Councilwoman Guidry opposes moving freight trains from Old Metairie to Hollygrove

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry called a proposal to reroute freight trains from Old Metairie to Hollygrove “totally unacceptable” before an audience in Mid-City on Monday evening, and Hollygrove residents formed a new committee called “We Won’t Be Railroaded” to fight the project Tuesday, according to a report by Della Hasselle at our sister publication, Mid-City Messenger. In addition to the environmental and quality-of-life concerns, there may also be civil-rights issues involved in the use of federal money on a project that would widen the disparity in property values between the two communities, Mid-City Messenger reports.

Accessibility advocate to challenge Susan Guidry in City Council bid

Susan Guidry, the incumbent representative for District A on the New Orleans City Council, has drawn her first announced challenger for her re-election: 27-year-old comedian Jonah Bascle. But Bascle, confined to a wheelchair by muscular dystrophy, says he remains just as serious about making New Orleans accessible to people with disabilities as he was when he ran for mayor in 2010. “It’s been four years,” Bascle said. “Stuff that I thought would be done by now still isn’t.” One of Bascle’s most visible crusades — and least successful — has been trying to make the St.

New Orleans City Council searches for ways to rebuild police ranks amid staffing “crisis”

New Orleans has lost 300 more officers than it hired since 2010 amid what some city leaders are calling a staffing crisis, officials said Wednesday. Even with new recruitment efforts finally underway and the promise of hiring 100 new officers over the next year, the City Council is looking for new ways to put more police on the streets faster. ‘Fewer cops’
The New Orleans Police Department is budgeted for 1,260 sworn officers this year, but currently has around 1,200 on hand, said Superintendent Ronal Serpas in a hearing before the City Council’s criminal-justice committee on Wednesday afternoon. That city has lost 306 more officers through retirement, resignations and firings than it hired since Serpas took office in 2010, and he acknowledged that 1,260 is too few for New Orleans — a better number, he said, would be 1,575. “Please don’t think that I think we are better with fewer cops,” Serpas told the council.

Costco grand opening: 200 jobs and ‘a huge win’ for New Orleans, officials say

Maybe it was the spirit of economic rebirth, maybe it was New Orleanians’ natural talent for celebrating, or maybe it was the enticing prospect of free samples, but the grand opening ceremony for Costco’s warehouse store on Carrollton Avenue drew a crowd of hundreds that company executives said surprised them. For their 650 other stores around the country, they mostly just opened the doors and people started shopping, the executives said. “We’ve never been treated like this before,” Costco cofounder Jeff Brotman said. “You guys know how to throw a party.” For many locals, the 200 new jobs created by Costco were worth celebrating.

Noise ordinance proposals quietly debated before Carrollton residents

Competing sets of proposals for a new ordinance outlining how sound and noise issues should be enforced in New Orleans were discussed Thursday evening before a Carrollton neighborhood group, but the presentations from each group were so gently put that neighbors wondered where the actual controversy lies. Carol Allen and Meg Lousteau of the Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents, and Associates appeared before the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association on Thursday to present the “Seven Essentials of a Fair and Enforceable Noise Ordinance” crafted by a coalition of members of neighborhood groups around the city. Also on the agenda was Hannah Kreiger-Benson, a representative of the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans, which has developed five different principles they would like to see made part of a noise ordinance. The “Seven Essentials” presented by Lousteau and Allen include: soundproofing requirements for music venues, a full-time enforcement officer, sound readings taken from the venue’s property lines, higher fines, more public notice about mayoralty permits and lower decibel levels in the French Quarter. The Music and Culture Coalition’s principles are more general, Kreiger-Benson said.

After children’s deaths, city and state lawmakers push for more oversight of NOPD, other law enforcement agencies

In a city where the pace of new anti-crime programs is matched year-for-year with funerals for children slain by stray bullets, a large group of New Orleans city council members and state lawmakers are now discussing ways to determine whether any of the efforts underway are actually working. The creation of “Save Our Sons,” “NOLA For Life” and the Multi-Agency Gang Unit each year have been hopscotched by the deaths of 2-year-old Jeremy Galmon in 2010, 23-month-old Keira Holmes in 2011, 5-year-old Briana Allen last year and, shockingly, the deaths of 1-year-old Londyn Samuels and 11-year-old Arabiana Gayles just days apart at the end of this summer, all struck down by cruelly careless gunfire. City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell had only been in elected office nine months when Samuels was killed in her district. Within days, she convened a summit of other City Council members, state lawmakers, judges and law-enforcement officials to discuss what more can be done on the violence issue. A common theme emerged, that more oversight is needed everywhere — of the New Orleans Police Department and its leadership, of the anti-crime programs in place, of the budgets for those entities and of the state law-enforcement agencies that also play crucial roles.

Susan Guidry heads into District A re-election campaign with strong approval ratings

District A is one of the more volatile seats on the New Orleans City Council — the last four elections have yielded four different winners — but the field of potential challengers to incumbent Councilwoman Susan Guidry is largely quiet as she completes her first term. An internal poll from earlier in the summer may partly explain why. Two-thirds of likely voters in the district said they have a favorable opinion of her, a tall barrier for any potential challenger to overcome. Strong internal polling
The automated phone survey of 554 likely District voters was conducted in early June on behalf of the Win Partners consulting firm for the Guidry campaign. Internal polls should always be taken with a healthy grain of salt; not that the individual polls themselves are inaccurate, but that those that are released tend to be the most optimistic.

Jimmy’s Music Club approved for reopening by New Orleans City Council (live coverage)

After nearly a year of struggle and discord, Jimmy’s Music Club received permission Thursday afternoon from the New Orleans City Council to reopen in a flurry of smiles, applause, blown kisses — and a long list of operating conditions. The request by Jimmy Anselmo for alcohol sales at 8200 Willow Street — necessary since the closing last year of his previous tenant, the Frat House — has been a long and sometimes bitter fight between supporters of the storied music venue, neighbors and city officials. The Frat House closed amid allegations of underage drinking last year to the relief of neighbors, and when Anselmo subsequently sought to reopen under his club’s old name, Carrollton neighbors and Councilwoman Susan Guidry initially stood in staunch opposition. Anselmo initially sought to challenge the city’s right to restrict alcohol sales in the Carrollton area, but eventually decided to meet with the neighbors instead. Several more months of discussions culminated in a meeting led by a professional mediator last month, and the result was a list of 17 conditions that Jimmy’s Music Club must obey.

Major changes to Uptown drainage systems represent citywide water-management proposal

Rainfall should be diverted out of Uptown via the Mississippi River instead of carrying it all the way to Lake Pontchartrain, and major drainage ditches like the Monticello Canal should be expanded into interior floodplains and water-storage features, according to two recommendations that illustrate how New Orleans should be better managing its water instead of just pumping it away. The Water Management Strategy presented by architect David Waggonner to a standing-room only crowd Thursday evening at Xavier University is a regional plan for making more efficient use of rainfall, slowing it down and storing it in natural canals to reduce the sinking of the land that contributes to flooding. The recommendations in the Uptown area are only a small part of the plan, but they illustrate some of its key elements and some of its challenges. “We’re proposing this is a new era for water management,” Waggonner said. “It’s not just about flood protection any more.

Jimmy’s postponed two weeks by City Council but “very close” to agreement with neighbors

A hearing on the request to allow alcohol to be served at Jimmy’s Music Club — the key to reopening of the popular venue — was postponed by two weeks by the City Council, but neighbors and officials say an agreement over issues associated with the club is “very close,” perhaps just days away. The request for alcohol at Jimmy’s was on Thursday morning’s docket before the City Council, but council members deferred it until Aug. 8 without comment. Kelly Butler, who handles land-use issues for District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry, said the reason for the deferral was the lack of a signed good-neighbor agreement with the Carrollton-Riverbend Neighborhood Association. Leaders of the association, the operators of Jimmy’s and the club’s immediate neighbors met in a session with professional mediators on Sunday, said Bradley Vega, one of the club’s proposed operators.