1. FRENCH QUARTER FEST LINEUP
The 33rd annual French Quarter Festival returns April 7-10 with more than 1,700 musicians on several stages throughout the Quarter. The lineup at the free fest spans jazz, funk, brass, rock 'n' roll, bounce, Latin, world music, singer-songwriters and Americana. The fest will feature familiar New Orleans favorites like Irma Thomas and Walter "Wolfman" Washington as well as festival freshmen Cha Wa, Little Maker and Sarah Quintana. Also performing for the first time at the fest are Buckwheat Zydeco (pictured), Cowboy Mouth and Jean Knight. For full lineup, visit www.fqfi.org.
2. "Tooth fairy ideas"
"Unlike Senator Sanders, who has come up with tooth fairy ideas and who does not have a long record fighting for underserved, predominately African-American communities like New Orleans, Hillary's a proven leader who understands that being president means doing all parts of the job and delivering for working families." — Mayor Mitch Landrieu, endorsing Hillary Clinton for the Democratic presidential nomination while taking a swipe at her rival, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.
3. Bleak forecast for foster care
Louisiana has more than 4,000 children in foster care but not enough foster homes for them — and looming budget cuts likely will hit the state's foster care and food stamps programs. Gov. John Bel Edwards already cut more than $4 million from the Department of Children and Family Services (DCFS) in the face of the state's $900 million shortfall in the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The state faces another $2 billion hole next fiscal year. The department is expected to see a $14 million budget cut.
DCFS Secretary Marketa Garner Walters told the state House Appropriations Committee that children often sleep in DCFS offices when there's nowhere to house them. "I am not trying to paint scare tactics," she said. "This agency has been cut and cut and cut and I simply don't know where else to take this without staff." Under Gov. Bobby Jindal's eight-year administration, the department budget was slashed from $1.2 billion to less than $700 million.
DCFS also administers the state's Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, aka food stamps), and its federal matching dollars will drop significantly if the state puts up less money. Walters said the cut won't necessarily impact benefits, but layoffs will delay enrollment and delivery of benefits.
4. Chaz has left the building
Organizers have announced the end of Chaz Fest, the locals-only answer to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Chaz Fest was a daylong neighborhood hangout that would have held its 10th annual edition this year. Chaz Fest won't return to its home at The Truck Farm on St. Claude Avenue, which is going up for sale, and organizers don't have plans to relocate to another space. "The real star of the show was the property," founder Alex McMurray told Gambit. "Any new place would have to be pretty special. ... If there was some magical spot that appeared out of thin air, sure, we'd entertain the idea."
The festival offered Jazz Fest "rejects" a laid-back neighborhood festival on one day between Jazz Fest weekends. Tickets for the 10-hour event were $35.
The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival hosts its 30th anniversary series of literary and theater events from March 30-April 3. Speakers include Dorothy Allison, Dick Cavett, Rick Bragg, Heisman Trophy winner Billy Cannon, playwright Lisa D'Amour (Airline Highway), Beth Henley, Estelle Parsons, Rex Reed and The New Yorker's John Lahr, who wrote the 2014 biography Tennessee Williams: Mad Pilgrimage of the Flesh. There also are music and food events and the annual Stella! and Stanley! shouting contests, as well as the concurrent Saints and Sinners LGBT literary conference. For full schedule, visit www.tennesseewilliams.net.
6. A call for detox help
Last month, New Orleans public health officials issued a public health advisory following a rise in heroin and opiate-related overdoses and deaths. New Orleans Coroner Jeffrey Rouse has attributed the rise in overdoses to the lack of a public detox facility. At a Feb. 17 City Council Community Development Committee meeting, New Orleans District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell urged the creation of a low-barrier public detox shelter.
The city has made Narcan, which treats and reverses the effects of an overdose, available without a prescription from the University Medical Center pharmacy (2000 Canal St.) and has since added a second location at Crescent City Pharmacy (2240 Simon Bolivar Ave.). Rouse's office responded to seven accidental overdose deaths last month. More than 100 people were treated for overdoses by the city's Emergency Medical Response team and area hospitals — compared to 78 at the same time last year. Fentanyl- related overdoses, when the drug is mixed with heroin, also are on the rise.
7. Refining controversy
The Jefferson Parish Council opposes a Marrero oil recycling facility's plans to nearly double its production, but the council did renew the facility's special use permit Feb. 17 — as long as the facility reins in its noxious odor problems.
Vertex came under fire in recent months from local and state officials as the company awaits approval from the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, which will determine whether the facility can process up to 6,000 barrels of oil a day (up from the 3,000 to 4,500 barrels it currently processes). State reports found the refinery sending out high levels of sulfur dioxide and hydrochloric acid. Company representatives say the Jefferson Parish ordinance is too broad and that the state permit will allow for site upgrades at the Gulf Coast's only oil recycling facility.
8. Short-term rentals, weed on Council agenda
Marijuana and Airbnb are topics du jour at the New Orleans City Council. The council formally received the City Planning Commission's short-term rental report this month, outlining its recommendations that effectively would legalize the controversial vacation rental service and provide a framework for taxing and permit fees. At an upcoming meeting, council members will consider the recommendations and open the floor for public comment.
Meanwhile, District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry's ordinance to curtail penalties for casual pot smokers will be up for a vote as early as March 5.
9. Rihanna, rescheduled
Rihanna's New Orleans stop on her "ANTI" world tour, originally set for March 8 at the Smoothie King Center, has been rescheduled for May 17. Tickets for the earlier engagement still are valid, and refunds are available at the point of purchase.
10. Former judge
Former Orleans Parish Juvenile Court Judge Yolanda King was sentenced to two years inactive probation and ordered to pay a $1,000 fine by ad hoc Judge Michael Kirby. King had been found guilty last year of falsifying residence papers in her 2013 election. She must also perform 100 hours of community service.