Cantrell transition team still working
The transition team helping build the agenda for New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell is halfway through its meeting schedule, but details about what the team's recommendations will look like and who will head up the new administration are still taking shape. Recommendations from the team's 22 subcommittees are due May 3 — four days before Cantrell's inauguration — but already some changes appear certain.
Cantrell plans to eliminate the deputy mayor system implemented by Mayor Mitch Landrieu, but an exact replacement system hasn't been set. Speaking at an update from Cantrell's transition team Forward Together New Orleans Feb. 28, advisory board co-chair Matt Wisdom said Cantrell has begun a "reorganization of the municipal government."
"There are a lot of ways to structure the ways senior staff will report to the mayor-elect," Wisdom said. "I don't think we're able to explain more until we actually are ready to release what that structure is."
Cantrell's administration will begin national searches for the chief administrative officer and chief financial officer, but Cantrell will wait for a committee recommendation about a new police chief before she decides whether to begin a national search for that position, according to transition Communications Director Mason Harrison. Cantrell hasn't set a timeline for filling roughly 100 positions at City Hall, but the team says it has received about 250 resumes to fill them.
About six people from what began as a 190-member transition team have left their positions due to concerns over members being asked to sign nondisclosure agreements preventing them from speaking publicly about the meetings.
The team plans to conduct biweekly surveys to give residents an opportunity to offer feedback on city services and other issues. It remains unclear how or where those surveys will be released. Advisory board co-chair Kathleen Kennedy said specific questions haven't been worked out yet. Harrison says the team wants to capture the greatest audience, and adds online and social media surveys have a limited reach.
The transition team also is considering holding a public forum.
Quote of the week
"We're acting like kids. Do we have a spending problem? I'll have a drinking problem by the end of this session." — State Rep. James Armes, D-Leesville, during a contentious day of last week's special session of the Legislature, which was called to address the so-called "fiscal cliff" — an approximate $1 billion budget shortfall projected to hit July 1, at the start of the state's fiscal year. The session was marked by tempers and hot words, including those of state Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, who said former Gov. Bobby Jindal had "raped" Louisiana when he cut taxes after Hurricane Katrina.
JBE: Schedler should step down
Gov. John Bel Edwards is calling for the "immediate" resignation of Secretary of State Tom Schedler a week after Schedler was accused of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed by a woman who works in that office.
"Elected officials must live by an even higher standard," Edwards said in a Feb. 28 statement. "Because of the number of specific and serious allegations in the lawsuit and the fact that he has admitted to conduct that by definition is sexual harassment, he should immediately resign his position."
Edwards joins several Louisiana lawmakers and the leader of the state's Democratic party in calling for Schedler to resign after a lawsuit says he harassed a woman over more than a decade while working in the Secretary of State's office. Louisiana Democratic Party Executive Director Stephen Handwerk said Schedler, a Republican, "either needs to clear his name or step down."
"It's deeply troubling that he isn't denying the allegations and is still holding his position," Handwerk said.
The calls for Schedler to step down weren't all from Democrats. Republican state Sen. Sharon Hewitt of Slidell said in a statement that Schedler "can no longer be an effective leader or role model for our state. In the coming days, I hope that he too will reach the same conclusion and consider stepping down."
State Sens. Karen Carter Peterson and Regina Barrow and state Rep. Helena Moreno also have called for Schedler's resignation.
Bayou Bridge pipeline still under construction, despite federal court order
Though a federal court order on Feb. 23 blocked construction of the controversial Bayou Bridge oil pipeline in the Atchafalaya Basin, construction can continue on other parts of the pipeline, according to a federal court ruling issued Feb. 27.
U.S. District Judge Shelly Dick clarified an earlier order, which granted a preliminary injunction following a lawsuit from several environmental groups arguing that the pipeline's construction would irreparably harm the basin's vulnerable wetlands and surrounding communities. Dick later limited the geographic reach of her order, thereby allowing construction elsewhere. She also held that companies' claims of financial losses were unfounded.
Several environmental groups now are calling on Gov. John Bel Edwards to intervene and stop the project. "There is no logic to this, and it is a violation of the good faith and trust that the people of Louisiana put in their elected leaders," Louisiana Clean Energy Jobs for All said in a statement.
City Council set to vote on crime camera ordinance March 8
This week, the New Orleans City Council could vote on an ordinance that would require every business that sells alcohol to install front-facing cameras that stream video into the city's Real Time Crime Monitoring Center. The footage is available to state and local law enforcement as well as the FBI.
The measure is part of a larger package related to alcohol beverage outlet (ABO) reform, including streamlining the process for permits and licenses and changes to how city agencies penalize ABOs that have generated complaints.
The ordinance is scheduled to appear on the council's March 8 agenda, which also could include a controversial resolution approving Entergy's 128-megawatt gas-fired energy plant in New Orleans East.
'Gutter buddies' helped keep drains clear during Mardi Gras
New Orleans sanitation officials gave their Mardi Gras post-mortem last week, revealing that more than 900 people helped collect roughly 1,200 tons of trash and parade debris — 300 tons more than the city's Carnival trash average.
In an update to the New Orleans City Council Public Works, Sanitation and Environment Committee Feb. 27, officials also praised the installation of 250 "gutter buddies" to block beads and other parade debris from entering storm drains. ity workers earlier pulled 46 tons of old beads from clogged storm drains.
- PHOTO BY ZACH SMITH
- The Lost Bayou Ramblers will kick off the Wednesday at the Square concert series March 14.
'Wednesday at the Square' lineup announced
The Young Leadership Council (YLC) last week announced the lineup for its weekly Wednesday at the Square concert series March 14 through May 30. The events are 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. in Lafayette Square, and there are food and drink vendors and an art market. Admission is free, and the YLC sells VIP passes, which allow access to a viewing area, portable toilets, a bar and free beer.
Here's the schedule:
• March 14: Lost Bayou Ramblers and Mia Borders
• March 21: Walter "Wolfman" Washington and Johnny Sketch and the Dirty Notes
• March 28: Marc Broussard and Helen Gillet
• April 4: Sweet Crude and Travers Geoffray
• April 11: Flow Tribe and TBA
• April 18: Wayne Toups and Darcy Malone and the Tangle
• April 25: Big Sam's Funky Nation and The Deslondes
• May 2: Amanda Shaw and Trumpet Mafia
• May 9: Bonerama and N'awlins Johnnys
• May 16: Motel Radio and TBA
• May 23: Maggie Koerner and Naughty Professor
• May 30: Shamarr Allen and Robin Barnes and the Fiyabirds