Monday, May 20, 2019

Well that seems bad

The Mississippi

Is that bad?
The last time the Mississippi River was this high for this long, it prompted the federal government to build the modern levee system.

The river has been in flood stage for months, and on Tuesday, will hit 136 days in flood stage at Baton Rouge, breaking the record set in 1927.

What's more, the river is still in major flood stage and rising, though held in place by the levees. Meteorologists say they expect it will stay in flood stage "well into summer."
They say this year is the most rainwater the river has had to drain ever, or at least since they started measuring 124 years ago. So far, so good, they nervously hope out loud. But there are some items in this story that get your attention. 
The typical formula the Corps uses to predict flood stage doesn't even apply because the water has been so high for so long, Mississippi Valley Watershed Chief Joey Windham said.

Nevertheless, south Louisiana's levees are holding, said Col. Michael Clancy, of the Corps. His New Orleans District has noted more than 200 points of concern, including more serious issues with erosion near Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola and a sand boil in Pointe Coupee Parish.
This is a long time for those levees to hold a sustained flood. There is a danger they could erode in spots as the water recedes.  Seepage happens every year but it is something they have to monitor.

The article also talks about disruptions in agriculture and construction along the river while it remains in flood. Apparently this doesn't affect the Bourbon Street work scheduled to re-start this week. Back in March, the river stage had prompted a halt to that project. I wonder what is different now. 

Golden age of grifting

The new opportunity zone rules are deliberately designed to spawn thousands of ineffectual and unaccountable tax shelters.
While the scheme is attracting investors, some observers worry that it won't do much for the really depressed neighborhoods that were supposed to be the focus of the policy. They fear a disproportionate amount of OZ investment will be directed at real estate and not toward higher-risk, job-creating investments in the neediest zones.
If the policy goal is to inflate the price of real estate in the targeted neighborhoods with no tangible benefit to anyone but the "investors" parking money there, then this is the way to do it. Expect a land rush.
Cullan Maumus, an executive with the New Orleans Redevelopment Fund, a private-sector property developer in New Orleans, said his firm has been getting 50 to 100 inquiries from potential investors every day since the regulations were clarified.

The boil order (and street flooding) decade

We'd say last weekend was pretty wild but we're used to it.  A lot of rain in the space of a few hours, the streets all flood. Water gets in houses and businesses and cars. Would you believe this whole sack of crawfish just came floating by our front door?

Bucket o crawfish

Well, okay, we made that part up.  But we would believe it.  Just another mid spring Sunday in the City That Floods.
For all her efforts to rebrand New Orleans as the “City of Yes,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell may have actually stumbled on a more fitting slogan for the area less than two weeks into her term.

“We are a city that floods,” the recently inaugurated mayor said after a May 18 storm drenched the region last year.

Nailed it. Hashtag CityThatFloods.

"When we take on too much water at any given time, we will have street flooding," the mayor tweeted out then. "We have to be prepared."

For residents, that means hustling to get vehicles to higher ground, lashing trash bins and lawn furniture to something solid and hoping that the turbines, pumps and their operators are all fully engaged at the Sewerage & Water Board.
Yeah, I remember that one. It's been an eventful year in office for Mayor Cantrell. The, "hey, it's a city that floods" bit seemed like so much unintentional comedy at the time. It got less funny, though, as the year went on and the mayor's pattern of blaming residents for the bad things that happened to them came more and more into evidence.  Sewerage and Water Board's billing software is an unholy mess but the real problem is you guys are deadbeats.  We fiddled with the traffic cameras without telling anybody but the real problem is y'all have a "laissez-faire approach" to life here in the Big Easy. There's been a brief spike in violent crime but the real problem is, y'all are bad parents.

Last Sunday morning a pumping station lost power during a heavy thunderstorm. What were the real reasons for that? Well let's go through the usual theories to see if we can come up with something.  We'd say it was because some employees fell asleep but that's who we blamed it on last time.  We've also already played the runaway truck card.

We could say it was some sort of wayward animal. We've already used up squirrel, also raccoons, more than once, I think. There was one very famous cat. There's no shortage of mischievous critters crawling about New Orleans, but even so, we're running out of suspects.

It seems we've landed on lightning strike as the main culprit for the Mother's Day flood. But it's odd that it would strike five times. At the end of the day the real problem is most likely to be our negative attitude.

But there's been little to disabuse us of our fatalism in recent years. SWB's leadership aren't even trying. They even brought a graphic to this City Council presentation listing the 28 boil orders we've experienced since 2010.  That can be a real downer.  But the punchline is they can't even get that right.  McBride actually took the time to fact check the "28 boil orders."  It turns out some of SWB's tally include some pressure drop incidents during 2011 that never resulted in boil orders. But their count also omits three actual boil orders while getting some dates and details wrong on some of the others.  In the end McBride still counts 27 total boil orders.  The 2010s are indisputably the Boil Order Decade.  What does it say that the agency responsible for issuing those boil orders can't even count them?  Is there a similar count of major street flooding events since the August 2017 flood?  Mother's Day was at least the third since then that compares.

Maybe we can answer that later. But for now what's really important is that we did, in fact, have all those crawfish last weekend. And maybe they didn't quite float up to the door with the flood. But we went ahead with the boil order anyway so as not to take any chances.

Pile o crawfish

As it turned out, this was more than we had enough people to handle.  Which is how we ended up with enough left over to make a crawfish bisque.

Bisque finish

This is a rare thing for a couple of reasons. One reason is there usually isn't enough leftover to work with. Also the process takes a little time and there usually isn't enough of that either. This is normally something I talk about wanting to do throughout crawfish season but never get around to.  It's not very difficult. And, beside the crawfish and the time, it doesn't take much of anything special.  Here's the method.

First, peel your crawfish.

As you do this, obviously, you'll reserve your tail meat and whatever fat comes off with it in a container. It's hard to say how much you'll need. You're starting with some undetermined quantity of leftover boiled crawfish in the first place. I think we ended up with maybe 5 or 6 pounds altogether. I didn't even use it all. There's still some in my freezer now.

As you are peeling, you will want to reserve some of the claw shells and some of the tail shells in one pile. Use these to make a stock. Just throw them in a pot with some water and bring it to a boil. You can add onion and celery if you want.  Let it simmer a while and then strain.

Meanwhile the heads go in their own pile. Use a butter knife (or maybe a thumb you don't mind scratching up pretty good) to dig out all the guts so you are left with a pile of hollow carapaces.  Set that aside for a minute.

Next, make the stuffing.

Chop yourself up some onion, celery, bell pepper, garlic, maybe some parsley, as finely as possible. Saute in butter. Grab about... oh I dunno... maybe half a pound to three quarters of a pound of the tail meat and mince that up real fine as well. Add the meat to the vegetables in the pan.  You can season this with a little Tony's or just salt and pepper or crab boil or whatever. But if your crawfish boil was well seasoned already you probably won't need much. As that cooks, add about a cup of bread crumbs to thicken it up.  Next, beat two eggs, temper them with a bit of the stock, and add this to the pan as well. Stir until you get the consistency of, well, stuffing.

Stuff the heads

Each crawfish head should take a spoonful of stuffing.  How many do you need? I don't know just keep going until you run out of either heads or stuffing. I counted 34 by the time these went into the oven.

Stuffed heads

They go in a 350 degree oven for 15 or 20 minutes. However long it takes to brown a little bit.

Baked heads

Meanwhile you still have to make the bisque.

For that you're gonna need to make a roux. You guys know how to do that. It doesn't have to be very dark.  Just a medium blonde is fine. That gets more onion, celery, bell pepper, and garlic. I also put in a can of tomato paste. It was pretty thick.

Once the vegetables cook down a bit you can start adding your stock. You're going to want a mildly thick soup. The seasoning isn't complicated. Salt, pepper, red pepper, Tony's, crab boil, whatever you have and however much you like. I think I added some thyme.

Add, roughly, a pound or a pound and a half of the crawfish tail meat you peeled earlier and bring to a simmer.  I also added some green onion and squeezed in a lemon.  After simmering for a while, go ahead and add the stuffed heads to the pot. It looks like this.

Bisque finish

Some people want you to take the "faces" off of the crawfish heads before you stuff them but that's no fun as far as I'm concerned. Look at those guys floating around in there. It's adorable. Serve over rice, of course.

Bowl o bisque

If you took the time to stuff a lot of heads this is where that work is rewarded. Everybody gets more in every bowl. You don't want your guests jealously tallying up the heads and concluding they haven't gotten their "fair share." Ideally there will be so many everyone will lose count. Much like we have with our boil orders.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Zion is already a disaster/hero

I have to admit I do not understand the world of Pelicans media very well.  The circle of local reporters and bloggers who follow the team tend toward a Benson boosterism of such magnitude that one can never fully trust the consensus there.  Maybe that isn't always true but it is usually at the back of my mind when I'm sifting through takes.  On the other hand, national sports media seem to have an anti-New Orleans agenda at work. I think this is probably just the usual large market bias but, for whatever reason, it's much more pronounced on the NBA beat than it is with the NFL. 

Anyway neither side strikes me as particularly reliable. Gayle is either an evil madwoman or the franchise's savior.  Zion Williamson is either under a moral obligation to reject the draft altogether and go to New York or he is extremely "excited" to "accept the things he cannot change" even though phrasing it that way definitely makes it sound like a burden.   Who knows what to believe?  

My guess is Zion will be the greatest thing to happen to the Pelicans since Anthony Davis was the greatest thing to happen to the Pelicans since Chris Paul was that too.  Meanwhile Fletcher Mackel can tell us about 500 different ways the Pels can trade him.  Until they finally do. 

The law does not require you to carry John Bel to term

There are many many ways in which our current governor sucks. We list them here regularly.  Also we voted for him against David Vitter. Apparently there are people who are older than 13 who see some kind of contradiction in this. Voting for the least bad candidate on the ballot during a given election does not enlist you in that candidate's administration.  The least bad candidate is still going to do bad things. You aren't under any obligation to accept those things. 

Conversely, it's also fine to vote the least bad person again if he/she continues to be the least bad person on your ballot. This still doesn't enlist you in that person's campaign communications team so feel free to speak up when the least bad person does the bad things. The Governor's contact information is here, by the way.

Now we're getting into the Harry Potter character names

The essence of the FNBC scandal is about the way New Orleans's social and political elites leverage their status to launder various government grants, tax incentives, and charitable donations through non-profit entities, real estate transactions, and public-private  partnerships in order to pass money around among themselves and their friends. We are governed by a syndicate of wealthy criminals. During the critical post-Katrina "recovery" period, FNBC was their bank of choice.

The collapse of the bank exposes a lot of these people. Here is one whose actual name, believe it or not, is Charity.
Charity is the third person to be charged in the case, in which the bank, founded by high-profile New Orleans financier Ashton Ryan, was seized by regulators in the spring of 2017, leaving the Federal Deposit Insurance Fund on the hook for $1 billion. It was the biggest U.S. bank failure since the 2008-2010 financial crisis.

The charges brought Friday allege that Charity used front companies and conspired with "Bank President A" -- which, it is clear from previous charges brought in the case, is Ryan -- to submit false documents to obtain loans that totaled $18 million by the time the bank collapsed in April 2017.
Actually I remember this guy. One of the scams he was involved in had to do with Mitch Landrieu's use of "Fresh Food Retailer" grants ostensibly aimed at alleviating so called "food deserts" but in reality became a conduit for funneling money to corporate entities like Whole Foods or to hustlers like this Charity person. The Advocate links back to a Lens article about Charity and Landrieu's FFRI scam but apparently doesn't read it since they seem to think the strip mall in question is located in New Orleans East. [UPDATE: Turns out the US Attorney's office doesn't know where the mall is]

Or maybe they don't want to implicate any of the Landrieu people until they have to. And that's the interesting thing about this story. The FNBC failure could turn over a lot of rocks. But it's also likely the media is interested in looking under as few of those as possible.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Bare minimum

Another shot at undoing our very bad state pre-emption law against locally set minimum wages just whizzed right by today.  Nothing to do now but sit around and wait for the Governor's preferred $9.00 bill to also fail. By the looks of things, that should happen sometime on Monday.

In the endgame now?

At City Hall this morning they're getting set for what is likely the penultimate council hearing on short term rental regulations.  At least for this phase. The franchise can always be rebooted and probably will. There will be plenty of loose ends to pick up on;  lawsuits, enforcement issues, spot-zoning creep, it's all baked into the set of rules currently on the table.

The current chapter has been a long time in development. To get a sense of it,  I tried to find the earliest mention of Airbnb on the Yellow Blog.  That's not a perfect barometer, especially now that I've gotten so lax about my note taking. I've been writing about gentrification on this blog since before Katrina.  Anyway, here's a post from 2013 that mentions Airbnb in San Francisco. But that was really just a link to a story about the "sharing economy" in general.  The oldest post here about New Orleans that I specifically tagged "Airbnb" was this one from 2014

The point is, it's been a long time coming to get us to this point where our electeds might start taking substantive action to rein the problem in.  Kristin Palmer is pleased with the work "some of" them have done.
”I’ve been pleased with the attention to the different aspects of short-term rentals and how engaged some of the council members have been,” said Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who has led the charge on the issue since taking office last year. “A lot of the stuff that’s coming out now is actually more restrictive than what we originally envisioned.”
And, as we said at the top, this isn't quite the last episode.  Today is about revising and approving the Planning Commission's recommendations. They still have to come back in a few months to pass an ordinance.  A copy of today's proposed amendments is attached to this NOLA.com article. Mostly these deal with tweaks to what is and isn't allowed in residential zones and whether or not those rules can be overridden by city council through conditional use permission.  It looks like they're leaving the question of affordable housing set asides in larger commercial developments for later.

Further complicating matters is Jimmy Harris's HB 43, up for consideration in a State Senate committee today, coincidentally.  This is the part of the tourism Grand Bargain that imposes a new 6.75% sales tax on STRs in New Orleans and gives a portion of the revenue to Sewerage and Water Board. Why not all?  A quarter of it goes to New Orleans and Co. for some reason. It's an indication of what a rotten deal LaToya has struck with the tourism cabal. But that's a subject for another post.  The problematic nature of tying vital infrastructure funding to the success of an industry that displaces residents should be obvious. The pro-STR lobby is already trying to exploit that, in fact. According to Palmer, that isn't going to fly. But time will tell.
The architect of the proposed regulations, Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer, was critical of the letter, describing it as a “weak attempt to try to split the (Cantrell) administration and the council and make STRs a wedge." But she acknowledged the legislation is going to cause issues with raising more money for affordable housing.

The mayor, meanwhile, remains curiously on the sideline. As a councilperson her record on this issue has been neutral-to-not very good.  At some point she's going to have to weigh in. 

In the meantime, stage lights are going up at City Council. Enjoy the show today.

Tuesday, May 14, 2019

Remind me to write down all the ways in which the Cantrell adminstration has embraced a police state mentality

There's a lot of items to catalog there.  More than I've got time to run through right now.  Here's another one to throw on the pile, though.
NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - “We’re doing everything that we should be doing and committing ourselves to doing even more,” Mayor Latoya Cantrell said.

With a juvenile crime problem across New Orleans, Mayor Cantrell said her administration is taking proactive steps to curb that crime, includes working with the Covenant House when it comes to curfew violations.

Jim Kelly is the Executive Director of the Covenant House and said the city will soon begin aggressively enforcing curfew for anyone 16 years old or younger.

“So, they came to us and said to us, we really want to enforce curfew. Can you guys help us? Well, that’s why we exist,” Kelly said.

Curfew starts at 9 p.m. and ends at 6 a.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11 p.m. through 6 a.m. on Friday and Saturday.

Of course, LaToya loves enforcing curfew.   It was just last week that she and NOPD Chief Shaun Ferguson and Mayor Cantrell spent the better part of a  press conference talking about how crappy New Orleanians are at being parents.

“It is time to take ownership of your kids," New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Shaun Ferguson said Thursday morning. "Be responsible for these kids. We as a department, we as a criminal justice system, we as a city government can not do this alone. We do need your help with this”
They need your help.  Meanwhile they will be helpful to you by arresting your children for the very serious crime of being outside. You might think having to deal with all the added stress and inconvenience of dealing with that makes the job of being a parent all the more difficult but, remember, it's for your protection... or it's for somebody's protection... maybe.  There's no evidence that juvenile curfews do anything at all to reduce crime.  Sorry there's no research on whether or not they affect "brazenness." But LaToya sounds like she has some opinions on that.
For potential victims, officials told them to call 911 and not engage.

“They’re armed, and this is serious," Cantrell said. "They are brazen, and they have no fear. Call 911, do not engage. Because we believe, based on what we’ve seen, it will not end in a manner that we want in this city. It will not end positively.”
At least she doesn't call them superpredators. Although, I did think, for a second, I was watching Joe Biden talking about the crime bill again.
President Bill Clinton in 1994 signed the crime bill into law with broad bipartisan support as violent crime rates peaked in the US in the early 1990s. Included in the law was the federal "three strikes" provision, mandating life sentences for criminals convicted of a violent felony after two or more prior convictions, including drug crimes. 
"We have predators on our streets that society has in fact, in part because of its neglect, created," said Biden, then a fourth-term senator from Delaware so committed to the bill that he has referred to it over the years as "the Biden bill."
"They are beyond the pale many of those people, beyond the pale," Biden continued. "And it's a sad commentary on society. We have no choice but to take them out of society."
In the speech, Biden described a "cadre of young people, tens of thousands of them, born out of wedlock, without parents, without supervision, without any structure, without any conscience developing because they literally ... because they literally have not been socialized, they literally have not had an opportunity." He said, "we should focus on them now" because "if we don't, they will, or a portion of them, will become the predators 15 years from now."
The 1994 crime bill supercharged mass incarceration, greatly expanded the power of the American police state and penalized a generation of poor people, basically, for the conditions of their own poverty.  I thought we knew that already.  In fact, I thought so many people understand this now, as compared to in 1993, that this sort of rhetoric has become a political problem for Biden in the Democratic primary. It must not be much of a problem for Cantrell and her police chief, though because... geeze.

Anyway I'm still trying to decide if the bigger problem here has to do with Mayor Trump's authoritarian streak or if it's more about the petty corruption of involving a problematic religious non-profit in the enforcement scheme. Is Covenant House being paid for its role in this? If so, how much?

Thursday, May 09, 2019

The landlords are the victim, see

This is a story about how the pro-Short Term Rental lobby is working to keep the City Council in check by threatening frivolous but expensive legal action.  
The lawsuit contends that these restrictions amount to a deprivation of the STR-owners' property and due process rights under the Louisiana and U.S. constitutions, as well as the city's constitution, the New Orleans Home Rule Charter.

Eric Bay, chairman of ANP, says that the point of the lawsuit is not to obtain damages but to try to persuade the City to make sure those STR operators who had legally-obtained licenses before last year's moratorium are "grandfathered" in and will be able to continue to operate legally. The lawsuit argues that the City's existing zoning rules - the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance - provide for this continuing use.
Why is Eric Bay still talking? I thought they fired him. No matter. If the point here is to be annoying then he is probably your guy.  Short term rental landlords have filed suits like this in other cities and failed.  There are multiple problems with ANP's reasoning not the least of which being that they are asking to be "grandfathered" into a regulatory status that is barely the age of a toddler.  Also it's just dumb.
Property rights law generally allows a pre-existing commercial use when there is a change in land use regulations, says John Lovett, a professor at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law and a property expert. "However, the licenses granted by the city already signaled to the property owners that their right to engage in whole home rentals was contingent on annual renewal of the licenses," and the new rules would return the situation to the status quo before the experiment with whole home rentals.
But they know this. A lawsuit like this isn't intended to win in court. It's meant to intimidate councilmembers just as they are taking up the issue next week. ANP has money to blow asserting its dominance while the council has to worry about the budgetary impact of legal defense. (Or at least they need to hear arguments based in such a concern.)

But ANP is really the little guy, here, see. Hell they are straight up woke, even. 
The ANP says that it represents the typical smaller operator in New Orleans and has not been opposed to new rules. In fact, Bay says, the ANP proposed even stricter rules in 2016 than the rules that were eventually adopted the following year.

The group says its membership demographics are 78% female and 50% minority, with many having invested in rental properties as part of their retirement plans.

"Our group is speaking up for those afraid to come forward and those whose voices have not been heard and whose legal rights are being threatened,” said Janice Burrell, ANP vice president and a retired computer science professor, who is African-American.

"As a minority female and New Orleans resident, we were promised a chance to build personal wealth, and share in our city’s hospitality industry under a legal taxable operating framework," she adds. "Through no cause of our own, this new set of guidelines seeks to take that opportunity away."
Sorry, everybody who has been fighting for affordable housing and against the conversion of neighborhoods into tourism villages for  the better part of a decade now. It turns out you are all the real racists. Maybe we are laughing at that but this is the political argument that has already won the day with your elected persons. 

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Secession crisis

If the St. George separatists get their way this fall, things are going to get very bad for Baton Rouge very quickly.
A new study claims the city-parish stands to lose approximately $48.3 million annually should the proposed city of St. George successfully incorporate in southeast East Baton Rouge Parish.

The study, prepared by Richard CPAs at the request of the city-parish's Finance Department, also claims every city-parish department and agency would need to cut its budget by a minimum of 18 percent across the board should the incorporation occur.
Currently only residents within the limits of the proposed St. George will be allowed to vote on the separation question. There's a bill in the legislature right now that would expand the vote to the parish as a whole giving a voice to the people who would be hurt the most by it.  It's scheduled for a committee hearing tomorrow. 

Mr. 38 Percent

After everything that's happened, John Bel might still blow this.
Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards is leading his Republican gubernatorial challengers by several points in a new poll, but is still well short of the 50% needed to win re-election.

The survey, conducted by Baton Rouge-based JMC Analytics and Polling and released at a recent Louisiana Chemical Association annual event, puts Edwards at 38% in his bid for re-election as the only Democratic governor in the Deep South. Congressman Ralph Abraham polled second, at 23%, while Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone is in single digits at 7% and 32% are undecided.
After JMC factors in its undecided modeling, that gets him up around 45%. Still not over the top.  As Governor John Bel has been a staunch ally to the oil and gas industry, has balanced the state budget on the backs of poor and working people through regressive taxation while handing out millions of dollars in free money to large corporations.   It's strange that Republicans would even bother to run anyone against him in the first place. What more could they get out of that that they don't already have?

Golden age of grifting

When you think about it there is really only one person who could be President in these times.
Mr. Trump was able to lose all that money without facing the usual consequences — such as a steep drop in his standard of living — in part because most of it belonged to others, to the banks and bond investors who had supplied the cash to fuel his acquisitions. And as The Times’s earlier investigation showed, Mr. Trump secretly leaned on his father’s wealth to continue living like a winner and to stage a comeback.

This is not to say that Mr. Trump never made money on a deal. One that turned out quite well came in 1985, when he bought the Hotel St. Moritz in Manhattan for $73.7 million. Mr. Trump has said he sold it for $180 million in 1989. His tax information showed long-term capital gains of $99.8 million, accounting for the vast majority of such gains in the 10 years reviewed by The Times.
But that rich payday was overwhelmed by his business losses, and Mr. Trump still paid no federal income taxes that year.

Some fraction of that ocean of red ink represented depreciation on Mr. Trump’s real estate. One of the most valuable special benefits in the tax code, depreciation lets owners of commercial real estate write down the cost of their buildings.

“I love depreciation,” Mr. Trump said during a presidential debate in 2016.

Mr. Trump defended this tax strategy on Wednesday and said in a pair of Twitter posts that this was what real estate developers did in the 1980s and 1990s.

Developers “were entitled to massive write offs and depreciation which would, if one was actively building, show losses and tax losses in almost all cases,” Mr. Trump said.

Tuesday, May 07, 2019

Gotta write it down or it's like it never happened

Lately, there have been too many days when I don't get around to putting things on the blog I would like to. The primary reason I type things here in the first place is so I can remember what I've read in the news along with maybe some of the other things that happened each day. More crucially, I put those things here so I can find them later if I need them.  A person can tweet until they're blue in the thumbs but until there's time actually sit down and makes some notes, it ends up being so much just tossed into the void and too many days that feel like they may not have actually happened.

One deterrent to doing the posts is I often want to come over here and write only when it's something that needs a a lot of links and a lot of a fair amount of well at least some explanation beyond, "LOL get a load of these wankers!" Which is why a lot of stuff I'd prefer to have listed here where it's easier to find ends up in a dang tweet hole somewhere. It's also why there are (checks) 670 unfinished posts in "drafts" right now.

A few of those will be up soon. I absolutely have to get the stuff about the tourism "Grand Bargain" finished.  But also I need to remember to just put stuff here so I remember that it existed at all. Gonna have to do better at that before the brain cloud finished eating me. So with that in mind, here are some items I wanted to flag today.
  • Yesterday, the Times-Georges-Dotcom informed us that accounting mega-firm Ernst &Young was planning to expand its New Orleans offices.  Which, okay, fine. But why were the Mayor and the Governor there to announce it?

  • Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the economic development group Greater New Orleans Inc. announced the deal, which comes as Ernst & Young is set to mark 100 years in the city.

    Brian Rotolo, Ernst & Young’s Louisiana managing partner, said in an interview that New Orleans was chosen for the firm’s expansion because of its long presence in the city, the available talent pool in the metro region, and access to affordable commercial real estate.
    Everyone on hand emphasized that E&Y had not been granted any of the special incentive payouts or tax breaks that we've grown accustomed to watching state and city officials hand out like Republican Presidents hand out breath mints.  So, again, why were they even there?  Why does it say they were announcing a "deal"? They must want credit for having done something, right? Maybe they just wanted to throw a property state ceremony to honor such a prestigious international firm.  
    The Danish Business Authority started its investigation into EY last year as the full scale of the Danske scandal became known. Denmark’s biggest bank is at the center of a $230 billion Estonian laundering saga that spans the years 2007 to 2015. The financial watchdog has more recently warned that smaller lenders are also at risk of being targeted by launderers, as the biggest banks beef up their compliance efforts.

    Ernst & Young is on the hook for its work auditing Danske’s accounts for 2014. KPMG has been reported to police for its audit of the 2017 annual report of Kobenhavns Andelskasse.
    Well that part makes sense, at least.  If you are looking for a good place to expand your international money laundering operations, New Orleans is a good place to do it.

  • Here's what else New Orleans is a good place for.  Comically combative lawyering.
    The two attorneys were arguing over whether Pittman should increase the bail for a defendant in a domestic violence case, according to a transcript. Spears claimed the accuser had previously been convicted of filing a false police report against his client, but Dover said Spears had no proof of that.

    "Excuse me, sir. You're a liar," Dover told Spears.

    "I will punch the (expletive) out of you if you call me a liar again," Spears replied.

    Dover responded by calling Spears a liar again.

    Spears raised a fist to Dover, who raised his arm up "in a blocking motion."

    When Pittman tried to stop the fight, Spears told her he was going to be the bigger man than Dover — but also offered to settle the exchange "outside the courtroom."
    That episode is funny enough as it is. But it's more fun because of the notable status of the players.  Dover is a senior prosecutor at the DA's office and a prominent figure in the controversy over its use of  "fake subpoenas" Spears is well known local political kingmaker. He's also apparently sorry for almost kicking Dover's butt.
    "Your Honor, let me first apologize to the court for losing my temper with Mr. Dover, threatening to kick his butt after using profanity in the courtroom. It won't happen again," Spears said.

  • Finally, in other legal news, real estate investor Ron Von Kurnatowski is no longer being sued specifically for running a Ponzi scheme.  But there are other problems.
    Businessman and former Tipitina's owner Roland Von Kurnatowski has had mixed success in recent weeks in two of his numerous ongoing legal battles, with one New Orleans judge ruling he owes nearly $850,000 to his sister and nephews, while claims he ran a Ponzi scheme were dropped in a separate lawsuit.

    Movement on both cases comes less than six months after he sold off Tipitina's, the famed Uptown music club he owned for about two decades, to the band Galactic.

    Last year, he also sold off his share of the Orpheum Theater — which he helped restore following Hurricane Katrina. The sales came amid questions about whether he mingled his private business interests too closely with a nonprofit that has shared a name with Tipitina's and was best known for donating thousands of musical instruments to local school bands.
    Sounds like somebody needs to call Ernst & Young.

Anyway. Happy GiveNOLA Day!  Choose which pit you want to throw your money into wisely.

Saturday, May 04, 2019

I hope they at least buy Valerio something nice

Parks and Rec sign

You may have seen a few of these signs adorning the lawns of the nicer Uptown homes this month

Here is a shocker for you.  It turns out that all of the differently branded editorial voices belonging to the Georges Media Empire Holding Company are in agreement about how everyone should vote in an election. All of the Georgeses want you to approve the Audubon millage on Saturday's ballot. The Georges-Advocate says Audubon has "done a smart thing" in lumping City Park and a pair of city agencies in with their new tax proposal. The Georges-Advocate-Gambit says some nonsense about how it overcomes "a piecemeal approach" to parks management. The Times-Georges-DotCom says it's "a smart way to maximize tax dollars."

The Mayor and her friends have also dumped several hundred thousand dollars into an all out advertising blitz in favor of the new tax. According to campaign finance filings,  the pro-tax  PAC "Together For Parks Alliance" had spent over $180,000 through March. The report for April isn't out yet. The PAC had about $35,000 on hand to start the month.  Judging from the explosion of mailers and ads on local TV and social media, I'd guess they will have spent something close to $250,000 by the time it's all over.   That's a lot to dump into a single ballot measure. They could have bought one "nurse, teacher, or first responder" a whole condo for that.

We've already talked about this in terms of the hypocrisy of the elites in the Audubon adjacent fundraising clubs who think they run the city. But, okay, what is it they're actually asking voters to do? The Georgeses opinionators all say we're being asked to "renew" existing millages.  But this isn't really what's happening.  The proposed millage is, in fact, a whole new tax that replaces three current millages set to expire two years from now. The Georgeses also tell us that Audubon is graciously redistributing its current revenues in order to "share" something with less well funded entities. That isn't quite right either.

Here is the Assessor's sheet of current dedicated millages in Orleans Parish.

Audubon has two millages set to expire in 2021. One of them (labeled "Audubon Park Zoo" here) is .32 mils and meant to supplement operations and capital improvements at the privately owned and operated facility.  The other one, labeled "Aquarium" for 2.99 mils was specifically dedicated to finance the construction of the Aquarium sometime way back in the 1900s. The bonds serviced by those funds are set to be paid off when the millage expires. In other words that tax has paid for what it was meant to pay for. It's just money that has been going directly to the bank for thirty years. Nobody will actually miss it when it's gone.

Audubon's spokesperson admits as much in this article. 
Although Audubon would lose more than $4 million a year in tax money, Dietz said it will be able to absorb most of that blow when it finishes paying off the bonds that financed building of the aquarium in 2021.

"Most" of the $4 million loss in expiring tax revenue could be "absorbed" when the debt is retired. Makes sense since that's what it was for. This is further corroborated today by a person on Twitter who informs us that Audubon has been spending approximately $3.8 million a year on debt service. If they were to come back in a couple of years and ask to renew their expiring .32 mils, that looks like it would cover the difference just fine. We could argue further about whether they're entitled to that, even. But it doesn't matter because what they're asking for is a brand new tax altogether.

The new tax is 6.31 mils. This figure is derived by combining the .32 Audubon base millage with what had been the 2.99 mils dedicated to bond financing. In order to sell the public on the deal, another 3.00 mils is added to match the amount currently shared by NORD and Parks and Parkways.  The three entities then divide up the total in a way that allows each to take a little bit of what had been the Aquarium debt fund. City Park is also cut in a share.

Critically, though, for Audubon this means a dramatic increase from .32 mils for discretionary stuff  UP to 1.95. The Parks and NORD millages expire in 2021. They could be renewed, or even increased, at that point. There is no need to tie the future of those mils to Audubon other than to provide Audubon with an excuse to bump up their own funds. The claim that Audubon is actually giving something up in order to "share" with the other parties is just a shell game.  The Georges papers certainly know this.  It's a shame they have three "brands" available with which to broadcast their lies about it. 

There's also something perverse in the idea that Mayor Cantrell, who is supposed to be leading a fight for a "fair share" of tax revenues currently enjoyed by the tourism industry would promote this plan to hold our public parks and recreation departments hostage to the greedy interests of Ron Forman's commercial tourist attractions.  But that's the standard procedure around here.  There's no such thing as a public good if it doesn't first trickle down through the usual network of oligarchs.

Just as we're finishing up this post it looks like the new plan has passed by an overwhelming margin.

And that's what having a quarter million dollars to throw around on a single ballot question will buy you.  As long as we keep funneling public money right back up into the hands of the well-to-do, there's sure to be more where that came from. 

Friday, May 03, 2019

This blog will sell to John Georges for one million dollars

He probably won't buy it, though.  He seems to have it in his head that there are too many "dangerous people" on the internet.  And, from his point of view, maybe that's true. Those people will just bring up any old thing if you don't watch them closely.  So I guess we shouldn't be too surprised that when Georges does decide to buy a website, he does it mainly to fire everybody.
New Orleans Advocate owners Dathel and John Georges have purchased The Times-Picayune and its nola.com website from the Newhouse family’s Advance Local Media.

The Advocate will publish a seven-day, home-delivered newspaper in New Orleans using the brands and features of both publications. The new paper will debut in June. The two papers’ websites will be combined under the nola.com brand around the same time.
According to Georges, this is being done in order to "ensure a strong print and online news company for years to come.” But you'd forgive us if we weren't entirely sold on the proposition that the "brands and features" of the two papers are worth as much to the reader minus the work of the actual reporters who once produced their content.  Georges laid off every single T-P employee effective 60 days from now. We haven't been told how many can expect to be hired on to the new company but the early indications are it will be very few. I guess, technically, you can call that an "expansion" of the Advocate.  The Advocate is certainly calling it that, anyway. 
The Advocate will be expanding its New Orleans news, advertising and circulation staff by hiring from current nola.com and Times-Picayune employees, and will increase its coverage of suburban communities, sports, and arts and entertainment, and also improve its opinion pages.
How will they be improving the opinion pages, exactly?  Somehow I doubt the opinions will improve. The current version of the New Orleans Advocate opinion page prominently features the conventional wisdom of political columnist Stephanie Grace, the curmudgeonly wit of veteran James Gill, and the all out right wing nuttery of Dan Fagan. Gill and Grace get some things right some of the time but, mostly, this is a centrist-to-conservative leaning page. The T-P's Jarvis DeBerry is a pretty moderate columnist himself but would add a relatively more progressive voice to this lot if they were to bring him on.  We've not seen or heard anything to indicate the Advocate management is inclined to go that direction, though. While pitching the Advocate's new online paywall to readers last month, editor Peter Kovacs chose to highlight the work of only one columnist in particular.
Six days a week, Smiley Anders captures the wit, kindness and good humor of the people of Louisiana. And even if the rest of the news centers on crime or crisis, you can’t read his column without walking away an optimist.
But maybe none of this matters. The significance of a newspaper opinions page is greatly diminished in the age of social media. Takes, even "good' takes, are cheap. Write your own whenever you like and share them with your friends. The value produced by a newspaper is in the actual news reporting. And John Georges just fired a whole lot of reporters.

It's never a good time for that. But it doesn't improve matters that Georges fired everybody during the height of the legislative session. At the very moment the mayor and the tourism industry are supposedly on the verge of a deal, and as the city council prepares to make a major decision on the future of the short term rental problem, nearly half of the beat reporters responsible for keeping an eye on that stuff just learned they're about to be on the street.

If any of that is worrisome to Lens editor Jed Horne, he isn't about to tell us. Instead he spends most of this editorial gloating
But starting a rival paper that was better than the T-P wasn’t the end of the drama. Now Kovacs and Shea  will run the whole shebang for Georges. Meanwhile, the buzz on the street is that the remaining T-P staff has been given layoff notices and 60 days of severance pay. Enjoying the pick of the litter, The Advocate is expected to offer jobs to a handful of reporters who toiled for its former rival. The reconfigured paper will begin publishing in June.
Yay! Everybody is fired and now has to grovel to one of the slimiest billionaires in the state. Why does Horne love this so much?  If there's one positive thing we can say for the six year "newspaper war" it's that the number of reporting jobs in New Orleans declined at a less dramatic rate than they otherwise would have. Now that anomaly has met with an abrupt end. Horne goes on to predict that the Times-Georges monopoly is likely to cull the ranks further. How are we supposed to feel about that?  Horne seems confused.

The Advocate editors sure aren't.  They think it's great.  And they're looking forward to welcoming "some" new colleagues.
We look forward to welcoming some new colleagues, serving new subscribers, helping new advertisers grow their businesses — and tirelessly listening to all of the voices in the great communities we serve.
So congratulations to those guys.  Everybody else, have fun reapplying for some of your jobs.

It was puzzling yesterday to see a few commenters describe the late news wars as a "David vs. Goliath" contest. Lamar uses those terms in his title here, though he only does that in a pointed, sort of ironic way.  He also hints at something in this paragraph that a lot of people have either missed or purposefully ignored so far. 
The decision to fire the entire staff, in one fell swoop, has been roundly criticized on social media by the paper’s readers and among fellow members of the press, while the announcement of the purchase has been met with a range of reactions. Still, among journalists and mass media professionals, the consensus seems to be one of cautious optimism and a sense of relief. In recent years, the Times-Picayune has been faltering under poor corporate management.
Why would a sudden mass firing be met with "cautious optimism and a sense of relief" among media professionals?  The most likely reason is they all expected to be losing their jobs soon anyway. It's possible Advance was getting set to shutter the T-P whether Georges bought it or not. Still, the move hardly makes him any kind of savior. He's just stripping the carcass.

Anyway John Georges  vs. Advance/Newhouse isn't a  David and Goliath story. It's more like Goliath vs. Very Sick And Dying Goliath.  And regardless of which Goliath wins, the losers are journalists, support staff and readers. Or maybe it's all just the natural way of market economics.  We don't really need two newspapers in a town like New Orleans where so very little news happens, right? 

One thing we did learn was this dumb Darren Rovell tweet from back in January turned out to be more accurate than anyone knew.  And that's the strangest news to come out of any of this.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Who are we trying to sustain?

Seems like the river is pretty much always in flood this time of year now.
The Army Corps of Engineers is considering opening the Bonnet Carre Spillway for a second time this year, with the river again set to rise to 16.9 feet in New Orleans on May 11. It would be the first time the spillway was opened twice in the same calendar year since it was completed in 1931. While the official flood stage at the Carrollton Gage in New Orleans is 17 feet, floodwalls and levees in the New Orleans area protect from water heights of at least 20 feet.
That's probably bad. Maybe just leave the thing open for a few months.

While they're at it, maybe it's time to get some of these lower river diversions up and running while they still might do some... well I hesitate to say some good since we're probably past that point but, you know. 
One of the embarrassing facts of American political life is that most of us only pay attention when the debate is about so-called “kitchen table issues.” Our lives are so busy and hectic, researchers claim, we don’t get involved at the ballot box until a topic might cost us money or safety.

That’s one of the excuses given to explain why so many south Louisiana voters continue to send people like Steve Scalise, Clay Higgins and Garret Graves back to Washington even as those congressmen vote against their constituents’ best interests by steadfastly fighting regulations to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The science may show those pollutants are the main driver of rising seas that will drown much of the state’s bottom third within 40 to 50 years, but that seems like a long way off, these politicians say. No need to pay for it now. You’re still safe. And maybe it won’t happen!

Well, maybe the new storm surge risk maps issued by the National Hurricane Center last week will finally bring this issue to your kitchen table. 
Bob Marshall is correct to call out Louisiana's congressional delegation for its dismissal of the threat climate change poses to the majority of their constituents.  But he'd be kidding himself if he actually believes the new flood maps will change anyone's position. At the most all they're likely to do is tweak the marketing pitch for continuing the same destructive policies.  Here is a NYT article about some Republicans who are doing just that, in fact. Among them is LA Congressman Garret Graves.
In almost all of the cases in which conservative politicians are cautiously staking out territory on climate change, they still do not acknowledge the extent of man’s responsibility for causing it. Putting a price on emitting carbon into the atmosphere is verboten. And they insist solutions do not need to include eliminating or even curbing the use of oil, coal and other dirty energy sources primarily responsible for heating the planet.

“If we can find strategies that allow us to reduce emissions while continuing to use fossil fuels, I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing,” Mr. Graves said in a recent interview.
See we gotta figure out how to compromise and balance between having a coast and supporting the industry that has ripped it to pieces. Simple. Sensible sounding.  The stuff of editorial page legend. 

Of course, here is what that looks like in real life.
Today, there is a proposal to place a massive oil terminal – the Plaquemines Liquids Terminal – on the Mississippi River directly in the footprint of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion. This terminal would provide a connection from a not-yet-built oil pipeline to large tankers on the river, storing as much as 20 million barrels of oil on site for loading onto these ships directly upriver of the intake structure of the diversion.

What could go wrong? Unfortunately, a lot. First, the terminal and the ships using it will decrease the land-building power of the Mid-Barataria Sediment Diversion, as the tankers block sediment from being captured by the diversion, resulting in less land. In effect, we’ll be making a $1.4 billion project investment far less effective than it could be.

Given the importance and urgency of coastal restoration and protection, that in itself would seem to make this a very bad idea.

Beyond that, virtually any spill, however small or large, will risk fouling the wetlands that are being created and sustained by the diversion. At a time when our state is losing its wetland buffer and wildlife habitat faster than anywhere else on Earth, why would we allow something to compromise or corrupt the wetlands that remain? In a post BP world, why would we take the risk of a catastrophic failure that could ruin the very effort we need to sustain ourselves here?
I suppose that last question is rhetorical. As we well know by now none of this is about choosing to "sustain ourselves" in South Louisiana because there is no "ourselves" to sustain.  There are, instead, the competing interests of varies "selves" to consider. And some of those are more valuable than others.

Monday, April 29, 2019

Fine upstanding citizens

Bollinger and Cannizaro give a lot of money to local politicians (many of them Democrats!) and are active wheels in the non-profit industrial complex that more or less runs everything.  Also they do this.
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will have a dinner fundraiser in New Orleans next month that will cost supporters a minimum of $2,800 apiece.

Those willing to shell out $100,000 per person will get "roundtable" access, and couples can pay $35,000 for a photo with the president at the May 14 event.

Shipbuilder Boysie Bollinger and developer Joe Canizaro, Trump's finance co-chairs for Louisiana, are listed as the event's hosts, according to a copy of the invitation obtained by The Advocate.

They all want to talk about how there's nothing more important than beating Trump (even if they have some stupid ideas about how to do that)  but they still accept Trump's guys into the club whenever. It makes you wonder if they take any of this seriously.

Backtracking on ITEP

Why do Republican legislators hate democracy?

The Year Of Enforcement

"We have to shake this image of being the Big Easy where you can do anything you want in New Orleans" -- LaToya Cantrell

That isn't all she says in this unhinged rambling video about traffic cameras, bicycle regulations and the "year of enforcement." (By the way, I thought LaToya wanted 2015 to be the Year Of Enforcement.  She really does have a thing for policing people.) LaToya has no tolerance whatsoever for nuance, subtlety or the notion of  discretion in law enforcement.  "We can't pick and choose!" about when and where to drop the hammer, she says. If you are driving even one mile over the speed limit, "That's illegal!" End of discussion. There is only force and it must be applied at maximum to everyone. LaToya pounds the table as she declares, "Cyclists will be ticketed!" 

She sounds an awful lot here like her father-in-law Magistrate Judge Harry Cantrell who has been repeatedly criticized for setting excessive bail in defiance of federal court orders meant to shut down what has amounted to a "debtor's prison."  Judge Cantrell is about as empathetic as LaToya.
Cantrell routinely refuses to set bail below $2,500, regardless of the facts of a case or a defendant’s ability to pay, the suit claims. In most cases, the judge forces defendants to seek the services of a commercial bail bondsman, which in Orleans Parish charge a non-refundable 12-percent or 13-percent fee on the total bond amount.
“We don’t go any lower than $2,500 in this court,” Cantrell told one defendant’s attorney. “This court never goes any lower than $2,500,” he said in another case. “I don’t got any lower than $2,500 on my bonds,” he said in yet another. In one instance, he told a lawyer he was going to set bond at $2,500, regardless of what information the lawyer provided.
The bail is the bail.  You can't pick and choose, right?  The law is the law and it has got to be enforced.  If you tried to slow down in the school zone but only made it down to 25 mph  instead of 24 by the time the camera saw you, well it's nice that you tried but also that's too bad. We have to enforce it. If you are playing music in the street for a crowd during a music festival, well that's nice but also "That's illegal!" LaToya's cops are gonna come and shut you down. Here's Kevin Allman on why that's a problem.
Was the street band in violation of some ordinance? Maybe. But doesn't the city have something, anything better to do than to attempt to shut down the next generation of musicians who are trying to make a buck — and making a lot of people happy in the process?

New Orleans' music culture isn't restricted to symphony halls, nightclubs or festivals sponsored by Acura and Shell. It's more organic than that, or it should be. And it's a bad look for a city that pays lip service to "culture bearers" to shut down actual culture bearers outside a multi-million dollar festival where Pitbull and Katy Perry are pulling down huge salaries.
The #CityOfYes official twitter put out some nonsense about how the police acted appropriately by eventually allowing the band to continue playing in somebody's yard because this is how you make "balance" happen or something.   But in reality all that was accomplished was pointless intimidation supposedly on behalf of a neighbor's complaint. Here's Jarvis DeBerry on why that's absurd.
Seriously, the solution that was worked out Friday night is as absurd as the decision of those unnamed residents to complain and is as absurd as the decision from the police to intervene and make the music stop. If the neighbors were bothered by the noise, then how would they be any less bothered by the noise after the band moved from a position in front of the yard to a position in the yard itself? And if they were bothered by something other than the noise, well, then, the police should have just told them to mind their business and that the band was fine.
NOPD shutting down live music in New Orleans, especially during Jazzfest, is always going to draw attention. But this goes beyond the typical NolierThanThou concern olympics over the fate of "culture bearers" whatever they are. The larger issue here is the city's increasingly authoritarian administration and law enforcement regime being brought to bear on its poorer and more vulnerable populations for what often appears to be the mere convenience of officials looking for the easiest and/or most revenue friendly cop-out solution to the problems of municipal governance.  LaToya explicitly says the problem is this "image of being the Big Easy" where people can do what they want to do. So the solution is we have to stop people from doing things.... unless they can afford to pay. Thus the Year of Enforcement also promises to be the Year of Collections. 

Saturday, April 27, 2019

Backlog of stuff

Man... I still didn't publish the second half of the Mardi Gras posts I had been working on.  I wrote up a whole bunch of stuff about the Zulu blackface controversy which, I suppose, can sit until next year when I'm pretty sure people will be talking about that again.  I also had some things in there about the drunk driving accident which is still relevant and will probably get dumped into something else I'm trying to finish.  Meanwhile, here are some quick notes from this week before that stuff piles up on me too.


It's city-wide investment property open house season. We used to call that Jazzfest. But things are kind of different now in the "year of enforcement," as the mayor likes to call it. Also the steady stream of people I keep seeing drive slowly through the neighborhood with little notebooks says more about what goes on now. Anyway I heard a rumor that City Council is about to take up the Short Term Rentals thing again soon... as early as next week, perhaps. There are a couple of different bills  before the legislature right now that would impose new taxes on STRs as one instrument in the sprawling and sputtering search for a grand bargain between the city and the tourism industry. If lawmakers successfully tie the fate of STRs to the prospect of infrastructure revenues, it follows that City Council would be even more positively inclined to their proliferation than they already are.  Which means we can look forward to seeing even more long time residents displaced by investment properties. Nobody will live here but at least we'll be able to pay for nobody's drainage.

Parks and rec

The "Together For Parks and Recreation" moneywad is putting out on an all-out media blitz this week in favor of hooking Ron Forman up with a dedicated millage for twenty more years.  They've got  mailers, TV ads, all sorts of endorsements from elected persons and editorial writers.  It's pretty disgusting.  What's worse is even the more skeptical notes I've read are reserved in their criticism of this measure which, pretty obviously, should be rejected. But there's too much wealth and political status sitting behind it and nobody really likes to challenge the money power in this city.

Basically there are three kinds of people who will vote for this thing. They are:

1) Cynical allies of the con-profit oligarchy who have a direct financial interest and/or adjacent political interest in helping them win something.

2) Cynical political actors who have an interest in having been "on the mayor's side" of something in case they want to ask her for something else later.

3) Idiots. I like the idiots. At least they're honest.

In any case, since those are pretty much all three categories of voter that exist in New Orleans, I'm pretty sure the millage is going to pass in a landslide. Oh well. On to the next disaster.

Let's see what else? I knew there was something I wanted to mention.

Oh yeah it was CCC last weekend.

The red group

I did a slightly more robust Mardi Gras this year than last so my training was a bit behind schedule. During the Lenten season I ran a full 6.2 miles only three times coming in at or about 56 minutes. That's fine, I guess. But also there were a number of outings when I had to stop altogether after 4 or 5 miles. So I wasn't sure what to expect coming in to race day. And this is why I made the stupid mistake of neglecting to lie about my estimated time so I could sign up for the green corrall instead of the red.


It wouldn't have even been that much of a lie. 56 is just a minute over the dividing threshold. But your starting group makes a huge difference in the lived experience of this race.  The reds are ostensibly joggers but the group is loaded up with baby strollers, walking clubs, bunny costumes, and all sorts of obstacles that end up making the first mile as much a lateral run as it is forward. It's fine that all that stuff goes on. But for some reason I always forget it's going to happen and I've only been doing this thing for twenty years or so. Maybe next time I'll know better.

Anyway I managed to finish. In 53:40 at that, so I could have signed up in the green group and that wouldn't have been dishonest in the first place.  Still, the trend is not good.  Last year was 52:13. The year before that was 48:31. But let's not worry about that too much just yet.  See, I won one of these participation trophies.

2019 medal

They also give you one of these at the post-race festvial.  But be careful. If you are trying to drink your water from it, you only get a couple of sips before you are prompted to subscribe.

Water bottle

Not this site, though. The Yellow Blog will always be free... if we can manage to keep it updated.  Until Google decides to shutter it, of course.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Drainage app

Forget about the fact that he wants to make a St. Roch market out of it for now and look at this.
Circle Food Store dates to the 1930s and was one of the country’s oldest African-American-owned groceries. It closed in October after sputtering through a final period of irregular hours when shoppers found increasingly bare shelves.

Before reopening, Torres said he wants to discuss the area's drainage issues with New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell's office. The store gained a spot in the national memory during Hurricane Katrina when an image began to circulate showing floodwaters reaching several feet up its signature arches
In 2015 Sidney bought a series of television ads complaining about crime in New Orleans.  The ads bought him a closed door meeting with then Mayor Landrieu and then Police Chief Michael Harrison. This, in turn, led to an oddball arrangement of  state troopers, "citizen patrols" and off duty NOPD details in the Quarter funded by a special sales tax, a slice of that famous Convention Center surplus, and some vehicles Torres donated. 

Also Sidney made an app for these patrols to use.. or not... it isn't clear how useful that was. But for Torres, it's the perception that matters more than anything else.  So in 2017 he bought a mayoral debate which, amazingly, most of the candidates agreed to participate in. Among those who did was now Mayor Cantrell who took the opportunity to loudly and confidently praise Sidney's app. Results matter, LaToya said, and according to her.. and little else.. Sidney's app "reduced crime." 

Now Sidney wants to meet with the mayor about drainage. Can't wait to see how that goes.


Been a little too busy to keep the yellow blog updated lately. That should be changing soon. But it's impossible to resist jumping in to just ask... what

Sidney Torres is the proud new owner of the building that housed an historic New Orleans grocery.

Torres, a real estate mogul and reality TV star, bought the Circle Food Store for $1.7 million as the store was put up for auction Thursday afternoon. He said before the auction that he intended to keep the store as a grocery.

No idea what level we've sunk to at this point.  But the NOligarchs are just picking properties up out of the bargain bin now.

Speaking of which, what do we make of this mess?
A golf driving range venue is being considered for Morial New Orleans Convention Center property, potentially a complement to a proposed hotel next to the facility.

The New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority, which oversees the state-owned convention center, was scheduled Tuesday (April 23) to ratify a letter of intent on a lease with Topgolf. The Dallas-based company operates nearly 50 similar facilities in the U.S., including one in Baton Rouge, and five international locations. The authority’s board meeting was canceled, with president Melvin Rodrigue in Baton Rouge earlier in the day to testify at a legislative committee meeting.
The Advocate story is a bit better here. It mentions Topgolf's rivalry with Drive Shack as well as the names of the local investors now enlisted on either side of it. Notice Joe Jaeger's odd position. 
Drive Shack's $29 million Howard Avenue project will occupy the site of the old Times-Picayune building, which is currently undergoing demolition.

The site was bought in 2016 by a consortium led by developer Joe Jaeger, with partners including Barry Kern of Mardi Gras World and developer Arnold Kirschman.

Jaeger is also involved in developing the Convention Center's $557.5 million Omni hotel project. A decision about that project is expected to be made this year.
The Convention Center is trying to get Jaeger to build them a hotel on land adjacent to an amusement project that will put them in competition with one he's trying to build elsewhere.  That's pretty messed up.  Maybe if the same 7 or 8 mega-millionaires didn't own all the important land in the city, this wouldn't happen. 

Update:  Aaand it looks like Jaeger's position was untenable
Joe Jaeger Jr., one of the owners of the property where a Drive Shack golf and entertainment complex was set for construction soon, said Thursday that the actions of the Convention Center had made it untenable for Drive Shack to move forward despite its lease for the site.

"It appears that the project is dead," said Jaeger. He said he is currently negotiating with Drive Shack about splitting the costs incurred so far and plans to let them out of their obligations.

"Holding their feet to the fire over the lease wouldn't be right. ... They've been duped by the leadership (of the Convention Center), and it's not fair, it's not right and I can't make them do something I don't believe in," Jaeger said in an interview.

Or to put it another way, it looks like the Convention Center put him in that position on purpose.  Which, again, is what happens when the city is governed according to the whims and resentments of its competing oligarchs.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Golden age of grifting

So much money chasing money which is in turn chasing vaporware. It's a wonder this doesn't happen more often.
According to its website, DC Solar manufactured solar generators that could be deployed at construction sites, at outdoor festivals and in response to disasters to provide lighting or other power needs.

But bankruptcy documents, as well as an affidavit by an FBI special agent that was part of a forfeiture filing against the company's owners, allege that the company's investors were paid with other investors' money, and not from earnings or tax credits generated through the sale or lease of its products.

Hancock Whitney didn't specifically disclose how it came to be embroiled in the alleged scheme. On page 130 of its 138-page annual financial filing last month, it said that bank officials learned of the alleged fraud in February, the same month that DC Solar filed for bankruptcy protection.

Hold on to your butts

We've got an "enhanced severe threat" of whatever this is happening today. Everybody is freaking out a lot. All the schools in Jefferson are closed. All the charters schools in Orleans are calling the police.

In the past few years, weatherpersons have begun using an incomprehensible "risk" scale to describe thunderstorms, basically. I don't know if it helps anybody. It's nice if you get the afternoon off of school/work in order to "be aware" or hunker down or something.  But mostly what it has done is get everybody to pay Hurricane Season level attention to the weather forecast at odd times. And that's probably the main point.