infrastructure revolution, however. Where this ad campaign meets the road, the program takes the form of a $5,000 grant from Domino's to City Hall, the body already responsible for street maintenance in the first place.

“We approached the city about the grant and they accepted,” said Domino’s spokeswoman Danielle Bulger. “We leave the details to the city, so where they want to pave and when to do it is up to them.”

The grant also comes with a stencil kit to mark up the grant-funded pothole work with the Domino's logo, and a magnet to apply to the vehicles completing the work. Bulger said using those brand materials was optional.
So to be clear on this. If you see a Domino's ad in the street, it will be because the City specifically decided it would look nice there. 

Maths backwards

They've discovered a new problem with Sewerage and Water Boards fancy billing software.  It doesn't work in reverse.
It turns out that in tens of thousands of cases, the agency may have shortchanged the refund amounts.

More than 26,000 customers have received at least one bill that shows negative water usage since October 2016, the S&WB's way of correcting a previous bill that charged customer for more water than they actually used.

But the process of correctly crediting those accounts, which requires S&WB employees to manually calculate the amount owed, has left many of those customers still owed money.

That’s because while the S&WB charges for water at two different rates, depending on how much is used, it provided credits only at the lower rate in many cases.

Utility officials say they are taking several measures to address the problem. They are working to calculate the correct amount the agency owes customers and issue additional refunds. They have asked Cogsdale, the company that supplied the billing software the utility uses, to fix the bug that is at least partially responsible for the problem, something that should prevent new issues from arising and that should be complete in the coming week. And they have asked the city's Office of Inspector General to investigate.
Is that really a "bug," though?  Looks like the Advocate made a working rebate calculator for their webpage and I'm pretty sure the most tech-savvy person over there is, like James Gill or somebody.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

They will call him Touchdown Ted

Or Teddy Football or.. it has been suggested... Theodore Throwsevelt.. but I am afraid that is far better than any of us deserves. In any case, what did the Saints get?
>The New Orleans Saints made a stunning move Wednesday (Aug. 29), acquiring quarterback Teddy Bridgewater in a trade from the New York Jets, according to ESPN and NFL Network.

With the move, the Saints add an experienced, high-ceiling quarterback to backup Drew Brees, and if the team can sign Bridgewater beyond this season, he could be in line to become Brees' eventual successor.
"Stunning?" I guess. Surprising, anyway. But it makes sense. I'd say a young QB who was an emerging star before an (admittedly horrific) injury is worth whatever risk there is in giving up a 3rd round pick. Especially when your starter is 75 years old.  For comparison's sake, notice the Saints are going to try and trade Tom Savage now.  Imagine how you would feel if your team traded for Tom Savage in the last week of the presason. This is much better than that.

Meanwhile Magary's Saints preview is out today.  Magary is a Vikings fan so he didn't phone this one in this year. It's pretty funny.  But, really, the best part is in the reader comments  and comes, appropriately enough, from a Jeff.
If the Saints win two games to start the season, every trust fund Bard graduate who moved to here to teach us balding locals the meaning and magic of New Orleans will become Saints Superiest Fans. Both the guys and gals will buy up the entire stock of gold sparkly hot pants from Beauty Plus, leaving the local prostitutes, whom they claim to morally support, out to dry.

We are a stupid team in a stupid sport with a fanbase of racist suburban fans and owned by the last woman standing in a real life game of Billionaire Survivor played by the family of a man who tried to move the team out of our city and into Texas after the storm. We have to pass a ridiculous self-congratulatory statue of Tom Benson that he erected of himself in front of the Dome in order to get inside for each game. I flip it off before every game that I’m sober enough to remember.

There’s nothing magical about the Saints. Like most of the city, it’s an illusion, money driven and racist and we are just the yahoos who are eye candy for the next wave of suckers brought in.

And that’s fine. If they can embrace that and not think anything means anything deeper, you’ll maybe survive.

People shouldn't post stuff on the internet

Having said that, I guess these twelve posts I put up around the time of the tenth Resilience-a-versary were fine for what they were and all. Today being the third anniversary of that seems a fair occasion to look at those again.

You are not New Orleans

Sorry, guys. I know you went down to the Convention Center board meeting and got very mad online in person at them for trying to take all of your money and give it to Joe Jaeger. But Dottie Belletto regrets to inform you that you are fake news.
Gavrielle Gemma, representing the People's Assembly of New Orleans, called the tax arrangement a bad deal, saying that when it was passed, "They didn't realize it would be robbing the city budget of extremely important things."

"You all think you can take the money levied -- take it to actually build a hotel which will not pay any taxes back to the city?" Gemma said. "You do this because you think the people of this city are asleep. ... Maybe it's not today and it's not tomorrow but there's going to be an eruption in the city. One that you're going to regret."

Commissioners appeared unmoved by the activists, however, and Commissioner Dottie Belletto claimed the activists were not representative of the rest of the city.

"I apologize for what you saw in this room today. That's not New Orleans," Belletto said. "I think the community just doesn't understand, so we just need to do a better job to understand these processes."
The board was there that day to listen to a consultant they had hired specifically to tell them about how good the hotel would be for the "business and hospitality leaders" who we all know constitute real New Orleans.
The project has drawn support from many of the city’s business and hospitality leaders, who are eager to add another high-rise hotel to the New Orleans skyline, especially one that’s big enough and with the facilities necessary to serve as the headquarters for major conventions.
These "hospitality leaders" will spend all day and then some touting their value to the community if you let them. Often it sounds like they just enjoy flattering themselves but there's actually a purpose.  They need to produce enough bullshit copy to justify the hundreds of millions of dollars worth of public subsidies and tax credits that go into financing their pet projects.
To help cover the project’s cost, the developers are seeking $41 million in up-front cash from the Convention Center, which is funded by a variety of taxes. They also want a complete rebate to the hotel of a 10 percent hotel occupancy tax and a 4 percent sales tax on all hotel revenue from sources other than room rentals, which would last for roughly 40 years.

The developers further have requested a free 50-year land lease from the Convention Center with four optional 10-year extensions, which BGR values at $28.9 million, and a 40-year break on property taxes, which the group pegs at $43.7 million.

Altogether, BGR estimates that the requested tax breaks and incentives are worth roughly $329.5 million in today’s dollars.
In this case they are proposing to manage that generous package through a brand new "non-profit" entity created to operate the hotel... at least until the public money pays off all of its debts. This is an unusual arrangement, according to the consultant, although not entirely unique. Unfortunately whatever information about how it works elsewhere is classified.

Okay, well, whatever is going on in the black box there, Joe Jaeger told us a few months ago that it all ends well in 40 years when ownership of the hotel reverts to the Convention Center (and therefore, theoretically, to the public although there are all sorts of caveats attached to that we won't get into.) "In reality, this is a Convention Center hotel that will ultimately be owned by the Convention Center,” said Jaeger at the time.  Last week, though, the reality looked a little less certain.

In the long run we're all going to be under the ocean anyway so maybe nobody cares who owns that particular plot of submarine real estate in 2060.  But in the meantime the NOLA non-profit industrial complex are used to stealing money for one another via a specific type of organizational format and so here we are. For example, this is exactly how the Convention Center handed Ti Martin and  John Besh several million dollars so they could build a "non-profit" restaurant school (tuition and fees $14,775) to train their subsistence wage workforce.   Many will recall also the $40 million they gave Mitch Landrieu so he could put a bunch of surveillance cameras and bollards all over the French Quarter.

The Convention Center is sitting on piles and piles of money it has no idea what to do with. And since the city itself is broke, this strikes some people as unfair. Like the mayor, for one.
In the opening salvo in what could become a lengthy negotiation over whether the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center moves forward with its plans to build a high-rise hotel, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has expressed “grave concerns” about the large public subsidies being sought by the developers.

In a letter last week, Cantrell said she had “grave concerns about the amount of subsidy this project will receive and the future implications of this project on tax revenue in New Orleans.”
Which is why the "hospitality leaders" are never shy about telling you this is all their money in the first place.
Much of the opposition is rooted in a long-standing structure that Cantrell herself has criticized. The city and school system receive only about one-quarter of hotel taxes generated in the city; the Convention Center and the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District keep the majority of the revenue.

That arrangement has long been sold as a good deal for the city because the Convention Center doesn't depend on taxes paid by residents. But Cantrell has been critical of the arrangement, saying that more tourism dollars should be supporting the city's general fund.
The city, the school system, RTA, the Sewerage and Water Board, the levee boards, the libraries, etc. all of them are expected to be grateful for what little dollars the hospitality leaders allow them to keep.  They're all broke but they're getting a "good deal."  Not nearly as good a deal as what Ti Martin and Melvin Rodigue and their friends get, of course. But as Belletto explained, they're what constitutes the real New Orleans so they're entitled.

Eventually it all works out. The New New Orleans these guys have built continues under its own momentum to spawn new growth in timeshares and short term rentals and other tourist facing uses for real estate that becomes more and more expensive even as it becomes less and less insurable.  The trick is nobody needs well funded schools, roads, buses and flood protection if nobody actually lives here.
I met with Melon at his shotgun home right around the corner from where he grew up. His house is next to a busy seafood spot and one block from one of the most central locations for second lines. The highway overpass there at Claiborne and St. Bernard avenues acts as a concrete echo chamber. It's where brass bands make sure to play their best songs.

When I told Melon he lived in a prime location for his work, he said, “Yeah, but I won’t be here for too long. This isn’t a neighborhood anymore. This is a goddamn hotel district.” Melon said his landlord is kicking him out to turn his apartment into an Airbnb. His neighborhood is one of the black neighborhoods most threatened by short term rentals. Most of that money goes to speculators instead of entrepreneurial home owners.
In a city that's already becoming just a bunch of "goddamn hotel districts," what's one more hotel, right? Complain all you want, but the fact of the matter is what you want doesn't really matter anymore. You aren't New Orleans. It's been a very long time since you could say you were.

Monday, August 27, 2018

Is this even true anymore?

There are hundreds of little stories we tell ourselves about the quirks of this city which may or may not be true.  Maybe some of them were true at one time but aren't any longer. Or some of them were lies that became sort of true when enough people found the kitsch of the lie attractive.  And there are plenty of these little folkways that deserve more scorn than celebration once we examine them closely enough.  Take, for example, the "regular clientele" at Galtoire's.
Still, the original restaurant at 209 Bourbon St. occupies a hallowed place in New Orleans dining. It is part of a small circuit of historic restaurants, including Antoine's and Arnaud's, that specialize in the city's unique French Creole cuisine, to the tune of shrimp rémoulade, eggs Sardou, chicken Clemenceau and trout meunière.

Popular with tourists, these old line restaurants are sustained by devoted local followings, with allegiances that often flow through family generations. They have developed valued roles in the city's social rituals.
Think about who, specifically, those generations of families are and the "valued roles" they play in not just our social rituals but the course of our civic life as well.  Do these little wealth clubs represent anything most New Orleanians should take any pride in recognizing? 

Shep's law

A couple of years ago Derrick Shepherd performed his one good deed in a long career otherwise characterized by, well, questionable deeds. He successfully challenged a state law suppressing the citizenship rights of ex-convicts.  Unfortunately, the state legislature moved fairly quickly to reinstate that law.  The new version bans former convicts from running for office for "only" five years rather than the fifteen required by the old law.

It is disappointing in the extreme to see figures like JP Morrell support a law that extends the capacity of the criminal justice terror state to penalize its victims.  The good news is, because this is a constitutional amendment, it requires passage by a statewide ballot which is why you will have a chance to vote against it this fall. The bad news is it will very likely pass anyway.

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Here is some regulatory capture we can all get behind

As long as nobody is talking about abolishing the Louisiana Economic Development Department Of Corporate Welfare Money Gifting (yet) we might as well keep the pressure on it to use its powers for good
Louisiana Economic Development is asking a judge for at least $16.8 million in payments from Bell Helicopter over two failed deals in Lafayette to create jobs at a state-financed helicopter assembly facility.

The state agency said the Fort Worth, Texas-based helicopter company acted in "bad faith" by trying to get the state to accept a revised deal earlier this year, while the firm secretly moved its operations to Texas.

According to LED, Bell was seeking tax breaks from Fort Worth's local government and outlining a new "factory of the future" in Texas this year that would bring 400 jobs, all while failing to meet its obligations in Louisiana.
Y'all, Bobby Jindal gave away a lot of giant novelty checks to some pretty shady grifters while he was Governor.  It might be worth our while to run around clawing back as much of that money as we can that hasn't made its way all the way to Tahiti just yet. 

#CityOfYes we are shutting down your bar

This says that a lot of these are about unpaid taxes. Insofar as that is true, I guess it's fine. At the same time, we've watched this board become more and more aggressive over the course of the past decade. So it's especially alarming to see the new board members described as unusually "punitive" in comparison even to that.
Ethan Ellestad, executive director of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, follows Alcoholic Beverage Control Board hearings closely and said he cannot recall an instance of its members rejecting a consent judgment in favor of a harsher penalty. Tuesday's decision raises questions about the future of small businesses, especially those that serve as "incubators" for the city's live music scene.

"Skip Gallagher is clearly very punitive and seems to be taking a punitive approach ..." Ellestad said. "For us, it's certainly concerning."
Gallagher is a Palmer appointee. 

Very proud

Last night I think the spray truck came by the house at least three times.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - The State Health Department said Louisiana has the highest rates of West Nile Virus in the country. Fifty-three people in the state tested positive for the virus so far this year. Two people have died. The virus is spread by mosquitoes and in rare cases, can cause brain damage and paralysis. Officials said most do not show symptoms. To protect yourself, avoid going outside at dawn and dusk, and wear insect repellant that contains DEET. 

Late summer is magic.

Friday, August 24, 2018

It's always the kids' fault

Tyler Bridges has an idea to share with you about what people should and shouldn't be protesting.
Pence and Scalise spent more time in a private session with big donors, including oil company owner Phyllis Taylor, oil pipeline owner James Davison, attorney Fred Heebe and businessmen Alan Franco, Joseph Canizaro and Eddie Rispone.

Trump has caused revulsion among many progressives with his polarizing activities and comments. But only a handful of protesters showed up outside the National WWII Museum.

One reason may have been that the group Take 'Em Down NOLA had already scheduled a march at the same time to demand the removal of additional Jim Crow-era statues in the city, and that event’s organizers decided not to cancel it. About 70 people attended that march.
Stupid kids are doing it wrong, I guess. I don't know what proportion of the local press actually blames groups like Take 'em Down for Trump but I'm willing to bet it's pretty high. 

Meanwhile you've got all these fine upstanding oligarchs like Tayor, Heebe, etc. meeting with Pence and the much venerated Steve Scalise in the shadow of the rising Bollinger Canopy of Peace at one of the many cultural non-profit grifting and money laundering centers that dominate the New Orleans political culture. But the real problem here is some people protested some statues. At least that is what's implied.

Out of sight out of mind

Justin McMillan is going to Tulane.
Former LSU quarterback Justin McMillan announced on ESPN 104.5 radio in Baton Rouge on Friday morning that he was transferring to Tulane, immediately bolstering a depth-shy position.

McMillan, a fourth-year junior who earned a degree this summer, can play right away and will have two years of eligibility left. Tulane has not officially confirmed his enrollment yet.
It's more and more difficult to be a football fan these days. And there's good reason for that beginning with the mounting medical evidence that the game probably shouldn't be played at all. There are also the myriad political problems. The NFL is a cabal of entitled and rapacious billionaires hoovering up public subsidies, spewing out paid military propaganda, and exploiting female employees in a number of disgusting ways some of which verge on human trafficking. The NCAA is arguably even worse given that it runs entirely on slave labor and arbitrary justice. (That last link has a somewhat happy ending albeit one that only further highlights the absurdity.)

The point is, just paying attention at all weighs heavily on the brain. Not quite as much as actually playing football does but, still, it's a lot to overcome. And yet we continue. Maybe out of habit. Maybe we're the last generation to have been sufficiently acculturated to maintain the cognitive dissonance necessary.  If so, that's probably a good thing. The best outcome may be that all of this dies with us.

For the time being, though, we're still gonna watch. And while that happens, we're still going to point out that LSU went out of its way to block McMillan from transferring to any school it might consider a rival. 
As a condition for his release, McMillan was barred from transferring to another SEC school or any team the Tigers were playing in the next two years.
Which is how he ended up at... Tulane. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Business partners

So long, Lil' Entergy
Charles Rice, the embattled president and CEO of Entergy New Orleans, will step down Monday and take a lesser role, part of a broader damage-control effort by a company that's been mired in controversy for months.

Entergy Corp., the local utility's parent company, said Friday that it will launch a national search to replace Rice, who will join the company’s legal department.

In the meantime, Rod West, who serves as Entergy Corp.'s group president for utility operations, will take on Rice’s duties on an interim basis. He was president of Entergy New Orleans before Rice took the job.

I'm thinking about applying for this job.  All they can say is no. That's the worst that can happen, right?  Actually they could hire me, promise me a raise, and then immediately fire me. That might be worse. But that's a story for later. For the time being, it is a job for Big Entergy.
West attended a City Council committee meeting Thursday and pledged to improve relations with the council, acknowledging that the company had not moved quickly enough to acquire renewable energy sources or to address frequent power outages. He also said the company had done a poor job communicating with the public about the proposed rate increase, and acknowledged its power grid reliability is substandard.

"Entergy New Orleans wants to be a good and constructive business partner in this city," West said. "And we intend to win your trust back."

City Councilman Jay Banks said he saw West's appearance on Thursday as a harbinger of things to come, comparing his council visit to a father having to go to his son's school to deal with an issue.

"If 'big Entergy' had to step in, that did not look good for Charles," Banks said.

City Councilwoman Helena Moreno also found West's appearance curious, asking him why he had asked to appear before the council instead of Rice. West told her he represented the entire corporation, saying, "I felt that given the seriousness of our relationship, our presence here as a corporate partner, you need to hear from the corporation today."
Big Entergy Rod wants to be a "constructive business partner." That seems nice.  But really we'd just like him to keep the power on.  Imagine a world where the governmental function of providing people with basic necessities like power and water didn't have anything to do with "business partnerships."  Sounds impossible, right?  It's not a world that would have a lot of use for Charles Rice, anyway.

There are a lot of interesting Charles Rice stories but I think my favorite one comes from the time he served as Nagin's CAO.  Remember Ray Nagin? That was the guy we elected specifically because it was fashionable for the mayor to be a really good business guy. Anyway, the Nagin Administration bought these fancy "bombproof" garbage cans. Nobody knows if they ever prevented a terrorist attack or anything. But they did make for a productive business partnership.. with Charles Rice's brother.
The trash cans were controversial when they were installed, though the controversy had nothing to do with their size. The problem was that the company that supplied them, Niche Marketing USA, acknowledged a business relationship with Terrence Rice, Charles Rice's brother -- though the Rices have denied the link.

The deal was also a demonstrably bad one.

Typically, companies that deal in trash can advertising supply the cans for free to cities -- and give cities as much as 25 percent of the ad revenue as well.

Niche Marketing not only charged New Orleans full price for the cans, it promised the city only 15 percent of the ad revenue. Because of poor ad sales and the cans' short life span on New Orleans' streets, the city's return worked out to only about $6,000.
Anyway, Rice isn't actually leaving Entergy. He's just being reshuffled back to the legal department so the new CEO can continue to benefit from his experience.  

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Just get on with it

Can we just skip to the part where they indict Trump for selling asbestos steaks or whatever stupid tax avoidance thing they're going to get him on?  Trump did so many crimes. Just pick something and let's get on with it. There's so much other stuff to do. And the soap opera is boring.

Still Serpas Signaling

We are way beyond post-Serpas world now.  There are cameras on every corner. Police get away with all sorts of deliberately intrusive behavior now. It takes only a few seconds to find the latest egregious abuse of power. Cops are out there intimidating kids and tazing old ladies and, of course, shooting unarmed people.

So it's almost quaint to note that NOPD is out there setting up checkpoints such as this one they are doing Friday night.
NEW ORLEANS – The NOPD Traffic Division will conduct an upcoming sobriety checkpoint within Orleans Parish. The checkpoint will be in operation between the hours of 10:00 p.m. Friday, August 24, 2018, and 3:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 25, 2018.
On the other hand, there are more reasons than ever to avoid any and all contact with police if possible. So if you're out this weekend, just be aware that they are too.

Monday, August 20, 2018

When do we get to see the bids?

Matthews Southwest dropped out of the Charity Hospital redevelopment sweepstakes today.
Officials said the firm Matthews Southwest did not submit plans by the state-imposed deadline of 10 a.m. Monday "due to the unexpected passing of a principal team member last week."
Well that sounds like sad news. There isn't any more information about it, though. We don't know if maybe Matthews could have asked for an extension. Probably not, given the seriousness with which we take deadlines and meetings around here.  Also it is worth asking how or if this affects Matthews's involvement in the Convention Center hotel deal. It may be that they're souring on that as well, considering the circumstances.
In the opening salvo in what could become a lengthy negotiation over whether the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center moves forward with its plans to build a high-rise hotel, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has expressed “grave concerns” about the large public subsidies being sought by the developers.

In a letter last week, Cantrell said she had “grave concerns about the amount of subsidy this project will receive and the future implications of this project on tax revenue in New Orleans.”
That was an interesting turn from Cantrell last week, by the way. It's curious to see her suddenly serious about the problem of public subsidies for private developers in this one specific case. It could just be she has a friend or two at BGR.  I wondered if maybe she was just mad at Joe Jaeger over the job he did submarining the Harrah's hotel earlier this year.  But that's probably not it since at the very same time Cantrell's letter was published, the IDB was signing off on a smaller but similarly flawed package for Jaeger's and Barry Kern's indoor golf house. Not a word from LaToya about that one. Nor do we expect there to be much objection from her over the ongoing "Spirit Of Charity" process which will inevitably lead to more TIF or PILOT giveaways to several of the usual suspects. For now, at least, it's a mystery.

As for Charity Hospital itself, well that's all up to the state and LSU to decide.  And so we are given to understand the mayor doesn't officially have a lot of say in who gets that deal. Although, in reality, she probably does have considerable input.  In any case, nobody is telling us much about it yet.
LSU’s Real Estate and Facilities Foundation, which is overseeing the selection process, did not release the two proposals Monday. But the foundation said it would make them public before Oct. 4, when LSU's Board of Supervisors could select a winner.
How far in advance will we see those bids?  There's only a little over a month left.  The two finalists were also the finalists the last time we tried to get this done so you can probably get a decent idea of what's in play by looking at what they proposed then.

It's back to school week

Try to stay hydrated.
The process started in July 2016. Local officials teamed up to announce they would test school water for lead. School officials commissioned a plan to test 10 schools for $24,336. If any positive results were returned, then they would test like-schools and fixtures.

Then-superintendent of the Recovery School District, Patrick Dobard, shared the plans with the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans in August 2016. According to emails and documents reviewed by The Lens, the water agency wanted school district administrators to allow more lead in the water before taking a fixture out of service.

The water system uses a threshold of 15 parts per billion. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommends taking a school drinking fountain out of service if it shows more than 20 parts per billion of lead. But there is no safe level of lead, and children are especially susceptible to lead poisoning.  The schools initially set a threshold of 10 parts per billion. After the Sewerage and Water Board questioned their reasoning, it was raised to 15. Both levels are substantially higher than the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendation to shut off any school water fountain with a lead level higher than one part per billion.

The Sewerage & Water Board wanted to take its own samples, causing the schools’ testing consultant to wonder if they would end up with dueling test results. But school officials decided to scrap the plan altogether and go with what experts said was the safest and most cost-effective option — water filters.
Also a reminder that The Lens is one of our last best outlets for investigative reporting in a city that very badly needs it. They are member supported.  Over the weekend they sent out email notifications to members with the subject line "Save The Lens" so that sounds like they could use some help about now.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Mitch and his deadlines

The general project timeline of the Landrieu years was always about beating the clock to something. (Last year we called it Beat The Clock Doctrine.) First it was a bunch of stuff needed to be rushed through in time for the Superbowl. Then it was a bunch of stuff needed to be rushed through in time for #Katrina10. After that there were things Mitch wanted done in time to take photos in front of during the extra few months added to his term for the Tricentennial parties.    It was a great way to jam through a bunch of stuff you might not want scrutinized too closely. 

For the most part, Mitch made it work for him.  He didn't always make his deadlines, though. The airport still isn't ready.  (The road to the airport really isn't ready.)  The WTC remodel got bogged down in a bunch of legal wrangling and shenanigans (some of that of Mitch's own making.) Also the ferry terminal is late and way overbudget.

Oh and now we think maybe it's not such a great idea in the first place.
About $3.8 million has already been spent on design and engineering for the terminal, an amount Palmer said she thinks is too high. She has called on the RTA to stop any further spending on the design process, and said she's concerned about oversight of the project.

"I'm opposed to any more money put to this project," Palmer said.

"I don't have a lot of faith that this project can be done well at this point," she added.
And, you know, Kristin is probably right.  At least the existing facility actually has the covered walkway that people have been asking for. Maybe just figure out how to clean that up and use it.  Sometimes it pays to miss a deadline or two. 
Palmer said in an interview that she is suspicious that the project was rushed to demolish the terminal in time for the city's tricentennial this year. Its original construction schedule had demolition scheduled for July 2017.

The ferry terminal remains standing.

Who will win the Beignet Wars?

The most important thing to know about all of this is that the fix has clearly been in for Cafe Du Monde to take the thing over for a while now.  I do not know the specific reasons for that. I'm sure they are as lame as one might guess. I also am not especially partial to the choice of one brand of sugar-fried-dough over another so whichever side works out whatever bribe wins them the site is fine with me.  But one thing I do know is the judge is correct about this.
While the judge acknowledged that bids can be rejected for "substantial" noncompliance, he wrote that "the late arrival to a mandatory pre-bid meeting cannot be construed as a substantial deviation from the bidding specifications where the lessor calls the bidder to see if the bidder is attending the meeting, the bidder responds by sending a representative, albeit late, other bidders are likewise non-compliant and the bidder addresses the deficiency before the bids are due."
If we establish a precedent that parties are legally liable for showing up late to meetings in this town, we're all going to be in a lot of trouble. 

Anyway, is there a way for Gayle Benson to get a piece of this somehow? Seems like Tom would have wanted it that way. 

Billy Land

For some reason the L.A. Times has a piece on making the Quarter more "family friendly" following on the heels of Billy Nungesser's park proposal a few weeks ago that didn't go anywhere. Anyway the part worth mentioning is at the end.
Many locals say that when it comes to making the quarter family friendly, the focus shouldn’t be on tourists but on residents of the city.

A century ago, 20,000 families lived in the quarter. Today that figure is 3,300, and only 1 out of 70 residents is aged 14 or under. Many of the historic homes have been turned into condominiums and sold to outsiders as vacation properties.

“It’s mostly an absent neighborhood,” Louis Matassa, the 67-year-old owner of Matassa’s Market, said as he walked outside his corner grocery store, founded in 1924 by his grandfather Giovanni, and surveyed the stretch of Dauphine Street he grew up on.

A block that once bustled with Sicilian and Filipino kids was still, except for a few retirees.

“Now it’s all about the tourists,” Matassa said. “The lieutenant governor might as well put a wall around the quarter and charge admission.”
And that process has pretty much been the story throughout the past three or four decades. It's what the hoteliers and the real estate people wanted. Hope they're happy. 

Still can't get there from here

Well this didn't take long.  Pretty much as soon as RTA announces it has a plan to extend one bus line a little bit of the way into Jefferson Parish, the JET people are mad.
The head of Jefferson Parish’s public transit system says she was kept in the dark about plans to run another New Orleans bus line into the suburban parish next year — a move that she says will hurt her system’s profits.

Sharon Leader, the director of Jefferson Transit, said this week that while she knew the idea was being considered, she had no idea the Regional Transit Authority intended to go forward with the new route in 2019.

RTA officials recently announced they plan to extend the South Claiborne Avenue line to Ochsner Medical Center on Jefferson Highway, a move aimed at giving hundreds of riders a more convenient way to get to work or their doctor.

“I knew nothing about this,” Leader said. “And I’m about as regional as they come, but you don’t push things on people without telling them.”
"Profits" is a funny word in there.  I wonder if that's Leader's choice or if it came from the Advocate. Profit isn't really the concern of a public transit service.  Maybe she just means revenue.  Even so, it's another indicator that these problems aren't going to be solved until the whole "Regional" aspect of these systems is better integrated.  

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Here they come

This morning people were still disputing their wacky bills but S&WB swears they've found at least 50 people they can send a sternly worded letter to.
The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board is taking the final steps to notify about 50 customers that they could be among the first customers in almost a year to have their water shut off for failing to pay their bills, Acting Executive Director Jade Brown Russell said Wednesday.

After that, presumably, there are 10 days before shut-offs begin. 

Update: Just to add some things. 

The Mid-City Neighborhood Association heard an interesting lecture this week
Several S&WB officials spent Monday evening answering questions about billing, flooding and drainage issues from members of the Mid-City Neighborhood Association. Customer service representatives were also on hand to handle individual account queries.

Yvette Downs, the utility’s new Chief Financial Officer, said her office has addressed and reduced the number of billing disputes by two thirds, with the number of current open disputes around 3,500. Downs said she’s optimistic an automated meter reading system would solve a whole host of issues, but the S&WB doesn’t yet have the cash flow to implement that system. The utility’s billing system is also incapable of receiving data from automated meters, Downs added.
So yeah that seems straight.  The Messenger story also links back to this Advocate report from last month which tells us about some of the largest delinquent/disputed accounts. Xavier University owes $413,000, UNO is "close behind on the list" although the article doesn't give an amount for them. Loyola is in there too. So is Johsua Bruno who owns this Airbnb tower as well as several other not so popular properties.  But Bruno has had the mayor's ear in the past. And we know the universities aren't going to have their water shut off any time soon.  So who do we reckon are the 50 people S&WB is likely to take all of this out on?

Still not a lot of follow up on this

There's a job action at the Department of Public Works. Nobody is reporting on it beside WDSU right now. City workers are represented by SEIU but it doesn't look as if the union is involved here. Or, at least, it doesn't look like anybody has checked up on that. Also there is this back and forth.
Kennan Mitchell operates a vacuum truck for DPW. He said contractors are hired to do the same work that he does, cleaning catch basins, for more than twice the pay.

I have talked to vac truck contractors that have been here cleaning out drains,” Mitchell said. “Those guys were making $30 an hour. We make $14 (doing) the same thing. I can’t understand why we can’t get the money.”

New Orleans Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Ramsey Green said that DPW does not currently have contractors cleaning catch basins. He said the workers’ safety concerns will be the first addressed by the city.
That seems like it would be a pretty simple matter to clear up.  Maybe it hinges on the meaning of the word, "currently." 

Quote of the Day

"Lowell Narcisse is probably the most talented quarterback that we have"

- Ed Orgeron at the start of fall practice

Well, not anymore. Also they are leaking quarterbacks at an alarming rate.
LSU started the week with four scholarship quarterbacks fighting for their place in the starting lineup. Now, the Tigers have just two.

Junior quarterback Justin McMillan is leaving the program, he announced Wednesday (Aug. 15). This comes one day after redshirt freshman Lowell Narcisse announced Tuesday he's also transferring.

McMillan graduated Aug. 3 and will be eligible to play at another school immediately.
It was just a day or so ago that Ron Higgins was writing about how badly Coach O needed things to go smoothly this week.  Oh well.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Whither Ron Forman's big expensive video board?

Oh look we're "pressing pause" on something again.
New Orleans officials are pressing pause on plans to demolish and rebuild the Canal Street ferry terminal, having dramatically underestimated construction costs.

Though the Regional Transit Authority budgeted $14 million for the first phase of the terminal project, the lowest bid for the work came in at $26.6 million, forcing the agency back to the drawing board.

Officials said they will come up with a new, more affordable design over the next few months. And the terminal, initially on track to be razed in September, will instead be bulldozed by this time next year.
It's the phrase of the year. Off the top of my head I can recall LaToya wanted to "press pause" on her appointment of Warren Riley to Homeland Security. Kristin Palmer said she wanted to "press pause" on short term rental licenses. Sewerage and Water Board recently recently hit the "pause button" on a bond sale. Can we please press pause on pressing pause for a while? I think we have hit the quota.

Anyway, this pause is kind of a surprise. At least to me it is.  The whole course of this ferry re-fit has looked like spending more money on providing worse service. Why (sorry) press pause on that now? The explanation in the article has it that difficulties arising from the location of the construction site and the timing of the project caused the price to go up.  Also they go out of their way to say it is definitely not Audubon's fault.
The higher cost estimate does not factor in the addition of the $7.3 million bridge, a project that is being managed separately by the Audubon Institute.
That implies Audubon was paying for the bridge. I don't think that's true but I could be wrong. This says the city was planning to pay for it out of "(Hurricane) Katrina insurance proceeds that were unobligated." And this says that Audubon had asked to spend $2 million of that on a "video board" which Forman later said they wanted in order to "'dress up' the bridge with 'artwork, lighting or whatever it is.'" We have no idea whether or not that's ever going to be part of the plan now. We do like what Kristin Palmer has to say about that, though. 
Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, one of the most vocal proponents of adding the pedestrian bridge, said the agency should consider simply renovating the old terminal rather than rebuilding it. She said the focus should be on helping commuters rather than building something that might impress tourists.

“I’m not so concerned about the tourists having a pretty vista,” Palmer said. “I am more concerned, quite frankly, about getting people to work.”

Meanwhile, Forman has plenty of other ways to suck money out of the city via the riverfront as Audubon has a cooperative endeavor agreement to operate whatever they do with the Esplanade wharf area. Walter Isaacson says there's gonna be some sort of music venue there. He also says he made that up. 
Isaacson tells Gambit he doesn’t know what the plans are and was pointing to the park project as an example of the city’s vision of tourism expansion, with the wharf turning into something “like Crescent Park or the Moonwalk or other public parks, where there’s venues for art and music and tourism.” As for its specific use as a music venue, “I obviously don’t know for sure, because there have been no hearings or proposals on it,” he said.
We were supposed to hear more about that at a City Council committee hearing today. No word on how that went yet.  More to come after the pause, I guess.

Update: Here is where the money is supposed to come from to develop the new park. 
The deal between Audubon and the city calls for the nonprofit to develop the site as a park and raise $15 million for its development.

So far, Audubon has put together $13 million: $9 million from the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center; $2 million from New Orleans & Co., the city's rebranded convention and visitors bureau; and $2 million from Audubon itself.

The port is expected to help raise the remaining $2 million from private sources.
They don't know what it's going to look like yet but they say there will be "significant public input" before that happens so be on the lookout for some 10 AM meetings on a random Wednesday or whatever in the future.

Upperdate: Another point from that article is that the neighborhood associations are already worried about the "disruptive" effects of an event venue like what Isaacson described in that Time piece.  As a footnote to that issue we can look back at last year's election  season when both candidates for mayor talked up the possibility of such an amenity specifically for its revenue generating potential so we'll see how that goes.

Uppestdate: This morning, the Advocate has edited the lede to their article about the ferries from "New Orleans officials are pressing pause.." to "New Orleans officials are going back to the drawing board.." probably in order to gaslight the readership.

We're almost through it

It's okay, guys. We are doing a good job. Do not listen to the haters.
To no one’s surprise, the Gulf of Mexico coastal areas lead the way in oppressive conditions. Louisiana is the epicenter of summertime oppressive weather. Why does Louisiana have higher areas than say Dallas, Mobile or Atlanta? Remember that winds over 10 mph disqualify an observation from counting as oppressive. Louisiana has very light winds in the summer. Also, the dew point temperature is consistently high in the Lower Mississippi River Valley. Lower dew points tend to mix down to the surface as you move away from the Gulf of Mexico. Even when temperatures are under 95°F, there is a strong likelihood that the heat index or dew point criteria will be met in the northwest Gulf coast region.
That study also produces a map where Louisiana appears as," large pulsing red blob on the country's underbelly," as NOLA.com's Jenniefer Larino describes it

But, look. We are a hardy folk here. And the thing is almost over now.  Really, we've almost made it through the truly "oppressive" part of the year. Of course, if you are like me, you probably won't start to feel that way for at least another two months. Which is why I like to stare at the charts. Somehow it helps.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Pretty good gig if you can get it

Drainage project damaged my home

I imagine you could build a pretty healthy law practice out of just suing Sewerage and Water Board.
Months after a judge ruled in favor of a small group of homeowners who said construction of a mammoth drainage project in Uptown New Orleans had caused major damage to their houses, hundreds of more cases continue to remain in limbo.

The Sewerage & Water Board continues to fight against the claims of nearly 300 such homeowners, who say the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project cracked the foundations of their houses or caused other costly damage.
I feel like that particular suit was filed before they SELA digging even started. That's how predictable all of this has been.  As Jason Williams explains at the end of this story, these it's obvious why these suits are inevitable.
City Councilman Jason Williams, speaking at last month’s committee meeting, said the S&WB should go to the negotiating table rather than continue to fight the cases, arguing that the “only people who make out well” at the trials are the lawyers. Williams is a criminal defense lawyer.

“The Sewerage & Water Board is going to have to pay something, and putting it off is not in the board’s best interest and it’s not in the homeowners’ best interest,” Williams said. “To the extent that we can make this right by ending it and not dragging it on, I think that makes a lot of sense.”
Speaking of which, there are now lawsuits stemming from last year's floods. That might not be a "winnable" case either but the odds are it goes to a settlement as well. Either way, these guys get paid.  
The attorneys who filed the suit are with Bruno & Bruno and the Whitaker Firm, the same two firms representing hundreds of Uptown plaintiffs suing the S&WB over damage their homes sustained during work on the massive Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project.  

Wonder what's going on here

Well this came out of the blue.

So far as I can tell there is just one news outlet mentioning this, whatever this is so far. Did they just decide to walk out this morning?  A more planned action might have gotten out a press release. Maybe someone will ask the mayor about it when she comes out to cheerlead for the drug war today.

Meanwhile we can only guess about what's up. Most city employees are already expecting a raise this year.  In 2017, a study commissioned by the Landrieu administration recommended a 10 percent pay increase citing the skyrocketing cost of living. As of this May, a supposed first round of raises went into effect for the 500 some odd employees who had been making under $24,000 a year.  Employees at higher grades than that are still waiting to see if they get bumped up this year or not.  That will likely depend on how the city budget process works out which is just getting started but one can imagine a, "Well we needed to keep all of the traffic cameras to pay for these raises" scenario coming into play.

The other point of contention could have to do with the future of the Public Works Department given that they're considering merging it with Sewerage and Water Board somehow.  But I don't know enough about how that would work just yet.

Saturday, August 11, 2018

Which "outside firm"?

The new city administration is rooting around the building and rearranging the furniture and whatnot.  They have to go clear the old mayor's creepy murder yearbooks out of the office so the new mayor has a place to put her creepy altar. That sort of thing. It's all very normal.  Another normal thing that happens when a new administration comes in is they like to pick up the piles of money laying around in one corner and see if they like them better in a different corner.  In this case, we're looking at some $31 million in FEMA and HUD grants to see if maybe they need to live in their own little department.
Grants are currently managed within the department that receives them, both on the finance and the program side. Montano said he will move the financial aspects of grants into a centralized system that would pay for projects out of a separate fund.

Montano said he's still in the "discovery" phase of trying to determine whether the city can recoup the $31.3 million from the Federal Emergency Management Association and the Department of Housing and Development. There haven't been problems in that area before, but Montano said that when new administrations take office, there is always a significant effort to examine what the previous administration did to ensure grants were managed correctly.
"There haven't been problems," probably won't be any problems. But the new people like things the way they like them and it's obviously well within their prerogative to find out what suits them best.  Again, all very normal.  None of this is too important other than the fact that when you do go in and move all the money around, inevitably a little bit of change drops out.  So it might be interesting to note whose pockets it falls into.
Montano said he's contracting with an outside firm to ensure the city can match those reimbursements correctly, and he wants to change the city's practice of paying for grant-funded expenses out of the general fund. The CAO said he's concerned that relying on the general fund if grant reimbursements don't come through could be problematic, and he plans to establish new financial controls to avoid using the general fund as a "backstop."
Not that it's a huge deal. It's just that it's probably the most interesting thing in the story. The new CAO wants to separate grant disbursements from the general fund. Okay. Maybe. My guess is they might find that harder to do than they think but it's probably a fine idea.  But, in the meantime, they're paying some accounting (?) consultant X number of dollars.  That's fine, too. But I like to read the names of these firms in stories like this in case they become relevant later.

Oh also, there's some stuff about city credit cards in this story. But everybody agrees that's last year's news so do with that what you like.

Friday, August 10, 2018

Jeff Landry is already on the ballot

We're still over a year away from the election but it's no secret Jeff Landry wants to be Governor.  Last week we found him already trying to elbow other potential Republican candidates out of the race.
With less than 15 months until Election Day and no Republican campaigns launched against Gov. John Bel Edwards' re-election bid, Attorney General Jeff Landry is ramping up the pressure on other potential candidates.

"We're getting into a kind of critical decision-making time. If we're going to have a candidate we need to find one and soon," Landry said in an interview with USA Today Network that was published online Wednesday and during which he expressed his own growing interest in running for governor without announcing his candidacy.
The good news for Jeff is he actually doesn't have to wait until next year to be the only guy on a ballot. He's already there this fall.
Attorney General Jeff Landry, the state's top law enforcement officer, has broken with several conservative leaders and the state Republican Party by not backing a constitutional amendment appearing on the ballot Nov. 6 that would require unanimous juries for convictions in Louisiana.

Landry's political team confirmed that the Republican would prefer to keep the current system -- in which a 10-2 jury verdict can be used to send a person to prison. Only one other state, Oregon, allows convictions by juries that aren't unanimous and Louisiana is the only place where a person can be sent to prison for murder -- which is typically a life sentence -- without a unanimous jury. 
As the lone public figure opposing this measure, Landry has willingly given voters an opportunity to reject him personally in a statewide referendum only a year ahead of the race for governor.  That doesn't seem very smart. But then Jeff Landry often does not seem smart.  On the other hand, his political instincts have served him fairly well so far. So maybe he knows something we don't.

The unanimous verdicts amendment is on your ballot because it passed the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support earlier this year. The public campaign to make it happen was helped in part by a terrific Advocate series explaining what a shameful aberration Louisiana's current law actually is. We live in one of only two states where a person can be convicted of a felony even if two of twelve jurors disagree with the rest of the panel. More importantly, though, the current law's origins, like so much of our criminal justice system writ large, are rooted in deliberate efforts to promote and maintain a white supremacist racial hierarchy
The drafters of the state constitution Louisiana adopted in 1898 said they aimed to “perpetuate the supremacy of the Anglo-Saxon race in Louisiana,” primarily by scrubbing from the rolls nearly all of the roughly 130,000 black people then registered to vote.

But delegates knew they couldn’t simply ban black people from the voting booth or jury service without running afoul of the 14th and 15th amendments. The U.S. Supreme Court had explicitly said so. Instead, the jury laws those delegates drew up allowed for convictions with only nine of 12 jurors agreeing, meaning that if one, two or even three black people made it onto a jury, their votes wouldn’t matter.

These days, 10 votes are required for conviction instead of the original nine, and today’s defenders of split verdicts say Louisiana’s law now stands not for racism but for efficiency, by limiting hung juries and potential retrials.

But the effects are the same, according to an exhaustive, first-of-its-kind analysis by The Advocate.
If I had a dime for every racist/classist policy sold in the name of "efficiency"...  but let's not get sidetracked by that right now. The Advocate series helped educate the public and, it appears, a lot of the legislators since the threshold for passing a constitutional amendment requires a 2/3 vote in both houses.  It was an honest to goodness triumph of that "reach across the aisle" common ground stuff the John Bels of the world love to talk about.

And maybe that's what Landry is upset about. Edwards's reelection strategy is built around the idea that the Governor is Bill Clinton and he is ready to triangulate like it is 1996. For example, on Wednesday, John Bel, whose wife was a public school teacher, had the nerve to appear as a keynote speaker at the  ALEC gathering in New Orleans. ALEC is well known for its hostility to the very concept of public education, not to mention the right of public educators to organize.  Mark Janus was also a featured speaker there. Edwards rarely if ever criticizes President Trump. The two had what looks to have been a cordial meeting this week.

The Edwards camp is embracing a version of the Third Way national electoral strategy articulated in this article by Mitch Landrieu.
"Republicans have chosen the far right, which means that they have ceded a good portion of the middle of the road," said former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who is considering a presidential run. "The Democrats, in my opinion, would make a big mistake if they decide to run a base election and just say, ‘Our base is bigger than your base.'"
This is familiar enough by now.  As long as Democrats are forever following a reasonable twenty paces behind, Republicans can keep marching as far to the right as they want. Sometimes that even works out. Or at least it allows individual Democratic candidates willing to enact a conservative program to win an election here and there.  The net effect ends up dragging the country to some really weird places but professional Democratic political consultants aren't paid to worry about stuff like that.

In the immediate term, though, Jeff Landry might worry a little bit.  What if the old Blue Dog act ends up working for John Bel again? It sort of did last time. There were extenuating circumstances, of course, having to do with his widely reviled opponent but, still, Edwards did technically win that election. And so now is the time for potential challengers to start thinking about ways to negate his strategy.

Basically John Bel plans to run on a record of having weathered the storm. It's true our colleges and hospitals are still underfunded. It's true our tax burden still rests heavily on the shoulders of our poorest residents. But it could have been so much worse if the Governor's reactionary opponents had gotten their way.  Republicans may have thrashed and whined on Facebook and crashed several legislative sessions along the way but John Bel maintained just enough of his nonthreatening kind of indignation to keep the lights on. That's basically the reelection pitch.

Well, that and the occasional reminder that actually he is the most grown up conservative in the room.  Which is what that ALEC appearance was all about.
Edwards' appearance dovetails nicely with the image he is hoping to convey during his re-election campaign: a Democrat who shares conservative values and works well with Republicans. The governor said he was a member of ALEC when he was a state legislator.
One thing John Bel has going for him here, at least, is credibility. He doesn't have to stretch too far to position himself as a conservative. His record is pretty clear.  It's not only about sticking Louisiana with one of the nation's most regressive tax codes for the forseeable future. It's also about signing a "Blue Lives Matter" bill or supporting yet another big ass pipeline through the wetlands or panedering to the right on a host of other matters such as abortion and gun control.

All of which is why it's strange to find the Governor unable to bring himself to give anyone a straight answer on the death penalty
Edwards, who has repeatedly stressed his position of upholding whatever stands in Louisiana law, declined The Advocate's request for an interview on Friday but in a written statement reiterated his focus on what current law says and again did not elaborate on his personal belief on the topic.
Come on, John Bel, just say you want to kill some mothafuckers.   Landry doesn't have any qualms about that. He's even willing to pick a fight with the Pope over it. So it's hardly surprising he's just as willing to exploit Edwards's wavering. John Bel can party with ALEC all weekend if he wants. He can check every box on the right wing vetting list. None of that is likely to get the Kochs off of his back. Just like the Kochs' difference with Landry over unanimous verdicts isn't going to separate them from him.  Dude does them too many favors.

So Landry isn't afraid of the Pope and he isn't afraid of the Kochs either. He might be a bit worried about John Kennedy, though. That's mostly who Landry was needling at with those comments about wanting other candidates to make up their minds about getting in or out.  In truth, it's Landry who is under the most pressure to decide. Jeff's term as Attorney General is concurrent with the Governor's so he actually has to pick which one he wants to run for.  Kennedy doesn't have to give up his Senate seat unless he actually becomes Governor so he's got less to worry about.

Meanwhile, Kennedy is free to sit back and take pot shots at John Bel much the same way Landry is. Just like Jeff, John can call attention to himself by complaining about our recent criminal justice reforms.  Just like Jeff, John can level outlandish and absurd criticisms of immigration enforcement in the City of New Orleans. And since Kennedy can do all of that stuff in a much more.. um.. charismatic rhetoric than what Jeff typically can muster, it presents a problem.  Landry needs to distinguish himself.

And this might explain why he's okay with the risk that comes with being the only critic of a statewide ballot measure on unanimous verdicts.  It's an opportunity for Landry to set himself apart as a hard liner. If the amendment fails, it's an even bigger win for him.  Landry will then have a unique claim on being more in touch with voter sentiment than pretty much everyone who was anyone in Baton Rouge this year.  If it passes, maybe some of us will make fun of him, but the potential reward here is likely well worth that.

Thursday, August 09, 2018


Hurricane season is such an erratic phenomenon. It's really difficult to get a bead on those forecasts. You never know which direction they are going to turn.
Coastal residents, take note: Hurricane season is far from over, but it's looking more likely this will be a much slower period.

Forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center increased the likelihood of a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60 percent -- up from 25 percent predicted in May -- and the chance of an above-normal season has dropped from 35 percent to 10 percent.

NOAA is predicting a total of nine to 13 named storms, which are at least of tropical storm strength (winds of 39 mph or greater). Of those, four to seven will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater) and zero to two major hurricanes (111 mph winds or greater).
Increased the likelihood of below normal.  That is fun. I feel like the wind just took a violent shift. Stay tuned for the sudden upgrade in forecasted season intensity next month after a few storms finally develop.

Tuesday, August 07, 2018

Can both of these statements be true?

The consultant Mitch hired to tell us all about the problems at Sewerage and Water Board says there were problems, S&WB was aware of the problems, and everybody blew them off.
The report details now well-known mechanical failures and limitations of the city's drainage system. But it also focuses on breakdowns in priorities and a lack of concern and attention to the drainage system in the "years, months and days" before the flood.

All that contributed to a situation in which the S&WB had only 10 percent of its power available during the storm and the hardest-hit areas had only 45 percent to 70 percent of the pumping capacity they theoretically could have had.

As an example, the report notes that after the S&WB was alerted in March that all the turbines that run the drainage system had failed and were offline, there was "no evident follow-up or inquiries regarding what would happen during a severe rain event."

It says that was true despite multiple meetings of the S&WB's governing board, the City Council and Landrieu's cabinet, which included S&WB representatives
Later in the day, former Landrieu Administration First Deputy Mayor Ryan Berni told the Advocate that there simply was no way they could have known about the problems. 
Ryan Berni, who was one of Landrieu’s top advisers, said Tuesday that more could have been done if S&WB officials had been candid with the administration about the state of the system.

“I think you saw in the last year us really run into the fire fixing the problem that we were learning more about,” Berni said. “Clearly there had been a culture of misinformation at the Sewerage & Water Board both in its dealing with the public and with City Hall.”
Does that seem remotely possible? 

Not gonna YIMBY your way to affordable housing

You can keep building nice things for rich people as long as you like. That might eventually drive the price of nice things for rich people down a little bit.  It won't solve the actual problem, though.
“For-profit developers have predominantly built for the luxury and higher end of the market, leaving a glut of overpriced apartments in some cities,” said Diane Yentel, president and chief executive of the National Low Income Housing Coalition, an advocacy group. “Some decision-makers believed this would ‘filter down’ to the lowest income people, but it clearly will not meet their needs.”

Poorer city residents have experienced significant rent increases over the past several years. In Portland, average rents for the poor have risen from about $1,100 to $1,600 — or by more than 40 percent — since 2011.

In San Francisco, the average rent at the bottom of the market has soared from $1,700 to $2,600, a nearly 50 percent increase. Seattle’s poor have also had their rents rise by close to 40 percent. Nationwide, rents for those at the bottom have increased by 18 percent.

Rising rents for the poor threaten to add to the nation’s homeless population, and put an additional severe strain on tens of millions of families, often forcing them to forgo other basic needs to avoid losing their housing.
At present the stated policy response to the housing crisis in New Orleans is to "find balance." But so far that has implied more zoning exemptions for more nice things for rich people.