Jul 212014

Owen Courreges

Keeping your eye on the road matters.  Sometimes it just prevents you from being a jerk, other times it can save somebody’s life.

Case in point: Earlier this past week I was going down Oak Street looking for a parking space on the street. When I saw one, I immediately hand signaled (my car is 63 years old and lacks turn signals) and slowed next to the spot. A white SUV was approaching behind me from the intersection, so I held the hand-signal for a few seconds, believing that the SUV would see the signal and leave me sufficient space. Continue reading »

Jul 142014

Owen Courreges

Your home is not a hotel, obviously. However, an ever-growing number of New Orleans homeowners want to run a hotel-type business on the side. With tourism booming in the midst of a generally weak economy, it’s a quick way to make some extra cash.

This is the nexus of the controversy over “illegal short-term rentals” that has been permeating local political discourse in recent months. Due to zoning and licensing laws, there’s simply no way for homeowners to rent a room out as a vacation rental. Most crucial is the fact that any lease has to be for at least 30 days (or 60 days in the French Quarter). Continue reading »

Jul 102014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

It won’t be long before Mayor Landrieu will begin telling us why we need to approve one or more of his tax proposals in the fall elections. Before you get out your checkbook, we have a few ideas that will create new jobs and generate additional taxes — if the Mayor and the City Council can be a little more flexible on zoning. Continue reading »

Jul 082014
Participants in this weekend's Maafa ceremony sing Yoruba hymns. (photo by jewel bush for UptownMessenger.com)

Participants in this weekend’s Maafa ceremony sing Yoruba hymns. (photo by jewel bush for UptownMessenger.com)

jewel bush

The day after millions of folks celebrated the independence of the United States of America, I joined a sea of folks dressed in all white, the color associated with the deepest mourning, to recognize one of the most tragic parts of American history.

In its 14th year, the Maafa commemoration is an ancestral ceremony put on by the Ashe Cultural Center to honor those who were subjected to the unfathomable atrocities of enslavement and the plight of the generations who emerged from this despair, those who were anything but free when America claimed its freedom from the British crown back in 1776. Continue reading »

Jul 072014

Owen Courreges

This time of year, when the mercury starts erupting comically out of the top of every thermometer, every New Orleanians eyes turn worriedly to their electricity bill. This is because whenever temperatures spike, so does the monthly amount we owe Entergy New Orleans, our much-maligned local electric utility.

Many people have long believed that Entergy is gouging them.  This is to be expected when bills skyrocket and people begin seeking out scapegoats. Continue reading »

Jul 032014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Everyone we know is talking about our off-the-charts crime problem.  While Bourbon Street could arguably be the most famous street in the world and crimes there like last Saturday’s shootings are truly shots heard ’round the world,  the depth of our crime problem is really in our neighborhoods.

What we need are out-of-the-box crime solutions. Continue reading »

Jun 302014

Owen Courreges

Jitney is probably a word few New Orleanians are familiar with, although historians believe that the work may have originated here.

Back in the early 20th century, systems of shared taxis, appeared in cities throughout America.  The cost for using one of these shared cabs was usually a nickel, or jitney.  The French Creole term “jeton,” which refers to a small coin or token, is widely believed to have been the inspiration for the word “jitney.”  Accordingly, the word probably came from New Orleans.

The basic scheme behind jitneys was simple:  An ordinary citizen could buy a used car or bus and run passengers around, usually far more cheaply and quickly than streetcars could.  Eventually, some jitney operators formed jitney companies and even jitney drivers’ unions. Continue reading »

Jun 262014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Since Mayor Landrieu did not succeed in getting the Legislature to approve many of the new taxes he wanted to pay for the police consent decree, the firefighters’ lawsuit, the jail consent decree, etc, it is no surprise that he is punting to the voters to choose. Continue reading »

Jun 242014

jewel bush

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics,” according to the century-old adage. Demonstrating the premise that numbers and data can still be manipulated to suit any argument, New Orleans was named one of two “most livable” cities in the country last week — based on, of all things, our crime rates. Continue reading »

Jun 232014

Owen Courreges

Nobody will ever accuse Mayor Mitch Landrieu of being creative.  Time and time again he has traveled down the same well-worn path of shifting blame to justify pursuing unpopular fiscal policies.

Most recently, Landrieu did the ol’ bait and switch by proposing cigarette and hotel tax increases that he knew he lacked the clout to get through the legislature.  Next, he turned around and pushed through authorization to double of the police and fire property tax millages, subject to approval of that proposal on the city and state ballots in the fall. Continue reading »

Jun 192014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

As readers are well aware, the Tea Party is a growing anti-big government movement that seeks to change American politics by often promising to get government out of the lives of citizens – as if that is even remotely possible. Most people of our generation began their voting lives as Democrats.  We understand that when people get a little older, more successful and sometimes more conservative, they might transition from being moderate Democrats to Republicans.

That’s fine. But right-leaning Tea Party Republicans are as out-of-step with middle America as the left-leaning fringes of the Democratic party. And they certainly won’t help the Republican party attract the ever-growing number of  Hispanic, Asian and African-American voters they must have to win another presidential election.  As the voting majority nationally because more non-white each year, both parties are scrambling to embrace those voters. Continue reading »

Jun 162014
(via habananeworleans.com)

The corner of Esplanade and Rampart, site of the proposed Habana Outpost. (via habananeworleans.com)

Owen Courreges

Put a fork in it.  The Louisiana Landmarks Society is done.  They’ve bought the farm, cashed in their chips, and kicked the proverbial bucket.

I could go on listing aphorisms signifying death or obsolescence, but the gist is that the Louisiana Landmarks Society has become a joke.  They have abandoned their mission of helping preserve landmarks in favor of the far less laudable enterprise of hawking restrictive zoning for the benefit of local NIMBYs.

I have reached this conclusion following the society’s release of its annual “New Orleans Nine Most Endangered List,” which lists “at-risk historic properties.”  The Louisiana Landmarks Society as a whole was founded in 1950 in order to promote historic preservation, and the list was envisioned as a means to highlight certain properties at risk of being lost.

After this year’s list, it’s clear that is no longer the society’s agenda. Continue reading »

Jun 122014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

As someone who grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas, Danae has been a Bill and Hillary watcher for more than 40 years, really since Hillary gave her first stump speech at her Wellesley graduation.  Hillary was outspoken and quite direct that day. For better or worse, she still is. Continue reading »

Jun 102014

jewel bush

You’ve seen them at many intersections and overpasses across the city.

They weave in and out of traffic at red lights, often dressed in team jerseys or uniforms, their sweet faces so hard to say no to.

They work in teams usually. There are the sign carriers. Sometimes the signs are pithy and drum up sympathy. Other times, the words on the poster boards are a scrawl so faint you can hardly decipher the exact message. One thing is unmistakable, though. They want money. Continue reading »

Jun 092014
(photo by Owen Courreges for UptownMessenger.com)

(photo by Owen Courreges for UptownMessenger.com)

Owen Courreges

I’ve mentioned before in this column that I grew up loving the late-1960’s run of the popular police procedural Dragnet.  Jack Webb, depicting LAPD Sergeant Joe Friday, narrated the series as the most honest and dedicated police officer ever envisioned.

In most episodes, Sgt. Friday would be working in a case in a random division – homicide, robbery, bunco/frauds, etc. – and the viewer would watch as he gradually solved the case.  In other episodes, however, the series dealt with less sexy matters such as police administration and internal affairs investigations.  All the while, Sgt. Friday was as impassive as he was unimpeachable.

What you may not know is that Dragnet, which started as a radio program in 1949, was so popular that it spawned an series set in New Orleans. Continue reading »

Jun 052014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

While the Mayor is touting his successes at the Legislature, Landrieu’s only major success is getting a fall ballot initiative to increase property taxes in New Orleans. Unfortunately for Senator Mary Landrieu, it might be on the ballot at the same time as her election and could be troubling if voters strongly oppose the tax.

Just because New Orleans voters turned down the Audubon Institute’s millage doesn’t automatically mean they will oppose Mitch’s property tax increase. Everyone knows the cost of living in New Orleans has increased dramatically since Katrina. We’re just not sure voters are ready to add on another tax which would hurt property owners and renters, whose landlords would undoubtedly increase rents. Continue reading »

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Jun 022014
(photo by Owen Courreges)

(photo by Owen Courreges)

Owen Courreges

Every now and again I drive past the intersection of Martin Luther King and Oretha Castle Haley in Central City. There, in the neutral ground, stands a statue that can only be described as a Lovecraftian horror. The ten-foot tall egg-shaped grotesque features several sets of hands with misshapen, distended fingers reaching out in bizarre fashion.

It’s a wonderfully disturbing statue, something straight out of movie “Beetlejuice.” Alas, there is no plaque on the statue, or other indication of what this nightmarish form was intended for. It simply appears to be a bit of random art with no specific purpose. Continue reading »

May 292014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Snuggles is a New Orleans dog, born and bred — a 2-year-old mixed breed with probably more terrier in him than anything else. About a year ago, Snuggles was a lonely street dog, mostly eating out of garbage cans.

One day, a stranger swept him up and brought him to the Louisiana SPCA. After getting some really good food, shots, spayed and regularly bathed, Snuggles was ready to be adopted. Unfortunately, no matter how cute Snuggles was, he always seemed to come in second. Fortunately for Snuggles, fate smiled on him. SPCA Executive Director Ana Zorrila was getting calls from shelters in the Northeast and Midwest looking for puppies to be adopted. Continue reading »

May 262014

Owen Courreges

A common practice amongst subordinates is to intentionally include extraneous steps in a plan to give a meddling boss something to change.  This way, the plan remains exactly the same, but the boss feels as though he’s made a contribution and the subordinate can point out that he compromised.  It goes like this:

PEON:   Here’s what my plan is: We’ll design the product, build a prototype, dispose of toxic waste in the executive washroom, and then launch the product.

BOSS:    Whoa! That third step is a problem. I don’t think we should dispose of toxic waste in the executive washroom.  That could harm our corporate executives.

PEON:   Hmmm… I’m still not sure about abandoning Step 3, but I see what you’re saying and value your guidance.  I’ll scrap Step 3.

BOSS:    Great!  Let’s move forward.

It was this kind of scenario that comes to mind when the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center makes its pitch to expand its facilities into the Lower Garden District as part of a public/private partnership. Continue reading »

May 222014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Let’s face it, New Orleans was not awarded the Super Bowl because NFL owners valued the financial investment the citizens of Minneapolis had made to build a new stadium. New Orleans has a reliable stadium that has served us very well over the decades, a stadium which in fact transformed New Orleans and helped create Poydras Street as a major business destination. We should all thank Doug Thornton, Ron Forman and Governor Jindal for continuing to keep our stadium up to par, within its physical footprint. The State of Louisiana can’t afford to build a new stadium at this time and we don’t have the corporate base of Minneapolis, Dallas, Houston or Milwaukee to even partially fund such a project. Nevertheless, we will win another Super Bowl bid — maybe not next year — but soon because New Orleans is still the best sports destination in America. Continue reading »