News & Politics

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Email shows local short-term rental industry sought to raise funds for City Council candidates Ramsey, Maklansky

Posted By and on Sat, Sep 16, 2017 at 1:59 PM

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Editor's note: This story has been revised to include the information that District A candidate Joe Giarrusso returned a $250 contribution by Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity president Eric Bay on Sept. 2, the day it was made. Maklansky also contacted Gambit to say she did not remember receiving a check from the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity in early July, and that she was returning the money. She had declined to accept a $1,000 check from the organization in August.

Less than six months into implementation of the city’s short-term rental (STR) ordinance, the leading local proponent of expanded STRs is raising money for some City Council candidates “who have pledged to work with us,” according to an email sent by the pro-STR Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity (ANP). In the email, ANP makes clear that the organization seeks to expand the “footprint of inclusion” for STRs and increase “both day count and occupancy permitted” in the city’s STR ordinance.

An ANP email sent last month titled "Call to Arms and Action-All Members City Wide" asked the group’s members and supporters to help raise campaign money by attending fundraisers for two council candidates in particular — District C incumbent Nadine Ramsey and District A hopeful Aylin Acikalin Maklansky, who until recently served as Ramsey’s legislative director. In addition to hosting fundraisers for Ramsey and Maklansky, ANP and its president have contributed to several other council candidates directly.

"Both are Equally important to our futures," the email said, "as their contending opposing candidates have announced anti-STR sentiment and prioritized restrictions going forward if elected. Please make every effort to contribute online and if unable to attend. Support your future by supporting those who have pledged to work with us."

Asked about the efforts by ANP, Ramsey told Gambit she initially didn’t know about the fundraiser, which is scheduled for Sept. 19 at Schoen Funeral Home on Canal Street in Mid-City, which is not in District C. Ramsey said after she became aware of the email’s language — particularly its suggestion that she was committed to expanding STRs into the French Quarter — she told her campaign to cancel the event. If it is held anyway, Ramsey told Gambit, she said she would not attend.

“We didn’t know they were doing it with the intent to change policy,” Ramsey said.

Maklansky told Gambit that the email came to her campaign’s attention only after she had committed to an event scheduled for Aug. 29 at a home owned by Michelle LeBlanc in the Black Pearl neighborhood, which Maklansky characterized as a “meet and greet” rather than a fundraiser. The property, known as Oulala House, is listed on the short-term rental website VRBO and is advertised at an average price of $680 a night. The email listed the event and address and asked STR supporters to “support your future by supporting those who have pledged to work with us.” Maklansky said the event had no bearing on her support (or lack thereof) for short-term rentals.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

School board votes to limit law enforcement interaction with students

Posted By on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Mary Moran with Nuestra Voz at a New Orleans rally to preserve DACA Sept. 7. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Mary Moran with Nuestra Voz at a New Orleans rally to preserve DACA Sept. 7.

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has approved new guidelines that immigrant advocacy groups hope will protect students from law enforcement interaction and intimidation.

“School should be a safe place for all children,” OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. said in a statement Sept. 15. “The Orleans Parish School Board holds this as a basic principle.”

The policies provide guidelines for school administration for what to do when law enforcement and immigration agents arrive on a campus. The policies (which apply only to direct-run OPSB schools) clarify that "such investigations should not disrupt the education environment at school sites."

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Thursday, September 14, 2017

Report: New Orleans receives 'D' grade on 'Best Metros for Millennials' list

Posted By on Thu, Sep 14, 2017 at 9:30 AM

CRISTIANO BETTA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • CRISTIANO BETTA / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

In a new report from the website Apartment List that surveyed 75 U.S. metro areas, New Orleans ranked near the bottom of the nation's "Best Metros for Millennials."

According to the analysis, New Orleans was ranked 61st out of 75 possible areas studied based on scores related to its job market, affordability and livability. The city's worst ranking was its livability score (based on a rental satisfaction survey of factors including weather, crime, parks, nightlife and opportunities to date and make friends), where it ranked 62nd out of 75 areas. The New Orleans job market ranked 60th out of 75 areas.

Metro areas that top the list include smaller cities such as Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Provo, Utah and Madison, Wisconsin; as well as Southern cities including Charleston, South Carolina and Houston.

"The top 10 metros are inland metros with relatively low rents, primarily located in the Midwest and South," report author Sydney Bennet wrote. "These metros offer millennials more than just affordable housing options. They also provide strong job markets and vibrant social scenes."

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Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Service industry workers rally Sept. 16 for better wages, fair scheduling

Posted By on Wed, Sep 13, 2017 at 10:00 AM

BRIAN SOLIS / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0
  • BRIAN SOLIS / CREATIVE COMMONS 2.0

At a "Rally for Our Rights" Saturday, New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee (NOHWC) and supporters will convene to demand paid sick days, better wages, more equitable scheduling and other benefits for workers in the city's booming hospitality and tourism industry.

Organizers ask participants to wear aprons, chef pants and other service industry accessories to the rally, where speakers will share stories about mistreatment and retaliation in the workplace. They'll also talk about local organizing efforts, including an attempt to organize a Bywater restaurant that ended in conflict with restaurant ownership, NOHWC member Lita Farquhar says.

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Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Mayoral candidates tackle issues facing musicians, social aid and pleasure clubs

Posted By on Tue, Sep 12, 2017 at 7:15 PM

Baby Dolls parading in 2017. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Baby Dolls parading in 2017.

While the New Orleans Saints kicked off their 2017 season, a crowd filled the Carver Theater Sept. 11 to hear how eight mayoral candidates plan to protect musicians and artists as the city and its cultural communities brace for another bout.

Moderator Lolis Eric Elie said music and cultural policy is "one of the most important and least discussed aspects" of the campaign. Candidates largely agreed that a lack of affordable housing as well as inequitable event fees and unsustainable payouts for gigs have threatened artists' and their families' abilities to live in New Orleans.

All candidates agreed to change the fee structures for parades and events for social aid and pleasure clubs and masking groups and echoed a “music is not a crime” mantra, though each had different ideas for ensuring protections for musicians and workers in a cultural economy and how they’d be represented at City Hall under their respective administrations.

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Saturday, September 9, 2017

New Orleans bail bond companies overcharging defendants, according to SPLC complaint

Posted By on Sat, Sep 9, 2017 at 10:00 AM

click image PHOTO BY PHIL ROEDER/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • PHOTO BY PHIL ROEDER/CREATIVE COMMONS

New Orleans bail bond companies have charged defendants illegally high bond rates to get out of jail, according to an investigation by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which revealed roughly $5 million in excessive fees was collected from nearly 50,000 people over 12 years.

The SPLC's announcement was released the same day Orleans Parish Criminal Clerk of Court Arthur Morrell said he plans to cut the hours that his office will process bail bonds, meaning people locked up after office hours will likely remain in jail despite having met the bond set by a judge.

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Friday, September 8, 2017

'We deserve better': New Orleans residents demand transparency at Sewerage & Water Board

Posted By on Fri, Sep 8, 2017 at 4:00 PM

Flooding in Mid-City Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Flooding in Mid-City Aug. 5.

New Orleans residents from Algiers, Gentilly, Pontchartrain Park and New Orleans East sent a letter to the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) requesting guided tours of pumping stations in each neighborhood following revelations of downed pumps, broken power supplies and dysfunction throughout the agency and flood response at City Hall.

Pontchartrain Park resident Jerome Wilson’s car was flooded during Aug. 5 floods. “We have serious concerns about the functionality of pumps and drains in our neighborhoods and want to obtain a better understanding of the problems and solutions as the Sewerage & Water Board works to restore pumping/drainage capacity and mend relations with citizens,” he said in a statement.

"Had we taken the time to look at the pumps, I don't think it would've happened," New Orleans East resident Gladies Hamilton told Gambit. "It's happened too often."

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Thursday, September 7, 2017

New Orleans rally to defend DACA calls on candidates, city leaders to stand with immigrants

Posted By on Thu, Sep 7, 2017 at 12:30 AM

Demonstrators in New Orleans marched against Trump's decision to end the DACA program. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Demonstrators in New Orleans marched against Trump's decision to end the DACA program.

Karla Rosas didn't grow up thinking of herself as "undocumented."

She came to the U.S. from Mexico as a child, grew up in Louisiana, did well in school and served on her homecoming court. "It wasn't until I turned 16 that things were a a little different for me," she told a crowd outside City Hall Sept. 6. "I couldn't get a driver's license, my mom got nervous around cops, words people called me started to sting more."

Rosas is among more than 2,000 young people in Louisiana whose futures are uncertain following President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action against Childhood Arrivals program, which has granted U.S. entry to more than 800,000 "dreamers" who came to the country as minors.

"DACA, for me, when that decision came out, the clouds lifted over my head," Rosas said. "It wasn't surprising — I don't think anyone with DACA didn't know this was coming — but it still hurts, it's still sad. I felt like everything was pulled out from under me."

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Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Photos from the Sept. 6 rally and march supporting DACA [slideshow]

Posted By on Wed, Sep 6, 2017 at 10:49 PM


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Tuesday, September 5, 2017

New Orleans groups, officials condemn Trump's decision to end DACA program

Posted By on Tue, Sep 5, 2017 at 5:35 PM

Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

Protests across the country erupted following President Donald Trump's decision to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA, which has granted U.S. entry to thousands of immigrants who came to the country as minors. The fates of roughly 800,000 young people in the program — which includes 2,000 people in Louisiana — will be left to Congress to decide, as Trump's administration begins to phase out the program in 2018.

New Orleans advocates for immigrants rights plan a protest at Duncan Plaza outside City Hall Sept. 6 beginning at 4:30 p.m. The demonstration is organized by Spanish-speaking parent advocacy group Nuestra Voz NOLA.

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