1. ANDREW JACKSON'S HORSE
Tulane University administrator Richard Marksbury doesn't want Andrew Jackson's statue removed from its perch at the center of Jackson Square, but he warned members of New Orleans City Council last week that it's in danger of coming down under the same criteria the council considered in its vote to remove four controversial monuments to the Confederacy.
Marksbury — and Council Vice President Stacy Head — argued the measure creates a slippery slope for other landmarks at the council's Governmental Affairs Committee meeting March 31. Jackson's atrocities against Native Americans, including the Indian Removal Act and leading the Trail of Tears, prime his statue for removal, because the "nuisance" ordinance used to remove the Confederate monuments applies. (The nuisance ordinance says to remove from public view any structure that "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another.") Ironically, many groups, including Take 'Em Down NOLA, argue Jackson's statue, among others, should come down precisely for those reasons.
Head added that Bienville "absolutely was a white supremacist" but is considered a hero as the founder of New Orleans. ("How do you laud him as a hero?" she asked.) "I detest inconsistency," Head added. "If you're gonna feed me horse poop, tell me it's horse poop. Don't sprinkle sugar on it and tell me it's a brownie."
2. Quote of the week
"Scientific research and developments and advances in the last 100 years, particularly in the last 15, 20, 10 years, have validated the Biblical story of creation." — State Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, defending the state's unconstitutional law requiring creationism be taught in schools alongside science. The state's Balanced Treatment for Creation-Science Act was deemed unconstitutional by the Louisiana Supreme Court in 1987. State Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, was following attempts in previous legislative sessions to repeal the archaic law. Milkovich argued that an ark — presumably Noah's — has been discovered on Mt. Ararat, and asked, "Are you aware there's an abundance of recent science that actually confirms the Genesis account of creation?"
"That's not what I'm asking you here to do," Claitor said. "I'm asking you to repeal what's been found unconstitutional." The committee rejected Claitor's measure 4-2.
3. Second-line shooters get life in prison
Travis and Akein Scott, who previously pleaded guilty to charges related to racketeering, narcotics and crimes of violence, were sentenced last week to life in prison for their role in the Mother's Day second line shootings on May 12, 2013. Nineteen people were hit with gunfire and another was injured in the melee. Among those injured was Gambit second line correspondent Deborah Cotton.
The Scotts were members of the Frenchmen/Derbigny street gang, which sold narcotics and controlled turf in the 7th Ward. U.S. District Judge Ivan L.R. Lemelle also sentenced two other Scott brothers, Shawn and Stanley Scott, to 40 years in prison for their roles in the racketeering enterprise.
4. Anderson Cooper, Andy Cohen to talk at the Saenger
CNN anchor Anderson Cooper and Bravo personality Andy Cohen are bringing a show called "Deep Talk and Shallow Tales" to the Saenger Theater June 24. Press materials describe it as a "live, interactive look behind the scenes of pop culture and world events."
Cohen is responsible for the endless variations of Real Housewives shows, while Cooper — host of the program AC360 — has logged many hours in Louisiana covering the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods, as well as the BP oil disaster. He also addressed the Tulane University graduating class of 2010.
5. Edwards: I'll rescind Jindal's 'Marriage and Conscience' executive order
Gov. John Bel Edwards will undo former Gov. Bobby Jindal's "Marriage and Conscience" executive order — probably this week, Edwards tells Gambit. Jindal's order, which putatively gave businesses the right to discriminate against same-sex couples, would sunset this year anyway, but Edwards said he would undo it with his own executive order this week. Last week, Mississippi and North Carolina both passed bills with language that critics say could allow for similar forms of discrimination, and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed his state's "religious liberty" bill after taking fire from corporations that do business in the state.
6. Minimum wage, equal pay bills both
before state Senate
The state Senate Committee on Labor and Industrial Relations OK'd a bill last week that would raise the state minimum wage to $8 in 2017 and $8.50 in 2018. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Senate President Karen Carter Peterson spoke in favor of the bill, which now moves to the full Senate, where it likely will face greater opposition. Louisiana is among only a few states without a minimum wage; it uses the federal $7.25 mandate.
Edwards also testified before the committee in support of the Louisiana Equal Pay Act (Senate Bill 254), a bill sponsored by state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, that would mandate equal pay when it comes to men and women performing the same job. "We can't simply talk about family values; we must implement policies that value families," Edwards said. The bill passed out of committee with a 5-2 vote and now heads to the full Senate.
7. Deadly drug
More people in New Orleans have died from fentanyl-related overdoses in January 2016 than in all of 2015, according to New Orleans Coroner Jeffrey Rouse. Last year, there were 12 deaths from fentanyl — a synthetic opioid painkiller sometimes laced into heroin — but Rouse classified his 14th fentanyl-related death for January last week.
The fentanyl epidemic reaches beyond New Orleans. The Drug Enforcement Agency issued a nationwide alert last month as overdoses continued to climb. According to the National Forensic Laboratory Information System, state and local labs reported 3,344 fentanyl submissions in 2014, up from 942 in 2013.
8. Carrollton Boosters give up plans to redevelop The Fly
The contentious plan to build a new soccer complex on public land at Audubon Riverview Park (aka The Fly) was abruptly abandoned last week after weeks of protest and acrimony from people upset that it would be replacing prime public green space. John Payne, the complex's chief backer and fundraiser, announced he was dropping the plan, and Rini Marcus, president of the Carrollton Boosters youth sports organization, said the group "is withdrawing its proposal to bring additional recreational opportunities" to the Fly.
9. HANO criminal background checks dropped
Following a 24-hour vigil by advocates demanding more affordable housing options for formerly incarcerated people, the Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO) approved new rules effectively eliminating criminal background checks for people seeking housing assistance. The new policy lifts a ban preventing people with criminal records from receiving Section 8 vouchers or public housing. Applicants instead will be screened by a three-person panel.
Following a heated debate at a HANO meeting in March, at which criminal justice advocates urged HANO to adjust the measure's language allowing third-party property managers to opt out of the policy, HANO made the ban lift mandatory. The measure now heads to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development for final approval.
10. Matalin: "And I'm saying this of a Democrat ..."Housing Authority of New Orleans (HANO)At the seventh annual Ed Renwick Lecture Series last week at Loyola University, conservative pundit Mary Matalin surprised the audience when she was asked which politician of her acquaintance she thought possessed the most political skill. Her answer: Mayor Mitch Landrieu. "I'm 62, and I don't care if you think I'm pandering," Matalin said, adding, "And I'm saying this of a Democrat, and that doesn't make me feel good."