Jul 132015
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Former New Orleans mayor and textbook narcissist Marc Morial has come out in favor of Mayor Landrieu’s plan to remove four Civil War memorials located throughout the city. The erstwhile mayor, now head of the Urban League, proceeded to immediately put his foot in his mouth.

“Those symbols represent division,” Morial explained. “I don’t think Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis and P.G.T. Beauregard really had ties to the city.”

Apparently Morial’s grasp of Civil War history, even as it directly concerns the city he led for two terms as mayor, is just as lacking as his humility. While Lee had no major ties to New Orleans in particular, Jefferson Davis died in New Orleans and was originally buried here. Continue reading »

Jun 292015
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Few people today recognize just how devastating the Civil War was, especially for the South.  The war resulted in over 750,000 deaths.  The South lost roughly a quarter of its male population of military age — 4 percent of its total population.  It constitutes the largest mortality event in American history.

Set against this backdrop, it comes as little surprise that memorials were built throughout the population centers of the South to commemorate the military and political leaders of the Confederacy and the soldiers who served under them.  Though the war was lost, the memories remained.

Yet, according to Mayor Landrieu, the days of Civil War Memorials in New Orleans are numbered.  In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Charleston, perpetrated by known Neo-Confederate and white supremacist Dylan Roof, virtually anything associated with the Confederacy is seen as a target. Continue reading »

Jun 152015
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

One of the chief headaches one gets from monitoring the news cycle relates to the fact that it isn’t self-correcting.  A tiny seed of disinformation grows to become a sturdy tree of conventional wisdom.

This is what happened with the so-called “Stand Your Ground” (SYG) laws following the shooting of Treyvon Martin in Florida by George Zimmerman.  Most recently, it was criticized in a recent column by Jarvis DeBerry after being invoked by Algiers Pastor W.L.T. Littleton, who is accused of shooting a fleeing copper thief in the back of the head. Continue reading »

Jun 082015
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

There’s no getting around it: Central City is an impoverished neighborhood.

In 2013, Karen Gadbois and Craig Mulcahy summed up the situation in Central City nicely: “[Y]ou’re still within sight of the Superdome, but have no doubt about it: The tracks may be nonexistent, but you’re on the wrong side of them.”

With Central City’s depressed economic state, one would think that public officials and the nonprofit community would focus on promoting businesses that provide goods and services that serve a lower-income demographic. However, the opposite has been the case. Continue reading »

Jun 012015
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Plea bargaining is one of the hallmarks of an efficient criminal justice system. The prosecutor saves time and effort. The city collects a fine and court costs. The defendant receives a break on the offense charged. In theory, everybody is happy.

Alas, Mayor Landrieu is apparently not happy. His administration has decided to end the process in traffic court. Continue reading »

May 252015

The former Carrollton court house, photographed in June 2014. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

The former Carrollton court house, photographed in June 2014. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Robert Morris)

Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

One of Aesop’s fables is that of the young crab and his mother.

“Why in the world do you walk sideways like that?” said the mother crab to her son. “You should always walk straight forward with your toes turned out.”

“Show me how to walk, mother dear,” answered the little Crab obediently, “I want to learn.”

Mother crab tried in vain to walk straight forward, but she could walk only sideways, like her son. When she wanted to turn her toes out she tripped and fell on her nose.

The moral of the fable? Don’t tell others how to act unless you can set a good example. And local government could learn something from it. Continue reading »

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 »