Thursday, January 31, 2019

The purpose was trolling and self promotion

Not sure how that wasn't clear.
Two New Orleans Saints fans filed suit against Roger Goodell with an “unclear” purpose, wrote a federal judge in her ruling that denied a request that the court force the NFL commissioner to further review a missed call toward the end of the NFC Championship.

In a case the NFL initially believed to be a class-action suit on behalf of Saints season ticket holders and the “Who Dat Nation,” the plaintiffs said in a hearing Monday they simply asked that federal judge Susie Morgan force Goodell to further investigate the missed call.

Their hope, they said, was that Goodell would change the result of a game that put the Los Angeles Rams in the Super Bowl, which will be played Sunday against the New England Patriots.

Morgan denied that request in a filing dated Thursday (Jan. 31).

“It is unclear what action Plaintiffs seek to compel him to do,” Morgan wrote.
Again, the clear purpose was to get Frank D'Amico's name mentioned in the news a bunch of times this week. Couldn't have been any clearer.  But don't blame Morgan. She's been busy dealing with actual problems like monitoring the "remarkable progress" of the NOPD consent decree reforms. (Not quite remarkable enough to be finished, yet, apparently.)  Maybe Morgan could have at least gotten us some body cameras for the referees before letting this thing drop, though.

But this isn't the only lawsuit that was pending. I'm actually not "clear" on what the others are asking for. But only because I am too lazy to look it up at the moment.  This letter writer says the Saints and the city are owed "restitution."  And I am inclined to agree with that.  In fact, we should get this thing out of court as soon as possible so we can set up a claims center like we did with the BP settlement. Anything to get Calvin Fayard a cut.

Also.. I'm pretty sure this is a typo but what exactly is the point of asking for "rooster space"? 
So, Commissioner Goodell, who fines the NFL when it makes errors? In all this, the Saints are the aggrieved party. While replaying the final 1:49 is not an option, restitution must be made. Increased salary cap; extra draft picks; additional team rooster space. Make it right.
We tried like hell to get that Popeyes thigh to come through for us again during the NFC Championship but it didn't work out the way we would have liked. Not sure if poultry is what gets us forward after this.

Chicken in the sun

Someone who is good at deals needs to explain this to me

Anthony Davis wants to go to L.A. eventually no matter what. So the Pelicans' options are trade him there now, trade him somewhere else now, trade him there at the end of the season, or trade him somewhere else at the end of the season.  I have no idea which of these works out the best for the Pels.  This says they probably ought to wait until the end of the season because... weird NBA rules and clauses and stuff.
A proclamation from Davis he wants to play in Los Angeles could affect his trade market, but the Pelicans have an incentive to wait until the offseason if they want to hear all offers. Davis is under contract for the 2019-'20 season with a player option in 2020-'21.

Waiting until the offseason to decide on any trade offers would allow the Boston Celtics, one of the league's most asset-rich teams, into the fray. They are currently precluded from making a trade for Davis unless it includes Kyrie Irving, due to the nature of their contracts. A trade with the Celtics could not be completed before July 1, when Irving's contract expires.
The NBA is strange and I never took the time to learn the alchemy of its salary cap and the rules governing transactions like this.  Maybe Gayle Benson will figure it out.

It's another quirk of the NBA that its teams and their stars tend not to get attached to the cities and fan bases they play for the way NFL players sometimes do.  Basketball players are permanently on tour more or less. They live everywhere and nowhere. (#NotAllBasketballPlayers, of course.  It's just, this is what the system tends to produce.)

And that's fine.  Good for Anthony Davis finally gaining some degree of control over his situation.  He's earned that, at least.  Anyway, it's a shame the Pelicans never made anything happen with one of the best players on the planet on their roster. They did have seven years to try and make it work, though.

Tuesday, January 29, 2019

ITEP Pep rally

They took it out of the headline but originally the Advocate described this as a "pep rally." I thought that was pretty apt.
In the halls of the legislature and on the steps of City Hall, in advertisements, social media and meetings with the press, Baton Rouge leaders are still at work trying to manage the state’s Industrial Tax Exemption Program, or ITEP,  after local giant ExxonMobil failed to secure a pair of tax breaks.

Mayor-President Sharon Weston Broome called scores of people in the business community on Monday to City Hall, where she and her guests praised the corporation’s commitments to local investment, philanthropy and job training.

None uttered the phrase “industrial tax exemption” until prompted by reporters, but the timing was clear: Less than a week before, faith-based nonprofit Together Baton Rouge gathered at the opposite side of the building to celebrate the parish school board’s rejection of two ITEP proposals that prompted ExxonMobil to pull similar requests before they made it to the Metro Council.
Did Baton Rouge voters know they were electing Broome mayor of the Exxon pep squad?  Did they know how fragile their feelings were before we decided that maybe we ought to consider their tax exemptions a little bit before just approving every request by rote? Did they know how eager Broome would be to make sure their feelings were not hurt? 
When she ran for office in 2016, the mayor campaigned on setting limits for ITEP but backed off shortly upon taking office. She did not take any hard stances Monday on ExxonMobil’s applications but spoke approvingly of the Metro Council's ITEP guidelines, which will determine when an exemption is warranted.
Ah yeah, gotta have those guidelines.  Anything to take the actual hard work of being politically responsive to constituents such as the poor and working class people who have to pay the taxes Exxon doesn't.  Better to just let BRAC set the rules and put everything on auto-pilot.
It’s a sentiment BRAC also emphasized in an open letter to the community, published in a full-page ad in The Advocate’s Sunday edition. The local ITEP guidelines might not be perfect, but the Chamber likes them well enough. The problem will be making sure the rules are strictly and uniformly enforced, not given to interpretation or political sway. The School Board rejected one ExxonMobil ITEP application even though it met all their requirements, Knapp charged, a charge that TBR contests.

Probably won't have to worry about any of this for much longer, anyway. Not if these legislators have anything to say about it
Two Republican state lawmakers plan to file legislation that would return sole authority of the Industrial Tax Exemption Program back to the state, essentially restoring the process in place before Gov. John Bel Edwards’ 2016 executive order gave local governments a say in granting the property tax exemptions. 

Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Central, and Rep. Franklin Foil, R-Baton Rouge, will co-file the bill in the upcoming legislative session, which begins April 8. They say it will restore a “consistent process” for manufacturers applying for the lucrative property tax breaks. 

A "consistent process" is one where the oligarchs decide how much public money to hand over to the other oligarchs without any meddlesome input from the public whose money it is in the first place.  Not very fair. But it's consistent.


It sounds like the most delicious of all measuring tools, I know. Sadly this is not really the case.
Potentially key evidence connecting Uptown drainage canal construction to nearby home and business damage was improperly withheld by the Sewerage &Water Board, according to a lawsuit filing from property owners seeking to recover their losses. An attorney for the Sewerage & Water Board argued in court Monday morning (Jan. 28) that the utility thought all of the evidence it had available was already handed over.

The issue centers on a device called a piezometer, which is used to collect data on any groundwater level changes in the canal construction areas. Attorneys for Uptown homeowners and businesses in several separate lawsuits have contended construction impacts caused property damage, but that they have been constrained in their legal arguments because they lack certain geotechnical data -- such as groundwater changes and vibrations from heavy equipment -- they requested from the Sewerage & Water Board several times since 2016.
The rest of this is about the legal technicalities of keeping the facts of one lawsuit separate from the procedures of other related lawsuits even when the cases are related and... look, the point is there are three or four suits pending against Sewerage and Water Board right now over damage done to buildings situated near the SELA work.  It's why there are still signs like this Uptown near Napoleon Avenue.

Drainage project damaged my home

Good luck to everybody involved.  Including S&WB, I guess, since they're still struggling to figure out how to pay for the badly needed drainage and water management work still to be done let alone pay out legal judgements that may go against them. This week, a task force report recommended they resolve this by imposing a new stormwater drainage fee.
Currently, the S&WB's drainage system is paid for by property taxes, but the report calls for imposing a stormwater drainage fee that would account for how much water runs off a property.

That would be attractive to S&WB officials because it would create an incentive for property owners to reduce the amount of water from their properties that makes its way into the drainage system.

Various groups, both inside and outside city government and the S&WB, have argued for years that a drainage fee could be a solution that would bring in more money and could be imposed on government and nonprofit properties that are currently exempt from property taxes and therefore pay nothing for drainage.
Philosophically speaking this seems like a bad direction to take.  Basically it amounts to imposing a flat usage style fee on residents rather than addressing the fundamental regressivity borne by having so many special exemptions built into the tax system.  Practically speaking, it makes sense that SWB members, city councilmembers, and the mayor would prefer the false "fairness" of the new fee rather than anything that challenges the privileges enjoyed by the churches and "charitable" non-profits who dot the local political landscape.

Besides, apparently measuring how much water runs off of a particular property is easy.  I think you can use a piezometer. Or something like it, anyway.  Now figuring out how to get S&WB to bill people accurately for it. That's something else entirely.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Audubon appreciates you

Considering the degree to which Audubon's operations are subsidized by public funds, access to rights-of-way, perks and  privileges written into various management contracts and cooperative endeavor agreements and stuff.. not to mention the general social deference shown to its leadership... well, then, we'd say something like this is well overdue
New Orleans residents will get free admission each month to the Audubon Zoo, the Audubon Nature Institute announced Wednesday (Jan. 8). Free days also will be offered each month at the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, the insectarium and the planetarium.

Every Wednesday, Orleans Parish residents with a government-issued photo ID will receive free admission with up to four guests to Audubon attractions, rotating each week from the zoo, aquarium, butterfly garden and insectarium and the planetarium at the Louisiana Nature Center.

The current schedule calls for one free day monthly at the zoo and the aquarium. Click here for the full schedule.
The schedule is a little complicated but the concept is very good. The article also notes that SNAP card holders can get free daily admission at Audubon attractions and mentions a separate program for high school students with 2.5 or higher GPAs. Additionally there are Audubon passes available for check out at your public libraries. (They're very popular and supplies are limited so keep an eye out.)

Anyway, all of this was announced a few weeks ago but I saw the mayor tweeted it out again today so I thought I'd mention it.  Audubon is gearing up to get a (kinder, gentler) version of its millage approved by voters in a few months. These new admission policies, while welcome, are also, it should be noted, a transparent effort to build some good will ahead of that election.

As for me, I'm not going back to the zoo until our hero Valerio returns to public view.  Actually, what is taking so long with that?  Back in November, he was supposed to be back "in a couple of week" but there has been no announcement since.

According to this adorable video from his younger days, Valerio's birthday is March 12. This year that is one week exactly after Mardi Gras. Maybe we'll look for him then.

Choices for some but no choice for most

Among the many positives to come out of the LA teachers' victory last week is it shows we're finally moving into a phase where the pushback against school privatization is organized, is able to articulate what's at stake, and is learning how to win even when all the money in the world is aligned in the other direction.
L.A. is the biggest U.S. school district with an elected school board. (The biggest district, New York City, and third-biggest, Chicago, are both governed by mayoral appointees.)

Year after year, its school board elections have broken spending records. Corporate education reformers spent $13 million in the last election, most of it coming from the foundations of the Walton family (the owners of Walmart) and Eli Broad, two of the biggest spenders nationally in support of charter schools, vouchers, and privatization.

That money was enough to win them a majority of the seats on the school board. And after the previous superintendent resigned early last year for health reasons, that majority handpicked a superintendent, Beutner.

But as it turned out, a bought and paid for board and superintendent weren’t as powerful as a good old-fashioned strike.
Right leaning capitalist megadonors have been pouring more money into local politics, and particularly into local school board races across the country at record levels.  And the money has had a tangible  impact on policy formation.

In 2016, the Orleans Parish School Board election was of major consequence.  This would be the board to take full control of the schools back from the state and choose a new superintendent.  Everyone was aware going in that major policy choices were on the table at this time.   It was the perfect moment to have a public debate about the effects of charterizaton and put it to voters to determine the philosophy going forward.

But, strangely, very few people stepped up to run for the board that year.  In fact, four of the seven seats were uncontested.   People in New Orleans care a great deal about the school system.  Why so little energy behind these crucial elections?  Well, huge piles  of money have a way of squashing grass roots campaigns.
But Karran Harper Royal, an education activist who ran against Usdin and lost in 2012, said critics of Usdin, at least, might have been scared off by her fundraising muscle. Along with Jacobs, former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Netflix founder Reed Hastings and former Time magazine editor and author Walter Isaacson were among a lengthy list of contributors to Usdin’s unprecedented $150,000 campaign haul four years ago.

Royal raised close to $13,000.

“Those folks who were in power, the charter school movement, they have lined their ducks up in a row,” said Royal, who has been critical of charters. “For the everyday person, that’s an insurmountable hill to climb, particularly because of the amount of money in the race.”
This is how oligarchic systems run, unfortunately.  The billionaires just need to push a few buttons and they set the parameters of accepted policy debate in public forums all across the country.   It takes a lot of organizing and base building work to overcome that.  It has taken the teachers a very long time to get  to where they are now.  And, keep in mind, where they are is they're still badly outgunned.  But they're starting to make their case. The charter movement is an attack on the very notion of education as a public good. 
Latona teachers I spoke with described competition from surrounding charter schools as an existential threat to their school and an undermining influence on the public system.

“Charter schools are popping up everywhere and siphoning money and taking away students from our public school,” said King.

“I’ve had a lot of friends teach at charters,” said Linda Butala, an English language and Title I coordinator. “These schools often mean well. But charters have become another level of haves and have-nots in our system.”

The “haves” these teachers referred to are the “more savvy” parents who take advantage of what many charters offer, including smaller class sizes and newer resources and technology.

The disparity is especially acute when the charter is co-located on the same campus as an existing public school. Traci Rustin, a second-grade teacher, recalled that at a previous school where she worked, the charter co-located on the campus “had much fewer teachers and students of color.” The charter students had more abundant and newer technology, the school lunches were more nutritious, and the classroom supplies were up-to-date. And when students returned to the public school when the charter “didn’t work out,” the new technology and resources, along with the funding that had left her school, didn’t transfer back.

“In neighborhoods that are more racially homogeneous,” explained Rustin, “you see more well-abled children in the charter. You see a two-tier system going on.”
"School choice" is really about offering those with means to navigate the choices, a chance to opt into a higher tier all the while bleeding resources away from those left behind. It is an institutional reification of privileges a true public education system should be working to level out. The billionaires have spent a lot of money trying to convince people to buy in to a school system that is segregated by design.  

Teachers and parents in New Orleans may be starting to make their case against privatized education as well.  Here is a story about the Hynes Charter school's preferred enrollment "partnership" with UNO. The scheme would bake in a special privilege for families of UNO employees.
"We don't have enough well performing schools that don't have selective admission," Kevin Griffin-Clark said.

Kevn Griffin-Clark is a member of "Erase the Board," a group of parents and community members who want the Orleans Parish School Board to run schools directly and not as charters.

"It's a huge travesty where you say that kids-parents have 'school choice,' but there's no choice whatsoever when I'm choosing five failing schools and then there's politicians or someone that works for a University that can just say 'Hey I work here. Get my child in this school,'" Griffin-Clark said.
I keep hearing about this "Erase the Board" movement but I have no idea what kind of reach it has. Maybe we'll find out if they field any OPSB candidates next year.  

Sunday, January 27, 2019

I guess I was finally ready to talk about it a little bit

Here is the show we did this week about the terrible football outcome. It covers a lot of things but I'm not sure it really gets at what I want to say.  For example, I am extremely wary of the various acts of self-promotion various politicians, brands, lawyers, and other grifters are wallowing in so that they might capitalize off of everyone's misery. For example, this says "Boycott Bowl" is supposed to benefit the New Orleans Recreation Development Foundation which raises a ton of questions for me that maybe need to be revisited later.  There's more. But I'll save it for after the 'cast.

Personally I'm at the stage where I can make myself look at the game highlights but I really can't start thinking about offseason type stuff just yet.  Maybe after the Superbowl... oh but that's when we can talk about the Democratic primary, isn't it?

Friday, January 25, 2019

As far away as Provo, Utah

Must be a few Taysom fans out there.
The New Orleans Saints and their fans won’t soon forget the missed pass interference call that could have put the team in the Super Bowl.

Nor, it seems, will the head referee from the NFC Championship played Sunday.

Bill Vinovich, who doubles as a college basketball referee during the week, faced a question from fans and asked that at least one sign be removed from a game he officiated Thursday (Jan. 24) at BYU in Provo, Utah.

“Was it pass interference,” asked one fan in a video posted to Twitter.

“I don’t wanna talk about that stuff,” he replied, according to the tweet

It's somewhat slightly possible that the shutdown might end

The stupidest possible way it could happen would be with Trump declaring the much-discussed "national emergency" so the government can open and then we can all wait for the courts to reverse whatever he thinks that accomplishes. But as difficult as it is to bet against the stupidest possible outcome nowadays, I'm still not convinced it will happen exactly that way.

The fact of the matter is, despite whatever wisdom your preferred punditry offers you, the President still has a fair amount of leverage simply because, generally speaking, Republicans don't actually care if stuff gets funded.  What this means is, for the most part, the stories you read every day about the misery of unpaid federal workers, uninspected food, unprocessed home loans, unpaid benefits, etc., most of that matters very little or not at all to the Republicans in power or to the elite sliver of America their party actually represents. Basically, they can do this all day.

It starts to get interesting, though, when the shutdown affects specific choke points in the economy where everybody's money is at least a little bit at stake.  Like, the airports, for example.
On Friday morning, air traffic controllers missed their second paycheck due to the government shutdown. Many called out sick, resulting in delayed flights at some of the nation’s busiest airports, including LaGuardia, Newark, and Hartfield-Jackson in Atlanta. Now, flight attendants may also walk out. Sara Nelson, president of the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA, told New York on Friday afternoon that she “just finished” recording a video message to members urging them to get to the offices of their congressional representatives until the shutdown is resolved.

“We’re mobilizing immediately,” Nelson said. Asked if this meant that flight attendants will not be going to work, she responded, “Showing up to work for what? If air traffic controllers can’t do their jobs, we can’t do ours.”
Maybe that makes somebody budge.  Or maybe not.  I keep making the mistake of assuming Trump is dealing from a point of view that incorporates at least some vague understanding of reality.  That's not always the best analytic. 

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Why don't they want to be on TV?

The city administration is famously gung-ho about putting cameras on every street corner and possibly inside every bar to surviel the populace. New Orleans was even a pioneer in the movement to put a body camera on every cop... ostensibly in order to keep an eye on the police but also on every person the police interact with.  Several prominent local politicians are, this week, publicly lobbying the NFL to extend the purview of its instant replay cameras.. for.. some reason. It is safe to say we are governed by shutterbugs. 

It's weird then that City Hall would resist the notion that they themselves be filmed on the day they receive their official grades from the police monitoring team in charge of determining their level of compliance with the NOPD federal consent decree.  Why would they not want that seen?
The hearing was already being planned before an exchange of letters a month ago laid bare tensions between city leaders and the court-appointed monitors.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city officials said the NOPD considers itself to be in “93 percent compliance” with the consent decree. They asked for a speedy release from the consent decree's strict mandates, and the monitors' $2.1 million per year contract.

The city also objected to carrying the hearing on public-access television.

The monitors wrote back that they were unsure as to how the city came to the 93 percent figure, and that much work still needs to be done. Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who oversees the reform plan, said the public and television crews would be allowed to attend the hearing.
That's weird, right?  Suddenly so shy. We know they're eager to be finished with this whole thing.  The letter they wrote last month had all kinds of complaints.  Mostly, though, it seems like they're tired of having to spend over $2 million a year on the monitors. But they're so close, right?  I mean, look, they didn't even kill anybody for "nearly two years."
By some measures, the department is on its best footing in years. Between January 2017 and January 2019, New Orleans police went nearly two years without fatally shooting someone, which would have been almost unimaginable a decade ago. Meanwhile, last year the city logged its lowest homicide count since 1971.

Yet the monitors have warned that the NOPD still needs to prove its supervisors are effectively overseeing their beat cops, and that those ordinary officers follow constitutional practices when they stop and frisk people on the street.
That sounds like the kind of laudable restraint, the city would want broadcasted all over... well.. public access.. but still.  Anyway, if you're looking to tune in, the show starts at 9am and you can just watch on your computer machine

Corexit kills oysters faster

This is from a Smithsonian article about a recently published study on gulf oyster and their chances of surviving having massive amounts of petroleum dumped on them which, admittedly, seems like an unlikely thing to ever happen.... 
When oil leaks into the ocean, it gloms into a giant mass at the surface (think of the layers in a bottle of salad dressing). This is because oil is both hydrophobic—it doesn’t mix well with water—and lighter than water. With large quantities of oil, these properties make it difficult for microbes in the water to quickly and efficiently break down oil into less toxic forms. To aid the breakup of oil so that microbes can do their job, scientists decided to add a chemical to the spill that would break up the oil mass into tiny droplets. While this chemical dispersant helps expose more of the oil to bacteria and waves which help to break it down, it also makes the oil more available to the oysters.

And this is what Powers and his team determined. The addition of dispersant to the moderate salinity experiment tanks led to a drastic increase in oyster death. Mortality of oysters exposed to both oil and dispersant was about 90 percent, compared to 70 percent when only oil was added.

Okay now try it with horseradish. 

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

For a second I thought I was ready to talk about it

But, no, I am not ready yet.

It would be great if someone would tell the grifting lawyers  and cynical brands all trying to capitalize on the moment to shut the fuck up for a minute, though.
Now Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has joined the chorus of derision over the "No Call" debacle in the NFC Championship game on Sunday.

The day after the game, the fried chicken giant posted to Twitter a blurry photo, perhaps showing a box of chicken, with only a hashtag for explanation: #refereechicken.
Ha ha, very amusing, Popeyes.  But, hey, you were supposed to take care of all this for us, Sunday.  We had the talisman mounted and in place and everything.

Chicken talisman

Chicken in the sun

You had one job, Popeyes. And here you're trying to be all clever on the internet now...

look i'm really not ready to talk about this yet

Do you think this is even true?

Y'all there is so much....

But, look, I wonder, not so much about the veracity of this, but about the NFL's decision to publicize it.  Can't help but think maybe they want to make it about us and not them.

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Saturday, January 19, 2019

No time to chicken out now

"Oh my god, antenna, what do you want!" 

This was me shouting like an idiot at some point during that abysmal first quarter last weekend.  The Saints and their fans were experiencing a worst case scenario so extravagant in scope it seemed almost purposeful. They had turned the ball over on their first play. They had quickly fallen behind by two touchdowns as the offense stumbled over itself, defenders seemed to lose the ball in the Superdome lights, and possibly the team's top (or at least its number 1-A) defensive lineman was lost to a torn Achilles tendon. Also the TV kept losing the signal.

Dumaine street tailgate

Admittedly it's hard to know what to expect when you're trying to watch the game from the back of a pickup truck in the middle of Dumaine Street which is exactly what we were doing that afternoon for... some reason. We didn't buy the playoff tickets this year and, well, we had to go somewhere so why not this?  The playoffs are supposed to be a new experience anyway; unfamiliar, more intense. Nobody knows what to expect. Sometimes things happen that you aren't prepared for and adjustments need to be made on the fly.

That is precisely what happened to the Saints as well as to us during that first quarter. The team was grasping for answers and so were we.  Our solution to the antenna problem started to take shape when a ladder was added to the truck bed to try and get it a little more elevated. But it wasn't finalized until it was decided what the antenna actually wanted was a piece of chicken.  After that the picture cleared up just fine.  This was also the point where things started to fall into place for the Saints. This is most likely a coincidence.

Chicken antenna

Happy Birthday Drew Brees

The best quarterback we're ever likely to see in a Saints uniform turned 40 this week. On Sunday, he celebrated by badly underthrowing Ted Ginn on the Saints' first play from scrimmage.  He also celebrated by directing a 92 (112? 117? reports differ) yard drive that essentially won the game.  But even that drive included another cringe inducing underthrow.

Sunday night, he continued celebrating.
The party was attended by many of Brees' Saints teammates, coach Sean Payton and celebrities such as Keegan-Michael Key and New Orleans rapper Choppa, who performed the "Choppa Style" remix he recorded specifically for Brees' birthday — first debuted by The Advocate on Friday. You can see footage of Choppa's performance below, via Saints wide receiver Austin Carr's Instagram Story.
I really think the Advocate missed a trick here by not sending Nell Nolan.

As for Choppa, boy that guy does not miss an opportunity to milk a moment for all it is worth does he?  The T-P sent a reporter to document Choppa's very long Sunday which began with a performance in Champions Square, took him all the way to Baton Rouge for a Cleo Fields fundraiser, and back to New Orleans for the Brees birthday party.  All of this is happening, more or less because of one tossed off sideline moment a few months ago.
“This was done organically,” Smith tells me in the Sprinter van later, recounting how, in a manner of weeks, a video of the Saints players dancing to “Choppa Style” in a post-game victory just popped off. Next thing they knew, the song was playing inside the Superdome as fans caught on and Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas were dancing on the sidelines. There was a spark, and then, the explosion.

“They say lightning never strikes twice,” Choppa said Sunday. “But I’m here to say, stay prepared. Embrace it. Embrace it when it’s your turn.”

And right now, it’s Choppa’s turn.
It's fun to see the way 90s era rap acts have grown into classic New Orleans standards.  Half of the  golden age Cash Money stuff, for example, may as well be Mardi Gras Mambo now. I'm pretty sure you can hire Mannie Fresh to play your kid's birthday party. On Twelfth Night this year, we saw him roll by on the Funky Uptown Krewe's streetcar. (He's in the back. Maybe you can see him here.)

Funky Uptown Krewe

The Saints' gameday staff have certainly embraced this.  Choppa Style is far from the only local favorite to waft in over the PA there. During the Carolina game, I even caught a few seconds of MC Thick's Marrero during a timeout.  Imagine if that had somehow become this year's theme song.  I don't know if it takes the smoke and lasers quite as well.

Dammit Sheldon

This was the low point of the day by a long stretch. 
An MRI Monday morning revealed Sheldon Rankins tore his Achilles against the Eagles Sunday (Jan. 13), and the New Orleans Saints defensive tackle will have surgery this week according to a league source.
Cam Jordan is a great player. Marshon Lattimore has stretches where he performs like a great player. Demario Davis has had a great season.  But it's not a stretch to say that Sheldon has had the best season of all of them.  8 sacks from an interior lineman is superstar level performance and indicative of the quickness and disruption he brings to a defense that finished 2nd in the league against the run as well. This is the best defense in the NFL's final four and Sheldon Rankins is a huge reason for that.  When he went down early in a game the Saints already trailed in, we could not have felt worse.

Except that we can feel worse when we think about how serious an injury like that can be to a player who relies on a quick step and lateral reactive movements.  It's why we were skeptical of the Manti Te'o signing a couple of years back.  Te'o actually panned out credibly well considering.  But he hasn't become a full time starter much less the young star he had been prior to his injury.  Hopefully Sheldon can recover too. But can he ever be as good as the player he had become in 2018?

Dammit Peat

Hey internet users, lay off of Andrus Peat already.  The dude is trying to gut it out with one hand.
In the New Orleans Saints win over the Philadelphia Eagles in the divisional round, Peat struggled at times as a hand injury impacted his performance. He had four penalties, two holdings and two false starts, but after the game, his teammates were impressed by his gutty performance.

“He’s a fighter,” left tackle Terron Armstead said of Peat. “A lot of guys on our team, that’s just what we do. That’s how we’re made. He’s not somebody that’s going to speak on it or look for sympathy. Whatever he’s dealing with, he’ll fight.”

Peat broke his right hand in Week 17 against the Carolina Panthers, and during the bye week, he underwent surgery, according to sources. Peat had a cast on his right hand when he walked through the locker room during media availability on Wednesday or Thursday of the bye week, and in Sunday’s game against the Eagles, he had a thick wrap on his hand for the game and a bandage over the incision after the game.
Remember how relieved everybody was that the Saints would have an extra week to rest after clinching home field early?  Yeah that's not working out as fantastic as it could have.  Peat got hurt in a meaningless game many other starters were held out of. That week Sean Payton complained to the press that NFL rosters were too small.  He knew he couldn't protect everybody he would have liked.  Some guys had to play.  Peat was one of them. The Saints have the best offensive line in football when everyone is healthy.  That's hardly been the case at all this year outside of like five or ten minutes. The fact that they've battled through it as well as they have is remarkable.  They've got to do it for two more "fucking games" though.

How the Eagles game was won

A lot of attention has been given to the way it ended.  And a fair amount of attention has been given to the thousand yard drive.  But the moment that really solidified my confidence was another sequence that has gotten some attention.
They committed four penalties on the drive, if you include the holding call on the punt return that made them start at their own 8-yard line. And one of those -- a holding call against left guard Andrus Peat -- nullified a potential 46-yard TD pass from backup QB Taysom Hill to running back Alvin Kamara.

Brees also missed on a potential 46-yard TD pass to Hill one play earlier. And the Saints also got backed up by a phantom holding call against center Max Unger that made the Superdome erupt in anger when they showed the replay on the big screen.
Yeah, people were upset about seeing Taysom barely miss throwing a touchdown one play after barely having missed catching a touchdown.  But this is when it clicked for me.

I was thinking back to the Saints' regular season blowout of the Eagles. That week, Peter King wrote a behind-the-scenes story about the Saints' preparation for that game.  King describes a play the Saints ended up running in the game where they lined up with no quarterback.  Taysom Hill and Drew Brees were split to either side before Taysom eventually motioned to behind center to take the snap.  I don't think the play produced much. But the point was to cause the Eagles a moment of panic. I know it cracked me up when I saw it.   Here is King's description of how that play came to be. 
In the wide hallway outside Salon II, I asked Payton: “How’d you think of the double-bunch play?”

“Thursday night,” Payton said. “Just doodling. Just thinking. I just thought of it, and I said to the coaches, ‘Will this work?’ And [quarterbacks coach] Joe Lombardi said, ‘Why not? We can do anything we want.’ When I told Troy Aikman about it [in the FOX production meeting], he said, ‘Who’s getting the snap?’ I said, ‘No one. Yet.’ “

Payton thought for a minute, giving a John Nash look into the distance. “Part of it, really, is thinking of something that they [the Eagles] haven’t seen. That’s the job of a game-planner. You want eight heads to turn to [smart Eagles veteran safety] Malcolm Jenkins and be like, ‘What do we do?’ “
And that has been the Saints' attitude when it comes to Taysom.  They think they can do anything they want. Or, at least, they want to make sure opponents believe they think they can do anything they want.  That's where the Taysom plays really do their damage. They instill a fear that anything can happen.

Sure it's also good that Hill makes plays through his own athleticism. But mostly he is there so the Saints can fuck with people.  On Sunday, the Saints demonstrated to the Eagles that Hill might get behind their whole defense and score one play before they demonstrated that he might just throw a 46 yard touchdown.  It doesn't matter that the play didn't count. In a way, it was better. It made the methodical slow death the Eagles endured for the rest of the drive even more agonizing.

How else the game was won

None of this is to say that it wasn't also the chicken.  We do know these facts.  Before there was a sacrificial chicken thigh on the antenna ladder, the Eagles went up 14-0 and eliminated the Saints' best defensive player.  After the chicken went up, the score was 20-0 Saints. Also we should point out for Saints fans with longer memories that, if the chicken theory is valid, it is not the first time the Eagles have been defeated in the playoffs by Popeyes.

But, as much as we would love to credit the chicken altar, the fact is the Saints just did again what this Saints team has done all year.  They never panicked and fought through a tough game against a physical opponent.


Which brings us to... who is this week's opponent, again?  Do we have a playoff history with this team?

Holy crap what are we gonna do with ourselves?

The 2018 Saints have been the best team of the Sean Payton era. I will hear no arguments against this. They have been the smartest, toughest, and strongest overall Saints team I've ever watched. There have been some dramatic games, as there always are. And there have been games we knew would be close. But there hasn't been a moment this season when we've felt like they were going into a game overmatched.  It's been a very easy and confident time to be a fan.

Until this week.

Who ⚜️   t

Everybody is excited. But I wondered the other night if the missing D and A here represent Sheldon's Achilles and Peat's hand.  Also, this week, the hits have kept coming.
The Saints will play without wide receiver Keith Kirkwood as he’s been ruled out after missing a third straight day of practice with a calf injury. He had two catches for eight yards and scored the team’s first touchdown against the Eagles last weekend.

Tight end Benjamin Watson is listed as questionable, but is reportedly set to miss the game due to appendicitis. Watson has been in the hospital and PFT learned, via a source, that he does not require surgery at this time
Meanwhile every story about this also notes, as if mocking, "the Rams report no injuries."  So for the first time this entire season, I'm starting to worry.  Maybe that's well founded. Or maybe it's just the moment.

The last time the Saints played in an NFC Championship, it was the most uniquely terrifying football game I've ever experienced. It was like very much wanting to die but getting steadily angrier that we might not be allowed to. I remember a little bit about Garrett Hartley setting up for his kick. And I do remember what was going on a minute or so after. But I swear I must have blacked out while that ball was in the air. I'm not sure I've ever fully processed it.

Anyway, here we are nine years (!) later and somehow still not dead. After 2009, we were certain we'd never have to worry so much about this stuff anymore. The task was done. We had won football.  But this week, we're right back into feeling like things suddenly matter again.  Primarily it matters that we all get to go to Atlanta for two weeks where, ideally, we'd face off with the only other fan base in America who will never shut the hell up about 28-3. That seems important.

It's strange to want things again. But it's also risky. And that, more than the injury situation, is probably what has us the most worried. So what to do in a time of uncertainty but fall back on our superstitions?  I've been given to understand that the chicken has been preserved.. and perhaps epoxied, even, in order that we may bring it back to the street in case that helps.  But I suspect that may only work against the Eagles.  Luckily, I have a few backup notions.

I've mentioned these before but here is the recap. In January we noted the Vatican's Tricentennial gift to the city commemorated Pope John Paul's 1987 visit to New Orleans.  That may not seem like much but some of the old folks still believe the Papal blessing that year finally broke the "curse" of the Girod Street cemetery. The 1987 Saints went on the become the first Saints team in 21 years to post a winning season and playoff appearance.

We have also noted a few times this season that the brake tags for 2018-19 are black and gold.

Brake tag 19

That color tag was last valid as the Saints were preparing to make their 2009 title run.

Black and Gold Brake tag

Finally, and, yes we have mentioned this one before too, there was the return of the serval.  The mysterious African wildcat spotted in Metairie this season, had only previously appeared to us in, yep, 2009.

Hey maybe all this is nonsense. But, really, it's all we have at this point. Besides what else is football for, anyway?  What would it hurt to find the serval and have him lead the team out of the tunnel on Sunday.  His name is Cezar. That sounds appropriate to the arena, doesn't it?  Almost as appropriate as Valerio... hey what would it hurt to find the serval and have him lead the team out of the tunnel riding on the back of a jaguar?  Oh wait.... hey what if the serval came riding on the back of a jaguar riding on the back of Taysom Hill..... Get me Sean Payton on the phone. We can do anything we want, right?

Friday, January 18, 2019

Starting to think none of these Republicans wants to be Governor

I guess the big tell was when Landry and Kennedy declined to run. There's still plenty time for them to change their minds, of course. But the way I read their current stance plus the lack of overall strategy happening here, is they must not actually think they can win.

Hey, Louisiana Republican Party, how’s that uniting-behind-a-single-gubernatorial-candidate thing going?

Not so well, apparently.

Party elders are openly pining for a single candidate, the better to avoid a divisive primary fight and unite votes against Democratic incumbent John Bel Edwards. But so far two candidates, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham and businessman Eddie Rispone, have launched campaigns.

And now comes word that a third might join them. Former U.S. Rep. John Fleming, who left Congress following a failed bid for U.S. Senate and joined the Trump administration, says he’s considering a run, according to LAPolitics.com. Fleming, of Minden, has been working as a deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Health and Human Services. Last year President Donald Trump nominated him to be the Commerce Department’s assistant secretary for economic development, but he never got a confirmation vote. His name has now been resubmitted.
Here are some additional facts about John Fleming.

Fleming describes himself as a doctor. But most of his $6.3 million income (as of 2011, anyway) comes from the sandwich shop and parcel store franchises he owns.  In Congress, Fleming quickly associated himself with the 'Tea Party" movement and a virulent opponent of the Obamacare law which he described as "the most dangerous piece of legislation ever passed in Congress.” He was also among the Louisiana Republicans who infamously voted against relief for Hurricane Sandy victims in 2012. While in Washington, Fleming also became momentarily famous for thinking an Onion story was real.

He ran for Senate in 2016 and fared poorly.  At one point in that campaign, Rob Maness accused "the thugs behind the John Fleming campaign" of trying to bribe him to drop out. This was probably true, although with Maness, one never knows.  

So anyway, good luck to John if he want to run.  Meanwhile one of the announced candidates is already dealing with a controversy of his own today.
Running for Congress in 2014 as a political outsider, Dr. Ralph Abraham made a pledge that resonated with voters in his conservative northeast Louisiana district: He would not collect his salary if he went to Washington.

“It Should Be An Honor And A Privilege To Serve Your Country And NOT A Paid Position,” Abraham said on his campaign website. “YOU Should Not Pay A Penny For Representation.” He said he would donate his salary to charity. Abraham won the race, but it turns out that voters in Louisiana’s 5th Congressional District are indeed paying for his representation, at a cost of $174,000 per year.
Okay well, Ralph made a stupid campaign promise that turned out to be impractical for a bunch of reasons.  That's embarrassing. But it's not the actual scandal here. This is. 
Roll Call, a Washington newspaper that covers Congress, estimated a year ago that Abraham had a net worth of $4.8 million, making him the 65th wealthiest member of Congress.
The actual number of millionaires who should be in Congress is zero.  Here we have a millionaire Congressman and a millionaire ex-Congressman who want to be Governor. But neither of those should even exist in the first place. What are we even doing here?

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Woke Billy's bad ideas

Billy Nungesser spoke to the Baton Rouge press club this week.  Times-Picayune reporter Julia O'Donoghue was there and got a couple of  articles out of it. The first is mildly positive.. if you don't think about it too much.
Republican Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser said Louisiana should avoid approving laws that restrict the LGBTQ community because it would damage Louisiana’s ability to host major sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and Sugar Bowl, and deter tourists from coming to the state.

“It’s something we should absolutely steer clear of for the greater good of Louisiana,” said Nungesser in response to a question from a reporter at the Baton Rouge Press Club Monday (Jan. 14). The lieutenant governor, who identifies as a conservative, oversees public tourism and marketing funding for Louisiana.
On the one hand, Billy is right.  Louisiana definitely should not enact laws that antagonize, restrict the rights, or impugn the decency of LGBTQ people. That isn't hard to agree with.  On the other hand, Billy seems to have had at least some difficulty getting there since he needs to predicate his moral judgement upon the imperative to make sure tourism magnates don't lose any money. None of this is a question of fundamental justice for Billy. It's just business. Luckily The Market happens to favor the good in this case.

In other cases, though, it does not.
Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser doesn’t think New Orleans hotel tax revenue should be redirected from state marketing, tourism and sports-related organizations to deal with the city’s drainage issues.

His perspective, which he shared with the Baton Rouge Press Club on Monday (Jan. 14), puts him at odds with Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who is seeking more revenue to make sure the city doesn’t flood as often, but in line with several state level officials, including Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President John Alario, the state’s most powerful legislator.

“I don’t think the answer is taking tourism money,” said Nungesser, a Republican whose oversees Louisiana’s public marketing and tourism funding. “I don’t think taking their money solves anything.”
We think "taking their money" to use Billy's less than accurate phrasing, is one way to begin solving the mounting infrastructure crisis that affects all of us. But Billy's big social conscience deflates real fast when it looks like some wealthy hoteliers might not suck up quite as much money quite so quickly.  I mean he's literally worried about not being able to fund a marketing campaign instead of, say, clean water.
Nungesser said other areas have experienced problems after they cut state support for tourism. He specifically mentioned Denver, which he said saw a drop in visitors when it cut down on the money it pumped into advertising and other programs meant to attract tourists.
Pretty sure people will still want to visit New Orleans even after we stop paying the Stephen Perrys of the world half a million dollars to sit around coming up with #FollowYourNOLA hashtags. In Billy's estimation, though, this is a far better use of public funds than... public parks and museums.

At least we're pretty sure that even after we privatize our state parks for development as luxury resorts or whatever, those resort properties will not have discriminatory bathroom policies.... unless that ends up being better for business, of course.

Casting call

Actors needed for new local production...
The New Orleans City Council is convening for a special meeting on Wednesday to consider a resolution “related to” Entergy New Orleans’ proposed $211 million power plant in eastern New Orleans, Councilman Jason Williams told The Lens.

“As Council President, I have conferred with my colleagues and have decided to call a Special Meeting of the full City Council for the purpose of considering a resolution related to the New Orleans Power Station,” a statement from Williams’ office said.

Even the broadest details of the resolution aren’t being revealed yet, but according to attorney Monique Harden, the council could be reconsidering its March 2018 decision to approve the plant. On Wednesday, council members contacted by The Lens declined to comment on whether the resolution will address the fate of the plant.

Harden represents a coalition of environmental and consumer advocacy organizations that filed a lawsuit against the City Council last year, demanding the council vacate its 6-1 vote to approve Entergy’s application.

The suit was put on hold on Monday at the request of the council’s attorneys.
They aren't actually saying whether or not they are going to "re-vote" on the plant but that's what it looks like.  So reserve your seats now. It's not the NFC Championship or anything, but people have been known to pay fairly well for attendance at these things. 
According to Councilwoman Helena Moreno’s chief of staff, Andrew Tuozzolo, the full council will also use the special meeting to vote on a potential $5 million fine on Entergy for its role in a scheme to pay people to support the power plant at city council meetings.
Meanwhile, the whole "paid actors" episode continues to do damage to participatory democracy as councilmembers selectively interpret its implications.

For example, throughout last week's hearing on Kristin Palmer's short term rental motion, individual speakers and housing activists were continually asked to state whether or not they "had been paid to be here" in the room that day. As it turned out several of them had.  The reasons were legitimate, of course, as paid organizers for community groups and non-profits are often among the participants in public debates. But the repeated, "are you paid to be here" question vaguely accuses these individuals of some ill-defined corrupt practice.  The cumulative effect is to de-legitimize their presence altogether. 

That is especially problematic when there is no similar obligation for the landlords and managers of multiple short term rental properties present to state the number of houses they own. We are constantly suspicious of the motives for ordinary citizens who engage in civic action. But we never question the right of wealth to defend its privileges.

Maybe we should threaten to shut off their water

S&WB is having trouble paying its own bills now.
The S&WB owes contractors almost $33 million in unpaid invoices. Officials didn’t say whether they would be able to make those payments anytime soon. Tens of millions of dollars of the agency’s reserves were poured into a spree of emergency spending after much of the city was flooded in August 2017.

As of November, the S&WB had only about 67 days of cash available, down from 227 days of cash a year earlier.

Korban said the issue of missed payments has become so bad recently that officials are now trying to persuade contractors to keep working, in some cases making partial payments here and there. “Some of our vendors are facing difficulties of their own by not getting paid,” Korban said. That could slow down progress on some projects or create the possibility of contractors “walking off the job,” he said.
It's been a while since we've heard anything about privatization but remember all of the dynamics that could lead us there are still in play.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

It is still not time to talk about the 2020 primaries

For some reason there are approximately 300 million declared candidates here in January of 2019.  Nobody knows who they are or why they are doing this. (Okay well we know some things.)  Odds are you may even be one. Please have yourself checked.

But it's not time to talk about any of this yet.  At least until the Superbowl is over.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

"The war to keep education public"

30,000 teachers in Los Angeles are trying to draw a line.
But here in the nation’s second-largest school district, where an incredible 98 percent of UTLA voting members voted to authorize a strike last August, the issues are not limited to wages and benefits, as they were in West Virginia, Arizona and Oklahoma. “I feel like this is part of the war to keep public education public,” said Mize, a UTLA chapter chair at the NOW Academy, which is built on the former site of the Ambassador Hotel, where Robert Kennedy was assassinated in 1968.

Many of the striking teachers see the battle in Los Angeles as a front-line action to put an end to starvation of public school funding on one end, and corporate-fueled privatization on the other. And while that debate has been playing out in Los Angeles and across the country for years, union leaders and teachers believe this could be a last stand. “If this doesn’t work there may not be a union left,” said Mize.
In New Orleans, we've already lost this war. But Mitch Landrieu and Walter Isaacson can take all the victory laps around the country they want to. It's not going to slow the resistance steadily building among teachers, parents and community activists as the devastating effects of the mass privatization become more and more apparent.
Karen Marshall, the Executive Director with Rethink New Orleans, a group that organizes black youth, says, “I think there is an entire system of privatization to undercut specifically poor black youth in our communities. It’s the practice of giving public spaces to private organizations…it’s how you undercut the power in the community. It’s specific and it’s targeted.”

Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste, who recently ran for Congress under the banner of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Poor People’s” campaign was blunter. “There’s a money thing, and I want to say the prisoner pipeline because if they don’t educate our children, our children can go into the world, and nine out of ten go to prison.” Adding that by sending them to prison, it’s, “…inexpensive labor, and they’re sending them to jail. To me, the charter system and the jail work together…” He added, “If you listen, the children are crying out, the community’s crying out, telling these school board members what they want. The school board is elected by them…they’re not concerned with what the kids want. They’re concerned with the contracts.”

A representative of the local branch of the New Orleans Chapter of the NAACP stated, “We’re asking the present school board to feel the pulse of the people. Just feel the pulse to understand, we’re just not happy with them at all in terms of the charter schools…first we allowed you guys to take our schools during Katrina to help out for a minute and then afterward, this was a failed education system, so now…it’s just a money grab…this money grab has got to stop.” Later adding, “We’re asking that the state put a moratorium on charter schools.”
This week the League of Women Voters added their voice to these criticisms saying they will call on the State Legislature to reevaluate the proliferation of charters this year.  There is also talk about the best way to bring about change at the Orleans Parish School Board. The old "Erase the Board" refrain has been making the rounds more frequently. But I don't think there's a formal effort to recall members afoot at the moment. 

Meanwhile the board is set to name a new President... that is if they can ever stop trying to decide if some of them are more homophobic than others are racist. So stay tuned for that.

Monday, January 14, 2019

Cogratulations to the new NOPD chief

The Mayor picked an extremely crowded news day to introduce her selection to head the city's police department. You may have missed it.

Wait. Sorry, no, that is not him. Instead it is this guy.
(Shaun) Ferguson, 46, who had been seen as a rising star in NOPD by some observers, has served as a district commander at NOPD since 2014. Commanders, 16 of which are appointed “at will” by the NOPD superintendent, fall administratively just behind the three assistant superintendents and the superintendent. Ferguson currently serves as commander of the Education and Training Division, which oversees the academy. He has held the position for the last six months.
Recall that these "at will" commander positions came about as part of a Landrieu administration end run around Civil Service rules giving police supervisors (and potentially the mayor's office itself) more lattitude to make politcally-driven personnel decisons.  Just something to keep in mind.  The Chief of Police is a political appointment, anyway, so LaToya can do whatever she wants.  The only reason I wanted to bring it up here is it's probably a good bet that a new chief will be selected from the ranks of these commanders since the criteria by which they are chosen are similar.

The other significant fact about Ferguson is his most current role in Education and Training suggests he will have some experience dealing with the department's continuing struggles with constitutional compliance.  NOPD and the mayor are eager to be released from a federal consent decree imposed monitoring regime. and there is a steady drumbeat of reporting that the time for that is coming soon. Whether or not that means we can breathe easier that the police are less likely to harass, brutalize, or outright murder people is another question entirely.  For now let's just say this quote from PANO head Eric Hessler doesn't instill much confidence.
Hessler, whose organization has been critical of the consent decree’s sweeping mandates, said he thinks Ferguson shares some of his concerns, based on their interactions around officers facing discipline.

“I think he understands the problems that are facing the Police Department – and the problems that have been created by the consent decree,” he said. “I think he’s of the mindset that the department needs a little more autonomy to deal with very, very minor violations that simply clog the system up.”
Would love to see someone follow up with Ferguson about that. What is an example of something he might consider a "very, very minor violation"? 

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Just let us take the moneys

This morning the Advocate has a break down of what happens to all that tourism revenue the mayor is arguing with Stephen Perry about.  Just let us have it. Especially let us have the Convention Center money.  If not it will just get passed around indefinitely from Brennan to Brennan or whatever.
Holding onto so much money, however, has turned the Convention Center into something of a piggy bank for local projects that are deemed worthy but lack funding.

That has led the center to agree to provide about $75 million for projects that directly or indirectly relate to promoting tourism:
  • $1 million per year to help finance the state troopers in the French Quarter, or a total of $5 million over five years.
  • $12 million to purchase the buildings that house the new New Orleans Culinary and Hospitality Institute near Lee Circle.
  • $23 million to help finance the narrowing of Convention Center Boulevard to make it more pedestrian-friendly. That sum includes $7.5 million to renovate Spanish Plaza at the foot of Poydras and Canal streets.
  • $1.25 million over five years for the "low-barrier" homeless shelter that the city has opened on Gravier Street.
  • $295,000 to cover half the cost of a program called “We’re Jazzed to Have You” that paid for an airport billboard and baggage claim signs and for bands, police details and beads for visitors.
  • $2.25 million as part of an agreement by state and local governments to pay British Airways $9 million over four years for establishing its New Orleans-London flights.
  • $9 million to help the Audubon Nature Commission buy the Gov. Nicholls and Esplanade Avenue wharves for planned conversion to a public park.
  • $23 million to install video cameras in and near the French Quarter and to create a central command center where staffers monitor the anti-crime cameras around the clock.


2019 is an election year in Louisiana.  There are a lot of places in this state that are struggling.
But Purpera’s auditors are seeing a steep uptick of smaller communities finding themselves simply unable to raise enough money to pay the bills. The only way to balance budgets are to raise revenues or cut services — options local officials are loathe to do especially in small, low-income communities where everybody knows your name. “We’re in for some hard times,” Purpera said.

Jeanerette and St. Joseph already have fiscal administrators. Before last week’s meeting was through the committee voted to ask courts to appoint administrators for Clarence and Clayton. Bogalusa and Sterlington are on the agenda for February. Clinton and Melville could soon be put on the list.
The larger context in state politics, though, is a debate between conservative legislators who continually complain that the state has a "spending problem" and a governor who will be running on the premise that he has restored "fiscal responsibility."  Will anyone directly address the thousand little crises happening in our towns and cities?  Or will that not fit conveniently enough into anybody's campaign narrative?

NO & Co. vs #CityOfYes and other potential 2019 political schisms

2019 is a statewide election year in Louisiana and candidates are starting to slot in to some of the legislative races. There's going to be a fair amount of shuffling about this year as the next wave of term limits claims its victims. In Orleans Parish both Walt Leger (House District 91) and Neil Abramson (House District 98)  are graduating and will have to replaced. Also the legislature we elect this year will be responsible for redrawing districts after the 2020 census so this is going to be particularly important. Let's try and not muck this up too badly. Not that there's a lot we can do with the choices allotted to us. Danae Columbus's latest gossip column about potential candidates does not offer much comfort, anyway.

In Leger's district, there is a guy whose actual name is Carling Dinkler IV. Dinkler is the scion of an old New Orleans family of hoteliers renowned for observing "accepted business practices" right up until the US Attorney General pressured them to stop that.
During a tumultuous era, in which racial segregation was the norm and the fight for civil rights would turn ugly, Dinkler Hotels became one of the first hospitality companies to integrate, but change came neither quickly nor easily. Referring to the unwavering attitudes of the day, Inman Allen, son of the late Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen Jr., acknowledges, "We were a segregated society in the 50s and up into the 60s." And, though the widespread violence observed in cities like Selma and Montgomery was kept at a minimum in Atlanta, many white business owners were very reluctant to accept and implement progressive reforms.

Despite a change in ownership, the Dinklers, under the auspices of a management contract, remained the primary policy makers for the hotels. While the Dinkler family was by no means a clan of bigots, their perspective on segregation was more reflective of the times and accepted business practices than personal convictions. The Dinklers ultimately yielded to the call for integration, but some prominent Atlantans like eventual Georgia governor Lester Maddox (who opted to close his Pickrick Cafeteria, an Atlanta institution, rather than serve black customers) stubbornly refused to relinquish their Jim Crow persuasions.

That said, between 1961 and 1964, the Dinkler Plaza Hotel was the focus of several protests and racial controversies, some of which made national headlines.
Here is a podcast I found wherein Carling Dinkler III tells us about the great favor done for New Orleans back when Moon Landrieu and Lester Kabacoff got together and invented tourism. Dinkler III was a founder of the New Orleans Convention and Visitors' Bureau, recently re-branded "New Orleans and Company."

New Orleans and Co. was in the news this week when it turned out its current director, Stephen Perry has some opinions on municipal budget priorities.  Specifically he believes funding the critical infrastructure that keeps amoebas out of the water you drink and, well, your city out of the water in the first place, is a "waste" compared to funding the tourism patronage machine from which he derives a half-million dollar salary.
Cantrell says the city needs the money to pay for what her administration estimates are tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs. But Perry told The Lens that such a move would undercut the city’s economy, saying that new revenue would be wasted on what he characterized as an underperforming city government.

“In an unhinged interview with the Lens, J. Stephen Perry, who takes home over $430K per year to promote the City, spent most of his time tearing it down,” Action New Orleans wrote in a Tuesday morning press release. (A 2016 CVB tax filing — the most recent one available — shows that Perry’s compensation from the tourism group was closer to $460,000.)
Of course it isn't that much of a stretch for Perry, or anyone in his position to just assume that he's running the whole city anyway. Perry and the hoteliers have already hired their own police force (sort of) and contributed to the expanding French Quarter surveillance network.  In the opening gambit of its negotiations with Cantrell this year, NO and Co. proposed a hotel-specific sales tax scheme that would finance a one-time payment to the city dedicated to infrastructure. The mayor, quite rightly, rejected the offer as inadequate. But Perryet al were so impressed with themselves that they went ahead and drew up a spending plan for the money anyway as if they were purchasing actual governing authority.

When you allow the tourism cabal to hoard as much public money for doling out to cronies and developers as it does, then you can expect they're going to assume more power than they are entitled to. But just to make sure nobody gets any ideas about reining them in, they also do a fair amount of propaganda. Here's what happens when somebody checks their work.
Amid new pressure from unions and an ongoing debate over whether the city’s hospitality and tourism industry is doing enough to support its mostly low-wage workers, a local nonprofit research group has released a report estimating that the industry’s economic footprint is significantly smaller than previous industry-led estimates.

While hospitality leaders have long touted the industry’s ranks as amounting to more than 80,000 jobs, the Data Center’s report Tuesday pegs the number of New Orleans residents who make their living from tourism at closer to 30,000.

Part of the issue with such projections, the Data Center notes, is that defining what qualifies within a set industry cluster is “a rather subjective activity, leaving definitions vulnerable to pressures to make industry clusters look as large and inclusive as possible.”
On the Lens podcast episode that features Perry's "unhinged" interview, Lens editor Charles Maldonado talks about the difficulty in trying to verify the tourism industry's assertions. Perry sources a dubious claim about what percentage of city revenue derives from tourism to an offhand comment in a phone conversation he once had with Andy Kopplin.  At one point it even sounds like NO & Co. has credited 100 percent of Orleans Parish sales tax revenue to the tourism industry.

There is additional comedy in the interview so, please, give it a listen.  Perry describes himself at the beginning as a "leftist" and then promptly launches into a rote recitation of every right wing economic talking point in the book. He complains that the city actually has "a spending problem, not a revenue problem" echoing a common Republican refrain from the past several legislative sessions.  He also bristles at the notion that we should want to fund city services by taxing a "high performing organically created private sector enterprise" which suggests he should probably go back and listen to Dinkler III's fond ruminations on our carefully planned and heavily subsidized tourism economy.

Eventually this dispute between Perry's NO & Co. and LaToya's #CityOfYes is going to have to be mediated in Baton Rouge. Which is where Dinkler IV is aiming to position himself.  According to his website Dinkler The Youngerest is "inspired by President Bill Clinton’s words, 'Opportunity for All."  Good luck figuring out what that is supposed to mean.  In any case it's hard to imagine he's likely to side against the family business in any meaningful way.

Also in Columbus's column we read the names Aylin Maklansky and Aimee Adotto Freeman as potential legislative candidates.  I'm assuming she means they're both going for Abramson's seat.  Freeman is a business consultant and, I guess, a dog person, who is associated with the usual circle of upper crust New Orleans charitable non-profits including the Arts Council and this police booster organization. She also has an association with the Tulane business school which happens to be named for an A.B. Freeman. At the moment I don't know if there is any relation there. Maklansky was a candidate for City Council in District A last year. Her father owns some sort of clinic that he also wanted to be an Airbnb or something like that.

You know at one point, I was near certain that renowned affordable housing activist Stacy Head would be interested in one of these seats.  I wonder why we haven't heard anything out of her yet.