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I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans this Week (March 7, 2017) 

click to enlarge Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed a meeting of HBCU presidents in Washington D.C. last week.

COURTESY U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos addressed a meeting of HBCU presidents in Washington D.C. last week.

1. THE SPEECH THAT WASN'T GIVEN
Last week, the White House invited the presidents of historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs) to the signing of an executive order President Donald Trump said signaled his administration's commitment to HBCUs (with few specifics). Much of the meeting was overshadowed by Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos' remarks that HBCUs were exemplars of "school choice" — ignoring that many were set up to accept black scholars during segregation.

  Dillard University President Walter Kimbrough, who said he was set to speak at the White House, later issued a statement saying "There was very little listening to HBCU presidents today" and published his remarks online:

  "In his Oscars acceptance speech [Feb. 26], Mahershala Ali celebrated Americans' belief in the transformative power of education when he first thanked his teachers and professors. Historically black colleges and universities are living testimonies of this power, the central force in educating people inextricably linked to the promise of America.

  "Fifty years ago a philosophy emerged suggesting education was no longer a public good, but a private one. Since then we've seen federal and state divestment in education, making the idea of education as the path to the American dream more of a hallucination for the poor and disenfranchised.

  "There is no doubt who is left to hallucinate. In the past decade the wealth gap between whites and blacks has gone from seven to thirteen fold. The median net worth of a single parent white family is twice that of the two-parent black family. Black students graduate with 31 percent more college debt than their white peers." Kimbrough's partial solution: raising Pell Grants and indexing them to the cost of living.

2. Quote of the week
"I really just want to know what was going on there, because, you know, I won't tell anybody. And you can just explain to me that circumstance — because she really looked kind of familiar in that position there. Don't answer — and I don't want you to refer back to the 1990s." — U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, making a joke at the Washington Press Club Foundation's awards dinner March 1. Richmond was referring to a widely circulated photo of Kellyanne Conway, adviser to President Donald Trump, kneeling on a sofa and texting during a meeting between Trump and presidents of historically black colleges and universities.

  Richmond's joke was widely taken as a reference to the Monica Lewinsky scandal, but in a statement the next day he professed astonishment that anyone could have taken it that way: "Since some people have interpreted my joke to mean something that it didn't, I think it is important to clarify what I meant. Where I grew up, saying that someone is looking or acting 'familiar' simply means that they are behaving too comfortably." (What referring "back to the 1990s" could have meant in that context, Richmond did not explain.)

  The Louisiana Republican Party was quick to condemn him. "Congressman Richmond's remarks about the first woman to successfully manage a U.S. presidential campaign are especially disgusting," the state GOP said in a statement.

3. Guidry won't run for Council At-Large
Susan Guidry, who has represented District A on the New Orleans City Council since March 2010, will not run for an at-large seat on the council once her current term is up, she announced last week.

  "My sole purpose in coming out of retirement and running for office was to assist in our city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina and the failure of our federal levee system," Guidry said in a statement.

  Guidry, an attorney, is term-limited in her current position. She will remain on the council until May 2018.

4. Endymion crash suspect: 26 charges, $420K bail
Neilson Rizzuto, the Ponchatoula man accused of driving a pickup truck into a crowd of spectators on the Krewe of Endymion route Feb. 25, has been charged with 26 counts related to the incident, including vehicular negligent injury, first-degree vehicular negligent injury, reckless operation of a vehicle and hit-and-run driving with serious injury. No one was killed in the accident. The New Orleans Police Department released a statement saying Rizzuto's blood alcohol content was nearly three times over the legal limit. Bail, which originally was set at $125,000, was raised to $420,000 last week after additional charges were filed. At press time, Rizzuto remained in prison.

5. 'Equal pay summit' in Baton Rouge March 10
Though Louisiana ranks last in the nation when it comes to pay equity for women, bills seeking equal pay have stalled in the state Legislature in recent years. With the regular session beginning next month, Gov. John Bel Edwards and his wife Donna Edwards will be holding an "Equal Pay Summit" at Baton Rouge's Shaw Center for the Arts at 8:30 a.m. March 10. The event, free to the public with RSVP, was filled to capacity as of last week.

6. Bike share 'preview' extended through March
After launching a "preview" of a citywide bike share program at several kiosks in downtown New Orleans and in the Lower Garden District, the city is extending the program through March 31. It was set to end Feb. 23.

  Riders should download an app (search for "Social Bicycles"), register and select a payment plan. Riders can pay $15 for the period through March, which will allow an hour's worth of rides per day. The hourly rate is $8 an hour.

  The city will start a citywide version with 700 bikes at 70 racks in the fall. .

7. Rental registry vote at Council March 9
The New Orleans City Council is scheduled to vote this week on a controversial rental registry and rental inspection program the city plans to implement in 2018. At-Large Councilman Jason Williams and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell sponsored the measure, which will require many private residential landlords to register their properties with the city and subject them to inspections that must meet a checklist of health and safety requirements. The City Council deferred voting on the measure last month, and on Feb. 23 the council deferred the measure to this Thursday, March 9.

  Under the latest draft of the ordinance, registration opens Jan. 1, 2018. Property owners will have to pay a $60 registration fee, then $40 for annual renewals. Landlords also will have to pay inspection costs.

  Landlords and property owners have pushed aggressively against the measure, which they say creates a "tax" that punishes landlords who maintain their properties and will cripple affordable housing (by forcing landlords to raise rents). The measure aims to reduce reliance on the complaint-based system currently in place.

8. More acts for Essence: Chance The Rapper, Mystikal, Mia X and more
Grammy Award-winning Chicago rapper Chance The Rapper is headed back to New Orleans for 2017's Essence Festival, joining a lineup with previously announced artists Diana Ross, Mary J. Blige, John Legend, Solange and others. The 23rd annual festival returns to the Superdome June 29-July 2. Also joining the lineup are No Limit Records alums Mystikal, Mia X and Silkk the Shocker as well as BJ the Chicago Kid, Daley and Elle Varner. Tickets begin at $126.

  Chance The Rapper recently was awarded Grammys for Best New Artist, Best Rap Performance (for "No Problem," featuring 2 Chainz and Lil Wayne) and Best Rap Album for his jubilant, self-released 2016 LP Coloring Book. He performed a sold-out show at Mardi Gras World in 2016 and dropped into the city for 2017's NBA All-Star Weekend.

9. Super Sunday set for St. Joseph's Day
This year's Super Sunday procession — featuring Mardi Gras Indian tribes, brass bands and a festival at A.L. Davis Park — is Sunday, March 19. A festival opens at 11 a.m. at the park at Washington Avenue and LaSalle Street followed by a parade beginning at 1 p.m. This year's event also falls on St. Joseph's Day, another important masking and parading day for the Indians.

  The city's many Indian groups will parade in their 2017 suits, beginning at Washington and continuing to Simon Bolivar Avenue, then left to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, left on Claiborne Avenue, then left on Washington for performances inside the park. There typically are dozens of food and drink vendors surrounding the park and route.

  There also are performances from brass bands.

  This year's event honors the late Big Chief Bo Dollis Sr., Big Chief Larry Bannock and Jo "Cool" Davis.

10. Lionel Richie, Mariah Carey postpone May appearance at Smoothie King Center
The seeming odd-couple pairing of R&B stars Lionel Richie and Mariah Carey was set for a spring tour promising "All the Hits." But the duo has postponed all dates, including a May 18 show at the Smoothie King Center. They are expected to announce new dates soon.

  In a statement, Richie said, "When you have been performing as long as I have, it takes a toll on your body. Unfortunately, my recovery from a knee procedure will not have me 100 [percent] ready to start the tour next month. ... I look forward to being back on stage so we can  all be 'Dancing on the Ceiling' together again."

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