POLS, OFFICIALS PREVIEW NEW AIRPORT
With skylights and walls of windows pouring light into a sea of concrete, city officials announced the construction of a massive new terminal to replace the Louis Armstrong International Airport is "65 to 70 percent complete."
The nearly $1 billion project will include 35 gates and several locally based restaurants, concessions, newsstands and gift shops, including Angelo Brocato, Emeril's, Dirty Coast, Fleurty Girl, Mondo, Mopho, The Munch Factory, Pulp + Grind, PJ's Coffee and the Preservation Hall Foundation.
New Orleans and Jefferson Parish officials celebrated progress on the terminal construction April 25. Mayor Mitch Landrieu called the project the "cornerstone" of the metro area's future and "the gateway of the South," serving as a major economic driver when it opens in spring 2019. "You haven't seen a facility like this in the city of New Orleans, and there won't be one like this in the country," he said.
The airport saw 12 million passengers in 2017, which followed 11.1 million in 2016 and 10.3 million in 2015. The airport offers 56 nonstop destinations, including nonstop international flights with Condor and British Airways.
Among other amenities at the new terminal are a football field-sized passenger screening area, an entertainment stage and storefronts from Brother's, Chick-Fil-A, City Greens, CNBC, Dylan's Candy Bar, Leah's Kitchen, Lolli & Pops, NOLA Couture, Starbucks, WhereTraveler and Ye Olde College Inn, among others. An elevated roadway to the terminal entrance also is partially completed.
The project broke ground in 2016, a year after city officials unveiled $300 million in renovations at the current terminal. In 2016, officials anticipated completing the job by May 2018.
Officials anticipate the new terminal opening in tandem with a new I-10 interchange from Loyola Avenue, one of three recently approved state projects totaling $600 million and supported by Grant Anticipation Revenue Vehicles, or GARVEE, bonds. The $124 million interchange project will allow traffic flow from I-10 in all directions to the new airport terminal, which sits at Aberdeen Street near Loyola.
Quote of the week
"The beignet fixes the only flaw in the doughnut — there is no hole." — Homer Simpson on the April 22 episode of The Simpsons, which saw the cartoon family vacationing in New Orleans. The episode, titled "Lisa Gets the Blues," also featured a funny montage of Homer eating his way through dozens of New Orleans restaurants, from Galatoire's and Dooky Chase's to Coop's Place and Gene's Po-Boys. Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews played himself in a cameo role.
State Senate passes ban on abortions after 15 weeks
A controversial ban on abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy has passed the Louisiana Senate, with a catch — if it becomes law, it won't go into effect unless a similar statute in Mississippi is upheld in federal court.
Senate Bill 181 by state Sen. John Milkovich, D-Shreveport, closely parallels the Mississippi law, which drew a legal challenge within 24 hours of being signed by that state's governor last month. In a last-minute amendment on the floor, state Sen. Danny Martiny, R-Metairie, proposed changes to S.B. 181 that would keep it from going into effect unless federal courts rule favorably on the Mississippi law, making an end run around objections based on costly legal battles.
"This is a win-win in the interim," Martiny said. "This amendment will make sure that we spend no money litigating this issue."
The amended version of the bill also seemed to clear up a question over whether SB 181 would undercut a 2006 law that bans abortions in Louisiana in the event the 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade is overturned. After a graphic closing statement by Milkovich, senators voted 31-3 in favor of the bill, advancing it to consideration by the House.
State Sens. Wesley Bishop, J.P. Morrell and Troy Carter, all New Orleans Democrats, voted in opposition.
It's unclear what this means for women and abortion rights proponents in Louisiana. Courts consistently have found early-term bans on abortion unconstitutional, based on the "viability" standard.
Public comment on STRs available through July 2
The New Orleans City Planning Commission (CPC) heard nearly three hours of public comment April 24 about possible changes to the city's one-year-old short-term rental (STR) laws — and how the proliferation of tourist housing and inconsistent enforcement of regulations on the books have affected neighborhoods and residents' quality of life.
After more than a year of debate over the consequences of the current rules governing STR platforms like Airbnb, the New Orleans City Council earlier this year directed the CPC to study STRs' impacts and whether the rules need to be amended. That could mean the CPC will offer new recommendations to the City Council, such as requiring owners to reside on STR properties, capping the number of STRs per block, or limiting the number of licenses a person can have.
Initially, the CPC recommended the City Council reject all whole-home rentals — but in 2016, the Council agreed to whole-home "temporary" rentals up to 90 days a year and for unlimited rentals in commercial districts. The City Council also rejected a homestead exemption requirement.
A March report from Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative outlined how just over 16 percent of New Orleans STR operators control nearly half of all listings, illustrating how companies and developers have leveraged the new STR laws to turn local housing into networks of hotels throughout the city at the expense of residents and former residents.
The CPC staff will submit a report by mid-July. Written comments will be accepted until July 2 by emailing email@example.com.
The issue will be one of the first for the incoming City Council and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell's administration. Incoming councilmen Joe Giarrusso III and Jay Banks have expressed concerns over the current regulations, and Cantrell sponsored the motion for a CPC study. When the Council passed STR regulations in 2016, Council President Jason Williams argued voting against them would allow more proliferation without any control. Last month, Williams admitted those rules allowed loopholes and "unintended consequences" enabling "international companies [to buy] up whole blocks and driving up the cost to rent, the cost to buy."
Residents at the CPC's hearing April 24 demanded city officials reconsider a homestead exemption and a "one host, one home" requirement, as well as a ban on all whole-home rentals. Several residents also urged officials to continue a prohibition on STRs in the French Quarter and to extend that protection to other neighborhoods.
Residents also requested that STR platforms share detailed data and be required to have a license to operate in the city.
Local jail population
down by half
New Orleans' jail population has effectively been cut in half since 2010, down from a pre-Hurricane Katrina total of 6,500 people incarcerated in Orleans Parish Prison that contributed to the state's perennial statistic as the most incarcerated state in the U.S. When Mayor Mitch Landrieu took office in 2010, the city had roughly 3,400 inmates, which fell to 1,600 when City Hall received the beginning of what would become a more than $1.5 million grant from the MacArthur Foundation to help curb its prison population. By the end of 2017, the number of incarcerated people in the parish fell to roughly 1,400. Landrieu hands over the keys to City Hall with plans to drop the number by another 200 inmates by 2019.
Last week, criminal justice officials discussed jail reduction plans for the coming years at the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee, where committee chair and outgoing District A Councilwoman Susan Guidry said the trend is "vital to the trajectory of our city and our future" as the current administration leaves office. Steps include reducing or avoiding pretrial detention for low-level crimes, including parole and failure-to-appear violations.
The Landrieu administration also unveiled a Public Safety Assessment tool that aims to help judges assess pretrial scenarios, including felony offenders' risk of arrest or failure to appear in court, to "increase safety, reduce taxpayer costs, and enhance fairness and efficiency in the system." The tool will launch with pretrial services in summer 2018.
Mac is back: Supergroup Fleetwood Mac coming to town in 2019
Fleetwood Mac will return to New Orleans in 2019 — without Lindsey Buckingham. The band plays the Smoothie King Center Feb. 16 with the lineup of Mick Fleetwood, John McVie, Stevie Nicks and Christine McVie and new members Mike Campbell, former guitarist for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers and Neil Finn of Crowded House.
According to Fleetwood in an interview with Rolling Stone, the band reached an "impasse of hitting a brick wall" with longtime guitarist and vocalist Buckingham over the scheduling of this tour. "This was not a happy situation for us in terms of the logistics of a functioning band," Fleetwood said. "To that purpose, we made a decision that we could not go on with him. Majority rules in terms of what we need to do as a band and go forward."
Tickets are $46.50-$226.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, May 4.