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.”
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.
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.
From the “Gee, I’m in the wrong business” file:
A national study conducted by the dating website SeekingArrangement.com 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.
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.
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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