1. It's Carnival Time
The Phunny Phorty Phellows will kick off the 2016 Carnival season this week with their annual Twelfth Night streetcar ride on St. Charles Avenue. The krewe leaves the Willow Street streetcar barn at 7 p.m. Jan. 6 and rides downtown, ending back at Willow Street. The modern krewe known as Phunny Phorty Phellows began the annual streetcar ride tradition in 1982, but a krewe by that name began as a satirical walking krewe that followed Rex in 1878.
This year's Carnival season will be brief. Fat Tuesday is Feb. 9, meaning many parades will have rolled by the end of this month. The earliest possible date for Mardi Gras is Feb. 3, while the latest is March 9. Mardi Gras will not come this early again until 2027, when once again it falls on Feb. 9.
2. Benson burns the T-P
"What strikes me the most is the pure irony of The Times-Picayune imploring me to sell for the benefit of the city. I recall in May 2012 reaching out to the Newhouse family imploring them to sell to me or other local ownership as they threatened to become and then became a part-time newspaper. Since then the newspaper has done nothing but lay off staff and move operations out of town." — New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson, sniping at The Times-Picayune after the paper ran a front-page column by sportswriter Jeff Duncan imploring Benson to sell both the Saints and New Orleans Pelicans.
3. New year, new governor
Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards will take office Jan. 11 on the Louisiana State Capitol steps at noon. His inauguration will feature a flyover by the 159th Fighter Wing of the Louisiana Air National Guard. Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson will administer the oath.
An invitation-only inaugural ball will be held that night at Baton Rouge's Celtic Media Centre, a moviemaking facility. A spokesman for Edwards said 5,000 invitations went out for the black-tie affair.
4. Dardenne: Tax hike
is 'on the table'
An immediate $750 million shortfall — and an estimated $1.9 billion shortfall in the next fiscal year. Those are the numbers Jay Dardenne, Louisiana's incoming commissioner of administration, laid out in a press conference last week. Dardenne said "all options are on the table" to make up the money, including raising the state sales tax, but Gov.-elect John Bel Edwards has said he opposes any sales tax hike (last year, the Louisiana Budget Project reported the state has the third-highest sales tax in the country).
"We have limped along year to year," Dardenne said, referencing the budgets of Edwards' predecessor, Gov. Bobby Jindal. In response to a question, Dardenne added, "If [Jindal] said he's not passing on fiscal problems to the next governor, that's simply an incorrect statement."
5. Library hours extended
Last May, New Orleans voters overwhelmingly approved a property tax millage to support the Public Library, and the first benefits of that tax kick in this week as the main library and five branches provide seven-day-a-week service. Seven other branches will begin six-day-a-week service, and all branches will stay open until 8 p.m. Monday through Thursday. The Milton H. Latter branch Uptown, which has been closed for renovations, is expected to reopen sometime this spring.
6. Christmas tree
recycling this week
Take off the tinsel, the ornaments and the stand and leave that droopy old Christmas tree by the curb on your regularly scheduled trash collection day Jan. 7-9. It's the annual Christmas tree recycling for Orleans Parish residents, funded by the Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs. The trees will be used in coastal zones to help prevent erosion of Louisiana's wetlands. Last year, according to numbers provided by the city, nearly 7,000 trees were airlifted into Bayou Sauvage National Wildlife Refuge.
Trees shouldn't be placed in bags or on neutral grounds, and flocked or artificial trees won't be taken. Questions? Call the city's 311 information line.
7. Maple Street Book
Shop gets reprieve —
but for how long?
In early October, Maple Street Book Shop owner Gladin Scott announced the store, open since 1964, would close at year's end. But business doubled since the announcement, and the store now will stay open, Scott told Gambit last week. "It started as a wake, but it turned in to a celebration," he said.
"It gave me hope that we can operate on a break-even level," Scott says. "The landlord was willing to work with us on a month-to-month lease. We'll see if we can maintain the increase in business." Scott says he'll re-evaluate how the business is doing in March and April. "We're hopeful, but I don't want to say we're out of the woods yet," he says.
8. Yearly murder
rate higher than last
New Orleans' murder rate has been trending downward in the long run, but 164 people were murdered in New Orleans as of New Year's Eve, after a decline in murders over the previous five years. July was the deadliest month, with 20 murders, followed by 19 in March. There were 17 murders each in May and June, and three murders in October. There were 200 murders in the city in 2011, followed by 193 in 2012, 156 in 2013 and 150 in 2014 — the lowest numbers in four decades.
9. Feed that
meter some more
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's plan to raise rates and extend hours for downtown parking meters begins Jan. 11. Landrieu's original plan — to double rates from $1.50 an hour to $3 and expand hours from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. — changed slightly in response to pleas from downtown workers, musicians and service and tourism industry groups. The new rates will still take effect, but the extended hours will go to 7 p.m. instead of 10 p.m.
The plan will affect roughly 830 meters and 3,000 metered spaces from the Mississippi River to Claiborne Avenue and from the Pontchartrain Expressway to Elysian Fields Avenue. All other parking meters in the city will see a rate increase to $2 an hour. The rate change is expected to bring in more than $7 million in 2016.
Among other changes: parking tickets will jump from $20 to $30, a change that will require City Council approval next month.
10. Duck Dynasty to take wing again
Duck Dynasty may not be the cultural phenomenon it once was, but the faux-reality show about North Louisiana businessmen/duck hunters will present an abbreviated ninth season beginning Jan. 13. A press release from the cable channel A&E promised Season 9 would contain episodes featuring wrestling, dodgeball and a "high-stakes frogging competition," but made no mention of a repeat appearance by outgoing Gov. Bobby Jindal.