Thursday, September 17, 2015

Anonymous donor could fund Confederate monument removals; Chief Harrison calls Liberty Place statue "shameful"

Posted By on Thu, Sep 17, 2015 at 11:55 AM

Lee Circle in 2010. - FW_GADGET/FLICKR
  • Lee Circle in 2010.

Removing New Orleans' Confederate landmarks could cost the city $126,000 to remove and relocate — and an anonymous donor already is committed to pay up. According to Deputy Mayor and Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin, after estimating the cost, a donor is lined up to pay for the removal of four controversial monuments — Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway , P.G.T. Beauregard at City Park, Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, and the Battle of Liberty Place monument.

Opponents of the statues' removal have argued the cost would fall on taxpayers, and the city would be better off using the money for police and other essential services. In a "fiscal impact" letter sent to the New Orleans City Council, Kopplin wrote, "it is true that these landmarks have served for decades as geographic compass points on the city's grid, but how can this geographic compass compare to a great city's moral compass?"

"These four statues stand in direct contradiction to the ideal of freedom enshrined in our Constitution and their presence in our city was meant to perpetuate a false history that literally puts the Confederacy on a pedestal," he said. "True remembrance is required, not blind reverence."

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Friday, September 11, 2015

What $1 million in federal funding means for NOPD's rape kit backlog

Posted By on Fri, Sep 11, 2015 at 3:50 PM

NOPD chief Michael Harrison. - CHERYL GERBER
  • NOPD chief Michael Harrison.

As of Aug. 11, NOPD has 180 sexual assault DNA collection kits that require testing. Yesterday, the New Orleans Police Department received more than $1 million from the Department of Justice as part of a nationwide effort to reduce backlogs of rape kits sitting in criminal justice agencies' custody.

That $1,058,214 million grant (a chunk of the $41 million granted nationwide) will help pay for more staff and technology, according to NOPD chief Michael Harrison, in the departments ongoing efforts to improve its sexual assault response "and ensure that we never develop a backlog again.”

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

The Atlantic announces full schedule for its "New Orleans: Ten Years Later" symposium

Posted By on Wed, Aug 19, 2015 at 4:58 PM

Ten of the dozens of speakers scheduled to address the crowd at "New Orleans: Ten Years Later." - THE ATLANTIC
  • Ten of the dozens of speakers scheduled to address the crowd at "New Orleans: Ten Years Later."

The Atlantic has announced the complete schedule for "New Orleans: Ten Years Later," a daylong symposium to be held Aug. 24 at the Sheraton New Orleans.

It's an ambitious program, with 15 separate panels and several dozens speakers in less than 8 hours. Among those scheduled to address the group: Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Police Superintendent Michael Harrison, former City Councilman Oliver Thomas, Louisiana Superintendent of Education John White, Rising Tide author John Barry, Michael Hecht of Greater New Orleans Inc. and Cherice Harrison-Nelson, curator of the Mardi Gras Indians Hall of Fame.

The panels are free and open to the public, and some tickets still are available as of Aug. 19. Register here. Full schedule under the jump.

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Y@ Speak: mentally competent

Posted By on Mon, Jun 22, 2015 at 12:38 PM

While Sports Overlord Tom Benson celebrates with wine and ice cream, New Orleans demands change in the wake of the Charleston shooting. Plus: more from Gov. Bobby Jindal and the poetry of Fletcher Mackel.

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Friday, May 8, 2015

NOPD officers to receive 10 percent raises by 2016

Posted By on Fri, May 8, 2015 at 4:45 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

With a projected revenue forecast to bring in an addition $14.6 million to the city, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced this afternoon two police pay raises to kick in this summer.

Landrieu proposed raises for officers of all rank within the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), the first of which begins with a 5 percent raise July 1, followed by another 5 percent raise on Jan. 1, 2016. These raises follow a 5 percent raise in the 2015 city budget, creating a 15 percent overall pay raise for 2015 and into 2016. The announcement follows the NOPD's aggressive hiring campaign and wavering morale and retention issues within the department. According to the city, the raises are intended to address officer retention and recruitment.

How did the city land an additional $15 million? According to the city, the revenue projection comes from "continued cuts and reorganization in City government and a very strong third and fourth quarter sales tax growth that showed the impact of the Outlet Collection at Riverwalk, the two additional Walmarts and numerous other new and expanded retailers."

Late last year, as the New Orleans City Council approved the city budget with a 5 percent pay raise, the Police Association of New Orleans and the Fraternal Order of Police pressed for a bigger raise, as it wasn't significant enough to address attrition in the ranks.

The FOP's Donovan Livaccari told Gambit that today's announcement is a "step in the right direction."

"It sends a clear message to officers to continue service, and it sends a message to potential police offers that you should come work for the police department," he said. "It's a more tangible raise for officers and something they'll actually be able to see after the taxes and so forth, something that will make a real impact in the lives of these officers."

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Smoking ban kicks in at midnight: What you need to know

Posted By on Tue, Apr 21, 2015 at 2:46 PM

Get used to seeing this sign around New Orleans as the new smoking ordinance goes into effect. - CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • Get used to seeing this sign around New Orleans as the new smoking ordinance goes into effect.

After months of sometimes (OK, usually) heated discussion about the new ordinance banning smoking (and vaping) in nearly every bar in New Orleans, the law is set to take effect at midnight tonight, and the city has launched a web page to explain it all.

The group Smoke Free NOLA will celebrate and take a victory lap with a free "Smokefree Kickoff" free music show tomorrow night (April 23) at Le Bon Temps Roule with Paul Sanchez, Deacon John and other musicians.

Here's what you need to know before tomorrow:

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Thursday, April 2, 2015

Elections for NOPD chief? A new commission could reconfigure New Orleans law enforcement

Posted By on Thu, Apr 2, 2015 at 5:10 PM

NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison in March 2015. - CHERYL GERBER
  • NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison in March 2015.

A Baton Rouge-bred commission could reorganize New Orleans law enforcement in the future, including the merging of the police and sheriff departments. State Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, has filed a bill to create the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement Streamline and Accountability Commission, which would be tasked to determine the feasibility of merging the New Orleans Police Department with the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, as well as calling an election for NOPD chief and whether the city's law enforcement effectively "meets the needs of its residents and visitors." The commission calls for 11 members, including the mayor, City Council members and the Inspector General, among others. The commission would meet every other month, with at least two meetings in New Orleans a year. After its meetings, the commission will draft a "detailed investigation and analysis" and make recommendations to the state Legislature.

Morrell also filed a measure to create the Law Enforcement Management District of Orleans Parish to “facilitate cooperative endeavor agreements and memorandums of understanding between or among the various agencies having law enforcement jurisdiction” in the city in order to “provide better police protection.” Its board membership would include the mayor, City Council members, officers from local universities, and levee and port police, among other law enforcement groups in the city.

The bills are the latest in Morrell’s ambitious 2015 lineup, which also includes measures to strengthen sex education in New Orleans and streamline procedures for sexual assault prosecution on college campuses. Morrell also will debut a weekly a podcast series on his website to air during each week of this year’s legislation session.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Listen: Uptown Messenger on NOPD task forces being diminished, consolidated

Posted By on Thu, Mar 26, 2015 at 5:36 PM


This week in Gambit, Robert Morris of Uptown Messenger reported on how specialized New Orleans Police Department task forces designed to prevent crime before it occurs had been eroded by reassigning officers.

Today he spoke with WWNO-FM's Eve Troeh about the story and its implications. You can listen to the report here.

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Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Mayor Landrieu proposes French Quarter quarter-cent tax to pay for State Police presence

Posted By on Wed, Mar 25, 2015 at 5:50 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu and businessman Sidney Torres. - JEANIE RIESS
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu and businessman Sidney Torres.

At a press conference in front of the New Orleans Police Department's 8th District Command Center in the French Quarter this afternoon, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, flanked by New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Chief Michael Harrison, a dozen local and state lawmakers and members of the business and tourism community, proposed a quarter-cent tax hike within the boundaries of the French Quarter to keep Louisiana State Troopers in the French Quarter to prevent crime. 

Landrieu billed the tax as a sustainable revenue source to pay for a permanent State Police presence in the French Quarter, though it would have to be approved by the New Orleans City Council and voters would decide whether or not to impose the tax in an October 2015 election. With 9 million people visiting the French Quarter each year, Landrieu said a quarter of every cent spent there would total $2 million annually. 

The press conference followed a violent weekend in the city's tourism hot spot, which saw a shooting death at Bourbon and Conti streets and an aggravated rape in the 200 block of Bourbon. Other violent crimes included two cases of simple battery in the 500 and 700 blocks of Bourbon Street and a case of aggravated robbery in the 900 block of St. Louis Street. All five crimes took place in the nightlife- and tourist-heavy Upper Quarter.

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Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A New Orleans City Park tree-sitting protestor speaks out

Posted By on Wed, Mar 18, 2015 at 2:54 PM

A partially killed live oak within the construction zone. - JULES BENTLEY
  • A partially killed live oak within the construction zone.
As a longtime, dues-paying Friend of City Park, it took me a while to get on board with the effort to save the wild public land that City Park CEO Bob Becker and the Bayou District Foundation nonprofit want to turn into a high-end golf course. The campaign seemed too little too late, or worse, an example of people who didn't live through the trauma of the flood but romanticized a wrecked version of the city.

The arguments against rebuilding the golf course accreted gradually— learning just how much that wild stretch meant to so many New Orleanians from all walks of life, learning how dire the economics of golf are in 2015, and learning about the sinister neoliberal elements of the "East Lake model" that the Bayou District Foundation, chaired by George H.W. Bush, seeks to emulate. When it was shown to me that, despite originally promising to only restore land that had previously been golf course, several far older cypress and live oaks and a fat slice of the Couturie Forest were being consigned to the ax, I was swayed.

The tree-sit protest ongoing in one of the now fenced-off public area's threatened cypress is, as far as I know, without local precedent. In the mid-'90s, a group of Loyola faculty and students sat at the base of a cypress tree that the University's then-president wanted to cut down. "We lasted for weeks, but then the end of the semester came," said Dr. John Clark. "We were sitting, and it was a tree, but I'm not sure that made it a tree-sit." Now, Dr. Clark is among many New Orleanians who've begun spending free time at Harrison Circle to show support for the young people in one of the threatened trees. Yesterday, after four days in the tree, one of the sitters came down. I spoke to her the evening of her descent.

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