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 »

Sep 092013

Owen Courreges

On August 29, 2013, Londyn Samuels, a one year old child, was shot and murdered in Central City.

Her murder was not an aberration.  Three other children 5 years old or younger have been murdered in Central City during the past three years.  Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls it “a drumbeat of death that is taking the precious from us.”

Naturally, these tragedies have increased calls for the police to do something.  Times-Picayune columnist James Varney recently discussed using more aggressive policing tactics such as the controversial “stop-and-frisk” that has been notably employed in New York City, ultimately expressing “ambivalence” over whether it should, or even could, be successfully adopted here. Continue reading »

Sep 022013

Owen Courreges

Oh what a tangled web we weave…

This past week, a video was released of an encounter between former U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and provocateur James O’Keefe from this past July.  The encounter took place on the sidewalk in front of Tulane Law School (my alma mater) where Letten is now an assistant dean.

“You went to my home, you terrorized my wife, you’re violating federal law, you’re violating state law, you’re trespassing, you’re a nasty cowardly little spud,” Letten shouted.  He also called O’Keefe a “hobbit” for some reason. Continue reading »

Aug 262013

Owen Courreges

The official motto of the Landrieu Administration’s blight eradication efforts should probably be:  “We can’t do much, but we’ll do more of it!”

Case in point: A week ago, I read an Action Report from Bill Capo at WWL about a house in Central City that is nearly collapsing onto another.  An entire wall has become detached.  A couple of two-by-fours mounted between the homes is all that is preventing it from completely falling over. Continue reading »

Aug 192013

“To-go cups or not to-go cups, that is the question.
Whether ‘tis nobler in a bar to provide cups for patrons
to carry their alcoholic beverage out into the street,
Or to take arms against a sea of bureaucrats and busybodies,
and by opposing, end them?”

Owen Courreges

For those who have been living under a rock this past week, there has been a debate in local media over a perceived attack on a venerable New Orleans institution.  I am speaking, of course, of to-go cups offered by bars.  The fracas is over whether there is an actual crackdown on to-go cups, or whether this is just a tempest in a teapot (Spoiler alert: It’s not). Continue reading »

Aug 122013

Owen Courreges

Sometimes so much can turn on so little.  It was June 26, 2013, around 2 a.m.  Marshall Coulter, a 14-year-old boy with a history of criminal behavior, jumped the locked driveway gate of a home in Mid-City.  It was the home of a family: Merritt Landry, his pregnant wife and his young child.

Within the home, a dog barked.  Landry was awakened and went to see if there was an intruder.  He took a pistol with him.  Once outside, he reported seeing Coulter and asking him to freeze.  Coulter turned around to face him and appeared to be reaching for something on his hip.  Landry fired once, hitting Coulter in the head.  Coulter survived, but remains in critical condition. Continue reading »

Aug 052013

Owen Courreges

The NOPD was dealt yet another black eye earlier this year when an investigation from the Inspector General’s Office revealed that off-duty officers were lining their pockets reviewing red-light camera tickets.  Former 8th District Commander Edwin Hosli created a private company, Anytime Solutions, to manage the detail, where off-duty officers were paid $35 per hour to review camera evidence provided by another private company, American Traffic Solutions.

Hosli, a close friend of Chief Ronal Serpas, also made sure to provide the obligatory patronage that feeds on New Orleans like a malignant tumor.  Anytime Solutions paid Serpas’s driver and his son-in-law, Travis Ward, who himself was previously suspended from duty after failing multiple breathalyzer tests when he totaled his NOPD cruiser back in 2009 (not exactly the type of person you want nit-picking other peoples’ driving habits). Continue reading »

Jul 292013

(Cartoon by Owen Courreges for UptownMessenger.com)

Owen Courreges

Detroit has gone bust, announcing that it will seek Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection. The Rust Belt icon of corruption, waste, and decay finally made the difficult decision to cut its losses.

In light of our own sordid history of corruption, waste, and decay, New Orleanians are understandably touchy about this development.  First Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin recently penned an opinion piece for the Times-Picayune entitled “Detroit went bust, not New Orleans” which was ostensibly intended to reassure us that the Big Easy isn’t heading down the same road as the Motor City.

Personally, I did not find this very reassuring in concept alone.  It’s vaguely unsettling that the moment a major American city goes belly-up , a major New Orleans official feels compelled to come out and say: “Don’t worry! We aren’t next!”  It’s disconcerting because Kopplin senses that we have grounds to be worried. Continue reading »