1. Quote of the week
"That's all about me growing up in New Orleans and a lot of the people that I ran across in my life. You get to the part where I'm calling out names; I start out with Moleface and Melvin; I'm Moleface, and Melvin was my friend. We got tight when we were about five years old. And the line about hanging out at the Dew Drop Inn all night long with Mac Rebennack — that's Dr. John — it's just characters who crossed my path." — Aaron Neville, talking to Billboard about his new single "Stompin' Ground." Neville's new album, Apache, comes out July 15.
2. New SNAP requirements in place
In April, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order requiring any Louisianans who are "able-bodied adults without dependents" (ABAWDs) to undergo job training and assistance in order to remain eligible for SNAP benefits, aka food stamps. That law began July 1, meaning ABAWDs have to report to one of 59 Louisiana Workforce Commission centers around the state to register for training. One in five Louisianans uses the SNAP program.
3. Public budget meetings begin this week
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, New Orleans Police Department Superintendent Michael Harrison, New Orleans Fire Department Superintendent Tim McConnell and the New Orleans City Council will begin the annual round of "Budgeting for Outcomes" meetings this week. Each meeting will run from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., and half an hour earlier will be a "resource center" staffed by representatives from various city agencies who can field questions or complaints.
• Wednesday, July 6 — District A (Councilwoman Susan Guidry), Lakeview Christian Center, 5885 Fleur de Lis Drive
• Thursday, July 7 — District C (Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey), Alice M. Harte Charter School, 5300 Berkley Drive
• Monday, July 11 — District E (Councilman James Gray), Household of Faith Church, 9300 I-10 Service Road
• Wednesday, July 13, District D (Councilman Jared Brossett), Corpus Christi Community Resource Center, 2022 St. Bernard Ave.
• Thursday, July 14, District B (Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell), KIPP Central City Academy at Carter G. Woodson School, 2514 Third St.
The debate among city planners, short-term rental owners and residents isn't likely to die down soon. On Aug. 9, the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) is expected to vote on zoning changes to create a framework for regulating listings on sites like Airbnb and VRBO. At a panel discussion at The Curtis House on Magazine Street June 28, short-term rentals groups tried to dispel fears that growth in their sector is pushing out residents and to argue that whole-home rentals — which encompass nearly three-quarters of all short-term rentals in the city — are a potential economic boon to the city if they're taxed and regulated.
Matt Curtis, senior director of Global Government Affairs and Public Policy for HomeAway, the umbrella group for 40 sites including VRBO, said "burdensome regulations" like those potentially proposed by the CPC could drive the industry underground. (Travel website Expedia bought HomeAway earlier this year. Philip Minardi, Expedia's director of policy communications, said the company hopes to integrate short-term rentals into its travel options the same way hotels or cabs are offered with flights.)
In a report to the CPC, short-term rental advocacy group Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity insists short-term rental proliferation is "not creating an affordable housing problem," citing a February statement from the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA). Last month, however, the GNOHA issued a new statement, standing firmly against whole-home rentals. The Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center also issued a new objection last week echoing the GNOHA. Neighborhood groups in the Garden District and Uptown had argued against those kinds of rentals but lacked majority support from housing advocacy groups that speak for lower-income neighborhoods — until now.
5. Sidney Torres'
Mid-City apartment complex: approved
An expansive apartment complex in Mid-City from Sidney Torres — the real estate developer, former French Quarter trash mogul and current crime-app manager — has received unanimous approval from the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC). The CPC voted 5-0 June 28 to approve the 382-unit development spanning five acres, bounded by Bienville Street and the Lafitte Greenway between Rouses Market in Mid-City and the U.S. Post Office on Bayou St. John. The plans now head to the New Orleans City Council for final approval.
The complex will include three buildings with one- and two-bedroom apartments and studio apartments, spaces for a restaurant and coffee shop, and two parking garages with 570 spaces. Torres also owns several acres near the site and is considering building more retail spaces and a movie theater. The apartments also will have a great view of the still-blighted Lindy Boggs Medical Center.
6. State sued over former convicts' voting rights.
Despite the recent 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act's passage, there still are thousands of formerly incarcerated people on probation or parole who are denied the right to vote. New Orleans-based organization Voice of the Ex-Offender (VOTE) filed a lawsuit against the state of Louisiana last week to restore those rights. (In Louisiana, that right is restored only after the terms of incarceration, probation and/or parole are completed.)
In May, several nonprofit groups filed a lawsuit against the Louisiana Secretary of State to dump a 142-year-old state law requiring certain documentation for naturalized citizens to register to vote — documentation natural-born citizens did not have to present. Last month, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed into law House Bill 890, which repealed it.
7. Hurricane evacuation for seniors
The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) will hold a meeting July 6 at 10 a.m. to discuss emergency transportation for seniors and disabled people. The meeting will be held at RTA headquarters (2817 Canal St.) and is open to the public. For more information, call (504) 827-8323.
8. Today VP —
Mayor Mitch Landrieu was elected to be vice president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM) at a meeting in Indianapolis, Indiana last week — but a press release from City Hall about the vote was decidedly forward-thinking, saying the vote positioned Landrieu "to ascend to the office of USCM president in June 2017." Moreover, the release said, "When Landrieu assumes the presidency of USCM in June 2017, he will be the fifth New Orleans mayor to do so" (the other four being Mayors T. Semmes Walmsley, Moon Landrieu, Dutch Morial and Marc Morial). In a statement, Landrieu said, "New Orleans is the nation's most immediate laboratory for innovation and change."
9. Carville v. Palin
New Orleans political pundit James Carville interviewed former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin last week at Politicon, a political fan convention in California that's heavy on the laughs and light on policy. Carville and Palin mostly were polite to each other, but disagreed strongly on Second Amendment issues; both are gun owners, but Carville tried to get Palin to differentiate between things like hunting rifles and AR-15s. "Why do I need a 40-clip magazine rapid-fire rifle?" Carville asked, to which Palin said, "You probably don't, in your area of New Orleans." The hourlong panel is available for viewing on YouTube.
10. Kopplin exiting mayor's office
Andy Kopplin, New Orleans deputy mayor and chief administrative officer since 2010, has announced he'll leave City Hall in August to become president and CEO of the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF). His replacement will be Jeffrey Hebert, executive director of the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and the city's chief resilience officer.
Kopplin served as executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and also served as chief of staff to two governors: Democrat Kathleen Babineaux Blanco and Republican Mike Foster.