1. NRA VS. CITY COUNCIL
Gun owners who live in New Orleans must report lost or stolen firearms to police within 48 hours, according to an ordinance the City Council passed Sept. 8. NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said many missing firearms are used in violent crimes, and while many guns are reported missing by their owners, the ordinance would further encourage people to do so. Failure to report a stolen gun that's been used in a crime carries a $250 fine.
The measure also expands gun-free zones to New Orleans Recreation Development Commission facilities and prohibits guns from being "carried, brandished or displayed under circumstances that create a reasonable apprehension on the part of members of the public or a law enforcement officer that a crime is being committed or is about to be committed."
The National Rifle Association (NRA) opposed the measure on Sept. 7, urging Mayor Mitch Landrieu to veto it. That is unlikely to happen, since Landrieu has said he supports such a move. A statement from the NRA's Institute for Legislative Action urges Landrieu to enforce "current laws that target individuals who are knowingly supplying firearms to prohibited persons. In other words, he should punish criminals for engaging in criminal behavior, not law-abiding individuals who simply forgot to share their misfortunes within a certain time period."
2. HANO plan takes aim against segregation
The Housing Authority of New Orleans released a plan this month to address patterns of segregation and gentrification that have taken hold in parts of the city since 2005. The plan follows a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development mandate to diversify wealthier neighborhoods and invest in lower-income neighborhoods. New Orleans is among a handful of cities to attempt the new federal rules, which won't require new funding or dip into other reserves. The report mirrors many of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's recently unveiled affordable housing plans, including incentivizing developers to make more affordable units available, make housing accessible for ex-offenders and increase public transportation.
3. Short-term rental vote moves to October
After deferring debate on the subject on Sept. 8, the New Orleans City Council is likely to vote Oct. 6 on a measure to create a legal framework for short-term rentals. On the table are changes to the city's zoning code that would open the door for several types of short-term rentals on services such as Airbnb and VRBO. In August, the New Orleans City Planning Commission rejected whole-home rentals in residential areas for homes where the owner isn't present. The City Council will have the final say on what types of rentals will be allowed.
4. Bark park a go
The New Orleans Recreation Development Commission (NORDC) voted 7-3 last week to approve an off-leash dog area in Cabrini Park, capping several years of discussion on the topic. The French Quarter green space had been used as a de facto dog park until 2014, when the park was closed and reopened as a playground (including a security guard to enforce leash laws for several weeks). NORDC's new plan splits the green space between a fenced area for dogs and their owners and a playground and field for children and families. In a Gambit cover story last month, NORDC Director Vic Richard said the city would look to residents and users to cover funding for any improvement to the park.
5. Landry vs.
In the latest episode demonstrating the fraught relationship between Gov. John Bel Edwards and state Attorney General Jeff Landry, the AG rejected Edwards' proposed legal team to represent the state in coastal damage lawsuits. In a Sept. 6 letter to Edwards from Chief Deputy Attorney General Wilbur Stiles, Landry's office says Edwards' arrangement with attorneys is "entirely too vague and overly broad" and that the attorneys' fee structure creates "an unconstitutional contingency fee arrangement."
Edwards wants Louisiana to join several parishes in their lawsuits seeking damages against oil and gas companies for their role in coastal land loss.
6. Jefferson and Freret to close
Uptown's ongoing construction nightmare will continue through at least 2017 as Freret Street will be closed on the west side of Jefferson Avenue for "approximately five months," according to the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board. The closure is part of the $46 million Southeast Louisiana (SELA) drainage project that has disrupted traffic in parts of Uptown for months. According to the office of District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry, the councilwoman has met with New Orleans Assessor Erroll Williams to discuss neighborhood concerns that "assessments had skyrocketed despite the difficulties they have experienced due to the SELA projects."
7. City Planning makes strip club suggestions
Following outrage from dancers and businesses in the Vieux Carre on the city's steps to limit the number of strip clubs on Bourbon Street, New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) staffers offered a revised report suggesting workarounds that could prevent a firm cap on the number of strip clubs.
In January, the New Orleans City Council passed an ordinance prohibiting people under age 21 from dancing in clubs as part of a program to fight human trafficking. The Louisiana Legislature followed with a similar statewide measure. Meanwhile, the CPC staff reviewed the state of downtown clubs and made its recommendations. In a revised staff report Sept. 6, staffers said the city should enforce existing laws to help combat crime around strip clubs. It also suggested clubs apply for a conditional use that would prevent a cap on the number of clubs, as each would be evaluated by the City Council. The report also said the council should create a licensing and renewal process for clubs.
8. Congress blocks
The U.S. Senate rejected a bill Sept. 6 to combat the spread of the Zika virus with $1.1 billion in federal funding. Democrats said they rejected the bill because it included language targeting federal funding for Planned Parenthood and added language allowing Confederate flags in veterans' cemeteries — creating a partisan gridlock as the mosquito-borne virus continues to threaten the U.S. Politico reported Sept. 8, however, that Senate leaders were close to a "truce in the ideological battle" that would drop Planned Parenthood from the debate.
9. Political pod people
Podcast fans: Baton Rouge Capitol correspondent Jeremy Alford, publisher and editor of the LaPolitics website and LaPolitics Weekly newsletter, has launched "The LaPolitics Report," a weekly podcast covering state political news. Alford's first guest on Sept. 7 was state Senate President John Alario, R-Westwego. Coming this Wednesday: state Sen. J.P. Morrell, D-New Orleans, talking about his political family and comic book fandom. On Sept. 21, the guest will be USA TODAY Network's Greg Hilburn discussing how political coverage has changed and offering insights into the current political cycle. Visit www.lapolitics.com for links.
10. Food, fashion
and puppy love
Freret Street has had a spurt of activity over the summer and is poised for more growth with a new gelato shop, pizza restaurant, juice bar and women's boutique. Bar Frances opened in the 4500 block of Freret in May, followed in July by the opening of the fourth satellite office of Metairie Small Animal Hospital in the former location of Frank's Steakhouse. Future openings include Sprout and Press, a juice bar expanding from Magazine Street, and Piccola Gelateria, which will open in November with all-natural Italian gelato. In the 5000 block of Freret, new buildings at the former Weber Garden Center site will house Babe New Orleans women's boutique and the latest expansion of Blaze Pizza.