Jul 272015
 
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Before every great tragedy lies a series of rash policy decisions.

When 9/11 struck, we rapidly passed the Patriot Act and created the Transportation Security Administration. Provisions of the former permitted unconstitutional searches, while the latter subjected us to overly-intrusive searches executed by a frenzied, unfeeling bureaucracy.

The most recent tragedy we’ve experienced was on a much smaller scale, but it hit relatively close to home. On July 23, at the Grand Palace 16 movie theater in Lafayette, a man now know to be John Russell Houser fired a pistol into the crowd 20 minutes into the viewing of the Amy Schumer comedy “Trainwreck.” Continue reading »

Jul 222015
 

By Brendan Valentine, David Brown and Kevin Caldwell

According to Dr. Ken Roy, the passage of Louisiana’s Senate Bill 143 is “a sad day for science, a sad day for medicine and a sad day for the State of Louisiana.” Dr. Roy is concerned that it isn’t currently feasible to expect physicians to prescribe a Schedule I substance, due to FDA regulations. He also strongly implies that there are no legitimate therapeutic uses for marijuana in a natural form. Continue reading »

Jul 162015
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

With qualifying less than 60 days away, local candidates are wanting lightning to strike to drive interest and money into the fall legislative races. Will lightning strike twice for School Board member Leslie Ellison as she takes on popular State Sen. David Heitmeier? As a physician and Chair of the state senate’s Health and Welfare Committee, Heitmeier played a leadership role in the passage of medical marijuana. Continue reading »

Jul 032015
 

Dr. Ken Roy

Dr. Ken Roy

By Ken Roy, M.D.

The Louisiana legislature, in its wisdom, passed Senate Bill 143 “Medical Marijuana” in both houses of the legislature, and that bill has now received the signature of the governor. This is a sad day for science, a sad day for medicine and a sad day for the State of Louisiana.

At issue is an end run effort to introduce legal “medical marijuana” into the State of Louisiana without addressing the question of legalization for recreational use. Although government has the right to legalize the recreational use of harmful substances, as with alcohol and tobacco, the current legislation skirts that question and proposes to introduce marijuana for use in a small number of medical conditions. Every time that has happened in other states, the initial legislation has been a “foot in the door,” and subsequent legislation, rules and practice has virtually legalized the recreational use, and massively increased the availability. Continue reading »

Jun 182015
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Obviously hungry for new leaders at the state level, New Orleans voters had three opportunities yesterday to hear from various candidates for state-wide office, now that campaign season is ramping up after the conclusion of the 2015 legislative session.

State Rep. John Bel Edwards, Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne, and PSC Commissioner Scott Angelle were generally congenial and complimentary of each other as they addressed a group of 1,000 predominately Westbank voters at the Alario Center very early yesterday morning. Continue reading »

May 142015
 
Billy Nungesser speaks at the Lafourche Republican Women's Meet and Greet. (photo via facebook.com/BillyNungesserPage on April 28)

Billy Nungesser speaks at the Lafourche Republican Women’s Meet and Greet. (photo via facebook.com/BillyNungesserPage on April 28)

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Whether someone is a Democrat or a Republican, it’s hard not to admire former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser. If New Orleanian are asked the names of natural leaders who were on the scene fighting to rebuild New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina or to punch back after the BP oil spill, Nungesser’s name almost always comes up. The national media often flocked to this unabashedly outspoken but folksy businessman because of his obvious love for the region and his insistence that Louisiana deserves better. Continue reading »

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Mar 192015
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

New Orleans streetcars are our version of light rail transit, and they have made living in the city’s core more attractive.

We know of a one-car family on Carrollton Avenue. The wife uses the SUV to ferry the three kids back and forth and handle the other daily necessities of life. The man of the house only needs to look as far as his neighborhood streetcar to give him access to downtown New Orleans. Continue reading »

Mar 052015
 
Marijuana plants seized in raids on two Uptown homes in July 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo via NOPD)

Marijuana plants seized in raids on two Uptown homes in July 2011. (UptownMessenger.com file photo via NOPD)

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

As Gov. Jindal continues to make drastic cuts to the state’s budget, especially in education and public safety, income from the sale and cultivation of marijuana — even medical marijuana — could begin to fill the state’s budget gap.

Already three states and the District of Columbia have legalized the sale and consumption of marijuana, although the D.C.’s Council passed emergency legislation just yesterday to tighten up the law voters recently approved. Twenty-three states along with the District of Columbia have also legalized medical marijuana. The voters of Louisiana overwhelmingly supported the legalization of medical marijuana in a 2014 LSU poll. With tight regulation, it may also be possible that Governor Jindal could support medical marijuana, according to news reports. Continue reading »

Jan 212015
 
Andrew H. Wilson Charter School principal Logan Crowe speaks to more than 100 people gathered at the school Tuesday night. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Andrew H. Wilson Charter School principal speaks to more than 100 people gathered at the school Tuesday night. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The impending loss of the charter at Andrew H. Wilson charter school in Broadmoor — one of New Orleans’ most deeply established and celebrated charter schools, but also one of the city’s lowest ranked campuses in state scores — has parents in the community deeply upset.

The school’s strengths, they said at a heated public meeting Tuesday night, run far deeper than superficial and unfairly-calculated test scores show, and they fear that the individualized care they are used to their children receiving will give way to a cookie-cutter approach if a larger operator takes over. Continue reading »

Oct 132014
 
A rendering by architect David Keiffer of the proposed community center in Carrollton. (via Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association)

A rendering by architect David Keiffer of the proposed community center in Carrollton. (via Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association)

As the start of construction nears on a new community center funded by a state investment of more than $1 million, members of the Carrollton neighborhood remain apprehensive about the organization chosen to operate it — despite repeated assurances from officials that this is the most effective use of the land and the money moving forward. Continue reading »

Sep 252014
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

State Representative Helena Moreno has turned out to be a savvy lobbyist for issues important to women and families and easily able to cross the political aisles to get the votes she needs. That’s the sentiment of the Legislative Agenda for Women (LAW), a coalition of organizations including the League of Women Voters, the American Association of University Women, the Independent Women’s Organization, the National Council of Jewish Women, and the National Organization for Women, who hosted a reception in her honor, courtesy of attorney Pamela Gibbs. Continue reading »

Aug 302014
 
Retired Gen. Russell Honore speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)

Retired Gen. Russell Honore speaks at the GreenARMY Katrina commemoration at Xavier University. (Zach Brien for UptownMessenger.com)

As New Orleans continues to recover from the devastation that followed Hurricane Katrina nine years ago, the city should pass a law preventing any schools or daycare centers from being built on top of toxic soil — including the proposed rebuilding of the Booker T. Washington High School over the old Silver City dump site in Central City, retired Lt. Gen. Russell Honore and local allies said Saturday morning.

“We’re the oldest city in this part of the country, and we ought to be the first to make a stand,” Honore said. “We’re not going to put a school on a dump.” 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 »

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 212014
 
A rendering of the upriver expansion of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (via mccno.com)

A conceptual drawing of the upriver expansion of the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (via mccno.com)

The Ernest N. Morial Convention Center is on the cusp of returning to a major expansion with a new hotel and exhibit hall on long-vacant land in the Lower Garden District, officials said Wednesday morning. Continue reading »

May 152014
 

State Rep. Neil Abramson at a town hall in Carrollton in 2013. (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

State Rep. Neil Abramson at a town hall in Carrollton in 2013. (UptownMessenger.com file photo)

Two environmental activists called for state Rep. Neil Abramson to recuse himself from bills that would affect the wetlands-loss lawsuits against the oil and gas industry because his law firm represents one of the companies being sued, but Abramson defended his conduct with regard to the bills and said it has been ethical and without bias. 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 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 »