1. RESPONSE TO OBAMACARE REPLACEMENT TEPID TO NEGATIVE
U.S. House Republicans last week unveiled their proposed alternative to the Affordable Care Act (ACA), but the revised American Health Care Act (AHCA) was greeted with little support from Louisiana politicians — with the notable exception of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. "This bill finally starts the process of not only repealing Obamacare," Scalise said in a meeting with President Donald Trump, "but also replacing it with reforms that put patients back in charge of their health care decisions, that lower costs for families."
Neither U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy (who had his own health care reform plan) nor U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy sent out comment on the AHCA. Both told the Associated Press they still were studying it.
Among the changes: an eventual phase-out of the Medicaid funding to states (including Louisiana) that have used the federal health care program to enroll new policyholders; restriction of funding to Planned Parenthood; the replacement of the individual mandate with a 30 percent premium penalty; and recalculating tax credits based on age rather than income. Conservative groups like Heritage Action and Americans for Prosperity slammed the AHCA proposals, as did physicians' groups (including the American Medical Association) and AARP.
"The Trump/GOP health care proposal will result in fewer doctors and a higher out-of-pocket cost for American citizens," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said in a statement. "To add insult to injury, President Trump is proposing to give insurance companies a tax break for executives who make over $500,000. ... While the Affordable Care Act can be strengthened in some areas, it has improved the lives of nearly 575,000 Louisiana citizens. Nearly 70,000 New Orleanians now have access to health care under the ACA who didn't have it before, thanks to Medicaid expansion."
U.S. House committees are debating the bill. Trump has indicated he wants to see the AHCA passed quickly.
2. Quote of the week
"Louisiana recognizes that a turkey shouldn't be the only animal to get a second chance, and the Tuesday after Mardi Gras shall now be known as the Annual Pardoning of the Crawfish." — Text in a proclamation by Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, who officially "pardoned" a crawfish named Emile at a ceremony at the Old U.S. Mint March 7. Nungesser, along with seafood industry officials, gave Emile his reprieve from the pot. "Emile shall be free to live the rest of his life in our marshes enjoying fresh water without any spices, boil seasoning, potatoes, onions or garlic," the proclamation concluded.
3. Moreno to run
for City Council
As was widely expected, State Rep. Helena Moreno announced her candidacy last week for the New Orleans City Council At-Large seat that will be vacated next year by Stacy Head. Moreno, a former television reporter, was elected to the state House of Representatives in 2010 and emerged as a champion of women's rights and equal pay issues. A Democrat, she founded the Ignite Advocacy Network last year, a 501(c)4 nonprofit dedicated to advancing the well-being of Louisiana women. In college, she worked briefly in the White House for then-first lady Hillary Clinton.
District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry, who is term-limited, announced earlier this month she would not seek Head's seat at the end of her term. Jason Williams, who has held the second at-large seat on the council since 2014, is expected to run for re-election.
4. Nora Navra branch library breaks ground in 7th Ward
One day after the reopening of Uptown's Nix Library following several months of renovations, city officials broke ground on the new Nora Navra branch of the New Orleans Public Library in the 7th Ward on March 7. The original building was damaged during Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failures, and a new $3.3 million edifice at 1902 St. Bernard Ave. is expected to wrap up early next year.
The 7,800-square-foot building will be significantly bigger than the original, with space for adult and child reading areas, computers, meeting rooms and offices. The city also plans to make the building energy efficient with a "hurricane-resistant" exterior and ADA accessibility. Funding comes from Disaster Community Development Block Grant funds, FEMA assistance and funds from city bonds.
5. Short-term rentals roundtable March 25
Before the city's latest laws on short-term rentals kick in April 1, the quarterly Neighborhood Leaders Roundtable — presented by the Mayor's Neighborhood Engagement Office — will discuss short-term rental licensing and fees through the city's Department of Safety and Permits March 25. The meeting is 9 a.m.-11 a.m. at Cafe Reconcile (1631 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.).
Last week, the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AH&LA) released a report revealing 81 percent of short-term rental company Airbnb's revenue in the U.S. comes from renting out whole homes. The report — from real estate research company CBRE Hotels' Americas Research and funded by the American Hotel & Lodging Education Foundation — found that U.S. Airbnb users renting out two or more entire home units generated nearly $2 billion for the company in 2016, accounting for 40 percent of Airbnb's entire-unit national revenue. Each of the 13 cities studied saw an increase in the total number of listings from people with multiple units available — including New Orleans, where 42.3 percent of its revenue is generated by people offering multiple units.
Bloomberg also reported last week that Airbnb is looking to get into a long-term rental market.
6. Council defers rental registry vote — yet again
Despite several delays on a final vote after a fiery January debate, members of the New Orleans City Council still plan — eventually — to vote on a controversial rental registry and inspection process for private rentals. On March 9, the City Council voted again to defer the measure until April, though it's likely to be delayed again until authors LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams can come up with amendments that satisfy other council members and the public after debate brought complaints from property owners and renters.
In a statement to Gambit, Cantrell spokesman David Winkler-Schmit said, "We believe in a proactive means for enforcing housing standards, so we will continue to work on this proposed ordinance."
7. Boogaloo lineup: Cleary, Cracker, Cupid and more
New Orleans piano man Jon Cleary and his Absolute Monster Gentlemen headline 2017's Bayou Boogaloo music festival along with "Cupid Shuffle" progenitor Cupid and '90s alt-rock band Cracker. The free festival returns to Bayou St. John at Orleans Avenue May 19-21.
The lineup also includes Chris Thomas King, Marco Benevento, Tank and the Bangas, Brownout, The Deslondes, New Breed Brass Band, Water Seed, Where Y'acht, Lightnin' Malcolm, Luke Winslow King, Video Age, Stoop Kids, Doombalaya, Pink Magnolias, James Martin Band, Alfred Banks, Kettle Black, Chapter Soul, John the Marytr, Maggie Belle Band, Caesar Brothers Funkbox (featuring Juan Pardo), Nick Balaban and the N'awlstars, Charlie Wooten Project, Kumasi, Jamaican Me Breakfast Club and The Holy Warriors. Times and stages will be announced later.
8. Hoss, Capo both
Mike Hoss and Bill Capo, who together clocked 64 years on air at WWL-TV, each left the station in the last two weeks. Capo, the station's familiar bespectacled "Action Reporter," issued a statement saying he had a "health scare" and "doctors said I needed to reduce the stress in my life." He had been a reporter there for 36 years.
Hoss, who served in various positions at the station (sports reporter, news reporter, weekend anchor, morning anchor and interim news director — not to mention his annual "Moose on the Loose" costume for WWL's Mardi Gras coverage) is leaving to start a communications company with his wife Betty-Ann.
9. Duke booted from
Twitter — briefly
David Duke, the felonious white supremacist whose most recent bid for office placed him seventh in the Louisiana Senate race last year, was briefly suspended from Twitter last week. The social media platform has said it's been figuring out ways to crack down on hate speech. Duke's account was reactivated within hours — just in time for him to weigh in on New Orleans releasing bid documents for Confederate monument removal ("Pure evil," Duke wrote), Muslim immigrants ("They all need to go back") and "the so-called Holocaust."
10. A tiger's tale comes
to an end
King Zulu, the white tiger in residence at the Audubon Zoo since 1999, was euthanized last week after "a steep decline in health," zoo officials said. King Zulu was 20, relatively old for a tiger.
His reign was less controversial than those of other famous Pelican State tigers. Louisiana State University's sixth "Mike the Tiger" mascot was euthanized last October after developing cancer, after which animal rights activists urged the university to discontinue the tradition of keeping a live tiger. The search for a Mike VII continues.
Meanwhile, Tony, the tiger who has lived in a cage for 16 years at a Grosse Tete truck stop, has been the subject of controversy between animal rights activists and Tony's owner, Michael Sandlin. In 2014, then-Gov. Bobby Jindal signed Senate Bill 250, a bill regarding ownership of "big cats" that made exceptions for those "traditionally kept by colleges and universities as school mascots" and "zoos." The bill also grandfathered in Tony by including big cats that had been in private possession since August 2006.