1. Mathews out at TIMES-PICAYUNE
Ricky Mathews, who was brought in to oversee The Times-Picayune's 2012 "digital transition," will leave his position as head of NOLA Media Group "after completing the search for his successor," the company announced last week.
Under Mathews, the paper faced withering publicity and public backlash for its maladroit handling of the "digital transition" — shedding hundreds of jobs, going to three-day-a-week delivery of its print product, and, last month, moving its printing operations to Mobile, Alabama, resulting in earlier deadlines. Mathews took the brunt of the criticism from both the public and NOLA Media Group employees; at one point, a "Ricky Go Home" website was created and signs with that message were posted in a few local businesses.
Mathews will remain president of Advance Media Southeast, the regional umbrella for NOLA Media Group.
2. Quote of the week
"Without an injunction, Louisiana women will suffer significantly reduced access to constitutionally protected abortion services, which will likely have serious health consequences." — U.S. District Judge John W. deGravelles, granting a preliminary injunction sought by reproductive rights activists.
The judge's Jan. 26 decision was in response to a 2014 law requiring Louisiana physicians who perform abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles. The activists said the law effectively would curtail abortions at four of the five facilities in the state where abortions are performed.
3. Kennedy, Maness join Senate stampede
State Treasurer John Kennedy and retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness are the latest Republicans to officially join the race for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by fellow Republican David Vitter. Sources say Vitter has made fundraising calls on behalf of Kennedy, who topped at least one recent poll in the race. Kennedy and Maness announced last week.
Other announced GOP candidates include U.S. Reps. John Fleming and Charles Boustany. Several Dems are looking at the race, but none has announced officially. Vitter announced he would not seek re-election upon losing the Nov. 21 governor's runoff.
This will be Kennedy's third attempt at a Senate seat. He ran in 2004 as a liberal Democrat — losing to Vitter — and in 2008 as a conservative Republican, losing to then-incumbent Democrat Mary Landrieu. Maness ran against Landrieu in 2014 and finished third in the primary.
4. United Way study: 40 percent of Louisianans impoverished
Forty percent of Louisiana's families don't earn enough to cover food, shelter, transportation, health care and other basic needs. The United Way of Southeast Louisiana report on the state's working poor found that more than 695,000 households struggled to meet those needs and pay the bills from 2007-2013, while facing stagnant wages and rising costs of living.
Nineteen percent of Louisianans meet the federal poverty level, but 21 percent more impoverished families were identified in the United Way's January ALICE report (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). The report says the federal poverty definition doesn't illustrate a realistic picture of financial hardship in the state.
5. All-night bus service coming
New Orleans' Regional Transit Authority (RTA) soon will launch its largest bus service update in more than a decade, including expanding nine routes to 24-hour service, adding 5 a.m. services to some lines and adding eight daily airport trips. The lines scheduled to get overnight service next month: Tulane, Canal-Cemeteries, St. Bernard-Paris Avenue, Elysian Fields, New Orleans East Owl, Galvez, St. Claude Avenue/Jackson Barracks, Broad and Gen. DeGaulle-Tullis.
Meanwhile, riders now can pick up their RTA "Jazzy Passes" at more than 30 Walgreens stores.
6. More acts
added to Buku
Purity Ring, Rae Sremmurd and producers Deorro, Datsik and Claptone have joined the Buku Music + Art Project's 2016 lineup. The festival — featuring previously announced artists Pretty Lights, Kid Cudi, CHVRCHES, Future, Miike Snow, Fetty Wap and Crystal Castles, among others — returns to Mardi Gras World for its fifth annual event March 11-12.
For full lineup and tickets, visit www.thebukuproject.com. General admission is $189.50 for a two-day pass and $399.50 for a VIP two-day pass.
7. Short-term rental legislation on the table
The New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) last week approved a legal pathway for short-term rental services in the city. These would include categories of rentals (for services like Airbnb) — allowing owners to rent out rooms in their homes or half-double, provided the residents also live on the property. Whole-home rentals, however, would be banned from most neighborhoods. In other areas, whole homes could be rented out up to 30 days at a time, four times a year.
According to a CPC study, New Orleans has 2,400 to 4,000 short-term rentals, and 70 percent are whole-unit rentals, charging an average nightly rate of $250. Though most short-term rentals are against the law, city enforcement has been lax. The rules would set up permit, fee and tax structures for people using Airbnb and other services.
The City Council will consider the report and recommendations at a public hearing this month before turning them back to the CPC for further consideration, then back to the Council for a final vote.
8. Judge: Monuments can come down
The City of New Orleans is now free to begin removing four controversial Confederate landmarks after U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier denied a request from several parties challenging City Hall's plan to begin removing monuments to Robert E. Lee, P.G.T. Beauregard, Jefferson Davis and the so-called Battle of Liberty Place.
"The Court does not judge the wisdom, or lack thereof, of the actions taken by the Mayor or the City Council," Barbier wrote in his Jan. 26 ruling. "The only issue before the Court is a legal one: Does the City's newly passed ordinance violate Plaintiffs' statutory or constitutional rights?"
No date has been set for the removals, which could begin any time. The monuments will be placed in storage while the city decides their ultimate disposition. Meanwhile, Monumental Task Committee President Pierre McGraw has filed a lawsuit in Civil District Court seeking an injunction against the removals. A hearing is set for Feb. 5.
9. A 50-year-old
Brian Wilson says he'll perform Pet Sounds "for a final time." The composer and Beach Boys founder announced a world tour last week in honor of the influential album's 50th anniversary. The eight-month tour includes a stop in Bossier City at the Horseshoe Casino on July 23. (It's a five-hours-and-change drive from New Orleans — nearly as far as another "nearby" tour stop in Tunica, Mississippi.)
10. Voter registration closes Feb. 3
Want to vote in the March 5 presidential primary? You'll need to be registered with the Louisiana Secretary of State's office by midnight Feb. 3. Registration can be done online or at various state offices, including the Office of Motor Vehicles. Visit www.geauxvote.com for more information.