1. MEDICAID EXPANSION BEGINS in Louisiana
Beginning this month, thousands of Louisianans are eligible to get federally subsidized health insurance coverage under Gov. John Bel Edwards' Medicaid expansion. Edwards and expansion advocates hope to enroll 375,000 people — and already Edwards (pictured, right) and Department of Health and Hospitals Secretary Rebekah Gee (left) say more than 175,000 people are signed up.
The program under the Affordable Care Act covers people with incomes up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level (roughly $16,200 for a single adult, $33,400 for a family of four). People can apply via www.healthy.la.gov or by calling (888) 342-6207.
Last week, Edwards and Gee visited University Medical Center in New Orleans (where 100,000 patients a year are eligible for coverage) to kick off the enrollment campaign.
"This isn't about liberal vs. conservative, Democrat vs. Republican," he said. "It's right vs. wrong, not right vs. left."
2. Quote of the week
"A bit of a mess." — Gov. John Bel Edwards summarizing the state budget process in a meeting with the editorial board of The New Orleans Advocate. Edwards has called another special session of the Legislature — the second of the year — to begin 30 minutes after the regular session ends Monday (June 6). The state Senate approved a $26 billion operating budget June 1, but House and Senate conferees were still hammering out a final spending plan over the weekend. The budget for the fiscal year that begins July 1 may not be adopted until after the special session gets underway.
3. Fayard: I'll take 65 percent of my salary if elected
Caroline Fayard, one of three Democrats running for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by David Vitter, held a press conference at Dooky Chase Restaurant last week to announce she would take only 65 percent of her salary if elected — an attempt to stand in solidarity with working women of Louisiana, she said. Women in Louisiana earn only 65.3 percent of what their male counterparts bring home each year, making the state the worst in the country for wage equality, according to a report issued yearly by the National Partnership for Women & Families.
Fayard is the only woman to declare her candidacy in the race so far. Other declared candidates include Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat; U.S. Reps. John Fleming and Charles Boustany, state Treasurer John Kennedy, retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness and former U.S. Rep Anh "Joseph" Cao, all Republicans; and former state Sen. Troy Hebert, an independent.
4. Treme, FQ clubs appealing closures
Fans and neighbors of a decades-old Treme bar and performance venue are circulating a petition to prevent its closure. The Little People's Place (1226 Barracks St.) is among a handful of historic neighborhood clubs left in Treme, having hosted live music (launching Kermit Ruffins' career) and social aid and pleasure clubs since the 1960s. In 1998, the bar closed briefly after a group of neighbors sued, and won, following noise and loitering complaints. Last month, the club cited an anonymous complaint tipped off to the state's Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) for serving liquor without a license.
Popular French Quarter tourist hangout Pirate's Alley Cafe also had been threatened with closure last month after the city's Department of Safety and Permits denied the cafe a nonconforming use zoning permit and license to run the cafe as a bar (it's designated as a restaurant, though it makes most of its sales as a bar). Owners Thais Solano and Tony Seville will appear before the Board of Zoning Adjustments at 1 p.m. Monday, June 13.
5. 'Raise the Age'
likely to pass
Louisiana likely will stop considering 17-year-olds who commit minor crimes as "adults." Senate Bill 324 (the "Raise the Age" law) from state. Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, prevents 17-year-olds from entering an adult criminal justice system rather than a juvenile one. It easily passed the House last week after passage in the Senate. After another round in the Senate, it will head to the desk of Gov. John Bel Edwards, who supports it.
6. Fire at Bywater's Aquarium Gallery
After years of construction and renovation, Jacob Martin's Aquarium Gallery and Studios on Montegut Street in Bywater offered an alternative art space and working studios for local artists, from a recent exhibit inspired by Gulf Coast birds to another offering a cyberpunk vision of oil- and gas-ravaged Norco. In the early morning of June 1, a four-alarm fire destroyed most of the two-story camelback. More than 70 firefighters helped bring the blaze under control within two hours. The fire left four tenants without a home. An online fundraiser is collecting donations to help rebuild the gallery and studios.
7. Shocked at the Broad
In his acclaimed 2013 documentary Shell Shocked, New Orleans-based filmmaker John Richie examined the grim realities of New Orleans youth exposed to gun violence. He premieres his next film, 91%: A Film About Gun Violence in America, at The Broad Theater (636 N. Broad St.) over three nights this week (7 p.m. Friday-Saturday, June 10-11 and 5 p.m. Sunday, June 12). A discussion follows each screening.
The film explores the country's background check policies and political deadlock on the issue and shares the stories of people impacted by gun violence. "I have yet to find another city that has been plagued with the gross level of gun violence experienced here," Richie said. "I love this place, and I can't think of a better place to start this discussion."
8. Black and Gold
The New Orleans Saints will hold the team's annual veteran minicamp June 14-16 at Saints headquarters in Metairie, and the team's practices will be free and open to fans. Gates open at 10:15 a.m. and practices run from 11 a.m. to 1:20 p.m. Security will be similar to game day at the Superdome. In case of bad weather, practice will be moved indoors and closed to the public.
9. Art and coastal loss
Artist Dawn DeDeaux is asking New Orleanians to join representatives from the United Houma Nation and Terrebonne Parish on Island Road between Pointe-aux-Chenes and Isle de Jean Charles June 25. It's an area many (including the federal government, which recently started resettlement programs) consider ground zero for the vanishing coast. Participants will stand in formations that spell the word "home"; planes and drone cameras will capture the image from overhead. A party will follow at the Isle de Jean Charles marina to encourage meetings between people whose lives, livelihoods and culture are affected by coastal land loss. Buses will leave from the Contemporary Arts Center. For more information, visit www.prospectneworleans.org.
10. Times for
The New York Times loves New Orleans, but its latest travel piece — "New Orleans is For Families, Too" — drew some online hoots. The paper ran a correction last week: "An earlier version of this article misstated part of the name of a green space in the French Quarter. It is Jackson Square, not Jackson Park. The article referred incorrectly to a sight-seeing carriage. It was led by a mule, not a donkey," the editor's note said. "And the article misstated part of the names of two streets. They are Frenchmen Street, not Frenchmen's Street, and Washington Avenue, not Washington Street."