1. Beck, Newsom added to crowded September concert calendar
Singer-songwriters Beck and Joanna Newsom (pictured) bring their tours to New Orleans this fall, adding to a heavy September schedule that includes Alabama Shakes, James Blake, Beyonce, Dinosaur Jr., Dixie Chicks, Drake, Gary Clark Jr., Kraftwerk, Sturgill Simpson and other high-profile acts.
Beck begins his U.S. tour at the Saenger Theatre Sept. 15 in advance of an album release in October. Heavy rains forced organizers to cancel his headlining set at the 2016 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.
Newsom performs Friday, Sept. 9 at the Civic Theatre amid a short, rare string of Southern dates following 2015's acclaimed Divers. Her last performance in New Orleans was at Tipitina's in 2010 on the final heels of Have One on Me.
2. Quote of the week
"That's bullshit. I'll pay for the polygraph test. They're not stopping and frisking people at random. Just do what is expected of you and you won't be stopped and frisked." — Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden to Buzzfeed, dismissing Baton Rouge residents' complaints that the Baton Rouge Police Department has systematically profiled and performed arbitrary searches on African-American residents. Buzzfeed cited a 2014 database of arrest statistics that showed 284 arrests per 1,000 black citizens versus 105 per 1,000 white citizens.
3. NBA All-Star Game heading to New Orleans?
New Orleans could host the 2017 NBA All-Star game following the league's objections to LGBT discrimination laws in North Carolina. The game had been scheduled to be played in Charlotte next February.
North Carolina's House Bill 2 requires transgender people to use public restrooms corresponding to the sex on their birth certificates, and it omits and limits LGBT protections from statewide anti-discrimination laws, including workplace discrimination. New Orleans hosted All-Star games in 2008 and 2014. The 2017 game falls Feb. 19, during the first weekend of major Carnival parades and nine days before Fat Tuesday.
4. Landrieu asking for property tax hike for firefighters, again
New Orleans voters will go to the polls in December to take another crack at Mayor Mitch Landrieu's pitch for a tax hike to pay a multimillion-dollar settlement with New Orleans firefighters. The New Orleans City Council filed a motion July 21 to put the 2.5-mill property tax hike to a vote on the Dec. 10 ballot. The city estimates the measure will bring in nearly $9 million annually to fund a $75 million settlement reached between the firefighters union and City Hall after a decadeslong battle over back pay and retirement benefits.
More than 53 percent of voters rejected the tax hike when it appeared on the ballot in April — tethered to a millage for police. In a statement last week, Landrieu Press Secretary Hayne Rainey said the failed ballot measure could result in budget cuts elsewhere in order for the city to pay the settlement. "The City has additional long-term obligations that we must honor, including the obligation to pay the firefighters what they are owed according to the agreement in place," he said.
On that same December ballot, New Orleans voters also will vote on whether to renew a Sewerage and Water Board millage to continue drainage system maintenance and construction.
5. 'Trashanova' rides again
"Trashanova" — and lemon-scented streets — will return to the garbage business this week. New Orleans real estate mogul and celebrity trash man Sidney Torres launches IV Waste on Aug. 1, his return to trash hauling and cleanup since selling SDT Waste & Debris in 2011. Torres announced the company's launch last week on his website and in a YouTube video in which he said, "It seems like we've traded great for good enough" since he sold SDT.
SDT's post-Hurricane Katrina cleanup famously sprayed French Quarter streets with a lemon-scented cleaner and elevated Torres to a minor national celebrity, with ads starring Kid Rock and Lenny Kravitz. Torres also created the French Quarter Task Force app and is developing several large-scale real estate projects, including an apartment complex in Mid-City and an assisted living center in the former Carmelite monastery on North Rampart Street.
6. Senate race gets crowded
A total of 24 people entered the race to fill the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by two-term U.S. Sen. David Vitter as qualifying ended last week. Qualifiers include a handful known to New Orleans area voters: attorney Caroline Fayard, a Democrat who ran for lieutenant governor in 2010; former U.S. Rep. Anh "Joseph" Cao, a Republican; Democrats Derrick Edwards, an attorney; and Gary Landrieu, a cousin of the mayor who is not politically aligned with him; retired Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a Republican who finished third in the race that led to Mary Landrieu's defeat in the U.S. Senate race of 2014; and Republican Abhay Patel. New Orleans comedian Kaitlin Marone is running with no party affiliation.
Others who qualified include U.S. Reps. Charles Boustany, R-Lafayette and John Fleming, R-Minden; State Treasurer John Kennedy, a Republican from Zachary; Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell of Shreveport, a Democrat who has Gov. John Bel Edwards' support; former state Sen. Troy Hebert of Jeanerette, now a no-party independent; and Peter Williams, who ran for the 6th Congressional District in 2014. Former KKK leader and convicted felon David Duke also qualified.
7. Health director leaving City Hall
New Orleans Health Department Director (NOHD) Charlotte Parent — who helped launch the city's anti-smoking efforts in bars and casinos, the opening of New Orleans East Hospital, and a citywide domestic violence policy — will leave City Hall July 29. Parent, who became NOHD head in 2014 following Karen DeSalvo, will serve as vice president of community affairs at LCMC Health, the hospital network that includes Children's Hospital, Touro and University Medical Center.
8. OPSB: Bloom won't run
One day before qualifying for the fall elections began, Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) President Seth Bloom announced he would not seek re-election. Bloom, a lawyer who has served on OPSB for eight years, was elected board president in 2015. He represents District 5, which includes much of Uptown. In a statement, Bloom said he will be "exploring ways I can best serve our community," but did not outline any specific plans.
9. An extra buck for the Causeway?
Would you pay an extra $1 to come back from the Northshore? The Greater New Orleans Expressway Commission (GNOEC) is considering a hike in toll prices to cover safety improvements on the 24-mile causeway over Lake Pontchartrain, the original span of which opened in 1956. The current toll is $3 for southbound drivers. Consideration of a toll hike likely will be discussed at the GNOEC's August meeting, tentatively set for Aug. 17.
10. 'Museum Month' returns this week
New Orleans' annual "Museum Month" returns Aug. 1. During the event, major local museums offer free admission with an active membership at another participating institution. For example, buying a membership to the Contemporary Arts Center gets you in to the New Orleans Museum of Art, the National World War II Museum, Le Musee de Free People of Color and several other local museums. Budget-friendly memberships include Ashe Cultural Arts Center (from $25), the Historic New Orleans Collection (from $35) and Longue Vue House & Gardens (from $35). A complete list of participating museums is available at www.touristathome.com.