Isaacson to sit on City Planning Commission

Author and former CNN CEO Walter Isaacson may be only a part-time resident of New Orleans, but Mayor Mitch Landrieu has appointed him to the City Planning Commission.

Isaacson, 64, who now heads the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C., will replace lawyer Alexandra Mora in January.

The City Council approved the appointment Thursday.

“I'm deeply honored and excited about the prospect of helping to protect the city and plan for its future,” said Isaacson, who splits his time between New Orleans and Washington.

Isaacson, a New Orleans native, is also a former editor of Time magazine and the author of books about Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Benjamin Franklin, Henry Kissinger and the "group of hackers, geniuses and geeks (who) created the digital revolution."

He was vice chairman of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, the agency that oversaw the state’s rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. He is also on the boards of Tulane University and the New Orleans Tricentennial Commission.

Landrieu also appointed Jason Hughes to the commission to fill the unexpired term of Nolan Marshall III, who left New Orleans in October for a job in Dallas.

Hughes’ tenure will end in 2021, while Isaacson's will end in 2023.

City Council condemns anti-Muslim rhetoric

At the end of a heated election season that has included calls from Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump to ban Muslims from entering the country, the New Orleans City Council approved a resolution Thursday condemning anti-Muslim rhetoric.

The resolution is part of a national effort by the liberal group Local Progress to get similar measures passed across the country

"We have seen dangerous levels of anti-Muslim and racist rhetoric as well as a rise in hate crimes," said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, a board member of Local Progress. "This rhetoric and violence is not only a threat to our communities but also a direct threat to us as U.S. citizens."

The resolution passed 6-0, with Councilman Jason Williams absent.

"Love really does trump hate," Cantrell said, echoing a slogan used by Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

The resolution says the council "condemns all hateful speech and violent action directed at Muslims, those perceived to be Muslims, immigrants and people of color," "categorically rejects political tactics that use fear to manipulate voters or to gain power or influence" and "reaffirms the value of a pluralistic society, the beauty of a culture composed of multiple cultures, and the inalienable right of every person to live and practice their faith without fear."

Clinton is expected to easily carry New Orleans in Tuesday's election.

Jeff council backtracks, OKs disputed contract

The Jefferson Parish Council on Wednesday suspended a disputed ordinance in order to keep the parish's Carnival parades rolling in 2017, hiring a company owned by a local political consultant to build the grandstands from which revelers will cheer on the annual spectacle.

The council voted 7-0 to suspend a ban passed a year ago that would prevent parish contracts from being awarded to any firm partially owned by a consultant who had represented an elected official during a prior election.

That ordinance, which was proposed by Councilman Chris Roberts last November, is under challenge in federal court.

Buisson Creative, a firm owned by political consultant Greg Buisson, was the only firm to respond to the most recent request for proposals to provide the grandstands for the upcoming Carnival season.

Because of the pending legal challenge and the fact that no other proposals for the work were submitted, the council suspended the ban and also voted 6-0 to negotiate a contract with Buisson Creative. Roberts abstained from that vote.

The ordinance was controversial because some saw it as being aimed specifically at Buisson, who had just worked for Roberts’ political opponent in the prior election cycle.

Roberts dismissed the criticism, saying the ordinance was a good-government measure designed to prevent conflicts of interest by making sure those who worked on political campaigns did not then get contracts with parish government.

BGR: Its report to save taxpayers millions 

The Bureau of Governmental Research put out a release last week taking credit for uncovering an issue that it said is "expected to yield millions in savings to taxpayers."

On Oct. 27, an Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge ruled in the city's favor on how to apply the formula for calculating pension benefits for city firefighters. The BGR release said the "matter stemmed from a 2013 report in which BGR revealed that the New Orleans Firefighters' Pension and Relief Fund was applying the benefits formula on more generous terms than those spelled out in state law."

The court order directs the fund "to apply the formula as set forth in law," the research group said.  

"According to a pension consultant's estimate, if the formula were properly applied to current employees alone, taxpayers would save roughly $1.3 million per year. But under the judgment, the formula is to apply to current retirees as well, increasing the potential savings," BGR said.

Compiled by Jessica Williams, Jeff Adelson, Chad Calder and Bruce Eggler