News & Politics

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PSC race: Incumbent Eric Skrmetta skewers opponent Forest Wright with "Forrest Gump" ad

Posted By on Tue, Oct 28, 2014 at 1:22 PM

With Election Day one week away, Louisiana's often-colorful political ads should be ramping up. Public Service Commission incumbent Eric Skrmetta is out today with a "Forrest Gump" themed ad playing on the name of his opponent, Forest Wright.

Local actor Vatican Lokey takes on the role made famous by Tom Hanks:

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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Buffa's, Sidney Torres continue "compromise" in noise debate

Posted By on Tue, Oct 21, 2014 at 1:24 PM

click image The Honeypots perform at Buffa's. - DEREK BRIDGES/FLICKR
  • The Honeypots perform at Buffa's.

Following a 60-day compromise between Buffa's Bar & Restaurant owners and neighbor Sidney Torres IV, the parties met back at Orleans Parish Civil District Court this morning — and agreed to another 30-day compromise.

"We talked in the chambers ... and tried to work something out temporarily," Civil District Court Judge Paulette Irons told the courtroom. The agreement continues this summer's consent judgment, which followed Torres' lawsuit against the bar for alleged sound violations, and against the city, for allegedly improperly issuing Buffa's a live music permit in 2012. The agreement continues limited performance hours and ensures soundproofing is in place. Additionally, two sound measurements will be taken — one announced, another random — and measurements also will be taken at the exterior and interior of Torres' property.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Mayor Mitch Landrieu unveils 2015 budget

Posted By on Wed, Oct 15, 2014 at 3:04 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduces the city's 2015 budget to New Orleans City Council. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu introduces the city's 2015 budget to New Orleans City Council.

"We heard you loud and clear," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu, addressing the New Orleans City Council and New Orleans residents who attended the citywide budget hearings to deliver input on the city's 2015 budget. According to Landrieu, people want more funding for public safety, jobs, recreation and blight reduction.

Public safety budget increases dominate the proposed $537 million budget, with calls for raises (the first in eight years), more recruits and new vehicles for the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), while 6 percent of the total budget is dedicated to the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office. More than $7 million from the city's general fund is dedicated to NOPD consent decree improvements, and the 5 percent pay raise for NOPD adds $4.2 million to the budget. Additional funding will help pay for 150 new recruits, while Civil Service is slated to receive a $312,000 boost to pay for recruiting support.

In compliance with pending litigation to fully fund the New Orleans Fire Department pension fund, the budget includes a 37 percent increase to the pension fund, totaling $43.4 million. (Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin noted that the city will pay more in pension costs in 2015 than in firefighter salaries.)

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Buffa's and Sidney Torres heading back to court

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 4:29 PM

Following the end of a 60-day compromise to limit performances and install soundproofing at the bar, Buffa's owners and neighbor Sidney Torres meet again in court next week.
  • Following the end of a 60-day compromise to limit performances and install soundproofing at the bar, Buffa's owners and neighbor Sidney Torres meet again in court next week.

The owners of Buffa's Bar & Restaurant and their neighbor, Sidney Torres, reached a compromise this summer following Torres' lawsuit that alleged the bar's music exceeds the city's noise ordinance and has damaged his property.

Beginning Aug. 4, the parties agreed to some changes at the bar, with the promise that the parties meet again at Orleans Civil District Court at the end of the 60-day arrangement. Torres and the bar owners will meet 9 a.m. Tuesday, Oct. 21.

Under the agreement, Buffa's limited its music to five days a week, with limited hours on other days of the week. Owner Chuck Rogers also installed sound curtains and other sound dampening measures. Rogers adapted the bar's music schedule: no live music on Mondays and Tuesdays; music ends at 9 p.m. Wednesdays; music ends at 9 p.m. Thursdays, or 11 p.m. with sound dampening installed (and only with a duo with no drums or amplified instruments except vocals); and on Fridays and Saturdays, the music ends at 11 p.m., and 3 p.m. Sundays.

Rogers also had sound measurements taken, and with the sound dampening in place, he hopes to open with the regular schedule — Torres, however, says otherwise.

Torres (whose SDT Waste and Debris championed the French Quarter's trash pickup, street cleaning and city recycling services), argues in his suit that music at the bar not only exceeds the city's sound ordinance but has damaged his property at 1011 Esplanade Ave., which neighbors the bar. The suit also names the City of New Orleans, which Torres alleges improperly gave the bar a permit in 2012 to host live music.

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Louisiana Senate debate tonight: Cassidy, Landrieu, Maness to square off on TV

Posted By on Tue, Oct 14, 2014 at 10:58 AM

Rep. Bill Cassidy, Sen. Mary Landrieu and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness will debate tonight in Shreveport. The debate will be aired statewide, and can be seen in the New Orleans area on WYES-TV and C-SPAN2.
  • Rep. Bill Cassidy, Sen. Mary Landrieu and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness will debate tonight in Shreveport. The debate will be aired statewide, and can be seen in the New Orleans area on WYES-TV and C-SPAN2.

Louisiana Public Broadcasting (LPB) will host a U.S. Senate debate tonight between Sen. Mary Landrieu, Rep. Bill Cassidy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness. The debate will be held at Shreveport's Centenary College of Louisiana, and hosted by LPB president and CEO Beth Courtney and Council for a Better Louisiana President and CEO Barry Erwin. 

The debate begins at 7 p.m., and you can watch on WYES-TV or C-SPAN2. There also will be live streaming on the WYES site.

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Friday, October 10, 2014

The tide has turned: time for Big Oil to settle

Posted By on Fri, Oct 10, 2014 at 12:05 PM

Only a few weeks ago, supporters of the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East’s (SLFPA-E) environmental lawsuit against 97 energy companies were mired in despair. Gov. Bobby Jindal and SLFPA-E nominating committee chair Jay Lapeyre were poised to tip the balance on the authority’s board against the lawsuit and kill it.

Then, to the surprise of many — and over the objections of Jindal and Lapeyre — the nominating committee up and did the right thing by re-nominating coastal scientist Paul Kemp for another term on the board. Kemp supports the lawsuit, and his reappointment preserves a 5-4 majority on the board in favor of the suit. For now.

That was just the beginning of an amazing turn of events against Big Oil.

On Monday, Oct. 6, state District Court Judge Janice Clark of Baton Rouge ruled that Act 544 of 2014 (filed as Senate Bill 469) does not apply to the SLFPA-E lawsuit. SB 469 was specifically (though not very artfully) crafted to kill the lawsuit retroactively. The suit is currently pending in federal court in New Orleans.

SB 469 was literally thrown together overnight when the original anti-lawsuit bill was poised to die in a Senate committee. Through a ham-fisted bit of legislative legerdemain, lawsuit opponents hijacked a bill in a friendlier committee, completely gutted and rewrote it, and then passed it with relatively little opportunity for debate — and, Judge Clark ruled, other fatal defects.

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Thursday, October 9, 2014

Mary Landrieu and Rob Maness face off in debate; Landrieu slams absent opponent Bill Cassidy

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 11:15 PM

Col. Rob Maness supporters used duck calls for Bill Cassidy's debate "ducking."
  • Col. Rob Maness supporters used duck calls for Bill Cassidy's debate "ducking."

Following the first televised debate between Louisiana Senate candidates Sen. Mary Landrieu and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, Landrieu held a brief press conference to slam Republican candidate Rep. Bill Cassidy, who had declined to participate in the debate held at Dillard University as well as other forums. 

Landrieu (and Maness) didn't mention Cassidy by name during the Oct. 9 debate but Landrieu often referred to "the guy who didn't show up." Following the debate, Landrieu and four supporters asked Cassidy to answer questions about his voting record and his absence from debates. "I thought (Maness) did very well tonight," Landrieu said. "The problem is the congressman has refused to show up to debate. ... It's virtually as if he has not agreed to any debates."

"This seat is not up for sale," she continued. "If you're not man enough or strong enough to go to these debates, how in heavens are you going to be strong enough to represent the citizens of Louisiana who deserve tenacity, strength and determination?"

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Pro-marijuana groups hold "jazz funeral" for pot prohibition

Posted By on Thu, Oct 9, 2014 at 11:05 AM


While the Louisiana Legislature started considering potential marijuana reform earlier this year, and New Orleans has taken small steps to change how marijuana users are penalized, marijuana's "prohibition" remains. Several groups, however, will take to the streets of the French Quarter Oct. 11 to welcome the end of anti-marijuana laws.

The Louisiana Cannabis Coalition, Louisiana Herbs and the LSU Chapter of Students for Sensible Drug Policy host a "jazz funeral" for marijuana prohibition Oct. 11. The march begins at 3 p.m. at Canal and Bourbon streets. At 4 p.m., it moves from Bourbon to St. Ann Street and ends at Jackson Square, where the rally continues until 7 p.m.

The groups suggest attendees wear funeral attire.

Though marijuana's accepted medical use has been on Louisiana's books since 1991, conflicting federal (and state) laws prevent anyone from getting those prescriptions filled. Recent polls have shown a shift in Louisiana's acceptance of marijuana use, and even Gov. Bobby Jindal (vaguely) suggested supporting a strict-supervision form of medical marijuana use. State law enforcement and other criminal justice agencies, however, have posed the biggest obstacle to legislature's ability to get any legislation in front of the House or Senate, with medical marijuana reform bills from stalling in committees. A particularly pot-filled 2014 session had a dozen bills on its agenda.

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Friday, September 19, 2014

A messy process

Posted By on Fri, Sep 19, 2014 at 11:56 AM

When Louisiana voters overwhelmingly supported a 2006 constitutional amendment intended to depoliticize area levee boards, they had in mind something very different than what’s been going on lately with the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) nominating process.

Under the old regime, area state senators nominated their political pals for levee board seats, and board members did not have to meet any professional standards. The 2006 amendment regionalized levee boards in southeast Louisiana and required most board members to have specific professional qualifications.

Prospective board members also must be vetted now by a “blue ribbon” nominating committee of business, civic, academic and professional leaders. Nominating committee members are presumed to be above politics.

Apparently they were only kidding about that part.

Ever since SLFPA-E members voted unanimously in July 2013 to sue 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies for destroying coastal wetlands and increasing the risk of flooding, the so-called “independent” nominating committee has been steeped in politics, conflicts of interest and official arrogance. Plus ça change.

The politicization started right after the suit was filed. Gov. Bobby Jindal vowed to kill the suit by any means necessary. He supported a half-baked state law designed to retroactively kill the lawsuit, but that law was so hastily written that it may not accomplish its stated purpose. The federal judge who is hearing the SLFPA-E lawsuit has been asked to rule on the law’s constitutionality and applicability.

Jindal also has pressured the nominating committee, which was created to remove politics from the nominating process, into sending him nominees who promise to withdraw the lawsuit as soon as possible. Until the committee's latest meeting on Sept. 18, the committee obliged Jindal at every turn.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Terrorist organization ISIS forces name change for Mardi Gras krewe

Posted By on Wed, Sep 17, 2014 at 4:21 PM

Queen and King Isis XLII (Brieanne Elizabeth Bourgeois and Ryan Lee Danielson) at the krewe's 2014 ball. - FACEBOOK/KREWE OF ISIS
  • Queen and King Isis XLII (Brieanne Elizabeth Bourgeois and Ryan Lee Danielson) at the krewe's 2014 ball.

What to do when your Mardi Gras organization shares a name with a terrorist group that's recently made a lot of news? reports today that the Order of Isis, a krewe in Mobile, Alabama, has decided to go by its acronym, OOI, as its members were getting harassed for wearing "Isis" T-shirts in public:

One member was harassed at Sam's Club, she said. "She had a gentleman come up to her, asking a lot of questions ... and she said we are a Mardi Gras organization," the OOI member recounted. "He didn't understand us having 'Isis' on our clothing."

Another member who works in a doctor's office also got attention for her shirt, the member said.

The decision to use the acronym was also made out of concern for the group's safety during the upcoming Mardi Gras season, the member said. "We're in the public eye; we just don't want, during our parade, for something to happen. We want to make sure our members are safe and secure on the floats."

But what of Jefferson Parish's venerable all-female Krewe of Isis? Founded in 1973, it's now the oldest continuously parading Carnival organization in Jefferson Parish. Will our hometown Isis be forced to change its name as well?

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