Jan 292015

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

First some full disclosure: Allan has know Tom Benson since his Times Picayune days and even spent a weekend at Tom’s ranch in Texas; Allan and later Allan and Danae did consulting work for Benson; Gayle Bird Benson used to come on our cable show to raise money for St. Louis Cathedral; we attended their wedding reception ten years ago; Danae has also worked with lawyer Randy Smith on campaign events.

So, like everyone else in New Orleans, we have been closely following the Benson family feud and the obvious greed that surrounds it. Who would have thought the tenacious ninth ward graduate of St. Aloysius and Loyola-trained accountant would become the billionaire that everyone — except his other four living children, apparently — are fighting over. Continue reading »

Jan 262015

Owen Courreges

Author’s Note:  Owen is inconsolable this week after the passing of yet another needless, paternalistic ordinance by the New Orleans City Council.  Following a mental breakdown, Owen now believes himself to be Bland Landers, an imaginary cantankerous brother of noted advice columnist Ann Landers.  Thus, the following advice column will run today in place of Owen’s usual rantings.

Dear Bland,

My husband and I recently moved in next to a longstanding juke joint, and as we anticipated, it’s far too noisy.  Adding insult to this complete absence of injury, they’re also having music more often that they used to because the bar has become more successful (which also means more people loitering around, which makes me nervous for reasons I usually discuss in vague, coded language).  I’ve called the police out several times without warning to harass them, but nothing ever gets done.  What do I do?

– Batty in the Bywater Continue reading »

Jan 222015

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Every reader of this column probably knows a woman who has used abortion as a powerful tool to help guide her body and her life choices.  National statistics consistently show that three out of 10 women have had an abortion — that’s all women, young , old, black, white, Asian and Hispanic.

We’re not sure any woman makes the decision to terminate a pregnancy easily. But it is a decision that millions of women around the world make each year and often pay the consequences emotionally for decades to come. Still, there are no medical, ethical or moral reasons strong enough to ban abortions entirely. Continue reading »

Jan 192015

Owen Courreges

‘Twas a clash of titans. In this corner, Mayor Mitch “the glitch” Landrieu, the scion of a Louisiana political dynasty, who has disappointed many by presiding over a sudden spike of crime in the French Quarter and a corrupt, ineffectual NOPD.

And in the next corner, Sidney “the insufferable” Torres, part-time New Orleans resident and garbage robber baron, who is always kvetching nauseatingly about any real or perceived threat to his property values. Continue reading »

Jan 152015

Despite the Airbnb “horror stories” — 50 frat boys packing a tiny house for a weekend of debauchery — the real danger of short-term rentals, critics say, is the evisceration of neighborhoods, where greedy landlords displace long-time tenants for the quick buck of well-heeled weekenders. As New Orleans’ residents are replaced with tourists, the businesses that once served the neighborhood lose their customer base, and they too are replaced with overpriced establishments catering to the wealthy from elsewhere.

That view, supporters of the industry counter, gets the entire picture backwards. Airbnb actually allows residents to keep their homes amid rising prices by providing them with a small but significant supplementary source of income. Meanwhile, because the residents remain at the house, they have more money to spend at their favorite neighborhood establishments — and their guests often choose to spend money at the same places, strengthening the business community. Continue reading »

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Jan 152015
City Councilwoman Susan Guidry reiterates her promise to continue activist Jonah Bascle's fight to make the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line accessible to the disabled at the Jan. 8 City Council meeting. (via nolacitycouncil.com)

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry reiterates her promise to continue activist Jonah Bascle’s fight to make the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line accessible to the disabled at the Jan. 8 City Council meeting. (via nolacitycouncil.com)

When City Councilwoman Susan Guidry visited comedian and activist Jonah Bascle in the hospital last month shortly before his death at age 28, she vowed to carry his fight forward to make public transportation in New Orleans accessible to the disabled — specifically, the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line.

Last week, with Bascle’s friends and supporters gathered in the City Council chambers, Guidry reiterated that she intends to make good on that promise sooner rather than later. Continue reading »

Jan 152015

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Poor Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Winner of two landslide elections, seemingly one of America’s most successful and articulate mayors, architect of a New Orleans post-Katrina renaissance, he has to be wondering what hit him. It seems like his plunge from the penthouse to the outhouse took place almost overnight.

The big punch, of course, began with a sudden surge in Vieux Carre crime that quickly got completely out of control. Gangs of thugs began roaming French Quarter streets, beating people up as well as robbing them. The Vieux Carre community responded with fury, holding rallies, complaining that they were living in Landrieuville where no one is safe for even a moment. Continue reading »

Jan 142015
Protesters chant on the corner of Freret and Cadiz. (Zach Brien, UptownMessenger.com)

Protesters chant on the corner of Freret and Cadiz. (Zach Brien, UptownMessenger.com)

Article by Robert Morris; photos by Zach Brien

A group of local environmental activists huddled against the cold wind Tuesday night to create an audiovisual protest against a proposed expansion of an oil pipeline from Canada visible to Freret Street drivers. Continue reading »

Jan 122015

Owen Courreges

The NOPD is looking for a few good cops.  It just doesn’t care if they’re very smart.

In a December 29, 2014 letter to the Civil Service Commission, Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison advocated removing the requirement that police recruits obtain at least 60 higher education credits, with exceptions for those possessing prior military or law enforcement experience.

According to Harrison, all that fancy book learnin’ just ain’t necessary.  He’d prefer to emphasize “workforce training over formal classroom education.”  Furthermore, the 60-credit mandate damages “NOPD’s ability to recruit and hire qualified police officers by excluding . . . those who cannot afford a higher education.” Continue reading »

Jan 102015
Same-sex marriage supporters began lining up outside the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals before dawn on Friday to secure a seat in the courtroom. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Same-sex marriage supporters began lining up outside the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals before dawn on Friday to secure a seat in the courtroom. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

As expected, the 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals made no decision on same-sex marriage in Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi after hearing arguments Friday morning from attorneys on both sides of the issue in each state. Likewise, the U.S. Supreme Court has yet to reveal whether it will take issue up in its spring session, which would supercede any decision by the appeals court.

But the three 5th Circuit judges — Judge Jerry E. Smith and Patrick Higginbotham, two appointees of President Ronald Reagan, and Judge James Graves, appointed by President Barack Obama — did each seem to focus on different issues in their questions during Friday’s hearings, shedding some light on which issues they felt needed more elucidation. Continue reading »

Jan 082015

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Why hasn’t the Steve Scalise story died down yet? Because Rep. Scalise was less than forthright when he first spoke about the incident. Therefore, reporters and others continue to analyze the story and what it means about the Republicans’ ability to build a larger, more diverse constituency before the presidential elections.

Some things are certain. David Duke was a Republican elected official and a member of the Louisiana Legislature. That gave him respect. Other legislators secretly — or not so secretly — liked his ideas. Duke was wildly popular with white voters in Jefferson Parish and Louisiana in general, by his strong showing in the governor’s race against Edwin Edwards. Continue reading »

Dec 182014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

A recent WSJ/NBC News poll pointed out that the majority of voters were pleased with the results of this year’s midterm elections and thought the Congress — rather than President Obama — should take the lead in setting policy for the country.  Though an overwhelming majority felt that not much change in direction for the country will result from the election, the numbers are a good starting point for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 61, as he aims to clear the field in advance of a brutal campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Although there are other GOP candidates worthy of voter consideration (including Mitt Romney and Chris Christie), Bush — with his “Double B” presidential pedigree and easy access to donors — is the early favorite, ramping up pressure on potential rivals and reshuffling the GOP’s policy debate. Continue reading »

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Dec 152014
(illustration by Owen Courreges)

(illustration by Owen Courreges)

Owen Courreges

Councilwoman Latoya Cantrell is set to preview the next installment in her cavalcade of “progressive” policies enacted by other cities. This past week, she announced her intention to introduce a non-binding “Welcoming Resolution” early next year that will include a laundry list of policies proposed by immigrant rights groups.

Don’t get me wrong – some of the policies being suggested are perfectly reasonable. I can hardly dispute the need for multi-language signs and forms at City Hall, or for hiring more Spanish-speakers in the NOPD and in government offices.  We’re relatively close to the Mexican border, and we do need to accommodate the needs of Spanish-speakers.

However, Cantrell’s brief tenure thus far has shown that she has never been one to stop with reasonable policies.  Thus, she also announced that she wants to create a system of municipal identification cards, ostensibly so that illegal immigrants can have photographic identification and proof of residence. Continue reading »

Dec 132014

Pay 2 Play

New Orleans Anti-Corruption Coalition is a new bipartisan organization that is working to raise local awareness of the large influence of money in political campaigns, after the most expensive Senate election in Louisiana history. The coalition is launching today with a free screening of the new film “Pay2Play: Democracy’s High Stakes” at the First Universalist United Church Auditorium. Continue reading »

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Dec 112014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Congressman Bill Cassidy’s strong win against Sen. Mary Landrieu last week and Sen. David Vitter’s role as chief strategist has set up a powerful Cassidy/Vitter connection that will put an imprint on Louisiana for years to come.  Together they will also be a powerful force in Washington as Vitter uses his clout in the Republican Party to help better position Cassidy, who could quickly find himself Louisiana’s senior senator if Vitter becomes our next governor. Continue reading »

Dec 092014
Eddie Murray, a Loyola junior, sports a shirt reading "Justice for ___ whichever one is next." On the back, the shirt listed names of black men who have died at the hands of police. (Zach Brien, UptownMessenger.com)

Eddie Murray, a Loyola senior, sports a shirt reading “Justice for ___ whichever one is next.” On the back, the shirt listed names of black men who have died at the hands of police. (Zach Brien, UptownMessenger.com)

On Tuesday, Loyola New Orleans’ Our Lives Matter group held a candlelight vigil in honor of those who have passed due to police brutality. After lighting candles, participants held a 4:30 moment of silence for the four and a half hours Michael Brown’s body was left on the street. Students took the opportunity to share their own experiences with police brutality and abuses of power and generally their feelings about the current events involving the police. Our Lives Matter will be holding events in the coming year including a panel discussion on the definition of racism and a meeting with the Second District police.

Continue reading »

Dec 082014

Owen Courreges

It’s a catchy title: “91%.” However, it stands for something far less significant.

Local documentary filmmaker John Richie has certainly adopted a theme. His previous effort, “Shell Shocked,” aimed to portray the gritty reality of youth gun violence in New Orleans. He now plans to follow up that film with “91%,” which is being pitched as “a film about gun background checks and the people whose lives they impact.” Continue reading »

Dec 042014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Excitement was definitely in the air at the Windsor Court Monday night as 150 well-heeled donors patiently waited for an intimate concert by the great Stevie Wonder to begin.  Attorney Tim Francis convinced Wonder, his old boss, to perform at the big ticket fundraiser for Mary Landrieu and served as master of ceremonies. Wonder told the crowd he and Landrieu “shared the same values” and that’s why he came. Continue reading »

Dec 032014
Jonah Bascle at La Nuit Comedy Theater on Freret Street in 2011.  (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Jonah Bascle at La Nuit Comedy Theater on Freret Street in 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Sabree Hill)

Jonah Bascle, the 28-year-old local comedian ran for mayor as a platform to bring attention to New Orleans’ lack of accessibility for the disabled, died Tuesday morning of complications relating to muscular dystrophy — but friends and supporters vowed to ensure both his love of good humor and his activism to improve the city live on. Continue reading »

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Nov 262014

jewel bush

My 11-year-old son used his allowance to purchase a BB gun at Academy Sports & Outdoors on a shopping trip with his grandfather a few weeks ago.

Needless to say, I wasn’t happy about it. My father, who grew up in Rosa, a rural agricultural community in St. Landry Parish, thought nothing of it. He grew up hunting deer, rabbit and whatever else was in season along with his eight brothers and scores of cousins. Back in his day, as kids, they handled real shotguns, not replicas, and missed weeks at a time of school to help his father in the fields. Continue reading »