Every year at this time, we look back at the year in metro New Orleans — the good, the bad and the just plain weird occurrences that make living in the Crescent City so interesting.
Politically, 2014 was a transitional year, even though it began with a foregone conclusion: the February re-election of Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who carried nearly two-thirds of the vote against several challengers. The year ended with the defeat of the mayor's sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu. She was overwhelmed by outside money and a tsunami of anti-Barack Obama sentiment as she lost to Republican U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy. The two Landrieu elections further cemented New Orleans' reputation as a bright blue Democratic outpost in a state that has trended ever more Republican red over the last few decades (see "The Year in Politics," p. 17).
The New Orleans City Council saw a generational shift, with longtime Councilwomen Jackie Clarkson and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell defeated and three new council members elected. Jason Williams became an at-large councilman; former Civil Court Judge Nadine Ramsey took over the District C seat; and former state Rep. Jared Brossett won the District D seat. Elsewhere, Sheriff Marlin Gusman was re-elected even as his management of Orleans Parish Prison (OPP) continued to draw negative attention. As the year ended, the opening of the new OPP was postponed again — for the fourth time.
Big construction projects continued to make news. The former New Orleans Arena got a makeover and a name change, becoming the Smoothie King Center. Meanwhile, construction continued on the LSU-VA hospital complex in lower Mid-City and on the downtown South Market District complex facing Loyola Avenue. The first buildings in the South Market District, featuring residences, shopping and dining, are set to open in 2015. Also slated for completion soon is the long-awaited Lafitte Greenway, a 2.6-mile path that will connect Mid-City to the French Quarter with green space, recreation areas, a bike path and other amenities. City officials say the Greenway will officially open in the spring, but locals already are biking and walking parts of it.
Hope springs eternal when it comes to the New Orleans Saints, and this year it seemed more than the usual number of fans were holding out hope that 2014 might see a repeat of the magical 2009 season, when the Black and Gold won the Super Bowl. Such hopes were, to put it mildly, far too optimistic. As we went to press, the team's record was a middling 6-8, but we joined fans in hoping for a victory against the hated Atlanta Falcons. The only consistent bright spot in an otherwise mediocre season was the fact that the NFC South has the worst collective record in memory. The Saints at 6-8 sat atop the division headed into the Falcons game. That says more about the division than it does about the Saints this year.
Culturally, the international art biennial Prospect returned to New Orleans (see "The Year in Art," p. 55), and Bruce Springsteen likewise returned to the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival. Plenty of national music acts came through town (see "The Year in Music," p. 48), with one of the highlights being an all-star tribute to Dr. John at the Saenger Theatre in April.
On the culinary front, new restaurants, food trucks, pop-ups and bars opened faster than they could be cataloged (see "The Year in Dining," p. 35). Most notably, two local landmarks were resurrected at year's end when Brennan's reopened on Royal Street and Martin Wine Cellar returned to Baronne Street after more than nine years' absence. Both reopened to rave reviews.
Theater also was on a roll this year (see "The Year in Stage," p. 58), with an entirely new wrinkle — New Orleans has emerged as a national comedy capital. There's no single comedy club hub, but you can catch standup or improv seven nights a week now and major stars like Louis CK and Dave Chappelle turned in numerous sets around town.
For most of us, 2014 saw constant transportation challenges (See "The Year in Transit," p. 27). City Hall was called upon to referee a ground transportation war between taxicab companies and Uber, while local drivers had to dodge never-ending street and drainage repairs in most parts of Uptown. As 2015 dawns, we are told — once again — that Napoleon Avenue won't quite be ready for Mardi Gras.
That's OK — the rest of us are. It's one of many reasons why we always look forward to the New Year. Until then, happy holidays!