Apr 202015

Owen Courreges

There’s an old episode of “The Simpsons” where Marge is mugged and the police are useless to catch the perpetrator. Nevertheless, Marge conquers her own fear and anxiety, managing to capture the guy who did it single-handedly.

Police Chief Wiggum arrives at the scene and proceeds to lecture the gathering crowd. “She caught her own criminal, unlike the rest of you lazy bones.”

The crowd begins to look down sheepishly. “You’re not gonna find those criminals looking at your feet, people,” Chief Wiggum chastises. Continue reading »

Apr 062015

Owen Courreges

If I had to write a motto for the Historic District Landmarks Commission (HDLC), it would be: “Making you kiss the ring to replace your roof.”

There are few examples of useless bureaucratic slime worse than the HDLC. This gaggle of architectural fetishists has crafted a Byzantine set of design guidelines, many of which have nothing whatsoever to do with preservation and appear specifically designed to render any renovation prohibitively expensive.

The only saving grace of the HDLC is that their authority is limited to a small number of core neighborhoods. This is kind of like saying that the saving grace of buck moth caterpillars is that they only come out in the Spring – it’s a restraint, but not exactly what I’d call a redeeming quality. Continue reading »

Feb 162015

Owen Courreges

Mardi Gras is a time for drunken debauchery. Carnival is also a time when our city is most laid bare for the country to see. Our people are judged, our government is judged, and the general quality of our celebration is – as one would expect – judged.

This year, I have stared into the maw of the beast that is our Carnival Season and drawn out the following scorecard (thus far): Continue reading »

Feb 022015

Owen Courreges

I personally loathe either giving or receiving directions, particularly in New Orleans.  With all the twists and turns in the Crescent City, it’s a sure bet that there’s at least one step where you’ll have to “bear” onto something or venture on some convoluted path to make a left turn, all the while cursing the lack of rhyme and reason to the whole mess.

It’s all part and parcel of living in a city established nearly three-hundred years ago along a winding river.  The streets tend to take on a life of their own.

Now, sadly, it’s about to become ever more difficult to meander some streets of Uptown New Orleans.  Yes, the City Planning Commission (CPC) has once again exhibited its total lack of purpose, this time by approving needless street name changes borne of local political horse-trading. 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 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 052015

Owen Courreges

Since August 2004, six New Orleans police officers have been killed.  Two died in auto accidents with other motorists.  One died from an illness contracted while conducting rescue operations during Hurricane Katrina.  Another was killed off-duty during a home invasion.

The two remaining officers were killed while on-duty.  Both were killed by men suffering from severe mental illness. Continue reading »

Dec 292014

Owen Courreges

New Year’s Day is now nearly upon us. As has always been the case, the libations will flow and drunken debauchery will rule the streets. We will celebrate having endured one more journey around the sun on this world of ours by getting blotto.

Of course, there was a brief period when that wasn’t the case.

“The first day of the New Year was observed, rather than celebrated by New Orleans, with hushful Sabbatical ceremony,” a reporter for the Times-Picayune observed during Prohibition. Continue reading »

Nov 112014

Owen Courreges

Three years ago, on November 11, 2011, I published a column entitled “The O.C. Haley Non-Commercial District.”

Within that piece, I criticized the notion that O.C. Haley Boulevard, a noted commercial street in Central City, was ripe for private investment.  Led by Councilwoman Stacy Head, it had become a common trope that any business afflicted with zoning issues should simply move there, where City Hall wanted them to be.

In response, I suggested that the use of O.C. Haley as an example of an opportune destination for businesses crushed by obscenely unreasonable zoning restrictions was crass and, frankly, just added insult to injury.  The only virtue of O.C. Haley was that it was being pushed by government interests, which explained why only a handful of private businesses moved in.  The only major influx was the veritable cavalcade of nonprofit entities (i.e., non-taxpayers). Continue reading »

Nov 032014

Owen Courreges

Election day is tomorrow.  If you’re like me, you’re relishing in the opportunity to vote for a smattering of ill-considered proposals and lackluster candidates in the vain, fleeting hope of actually making this city a better place.

However, I am also aware that there are those of you who are just short of hopelessly ignorant when it comes to the proposed state constitutional amendments.   Usually, constitutional amendments are for matters of great public import; in Louisiana, though, they tend to be a bunch of random crap.

With this in mind, I have created the following voters guide to the proposed Louisiana constitutional amendments, together with my recommendations (spoiler alert: I hate pretty much all of them). Continue reading »

Oct 272014

Owen Courreges

When it comes to Alcoholic Beverage Outlets (ABOs), the city is an irredeemable bully.  Unless Mayor Landrieu steps in, it’s likely to continue.

Case in point: The Country Club, a bar and restaurant located in the Bywater, has long been famous for amenities such as its pool and sauna.  It is also known for its freewheeling, hedonistic atmosphere particularly characterized by its “clothing optional” policy. Continue reading »

Oct 202014

Owen Courreges

With certain issues, there’s often a central figure whose opinion you always want to know.  If there’s a foreign policy incident, the Secretary of State should probably be consulted.  If there’s a disease outbreak, the head of the Center for Disease Control should probably be on board.  Want to gauge response to a major crime?  Let’s see what the chief of police has to say.

And if you want to take some radical step pertaining to city streets, like taking out a traffic lane in the middle of downtown New Orleans, surely you’d want to know what Chief Traffic Engineer Allen Yrle thinks of it. Heck, you might think his support would be considered crucial.

Alas, you would be wrong. Continue reading »

Sep 222014

Owen Courreges

Cedric Grant and Mayor Landrieu want everyone to know that they plan to repair New Orleans’ chronically ill-maintained street infrastructure. They also want you to know that they have no creative plans for funding it.

Grant is New Orleans’ new grand poobah of public infrastructure. He is simultaneously the executive director of the Sewerage and Water Board and the head of the Department of Public Works. He gets to serve two masters – Mayor Landrieu and the quasi-independent S&WB. Continue reading »

Sep 152014
The Preservation Resource Center recently celebrated the renovation of the Rountree House at 1421 Josephine, noting that a sketch of it is included in the PRC logo. (image via Preservation Resource Center)

The Preservation Resource Center recently celebrated the renovation of the Rountree House at 1421 Josephine, noting that a sketch of it is included in the PRC logo. (image via Preservation Resource Center)

Owen Courreges

I’ve written a lot of columns since I started to write for Uptown Messenger in January of 2011.  Sometimes I look back over them and realize: “You know, there have been some interesting developments with this since I put pen to paper.”

Accordingly, every now and again, I revisit a few old columns to provide brief updates on some of the topics I’ve written about.  Some have happy endings, some less so.

So, without further ado, I give you The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. Continue reading »

Aug 252014

Owen Courreges

I’m just going to come right out and say what everything is thinking: What the @#$% is going on with home prices in Orleans Parish?

It’s getting crazy out there. I’ve been seeing listings of renovated homes for over $300 per square foot on the edge of Central City.  A “fixer-upper” needing a “total renovation” on the edge of City Park recently hit the market for $700,000. 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 »

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 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 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 »