Apr 282014

Owen Courreges

Elk Place has seen better days, and poor transit planning is the most obvious culprit.  Near the intersection with Canal, transit users wait alongside derelict and ill-maintained structures with inadequate shelter and seating.  Drivers buzz by as throngs brave the elements to make their connections.

This is what happens when over 20 transit lines converge at one location, with over 5,000 riders boarding and disembarking streetcars and buses.

It’s a notorious disgrace.  The immediate area has been slow to redevelop.  The sidewalks are difficult to navigate and litter is an ongoing problem.  Not only have transit users suffered – local businesses and property owners are dissatisfied as well. Continue reading »

Apr 232014
Before and after photos of 1800 Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Before and after photos of 1817-19 Martin Luther King Boulevard.

Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

It’s no secret to those that have dipped their toe in the water of New Orleans real estate recently that the stream of activity resembles more of a rushing rapid with unexpected twists and turns included.  The tone of the market possesses a buzz that surprises even the most seasoned flippers and investors, and it shows more promise than concern.  We all know these things ebb and flow, but it’s the perception of spaces that is changing the fastest, the intangible becoming realized in the tangible.  More specifically, let’s look at a cute double that recently flipped in the heart of Central City, but hold on to your hat.  And, as usual, for clarity/disclosure, I did not participate in any part in any of these sales; effectively, I am only an observer fascinated by the pace at which these changes are taking place. Continue reading »

Apr 212014

Owen Courreges

Did you hear the news? Mayor Landrieu is proposing… (drum roll please)… tax increases!

This shocking development stems in large part from the consent decrees with the U.S. Justice Department over the widely-acknowledged and widespread constitutional violations routinely committed by the New Orleans Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office vis-à-vis Orleans Parish Prison.  Those settlements have hefty price tags attached.

Who could have predicted this?  Not to toot my own horn, but I certainly did. Continue reading »

Apr 182014

By Elizabeth Elliott, Davida Finger and Melissa Gallo

While the City has many responsible landlords, all too often in our practice at the Loyola Community Justice Clinic, our clients face landlords who refuse to repair substandard housing, wrongfully withhold deposits at the end of leases, try to illegally evict in order to rent to Mardi Gras tourists and other offenses that take advantage of the landlord-friendly laws. Louisiana has lagged far behind other states in protecting renters, and Senate Bill 298 is an attempt to find the correct balance between landlord and tenant rights and interests. Continue reading »

Apr 172014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

The conventional wisdom is that former Governor Edwin W. Edwards can’t be serious about running for the open seat in the Sixth Congressional District or, if he is serious, has no chance to win.

The 86-year-old Silver Fox, still looking good and as engaging as ever, made it as clear as he could at a recent reception that drew hundreds of his Metro New Orleans friends that he is running, expects to run first in the Nov. 4 primary and believes he’ll have a chance in the Dec. 6 runoff against whichever Republican comes out of a crowd of candidates to take him on in the general election. Continue reading »

Apr 142014

Owen Courreges

An interesting column appeared last month in the Winston-Salem Journal  entitled “About that Desire for Streetcars.”  Winston-Salem (famous for being the headquarters of R.J. Reynolds Tobacco) is moving forward with a contentious $179 million boondoggle to build a streetcar line through downtown.  And apparently New Orleans’ streetcar system is being cited as an exemplar.

The column, which was written by the aptly-named John Railey, takes the form of a parody of the Tennessee Williams masterpiece “A Streetcar Named Desire.”

“What we really need is a real streetcar line, like the one we had in New Orleans,” says the thickly satirized protagonist. “Such a streetcar line would be worth any cost. It’s just silly that some critics say we should first spruce up and expand the city bus lines. Silly taxpayers, being so pettily pessimistic about the streetcar line prospect.” Continue reading »

Apr 112014
Josh Epworth and Jean-Paul Villere constructing The Chick Inn.

Josh Epworth and Jean-Paul Villere constructing The Chick Inn.

Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

It began innocently enough.  Years ago, spring 2009, while rebuilding, my wife elected to get a batch of chicks to raise.  Pairing her love of gardening with the future production of yard eggs, these were the things she loved and that her parents had shown her growing up.  And now being a mother herself she wanted the same for her own growing family.  Except we didn’t live in once-sleepy River Ridge but still drying out New Orleans, and well, chickens weren’t the norm yet. Continue reading »

Apr 102014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

The City’s announcement last week that after months of meetings, negotiations were still ongoing with Gatehouse Capital should prompt the New Orleans Building Corporation to re-open the bid process and invite new proposers.

This is especially true with several new Council and NOBC members coming on board in a few weeks and the change of NOBC leadership when Deputy Mayor Cedric Grant moves on to the Sewerage & Water Board.  With the multi-million dollar high-end outlet mall by the Howard Hughes Corporation set to open at the Riverwalk next month, the WTC development project would attract new bidders – possibly including the Hughes group. Hughes’ portfolio is very diverse and the WTC could be a good fit for them, especially if they do not choose to build condos or a hotel on top of the Riverwalk in a second phase. Continue reading »

Apr 082014

jewel bush

Dianne Honoré has been a French Quarter tour guide off and on for more than 20 years; and this, she said, is the worst it’s ever been.

“My heart breaks when I walk through the French Quarter sometimes,” Honoré said sipping a coffee in Treme Café on St. Philip Street. “It disgusts me the lack of protection, the level of filth.”

Honoré is talking about the all-time high population of “gutter punks” that blanket the French Quarter. The gutter punk colonies run along the river, along Decatur Street. The 500 block of Bourbon Street is a gutter-punk haven; basically all over the French Quarter is, she said. Continue reading »

Apr 032014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

We have been watching with much interest the national and Louisiana debate regarding increasing the minimum wage to $10.10. The latest polls show that support is growing across the nation, although only seven states and the District of Columbia have raised starting pay.

According to today’s New York Times, Louisiana is one of five states – the others being Alabama, Mississippi, South Carolina and Tennessee – that currently does not have a minimum wage. Washington State has the highest wage ($9.32) currently with D.C. to move to $11.50 in 2016. While both those rates might be too high for Louisiana’s economy, something must be done to give our lowest paid citizens a better opportunity to succeed in life. Continue reading »

Apr 022014
Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

“I think I was 7 or 8 when I took apart my father’s radio,” says Cameron MacPhee, native New Orleanian and co-catalyst for this coming weekend’s Mini Maker Fair, recalling the first thing he remembers disassembling as a boy. “I was sure I had his permission,” he follows up, if not somewhat deadpanned.  “I even got shocked, like one of the capacitors got me.” 

MacPhee is now a father to a couple of young boys himself, and his story is likely all-too-familiar for the those participating in and attending Saturday’s first-ever event, the DIY and Maker movement is an all ages affair that extends beyond the boundaries of craft and convention. Continue reading »

Mar 272014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

In the last 50 years, there have been many Directors of Aviation at the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport but few about whom there was any urgency to retain them. But the current Director of Aviation, Iftikhar Ahmad, is one of the hottest guys in the nation in his field of work and the New Orleans Aviation Board is giving him a $35,000 a year raise that he didn’t ask for because they want to keep him here.

Restaurateur Ti Martin, a member of the Aviation Board, says, “He has come to have a lot of affection for New Orleans and the region and we need to lock him to finish what he has started.” Continue reading »

Mar 242014

Owen Courreges

Louisiana’s relatively lax landlord-tenant laws arguably need to be revisited, but a new proposal in the state legislature tilts the scales too far in favor of tenants who breach their obligations.

In late February, Louisiana State Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb filed Senate Bill 298, which includes a laundry list of revisions to the laws governing residential leases.  The centerpiece is a non-waivable 30-day eviction notice period for all evictions, regardless of grounds.  Under existing law, a tenant may be evicted with five days notice, although this notice may be waived by agreement of the landlord and tenant in the lease. Continue reading »

Mar 202014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

The power of social media and voter’s desire for a younger crop of elected officials definitely were the hallmarks of last Saturday’s election. In every instance, the younger of the two candidates was elected or reelected, as in Sheriff Marlin Gusman. Continue reading »

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Mar 192014
Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

SPOILER ALERT: The following has absolutely nothing to do with missing Malaysian flights, awesome local election results, what’s cool and/or gentrifying in New Orleans or St Patrick’s Day.  Nor does it have much to do with fisticuffs, with or without spherical handheld orbs of freshly fallen frozen precipitation, that may or may not last exceptionally long and nocturnally.  On a side note, turns out my high school sociology teacher was right: I don’t take anything seriously.  Rock on, Mrs. Schneider!

I love my brother-in-law.  I just do.  And I have two.  But I love my younger one more.  What can I say?  A parent doesn’t love all their children equally; why would you love all your in-laws the same?  You wouldn’t, and you don’t.  In fact, I’m guessing if you made it past the spoiler alert, chances are good you don’t love your brother-in-law, if you have one.  Which is a shame.  Because life is short, and why marry a spouse whose siblings are jerks?  I didn’t. Continue reading »

Mar 182014
Glenn Ford. (photo by jewel bush)

Former death-row prisoner Glenn Ford was released from prison last week, and is transitioning back to society at the Resurrection After Exoneration program in New Orleans. (photo by jewel bush)

jewel bush

What do you say to someone who has spent 10,950 days — 3 decades and his last 30 birthdays — wondering if today would be the day he would be put to death for a crime he did not commit?

“They give you a $20 debit card and say, ‘I’ll be waiting on you,’ ” said John Thompson, who spent 18 years in prison, 14 of them on death row, wrongfully convicted of murder.

On March 11, Thompson welcomed home fellow exoneree Glenn Ford, Louisiana’s longest-serving death row prisoner. Ford was released from death row and exonerated after an informant told police that the real killer — one of the original suspects — confessed to the 1983 murder. Continue reading »

Mar 172014

Owen Courreges

Should the powers of New Orleans Municipal Court be expanded?   It’s already happening.  You just probably didn’t realizing it was going on.

It began a couple of years ago, in late January 2012.  Mayor Mitch Landrieu dispatched letters to the judges of Criminal District Court and Municipal Court asking them to impose higher bonds for release in gun cases.  Landrieu specifically pointed to a program initiated by Judge John Garvey in St. Louis, who began automatically requiring a $30,000 cash-only bond for youths arrested for illegally possessing firearms. Continue reading »

Mar 142014
(By Jean-Paul Villere)

(By Jean-Paul Villere)

Jean-Paul Villere

Jean-Paul Villere

Digesting a maladjusted observation by new New Orleanian Tara Elders in a recent New York Times piece regarding her new city’s supposed lack of cosmopolitan sensibility and its apparent lack of kale requires equal parts restraint and forgiveness.  Questions surface.  Who is she?  Who cares.  Why the kerfuffle?  In short, New Orleanians take pride in themselves and this comment plays as a slight, however one frames it.  Adding this misfire into the whole of its missive stirs up other unsettlingly obtuse observations the article makes, but for brevity’s sake permit me to sum it up in a quote of one ex pat’s (though presently a New Yorker) Facebook update “I defy you to read this article and not want to set something on fire.” 

Indeed. Continue reading »

Mar 142014

By Brooke Duncan III

It’s unfortunate that some have taken to social and other media to bash Audubon, one of the truly great success stories of local government in our time. The millage started out at 4.2 but was reduced a few years ago as a result of a state-wide reassessment of property values when values declined following Katrina. Without getting bogged down in semantics, the tax has been in place for a long time and the proposal returns the millage to its prior level. The difference for a home valued at $200,000 has been reported to be around $12 a year. The current taxes will end in 2021-2022. This is an effort to establish the taxes at the former millage; this is not a new tax in addition to the existing tax. Continue reading »

Mar 112014
Torence "Lil Boosie" Hatch speaks at a news conference Monday. (via boosiespeaks.com)

Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch speaks at a news conference Monday. (via boosiespeaks.com)

jewel bush

The fanfare surrounding 31-year-old Torence “Lil Boosie” Hatch’s release from the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola after a four-year sentence on drug charges has been surreal.

A video of his daughter, a wide-eyed girl in ponytails and bows, feverishly expressing her anticipation over her dad coming home went viral. The clip, sweet at heart, was highly problematic though, because of the little girl’s repeated and casual use of the N-word — and it embodies the contradictions in this whole story. Continue reading »