The city of New Orleans is in final negotiations about a $180 million bond refinance deal that will help it to avoid a crippling 2013 payment on an old bond deal, Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin told Gambit last week.
The New Orleans Bureau of Purchasing issued a request for proposals on a refinancing package — worth up to $200 million including costs of issuance — in July, and city officials approved one of the responsive bids on August 21. The deal is still in negotiations and has not yet been signed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, Kopplin said.
The bulk of that money will be used to refinance a highly complex — and ultimately failed — 2000 bond deal and interest swap agreement. The refinance will help the city avoid a $115 million payout on the remaining principal amount from the 2000 deal, which would be due in March 2013.
“We have continued to move forward on that,” he said. “We’ve selected Raymond James and JPMorgan Chase as the lead underwriting team.”
When completed, the city will have terminated $115 million in outstanding debt on $170 million in taxable pension revenue bonds. The Series 2000 bonds were issued to finance the city’s obligations to the New Orleans Firefighters Pension (the old system for firefighters hired before 1968), as well as terminate an interest rate swap the city entered as part of the deal with its bond remarketing agent, UBS.
Terminating the swap could cost tens of millions of dollars, but that is still far less than the scheduled balloon payment. And a new, simpler deal will save the city millions in the long-run, Kopplin told the City Council Budget Committee last May.
Repayment on the Series 2000 bonds has cost the city about $19 million per year since 2008. Those large payments have been based in part on the London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR), which, it turns out, was manipulated in a way that may have cost New Orleans, and many other cities, a lot of money.
The city of Baltimore is leading a class-action lawsuit against banks that set the LIBOR rate. UBS is one of the defendants in that suit.
(More after the jump)
Just when I started thinking I should have bought more Samoas and Peanut Butter Patties when the Girl Scouts were selling cookies all over town in March, I began seeing ads for Girl Scout candy bars marketed as tasting like popular Girl Scout cookies.
Blasphemy, I thought.
I was wrong.
I inadvertently picked up a couple at Walgreen’s (the stores sometimes offer things at the counter to raise funds for charities), thinking they were Nestle candy bars (The label prominently displays “Crunch.”) When I recognized my error, I decided to try one. I expected they would taste good, though not like the cookies.
OMG! The Girl Scouts and Nestle totally nailed the two “limited-edition” cookie flavors I tried: Peanut Butter Creme (peanut butter patty) and Caramel and Coconut (Samoa). As is often the case when in pursuit of Girl Scout delicacies, the Thin Mints candy bar was nowhere to be found. So far I haven't found a list of retailers selling the candy.
Consumers have through September (unless supplies run out) to get addicted to the latest Girl Scout offerings, then, just like the cookies, they will be unavailable.
"We are NOLA Media Group. And we are hiring," the ad read, saying that positions were open in "content, digital solutions, human resources and sales," and urging applicants to visit nola.com/jobs for more information. Many of the jobs listed there are similar to those eliminated last week, including general assignment news and sports reporters as well as advertising account executives and sales managers.
Among the listed benefits in the ad: "commuter accounts." A commuter account is a pre-tax benefit similar to a health care flexible savings account, which allows an employee to put aside pre-tax monies for public transportation costs or parking fees. Such a benefit would have little value at The Times-Picayune building at 3800 Howard Avenue, which has plenty of employee parking — but will have more practical use at the new NOLA Media Group offices, which senior managers have said will be located in downtown New Orleans.
Some employees who have been invited to remain with the company have been told those offices may be in the One Canal Place Office Tower, the 32-story office building with The Shops at Canal Place on its three lowest floors.
Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) is recruiting 14 mental health clinicians and three support workers to expand services to veterans in the New Orleans area. The hirings are part of a federal move to add 1,600 mental health practitioners and 300 support personnel to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) facilities across the country. SLVHCS currently has about 125 employees serving local veterans.
VA Secretary Eric K. Shinseki says he expects most of the new workers to be hired locally in the next six months, with some hard-to-fill positions taking longer. The additional staff, he says, will allow the VA to reach thousands of additional veterans who are suffering from mental illnesses. The SLVHCS center already provides individualized care, readjustment counseling, and immediate crisis services; additional staff is expected to allow facilities across the country to expand into cutting-edge research for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, as well as exploring alternative therapies.
The move comes six months after the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) announced in December 2011 that the DOD was making a strong commitment to ameliorating an escalating rate of suicide among active and veteran service members. Marine Corps Sgt. Maj. Bryan B. Battaglia, the DOD’s top enlisted leader, announced the focus on mental health interventions in December 2011, shortly after the Center for a New American Security released a report that said every day 18 veterans — one every 80 minutes — end their own lives. Rates of suicide among active service personnel also are high, the report said, a problem the VA says it is addressing through intervention and education. The report concluded that suicide is a threat to America’s all-volunteer force.
For information about open positions here or at VA centers elsewhere, visit www.va.careers.va.gov or www.usajobs.gov. Veterans who need mental health care can visit www.va.gov, www.veteranscrisisline.net, call the crisis line at (800) 273-8255 (push 1) or text 838255.
The Eastern New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission (ENONAC) is hosting a Spring Fling Brunch from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Sunday, June 10, at Southern Oaks Plantation (7816 Hayne Blvd.; www.southernoaksplantation.com).
Only 100 reservations are available to the luncheon, which will raise funds for planning development and leadership training. The ENONAC endeavors to provide community leadership to ensure the area’s continued recovery and development.
Admission is $200 for two invitations. For more information, email ENONAC President Sylvia Scineaux-Richard: firstname.lastname@example.org or call her office at 504 218 5949.
Four area courts are collecting new or slightly used suitcases, duffle bags and backpacks for children moving through the foster care system.
Luggage donations can be dropped off at the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal (410 Royal St.), marked to the attention of Judge Max Tobias. (The duffle bags and backpacks should be large.)
Judges for the Louisiana 4th Circuit Court of Appeal, Orleans Parish Juvenile Court, the 25th Judicial District Court for Plaquemines Parish and the 34th Judicial District Court for St. Bernard Parish came up with the program after observing that children moving into new foster homes generally have to carry their belongings in garbage bags, which the judges say is demeaning. Some of the children remain in the foster care system for years and move several times.
“It is bad enough for a child to leave everything he or she knows and loves, but then to have all their belongings placed into a trashbag places a feeling of worthlessness on top of it all,” 4th Circuit Chief Judge Charles R. Jones said in a news release announcing the program.
Organizers of Suitcases for Foster Kids hope individuals, community groups, businesses and service organizations will join the effort. The luggage will be distributed to courts in Orleans, Plaquemines and St. Bernard parishes, which will get the bags into the hands of foster children who need them. Any extras will be distributed to foster kids elsewhere in Louisiana.
For more information, email email@example.com or call Tobias at 412-6072.
Romney would do well to have a wing man who can astutely explain the flaws in President Barack Obama’s policies and lay out the GOP’s innovative, pro-growth alternatives. There are many attractive prospects out there, but Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal can do not just all that, he has already implemented the sort of bold reforms at the state level that are now desperately needed at the federal level.
Last week, the Associated Press reported Louisiana's budget deficit is now $220 million.
Second Harvest Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana is trying to make up for a 46 percent drop — or about 2.5 million fewer meals — in the USDA commodities it receives to prepare for an increase in demand for food when children are out of school for the summer. Rubber ducks are going to help.
“Last year we distributed roughly 22 million meals across the 23 parishes we serve,” says Leslie Doles, communications and public relations director at Second Harvest. “In the area we serve, about half the population is in poverty. While people think of the food bank during the holidays, we have a real need in the summer. You see a lot of people struggling to make sure their kids are fed during the summer when they aren’t in school.”
To optimize its ability to serve more hungry people, Second Harvest is using two refrigerated trucks recently donated by Walmart as mobile pantries, and it has several events planned to raise money and increase food collections. One event is a rubber duck race on Bayou St. John during Bayou Boogaloo (May 20), for which the group hopes to "adopt out" 15,000 rubber ducks. (See details below the jump.)
Steam shovels provided the backdrop for this morning’s groundbreaking for the new Winn-Dixie shopping complex at S. Carrollton and St. Louis streets in Mid-City. The lot — site of a former Bohn car dealership — has sat fallow since Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. Mayor Mitch Landrieu, District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry and representatives of the supermarket chain and developers Stirling Properties were all on hand for the ceremony. “Though the lot was not technically blighted,” Guidry told the crowd, “it was a blight to our souls.”
“We’re not building the city the way it was; we’re building the city the way we want it to be,” Landrieu said, adding that the shopping complex is expected to provide 365 permanent jobs in the supermarket and satellite businesses, which will include Office Depot, Neighborhood Pet Market by Jefferson Feed, Felipe’s Taqueria, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Pei Wei Asian Diner and the frozen yogurt chain Pinkberry, “which I am really pumped up about,” Landrieu added. (The mayor can be spotted at the Magazine Avenue location fairly regularly.)
Guidry referred to the complex as “a premier shopping as well as recreational area,” making reference to the Lafitte Corridor, the 3.1- mile greenway that will eventually run through Mid-City to the French Quarter. In December, the city agreed to let the supermarket build a car crossing on St. Louis Street into the parking lot, a move vigorously opposed by the group Friends of the Lafitte Corridor (FOLC) but defended by the Landrieu administration. Before the ceremonial shovel-turning, Landrieu made oblique reference to the contretemps, thanking FOLC “for taking what could have been a very big conflict” and helping find a solution — “while it may not be perfect,” he added.
As the countdown at St. Patrick’s Day continues, several hundreds scholars, experts and ambassadors of Irish culture are in town this week attending the American Conference for Irish Studies. One of them is Jimmy Deenihan, the Irish government’s Minister for Arts, Heritage & Gaeltacht (or Irish language) Affairs, who is here to speak at the conference and meet with local Irish cultural groups, including the Ancient Order of Hibernians and the newly-formed Irish Network-New Orleans.
Gambit caught up with Deenihan for an interview at the Hotel Monteleone, the site of most of the ACIS events.
Gambit: We hear a lot in Louisiana these days about the value of our culture and heritage as an economic asset. Is that an idea that has caught on in Ireland?
Deenihan: I think people understand it now more than ever. They understand that we have something here that’s very precious. Because Irish music, Irish dance, it’s quite distinctive, and in film, I’d say Ireland has punched way above its weight. There is a lot of economic potential in culture and in heritage. A lot of other countries have proved that as well, but I think we have capitalized on it more than most. We don’t have climate, so we can’t sell sunshine.
But Irish people in a way drifted from their culture, and during the Celtic Tiger (the recent economic boom time in Ireland) they sometimes changed, and Irish people started acting differently than what would be expected of them. One thing that happened with the collapse of our economy in 2007 and 2008 is that people have gone back to basics and they’ve gone back to their culture and their heritage. And in order to regain national pride, we have promoted Ireland through our culture and through our heritage.
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