-->

Thursday, September 20, 2018

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

And so forth and so on.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

The Saints are gonna be ok

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

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


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

Everybody is turning in their homework today

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

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

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

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

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

Can we call it the Palmer Purge?

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

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

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

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

Monday, September 17, 2018

#CityOfFest

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Loose animal update

Cats are people too

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Political independence

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 15, 2018

People person

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



Friday, September 14, 2018

Some of these laws actually exist to protect you

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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






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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Heavy Flo day

To Area of Refuge

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Gayle is woke now

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Nobody actually lives there

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

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

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

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

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

Cyndi Nguyen, please come and get your zebras


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

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

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

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

Now we know what the "innovation district" was for

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 08, 2018

Just waiting until it all blows over

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

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

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

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

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

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

The day Brad Pitt truly became mayor

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 07, 2018

How are we going to define "significant"?

More importantly, why is it John Bel who is doing the lowballing here?
Amid teacher unrest and a widening pay gap with other states, Gov. John Bel Edwards plans to recommend an election-year salary increase of at least $1,000 for public school teachers in 2019, officials said Friday.

In addition, the governor's plan would boost the pay of school cafeteria workers and other support personnel by $500 per year, all part of a $114 million package.

Teacher union leaders, long aligned with the governor, are hoping for a bigger pay hike but are working with Edwards' office.
According to this article, it would take at least an $1800 raise to get Louisiana teachers up to the Southern regional average. It also cites at least one Republican legislator (Nancy Landry) who is willing to back that amount.  Of course whether or not even that is good enough is another matter altogether.  The general feeling is it's probably not a great idea to mess with the teachers right now. 
The LAE and the LFT, which are the state's two teacher unions, are aligned with Edwards, backed his bid for governor in 2015 and are expected to be key support groups when he runs for a second term next year.

All the pay raise talk is also taking place amid rising demands nationally to boost teacher pay, including strikes that produced pay raises in red states like Oklahoma, Arizona and West Virginia.

LFT leaders said in May that, in a survey of their members, 60 percent said they would favor a statewide walkout or strike to get a "significant" pay raise.
However we end up deciding what constitutes a "significant" pay raise, it's hard to imagine that $1000 should suffice.  The teachers are a key part of  John Bel's constituency so maybe their leadership has already signed off on this. But objectively speaking, he might as well be offering a punch in the head. 


Thursday, September 06, 2018

Telephone

This may seem like a tired point but it's worth considering again that there was a six month transition period before this administration took over.
City leaders in New Orleans have roughly three months to fashion next year's budget, and interests who have followed the process closely in years past are concerned over how much input the public will have in setting spending priorities.

Mayor LaToya Cantrell is considering whether to hold a series of telephone town halls to gather input on the 2019 budget, which her spokesman Beau Tidwell said was a "model used successfully last year." The mayor will begin engaging with residents on budget priorities "this fall," and plans for the telephone town halls are still being finalized, he said.
Sure, there was plenty of reasons to criticize Mitch's budget town halls.  It was never clear how anything that happened there actually plugged into the budget proposal the mayor produced. Sometimes they even happened after the document had been published.  Still, the telephone calls aren't an improvement. If anything they're a step backward. Which is exactly what Kelsey Foster says here.
Kelsey Foster, budget campaign manager for the Committee for Better New Orleans, said it was "disappointing" and "frustrating" to hear that Cantrell's administration is continuing Landrieu's one-time use of telephone town halls last year. The  nonprofit good government group had pushed for improving education ahead of Landrieu's seven annual in-person town halls that began in 2010, and its leadership sharply criticized the move to telephone town halls last year.

"The telephone town halls are what should be a much larger input opportunity. By themselves, they're kind of a step backward," Foster said.
But more importantly, the phone calls were a one-off choice by a Landrieu Administration on its way out the door last year at a time when public meetings were likely to have conflicted with.. or perhaps found themselves co-opted into.. campaign events during the concurrent election season. Maybe a spectacle like that might have been fun for some of us. But it probably would not have been for Mitch. So they just blew everything off with a conference call.

Cantrell has been a city council person for more than one term so she has plenty experience with all of this. Her transition team had six months lead time to put an administration together. The administration had all year to figure out how they wanted to do the budget. And it looks like what they've decided is... eh... whatever happened last year is fine.. maybe.

Well that's refreshing

It's actually kind of a relief when they just come out and say this is what they want to do.
A developer has plans to build a new, three-story apartment building at the corner of Magazine and Felicity streets. The building, which the developer intends to operate as commercial short-term rentals, will go up on the site of the old Dat's Grocery, which was demolished last year.

The project at 1600 Magazine St. would include five units with six on-site parking spaces as well as a rooftop terrace and a "community gallery display" planned for the ground floor facing Magazine Street, according to plans filed with the city's Historic District Landmarks Commission. The 11,300-square-foot building will "be rented for commercial short-term rental," though it may also be operated as a bed and breakfast, according to city records.
It's a good thing we don't have a housing problem in this city right now.  Also it's interesting that they've got the confidence to go ahead with this as the city council is still considering changes to its short term rental regulations.  I guess there's nothing for them to be afraid of after all.

The future of transit

No bicycles

Kristin Palmer introduced an ordinance today. At least, it was on the agenda today. I haven't seen any reporting from the meeting yet so I don't know what its status is currently. (Aside: There are far fewer reporters on the City Hall beat these days. And what they produce is not as consistently detailed as it once was either. I assume Kevin Litten will have something pretty decent out by the end of the day but it's no guarantee anyone else will. So it goes.)  Anyway the ordinance says you can't park your bike pretty much anywhere anymore.






I've been trying to figure out for a while now what the big obsession is with bike parking. I see signage like that photo at the top of this post all over town lately.  That's still a mystery to me. But I do know what Palmer's issue is. She wants to adjust the law in a way that makes it easier for the scooter rental companies to operate.

With input from Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration, District C Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer is drafting three ordinances to regulate app-based electric scooter rental companies, which have moved rapidly into U.S. cities and are prepared to roll out in New Orleans.

But Palmer wants to pump the brakes until her office has put together a package that’s “enforceable and good for the public,” with laws that build out the city’s two-wheeled infrastructure and prevent New Orleans from falling into the same kinds of legal problems and traffic headaches that have cropped up in the scooters’ wake across the country.
Sorry if that inconveniences any of Palmer's actual constituents. But it's important to make sure we're going out of the way to accommodate these universally praised scooter operators
It’s the most recent leg in a race to replace or compete with the entire concept of mass transit, “disrupted” by companies with billion-dollar valuations. Companies now have inserted themselves into the public part of public transit with an ad hoc network of "shared" bikes, scooters and cars. And those companies are moving quickly to shape the future of transit — “public” in nature but private in its terms. A $2 bus or streetcar fare is replaced with a $10 Uber ride. Bike rentals (or “bikeshare”) kiosks dot popular urban centers, adding more options for transit in areas already dense with them.
And who doesn't want to be part of "the future of transit," right? Specifically the part you will play is ceding your right to share the commons so that Lime can profit from "sharing"  its products.

Update Council passed this rule unanimously.  Palmer says they've accounted for the bike parking problem.
But the rule passed Thursday seeks to address one earlier concern: that bikes attached to stop signs or poles might be pulled off city streets if bike racks are full or absent in neighborhoods where they travel.

It also paves the way for plans to store dockless scooters in spots marked by painted lines on city streets.

“We want to ensure that there’s no collateral damage in terms of the removal of bicycles that can be chained (to spots other than bike racks), due to lack adequate safe bike parking,” said City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who chairs the council’s transportation committee and has led the effort to usher in scooter share.

The wording was a change from what was proposed previously.
What she means is they won't come take your bike if it's locked up. But she adds, "due to lack of adequate safe bike parking" which suggests there may come a point when they deem the parking "adequate" such that they can make you stop tying up to posts and signs. She says they're working on that now.
Palmer said at the time that she would work with the city to install more racks. City crews are also planning to stripe portions of streets with lines designating parking for scooters and bikes, a step that would cost less. 

But while those plans are being finetuned, people will still be allowed to lock up their bicycles to posts and poles, as they do now, she said Thursday. Scooters won't be allowed on city sidewalks, but plans are in the works to carve out space for them on city streets, council staffers said.
In other words, they're still coming for your bike. Just not yet. 

Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Guess it's time to mark ourselves safe


It is a day of recovery here in the wake of not-quite-hurricane Gordon.  The storm didn't hit us at all. Instead it became the latest in a string of rather lucky events where after a few days of worry it turns out to have barely even rained.  These come with their own sets of anxieties and arguments over what is the appropriate level of preparedness.  But, really, non-disasters like this are fantastic problems to have.  Far better to be mad online today about unplanned school closures than, say, massive levee failures, right?

Anyway, up until late last night, it was looking like we, finally, after years of well earned post-traumatic overreaction, handled this situation just right.  Nobody called an unnecessary evacuation.  There was no absurd curfew.  We all got to see those pre-storm press conferences we love so much. Helena Moreno said "hunker down" a few times.  That seemed about right for the occassion.  Alert but not freaking out.

It was a good idea to close the schools and city offices on Tuesday.   At the time that call was made, the track could well have wobbled westward enough to cause power outages and street flooding.  Giving everyone a day to prepare for that just in case was prudent.  You could argue either way about closing on Wednesday.  I was fine with it but maybe the call was bit premature.  But once that call is made, it's probably best to stick with it.  LaToya changed her mind late last night, probably in response to complaints/jokes that are probably best ignored as people decompressing after the fact.  Instead the late call back causes unnecessary confusion and stress as people rework their plans on short notice. It's not very respectful of those non-essential city employees she had previously professed to think of as her "family."

One such Public Works employee had an interesting letter published in the Times-PicaDotCom today.  Here's what she has to say.
We ask that the Cantrell administration and the people of New Orleans put themselves in our shoes. Imagine doing back-breaking work for the city you love, and still needing public assistance because you aren't paid a living wage. Imagine working your fingers to the bone and not even being given a pair of gloves. That's why we went on strike, and that's why we're going to continue to fight for our rights and our dignity.

We're not the only members of the New Orleans community that don't get a fair shake. Black women in Louisiana make 48 cents for every dollar a similarly qualified white man makes. Formerly incarcerated job applicants who are trying to start new lives get half as many calls back as similarly qualified applicants who don't have to check "the box."

That's why we're joining together with Step Up Louisiana, SEIU Local 21LA, and other workers across the city to demand economic justice for all New Orleanians. This Labor Day, we're calling for a $15 minimum wage for city employees. We want equal pay for women for equal work. We want to ban the box on hiring applications so our neighbors who are returning from incarceration have a fair chance at finding a job.
That bit at the end references the Step Up "Three Point Platform" promulgated during last year's municipal elections. Recall that Latoya "fully endorsed" that platform as a candidate.




It now appears that the mini-strike at Public Works is part of an effort to hold the mayor (and the several members of City Council who also endorsed the platform) accountable to that promise.  New Orleans currently has a "living wage" ordinance on the books that sets the minimum rate at $10.55 (plus inflation adjustments).  Since the current government was elected while promising to take up the cause of amending that to $15, now is the time to ask them to do that. 

But this wasn't the only promise the mayor made last year. Her other big one presents a direct conflict with the wage increase pledge.
On the campaign trail, one of Cantrell’s most consistent campaign promises was that she would revisit the city’s traffic camera program, which was significantly expanded under her predecessor, Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Cantrell called for scrapping the program altogether, or at least suspending it pending the completion of a comprehensive safety study.

But since taking office, her administration has yet to come out with a firm policy proposal for the program. And with city budget season fast approaching, it hasn’t addressed how it would deal with the lost municipal revenue. The cameras are expected to produce between $25 million and $30 million this year, about 25 percent of which goes to the city’s camera contractor.

Last month, the Advocate reported that Cantrell was considering a compromise: keep the cameras in school zones but only operate them during school zone hours, when speed limits are reduced to 20 miles per hour.
It may be that she has to break one of these promises to pay for the other one. That's probably a tougher call than deciding whether or not to close for a storm that never comes.

Monday, September 03, 2018

Extra holliday

Everything is closed tomorrow. Except UNO, Loyola and Tulane, I guess. The Governor declared a state of emergency saying, "Nobody should panic but everyone should take this seriously," but this was the same press conference where he took some time to talk shit about college football so.. I don't know.. mixed messages?




Also S&WB says they're at full a pretty acceptable capacity.  We'll see.  Anyway here's the 10PM advisory.  Looks like the storm is moving a bit faster now which is good news. It also looks stronger and is not coming in at the most pleasing angle for us here. So, well, keep an eye on it.




I made a late run to Rouses tonight to pick up supplies in case we lose power.  I bought ice cream sandwiches and milk. That's the thing to do, right?

Let's get some updates on Gordon



They moved the track east a bit. Also now they think it might get to hurricane strength. Oh, also, hello there is a storm in the Gulf named Gordon. Hope everybody had a nice holiday weekend. It's likely to be extended now. 

The Governor called out the Crisis Action Team (CAT) and then he called out the Unified Command Group (UCG) which, I guess is more serious since it gets do call press conferences.   Seems like it's about time to hear about that big City Hall presser where they jam 800 people behind one podium but so far all they say is they're monitoring things.

Friday, August 31, 2018

Bringing in the best

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everybody's gotta figure out their cut

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

Thursday, August 30, 2018

Moving in the direction of looking

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

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

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

How many potholes does $5000 fix?

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

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

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

Maths backwards

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

They will call him Touchdown Ted

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

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

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

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

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

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

People shouldn't post stuff on the internet

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

You are not New Orleans

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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