The latest on Carnival
Filmmaker Spike Lee is the Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club's honorary celebrity grand marshal for its 2018 Carnival. The krewe rolls on Fat Tuesday morning (Tuesday, Feb. 13). Zulu's coronation ball is Friday, Feb. 9 at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center with performances by Fantasia, En Vogue, Rebirth Brass Band and DJ Captain Charles. Orpheus' monarch will be writer and comedian Keegan-Michael Key when the parade rolls on Lundi Gras.
Meanwhile, Krewe du Vieux's 2018 parade, which will roll in the Marigny and French Quarter at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 27, keeps to its satirical and raunchy roots with the theme "Bienville's Wet Dream." New Orleans geographer and historian Richard Campanella will be 2018's grand marshal. This year's parade will take a different route, staging in the Marigny and staggering around the French Quarter before ending at the old Ralph & Kacoo's (519 Toulouse St.), where the krewe's annual ball will be held. Following Krewe du Vieux will be krewedelusion, whose monarch will be Washboard Chaz (after a year with no royalty).
A week before Mardi Gras, members of Arcade Fire and Preservation Hall will lead a new walking parade from the French Quarter to Congo Square. Pres Hall and Arcade Fire's Win Butler and Regine Chassagne founded Krewe du Kanaval, inspired by the band's Haitian connections and its Carnival traditions, as "a mobile music event, a year-round community, and a celebration of Haiti and the diaspora of cultures that have enriched New Orleans' identity and arts for hundreds of years," according to a krewe announcement. Krewe du Kanaval's 2018 events begin with a founding members' brunch and party at noon Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Preservation Hall. The krewe lines up for a coronation ceremony at 12:30 p.m., and the procession from Pres Hall to Congo Square begins at 2 p.m., followed by a free "Afro-Caribbean block party sound system" at 3 p.m. that is open to the public.
In Metairie, this year's Family Gras will dig deep into the 1980s oldies catalog, with Cyndi Lauper, John Oates and Michael McDonald headlining the 11th annual family-friendly festival. This year's Family Gras will be two days instead of three, condensed due to the Super Bowl. Family Gras will take place Friday, Feb. 2 and Saturday, Feb. 3 on Veterans Memorial Boulevard across from Lakeside Shopping Center.
Quote of the week
"American police officers are screaming, 'Help us with mental health, with drug and alcohol addiction. Help us to stop using arrest to deal with these problems.' And then there are others who are screaming: 'Crime is up. Help us arrest everyone again.'" — Former New Orleans Police Superintendent Ronal Serpas, now co-chairman of the group Law Enforcement Leaders to Reduce Crime and Incarceration, in The New York Times.
Sally-Ann Roberts announced her retirement last week on the WWL-TV Eyewitness Morning News. Roberts has been at the station for 40 years, and her last newscast will be Feb. 28.
"After much thought and prayer, I decided that it's time to begin a new chapter in my life," she told viewers. "I don't know what the future holds, but I look forward to continuing to serve this community in the years to come and spend more time with my grandchildren."
As a reporter, Roberts covered city government and breaking news, but she's best known as the co-host of the Eyewitness Morning News, a job she's held for 25 years. In 2012, she and her sister Robin Roberts — co-host of ABC's Good Morning America — made national news when Sally-Ann donated bone marrow to Robin, who was suffering from the life-threatening disease myelodysplastic syndrome (MDS). The publicity around the donation drove thousands to join bone marrow registries.
Robin wept when she announced her sister's retirement on Good Morning America. "She's the reason I'm doing what I'm doing," she said.
Special election to succeed Moreno draws four
A special election to succeed outgoing state Rep. Helena Moreno has attracted four contenders — attorneys Kenneth Bordes and Royce Duplessis and community activists Eldon Anderson and Danil Faust. Musician James Andrews also filed to run but withdrew his name after realizing he doesn't live in the district.
The District 93 seat spans a large and diverse parcel of New Orleans, including parts of Uptown, Mid-City, Treme, the CBD, French Quarter and Marigny. Moreno was elected in 2010 and sits on the Commerce and Health & Welfare committees and chairs the Louisiana Legislative Women's Caucus. In fall 2017's citywide elections, she won the race for one of two New Orleans City Council at-large seats, replacing term-limited Councilwoman Stacy Head.
Bordes is a civil rights and labor lawyer who also has worked in the film industry. Duplessis is a former chair of the New Orleans City Planning Commission and chief of staff for former District C Councilman James Carter.
Show promoter and political organizer Anderson is making another run for elected office after his disqualification from running in the at-large race that Moreno won last year; a lawsuit alleged Anderson didn't file state tax returns from 2012-2016.
Faust also was disqualified in a race for clerk of Criminal District Court last year due to a technicality — he listed his party as Green, though he was registered as a Democrat. Faust also received nearly 4 percent of the vote in a 2016 challenge against U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise.
The election is set for March 24.
JBE to Trump: Protect medical marijuana
With a medical marijuana plan in the works (using Louisiana universities), Gov. John Bel Edwards is urging President Donald Trump to protect Louisiana and other states with similar plans following recent changes at the Department of Justice.
Edwards supports the so-called Rohrabacher-Farr amendment, introduced by U.S. Reps. Dana Rohrabacher and Earl Blumenauer in 2001 to prevent the feds from interfering with state-level medical marijuana laws. Louisiana passed a package of medical marijuana laws in 2015 and 2016. The Rohrabacher-Farr language is part of current funding bills set to expire Jan. 19, which Edwards' office fears could expose the state to criminal liability. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions plans to rescind a memo from former President Barack Obama's administration that effectively kept pot cases off the feds' radar.
"For many people in my state, access to this treatment means a person could return to the workforce, return to school or simply lead a normal life," Edwards wrote in a Jan. 9 letter to Trump. On his radio show last week, Edwards clarified he does not support legalizing recreational marijuana.
- PHOTO BY DAVID LEE/CREATIVE COMMONS
- The New Orleans City Planning Commission continues to hold off on a vote limiting the number of strip clubs in the Vieux Carre Entertainment District, which includes Bourbon Street.
Strip club regulation put off, again
The New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) is holding back on a vote on limiting the number of strip clubs in the French Quarter, while Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration "is working to possibly formulate a broader package of regulations for adult live performance venues," according to the CPC staff at a meeting Jan. 9.
The staff recommended the CPC defer any action until Feb. 6.
The decision will follow recommendations from the CPC's Adult Live Performance Venue Study, made at the request of the New Orleans City Council. In the report, the CPC staff recommends setting a cap to one per every other blockface in the Vieux Carre Entertainment District, which includes Bourbon Street.
Hotel development on St. Claude drawing opposition
Downtown residents' opposition is growing concerning a planned hotel development on a block of St. Claude Avenue in Bywater that includes the former Truck Farm venue and several homes. Following a Historic District Landmarks Committee (HDLC) architectural review committee meeting in December, The Sun Yard's developers are reviewing some its design details. Meanwhile, the development is requesting a zoning change and conditional use permit.
A Change.org petition opposing the development has more than 2,700 signatures, and residents have held several community meetings about the project, citing issues with its size (41,000 square feet), fears about its potential disruption of the neighborhood, and the rapid upscaling of a neighborhood led by similar developments.
"The bigger picture is this will make New Orleans and this neighborhood less inhabitable for the people who make it interesting," musician Quintron said at the HDLC meeting Dec. 19.
The project is on the New Orleans City Planning Commission's Feb. 6 agenda.
Bike Easy seeking 'ambassadors'
Transit advocacy group Bike Easy (www.bikeeasy.org) has put out a call for applications for its Complete Streets Ambassador program, which trains community members to advocate for cyclists, pedestrians and people who take public transit. The three-month, low-commitment program accepts applications through Feb. 2.
After a weekend training, Complete Streets Ambassadors will spend about three hours a week working on neighborhood projects, telling their transportation story at community meetings and collaborating on Bike Easy initiatives. Applicants should regularly walk, bike or ride the bus in the greater metropolitan area and have an interest in developing neighborhood groups. People of color and people with low incomes are especially encouraged to apply; a few small ($400) stipends are available.
Previous Complete Streets Ambassadors built a pop-up protected bikeway on St. Bernard Avenue and lobbied for protected bike lanes in Kenner neighborhoods.
Scalise to be honored at GOP 'Elephant Gala'
Reince Priebus — former chairman of the Republican National Committee and former White House Chief of Staff to President Donald Trump — will headline the LA GOP's "Elephant Gala" at the New Orleans Downtown Marriott at the Convention Center Jan. 20. The state Republican group also will present a "Red Elephant" award to U.S. House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, who was injured last year in a shooting during a practice for a charity baseball game in Washington D.C.
Attendees are set to include U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, state Senate President John Alario, state House Speaker Taylor Barras, Commissioner Jim Donelon, U.S. Rep. Garret Graves, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, state Attorney General Jeff Landry, Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser, state Treasurer John Schroder, Public Service Commissioners Eric Skrmetta and Craig Greene, and state Agriculture Commissioner Mike Strain. Tickets start at $250 per person.