Friday, June 3, 2016

Beatings will continue until ...

Posted By on Fri, Jun 3, 2016 at 10:15 AM

Gov. John Bel Edwards has called state lawmakers into a second special session after the regular session ends June 6.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards has called state lawmakers into a second special session after the regular session ends June 6.

In calling state lawmakers back into yet another special session just 30 minutes after the annual regular session adjourns June 6, Gov. John Bel Edwards seems to have adopted the jocular admonition, “Beatings will continue until morale improves.”

The beatings, in this case, are the painful choices that legislators must make these days: raise taxes or cut critical (and popular) programs such as public hospitals and TOPS college scholarships. Edwards is determined to keep them in session until they improve the state’s fiscal morale by raising taxes.

The governor has been accused of holding the beloved TOPS program hostage to get lawmakers to raise taxes, and that’s a fair criticism. It’s also an effective political strategy. Let’s face it, nobody wants to raise taxes for better prisons. But if people think their kids are going to lose their shot at a TOPS scholarship — watch out.

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Thursday, March 24, 2016

Editorial: It takes a millage

Posted By on Thu, Mar 24, 2016 at 11:10 AM

If the state’s budget mess holds a lesson for local government, it’s that ideologically refusing to raise needed taxes while “cutting government spending” is sometimes an irresponsible course. On April 9, New Orleans voters will go to the polls to decide two propositions: a property tax of 7.5 mills for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the New Orleans Fire Department; and a $120 million bond issue for streets, public facilities and firefighting equipment. The former would help rebuild the NOPD and pay pensions owed to local firefighters. The latter would go mostly toward street repairs, with some for parks, buildings, fire trucks and land acquisition. Early voting has already begun and continues through this Saturday, April 2. We support both propositions.

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Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Gov. Edwards to address budget crisis in live statewide address Feb. 11

Posted By on Wed, Feb 10, 2016 at 12:11 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

Saying "We have reached the end of the road where cuts alone will work to solve this problem," Gov. John Bel Edwards announced he will deliver a statewide address Feb. 11 about the Louisiana budget crisis, which is worse than than previous projections.

The state's Revenue Estimating Conference (REC) issued a forecast today saying Louisiana was facing an $850 million immediate deficit (up from a previously forecast $750 million) and a projected budget gap for the 2016-2017 fiscal year of $2 billion.

Greg Albrecht, the state's chief economist, told the REC this morning, "For all practical purposes, Louisiana is in its own recession, and it has come on pretty rapidly."  

LaPolitics editor Jeremy Alford reported Edwards and his team contacted television stations around the state last week asking for airtime for what would amount to a "State of the State" address, which was granted. Edwards will address Louisiana at 6:30 p.m. Thursday night.

Last month, Gambit examined the state budget mess in a cover story, "Louisiana's Hangover." 

Under the cut: Edwards' statement.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

"Total War Puppets" demilitarize the Mudlark Theater

Posted By on Mon, Jan 4, 2016 at 4:18 PM

Sandy the Slut, one of the Total War Puppets
  • Sandy the Slut, one of the Total War Puppets
In the years I've been acquainted with the woman known as Nyx, she has been not only a very solid poet, artist and anarchist-feminist theorist but an outspoken and unstinting critic of what she perceives as weak or regressive creative endeavors here in New Orleans.

After a sojourn abroad, she and her new collaborator Ben Bornstein are returning to town Jan. 9, 10, 12 and 13 with their project Total War Puppets, in a production at the Mudlark Theatre titled "Fire with Fire."

I spoke to Nyx and Ben about their puppet show, its ideological underpinnings, and what Nyx finds lacking in the New Orleans DIY art scene. One of the most principled and least cowardly New Orleans artists I know is back with a vengeance, and I couldn't be happier about it.

What's the origin of "Total War Puppets?"

I left New Orleans to go to Bread & Puppet in Brattleboro, Vermont for an apprenticeship. I met Ben there and we had more political affinity than I had with most of those people. I'd had the idea for a show about militarism and its connection to my family. A few months later I was working on little scenes, and I had enough to make a show. Ben joined me and we spent a month doing nothing except building the puppet show. We both wrote different scenes and then heavily co-edited them.

BEN: The name of our troupe addresses how a militaristic culture isn't relegated to statist violence like the police. Total War is the current doctrine of war, including citizen non-combatants — Total War throws you into the context of war simply by being alive.

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Friday, March 20, 2015

How to fix the budget process now

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2015 at 10:22 AM

Bobby Jindal frittered away the $1.1 billion surplus he inherited from former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, then put Louisiana in a $1.6 billion revenue hole.
  • Bobby Jindal frittered away the $1.1 billion surplus he inherited from former Gov. Kathleen Blanco, then put Louisiana in a $1.6 billion revenue hole.

Gov. Bobby Jindal’s assault on public higher education in Louisiana continues unabated, and it’s unclear whether state legislators will put up any resistance. University heads privately complain about Jindal’s unprecedented gutting of higher ed, but they cower in public for fear of losing their jobs.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers have to figure out how to cover the $1.6 billion budget gap that they and Jindal created over the past seven years.

To recap, Jindal inherited a $1.1 billion surplus from former Gov. Kathleen Blanco. He blew that in his first year as governor and belatedly embraced the rollback of the Stelly Plan, which voters approved in 2002. That was a total hit to the state’s fisc of $1.4 billion in 2008. The rollback of Stelly has cost the state more than $300 million a year since then. Some estimate it costs $500 million a year by now.

In the years since 2008, Jindal has lavished billions of dollars in tax credits and exemptions on businesses that may or may not be creating jobs in Louisiana. Meanwhile, the state’s unfunded accrued liability (UAL), which is Louisiana’s version of the Social Security ticking time bomb, grew from $12 billion to more than $20 billion on Jindal’s watch.

More recently, Jindal blamed declining oil prices for much of the state’s fiscal woes, but that’s a lie. Falling oil prices account for, at most, one-fourth of the $1.6 billion shortfall.

Where do we go from here?

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A New Orleans City Park tree-sitting protestor speaks out

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 2:54 PM

A partially killed live oak within the construction zone. - JULES BENTLEY
  • A partially killed live oak within the construction zone.
As a longtime, dues-paying Friend of City Park, it took me a while to get on board with the effort to save the wild public land that City Park CEO Bob Becker and the Bayou District Foundation nonprofit want to turn into a high-end golf course. The campaign seemed too little too late, or worse, an example of people who didn't live through the trauma of the flood but romanticized a wrecked version of the city.

The arguments against rebuilding the golf course accreted gradually— learning just how much that wild stretch meant to so many New Orleanians from all walks of life, learning how dire the economics of golf are in 2015, and learning about the sinister neoliberal elements of the "East Lake model" that the Bayou District Foundation, chaired by George H.W. Bush, seeks to emulate. When it was shown to me that, despite originally promising to only restore land that had previously been golf course, several far older cypress and live oaks and a fat slice of the Couturie Forest were being consigned to the ax, I was swayed.

The tree-sit protest ongoing in one of the now fenced-off public area's threatened cypress is, as far as I know, without local precedent. In the mid-'90s, a group of Loyola faculty and students sat at the base of a cypress tree that the University's then-president wanted to cut down. "We lasted for weeks, but then the end of the semester came," said Dr. John Clark. "We were sitting, and it was a tree, but I'm not sure that made it a tree-sit." Now, Dr. Clark is among many New Orleanians who've begun spending free time at Harrison Circle to show support for the young people in one of the threatened trees. Yesterday, after four days in the tree, one of the sitters came down. I spoke to her the evening of her descent.

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Thursday, January 22, 2015

Our “no-go” governor

Posted By on Thu, Jan 22, 2015 at 10:28 AM

In any state budget crisis, citizens and lawmakers would expect the governor to be working hard to figure out ways to raise money or responsibly trim the sails of government, or both. That’s what real governors do. Unfortunately, Louisiana’s budget gap for the 2015-2016 fiscal year dwarfs any that has come before it — $1.4 billion and growing. And while Gov. Bobby Jindal is indeed figuring out ways to scare up large sums of money, he’s not doing it for the state. He’s doing it for himself.

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Friday, January 16, 2015

What Bobby Jindal has stolen

Posted By on Fri, Jan 16, 2015 at 11:49 AM


Term-limited state lawmakers may turn out to be the lucky ones next fall. They won’t have to explain to voters why they went along with Bobby Jindal’s fiscal insanity and cut more than $700 million from Louisiana’s public colleges and universities over the past seven years. Heck, the cuts could exceed $1 billion by Election Day, particularly since Jindal seems predisposed to do nothing in the face of a projected $1.4 billion budget gap.

Well, not quite nothing — he is laying the groundwork for a quixotic presidential run. I’m not sure how he’s going to explain $1 billion in cuts to higher education, especially when he’s touting himself as the savior of public education in Louisiana. Then again, the national media rarely look beyond press releases, and voters in Iowa and New Hampshire have no clue what a liar Jindal is.

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Tuesday, August 12, 2014

2015 "Budgeting for Outcomes" meetings to begin next week in each council district

Posted By on Tue, Aug 12, 2014 at 3:25 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu (left) and New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas will attend the annual "Budgeting for Outcomes" meetings in each City Council district, which begin next week with District C. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu (left) and New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas will attend the annual "Budgeting for Outcomes" meetings in each City Council district, which begin next week with District C.

Wondering when New Orleans would announce the annual "Budgeting for Outcomes" meetings in each City Council district? They begin next week with District C (Aug. 18) and will continue through Aug. 27 (District D).

In a press release from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office, Landrieu stated, “Four years ago, we started these meetings to ensure that the people of New Orleans were included in the budgeting process. These meetings allow us to hear directly from New Orleanians on what their priorities are, and allow us to stick to our budgeting principles: Cut smart, reorganize and invest in the future.”

Each meeting will be attended by Landrieu, the district's councilmember, various deputy mayors and department heads, New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas and New Orleans Fire Superintendent Tim McConnell. All meetings will start at 6 p.m. From 5:30 to 6 p.m., the city will  hold "resource centers" where residents can speak individually with officials about specific projects, problems and complaints.

Under the jump: the schedule.

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Friday, January 3, 2014

MoPho Mid-City to open in a week

Posted By on Fri, Jan 3, 2014 at 2:23 PM


MoPho Mid-City (514 City Park Ave., 504-482-6845) is set to open this weekend (Jan. 11), with former August chef de cuisine Michael Gulotta offering a menu of pho, vermicelli and other traditional Southeast Vietnamese dishes and specials that meld Vietnamese and Louisiana influences.

“That’s where chef’s really going to shine, through the daily specials,” says Jeff Gulotta, the chef’s brother, MoPho general manager and co-owner. Those specials include dishes like slow-roasted lamb neck in green curry with Creole cream cheese potatoes and grilled Two Run Farms beef ribs and cast iron roasted rapini with lime vinaigrette. “We’re using traditional Vietnamese cooking techniques and a Gulf pantry.”

The restaurant previously was scheduled to open the last week of December 2013, but Jeff Gulotta says, “We were just waiting on chairs and permits. The chairs came in [Jan. 3].” The Gulottas partnered with August veteran (and high school friend) Jeff Bybee on the new restaurant.

“We may try to do a soft opening on Friday (Jan. 10),” Jeff Gulotta says. “We’re shooting for opening next weekend.”

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