Sunday, October 22, 2017

I've never eaten at a Besh restaurant

I was just thinking the other day about how weird that is. We go out for maybe three or four special occasion type dinners every year. There are enough Besh-flagged places that we could have gotten to at least one.  I hadn't been avoiding them for any particular reason. That might be a bit different now.
During an eight-month investigation, 25 current and former Besh Group employees told NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune that they were victims of sexual harassment while working at BRG or at a number of its restaurants.

Nine women agreed to have their names published in this story, including Robison and two female colleagues who left BRG the same week she did: Vy Linh Ky, who held jobs in BRG restaurants as well as its corporate office beginning in 2012; and Lindsey Reynolds, the company's social media manager for six months.

Taken together, they and other women described a company where several male co-workers and bosses touched female employees without consent, made suggestive comments about their appearance and – in a few cases – tried to leverage positions of authority for sex. Several women said female colleagues, including in some cases their immediate managers, warned them to beware of "handsy" male supervisors – at times on day one on the job. Those who complained of sexual harassment were berated, ostracized or ignored, the women said.
As a lot of people are already saying, though, this isn't isolated merely to one company. The food services business, like so much of the hospitality industry in general, tends to treat workers as disposable objects. Women, in particular,  suffer under this exploitative dynamic. Changing that is critical to the future of the city's working class.  The Besh company didn't even have an HR department, let alone any semblance of an organized and mutually supportive workforce.  Instead, it had some women in management positions.
Besh repeatedly cited a number of management level women at BRG as evidence contradicting the culture described by the women alleging sexual harassment. Referring to female managers still working at the company, Besh said: "These are talented women who wouldn't stand for that crap," meaning sexual harassment.

Asked where Reynolds should have taken her complaint if Besh Group lacked a human resources department, Besh said she should have brought her complaints to one of the women managers.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

US Attorney Cannizzaro pros and cons

What is Leon Cannizzaro's stance on Sanctuary Cities? This article cites gun control as one potential sticking point in a possible Cannizzaro nomination for US Attorney but immigration might be another one to think about.  That law enforcement issue, in particular, has been the major point of conflict between the mayor's office and the various Louisiana Republican demagogues thinking about running for Governor.  One of those demagogues is John Kennedy. And since he is the person who sends these nominations forward, one would think Cannizzaro's position would be of interest to him. Or maybe it's enough that he's just quiet about it.

If Cannizzaro plays it cool enough to get the job and then turns out to not be the beast the Sessions DOJ might be looking for there, then it's conceivable that this isn't such a bad move. USA Cannizzaro would probably be less of an immediate terror to the public at large in New Orleans than DA Cannizzaro certainly is. It also opens up the DA's office more reform-minded candidates. Jason Williams's name always comes up in these conversations for example.

On the other hand, it's worth paying attention to who is running the US Attorney's office in the coming years for other reasons
NEW ORLEANS – The cost of emergency repairs for the Sewerage and Water Board’s power plant and drainage system keep rising as the board tries to address major failures from March, July and August.

Emergency costs were initially pegged at $48.5 million after a sudden thunderstorm caused major flooding Aug. 5, but have now risen to $54.5 million, according to an update from the Sewerage and Water Board’s emergency manager, Paul Rainwater.

The 12 percent increase raises questions about whether the Sewerage and Water Board will have enough money to meet critical power and drainage needs, in addition to the massive capital improvement projects already under way.

The board’s former Chief Financial Officer Robert Miller, who left for a job in Jackson, Miss., last week, has said the New Orleans drainage system is cash-poor and relies almost entirely on federal aid for capital improvements. The Drainage Department has less than $10 million in cash on hand from three dedicated tax millages.
A few weeks ago S&WB declared a state of "extreme emergency" with regard to its work on the infamous Turbine Number 4. Here is what that does.
The declaration gives the agency's executive staff free rein to buy any parts and equipment and hire any outside specialists to finish a repair job that ballooned to $24 million and has stretched on for more than five years.  
From the Hammer report, it looks like the "extreme" emergency is a separate declaration from two others that had already been necessary to free up money back in March and again in August.
The Sewerage and Water Board started tapping into that money in March with an emergency declaration that hardly anyone noticed. At a March 9 committee meeting, then-Executive Director Cedric Grant, then-President Pro Tem Scott Jacobs and then-General Superintendent Joe Becker -- all of whom resigned or were fired after the flooding of Aug. 5 – reported that the massive turbines used to power the drainage pumps and some of the potable water pumps had gone down.

But there was no discussion of what happened at the full board meeting two days later. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said his two deputy mayors serving on the board, including Grant, failed to “ring the bell” and tell him about the emergency. Chief Administrative Officer Jeff Hebert said he approved the emergency declaration without knowing how significant that power failure was.

It turns out it was quite significant. Emergency repairs to Turbines No. 3 and 5 will cost $15.5 million, up from an initial estimate of $13.1 million. That’s just the cost of putting those two power sources in working order and doesn’t count the $40 million in federal money already approved to fully refurbish them.

“I mean these are old turbines,” Rainwater said. “The first one was bought (in the 1920s) when Calvin Coolidge was president.”

Then, after the widespread power and pump failures of Aug. 5, the board issued another emergency declaration, reporting that emergency work at the power plant, pump stations and additional staff and management teams would cost $35.4 million. Rainwater’s latest report says that cost has risen to $39.1 million.
So there is a lot of money flying around very fast ostensibly to speed up work that was originally expected to have finished up years ago. The firm contracted to do the turbine job is CH2M Hill.* From what I understand, they're about to be on their fourth project manager since taking over the gig.  All of this could be the sort of thing that attracts the attention of a federal prosecutor eventually.  That might depend who the US Attorney is, though. And on who his or her friends or enemies are at that time.

* According to the last round of campaign finance reporting CH2M Hill gave $1,000 each to the Cantrell and Charbonnet campaigns.

Friday, October 20, 2017

In the Bags for LaToya

This is kind of funny in a few ways. Bagneris could have gone the other way with this endorsement but it wouldn't have been worth anything.  The voters who pulled his lever in the primary were going to LaToya anyway. They were, first and foremost, an anti-Charbonnet vote and weren't really his to deliver.  Here, on The Lens's map,we find the bulk of the Bagneris vote. (Shaded blue) It is situated in Lakeview and in the deepest, whitest, wealthiest Uptown precincts around Audubon Place and the Garden District.

Those are the voters and donors who locked in on Bagneris early when he went to Frank Stewart's house got all "both sidesey" about the monuments. Remember that?

Recall also that the anti-Desi "Not For Sale NOLA" PAC  was funded by a cohort of reactionary "business leaders" dead set against what upper class white people in this town snidely refer to as a "machine."  The Not For Sale group also donated heavily to Bagneris.

So really what we're looking at here are a block of white conservative voters with sympathies for old confederates who were looking at buying a primary candidate and will now buy a different one in the runoff. They are, themselves "not for sale" by anybody to anybody and they will be the first to tell you that.  The Advocate decided to accompany the story about this transaction with a photo that featured a "Black Lives Matter" banner in the background.  Somebody over there has a keen sense of irony.

Comparing Presidents is sophistry

George Bush was a very bad President.  This week, many liberal commentators are using him this week as some sort of comparative barometer of decency for a cynical political purpose. The cynical political purpose isn't even that valuable. They merely mean to say, in so many words, Trump is gross.  That seems obvious enough. We shouldn't have to make ridiculous compromises with the Bush legacy in order to say that.
In his speech on Thursday, Bush criticized the Trump administration's immigration policies, remarking, "We've seen nationalism distorted into nativism, forgotten the dynamism that immigration has always brought to America." But when Bush was in office, he deported thousands of Muslim immigrants after the 9/11 attacks. As Glenn Greenwald noted at the Intercept in 2015, the former president also "quickly and secretly implemented an illegal scheme of warrantless domestic eavesdropping aimed largely at Muslims."

Before Trump took office, there was concern that his administration would create a database of Muslims, which he repeatedly threatened to do (before denying he made those threats). But Bush did actually create such a database, called the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS), that, according to CNN, "disproportionately targeted Arabs and Muslims and was a point of contention between rights groups and the federal government for nearly a decade." (Barack Obama's administration ended the system, saying it had become outdated.)

Trump has created a commission to study "voter fraud" in an obvious effort to intimidate voters and drive turnout down—Bush did the same thing. Trump has appointed unqualified cronies to important posts—Bush nominated his White House counsel, who had never been a judge, to the Supreme Court. Trump's administration denies climate change is a problem—so did Bush's.

It's not just that Bush was bad too. (Bush was very very bad too!) The point is that the bad Presidencies of Bush and Trump (and yes I would throw Obama in with them) do not exist in isolation from one another. One shapes the world in which the other can exist. Bush is the context from which Trump derives. Trump is a monster. Bush was one of the monsters that begat this one.  One implicates the other. There's no honest way to do a favorable/unfavorable comparison.  But there are a lot of dishonest people out there.

It was twice as big

Ho hum, nothing to see as usual.

Will the new hotels be unionized?

I wonder which "vast new hotel development nearby" the Unite Here organizers were talking about here.
Lila Zucker, a bartender at Loews New Orleans Hotel, said her chronic health issues would prevent her from working without the $10 a month health insurance she's able to purchase through the hotel's union contract. Odell Brown, who works as a banquet steward at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, called for workers to receive a larger piece of the company's more than $10 billion in annual revenue. Gabby Bolden, a banquet server at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, mentioned rumors of a vast new hotel in development nearby.

"It is our business to make sure that [any new hotel] jobs are union jobs with decent wages and benefits," she said. "We all deserve a fair wage."
It says, "rumors" so I thought first of the so-called Trade District development expansion of the upriver Convention Center property. On our NOligarchs map (which needs some updating, btw) we were calling this area "Jaegertown" because Joe Jaeger and Darryl Berger appeared to have an inside track as developers there.   But just this month, we read that project has been "mothballed" for the time being. So what's the big thing in the works now?

There's Four Seasons moving into WTC (eventually) but that's much more than a "rumor" at this point. Heck, its projected revenue is already part of mayoral candidate Desiree Charbonnet's budget plans.  Speaking of which, I guess neither candidate made it out to the Unite Here rally. That's kind of a shame given that organizing hospitality is going to have to be a top priority for anyone committed to battling economic inequality in New Orleans under the next administration. (We're still not sure LaToya Cantrell even believes inequality is a problem.)  There were a couple of council candidates out there, though.
Bolden also urged elected officials to support local organizing efforts, but two City Council candidates who attended the rally already had pledged their support. James Gray, the incumbent District E councilman currently in a  Nov. 18 runoff election against opponent Cyndi Nguyen, donned a red UNITE HERE shirt and vowed to assist to the union in contract negotiations if he is re-elected.

Jay Banks, who faces Seth Bloom in a runoff for the District B City Council seat, also spoke, saying he would be "a friend" to unions if elected. "Making sure that families can work and afford to live is crucial to the survival of this city," he said.
Banks has also served on the Convention Center board so it's significant that he's aware of the need for stronger unions in hospitality.  Bloom is the only candidate on the citywide slate I've seen actually oppose a $15 minimum wage. So that's a pretty stark contrast. 

Thursday, October 19, 2017

GOMESA Went missing

Okay nevermind the title. We'll workshop it.  Here's what's happening.
An unexpected shortfall in Louisiana’s share of offshore oil and gas royalties could force the state to delay or cancel coastal restoration projects scheduled to start as soon as 2019, according to the state’s Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority.

Officials said Wednesday that the state’s share of revenue next year from the federal Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, or GOMESA, will be about half of what they had expected.

Until recently, Louisiana anticipated a payout of about $175 million, the maximum allowed under the royalty-sharing agreement. The first major payment was to come in the spring.

Of that, $140 million would have gone to the coastal restoration authority. Now, the agency expects to receive just $60 million to $70 million.
That's... a lot less than expected. What's expected is nowhere near the tens of billions of dollars that are needed just to somewhat satisfactorily mitigate the catastrophic land loss we're already certain to experience in the coming decades.  Also, Trump wants to scrap the GOMESA fund in his budget plan.  This comes after we had to beat back a different plan by the Obama Administration to reallocate the money as well.  Good thing we've got nothing but time here, right?

Standing offers

I would just like to remind everyone I am willing to accept the post of Inpector General or one of the 10 other Inspectors General whose jobs will mostly be about investigating one another once those positions become available. I'm pretty confident there's money to be made in a job like that if you know how to play the angles.

Also I am available to manage or advise a campaign for anybody running in the next local election cycle who wants to win.  I will tell you exactly how for one million dollars. Oh and don't worry I don't think this gig will interfere with my duties as Inspector General. In fact I can think of some ways these roles could prove complementary. 

Amazon is not coming here

New Orleans is not going to win the big national corporate welfare sweepstakes to lure one of the country's most notorious labor abusers to build a headquarters here. This is probably a good thing. It means local poor people won't be subsidizing whatever package of "tax incentives" are required to bring in the "quality tech jobs" that won't go to them anyway.  The local booster crowd needs to find a new obsession.

This does NOT mean they should get any ideas about handing whole neighborhoods over to tech conglomerates so that they can turn them into EPCOTs. Somebody already thought of that.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

So far behind that nobody actually lives here

A lot of cities suffer from this kind of local inferiority complex combined with cluelessness (to put it charitably) among the political leadership.  New Orleans is an especially bad example.
Researcher Jeffrey Goodman has looked into short-term rental ordinances across the U.S. He says when it comes to city regulation, there are typically three waves. First, there’s the original ordinance on the books, usually from the 1950s, that doesn’t work to accommodate any short-term rental arrangement, because it doesn’t include any enforcement mechanism. Next, cities usually try to work with the rental platforms.

“They were like ‘we’re hip, we’re cool,’” says Goodman of what he has observed of city governments’ attitude toward working with the companies in recent years. “And they worked with these companies not realizing that it’s regulatory capture. Not realizing that having the companies have a lot of influence in writing their own ordinance led to bad outcomes, and a lot of cities felt played.”

The third wave, according to Goodman, is currently unfolding in places like Anaheim and San Francisco, with cities requiring more of the companies and the latter responding with litigation.
New Orleans officials like to brag about their "first of a kind" short term rental regulations.  In truth, they're really just behind the curve again. What happens when we get to the "third wave" described above?  That will depend on who is running things at that time and what their attitude might be.

Primary post-mortems

Posting here has been kind of slow because I'm writing up a bunch of stuff about the primary results. The short version is the mayor's race is over and the reason for that is the Charbonnet campaign blew it big time on many fronts. What I'm writing are a series of posts that examine several of those fronts in detail.

To understand why it's over, one need only  take a look at The Lens's precinct maps. Specifically, look at all of these Cantrell precincts (in green) in the Lower Ninth and in East New Orleans that Charbonnet needed to carry in order to have any shot in the runoff.

I'm going to write more about why it went this way later. But just know, for now, Charbonnet isn't going to dig out of that hole.  Cantrell is looking at something like 60% of the vote in the runoff now.

There's a lot more to say about all of this. In the meantime here is a starter question to think about.  This week, Cantrell's backers (and some ostensibly neutral observers) are heralding her "progressive" and even "populist" campaign.  Why is it none among them seems to have noticed this one quote from election night picked up on only (as far as I can tell) by me and conservative TP columnist Tim Morris
Cantrell, meanwhile, will be trying to assure her doubters that she is not the radical community organizer of their nightmares and that her experience representing City Council District B has prepared her to become mayor.

"I'm not talking now about taking from the rich and giving to the poor and all that kind of crap," Cantrell said in a telling moment of her victory speech. "What I'm talking about is creating balance so everyone feels like they're winners. We all can win. It is not a zero sum game as we have been made to believe. We will not be pitting neighborhoods against one another, we will be building up neighborhoods."
I'll come back to that as well as ton of other stuff later. But I'd love to hear Cantrell voters, in particular, describe what they think it means.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

It happens all the time

We really only hear about the big ones. But even those are pretty low key compared to the big one.
An oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last week may be the largest in the U.S. since the 2010 blowout at BP Plc’s Macondo well that sank the Deepwater Horizon rig.

The Delta House floating production facility about 40 miles (64 kilometers) southeast of Venice, Louisiana, released 7,950 to 9,350 barrels of oil from early Wednesday to Thursday morning, according to closely held operator LLOG Exploration Co. That would make it the largest spill in more than seven years, data from the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement show, even though it’s a fraction of the millions of barrels ejected in the 2010 incident.
Sounds serious, right? It barely registered in this news cycle. (In part thanks to an different oil rig exploding in Lake Pontchartrain, by the way.) But really it's all just business as usual.
Even a few thousand gallons of spilled oil is consequential. Even more consequential are more than 30,000 of those so-called small spills each year. Which is probably the bare minimum spill estimate, says Manthos of SkyTruth. Really, it's hard to know if this figure is complete, and even harder to calculate the volume of oil being leaked. Some new oil equipment is smart enough to know when, and measure how much, it leaks. But those sensors can malfunction. Plus most oil infrastructure is way older. Most of the time oil companies, activists, and the US Coast Guard are all doing some version of educated guessing.
Basically, oil is always spilling or leaking into the gulf. Every now and then we get to hear about it.

Monday, October 16, 2017


Who watches the watchers of the watchers and why?
Adding to the palace intrigue already engulfing his office, retiring New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux on Monday fired a top deputy who authored a report that said the office was plagued with the same kind of corruption it was created to root out.

Quatrevaux called the report by Howard Schwartz biased and aimed at impugning a potential rival of Schwartz's. The IG terminated Schwartz, the assistant IG for investigations, just days before he was due to take over the office on an interim basis.

However, Schwartz's firing won't change that, according to Ethics Review Board Chairman Allen Miller, who earlier this month tapped Schwartz to replace Quatrevaux temporarily when the inspector general retires on Thursday.

Schwartz is also a candidate to succeed Quatrevaux permanently, a decision that will be made by the Ethics Review Board, which oversees the inspector general's work.
Or to put it another way, anybody who tells your they're just here to get the politics out of politics is probably also politically motivated. Why do we even have an IG's office other than for the purpose of keeping up appearances?

It's actually worse if you impeach him

This is a separate question from whether or not he ought to be impeached. There's plenty reason to believe any of the many threads of corruption that constantly spool outward from Trump will lead us to that. We're not quite there yet but it's not hard to see. Of course, it will never happen with a GOP Congress but that's a third question already and we really just started this with a notion to consider one.  That question is, after Trump is removed, will it be worse?  Yes it probably will.
A staff member from Trump’s campaign recalls him mocking Pence’s religiosity. He said that, when people met with Trump after stopping by Pence’s office, Trump would ask them, “Did Mike make you pray?” Two sources also recalled Trump needling Pence about his views on abortion and homosexuality. During a meeting with a legal scholar, Trump belittled Pence’s determination to overturn Roe v. Wade. The legal scholar had said that, if the Supreme Court did so, many states would likely legalize abortion on their own. “You see?” Trump asked Pence. “You’ve wasted all this time and energy on it, and it’s not going to end abortion anyway.” When the conversation turned to gay rights, Trump motioned toward Pence and joked, “Don’t ask that guy—he wants to hang them all!”

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Congratulations Mayor Cantrell

More on this later because today is a Saints game and I gotta go to the Dome. But just for handicappers out there check out Grace this morning.
There was some expectation that Charbonnet, whose family has deep roots downtown, would dominate those precincts, and that Cantrell would perform best Uptown, where she represents City Council District B. Cantrell did indeed own the precincts above Canal Street, with the exception of some largely white areas that Bagneris won. But she also showed surprising strength in what was supposed to be Charbonnet's home base, where she won a quite a few precincts outright. That's got to be a concern to the Charbonnet camp.
Grace goes on to say a few things there I think are either misleading or flat out wrong but, like I said, we'll come back to that. The above paragraph is the story.  This thing is over. You might as well stop the fight here.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Free Ray

I'm sure there are many people who are worried about the implications of the McDonnell case for the future. And I'm sure those people have some good points to make about that. But all things being equal, Nagin has probably suffered enough already. There are plenty of public officials who have done worse and been punished less severely for it.
Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin has asked a federal judge to throw out his corruption conviction, citing a recent Supreme Court decision making it more difficult to convict public officials of bribery.

Acting as his own attorney, Nagin filed a motion Wednesday "to vacate, set aside or correct" his 10-year sentence for bribery, "honest-services" wire fraud, conspiracy to commit bribery and money laundering and filing false tax returns.

Nagin argues that his case is identical to corruption cases recently overturned by U.S. Supreme Court concerning former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and by a federal appeals court concerning former New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver.

Nagin's case was reassigned Thursday to U.S. District Judge Jane Triche Milazzo. The judge who presided over Nagin's trial retired last year.
One thing we could stress about Nagin's case, though, is it's important to remember how he came into office in the first place. Once upon a time, Ray Nagin was sold to voters as an innovative entrepreneur who was going to run city government like a business.  A vote for Ray was a vote against the "corrupt machine."

Of course, in New Orleans politics, "corrupt machine" is a term applied to traditionally black political organizations. There are plenty of powerful and corrupt white operators in town but they're usually described as "business leaders." It's a convenient shorthand for signaling to racially motivated voters even when there is no actual white person among the major candidates. This terminology persists in campaign 2017 coverage.

The lesson of Ray Nagin should have been that one need not be part of the "corrupt machine," to engage in corrupt practices. But the "business leaders" have since revised the story to the point where nobody is able to agree as to which side owned Nagin in the first place. And, of course, since nobody remembers anything that happens, we'll have to go around like this again and again.

On the other hand this year's business leader reform candidate may have an easier time of things.  If the McDonnell decision can vacate Nagin's conviction, it may prevent the next Nagin from even being prosecuted. Given the arbitrary nature of the justice system as it is, that may not be a bad thing altogether. Although, one can imagine that current and future public officials might feel emboldened by this and, well, all sorts of things.

The Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans has declared an "extreme emergency" to hasten the repairs of an unusual electricity-generating turbine that's been in disrepair for more than a decade.

Without so-called Turbine 4, the agency can't produce enough electricity to power the city's aging drainage system during heavy thunderstorms, S&WB deputy superintendent Bruce Adams wrote Sunday (Oct. 8) in a letter calling for the emergency.

The declaration gives the agency's executive staff free rein to buy any parts and equipment and hire any outside specialists to finish a repair job that ballooned to $24 million and has stretched on for more than five years. 

How much money is Ron Forman's con-profit stealing this time?

Do we even ask that sort of question anymore? Or is it just a matter of course that the oligarchs always get a cut?
Another point of confusion over how far along designs are for the bridge depended on the involvement of the Audubon Nature Institute, which Berni said "will be in charge of construction" of the bridge and will "take part in the design process." The mayor's office's announcement last week revealed the new bridge would be built on property owned by Audubon and connecting with the nonprofit's Aquarium of the Americas. Berni said Wednesday that the city is currently working out a cooperative endeavor agreement with Audubon to make use of the property for the bridge.
Meanwhile, they're having trouble explaining to councilmembers why the pedestrian bridge costs so much.  One thing they are sure they don't want to spend any money on, though, is giving homeless people a place to get out of the rain. Even if that means, you don't get one either.
Pressed by Guidry, Berni further hinted that aside from added costs, one impetus for keeping the bridge roofless might be to discourage homeless people from being there.

"Yeah, I think that's probably one reason," Berni said. "But I'm sure there are many others, including cost."

Can we please finish the War On Halloween first?

No discipline in this administration. Just going to keep blundering into wars at full speed.
Trump, nine months into his presidency, has found it harder to get things done than the ease with which he made promises on the campaign trail, making speeches to adoring audiences like Friday's in Washington key to boosting the President's morale. And the audience at the Values Voter Summit, an annual socially conservative conference, didn't fail to deliver.
"We are stopping cold the attacks on Judeo-Christian values," Trump said to applause, before slamming people who don't say "Merry Christmas."
"They don't use the word Christmas because it is not politically correct," Trump said, complaining that department stores will use red and Christmas decorations but say "Happy New Year." "We're saying Merry Christmas again."
Congratulations on finally getting us back to the Bush years. Not only culturally but strategically as well. And, yes, yes, of course Obama mostly stayed the Imperial course foreign policywise. But we're getting back now to overt neocon bluster here. Maybe this is what MAGA was always about.  

Real quick cheat code to the mayor's race

In one corner, you have the following.

Sidney Torres
Frank Stewart
Anne Milling
Neil  Abramson
Leslie Jacobs
Boysie Bollinger
Lane Grigsby
Jay Lapeyre

In the other corner, you have what the wealthy white plutocrats listed above and their allies in local media  refer to as a "corrupt machine" because that is how you dogwhistle in New Orleans politics.  Like we've been saying all along, this is 2002 all over again. I think the result is likely to be similar as well.

Meanwhile, here's the show we recorded this week. It expands on the above points. Sorry it's so long but there was a special guest and a lot of stuff to talk about.  We cover the election in the first hour (just after the hurricane talk) and included in that coverage is a minor scandal we're pretty sure is an exclusive.

We'll write more before the polls close tomorrow. Here are a few items we've posted previously that might be worth review.

In August we looked at the controversies over Bagneris's and Charbonnet's respective donors and what that means in the bigger picture. 

Last week we took notes on the WDSU debate and hashed out the four "major" candidates' positions and strategy.

Also here is the AntiGravity No Nonsense Guide which I always find helpful.

Oh and last week's podcast had some stuff on Torres's involvement.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Trump is "normal"

That is to say, the Trump phenomenon our friends in the professional political establishment prefer to view as some sort of aberration is actually nothing of the sort. Instead it's just the latest waypoint in a long running American trudge to the far right that shows no signs of slowing.
Several leaders of key activist groups held a news conference Wednesday to denounce Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and his leadership team, accusing them of ignoring grass-roots conservatives and hitting them for the GOP’s failure to repeal Obamacare.

“This pattern of failure from McConnell’s gang of five leadership team while loathing and attacking their own base, the most loyal bloc of voters that has elected them and all of their caucus members, can no longer be tolerated,” said Ken Cuccinelli, president of the Senate Conservatives Fund, which has supported conservative challengers take on GOP incumbents.
There is always room on the right to outflank even the most reactionary Republicans. The signatories to this attack on McConnell know. They've only been at this forever
First there’s Richard Viguerie, basically the inventor of right wing direct mail fundraising. In many ways Viguerie invented clickbait and fake news decades before the Internet. He’s 84.

Then there’s Brent Bozell. Bozell has lived his entire life in the sinecure right wing activism world, which some very unnice people are ungenerous enough to call the world of ‘wingnut welfare’. He founded the Media Research Center in 1987 – full-time yakking about ‘liberal media bias’. His father was L. Brent Bozell, Jr., partner with Bill Buckley is launching much of what we know as movement conservatism today. Among many other things he ghosted Barry Goldwater’s ‘Conscience of a Conservative’, a bible of young conservatives in the early 60s which helped launch his 1964 presidential run.

To the extent that Trump is something ‘new’ in the GOP firmament, these folks are as old as it gets. The other three all predate Trump and in key cases predate the Tea Party. Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots is the ‘newest’ person on the list.
It's a little weird that Marshall goes on almost to discount the significance of this even as he recognizes it. 
There’s no new anything. Trump is the candidate of the most unreconstructed elements of movement conservatism. In many ways, the folks modern conservatives don’t want to associate with publicly anymore.
Not sure what he means by "modern conservatives."  If he thinks they're anything apart from the movement that spent the last several decades getting us to Trump, he's wrong about that. Also I would argue there's nothing to stop them continuing on in this direction indefinitely.

The problematic sandwich shop

Eat at Melba's

Y'all have probably eaten at Melba's at least once by now. It's very good. They do po-boys and plates and stuff. The gumbo is really good. The ordering system is a bit of an adventure but once you figure it out it's fine. There should probably be more places like it. But there's a lot that goes into getting even something seemingly so modest off the ground quickly.  Melba's has been open for only a couple of years but has gotten a lot of attention. This can only happen for a family business if it starts with a fair amount of financial and political capital already in the bank which these guys certainly had in spades as this 2015 profile explains.
Melba’s is the latest venture for Scott Wolfe Sr., the grocer who made Wagner’s Meat into a household name in New Orleans, even for those who never shopped at his stores, thanks to its potentially blush-inducing slogan: “You Can’t Beat Wagner’s Meat.”

Wolfe and his family also created the Chicken Box (slogans: “Tastes Like Mama’s” or, at some locations, “Tastes Like Ya Mama’s”), a related chain of takeout joints that had a short but colorful run in the years before Hurricane Katrina. This was the company that once offered to put on weddings for couples who bought its 1,000-piece chicken package to cater their receptions.

After shifting to real estate development in the years after the storm, Wolfe quietly returned to the retail game in 2012. That’s when he first opened Melba’s, turning a vacant drycleaners on Elysian Fields Avenue into a 24-hour combination po-boy shop, daiquiri shop and washateria.

More recently, the menu has expanded with a steam table selection of New Orleans comfort food, boiled seafood and, as he’s resurrected the Chicken Box brand, fried chicken (the 1,000-piece package is available, though the wedding offer is not). More is on the way, including urban gardens Wolfe plans to develop on adjacent lots, an outdoor event venue and some 500 birdhouses he wants to distribute around the city bearing a Melba’s sales pitch.
The high profile cuts both ways, though.  The Wolfes found this out after a TV crew showed up at Melba's to get some man-on-the-street takes from customers about the Great NFL Kneeling Controversy of 2017.
What brought the crisis to Melba’s, however, was a comment from the manager on duty at the time. Mike Wolfe told WWL-TV that he didn’t want to show the Saints game if players protested in that way.

The restaurant’s Facebook page lit up with angry comments, accusations of hypocrisy from a white-owned business based in a largely black neighborhood and calls to boycott Melba’s.

But Scott Wolfe, the owner of Melba’s, said his brother's comments amount to an employee of the company expressing a view that doesn't represent the business and is at odds with its character.

“What he said was not the opinion of Melba’s, it wasn’t my opinion, and it’s not how we operate here," said Wolfe. "I know it's confused a lot of people, but the people who know us know that's not what we're about."
"It wasn't my opinion." Okay sure, we'll just have to take his word for that.  Still, as long as the business isn't deliberately involving itself in the stupid boycott movement, they at least deserve credit for that.   It's pretty nice for them that they have the kind of pull that gets the Advocate to help them with their PR response, though.

I had to go to the other news"paper" to find this story.
The owner of 821 Gov. Nicholls St. is now challenging the city's enforcement of a ban on short-term rentals in the French Quarter in a lawsuit on the argument that what's being purchased is catering services -- not a short-term rental -- because the free night's stay is merely an optional bonus.

Despite the lawsuit, a city administrative hearing officer Wednesday (July 12) fined property owner 821 Gov Nicholls LLC $3,000 for six violations of the city's short-term rental ordinance. Officials showed a VRBO.com listing for "Melba's Mansion" during the hearing.

Scott Wolfe owns Melba's Po-Boys on Elysian Fields Avenue through the company K-Ville Market LLC. Wolfe said the Governor Nicholls property is owned by his family through 821 Gov Nicholls LLC.
The "Po-Boy party" farce isn't just some uh.. lone.. Wolfe.. action.  It's actually the beginning of a larger, concerted effort by the Short Term Rental lobby to further confound efforts to regulate their activities. 
Eric Bay, the director of the pro-short-term rentals group the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, appeared in an adjudication hearing with attorney Eric Torres to answer an enforcement action against a French Quarter short-term rental. Short-term rentals are illegal in most of the French Quarter under an ordinance that the City Council that took effect on April 1.

Bay does not own the short-term rental that was cited for operating illegally, and he insisted he does not represent the owner. But his appearance before the city's adjudication panel over a clearly illegal short-term rental raises fresh questions about how committed the organization is to complying with the city's short-term rental law.
Bay and his group practically wrote the ordinance.  It was their side who showed up in force at City Council to lobby for its passage.  But now they sense a political opportunity to press even further in the direction of full legalization. In order to do this they're pouring money into the municipal elections.  Gambit reported last month on some of the campaigns who have received money from Bay's group, Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity. ANP emails to members explicitly state that candidates, "have pledged to work with us" presumably in their efforts to expand STRs during the next term.

The council candidates named in that article have had to publicly backtrack and even return donations in order to keep up appearances. Gambit doesn't say anything about the mayoral candidates [THIS IS INCORRECT SEE * BELOW]
Cantrell also got $1,100 from the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, a local group of short-term rental property owners, and $2,500 from the Committee to Expand the Middle Class, Airbnb’s political action committee. Shachat said Cantrell has not given any assurances on what her policy on short-term rentals would be if she’s elected, other than to say that it would be “open, fair and transparent.”
As we've noted previously, Cantrell has demonstrated through her words and actions that she doesn't believe Airbnb is really all that much of a problem.  Wonder how she came to that conclusion. In any case, despite their reporting on the council races,  Gambit must not think STRs are all that much of a problem either. They've endorsed Cantrell for mayor, after all. Maybe they thought she was just talking about po-boys or something. Either way it's good to have friends in the media, whatever it is you might be trying to sell.

* This blog is a piece of trash sometimes.  Here is what Gambit actually wrote in that article.

ANP’s other campaign donations include:

- $1,000 to Ramsey on May 11 and $250 in June 2016.

- $100 to District B councilmember and mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell on Feb. 2 and $1,000 on May 24.

- $500 to At-Large Councilmember Jason Williams in June 2016 and $250 in November 2016.

Bay also made donations to Cantrell ($250 on Feb. 2) and District A candidate Joe Giarrusso ($250 on Sept. 2). Giarrusso contacted Gambit after this story initially ran to point out he returned Bay's contribution the same day it was made
Here's a little behind the scenes look at how this crap blog gets made sometimes. I read that Gambit article weeks ago and bookmarked it in here.  Later, I noticed Melba's was in the news vis a vis the Trump bullshit, remembered Wolfe and them were running the po-boy airbnbs, and thought I could put all of that together.

So I put all the bookmarks in a post and saved it for a while. Over the following days and weeks I came back here and wrote a few lines at a time about what I thought I remembered this  post was supposed to be about.  Usually I write while two or more people are talking to me and/or the TV is on. I'm actually typing this correction right now while listening to a mayoral debate.  I have severe Trump brain. It's a wonder any of these sentences ever come to a complete.......

Anyway, by the time I "finished" this post I had forgotten enough of the Gambit story that I ended up misrepresenting it (and snarkily so, even.)  Sorry about that.  I still think they shouldn't have endorsed a candidate in this terrible race, although that is a separate matter from what they published in the Airbnb story.

Delicious but deadly

It's likely that the solution here is fine.  The schools decided to install filters everywhere that should mitigate the lead hazard. But it probably would have been worth doing the testing anyway for informational purposes.  I'm having a hard time figuring out what justifies S&WB's aggressive pushback on that.

Bruh, I'm in Aspen too!

This is the plot of a rom com
Images of residents slogging through flood water and homes and businesses being inundated dominated local newscasts in New Orleans at 6 p.m.

An hour later, Gov. John Bel Edwards texted Landrieu, “Mayor: I’m in Aspen at (Democratic Governors Association) meeting. You need any help with rain/flooding in Nola”.

Landrieu responded: “We are in touch with your team and will make requests as needed. We are good at the moment. I am in Aspen as well at Aspen Institute. I have been in touch with my team. But I think we are ok.”

A lonely mayor and governor wandering lost in a faraway resort town use technology to reach out to one another during a moment of crisis. Aimless in Aspen? Something like that, anyway.

This is kind of a silly story.  The mayor goes out of town sometimes.  Nothing would have been different had he been in New Orleans during the flood. The actual negligence happened long before the rain started falling.  Still, it's funny that they're both in Aspen at the same time. There's nothing wrong with the governor and mayor traveling for official business. We'd like it better if the official business didn't involve Aspen.. especially the Aspen Institute.. so much, though.

Famous last words, Sean

The trade is fine and all. But this seems a bit optimistic.
Payton expressed confidence in Ingram and Kamara, and the coach said the timing and opportunity to trade Peterson to Arizona, the NFL's worst rushing team so far, was "perfect." The Saints received a conditional sixth-round pick for 2018.

"This was done just using common sense, and we had a chance to get a draft pick next year," Payton said. "I know Arizona was short at this position, and there's a confidence level we have with how Mark and how Alvin are playing."
That seems ok now but there's rarely a season when the team isn't completely out of running backs by the end of the year. Those of us who watched preseason really liked Trey Edmunds and all but, well, get ready to watch him play a lot later on. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

We have to get Adrian Peterson into the Hall of Fame as a Saint

It must become our life's mission.
Adrian Peterson's time in New Orleans will be nothing more than a small footnote in his career.

All the hype and expectations amounted to nothing more than him spending a couple of months in black and gold. And now that has come to an end with the running back being traded to the Arizona Cardinals in exchange for a conditional draft pick, according to an ESPN report.

New Orleans signed Peterson to a two-year deal, of which $3.25 million was guaranteed. The Saints will have a $1.25 million salary-cap charge for his signing bonus in 2018.
As many fans know, Hall of Fame running back (and LSU star) Jim Taylor ended his career with the expansion Saints in 1967.  Through 4 games these were his numbers:

41 rushes for 138 yards and one touchdown

12 receptions for 61 yards and one touchdown

Adrian Peterson's stats through 4 games in 2017:

27 rushes for 81 yards

2 receptions for 4 yards

Man, we didn't even get to see him fumble once.  But there was that one time when Peterson fumbling in the Superdome made all the difference in our lives. His HOF bust needs to at least have a little fleur-de-lis bezel on it.

Monday, October 09, 2017

I wonder what the term is

It's hard to imagine a descriptor for something an attorney can become that is worse than what they already are. (Bam! Lawyer joke! Nailed it!)
There is an old saying among attorneys about what one of their number turns into on becoming a federal judge.

The unflattering term they employ cannot be quoted here.

But whether it will apply to Wendy Vitter will not be the focus of their attention when, as seems highly likely, she joins the bench in New Orleans. In her case, the question must be not how she will treat counsel appearing before her, but whether she will have any idea what she is doing.

Compelling interest

Well it certainly could have gone worse. We were grateful to wake up Sunday and run the air conditioner rather than sit around in the dark waiting for updates on what businesses are open. After one line of thunderstorms early in the afternoon, it barely rained. New Orleans didn't experience even anything approaching tropical storm force winds. When people talk about the benefits of being on the western side of a land-falling storm, this is what they mean.  Or maybe God is just really happy with New Orleans. Let's ask Pat Robertson.

On the previous Tuesday, the wind caught by this Art for Art's Sake banner caused a larger electrical outage in the city than did anything associated with Hurricane Nate.

As the storm made its final approach, Mitch put on his bright blue embroidered L.L. Bean weather jacket and issued emergency instructions at this press conference.

blue coat

Among those instructions was a 7pm to 7am curfew. People immediately complained, as they do. That evening, as it became clearer that the city was no longer under threat, and as local TV made a point of reporting that nobody downtown was actually observing the curfew anyway, the mayor went ahead and lifted it after about an hour.  The next day, though, he complained, as he does.
"We followed the protocols to a T," he said of the storm preparations. "One of the things that the public has a hard time understanding is the amount of time it takes actually to ramp up, and the kind of harm that can be caused if they're out when something untoward happens."
Condescension is a common habit among politicos. But you see it most frequently from authoritarians like Mitch. The public didn't have "a hard time understanding" what was going on Saturday. Aside from the LSU game, Nate and its potential hazards were the only thing on Channel 4 all day. Furthermore, adults living in New Orleans tend to know how to handle themselves in these situations. Imposing a mandatory curfew on them isn't just an inconvenience. It is a threat to the already fragile right of free citizens to move about unperturbed by law enforcement.

Theoretically, curfews on adults are subject to strict scrutiny. But you can see here there are circumstances where courts have acquiesced to some erosion of our freedom of movement.

Adult Curfews & Strict Scrutiny

Curfews directed at adults touch upon fundamental constitutional rights and thus are subject to strict judicial scrutiny. The U. S. Supreme Court has ruled that "[t]he right to walk the streets, or to meet publicly with one's friends for a noble purpose or for no purpose at all—and to do so whenever one pleases—is an integral component of life in a free and ordered society." Papachristou v. City of Jacksonville, 405 US 156, 164, 31 L. Ed. 2d 110, 92 S. Ct 839 (1972).

To satisfy strict-scrutiny analysis, a government-imposed curfew on adults must be supported by a compelling state interest that is narrowly tailored to serve the curfew's objective. Courts are loath to find that an interest advanced by the government is compelling. The more justifications that courts find to uphold a curfew on adults, the more watered-down becomes the fundamental right to travel and to associate with others in public places at all times of the day.

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that this right may be legitimately curtailed when a community has been ravaged by flood, fire, or disease, or when its safety and Welfare are otherwise threatened. Zemel v. Rusk, 381 U.S. 1, 85 S. Ct. 1271, 14 L. Ed. 2d 179 (1965). The California Court of Appeals cited this ruling in a case that reviewed an order issued by the city of Long Beach, California, which declared a state of emergency and imposed curfews on all adults (and minors) within the city's confines after widespread civil disorder broke out following the Rodney G. King beating trial, in which four white Los Angeles police officers were acquitted of using excessive force in subduing an African-American motorist following a high-speed traffic chase. In re Juan C., 28 Cal. App. 4th 1093, 33 Cal. Rptr. 2d 919 (Cal. App. 1994).

"Rioting, looting and burning," the California court wrote, "pose a similar threat to the safety and welfare of a community, and provide a compelling reason to impose a curfew." "The right to travel is a hollow promise when members of the community face the possibility of being beaten or shot by an unruly mob if they attempt to exercise this right," the court continued, and "[t]emporary restrictions on the right… are a reasonable means of reclaiming order from anarchy so that all might exercise their constitutional rights freely and safely."
It is in no way clear that the "threat" posed by Nate rose to the status of a "compelling state interest" in forcibly keeping everybody inside.  It's perfectly reasonable for the city to recommend that people don't go out.  It was also a good idea to proactively barricade underpasses and roads along the lakefront in order to keep people from unwittingly driving into flood waters.

It's another matter altogether when we assume the right to stop and arrest people just for being outside.  Look what happens when police are allowed to think they can just do that.
The allegations first burst into public view two years ago with a lawsuit from former officer Daniel Swear alleging that he was forced to resign for speaking out against the quota system.

As that case heads to a December trial, documents filed in court this week provide a wealth of new information about the inner workings of a tight-knit police force of just over 100 officers.

In at least two instances, ranking officers were caught on tape talking about the department's “quotas."

A captain is accused of marking up a whiteboard to chart officers’ monthly arrests. Swear and two other officers say the same captain ordered them to hit the streets to gin up fees that would help make up for a potential $1 million budget shortfall.

The Gretna Police Department denies the allegations of arrest quotas. In court documents, its lawyers have cast all four of the people making the accusations as "former Gretna Police Department officers with axes to grind."

But regardless of how Swear’s case shakes out in court, his lawsuit provides a rare window into police practices in Gretna, which has been dubbed the arrest capital of the world for the eye-popping numbers of people who get booked there.
Maybe a budget shortfall is a "compelling state interest" too all of a sudden.   Is it too much to ask that the mayor of New Orleans at least consider these sorts of issues before shouting down at us all about our responsibilities during a minor weather event?

Saturday, October 07, 2017

It has barely rained

Earlier today, the mayor and about 19 other city officials on the podium told us we had better be off the streets by 7 or else. Councilmember Ramsey responded to questions about a supposed double standard "curfew" applied to residents but not necessarily to tourists.

Mackel followed up on that with a question to the mayor about enforcement in the event that some businesses remained open or hosted any sort of "hurricane party."  Mitch, visibly aggravated, warned that anybody out on the streets when the wind picks up "might catch a stop sign to the head."  

It's about 7:30 right now, Nate has made a "first landfall" in Plaquemines Parish. The wind is barely blowing in New Orleans and the National Weather Service has dropped the hurricane warning for Orleans Parish. WWLTV just reported from Bourbon Street where there are plenty people milling about after curfew.  Good for them. But, um, can we come out too yet?

Nate is really moving

25 mph

He's been screaming across the Gulf at 25-26 mph. If you blink you might miss him. So far the damage is minimal.  Nate's arrival has truncated the final hours of early voting in the municipal election. Other than that, there's not much to report. 

We did take what's become our traditional pre-hunkering meal out last night. This time we did Tujague's. This is the extremely garlicky and fantastic chicken bonne femme.

Chicken Bonne Femme

Friday, October 06, 2017

Thanks, but nah

cat 13

"yadda yadda hunker down, lean forward, etc etc"

At the afternoon presser they just announced a 6pm curfew for tomorrow night.  Seems like NOPD already has plenty to do during these events without also having to enforce a nuisance directive like that. But it is the style now, so..

"Just 46%"

I don't know, The Advocate, that seems like a frighteningly high approval rating for a guy with Cannizzaro's baggage.
Just 46 percent of voters said they approve of Cannizzaro's performance — a decline from the 55 percent approval he had when voters were asked to weigh in on the matter early last year.

The new poll, conducted by the Clarus Research Group, was based on interviews last week with 500 likely voters in New Orleans. It has a margin of error of 4.3 percentage points.

Ed Chervenak, a political science professor at the University of New Orleans, said Cannizzaro's popularity likely has been hurt by a confluence of factors, including a scandal in which prosecutors in his office acknowledged using "fake subpoenas" to pressure witnesses into cooperating in criminal cases.

Cannizzaro ended the practice after it was exposed by The Lens, the investigative news website. He told WWL-TV that the practice was "improper." 
Cannizzaro was a little more combative than that during a recent budget hearing where he defended the fake subpoenas as well as his office's use of material witness warrants to badger witnesses (including victims) into testifying in court and his abuse of so called "habitual offender" statutes.
Cannizzaro's office has an unusually high number of juvenile criminal cases that are converted to adult cases, Guidry said, and she said Cannizzaro's office has a "staggering" reliance on a habitual offender law. Many of those charged under the habitual offender law, Guidry said, originate as simple drug possession charges.

"He's paid for the crime once, but he's going to pay again," Guidry said, describing Cannizzaro's use of the habitual offender law. "If the habitual offender statute can be used, it will be."
But these are exactly the tough-on-crime measures nearly half of Orleans Parish voters continue to approve of.  Our mayoral candidates have been criticized for pandering a bit to the right on crime this year.  Looking at this, though, is it any surprise that they would?

From the hurricanes' perspective, this is really the greatest season ever

nate on friday

They really are hitting everybody this year. And it seems like they know just where to hit everybody too.   Nate is forecast to come onshore as a fast moving and weak category 1 storm. Under most circumstances that's pretty good. But in our case, really, the fact that it's coming at all is a problem.

You may have heard about this drainage issue, for example.
With the Sewerage & Water Board’s drainage system improved but still at diminished capacity in the wake of the Aug. 5 flooding, and facing the possibility of a direct hit by Nate, Mayor Mitch Landrieu declared a state of emergency for the city.

City agencies are readying for the storm but also telling residents to be prepared for flooding in some areas.

“When you get 5 to 10 inches of rain in two or three hours, you’re going to expect to see some flooding,” regardless of how many pumps are operating, Landrieu said.

An expectation of being dry 100 percent of the time when you live in New Orleans is not a reasonable expectation,” he added.
He's right about that one. To illustrate the point, yesterday our hurricane supply shopping list included a bottle of whiskey and a variety of beers. (We've got some Abita Pecan, some Miller Lites, and the Tin Roof with the LSU themed cans.) We aren't even planning to remain dry during the storm.  By the way, one of the odd things I noticed during Tuesday night's mayoral debate was Michael Bagneris's stated vision of "a dry city."  It raised all sorts of red flags.

Friendly neighborhood storm drain

In any case, we're probably not going to get that much rain.  Especially if the storm moves through as quickly as they're anticipating and if the track takes the easterly jog predicted as of this morning. We're frantically cleaning our storm drains just to be on the safe(r) side. That's good to know because, after the summer we've had, nobody is in any hurry to test the pumping system. 
As of Thursday, 108 of the 120 pumps that form the heart of the city’s drainage system were working. That’s four more than were working on Aug. 5.

Eight of the ones out of commission are the large drainage pumps used during storms, while four are small “constant duty” pumps only used for light rains.

As a result, eight of the 24 pump stations across the city are at between 50 percent and 96 percent of their theoretical maximum capacity, according to information from the S&WB.
"Theoretical maximum capacity" is a thing because of the continuing power limitations.  It's not only a function of how many pumps are in working condition. It's also about how many can be safely powered at one time. 
With three of its five turbines operational, the S&WB’s Carrollton power plant is now capable of producing or converting 39.25 megawatts of 25-cycle power, a standard used by about half the pumps in the city. Another 11 megawatts of the more standard 60-cycle power — used by the rest of the pumps — is available from 26 generators.

But that is not enough for the S&WB to run all its pumps at once, meaning officials could have to pick and choose where to direct power during a citywide storm. Logs from the Aug. 5 flood suggest that S&WB officials delayed turning on at least one pump station because power was not available.

Interim management team member Paul Rainwater cited the complicated dance the utility goes through during every storm to route power where it’s needed most and said of the pumps, “You don’t turn them on and run them full throttle all the time.”
If Johnese Smith were here she'd tell us a story about Captain Kirk yelling at Scotty to get him more power to the warp drive or something like that. Maybe that's what these guardsmen will be there to do.

There are actually more pumps to account for now than during this summer's thunderstorms. For the first time this year, the pumping capacity along the outfall canals will probably come into play. What kind of shape are they in? Who even knows?  You may also be curious, given the unusual speed at which Nate is approaching, how far along we are in the complicated process of closing the surge protection system altogether.
Anyone can see which gates are open or closed by using the Levee Information Management System, a software program  created by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

All of them must be closed as a storm approaches the region. Even that isn’t simple, because those closures must follow a complicated procedure spanning 96 hours and involving personnel from more than 10 local, state and federal agencies, as well as the maritime industry. And because the plan must account for changes in tide and wind predictions, it has twists and turns that can make it look like a Rube Goldberg creation.

It all results in a complicated dance in which a misstep could result in parts of the city getting very wet.

“It is carefully choreographed,” said Bob Turner, the engineer who is the regional director of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

“It’s somewhat unique in that the things you have to do in order to mitigate flood risk don’t always have strictly to do with flood control.”
In short, at the pumps and at the gates, we've got some carefully choreographed complicated dances going on to either power the pumps or seal off gaps in the system.  Ordinarily that might very well be reason to worry. Given the forecast, it looks like we'll probably be more or less okay. But, yes, by all means please be prepared to make whatever decision is the most prudent for you and your family. Beignet Fest can wait, you know.

Thursday, October 05, 2017

Free Dollar Bill

Looks like they're doing it.  There are a lot of opinions people can and do have about ol' Dollar Bill but it's pretty clear this is well overdue, as we've been saying for a while.

Also I continue to offer my very good idea for free to whoever wants it. The biography of Bill Jefferson could be the best story about New Orleans politics ever written.  Somebody should start working on it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2017

Tuesday Night Debateball


The exciting action from the "John Georges Auditorium" on the campus of  Dillard University is available from WDSU here.  Now that the candidates are on TV all the time, we're well past the point where any of them is going to say or do anything substantive.  Not that we've been in much danger of that happening at all this year. But last night was almost entirely on-script and therefore devoid of meaning. The very first question specifically asked them to say what about their approach to crime would distinguish them from their opponents. When they all answered by repeating one another's platforms and the cliches that describe them, it was clear we weren't going to learn anything from this one.

But I took notes so let's run through those real quick. 

It is with a heavy heart and with great trepidation that I introduce this strained metaphor but it must be said.  Desiree Charbonnet is the Hillary Clinton of this election. She is well funded, well connected, some would say well groomed and prepared for the office, and is running the most bland,  playing-not-to-lose campaign of everybody.  While it's fair to say all of the candidates are playing a cynical triangulation game, Desiree's version of that seems the most pure. As we've written previously, her ads and website are calculated to target specific slivers of voters with an almost paint-by-demographic obviousness.

Last night she continued in this vein, robotically non-answering whenever possible. I think her opening statement was, "Greetings, Earthlings.."   The most interesting thing she said had to do with Sewerage & Water Board which she has decided she does not want to fold into a city department. The reason for this is the independent board has bonding authority and, if it can borrow, that means Desi can pledge not to raise fees and taxes to support its operations.  No, this probably isn't feasible. But it's a creative way to finesse a difficult campaign issue and that's really all we're here to do, right?

If Desi's technocratic reserve calls to mind Hillary Clinton, then LaToya's full on smarm can be said to evoke Bill.  On the campaign trail thus far she has frequently draped her rhetoric in a kind of false empathy designed to comfort audiences but not necessarily commit to anything.  She tells personal stories about crime in her neighborhood, or the time she rode a bus past a housing project, or the fact that she, too, once lived in an apartment. I've watched her talk to hospitality workers about how she understands their experience having once worked in a hotel herself. They seemed to eat it up despite the fact she promises nothing in the way of supporting their efforts to organize today. There's very little that comes out of this candidate's mouth that anyone should take at face value.  Even her signature line, "nothing stops a bullet like a job" is cribbed from an L.A. gang intervention program.

In her opening statement last night, Cantrell told us she is running in order to "spread the love" whatever that might mean. At the times when one could pull policy positions out of her syrupy ooze, they invariably derived from a dismal neoliberal playbook. On crime, she talked up her record of pushing for more surveillance cameras. On flood control she lamented that only property owners were shouldering the tax burden saying that, I guess, poorer residents need to have more "skin in the game." On affordable housing, she talked about soft second mortgages, "incentives" for landlords, and some bootstrappy sounding ways to encourage homeownership. When it comes to rising rents, LaToya's solution seems to be we should have fewer renters. Which is weird given that she also boasted of her efforts to secure PILOT tax giveaways to the developers of the South Market District apartments. Wasn't the idea there to bring more rental units onto the market?  Maybe not, actually.
Wisznia could be just one of many developers who — intentionally or not — have run afoul of HUD requirements, she continued.

Many of the city’s prominent developments are HUD-insured properties, such as the South Market District’s Paramount Residences and the Woodward Loft Apartments in the Warehouse District.

A search of the city's database found at least one unit at Woodward to be operating as a commercial short-term rental.
It's worth noting also that every candidate ducked a question about Airbnb. Each of them said some version of LaToya's meaningless call for "balance."  Also, to be fair, LaToya isn't the only candidate promising tax giveaways to developers and corporations in hope that the benefits will "trickle down."  Charbonnet presented a hypothetical pitch to Amazon where she said she would help them apply for new market tax credits. I think I actually shot myself in the brain at this point so excuse me if I'm missing some things.

I believe I heard Michael Bagneris say he was going to compile facts and clean things up several times.  Like all the candidates, Bagneris loves police and thinks we need more of them.  Like all of them he ducked the question about the monuments. They all basically said it was time to move on and have less "divisiveness." Like the other candidates, his housing answer centered on blight remediation and boot-strap type talk. Like all the candidates he agreed to give Payton and Brees one more season with the Saints. (Yes, this was a question.) He repeated the "nuts and bolts" manufacturing pitch he launched his campaign with. So, Bagneris was his typical boring self, right?  Not exactly.

For one thing, he was the only candidate to deliver anything like a direct attack on anyone.
In the most heated exchange of the evening, Bagneris took a shot at one of Henry's big talking points, that he is best positioned to reform the Sewerage & Water Board because he once served as a top official at a wastewater management company called United Water. Bagneris pointed to the brief period when the company ran Atlanta's water system, calling it a time of "customer complaints," "broken pipes" and "excessive chlorine in the water."

"So that’s experience we can do without,” Bagneris said.
It might have been better if Bagneris had skipped the customer complaints and asked what, exactly, it is Henry did at United Water.  To hear him tell it, he was the "President" of the company.  It's been a few years since the last time anyone called him out for this particular lie.  Maybe in his mind there's a statue of limitations. In any case, Henry is more or less a flim flam artist. His function at United Water, whatever his title, was the privatization of water systems. The last time New Orleans was pushing in that direction under Ray Nagin, Henry was involved. Prior to that he was on the executive team at infamous energy deregulation profiteer Enron. Last month, Henry's name came up in a story about how a venture run by him and actor Wendell Pierce to build houses in Pontchartrain Park had defaulted on federal CDBG grants financed through..... wait for it..... yep, FNBC.

In previous mayoral forums, where the candidates were asked directly if they would consider privatizing Sewerage and Water Board, Henry has answered, "possibly."

Toward the end of this debate, Bagneris also dropped this little gem on us. 
Bagneris would raise eyebrows a second time before Tuesday night's debate ended, during a "lightning round" closing out the event. In response to a question about whether the city is in a “mental health crisis,” he replied, “Some of it is represented here.”  
He didn't specify who he meant. Given his earlier attack on Henry we can reasonably assume that was his target. Although, in this field who could blame us if we asked for a more specific answer?

Good morning everybody

The tropical forests of Earth are no longer net carbon capturers.

Best of luck.

Monday, October 02, 2017

What is happening

Here's the other QOTD
A request to demolish two vacant homes in the St. Roch neighborhood turned into complaints about abuses of the city's short-term rental ordinance at a New Orleans City Council meeting Thursday.

Councilwoman Stacy Head, who supported the short-term rental ordinance when it passed last year, questioned whether the new rules are working or whether the city is allowing property owners to break them.

I feel like I’ve been duped by this whole short-term rental bull,” Head said.
Stacy Head, welcome to #TheResistance, I guess. We kind of noticed something like this a few weeks ago when LaToya Cantrell took a more pro-STR than Stacy's at this council meeting.  But, well, only one of those two is currently running a campaign that has taken a fair amount of Airbnb money.  Guess which one. 


"When you kill somebody's little sister with a missile, he's going to hate you forever. And the next generation will hate you even more"

-- Tom Petty

Just another one of those sure-hope-the-pumps-are-on days

Plan your commute accordingly

If you still have power amidst today's regular rain conditions, which you may not,  you might pass the time by watching a few of the recent mayoral forums. Here are two that focused on S&WB issues specifically. The first was hosted by the Urban Conservancy on September 14. Please enjoy Matt Hill talking about paving roads with Styrofoam peanuts or something and Johnese Smith talking about Captain Kirk. It's all very inspiring.

This link should get you to the September 20 forum hosted by The Advocate.  In that one, LaToya says "Skin in the game" approximately five hundred times, Troy Henry talks about getting an NOPD "strike force" to go after "bad dudes" and Desiree says "we are fee-ed out" to a question about stormwater fees.

Meanwhile, what pumping capacity are we currently working with? It's anybody's guess today.