1. JAZZ FEST LINEUP COMING JAN. 19
The New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival announces the festival's lineup and other details Jan. 19. This year's Jazz Fest — the 47th — is April 22-24 and April 28-May 1. The festival staff is tightlipped when it comes to leaking names, but Paul Simon and Michael McDonald have said they'll take part, and Nicholas Payton, Ravi Coltrane, Alvin Youngblood Hart and Colin Lake have Jazz Fest on their schedules.
One sure thing: a reunion of the original Meters (pictured) April 22 at the Orpheum Theater. Original Meter Leo Nocentelli moved home recently after three decades in Los Angeles, and he'll play with fellow Meters Art Neville, Joseph "Zigaboo" Modeliste and George Porter Jr.
2. Don't fix our streets for Matt
"Look at New Orleans. Part of me hopes that they don't fix the potholes. In the South, it's actually built in — you have to take your time. As for the roads in New Orleans, you go too fast, and you'll burn your lap with coffee and your shocks will be gone." — Actor (and Lincoln automobile pitchman) Matthew McConaughey, talking to Garden & Gun about living part-time in the Garden District.
3. Gov. Edwards signs Medicaid expansion
On his second day in office, Gov. John Bel Edwards signed an executive order that will expand Medicaid health coverage for about 300,000 Louisianans. The order will bring billions of federal health care dollars to the state, something former Gov. Bobby Jindal refused to embrace. Those making up to 138 percent of the federal poverty line will be eligible for coverage assistance. While the feds pay the full freight initially, the state eventually will pick up 10 percent of the cost.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu applauded the move, saying it would create "a healthier workforce and a stronger, more prosperous city and state." Louisiana Republican Party Executive Director Jason Dore called it "bad fiscal and health care policy."
4. Old Marquer to close
New Orleans' theater community will lose another space when the Old Marquer Theatre (2400 St. Claude Ave.) closes for good in February. Scheduled productions will run through the end of the month, theater director Richard Mayer told Gambit. The space, which opened as the Shadowbox Theatre in 2010, has been home to independent productions and was a venue in the recent Faux/Real Festival of Arts.
5. New coroner's office opens
City officials cut the ribbon on a joint coroner's office and Emergency Medical Service (EMS) facility at S. Claiborne Avenue and Earhart Boulevard last week, bringing both offices into a permanent home after years of temporary digs following Hurricane Katrina. Coroner Jeffrey Rouse said the $14.8 million facility "reflects the professionalism" of both staffs.
The 23,000-square-foot facility has refrigerated storage for up to 112 bodies, five autopsy stations and a laboratory suite. The office isn't fully funded to staff and equip its new toxicology lab, however. EMS' new 14,000-square-foot facility includes a command center, teaching and instruction space and other amenities.
With an annual budget of just more than $2 million from the city's general fund, combined with $400,000 in self-generated funds, the coroner's office performs 1,200 autopsies a year — twice as many as Jefferson Parish, which operates on an annual budget of $5.4 million.
6. Overnight bus service in New Orleans?
The New Orleans Regional Transportation Authority (RTA) will hold a meeting Jan. 20 for public comment on proposed changes to its routes and hours, including adding 24-hour service on some major arteries such as Canal Street, Broad Street and its New Orleans East route. The meeting is 6 p.m. Wednesday at RTA's offices, 2817 Canal St. Copies of the proposed maps and schedules are at www.norta.com.
7. Judge appears unmoved by monumental lawsuit
U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier last week seemed unimpressed with arguments made on behalf of a lawsuit challenging the proposed removal of four Confederate monuments.
The suit alleges that the city "intentionally discriminated against defenders of these four monuments" in seeking to remove them from prominent public spaces. Plaintiffs also claim that moving the monuments would damage them, that the federally funded streetcar lines should protect the two monuments near them (Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle and P.G.T. Beauregard near City Park), and that the city violated due process. Although he had not ruled by press time, Barbier gave those arguments short shrift from the bench.
Four groups filed the 51-page complaint in U.S. District Court within hours of the New Orleans City Council's 6-1 decision last month to remove the monuments. The city filed a 173-page response, saying, "One would be hard-pressed to find a case less suited to judicial intervention by a federal court."
The city agreed not to begin moving the monuments until Barbier's decision — though one crew began measuring the Jefferson Davis monument earlier this month.
8. Gleason to debut at Sundance
A new documentary about former New Orleans Saint Steve Gleason and his battle with ALS will debut this week at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah. Gleason, by filmmaker J. Clay Tweel, began as a series of video diaries Gleason recorded for his son Rivers after Gleason was diagnosed with ALS in 2011. In a statement, Gleason said, "Our film is not just focused on living with ALS, but on a more universal story, exposing the resilience of the human spirit." No word yet when it might screen in New Orleans.
9. Sheriff stops electronic monitoring program
As promised, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman ended his participation in the city's electronic monitoring program, meaning dozens of criminal defendants wearing ankle monitors will have to return to court. Gusman cited "unreasonable restrictions upon the program and a lack of adequate resources and staffing under the agreement with the city" as his reasons for ending his participation.
The program came under fire in 2014 by the New Orleans Office of Inspector General, who called it "almost a total failure." That year, two teenagers wearing ankle monitors were arrested and charged in the shooting death of a pizza delivery driver. The city now seeks a new vendor to oversee the program.
10. Gumbo pact
While some in the Duck Dynasty Robertson family endorsed former Gov. Bobby Jindal for president, patriarch Phil Robertson held his powder and last week endorsed Texas Sen. Ted Cruz in an ad that included a duck blind scene. Robertson listed his priorities in a candidate: "Is he or she godly, does he or she love us, can he or she do the job — and, finally: Would they kill a duck and put him in a pot and make him a good duck gumbo?"