1. DON'T FENCE ME IN
After a day of furious reaction on social media, organizers of the 11th annual Bayou Boogaloo festival hastily removed a chain link fence that had been erected on the river side of Bayou St. John in advance of the three-day fest. Boogaloo head Jared Zeller had said the fence was installed for safety reasons, but neighbors objected to it on aesthetic grounds and because it blocked access to the water, going so far as to create a "Boycott Bayou Boogaloo" Facebook page. District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry weighed in, saying her office had not approved the structure, which was dismantled two days before the festival began.
2. Quote of the week
"Looking out over this body, I've never been so repulsed to be part of it." — State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, reacting to state Rep. Kenneth E. Havard's amendment to a bill that would require strip club workers to be 21. Havard's "joke" amendment would have capped the age for strippers at 28 and added a 160-pound maximum weight, which he called "trimming the fat."
After Stokes and state Rep. Nancy Landry, R-Lafayette, objected, Havard, a Republican from Jackson, immediately withdrew the amendment, saying it was a satirical poke at what he claimed was the bill's overreach. He then voted for the original bill. The story went national, and the next day Havard said he was "regretful" but refused to apologize: "I get offended [sometimes]," he said, "but I don't go whining about it."
3. 'Poshtel' OK'd for Bywater
Developers now can break ground on an upscale hostel, or "poshtel," in Bywater. Despite objections from the City Planning Commission, which voted against its staff recommendations in March, as well as residents and area businesses, the New Orleans City Council voted 6-1 May 19 to grant developer Ted Kelso a conditional use permit to build the multi-million dollar project.
District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey backed the development and suggested a large hostel could limit the impact of short-term rentals in the neighborhood. Council President Jason Williams, the only "no" vote on the project, echoed residents' concerns and asked whether it "makes sense" to use the area's relatively high ground, "a scarce resource," as a tourist attraction.
The $18 million Stateside hostel at 4019 Chartres St. — a former fish warehouse across from the Mississippi River levee in the increasingly popular neighborhood — calls for 185 beds and amenities such as a bar, coffee shop and restaurant, a pool and a parking lot. It was scaled back from a 40,000-square-foot project to 32,000 square feet. The developers still required a conditional use permit to build more than 10,000 feet.
4. Of pigeons and peacocks
Pigeon Town is now dubbed the West Carrollton Bird Sanctuary. The New Orleans City Council approved an ordinance May 19 aimed at protecting the neighborhood's famous resident, a peacock named Mr. P, and several other peacocks roosting in nearby neighborhoods. It prohibits the removal or killing of birds from the end of Oak Street at the Orleans Parish line to Broadway Street, up to Claiborne Avenue to Leonidas Street, and down to Spruce Street and to the parish line.
Despite some objections from residents who say the birds damaged their cars, many residents pushed for support of the measure.
5. Hurricane season: Evacuteer outreach
Volunteers from Evacuteer, a nonprofit that assists with the city's emergency evacuation programs, will ride RTA public transit lines June 1-3 to share information about the hurricane season beginning in June. During the "NOLA Readiness Ride," volunteers will draw attention to the metal Evacuspot sculptures, which indicate public pick-up points during evacuation. They'll also offer information about how individuals and families can sign up for the city's evacuation initiatives. In the event of a mandatory evacuation, the city provides busing and transportation for those without a means of departure. For this hurricane season, the evacuation point sculptures are getting new 24-hour lighting and temp-orary signage describing their function.
6. Holden to challenge Richmond; Lopinto and Adams resigning
Baton Rouge Mayor Kip Holden has announced he will take on U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, in the fall election for the 2nd Congressional District seat. Holden, who has served as Baton Rouge's mayor-president since 2002, is term-limited.
Meanwhile, state Reps. Joseph Lopinto, R-Metairie, and Bryan Adams, R-Gretna, announced last week they will resign from the House later this year (after an expected special session). Lopinto, a lawyer, will join the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office as in-house counsel. Adams, a fire chief, will join the State Fire Marshal's office.
7. Monument debate grinds on
While New Orleans officials and supporters of four Confederate monuments await the results of a court appeal, a panel at Tulane University May 17 asked what a post-monument New Orleans would look like, and what residents stand to gain or lose with removal of the monuments.
The panel's presentation triggered a heated debate over the legacy of white supremacy, who gets to determine the city's future and interpret its often-painful history, and how mostly white supporters of the monuments respond to black critics voicing their pain and experience. The latest panel in Tulane Hillel's The Big Issue series included Take 'Em Down NOLA's Michael "Quess?" Moore, University of New Orleans history professor Molly Mitchell, Tulane's Richard Marksbury, Louisiana State University history professor Kodi Roberts and Monumental Task Committee President Pierre McGraw, who filed the lawsuit seeking to block the city from removing the monuments. WWL-TV reporter David Hammer served as moderator.
Historians on the panel argued that the city shouldn't simply remove the monuments without continuing a greater dialogue about the history of the people memorialized, who put the monuments there, and why. Mitchell said there isn't enough public history about the city's role in the slave trade or emphasis on African-American history. Monument supporters argued their removal is politically motivated, and McGraw said moving them to a museum or similar space is "ridiculous."
8. St. Bernard Project gets new HQ
The St. Bernard Project will open its new national headquarters May 25 at 10 a.m. at 2645 Toulouse Street (at N. Broad Street) in Mid-City on the site of a formerly blighted property. Zack Rosenburg and Liz McCartney founded The St. Bernard Project to rebuild houses after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods. The group now operates in six states. For more information, visit www.stbernardproject.org.
9. Lower 9 gets first national chain since Katrina
Not one major retailer had opened in the Lower 9th Ward in the nearly 11 years since Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods — until last week, when a CVS Pharmacy opened at 5000 N. Claiborne Ave. with a ribbon-cutting featuring Mayor Mitch Landrieu and District E City Councilman James Gray. The 13,000-square-foot pharmacy will bring 20 full- and part-time jobs to the area, according to CVS.
10. Funny business
In the first week of June, Comedy Central begins filming its upcoming season of The Half Hour stand-up series in New Orleans at the Civic Theatre — and tickets are free.
Aparna Nancherla and Matthew Broussard perform 7:30 p.m. June 1; Joe Machi and Erik Bergstrom perform 9:30 p.m. June 1; Martha Kelly and Nick Turner perform 7:30 p.m. June 2; Naomi Ekperigin and Ahmed Bharoocha perform 9:30 p.m. June 2; Mike Recine and Drew Michael perform 7:30 p.m. June 3; Ramon Rivas II and Ali Siddiq perform 9:30 p.m. June 3; Cy Amundson, Jacqueline Novak and Noah Gardenswartz perform 7 p.m. June 4; and Nate Fernald and Emily Heller perform 9:30 p.m. June 4. Get free tickets at www.theblacklistnyc.com/nolahh.
Also announced: Comic Ron White performs Aug. 12 at the Saenger Theatre, and New Orleans drag comedian Bianca Del Rio is at the Mahalia Jackson Theater on Nov. 4.