Saturday, September 29, 2018

Delicious Content Ready To Eat

We recorded this ten days ago. The sports is a week behind but the rest of it holds up pretty ok. I guess that Kavanaugh drinking question got answered. Anyway

Friday, September 28, 2018

No one is tryig to "fix" the climate

Gosh we really wish there was something we could do but...

A rise of 7 degrees Fahrenheit, or about 4 degrees Celsius, compared with preindustrial levels would be catastrophic, according to scientists. Many coral reefs would dissolve in increasingly acidic oceans. Parts of Manhattan and Miami would be underwater without costly coastal defenses. Extreme heat waves would routinely smother large parts of the globe.

But the administration did not offer this dire forecast as part of an argument to combat climate change. Just the opposite: The analysis assumes the planet’s fate is already sealed.

The draft statement, issued by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), was written to justify President Trump’s decision to freeze federal fuel efficiency standards for cars and light trucks built after 2020. While the proposal would increase greenhouse gas emissions, the impact statement says, that policy would add just a very small drop to a very big, hot bucket

Well, you know, fuck it, right?  Article goes on to quote various people who are "shocked" that policymakers would just come out and say it like this.  But it's hardly surprising.  Some of us have been trying to explain for a very long time, climate change is no different from any other political crisis.  It doesn't unite the classes. It heightens the contrast between them. 

No one with enough wealth and power to put themselves in charge is going to "fix" climate change. They're only going to use their wealth and power to protect themselves from, and where possible, profit by its effects.  If your city is swallowed by the ocean in the process, well that's too bad for you.  Also, hey, maybe they can sell you some "resilience" products in the meantime. Can't leave that money on the table either.

Congratulations, the Gulf is safe now

The Horizon disaster was so long ago nobody even remembers that anymore. Hell it's not even art history at this point.  They took down the memorial earlier in August.

So I guess that means the oil companies can all come out of timeout now too .
WASHINGTON — The Trump administration has completed its plan to roll back major offshore-drilling safety regulations that were put in place after the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster in 2010 that killed 11 people and caused the worst oil spill in American history.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, which was established after the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and regulates offshore oil and gas drilling, has finalized a proposal for loosening the regulations as part of President Trump’s efforts to ease restrictions on fossil fuel companies and encourage domestic energy production.

Dangerous people on the internet

John Bel sounds like John Georges here. What is he talking about?

Gov. John Bel Edwards says one of his goals is for Louisiana to have more cybersecurity protections in place than any other state.

Edwards, a Democrat, has declared October as Cybersecurity Awareness Month.

"There are more threats out there than you can imagine," Edwards said during a proclamation-signing ceremony on Thursday. "If you think about it too much, you almost can't even sleep at night."

Late last year, Edwards created a task force to lead the state's efforts on the initiative.
Threats you can't imagine. You almost can't even sleep.  Why? What are you afraid of John Bel?  Why even tell us about it if all you're going to tell us is to be afraid? 
He said he expects the panel to propose legislation for the state Legislature to consider next year but did not elaborate on the ideas.

Edwards and Curtis declined to identify specific threats, due to security and confidentiality.

"Our adversaries are extremely capable," said Cyber Innovation Center executive director Craig Spohn, who also co-chairs the governor's task force. "The threats are real."
Who are these "adversaries" of John Bel Edwards?  More to the point, who is he going to shovel a bunch of money to without telling anybody why or what they need to be protected from?

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Ok now let's ban the background check

City Council advanced a "ban the box" ordinance out of committee today.  It's expected to pass the full Council easily.  That's good news. But it's really just a small step.  To begin with, the ordinance only writes a currently established city policy into law. It broadens the rule to include city contractors as well.  But it can't stop there. Ex offenders looking for private sector work have rights too.  It's only the anti-democratic practice of state level preemption that keeps our locally elected government from extending its protection to them.

Another reason we can't stop here is banning "the box" doesn't actually remove the stigma ex offenders face when applying for a job. It only pushes it further back in the process.
The ordinance bars the city from requesting information on job applicants’ criminal history on initial employment applications and requires that criminal background checks only be conducted after an applicant has been through an initial interview. Advocates argue that the delay gives people with criminal history a chance to make the case for a job before their record comes into play.

“Moving this screening further into the process allows applicants to show the best version of themselves at the outset,” Palmer said.
That's a helpful change but it's not really justice. Why not ban the background check altogether?  People can't be held in a second class of citizenship simply because they've been processed through our criminal legal system. And employment discrimination isn't the only barrier they face.

Even after a much lauded voting rights reform law passed this year, felons still have to endure five years of disenfranchisement after their sentence has ended. That's not good enough.  Even after a law barring ex-cons from running for office for 15 years was declared unconstitutional, the legislature has created a constitutional amendment that would restore that ban at 5 years. That would be a step back in the wrong direction.  Louisiana voters have an opportunity to defeat that amendment on their November ballot this year. They probably won't, though. Which, again, means there's a lot of work to do beyond just banning the box.

"Big fat con"

We've been trying to keep this blog about the local news as much as possible lately. It's not that what goes on in "the heart of darkness, the true wasteland" beyond the city limits isn't important. It's just that we're trying to work under the assumption that the best way to overturn the corrupt oligarchy there is to start by getting a handle on the corrupt oligarchy here. Anything beyond that is just so much faraway TV drama. Getting caught up in it becomes counterproductive.

So it is with a heavy heart that I admit to you now that I did actually watch this Trump press conference yesterday. He played all the hits, the personal grievance, the "fake news," the suggestion that he makes decisions based on how things look on TV. We know all this stuff by now.  Probably the thing most deserving anyone's attention is this.
At first, during the freewheeling questioning from reporters at the 2018 U.N. General Assembly, Trump painted the accusations against Kavanaugh as purely partisan and faulted Democrats that the allegations had come to the surface in the first place.

"[Democrats] are actually con artists, because they know how quality this man is and they've destroyed a man's reputation, and they want to destroy it even more," Trump told journalists in New York.

"And they know it's a big, fat con job," he continued. "And they go in to a room, and I guarantee you, they laugh like hell on what they pulled off on you and on the public, they laugh like hell."

Trump said the allegations of the three women "are all false to me," bemoaning "what they've done to these children — these beautiful children of [Kavanaugh], and what they've done to his wife."
He later went on to say he might change his mind if the witnesses do well on TV because that is exactly what he would say, isn't it. Still, the stubborn refusal to take the allegations seriously is more significant.

It's more indicative of the Republican strategy anyway. No matter what happens in today's hearings, they're going to confirm Kavanaugh. They're going to confirm him because doing so cements a generational conservative project of crippling whatever small semblance of democracy exists in American government. 
With this book (Democracy In Chains) MacLean joins a growing chorus of scholars and journalists documenting the systematic, organized effort to undermine democracy and change the rules. In “Dark Money,” Jane Mayer tells the tale of the Koch brothers. In “Invisible Hands: The Businessmen’s Crusade Against the New Deal,” the historian Kim Phillips-Fein shows how a small group of businessmen initiated a decades-long effort to build popular support for free market economics. The political scientist Steven M. Teles writes about the chemicals magnate John M. Olin in “The Rise of the Conservative Legal Movement.”

Democrats are gleeful over how today's events might affect the midterm elections. But Republicans don't really care about that. They already know they are probably going to lose the House in November. No doubt someone will argue this business puts the Senate in play but I don't think I would take that bet.  Anyway they don't care about that either. Individuals running for office might care that their polls take a hit this week. But, as a party and as a movement, they really don't care about one week in one election anywhere near as much as they care about the extreme right wing court they're about to get. You can't "punish" the Republicans by voting out this Congress. They're still winning the long game.

It doesn't even matter if the election leads to a Trump impeachment.  The Republicans have already gotten a judiciary packed full of extremists and a massive tax cut for the super rich out of this President. The effects of both of those are much more far reaching than anything that happens in November will be.  Everybody thought it was funny when Trump bragged about his accomplishments at the UN this week. But he might not have been wrong, exactly. Even if he doesn't entirely get why.

Anyway his political instincts are good.  He knows the game here is about asserting dominance.  A few weeks ago Trump picked a public fight refuting the number of deaths caused by and in the wake of Hurricane Maria.  It was an egregiously ugly thing to do, belittling the scope of that ongoing  suffering at the time of its anniversary. But the political calculus was easy. Never admit any fault regardless of circumstances. Deny anything went wrong at all. Bully the victims. Blame them for their own suffering. To this day, Republicans believe George Bush's real failure during Katrina was not being mean enough about it.

And so that is their only option with regard to Kavanaugh.  Stick to your guns. Blame the victim if anything goes wrong. Your side is always the good guys. Any evidence to the contrary is a "big fat con."

Also this Advocate editorial sure did age well, huh?
It’s time to reconnect with the Senate’s principal role as a body called to deliberation, not demagoguery. Trump’s nominee to replace Kennedy has an impressive resume. Unless some compelling reason for a rejection surfaces during the confirmation process, senators should vote to confirm Kavanaugh, regardless of their party.
 LOL somebody got conned, anyway. 

Beignet futures

Just keep re-starting the bidding process. The price will always go up, right?
Morning Call was the highest bidder for the space, offering City Park $10,000 in rent each month and 10.5 percent of profits. Café du Monde offered the second-highest amount, 10,000 plus 10.25 percent of profits; Café Beignet offered 10,000 plus 10 percent.

Despite these setbacks, the process will reopen for bids, with the City Park Board expecting to see many of the same companies in the second round. The board is looking for businesses that have at least 5 years in the beignet business (Café Du Monde and Morning Call each have more than 100) and that specialize in beignets. The board also wants to make sure that the business that takes the Casino Building lease has high standards of cleanliness, something that they may be looking to outline more explicitly in the bidding process moving forward. Several board members cited concerns about cleanliness in Morning Call, though noted that Café du Monde customers find pigeons within the semi-outdoor dining area a common, if startling, sight.

Board members say they are hopeful that the bids will be as high, if not higher than the first round of bidding.
Also we are  SHOCKED to discover there are pigeons in City Park and French Quarter. Next thing you know somebody will try to tell us about the rats....

Wednesday, September 26, 2018


Last month New Orleans Chief Financial Officer Norman White's presentation on the fiscal impact of the city's traffic cameras left City Councilmembers frustrated.
"You should always be prepared to give a comprehensive update before this or any other committee. That's what I expect," he said.

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.
Gilbert Montano is suppose to talk to them tomorrow, presumably with more information.  Although this looks like he might actually give them too much. 
The administration is looking at ways to make up for revenue that would be lost if the city scales back on its traffic camera program. But the effort also serves as the beginning of a larger conversation about the menu of options available in future years, Chief Administrative Officer Gilbert Montaño said Wednesday.

“We want to float up all the balloons that we can,” he said.

Montaño will be presenting various options to the City Council's Budget Committee on Thursday, as part of a presentation on ways the traffic camera program could be cut back or phased out. Council members expressed frustration a month ago over a lack of details about the administration's plans.
So many balloons.  Pick whichever you like. In other words, they really don't have a plan yet. 

That's actually not the worst possible news.  It means a lot of things are still possible, including the elimination of all the traffic cameras which would be in keeping with the opening promise of Cantrell's campaign last year.  Here, also, is another bit of good news.
City departments have requested about $68 million in new spending for the coming year, though Montaño said that figure represents the “fully loaded BMW” of budgets, with every department's wish list included. Exactly how much of that will end up in the budget is still to be determined.
What that means is that $19-$37 million budget shortfall we started hearing about last week may not actually exist. It all depends on how loaded we want the BMW to be.  Montano also says it won't be loaded with sales tax and fee hikes this year.  But he is going to bring that balloon along too just in case.
The biggest potential source of new revenue would be increasing the city’s sales tax by half a percentage point, which would take advantage of the maximum sales tax rate for the city authorized by the Legislature in the 1980s. The city now charges a half of a cent less, Montaño said.
That's not very pleasant to think about.  But we do have another year to let the air out of it. 


It's difficult to know which of the individuals speaking at this presentation by the Charity Innovation District whatever actually know they are being used as window dressing.  Maybe it's just enough to have been included. 
Over and over again Monday (Sept. 24), civic and business leaders emphasized how important equity would be in creating the new Spirit of Charity Innovation District, an area seeking millions of dollars in public incentives to redevelop the area that included what was for decades New Orleans' acute health care facility.

Speakers during an event presenting the broad contours of the district focused on an array of topics ranging from transportation to housing and business incubators. But many came back to the topic of equity and inclusion.

Greater New Orleans Foundation President Andy Kopplin, who helped lead the creation of the strategy unveiled Monday, went so far as to say the district could one day be held up as an example of economic development executed in a highly inclusive way.

"This redevelopment should be an unprecedented model for equity and economic inclusion. ... Everyone must win in every aspect of the project," Kopplin said.

Yeah yeah yeah. The whole purpose of this "District" planning process is to justify the creation of a Tax Increment Financing District. What that means, generally speaking, is a portion of sales or property tax generated in the neighborhood gets redirected from the schools, roads, and city services it was meant to fund and placed in the hands of some unelected District administrators who will use it to "incentivize" whatever they choose.  Of course, they will be very inclusive about these decisions.

Probably they will include the Charity developers, though. At least, that's what the developers' proposals seem to assume.

Subsidies: Unlike the Tulane Partners plan, HRI would rely on revenue from a tax-increment financing district proposed for an area of the CBD to surround the hospital. Tax increment financing uses tax revenue from future development, and in this case, HRI is proposing to divert $40 million in sales tax revenue from the 382,000 square feet of retail and 82 apartments across the street. The project would also rely on between $211 million and $224 million in tax credits. The option that includes City Hall as a major tenant would call for $91.6 million in prepaid rent, presumably from City Hall, as that financing element isn't called for in the other two scenarios.
And the TIF inclusion is really just one part of the larger puzzle in these proposals.  HRI's and Tulane Partners differ in specific elements. Tulane's includes a charter school, perhaps. HRI's suggests City Hall.  Both have plans for "affordable housing" assuming they can tap the appropriate subsidy for that.  But the common thread running through each plan is this.  Each group is working to jam into the building as many spigots of available money as they can identify. It's really that, rather than some reverse engineered public input process that's really driving things here.  Sure, it's inclusive.  Not really in the sense you might want it to be, though.

Sobering center

What is it
New Orleans City Council members said Monday (Sept. 24) one of their budget priorities for 2019 will be a sobering center they believe could relieve pressure on hospitals and law enforcement. Such a facility is expected to cost $700,000 annually
Who gets taken there? 
"There needs to be a place where non-violent individuals can be taken to sober up," Moreno said, "so that these individuals aren't just left passed out on the street, as we so often unfortunately see, or that these individuals don't end up taken to jail or using an ER bed they don't need to."

Moreno said that because the city jail doesn't accept intoxicated people, someone who is picked up will either go to an emergency room or left on the street. That, she said, "is unacceptable."
Why is it "unacceptable" to just leave "non-violent individuals" alone?  Why do we have to take them to Not-Jail?  How long do they stay in Not-Jail?  Do they have the power to just not-arrest you and take you there without telling a judge?  How is this not a jail, exactly?


Grand Isle Mayor David Camardelle is super excited about an airport he's getting the state to build.  They're building it along a stretch of threatened coastline which is weird. Also they are building it in a wildlife refuge famous for the density of migratory birds nesting there. That is even weirder.
But conservation groups and scientists worry that air traffic in and around the 1,145-acre refuge would scare off wildlife, and could lead to bird-plane collisions, making the facility dangerous for pilots and passengers. Federal aviation regulators have yet to weigh in on the proposal.

“With all the birds there, this poses a risk to aviation,” said Phil Stouffer, a conservation biologist at Louisiana State University. “Elmer’s Island is not a huge place, and this (airport) is plunked down in the middle of it. You can’t do that and expect the marsh and the rest of the refuge to function the way it did before.”

Wildlife strikes cost the U.S. aviation industry about $625 million each year and have killed nearly 500 people worldwide, according to a 2017 report led by federal wildlife scientists. Airports with high numbers of bird strikes typically require deterrents, including fencing, chemical sprays and noise cannons, or shrinking the types of habitats nearby that attract birds. Wildlife and Fisheries has not yet explored what measures might be required to curb bird strikes on Elmer’s Island.
I'm not sure what the appropriate process is for doing something like this. The article strongly implies that the Governor and the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries  may have circumvented it in order to avoid public input but that's not entirely clear. In any case, Camardelle seems proud.
Camardelle couldn’t give a timeline for construction. He said grass was cleared from the old airstrip last month and posts were installed to mark the new runways. He’s confident the airport will be built soon.

“I’m a hustler,” he said. “I’m going to hustle. It’s one of my top priorities.”

What is the purpose of the riverfront streetcar?

It's just a ride.  I can't think of anyone actually needing to take that to get across the Quarter. Not when you have to walk all the way out of your way just to get over to where the tracks are in the first place. Might as well just walk to your destination.  Does anybody actually use it?  I mean does anybody who is not a tourist use it to actually get somewhere they need to go?  

Anyway I think this means they're making a better use of it.
Streetcars running down Canal Street will soon take a turn and run 24-hours a day on the Riverfront line flanking the French Quarter, in a move that New Orleans transit officials say should help ease commutes for late-night service workers.

In a news release Tuesday (Sept. 25), the New Orleans Regional Transit Authority announced it's extending the two streetcar lines that normally end at the foot of Canal Street, to instead take a turn on the Riverfront tracks and end at the French Market. The transit agency also said the Canal streetcars will run 24-hours a day along the Riverfront line from Canal Street to the French Market, replacing the Riverfront streetcars that usually stop service at midnight
So if you're trying to get to Mid City from Decatur Street late at night, you can go get the streetcar now.  Of course anyone who has had to rely on the late night St. Charles streetcars before will know they run so infrequently that you might be better off walking anyway.   This probably won't be much different.

Still it's good to see service extended.  These 24 hour buses should help.
The service changes take effect this Sunday, the RTA's news release says. They will add to existing late-night "owl" bus routes that run to New Orleans East (63-line) and Algiers (100-line).

Additionally, the RTA said the 16-Claiborne bus line will run 24-hours a day starting at the end of this month, matching the 24-hour service the 39-Tulane bus line now running to Causeway Boulevard past Ochsner Medical Center on Jefferson Highway.
More buses would help even more, though. 

The drainage blank slate

Our new S&WB Director Ghassan Korban is a man who, much like our new CFO and our new CAO, is brand new to New Orleans and yet finds himself in a position to make very big decisions with far reaching consequences for the city where he probably will not actually spend more than 5 to 10 years at maximum.

When you are in such a position. When you aren't from here, don't have any personal ties, don't give a shit who was here before you or who can live here after you're gone it becomes very easy to just treat the whole thing like a "blank slate" that can be written over on a whim. For example, it becomes very easy to just commit everyone to a massive overhaul of the drainage system.
Three weeks into his job, the new S&WB executive director is laying the groundwork for a bold plan that would go beyond the short-term fixes and emergency repairs that have dominated the agency since well before last summer’s floods in New Orleans.

His eye is on a multiple-decade master plan that would see brand-new systems for drainage, water and sewerage — a process that would mean at least tens of millions of dollars a year in new money from residents.

“We’re at the point where replacement is the only option,” he said.
Mitch Landrieu, on his own way out the door and on to horizons well beyond the city, made the same recommendation.  He reckoned such an endeavor would run about $60 billion.   He also was not exactly shy about saying that $60 billion would come largely from regular old New Orleanians with little or no help from state or federal sources. It's lunacy to believe such a cost is bearable by the local population. The state boasts the nation's 2nd highest poverty rate and its 4th lowest median income.  The City of New Orleans is among the worst in the entire world in terms of income inequality and  is already looking at a potential $37 million budget shortfall for next year.

Simply put, there isn't enough money available to support and maintain $60 billion worth of new infrastructure.  Not unless we're willing to make a drastic shift in where our tax burden falls.  We could do a bit more if we decided to actually tax rather than subsidize the hoteliers, real estate moguls, non-profit scammers, and oil and gas polluters who draw off and hoard whatever wealth the desperate toil of Louisiana workers produces for them.  But the Mitch Landrieus and LaToya Cantrells of the world will do no such thing.  All they know how to do is squeeze the "bad actors" among the proles for every last dime they are worth only to blame their "culture of permissiveness" when the turnip fails to produce enough blood.

None of this is to say Korban and Mitch are wrong in the abstract.  A top to bottom overhaul of the city's water management system is a fine idea. In an ideal world where we don't penalize people for being poor, it would be just the thing to set to work on right about now.  But in the absence of fair and adequate funding for infrastructure, we're probably better served to keep muddling through for the time being.  Otherwise, we're stuck trying to raise the money on the Trump Administration's terms. And, as we've tried to point out previously, that is a direct path to privatization.  Maybe Korban is fine with that.  Cantrell hasn't really taken a position on it in a while.  Someone should probably ask, though. It's going to come up sooner or later. 

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

They call it a career in public service

Which is just a fancy way of saying take em for all they're worth coming and going.
Former Gov. Bobby Jindal, who made his opposition to Medicaid expansion in Louisiana a cornerstone of his gubernatorial platform and a talking point in his 2016 campaign for president, has joined the board of directors of WellCare Health Plans, Inc., a Florida-based company that "focuses exclusively on providing government-sponsored managed care services, primarily through Medicaid, Medicare Advantage and Medicare Prescription Drug Plans."
Medicaid gets cut. Medicaid gets expanded or shot through with bewildering rules and mechanisms designed to benefit private insurers and drug companies.  All of this jerking around can mean stability or banruptcy or even life or death for millions of people. For amoral grifters like Bobby Jindal, though,  it's all the same. Always another way to make a little money.
According to a filing with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission (SEC), Jindal will be serving on the company's Audit, Finance and Regulatory Compliance Committee and the Information Technology Oversight Committee. Wellcare board members receive $90,000 per year, the filing says, with additional annual retainers of $12,000 and $8,000 for the two committee positions. Jindal also will receive 405 shares of Wellcare common stock, which was trading at $307.48 on the New York Stock Exchange at day's end, making the compensation package worth more than $230,000.
Okay well maybe not just a little money. 

Monday, September 24, 2018

The boil order decade

Another one come and gone over the weekend.  
The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans lifted a boil water advisory Sunday afternoon (Sept. 23) that was issued for Lower 9th Ward residents Saturday afternoon.

The agency sent out a notification around 4:30 p.m. Sunday lifting the precautionary advisory after "bacteriological tests confirmed that water in the area was safe to drink and could be used for personal needs," according to the S&WB
Yawn. Remember when we used to count these? Now they're pretty much just regular neighborhood events. Look at how localized this one is. They lost pressure at the Carrollton plant but only the Ninth Ward needed to worry.  It seems like the many repetitions of this drill have made our boil advisories more precise.  Or maybe we just have a higher amoeba tolerance now.

But, hey, good news! City Council will soon have the benefit of its own panel of experts to help it keep an eye on S&WB for you. Call it the Sewerage and Water Board Board.
“The public justifiably has no confidence in the Sewerage & Water Board,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who sponsored the move to prepare a request for qualifications from third-party advisers. Those firms would arm the council with technical know-how on a long-term basis as it continues to serve as a watchdog of the floundering agency, he said.

Keep in mind we aren't talking about the "technical know-how" necessary to determine when a meeting is not really a meeting.  For that you would need a lawyer. Or, really, just a literate person.

City Council needs more than just that. What they need to do is keep up with the Board in the escalating consultancy arms race. As of last November the Board's advantage in the consultant gap was staggering.
The New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board has paid a Colorado consulting firm $6 million more than what FEMA considers a “reasonable” fee to manage a critical power-plant project – and so far, with little to show for it.

In fact, the agency has allowed the company's fees to balloon over the past six years, to the point where the company now stands to ultimately collect four times more than the “reasonable” rate by the time its contract is through, according to public records obtained by WWL-TV.
Why is this so urgent?  Well, consultants can provide you with valuable information. For example, they can tell councilmembers about how flooding is caused by "inconsistent leadership." They can also tell councilmembers that they definitely need to hire more consultants.
Also at Monday’s meeting, representatives from the ABS Group, a Houston-based consulting firm, presented the findings of its report on the flooding in July and August of 2017. A draft of the report was obtained by The Advocate in August.

The report found that one of the root causes of the flooding was “inconsistent leadership oversight of power and pumping operations.” At Monday’s meeting, ABS representatives recommended that the council keep closer tabs on the Sewerage and Water Board.

The proposal to hire a consultant appears to be a direct response to the report.
The best consultants are good at telling you to hire themselves specifically.  Perhaps the most famous example of this in local lore is the case of former New Orleans "Recovery Czar" Ed Blakely
Ed Blakely, an urban affairs professor who led recovery efforts after Oakland's 1988 (sic?) earthquake and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York City, said success in those and other massive rebuilding efforts resulted from leaders' swift action, sometimes laying out recovery plans within 24 hours of a disaster, and their willingness to install a single chief to guide a comprehensive plan "so that you're not moving home by home."

"It should not be a local person," said Blakely, who paid his own way from his home in Australia to address the African-American Leadership Project's summit in Central City. "They (should) have no baggage, but they have to have a real human touch to know where people are coming from."

Blakely said such a leader would be less likely to be influenced by historical, cultural and political factors that can sway the decisions of local residents on issues including which geographic areas, if any, should be off limits to rebuilding.
It was not long after this talk that Ray Nagin hired Blakely.  That turned out okay, right?

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Everybody gets a mulligan

It's been almost a full year since allegations about LaToya Cantrell's use of a city issued credit card during her time as a councilperson added a small (and ultimately inconsequential) measure of intrigue to the mayoral election.  This week, the Advocate reported that it has an advance copy of a long awaited report from the legislative auditor focusing on the practice as it relates to the entire Council (not just LaToya). From the looks of things, the report is basically a shrug.
The audit does not rule out the possibility of a criminal prosecution, noting that various categories of purchases by council members "may have violated the Louisiana Constitution and state law," a common finding in reports from the Legislative Auditor's Office.

However, reports that include allegations of what auditors believe are serious crimes typically delve far more deeply into the specifics of those acts than does the credit-card audit.

Instead, the report largely focuses on the weak oversight of the council's credit card usage and the frequency with which the body as a whole ignored policies requiring receipts and documentation showing why a particular purchase was made. That criticism largely tracks with reporting at the time, which showed that council offices used their credit cards for a range of expenses, from travel and meals to equipment and furniture, without needing any outside approval.

In other words, it says what these councilmembers had been doing was probably bad. But they all did it. And when they were doing it they probably didn't know it was bad. So it's fine. But not really fine. Maybe.

So the implications here are open to interpretation.

Cantrell claims the report as vindication saying "I agree with this finding as it supports my assertion from the beginning that my use of the card was consistent with the then-established policies of the City Council." But according to the Advocate description, it's really more that there weren't any recognizable policies established by the City Council in the first place.

A report by WWLTV's David Hammer didn't necessarily agree with that last October, though. 
The City Council policy is far looser than Landrieu’s, but it does have some specific prohibitions.

“Cardholders MAY NOT … use the procurement card for personal or unauthorized purposes ... (or) use the procurement card to purchase alcoholic beverages,” the policy states.
Hammer's report enumerated several charges incurred by Cantrell that easily fall into "gray areas" with regard to that stipulation. Cantrell asserts that travel expenses appearing on the card qualify as city business. No doubt some of that is legitimate. But a lot of it is more about advancing LaToya's career than anything else. To take one example, any time a public official trundles off to Aspen to attend a weekend of  neoliberal "policy seminars" and networking with bankers they are definitely not acting in the public interest. 

The auditor's report doesn't really single out Cantrell, though.  Instead it places her in the context of a loosely interpreted City Council policy that may have led them all astray of state law. But the suggestion is that maybe they all get a mulligan on that.

So far Jeff Landry hasn't said whether or not he agrees with that, though.  Previously, Landry's office had dropped self-contradictory hints as to whether or not their "investigation" was leading to anything.  There was some expectation that we'd get an update on that once the auditor's report was done. But, most likely, Landry's choice here will hinge on whether or not poking at this helps his campaign for Governor in any way.  Right now he's a little busy conspicuously ignoring sexual abuse complaints so it might be a while before he makes a decision.

Cantrell's spokespeople have previously characterized Landry's... investigation? series of occasional press statements? whatever he's doing.... as a "witch hunt." And they have a good point about that.  Landry is only interested in this issue as demagogue fodder.  But, as we've tried to point out, there's value in looking further into LaToya's (and really every councilmember's) finances.  There are definitely some compromising relationships in there that should call into question the democratic legitimacy of the whole of city government.  But we already know Jeff Landry doesn't care about any of that.  Probably nobody does. 

Thursday, September 20, 2018

So we built another airport and that sank into the swamp..

And so forth and so on.

Airport officials were first publicly alerted to the sewer line problem at an Aviation Board meeting in May by Spann, who reported that subsidence had lifted up the 2,000-foot long pipe in enough places that officials needed to construct a new line that pumped out the sewage. The original pipe had relied upon gravity.

“It goes from the terminal to the lift station,” Thornton said in the recent interview. “It’s the main sewer line. It’s good we found it out now.”

Contractors discovered the problem – by running a camera through the pipe – before paving over it. But rather than replace the existing pipe, they are planning to build a new one over it.

“It's about a $7.5 million fix,” Spann told the board in July.

The contracting team hired to build the new terminal, a joint venture called Hunt Gibbs Boh Metro, took great care to try to prevent any subsidence of the notoriously unstable soils around the airport.

Every night for 44 weeks, 500 times a night, a truck would dump a load of sand in the area planned for the new terminal and roadway.

Despite these measures, the ground subsided perceptibly once construction workers began pouring concrete on the terminal apron, where the airplanes would move about.
Nothing new here. Just the regular occurring hazards of building on jello-land.  But, hey, maybe there is an upside. If a few more things sink unexpectedly, they might actually push the airport opening closer to the time when there is actually a road leading to it.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Saints are gonna be ok

Everybody calm down. They're 1-1 now which is one game ahead of where they were last year at this time.  Most of us don't particularly care for the way they managed the clock at the end of that Browns game. But besides that, it was an entertaining stumble-fest between two teams trying to out-fail one another. And, really, that's pretty much what pro football is all about. 

In recent years, the Saints have been a prime example of the way NFL teams are treating the first two weeks almost as glorified preseason games. Late roster additions, lots of line-up shuffling, weird experiments with backup quarterbacks returning kicks, that sort of thing.  Cam Meredith hasn't even played yet. I think after week one, Payton said something about the defense to the general affect of, "We aren't sure the people playing are the people we should have playing yet."   We don't even know who is on this team yet, apparently.

Anyway, it's fine.  I just thought I'd poke in and say so here. Also I guess I wanted to mention this blog still does sports posts sometimes and should have more on all this stuff later in the week. I'm also treating this as late preseason.

Everybody is turning in their homework today

LSU made the proposals from the two remaining bidders for the Charity Hospital redevelopment available to the public today.   There are PDFs of each appended to that NOLA.com article if you really feel like pouring over all that stuff.

The oddest thing to me about the 1532 Tulane Partners group is they have an agreement with the school board to allow one or more charter schools to become tenants. I'm not sure that fits well in practice. Maybe if they're actually committed to affordable housing in the building as well then there's something to that. But it's unusual. At least for New Orleans it is.

As for HRI, they have an even  bigger problem.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell on Tuesday (Sept. 18) said the Municipal Auditorium, vacant and damaged since Hurricane Katrina, is being eyed as a site for a new City Hall, and that she's concluded the current building is past its useful life.

Cantrell's comments came during a breakfast event with the Bureau for Governmental Research during a question-and-answer session that covered topics ranging from the Sewerage & Water Board to budget issues. Her statement has the potential to throw water on plans for the redevelopment of Charity Hospital, which has been viewed by both city planning consultants and the development team at HRI Properties as a new home for City Hall and the Orleans Parish Civil Court.
HRI's proposal is worded in a way to suggest there are contingency plans but it also strongly suggests that City Hall would be their ideal anchor tenant. 

More on all of that City Hall business later, though.  It looks like the City Planning Commission also dropped their much anticipated report on short term rentals this afternoon. I've really only just glanced at that but here it is.   It's expected to be formally presented at the CPC meeting next Tuesday.

Can we call it the Palmer Purge?

Maybe that's a little dramatic since today she only got one out of the twenty four Audubon Commission members. But it's alliterative and therefore valid.  It's not clear what Kristin Palmer's overall purpose is in combing through every municipal board's makeup but following it should make for an interesting civics lesson.
Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, chair of the council’s governmental affairs committee, is examining all of the city’s 75 boards and commissions regarding their composition, attendance and other structural issues. Starting alphabetically with the Audubon Commission, Gisleson Palmer said she found that the 1886 act of the City Council establishing the 24-member Audubon Commission specifically required that all of its members be “citizens and property-tax payers.”

That requirement, however, was apparently lost at some point in the commission’s 140-year history, so Gisleson Palmer proposed restoring it, updating the archaic “citizens and property-tax payers” to the more modern standard of city residents. The Audubon Commission’s own handbook, she noted, also says the members must be 24 registered voters.

“What we’re doing today is in line with how the commission was first formed, and how it acts today,” Gisleson Palmer said during the Aug. 30 governmental affairs committee meeting. “It logically flows that members should have inherent interests in this city and be stakeholders in New Orleans.”
The updated rules forced one resignation today. This was not because of the residency requirement but because the new rules make it clear that only the mayor can appoint members and it turned out one guy was chosen by the Commission itself as a mid-term replacement.

Riveting stuff, I know. But these boards really do have a lot of power. Regardless of what Palmer thinks she's getting out of it, it's a worthwhile exercise to take a close look at who they are and what they do. 
A broader issue — not included in the ordinance, but easy to address through future appointments — is the lack of geographic diversity on the Audubon Commission, Gisleson Palmer said. Her office identified 20 of the commissioners as living “above Canal Street,” with only one in Algiers, one in New Orleans East and one in Gentilly — even though the majority of the commission’s holdings are well outside of Uptown, such as the Aquarium and Insectarium, the new parks along the wharves, and the wildlife center on the Westbank.
In the meantime, there is an opening on the Audubon Commission. (Current members include such luminaries as Boysie Bollinger, Olivia Manning, and Gayle Benson)  I'd nominate Valerio but he's just another Uptown resident so that might not be wholly in the spirit of all this.

Monday, September 17, 2018


On this list of 50 most populous US metro areas, your very favorite local area is the one with the highest poverty rate.

Among the 50 most populous U.S. metro areas covered by the new data, poverty rates ranged from 7.3 percent in and around San Jose, California to 18.6 percent in the New Orleans region.

“Louisiana has struggled with poverty for a long time and continues to,” said Jan Moller, director of the liberal Louisiana Budget Project. The state “remains a very good place if you have a college degree, or if you're in oil and gas, or if you’re kind of in the economic elite.”

“But it remains a very tough place for a very significant percentage of our population,” he added.

The poverty rate estimate for last year for all of Louisiana was 19.7 percent, meaning about 899,000 of the roughly 4.5 million residents there lived in poverty. The figure is just shy of the state’s 2016 poverty rate of 20.2 percent.

Hopefully somebody will do something about that.  Over the past decade we've tried firing all the teachers, dumping millions of dollars in subsidies and tax breaks into movie studios and tourist facing infrastructure, and turning all the housing into luxury apartments and/or vacation rentals nobody can afford to live in. That didn't seem to work. What else can we do?

Hey what if everybody in New Orleans learned to code created and ran their own individual festival
A new program, set in New Orleans, called "Fest for Success," was announced on Wednesday (Sept. 12) by Cleveland Spears III, president and CEO of the Spears Group and founder of the National Fried Chicken Festival, which is Sept. 22 and 23 in Woldenberg Riverfront Park.

At the Wednesday press conference announcing the lineup of food for the National Fried Chicken Festival, Spears said he has created a foundation called Festivals for Good, which will launch "Fest for Success, presented by Chevron."

"Fest for Success" features a "two-day boot camp for entrepreneurs, festival producers and major event organizers," according to a press release. The sessions will focus on the various elements required to start and build a profitable festivals or events.
It's finally happened. We've created a festival that is themed after making festivals. Welcome to Fest Fest presented by the Cleveland Spears Festival Industrial Complex. Here is its founding document. 
The idea for the festival-event boot camps grew out of recommendations from the Boston Consulting Group, which was commissioned by the New Orleans & Co. -- formerly known as the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation and the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau - to develop a strategic plan for the New Orleans tourism and hospitality.
Maybe not everyone remembers that BCG study. It was the hired "research" portion of a plan pushed by Mitch Landrieu in 2012 that would have designated several neighborhoods in and near the CBD as a quasi-privatized "hospitality zone" whose tax revenues would have been managed by a board of hoteliers and mayoral appointees with "substantial business interests" in the designated area.  It took a lot of heavy lifting to slap that down although aspects of it have been put into practice via piecemeal policy decisions since then.  Expect echoes of that to show up again when City Council takes up the short term rental debate next month.

BCG also has had a hand in school privatization efforts in Philadelphia and New York
and, prior to that, here in New Orleans when they advised the oligarchs assembled on Ray Nagin's infamous Bring Back New Orleans Commission.

Anyway here they are now helping Cleveland Spears do festival entrepreneurship. You can sign up for his Fest Fest seminar in order to learn how to do that too.  But I can also just go ahead and tell you it's mostly about getting a cut when bad actors like Chevron want to do PR greenwashing type stuff.
"By supporting Fest for Success, we're promoting the Crescent City's culture as well investing in its economic growth," Leah Brown, Public Affairs Manager for Chevron's Gulf of Mexico Business Unit, said in a press release. We encourage everyone with a festival idea to take part in these two-day workshops to learn more about organizing and hosting a successful event in New Orleans."
Or if you just want to see more of this business model in action, you can check out Spears's Fried Chicken Festival  this weekend.  Its "official hospitality partner" is Sonder.

Loose animal update

Cats are people too

Well the very bad news is first
A cat is the reason 7,500 customers in New Orleans lost power on Monday morning, according to Entergy.

"A cat got into a substation that feeds parts of Uptown, Central City, Mid-City, and the CBD, and caused a flash when it came into contact with our equipment," Entergy said in a statement.

As of 10:20 a.m. Entergy said power has been restored to all customers. Outages spanned areas of Uptown, Central City, Mid-City and the Central Business District.

"It is unusual for a cat to get into a substation; generally, squirrels and other small animals find their way in," the company said. "Entergy installs protective devices to help keep animals out of our equipment not only to avoid power outages, but also to keep animals out of harm’s way.

"Sometimes, however, they are able to make their way around the protective devices, and when this happens, the animals unfortunately do not survive contact with high-voltage equipment."
So that is sad. Between this poor guy and Valerio, 2018 is shaping up to be the most tragic cat year in recent memory. 

But cats aren't the only animals going their own way in 2018.  Consider also the monkeys
A monkey went missing from the University of Louisiana at Lafayette New Iberia Research Center on Saturday (Sept. 15), according to the university on social media.

The UL-Lafayette Facebook page stated Sunday that staff at the New Iberia Research Center became aware a monkey was missing due to a cage failure on Saturday. The monkey is a young Rhesus macaque weighing approximately 12 pounds, UL-Lafayette stated. The university reported the monkey is part of a breeding group and carries no transmissible disease.
It's that last sentence that reassures me most. No transmissible diseases here, folks. Nope. Nothing to worry about with this monkey. Please go about your business.  That makes me feel better every time we hear it. And we do hear it more often than you might think. Back in May a similar escape occurred at the Tulane Primate Research Center in Covington. Long time followers of this blog will know it was far from the first such incident.

So, yeah, exploding cats and loose rage monkeys. Everywhere else it's just Monday. I also heard a story this morning about large red "tropical looking" bird flying around Central City. The details on that one are sketchy but keep an eye out.

Political independence

Here is Adrian Perkins. A young West Point and  Harvard Law grad on the make.
After graduating from Harvard Law earlier this year, Perkins, 32, returned to his hometown of Shreveport in order to run for mayor as a Democrat.

Only a year ago, he told the publication Harvard Law Today that he intended on pursuing a career in technology and was considering taking a job with the corporate firm Sidley Austin in Los Angeles, where he worked as a summer associate. “If I go to a corporate law firm, I could carve out a specific space for (practicing tech law),” he said.
Go get in on the ground floor in California helping cell companies sell Fitbit data to health insurers or whatever.  Or go back home to Shreveport where your "impressive resume" puts you on the path to being a bigger fish more quickly. Either way there's plenty money to be made. There are so many choices for people who make their way into the club of careerist Ivy grads.  

The one rule, of course, is your first responsibility is always to the club. 
On Aug. 29th, Sens. Chuck Grassley and Diane Feistein received a letter from eight recent or current members of Harvard Law’s Black Law Student Association (BLSA), including Shreveport mayoral candidate Adrian Perkins, in support of Judge Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination to the United States Supreme Court.

The Bayou Brief contacted Perkins, both directly and through his campaign, and, as of the time of publication, has yet to receive a response.

The letter praises Kavanaugh, a staunchly pro-life conservative who is now confronting credible allegations of sexual assault, for meeting with African-American students in March and providing them “his insights and advice” on how to secure a judicial clerkship. “The students who have signed below write to express appreciation for the Judge’s enthusiasm on this issue and hope that his efforts will be taken into consideration,” the letter reads
The Bayou Brief  story actually gives Perkins and his classmates a bit of an out here observing in a concluding paragraph that their letter went out before the sexual assault story came out. It even goes a step further suggesting that, in the absence of these allegations, the letter, "may be perceived as a sign of his political independence and willingness to forge meaningful alliances with conservatives." 

So I guess my first question is, how is that better? Or more to the point, in what way does this blind loyalty to the Harvard Law alumni club maintained for the purposes of career advancement demonstrate "political independence"? 

Saturday, September 15, 2018

People person

Does he mean people hound?  Because it seems like he's very good at finding them.  Actually, maybe it's more like he's a cadaver dog. Anyway, it's weird mailer.

Friday, September 14, 2018

Some of these laws actually exist to protect you

The reason we, who do not wish to run our democratic institutions "like a bidness," insist our elected people follow all these boring open meetings and public records laws is not only because we enjoy annoying them.  Don't get me wrong. We also enjoy annoying them. Maybe that would be different if they didn't lie all the time.

At the meeting, Councilman Jason Williams questioned how the decisions could have been made without a formal, public meeting of the Sewerage and Water Board. He said it appeared that the decision was made over the previous weekend, outside of public view.

“This should have happened in a public meeting, as I understand it,” Williams said at the committee meeting.

Cantrell’s spokesman Beau Tidwell denied that at the time.

“To be absolutely clear: there was no ‘secret meeting’ held to install a new Executive Director at the S&WB,” Tidwell wrote in an August 20 email to The Lens. “As the Mayor said in her press conference today, a decision will be made at a public meeting— called for tomorrow afternoon.”

But emails obtained by The Lens show that Cantrell called two secret meetings.
It's not just that, though. The other reason we'd prefer they at least try to follow the law is because it protects them from themselves. As in, it keeps them from making a bigger mess of the messes they are trying to clean up. 
Three former Sewerage & Water Board deputy directors ousted by Mayor LaToya Cantrell claim they were dismissed without due process, and they want the pensions they haven't received.

In late August, Cantrell demanded that deputies Ronald Doucette, Sharon Judkins and Valerie Rivers resign after the three were given pay raises as the agency struggled to pay its bills.

But the deputies' attorney, Sharonda Williams, said in a letter to the S&WB dated Aug. 27 that the S&WB’s governing board never publicly ratified that move, a step required under state law.

“There is no clear authority by which the mayor of the City of New Orleans may direct the termination or resignation of an employee of the S&WB,” Williams wrote.
Maybe it's pointless, in the age of Trump, to ask that we try to not all act like clumsy little tyrants all the time. But it's still pretty good advice.  

"Look, man, after this disaster there is big money! "

That's one of the better ironic Ray Nagin quotes.  It's from this Details Magazine profile that, thanks to crappy link rot, has been relegated to the Wayback Machine. He was reading The Shock Doctrine at the time. He hadn't read it all the way through just yet.
“I understand exactly the premise that they’re presenting,“ Nagin says, holding the book aloft, “that’s for sure. Look, man, after this disaster there is big money! The shock-and-awe piece of what they’re talking about is absolutely correct.“ I ask if he’s read the chapter in which Klein laments that the public sphere in New Orleans is “being erased, with the storm used as the excuse.“ Nagin replies cheerily, “I haven’t gotten that far! I just picked it up.
This is maybe only tangentially related but it's what I thought about when I read about the Make It Right lawsuit this week.  Practically everything that happened in New Orleans after Katrina was a grift.  Everybody knows it. Everybody has always known it.  Knowing it didn't change the outcome, though
In 2007, actor Brad Pitt launched the Make It Right Foundation with the goal of building 150 single-family homes to help the badly devastated Lower 9th Ward recover.

The next year, to much fanfare, construction began on the iconic, modern homes designed by an all-star group of international architects. Tour operators still run big coach buses past the more than 100 homes clustered around Tennessee, Reyes and Deslonde streets.

But the houses no longer look fresh. Their angles are becoming less defined. Roofs are badly bowed. On some houses, side panels are curving away from vertical beams. On others, cranes are helping crews make massive renovations while families live elsewhere. Some homeowners have gone through more than one interior renovation, neighbors say.
Brad Pitt was a big celebrity.  The non-profit working under his name had some "all-star" architects and some green-branded "solutions" to sell.  For whatever reason, the people and press in this town can't resist a story about how we can entrepreneur our way out of every social or political challenge no matter how many times that ends up being a scam. There's big money after a disaster.  Why are we always so surprised to find so many grifters chasing that big money?  It's why they went into the business.

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Heavy Flo day

To Area of Refuge

Florence looks to have weakened a bit today in terms of wind speed but, as we all know very well, the Saffir-Simpson scale doesn't tell you everything you need to know about how dangerous a hurricane is. When you're making your decisions about what kind of precautions you need to take, you will also want to know how fast the storm is moving, what direction it is coming from, how big a surge it might be pushing. Also how big is it?
Florence is a huge hurricane, the hurricane center said, and its hurricane-force winds extend about 80 miles from the storm's center. The diameter of Florence's tropical-storm-force winds is almost 400 miles.  

Because of its size, "life-threatening storm surge, heavy rainfall and damaging wind will cover a large area regardless of exactly where the center of Florence moves," the hurricane center said.
So it's true, this is a "tremendously big, tremendously wet" storm.  If you are sheltering in place, you will need a lot of paper towels.  Also, it's okay if that is your plan.

Hurricane prep comes with a lot more political horseshit than it used to. Mayors, Governors, Presidents, seem to spend as much time worrying about the "optics" of their communications and orders than they do their actual usefulness to people.  There is also a tendency among the press and just the public at large on social media to do a lot of performative scolding about evacuation. Leave or "you're on your own," they say. The message is supposed to be about public safety but it's really as much a precautionary blaming of the potential victim as it is anything else. This way at least some of us caught in the inevitable mess failures that accompany any storm will have "deserved it."

Everyone has very specific circumstances to consider when deciding whether or not they are going to evacuate before a hurricane.  There are plenty of very good reasons for some people not to leave.  Sometimes evacuation can be more dangerous than staying. It's almost always very expensive. Some people have the means to get out. Some people have a place lined up they can go.  Not everyone does. What's right for one person may not be right for someone two doors down. This is why blanket evacuation orders don't make sense for anyone but the politician who issues them.

And really, if worst comes to worst for those politicians, they can always just lie about it.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gayle is woke now

So here is something you don't see every day.  Roger Goodell was at Orleans Parish Debtor's Prison Magistrate Court yesterday watching the mayor's father in law work. 
Saints players Benjamin Watson and Demario Davis watched as Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell set $1,500 bail for a disabled man accused of cocaine possession.

Afterward, one observer said it was impossible to hear the clink of the defendants' metal shackles without thinking of slavery. Goodell agreed.

“I was just overwhelmed with sadness,” Watson said. “Their lives are never going to be the same, whether they’re guilty or innocent.”

The indelible image of a powerful sports executive mixing with the poor and desperate came courtesy of the Players Coalition. NFL players created the social justice organization last year in the wake of protests by Colin Kaepernick and other players who refused to stand during the national anthem in response to police killings of black people.

The Players Coalition organized a daylong symposium Tuesday on the criminal justice system at the Orleans Public Defenders office that was also attended by Saints owner Gayle Benson and defensive end Cam Jordan.
It's hard to gauge whether or not this sort of thing is ultimately more helpful or harmful at least as it regards figures like Gayle and Roger.  The only reason they're there in the first place is because players like Watson and Davis joined a protest movement that caused their bosses a  big PR problem.  On the one hand, it's good that someone did this to them. On the other hand, now the bosses can turn it into an opportunity to buy themselves some woke cred.
Meanwhile, Benson made an impromptu offer of office space in Benson Tower to Syrita Steib-Martin, the executive director of Operation Restoration, which helps women and girls re-entering society after prison stints.
Gayle shouldn't be allowed to get off so easily.  Keep in mind the office space she's so graciously offered here only comes to her via a corrupt deal the state entered into with her late husband.  Nothing Gayle Benson donates to anything should have passed through her hands in the first place. Until we're talking about re-appropriating the Bensons' hoarded wealth for public redistribution, every "gift" from Gayle should be considered an insult.

Also I'm looking for information in this story about how the court plans to adjust its practices in order to get into compliance with this ruling and not finding any. 
For eight hours, Goodell listened attentively — sometimes interjecting questions — as defense attorneys and formerly incarcerated people spoke. In the day’s first session, Orleans Parish Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton explained the plethora of bail fees and court costs that defendants pay to help support the city's criminal justice system.

Federal judges recently declared that “user pays” system to be unconstitutional because the state judges who set fines and fees cannot be impartial when their own budget is at stake. After watching the bail hearings, Davis agreed.

“The judge didn’t let anybody off on no bail,” he said. “The judge has a conflict of interest, because he has to get the people in his office paid.”
For the present moment, it looks like it's business as usual over there. 

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Nobody actually lives there

It's just a bunch of big towers of money.
The study found that more than half of the 51 condos at the Mandarin Oriental on Boylston Street are owned by trusts — a mechanism sometimes used by investors but also sometimes used by owner-occupants for legal or liability reasons.

Meanwhile, barely one in five residents at Millennium Tower claim the residential exemption — suggesting those units may be either second homes or rental properties.

Many units in these buildings were bought with cash, property records show, and the institute said the average sale price across all 12 developments topped $3 million per unit.

Thousands more condos priced in the seven figures are under construction or are being planned in and around downtown — extreme examples, advocates say, of so much of the housing cropping up in city neighborhoods, properties priced beyond the reach of most middle-class residents.

“We have these glaring wealth gaps in our city, and we’re adding thousands of units for uber-rich people,” Collins said. “The question becomes, who is Boston for?”
Sounds familiar, right?  So familiar it is practically boring now.  I know we've been talking about this problem in New Orleans for years and years.  But we really noticed the parked money problem kick into high gear more recently.  All part of the natural progression, though.  Too bad nobody who can do anything about this stuff cares to.

Cyndi Nguyen, please come and get your zebras

Those whimsical councilpersons. I had been wondering whatever had happened to Frank Scurlock's hat.  Oh and that tweet gets the name of the event wrong. It's actually the UniverSoul Circus. What, by the way, is a UniverSoul Circus?
Celebrating its 25th Anniversary in 2018, UniverSoul is a highly interactive combination of circus arts, theater, and music that spans genres including Pop, Classic R&B, Latin, Hip Hop, Jazz and Gospel. It embraces and celebrates the unique and familiar aspects of pop culture globally by bringing them center stage with a cast of international performers. UniverSoul Circus is rated as one of the top two circuses in America along with Cirque du Soleil. UniverSoul’s fresh approach to family friendly live entertainment has garnered it a coveted spot as one of Ticketmaster’s top ten most requested family events, along with other shows including Sesame Street Live, Disney on Ice, and Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The circus was founded 25 years ago in Atlanta by concert and theatre promoter, Cedric Walker.
Yeah, alright, so it's a circus. Maybe you don't care for circuses. That would be understandable.  At least this doesn't appear to be some sort of wacky hyper-Christian thing. I was a bit worried when I saw the name.

Anyway, this is all beside the point. The thing is, this particular circus appears to use the neutral ground on Lake Forest as a grazing area
Spotting some striped horses in New Orleans is sure to generate questions.

The New Orleans Police Seventh District shared images of three such animals apparently wandering around a New Orleans East neighborhood Monday evening. 

"First, we had puppies, then kittens, then alligators and even a baby hawk....but these four-legged friends take the cake!!!"
And they just left it at that for several hours today so people could speculate about why there were zebras there. It's bad enough when the police withhold critical information. But then the news picked it up and ran with it before getting the story themselves. Because reporting on a social media post without context is just standard practice now. It wasn't until later in the afternoon that we learned we'd all been trolled.
The NOPD later clarified that the animals were out part of the Universoul Circus, that is holding shows nearby through Sept. 23 at Old Lake Forest Plaza. The zebras were out with trainers, the NOPD said, grazing in the area. 

Now we know what the "innovation district" was for

The "Spirit of Charity" planning process that has been going on in a parallel universe to the actual selection process for the Charity Hospital developer finally fits in to the big picture. It's basically a way to boost Kabacoff's bid
Subsidies: Unlike the Tulane Partners plan, HRI would rely on revenue from a tax-increment financing district proposed for an area of the CBD to surround the hospital. Tax increment financing uses tax revenue from future development, and in this case, HRI is proposing to divert $40 million in sales tax revenue from the 382,000 square feet of retail and 82 apartments across the street. The project would also rely on between $211 million and $224 million in tax credits. The option that includes City Hall as a major tenant would call for $91.6 million in prepaid rent, presumably from City Hall, as that financing element isn't called for in the other two scenarios.
We knew the Spirit Of Charity Innovation District meetings  headed up by Andy Kopplin and the Greater New Orleans Foundation was basically just an excuse to create a TIF.  But we weren't exactly sure who was set to benefit from that. It's not surprising that it would be Kabacoff given the way the non-profit industrial complex works around here. HRI (and, I suppose, GNOF) have also marshaled support from various other gangsters of that scene.
Tenants: LSU was provided commitment letters from Tulane University and the United Way for office space, the Historic New Orleans Foundation for museum space, Pythian Market for a grocery and Audubon Primary Academy for educational space.

Note also the "rent" from City Hall.  That's gonna be a fun budget item to talk about.  There is no public comment from LaToya or any of the councilmembers about the prospect of moving over there yet.  But  rest assured, they've been talking about it.

A recent edition of Danae Columbus's political gossip column hinted at this a few weeks ago. In that column, Columbus (a political consultant who has previously been accused of using her Uptown Messenger platform to promote her clients' interests)  described GNOF's sham public input process as "three lively, well-attended city-wide community workshops" and put a heavy thumb on the scale in favor of moving City Hall over to Charity.  It was pretty clear at that point what development model the insiders were favoring. Today's announcement only clarifies which firm's plan contains that model.

None of that is too too surprising.  But here is something else to look for.  If City Hall really does move into Charity, what happens to the old building?  Recall that this was originally Mitch's idea about 5 or 6 years ago.  Back then, he was pushing several projects at once to redevelop the area realtors now call "South Market District." These developments included the luxury/STR eligible apartment blocks that now dominate the area, a new Rouses grocery, the Loyola Avenue "streetcar to nowhere" and other curious arrangements that never panned out like this "Jazz District" partnership with the Grand Ole Opry. At the time we speculated that maybe that City Hall property would make an attractive spot for more hotel/luxury resort type development in the new downtown theme park.

Who knows what would happen to that space now? There are plans underway now to redesign Duncan Plaza.  I wonder if that picture changes a bit if the building next door suddenly needs to go "back into commerce"?  What would we do with that space?

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Just waiting until it all blows over

One thing to emphasize immediately here is that the thing that is "one step closer" to approval is just a temporary wait-and-see maneuver.
The city’s freeze on the most popular type of short term rental license got one step closer to being codified in municipal law on Thursday.

The city council unanimously voted to accept the recommendations of the City Planning Commission, which endorsed the temporary ban in July.

There is only one more council vote standing in the way of the moratorium’s formal establishment in city law. That vote must take place within the next 90 days, at which point Mayor LaToya Cantrell will be forced to weigh in by either signing the amendment into law or vetoing it.

Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer said the vote would take place “in a few city council meetings.
Four months into the nine month freeze and it's very near to becoming officially a freeze. As we pointed out in May that freeze itself looked like a delay tactic meant to move the STR question as far away as possible from an election where it was an issue on everybody's mind.  In July we noted that the momentum for Council to act on behalf of renters instead of landlords was already fading.  Last month the planning commission pushed back the timeline on its much anticipated "study" at least a few more weeks.  The longer the process drags on and the more settled the new councilmembers are the more responsive they become to commercial and real estate interests they hear from every day relative to the voters they're only accountable to once every four years.

In the meantime, the lobbyists pushing to expand STRs in the city have written up their own policy proposals, and embarked on a series of barnstorming promotional townhalls. This week we saw a proposal filed to build this wholly commercial STR development on Magazine Street. The somehow controversial "freeze" didn't prohibit that.  

But the mayor won't even commit to the ineffectual moratorium. And, really, she hasn't said much of anything on the issue at all since she helped kick off the delay process by asking for the study in the first place. 
Since her inauguration, Cantrell — who pushed for a study on the effects of short-term rentals toward the end of her time as a council member — has mostly remained quiet on the council’s moves to restrict the short-term rental market. Cantrell’s Communication Director Beau Tidwell said that she had no comment on Thursday’s vote.
Like everyone else charged with protecting housing cost burdened New Orleanians from profit seeking real estate vampires, it looks as though she'd prefer to just wait around for the political moment to blow over.

The day Brad Pitt truly became mayor

The day they sue your questionable non-profit that puts flood victims into shitty housing, that's the day you know you've arrived in local politics.
A lawsuit has been filed in New Orleans, accusing Brad Pitt and his Make It Right Foundation of building "substandard" Lower 9th Ward homes post-Katrina "that are deteriorating at a rapid pace while the homeowners are stuck with mortgages on properties that have diminished values," according to an NBC News report.

The class-action lawsuit, which was filed in Orleans Parish Civil District Court, accuses the foundation of unfair trade practices, breach of contract and fraud, the report said.

A key piece of the complaint is that the foundation allegedly found issues with building materials and the homes’ designs. The problems, the suit says, needed significant repair, but Make It Right didn't tell homeowners.
Pitt doesn't even live here anymore. People were still pushing this as recently as 2009 somehow. Not all of them were joking.

Brad Pitt for Mayor?
Sure a lot of that was just about selling shitty T-shirts. But all in all it's a less harmful scam than Make It Right.