CITY COUNCIL: DON'T CALL THEM 'CRIME CAMERAS'
Those ubiquitous red-and-blue flashing crime cameras mounted across New Orleans streets now have a name: "Quality and Neighborhood Safety Cameras." The New Orleans City Council unanimously passed a resolution June 7 to formally name the cameras.
"If we talk about 'crime cameras' everywhere it gives the impression that crimes are rampant everywhere," said District B Councilman Jay Banks. "This is purely about perception. ... This is just changing the name to something I think reflects more positively in the direction we want to go in."
The resolution follows former Mayor Mitch Landrieu's sweeping public safety plans that called for dozens of cameras in designated "hot spots" and intersections throughout the city. The administration ultimately abandoned a potential network of hundreds of cameras outside bars and restaurants that would feed into the city's centralized camera monitoring center.
But a parallel surveillance network of nonprofit group ProjectNOLA's more than 2,200 cameras has plans to grow. Last month, the NOLA Partnership for Public Safety and Peace — a group of business and faith leaders — debuted a plan to add 300 ProjectNOLA cameras outside places of worship, as well as outside the homes of congregation members, as part of its "21st Century Neighborhood Watch" program, largely driven by technology and faith-based mentoring programs. The plan has the support of Mayor LaToya Cantrell's administration.
Meanwhile, residents who are plugged into the New Orleans Police & Justice Foundation's SafeCam NOLA program, which allows residents to register their cameras with the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), soon may be able to access a "platinum" version of the program to stream feeds into the Real Time Crime Monitoring Center. The center is the city's Homeland Security nucleus that can share data with the NOPD, the Louisiana State Police and other "law enforcement partners," including federal agencies.
The New Orleans Workers Center for Racial Justice, which led recent efforts with its Congress of Day Laborers to speak out against Landrieu's plan, recently warned that "adding more cameras is not the answer to the insecurity that many New Orleanians experience."
Stop Watching NOLA launched its website last week to "track the surveillance cameras tracking them." The website "will allow residents to input the location of surveillance cameras into an interactive map," which also will display the locations of "safety cameras, used to monitor traffic violations, in order to illustrate the pervasiveness of surveillance cameras." The website also will collect crowd-sourced data (and info via the hashtag #StopWatchingNOLA) and release infographics on policing and incarceration.
Quote of the week
"We have bright moments in our country's history and we have dark ones. ... As a representative of the people of New Orleans, what is going on in [Washington, D.C.] as a policy is a dark moment." — New Orleans City Council President Jason Williams, on immigration policies under President Donald Trump that mandate the separation of children from families entering the U.S. without legal permission. At the June 7 City Council meeting, Williams took a moment to "publicly condemn" Trump and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, and Council Vice President Helena Moreno suggested the Council "come up with a resolution in the near future stating our position on this issue."
$15/hour minimum wage for some court employees
Effective last week, full-time employees at New Orleans First City Court began earning at least $15 an hour, part of Clerk of Court Timothy David Ray's pledge to support a $15 minimum wage.
"Setting a new living wage policy for First City Court was a priority when I became Clerk," Ray said in a statement. "The public is well aware of the plight of our Courthouse, but aside from the need to care for the building, we must take care of the people who ensure our courts run efficiently. I may not be able to build a new Courthouse, but I will be a leader who builds up people."
(Last month, the building that houses First City Court and Civil District Court closed for a day when the last working elevator of the building's three elevators broke down.)
In 2015, the New Orleans City Council approved a living wage ordinance, raising the base wage for some city contractors' employees to at least $10.55 (it's now up to $10.76). Officials approved a $10.10 minimum wage for city employees in 2014.
Louisiana is one of a few states with no minimum wage of its own, adhering to the federally mandated $7.25, while tip-earning service workers' minimum wage is set at $2.13. State Rep. Joseph Bouie's attempt to convince the state Legislature to pass a $15 minimum wage bill earlier this year failed to get out of committee.
Lawmakers also rejected a $1.25 increase to the state minimum, which would have raised it from the federal $7.25 to $8.50.
Council wants sheriff to collect firearms from convicted domestic abusers
The New Orleans City Council wants the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office to immediately begin implementing a new state law requiring sheriffs to collect restricted firearms from people convicted of domestic violence or who are subject to protective orders.
New Orleans state Sen. J.P. Morrell drafted a measure — signed into law by Gov. John Bel Edwards on May 20 — that designates sheriffs as repositories for firearms possessed by abusers. The law adds a framework to previous statewide efforts that prevent domestic violence offenders from possessing a firearm. Under the new law, sheriffs act as pass-through agencies, along with clerks of court and district attorneys, to enforce those measures.
On June 7, the City Council passed a resolution urging the sheriff to immediately comply with the law, which has a start date of Oct. 1. "We would like our sheriff to start working on this much faster," said Council Vice President Helena Moreno, who authored several domestic violence bills while in the state Legislature. The City Council resolution aims to "expedite the process for the sheriff to implement these policies," she said.
Louisiana consistently ranks among states with the highest rates of domestic homicides despite declines in national rates. In 2017, 73 percent of domestic homicides in Louisiana were committed with firearms.
Janelle Monae, Childish Gambino among Voodoo headliners
Childish Gambino, Mumford & Sons, Arctic Monkeys, Janelle Monae, A Perfect Circle, Modest Mouse and Marilyn Manson are among the headliners performing at the 2018 Voodoo Music + Arts Experience, returning to City Park Oct. 26-28 for its 20th anniversary.
The festival looks a lot different than its early days in 1999. On this year's bill is a relatively long list of EDM artists, including Odesza, Martin Garrix, Tipper and Zeds Dead, among others, and a hip-hop lineup featuring Lizzo, 21 Savage and Ty Dolla $ign. Third Eye Blind, which performed at the inaugural Voodoo, returns to the fest in 2018.
Weekend passes start at $140 and are on sale at www.voodoofestival.com/tickets. A full day-by-day lineup will be released later this year.
Music fans get Byrned: David Byrne's not coming to town after all
David Byrne's American Utopia tour finale — scheduled for Oct. 8 at the Saenger Theater — has been canceled. In a statement, the theater announced the show was canceled "due to a scheduling conflict." According to Dante DiPasquale, vice president of talent for promoters Winter Circle Productions, the show was a go "for months," but Broadway's Aladdin needed that date to unload equipment.
"We tried very hard to reschedule the show on a different date and/or venue, but it was not possible due to the artist's tight travel schedule and production requirements," DiPasquale told Gambit. "It is truly disappointing that we were put in this position of having to cancel the show. We apologize to the fans and hope we can bring [Byrne] back to New Orleans sometime soon."
The show was set to be Byrne's return to New Orleans following an impressive performance at this year's New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival on an earlier leg of the same tour and on the heels of his acclaimed 2018 album American Utopia. The Saenger show was announced just a few weeks after that performance, but a ticket sales opening date was postponed indefinitely, until the cancellation was announced.