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Silent Second Line
On Sunday, Aug. 26, musicians from New Orleans will give what they consider to be an apathetic and unsupportive community a piece of their mind -- quietly. Even though New Orleans' tourist trade depends heavily on our city's rich musical heritage, support for gigs has been lacking since Katrina, forcing many musicians to leave town in order to ply their trade, local artists say. A "silent second line" sponsored by the Renew Our Music Fund, the New Orleans Musicians' Clinic and the American Federation of Musicians Local 174-496 will begin at Armstrong Park at noon and will end in Jackson Square at 2 p.m. Musicians will bring instruments to the march, but won't play them, in an effort to show New Orleans what the city would be like without their participation. The artists and organizations involved hope to use the symbolic silence to encourage more artists to demand a living wage for gigs, remind residents to put cash in the tip jar at music shows, encourage tourism leaders to hire musicians for public events and remind tourists to buy local CDs and see New Orleans bands when they visit. It's not the fun kind of second line, but that's the point. -- Fensterstock

 

 

Peeling the Onion
Where will the feds go next in their probe of local political corruption? Records in the government's case against former City Councilman At-Large Oliver Thomas offer hints. In late 2001 or early 2002, Thomas met with businessman Stanford "Pampy" Barré, a political ally of outgoing Mayor Marc Morial, at which time Barré "discussed his fear that he would lose several financial interests that he had acquired under the previous mayoral administration and requested Oliver Thomas' assistance," according to one document. Thomas last week pleaded guilty to one count of bribery for taking $19,000 in illegal payments from Barré in exchange for helping him keep a French Quarter parking contract. "I think it would be naive to believe Barré stopped there," says Rafael Goyeneche, president of the private Metropolitan Crime Commission and a former prosecutor. During the Morial Administration, Barré's other "financial interests" included concessions at New Orleans International Airport, the Theater of the Performing Arts and the Municipal Auditorium, where Barré had an office. In fact, acting on instructions from Thomas, confessed bagman Joseph Jourdain -- identified as a "close personal associate and employee" of Thomas -- collected a series of "kickbacks" from Barré at the city-owned Auditorium, records show. Who else in city government was on the take? Jourdain, Barré, and Thomas all have plea deals with the feds. So, too, does self-proclaimed tax preparer Nile J. Vincent, who admits filing false federal income tax returns for two Barré businesses, Pampy's Inc. and CAOne, a joint venture at the airport. "You see the government peeling back the onion," Goyeneche says of the ongoing investigation. -- Johnson

 

 

Coulda Been Worse
It could have been worse. What if City Councilman At-Large Oliver Thomas had run against embattled U.S. Rep. Bill Jefferson last year -- and won? It's more than speculation. In the summer of 2006, then Councilman Thomas and state Rep. Karen Carter were both mentioned as "possible" candidates against Jefferson ("Scuttlebutt," June 20, 2006). Both officials came from the BOLD political organization, and Carter ultimately ran with the group's support. Jefferson beat her in the December 2006 runoff. In June, Jefferson was indicted on bribery and racketeering charges, among others. Last week, Thomas pleaded guilty to taking bribes as a councilman in 2002. If Thomas had run and defeated Jefferson, New Orleans would have a newly elected freshman congressman admitting he was on the take -- and an indicted former congressman still promising an "honorable explanation" for the marked cash the FBI found in his freezer. -- Johnson

 

 

Boasso Ads a Bellwether?
The anti-Bobby Jindal ad campaign launched by state Sen. Walter Boasso, a Democratic convert from St. Bernard Parish, is catching the attention of national newsmakers, but not for the spice it's adding to this year's governor's race. Rather, pundits are interpreting the ads as a sign that President George Bush is tumbling even in his most popular areas. Boasso has been airing commercials that depict Jindal as a cardboard cutout and, more recently, a lapdog for Bush (also depicted as one-dimensional in the spots). The Washington Post framed the debate this week as "Bold Moves on the Bayou," recounting how Jindal "voted with Bush on Iraq 100 percent of the time, while Boasso favors bringing the troops ... home from Iraq," paraphrasing the commercial. Political reporter Chris Cillizza expressed shock that the hits were coming from within Louisiana, but summed up the strategy pretty well: "Boasso figures if he can remind Democrats that Jindal is a Republican, he can keep them from crossing the aisle and voting for the congressman in the primary. Then, if Boasso can force Jindal into a runoff, his anti-Bush strategy could appeal to political independents who by nature are conservatives but are fed up with Bush and the war. It's an interesting strategy and one that shows just how far the president has fallen in the eyes of voters nationally." -- Alford

 

 

Ike Likes Sidelines
An attorney, business owner and political operative, Ike Spears ran for City Council At-Large in 1994, but don't look for him to run for the seat vacated by Oliver Thomas. "I'm just going be on the sidelines writing checks," Spears chuckled. He said he kept filing campaign finance disclosure reports for "City Council At-Large" through 2006 because he had loaned his 1994 council campaign $14,375. Running for the first time in 1994, Spears lost that race but has stayed active politically. He has not run since then but says he will support state Rep. Cedric Richmond of eastern New Orleans if Richmond opts to run for Thomas' vacant council seat in the Oct. 20 election. Spears also is backing Recorder of Mortgages Desiree Charbonnet's campaign for judge of Municipal Court. Spears owns a United Parcel Service store (1631 Elysian Fields Ave.), which he opened after Hurricane Katrina. His wife, First City Court Judge Sonja Spears, takes karate lessons but has not appeared in any tournaments since the storm. "She keeps me in line," he joked. -- Johnson

 

 

Group Opposing Sale
As Gov. Kathleen Blanco continues with her plan to sell off the remaining portion of the state's 1998 tobacco settlement for potentially billions of up-front dollars, the American Heart Association (AHA) is launching a grassroots campaign to convince lawmakers to block the deal. Terri R. Broussard, AHA's regional advocacy director, says roughly 5,000 postcards have been mailed to volunteers to help organize the drive. The mailer includes an image of a broken piggy bank and asks the reader to keep the "current tobacco settlement payments in the dedicated trust funds, and use the interest to fund programs that improve the health of Louisianians." Letters to various newspapers have also been penned and media interviews are being lined up. "Right now we're taking it slow and starting on a grassroots level," Broussard says. "We're monitoring what the governor is doing and deciding how to act next. We don't want to apply too much pressure if we don't need to." Largely opposed by Republicans and fiscal conservatives, the settlement sale would benefit education, health care and coastal restoration, as outlined by the state Constitution. Opponents argued during the recent regular session that the timing was off and Louisiana stood to lose money because of market conditions, thus killing the proposal, some thought. Through Jim Baronet, a spokesperson for the Division of Administration, Blanco said last week that she is proceeding with the sale and would rely on a mail ballot of state lawmakers for approval. -- Alford

 

 

Ethics Attorney May Have Inside Track
The person selected by the Louisiana Board of Ethics to temporarily replace longtime administrator Gray Sexton has submitted her name in the national search for a successor. Kathleen Allen, who served as deputy general counsel to the board before becoming interim administrator, wants to keep the big office and may be on solid footing to get it. "I have applied for the job," she says. Sexton resigned last month after the Legislature adopted a bill requiring the administrator to focus solely on the ethics board and publicly report any private dealings. It was obviously too heavy a requirement for Sexton, but Allen is ready to disclose if necessary. Allen, who has consistently held an open line for media inquiries by serving as a quasi-spokesperson for the board, is a familiar face to lawmakers and to the Louisiana Recovery Authority, both of which have called upon her for testimony in the past. It's the ethics board, though, that will do the hiring. -- Alford

 

 

Crime, Cops' Pay Up
Violent crime is up this year, but so is police pay. Supporters are banking that recent increases in NOPD salaries and state supplemental pay, along with bonuses for special assignments -- and first-ever educational pay incentives -- will help stanch the hemorrhaging of veteran cops and attract recruits to the hurricane-battered city. Effective July 1, Police Chief Warren Riley's annual salary rose to $170,654, according to city payroll records. Meanwhile, most of Riley's five deputy superintendents received 7.5 percent pay increases. Riley's new No. 2 man, Marlon Defillo, will receive $91,699; Deputy Chiefs Anthony Cannatella, $106,441; and James Scott, $94,006. However, because of a structural difference in one unique position, Deputy Chief Ray Burkhardt's salary jumped by 10 percent to $98,795. Finally, the salary of newly appointed Deputy Chief Bruce Adams was still in the paperwork "pipeline" from NOPD to City Hall and not available at press time. Adams was a lieutenant before he was promoted to lead the Public Integrity Bureau -- over the heads of 32 captains. Any hurt feelings may not last long. The average captain's salary is now $59,366 -- not including longevity pay hikes of 2.5 percent. -- Johnson

 

 

Crime May Grab Glory
The New Orleans chapter of the Alliance for Good Government is keeping its annual "Legislator of the Year" award under wraps, but crime will likely steal the spotlight at the group's annual meeting next month, according to Robert K. Moffett, president of the nonpartisan political organization. "Crime is on everybody's minds," Moffett says. "The violence and rising property tax assessments and home insurance rates are making people think seriously about leaving the city." Baty Landis, owner of the Sound Cafe and a founding member of the new grassroots anticrime group, SilenceisViolence, will receive the Alliance's annual Civic Award. Texas State University criminologist Peter Scharf will deliver the keynote address. Moffett says Alliance members want to hear Scharf discuss what's being done about the city's well-publicized crime problem -- "and what can be done about it." Scharf has been a frequent critic of the New Orleans Police Department. The dinner begins at 7 p.m. Sept. 7 at the Hilton Riverside Hotel; doors open at 5 p.m. Admission is $55 for singles and $400 for a table. The Alliance's political forums for the fall elections are set to begin the following week. For ticket information, call Moffett at (504) 822-2224. -- Johnson

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