Inside the News Room
 

Week in Review: ‘This is more of a poll than a study’

An economic impact study by UNO concluded that 595,000 people stayed in shortterm rentals in New Orleans in 2017, generating nearly $900 million in economic impact and supporting or creating 10,200 jobs. These numbers have been consistently repeated at public hearings and community meetings by shortterm rental proponents.

The study caught the eye of of one City Planning Commission member.

“This seems like a large number,” Commissioner Kathleen Lunn said to the City Planning Commission staff at a recent public hearing. “That would be something reliable?”

The answer is no, according to economists who spoke with The Lens.

“This is more of a poll than a study,” said Jay Brinkmann, the former chief economist at the Mortgage Bankers Association. “This is not something that would show up in an academic journal. The problems I’m raising now are the most basic outline of how an academic peer might look at this and dismiss it.”

In a first, Orleans School Board denies industrial tax exemption request

The Orleans Parish School Board unanimously denied a local shipping company’s request for a tax break. It is the first such denial from the board, which has only recently been given the power to review industrial tax exemption requests.

Six board members voted to deny Bollinger Algiers’ application for an Industrial Tax Exemption, in line with school district administration’s recommendation. Member Sarah Usdin abstained.

The denial came days after a spokesman for LaToya Cantrell said the exemption “should be allowed to move forward.”

The industrial tax exemption is the state’s most expensive tax break, costing local governments $13.7 billion in lost tax revenue between 2006 and 2016, according to The Advocate.

Behind The Lens, episode 2

According to an alarming new report by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the world is running out of time to get global warming under control. It’s a warning that’s particularly important for Southeastern Louisiana, where rising sea levels threaten to worsen coastal land loss.

In episode two of our podcast Behind The Lens, producer and host Tom Wright interviews Torbjörn Törnqvist, a professor of earth and environmental sciences at Tulane University, about the report and what’s in store for Louisiana’s disappearing coast.

State appeals court rules New Orleans DA must produce fake subpoenas

A panel of judges from the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal has affirmed a lower court ruling that Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro must turn over DA subpoenas in closed and rejected cases in response to The Lens’ public record request.

In a ruling issued Wednesday, the panel agreed with Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese, in effect ordering Cannizzaro’s office to produce any remaining DA subpoenas from a 16-month window. The judges denied The Lens’ appeal to extend the ruling to open cases.

911 tape: Teacher claims principal blocked her in school when she tried to quit

A former teacher at a Gentilly Woods charter school told a 911 call-taker last month that her boss would not allow her to leave the school when she tried to resign, according to records obtained by The Lens.

On Sept. 26, the teacher at Mary D. Coghill Charter School called 911 after trying to resign because she was being held in her classroom by the principal, she told the emergency call-taker. The teacher requested that her name not be used in this story out of concern for her future job prospects.

“I came to get my stuff to resign and they’re refusing to let me out of the building with my things,” the teacher told the operator.

“I have the principal and a board member — or whoever he is — trying to stop me,” she said.

Alternative charter school is closing mid-year

Crescent Leadership Academy, an alternative middle and high school that accepts students who’ve been expelled from other city schools, will close at the end of this month, according to a letter from Orleans schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr.

Lewis said the charter board’s decision to shutter the school mid-year is “unacceptable and goes against everything we stand for as a community of educators leading schools in our unique system.”

“I have spoken to the leadership at CLA to express my deep disappointment in the timing of this decision,” Lewis wrote in the letter to other school leaders.

“Additionally, we will be investigating this decision to surrender and pursuing any recourse where needed.”

The decision will leave New Orleans without an alternative school for elementary and middle school students.

Opinion: Starbucks in Faubourg Marigny? There goes the neighborhood …

Columnist C.W. Cannon:

“The other day NOLA.com reported that a Starbucks will open in 2019 at the corner of North Rampart and Elysian Fields, in the heart of Faubourg Marigny. Denunciations ensued immediately on Nextdoor Marigny, a social network designed to facilitate discussion of neighborhood issues. Though the vast majority of responses were negative, there were a handful of Starbucks defenders.

“So what’s the big deal about Starbucks in New Orleans? Why do so many residents of the city’s most historic neighborhoods view it as an affront to their identity?”

Opinion: Register to vote like your own future depends on it — because it does!

In-person voter registration ended last week. Online registration ends Tuesday. If you’re not registered to vote, do it now, writes columnist Lynda Woolard.

“The 2018 Mid-Term Election is being touted as the most consequential of our lifetime. … But if you aren’t registered, you can’t vote.

“Every single inflection point in recent memory has been hugely impacted by our elected officials, from the 2014 events that followed the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, to the  swearing in just the other day of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.”

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About Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado covers the city of New Orleans and other local government bodies. He previously worked for Gambit, New Orleans’ alternative newsweekly, where he covered city hall, criminal justice and public health. Before moving to New Orleans, he covered state and local government for weekly papers in Nashville and Knoxville, Tenn.