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Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Let them eat resilience

Best of luck everybody!
The Federal Emergency Management Agency was already supporting 692 federally declared disasters when hurricane season started last year. Then came the most destructive disaster season in U.S. history, causing $265 billion in damage and forcing more than a million Americans from their homes. FEMA was overwhelmed.

So the agency has a novel suggestion for Americans as the 2018 disaster season heats up: Don’t rely on us.

In a report last week evaluating its response to last year’s disaster, FEMA details “how ill-prepared the agency was to manage a crisis outside the continental United States, like the one in Puerto Rico,” The New York Times reported. “And it urges communities in harm’s way not to count so heavily on FEMA in a future crisis.”

Slightly less reliable than walking

Did you see RTA released a new app this month? It is very helpful for letting riders who have smartphones guess how long they might have to wait on the next bus.  It doesn't actually make the buses come any sooner, of course, but hey information is power, right?
To take an RTA bus from Hollygrove to her old restaurant job in the Warehouse District, Amanda Soprano used to leave home an hour and a half before the start of her shift.

Between a Tulane Avenue bus she says is chronically late in the afternoons and a streetcar transfer, Soprano often encountered delays that would make her late for work; a fact that grated on her, knowing she could have driven to Biloxi, Mississippi in the same amount of time it took to go downtown on public transit.

Leaving work, she’d face a long bus ride home or an expensive Uber trip. She’s known dishwashers and cooks who spent the night on Canal Street after working late and missing their buses home
It's an hour and a half to get downtown from Hollygrove if everything is working normally.  RTA doesn't tell you this part but there is another app in your phone that estimates how long it takes a person to walk that distance. Let's pick a random spot in Hollygrove and see what that says.



Wow that really is valuable information.  I know you're thinking what about a bike but you don't want to risk getting a thousand dollar ticket. Invest in a decent pair of shoes and you're all set.

Monday, July 16, 2018

Time to run for governor again

John Bel Edwards. Is he a "winna" or a "looza"?  The third and therefore specialest of this year's legislative special sessions ended last month. Unfortunately, for those of us always interested in reading the post-game box score, it seems as if the year's governance marathon left Clancy DuBos too tired to declare the results in his accustomed affected colloquial style. Last week's brief column half-heartedly takes us through the motions of declaring winners and losers without going into too much detail and, sadly, without even bothering to arrange them in a listicle under those adorable "winna" and "looza" headings. It wasn't like this when the regular session ended  back in May.  Clancy was so excited then that he proudly announced the "35th annual edition" of his breakdown on Twitter. I guess he's saying we're only supposed to get one of these per year.  But, really, aren't we also only supposed to have one session?  It's a dynamic political environment.  Our media should probably be more agile.

On the other hand, it's been a busy couple of weeks for Clancy's outfit. I had a few hiccups trying to even locate the winner/loser column after Gambit broke its website by merging it to the crap-pile of broken URLs and impenetrable archives the Advocate publishes. This is a new era where the "Alternative Weekly" lives as a division of the major local daily. We still aren't sure what the Georges Media Concern's plans are for the new brand they've acquired.

It was interesting, though, that days after State Senator (and possible gubernatorial candidate) Sharon Hewitt was given space in the Advocate to push out a pile of nonsense about "wasted, fraudulent or questionable" Medicaid spending, the Gambit side of the website published a refutation of that nonsense.  This is just one example and it's early in the merger but it's concerning to think that Georges Media is adopting a CNN Crossfire style format where we get a Gambit  "on the left" (but not too left) take on the same item The Advocate covers "from the right."

If this really is the strategy then, now doubt, they're hailing it in the office as a triumph of "balanced" reporting. But, in reality, the full effect of such a point-counterpoint where one side is purposefully lying and the other is not necessarily writing in good faith either is just to legitimize the lies.  Is anyone served by this? Who cares as long as we get the eyeballs of market segments on #bothsides. I wonder if this means we're in for a Dan Fagan version of "winnas and loozas" in the future.   We'll keep an eye on this as they "work out the kinks."

Anyway, if we're looking for a more fleshed out winners/losers recap of the special session, we are in luck.  T-P reporter Julia O'Donoghue put together her own assessment  for that other bad news website.  It's more thorough than Clancy's effort and she got just enough things wrong to fill in perfectly for him so let's take a look at that first.

Don't misunderstand me. The reporting here is good. I just don't get where she's coming from with these scores. The most baffling contradiction comes where she manages to name the Governor a "winner" even though the comprehensive tax reform agenda his supporters have been pushing for three years is a "loser." About that, O'Donoghue writes, 
Edwards and Louisiana lawmakers have been promising since 2016 to create a more diverse and comprehensive tax base -- one that wouldn't rely so heavily on sales taxes that are harder on poor people.

Several legislators also promised to look carefully at the business tax breaks Louisiana gives to see if any were worth eliminating.

In the end, Edwards and the Legislature didn't end up making any major changes to the tax system. They simply resolved the state's financial instability by passing a slightly lower sales tax rate on a temporary basis again.

Business tax breaks are also still in place, though some are slightly less generous than they used to be. 
In other words, John Bel Edwards failed. After three years of contentious legislative brinksmanship, a task force report that came to basically nothing, an out-of-left-field Commercial Activity Tax proposal, and countless backroom negotiations with "stakeholders," we've ended up exactly where we started; inadequately funding government services on the backs of the state's poorest residents.

So, what did the Governor win, exactly? "Compromise," presumably for its own sake.
The Democratic governor was able to strike a deal with the Republican-controlled Legislature that hopefully pulls the state out of the financial turmoil it has experienced for several years.

"The encouraging things is we have demonstrated it can be done. That we are not Washington, D.C., where they are still paralyzed by dysfunction on every major decision they have to make," Edwards said Sunday.
So John Bel wins because the "financial turmoil" is swept under the rug?  Just taking the fiscal cliff off the agenda for a few more year, while averting a total disaster, doesn't deliver results for the poor and working class constituents we ostensibly elect Democrats to represent. Maybe the Governor doesn't care about that. (He doesn't.)  He still doesn't really win any political advantage. Does the Governor think the budget deal takes tax policy off the table for next year's elections? Try telling that to Sharon Hewitt.

Regardless of his failure to win a fairer, more progressive tax system for Louisiana, conservatives are going to continue to hammer away at the Governor as though he had confiscated 90 percent of Tom Benson's estate and used the money to buy every man, woman and child in the state a shiny new jetpack. That would be great, of course. But it's not happening. And the fact that nothing even remotely like it is happening is a sure sign that radical right activists should be counted among the "winners" here.  Naturally, that isn't what O'Donoghue's column says.
LOSER: Anti-tax advocates Anti-tax advocates -- particularly the local branch of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity -- have been bombarding legislators with direct mail and advertising campaigns, encouraging them to not vote for taxes at all. They even had volunteers knock on doors in some legislators' districts.

In the end, the Republican-controlled Legislature voted not to cut government programs despite these campaigns. Instead, they renewed a portion of the sales tax  in order to keep programs such as the TOPS college scholarship whole.

But, again, all that's happened is a continuance of the status quo. AFP, and right wing policy groups like it, successfully defended corporate and upper income privileges while ensuring the budget gap is filled by taxing poor people. 

Similarly, O'Donaghue names as "losers" Lance Harris, Cameron Henry, and Alan Seabaugh. But this score relies on a distortive analysis of these conservatives' goals. For example she asks us to take at face value Harris's own 4.33 percent sales tax proposal rather than the 4.45 that eventually passed. But the actual rate was never the point of the exercise.  It was always about loudly arguing and voting against whatever the Governor asked for.  Harris didn't give a shit if a tax bill got passed at all.  He said so himself. O'Donaghue reported it here.
Harris said he is attempting to compromise. He doesn't like taxes and he never thought he would sponsor legislation to retain a higher sales tax rate. Neither did his spouse. "My wife told me not to come home last night," said Harris.

Harris said he would be unwilling to increase the amount of money that his sales tax bill would raise, even from $369 million to $400 million. House Democrats said that means Harris is not willing to work with them or with the Senate, whose members are likely to want more tax revenue.

"It's a compromise that I'm even bringing this bill," Harris said.
Harris got what he wanted. Henry also got what he wanted. His war chest/slush fund isn't going to suffer one bit as a result of his actions this year.  And Seabaugh is well on his way to becoming a federal judge. All's well that ends well for these guys.



So is the Governor a Winna or a Looza? He can try to parse an essentially stalemated legislative year any way he likes. But as Mark Ballard correctly points out, so can his opponents.
John N. Kennedy, the U.S. senator and putative GOP gubernatorial candidate next year, tweeted: “Heck I don’t think even good ol’ Abe Lincoln could get reelected if he raised billions in new taxes like Gov. Edwards has done.”

Putting aside that President Lincoln is father of the income tax, yet was reelected, Louisiana legislators of both parties voted overwhelmingly in March 2016 to raise $1 billion in taxes for two years to give them time to repair a fiscal system that annually fails to raise enough money to pay the bills. Roughly two years later, legislators had made no fixes and had suggested no meaningful funding cuts to state services.
Since no one's material circumstances are demonstrably changed by any of this, voters can believe whatever they like. And in a state where confirmation bias strongly favors the Republican narrative, the burden of proof in these matters continues to rest on the Governor. All of which is to say that with a year to go before the reelection campaign kicks into high gear, John Bel is well on the road to being ousted by a clown.   Whether that clown ends up being Hewitt, John Kennedy, Jeff Landry or Ralph Abraham remains to be determined. But, leaving aside the improbable surfacing of any "serious sins" we're currently unaware of, any of those loozas looks like more of a winna than John Bel at the moment.

Number nine on the list is if you are supporting this event you are crossing a picket line

NOLA.com is fine running an Amazon commercial for you at the top of the page (just under the red bar header about the death of a fox.)  The commercial doesn't anything about the strike, though.  Wonder why they're comfortable running that.

Update: See also

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Just limit everybody to one

Yesterday's CPC meeting on short term rentals had its share of the usual attendant goofiness and melodrama. Eric Bay coined a new hashtag. Some people told some very personal and questionably relevant stories. A lady made her young daughter tell a story. Bingo cards were filled out. Props were introduced.  Ben Harwood (this Ben Harwood) got told.
Ben Harwood — a developer with more than a dozen STRs in Treme — said he now has vacant properties and projects-in-statis with the recent moratorium and has “no idea what’s going to happen.”

“It makes me want to sell my properties and move to another city,” he told the CPC.

One group at the meeting shouted, “Please do!”

It was weird enough. But it wasn't quite as wild as these confrontations have been in the past.  Mostly everybody said their piece according to a now well-established script. Also there wasn't a whole lot at stake yet.  That doesn't come until we start to see what the new regulations produced by this process actually look like. And the encouraging thing about that is, there's growing consensus around perhaps the most critical change people have asked for.
But operators and STR critics now are largely on the same page when it comes to demanding a homestead exemption requirement, which the previous City Council had briefly considered before abandoning in its final STR rules.

That requirement would stipulate that the owner of the STR must also live on the property. It currently is part of the conditions for “accessory”-type rentals, like a spare room or guest house or half of a shotgun double.

It would effectively wipe out temporary rentals as they’re currently defined.
As always, much depends on details so we'll wait to see how this principle we all seem to agree on now is applied to the law.  Ideally the new regulations should eliminate the tiered definitions of STRs  leaving only the "accessory" variant permitted. It should also ditch the multifarious and easily manipulated permissions applied differently according to zoning. Just limit everybody who wants to rent out their home to... their one home.  If we end up with a situation where these South Market properties financed with public money can fill up with STRs or companies like Marriot (who is getting into the business now) can own and operate a hundreds of them in neighborhoods all over town then the we still will not have gotten this right.

Sense of foreboding

Fresh off of making an ass of himself by exploiting the harrowing experience of a Thai youth soccer team for publicity purposes, Elon Musk is threatening to open a Tesla service center in New Orleans "soon." 
The center, which could be the first of its kind in the Gulf Coast, will come as welcome news to local enthusiasts of the electric-car maker.

Plans for the center have not been formally unveiled, although a demolition permit for the building's interior was issued in April and work is underway at the site, at 2801 Tchoupitoulas St.

The center will include a nearly 16,000-square-foot repair garage and office and an adjacent 30,000-square-foot warehouse, with space for about 70 vehicles, according to plans filed with the city.
That's a pretty appropriate location. If I were going to pick a spot from which to sell $70,000 toys for rich nerds in this city, I think a "haunted lot" where a plantation house once stood is pretty good choice.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

What "employment centers" though?

Weird tidbit in this story about RTA's new ferries.
Justin Augustine III, the vice president of the RTA's manager, Transdev, described the ferry boat's trip Tuesday as "history in the making." The two boats will replace existing ferries built in 1977 and 1937.

In particular, Augustine highlighted the new boats will have a far greater range of mobility that the old vessels, which only travel straight from one bank to the other in downtown and Algiers. The new boats, Augustine said, will be able to branch out across the river as well as up and down, opening the possibility to service areas beyond the two terminals.

"Hopefully, we can serve the employment centers up and down the river to build ridership, to get better utilization of the river and to create a sense of better utilization of the commercial waterways of the Mississippi River for passenger purposes," Augustine said.
Okay but there are only the two terminals.  What are the other "employment centers" these boats are going to? Where will they pick people up? Where would they take them?

Sunday, July 08, 2018

Mitch 2020: Fuck Your Feelings

There's a lot we could pick on in this Politco piece. There's the "gee-wiz a white southerner isn't overtly racist" framing along with some other condescending observations about how a person can both say "y'all" and also be literate. ("OMG he quoted a thing JFK liked to quote from Tennyson!") Many other annoying things happen.  Mitch is buds with Obama. Mitch is buds with Michael Bloomberg.  He's gonna be on Oprah's podcast.  There is this sentence: "He doesn’t have consultants, other than a rickety breakfast-nook cabinet of Donna Brazile, James Carville and Mary Matalin."

But you don't have to read all that stuff. You can probably predict most of it anyway.  The true key to understanding what's the matter with a Mitch for President campaign is right here in this paragraph where the potential candidate tells us he doesn't know what everybody is so upset about.
“We are not in a place where the world is about to take us over, and we ought not be in a position of crouched fear and hunched-in and isolated. We ought to be feeling much better about ourselves. But here’s the thing: We’re not,” Landrieu says. “And so I’m not trying to diminish people’s feelings. I think the question is, why do we feel that way? Because there’s an answer there, and I don’t know what the answer is at the moment.”
Mitch doesn't know the answer. Why should he? This whole running for higher office gig is just one of several options available to him, anyway.  And, hey, good for him. Inherited wealth and status is pretty nice but there are some people who manage to screw up in spite of all that. Mitch made sure he didn't squander his many opportunities. This is why he's able to dazzle Politico with his adequately educated adult's level of reasonably expected erudition.  But for someone so concerned about why people feel the way they do, you'd think he'd be able to empathize maybe a little bit with the problems that real people face. Or at least exhibit a passing familiarity with those problems.
So why does a large subset of workers continue to feel left behind? We can find some clues in a new 296-page report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), a club of advanced and advancing nations that has long been a top source for international economic data and research. Most of the figures are from 2016 or before, but they reflect underlying features of the economies analyzed that continue today.

In particular, the report shows the United States’s unemployed and at-risk workers are getting very little support from the government, and their employed peers are set back by a particularly weak collective-bargaining system.

Those factors have contributed to the United States having a higher level of income inequality and a larger share of low-income residents than almost any other advanced nation. Only Spain and Greece, whose economies have been ravaged by the euro-zone crisis, have more households earning less than half the nation’s median income — an indicator that unusually large numbers of people either are poor or close to being poor.
Mitch can't possibly guess why an immiserated American working class isn't "feeling much better" about itself.  He's fine. His friends are fine.  Why is everybody else so pissed off? It's a mystery.

It's not just Mitch, of course. He's only one product of a political system that rewards insular networking among a privileged class of donors, office holders, and complicit media rather than working class organizing and power building. The glad-handers who rise to the top in this system have no clue what people outside of the circle actually have to deal with.

Think again about LaToya Cantrell's reaction when we had to tell her not to put a guy who helped cover up the Danziger shootings in charge of Homeland Security.  Somehow she didn't see the "uptick" coming.  But even after a week of meetings with concerned parties, her conclusion was just that we were all too "traumatized" to make a sound judgement. LaToya never really got what the issue was there because people like she and Mitch aren't capable of ever getting it. The successful politicos can fake their way past it well enough but there is a fundamental disconnect between the self-serving careerist priorities of the professional administrative class and the life and death crises faced by the people who live with consequences of those ambitions.  This is why none of them can ever really be trusted. They can be made to act correctly given enough pressure, but at a basic level, they are incapable of actually giving a shit.  

Mitch Landrieu, Michael Bloomberg, Oprah Winfrey, and the Carvilles are not among the "unusually large number of people who are poor or close to being poor." They are very interested in who gets to rule those people, though, so maybe some homework is in order at some point. Otherwise the Landrieu 2020 campaign's message is just a dressed up version of "Fuck Your Feelings" and I thought the whole point of this was to offer an alternative to Trumpism. Is this really the best we can do?

Are you sure we have the technology to make this work?

LaToya has a "compromise" idea for the traffic cameras. The Advocate calls it a compromise, anyway. Is that really the term for what this is, though? I mean  the person she is compromising with in this case is herself.
Although she once pledged to remove all of the scores of cameras along the city's major thoroughfares, Cantrell said she now wants to retain them in school zones but only during the hours when reduced speeds are enforced to protect students on their way to and from school.

The rest of the cameras could be removed in phases, so that the millions of dollars the city derives each year from camera traffic tickets won't fall off the books all at once.
It's also not clear if Cantrell ever came to a "compromise" estimate the actual amount of revenue the cameras produce. During the campaign she often diluted the Landrieu administration's figure as overinflated. In any case, this article says the new scheme would still mean an overall loss of $15.8 million next year. I assume the plan is to make that up by writing more thousand dollar tickets to bicyclists.

But the other question that hasn't been asked yet is, how can we be sure the cameras will actually limit themselves to ticketing vehicles during school zone hours. After all, we still aren't sure we can even get the warning lights to flash at the right times. Could end up having to reach a lot of compromises over disputed tickets.

Friday, July 06, 2018

The man who lost to Ray Nagin

Surely that is who should run against the Naginesque President, right?
14. New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu: Landrieu is among the 2020 contenders with whom former president Barack Obama has spoken about the future of the party. He remains perhaps the most legitimate dark horse here.

Bullshit ticket is bullshit

While police don't hesitate to write thousand dollar tickets to people with "unregistered" bicycles, it turns out that nobody actually wants to register your bike.

Thursday, July 05, 2018

Oh hey they found Irvin (maybe)

Seems like we should follow up on this.  Irvin missed a fantastic opportunity to embark on a globe-trotting adventure as a fugitive just to come back to New Orleans during July. Seems like a bad choice, right? Especially so considering he came back just to be arraigned again.

Mayfield and partner Ronald Markham again pleaded not guilty at Monday’s arraignment, just as they had to the original charges in January. The government did not ask for a new bond and they were released to continue their music careers as they await an October trial date.

Mayfield’s less famous partner, Ronald Markham, walked in and out of court with his attorney for Monday’s hearing and proudly flashed a copy of Mayfield’s latest album.

But Mayfield, who was declared indigent and appointed a federal public defender, managed for the second time to avoid the cameras and get in and out of public defender Claude Kelly’s office without being seen.
Wait! Are we absolutely sure he was there? 

The Nagin Presidency

I dunno.. I thought that might be a catchy descriptor a year ago.  But the comparisson isn't really so close anymore.  I mean, it's true the hillariously brazen corruption of the Trump people is somewhat reminiscent of what it was like here under Nagin.  But the scale of the damage left in its wake is too grand now for that to make sense.

The only true analog to Trump era licentiousness is the Bush Administration.  The Trump record is almost that bad.  He still hasn't matched the Bush gold standard by starting a catastrophic war that murders and endangers untold millions of people for generations. But give him time. He might get there.

In the meantime, another cartoon villain is jettisoned for being even too ridiculous for this level of unreality.
Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt has resigned after months of ethics controversies, President Donald Trump tweeted Thursday.

"I have accepted the resignation of Scott Pruitt as the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency," Trump tweeted. "Within the Agency Scott has done an outstanding job, and I will always be thankful to him for this."

Pruitt's resignation follows months during which the EPA administrator has been embroiled in one ethics controversy after the next.
As over-the-top as Pruitt's pile of "ethics controversies" had gotten, it still pales in comparisson to the actual policy damage he was able to do during his short time in the post.   If anything it shows us just how openly and stupidly corrupt you can be in this government as long as you're handing over protected forrests, waterways, skies, etc to polluting industry.   Is there even anything left for Pruitt's successor to sell off? 

They keep trying to make Beryl happen

It seems like they put this name in the list every season, lately.  It's always a dud.
However, Beryl's not expected to last long or pose a threat for South Louisiana: As of a 10 a.m. update, forecasters said the system is expected to dissipate over the weekend east of the Lesser Antilles.
Maybe they should try calling all of them Beryl from now on.

The SELA endgame

Soooon. Very soon. But not yet.
A month-long partial closure of the busy Uptown intersection of Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue is set to begin Thursday (July 5), according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The closure figures in the continuing construction of a drainage canal on Louisiana Avenue amid the Corps' years-long Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control project, or SELA.

Starting Thursday, traffic on Magazine heading downtown toward Louisiana will have to detour before reaching the intersection. Traffic on Magazine heading Uptown toward Louisiana will be able to pass through the intersection without detour. Two-way traffic on Louisiana will not be affected, the Corps says.
They are saying this is going to be finished by the end of the year at which point it might be possible to move about Uptown relative freely again.

Meanwhile, the latest update I can find about plans to finish the landscaping on Napoleon Avenue is from 2016
The exact plan of the landscaping cannot be drawn until the construction is absolutely complete, and Boh Brothers has submitted their own “as-built” specifications of the exact location of each new underground utility line, Wagner noted.


“I’d hate to put an oak tree on top of a new city line,” Wagner said.

Aiming for the spring planting season in 2017 is also somewhat complicated by Mardi Gras, he noted, as the crowds on Napoleon Avenue likely be harmful to newly-planted landscaping.
So, anyway, that never happened. Halfway through 2018 now and no one has planted even the first crepe myrtle out there.  Maybe that's out of the plan now? 

Vigilante code enforcement

Seems like the people are a little bit upset about the Airbnbs.
Sarah Cherny, an NOPD officer who lives with her mother near the house, told adjudication officials she has pulled up to find people vomiting on the home's front lawn. She also disputed whether anyone lived at the house full-time after one of the owners, Jason Darensbourg, told officials the ownership group could claim a homestead tax exemption at the address because he lives in one of the rooms. Darensbourg said he stays at the house when it's not being rented, and with his girlfriend when it's booked as a short-term rental.

"I've never seen you before in my life. You do not live there," Cherny told Darensbourg during the hearing. "This house is completely vacant unless it's being rented to large groups."

Joanna Dubinsky, who lives two houses away, said she became so angry with renters one weekend, she entered the backyard where a DJ was playing and refused to leave until the music was turned down. When the party-goers threatened to call police, Dubinsky said she encouraged them to do so, knowing that police would likely shut down the party.

"It was very interesting how entitled they felt to do all of that," Dubinsky said. "I've lived on this block for 13 years and I've never had anyone be so rude."
At least this sort of thing ought to keep the pressure on the city to stay on the case. Otherwise, I would say the next step is outright expropriation but somebody tried that at this address already.

Serving the city

Source: The Data Center: "Who Lives In New Orleans Now?" 2018

Urban development policy in New Orleans is a confederation of schemes to enrich the few at the expense of the many and people are starting to catch on. It remains an open question, though, whether we're going to demand better of our political decision-makers or if we're going to continue accepting the same approach indefinitely as long as the hollow rhetoric supporting it is updated every once in a while to co-opt the political concerns of the moment.

In Monday's Advocate, we found a  pretty typical example of one such branding adjustment.  "New Orleans's incentives for developers aren't serving the city," says the headline.  That sounds true enough. Unfortunately, this is a story about what a consultant's report commissioned by the Landrieu Administration to evaluate those "incentives" has to say about them. What might such an outfit tell us needs to be done?  Well, of course, we have to make slight cosmetic changes to the process by which we award those same incentives to the same developers.  Problem solved.
Instead, the report — prepared by the national consulting firm HR&A Advisors — recommends that officials issue tax breaks or other subsidies, under four major incentive programs, to firms that earn high scores on a new scorecard aligned to city priorities.

“If you are building affordable housing in a high-opportunity neighborhood, you could get more points for that,” said Ellen Lee, the city’s director of community and economic development. “So you would ultimately get more subsidy.”
Great.  A "points" system. Look, regardless of whatever gimmick they decide to glom on to their let's-shovel-money-to-developers device, it is still, first and foremost, a plan to shovel money to developers. It is still substituting carrots where there should be sticks.
Developers also could get high scores for incorporating sustainable building practices or for exceeding the standards of the city's policies on local hiring, aiding disadvantaged business enterprises or paying "living wages."
Where there ought to be strict enforcement of mandatory environmental, equity and labor standards, there are "high scores" for incorporating and aiding but not necessarily always complying with such practices.  

For decades, municipal governments have overseen a trickle-down process by which public money is directed through various tax abatement programs to finance construction of private for-profit real estate development.  These special privileges are hilariously labeled "incentives" by the same free market fundamentalists who otherwise lecture us that government has no place in the natural and perfect resource allocation function of unfettered capitalism. In these cases, though, we are told that distorting the market with gifts to real estate oligarchs is really in the public interest.  For some reason we're told publicly financed kickbacks are the only way to save our most iconic buildings from "blight" or to put even the most valuable real estate in all of Louisiana "back into commerce."

It is only recently that this rationalization has expanded to include a sop to the affordable housing crisis. And even then, the reasoning is flimsy as hell.  Regardless of how many "points" a residential development accrues setting aside a token number of units that meet a dubiously defined threshold for affordability, the main thing we are doing is putting public investment into building nice things for rich people.
Construction has begun on the Odeon, a $106 million, 271-unit apartment building that will include 12,000 square feet of retail in the Central Business District, the project's developer said Monday.

Once complete, the 29-story building will be the latest addition to the half-billion-dollar South Market District, which has transformed an area between Loyola Avenue and Baronne Street once known for blight and parking lots into five blocks of boutique shops and high-end apartments and condominiums.
$69.5 million of the financing for the Odeon comes through a HUD backed FHA loan  arranged through, and ultimately to the benefit of Iberia Bank. It also benefits from a Payment In Lieu Of Taxes (PILOT) "incentive" agreement issued by the Industrial Development Board last year.  This is the latest high-end development in the section of the CBD re-branded "South Market District."

SoDoSoPaNOLA

These projects are eligible for something like $3.5 million in tax credit financing thanks to state laws carried by now City Councilmember Helena Moreno and by State Rep Walt Leger.  The  development is adjacent to property held by the Landrieu family.  While it's true that all of this public investment, including the nearby Loyola Streetcar, has dramatically reshaped the look and feel of a downtown neighborhood, it's difficult to argue that the luxury condos, pied-a-terres, and Airbnb farms being constructed in that neighborhood have done much to make housing more affordable.

& smiles

A few blocks downtown from South Market along the new streetcar line we find other examples of buildings put "back into commerce" after Katrina through federal grants, loans and tax credits that are being sold off to timeshare operators
 Earlier this year, the council approved zoning changes for the CBD that will make it easier for timeshare companies to operate in most areas. The City Planning Commission’s staff backed the move, arguing in a report that a timeshare “does not possess any more unique characteristics as compared to a hotel, hostel or commercial short-term rental,” which are all permitted uses in the affected CBD areas.

Now, the owners of other CBD buildings are already marketing their properties to suit this new option. Several buildings, including New Orleans’ oldest "skyscraper," the 11-story Maritime building at 800 Common St., which has 105 apartments, and the Saratoga building at 212 Loyola Ave., with its 155 apartments, could potentially follow suit, according to real estate experts.

Both buildings were recently brought back into commerce by their owner, architect and developer Marcel Wisznia. The Maritime building was renovated in 2010 at a cost of $38.8 million, and the Saratoga a year later at a cost of $41.8 million. Both renovations benefited from federal and state historic tax credits and, in the Maritime’s case, new markets tax credits, which promote investment in low-income areas. Both properties also have mortgages insured by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Last year, Wisznia came under fire from a local housing rights group for converting many of the units into short-term rentals, which it claimed violated federal rules.
In 2009, I happened to snap a picture of a this mural on the side of one of those buildings.  Needless to say it is no longer there today.

Mural


"Incentives for developers aren't serving the city."  The consultants got that much right.  But their report isn't here to condemn the practices that have served us so ill. Instead they ask only that we adjust their "alignment." The objection is not philosophical. It is merely technical.  Read past the nonsense about point systems, ignore the song and dance about altruistic goals and the report basically boils down to one core recommendation:  Do fewer PILOTs but more TIFs.

Tax Increment Financing is, like PILOT, a scheme by which tax revenue is redirected from the schools and roads and drainage it was meant for. All of these so-called incentive programs starve public services of their dedicated money in one way or another. In the case of a TIF, a portion of the taxes is  paid directly to the bank over a period of several years until a developer's loan is paid off.  Why the consultants think this is better is anybody's guess.

In any case, we aren't going to "serve the city" any better as long as we remain mired in an outmoded belief that critical public services are best financed through upward redistribution of public resources and delivered as byproducts of real estate projects that primarily benefit the wealthiest interests. Rearranging the tax credits on the deck of a sinking city is not going to solve our problems.

Monday, July 02, 2018

Well that escalated quickly

Looks like it's gonna rain no matter what they decide to name it.
A large, disorganized area of showers and thunderstorms hugging the central Gulf Coast has an extremely small chance (about 10 percent) of developing into a tropical system, the National Hurricane Center said Monday afternoon. But forecasters concede that possibility doesn't change the overall wet forecast for the coming days.
Whatever happens, I hope we are ready with more emergency exploding GIF tweets.

Sunday, July 01, 2018

Congratulations, Jared

You can say this is a story about deciding to run for office. But really it is a story about getting out of politics and into a job where you can just sit around collecting money all day. 
New Orleans Councilman Jared Brossett is officially running to be the next clerk of the Civil District Court.

Brossett has been eyeing the office since shortly after Dale Atkins, the former clerk, won a seat on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal in March. His plans have now been formalized, with a fundraiser for the campaign scheduled for July 10.
I'm not sure about how the timing plays out.  But I expect Brossett will take his new office shortly after the November election. After that, there will have to be another special election to fill his City Council seat.  Which means there will also be a period where District D is represented by an interim appointment.  Typically, the councilmembers are responsible for selecting the interim person. But the last time this came up, things got ugly and the mayor had to step in and name somebody. This council is still in its post-election unity afterglow where they like to talk about working as a team and whatnot so we're unlikely to see that happen this time around. Still, the choice of Brossett's replacement deserves attention. It could have a determining affect on the city's short term rental policy.

Just to catch up quickly on where we are with that, recall that about a month ago the council, at Kristin Palmer's urging, passed an Interim Zoning District measure which imposes a temporary moratorium on the issuance of one specific type of STR license. This would be the "Temporary STR License" that allows whole home rentals for 90 days in certain areas.  The IZD isn't an immediate ban on their operation, though. Currently active Temporary licenses can remain in use until whenever each individual license expires. And even then, the "pause" as it's been described in the press is just a for-now thing until we get the result of a study due sometime in the fall.

Meanwhile the Commercial licenses are still being issued. These allow unlimited use of property as permanent hotels in areas zoned for commercial and mixed-use.  That zoning terminology sounds restrictive, but actually it covers a lot of the city.  So even under the terms of Palmer's IZD, the most intense kind of STR activity continues to go unchecked. Also, the big players in hospitality are starting to get into the business now
The need for a different kind of experience is what prompted Marriott International to enter the vacation rental market dominated by Airbnb, CEO Arne Sorenson told CNBC on Monday.

Formulated with groups in mind, Marriott announced a six-month pilot program in April, in partnership with London-based home rental management company Hostmaker, which does still work with other services, including Airbnb and Home Away.

So, even though Palmer got a fair amount of credit in the media for proposing the IZD, it's not clear that's actually a step toward reining in short term rentals.  In fact, it's possible that, by the time all of this has run its course, the "paused" STRs will be back in play without having missed much business. But all of this will depend on what the council decides to do once they get their new report back from the planning commission. 

As I've stated previously, all of this looks suspiciously like a delay tactic. The further in time we get from last year's election cycle, the friendlier the political environment is likely to be for the pro-STR side. When politicians aren't immediately concerned with being held accountable to voters, the more likely they are to listen to friends and donors.

Already if you listen closely enough you can hear them trying to walk back the anti STR sentiment a bit. We already know LaToya likes to talk about "balance" above all else. Recently, I've heard  Giarrusso and Palmer  express similar sentiments regarding their empathy toward landlords and developers as well as their belief that STR revenue can fund affordable housing in other ways. At a recent Mid City Neighborhood Association meeting on the subject, Giarrusso mentioned the money STR license fees pay into the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund established by the city to subsidize developers who might build more affordable housing.   However the JPNSI report found that the money collected all of last year by those fees could probably build just one house.

There are other signs that momentum is already fading. Cyndi Nguyen almost voted against Palmer's "pause" because she is worried about some landlords who she thinks are "the little guy." Jarvis Deberry recently wrote about  HousingNOLA's Andreanicia Morris and her seeming fatigue with the STR issue. 
Morris, executive director of the affordable housing advocacy group HousingNOLA, confesses to being exhausted with all the emphasis on Airbnb. "The problem with the short-term rental debate," she said during an interview in Mid City June 7, "is the energy it takes up."  Expensive housing in New Orleans is an old problem, not a new one, Morris says, and there's a problem in talking about the more recent phenomenon of short-term rentals as if without them, things would automatically be good for renters and homebuyers. 
If even the housing advocates are starting to back off now, how can we expect councilmembers to stay after the STR lobby six or nine months from now? Which brings us back to Jared Brossett's decision to retire from politics and get into the business of sitting around collecting money as Clerk of Court. Up to this point, Brossett was the only member of the council with a consistent anti-STR voting record. If he's no longer around by the time the next important vote on the matter comes around, what happens then?  I'm not optimistic that this is going to end well. I don't think it's going especially well now.

Oh by the way, if you want to submit comments to the City Planning Commission in writing for use in their study the deadline is September 4. In the meantime there is a public hearing coming up on July 10 where you can go yell at them in person. I don't know what the going rate is for paid actors right now but we'll try to get that sorted out in time if we can.

Saturday, June 30, 2018

Winning

They say winning begins at the local level, in your state house, city council, congressional district, etc. These guys are taking it seriously.
But all over the nation, people, particularly women, are working with near supernatural energy to rebuild democracy from the ground up, finding ways to exercise political power however they can. For the middle-aged suburbanites who are the backbone of the anti-Trump resistance, that often means shoring up the Democratic Party. For younger people who see Donald Trump’s election as the apotheosis of a rotten political and economic system, it often means trying to remake that party as a vehicle for democratic socialism.
It's a modest start but, in the long run this is how to win. The game for Republicans now is a rush to do whatever they can to make winning irrelevant.  They might pull that off.

Bowl for the people

New Orleans needs to do this when Gayle's SuperBowl comes to town in 2024.
The FIFA World Cup is currently taking place in Russia, and a network of Saint Petersburg-based civil society activists and social entrepreneurs have launched a campaign called “Cup for the People,” providing an alternative program for hundreds of thousands of soccer fans arriving from all over the world. From guided tours held by local residents about LBGT rights or environmental issues to a map of responsible consumption, the campaign hopes to spread awareness about different aspects of social life in Russia, while fostering diversity, tolerance and sustainable development within the food, retail and tourism sectors.

Behind the campaign is Olga Polyakova, a 31-year-old activist engaged in civic education, citizen cooperation movements and circular economy.

"I was in Hamburg, Germany, when the G20 meeting took place there [in 2017], and I saw what kinds of alternative programs local activists carried out – with actions, discussions and performances,” she says. “In almost every country there are people who are critical of such mega events, which are normally financed with public funds but benefit mostly politicians and corporations. So I thought about creating a similar alternative program for Saint Petersburg."

Friday, June 29, 2018

"Detailed look"

On the very first official day of her campaign for mayor, LaToya Cantrell's very first campaign promise was about traffic cameras.  It was a confusing promise even then.
On Tuesday evening (July 18), Cantrell delivered a wide-ranging speech on her platform as one of 18 mayoral candidates. Here's what the City Councilwoman said in that speech.

"We don't know if traffic cameras are making our streets safer," Cantrell said. "As your mayor, I will suspend the use of the cameras until it can be proven that they actually work as intended."

But then, The Advocate reported that Cantrell said after the speech she only wanted to suspend part of the traffic camera program. Mayor Mitch Landrieu expanded enforcement by 50 cameras earlier this year.

The significance of that statement apparently hadn't become apparent to her campaign, however, because spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday morning spoke to NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune about how the program's suspension could affect the budget. Tickets issued through traffic cameras are projected to generate about $24 million for the city this year.
After further prodding, the campaign decided that, yes, in fact, the promise would apply to all of the cameras.  Still, after the election, the transition team recommended that she leave them in place taking the position that $24 million in revenue is not something we should just let go of.

 But this argument had already come up during the campaign. At the time, Cantrell said that she doubted the figure.  Today, her CAO says they're going to take a "detailed look" at it.
In a statement, Cantrell's spokesman Beau Tidwell said the Mayor's stance on the traffic cameras remains unchanged.

"As you know, the revenue was built into the 2018 budget," Tidwell said, which is why Cantrell couldn't remove traffic cameras upon taking office. "We have to make any changes responsibly and with a full understanding of what the fiscal impact would be. So yes -- the CAO is taking a detailed look at the issue before we proceed."
Couldn't take them offline when she got there. But I guess this means there is a possibility that the next fiscal year could begin with the cameras suspended until we can figure out what is going on.

If so, they'd better have an idea in place as to how they're going to handle that NOPD deficit. That thing just keeps growing.
The New Orleans Police Department is already projecting a need for at least $9.2 million in new city spending in 2019 due to police pay raises and other factors. For City Councilman Joe Giarruso, that expansion in police spending is leading to questions about how much removing all traffic cameras could cost. On Thursday, he said the cameras were projected to generate as much as $25.2 million.

The beastly drafts folder

Too much things happen. I collect a lot of links but don't always write the thing. Eventually it leads to this.


Of particular concern are the stores of notes on short term rentals and on S&WB which keep getting bigger and more difficult to put together the longer they sit unpublished.  It seems stupid... is stupid, I guess But this is a burden on me. I use this blog as a way to keep track of the news. It's how I force myself to think about the stuff I've read. Otherwise, I'm just going to forget everything that happens and it will be like none of us was ever here and... you know maybe that wouldn't be so bad...

The police burden

The new administration has identified a $7.8 million NOPD budget deficit for this year. A few weeks ago they said it was $3.6 million. So maybe I'm missing something in there but that is not an encouraging trend.  In any case, this is bound to cause a problem for everybody once we get into municipal budget season. (Hey when is that going to kick into high gear, again?)

The Louisiana model

So proud to see our state's wildly successful version of "economic development" via klepto-capitalism catching on in other enlightened regions.
The incentive package passed by Wisconsin’s GOP-controlled legislature, during a special session last August, will offer the company $1.5 billion to offset payroll costs and another $1.35 billion for capital expenditures. The state will give Foxconn $150 million in sales tax exemptions on construction materials, and it plans to spend a quarter of a billion dollars on road improvements near the new factory.
 
The town of Mount Pleasant, where the factory will be located, will offer $763 million to help pay for the project, and Racine County gave the company $50 million to acquire the land.
 
In total, Wisconsin, Racine County and Mount Pleasant gave the company nearly $4.8 billion in tax breaks, incentives and taxpayer dollars for improvements. If Foxconn delivers all 13,000 jobs it has promised, that works out to about $370,000 per job.
 
“Foxconn is a great deal for Foxconn and an absolutely terrible deal for Wisconsin,” said Richard Florida, an urban planning expert who heads the University of Toronto’s Martin Prosperity Institute. He called the deal “a complete and total waste of taxpayer money.”
 
See there? Even Richard Florida (who admittedly is claiming to have found religion these days) hates this shit.  The local folks are still super gung-ho, though.
GNO Inc., Louisiana Economic Development and the New Orleans Business Alliance teamed to secure Accruent's commitment. The company is expected to receive Louisiana's digital media tax incentive and a tax break from the state's Quality Jobs program. Both are performance-based incentives, meaning the company only receives them as they create new jobs. The 350 hires are a company goal and not tied to the incentives, according to Louisiana Economic Development.

The digital media perk provides a 25 percent tax credit on qualified payroll for in-state hires and 18 percent for qualified production expenses. Accruent can only receive the tax break for its jobs directly related to digital media.

Other positions not related to digital media production can apply for the Quality Jobs tax break, which is a state income sales tax rebate of up to 6 percent on 80 percent of the company's gross payroll for new jobs. The incentive is good for five years, after which the company can apply for a final five years of eligibility.

Well you gotta start somewhere

Congratulations to Louisiana on (barely) no longer being the Incarceration Capital Of Earth.
The state's prison population is now under 33,000 for the first time since 1998. The probation and parole population is also at its lowest level in eight years, said Jimmy LeBlanc, secretary of the Department of Public Safety and Corrections, Thursday (June 28). As of the end of March, the state's prison population has dropped 7.8 percent since the end of 2016.

Louisiana has also dropped below Oklahoma as the state with the highest incarceration rate in the nation for the first time in years -- a significant shift that was announced earlier this month.

"I made a promise that, by the end of my first term, Louisiana would not have the highest incarceration rate in the nation," said Gov. John Bel Edwards at a press conference. "We have fulfilled that promise to Louisiana."
That is great news. And as the Governor is happy to point out, it is one of a few areas where the people who elected him cannot judge his first term a complete failure. (The other non-failure being his easy decision to accept the Medicaid expansion. The positive impact of that is being steadily undermined at the federal level, of course, but that's hardly John Bel's fault.) 

There's a lot more that could happen on this front a lot faster. But the sheriff's brother who signed the "Blue Lives Matter" bill and who helped pave the way for security contractors to protect an oil pipeline probably isn't the governor to get those things done.

So sad about the "uncivil" left

Look what they reduce our country's poor beleaguered mayors to.  
A Pennsylvania mayor is apologizing for posting Facebook images urging police to "bring the hoses" against protesters and blast them with water cannons, evoking images of the civil rights era.

Karen Peconi is the mayor of Arnold, a suburb of Pittsburgh.
I'm just glad there's nothing to eat in suburban Pennsylvania besides Dairy Queens and bar wings otherwise some very bad people might deprive her of a nice meal or something.  And that, more than anything else, would make the Advocate sad
Here in food-centric Louisiana, where the dinner table is the altar of civic and social life, the thought of turning someone away from a meal seems especially off-key. That’s what happened Friday night when President Donald Trump’s press secretary, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, was asked to leave a Washington, D.C. area restaurant by the owner, who dislikes the president’s policies.
Okay let's stop right there for a sec because the anonymous troll who writes these editorials is already leaving some important facts out.  To begin with, the restaurant owner quietly and asked Sanders to leave after having asked her employees whether or not they felt comfortable serving her. They voted no. Rather than force them to work under morally compromising conditions, she respected their decision.

The Advocate erases the staff entirely and assigns all agency to the owner who they say "dislikes president's polices."  The editorialist(s) deliberately obscure(s) circumstances here because it is his/her/their intent to diminish the actual reasons for the restaurant staff's differences with the Trump Administration in the first place. Rather than name the abhorrent "Zero Tolerance" immigration brutality that has been ripping families apart and placing them into camps, the Advocate troll(s) merely say(s) "The president and his politics are deeply controversial." They then go on to lament the damper this has put on their ability to enjoy their own charmed little lives.
But in Louisiana, we know perhaps more than most about the value of breaking bread with friends — and even adversaries. It’s a way to affirm our basic humanity amid sometimes painful differences.
Imagine wanting to "break bread with" and "affirm the basic humanity" of someone who is systematically locking thousands of humans up in cages. Most of us can't do that.  The reason the Advocate can, though, is because staying within the relative good graces of the monsters who rule us is essential to the success of any commercial media operation. And a favorite means to this is  negating legitimate anti-establishment criticism by way of the "civility" trope. A recent episode of the Citations Needed podcast explored this rather thoroughly. This is from the episode description.
Mean words or questioning motives are signs of declining civility and the subject of much lament from our media class. However, op-eds explicitly advocating war, invasion, sanctions, sabotage, bombing and occupation or cutting vital programs and lifelines for the poor are just the cost of doing business. What’s rhetorically out of bounds - and what isn’t - is far more a product of power than any objective sense of "civility" or “decency.”

The norms fetishists at the Advocate are sufficiently isolated from the real consequences of the politics they are paid to report on that they can afford to chummily "break bread with friends -- even with adversaries," as they say in their op-ed.  Their professional culture incentivizes flattering politicians and the donor class. By necessity it also minimizes empathy with their victims.

This is why they can pretend the unpleasantness that characterized this year's legislative sessions was a mere matter the governor and Republican leaders not getting together over a plate of catfish.  Louisiana residents who depend on medicaid and SNAP funds for their survival may find this metaphor obscene if not downright uncivil.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Wasting no time

The Koch people are ready to drop in the paratroopers.
Now that the ruling has come to pass, the group plans a flood of social media, mail, email, cable television ads, op-eds and phone calls to spread the news about employees’ opportunity to cease paying union fees. Along with going door-to-door, the anti-union activists plan to visit government buildings at which public employees work.
Similarly, the Heritage people have been ready to drop in SCOTUS nominees since before Trump took office
As the conversation evolved, an idea emerged: What if Trump could present to the public a list of Supreme Court nominees? DeMint enthusiastically volunteered to help provide one. When he returned to Heritage’s offices, though, some senior staffers balked. One concern they raised was that it would be counterproductive for Heritage to explicitly endorse possible judicial appointees: Because the think tank was considered to the right of the Republican mainstream, its approval of candidates could make them toxic in the confirmation process. But DeMint was adamant, insisting that this was an opportunity Heritage should not pass up. The head of Heritage’s Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, John Malcolm, ultimately wrote the list in the form of a post for Heritage’s news and commentary website, The Daily Signal. By then, Trump had already singled out Heritage at a news conference, announcing that it was one of the groups he was working with on a Supreme Court list.
That's the genesis of the list he will be working with now
President Trump said Wednesday that Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy's replacement will come from a list of 25 possible nominees that was released by the White House in November.

Kennedy announced his retirement on Wednesday, saying he will step down effective July 31.

One of the possible nominees, Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, tells CBS News he would "of course" accept an offer to serve on the high court.

Mr. Trump released a list of 11 potential nominees after securing the Republican presidential nomination in 2016, one that was heavily influenced by the conservative Heritage Foundation. His campaign expanded the list in the fall of 2016, and it eventually grew to the list of 25 names released last year.
Trump is nutty but the oligarchs have money and they have plans. It would take an act of amazing stupidity for him to mess this up for them.

Supreme Court Justice Roseanne Barr

Congratulations

WASHINGTON — Justice Anthony M. Kennedy announced on Wednesday that he would retire, setting the stage for a furious fight over the future direction of the Supreme Court.
Well, you know, in the interest of civility, the Senate really ought to put off consideration of the nominee until after the election..... oh wait... no that was the old thing. This year the op-eds will say,  civility demands we give SCOTUS nominee Attilla the Hun a fair hearing and "up or down vote."  Chuck Schumer will probably say it first, actually.

Leon is delinquent

What happens if you ignore a fake subpoena? Is it any less or more a penalty than ignoring an order to turn over your files on fake subpoenas?
Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office still has not provided information to the New Orleans City Council about its use of fake subpoenas, more than a month after Cannizzaro told council members he would. And Council President Jason Williams wants to know why.

In a letter to Cannizzaro obtained by The Lens, Williams is requesting that Cannizzaro provide the information, which the council requested last fall. At the time, Cannizzaro estimated it would be available by mid-May.

“We are now beyond the timeline you provided for disclosure, however several items remain outstanding,” Williams wrote. Williams’ spokeswoman Katie Hunter-Lowrey said the letter was delivered Wednesday morning.
Or maybe it's not an order. Williams only "requested" the information from Cannizzaro's office, right? But then I guess a fake subpoena isn't really an order either so we're back to the original question.

Fittingly, the answer is, the deadline isn't really a deadline.

In a letter to the council, Cannizzaro said that compiling the additional information would take time because it doesn’t keep a centralized inventory of documents in its case files. Finding it would require a manual review of 150,000 cases. That review had begun, he wrote, but it could take “as long as six months.”

“It has now been over seven months since your response to the Council, and we have received no supplemental information,” Williams wrote in his letter. “I hereby request that you provide the supplemental data … or provide justification for why this information is being withheld.”

Earlier this month, Cannizzaro’s spokesman Ken Daley told The Lens that the six-month timeline “was an estimate, not a deadline.”
This is probably as okay with Jason as it is with Leon. It means he can keep writing letters and asking about this for several more months getting us closer to the time when the two end up running against each other anyway. 

How long until Mark Janus is laid off?

The gross Supreme Court issued another gross ruling today.
WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday dealt a major blow to organized labor. By a 5-to-4 vote, with the more conservative justices in the majority, the court ruled that government workers who choose not to join unions may not be required to help pay for collective bargaining.

The ruling means that public-sector unions across the nation, already under political pressure, could lose tens of millions of dollars and see their effectiveness diminished.
The plaintiff in this case was a child support specialist from Illinois named Mark Janus. He has a job right now thanks to a union he doesn't want to join
A drastic provision in the state’s “last, best, and final offer” in 2016 would have given Governor Rauner the right to outsource and privatize state employees’ jobs without accountability. Our union is all that’s preventing critical public services from being privatized.

Our agency would be at particular risk, because Illinois already has a longstanding contract with a scandal-ridden, for-profit corporation called Maximus to perform some of our agency’s functions. They modify child support orders and interact with employers about income withholding—pretty simple tasks, yet state employees regularly have to correct their work. If they were to take over more complex tasks, we can imagine how badly that would go! Their concern is for profit, not kids.

If the governor could get away with it, it’s very likely he would expand the Maximus contract to privatize jobs like mine and Mr. Janus’s. He already did something similar to nurses in the prison system. But our union has to be consulted before the state can outsource anything. And when they do outsource, we monitor the contract and discuss how long it will continue. I go to those meetings for our union. Right now, instead of letting management expand its deal with Maximus, we’ve been pressing to cut that contract.

Stop and frisk on wheels

Uptown Swingers

This weekend we walked for a few blocks with the Uptown Swingers parade and second line. It was very hot out. Luckily there were some guys in the crowd pulling coolers of water and other beverages for sale. Nobody asked if they had permits to do that. Nobody called the police. Maybe it would have been different if they were on bikes.

That is very nearly a $1,000 ticket just because a cop decided to check and see if the dude had a $3 to $35 tag on his bike. Is that real? Jules is reliable source and all but, geeze, is that real?

It's real.
So, there Louis was in the empty pre-dawn, riding that raggedy bike in a striped bike lane, only now he was pedaling against the ghosts of would-be traffic. That is technically a violation, though one every cyclist in the city can attest to breaking. Louis himself has done it plenty of times before because he feels safer knowing cars aren't coming at his back.

That's when two New Orleans Police Department cars rolled up on him, lights flashing.

"I immediately went to the 'don't shoot' position," Louis said.

An officer ran the driver's license Louis handed over while Louis called his father, and he sat on the curb, thinking it all over.

He did not, Louis reasoned, look like somebody out to commit a crime.

So the local bicycle wars have been a subject of some interest here on the ol' Yellow Blog over the years so I feel obliged to say a few words about the political background to these rather expensive citations.

As bicycling has become more popular over the past decade or so, authorities in city government and law enforcement have sought to exert more control over it for various purposes most of which are bad. The city is interested in new ways to shake down residents for fees and fines . Politicians and real estate people like to cultivate at least the appearance.. often only the appearance.. of "bike friendly infrastructure." And, of course, law enforcement is always looking for new pretexts to do stop and frisk.

Here is a Gambit article from 2010 about a proposal to "reinstate a bicycle registration program that hasn't been enforced since before Hurricane Katrina." The fees it proposed were ridiculous, as you can see in the section below, but the reason the measure ended up getting tabled was because it was clear NOPD couldn't be trusted with it.
Jatres says the MBC's biggest concern is the fee hike — a 500 percent increase for non-commercial registration. As for the "commercial" fee, the ordinance does not make clear who would need the $75 license.

"A lot of people bicycle for economic reasons, that's their form of transportation. Having low income people (pay) a $15 fee can be a significant burden," Jatres says. "The $75 fee for commercial use — it's left fairly vague. Could be couriers, bike rentals, anything. If you use a bicycle as transportation for work, could that be broadly defined as commercial? It left it vague enough where that line between commercial and personal could be blurry."

The ordinance does not spell out how NOPD would enforce registration, which Jatres and other cyclists fear could result in potential harassment. The MBC says it's received complaints from cyclists saying NOPD officers have stopped them and told them to ride on the sidewalk or to wear a helmet, neither of which are laws in Louisiana.

"There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding among at least some officers within the department, which leads to the concern — here's one more tool that can be interpreted or misused, either out of ignorance of the law or intentions to harass cyclists," Jatres says. "That was what hit Councilman Carter, 'OK, we really need to get everyone in a room to talk about this.'"

Every now and then a new NOPD initiative proposes to crack down on existing but dormant regulations.  Last year City Council passed an ordinance presented as "protection" for bicyclists but really it just created new ways to bring them under the enforcement regime.  Jared Brossett's quote tips it.  The primary purpose of this was to crack down on cyclists. 
The new rules, recommended by the city’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Advisory Committee, explicitly prohibit motorists from driving in designated bike lanes or harassing cyclists, clarify that pedestrians have the right of way in crosswalks and require that bikes must be equipped with lights or reflectors plus bells or other devices that can provide an audible signal to those nearby in emergency situations.

“All roadway users have a responsibility to use roads safely,” said Councilman Jared Brossett, who sponsored the ordinances.


At the same time, the city has heralded its placement of bike lanes all over town as a signal of its progressive orientation.  But cycling advocates have complained the painted lanes are more ornamental than useful and often are safety hazards themselves.  This suggests our new bike centered infrastructure, including the recently launched for-profit bike share program, isn't designed to meet transit needs as much as it is to boost real estate values.
Those bike-docking stations, however, also give Fleming pause. He resists using the term "bike share" to describe them. Instead, they are "bike rental kiosks," he said.

His reasoning is economic. He worries that a kiosk in a low-income neighborhood would give landlords with properties nearby license to label that block "up-and-coming" and raise rents.

In other words, he sees a bike-sharing program as a harbinger of gentrification and its unsavory cousin: the displacement of the poor.
Blue Bikes downtown

Over the weekend, I heard a few stories about bikes tied up near the convention center receiving warning stickers that they had been improperly parked. In recent years, new prohibitions against parking bikes in what one would think are harmless places have sprung up in an ad-hoc fashion all over town. We've documented some of these. It's probably a coincidence that we're being made to feel less free about riding our own bikes in downtown neighborhoods at the same time that the Blue Bikes monopoly is spreading out over the same area. But the lifestyle is becoming more regimented in any case. A thousand dollar ticket for not being "registered" is sure to make anyone more wary.
"That's more than my rent. That's more than a number of different things," Louis said.

"I think the police has a lot of discretion in terms of issuing a citation," Charlie Thomas, Louis' attorney said.

Thomas works with the firm Huber, Thomas and Marcelle. They are statewide attorneys for bike law. He is calling the prices for these citations outrageous and believes there is no use registration ordinance in the city.

"Even though NOPD might have your bicycle information on file, we're unaware of any circumstance where this has led to the recovery of a stolen bike or really any sort of benefit," Thomas said.
The benefit to NOPD doesn't have anything to do with solving bike thefts, though. It's just a tool for city officials to use as they continue to embrace widely discredited "broken windows" policing techniques. LaToya's recently expressed enthusiasm for surveillance "Quality and Neighborhood Safety" cameras indicates that's not going to change any time soon.

On the other hand, that WWLTV story does say that the mayor personally emailed Louis about his ticket this afternoon and is "willing to work with him," whatever that means. So the lesson here for cyclists is, if you get stopped and harassed by a cop, (and manage to avoid getting shot, of course) make sure you get yourself on the news.  This mayor seems to respond if the uptick is big enough. Not sure if that really scales up as a citywide policy but, to be fair, I have not yet fully grasped the #CityOfYes ethos. Maybe it has something to do with being intentional.