Friday, January 19, 2018

Whose bar is balanced?

Last week, the Winter Council deferred hearings on a controversial ordinance modifying the rules around obtaining and maintaining ABO permits.  The law had became known colloquially as a "surveillance ordinance" because of one especially scary provision which would require businesses to install NOPD monitored security cameras. It is primarily the controversy over this matter which has brought about the deferral.

But there's a lot more than just the cameras involved. Even without the surveillance measure, the ordinance furthers the move to shut down certain kinds of neighborhood corner bars, groceries, and music venues which has gathered momentum in the post-Katrina years.  The Louisiana Restaurant Association identifies some of these concerns in a recent T-P article.

So, as we already mentioned, we're starting to suspect the surveillance provision may have been thrown in as a distraction, or at least as a bargaining chip with which to buy off further opposition.  Eventually they're going to pass something.  Having the fight over the cameras now only serves to make whatever they do pass look like reasonable compromise. Or to put that in LaToya Cantrell's verbiage, they will say they "listened to the community" and figured out how to "find balance."  Balance being a still very shitty crackdown on ABO permits.

Cantrell, who was previously quoted by WWLTV beaming over the NOPD facility meant for monitoring the proposed cameras, has been less vocally supportive as of late. Her most recent comment, issued through a spokesperson, defers the matter entirely.
David Winkler-Schmit, a spokesman for Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, the mayor-elect, offered no objections to putting off the surveillance and strip club proposals. He said Cantrell deferred to Landrieu on his surveillance plan and to Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey on the strip club issue because Bourbon Street is in her district.
Way to show some leadership on a controversial issue, Madam Mayor.

Eventually she'll have to take some sort of position. When that happens, it's not difficult to imagine her falling back on her familiar appeal to "balance" we've been listening to her make for years now. If the new ordinance passes, who determines which bars need to be shut down in order to find the balance?  Well, that will be LaToya, of course.
The ordinance contains an emergency suspension provision, allowing the mayor, the police chief or the ABO Board chairman the ability to suspend a permit. That suspension would occur if any of those three people believe the operation "endangers the health, safety and welfare of the community."
And how will Mayor LaToya unilaterally determine which businesses "endanger the health, safety and welfare of the community?" I'm willing to bet it won't be any of the businesses currently paying rent to her contributors.

Le Bon Temps for LaToya

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Critically unsafe

That's bad, right? It sounds bad.
With an inmate death rate four times the national average, the New Orleans jail is “critically unsafe” and staffing is “critically inadequate," according to a withering report released Thursday by federal monitors.

The report finds that conditions have actually improved “marginally” since the last report from the court-appointed watchdogs 10 months ago. Yet page after page of the lengthy report details how monitors found entire units left unguarded on unannounced visits and discovered during reviews of medical logs that hundreds of alarming incidents had gone unreported.

Inmates on mental health watch manage to ingest pills or attempt suicide by hanging, and fights often erupt as guards leave their posts for lunch, the report found. Meanwhile, 44 percent of jail employees were fired or quit their jobs in 2017.

The jail administration led by Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and compliance director Gary Maynard is living in a state of denial or ignorance, the report finds.
Yeah that's bad. What's remarkable about the state of the jail four years into a federally directed reform program and a over a year into the Maynard experiment is that some basic sounding things aren't getting done. For example, this sounds like someone just needs to make a spreadsheet at least. 
The Sheriff’s Office files reports on suicides, riots and fights, yet it has failed to analyze them in a systemic way that might prevent future incidents. The jail has not conducted an annual review of jail guards’ use of force that is required by the consent judgment.

Although recent Sheriff’s Office reports have minimized the number of inmate-on-inmate and inmate-on-staff attacks, the report says that such incidents remain rampant, occurring at a rate that indicates “an unacceptable and dangerous environment” in the jail.
The monitor's report also lists unreported or mishandled incidents of violence or contraband, inadequate mental health services, as well as insufficient and inadequate staffing in general. You can see where this is going.  
Even after an inmate’s hanging death in May, and the high-profile hanging death of a 15-year-old inmate in 2016, the jail’s precautions against self-harm are weak. Guards have not been tested on suicide prevention training, a tool to cut down nooses was missing in five of six control pods, and nurses were not keeping an eye on inmates on suicide watch during a recent tour, the report said.
Of course there are larger underlying systemic problems at work here besides just proper prison administration.   We arrest too many people. We criminalize too many behaviors. We're leaving more and more people behind in general and shoving them into our crappy jail.  But that's all beyond the scope of the federal monitors' purview.  What they are able to tell us, though, is you don't want to go to jail in New Orleans. It's not a pleasant place to be even on the days when there is potable water.

Which city contractors are also human rights abusers?

Some of them were unhappy with this (completely inert, by the way) resolution.
While Williams, Councilwoman and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and others issued a statement Friday defending their actions, Williams on Wednesday called for reconsideration of the issue, saying that he was not aware of the boycott movement or its mission when the council voted.

He said it was a mistake for the council to introduce and vote on the unadvertised measure at the end of a nearly six-hour meeting, as doing so did not give people enough time to voice their opinions.

Landrieu, who said he hadn't seen the document before the council's vote, quickly denounced it last week, saying it was "ill-advised, gratuitous and does not reflect the policy of the city of New Orleans."

For starters, I really hate it when they lie like this.  Jason Williams clearly knows what the BDS movement is. When he finds it convenient to pretend not to, he's just insulting a voting public he presumes to be stupid.

Here is a link that should pull up video of the discussion. Williams gives a long talk where he reads the resolution out loud and goes on to compare it with similar divestment campaigns such as the movement against South African Apartheid. After that there were three public comments on behalf of the resolution all of which specifically referenced Palestinian rights.  Councilmembers knew what they were voting on.  Or, at least Jason did.

The only reason he or any of them would want to walk this back now is because one or more contractors who do business with the city expressed concern about the implications of having their investments scrutinized for human rights violations. It's worth asking who those people might be.

Maybe Veolia had something to say about its experience here

The boil orders are not the reason Amazon isn't coming

People are gonna have jokes at the ready, I guess. But, no, that's not the reason. The reason is they found more willing marks elsewhere with bigger ransoms to pay.
Some state and local governments have made public the details of the financial incentives they are dangling. Boston's offer includes $75 million for affordable housing for Amazon employees and others. Before he left office Tuesday, Republican Gov. Chris Christie approved a measure backed by Democrats to allow New Jersey to offer up to $5 billion to Amazon. Newark also proposes to give Amazon $2 billion in tax breaks, although the city has yet to release its application to the AP.

But many of the state and local governments competing for the headquarters have refused to disclose the tax breaks or other financial incentives they offered. Of the 20 finalists, 13 including New York, Chicago, and Miami declined requests from the AP to release their applications while other requests were still pending. Applications from Columbus, Denver, Los Angeles and Raleigh, North Carolina, were submitted by outside groups not typically bound by the same disclosure rules.
It has been reported that Chicago is actually offering to give all the tax money collected from Amazon employees back to the company. In other words, Amazon will tax its own workers' paychecks. Fresno's proposal takes that a step further and actually incorporates Amazon executives into city government.
Submitted by Fresno Mayor Lee Brand, the proposal would place 85 percent of every tax dollar generated by Amazon into a so-called "Amazon Community Fund," which would be administered by a city committee along with Amazon executives. In essence, Amazon would be able to dictate were all that tax money goes, whether it be worker housing, public transportation to get Amazon employees to work, or parks and bike paths for the exercise and leisure of Amazon workers.

“Rather than the money disappearing into a civic black hole, Amazon would have a say on where it will go,” Fresno's economic development director Larry Westerlund told the LA Times. “Not for the fire department on the fringe of town, but to enhance their own investment in Fresno.” This isn't good for those who live on the fringes of town, but not to worry: The agreement would only last for the next 100 years.

So, no, the fact that New Orleans didn't make the cut doesn't have anything to do with Sewerage and Water Board.  That is, unless Amazon were getting into the water privatization business which we're pretty sure they aren't... yet. 

That Bobby Jindal legacy

Just a note to tuck away for when Fiscal Cliff Season gets into full swing.
Louisiana colleges were hammered by cuts over the last decade. The state spends $700 million less annually on its public colleges than it did in 2008.
The Governor's budget proposal comes out tomorrow.  The Legislature may or may not be going into special session soon. You're going to hear a lot from Republicans about how the problem is "too much spending." What they will mean by that is $700 million out of higher ed wasn't enough for their liking.

The boil order decade

Hey remember back when these were happening infrequently enough that we could still count them? 
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni are updating citizens about public services during the ongoing hard freeze conditions.

Landrieu asked residents to limit their water use and prepare for an "extended and precautionary" boil water advisory. The threat of pipes freezing is expected to diminish significantly once temperatures exceed 32 degrees Thursday afternoon, so anyone running a trickle of water can shut off that faucet.
This is going to be a little bit different from the usual drill. They're going to have to wait until the pressure normalizes before they can start the (usually) 24 hour process of testing and clearing the water.  And they won't get to that point until all the pipes thaw and the leaks can be discovered. One assumes this means the new leaks and not the existing problems causing an estimated 40 percent loss of water flow on a daily basis.  The sudden burst of newly spurting water this afternoon will be known as the Tricentennial Fountain. Bring your camera so you can preserve the memory of this symbol of our resilience.

Wednesday, January 17, 2018

John says things

Yeah he made a funny again
The spectacle was too much for Kennedy, a freshman who already has made a name for himself on Capitol Hill by frequently opining on events of the day with folksy and witty one-liners. In his Wednesday comments, he compared the Senate’s recent nastiness to the notoriously sensational daytime television program “The Jerry Springer Show,” and facetiously posited that it was impairing intergalactic relations.

“That’s why the aliens won’t talk to us,” Kennedy told reporters. “They look at all of this stuff, and they go, ‘These people ― they’re 13-year olds"

He continued: “I’m talking about private meetings, so-and-so said this, and no, he didn’t say that, and you’re a liar. The whole junior high cafeteria syndrome.”

He added: “You know ― here’s a newsflash to you: Sometimes, people swear, okay?”
Didn't really need any input from the shithole planets anyway, right?

Leaving that aside, it's interesting that Kennedy gets credit in this story for is down-to-earth folksy exasperation with nasty Washington even as he appears to be defending the President's nasty remarks. "Sometimes people swear," he says.  Which is fine. Swearing really isn't even the issue with the brutal, stupid, and racist immigration policy Trump had employed the swear to articulate. Anyway, Kennedy's problem is with critics of Trump's rhetorci who may or may not agree with the policy.  Either way, John isn't staking out a superior position. He gets credit for the superior pose, regardless.

The other subtext here, and this comes up with a lot of Kennedy one-liner stories, is John's performative disappointment with Washington culture. It sure doesn't do anything to squelch persistent speculation that Kennedy is going to run for Governor next year.
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., is also using Scott's visit as an opportunity to criticize Edwards. Kennedy, who is considering running against Edwards for governor, sent the following message out on Twitter:

"Gov. Edward's tax increases are driving companies and industries out of Louisiana so much so that other governors are taking notice. Louisiana needs a competitive business environment so we can grow more jobs and the economy."
In other words, don't expect the Homesick Folksy John act to go away any time soon.

The boil order decade

This one appears to be freeze-related so maybe we shouldn't sigh so loudly.  Unless it's something freeze-related but preventable for reasons we don't know about yet which is always possible given the history here.

Roughing it

Streetcar tracks in the snow

Some sort of weather irregularity had us holed up in the house with... well.. with pretty much all the regular conveniences, actually. Throughout the duration of the emergency, we still had power (unlike many) we still had heat (again,unlike many of those without power or shelter) we still had water, (unlike many others)  What we didn't have for most of the time, though, was internet which sure as hell made it feel like nothing else was working.

In any event it meant we weren't working.  With roads shut down everywhere and "New Orleans cut off from all sides," nobody was going anywhere.  Menckles had planned to work from home but frozen internet tubes took care of that.  Instead we just, you know, went outside.. for very brief bits at a time.. and goofed around.

Snow heart

White Christmas

Winter weather and whether or not it is bad turned out to be one of Alli's topics on the latest (appropriately named as ever) Hunkerdowncast which finally got uploaded once the internet pipes thawed a bit.

Monday, January 15, 2018

Steve Gleason is number one

I want to tell some jokes about yesterday too.  I know we were all trying to cheer each other up last night when the thing happened.  That was a great game. The Saints did everything you could have asked to see. They basically had the thing won. Until they didn't. Football is weird that way.  For all its supposed precision, its baroque strategy, its faux military style of preparation, for all the physical effort of its execution, its results are often the product of random accidents.

Personally, I think that is the source of its (and most sports') appeal. As fans or participants, we immerse ourselves in the complex mechanics of the event. But it's the prospect of seeing those mechanics overturned by fate that really draws us in. There is where we find the passion, the humanity, and above all, the humor that we're really buying in for. There is a kind of hope in the sudden overturn of expectations. Even when these reversals go against "our side" on some level, we all know they are what we came to see.

We tried to tell each other that last night at our viewing parties and on the Twitternets and such.  We did okay.  Today is a little more sad. But only because we're more sober now and working our way through the aftermath. This afternoon, we drove by a season-ending merchandise clearance and got a little misty eyed.

Blowout sale

I didn't see any Marcus Williams jerseys out there.  But I'm willing to bet you'll see a few more of those start to pop up around town in the coming months. I think if I order mine now, I should have it in time for Mardi Gras.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

John says things

Resolving to keep better track of these in 2018.  Off to a rip roaring start here.
In an interview with WWL-TV, Sen. John Kennedy commented on President Donald Trump's alleged remarks made about Haiti and African nations, telling the news source Trump is "not a racist."

Kennedy said if Trump made the comments, then he disagrees with his sentiments; however, he said he is bothered by how racism allegations are thrown around "a little too casually now."
He's got a point. We're too "casual" about calling out racism these days.   Maybe if we were more serious about it, John wouldn't be a Senator.

Scott Angelle is sinking to new heights

Last month, the Advocate published a friendly profile of former Louisiana Public Service Commissioner and failed gubernatorial/congressional candidate Scott Angelle.  Angelle has recently landed a new job which he enjoys very much.
Once a ubiquitous presence on the Louisiana political scene, Angelle arrived in D.C. in May to become director of the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. It’s a job historically held by an unknown bureaucrat with an office in the massive U.S. Department of Interior building, three blocks from the White House.

But President Donald Trump is pushing American “energy dominance” as a cornerstone of his presidency. This puts Angelle at the president’s shoulder for enabling domestic fossil fuels production.

In October, the Trump administration proposed opening nearly 77 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico — the largest offering in U.S. history — for oil and gas drilling. The lease sales are scheduled for March.

On Nov. 28, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement approved energy exploration in the Arctic.

And just before the Christmas holiday, Angelle’s office suspended as duplicative a study meant to improve how regulators enforce safety on offshore rigs in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion that killed 11 and spilled an estimated 3.2 million barrels of oil 40 miles off the coast of Louisiana.

All this activity has enraged environmentalists, but it falls in line with Angelle’s beliefs.

“This is a really, really impactful job for America, and it’s really important to Louisiana’s economy,” said Angelle, who previously oversaw oilfield activity in Louisiana as secretary of the Department of Natural Resources under two governors.
Scott Angelle has "enraged environmentalists"? That doesn't seem right.  Don't they remember the major environmental award he received in 2011? Or does the Louisiana Mid-Continent Oil and Gas Association's "Blue Heron Award" not speak for itself? 
Aaron Viles, deputy director of the Gulf Restoration Network, questioned whether it is ever appropriate for an association to give an award to someone who oversees the regulation of its members.

"Mid Continent giving an environmental award to Scott Angelle is like GE giving a nuclear safety award to the leadership of Fukushima Prefecture," Viles said.

But Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, who handed out the award, said in a statement that "Scott has been a warrior for our people and our coast."
So harsh! Those rage-prone environmentalists sure do hate "energy dominance," I guess. As does this judge, apparently.
In a blistering new ruling, a state district judge criticized three companies for putting "economic interests over environmental and safety concerns" in operations that led to the formation of the 2012 Bayou Corne sinkhole, blaming longtime salt mining operator Texas Brine, Occidental Chemical and Vulcan Materials for the flawed underground mine that sparked the giant hole in the Louisiana swamp.
At the very least, he hates salt dominance, anyway.  The case against the companies includes a paper trail of memos and emails demonstrating the parties were aware of the environmental hazards associated with creating the mine but moved forward anyway because, as the judge put it, "each party was blinded by the financial implications of their actions.”  One such hazard they ignored was this oil well.
Salt caverns are often filled with highly concentrated brine when they are closed. Like the air in a balloon, the brine helps maintain a shut cavern's supporting salt structure against geologic forces that naturally press down on the underground cavity.

Kliebert accepted the Texas Brine expert's theory that an oil formation, depleted and depressurized from the old well, was tied into the cavern due to fractures in the thin salt wall. The oil formation provided a place for leaking brine to go that otherwise would not exist so deep underground.
But sometimes you have to push through that stuff.  Ignoring safety hazards in the hope of wriggling out of your share of the blame later is just how Louisiana does business.  Angelle knows. He resigned from the Department of Natural Resources at just the right time, after all.  That's exactly the sort of presence of mind it takes to win you a cushy job in the Trump Administration doing the Energy Dominance... not to mention the Blue Heron Awards you pick up along the way. Very prestigious.

Thursday, January 11, 2018


I'm still enjoying Coach O as the LSU team mascot and everything. (Let's face it. That covers the bulk of his job description.)  But I swear this thing today feels an awful lot like the press conference where Mike Ditka named Danny Abramowitz as his offensive coordinator.  Lots of backslapping about how it was done in the olden days combined with suspciously unrealistic expectations for the quarterback. 

Not trying to be too pessimistic. Whether they get the job done or not, I'm sure it will be funny.  But I can't imagine there's a very deep well of patience among the fans for Orgeron and Co to draw on at this point.

Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Ok they're writing about it again

Here's a NOLA.com article published this morning about opposition to the surveillance ordinance. It turns out the matter has been deferred from the city council agenda at the last minute which is pretty typical for a late breaking controversy like this.

One thing worth noting here is the Louisiana Restaurant Association raises concerns about the ordinance that extend beyond just the camera issue. 
  • Many of the concerns the LRA have about the ordinance involves changes to the community complaint process for alcoholic beverage outlets, and the way the city could go about enforcing violations. For instance, licensing and regulation would be moved under the umbrella of Safety and Permits from the Department of Finance, which the LRA said would give the department "access to your business revenue and other financial information."

  • The ordinance contains an emergency suspension provision, allowing the mayor, the police chief or the ABO Board chairman the ability to suspend a permit. That suspension would occur if any of those three people believe the operation "endangers the health, safety and welfare of the community."

  • The ordinance changes would make it easier to shut down businesses based on neighbor complaints. The city requires 10 complaints from neighbors within 300 feet currently; the new ordinance would require five complaints from neighbors within a half-mile radius.

  • To see a full list of the LRA's concerns, scroll to the bottom of this page.
It is very likely that the next move for councilmembers sensitive to the uproar will be to strip out the camera requirement but move forward with the rest of this claiming to have reached a compromise and "achieved balance" as LaToya likes to say.  But this all looks like a pretty draconian crack down on liquor licenses with or without the Big Brother factor.  Is it too far to speculate that this was how they wanted it to play out from step one?

Seems like a good time to put a camera in every store, bar, etc.

It's silly to think that the police would ever use the video for anything inappropriate like, say, keeping tabs on political opponents.  That's just paranoid.
Jefferson Sheriff Joe Lopinto said Tuesday that three of his deputies are under investigation for improperly obtaining surveillance footage from an Elmwood cafe that showed John Fortunato — Lopinto's chief opponent in the March 24 primary — meeting with two other longtime lawmen who recently retired from the Sheriff's Office

Tuesday, January 09, 2018

The Winter Council is planning to vote on the surveillance ordinance on Thursday

According to ACLU, MaCCNO, and the Independent Police Monitor, this would constitute an unprecedented expansion of government surveillance powers.  The ordinance would require any business with an ABO permit (bars, grocery stores, gas stations, etc.) to install cameras feeding into an NOPD data center. NOPD can then share whatever they collect with whatever federal agency might ask for information. That's a lot of eyes watching a lot of people all of the time for no demonstrable benefit

There is a committee meeting with public input scheduled tomorrow at 2PM.  Now would be the time to get the word out to people.  But the last time any of the local papers gave it much attention  was nearly a month ago.   Which means the only media conversation about this critical matter the week before the key action is being moderated by Newell Normand.  I'm sure there will be plenty of coverage of the vote and its aftermath.  I'm sure there will also be a chours of "#Actually we wrote a ton about this" before the monthlong blackout. But that doesn't do anybody a whole lot of good, does it? 

Monday, January 08, 2018

Omens and portents and the like

The old folks might remember the 1987 football season fondly.  It was the first season (out of 21 tries) that the Saints managed a winning season and a playoff berth.  Leaving aside the manner in which they were booted out of those playoffs (and by which team) it's among the most celebrated moments in the history of the francise.  If you were around at the time, I really don't need to explain it to you.

Anyway, among the many bits of superstitious nostalgia that persist from that time is the belief that the miracle breakthrough of '87 had something to do with Pope John Paul II's visit the preceding summer.  The Pope held a youth rally in the Superdome that year which, some believe, may have served to exorcise the dreaded "graveyard curse" associated with the building.

This is all nonsense, of course.  Probably.  But we did notice this recent addition to Jackson Square commemorating the famous Papal visit.
More than 30 years later, on Sunday, that visit was officially memorialized during the blessing and unveiling of a white marble statue depicting the former pope, crafted in Italy by sculptor Franco Alessandrini.

The 6-foot-tall, roughly 5,000-pound statue, which was blessed by Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square in Vatican City on Nov. 15, is a gift from the Archdiocese of New Orleans to the residents for the city's tricentennial.
Maybe you aren't especially favorable to this brand of pre-Vatican II Catholic mysticism, though. That's fine. Neither am I. In which case consider this item from a more secular realm. This morning I went out and got myself a new brake tag. This year's tag happens to be black and gold.

Brake tag 19

The last time black and gold tags were issued was 2009. Iknow this because it also happens to be the time I got a new one.

Black and Gold Brake tag

The Saints went on to do... something important that year, right? But probably this all nonsense. Probably.

Sunday, January 07, 2018

The Motherfucking Bountiful Harvest

The Saints had an amazing year.  It was amazing not only because the team was successful but because it was different from what fans had come to expect. A Sean Payton and Drew Brees led team won a division title on the strength of its running game and its defense. Most of the time your team doesn't undergo a makeover like that without there first having been some sort of regime change. We began the season wondering if Sean could get himself re-elected. He proved that he could do that in the most creative and unorthodox way.  Congratulations. 

It's also been amazing in ways that extend past the mere W and L columns. There was the impossible comeback in the waning minutes of the Washington game.  There was an absurd beat down of the Buffalo Bills we won't forget for a long time. (By the way, that team made the playoffs. What the hell is even going on?) There was the time the Saints beat the Falcons on Christmas Eve in the Superdome because Matt Ryan threw an interception to a butt. What else could we want?

Oh yeah, this team was also extremely likeable. The roster is populated by great stories all around. There's  Mark Ingram, almost considered a bust at the start of his career, whose steady improvement has him on the verge of laying a claim as the greatest back in the history of the franchise. There are the record breaking performances of All-Pro Cameron Jordan, and second year receiver Michael Thomas. There's the odd fact that the team likely has both the defensive and offensive Rookies Of TheYear on the roster. Also, there's that offensive Rookie Of The Year guy, himself.  
Around 8:30, Kamara is back on his couch, with Disney’s Moana on the television and all of his old friends hanging around. Bottles of Patron and Mo√ęt & Chandon champagne are scattered about. Kamara has a big night planned, a private table booked at Masquerade for Jeezy’s Christmas Eve party. That’s another part of being Kamara. He always goes out the night of a win. His favorite drink at dinner is a Moscow Mule, but when he’s partying he’ll drink anything. Just like the city he resides in, he is not bashful about drinking in season.

I’m enjoying the motherf---ing bountiful harvest,” he says. “We win, I’m turning up.”
How can this city not rally around a guy like that?  The Saints play the Panthers Sunday afternoon in a playoff game that can go either way, really.  But no matter what happens, this has been a season for Saints fans to savor.  They should all take a cue from their new hero and make sure to enjoy it.

The reason I bring all of this up, though, isn't only because of the playoff game but because, as I am writing this, tonight is the Feast of the Epiphany. And this means that whatever happens on Sunday, the season of enjoying the motherfucking bountiful harvest is only just beginning.

The Phunny Phorty Phellows seemed to be in good enough cheer when we saw them earlier tonight. But that's not necessarily a sign of things to come.  There's some question this week as to whether the city is really up to doing a proper Mardi Gras anymore.  Instead of cultivating the kind of diverse, creative, and multi-modal celebration that once characterized Carnival season in New Orleans, the city seems more interested in distilling elements of that into a more orderly and "streamlined" visitor-friendly experience. 
New Orleans is hoping to run a slightly tighter ship this Carnival, asking krewes to pare down the number of bands, dance troupes and other walking groups in their lengthy processions to keep their parades from getting jammed up and delayed.

The city also is doing away with the extra turn that most parades on the Uptown route have taken up Canal Street before heading back toward the river. In this case, officials cite the potential need to get emergency services in and out of the area quickly.

That change is definite. The limit on walking groups is, for now, essentially a suggestion from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration and the city’s Mardi Gras Advisory Council, which is made up of representatives of the various krewes, but most of the parades have agreed to it.
There are things you could do to ease congestion along the parade routes.  The most obvious of these would be to diversify the routes themselves. In recent decades, the parades have all moved away from the neighborhoods and onto a tourist-friendly corridor where, with every passing season, it becomes more accurate to say that nobody actually lives. I understand that dispersing them is more easily said than done. Parades that have moved onto the standard route report that they just can't draw a crowd anywhere else anymore. So the problem is more complicated than simply decreeing that they all go back where they were. It's probably several steps away, but a truly inclusive Carnival season needs to have a wider geographic footprint.  This isn't a staged event or festival. It's a genuine holiday season belonging to everyone.  The tourism industry and its attached political operators don't always see it as such.

And that's how we find ourselves in a situation where the bounds of our city's one-of-a-kind exercise in cathartic spiritual renewal are dictated to us by a Homeland Security stooge.
The limits came about after discussions with the various krewes and took into account the number of elements each parade has, city Homeland Security Director Aaron Miller said.

The recommendations came in response to the growing popularity of groups placed between the floats, whether on foot, horseback or other modes of conveyance, a trend that has led to longer parades and more potential for delays, Miller said.
"Growing popularity."  Uh oh, people were having too much fun at the parade. Well, they're fixing that now, thank goodness. Here is an "open letter" that got passed around this week. It's from one of the marching clubs prohibited from parading this year by the new rules. One thing that comes across is that the restrictions are more a demand than a "suggestion" from the city that the Advocate reported it to be. The krewes cancelling on this group are telling them, "sorry, the city is making us do it."

Also, although I think calling dancing clubs "the backbone of Carnival" is overdoing it a bit, this section of the letter is definitely on to something.
Mardi Gras always has a storied history of having dancers during parades, and there's a reason for that -- the crowds love to engage with someone on the ground who's just not hurling plastic at their faces.  We love the floats, we love the riders, but there needs to be a more personal connection sometime.   And that comes in with the dancing krewes.

Has Mardi Gras really become so commercial that all Krewes care about is adding more and more floats, riders, and $$$ to their bottom line?  The city now has several so-called "super krewes" with over 2500 members and so many floats they have to use both numbers and letters to legally accommodate them, but is there really no room for a few dancers, literally, dancing in the streets?
It reminded me of something Bart Everson wrote last year about the "heart of Carnival."  
If you pinned me down and demanded an answer, I’d say that Carnival at its core is about disruption of the social order. This can be a little hard to see, I admit. After all, the well-to-do pillows of society have their balls at this time, and they’re all about maintaining, not subverting. (Did I say pillows of society? I meant pillars of course.) But even these fancy events tend to be centered on a fanciful re-imagining of the social order.

Also, our big parades have become so entrenched, with influence extending throughout the year, that it can be hard to see them as a disruption of the established order. In New Orleans, they have become the established order. But still. When the parades are rolling, different rules apply. Conventions and norms are changed, sometimes even inverted. People act crazy. Cheap trinkets become valuable.

We love our parades, obviously. But to my mind the crucial tradition at the heart of Carnival is masking. In fact, our Carnival parades began (in 1857 with the Mistick Krewe of Comus) as an attempt to impose order on the rowdy and chaotic street masking celebrations.

When you put on a crazy costume, something crazy happens. You become a little crazy yourself. Anything is possible. And when a whole city does it, it seems like anything could happen. It’s kind of magical.
There are multiple contradictions to grasp in Bart's description and I won't try to pick them all apart here. The point I take away from it is that Carnival is a time for surprise and subversion. Its spirit manifests as a sprawling diverse party in the street where the line between spectator and participant is blurred and the barrier to entry is low.  The proliferation and popularity, even, of oddball marching clubs indicates the relative health of this ethos.

Which is why actions taken by the "pillows of society" to suppress the variety and creativity of these groups or to scale back the length of the street party itself, constitute a direct stab at the heart of the celebration itself. As Bart suggests, though, the powers-that-be have been making these impositions for well over a century, so maybe the situation isn't as dire as it seems. To put it another way, perhaps every new rule is another opportunity for subversion.  And sometimes the solution is as simple as remembering to enjoy "the motherfucking bountiful harvest" any way you can.

Saturday, January 06, 2018

The Winter Council

The lame duck City Council is decamping to a broom closet in an abandoned bunker somewhere across the river for a few months.  This will not be a vacation. As it turns out there are still a few items on certain outgoing councilmembers' "bucket lists" that will still need attending to.  If you are a member of the public interested in providing your input on any of these items, getting yourself over  to the hidey hole where your representatives are conducting their ostensibly public proceedings is only your first obstacle.  Five of the seven councilpersons are leaving office in May so, even if you can get your pleadings through to them, it's doubtful they're going to pay much attention. So good luck.

Here are a few items that might make their way onto the agenda. The first of these probably will have to wait until after the turnover... but, also, it might not.

  • A consultant recently completed a survey of city employee wages and benefits. Their recommendations are intended to look encouraging at first glance. See, they want to give everybody a raise.
    New Orleans city government should raise its employees' pay by 10 percent, provide for annual merit raises and allow new hires to be offered more than the minimum salary for their positions, according to a report by a consulting firm hired by the city.

    The report, completed last month, argues that increases in the cost of living in New Orleans and the availability of higher wages in the private sector have made city jobs less appealing and harder to fill.

    The last widespread boosts in salaries for city employees came in 2008, meaning most have seen at best minor raises over the past decade, according to the report.
    And there's plenty of justification for doing just that. The report cites the rising costs of housing in New Orleans as well as a 500 percent increase in health care costs for city workers over the past decade.  Of course, that's a strange thing for the consultants to bring up. A ten percent raise doesn't begin to address that problem. And they aren't arguing for more generous health benefits. In fact, they're recommending sick leave be slashed.
    That policy gives workers 13 days of sick leave a year during their first five years and provides those with more than six years of service 15 days of sick leave annually and those with 16 or more years of service 20 days of sick leave each year. The report recommends all those figures be capped at 12 days of sick leave per year, to meet the regional average.
    This sort of bait-and-switch strategy is used against low wage workers all the time. Offer something small but attractive up front, take something important away on the back end.  It's the same logic behind the recently passed Republican tax cut plan which all but guarantees devastating cuts to Medicaid and Social Security. We've also seen it here.

    In this case, what City Council is most likely to use the report for is as an argument for cutting retirement benefits.  That's what it says way down at the bottom of that Advocate article.
    The report also recommends changes that would make city workers' retirement system less generous, noting that other governments in the area require workers to contribute more to their own pensions. The changes recommended are similar to those the city put in place for new hires starting next year.
    Slashing pensions has been Stacy Head's highest priority in her final year on the council.  Her false claim that the retirement system is in fiscal peril echo decades-long Republican lies in agitation against Social Security. Last spring she even attempted to jump the gun on the wage survey and pass the cuts before even seeing its recommendation. Last month they finally passed a scaled back version of the cuts that only affect more recent hires.  But this is still a swipe at the retirement security of a slightly younger cohort of workers.  Head hopes "the next council" will take it further. But there's no guarantee she won't try sooner given that it's harder for people go yell at her now.

  • Nadine Ramsey is trying to do a favor for a former staff member's father

  • Metairie gastroenterologist Tamer Acikalin wants a zoning change for a Frenchmen Street residential property he owns that he says could one day become an urgent care clinic. The pillared apartment house with a second-floor front porch is two blocks from Washington Square in the Marigny and just down the street from some of the city's best-known live music venues.

    Under the proposed zoning change, a medical clinic is just one of 21 commercial uses that would be expanded from its current zoning designation, which only allows day care facilities and small, owner-occupied bed and breakfasts as a commercial use. One of the possible new uses is likely to rile neighbors: Short-term rentals would be allowed year-round, not subject to the 90-day cap that the New Orleans City Council adopted when new regulations took effect April 1, 2017.
    We're actually seeing a rash of these "spot-zoning" requests aimed at proliferating short term rentals, lately. One thing they all have in common is a vague plan for some sort of small business on a property that is clearly meant to be used as an Airbnb hotel. Many of them have specific instances of political favoritism in common too. This is one of many but it is in the news because of how obvious it is.
    Acikalin is father of Aylin Acikalin Maklansky, Councilwoman Ramsey's legislative director who recently returned to her job after an unsuccessful run for the council seat Guidry is leaving. Acikalin said his daughter has no financial interest in the property. Campaign finance records show Tamer Acikalin contributed $5,810 to Ramsey's election efforts between 2015 and 2017.
    Recall that, during the campaign, both Ramsey and Maklansky were beneficiaries of pro-Airbnb lobbying groups so this is a pretty easy gotcha story.  Expect more of them to come, though.

  • Most urgent on the Winter Council agenda is the surveillance ordinance

  • The plan, proposed in January as part of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's $40 million public safety initiative, includes the adoption of a city ordinance that would require bars and restaurants across the city to install cameras on the outside of their buildings pointing into public areas. The ordinance, if approved by the New Orleans City Council, would also require those establishments to store the surveillance footage on a cloud-based government server to which law enforcement would have access.

    "This ordinance would put the city's surveillance apparatus on steroids, subjecting New Orleanians to near-constant monitoring of their daily lives and stifling our vibrant public space - without meaningfully reducing crime," ACLU Louisiana interim executive director Jane Johnson said.
    In addition to ACLU, the camera scheme has been criticized by the Orleans Independent Police Monitor citing “potential for mismanagement, poor information security, public record law compliance challenges and user abuse,”  and by the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans who released a review this week. MaCCNO's report concludes that the ordinance would constitute an unprecedented expansion of government surveillance powers that exists in no other U.S. city. The proposal has not been criticized by Councilmember (and incoming mayor) Cantrell, however. Her stated position is that the cameras are "a step in the right direction at the right time."

    There is a vote scheduled for the coming Thursday over in the bunker.  If you have a hard time getting there, though, there is also a committee hearing set for this Wednesday at the very convenient for everyone time, I am sure, of 2 PM. They'll be on the 21st floor of an office tower at 1340 Poydras St.  Good luck figuring out how to get in there.  Maybe someone will think to install some cameras.

Thursday, January 04, 2018

Searching for Perricones

The new tactic in public corruption defense is to start by going after the press and hope their sources lead back to the US Attorney's office. Irvin Mayfield's lawyer is taking a crack at it now.
Kelly declined to address the specific allegations against his client outside the courthouse, but he laced into the U.S. Attorney's Office and WWL-TV reporter David Hammer, who has been investigating Mayfield for years.

Kelly claimed he had evidence that the U.S. Attorney's Office leaked information from the grand jury proceedings in the case to Hammer, and that prosecutors had admitted doing so. Kelly said he had filed a motion seeking to dismiss the indictment due to the alleged grand jury leaks. He repeatedly described the alleged leaks as a "miscarriage of justice."

"The case begins with a cloud over it," he said.
And, hey, as we've seen, sometimes it works! So far it's allowed Fred Heebe and the Danziger 7 to walk.  Maybe you can decide where the "miscarriage of justice" figures in the process, though. I'm not sure it's what Kelly thinks.

Music ain't a crime

But you still can't run for the Louisiana House of Representatives if you don't live in the contested district. This is true even  if you are a musician.
Musician James Andrews, older brother to Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, qualified to run for state Rep. Helena Moreno's open House seat on Thursday (Jan. 4), before quickly realizing he doesn't live in her district.

Moreno's seat is open because she won a City Council seat in October; the special election is scheduled for March 24.
In that case, there are only two eligible candidates in the race so far. This isn't a nothing office. The distict includes Tom Benson's stadium fiefdom, for example. A lot of money passes through there.

Alvin Kamara's week as @BeingNOLA

The dude is a NolierThanThou natural.
While most of his Saints teammates live near the team facility in Metarie or Kenner, Kamara decided to move downtown, into a ground-floor apartment, his floor-to-very-high-ceiling windows facing directly out to the street and the people on them. He walks home from games, from the Superdome to his front door, amid the revelry and the hordes of adoring fans; down Canal Street to high-end fashion stores to browse; around the block to get breakfast at the Ruby Slipper or to pick up groceries. He considers himself a foodie and has dined at the city’s most famous establishments and the hidden gems on every street, in fancy neighborhoods and not-so-fancy— he has tried beignets and oysters for the first time, and has grown to love the char-grilled variety of the latter.

Eventually he hopes to sit at every great restaurant in the city. He knows this might take years to accomplish, but he’s in no rush. He plans to be here for a while.

Wednesday, January 03, 2018

We love our stupid city

Columns banner

I don't know about y'all but I am feeling all 300 of those years myself.  Ready or not, though, it's time to play the Tricentennial game in earnest. That means more tourism-oriented marketing like that banner the Columns Hotel is flying in the photo above. It also means lots and lots and lots.. and also lots more commemorative events.  If the "Katrina 10" exercise we went through a few years ago is any sort of template, expect these to be a mix of crass commercialism and cynical political opportunism with, sure, one or two worthwhile things thrown in here and there.

There is at least a partial list of activities at the city's Tricentennial website which reads, in part,
To celebrate 300 years of rich history, diversity, cultural traditions and resilience, the City of New Orleans will celebrate 2018 like no other.  To accomplish this, Mayor Mitchell Landrieu formed the 2018 NOLA Commission to allow input for events and programs that will honor the anniversary of the founding of New Orleans.  A variety of special events, concerts, fireworks and completion of major infrastructure projects will take place in 2018.  We invite you to join us in celebrating this special anniversary as only New Orleans can do.
Many of the events listed seem to be either only tangentially related to the Tricentennial theme or are regular annual events that have been shoehorned in. Not that there's anything wrong with that.   A cursory look through brings up some neat stuff, though not a lot of details.  Apparently there will be "Mardi Gras themed fireworks" on Twelfth Night.  There are more "Tricentennial fireworks" on April 22 and again on May 6 at the close of Jazzfest. The site also lists the New Year's Eve fireworks but not the Fourth of July for some reason.  Anyway... there will be fireworks.   This HNOC exhibit looks interesting. In March there will be a "Tricentennial Symposium" which raises an eyebrow. The description reads only, "Lectures and cultural programming will take place throughout the city and explore the 300-year history. Open to the public." I found a little more detail here but only a little. 

But these aren't the only ongoing events celebrating the "cultural traditions and resilience" of New Orleans. Here's one that was omitted somehow. The SELA drainage work, which was authorized in 1996 and so has been ongoing for about 7 percent of the city's history, is hustling to get a busy intersection complete in time for parade season. 
Construction crews began hammering away at the intersection of Magazine Street and Louisiana Avenue on Tuesday (Jan. 2), kicking off road reconstruction work that's set to close the busy Uptown intersection for a month.

Part of a years-long US Army Corps of Engineers effort to install a drainage canal on Louisiana Avenue, the closure now in effect is detouring vehicular traffic away from the entire block of Magazine leading up to the intersection. The closure is scheduled to last for about 30 days, according to a news release issued by the Army Corps last Tuesday.
Some of the area business owners quoted in that story have some funny ideas about redesigning the streets when this is finished. Constantine Georges wants more angular parking on the Louisiana neutral ground. Hopefully that gets tossed in the same bin where the city lost its plan for landscaping Napoleon Avenue when work finished there.  Nothing has happened there since these strips of turf were laid back around last Mardi Gras.

Finishing Napoleon

It turns out they did notice one thing, though.
City Hall late Tuesday evening released the following statement: "During inspection of the Napoleon Avenue SELA project, DPW (the Department of Public Works) discovered that the conduit for the traffic signal interconnect between St. Charles and Magazine that was in place prior to construction had not been replaced. The Corps and its contractor are in the process of replacing the conduit which should be compete by the end of January."
So this morning, they're digging it back up.  The story doesn't say whether or not there will be street closures there again. But I wouldn't try to get across Uptown without some advance scouting and maybe a passport for while.

Digging it back up

Also celebrating "300 years of rich history, diversity, cultural traditions and resilience," is the Sewerage and Water Board which came up with this fun activity for everyone to play at during this week's freeze. 
The S&WB also asked residents to take some advice about how to keep water running without putting too much demand on the system.

"If residents must run their water, the Sewerage & Water Board urges them to run only the faucet farthest from their property's main stop valve," Rainey said in the statement. "The stream should be no more than 1/16 of an inch wide, about 'pencil lead thin.'"

Residents are also being asked to turn water off when temperatures rise above 32 degrees. As of 8 p.m. Tuesday, temperatures were hovering at 37 degrees, but the area is under a hard freeze warning overnight, with temperatures predicted between 21 and 27 degrees.
Look for special S&WB measuring pencils branded with the Tricentennial logo available for distribution later this year. 

Also of note in that story, we must have missed it when former T-P reporter Richard Rainey went to work for the water agency recently headed by Paul Rainwater. Rainey is named as the S&WB spokesperson in the article.  There has been some controversy over the progress of Mayor-elect Cantrell's transition team lately.  We do hope whoever is advising her remembers to throw in a few names that are also cringeworthy puns on their departmental functions when they get down to making these appointments.  This is a year to honor cultural traditions, after all.

Shep is in... a new TV spot

That's a real big flag you got there.

And, hey, nobody here is going to argue with Shep's point.  We've said numerous times that convicted felons should not forfeit their rights to civic participation either as voters or candidates.  This isn't even really about "second chances" as Shepherd puts it in the ad. It's more about the fundamental rights of citizens in a fair society.

None of this means that Shep isn't also being a bit of a cynic.  He's also quite likely lying about this.
Shepherd was asked by FOX 8 News if he is seeking employment in Cantrell’s administration.

“No, I was at that meeting just helping, I was not seeking a position with Latoya Cantrell's administration, I wish her the best, but I do know now that she needs a position in her administration to deal with the formerly incarcerated or people who are seeking second chances,” he said in response.
Admittedly he's a more convincing liar than LaToya is. But he's always been more of a pro in any case. He also says in that Fox8 story that he's planning a "rally" in support of his "second chance" cause.  I hope they find a good caterer.  

My fee remains the same

It's qualifying week. Who wants Helena Moreno's House seat?
After Moreno won election to an at-large seat on the New Orleans City Council last fall, she sent a letter to the state Speaker of the House declaring her intent to resign her District 93 legislative seat by the time the new Council is sworn in in May. That triggered a special election to replace her, which will be held March 24, with a runoff on April 28 if necessary.
I will tell you how to win it for... well, the regular price. 

Tuesday, January 02, 2018

Waiting for the internet to thaw

Apparently Cox's tubes freeze over when the temperature gets below 40 degrees here. We've only had internet in short 5-10 minute bursts here for the past two days. [derp]It's like living in a dang third world country in this city let me tell you... har har har etc. [/derp]

Seriously, though. It kind of is.

Anyway I don't know how much time I have right now so, very quickly, we got out in the cold mist and followed the Lady Rollers, Pussyfooters and the Hot 8 Brass Band on New Year's Eve. Here are a few pics from that.

Fox III Lounge

Lady Rollers

Pussyfooters and Lady Rollers

Later, we watched a very tired and injured Saints team limp to a weak regular season finish in Tampa.  This has been one of the most fun and memorable Saints seasons. Don't let the high probability of an early playoff exit make you forget that.

Finally, we braved the freezing temperatures to take our traditional walk out onto the St. Charles Avenue neutral ground where you can see the downtown fireworks pretty well without having to elbow through throngs of Alabama fans to get there.

New Year's fireworks

Hopefully this message makes it through whatever Cox's problem is.  In the meantime, hey it's 2018. Start thinking about who should run against Steve Scalise.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Hey look another election

I've got some year-end posts that will probably be up by, like, sometime next week.  But meanwhile, I've been busy on Twitter making a bracket.  Go vote. It's fun.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Mayoral elections have consequences

Apart from the pro-forma assumption that the election should have been about something besides what it was actually about, this N.O. Tribune year end editorial does a pretty good job of saying what the election was actually about.
Make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen Mayor-Elect Cantrell by a landslide. She has our full support, as well. That doesn’t mean that we like that NotForSaleNOLA has emerged as a key factor in this election, or that Jacobs has seemingly solidified her role in our city’s political, social and economic landscapes in general. And yes, we are still bothered by that—even more so since Jacobs’ brazen justification for inserting her two cents in this election and making it about something other than the caliber and quality of the candidates and their platforms. So why did she do it? Two reasons—because she wanted to and because she could. To read the recent Advocate article, in which Jacobs essentially gloats about her role in this election, is sickening.

Many of the folk that contributed to Jacob’s PAC don’t even live in Orleans Parish, including Jacobs, who may still own her Uptown address but has moved to Metairie as we understand it.

The real question is who decided that Leslie Jacobs and her cronies get to determine what is best for New Orleans and New Orleanians? Who gave them the right to determine who is worthy of our attention and our trust? With the influence and impact of NotForSaleNOLA, Jacobs and her friends have created a precedent that spells bad news. It can be easily replicated by those with the inclination and money to pour into PACs with little regard or integrity.

The only folks we are more upset with than Jacobs and her krewe for perpetrating their fraud are our very OWN people for allowing themselves to fall victim to it.

Here’s the reality. Despite what Jacobs might want the unassuming people of New Orleans to believe, we KNOW better. Exacting influence in this election was not about Desiree Charbonnet. It was not about the people surrounding and consulting Charbonnet. It was not even about Mayor-Elect Cantrell. Everything Leslie Jacobs did was all about and for Leslie Jacobs and her crowd
I think it's out of respect for the voters, but they're still being too nice to LaToya and the people around LaToya many of whom actually know what they're doing and have agency in this. In any case, they won.  Next year, as we deal with the consequences of that, it's important to stay clear on what those consequences are and who they favor. It's a shame that only the Tribune wrote about this as frankly as everyone who was paying attention should have. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

It hasn't stopped him yet

Sidney Torres is being discouraged from "investing" in New Orleans.
Torres is now raising holy hell about the Board of Zoning Adjustment's decision to uphold the zoning violations, which would prevent Torres from holding events at the church in the future. In a Facebook post announcing a temporary restraining order Torres has obtained that prevents the city from enforcing the zoning ordinance, Torres accuses city officials of political retribution, noting that he was critical of Mayor Mitch Landrieu after the city's floods in July and August.

"You are treated differently, shut down abruptly for political payback," Torres said. "This is why some business operators and investors raise an eyebrow before coming to New Orleans."
It's difficult to name a "business operator and investor" in this city who has benefited more by the special treatment he's been able to purchase from politicians over the years than Sidney.  If someone is out to get him they're doing an exceptionally bad job of it.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Shep is... out?

One of the first things we learned about LaToya Cantrell's mayoral campaign happened on the day of its official launch. During her speech, Cantrell appeared to call for the removal of all traffic cameras in the city.  But when questioned afterward, she and her spokespeople immediately walked that back to only the most recently installed cameras.

The apparent reversal drew even more questions and reporters prompting the candidate to.. reverse herself again.

Cantrell replied, "Based on the feedback from the community, it would only be those cameras that have been recently installed."

She went on to suggest she was skeptical of traffic cameras overall and reiterated her support for a study that would gauge all of their effectiveness. And, if they were found not to increase safety, Cantrell said she would do away with them altogether.

Cantrell spokesman David Winkler-Schmit on Wednesday offered a "further clarification" on the issue, bringing the candidate's position back to the full suspension she pledged in her speech Tuesday night.

The overall impression was that the campaign didn't know what its actual position was. This is a typical but also extremely bad indicator in politics. It suggests that the candidate doesn't actually care about issues in the pure sense that these are real problems affecting people's day to day lives. Rather she merely sees them as obstacles that need to be finessed in order to gain office. In other words, getting elected is an end to itself rather than an honest attempt to change things.

It looks now as though the Mayor-elect has brought this same moorless ethic with her into the transition.  How else does one explain the tone deaf inclusion of Derrick Shepherd in preliminary meetings with lawmakers and his sudden dismissal the second it became known to Cantrell's team that people might not like that.
However, Saturday's statement was the first time the Cantrell team directly answered a question about whether Shepherd might be in line for a role in the upcoming administration, a rumor that has been spreading in political circles over the past week.

Cantrell’s transition team was asked multiple times over several days about those rumors. The transition was also specifically asked to explain Shepherd’s presence at the meeting and was given multiple opportunities to say that he would not be playing a role in the administration.

In response to those questions, a spokesman for the transition would say only that no hiring decisions had yet been made. He did not directly address Shepherd’s presence at the meeting. Lawmakers, most of whom asked not to be named, have told The New Orleans Advocate that Shepherd was at the meeting and appeared to be there at Cantrell’s invitation.
We're not sure at this point the new administration-to-be cares about anything besides its own image. The fact that they're also so clumsy about managing this one thing they seem to care about is similarly discouraging if not more so.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Shep is... in?

All your favorites are back!
What could be a critically important relationship between the city's newly elected mayor and state lawmakers is off to a rocky start after Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell showed up at a meeting this week with one of the legislators' former colleagues: ex-con Derrick Shepherd.

Shepherd, a former state senator who served more than a year in federal prison after pleading guilty to money laundering, accompanied Cantrell to a meeting with New Orleans legislators designed to begin building relationships during the five-month transition before she is sworn in.
Now now let's not be to quick to judge. After all, despite his history as a money launderer and domestic abuser, Shep is an "ex" con. Which is why a lot of us were sympathetic to his attempts to get on the ballot for the state House in 2015. Ex offenders ought to have their basic civil rights restored once they've served their sentences. This is not to say, however, that they ought to be elected or appointed to political office. Only that they have a right to be denied those opportunities through the same process as anyone else.

In this case, then, it's up to LaToya to filter such a person out of her sphere of influence. Strange that she would not do that. Wasn't she supposed to be the candidate of draining the swamp and being all "Not For Sale" and whatnot? Wonder what happened.

Friday, December 22, 2017

What the tax cut means

Well they passed it. What now? For most of us, it means that, in February, we're going to get a little bump in our paychecks. Of course, there is a huge catch.
An average American family of four will get keep an extra $2,059 of their income, House Speaker Paul Ryan has said in a tweet pinned to his Twitter feed.

While that’s true in the first year, the tax cut diminishes over time and ultimately disappears altogether in 2025, when Republicans sunset almost all the individual tax relief provisions. According to a new analysis from the Tax Policy Center, even when the bill offers an across-the-board tax cut, in the first years of its implementation upper-middle- and upper-class Americans would receive most of the benefits. Nearly two-thirds of the benefits go to the richest fifth of Americans in 2018, as Vox’s Dylan Matthews explained.
So for the first few years you get a bit more money in your check.  Much of that will be immediately swallowed up by your ISP as they start to charge you more money for a shittier internet.  Also, of course, you will never be allowed to retire.

But that's just the stuff that's going to happen to you. And, in the dawning century, unless your name is Wyatt Koch or some such, what happens to you probably doesn't matter all that much.  What really matters now is what happens to the Republicans who voted for this thing.  And, in that case, I have some bad news.  I think they're gonna be just fine.

One of the key political difficulties the Democrats had with regard to Obamacare was the slow roll out of benefits. Key provisions of the law were scheduled to phase in over a period of years. And the overall aim of reducing insurance premiums for average people, always a dubious prospect, was itself not expected to take effect until years down the road.  All of this meant that the tangible benefits of the law wouldn't be immediately evident to most voters in time for it to affect the midterms.

The tax cut bill works in exactly the opposite way.  In a few short months, it will look for a moment as if everybody got a tax break. Now, we know that's not really what's happening. But for the period of time that concerns the 2018 midterms any counterargument to "We just made your paycheck bigger!" will be a tough sell at best.

Democrats who are hoping to turn anger at the rightfully unpopular tax law into wins next fall will have to be wary of this.  It may not go the way they think it's going to.

"Fresh start"

I never picked a side in the race to select the next Inspector General. I did offer several times to do the job myself but I am afraid my salary demands may have been a bit too high.

I do find it interesting,  however, that the board chose the candidate who does NOT have a history of siding with the independent police monitor,  who does NOT have a record of asking troublesome questions of even his superiors and who admits that, as a newcomer to the city, he will have to undergo a "learning curve" with regard to the local political landscape. But they say having a "fresh start" is important to them so I guess this will do that.
“I think given where we are coming from, we need a fresh start,” said Elizabeth Livingston de Calderon. The office has “an opportunity for changeover, and I would like to see that happen for us here.”

Harper acknowledged that he faces a “learning curve,” being an outsider in an often insular city, but he pledged to work with members of the community to produce results.

“My prime directive is, I can’t do this alone,” he said. “It’s to identify problems and fix them. It’s to restore, and to earn the trust and respect of this community, and make a difference.”
LOL "prime directive." Ok, nerd. Also looking to "restore and earn trust" is the Ethics Review Board itself. They can't wait to get a fresh start with the new guy seeing as how the old one was really starting to nag some of them.
Separately Wednesday, the Ethics Review Board took pains to cast itself as above reproach, in light of claims from Quatrevaux this past week that Miller, a lawyer who is the board’s chairman, had improperly represented the Sewerage & Water Board, an agency the IG’s office oversees, while serving on the ethics panel. Miller was critical of a report Quatrevaux released this year strongly attacking the S&WB.
Miller chairs a board that oversees the IG who oversees a different public board who happens to be his client. There's a hell of an ethicsy problem for our new guy to chew on.  I hope that leaning curve isn't too much for him.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

The one billion dollar turnip

They're trying to come up with a framework under which a zombie FNBC can turn a billion hypothetical dollars worth of tax credits into an actual means of paying back creditors. The catch, though, is the dead bank still has to be successfully zombiefied.
Additionally, federal estimates suggest that First NBC's operating losses for 2017 are expected to exceed $700 million, a staggering figure that can ultimately be carried forward for accounting purposes to offset future tax liabilities.

First, the company would have to emerge from bankruptcy and likely move to acquire profitable businesses in order to use the tax benefits.

When it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in May, the company's petition listed fewer than 50 creditors owed an estimated $65 million total. At the time, the company claimed assets worth just $6 million.

Under the terms of the settlement, First NBC Bank Holding Co. can pursue the nearly $1 billion in combined tax assets without facing a legal challenge by the FDIC.
Maybe if they bought, like, a bitcoin or something that would put it right.

We've always done it that way

The subpoenas have always been fake. Cannizzaro's real innovation was slightly better formatting, it seems.
In defending the notices, Assistant District Attorney Chris Bowman said earlier this year that they had been used for decades before Cannizzaro took office.

Harry Connick, who served from 1973 to 2003, said in an interview that was true, calling it an “accepted practice by predecessors.”

Connick, who was Herman’s boss when she was a prosecutor, said he didn’t know how frequently the documents were used. In the case reviewed by The Lens, prosecutors sent 10 notices telling witnesses to come in for questioning.

Connick stressed the differences between the documents from his time and the ones used under Cannizzaro. He said he doesn’t believe the notices his prosecutors sent truly resembled court orders.

“The only thing that I can see is that Karen Herman added a note that said ‘subpoena,’” he said after reviewing the documents. “That’s not what those things were.”

The DA subpoenas from Connick’s era were similar to those used until this year by North Shore DA Warren Montgomery’s office and looked like genuine subpoenas in use at the time. They said “CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT” at the top and declared, “YOU ARE HEREBY NOTIFIED to appear before the District Attorney in the Criminal District Court for the Parish of Orleans … to testify to the truth according to your knowledge.”

Montgomery stopped sending them because they looked too much like genuine subpoenas and could mislead people.
In other words, it's a thing they all did as a matter of course until someone finally objected. Decades later. There are so many ways in which entitlements like this exist as a matter of course forever until people start to notice. Typically the play, then, is to blame it all on the one bad actor who happens to get called out at the time. In this case, that's Cannizzaro. But, really, the abuse extends far beyond just him. Odds are it will continue in some form after he's gone.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Depends on which witch you're hunting

I don't have any doubt that LaToya Cantrell's attorney is correct in saying Jeff Landry is subpoenaing her personal banking records out of blind spite.  But I am interested in the fact that it is specifically this subpoena they are insisting needs to be quashed.
Cantrell is seeking only to quash one of the subpoenas, which seeks her personal banking records. Gibbens has described Landry's pursuit of those records as "nothing more than an intrusive and harassing witch-hunt by a political opponent."
Again, I think they're right about Landry. He's a prick and he's just in this thing because it's advantageous to him to be seen harrying the (sort of) Mayor Of New Orleans at this time. For Jeff Landry, LaToya really is the only "witch" being hunted.

But what if there's some actual voodoo hiding in those records regardless.  Because included in Cantrell's personal records are delinquent taxes related to a home loan financed by First NBC. And, as we have leanred this year, FNBC was the preferred money club of the city's political elite for a while. But then the bank's strategy of converting post-Katrina rebuilding tax credits into pet projects for club members collapsed onto itself and ended the party.

While it was up and running, though, the money club would have worked best when it could ensure political favor for projects it was financing. Which is why it would want to do favors for people in politics.  And so it's of interest when the personal financial records of  a prominent politician with ties to FNBC show up in a court procedeing.

Anyway, you see where this is going. Jeff Landry is making this about LaToya's city credit card usage. And while that isn't exactly nothing, he's really hunting the wrong witch. There's actually a whole coven out there. And Cantrell's high powered lawyer is working to shut down the line of inquiry that could lead to it.