1. CROSS TOWN: TYLER PERRY'S PASSION PLAY
Fox Network plans to broadcast a live performance of The Passion, a live musical about the last days of Jesus Christ, from the streets of New Orleans on Palm Sunday. The play will be narrated and hosted by entertainment mogul (and New Orleans native) Tyler Perry. No cast was announced, but Fox promised the spectacle of "a procession of hundreds carrying a 20-foot, illuminated cross from Champion [sic] Square outside the Superdome to the live stage at Woldenburg [sic] Park on the banks of the Mississippi River."
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office didn't respond to Gambit's inquiries about the logistics of staging such a spectacle, but Landrieu was quoted in the network release as saying, "One of the reasons our economy continues to grow is due to our continued focus on creating opportunities for our cultural economy to thrive, and this production announcement is another example of our success."
2. The goodbye guy
"The best job I'll ever have." — Gov. Bobby Jindal, describing his eight years as governor to a lunch audience at the Press Club of Baton Rouge. It was the beginning of a "farewell tour" across the state for Jindal (see Clancy DuBos' "Politics"). John Bel Edwards will take his oath as governor on Jan. 11.
Jindal's run at another job — president of the United States — kept him away from Louisiana for long stretches of his second term.
3. Layoffs at The Advocate
The Grinch came early for a few staffers at The Advocate, which had several end-of-year layoffs and separations, most significantly in its Baton Rouge office. Editor Peter Kovacs confirmed to Gambit that Gregory Roberts of the paper's D.C. bureau, longtime state Capitol reporter Marsha Shuler and music writer John Wirt were laid off or left the paper. (Keith Spera, longtime music writer for NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, jumped to The Advocate last month.) Stephanie Riegel of the Baton Rouge Business Report reported that two other Baton Rouge contributors were let go as well. Dennis Persica, a weekly contributor in New Orleans, told Gambit his last column would appear Dec. 23. It's not clear if this is the end of the cuts.
"Our staff is about the same size it was at the time of the purchase two-and-a-half years ago," Kovacs said, referring to businessman John Georges' purchase of the paper in 2013. "It grows and shrinks based on skill needs and market conditions."
4. Council votes
Monuments of Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and the Battle of Liberty Place are coming down. Following months of fiery debate, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 on Dec. 17 to remove the Confederate monuments under a "nuisance" ordinance that applies to displays of racial inequality. Mayor Mitch Landrieu said they'll be moved to storage, then a "proper place of remembrance, not reverence."
At-Large City Councilwoman Stacy Head — the only "nay" vote on the council — asked whether there will ever be an end to removing monuments and questioned Landrieu's top-down approach.
5. Normand gives
Edwards an assist
As he prepares to become governor on Jan. 11, 2016, John Bel Edwards has been adding to his transition committees, with the oversight committee co-chaired by six advisors from across the state. The metro New Orleans co-chair is Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, a Republican who appeared in a TV ad slamming Edwards' GOP opponent, U.S. Sen. David Vitter.
6. Blade runners
Our December weather might have been more conducive to flip-flops than ice skates, but those who dream of hitting the rink have one more week to get to NOLA Christmas Fest at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. On Hall B's temporary ice rink, you can use your own skates or rent a pair. The fest and the rink are open every day — including Christmas Day — until Dec. 27. For more information: www.nolachristmasfest.com.
7. Public defenders: No new cases starting in January
The Orleans Parish Public Defenders office (OPD), which handles thousands of misdemeanor and felony cases for indigent defendants each year, plans to stop taking new cases next month. It won't stop accepting all felony cases, but "serious offenses," including violent crimes, will likely be the first ones cut from the stack of new cases.
In November, chief defender Derwyn Bunton asked Criminal Court Judge Arthur Hunter to allow OPD to stop receiving new cases. Bunton says state budget cuts and insufficient local funding — coupled with a growing client list — have left the office unable to represent its clients. The New Orleans City Council approved a $250,000 budget increase for the office in 2016, thus avoiding employee furloughs that effectively would have shut down the office for two weeks. Bunton says his budget remains $600,000 short for the coming year's budget projections.
OPD has 45 attorneys on staff and each handles an average of 250 cases a year — mostly lower-level offenses and drug crimes, according to Lindsey Hortenstine, OPD's director of media and communications.
8. Time warped
The Vans Warped Tour will return to Louisiana for the first time in 15 years, touching down in New Orleans on June 27, 2016. The "extreme sports"-geared music festival last filled indoor and outdoor stages at Kenner's Pontchartrain Center in 2001, when the music lineup included punk bands like Rancid, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes, the Bouncing Souls, AFI and The Vandals. Warped Tour will announce venues, music lineups and ticket information for its 2016 edition in March.
9. Edwards appoints
Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards last week tapped some familiar names for prominent positions in his incoming administration. Col. Mike Edmonson will continue to serve as superintendent of the Louisiana State Police (a position he has held since 2008). Charlie Melancon, who served three terms as Congressman from the 3rd District, was named Secretary of the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, and term-limited state Rep. Karen St. Germain of Plaquemine will serve as Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles. Both Melancon and St. Germain are Democrats.
10. 'Infrastructure fatigue'
Tired of virtually every major street in New Orleans being torn up for repairs or new subsurface drainage and sewer lines? Get used to it. The city's Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) announced last week that it will spend more than $330 million next year on major infrastructure projects. That figure doesn't take into account the $2 billion-plus Hurricane Katrina-related FEMA settlement that the city announced recently. "'Infrastructure fatigue'" is now a real word, a real phrase that people are feeling all the work that we're doing," S&WB chief Cedric Grant told NOLA.com.