1. GRAHAM-CASSIDY HEALTH CARE BILL SLAMMED
Dozens of health care organizations — including the American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Heart Association, the American Nurses Association, the Arthritis Foundation, the Catholic Health Association of the United States, the Children's Hospital Association, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, the March of Dimes and the National Multiple Sclerosis Society — came out last week to slam the proposed Graham-Cassidy health care bill that would replace the Affordable Care Act. It is co-sponsored by Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, a physician.
The bill would eliminate the individual mandate, allow higher premiums for pre-existing conditions, convert Medicaid support to federal block funding to states and then eliminate all federal block grant funding by 2026. Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana Health Secretary Dr. Rebekah Gee also blasted the proposed law.
2. Quote of the week
"Bill Cassidy just lied to my face. ... There's a new Jimmy Kimmel test for you. It's a lie detector test, and you're welcome to stop by the studio and take it any time." — Late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, slamming Cassidy's health care plan. Cassidy had come on Kimmel's program earlier in the year to promise any health care legislation he proposed would pass a "Jimmy Kimmel test," named for Kimmel's son, who was born with heart problems.
"Jimmy doesn't understand," Cassidy said the next day, but Kimmel doubled down on the next night's program. "When Sen. Cassidy was on my show in May, he told me that he believed that every American family, regardless of income, should be able to get quality health care. And I believed he was sincere," Kimmel said. "Sadly, the bill he unveiled last week with Sen. Lindsey Graham indicates that he was not sincere. It is, by many accounts, the worst health care bill yet."
3. Quatrevaux to retire next month, citing health issues
Ed Quatrevaux, who has served as New Orleans Inspector General (IG) for eight years, will retire at the end of his current term Oct. 19, he announced last week. "My vision is a New Orleans in which all citizens trust the [Office of Inspector General] to ensure the integrity of local government and to provide credible and reliable information about government performance," he said in a brief announcement. "To that end, I had planned to assist in the transition to new leadership. Unfortunately, unexpected health events require that I take extended medical leave." He did not elaborate on those health events.
4. Fortunato retires, plans run for JP sheriff
Longtime Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office spokesman Col. John Fortunato, who spent 46 years with the agency (more than 30 years as spokesman), retired last week and confirmed that he will run for sheriff in a March 2018 special election. "Leading this department and protecting this parish against crime has been a lifelong dream," Fortunato said in a statement. He then took a jab at his former boss, Newell Normand, and interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto: "I just don't believe that we have to accept a politician's hand-picked candidate to serve as sheriff." Fortunato's statement said he will formally announce his candidacy Oct. 27.
5. Williams, Cannizzaro spar at City Council
A 2018 budget presentation from the Orleans Parish District Attorney's office turned into a vicious exchange between the New Orleans City Council and DA Leon Cannizzaro over his office's use of "fake" subpoenas to pressure people to speak with prosecutors and for jailing victims or witnesses who refuse to testify.
Cannizzaro argued for the restoration of $600,000 cut from the office's budget last year, calling those cuts "shameful" and responsible for affecting diversion programs, assistance for victims and witnesses and the city's ability to fight crime. The office only relied on material witness warrants because of a lack of funding, he said. "Give me the funding we're entitled to and give me the funding we deserve," he said.
At-Large Councilman Jason Williams said Cannizzaro was "fear-mongering," and District A Councilwoman and Criminal Justice Committee Chair Susan Guidry said if the office put those programs on the chopping block ("ones that pull at our heartstrings") as a "result of this small cut, shame on you."
Williams emphasized to Cannizzaro that the Council "would like to see you win," but the city doesn't want its DA to appear in the national press "as some backwoods redneck organization that puts rape victims in jail and sends fake subpoenas."
Williams said the council would consider reinstating the DA's budget request with assurances that "fake subpoenas wouldn't be issued, rape victims wouldn't be jailed, and if you shared data."
District E Councilman James Gray said he has a "hard time explaining to people why we give [the DA's office] $6 million when we give the public defender $2 million." Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton, who presented his budget immediately following Cannizzaro, said the hearing was "an illustration of why we need a robust public defender's office."
6. Major mayoral candidates say STR rules need tweaking
At a Sept. 19 forum at Loyola University, mayoral candidates Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet agree the city's recently enacted rules enforcing short-term rentals (STRs) need adjustments to protect residents while enforcing existing rules.
Cantrell, who voted for the STR legislation last year, said the "jury is still out" as to whether changes need to be made, but said enforcement isn't effective. All candidates agreed to consider adding a homestead exemption requirement to the rules, which could significantly reduce the number of STRs in New Orleans.
Bagneris said STRs are "driving prices of long-term rentals up" and that neighborhoods should have a stronger stake in legislation. "What we have to do is realize a balance must exist," he said. "Property owners are of the opinion they can do anything they want."
"We've got to listen to the voice of the neighbors," Charbonnet said. "What works in one may not work in another." Charbonnet also said the city's STR enforcement arm needs more staff.
7. MaCCNO turns 5
The Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MaCCNO) has built an army of support in the five years since it was formed through meetings on Basin Street in 2012 with musicians, business owners, dozens of artists and supporters. Those early meetings were called to plan a response to venue closures, pulled permits and other cultural issues — and the way the city enforces regulations. MaCCNO participated in a rally inside City Hall to challenge a proposed noise ordinance. It also has developed a "good visitor" guide and guides for street performance and has pushed for stronger legislation protecting musicians, culture bearers and service industry workers.
The group celebrates its fifth anniversary at 9 p.m. Sept. 29 at Three Keys (600 Carondelet St.) with master of ceremonies Chris Lane and music from DJ Quickie Mart, Bayou Saints, Chuck Perkins, Stooges Music Group, Cyril and Gaynielle Neville and DJ Soul Sister. Tickets are $15 and available at www.maccno.com/events.
8. Maklansky returns
donation from short-term rental interests
A Gambit report last week detailed the Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity's (ANP) plans for fundraising for two City Council candidates: incumbent Nadine Ramsey in District C and hopeful Aylin Acikalin Maklansky in District A. The ANP is the major local advocate for short-term rentals (STRs), and Maklansky previously had told Gambit, "I will say I didn't accept a check from the Alliance." Maklansky's required campaign finance report, filed with the state ethics board, actually showed a $500 donation from ANP July 12.
After the story ran, Maklansky emailed an explanation: "I was thinking of a $1,000 donation the organization offered to me in August, which I declined (a picture of which is attached.)," she wrote. "When I spoke with you I did not remember a previous check from early July. When it was brought to my attention in your article, I immediately refunded the Alliance check (see attached) and my future reports will reflect this."
9. Randy Newman coming to Orpheum Dec. 12
Following the release of his first album in nearly a decade, August's Dark Matter, songwriter Randy Newman announced U.S. tour dates through the summer and fall and a few dates in winter before a 2018 European tour. He'll perform in New Orleans at the Orpheum Theater Dec. 12.
Tickets start at $44 at www.- orpheumnola.com.
10. Voodoo Fest announces daily lineups
The 2017 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience released its daily lineups for the Oct. 27-29 festival in City Park. Kendrick Lamar and LCD Soundsystem headline opening night, which also crams in Galantis, Prophets of Rage, Yellow Claw, Afghan Whigs, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, Benjamin Booker and Chicano Batman and others.
Foo Fighters, DJ Snake, Brand New, RL Grime and Crystal Castles headline Oct. 28, which also has Whitney, Rich Chigga and Pell on the bill.
Closing out the festival Oct. 29 are The Killers, Dillon Francis, The Head and the Heart, Post Malone, Miguel, Cold War Kids, Amine, Strand of Oaks, Ron Gallo and Mannequin Pussy.
Daily general admission tickets are $70-$80 and weekend passes are $155. VIP and Platinum passes also are available. Visit www.voodoofestival.com for details.