1. RTA expands bus service, adds airport express
The New Orleans Regional Transit The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) last week approved planned expansion of the city's bus lines, including round-the-clock service on nine routes, expanded hours on several others and a new line (202) providing express service between downtown New Orleans and Louis Armstrong-New Orleans International Airport. The changes begin April 17. For complete schedules, visit www.norta.com. PHOTO BY VXLA/CREATIVE COMMONS
2. Vitter: I'll block SCOTUS nominee
Sen. David Vitter said last week he planned to block President Barack Obama's nomination of Merrick Garland to the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant after the death last month of Associate Justice Antonin Scalia. Vitter, a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, issued a statement that said, in part, "Rather than have an insider's political tug-of-war between the President and the Senate over a Supreme Court nomination, the American people should decide through this year's election. So I'll be doing everything I can to give the American people a voice. The President is well within his constitutional authority to name a nominee — and the Senate is well within our constitutional authority to not hold hearings or a vote."
Some Congressional Republicans argue the next Supreme Court justice should be nominated by the president who is inaugurated in January 2017. Obama has more than nine months left in his term.
3. UNO gets
John Nicklow, University of New Orleans (UNO) provost and vice-president of academic affairs since July 2015, was named to the UNO presidency last week by the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System. He replaces Peter Fos, who retired in January after four years in the position. The Board of Supervisors had narrowed the selection down to two men: Nicklow and New Orleans Deputy Mayor Andy Kopplin. Nicklow, who studied civil engineering, previously was provost of Southern Illinois University.
4. Federal $ to fight heroin locally
The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) awarded three Louisiana health centers — including two in the New Orleans area — more than $1 million to treat opioid addiction and abuse in underserved populations. Jefferson Parish Human Services Authority in Metairie will receive $325,000; Marillac Community Health Centers in New Orleans will receive $406,250; and Lake Charles' SWLA Center for Health Services will receive $406,250. The awards are part of a $94 million Affordable Care Act package with awards heading to more than 250 health centers nationwide.
In January, New Orleans health officials issued a public health advisory regarding heroin and opioid use. New Orleans EMS has responded to a rising number of calls — as many as five to 10 a day — related to heroin use. More than 100 people were treated for overdoses by EMS and area hospitals, compared to 78 at the same time last year.
Overdoses from Fentanyl, a synthetic opioid, also are on the rise. The city has made Narcan, which can reverse the effects of an overdose, available without a prescription at the University Medical Center Outpatient Pharmacy (2000 Canal St.) and at Crescent City Pharmacy (2240 Simon Bolivar Ave.).
5. Another season,
Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre marked its centennial last week with a production of Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie and announced its 2016-2017 season, which includes Pippin, Jelly's Last Jam, Freud's Last Session and It's Only a Play, produced in conjunction with The NOLA Project. Visit www.lepetittheatre.com for details.
Broadway in New Orleans also announced next year's lineup of touring productions coming to the Saenger Theatre, which includes Jersey Boys, Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Disney's The Lion King, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical and more. The Sound of Music opens the season Sept. 20. A full schedule and ticket info is at www.saengernola.com.
6. Bills would limit abortion services statewide
Reproductive health advocacy groups are urgin∂g Louisiana lawmakers to turn down legislation targeting abortion providers, particularly as the state digs out of its fiscal mess. House Bill 606 from state Rep. Frank Hoffmann, R-West Monroe, would prohibit "entities that perform abortions from receiving public funding for any purpose" and Senate Bill 264 from state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, says, "no entity that performs abortions shall receive funds from any source via contract, grant funding or otherwise from any sector of state government." Both would severely limit Planned Parenthood operations in the state. On March 14-15, UltraViolet, the Louisiana Coalition for Reproductive Freedom and Choice Louisiana, placed ads in The Advocate and The Shreveport Times, declaring that "Louisiana is facing the worst budget crisis in decades, yet Baton Rouge is wasting time legislating women's bodies. ... Stop interfering with reproductive health care. Focus on the real issues facing Louisiana."
7. Juvenile cases in Criminal Court
The New Orleans City Council will form a 60-day working group to review how the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office transfers juvenile cases to adult Criminal District Court. The March 17 decision tabled a resolution from District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry that directs "the Orleans Parish District Attorney to reduce the number of children prosecuted in adult Criminal Court, to re-evaluate current juvenile transfer practices, and to use a rigorous and comprehensive screening process before a child is transferred to adult Criminal Court."
Guidry and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro have locked horns in an ongoing, often-contentious public debate over the DA's practice of transferring children from Orleans Juvenile Court into an adult criminal justice system.
8. Jazz Fest 'cubes' to be released March 22
The complete New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival schedule with stages and times — otherwise known as the "cubes" — will be released March 22. This year's Jazz Fest will be held April 22-24 and April 28-May 1 at the New Orleans Fair Grounds Race Course. The 2016 headliners include Neil Young, Stevie Wonder, Pearl Jam, Snoop Dogg, Paul Simon, Van Morrison, Steely Dan and dozens of others. For complete lineup, visit www.bestofneworleans.com on March 22.
9. Don't mess
After 275 Tulane University students signed an online petition demanding that NBC News' Hoda Kotb be removed as speaker at this year's graduation, the reaction was fast and furious: The petition was removed and Kotb's best friend Karen Swensen, who worked with her at WWL-TV, wrote a passionate defense of Kotb as a journalist and a friend. A second petition in support of Kotb's appearance drew more than twice as many signatures.
10. Great Pumpkins
Returning to the road for the first time in six years, singer-songwriter Liz Phair will open for Billy Corgan's latest mutation of Smashing Pumpkins on a spring tour. The tour stops in New Orleans at the Saenger Theatre on April 22 during the first weekend of the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Phair is working on a new album, her first since 2010's self-released Funstyle. Tickets are on sale now.