Mitch Landrieu

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Mayor Landrieu and city officials call on feds to help stop violent crime

Posted By on Tue, Jul 1, 2014 at 6:00 PM

U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite said: We need more soldiers in this battle.
  • U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite: "We need more soldiers in this battle."

Mayor Mitch Landrieu stood with city officials at City Hall this afternoon to make a “clarion call to every level of government to protect our streets.”

Landrieu’s press conference was the mayor’s first following the Bourbon Street shootings that left 10 people injured early Sunday morning. Landrieu asked Gov. Bobby Jindal for a permanent staffing of 100 Louisiana State Police officers within the city, and he also sent letters to the Obama Administration, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder and other federal agencies asking for the federal government to remind it of its "obligation to help stem this national epidemic.” (Landrieu later added that he is disappointed by nationwide leaders’ “general lack of knowledge” of violent crime playing out in the streets.)

The letter demanded a “surge team” of federal law enforcement as well as the restoration of the federal COPS program and harsher penalties for the illegal use of a firearm.

Specifically to the French Quarter, Landrieu called for park police to serve the Vieux Care Historic District, as it is a designated national historic site. Landrieu also said he has called for the rededication of state funding by sending 1 penny from the city’s hotel/motel tax to criminal justice agencies.

“Too often we have innocent bystanders caught in the crossfire,” Landrieu said. “The culture of this violence continues to threaten our country.”

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Monday, June 30, 2014

Y@ Speak: the heat is on

Posted By on Mon, Jun 30, 2014 at 1:18 PM

It's summertime in New Orleans. It's hot and violent and due for a vacation from both of those things. A week after New Orleans officials celebrated its award of "most liveable city," a group of people were shot on Bourbon Street. Here's a look back at a taste of swampy weather, shootings and Keanu Reeves oberving a Jefferson Parish murder trial.

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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Mitch Landrieu comes out in favor of same-sex marriage

Posted By on Thu, Jun 26, 2014 at 11:15 AM


Without fanfare or a formal announcement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu has quietly come out in favor of same-sex marriage — a change from his longtime position of supporting civil unions but stopping short of endorsing same-sex marriage. Landrieu's name now can be found on the Mayors for the Freedom to Marry website, where more than 400 mayors of cities large and small have publicly supported the right to same-sex marriage.

Two years ago, the list was much smaller — around 80 mayors — and Landrieu was not among them. At the time, spokesman Ryan Berni told Gambit that Landrieu supported civil unions for gay and lesbian couples. Today, in a statement, Landrieu spokesman Tyler A. Gamble wrote:
The Mayor has long supported ending marriage discrimination at all levels of government. As an employer, the City of New Orleans recognizes domestic partnerships and allows our employees’ partners to be eligible for benefits. The City has an interest in strengthening and supporting all caring, committed and responsible family forms, which is why the City signed an amicus brief in support of the Robicheaux case now pending in federal court. “Mayors for Freedom to Marry” is a bipartisan group of over 400 mayors who support upholding equal rights under the law for all citizens.
Same-sex marriage became a front-burner issue in Louisiana this week when U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman heard arguments over Louisiana's refusal to recognize out-of-state same-sex marriages. Feldman surprised plaintiffs and defendants, however, when he announced he would not issue a "piecemeal" ruling and wanted more time not only to consider the question, but also to address the state's constitutional ban on same-sex marriage, which was put into the state constitution by popular vote in 2004. Twenty states and the District of Columbia now allow same-sex marriage — yesterday, Indiana became the latest state added to that list after a federal judge struck down the ban there.

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Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Vote on Uber legislation deferred till next month

Posted By on Tue, Jun 24, 2014 at 6:11 PM


The Transportation and Airport Committee agreed during a meeting today to defer a vote on an ordinance that would allow hail-a-car apps like Uber to operate in New Orleans.

Ryan Berni, an advisor to Mayor Mitch Landrieu and a key architect of the legislation, explained that the ordinance removes a three-hour reservation requirement for limos and hired cars. It also allows them to make trips to the airport and adjusts the rate structures so that those services would be able to charge per mile and minute, as opposed to a pre-arranged fee. In an effort to widen the gap between for-hire cars hailed through services like Uber and a traditional taxi, the ordinance would set a price floor for limos and sedans. Any ride in a sedan would have a minimum fee of $25, and any ride in a limo would have a minimum fee of $35. Trips to the airport would carry a $75 minimum for sedans and a $90 minimum for SUVs.

Berni said the city looked at other jurisdictions like Nashville to get a model for the legislation, then adjusted the framework to adhere to the New Orleans market. Director of local governmental affairs Eric Granderson reiterated that the proposed ordinances makes no changes to taxi regulations, and that services like Uber X, Lyft and Sidecar are not on the table for discussion.

But discuss them the council did.

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Friday, June 20, 2014

#NOLANeedsUber — or does it? Council to take up issue Tuesday

Posted By on Fri, Jun 20, 2014 at 3:44 PM

An image from an Uber launch party earlier this year in Cincinnati, where the service debuted in March. - CREATIVE COMMONS/5CHW4R7Z
  • An image from an Uber launch party earlier this year in Cincinnati, where the service debuted in March.

The kind of language used on social media by devotees of Uber, the smartphone app that connects riders to existing drivers, might make you think they were discussing something much more dire than the potential expansion of a luxury car service into the New Orleans transportation market.

“NOLA deserves Uber,” says Twitter user Joel Galatas, using the now-popular hashtag #NOLAneedsUber, introduced in an email blast by the company two weeks ago. In four minutes, eight more #NOLAneedsUber Tweets come in, all with similar urgent-sounding rhetoric.

“NOLA needs Uber as soon as possible, without price-fixing,” another reads, which is the tweet pre-composed and suggested in the email blast. All these Tweets are directed at members of the New Orleans City Council. It’s a social-media public relations maneuver Uber has used in many other cities, with success.

“That’s one of the really special things about the Uber technology,” says Tom Hayes, Uber’s general manager for New Orleans, referring to the fervor with which supporters of Uber have taken to social media.

Even before Uber had public plans to enter the New Orleans market, it was met with resistance from city officials. There was a now-infamous cease-and-desist letter from Taxi Bureau Chief Malachi Hull (sent to Uber before it even entered the market), and Mayor Mitch Landrieu was tight-lipped in expressing outright support for the service.

Eight months later, it’s a different story. The city is reassessing its existing transportation codes to accommodate the service. But the San Francisco-based company, which operates in more than 70 cities in the U.S. and 37 other countries around the world, including Saudi Arabia, and was recently valued at $18 billion, says it won’t be satisfied until it can operate by setting its own prices, and it’s encouraging its fans to demand the same.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Y@ Speak: bugging out

Posted By on Tue, May 27, 2014 at 12:47 PM

We're back from a three-day weekend. This week's Y@ Speak looks back at a week of Super Bowl snubs, termite invasions and a whimsical Rob Ryan holding hands while dancing in a circle.

Thanks for all your votes in the second-ever Y@ Speak Awards. We'll announce the winners June 2 at PubliQ House. The event starts at 5:30 p.m. and ends at 7:30 p.m., so you'll have plenty of time to spend the rest of your night refreshing Twitter for more validation.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Should developers build a 21-story hotel at Canal and Tchoupitoulas streets?

Posted By on Wed, May 21, 2014 at 2:32 PM

These brick buildings (behind the low-rise structures in foreground) are on Tchoupitoulas Street near Canal Street. Owner Kishore "Mike" Motwani wants to raze them, along with neighboring structures, to build a 21-story hotel on the site, but neighbors and preservation groups object. - JEANIE RIESS
  • These brick buildings (behind the low-rise structures in foreground) are on Tchoupitoulas Street near Canal Street. Owner Kishore "Mike" Motwani wants to raze them, along with neighboring structures, to build a 21-story hotel on the site, but neighbors and preservation groups object.

In a city that loves to talk about itself, the changes New Orleans has made after Hurricane Katrina and the levee collapses are more and more often the subject of heated conversation and debate. With an influx of economic development, where do we relax our stringent standards for authenticity and historic preservation, and where do we uphold them? And who decides?

That’s a tension the newly elected New Orleans City Council will attempt to balance Thursday, when a developer will appeal for the right to tear down several small historic (but neglected) buildings at 105-111 Tchoupitoulas Street and 422 Canal Street to build a 21-story hotel.

The project, spearheaded by Kishore "Mike" Motwani of Jayshree Hospitality LLC and the Minnesota-based hospitality management company Wischermann Partners Inc., seeks to build two hotels, a Marriott Residence Inn and a Marriott Springhill Suites.

The $120 million project has been rejected twice — first by the Central Business District Historic Landmarks Commission (HDLC) and then by the Architectural Review Committee. Among the loudest voices opposing the project is the Preservation Resource Center, whose senior advocate, Michelle Kimball, says it’s uncommon for the City Council to approve a project that’s already been denied twice by government entities. Still, Kimball is uncertain. “You never know when you’re coming on with a new City Council what might happen,” she says.

The City Council has issued few clues as to how its members might vote tomorrow. Council President Stacy Head declined comment on the matter, while District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who represents the district that includes the proposed development, issued a lukewarm statement without taking a side.

“She’s currently looking at it,” says spokesperson David Winkler-Schmit. “There are a lot of different things to consider.”

A spokesperson for Mayor Mitch Landrieu says the mayor opposes tearing down the historic buildings.

Sean O’Laughlin, vice-president of development and construction for Wischermann, says it’s not up to a few disgruntled neighbors to decide whether New Orleans plays host to a $120 million redevelopment project on its main street, which already is lined with high-rise national hotels.

“It truly is (the leadership of the City Council) that needs to make this decision on behalf of the greater good, the city,” says O’Laughlin. “Or, is it going to be the chosen few of immediate neighbors that will have the larger voice? I say today that I think the project is more about the street of Canal than it is about the neighbor across the way. And that is hard to say. The last person I want to be is the big bad developer.”

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Enraged and engaged, part 2

Posted By on Fri, May 16, 2014 at 2:24 PM

In Lakeview and elsewhere, some potholes are pot hills.

  • In Lakeview and elsewhere, some potholes are pothills.

In the weeks and months after Hurricane Katrina, frustration with government’s slow and often inept response to the crisis pushed many New Orleanians to the breaking point. They responded by pushing back. As Gandhi famously said, “When the people lead, the leaders will follow.”

Katrina ignited a citizen-driven wildfire of accountability and reform. New Orleanians became enraged and engaged like never before. Reforms that many thought unachievable were realized in months, or a few short years, because citizens channeled their outrage into political action. They reformed public education, combined the city’s assessors’ offices and overhauled area levee boards. From Day One, however, the big question was whether New Orleanians could sustain this new level of civic engagement.

In a few months, we will mark the 9th anniversary of Katrina. In his second inaugural address on May 5, Mayor Mitch Landrieu reminded citizens that the fight for New Orleans’ full recovery is far from over. He challenged us to sustain our momentum. “What will we accomplish in our short time together?” Landrieu asked.

Lakeview business and civic leader Robert Lupo has an answer for the mayor: Fix the streets. Do it now.

Frustrated at the lack of street repairs in Lakeview, Lupo began searching for answers. He downloaded a March 2013 press release from City Hall touting more than $230 million in promised street repairs citywide.

“There were 38 pages of projects just in Lakeview,” Lupo says. “Ridiculously, they said the work would be finished in 2013. I went to the web site yesterday to see how the work was going, and zero had been completed for Lakeview. … There hasn’t been a single shovel that hit the ground in over a year.”

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Friday, May 9, 2014

The New Orleans Mother's Day shootings of 2013 — one year later

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 1:37 PM

One year ago on Mother’s Day, a jubilant group of New Orleanians was second-lining behind the Original Big 7 Social Aid & Pleasure Club at the club’s annual Mother’s Day procession in the Seventh Ward. About 1:45 p.m. on May 12, as the bands and marchers reached the corner of Frenchmen and North Villere streets, a fusillade of gunfire strafed the peaceful crowd. Within seconds, 20 people had been injured by bullets or in the crowd’s frantic attempt to escape. Some crimes still shock even violence-inured New Orleanians. The Mother’s Day shooting of 2013 was one of them.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas promised the shooters would be found — quickly. Surveillance footage released to the public showed a man in a white T-shirt raising a 9mm handgun and firing into the crowd before running away. In less than a week, police arrested brothers Akein and Shawn Scott. Akein Scott, the alleged shooter, was no stranger to cops; he was an alleged affiliate of the Frenchmen/Derbigny street gang. At the time, he was scheduled to appear in court the following week, and just before the shooting he was out of jail on a $15,000 bond.

After the shooting, Orleans Parish Magistrate Gerard Hansen set Akein Scott’s bond at $20 million — half a million dollars for each count of attempted murder. Scott and his alleged cohorts have not yet gone to trial. They are scheduled to appear in federal court next month. Trial is set for June 16 before U.S. District Judge Ivan Lemelle.

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Mark Hertsgaard revisits the 2013 Mother's Day shootings in The Daily Beast

Posted By on Fri, May 9, 2014 at 1:31 PM

Writer Mark Hertsgaard, who was in the crowd on May 12, 2013 when a gunman opened fire on the Original Big 7 Social Aid & Pleasure Club’s annual Mother’s Day second line, has written a piece for The Daily Beast in which he questions District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro's choice to drop attempted murder charges in the case:

The dropping of the 20 attempted-murder charges only became apparent on March 11 with the unsealing of a new indictment that effectively transferred prosecution of the case from state to federal authorities. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office has adopted the entirety of the case, including the Mother’s Day shooting,” Assistant District Attorney Christopher Bowman told reporters. “The decision was made to bring the entire prosecution under a single umbrella.”

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