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 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 072014
 

Owen Courreges

Twenty years.  That’s 7,300 days.  It’s over a quarter of the average American lifespan, and in Louisiana, it’s the amount of time a person can potentially serve for simple possession of marijuana.

While you’re picking your jaw up off the floor after hearing that, I should emphasize that we’re not talking about dealing.  Simple possession refers to quantities too low for distribution.  It is a misdemeanor, but only on the first offense.  A second offense graduates to a felony punishable by up to five years in jail.  After third offense, the maximum goes up to twenty years. 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 »

Mar 312014
 

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. Continue reading »

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Mar 272014
 
A drawing of the proposed community center included in city documents.

A drawing of the proposed community center included in city documents.

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. Continue reading »

Mar 262014
 
Former Louisiana Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards share a laugh during one of the lighter moments during Wednesday night's panel discussion at Loyola University. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Former Louisiana Govs. Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards share a laugh during one of the lighter moments during Wednesday night’s panel discussion at Loyola University. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Although former Louisiana governors Buddy Roemer, Kathleen Blanco and Edwin Edwards have a number of political differences, all three agreed Wednesday night that no state officials — neither the legislature nor the current governor — should interfere with the local levee board’s lawsuit against oil companies. Continue reading »

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Mar 252014
 

jewel bush

Less than three months passed between the arrest of George Junius Stinney Jr. and his execution. The whole Stinney trial took only one day – including jury selection.

The year was 1944 in Alcolu, a South Carolina town established by a lumber company in the late 19th century. All of the townsfolk worked for the mill; and in fact, were paid in metal coins emblazoned with the letter “A;” legal tender accepted at the company store to pay for everything from groceries to a doctor’s visit.

Stinney was 14 when he sat in the electric chair using the Bible he carried into the death chamber as a booster seat. From the looks of his mug shot, Stinney could have passed for as young as 12 when he was found guilty of two counts of first-degree murder of two pre-teen white girls by an all-white jury in a town that was more than half black. Continue reading »

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Mar 242014
 

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.

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Mar 212014
 

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.

Mar 202014
 

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.

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Mar 202014
 
Precinct-level results for the tax proposal supporting the Audubon Nature Institute. (map by Brian Denzer; click for larger PDF)

Precinct-level results for the tax proposal supporting the Audubon Nature Institute. (map by Brian Denzer; click for larger PDF)

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. 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 172014
 
A map of results in the City Council At-Large race. Areas shaded dark green show precincts where Jason Williams improved his results by 25 percent or more. (map by Brian Denzer; click for larger PDF)

A map of results in the City Council At-Large race. Areas shaded dark green show precincts where Jason Williams improved his results by 25 percent or more. (map by Brian Denzer; click for larger PDF)

Jason Williams

Jason Williams

Although voter turnout decreased by 20,000 people in Saturday’s runoff election, Jason Williams actually increased his vote total by nearly 10,000 votes to secure his landslide victory — especially in precincts that Cynthia Hedge-Morrell had initially won in the Feb. 1 primary, an analysis of voting data shows. Continue reading »

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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 162014
 

Susan Guidry

Susan Guidry

The New Orleans City Council is seeking to place Councilwoman Susan Guidry on a new working group formed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration to consider building issues at the Orleans Parish Prison, according to a report by Della Hasselle at our sister site, MidCityMessenger.com. The Council continues to discuss which auxiliary buildings can be used for special-needs inmates at the jail after the new main building opens in May, the report states.

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Mar 162014
 
(via Louisiana Secretary of State's office)

(via Louisiana Secretary of State’s office)

In Saturday’s runoffs, Jason Williams won the At-Large seat on the City Council and Sheriff Marlin Gusman was also re-elected, each winning with roughly two-thirds of the vote, and in the closest race of the evening, Jeff Rouse was elected coroner.

Meanwhile, the controversial tax for the Audubon Nature Institute was rejected by voters by a two-to-one margin. Continue reading »

Mar 112014
 

State Rep. Walt Leger, D-New Orleans, is sponsoring a bill supported by Mayor Mitch Landrieu that would allow the city of New Orleans to hold an election asking voters whether the property taxes dedicated specifically to police and fire services should be raised, according to an article by Charles Maldonado of The Lens. The property tax increase would increase spending on emergency services by about $6 million, the article states.

Mar 102014
 

Owen Courreges

Ron Forman makes over $700,000 per year, yet he’s acting like a beggar.  And the worst part is, he’s not even an honest one.

Forman, the president and CEO of the Audubon Nature Institution (and erstwhile mayoral candidate), is seeking a new property tax millage.  It would be of 50 years duration at a rate of 4.2 mills.  Although the new millage would replace the existing 3.31 mills dedicated to the Audubon Zoo and the Aquarium of the Americas, it is not a renewal.  It is a new millage. Continue reading »