Tuesday, December 29, 2009

City Hall Closure Threatens Voting Rights

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 9:49 PM

The Louisiana Justice Institute (LIJ) says that Mayor Nagin’s recent decision to close City Hall on Fridays due to budget restraints will affect voter turnout in the upcoming Municipal Primary Election, which includes the mayoral and City Council ballots.

“By closing City Hall on Friday and Saturday, the mayor is cutting out 3 of the 7 early voting days at the primary early voting location,” says Jacques Morial, co-director of LIJ, a civil rights advocacy organization. Early voting for the primary election runs from Jan. 23-Jan. 30.

Morial says that this is a substantive change in voting procedure, and that, according to the federal Voting Rights Act, an alteration like this must be pre-cleared by the U.S. Department of Justice. Morial says that his institute has been in contact with DOJ officials regarding this, and that neither the city nor the state has requested the required pre-clearance.

LIJ has filed a letter of complaint with DOJ. Morial says that under the Voting Rights Act, DOJ can order that City Hall be open, so that voting is not disrupted.

“It’s just typical of City Hall,” Morial says. “They just don’t consider the consequences at all of what they do.”

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Uptown Crepe Shop Closes

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 9:35 PM

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Sweet Gals in the Lower Garden District has closed. The casual café first opened in October, serving a breakfast and lunch menu specializing in crepes and egg dishes.

The restaurant's storefront space at 1906 Magazine St. was previously home to J'Anita's. That restaurant closed last spring and relocated its operation to the tavern kitchen at the nearby Avenue Pub.

Sweet Gals opened not long after new owners revived the long-shuttered Jackson restaurant right next door, and at the time it looked like a mini boom was underway on that block of Magazine Street. It will be interesting to see what comes along next.

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Just what the Saints need: Bobby McCray Arrested for DUI (UPDATED)

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 6:29 PM



He ended up in handcuffs after being pulled over for speeding on I-10 on the Carrollton overpass. Maybe he was out celebrating the Vikings loss that handed the Saints home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Until 4:30 in the morning. Yup. That should also explain why he was speeding, no doubt rushing to get home so he can catch up on film. Oh and the not having his registration? Surely the 13-0 start had his full attention and then he became extra focused on football after the two-straight losses.


Yea, I see no way this becomes a distraction this week. The Saints sure know how to stumble into the playoffs.


Mid-City bonfire: Ain't dere no more

Posted By on Tue, Dec 29, 2009 at 6:04 AM


Photo by Mark Folse

You've probably already heard that the traditional New Year's Eve bonfire won't be lighting up Mid-City this year (go here to read Gambit's story about the bonfire drama last year). Tonight, Mary Hogan of the group Save the Bonfire sent out the official message:

Thank you to everyone who pledged a donation to keep the bonfire burning for 2010. Unfortunately, although we came very close to meeting our funding needs, the liability and legal paperwork prevent us from moving forward.

There will be no legal bonfire this year. Anyone attempting a fire will be subject to arrest.

We're hopeful that next year we'll have in place all that is necessary to have a bonfire. Watch this space for details.

From what we understand, the group was only a few dollars shy of its goal ... but getting a signatory (who might be legally responsible if anything went wrong) was the snafu this year. Bonfire bummer.

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Monday, December 28, 2009

Your Daily Sugar Bowl Update

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 7:46 PM

Amazing photo lifted from Palestra.net


That incredible picture up there is to remind our readers that there are, in fact, two college football teams playing in the Sugar Bowl and one of them isn't named Florida. Cincinnati, if you recall, is the team without a coach being coached by a guy who's about to leave to coach somewhere else.


Speaking of coaches and coaching, who's coaching Florida? Meyer resigned and came back (which "experts" say he can totally do if he gets treatment for his health conditions) but he's not going to be coaching in the Sugar Bowl because of his leave of absence. That leaves this guy with the task of coaching Florida in a game no one seems to want to coach in and is fast on track to falling into irrelevancy among the bevy of bowl games around the corner.


But back to the matter of Cincinnati and how the media is covering them (or rather, how the media isn't covering them). Even a Google News search for "Sugar Bowl Cincinnati football" turns up more Florida stories. Urban Meyer has stolen the Sugar Bowl from more than just his players, he's stolen it from the Bowl itself. Unless some eight-overtime insta-classic thriller befalls the game, this will probably be remembered as the "Meyer Bowl".


Hit the jump for a long recap of the Cincinnati press conference this morning, because Florida news is everywhere else you look.

Continue reading »

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Local writers around the Web

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 6:41 PM

• The LA Weekly carries a cover interview with Anne Rice, late of the Garden District and now living in Rancho Mirage, Ca. Nothing really new in this piece, other than the fact Rice seems to have taken the Mission Inn in Riverside, Ca. as her new touchstone, using it in her fiction and signing her latest, Angel Time, there. Here's the online trailer for the book:

Grim rumblings from Walter Pierce of The Independent in Lafayette:

A biopic about the life of late New Orleans author John Kennedy Toole, still years away from the screen, is getting a head of steam, according to Maxim Entertainment president Blaine McManus. After two and a half years, an Ignatius Rising script based on the eponymous 2001 biography by René Pol Nevils and Deborah George Hardy (LSU Press) is complete and fundraisers are planned in Lafayette, Baton Rouge and New Orleans (dates undetermined) to raise $50,000 for a packaging/development fund. McManus says the fund is designed to ensure the movie “is fully developed and produced in Louisiana by a Louisiana production team.”

Awful news for anyone who loves A Confederacy of Dunces, or who knows the Toole family, simply because Ignatius Rising is such bad source material. I reviewed it back in 2001:

The dichotomy between Toole's often raunchy novel and the lace- curtain gentility that his mother sought for herself is central to this story, or should be. One wonders if Mrs. Toole, who describes herself in one letter as "a woman of intelligence, culture, and many gifts," saw herself lampooned in blowsy Mrs. Reilly, whose fingers were "chafed from years of scrubbing her son's mammoth, yellowed drawers," hiding empty muscatel bottles in the oven of her roach-infested kitchen. Nevils and [Deborah George Hardy] never even raise the question; indeed, they seem completely uninterested in Toole's fantastical characters.

Ah, well; they still haven't figured out a way to film Confederacy -- maybe this will fall by the wayside, too. There's always hope.

• Last but not least: Will Coviello interviews Poppy Z. Brite in this week's Gambit. We'll link the story here when it goes online later today.

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In case you forgot: Florida's in town

Posted By on Mon, Dec 28, 2009 at 12:07 AM

Read up on heart disease


Photo lifted from the UF Library Web site


While the Saints were busy pissing away an otherwise lovely Sunday afternoon in the Superdome, Urban Meyer and the Florida Gators were just arriving in town and talking to the media in advance of their Sugar Bowl game against Cincinnati.


As if Tim Tebow's last game being against and undefeated Cincinnati team looking to legitimize their national championship claims wasn't dramatic enough, Meyer up and decided to announce his resignation yesterday because of health reasons. Though now he's taken that back and says he will just undergo a "leave of absence". Walking away from $20+ million a year and a college football empire you've built is understandably a tough decision, but when you've had health concerns for more than 10 years and your wife has to pack your desk with snack to keep you from starving on the job, at least an extended vacation is an order.


But while Florida players and fans are probably in a tizzy over the last 48-hours, everyone in the Cincinnati has had more than a weak to come to terms with the fact that, while undefeated, they're still Cincinnati and your coach won't give a second thought to jumping ship in favor of coaching at Notre Dame.


Hit the jump for a full transcript from Florida's press conference (note: It's really long):

Continue reading »

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Sunday, December 27, 2009

Whatever happened to the best team in the NFC?

Posted By on Sun, Dec 27, 2009 at 10:11 PM

Cadillac rollin


Photograph by Jonathan Bachman


Three weeks ago, all the talk was about the Saints' potentially undefeated season. Last week's loss against Dallas seemed like a hiccup; up until that point the Saints had played good (and sometimes great) enough to earn their first-round bye. A Minnesota meltdown in Carolina also gave the Saints a chance to clinch home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. Now, after a completely stunning 20–17 overtime loss to the Buccaneers, the Saints appear to be reeling and there's no telling when they'll get back in control.


Playoff football, as anyone who follows the NFL can attest, is a much different animal than the regular season. A loss to Tampa is awfully disappointing, but the Saints will live to play another day. There's no such luxury in post-season football and there's an added pressure to perform at the highest level. Against a broken, two-win Buccaneers team, the Saints struggled to get a victory. How will they fare against Minnesota, Philly or any other formidable playoff opponent? The New Orleans defense showed some of its early-season form with two interceptions the huge fourth-down stand with just under five minutes left, but they also let up 439 yards to a Tampa Bay offense ranked 29th in the league. No to mention the Black and Gold were completely unable to stop Cadillac Williams in overtime (he had nine carries for 40 yards in the period). The offense, after a hot start, failed to score a second-half point, with a Marques Colston fumble and a missed field goal leaving desperately need points on the field.


Teams have overcome defensive shortcomings in the past (most famously, the 2007 Colts who won the Super Bowl despite a poor rushing defense) but it's an issue that needs to be addressed. After starting the season 13-0 with all kinds of aspirations, the Saints must now take a good long look at themselves and see if they can't once again grasp the mojo that powered them through the first three quarters of the season.


Hot Gumbo:

  • Drew Brees - 32-of-37 for 258 yards and a touchdown seem like incredible numbers, but even this hot gumbo has a hint of expired crustacean in it. 37 attempts is about 15 more than you'd like to see Brees throwing in a game the Saints led for most of the way. But you can't fault Brees for the play-calling as he did his job admirably on the field.
  • Robert Meachem - He had 66 yards on five catches including a wide-open touchdown and a clutch fourth-quarter grab that should have secured a Saints win had they not missed the ensuing field goal.
  • Pierre Thomas - Managed to earn 60 yards on just six carries and scored a touchdown before being forced out of the game with bruised ribs. When the Saints were cruising, it seemed like he could've had two weeks off to rest and get healthy. Now New Orleans has a must-win in Carolina and may have to expose Thomas to more punishment.


Spoiled Crawfish:

  • Saints Special Teams - As if that 77-yard punt return for a touchdown wasn't bad enough, the entire Saints' punting unit made fools of themselves when they (incorrectly) tried to accuse Tampa Bay of offsides or encroaching on the previous play. Yes, the Tampa player jumped offside for a moment. But guess what? He's allowed to do that as long as he doesn't touch an opposing player and makes it back onsides before the snap. The Saints seemed distracted on the next play as Tampa was running back the tying score. Oh and don't get me started on that missed field goal that would've ended the game in regulation.
  • Saints Rushing Defense - The Saints gave up 176 yards on the ground, including all 48 yards the Bucs gained in overtime on the ground. When you can't close out a team like Tampa Bay at home, with a chance to clinch homefield advantage, you have some serious problems.
  • Saints Passing Defense - Sean Payton was asked if he was concerned about his secondary since they've given up an average of 313 passing yards their last four games. This was Payton's answer: "In our league it's crisis or carnival because the stuff in the middle doesn't sell." Um...what? Payton went on to say something about learning about your team's character when you hit adversity and yadda, yadda. Translation: Sean Payton is worried about his secondary. You should be worried, too.
  • Sean Payton - I was going to put the Saints Offense here for the sake of balance, but the offense played so well for most of the game that it seems unfair. Payton already laid some blame on himself for the loss but lets heap on some more blame while we're here. How is it that the Saints came out so flat in the second half? How does he account for the team's total drop-off since that great victory against New England a month ago? Payton and the Saints have ignored many glaring short-comings for too long, now it's time to see if they can recover.
  • Garret Hartley - Payton made a good point that fans shouldn't point to just one aspect of this Saints' loss and put the blame on that. Sure, Hartley's miss wasn't the reason for the Saints loss - the defense could've showed up in overtime, special teams could've done a better job in punt coverage, among other things - but Hartley is paid to make field goals and that one would've ended the game. He missed (for just the second time all season, no less) and the Saints ended up losing. That makes him a scapegoat.


Room-temperature Abita:

  • Marques Colston - He had eight receptions for 77 yards but that fourth quarter fumble cost the Saints some much needed points (New Orleans would've had a first down inside Tampa's 40 had he hung onto the fooball). Lukewarm day for no. 12.
  • Reggie Bush - He had 66 rushing yards, 37 receiving yards and 14 return yards for a pretty preductive day. And hey! He didn't get injured! Isn't that something?
  • Darren Sharper - Got his eighth interception of the season, good for second-best in the NFL, but was also part of a secondary that Josh Freeman put up 217 passing yards.
  • Tracy Porter - Also got an INT (in the end zone, no less) and has gotten better since returning from injury. It'd be nice if the Saints could take all the individual accomplishments in their secondary and turn it into a victory.
  • Tom Benson - He's kept the team in New Orleans, put the right people in charge of football that's led to this 13-win season and yet, save a Super Bowl victory, this may be the lasting (moving) image of the season:

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Sorry, Tom, Hartley missed wide left. Yea, we thought it was as good as in, too.

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Saturday, December 26, 2009

Coming up in Gambit: Year in Review/Mad Men edition

Posted By on Sat, Dec 26, 2009 at 10:47 PM

2009 was the Year of Living Madly. Our elected officials went mad. The public got mad. And everyone was mad about Dem Saints. In this week's Gambit, we look back at the year in news, politics, art, music, stage and environmentalism. Here's to 2010.

Mad Men

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Top 10 Political Stories of 2009

Posted By on Sat, Dec 26, 2009 at 12:21 AM

There never seems to be a recession in Louisiana political hijinks, as 2009 proved many times over. This was a year of tectonic shifts in the local political paradigm, and the coming year promises to bring more big changes. Herewith, our annual list of the Top 10 Political Stories:

1. Bill Jefferson’s Continued Slide — The former congressman’s misfortunes continued to pile up. He was convicted on 11 of 16 federal felony counts in August after a long-delayed trial in Virginia. Ironically, Jefferson was acquitted of the charge most closely related to the infamous $90,000 in cash that the feds retrieved from his freezer in 2005 — but jurors concluded that his congressional office was an ongoing criminal enterprise under the RICO statute. The trial judge sentenced him to 13 years but let him stay out of jail pending his appeal. In another twist, the U.S. Supreme Court is considering other cases that could overturn some of Jefferson’s convictions. Locally, Dollar Bill’s brother (and political muscle) Mose Jefferson was convicted of bribing a school board member in an unrelated case. Mose and Assessor Betty Jefferson (another Jefferson sibling) face still more federal charges with Mose’s gal pal (and Dollar Bill protégé) Renee Gill-Pratt. Politically, Jefferson’s once-dominant political machine, the Progressive Democrats, is in shambles. The Feb. 6 citywide elections will be the first in three decades in which Dollar Bill is not a factor.

2. The City Hall Scandals — There’s no telling how many separate criminal investigations are underway at City Hall. Former technology chief Greg Meffert was indicted on several dozen criminal counts, along with his wife Linda and former business partner Mark St. Pierre. St. Pierre is the city contractor who paid for the Mefferts and the Nagins to vacation in Hawaii in 2004 and for the Nagins to unwind — first class — in Jamaica shortly after Katrina (while the rest of us were still trying to get back home to New Orleans). On another front, the feds seized various City Hall computers after the mayor’s emails and 2008 calendar mysteriously disappeared (following a WWL-TV request for them under the state Public Records Act). Ironically, tons of City Council emails were produced by the Nagin Administration in response to an unrelated public records request — and some of those emails proved to be cautionary tales against writing things down. More recently, veteran Sewerage and Water Board member Ben Edwards was indicted on 33 counts of corruption, including alleged kickbacks. Edwards spent more than $250,000 “independently” helping Mayor Ray Nagin win re-election in 2006. As the clock winds down on Ray Nagin’s tenure in City Hall, the feds appear to be tightening the circle of suspicion around him.

3. The Mayor’s Race — For a while it seemed that nobody wanted Ray Nagin’s job — then everybody seemed to want it. After a yawner of a preseason, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu lit up the field with his eleventh-hour decision to run. The fallout came quickly as school reformer Leslie Jacobs dropped out a week later. Landrieu, who is making his third bid for the mayor’s office, is once again the early frontrunner. The race for the City Council’s two at-large seats promises to be filled with intrigue as well. Incumbent Arnie Fielkow waited until the last day to qualify, prompting former at-large Councilman Eddie Sapir to jump in. Assessor Darren Mire was another late entry, which seemed to guarantee a scrambled field. Then both Sapir and Mire dropped out on the same day, right before Christmas. State Rep. Austin Badon, who was the first to announce for mayor, was among the first to drop out of that contest, opting instead to run for the council from District E, where he is the early favorite.

4. Suburban Scandals — The feds have been busy all over southeast Louisiana. They indicted and convicted St. John Parish President Bill Hubbard on extortion and money laundering charges, St. Bernard Judge Wayne Cresap on bribery charges, and Mandeville Mayor Eddie Price on tax evasion and depriving citizens of honest services via mail fraud. Meanwhile, FBI agents are looking into Jefferson Parish Chief Administrative Officer Tim Whitmer’s insurance commission-splitting deals in connection with insurance business at West Jefferson General Hospital and among various parish contractors. Some big names are said to be involved, and this could be the beginning of another round of “Jefferson Scandals.” Look for some fireworks to start in the Jefferson Parish scandal before Mardi Gras, my sources say.

5. Ray Nagin’s Unraveling — Could he possibly be more obtuse, more detached, more disengaged — and less effective as a mayor? While in Cuba (on a junket), he praised Castro’s evacuation plans. That came after he failed to convince the City Council to buy the nondescript Chevron Building and make it the new City Hall. Earlier in the year, he thumbed his nose at the courts and the state Public Records Act when his calendar and emails somehow disappeared. When an outside contractor said that the emails were deleted deliberately by someone who knew what they where doing, he fired the contractor. Meanwhile, a growing list of people who once were close to him are under federal indictment. Here’s the good news: he’ll be gone in 18 weeks.

6. Bobby Jindal’s Minus Touch — The Boy Governor started 2009 as the Wunderkind of the national GOP. Then came his disastrous response to Barack Obama’s first national address and his failure to show any coattails in three separate special elections — including a bid by his former executive counsel for the state Supreme Court in northeast Louisiana (which is supposed to be a Jindal stronghold). As he continues to raise millions nationally for his campaign war chest, the state faces major budget problems.

7. State and City Budget Woes — Bobby Jindal told a state cost-cutting commission to “be bold” in their recommendations. Gee, wasn’t that what we elected him to do as governor? Lawmakers anguished over cutting about $1 billion in operating funds this year, but it only gets worse in the next two years. Locally, Mayor Ray Nagin announced a $68 million deficit, then took a taxpayer-paid trip to Mexico to sign a feel-good sister city agreement. When the City Council revised his proposed budget, Hizzoner retaliated by slashing key services — and then blamed it all on the council. Plus ça change.

8. David Vitter’s Run-up to 2010 — The Biggest Hypocrite in America remains an early favorite to win back his U.S. Senate seat, but not without a fight. He initially drew a potential rival in porn star Stormy Daniels of Baton Rouge, but now he will have a real opponent in Democratic Congressman Charlie Melancon. Vitter continues to poll below 50 percent but remains 10 points or more above his main opponents. His infamous bad temper flared up again during an incident at Reagan National Airport when he tried to board a plane late, and all the national attention he’s gets every time there’s another sex scandal anywhere sure makes Louisiana (if not Vitter himself) look bad. Not that he cares.

9. The Saints Deal — For the first time since the state started subsidizing the city’s NFL franchise in 1985, a deal to keep the beloved Saints in New Orleans did not tear the Legislature apart and cost the city valuable political capital. Maybe it’s because Gov. Bobby Jindal also wanted lawmakers to approve $50 million to bail out a north Louisiana chicken processing plant. South Louisiana leges immediately said, “Deal!” Cluck, cluck! Go Saints!

10. The City’s New Master Plan — Like everything else worthwhile that happens here, the city’s new master plan has endured a rough birthing process, but the end results will hopefully be worth it. Don’t let the fact that I’ve listed this as No. 10 fool you. This will be a very important story for decades if we get it right.

A final note: I left former Recovery Chief Ed Blakely off my list of most important political stories. That’s because, even when he was here, Blakely was largely irrelevant. His ridiculous, self-serving comments after his departure proved that.

Here’s hoping 2010 brings better news.

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