At a meeting on Dec. 20, the New Orleans City Council will consider adding a slew of new restrictions to the city’s existing short-term rental law. The motion, submitted by Councilwoman Kristen Palmer, would most likely lead to a significant reduction of short-term rentals.

Palmer’s proposal is based largely on a study by the City Planning Commission released earlier this year. But she does not go as far as planners in curbing the industry, particularly when it comes to short-term rentals in non-residential districts.

Perhaps the most notable part of Palmer’s proposal would be a de facto ban on whole-home rentals for single-unit residential properties — the most controversial rental-type in the city’s heated, years-long debate.

Currently, property owners and tenants can get “temporary” licenses allowing them to rent out full residential homes for up to 90 days per year.

Palmer would eliminate this type of license. Under the new policies, only property owners with homestead exemptions could operate residential short-term rentals. And the owners would be required to stay at the property when guests are present.

Teachers must re-apply for jobs to close out Harney’s school year

Interviews started Wednesday for Edgar P. Harney Spirit of Excellence Academy teachers who hope to remain at the school after the Orleans Parish school district plans to take over the school in January.

The embattled charter school’s board voted to surrender its charter to the district after Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. announced he would seek to revoke the school’s operating agreement.

Either way, students can finish the school year at Harney. But dozens of staff members employed by the nonprofit that oversees Harney will lose their jobs when the charter ceases operation unless the school district decides to rehire them. There’s no guarantee that will happen. Job listings for positions at the school have been posted publicly online and give no indication that current Harney workers will be given hiring preference.

Even if it does, the new jobs working for the school district don’t appear to offer much reprieve. District job descriptions say that teaching jobs at Harney “will terminate at the end conclusion of the 2018-2019 school year.”

Groups ask for federal investigation into Entergy Charitable Foundation for lobbying City Council

A coalition of New Orleans environmental and consumer advocates filed a formal complaint against the Entergy Charitable Foundation on Tuesday, asking for an investigation into whether the private nonprofit was illegally utilized to lobby the New Orleans City Council on behalf of Entergy Corporation and its subsidiary, Entergy New Orleans.

The complaint was filed with the the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration, a federal audit and investigatory body that provides independent oversight of the IRS.

The complaint is related to Entergy’s use of past charitable contributions — often made through the foundation — to leverage support for a power plant in eastern New Orleans, which the City Council approved in March.

“There is widespread evidence that Entergy repeatedly used its 501(c)(3) foundation, Entergy Charitable Foundation, to recruit recipients of its charitable donations to take public positions in support of the proposed gas plant as a quid pro quo exchange for donations,” Bill Quigley, the lawyer representing the coalition, wrote in the complaint. “The direct legislative lobbying appears to be illegal under the rules of the IRS for such tax exempt corporations.”

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Behind The Lens episode 11: ‘The Palmer Ban’

This week on Behind The Lens, host and producer Tom Wright talks to reporter Michael Isaac Stein about a new proposal to curb short-term rentals in New Orleans. Councilwoman Kristin Palmer wants to tie residential short-term rental licenses to a homestead exemption and require license holders to be on site while visitors are there.

Palmer’s plan would also place some additional limits on commercially zoned properties, though she doesn’t go as far as the City Planning Commission in a report issued in the fall.

Michael also discusses an IRS complaint filed against Entergy’s nonprofit arm, the Entergy Charitable Foundation. Lawyer Bill Quigley says the company’s efforts to lobby the New Orleans City Council through groups that have received money from the foundation may violate nonprofit tax law.

And Marta Jewson has the latest on Harney charter school. Orleans Parish schools Superintendent Henderson Lewis plans to take over the troubled charter in January. That means that all Harney staff members have to reapply and reinterview to keep their own jobs. And those jobs will only last for a few months. Lewis plans to close Harney at the end of the 2018-2019 school year.

Opinion: Persistent food insecurity clashes with New Orleans’ rep for glorious gastronomy

Columnist Caryn Blair:

“We’re in a city celebrated for its cuisine, and it’s the time of year when families gather around their tables to feast on stuffed mirlitons, gumbo, candied sweet potatoes, and pecan pie. But for the 23 percent of New Orleanians who are food insecure, getting food on the table on a regular basis is a constant challenge.

“In a political climate pushing back on assisting vulnerable populations, the struggle notched at least a temporary victory this week as a House majority stood up to pressure from the right and passed a farm bill without slashing food subsidies for low-income and other people in need.”

Charles Maldonado

Charles Maldonado is the editor of The Lens. He previously worked as The Lens' government accountability reporter, covering local politics and criminal justice. Prior to joining The Lens, he worked for...