Group asks city to reconsider Bywater dog park — Gambit | A neighborhood group that wants an off-leash dog run in Markey Park presented a petition at the monthly meeting of the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission. At the behest of other neighborhood associations, and citing concerns about dog droppings, the commission has approved renovation plans for the park that do not include a dog park. (For more, read previous Lens coverage of the doggone issue. The redesign of Markey Park follows extensive lead remediation of the grounds in 2011.)
Tulane Avenue corridor will see $10 million streetscape revitalization — Mid-City Messenger | The plan aims to “significantly improve visual quality along the corridor and … enhance pedestrian and bicycle mobility and safety.” The best part? Left turns will be permitted at selected intersections.
New Orleans levees, cough syrup and wounded veterans: Louisiana bill round-up — NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune | State Rep. Nick Lorusso’s bill would shorten levee buffer zones from 15 feet to 6 feet, but only along the Orleans Avenue, London Avenue and 17th Street canals. The article notes that the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority began a study on the buffer zones, subsequent to complaints from Lakeview residents about the buffers. (Related: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have said for years that tree roots can weaken levees, though last year in California they decided to violate that policy for the first time.)
Government & Politics
Judge nullifies Crescent City Connection vote on tolls; orders new election May 4 — NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune | A Baton Rouge judge ruled that voters were disenfranchised when many of them were forced to cast provisional ballots that excluded local issues, such as the 20-year bridge toll extension. The election was nullified, and toll collections were suspended yesterday. A week after the November election, The Lens’ Tyler Bridges first wrote about the provisional ballot issue and its potential ramifications. In radio interviews yesterday Mike Teachworth, director of Stop the Tolls, preached cautious optimism about the decision and said his group had won the battle, but had yet to win the “war.” (My view is much less cautious. I believe the tolls are doomed in the May special election. After nine weeks of free cruising, area voters will surely not turn out to re-install them. I’m interested to see if any public officials will bother to spend any political capital in support of the tolls. Remember, some toll proponents said that the collection stands actually improve traffic flow over the bridge. I suppose the next nine weeks will test that claim.)
New alleged arrangement between Nagin and Lake Forest Plaza owner — WWLTV.com | WWL’s David Hammer reports:
Our sources say that Nagin agreed to push another tax benefit for the Plaza, a Tax Increment Financing District to dedicate a portion of state and city sales taxes from that area to building a new shopping center on the Plaza property. In exchange, Nagin wanted [his confidant Cesar] Burgos to get a piece of the deal.”
GOP Jindal successor hopefuls differ in early strategies — Between the Lines | Prof. Jeffrey Sadow reviews recent political maneuvering by Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne and State Treasurer John Kennedy, who may be eyeing the governor’s seat in 2015. He notes that possible gubernatorial candidate Agricultural Secretary Mike Strain has decided not to showboat, and “instead without a lot of fanfare has [begun] peppering the state with a range of policy initiatives.” I like the attention to Mike Strain’s prospects, but Sadow fails to mention U.S. Senator David Vitter as a candidate. Do we really think Vitter will ignore a career’s worth of talk about the benefits of term-limits, and opt for a third Senate run, rather than run for Governor? I doubt it.
Judge’s ruling could be used in arguing other case — Shreveport Times | “Steve Monaghan, president of the Louisiana Federation of Teachers, which challenged the constitutionality of Act 1, said teachers across the state celebrated Baton Rouge Judge Michael Caldwell’s decision throwing out the controversial [teacher accountability] legislation because it violates a constitutional provision that bills can have only one object.” For more on the “single object” problem, see Mark Ballard’s “Political Horizons” column, which was featured in yesterday’s newsletter.
Community outcry causes TV show to remove ‘dangerous’ label for John McDonogh Senior High | The Lens – “Promotions for future episodes of ‘Blackboard Wars,’ the controversial Oprah Winfrey Network docu-series featuring John McDonogh Senior High School, will no longer describe the historic Esplanade Avenue high school as “one of the most dangerous schools in America.”
Lycée paid former CEO $10,000 after he resigned, documents show — The Lens | CEO Jean-Jacques Grandière’s last day of work at Lycee Francais was Nov. 23, but the school continued to pay him through January 1. The school said the $10,000 paid to Grandiere during that span was for his help in transitioning the school to new leadership.
Why Did Florida Schools’ Grades Improve Dramatically Between 1999 and 2005? — Shanker Blog | “There is some pretty good evidence that the accountability pressure of Florida’s [school] grading system generated modest increases in testing performance among students in schools receiving F’s, Shanker said. But the blog identifies a problem: “The grades changed in part because the criteria changed.”
Judge rejects BP attempt to reinterpret part of settlement — WWLTV.com | According to the story BP attempted to change an agreement to pay oil spill claimants in fields such as construction, farming and professional services, citing the high variability in yearly incomes in those professions. “The company tried to say that these industries have ‘comparable’ business in different months from one year to the next, and therefore those are the months that should be used to calculate loss.”
Congressional report: oil and gas development up, but not on federal lands — NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune | “The report’s release comes as some oil-state lawmakers are complaining that the Obama administration isn’t developing enough oil and gas production on government controlled land and water. Some environmental groups, however, say, if anything, the administration is moving too quickly to approve new production after the 2010 Gulf oil spill and that some of the production shortfalls … are a result of oil companies sitting on leases and not developing them.”
Senator asks EPA to lift BP sanction — The News Star |
U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu has asked the Environmental Protection Agency to lift its November suspension of oil company BP’s ability to secure new federal contracts, including oil leases in the Gulf. Landrieu, D-La., said the EPA doesn’t have the authority to regulate the oil and gas industry and that what she considers arbitrary action against BP could “have a chilling effect” on other companies’ desire to drill in the Gulf. … But Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser… said he is outraged by Landrieu’s position. “I guess that shows what lobbying money can do,” Nungesser said.
Police reps take aim at residency requirements for city employees; Mitch Landrieu backs grace period — NOLA.com/The Times-Picayune | “Representatives for the city’s police officers on Monday laid out a comprehensive argument against a law that requires all municipal employees to live within the parish, making the case that officers living in the suburbs remain as committed to their work as those who live in town and that residency requirements will hurt recruitment efforts.”
Seattle police using software to predict crime locations — The Seattle Times | Can computer algorithms reduce human police bias? “A complex algorithm, using data that dates to 2008, predicts where crimes are likely to take place on a certain date and time. Officers will be provided forecasts before their shifts, then use their “proactive time” between 911 calls to patrol those areas, officials said. “Success will be measured in crime that does not occur,” Acting Lt. Bryan Grenon, a leader in the effort, said of the preventive possibilities. Officials said the program will bring equal enforcement throughout the city based on data, helping to address biased policing.”