To our readers:
We here at The Lens hope you have a chance to take some time off to relax and recharge over the upcoming holidays. We’re planning to do just that ourselves, reducing our operation to a skeleton staff next week. As a result, we won’t be producing our daily or weekly newsletters. They’ll return when we do on Dec. 30.
It’s been a great year for us — we were again named the best news website in New Orleans in the Excellence in Journalism awards, and we again took home top honors for investigative reporting. But we’re also facing some recent financial challenges.
We’re planning now for a strong 2014, which will be our fifth year of operation. As always, we appreciate your support, both through your avid readership and your tax-deductible financial contributions to our nonprofit operation.
Speaking of which, we’re celebrating our birthday on Jan. 23, and we’d love to have you join us.
Government & Politics
Report: Hospital overhaul fraught with ‘uncertainties’ | The New Orleans Advocate – A report by the Public Affairs Research Council warns of “considerable uncertainties” with the Jindal administration’s privatization of LSU hospitals. The report claims that decreased federal funds to cover the uninsured as Obamacare ramps up “could have a major impact on the system’s revenue model.”
Zurik: Dicharry fired; legislative auditor starts probe | FOX 8 WVUE – The Louisiana Community Development Authority voted to fire Steve Dicharry after Fox 8 uncovered questionable spending on cars, dining and shopping.
Inside New Orleans’ Data-Driven Recovery | Next City – This article salutes the efforts of the Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which has organized reams of local government information into formats that the public can manage. The latest release from the center is an interactive map titled Geographies of Poverty that illustrates particular demographic changes in the New Orleans area since 1980. Perhaps most startling is the map showing the widespread decline of children under 18.
Big potential hit for New Orleans budget in ruling on firefighters pension fund | The New Orleans Advocate
An appeals court in New Orleans has handed Mayor Mitch Landrieu a defeat that could blow a big hole in the city’s budget, affirming a lower court’s judgment that his administration owes the city’s pension fund for firefighters more than $17.5 million.
Recovery School District will be country’s first all-charter district in September 2014 | NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune
Superintendent Patrick Dobard announced Thursday that he would cut short the phaseouts at Sarah T. Reed and George Washington Carver high schools in eastern New Orleans, which currently have juniors and seniors. The system had already decided to close its final two elementary schools — A.P. Tureaud and Benjamin Banneker — this June. It is graduating the final Walter L. Cohen class in June.
Of the 89 public schools in New Orleans, only five will not be charters next fall, all under the local Orleans Parish School Board.
School choice sounds great in theory—but who does the choosing? | Hechinger Report – Columnist André Perry, former CEO of the Capital One-University of New Orleans Charter Network, attempts to cut through some of the school-choice rhetoric. Exactly what sort of choices are we talking about during our education debates? Perry notes: “Ironically, a majority-black city has limited educational options for the black middle class.” He also says that a “my kind of people” attitude needs to be replaced with a “we are all in this together” approach to education policy.
New Orleans City Council introduces noise ordinance with strict new limits | NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune — Opponents say it could hurt the live music scene.
Holding Off on Habana Outpost | NOLA DEFENDER – The developer of the controversial restaurant on a far corner of the French Quarter has withdrawn the proposal, perhaps to rework it to address concerns from neighborhood organizations.
Iberville demolition program aims to rebuild lives for 30 young men and women | NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune
HANO started the Iberville Employment Training Program in June, hiring 30 young adults between the ages of 16 and 24 who live in Section 8 or public housing. …
The goal of the program is to give young men and women on the fringes of society an opportunity to receive on-the-job training that can lead to careers and save them from a life on the streets, [David Gilmore, administrative receiver for the Housing Authority of New Orleans] said.
Report: NOPD should reassign or demote high-ranking officers doing lesser work | The Lens – The officers work out of a trailer in City Park, which they believe is punishment for being critical of the department.
Judge rules heat on La.’s death row is unsafe | The Advocate – A federal judge rules that hot temperatures at Angola amount to cruel and unusual punishment.
Lawyers representing levee authority in lawsuit against oil companies agree to limit potential earnings | NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune
Both state officials and the state legislative auditor had raised concerns that the way the contract between the authority and law firm was written, the law firm could demand as much as a third of the value of the restoration project as its fee. But under the agreement, if an energy company is forced to rebuild wetlands, the law firm will not be paid a share of the cost of rebuilding the wetlands.
The law firm also agreed not to file suit against other entities for wetlands damage without prior approval of the authority, said attorney Gladstone Jones in a separate interview. That provision also had been criticized by state officials, who said the language of the contract would allow the law firm to file suit against any entity and for years in the future.
Flood Insurance Bill Set for U.S. Senate Vote, Mary Landrieu Says | NOLA DEFENDER – Sen. Mary Landrieu says a bill to fix skyrocketing flood insurance premiums has the votes to break a filibuster and that U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid will send the bill straight to the Senate floor.