Residents of the City Council District B — which spans most of Uptown and the Central Business District from Jefferson Avenue to Canal Street, and also includes part of Mid-City — are invited to a hospitality tent at Wednesdays at the Square this week, hosted by Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell and featuring food by John Besh’s restaurant Luke.
This week, I spotted two pieces of news that become quite unnerving when placed together.
First, this legislative session, no fewer than four lawmakers have filed bills seeking to authorize off-duty police officers to carry firearms in bars. The move comes in reaction to an opinion issued last summer by Attorney General Buddy Caldwell in which he advised that the practice is technically illegal under an existing Louisiana statute.
Secondly, former 6th District New Orleans police officer Desmond Pratt was sentenced to three years in prison after pleading guilty to two counts of sexual battery and one count of felony carnal knowledge of a juvenile. Pratt owed his light sentence to the reluctance of the victims to testify, a common factor in rape and incest cases.
For years, chef Greg Sonnier fought to reopen his old Mid-City restaurant Gabrielle in a banquet hall on Henry Clay Avenue known as the Uptowner, but neighbors eventually convinced the New Orleans City Council to keep the building zoned residential, and Sonnier moved on to become executive chef at the new French Quarter restaurant Kingfish.
Now, Sonnier says he has a plan for The Uptowner that will suit both him and the building’s residential zoning: The Orleans Parish Prisoner Re-Entry Initiative. Local and state corrections officials, however, say they are not involved in or aware of the project.
A long-promised community center slated for west Carrollton received another extension from the New Orleans City Council Thursday afternoon, but the years-old controversy over its management flared again amid traded accusations of secret agendas.
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.”
After years of court battles, the proposed sale of Newcomb Boulevard between St. Charles Avenue and Freret Street is headed to the City Planning Commission in less than two weeks, and those who have fought to have the street reopened are hoping to rally public opinion to their side with a quickly organized campaign.
On March 16, a Riverbend family awoke to the sound of someone trying to break in their front door, but could not get 911 operators to pick up when they called for help, according to a report by Tania Dall of our partners at WWL-TV. The family’s barking dog eventually scared the would-be intruder away, and it was not until the victims called the NOPD Second District station directly that they were able to contact a police officer, Dall reports.
For the sequel to his autobiographical play “Reflections,” former City Council president Oliver Thomas has invited two other former New Orleans elected officials to join the cast — former City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis and former school board president Gail Glapion, according to Alex Woodward of our partners at Gambit. “Reflections 2″ runs April 11-27 at Anthony Bean Community Theater, 1333 South Carrollton Avenue.
The Audubon Nature Institute will not file its first campaign-finance report until April 24, more than a month after the March 15 election it was advertising for, because it is not reporting any spending prior to Feb. 21, according to a report by Tyler Bridges of The Lens. Its activities prior to that date — including creation of a website called VoteYesForAudubon.com — were “part of a ‘branding campaign’ that did not specifically advocate the tax,” Audubon’s attorney told The Lens, though at least one critic says that the lack of disclosure allows Audubon to “circumvent” campaign finance laws intended to let the public know who is spending money to influence elections.
Over the next year and a half, the Sewerage & Water Board of New Orleans will replace all the city’s water meters with new models that can be read remotely, eliminating the need for meter readers and allowing residents to monitor their usage in real time, according to a recent report by Della Hasselle of our sister site at MidCityMessenger.com. The utility is also moving toward entire water line replacements instead of “point repairs” on lines that break to reduce the amount of leakage across the system.
The sentencing hearing for Former District B City Councilwoman Renee Gill Pratt’s federal racketeering conviction has been delayed until May so that she can seek a new trial on the basis that anonymous online commenting by members of the U.S. Attorney’s office may have unfairly influenced the jurors in her trial in 2011, according to a report by Laura Maggi of The Advocate. The same scandal previously led to the convictions against five NOPD officers in the Danziger Bridge shooting being overturned, Maggi notes.
The tax supporting the Audubon Nature Institute was not only rejected by New Orleans voters by a two-to-one margin, but the opposition was also distributed evenly across the city, losing in all but 10 of the city’s 366 voting precincts.
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.
In Saturday’s election for Orleans Parish Coroner, Jeff Rouse picked up votes in precincts across the city with the third-place candidate out of the runoff, while Dwight McKenna saw turnout among his supporters decrease — leading to Rouse’s narrow comeback victory.
Sheriff Marlin Gusman won 40,068 votes in Saturday’s runoff election against Charles Foti — only about 500 fewer than he won in the Feb. 1 primary despite a dramatic decrease in turnout, suggesting that voters who chose other candidates initially and even some of Foti’s supporters simply stayed home.
The Roly Poly restaurant on Tchoupitoulas Street is slated be torn down and replaced with a new Regions Bank at the corner of Jefferson Avenue, according to a demolition request pending before the city.
Contractors working on the massive Uptown drainage projects along Jefferson, Napoleon and soon Louisiana avenues plan to fit their work crossing the St. Charles Avenue streetcar tracks from June to August of this year, and during those months, St. Charles Avenue will be reduced to two lanes of traffic, according to a report by Monica Hernandez of our partners at WWL-TV.
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.