Economy

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Kermit Ruffins, music community, push back against City Hall enforcement tactics

Posted By on Wed, Sep 26, 2012 at 4:16 PM

EDITOR'S NOTE: After this story was posted, Gambit learned that the author took an active role at the meeting. Rather than take down the story without explanation, we chose to leave it online. It should be read as opinion, not as news.

Meeting at Kermits Speakeasy

Trumpet player and music icon Kermit Ruffins called a meeting today via his Facebook page to get music community and its supporters help him fight what is being called by critics ‘an attack on music and culture by City Hall’:

<<"Im calling a meeting on wednesday 26 at 12 noon at my club 1535 basin st. to discuss a plan of action to stop the city from taking live entertainment away from small clubs. For more info call me at 504-975-3955 between the hr. of 10am-noon any lawyers that can help please come by noon sharp!!!!!">> - Kermit Ruffins.


(More after the jump!)

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Thursday, September 20, 2012

Tom Benson makes Forbes' list of wealthiest Americans

Posted By on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Tom Benson
  • Tom Benson
Forbes has issued its annual list of the 400 richest Americans, and the only Louisianan to make this year's tally is Tom Benson, who comes in at No. 360 with an estimated net worth of $1.2 billion. Writes Forbes:

Tom Benson expanded his New Orleans sports monopoly by purchasing the NBA's Hornets for $338 million in April 2012. Unfortunately, his football team, the Saints, has been mired in scandal surrounding a pay-for-injury "bounty" program coordinated by former defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. Benson also offered to buy the Times-Picayune newspaper after its corporate owners decided to cut back the print edition to three issues per week. His other New Orleans ventures include auto dealerships, the city's FOX television affiliate, and real estate, including the newly renamed Benson Tower.

The "corporate owners" to whom Forbes refers also made the list. Donald Newhouse was ranked No. 51 with an estimated boodle of $6.6 billion:

Donald Newhouse oversees the newspaper portion of Advance Publications, which runs local papers in more than 25 American cities. In the face of continued pressures on the newspaper industry Advance began to reduce the number of print edition published each week for a number of their papers .In October the Times-Picayune will publish three printed issues a week, making New Orleans the largest American city without a daily paper. Brother "S.I." or "Si" takes care of magazines under the Condé Nast banner.

And S.I. Newhouse came in just ahead at No. 46, with $7.4 billion.

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Monday, September 17, 2012

Deputy Mayor: City is paying close attention to LIBOR lawsuits

Posted By on Mon, Sep 17, 2012 at 6:19 PM

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)

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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Girl Scout Cookies — kind of — now in stores

Posted By on Tue, Jul 10, 2012 at 2:36 PM

Samoas in a compact package
  • Samoas in a compact package

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.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

NOLA Media Group now hiring ... and eyeing office space in One Canal Place

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 10:09 PM

Last week we were firing; this week, were hiring.
  • Last week we were firing; this week, we're hiring.
One week after Times-Picayune employees learned whether they would be invited to join the newly formed NOLA Media Group or would have to leave the company by the end of September — and one day after certified letters began arriving at employees' homes, informing them they were losing their jobs — the NOLA Media Group had a display ad in today's Times-Picayune seeking employees.

"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.

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VA beefing up mental health services in southeast Louisiana

Posted By on Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 9:44 PM

The VA is beefing up its mental health services for veterans in need of care and in anticipation of active troops returning from war.
  • Photo courtesy U.S. Army
  • The VA is beefing up its mental health services for veterans in need of care and in anticipation of active troops returning from war.

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.

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Saturday, June 9, 2012

ENONAC fundraiser Sunday

Posted By on Sat, Jun 9, 2012 at 8:31 PM

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: scineaux@bellsouth.net or call her office at 504 218 5949.

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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Suitcases for foster kids

Posted By on Thu, May 24, 2012 at 4:34 PM

100300332.jpg
  • Photo by Oleg Kozlov

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 suitcasesforfosterkids@yahoo.com or call Tobias at 412-6072.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Guy who famously wanted to drown government in bathtub endorses Jindal for VP

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2012 at 2:30 PM

Grover Norquist at the at Conservative Political Action Conference.
  • GAGE SKIDMORE
  • Grover Norquist at the at Conservative Political Action Conference.
Grover Norquist, the head of Americans for Tax Reform and the man who became famous for the line "I'm not in favor of abolishing the government. I just want to shrink it down to the size where we can drown it in the bathtub," has chosen the vice presidential candidate whom he believes would be the best bathtub-drowner — and it's Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Politico has Norquist's essay:

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.

Read it all.

Last week, the Associated Press reported Louisiana's budget deficit is now $220 million.

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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Second Harvest 'ducks' hunger

Posted By on Thu, May 3, 2012 at 12:42 PM

The Rubber Duck Derby is May 20 on Bayou St. John.
  • Photo by Barry Baugher
  • The Rubber Duck Derby is May 20 on Bayou St. John.

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.)

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