Workers protest club shutdowns
Under the neon daiquiri-shop lights and to the cheers of barkers in bad suits, hundreds of gentlemen's club workers and allies converged for a Feb. 1 march that filled Bourbon Street. It was the second in as many days organized by workers to protest investigations and raids of eight strip clubs in January, which resulted in suspended liquor and tobacco licenses. Without the ability to sell alcohol, several clubs temporarily shuttered, leaving dancers, managers, bartenders, hosts and cleaning staff out of work during the lucrative Carnival season.
The demonstration filled several blocks and was so large that tourists and onlookers were pressed to the sidewalks, where many of them began filming the event with their phones.
A dancer who gave her name as Jessie held a sign reading "Your political agenda shouldn't cost me my future." She criticized the raids, saying they were a misguided effort that failed to uncover the human trafficking they were designed to unearth. "The only thing that happened is you're costing us our livelihood," she said. "They always have to vilify something." Many other signs castigated Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD).
At a press conference three days earlier, NOPD and state Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC) officials stood firm behind the idea that the investigations and subsequent raids were linked to anti-human-trafficking efforts in the city. No arrests for human trafficking were made, however. ATC's eventual release of the violations found at clubs was met with skepticism by club workers attending this week's demonstrations, especially "lewd acts" charges, which can include dancers touching their own bodies.
Despite word that some clubs would reopen soon, workers face ongoing uncertainty regarding their jobs. On Jan. 31 ATC announced settlements with six clubs that would end the suspension of liquor licenses at some properties. But with one club, Lipstixx, voluntarily surrendering its license and another permanently closed due to a tenancy issue, many demonstrators insisted it's part of a campaign of attrition on the part of the city.
In an interview with NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune the next day, NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison insisted that a number of pimps had been arrested, though he provided no numbers. Harrison also said NOPD was "trying to catalyze the arrests," but conceded no human trafficking arrests had been made.
Quote of the week
"If you are standing with mayors in the face of Donald Trump's latest attacks, I need you to chip in $25 to support local leaders like me." — An email signed by Mayor Mitch Landrieu from NOLA PAC, Landrieu's "leadership PAC." Landrieu sent it out the day Trump delivered his first State of the Union address, saying, "We are not Trump's props for phony meetings," and referring to "Trump's hateful agenda."
Mardi Gras crackdown in the name of 'homeland security'
New Orleans' Department of Parks and Parkways is showing no mercy when it comes to ladders, tarps, belongings chained to trees, spray-painted lots and other personal effects left on neutral grounds and sidewalks along Mardi Gras parade routes.
"You're creating a barrier. We have bolt cutters," Parks and Parkways Director Ann Macdonald told reporters Jan. 30. "You can't reserve a piece of public green space. That paint means absolutely nothing."
Macdonald said city workers are giving people a 24-hour window before parades start to begin setting up their parade space. According to the city's guide to Mardi Gras rules enforcement, ladders and other items shouldn't be placed on sidewalks or neutral grounds before 8 a.m. on parade days, excluding Fat Tuesday.
Closed tents on parade routes have been upgraded to what Mayor Mitch Landrieu calls a "homeland security threat" following a 2017 Carnival incident involving a discharged firearm inside a portable toilet. New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Chief Michael Harrison said officers will be ordering people to dismantle and remove tents. Ladders, canopies and other objects must be placed at least 6 feet from the curb.
This year's Carnival will bring in at least 165 uniformed and plainclothes Louisiana State Police (LSP) troopers by Feb. 9. The LSP and FBI also will join the NOPD at the city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center, getting its first 24-hour staffing to monitor cameras installed throughout the city since it opened late last year. The FBI also will be monitoring social media.
Traffic and parking enforcement also will beef up its presence over the next two weeks. Find a list of parking violations (and how much they'll cost you) — and where you can and can't park and drive — at www.nola.gov/mardigras.
Cantrell: 'I know I'm under a microscope'
Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell has begun formal meetings with her 190-member transition team tasked with taking "deep dives" into more than two dozen issues before she takes office in May.
Last week's kickoff follows reports that those team members were asked to sign nondisclosure agreements, ostensibly to give outside parties peace of mind that what they discuss with committees and subcommittees remains in the room. Cantrell defended the nondisclosure agreements, saying they protect a flow of information that "will be very sensitive."
"When you're trying to organize citizens on creating a plan you want to implement, you really have to create safe spaces for that dialogue and that level of engagement for people to truly lean in," Cantrell told reporters. She said there will be "opportunities for the larger engagement of the public," including public meetings.
Cantrell also told reporters that the Louisiana Supreme Court's appointment of a retired Baton Rouge judge to hear a recusal motion regarding Cantrell's financial records and city credit card spending is a positive step forward. "Things are moving in the right direction," she told reporters. "I'm all for fairness and impartiality, and I believe the judge will do just that."
She told the transition team, "I know I'm under a microscope, I don't know how big that sucker is. But that's OK. ... We're going to stay focused.
"Not everyone is perfect," the mayor-elect added. "We've all made mistakes ... But if we're going to create an environ- ment where people can own up to their mistakes, pay their debt to society and give the best they can give, that's what we're about."
The transition groups will meet over the next several weeks in advance of a forum on April 24 and a report release on May 3.
Re-entry Task Force says more than 120 nonviolent offenders returned to New Orleans
Following statewide criminal justice reform measures that saw the early release of several hundred nonviolent offenders on Nov. 1, more than 120 people returned to New Orleans, according to the city's New Orleans Reentry Task Force. Formed in 2017, the task force connects resources, training and partners in housing, health care, employment and other services to improve quality of life and reduce recidivism for formerly incarcerated people. (About 45 percent of people released from prison in Louisiana return to the penal system within five years of their release.)
Of the 121 people who returned to New Orleans Nov. 1, 89 received support from case managers and were connected to program partners, including housing assistance, mental health treatment and education opportunities.
At the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee Jan. 30, task force officials said it needs City Hall's (and private businesses') support to increase low-income and temporary supportive housing opportunities, improve transportation access, and create a prisoner re-entry "one-stop shop" to better connect people entering the program.
- PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
- Photographer David Richmond chronicled New Orleans culture.
Photographer David Richmond dies
Iconic New Orleans photographer David Richmond, known for his portraits chronicling the city's culture, died Jan. 13 after a long illness. He was 69.
"He was a lost romantic," said longtime friend Russell Rocke, who helped Richmond in his later years. "He was a workaholic who in the tradition of Clarence Laughlin was obsessive with his work. He loved New Orleans. He loved James Booker."
Richmond was born in Texas and adopted by a family in New Orleans, where he grew up, and studied classical music at Oberlin College. During a semester at New York University, he spent time with his childhood friend from New Orleans, D. Eric Bookhardt, Gambit's longtime art reviewer, who then worked at New York's Museum of Modern Art.
"He was a talented pianist," Bookhardt said. "He could play Chopin like nobody. On my final day, when I quit Museum of Modern Art, as I was leaving, he discovered the piano that had been installed on the fourth floor where I worked. I made my exit to David playing Chopin on a grand piano. It was a wonderful way to leave."
"The first time I laid eyes upon David Richmond at K&B Camera, I knew we'd be friends," said Gambit contributing photographer Cheryl Gerber. "Those vintage vests over his suspenders and those classic fedora hats. What a character."
Richmond was a meticulous photographer known for his perfectionism, which could (and did) drive editors crazy. The results always were worth it. His photographs appeared regularly in publications including The Vieux Carre Courier, Gambit, New Orleans Magazine, OffBeat and elsewhere. He was a key figure in founding the New Orleans Photo Exchange and a fixture in music clubs on Rampart and Frenchmen streets.
"He was instrumental in helping Gambit establish itself as an alternative voice — and eye — in New Orleans," said Gambit owners Margo and Clancy DuBos. "His warmth and generosity imbued every portrait and every cityscape that he produced. David was a dear friend to all of us at Gambit, and we will always remember him with great admiration and affection."
Jim Henderson, 'Voice
of the Saints,' retires
"Turn down the TV and turn up Jim."
It's been a New Orleans Saints gameday ritual for decades — muting the television sound and tuning into the WWL Saints Radio Network to hear Jim Henderson call the game. Last week, "Hondo" announced his retirement.
"It's time," Henderson said in a press release from Entercom Communications. "This is a good year to go out. It was a great season; the Saints were in two highly competitive playoff games and the future looks bright. It's good timing."
Henderson began working at WWL-TV in 1978 and moved to a part-time position at WVUE-TV in 2012. Among his most famous utterances was "Get ready to party with the Lombardi, New Orleans! The Saints have won the Super Bowl!"
Henderson, who brought a literate and seemingly effortless touch to the on-the-fly world of play-by-play announcing, worked for years calling games with the late Hokie Gajan. In recent years, his on-air partner has been former Saints running back Deuce McAllister.
"In a way you wanna cry, but in a way you're so happy and proud, because you know the work, the heart Jim put into his job," McAllister said in a statement. "This brought joy to everyone who loves Saints football."
No replacement was named.
Hamilton coming to the Saenger in 2019
New Orleans will get its first look at the Pulitzer Prize-winning musical Hamilton in early 2019. Last week, Broadway in New Orleans announced shows for its 2018-19 season, which includes touring productions of Hamilton, School of Rock, On Your Feet! Elf the Musical, Les Miserables, The Book of Mormon and Come From Away.
Most of the shows are playing just a few nights in New Orleans, but Hamilton — due to what no doubt will be sellout crowds, as well as a complicated turntable stage that will need to be installed — will play March 12-31, 2019 at the Saenger Theater. Season tickets are available now; sale dates for individual shows will be announced later this year, according to Broadway in New Orleans.