Tuesday, January 30, 2018

New York Times on New Orleans' proposed surveillance plan

Posted By on Tue, Jan 30, 2018 at 3:55 PM

The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • The city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center oversees a citywide crime camera network.

The New York Times
took a look today at New Orleans City Hall's plan to install 1,500 surveillance cameras around town — acknowledging "typically vexing civil liberties issues" but seemingly more concerned that round-the-clock police surveillance of the streets will quash people's abilities to attend "boy-lesque" shows, carry potbellied pigs around town and "somehow suck the soul out of the place, quashing the promise of the Mardi Gras anthem 'Do Whatcha Wanna,' which serves as a siren song for tourists and a kind of mission statement for many residents":
Last fall, the city opened a Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, with a huge wall of screens showing video feeds of street scenes, in a building at the edge of the French Quarter.

A block away at the Black Penny, a tiny bar on North Rampart Street, grousing over the cameras was easy to find. “It’s going to be very clinical — it’s going to take the mystique, the romanticism out of the city,” said Alyx Gauthier, 27, a local service-industry worker who was nursing a pint on a recent afternoon. “This city was built by pirates and whores,” she said.
The Times also stopped at Oz, Cafe Lafitte in Exile and the Upper Ninth Ward to gauge the pulse of the populace. Give it a read.

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Thursday, January 25, 2018

New York Times '52 Places to Go' reporter: No one walks on the streets after dark in New Orleans

Posted By on Thu, Jan 25, 2018 at 2:15 PM


Well, here's something from a New York Times reporter that the New Orleans Convention & Visitors Bureau won't be touting (for a change):
That's the Twitter account of Jada Yuan, The New York Times' "52 Places to Go" reporter, who will be traveling the globe over the next year, reporting from the Times' much-touted list of travel destinations — of which New Orleans was No. 1, baby. (Based on Yuan's observation, it's more like No. 1 with a bullet.)

The world's top tourist destination where you can't leave the house after dark? That may seem contradictory, but it's also very 2018, yes?

Nevertheless, Yuan likes us; she really likes us, even though we're "dangerous territory":

Continue reading »

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

New Orleans City Council to hold off on security camera ordinance vote

Posted By on Wed, Jan 24, 2018 at 3:38 PM


The New Orleans City Council will defer voting on a sweeping plan for businesses that sell alcohol, a controversial ordinance that also requires those businesses install security cameras to be streamed into the city's new real-time monitoring center.

The City Council was scheduled to hear the ordinance Jan. 25. The next full City Council meeting is Feb. 8, the same day the Knights of Babylon, Knights of Chaos and Krewe of Muses parade Uptown in the first week of parades.

The City Council will likely have to send the ordinance through its Governmental Affairs Committee first. That committee's next meeting is 1 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 1 at 1340 Poydras St.

At the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration, the City Council previously deferred voting on the ordinance earlier this month, pushing it off a Governmental Affairs agenda Jan. 10 and a full City Council meeting Jan. 11. For more on the ordinance and what's in the current draft of the plan, check out this Gambit cover story.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Editorial: Derrick Shepherd and 'second chances'

Posted By on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 2:13 PM

Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, in an image from his "2nd Chance NOLA" commercial.
  • Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, in an image from his "2nd Chance NOLA" commercial.

Doesn’t every ex-offender deserve a second chance? That’s what former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd wants to know — especially as applied to himself. Shepherd was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison in 2010 for his role in a money-laundering scheme, and he recently launched “2nd Chance NOLA” with the stated goal of helping ex-offenders return to society. It’s a worthy goal, but Shepherd’s timing suggests it’s more about him getting a second chance in politics.

The backstory: The New Orleans Advocate reported that Shepherd attended a Dec. 18 meeting between New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and local legislators, most of whom were alarmed to see Shepherd there. At least one, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, walked out. The Cantrell campaign sent mixed messages until a spokesperson categorically denied Shepherd would have any role in her transition or administration. Gambit later reported that Shepherd also attended an Algiers luncheon where Cantrell was the featured speaker.
In his Gambit interview, Shepherd said he went to the Algiers meeting because he had ideas on how to improve the Sewerage & Water Board, and wanted to share them with Cantrell. Less than 48 hours later, however, a public records request by The Times-Picayune | found Shepherd had written a speech for Cantrell to deliver at the meeting — though both Shepherd and the Cantrell campaign say it was unsolicited.

Criticism of Cantrell’s apparent association with the disgraced former lawmaker led to Shepherd cutting what looked a lot like a campaign ad earlier this week. Standing in front of a giant American flag, he complained that “fake local news began to attack me.” He did not refute any of The Advocate or Gambit’s reporting, however. “Why can’t someone like me contribute to the growth of our city?” Shepherd asked.

A fair question, and we have an answer: Shepherd is absolutely free to contribute to society, but his violation of the public trust by committing a federal felony — and a crime of egregious dishonesty at that — should preclude him from appointed or elected public office.

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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jefferson Parish sheriff's race will redefine parish politics — and the battle to win is shaping up as a war

Posted By on Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 5:46 PM

Interim Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, left, and former sheriff’s spokesman Johnny Fortunato will face off in the March 24 election to decide who's the new lawman in charge.
  • Interim Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, left, and former sheriff’s spokesman Johnny Fortunato will face off in the March 24 election to decide who's the new lawman in charge.

It didn’t take long for the gloves to come off in the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s race. Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto and former sheriff’s spokesman Johnny Fortunato came out swinging right after qualifying Jan. 3. The attacks are likely to continue — and intensify — right up to Election Day, March 24.

Lopinto became interim sheriff after then-Sheriff Newell Normand abruptly announced in July that he was resigning to become a radio talk show host. Fortunato soon thereafter retired as department spokesman after serving 46 years as a deputy.

Both men logged time on the streets, and both later worked in administrative capacities.

Continue reading »

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

29 of the year's Gambit cover stories you may have missed

Posted By on Sun, Dec 31, 2017 at 9:00 AM

It's been a rough year for some alt-weeklies (as well as daily papers and news websites), but what continues to work for us — and seems to work for you — is locally written and produced stories about our city, potholes and all.

We get it. You're busy. But we've been busy too. Here are 29 of the cover stories from 2017 in the five areas in which we specialize: news, politics, city life, food and the arts. Maybe you missed a couple.

• The year in drugs: What lies ahead in drug policy for the U.S., and for Louisiana
• New Orleans protests: Inauguration Day marches, the Women's March and more
• Home sick — the rental registry: New Orleans housing stock in need of repair
• A-breasted development: How New Orleans tattoo artists help breast cancer survivors
• A blueprint for murder reduction: Criminologist Jeff Asher on the crime rate
• Beyond the wall: Local immigrants face an uncertain future under the Trump administration
• Young lives behind bars: Louisiana considers abolishing life without parole for some juvenile offenders
• The facts of life: The sorry state of sex education in Louisiana
• The Landrieu legacy on crime: What the mayor got right — and wrong
• Project Censored: The 10 most under-covered stories of the year
• Breaking the (hurricane) scale: After a destructive hurricane season, is the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale outdated?
• Shift change: How New Orleans hospitality workers are organizing their industry

Continue reading »

Friday, December 29, 2017

Is Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell ready to grasp the reins of power at City Hall?

Posted By on Fri, Dec 29, 2017 at 1:53 PM

Disgraced former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd appeared at two events with Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell before a Cantrell spokesperson issued a statement distancing her from Shepherd, who has spent time in federal prison for money laundering.
  • Disgraced former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd appeared at two events with Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell before a Cantrell spokesperson issued a statement distancing her from Shepherd, who has spent time in federal prison for money laundering.

Is Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell ready to grasp the reins of power at City Hall? Granted, in some ways it’s late to be asking that question, but it seems more than a tad strange that six weeks have passed since her Nov. 18 election and she still hasn’t announced any members of her transition team.

By contrast, Marc Morial announced his transition co-chairs two days after his election in 1994. Even the superbly incompetent Ray Nagin was able to identify transition leaders within a week of his 2002 victory.

For all the angst in some quarters about Cantrell’s nearly six-month transition period, it seems a blessing now. At the same time, six weeks seems an eternity without a peep about who will help guide the new mayor into office.

If Cantrell were the newly elected mayor four years from now, she’d be taking office in a little more than a week, on Jan. 10. It makes one wonder just how prepared she is to assume her new role.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2017

After judge blocks Trump's 'sanctuary' order, Jeff Landry joins state AGs to back it

Posted By on Wed, Dec 27, 2017 at 5:32 PM

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry. - PHOTO BY GAGE SKIDMORE/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry.

Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry joined 10 other state attorneys general in pressing a federal appeals court to side with President Donald Trump's order against so-called "sanctuary" cities, a move that was declared unconstitutional by a federal judge last month.

Trump's January order took aim at places with "sanctuary" policies protecting undocumented residents and made them ineligible for certain federal funds, but a November ruling from U.S. District Judge William H. Orrick found that Trump's order for local governments to enforce federal immigration laws violated the separation of powers doctrine and Fifth and Tenth amendments.

In a brief filed this month with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit,
Landry and attorneys general from Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Kansas, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas and West Virginia want the courts to overturn the ruling.

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Friday, December 15, 2017

Irvin Mayfield's road to perdition

Posted By on Fri, Dec 15, 2017 at 11:09 AM

Irvin Mayfield.
  • Irvin Mayfield.

The recent federal indictment of Grammy-winning New Orleans trumpeter Irvin Mayfield and his longtime friend and artistic collaborator Ronald Markham reads like a mobsters’ playbook for how to loot a nonprofit — except for the part about not getting caught.

Mayfield and Markham are not charged with racketeering, but the 19 counts against them include just about everything else the feds typically throw at crooked politicians and Mafiosi — a count of conspiracy, four counts of wire fraud, one count of mail fraud, one count of money laundering conspiracy, 11 counts of money laundering and one count of obstruction of justice.

The two men led the nonprofit New Orleans Jazz Orchestra (NOJO), which Mayfield founded in 2002, to national prominence. They also enjoyed six-figure salaries from NOJO.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Under City Council plan, citywide surveillance could expand to places that sell alcohol

Posted By on Wed, Dec 13, 2017 at 4:15 PM


Bars, breweries, music venues, restaurants, corner stores and any of the hundreds of businesses selling booze in New Orleans would be required to install street-facing cameras outside their doors and submit that footage to the city’s new crime camera nerve center, shared with the New Orleans Police Department and state and federal law enforcement, under the current language of a proposed ordinance that could face the New Orleans City Council as early as Dec. 14.

That proposed requirement falls under a section titled “Participation in Community Security Systems” inside a 22-page ordinance that aims to reconfigure how the city handles permits and violations for businesses selling alcohol.

The requirement — introduced by At-Large Councilwoman Stacy Head at the request of Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration — would supplement the more than 200 city-owned crime cameras, piped into a recently opened Real Time Crime Monitoring Center on the edge of the French Quarter. Under Head’s ordinance, the city’s cloud-based platform would archive the footage for no less than two weeks.

That one paragraph in a measure ostensibly tied to streamlining permitting for alcohol vendors has sounded an alarm for police watchdogs, community groups, bars and restaurants — and the ACLU of Louisiana, which announced Dec. 13 that it has “condemned” the measure, which “would threaten privacy rights without effectively reducing crime.”

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