In some ways, New Orleanians (and Louisianans) will end 2016 the same way we began it. No hurricanes hit Louisiana or the Mississippi Gulf Coast, the controversial Confederate monuments still stand, and the state Legislature is eying a special session to deal with a projected nine- figure budget deficit.
Locally, we saw some big changes this year. The North Rampart streetcar line finally was completed after months of construction chaos, and we're being assured the end is in sight for the Napoleon Avenue neutral ground drainage project (Uptown Messenger reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers promises it will be done by Mardi Gras). The New Orleans City Council finally passed an ordinance regulating short-term rentals, and City Hall pledges strict enforcement. We'll see.
This much did not change: Crime continued to be a major problem in 2016. The New Orleans Police Department is touting an 11 percent drop in armed robberies (and a rise in the rates for solving crimes) — but shootings and murders are on the upswing, and two high-profile shootings on Bourbon Street in the waning months of the year have left everyone frustrated. The shooting deaths of two NFL stars — Will Smith and Joe McKnight — in road rage incidents drew further national attention to New Orleans' ongoing struggle with gun violence.
This past year brought bad economic news as Hollywood South moved to Georgia in the wake of state lawmakers' decision to scale back Louisiana's film tax incentives in 2015. That didn't stop one of the most unusual spectacles of the year — The Passion, a nationally broadcast live passion play staged on downtown streets and in Woldenberg Park on Palm Sunday. On the culinary front, there were triumphs (Shaya winning the James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant in the U.S. in the spring) and sad departures (the death of Edgar "Dooky" Chase Jr.). Unfortunately, neither the New Orleans Saints nor the New Orleans Pelicans have given us much to cheer about (except for the all-star play of Pelican Anthony Davis), and the New Orleans Zephyrs got more attention for changing their name to the Baby Cakes than they did for anything that happened on the diamond.
What's going to be the talk in 2017? Certainly who's running for mayor next fall — and what Mayor Mitch Landrieu might do after leaving office. Meanwhile, Louisianans will elect a new state treasurer to replace John Neely Kennedy (who is moving to Washington D.C. to take retiring U.S. Sen. David Vitter's seat). Elsewhere, look for more about construction of the new North Terminal of the Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport (the terminal itself is scheduled for completion in October 2018). As always, music lovers will await festival lineups, starting with the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival's roster announcement next month.
Scattered through this issue of Gambit are assessments of New Orleans' high (and low) points of 2016 in politics, food, film and art. Here's hoping for a better 2017 — for our readers, for New Orleans and for Louisiana. Happy New Year!