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I-10: Ten Things to Know in New Orleans this Week (April 4, 2017)

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1. 2016: MORE DRUG DEATHS IN NEW ORLEANS THAN HOMICIDES
Drug-related overdoses killed 211 people in New Orleans in 2016 — more than twice the number of deadly overdoses in 2015. New Orleans Coroner Jeffrey Rouse (pictured) said 2016 was likely "the first time that drug-related deaths have surpassed homicides in the history of New Orleans."

  The 2016 numbers were particularly stark among people who died with the synthetic opioid fentanyl in their system — more than triple the number from 2015.

  Last year, the city made naloxone, which can reverse the effects of a heroin or opiate overdose, available without a prescription at University Medical Center and several drug stores. First responders from EMS and the New Orleans Fire Department also carry naloxone, which they've used hundreds of times already. New Orleans Police Department officers do not carry it.

  New Orleans Health Department Medical Director Joseph Kanter urged people struggling with substance abuse to seek addiction treatment. "Opioid addiction is a medical illness. It's not a character flaw," Kanter told reporters March 27. He said the Metropolitan Human Services District (504-568-3130) is the city's "front door" for treatment services, which are available to under- or uninsured people. Kanter also urged people to destroy unused prescription painkillers, which can be dropped off anonymously at a box at 1116 Magnolia St.

2. Quote of the week
"It's become a political term that's not defined in law. So when people say, 'You're a sanctuary city,' well, define it for me. They say, 'Well, we don't have a definition for you.'" — Mayor Mitch Landrieu at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington D.C. Landrieu was quoted in POLITICO, which said Landrieu was among several mayors and police chiefs to meet with John Kelly, head of U.S. Homeland Security.

3. Speaking of 'sanctuary cities' ...
As President Donald Trump cracks down on so-called "sanctuary" cities, a measure prefiled in advance of the 2017 legislative session by State Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs, wants to define a "sanctuary policy" as "any order, ordinance, rule, law, policy, or guideline, whether formally or informally adopted" that "prohibits or discourages cooperation" or "prevents law enforcement from exchanging information" with federal immigration authorities. It also takes aim against policies that prevent police from asking "any suspect, arrestee, or person in lawful custody" about their place of birth and immigration status.

  New Orleans is among 36 U.S. cities and counties asking a federal court judge to stop Trump's executive order that threatens to cut federal funding to so-called "sanctuary" cities. Under Trump's order, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) lists New Orleans among U.S. cities that "limit cooperation" with federal immigration authorities. The U.S. Office of the Attorney General and DHS have yet to clearly define "sanctuary" policies.

  Mayor Mitch Landrieu has repeatedly denied New Orleans' role as a "sanctuary" city and ensured the New Orleans Police Department's (NOPD) cooperation with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). NOPD does not investigate immigration status.

  "The NOPD's policy makes New Orleans safer because individuals are more likely to report crime and victims and witnesses can testify without fear of being questioned about their immigration status," Landrieu said in a statement. "We are focused on fighting crime, and we will not move officers off the street to join President Trump's deportation force. This Executive Order is unconstitutional, and denying critical federal funding to cities will only make us less safe."

4. ACLU files suit over photographing cops
The ACLU of Louisiana has filed a lawsuit to stop police from interfering with citizens' rights to film and photograph officers. The suit, filed in U.S. District Court last week, follows the arrest of Chelline Carter, who photographed her son in the backseat of a Lafayette Police Department cruiser during an arrest. Lafayette officer Shannon Brasseaux allegedly took Carter's phone from Carter's hand and deleted the photo. The lawsuit also seeks an injunction to prevent Lafayette police from "conducting warrantless nonconsensual searches of cellular telephones and related devices."

  In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in the case of Riley v. California that, in most cases, police need a warrant to search a person's cellphone.

  "Everyone has a right to photograph what they see, including actions of the police, as long as they don't interfere," ACLU of Louisiana Director Marjorie Esman said in a statement. "In addition, cellphones are by law private and can't be searched without a warrant."

5. You're paying for bad streets
Bad roads in metro New Orleans cost area drivers dearly, according to a March report from Washington, D.C.-based transportation group TRIP. The report found that nearly two-thirds of the state's roads are in poor condition, including 59 percent of state- and locally maintained roads in the New Orleans area. Those conditions, according to the report, cost the average driver up to $672 a year in "extra vehicle operating costs," including vehicle depreciation, repairs, extra fuel consumption and tire wear and tear.

  Combined with "extra vehicle operating costs," the city's deteriorating roadways and traffic accidents where roadway conditions may have played a role may bump up the annual cost of maintaining a vehicle to an average New Orleans driver to more than $2,000.

6. Holocaust Museum official to speak about online hate
The National World War II Museum this week will host Steven Luckert of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum to discuss "Fueling Extremism in a Wired World." Hate crimes rose by 20 percent in nine large U.S. cities last year, according to a report by Brian Levin, director of the nonpartisan Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

  Luckert, National World War II Museum senior historian Robert Citino and Amanda Nimmer of Quantum Communications will discuss "What responsibility do journalists, technology companies, governments and individuals have to keep the world safe?"

  The discussion begins at 6 p.m. April 4, with a 5 p.m. reception beforehand, and it's open to the public. Admission is free. In addition, the National World War II Museum has an exhibit of Nazi propaganda on view through June 18.

7. More monument mess
State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, wants the state to bar New Orleans from removing four controversial Confederate-era monuments. Federal courts thus far have backed the city's relocation plans, but Carmody has prefiled a bill to prevent the removal of any monument related to U.S. involvement in war, including the "war between the states."

  The bill also aims to prevent changing street and park names, bridge dedications "or areas" named for any "historical military figure" or military event, organization or unit. The measure is pending in the House Committee on Municipal, Parochial and Cultural Affairs and will be considered during the Legislature's annual session, which begins April 10 in Baton Rouge.

8. Sidney Torres gets The New York Times treatment
New Orleans' own garbageman/developer/reality TV star Sidney Torres was profiled last week in a New York Times story about political neophytes around the country who might be eyeing political runs in the wake of President Donald Trump's success.

  "Much the way Mr. Trump dismissed questions about his checkered private life," the Times reported, "Mr. Torres, who sports a man bun, predicted few voters would care about his having had a child out of wedlock with a model or recoil at an Instagram account that is heavier on images of his Gulfstream jet than of gumbo. In fact, Mr. Torres readily volunteers that he was asked to relocate his private jet when Mr. Trump used a local hangar for a rally last year. 'I believe everybody should have the opportunity to have nice things,' he said."

  As usual, Torres was coy about whether he might run for New Orleans mayor (though he asserted he would put $4 million of his own money in the race if he did get in).

9. Chaz Fest returns
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival released its daily schedule "cubes" last week, but those who prefer a more intimate fest will be happy to know the Bywater music festival Chaz Fest will return in May for its 11th almost-annual event, despite a cancellation scare last year. New Orleans rock 'n' roll band Supagroup — which played its first show in more than four years last December — is scheduled to headline. Other performers include festival namesake Washboard Chaz Blues Trio, Valparaiso Men's Chorus, Shotgun Jazz Band, Lyrical Cock and Kuwaisiana.

  The daylong festival returns noon to 10 p.m. Wednesday, May 3 (between Jazz Fest weekends, per tradition). More artists and a schedule, as well as food vendors, will be announced later. Tickets are $30 in advance, $35 at the door.

10. Cantrell officially joins mayor's race
As was widely speculated, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell will be running for mayor in the municipal election this fall. After dropping hints about feeling her "call to serve," Cantrell unveiled an election website last week (www.latoyacantrell.com) seeking donations and highlighting her accomplishments as a Broadmoor community leader and city councilwoman.

  The only other announced candidate is former Judge Michael Bagneris, though many familiar names are expected to join the race. Among the possibilities: State Rep. Walt Leger, State Sen. JP Morrell, Councilman At-Large Jason Williams, Judge Desiree Charbonnet and real estate developer Sidney Torres. Qualifying is in July.

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