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 »

May 052014

Owen Courreges

Is Magazine Street poised to be taken over by national chain stores?

It’s certainly a possibility. Rising rents are already forcing some Magazine Street retailers to move or close entirely. Well-heeled national businesses can often afford what mom-and-pop cannot. Continue reading »

Apr 282014

Owen Courreges

Elk Place has seen better days, and poor transit planning is the most obvious culprit.  Near the intersection with Canal, transit users wait alongside derelict and ill-maintained structures with inadequate shelter and seating.  Drivers buzz by as throngs brave the elements to make their connections.

This is what happens when over 20 transit lines converge at one location, with over 5,000 riders boarding and disembarking streetcars and buses.

It’s a notorious disgrace.  The immediate area has been slow to redevelop.  The sidewalks are difficult to navigate and litter is an ongoing problem.  Not only have transit users suffered – local businesses and property owners are dissatisfied as well. Continue reading »

Apr 212014

Owen Courreges

Did you hear the news? Mayor Landrieu is proposing… (drum roll please)… tax increases!

This shocking development stems in large part from the consent decrees with the U.S. Justice Department over the widely-acknowledged and widespread constitutional violations routinely committed by the New Orleans Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office vis-à-vis Orleans Parish Prison.  Those settlements have hefty price tags attached.

Who could have predicted this?  Not to toot my own horn, but I certainly did. 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 »

Mar 242014

Owen Courreges

Louisiana’s relatively lax landlord-tenant laws arguably need to be revisited, but a new proposal in the state legislature tilts the scales too far in favor of tenants who breach their obligations.

In late February, Louisiana State Senator Yvonne Dorsey-Colomb filed Senate Bill 298, which includes a laundry list of revisions to the laws governing residential leases.  The centerpiece is a non-waivable 30-day eviction notice period for all evictions, regardless of grounds.  Under existing law, a tenant may be evicted with five days notice, although this notice may be waived by agreement of the landlord and tenant in the lease. Continue reading »

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 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 »

Feb 242014

Owen Courreges

Everywhere you look these days you hear an ongoing debate over a simple app known as “Uber.”  The concept is simple: the San Franciso-based company provides an app that connects passengers with “for hire” vehicles and rideshare services via their cell phone.  Pricing is handled through Uber on a distance or time basis.

During times of peak demand, the price can be several times normal taxi rates.  At other times, Uber may cost less than a regular cab.  The goal is to provide a functioning market within the app whereby users can always receive prompt service. Continue reading »

Feb 032014

Owen Courreges

Sometime after the Iran-Iraq broke out in 1980, Henry Kissinger was quoted as saying: “It’s a pity they can’t both lose.”

These words seem appropriate following the results of the Orleans Sheriff’s election day this past Saturday.  Incumbent Marlin Gusman received 49% of the vote, falling just short of the amount required to avoid a runoff.  The runner up with 29% of the vote, Charles Foti, is also Gusman’s predecessor. Each of these men have made their own contributions to a Sheriff’s office that is beyond dysfunctional. Continue reading »

Jan 132014

Owen Courreges

Howdy, folks! My name is Owen Courrèges and I’m here to regale you with my unique brand of stand-up comedy.

…So the City Attorney, the Head of the Taxi Bureau and the Chief of Police walk into a bar.  The Taxi Bureau Chief says: “Barkeep! Three beers for these dedicated mayoral appointees!”  Obligingly, the bartender slides three bottles of beer down the bar. Continue reading »

Dec 302013

Owen Courreges

With New Year’s Eve a scant day away, it is only fitting that I commit this column to a particularly relevant topic: Driving Under the Influence (DUI).

First, I’d like to preface this piece by observing that nobody actually supports drunk driving.  It’s a contributing cause to innumerable auto accidents and fatalities.  It frustrates law enforcement and makes mothers M.A.D.D.

However, in spite of popular efforts to present a DUI as the moral equivalent of nun beating, activists and local governments are committed participants in a conspiracy to presenting driving drunk as a mere peccadillo – a “petty offense” that does not merit significant concern. Continue reading »

Dec 022013

Owen Courreges

In the wake of recent high-profile complaints about the New Orleans Taxi Bureau, one suggestion has been for New Orleans to emulate New York’s system for regulating taxi cabs by creating a new taxi/limousine commission and adopting a medallion system.  In my view, this is a monumentally bad idea.

An impetus for this proposed change is related to complaints against the New Orleans Taxi Bureau and its chief,  Malachi Hull, including an incident I wrote about previously when a Taxi Bureau inspector, Wilton “Big Will” Joiner, slammed a tour guide in the side of a parked car full view of a crowd of appalled tourists.  This was troubling because Taxi Bureau investigators aren’t peace officers; they lack authority to detain or arrest anybody.

It’s clear that the Taxi Bureau is ill-managed and corrupt, and institutional changes certainly shouldn’t be rejected out of hand.  However, New York’s supposed “reforms” are not something New Orleans should replicate. Continue reading »

Nov 112013

Owen Courreges

News travels fast in New Orleans.  On Sunday, my inbox began piling up with reports of an altercation that allegedly took place over the weekend.  Altercations in New Orleans are no big news, but here the incident allegedly occurred between an employee of the Taxicab and For Hire Bureau, Wilton “Big Will” Joiner, and Wendy Bosma, a tour guide operating the in the French Quarter.

From what I gather (here’s a WWL report on the incident), it happened like this:  On November 9, 2013, Bosma was conducting a Haunted History Tour down Royal Street near Governor Nicolls.  She was guiding a tour group near the infamous LaLaurie Mansion (made more famous by “American Horror Story: Coven” currently airing on the FX Network).

Bosma claims that Joiner approached her and claimed that was closer than 50 feet to another tour group in violation of the law.  Joiner demanded her tour guide license, which was pinned to Bosma’s purse.  Bosma refused, noting that she was the only guide on the street.  Joiner then suddenly reached out and grabbed her license and identification off of her purse. Continue reading »

Oct 142013

Owen Courreges

Update, Oct. 25: Subsequent to writing this piece, I was notified by the mayor’s office the woman in the WWL story upon which this piece was based had rented the car she was ticketed for, and that she was thus still responsible for the ticket. While that information does change the story, it still presents some issues about the camera system, which are addressed in a postscript below.

Those traffic cameras certainly are insidious.  It was once assumed that you could avoid getting a red-light camera ticket, at the very least, by simply not owning a car.  That commonsense presumption has now been proven false. Continue reading »

Sep 302013

Owen Courreges

A few weeks ago I ventured forth into the world and viewed a glorious sight – the road markings on St. Charles Avenue have been redone!   

Then I felt sad, realizing just how horribly low my expectations of city government must be for this to be perceived as such a triumph. Continue reading »

Sep 162013

Owen Courreges

Since the 1920’s, the French Quarter has been represented by Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates, Inc., or VCPORA for short.  Given recent events, perhaps they should recast themselves as the “Vieux Carre’s Persnickety Oligarchs Representing Authoritarianism.”

Case in point: This weekend at Rising Tide 8, a local conference geared towards discussing New Orleans’ future, a panel was held on tourism in New Orleans.  During panel discussion, Meg Lousteau, Executive Director of VCPORA, noted approvingly that Bhutan has a limit on the number of tourists allowed into the country each year.

I wasn’t present, so I cannot attest to whether every jaw in the room hit the floor at that moment or not. The Kingdom of Bhutan, for those not aware, is an independent nation located in Asia.  In order to preserve their Buddhist cultural heritage, Bhutan requires tourists to acquire visas before entering the country, and limits the number of tourist visas offered per year. Continue reading »