1. TORNADO AID: HOW YOU CAN HELP
A massive EF-3 tornado that touched down in New Orleans East Feb. 7 damaged hundreds of homes and properties and injured more than 30 people (see p. 7). The tornado "severely" damaged 300 structures and damaged hundreds of other buildings, according to city officials.
Several local organizations are collecting donations and supplies. Second Harvest Food Bank is collecting nonperishable foods at its warehouse (700 Edwards Ave., Elmwood) from 7:30 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday. It also accepts donations online (www.no-hunger.org).
The Greater New Orleans Foundation (www.gnof.org) and The United Way of Southeast Louisiana (www.unitedwaysela.org) are collecting donations for their tornado relief funds, and the United Way and Evacuteer (www.evacuteer.org) are registering volunteers.
The Louisiana SPCA is collecting unopened dry cat and dog food and large air crates. Donations can be dropped off at the LA-SPCA (1700 Mardi Gras Blvd.), Canine Connection (4920 Tchoupitoulas St.), Camp Bow Wow (3301 Conti St.), NO Fleas Market (4228 Magazine St.), and Demo Diva Demolition (6246 Memphis St.). Donations also can be made on the SPCA's website (www.la-spca.org). Families looking for lost pets can call (504) 368- 5191 ext. 100.
Impacted families can receive a $50 voucher to shop at NO Fleas Market. Vouchers are available only to people with valid ID from the 70127, 70128 and 70129 ZIP codes.
For more ways to help, visit http://www.bestofneworleans.com/tornadorelief.
2. Quote of the week
"MARDI GRAS STUNNER! 'I'll Land My UFO on Bourbon Street — On Fat Tuesday!'"
— The Feb. 2 cover story on the tabloid Weekly World News, which featured an alien planning "to paint New Orleans red." Given what happens on Bourbon Street on Fat Tuesday, it's unclear whether anyone even would notice.
3. Graffiti tags on Orleans Avenue: a double standard?
This year, dozens of people are staking their claims to prime Orleans Avenue neutral ground space with spray paint three weeks before the Krewe of Endymion parade was set to roll Feb. 25. As in past years, the city tacitly accepts those tags but is quick to erase similar tags on public property, such as those sprayed on Confederate monuments.
"My office has requested sweeps of Orleans Avenue by the NOPD and Sanitation in the past to clear Orleans of barricades, furniture, etc. set up illegally," District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry wrote in an email to Gambit, "but I will admit that I have never requested that paint be removed from the grass. I assume that if an officer saw someone in the act, the officer would stop the person."
The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) arrested Casey Miller, 26, on Feb. 3, charging him with a single count of criminal damage to property and claiming he is the man behind REZNOR, a highly visible tag around the city for years. Miller's bail was set at $100,000 (later reduced to $50,000).
4. UNO poll: Jindal to blame for state budget crisis
The University of New Orleans Survey Research Center last week released the results of a statewide telephone robopoll that found three out of four Louisianans believed the state was in a budget crisis (see Politics) — and of those, 60 percent blamed former Gov. Bobby Jindal, while 13 percent blamed Gov. John Bel Edwards. About one-third blamed the Louisiana Legislature for the ongoing deficits, which total $304 million for the current fiscal year.
Edwards has a 49 percent approval and 36 percent disapproval rating, according to the poll, with his strongest support among blacks and fellow Democrats. The poll, which was conducted Feb. 7, has a stated 3.5 percent margin of error.
5. Big boom bam? City says: Don't worry
"Urban military training" will be going on in New Orleans Feb. 7-17, the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) said — in a press release that went out three days after the fact. It came after residents called local TV stations and posted on social media, reporting low-flying helicopters, loud explosions and sounds of gunfire at night.
"Prior to training in a specific area, attempts are made by the military to notify residents via door-to-door knocking and delivery of written notice," the NOPD said in a statement. "This happens at a few hours before the training, with the intent of giving residents warning about the sound without necessarily drawing a crowd to the operations."
6. Council opposes Trump's travel ban executive order
New Orleans District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey, with all six other members of the Council signing on, introduced a resolution opposing President Donald Trump's executive order on immigration and refugee entry at the council's regular session Feb. 9. In a statement, Ramsey said the resolution declares the order an "unconstitutional travel ban against people of Muslim faith, contrary to American ideals and values that poses a security risk to Americans at home and abroad.
"The United States has made similar mistakes in the past, which should not be repeated," Ramsey said. "This is a moment in history when an international and welcoming city such as New Orleans should not be silent."
Hundreds of people rallied outside City Hall Jan. 29 to oppose the order in solidarity with thousands of people around the U.S. protesting in airports and on the streets. The protest previewed a week of action from immigrants' rights groups as local refugee resettlement agencies, religious leaders and city officials denounced the ban.
The executive order is approved by a majority of Americans — 55 percent — according to a nationwide poll conducted Feb. 2-4 by Morning Consult and Politico. Meanwhile, a CNN/ORC poll conducted the same week produced opposite results, with 53 percent of respondents opposing the ban.
7. Council creates Equal Pay Advisory Committee
The New Orleans City Council voted unanimously Feb. 9 to create an Equal Pay Advisory Committee. The committee, proposed by District D Councilman Jared Brossett, will guide the City Council on ways to reduce gender pay inequity and poverty, identify wage gaps and prepare a report with guidance on equal pay legislation.
The nine-member committee will include the directors of the Civil Service Department and Office of Workforce Development, plus nominees from each of the seven City Council members. Appointments begin next month. At-Large Councilmember Stacy Head said the Council also should consider women's representation on local boards and commissions.
Last month, Mayor Mitch Landrieu signed an executive order calling on the Civil Service Commission to study municipal pay disparities and to ban questions about previous salary history during interviews and salary negotiations for city positions.
8. Rental registry now up for Feb. 23 vote
The New Orleans City Council is expected to vote later this month on a controversial ordinance to create a rental registry and inspection process for most private rentals citywide. The City Council was set to vote on the measure Feb. 9, but the vote was deferred to Thursday, Feb. 23.
The ordinance, from Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams, requires residential units to meet a checklist of health and safety requirements before they can be rented. Property owners also would have to pay a registration fee to cover the cost of inspections, which would be performed at least once every three years.
9. Morrell, Alford pick up the political podcast mic
Louisiana State Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, is the only state senator with his own podcast — Ask JP — and he dropped the seventh edition last week, talking about crime in New Orleans with crime analyst and Gambit contributor Jeff Asher. For those who like Louisiana politics in their podcasts, there's also The LaPolitics Report, hosted by LaPolitics.com editor Jeremy Alford, who last week presented an interview with Secretary of State Tom Schedler. LaPolitics Report has also featured in-depth interviews with Gov. John Bel Edwards, House Speaker Taylor Barras and U.S. Reps. Garret Graves and Ralph Abraham, among others. Both podcasts are free.
10. Bening to play Blanco
Four-time Academy Award nominee Annette Bening will take on the role of former Gov. Kathleen Blanco in Katrina: American Crime Story, the anthology sequel to last year's The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story. It's the first bit of star casting for the project, which is set to film this year in New Orleans and air in 2018 on the cable channel FX, according to Variety. No casting leaks have emerged for the pivotal roles of former Mayor Ray Nagin, former President George W. Bush or former FEMA Director Michael "Brownie" Brown.