Saturday, June 08, 2024

Selling the public

Judge Morgan is making noises like she's finally ready to release NOPD from the consent decree. 

The prospect of reduced monitoring, on the way to ending oversight, came into focus this week. U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who has tracked the reforms since their start, heard a positive report on officer bias, then bluntly requested a plan to launch the NOPD into a two-year "sustainment" phase under the 2012 reform pact known as a consent decree.

"We need to begin putting the framework in place," she said Wednesday.

I don't know enough about their "officer bias" metrics to speak with much authority. Having said that, it's clearly all bullshit that can mean whatever they want it to mean whenever they want it to mean that.  Anyway if NOPD says they're doing a better job, there are reasons to remain skeptical.  

For example, we know the consent decree places limits on high speed chases that pose an unreasonable danger to life and property such as this one that killed two teens in 2019. And yet just this week we saw officers racing through Uptown in pursuit of suspects. And in a separate incident only a few days later, an NOPD officer crashed into a utility pole on St. Charles Avenue knocking out power for approximately 1000 residents. In what way is this progress?

We can look also at the several law enforcement agencies currently operating in New Orleans outside of the federal mandates. This week the 5th Circuit is hearing a case about two private patrol officers who held a teenager at gunpoint after he asked them for help looking for his lost dog. And, of course, many concerns remain about the newly installed State Troop NOLA.

U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan, who oversees reforms to the New Orleans Police Department under a consent decree, has expressed concern over the new troop’s role in the city and LSP’s transparency about it, though she has no direct say over how troopers operate within city limits.

Landry insisted Tuesday that officials had consulted with the U.S. Justice Department and the FBI regarding its activities and that troopers in New Orleans have acted “in the most professional manner.”

The Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has been investigating the LSP to assess whether it uses excessive force or engages in racially discriminatory policing in the wake of the 2019 death of Ronald Greene.

All of which leads us to ask: if we have clear examples of police with no oversight behaving badly in New Orleans right now, why would we want to operate NOPD with no restrictions as well? The only answer we can come up with is politics. Morgan is a federal judge and certainly doesn't have to jump whenever the local electeds say jump. But, after a while, even the least credible bullying, like the Governor calling for her impeachment, starts to get the point across. Likely there is additional pressure from all business and political leaders in all corners wanting to get this all wrapped up now that the "Summer of Superbowl" is here.

The way the T-P writes it, you'd think the whole thing is just one big marketing challenge, anyway.

The contrast in tone, tenor and verbiage — optimism in the courtroom among deputy police chiefs, Morgan and the monitors, while community voices drip with skepticism — suggests a challenge in selling the public on the idea that the NOPD is ready to police itself.

"We want Black people to be acknowledged, because it was Black people who were maimed and murdered, who got the consent decree put in place," said Alicia Plummer, vice president of the New Orleans East Business Association.

"Who is speaking for us?...The police and federal monitors, they're in cahoots together."

Is NOPD "ready to police itself?" Not anywhere near as important as, "can we sell the public on the idea?"

Friday, June 07, 2024

That's how it's supposed to work

This is what is classically known as a perverse incentive. But is it, really? What if the incentives are actually doing what they were always meant to do?

That’s because many of these carbon capture projects will be handling emissions from facilities that rely on oil and natural gas – in fact, many of the projects are tied to major oil and gas companies through subsidiaries. Under new federal rulesnew federal rules, the projects can receive generous tax subsidies. The more carbon dioxide the factories produce and capture, the more federal money the projects can receive.

The coup de grĂ¢ce: Louisiana can authorize as many of these federally subsidized projects as it sees fit. The Environmental Protection Agency recently approved its quest to become only one of three states with regulatory “primacy” over such carbon storage wells.

Fossil fuel industry advocates are eager to get projects approved. “Louisiana has a chance with our geological structures to make a big splash in the pond for CO2 in the world,” Mike Moncla, president of the Louisiana Oil and Gas Association, told a legislative task force in December 2023.

It's a familiar story.  The solution to the crisis is to make sure whoever created the crisis in the first place can keep getting rich. The reason this always makes sense to do is the crisis itself is a fait accompli. The climate is already screwed up. The sea is already rising. The Louisiana coast is already beyond saving. But that's all external to the purpose of politics. The purpose of politics is to make sure the resulting disaster doesn't upset the established hierarchy.  So whether you call it, "energy security" or "infrastructure investment" or even "climate mitigation" preserving the wealth of those currently at the top of the ladder is what these policies are actually designed to do.  It's all they can do. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2024

"Government approved protest"

 The best kind of protest, as everyone knows.

House Bill 127, sponsored by Rep. Mike Bayham, R-Chalmette, received final House concurrence in a 83-15 vote. The measure is now pending approval from Gov. Jeff Landry, who has called for harsh punishments against protestors. 

The proposal expands a state criminal statute that outlaws obstruction of a highway, road, railway, airport runway or navigable waterway by adding a conspiracy component.

Under current law, the crime is considered a misdemeanor punishable with a $250 fine, six months in prison or both. It applies to anyone who physically performs an act, such as protesting or placing an obstacle on a street, that makes it harder for vehicles to pass.

Bayham’s bill increases the fine to $750 for the misdemeanor act of obstructing a road. It adds a new provision to specifically go after protest organizers by applying the statute to anyone who conspires or assists others in a demonstration that blocks or slows down traffic. 

There was no debate ahead of final passage for the bill on the House floor Tuesday.

In a previous floor debate, Bayham said his bill would still allow people to lawfully assemble for a government-approved protest, and he added it would protect public safety by preventing protests from slowing down emergency vehicles.

I dunno. All this seems bad to me.  Can't really say what to do about it. All the options appear to have become illegal. 

The larger context of all of this is we're entering a period of greater austerity. This will be on a level not recently experienced by the middle class American kids who were raised to think they had some sort of stake in the greater societal project and therefore a credible say in how it is directed. But the line separating the circle of people who matter from the larger number of people who do not is being drawn in tighter than it has been in a long while.  You can't ask this many previously comfortable people to go quietly into that. The only way to enforce it is through stepping up the capacity for state surveillance and state violence.   

Didn't happen overnight, I know. For a while, it was possible to paper over the erosion of the social infrastructure by buying off strategically significant segments of the population with pretty stories and hollow treats. But we're getting the part where there's enough pain deliberately dealt out to enough people that we have to change the strategy from carrots to sticks. And so that's where we are.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Seems bad

Another one of those things where there isn't much to say. They're basically making every form of organized political dissent a major felony.  Once you open the box that allows you to start categorizing types of organizing as "terrorism," this is inevitably where you wind up. So it's not like no one could see it coming a mile away. It's just that this is where we are now.

House Bill 205, which adds rioting to crimes that can result in racketeering charges, also passed the Senate last week, with one significant amendment.

Originally, the bill, by Rep. Brian Glorioso, R-Slidell, added 10 crimes to that list, but an amendment by Sen. Blake Miguez, R-New Iberia, added seven more crimes to that tally, bringing the total to 17.

If the law passes, those who riot, vandalize historic buildings, block highways and or commit other offenses, and those who organize events where such crimes occur, could face up to 50 years in prison and a $1 million fine. The crimes would have to take place on more than one occasion to be covered under the statute.

Critics, including the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, argue the bill would allow police to roundup protesters — including those who were not complicit in any crimes that occurred during an event — and to charge them as they would organized criminals.

Seems bad. Not sure what anyone is gonna do about it. Especially since it's the supposedly liberal party that's pushing the envelope on repression at the moment.

Monday, May 20, 2024

What has this all been about?

I still don't know if the constitutional convention is happening for real.  But those of you who wrote in, "Make the state subsidize petrochemical industries, private schools, and rich people in general by raising taxes on the poor" as your answer, you were correct.  

Two of Gov. Jeff Landry’s allies in his effort to overhaul the state constitution would personally support weakening protections around popular state sales tax breaks for residential utilities, prescription drugs and food purchased for home consumption. 

State Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, and former Louisiana House Speaker Jim Tucker, a Republican, on Friday said they would not personally want to lift those sales tax exemptions, but they don’t think such granular tax policy belongs in the state’s foundational governing document.

Beaullieu and Tucker support moving those types of tax items from the constitution to state statute during a constitutional convention proposed for this summer. The two men spoke during an online webinar sponsored by the Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana.

Beaullieu said he also thought cigarette tax restrictions should be shifted from the constitution to statute as well. Louisiana cannot tax cigarettes below their 2012 rate because of a constitutional mandate.

Wednesday, May 15, 2024

Mayor Hecht

It's an appointed position, apparently

Landry's office said Wednesday that the details and title of the role were still being worked out and they expect to make a formal announcement on June 5 at a press conference in New Orleans when the governor will detail the state's Super Bowl efforts.

But Landry spokesperson Kate Kelly said Wednesday that Hecht will primarily be concerned with coordinating the disparate state and city organizations to ensure that a "punch list" of tasks like road and sidewalk repairs, lighting upgrades, and homeless mitigation efforts are addressed.

The Governor just hands over responsibility for municipal services and "homeless mitigation" (?) to the business lobby sometimes. You know, in the case of emergencies. Like when the Superbowl is happening.  

Monday, May 13, 2024

Some of these are so easy, it's stupid

All one has to do is refer to any point in the past when Mayor Cantrell's administration acted to expand the intrusive police surveillance apparatus deployed against New Orleans residents during her term in office.

At the request of Mayor LaToya Cantrell, the New Orleans City Council introduced an ordinance on Thursday to severely roll back local restrictions on law enforcement surveillance that were put in place only 14 months ago.

The proposed ordinance, if passed, would largely reverse the council’s blanket bans on the use facial recognition and characteristic tracking software, which is similar to facial recognition but for identifying race, gender, outfits, vehicles, walking gait and other attributes. One provision also appears to walk back the city’s ban on predictive policing and cell-site simulators — which intercept and spy on cell phone calls — to locate people suspected of certain serious crimes. 

That provision could, for the first time, give the city explicit permission to use a whole host of surveillance technology in certain circumstances, including voice recognition, x-ray vans, “through the wall radar,” social media monitoring software, “tools used to gain unauthorized access to a computer,” and more.

And then follow that up with her reaction to having those kinds of tools turned back on her.  

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell filed for a temporary protective order Friday against a woman she says has stalked her for two years by taking photos and videos of her, according to Orleans Parish Civil District Court records. 

Cantrell accuses the woman, Anne Breaud, of "aggressively" taking photos and videos of her on multiple occasions, including on April 7 as she dined on a restaurant balcony.

Breaud's actions over the last two years, she wrote, "have placed me and my family in greater risk of being harmed, jeopardizing my safety especially at places I frequent."

Breaud declined to comment Friday night, and the mayor's office could not be immediately reached.

Okay maybe it's not that easy.  It is stupid but some things need clarification. The photographs she's referring to in the second story connect to a tabloid saga regarding the mayor's personal life that I don't have any interest in discussing.  The local TV stations have enjoyed it very much because it is salacious in nature which gets a lot of attention while also having zero relevant news or political content which means they don't have to think too hard about anything while presenting it. 

If the reporters did want to talk about this with any sort of seriousness, these stories would focus less on the sensationalist aspects and more on the implications of who gets to point cameras at who and to what purpose. Because as it stands currently, the cops and the mayors have so many cameras poking into our daily lives that there's scarcely a step one takes without feeling like some sort of suspect. And yet the moment we might ask the slightest question about the work our public officials are doing, or the moment we point a camera at the police, well now there's the line that can't be crossed.

Friday, May 10, 2024

Not to put too fine a point on it but...

 They're messing with you

Again, they are just messing with you

They just passed new laws that say insurance companies don't actually have to, you know, provide insurance

Gov. Jeff Landry on Tuesday signed a series of bills that make it easier for insurance companies to drop policyholders, raise rates and have more time to pay claims after a storm, a controversial plan that aims to attract more companies to the state.

Hilariously, they say this is supposed to make it easier for you to buy insurance. It won't.  But more importantly, they don't actually believe that anyway.  What they do believe in is holding a big public signing ceremony for this farcical legislation just to rub it in everyone's face. In addition to ripping you off and putting your home in danger, they are also messing with you. Seems bad.

Wednesday, May 08, 2024

Seems bad

Not really sure why anyone is wasting their time and energy under the delusion that the reactionaries in the legislature can be stopped or even reasoned with.  At some point you have to recognize that there's no reason to play in these sandboxes with them

State Rep. Jerome “Zee” Zeringue, R-Houma, flashed a thumbs-down Wednesday while away from the voting machine on his desk, indicating to the House speaker he was voting no on a controversial bill restricting union activities among government workers. The speaker acknowledged his vote, and his name lit up in red on the tally board. 

Moments later, it flashed to green. The bill passed 53-39, barely clearing the 53-vote threshold to pass the House. 

House Bill 571 by Rep. Raymond Crews, R-Bossier City, prohibits public sector union members, except for police and firefighter unions, from discussing or organizing union activities while working or on paid leave. It also nullifies any employment contracts that provide compensation, including paid leave, for the performance of such activities. 

Crews’ bill is opposed by several labor organizations, who have raised concerns that the bill violates the First Amendment. The bill would allow citizens to sue and be awarded costs for catching violations of the prohibition. The attorney general or a district attorney could also bring enforcement action. 

“Taking away the voices of thousands — tens of thousands — of workers, their rights to assemble and their freedom of speech is very alarming,” Matt Wood, a lobbyist for the Louisiana AFL-CIO said in an interview with the Illuminator

Zeringue was not the only member to have their vote changed. 

Rep. Jack McFarland, R-Jonesboro, had stepped outside the chamber at the time of the vote. Although didn’t give any other member permission to vote for him on Crews’ bill, he was recorded as a “yes” on the proposal. The final tally should have shown him as absent.

All of these outcomes are pre-determined. Why even bother with it? Why waste your time, your breath, your sanity? Nobody is listening. All they are doing is messing with you. 

During the convention, Landry and Beaullieu have also said no laws would be immediately changed. Instead, the governor has proposed only moving language out of the constitution and into what he has called a “super statute” in regular state law. 

“We are not rewriting the constitution. This is a refresh of the constitution,” Beaullieu said.

While relegating language from the constitution into statute won’t immediately change any law, it will make it easier for legislators to eliminate or change those provisions at a later date.

Constitutional language can only be removed with approval of two-thirds of the Louisiana House and Senate and approval from voters on a statewide ballot. A “super statute” would only need approval from lawmakers to eliminate or alter. 

In spite of Beaullieu’s assurances on protecting certain areas from constitutional cuts, legal experts have questioned whether that is possible. 

Several lawmakers and attorneys believe state law doesn’t allow for a “limited” constitutional convention, where certain items are declared off limits. If a convention is held, delegates could open up any portion of the constitution for alterations if they wanted, they said.

Bullying, "gaslighting" whatever you want to call it, they're gonna do whatever they want.  This is a fight that was lost a long time ago. Seems bad. What else is there to say?

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Someone should stop the crime that is in progress

 I'd call the police but it looks like they are in on it.

The NOPD has lobbied for new space for years, and Kirkpatrick has made it a top priority since taking over the department in October. Initial lease terms were agreed to in January, but some council members said they had been blindsided when it was unveiled to them in March.

Now a revised lease, up for council consideration in a special meeting on Wednesday, would add significantly more space at a higher cost per square foot. The latest draft adds a third floor to the space at 1615 Poydras Street and increases the total square footage from about 45,000 to 69,000.

The lease rate increases from an average of $170 to $180 per square foot over a decade.

If the New Orleans Police Department occupies the space at 1615 Poydras for all 10 years, the city will pay a total of $12.4 million, an increase from $7.7 million under the initial deal for the smaller space earlier this year. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration did not immediately respond to questions on Tuesday as to why it wants to add more space and agreed to pay a higher rate.

Good luck getting an answer out of them. Maybe it will be on the next podcast. Otherwise maybe FOIA some emails. You know, while that is still legal

Anyway... previously on Flip This Office Tower we learned the city had been in talks over this lease for at least six months before Frank Stewart sold the building.  Not sure where this sudden escalator clause came in.  We keep hearing that downtown office space is a soft market. What happened?

Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Nobody asked about a rollback?

Good news! Sewerage and Water Board is about to fix your billing problems. You know, the problem everyone is having where there bill is too small every month.

The vast majority of customers should expect to see cost increases of about 10%, while a handful could see their bills go up as much as 25%, S&WB Project Manager Rebecca Johnsey told a City Council committee Monday. That's because the manual readers being replaced don’t actually capture the entirety of a customer's water usage. 

“Our meters in the ground are mechanical meters, and that means they have pieces on the inside that physically move. So over time, they get gunked up and they slow down, and it actually takes more and more water on the front end to start the movement,” Johnsey said.

About 10,000 "smart meters" have already been installed under a $67 million contract with California-based Aqua-Metric signed in December 2022, and the first bills will begin going out next week, S&WB executive director Ghassan Korban said Tuesday.

The initial round of bills will be no more than 120% of a customer's annual average, he said. After that, bills will reflect the precise reading of the smart meters.

Pretty neat the way they get super interested in the "precise" amount of water used once it gets past the point in the line where you have to pay for it.  How much gets dumped out into the ground before it arrives there, is anybody's guess. Sunk cost, right? 

Anyway, this article doesn't tell us how Aqua-Metric's "smart" meters work.  But, one assumes, they also have "pieces on the inside" that must do something.  Hopefully it isn't what any of the various smart meter vendors who ran roughshod over the state of Mississippi have been doing. 

From 2009 to 2017, at least 10 Mississippi cities signed contracts with the companies to install smart meters or other new technology. All but one have reported problems, and at least four have sued to recoup money they paid to Siemens, McNeil Rhoads or Mueller. Three of those suits are still pending.

Siemens and McNeil Rhoads, competitors that pitched the projects and acted as project managers, hired contractors who installed many meters improperly, according to officials in Jackson, McComb and Moss Point. In some cities, the two companies also struggled to link meters to the home office or to merge a new billing system with an old one.

Officials in at least eight Mississippi cities said they had problems with Mueller’s smart meters, which sometimes didn’t measure accurately because of faulty parts or batteries that died sooner than promised. Water departments in other states, including California and Missouri, have reported similar problems with Mueller meters over the past decade.

McComb, a city of 12,000 people south of Jackson, signed the first Siemens water meter contract in Mississippi. Mayor Quordiniah N. Lockley, city manager at the time, said McComb agreed to pay the company $10 million to install 6,000 smart Master Meters.

But contract workers hired by Siemens put them in backward and missed deadlines to install the antennas that the meters needed to communicate with a central office, Mr. Lockley said. Then some customers saw their water bills hit as much as $1,000 per month, with no obvious explanation.

At least S&WB is trying to get out in front with an "obvious explanation" before the bills start to go up. Or at least that's what City Council is urging them to do. 

Council members urged water board officials to “overdo” a campaign to inform the public about how the new meters will impact bills. Council member Eugene Green also asked the agency to hold community meetings in every council district.

“On the one hand, we can't not have people pay for service they're receiving, but on the other hand there will be sticker shock,” said Council member Joe Giarrusso.

Notice that none of your elected representatives has anything to say about the possibility that your bill is already too damn high.  They're not here to help with that so much as they are here to manage your expectations.  When property tax assessments threaten homeowners with "sticker shock" we at least get some effort at rolling back the millage rates in order to keep things under control.  But here we aren't so motivated. Did no one ask about rolling back the water rates? It's different when the revenue windfall comes off the back of a regressive user fee, I guess.  Poor people always pay their "fair share" first.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Speaking of Draculas...

The other day I saw this sign on the Napoleon Ave neutral ground advertising an upcoming production of the New Orleans Ballet. For a second, though, I thought Dracula (who we have already established lives at Charity Hospital) was running for office.

Dracula sign

I am pretty sure the Charity Dracula Castle is in Alonzo Knox's house district. In which case, I'm not sure this wouldn't be an improvement. 

Anyway, there's something about people in the local political scene who just keep coming back from the dead. Take Charles Rice for example

Mayor LaToya Cantrell wants the City Council to approve a contract with the firm of former Entergy New Orleans (ENO) CEO Charles Rice, who in 2018 stepped down after it was discovered the company had used paid actors to appear at city council hearings in support of a proposed new power plant.

According to a draft of the contract, the administration wants to hire the Rice Group LLC to help in ongoing litigation between the city and the Municipal Police Employees Retirement System, which handles the NOPD’s pension.

Of course, Rice didn't actually step all the way down from Entergy after the "actors" scandal. Remember, the paid actors gambit basically worked.  The plant the actors were hired to advocate for got built. The fact that the ploy got exposed resulted in a moment of bad press and nominal fine but that's all well worth it. And Rice was happy to take the fall anyway. No big loss to him.  He just got kicked down from CEO to legal consultant. Also his wife continued to work for and with the company. (She also continues to serve on public boards.)  Like Dracula, people operating at this level of privilege basically go on forever. They really aren't allowed to fail the way most of us mere mortals might be. I mean the Rices were doing kickbacks to their brothers-in-law over public contracts way back before a lot of you kids were even born. These are ancient powers we are dealing with here.  

Monday, April 15, 2024

Meanwhile, at Dracula's castle

Nothing is happening and no one is getting paid
More than six months after a new development team was brought in to help jumpstart the stalled redevelopment of the former Charity Hospital building in downtown New Orleans, the project remains in limbo with unpaid bills to its architect, contractor and other vendors that total at least $5.7 million.

Public documents show three liens and a lawsuit have been filed against 1532 Tulane Partners, a consortium led by local apartment developer Joseph Stebbins and Israeli financier Yoel Shargian that was awarded the rights to the Tulane Avenue building in 2018. 

The article goes on to itemize the liens but can't get any comments from the firms filing them. The paper did manage to get in touch with ex-NOPD Marlon Defillo who is suing over $190,000 he says the project owes him for "security consulting." He offers up some famous last words here. 

“Each time we would ask for payment, they would say, it’s coming,” said Defillo, a former assistant chief with the New Orleans Police Department. “Believing this is a state-owned building, I thought, how could things go wrong?” 

Anyway, on the last episode of Dracula's Castle back in January, we learned that Tulane had brought in The Domain Companies as a partner. Presumably the object there was to re-jigger the "state-owned building" in a way that placed even more emphasis on private profits from luxury condos and short term rentals than had already crept in. Which is weird since a few blocks away on Poydras, they're moving public entities like the police department into a privately owned building over there. Whatever you gotta do to shake the money out, I guess.

Saturday, April 13, 2024

We've got all the star stuff at home

Probably you devoted at least a little bit of your time on Monday to experiencing the solar eclipse. Maybe you scored a pair of free glasses before the stampeding hordes got them all. In New Orleans, it didn't matter anyway. Most of us here just tried to get a brief frustrated glimpse through the cloud cover. At least, that's what I did. I kind of saw it a little. Here, I got a picture. Would you like to see?

Eclipse 2024 

Maybe you managed to get a better view than this. Maybe you made elaborate  plans in advance to take a trip into the "path of totality" so that it could "touch your soul."

On April 8, the Stones will host a dozen-plus visitors from as far away as Sweden to experience this year’s event.

“It’s such an emotional event,” Stone said. “It touches your soul, it really does. Any time you realize there’s something bigger than you, it gives you perspective. Surely that power has a purpose.”

In Buffalo, Horowitz said the eclipse, an obvious reminder of nature’s beauty, offers a chance to reflect on nature’s fragility and to find hope amid worldly chaos and personal challenges.

“You can sometimes be clouded by all that darkness,” he said. “The natural world is trying to tell us that beyond the darkness, there is light.”

If this is you, then, that's great. The human mind's capacity to perceive its surroundings and color it in feeling is infinite in its variation.  Contemplation of the heavens is a popular vector for this.  So I get it. But it's just not where I get my good vibes.  The universe may be unfathomably vast. But most of it is also distant from and indifferent to us.  The way I see it, if we really are made of star stuff, then we've got all of it we need down here. And besides, we're the ones doing all the interesting shit with it. 

The music of the spheres is great and all but what really touches my soul is "truck stuck in flooded underpass appears to have Sewerage and Water Board logos." There is where we find the true face of God.

Not everyone is as impressed, of course. 

But as life in many parts of the city returned to normal, business owners there were still knee-deep in clean-up work — again. Krivjanick's business has been flooded during storms in December, January, February and again on Wednesday, she said.

She's had enough. 

"I love the city of New Orleans," said Krivjanick. "I love the culture. I love everything that we have. But I don't feel like I'm being respected as a property owner, as a taxpayer. I don't feel like I'm being heard."

Look I don't want to be here rooting for crumbling infrastructure and corrupt government. Not every time, anyway. But, "won't somebody respect the property owners for a change," isn't engendering a tremendous amount of sympathy.  On the other hand, neither is this, "help us find the real killers," bit. 

But in an update on Thursday, S&WB spokesperson Grace Birch said that the power supply was further hobbled while the rain pounded down. All three of the S&WB's available backup generators tripped offline, she said, and officials suspect vandalism to an electrical feeder was the cause. The New Orleans Police Department has been asked to investigate. Two other backup generators were already out of service because of mechanical issues.

The S&WB said more details would be forthcoming in an after-action report on its pumping, power and staffing levels during the storm, which is required by state law within 48 hours of National Weather Service advisories.

I don't think there's an update on the "investigation" but we do know there were multiple power supply issues in play that day and that they can't all have been the work of imaginary terrorists.  

The utility confronted a second major issue at about the same time, when it attempted to send power from another of its turbines — Turbine 6 — to Pump Station 6 as well as a series of stations along Broad Street.

Because that turbine is relatively new, installed after Hurricane Katrina, the power it produces needs to be converted by a frequency changer for use by the older pumps. 

But the frequency changer tripped offline, rendering that power source useless, too.

The utility finally began using Entergy power to bring the frequency changers back online, allowing the pumping stations to begin using power from the changers between 10:15 a.m. and 11:25 a.m.

Without all of the necessary power, the Sewerage & Water Board was forced to leave some pumps off during the storm.

So to bring this back to the original point, there are more engrossing mysteries in the affairs of humanity on Earth than there are, even in the unfathomable expanse of outer space. And anyway, space is boring. For example, we already know exactly when the next total solar eclipse will be visible over US territory. In 2045, you can drive right over to Pensacola and see it. Hang around until 2078 and you can take a boat out to where New Orleans used to be and see it there too. It's all very predictable. Like a clock, I think someone once said. 

But try and figure out when Turbine 4 is coming back online... well now there is a genuine challenge to demand every power of philosophy ever dreamed of. 

The S&WB says it needs 44 megawatts of 25-hz power to run the pumps during the heaviest storms, but has been forced to operate with a little more than 40 megawatts since T-4 went down.

That turbine is not expected to return until next month.

We can peg the exact position of the moon for the next.. well for millennia into the future. Turbines, though, are unknowable. All we can say right now is check back sometime in May.  Really puts things in perspective, doesn't it.

Saturday, April 06, 2024

Fitting way for all of this to end

Over a decade of struggle to protect what's left of New Orleans's neighborhoods from having the life sucked out of them by Airbnb; all of the research, the planning commission studies, the overheated social media debate, the marathon city council meetings, the good times, the bad times, the shit times; is about to be brought to an abrupt end on Monday in the state legislature. 

Just as cities and parishes across Louisiana such as New Orleans, Lafayette, and St. Tammany Parish have been ramping up their enforcement of short-term rentals, HB 591 would make AirBnB immune to important oversight. Rep. Lyon’s bill, which will be heard in House Commerce Committee Monday morning, would destroy local government’s abilities to enforce city regulations, which are critical to ensure bad actors cannot continue to illegally operate short-term rentals in our neighborhoods.

Jeff Landry says he wants the city to "operate like Charleston." Charleston is one of the fastest gentrifying cities in America, thanks, in large part, to the conversion of neighborhoods into clusters of vacation rentals. 

New Orleans, as we all know, has already been bled nearly to death by the phenomenon. And, yet, every turn in the long saga has left us with some hope that we'd finally get our local electeds to listen to us even a little bit. The most recent twist found a judge (after an extended delay) finally upholding the current version of our not quite restrictive enough ordinances. But since then, nothing has happened because 1) the administration has neither the capacity nor the inclination to enforce the rules and 2) the landlords are appealing the ruling anyway. In the meantime, it's back to business as usual.  Nobody actually lives here. The rent is too damn high. And homes continue to become hotels while city leadership looks the other way.  

And now comes Marrero Democrat Rodney Lyons with the Deus Ex Machina, a bill that finally takes the entire question off of the desk of anyone in local government.  You can bet that they're all hoping Lyons's bill passes for that reason alone. It makes their lives a lot easier if all they have to do is say they feel bad that you got evicted and no one expects them to do anything about it anymore.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

The Boil Order Decade

It felt like we measured out the 2010s in the time spent between the several boil orders.  So much so, that by the end of the decade, it stopped feeling like anything out of the ordinary. And, of course, in the 20s, the global pandemic made our little home grown perpetual public health crisis seem practically pedestrian by comparison. It's just expected now the every so often, the water pressure will drop and people will have to take precautions.  That's resilience!  We even figured out a way to limit the boil orders to specific neighborhoods now so they seem like even less of a big deal. That's innovation!  As we all know, resilience and innovation are synonymous with the global brand of New Orleans

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration has fumbled a $141 million grant for green infrastructure projects, according to a report from a federal watchdog, with poor planning, misallocation of funds and a lack of workers undercutting the city's efforts to keep stormwater at bay.

In one case, a grant-funded program to add porous pavement and other upgrades to New Orleans homes — which the city has previously touted as a success — was so poorly handled that it actually made some properties more vulnerable to flooding, according to an audit released this week by the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General.

The audit, conducted over nine months ending in July 2023, said construction had not started on any of the eight grant-funded infrastructure projects comprising the “Gentilly Resilience District,” which is supposed to hold stormwater in redesigned green spaces that would otherwise flow directly to the often-overwhelmed city drainage system.

 Okay well nevermind that right now. It's a global brand, trust me.

Following her participation in an international climate change conference in Dubai last December, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced she had signed a major new deal with a private company to significantly reduce the city’s carbon emissions and boost its drinking water and energy efficiencies.

The announcement was a public relations win for Cantrell after more than a year of being criticized for maintaining a busy travel schedule without any major results to show for them.

The Dec. 8 press release outlined the ambitious project the city would undertake with Zoetic Inc., an Ohio-based HV/AC coolant manufacturer. Described in the release as “a leading U.S.-based climate impact company with a portfolio of carbon reduction solutions,” Zoetic would be tasked with “increasing sustainability, including significant carbon reduction and water and energy resiliency.”

But more than three months later, the only thing Cantrell has to show for the trip remains the press release. In fact, internal administration documents indicate that after an initial flurry of behind-the-scenes activity, the project has completely halted.

Those documents also show Cantrell appears to have made the deal unilaterally within hours of meeting Zoetic’s founder. According to these records, Cantrell never consulted staff experts back in New Orleans before signing it, and the press release caught even her top climate-related aides off guard.

With city staffers scrambling to figure out what the agreement actually meant for the city, several people involved raised questions about the Zoetic deal, including one city employee who called the company “sketchy.”

Alright well put a pin in that one too. The point is, we're resilient now.  The streets flood every time it rains for a few hours and the water gets all amoebaed up every time a main breaks and we are not fazed one bit by it.  

That doesn't mean we can't be a little curious, though. I mean, maybe once or twice over the course of the Boil Order Decade, you may have wondered where does all the clean water our bills say we've been paying for go anyway? Well, now we know

NEW ORLEANS — The office of the Inspector General released a report outlining failures within the Sewerage and Water Board of New Orleans.

The report says that infrastructure weaknesses, plus metering and billing errors created significant water loss.

According to the report, "SWBNO water losses were found to be consistently above the highest range of industry averages of 45.5 percent, with a ten-year average of non-revenue water of approximately 73 percent between 2008 and 2017. OIG evaluators found the SWBNO continued to experience similar rates in 2021 and 2022, with 75 percent water loss in 2021 and 64 percent water loss in 2022."

The OIG says the water board did not follow industry standards, resulting in a combined loss of over $19 million over two years.

They've been pouring it straight into the ground.  Now, from what we understand, several of the stalled "Resilience District" projects had to do with creating stormwater retention facilities. This, we were told, had a dual benefit. They would supposedly lessen the stress on the drainage system by lowering the volume of water that had to be pumped out immediately. They also were supposed to be good for maintaining the soils beneath the city famously vulnerable to subsidence caused by over-efficient drainage.  But here we see that, even though, the retention projects weren't being build, S&WB was more than making up for it by dumping the water back into the soil anyway.  Score another one for innovation.

Seems bad

 Everything they do seems bad. Throw this on the pile as well

Cloud’s Senate Bill 482 goes the furthest of those bills by gutting from the list of records eligible for public access all documents that detail “deliberations” in government work. It would exempt documents containing "advisory opinions, recommendations and deliberations” that feed into any government decision or policy-making choices.

Watchdog groups and attorneys dealing with public information issues decried the bill Wednesday. Melia Cerrato, a Sunshine Legal Fellow at Tulane University’s First Amendment Law Clinic, called it “extremely alarming” and said it risked violating the state’s constitution.

“This will create government secrecy on a level that should alarm people regardless of where they are on the political spectrum,” Cerrato said. “This is bad government.”

Anyway, I don't know what else to say. It's all bad.  

The Louisiana governor is already thought to be all-powerful, but a handful of legislative proposals would give Jeff Landry more control over the state government than any of his recent predecessors. 

Two proposed constitutional amendments would allow Landry to pick most members of the Louisiana Supreme Court and state Civil Service Commission, which oversees hiring and firing guidelines for state workers.

Another bill gives Landry control over the Louisiana Board of Ethics, after it dinged him for taking a private flight from a campaign donor last fall. 

There’s also legislation to empower Landry to pick the chairpersons and other officers of hundreds of other state boards and commissions.  

Most lawmakers who drafted the bills said Landry is not pushing the proposals, though the sponsors include some of the governor’s biggest supporters in the Legislature.

But we did know it would be this bad. Everyone knew and they knew for a long time.  But what happens when the Democrats and the press remain inert for the whole two years of the statewide election cycle leading up to this?  Well, it gets bad. This must be what they wanted on some level. So here we are.

Monday, April 01, 2024

Carbon Capture Capers

The state is rushing headlong into carbon capture despite many remaining questions as to the efficacy and safety of the process. It definitely feels like we're going to learn about the consequences the hard way.  Anyway, it doesn't inspire confidence that companies are limiting public scrutiny by doing everything in their power to keep the site locations secret for as long as possible.

Without information about where CO2 injection wells will be located, Eustis said it’s not possible to notify local landowners of the potential risks to their drinking water or assess if there are pathways for leaks, such as underground faults. In areas with underground salt domes, like Vermilion Parish, CO2 leakage and pressure can extend up to 12 miles away from the injection site, according to research by the University of Texas at Austin. A new report commissioned by the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project warns of the risks of proposing carbon disposal wells in areas dense with abandoned oil and gas wells.

“Class VI applicants cannot keep the locations of the underground plume secret, and also have a comment period,” Eustis said. He questioned how his organization could warn the public about the potential safety hazards of pollution in such a short time frame. Most projects in the state only require a 30-day commenting period. “The risks extend far from the injection site, and can affect hundreds to thousands of landowners, although we hope that will be unlikely,” he said.

Also in the above story, Exxon seems keen to place injection wells on state-owned land in order to limit liability. Also it looks like they're taking advantage of the state's "orphaned well" clean up fund in order to do their prep work for them.  Other shenanigans afoot.  Anyway, for now all we can do is hope it doesn't end in too many sinkholes or poisoned aquifers. But we won't know that until it's too late either.

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Getting flushed but remaining flush

Having a Ball

A Knights of Chaos float from this year's Carnival depicts Sewerage and Water Board Director Ghassan Korban (along with his salary)

One of several interesting things McBride pointed out today while watching the Sewerage and Water Board meeting was this apparent move to help Ghassan Korban cash out if the state really does manage to take over the utility. 

The Sewerage & Water Board Thursday approved a three percent raise to Executive Director Ghassan Korban’s more than $300,000 salary, even as the Gov. Jeff Landry’s hand-picked task force released a plan to strip much of the local control of the city’s sewer, flooding and water treatment utility.

S&WB watchdog Matthew McBride, who first reported the pay raise vote, noted that “according to the salary published in the 2022 audit, this will increase his salary from $338,365 to $348,515.” According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of 2022 the average median household income in New Orleans was $51,116.

They also doubled his available leave time which further indicates a sizeable buyout could be coming soon. The board members are also quoted here making annoying comments in praise of Korban that place him among "the employees of the sewerage and water board" they claim to be very proud of.  But that is a complete distortion. Korban isn't a rank and file employee. He's a highly compensated administrator who, even if he does get canned by Jeff Landry, won't have to worry about where his next meal is coming from for a very long time afterward.  Korban is pretty close to retirement anyway. I'm sure the salary boost will help maximize his pension as well.  

We can't say the same for most of the actual employees of Sewerage and Water Board. Their future is very much up in the air. Stephanie Hilferty has a bill pending that could transfer them all from the city to the state civil service system.  I wonder what that does for their benefits, leave, and retirement plans.  I'm guessing its not the same sort of jackpot their boss just got.

Seems bad

Comedy is finally legal again at the Louisiana Legislature. Every stupid joke of an idea they've had batted away in the past is back. And they're having the greatest time of their lives up there. 
Nearly 10 months after Gov. John Bel Edwards vetoed a controversial bill that would create a 25-foot buffer around law enforcement officers, a Louisiana House committee greenlit a similar piece of legislation Tuesday (March 26), effectively reviving the proposal. 

House Bill 173 by Rep. Bryan Fontenot, R-Thibodaux, states that “no person shall knowingly or intentionally approach within twenty-five feet of a peace officer who is lawfully engaged in the execution of his official duties after the peace officer has ordered the person to stop approaching or to retreat.”

Anyone found in violation of the law can be fined up to $500 or imprisoned up to 60 days.

Cops can arrest you for just being around now.  

Put these alongside the anti-labor intolerable acts that started moving through committee today, and you can see the kind of world we're headed for over the next few years. 

Loot and privatize

The Landry "task force" sounds like they want the state to take over the SWB and then turn it over to a private operator. Sort of the same process that moved us from public schools, to RSD, and then to the charterization mess we have now.

The proposed recovery district, to be controlled by a board composed of a majority of state appointees, would govern the agency for two years, according to the panel's recommendations. It could then cede control of the utility, renamed the “New Orleans Sewerage, Water and Drainage Board” to the City Council or the Public Service Commission. A third option would be to constitute the utility into a new municipal corporation modeled after one in Louisville, Kentucky. 

In the meantime, there's plenty opportunity for a state appointed water czar to loot as much as possible.  I wonder who will be our Paul Vallas of water? 

Also of note, this week we had expected to see SWB's own "State of the Utility" report the mayor had decided to take on as a counterpoint to the task force.  Guess she flaked on that.

Tuesday, March 26, 2024

Support your local non-profit virtual fishwraps

This is a really nice Poynter article today about Karen Gadbois. The implication is that she's (maybe... possibly.. soon.. eventually) planning to step back from regular involvement at The Lens. 

Gadbois said she’s focused on two things: keeping The Lens going by building a better organization and mastering the skill of weaving. By late January, Gadbois said the vision plan for The Lens was “pretty done.”

But when asked if she will be stepping down from staff, Gadbois said she feels like she can’t.

“I really feel like when the time comes, and I know that that time will come, I’ll know what I should do next,” she said.

It’s difficult for anyone involved in The Lens to imagine a future without Karen Gadbois, because in many ways she and The Lens have been inseparable since the day she fired up her laptop from a chemo chair in 2006.

Reading this brought me back a little. I know I don't post here as often as I used to. (Or as often as I'd like to even now.) But I do occasionally click through the old "blogroll" to see if any of those disused sites has happened to pop back to life. Every now and then one of them does and it's a little bit thrilling.  Squandered Heritage used to be on that list but I culled the link a long time ago when it went blank.  Anyway, the Poynter article talks about that a bit. 

On New Year’s Eve in 2005 — four months after Katrina hit — Gadbois returned to Louisiana. Her downstairs had flooded. The upstairs was spared. Other homeowners weren’t as lucky. Demolitions began sprouting all over the city.

“At that point, I felt like I had to do something,” Gadbois said. “It was like wild town — ‘do what you want.’”

She began blogging on Squandered Heritage, cobbling together information on proposed demolitions and attending hearings. “They were crazy. The craziest public hearings ever,” she said. “They’d have like 26 properties on the docket, and the meeting would literally take 10 minutes.”

“I would post daily pretty much,” she said. “And then, occasionally, I would write essays. Sometimes just, ‘Here’s the house. And here’s the proposed demolition.’”

Twenty years later, it can still very much be wild town around here. There's a lot of shitty stuff that goes on that can only be slowed down or stopped (sometimes) if someone happens to get a lot of people to pay attention.  

In some ways, it's actually worse now. New Orleans in 2024 is a more spiritually broken place than it was even then in the wake of the Katrina disaster. Two decades of displacement and gentrification can do that to a place. I'm sure I could articulate this better with time to think it out but there are days when I feel like we've lost a collective sense of what it means to live in a city together.  Karen talks in this article about what drew her here from Mexico City.

She decided on New Orleans. In both cities, she felt, people congregated within their families and celebrated with the larger community. “They were both places that had long-rooted traditions,” she said, “and people weren’t as interested in what you did for a living.”

Insofar as those rooted community traditions even exist today, they aren't nearly as deep as they were before 2005. If there's one theme to the succeeding decades here, it has been the slow squeezing of the humanity out of our home.  Let's put a pin in that for now, though. I'm just trying to say that it's harder to mobilize the fragmented community around civic issues than it was when we had a more natural communion together. 

The state of our media is one symptom (and reflexive cause) of this cultural diminishing. Which brings us to the non-profit newsroom model the Poynter article is attempting to champion. We're meant to get from this article that the non-profits have added more in-depth, textured, "explanatory" news product to the local market than the commercial outlets are willing to provide. In a way, that is true. But it's more true that they're merely filling part of the massive vacuum left by "legacy media" as it dissolves. 

Taken together, I'd say The Lens, Verite, and the Louisiana Illuminator give us about half the reporting capacity one whole newspaper ought to have in South Louisiana. As good a job as they do with what they have, they're still overmatched.  There's enough happening on the New Orleans City Hall beat alone to fill at least two proper daily papers...or whatever the commensurate format is to a daily newspaper today. At least two entities of that size, I mean.  The point is we're not getting nearly enough of what we need. The scrappy little websites get us more than we would have otherwise, but we're not where we need to be.

They've also got their own weaknesses. See, for example, the case of The Lens's "Charter School Reporting Corps" described here.  

Another shining moment came with the launch of the award-winning Charter School Reporting Corps in 2011. Beatty, then The Lens’ publisher and chief executive officer, wrote that the project’s goal was to “provide school news to students, parents and others who are invested and interested in charter schools in New Orleans.” At the time, Beatty wrote, 45 boards ran 65 charter schools — in addition to the Orleans Parish School Board and the Recovery School District, which ran more than 20 schools combined.

“And no one was covering those board meetings, which were public meetings,” said Moseley, who at one point coordinated the corps. “And a lot of times, significant decisions were being made about the direction of the school, or facilities, or other things.”

The Lens hired a corps of stringers and part-time reporters to attend and cover the meetings.

“It’s probably one of the best ideas The Lens has had, in my opinion, and I was privileged to manage it,” said Moseley.

It was! It was a fantastic and quite necessary project. But sufficient resources were never mustered to fully realize its potential. The reason for that is only mildly stated here. 

Gadbois said people loved the project, but it was “a beast to maintain” because of issues with funding and working with freelance reporters, some of whom would skip out on the meetings at the last minute. Gadbois said the corps also came early in the charter schools movement. She recalled some animosity from people who felt what The Lens was doing was anti-charter schools. In 2017, the project was placed on hiatus due to funding.

It turns out that the elite donor classes in New Orleans can have just as much veto power over the content produced by "independent" non-profit newsrooms as they do over the corporate newspaper owned by a billionaire if they really want it.  But, until we figure out a better model, by all means, support the non-profits if you can because they're still the best thing we've got going right now.

Seems bad

I don't really know what else we're supposed to say about the legislative session.  Every week is just gonna be a new load of very bad ideas cruising right on through.  Today, the latest scheme for de-funding public education passed out of committee without objection. 

Elected school board members also are starting to speak out against ESAs. On Thursday, just hours after the pro-ESA rally in Baton Rouge, the Livingston Parish school board discussed the bills at a special meeting.

One board member warned that a reduction in state funding could force the district to close schools and lay off teachers. Superintendent Joe Murphy said that an ESA program open to all families could guzzle up tax dollars, leaving less money for the “minimum foundation program,” or MFP, the state’s public school funding formula.

“I think this absolutely has the potential to devastate our schools from an MFP standpoint,” Murphy told the board. After all, money for the ESA program “has got to come from somewhere.”

The money coming out of the public schools' MFP will be at least half a billion dollars a year, in fact. But that's far from the only way in which our "fiscally conservative" legislature has determined to bankrupt the state this year.  Keeping in mind the already much talked about half billion dollar "fiscal cliff" that approaches in 2025, lawmakers spent the special session on "crime" adding tens (growing perhaps to hundreds) of millions of dollars to the budget for throwing people in prison and keeping them there. And the current session may expand that further. Bills are advancing that would jail people for panhandling on the streets or perhaps attending professional conferences. Maybe those are the same thing. Or at least one leads to the other. I haven't quite worked it out. 

Anyway, the legislature has the big checkbook out. But we know how much these fiscal hawks like to talk about prudent budgeting. So they must have some pretty great expectations of future revenues. Wonder where that's going to come from.  One things for sure, it won't come from the oil companies

The state House on Monday passed a bill that would cut the oil severance tax rate by 4 percentage points, a measure that aims to revitalize Louisiana’s oil industry but could leave an $80 million gap in state tax revenue.

House Bill 259, sponsored by Rep. Beau Beaullieu, R-New Iberia, faced virtually no pushback on the House floor, passing the chamber 86-13. It now heads to the state Senate.

With a vote of 96-6, the House also overwhelmingly passed a second Beaullieu bill, House Bill 418, which would halve the tax currently levied on oil and gas produced by wells that have been orphaned and inactive.

The Louisiana Budget Project.. or whatever the hell they call themselves now.. these NGOs "re-brand" themselves all the time for no reason..  estimates the severance tax cut could end up costing the state $80 million year.  Seems bad. 

Saturday, March 23, 2024

The intolerable acts

The Landry steamroller is just getting warmed up. There's so much coming so fast that it is a struggle to get a bead on what specific historical period of horror our reactionary Governor and Legislature are trying to revive. Is it Jim Crow voting rights and incarceration policy? Or is it Gilded Age spoils politics and industrial scale corruption?   Whatever it is, they do exhibit a special fondness for the post-Reconstruction era. At the moment, they seem particularly focused on union busting

Emboldened by Louisiana’s election last fall of Republican Gov. Jeff Landry, the state’s GOP-controlled Legislature will try over the next few months to weaken public-sector unions and slash worker benefits.

A cluster of at least 15 proposed laws takes aim at public-sector unions’ ability to bargain with employers, the system for compensating workers sidelined by injury and a requirement that child laborers must receive lunch breaks. Others would cut unemployment benefits and limit how much doctors can make when treating people for workers' compensation claims.

That's a lot at one time. Last year I heard some low key talk among political watchers that maybe Jeff Landry as Governor wouldn't be quite so bad compared to someone like former LABI head, Stephen Waguespack. The thinking there was that, although, Landry is a fire breathing reactionary, he's also kind of stupid compared to a dead-eyed operator like Wags so maybe he wouldn't get quite as much done. Well, it turns out that was all cope. When there are Republican super-majorities in the Legislature, they could put Neuty the Nutria in the Governor's chair to sign off on everything and the agenda would sail on through undisturbed. 

The other thing they've got going for them is their decision to go for a maximalist agenda right off the bat.  The first year of a new Governor and legislature is always the best time to do this. There hasn't been enough time yet for the inevitable power conflicts among lawmakers and between the legislature and the Governor to develop.  That stuff usually starts to set in after the first round of budgetary decisions have to be made. Money has a way of breaking party solidarity even within a large majority. The policy decisions made now are likely to cause a fiscal reckoning down the road. But right now, it all just feels like patronage payola so it glides right through.

Anyway, as we've already said about the crime session, each measure passed this year represents a rollback of decades worth of organizing and agitating undone.  Every single thing they break will be its own eternity of hard work to put back together.  It's exactly the same with these anti-labor bills.  And just like the crime package, they're all coming, as Clancy Dubos says here, through a big "firehose."

Instead, Landry has embarked on a fast-paced, hard-right push that includes more culture wars, less government help for those struggling at the bottom, expanding the state’s already-generous corporate welfare programs, further privatization of public education and removing layers of consumer protection.

He also wants to rewrite Louisiana’s “bloated, outdated, antiquated, and much-abused” constitution. To that end, he’s pushing lawmakers behind the scenes to adjourn their annual session early so that they can convene for a third special session to hurriedly adopt an agenda set by the governor.

The current “regular” session began only last week, and many lawmakers are already tired of having to drink, metaphorically, from Landry’s firehose of proposals — little to none of which he talked about as a candidate last autumn.

Maybe he didn't talk very much about it as a candidate (there was barely a campaign anyway)  but it isn't like nobody could have predicted this was going to be the agenda. Landry's proposals are all drawn from longstanding LABI wishlists as well as model legislation being enacted by GOP controlled governments in many other states right now.

In fact all of this (including the constitutional re-write) was "on the ballot," so to speak in 2019. That year saw what was left of the State Democratic Party by that point band together in an all-hands-on-deck effort to re-elect John Bel Edwards and stave off Eddie Rispone. That campaign made it clear to voters that what we're seeing now as the Landry agenda was on the table then. In 2023, they barely said or did anything at all. 

Which brings us to the question, whose fault is all of this, really? It's one thing to step back and shake our heads at how bad it is when the bad people get to run the government. But if we're going to do anything about it, we have to ask why didn't anyone try to stop the bad people from running the government in the first place? That's what today's party leadership elections are all about. 

Once the results roll in from the Louisiana elections Saturday, March 23, we’ll know who voters have chosen to be on the Democratic State Central Committee, which should vote for party chair and other leadership positions next month.

There’s a total of 210 seats on the committee, two for each state House district. About half of those seats had only one candidate qualify to run, so they’re automatically on the committee. Another 24 had nobody qualify, meaning the next chair will appoint people to these seats after the April leadership election.

In other words, 84 seats are up for grabs on Saturday.

Vying for many of these seats are members of Blue Reboot, a group of both incumbent and new candidates committed to electing a new party chair. More than 40 Blue Reboot candidates also ran unopposed. In some of the New Orleans races, U.S. Congressman Troy Carter, a Democrat, has backed opponents of Blue Reboot candidates.

Some in the party blame current chair Katie Bernhardt for Democrats’ disastrous showing in the fall elections, often citing ads she made early last year in which she appeared to be considering a run for governor. There have also been many cases of infighting.

So far former state representative Randal Gaines, a Democrat from LaPlace, has officially thrown his name in the hat. Public Service Commissioner Davante Lewis is considering a run, and some have mentioned two-time statewide candidate Caroline Fayard’s name as well.

After Saturday, we’ll have a better idea of how strong momentum is for the Blue Reboot reform candidates from seeing how well they fare against longtime party players, some of which have more name recognition, and others in the state’s most liberal and conservative districts.

Perhaps you can tease out from those few paragraphs that even if "Blue Reboot" scores a win today, it's highly likely the Democratic "infighting" will continue. Clearly, Louisiana deserves a more forceful and organized opposition to Landryism than what they're getting from the Democrats as currently constituted. Merely firing the Chair is one very small step in what promises to be a long struggle for that.  Some of the Blue Reboot candidates appear committed to the longer project.  I'm not sure all of them are. 

Anyway you can see a list of Blue Rebooters here.  But there's more to the story than just their slate.  Antigravity has undertaken the immense task of telling as much of that story as can be uncovered. Their voter guide features blurbs on every DSCC and DPEC candidate on the ballot. (Insofar as there is enough information available on them.)  Meanwhile, DSA has its own take which includes a more narrowly focused slate of endorsements and recommendations.  These races can feel like bewildering inside baseball to most voters. All of those links should help. 

But electing more and better Democrats to party positions isn't going to stop Landry's anti-labor intolerable acts.  That's going to require more immediate and direct action.  Not sure what form that takes just yet.