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I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans This Week, March 8, 2016 

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1. St. Pot-Rick's Day
Smoking a joint in New Orleans could land you a fine, not an arrest, if the New Orleans City Council approves an ordinance that reduces penalties for simple pot possession.

  The first draft of a measure from District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry allowed police to give verbal and written warnings for first and second possessions of 14 grams or less of marijuana. But on March 3, council members approved Guidry's amendment that turns those warnings into fines. The latest draft of the ordinance includes $40 for a first offense, $60 for a second, $80 for a third and $100 for a fourth and subsequent offenses. Guidry stressed that officers still would have the discretion to apply state law to possession arrests.

  The council put off voting on the newly amended ordinance — it was deferred to Thursday, March 17.

2. Kendrick and Mariah headlining Essence 2016
The 2016 Essence Festival returns to New Orleans for its 22nd annual event at the Superdome June 30-July 3. This year's headliners include Mariah Carey and 2015's MVP Kendrick Lamar, as well as Ciara and Maxwell.

  Along with the many hip-hop, R&B, soul and funk artists at this year's festival are Babyface, BJ The Chicago Kid, Charlie Wilson, Cyril Neville, Daley, Digable Planets, Doug E. Fresh, Eric Bellinger, Estelle, Faith Evans, Jidenna, Judith Hill, Kelly Price, Lady Leshurr, Lalah Hathaway, Little Simz, Mali Music, MC Lyte, New Breed Brass Band, New Edition, Robert Glasper Experiment, Preservation Hall Jazz Band, St. Beauty, The Brand New Heavies, Tyrese and V. Bozeman. Full lineup and show times will be released later this spring.

3. Parking tickets go up, homeless people forced out
Effective this month, New Orleans parking tickets jump from $20 to $30 (then $60 after 30 days of nonpayment and $90 after 30 days). Parking in residential areas without a permit could cost you $75 (up from $40).

  The city also fenced off parking areas underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway, where many homeless people have set up camps and sleeping bags. The fencing, set to be finished by April, marks the beginning of turning the spaces into private parking lots.

4. Quote of the week: "To the most passionate fans in the world — the WHO DAT Nation — it has been my privilege to represent you on the field."
When it was announced New Orleans Saints wide receiver Marques Colston was set to be released from the team after a decade, No. 12 shared a heartfelt goodbye on his website, saving his biggest thanks for Saints fans: "Thank you for allowing me to be a part of something so much bigger than football in New Orleans. It has been amazing to witness firsthand your passion and resilience, even in the face of adversity. Because of you, New Orleans will always hold a special place in my heart."

  In a statement, Saints owner Tom Benson said, "There have been very few players in our franchise's history that have represented this team with the class, dignity and performance of Marques Colston."

5. Bye, Bob: Breck has left the building
WVUE-TV meteorologist Bob Breck retired last week after 38 years of forecasting New Orleans weather. Breck came to the city in 1978 after stints in Tampa, Florida and Dayton, Ohio to replace Nash Roberts, the legendary weatherman and hurricane forecaster. In recent years, Breck went public with his treatments for prostate cancer and — more amusingly — the big "reveal," when he stopped using a toupee. Asked if he would miss weather reporting, Breck wrote on his blog, "The simple answer is no. What I will miss is the people, my co-workers who have become my friends."

6. Lyft off: another hail-a-ride app comes to New Orleans
Ride-hailing app Lyft hit New Orleans streets March 3, introducing an Uber competitor and another taxicab alternative. Lyft drivers now offer rides in Orleans, Jefferson, Plaquemines, St. Bernard, St. Charles and St. Tammany parishes. (Lyft won't offer rides to or from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport yet.) Using the app, riders can hail a pink mustache-equipped car and pay and tip their drivers.

  According to a February report from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office, ride-hailing app companies had 1.2 million rides in New Orleans in 2015. There were 2.8 million cab rides in 2015, down slightly from 2014's 2.9 million.

7. Big Freedia facing felony theft charges
Following allegations from federal prosecutors that bounce star Big Freedia fraudulently received Section 8 housing vouchers, Freedia says she's working to pay full restitution.

  "I was on subsidized housing for many years before my financial situation changed," she said in a March 1 statement. "I quickly found myself in a new economic structure and, frankly, knew little about how to handle my money. It wasn't until recently (after I had stopped receiving housing vouchers) that it became very clear I had received assistance to which I wasn't entitled."

  According to U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite, Freedia — charged as Freddie Ross Jr. — received vouchers from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development between 2010 and 2014. If charged, Freedia would face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

  Freedia's attorney Timothy R.W. Kappel told Gambit that Freedia offered full restitution, community service and financial literacy courses as part of a pre-trial diversion. Kappel said they're more focused on a First Amendment issue building in Mississippi, where the state's Alcoholic Beverage Control forced a Hattiesburg venue to cancel a show — because twerking violates state code.

8. Passion in the streets
Fox TV has released more information about The Passion, the musical about Jesus Christ and the Last Supper that will be staged on the streets of New Orleans and aired live on Palm Sunday (March 20). The soundtrack includes music by Seal, Chris Daughtry, Trisha Yearwood, Michael W. Smith, Yolanda Adams and more, and will go on sale March 18. Tyler Perry will narrate the show.

  As Gambit reported in December, the ambitious production will be staged in the downtown area between the Superdome and Woldenberg Park, but specifics about the route — and the live audience — haven't been announced yet.

9. All that Chaz: 9th Ward festival is back on
Organizers of neighborhood music festival Chaz Fest now say the show will go on after announcing last month they pulled the plug on the pop-ular event.

  The 10th installment of the 9th Ward festival, which takes place during the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival as a locals-only alternative to the Fest, is Wednesday, April 27. The festival's location, The Truck Farm on St. Claude Avenue, was put up for sale, putting a question mark on the fest's future. But last week organizers announced the festival was back on. "The Powers That Be at the Truck Farm have done some finagling and have worked it out so that Chazfest #10 2016 will take place on Wednesday April 27," festival co-founder Alex McMurray announced. "Sorry for all the confusion." A lineup will be announced later.

10. Talking entrepreneurs
The Idea Village's annual Entrepreneur Week will take place March 11-18 on Fulton Street in the Warehouse District. Most of the events and talks are free and open to the public, and this year's headliners include Steve Case, co-founder of AOL; Wan Kim, CEO of Smoothie King; Alexis Ohanian of Reddit and Chef John Besh. For a full schedule and registration, visit

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