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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Thursday, January 2, 2014

The new New Orleans: Which are the next New Orleans neighborhoods to boom?

Posted By on Thu, Jan 2, 2014 at 4:24 PM

In this week's cover story about The New New Orleans, we looked at some statistics about the price of housing in New Orleans and the percentage of people who now are spending 50 percent or more of their income on rent. While neighborhoods like Bywater and Mid-City have become more popular, the price of rents there has gone up significantly.

So which areas are the next to boom for renters? We asked several local real estate professionals, plotted their answers on a Google Map, and overlaid it with PadMapper, a tool which searches Craigslist rental listings and plots out the results.

Click on any PadMapper listing to see up-to-date rental information.

To view and navigate the map in a larger screen view, click here.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Landrieu's proposed 2014 municipal budget leaves questions regarding consent decree funding

Posted By on Tue, Oct 15, 2013 at 1:49 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu addresses the press before this morning's commendation of his proposed 2014 operating budget to the New Orleans City Council.
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu addresses the press before this morning's commendation of his proposed 2014 operating budget to the New Orleans City Council.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu commended his proposed 2014 municipal budget to the New Orleans City Council this morning at a special meeting of the council. The budget's total: $504 million, a slight increase above this year's amended total of $496 million.  

One of the proposed budget's centerpieces is "a five-year, $247 million building blitz" that will both continue to repair roadways and "remake" the Louis Armstrong/New Orleans International Airport — just in time for the city's planned 2018 tricentennial celebration. Police, fire and EMS services each received a small increase in their operating budgets, while the District Attorney's office and Criminal District Court remained unchanged. 

Left vague, however, was the city's plan for fulfilling the funding of the federal consent decree for Orleans Parish Prison (OPP). $22.1 million of general fund expenditures was approved for Sheriff Marlin Gusman's office in 2013; the exact same amount, down to the penny, is proposed for Gusman's office in 2014.

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Friday, June 21, 2013

Keep LA Swift

Posted By on Fri, Jun 21, 2013 at 11:40 AM

The LA Swift bus service that transports commuters between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is one of the silver linings that followed Hurricane Katrina. Now it’s threatened with extinction. Local officials in both cities are trying to help the transit service avoid that fate. I hope they succeed.

As horrific as Katrina was for south Louisiana, the storm also forged lasting bonds between communities that came to the aid of coastal parishes and those that were devastated. Baton Rouge responded on many levels, welcoming displaced New Orleanians who sought places to live within driving distance to the metro area.

Many of us still recall with dread the hours-long daily traffic jams on I-10 between New Orleans and the Capital City. To ease the congestion, the state established a park-and-ride commuter bus service between the two cities in October 2005. LA Swift became an instant hit. Even now, almost eight years after the storm, the service (which contracts with Hotard Coaches to provide buses) still provides more than 10,000 rides a month — and ridership is steadily growing.

Granted, the service was originally created as a temporary measure to help displaced New Orleanians get to work after the storm, but it has grown into a vital link between New Orleans and Baton Rouge. Riders use it in both directions, so much so that civic and political leaders in both cities are rallying to keep LA Swift going. The service attracts some 200 riders a day.

LA Swift began via a Federal Transit Administration recovery grant, along with a $5 charge for each one-way trip. The grant is still available, but since 2007 it has required a local match, which the state has provided. The state will not provide that match going forward, however, and the service was set to end June 30. State officials last week gave LA Swift a one-month reprieve, giving local officials a chance to raise the local match, which is more than $700,000.

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Friday, April 12, 2013

Advice … and a warning

Posted By on Fri, Apr 12, 2013 at 11:44 AM

A lot of folks can take credit for convincing Gov. Bobby Jindal to “park” his much-maligned “tax reform” plan last week, none more so than Dan Juneau, president of the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). In the Capitol’s pack of lobbying hounds, LABI is The Big Dog — particularly on tax matters.

Jindal’s proposed tax-swap plan was already on life support even before LABI pulled the plug on it on March 27. When the state’s leading business lobby announced its opposition to any plan that would increase the tax burden on businesses (which Team Jindal admitted the plan would do), the patient was officially dead.

Or was it?

Jindal is still prodding lawmakers to eliminate the individual income tax. He just isn’t offering any advice as to how to do it.

As Juneau noted in his latest weekly column, the governor’s latest move actually exposes his true objective: eliminating the individual income tax at any cost. There’s danger in that.

Juneau has led LABI for decades. He has seen — and supported — many attempts at tax reform. His column offers some “unsolicited advice” to lawmakers. They should take it.

I’ve been around this process almost as long as Juneau. I’m quoting his advice below — and adding a warning of what will happen if that advice is not heeded.

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Tuesday, April 9, 2013

New Orleans ranked 13th for sugar daddies

Posted By on Tue, Apr 9, 2013 at 10:24 AM


From the “Gee, I’m in the wrong business” file:

A national study conducted by the dating website and released this week, shows New Orleans has 2.43 sugar daddies per 1,000 adult men in the city, putting the Big Easy 13th on the list. In another survey of sugar daddies released in December 2012, the website broke down statistics by religion, finding the highest number of sugar daddies were Jewish (28 percent), 17 percent were evangelicals (17 percent), 14 percent were Catholic and 8 percent were Protestant. (Twelve percent of sugar daddies in the study were not affiliated with a specific religion, and 3 percent identified themselves as atheist or agnostic.

The new study ranks Atlanta in first place, with 5.98 sugar daddies per 1,000 adult men in the city, Scottsdale, Ariz., came in second with 5.23, San Francisco dropped two places from last year with 4.94, Tampa, Fla., takes fourth with 4.48 and Boston places fifth with 4.29 sugar daddies per 1,000 adult men. Charlotte, S.C., came in last (20th) with a 1.49 count.

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Friday, March 29, 2013

I’ll have what he’s having

Posted By on Fri, Mar 29, 2013 at 2:10 PM


There’s a classic scene in the movie When Harry Met Sally where Meg Ryan and Billy Crystal are sitting in a crowded deli arguing about whether a man can tell when a woman fakes an orgasm. Crystal insists he can tell — and that no woman ever faked it with him. To prove him wrong, Ryan begins a show-stopping sexual soliloquy that, well, climaxes with her screaming, “Yes! Yes! YESSS!” — and pounding the table with both hands. She then casually picks up her fork and smugly continues eating as a sheepish Crystal and a stunned deli full of gawkers look on.

At a nearby table, an older woman puts down her menu and says to her waiter, “I’ll have what she’s having.”

I thought of that scene recently when I learned that Gov. Bobby Jindal had concluded that raising the state sales tax by 1.88 cents was not enough to cover the revenue that would be lost by eliminating the state income tax, as he proposes. The governor now wants to raise the sales tax by 2.25 cents — giving Louisiana a total state sales tax of 6.25 percent.

At first, I thought it was an early April Fool’s joke. It wasn’t.

Surely, I thought, the governor must be smoking some serious herb, which is legal now in some of the states he may have visited recently. His plan to give Louisiana the highest combined state and local sales tax rates in the U.S. was already considered D.O.A. in the House of Representatives — and that was when he was “only” seeking to increase the state sales tax by 1.88 cents.

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Saturday, March 23, 2013

Playing Bobby Jindal’s game

Posted By on Sat, Mar 23, 2013 at 11:58 AM

Even though he still doesn’t have a final draft of his tax-swap plan, Gov. Bobby Jindal has launched his statewide campaign to sell his gospel of wealth. He’s hoping to generate citizen support that will convince wary lawmakers to back his proposals.

For opponents as well as those who are merely skeptical of Jindal’s plan, time is of the essence. The longer business leaders and intellectually honest lawmakers defer to Jindal by “waiting to see the bill in final form,” the more they play into the governor’s hands.

Think back to last year, when Jindal spouted platitudes about “education reform” but waited, literally, until the last possible minute to present his bills — then rammed them through the committee process within days, giving no one a fair chance to study them. The result was, among other things, an unconstitutional voucher plan with virtually no accountability.

He’s using the same strategy with his tax-swap plan. He offers vague promises of “fairness” and “broadening the base,” but he and his tax-swap point man, Tim Barfield, executive counsel for the state Department of Revenue, offer few specifics — and then only in response to legislative and public pressure for more details.

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Thursday, March 14, 2013

Jindal tax swap plan: State sales tax increases to 5.88 percent

Posted By on Thu, Mar 14, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Gov. Bobby Jindal finally gave the state legislature (some of) the details of his plan to eliminate individual and corporate income taxes — which account for about $3 billion in annual revenues — without a negative impact to the state budget. As expected, Jindal's plan includes a hike in the state sales tax rate — from 4 percent to 5.88 percent — meaning Louisiana's average combined state and local taxes will be the highest in the country at about 10.75 percent. Jindal also plans to expand the sales tax base to include some services. Healthcare, education, construction, real estate, financial services, legal services, oil and gas services, and funerals will be excluded.

Food, prescription drugs and utilities will also be protected from tax hikes. As Jindal puts it, "We are going to protect food, prescription drugs and utilities from increased sales taxes." Of course, tax rates on those items are all protected by the state Constitution, so raising them (aka amending the Constitution) would ultimately require voters to approve higher tax rates on their own food, utilities and prescription drugs. Which seems unlikely.

I will present the highlights of the plan after the jump, but first I'd like to take a close look at one sentence in Jindal's speech, the statistic that justifies this tax code overhaul. The governor has repeatedly cited huge employment growth in states "without an income tax." He did so again today, in the following sentence:

“Over the last ten years, more than 60 percent of the three million new jobs in American were created by the nine states without an income tax."

This simple, seemingly straightforward declarative sentence is so loaded with half-truths and omissions it's really quite impressive. According to Bureau of Labor Statistics preliminary figures, the country added about 3.7 million jobs (later adjusted to 4.3 million) between January 2003 and December 2012. Of those, sixty percent, or 2.2 million, were, in fact added in nine states that don't have a traditional individual income tax. 1.5 million were created in Texas alone. So that much is true.

Six of those states — Alaska, Florida, New Hampshire, Tennessee, Texas and Washington — levy general business taxes on earnings and/or assets. The state of Texas, the great taxless success story, collected $4.6 billion in corporate franchise taxes in fiscal year 2012. South Dakota has a six percent business income tax that only applies to banks.

Two of them, Tennessee and New Hampshire, levy taxes on individual income, but only investment income. And, to be fair, neither state is getting much out of these taxes. In 2011, New Hampshire collected $77 million in revenue on its five percent dividend tax. Tennessee's six percent Hall Income Tax produced about $184 million in revenue. That's still negligible, but it's actually almost as much as Louisiana's been collecting in exorbitant, job-killing corporate income taxes, after you account for our $1.6 billion in exemptions. (In pure dollars, we have the third most expensive corporate exemptions in the country. Considering the only states that offer higher corporate income tax exemptions are New York and California, Louisiana's $1.6 billion is certainly the highest as a percentage of the state economy and state budget.)

Only two states, Nevada and Wyoming, are as tax pure as Jindal wishes Louisiana to be. And one of them collects $800-$900 million annually in gambling taxes.

(Read Jindal's plan after the jump)

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Friday, January 25, 2013

A reasonable alternative

Posted By on Fri, Jan 25, 2013 at 12:56 AM

A growing number of people are saying that Gov. Bobby Jindal’s proposed “tax reform” plan would shift too much of Louisiana’s revenue burden to its poorest citizens. Jindal supporters want criticism withheld until the plan is finalized. That would be a fair request if the governor weren’t keeping the details under wraps until very late in the game.

Besides, one doesn’t have to know everything about the plan to suggest improvements. What we know is that Jindal proposes to eliminate individual and corporate income taxes and the corporate franchise fee. To offset the $3 billion that would cost the state, he'll have to nearly double state sales tax revenues. Even a "modest" sales tax hike of a penny and a half would give Louisiana the highest combined (state and local) sales tax rates in the country — by far.

In addition to raising sales taxes, Jindal wants to eliminate many or even all sales tax exemptions, most of which benefit existing businesses, and institute a unified sales tax reporting system. He says his goal is to make the tax code simpler, broader in application, fairer and more attractive to business. That’s a worthy goal, and parts of his plan would accomplish that.

For example, eliminating the corporate franchise fee is a great idea. The fee generates relatively little revenue but is a huge turnoff to businesses. Ditto for the corporate income tax and the unified sales tax reporting system. Many Louisiana businesses have to file multiple returns for local and state sales taxes. Most other states have one statewide filing system.

But I question the wisdom of eliminating the individual income tax. Instead, why not make it simpler, broader, fairer — and lower?

Much lower.

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