1. THE HOLE GRITTY CITY
Ghost tours, history tours, architecture tours, cocktail tours — and now a tour of some of New Orleans’ most notable sinkholes. What took so long? Yes, it’s a real thing: On Oct. 22, Alex Kolker, a researcher from Tulane University, will host the WWNO Sinkhole Tour, brought to you by the New Orleans public radio station. Sinkhole enthusiasts will meet at the Lyons Recreation Center (624 Louisiana Ave.) at 4 p.m. for a discussion of subsidence and Everything You Wanted to Know About Sinkholes, But Were Afraid to Ask for Fear of Blowing Out Your Transmission. The tour will conclude at Urban South Brewery around 5:30 p.m.
2. Quote of the week
"It suits his politics better to parachute in to places like Detroit and Philadelphia for photo-ops, while mostly giving red-meat speeches in front of white crowds outside of the American cities he is talking about." — Mayor Mitch Landrieu in an essay about GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. The essay, which went online minutes after the Oct. 9 presidential debate, criticized what Landrieu saw as Trump's negative view of American cities.
3. Yenni digs in his heels
Both the Gretna and Westwego city councils joined the Jefferson Parish Council last week in urging Parish President Mike Yenni to step down in light of news he had sent sexual text messages to a then-17-year-old high school boy while Yenni was mayor of Kenner. Several other Jefferson officials, including Clerk of Court Jon Gegenheimer, Assessor Tom Capella, Coroner Dr. Gerry Cvitanovich and Sheriff Newell Normand also have called for Yenni's resignation, as have several prominent business groups in Jefferson. Meanwhile, Metairie attorney Robert Evans III announced he had filed a petition with the Louisiana Secretary of State to have Yenni recalled. Evans said he would put $100,000 of his own money to help the recall effort succeed.
Yenni reiterated last week that he had no intention of stepping down, saying the issue had nothing to do with his job performance. He is expected to appear at the Jefferson Parish Council's next regular meeting Oct. 19.
4. STR vote coming Oct. 20
The New Orleans City Council is expected to vote Thursday, Oct. 20 on a framework for legalizing short-term rentals that are populating New Orleans neighborhoods through websites like Airbnb. In August, the New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) approved three of four types of proposed rentals, excluding the controversial practice of renting entire homes and apartments short-term in residential areas. The City Council has a deadline of Oct. 25 to vote on the recommendations laid out in the CPC staff report. If the council declines to vote, the matter could be dead until the next administration.
5. Lawsuit targets
Louisiana State Police
A lawsuit filed on behalf of a 17-year-old Indiana high school student charges Louisiana State Police (LSP) with the unjust use of force and harassment of African-Americans in the French Quarter. In the lawsuit, filed this month in U.S. District Court, attorneys for Lyle Dotson charge that LSP officers grabbed the teenager, frisked him and threatened him with arrest after he had stopped to use his phone in the Quarter last year. He was in town while traveling with his father. Dotson was charged with assault of an officer, a charge that later was dropped and expunged, though his name appeared in a November press release announcing 40 drug arrests in the Quarter. According to the lawsuit, police stopped Dotson because they believed he resembled a suspect.
The lawsuit also points to several cases of African-American men in New Orleans whose arrests were part of the "unconstitutional and racially driven policies and practices" of the LSP. Defendants named in the lawsuit include LSP Superintendent Mike Edmonson, LSP Commander Capt. Donovan Archote and three LSP officers.
6. Seeking shelter space
District B New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell says she has been "shut out" of discussions about the location of a low-barrier homeless shelter planned by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration. Landrieu unveiled prospective plans Oct. 3 for the 75- to 100-bed shelter, which could open on Erato Street near Earhart Boulevard and the Claiborne Avenue overpass. Cantrell proposes the city repurpose the former Temporary Detention Center on Perdido Street, part of the former jail complex.
"The administration chose a site that can't accommodate those critical co-located services," Cantrell said in an Oct. 13 statement to Gambit. "We visited the Erato site and it was considered as a temporary location. ... Unfortunately, after we recommended the Perdido location, we were shut out of the process and then presented with a shortsighted plan that I could not support," Cantrell said.
The Landrieu administration will continue community meetings on the proposed shelter through November.
7. Liberating art
The activist art collective Liberate Tate, best known for its unsanctioned and guerrilla-ish installations and performances in London's prestigious Tate galleries, delivers a free "lecture-performance" at Pelican Bomb Gallery X (1612 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.) at 6 p.m. Oct. 18 in an event presented by Bureau of Change.
With its work, Liberate Tate advocates against arts institutions receiving funding from oil companies, particularly the Tate galleries' long-term and controversial relationship with BP, the company deemed largely responsible for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. The group once released black helium balloons tied to dead fish and birds in Tate galleries, and it planted a fake oil spill in the middle of an event celebrating the BP/Tate relationship. The collective's work has obvious relevance in Louisiana, where oil and gas companies often serve as major sponsors for arts and music events.
8. Orange is the new wrong
Nearly 9,000 parking tickets are issued in error each year in New Orleans, according to an October report from the New Orleans Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG report claims that errors in 2015 cost the city $190,000 to issue and dismiss — and prevented the city from earning more than $200,000 in revenue. The report concluded that errors typically occur when parking enforcement officers incorrectly enter license plate numbers or hearing dates on citations and that officers ticketed delivery drivers making legal stops. Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux said the Department of Public Works (DPW) already has taken some corrective measures, including software updates with the city's vendor, Duncan Solutions.
In an Oct. 11 statement, Mayor Mitch Landrieu's press secretary Hayne Rainey said, "After a thorough review, we have taken the necessary recommended steps to better ensure parking citations are properly issued, which will result in fewer tickets issued in error and save the City money."
9. An original Dixie Cup dies
Joan Marie Johnson, who co-founded the Dixie Cups in the early 1960s, died Oct. 2, according to WWL-TV. She was 72. The singer and her cousins, sisters Barbara Ann and Rosa Lee Hawkins, reached No. 1 on the Billboard 100 charts in 1964 with their debut single "Chapel of Love," followed by hits including the iconic 1965 cover of "Iko Iko," recorded during an impromptu studio session. Johnson left the group soon after but joined reunion performances, including fan-favorite shows at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
10. Blue Dog voters
Louisianans who cast their ballots Nov. 8 will get an "I Voted" sticker with a twist — an image of George Rodrigue's famous Blue Dog image in front of an American flag. Stickers will be available at Election Day polling places and early voting locations beginning Oct. 25.