News & Politics

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Mayoral candidates to weigh in on future of New Orleans music

Posted By on Wed, Aug 23, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Musicians marched into City Hall in 2014 to protest a draft of the so-called noise ordinance. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • ALEX WOODWARD
  • Musicians marched into City Hall in 2014 to protest a draft of the so-called noise ordinance.

Mayoral candidates Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet will participate in a forum discussing the future of New Orleans musicians — and whether they'll have a voice in City Hall — in a city that fears risking their loss as it changes.

The forum — presented by The Ella Project, OffBeat Media and The Recording Academy — is 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Monday, Sept. 11 at the Carver Theatre (2101 Orleans Ave.)

Columnist Lolis Eric Elie will moderate a panel with Offbeat publisher Jan Ramsey, Black Men of Labor co-founder Fred Johnson, Melissa Weber (aka DJ Soul Sister), and music writer Larry Blumenfeld.

Candidates will discuss their plans, if elected, for building on New Orleans' "reputation as a beloved music city" and how music and performance will flourish "in concert with
continued neighborhood development." Candidates also will discuss other ways in which they'll work with the music community, and whether they'll work with artists in addressing quality of life issues, education, housing and public safety.

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Saturday, August 19, 2017

Massive crowd in New Orleans marches against white supremacy and in solidarity with Charlottesville

Posted By on Sat, Aug 19, 2017 at 7:00 PM

Large crowds filled Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square and on the steps across the street. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Large crowds filled Decatur Street in front of Jackson Square and on the steps across the street.

As temperatures reached above 100 degrees, Nana Anoa Nantambu sang from a microphone to a growing crowd at Congo Square. Hundreds of people sang along as she led them through "we're gonna stand" and replaced "this little light of mine" with "standing for justice and freedom."

Rev. Marie Galatas asked the crowd to bow its head and pray in silence for Heather Heyer, the woman killed by in Charlottesville, Virginia, during protests against neo-Nazis and fascists rallying in the city to support a Robert E. Lee monument.

On Aug 19, hundreds of people in New Orleans gathered to honor Heyer and victims of attacks in Charlottesville and also challenge city leaders to reconsider Jim Crow-era landmarks with a renewed call for their removal, particularly as the city begins to celebrate its tricentennial. Take 'Em Down NOLA — the latest incarnation of local activists and civil rights advocates demanding the removal of Confederate monuments — organized the Charlottesville solidarity march from Congo Square in Armstrong Park to Jackson Square.

"To the people of Charlottesville, we stand with them," said Take 'Em Down NOLA organizer Malcolm Suber from the steps across from Jackson Square, "and we stand against oppression, we stand against exploitation, and we stand against racism."

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

New Orleans City Council approves $34 million drainage budget after August flooding

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 6:55 PM

Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5.

The New Orleans City Council has approved nearly $34 million to cover drainage repair and flood response in the wake of August flooding and systemic failures throughout the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) and Department of Public Works (DPW). That $34 million includes $22 million for repairs through DPW and $11.9 from the general fund to target drainage and bulk up future flood prevention.

But members of the Council dodged a vote to approve two new appointments to the S&WB without assurance from City Hall that they're qualified, particularly after the last several days of dysfunction.

More than $14 million from bond funding already is budgeted for catch basin and drainage repair. Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration requested $11.9 million from the general fund, including $7.8 million for emergency drainage repairs, $650,000 for alarm systems and warning signals, $3 million for Homeland Security readiness, and $500,000 for a so-called "after-action" report to determine what went wrong throughout the city's S&WB system before, during and after Aug. 5 floods. Landrieu opened a request for proposals for that report Aug. 15.

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Tuesday, August 15, 2017

City Hall issues call for reports on S&WB failures; repair costs hit $35 million

Posted By on Tue, Aug 15, 2017 at 5:45 PM

Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5.

As New Orleans officials continue daily updates revealing deep dysfunction at the beleaguered Sewerage & Water Board, the city has put out a call for firms to diagnose the issues leading up to and after Aug. 5 flooding. According to FEMA, more than 800 insurance claims have been filed through its National Flood Insurance Program.

The city is requesting proposals from firms to "deliver a report that details in narrative, diagrams and data the causes of the flood events" and failure of its drainage pump-powering turbines, according to an announcement from Mayor Mitch Landrieu's office.

The statement says "the analysis will provide clear and accurate information to the public from an independent source regarding the system’s capacity and vulnerabilities that can be communicated to the public."

Proposals are due Aug. 21.

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Saturday, August 12, 2017

Crowd in New Orleans holds vigil for Charlottesville victims

Posted By on Sat, Aug 12, 2017 at 9:40 PM

Candles at the base of the former Lee Circle monument Aug. 12 to support victims in Charlottesville.
  • Candles at the base of the former Lee Circle monument Aug. 12 to support victims in Charlottesville.

As sun set over New Orleans Aug. 12, a few dozen people lined the base of the former Robert E. Lee monument in New Orleans with tea light candles. A crowd gathered for a vigil to support victims of an attack against counter protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, where white supremacists staged a violent rally following the city's decision to remove the city's Lee monument earlier this year.

A driver rammed their car through a crowd of counter protesters in Charlottesville and killed a 32-year-old woman and injured at least 19 others. Graphic video from multiple sources was shared widely, showing a Dodge Challenger speeding into a crowd and reversing at high speed. Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe declared a state of emergency as violence continued, urging "white supremacists and the Nazis" to "go home."

Flanking the base of what was once Lee's New Orleans pedestal were two banners: "End White Supremacy" and "Stand With C-Ville."

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Netroots Nation 2018 conference to be held in New Orleans

Posted By on Sat, Aug 12, 2017 at 7:32 PM

A past Netroots Nation conference. - CREATIVE COMMONS/NEETA LIND
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/NEETA LIND
  • A past Netroots Nation conference.

The annual Netroots Nation conference will be held in New Orleans Aug. 2-4, 2018, organizers announced today at the 2017 conference in Atlanta.

Netroots Nation describes itself as "the largest annual conference for progressives, drawing thousands of attendees from around the country and beyond." This year's conference in Atlanta featured speeches by Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren and former Vice President Al Gore; past speakers have included former Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

The 2018 Netroots Nation conference will be held at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Aug. 2-4. Registration is open now.

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Friday, August 11, 2017

Sewerage & Water Board turbine repaired after fire

Posted By on Fri, Aug 11, 2017 at 6:01 PM

Turbine No. 1 was damaged following a fire Aug. 9. - COURTESY CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • COURTESY CITY OF NEW ORLEANS
  • Turbine No. 1 was damaged following a fire Aug. 9.
A turbine that supplies power to New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board's drainage pumping stations has been repaired, according to city officials.

The Aug. 9 fire that damaged the turbine was a "small electrical fire," according to Mayor Mitch Landrieu's Director of Communications Tyronne Walker. The fire followed immense public scrutiny over the S&WB's operations before and after flooding on Aug. 5 that damaged homes, cars and businesses throughout the city.

The city has reminded residents to stay vigilant and keep cars on higher ground, as Landrieu emphasized that the drainage pump power capacity still is not sufficient in the event of heavy rains or major storm. The city also has launched Streetwise, a real-time tracking website that pinpoints traffic and flooded areas.
The city also ordered 26 2-megawatt generators to provide redundancy to a system that's now relying on two working turbines out of five. (Three already were down at the time of Aug. 5 flooding.) Twelve generators arrived today, and eight more are expected to arrive tomorrow. The redundancy will remain through 2017's hurricane season, according to the city.

"More analysis on the cause of the electrical fire and repair efforts are underway and will he shared when complete," according to Walker's statement to Gambit. "Future assessments will be critical to understanding the full capacity and redundancy of our water systems."

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Thursday, August 10, 2017

Fire at turbine threatens New Orleans drainage pump system

Posted By on Thu, Aug 10, 2017 at 10:30 AM

Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • PHOTO BY WILL COVIELLO
  • Street flooding in New Orleans Aug. 5.

A fire at a turbine that supplies power to drainage pump stations on New Orleans' East Bank has threatened the city's ability to pump water out, as another round of rain is expected to dump water on the city.

Speaking at an emergency Sewerage & Water Board meeting Aug. 10, Mayor Mitch Landrieu said a "whole army" of people are working on repairs, and he expects the turbine to be back online soon, adding, "I'll believe it when I see it. I'm hopeful."

The fire damaged one of five turbines on which the S&WB relies for its water drainage pumps as well as its water treatment plant. (According to the mayor's office, the city's drinking water is unaffected.) But there already are three other turbines down for repairs — leaving only one working turbine left.

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Tuesday, August 8, 2017

14 pumps down during New Orleans floods, according to Sewerage & Water Board officials; Landrieu calls for resignations

Posted By on Tue, Aug 8, 2017 at 5:45 PM

A parked Mercedes-Benz floods out in Mid-City Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A parked Mercedes-Benz floods out in Mid-City Aug. 5.

As streets across New Orleans began to flood after an afternoon deluge Aug. 5, the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) assured residents that "all pumps were operational."

But at a meeting called by the New Orleans City Council Aug. 8, the S&WB clarified "pump stations were working at the capacity available to them," making the distinction between a drainage system that's working completely and one that is working with what it has, with several pumps offline and waiting for maintenance.

Moments before the meeting began, S&WB director Cedric Grant sent a press release announcing his retirement from the agency and apologizing for the disinformation. "The information I have learned over the last 24 hours indicate that some parts of our system did not operate as they should have, which is disappointing because it contradicts information that I was given to provide to the public," he said. "Our staff was not forthright, which is unacceptable."

At a press conference held as the City Council meeting was still in progress, a frustrated Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced he's also calling for the resignation of S&WB's Joseph Becker and communications director Lisa Martin, as well as Department of Public Works Director Mark Jernigan, who has been under scrutiny twice over the last week in the City Council chambers for the poor conditions of catch basins — and what the agency has done with $3 million set aside for their repairs.

Landrieu said "it was inaccurate" to suggest the city's drainage system was operating at its maximum abilities. He said the S&WB's "obfuscation" with questions from the City Council was "an insult to the public."

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

New Orleans endures more summer flooding Aug. 5; city officials provide updates on pumps, parking

Posted By on Sun, Aug 6, 2017 at 12:40 PM

Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Flooding near Banks and Carrollton Aug. 5.

As rains died down after 9 p.m. Aug. 5, both lanes of Banks Street in Mid-City were covered in several inches of standing water, with cars parked as close to houses and up against buildings and on neutral grounds to avoid creeping floods that submerged dozens of cars in the neighborhood.

A few people with their feet in the water sat in picnic benches outside Finn McCool's Irish Pub. Around the corner, Twelve Mile Limit only narrowly avoided water coming into the front door despite the bar standing only slightly above street level. Passing cars, however, frequently sent waves into the doorway and into nearby cars and porches, as residents braced for another round of impact after enduring a few hours of rain with seemingly nowhere for it to go.

New Orleans received 8 to 10 inches of rain in many parts of the city as an afternoon downpour on Aug. 5 flooded homes and cars and trapped people on roads. Residents pulled out kayaks and canoes or waded through shin- and waist-deep water across Mid-City, Gentilly, Treme, Lakeview and parts of Uptown and downtown.

"These no-notice rain and flooding events can be very dangerous, but luckily, there was no loss of life," said Mayor Mitch Landrieu in a statement. "We begin the hard work of assisting those who flooded and getting our streets passable for regular traffic. With additional rain expected today and the rest of this week, I would encourage all of our residents to clean in front of their catch basins."

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