1. KENNEDY, LANDRIEU SQUABBLE OVER CRIME RATES
U.S. Sen. John Kennedy has been increasingly critical of New Orleans' crime rate and Mayor Mitch Landrieu's crime-fighting strategy, giving an interview to Fox 8 News and writing a guest column for NOLA.com on the subject. "Crime is stealing the soul of New Orleans," Kennedy wrote. "It's choking the life and livelihood out of it. I used to live in New Orleans, and now I'm a little scared to go for a walk there. Our mayor seems preoccupied with other things and other ambitions." Among the remedies Kennedy has suggested is implementation of a "stop-question-frisk" policy for the New Orleans Police Department.
Last week Landrieu fired back, citing what he saw as the city's accomplishments since he's been in office. "Murder and violent crime rates are down over 60 percent from their historic peak in the 1990s," Landrieu said in a statement. "I have been to too many funerals and consoled too many mothers at crime scenes, for a career politician like John Kennedy to pander from the peanut gallery, especially when he can actually do something to help."
Both Kennedy and Landrieu have been involved in Louisiana politics since the late 1980s. Landrieu, who is term-limited, will be out of office next year. Kennedy's name has been repeatedly floated as a Republican challenger to Gov. John Bel Edwards in the 2019 gubernatorial race.
Kennedy even brought up New Orleans' violent crime rate during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing for prospective FBI Director Christopher Wray. "We have an extraordinary crime problem in New Orleans," he said in a statement after the hearing. "The city is rapidly becoming the murder and armed robbery capital of the Western Hemisphere. Something needs to change before New Orleans becomes the next Detroit."
2. Quote of the week
"The problem with Obamacare is that it picks winners and losers. As we repeal and replace Obamacare we need to do so with something that is fair to all Americans. This draft resolves a Louisiana specific issue and I look forward to working to ensure it meets all of President Trump's goals." — U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy July 13, reacting to the Senate's latest rewrite of a proposed health care bill. The Congressional Budget Office score on the new bill is scheduled to come out this week.
3. Off to the races
Qualifying for the 2017 municipal and state elections ended July 14, with a raft of familiar and unfamiliar names filing their intentions to run for office. Only Council Districts C, D and E have incumbents. Here are the candidates for the mayoral race (18 of them!) and City Council races:
Mayor: Thomas Albert Jr., Charles Anderson, Michael Bagneris, Manny Chevrolet Bruno, Edward Bruski, LaToya Cantrell, Desiree Charbonnet, Byron Stephan Cole, Edwards Collins Sr., Brandon Dorrington, Matthew Hill, Troy Henry, Derrick O'Brien Martin, Frank Scurlock, Johnese Smith, Patrick von Hoorebeek, Tommie Vassel, Hashim Walters
Council At-Large, Div. A: Eldon Delloyd "EL" Anderson, Joseph Bouie, Kenneth Cutno, Helena Moreno
Council At-Large, Div. B: David Baird, Aaron "Ace" Christopher, Jason Coleman, David Gregory Nowak, Jason Williams
Council District A: Joe Giarrusso III, Tilman Hardy, Aylin Maklansky, Daniel "Dan" Ring, Drew Ward, Toyia Washington-Kendrick
Council District B: Jay H. Banks, Eugene Ben-Oluwole, Seth Bloom, Catherine Love, Timothy David Ray, Andre "Action Andre" Strumer
Council District C: Kristin Gisleson Palmer, Nadine Ramsey (incumbent)
Council District D: Belden "Noonie Man" Batiste, Jared Brossett (incumbent), T. "Thad" Cossabone, Joel Jackson
Council District E: Ernest "Freddie" Charbonnet, Alicia Plummer Clivens, Cederick Favaroth, James Gray (incumbent), Dawn Hebert, Cyndi Nguyen.
4. Torres blasts 'dirty politics' during qualifying
Sidney Torres IV, who said he wouldn't announce whether he'd run for mayor until the last day of qualifying last week, reacted strongly to earlier news that he'd cut a commercial announcing his decision not to run. Calling it "dirty politics," Torres said, "I completed producing two commercials to send strictly to local television stations only to be held as placeholders. One that indicated that I would be a candidate for Mayor, and another stated that I would not but would instead fund a political action committee to hold candidates accountable to voters. Suspiciously, the one indicating that I would not run was leaked to political operatives." Torres ultimately decided against a run and for the PAC.
5. LBP to host health care town hall July 18
The Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) will host a series of informational town halls this month to address the U.S. Senate's proposed health care bill. This week's town hall in Metairie will be held at the East Bank Regional Library on W. Napoleon Avenue July 18.
The Senate's Better Care Reconciliation Act is estimated to cut Medicaid — which has provided coverage to more than 436,000 additional working people in Louisiana since its expansion in 2016 — by more than $770 billion by 2026. Gov. John Bel Edwards estimates the bill would force the state to increase costs up to $250 million a year by 2022 to keep the expanded Medicaid program or "end expansion outright," ending care plans for the anticipated 540,000 Louisianans insured through Medicaid by 2020. The number of uninsured people in the U.S. likely will climb by 22 million.
A report released last week by the Commonwealth Fund also estimates the bill could force the loss of more than 22,000 jobs in Louisiana and more than $3 billion in the state's business output over the next decade.
6. Thinking pink for Stokes
Politicians and others wore pink July 12 in support of state Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, who announced the week before that she had been diagnosed with breast cancer and would not run for state treasurer as she had announced earlier.
Dozens Louisiana House of Representatives staff members posed for a group photo, as did the Jefferson Parish Chamber of Commerce. Individual members of the House showed off their pink shirts, ties, pins and other garments on Twitter. State Rep. John Schroder, R-Covington — who was expected to be one of Stokes' strongest opponents in the treasurer's race — wore a pink ribbon. And state Rep. Helena Moreno, who is running for New Orleans City Council At-Large, wore a pink dress.
7. Master Plan coming up for another vote
The New Orleans City Council will vote this month on changes to the governing document that is likely to shape New Orleans businesses and neighborhoods over the next several decades. The council received public comment July 10 on the more than 300 proposed amendments to the city's Master Plan, a broad book accompanying the city's land-use bible known as the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance.
New Orleans music and culture advocates hope to enshrine greater musical and cultural protections in the plan, including adding the "culture-serving businesses and facilities" category to protect buildings such as Carnival krewe dens, Mardi Gras Indian practice spaces and music venues.
The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) also is asking the City Council to help shuttered music venues — which lose "nonconforming use" status after six months of closure — reopen without having to fight what often is a losing battle with neighbors. MaCCNO also is pushing for the city to adopt a grant program for soundproofing music venues and bars.
The City Council is expected to vote on amendments July 27 and is accepting public comment via www.nolacitycouncil.com/resources/resources_masterplanamendments.asp.
8. Streetcar extension to snarl traffic in Mid-City for four months
The Regional Transit Authority (RTA) has announced the start date for the extension of the Canal streetcar, which will begin July 31 and is expected to take four months to complete. The streetcar terminus now is on the river end of Canal Street and City Park Avenue across from St. Patrick Cemetery No. 1. The extension will take it across the intersection of Canal and City Park and up Canal Boulevard for a block or two to meet up with existing bus stops. During construction, the intersection of Canal Street and City Park Avenue will be closed completely to vehicles and pedestrians. The construction plan has been in the works for years, though some neighbors have opposed it. The extension will be paid for with federal grant funds.
9. Stacy's surprise
New Orleans Council At-Large member Stacy Head called an impromptu press conference outside Orleans Parish Criminal District Court in the last hour of qualifying for the municipal elections last week. Would the term-limited Head change her mind and enter the mayor's race? Nope — she emphasized the issues she thought the next mayor should focus on (safety, quality of life, taxes and a "functioning" government) and urged voters "to reject platitudes and vague platforms," adding, "I will be asking tough questions and hope you will too."
10. Jay-Z, Tori Amos set New Orleans tour dates
Rapper Jay-Z has announced a North American tour to follow the release of his latest album 4:44. He'll perform at the Smoothie King Center Nov. 9. Tickets are on sale now.
Jay-Z's last performance in New Orleans was alongside Beyonce at their co-headlining On the Run tour in 2014. Before that, he joined Kanye West on their double-billed Watch the Throne tour in 2011.
Singer-songwriter Tori Amos also heads to New Orleans in November. She'll perform at the Mahalia Jackson Theater for the Performing Arts Nov. 14 in support of her September release Native Invader. Tickets are on sale now.