Parkland survivor and gun control advocate David Hogg speaks at Ben Franklin High, City Council moves to cap short-term rentals to those with homestead exemptions, the Rolling Stones announce a New Orleans performance, and more. Here's what you need to know in New Orleans this week.
Gun control advocate David Hogg speaks at Ben Franklin High School
Addressing a predominantly teenage audience at Benjamin Franklin High School May 14, gun control advocate David Hogg emphasized the importance of youth-driven movements and voting and fighting against injustice. Hogg was hosted by March For Our Lives Ben Franklin, a student activist club led by Louise Olivier and Olivia Keefe, both of whom are about to graduate from the school.
Hogg, who turned 19 last month, is one of several outspoken survivors of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida last year. Fourteen of his fellow students and three faculty members were killed by a former student wholegally obtained an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle despite a history of violent behavior.
Hogg, then a senior, and several peers formed Never Again MSD, a political action committee advocating for gun control. They led March For Our Lives in Washington, D.C., and their efforts galvanized young people to lead and participate in similar marches — not just in the United States but around the world, including New Orleans. (According to The New York Times, at least eight shootings have occurred on high school or college campuses in 2019 so far.)
At Hogg’s request, the audience at Franklin was limited to about 60 attendees, which made the event more a conversation than a speech. When he was introduced, he asked, “Who here has been affected by gun violence or gun suicide?” Most of the attendees raised their hands.
When Hogg was introduced, he asked, “Who here has been affected by gun violence or gun suicide?” Most of the attendees raised their hands.
“What we’re living through today is bullshit,” he said. But, he added, “we have a chance to change this. Young people control the state of Louisiana. Young people are the largest voting bloc.” He also highlighted the importance of absentee voting for students who will be attending college out of state.
Hogg touched upon familiar talking points, linking a number of factors to gun violence, including inadequate mental health care and elected officials whom he says are corrupt and out of touch with his generation — particularly politicians backed by the National Rifle Association (NRA), which he denounces.
“After every school shooting, when we look to the NRA, what their solution is — let’s go down the list,” he said. “Single point of entry, to limit the people coming into the school. They want metal detectors. … They want bulletproof windows, bulletproof doors. They want chairs and tables bolted to the ground … And on top of that they want barbed wire around the schools with armed teachers and armed guards. You know what I just described to you? Prison.”
When asked how to reduce the NRA’s power, Hogg called for criticism of policymakers who accept its funding. “Make their money toxic. We have to talk about the NRA’s money and make it toxic for anyone who takes it.” — SARAH RAVITS
Council approves motion limiting residential short-term rentals to owners with homestead exemptions
After hours of public comments from owners of short-term rentals (STRs) and residents whose neighborhoods have been impacted by them, the New Orleans City Council last week moved forward with its effort to limit the operation of STRs in residential neighborhoods.
The council unanimously approved a motion capping all residential STRs, such as those listed on Airbnb and HomeAway, to properties with homestead exemptions. Council members also voted to uphold bans on STRs in most of the French Quarter and all of the Garden District.
Residents who supported the limits on STRs — and some who supported banning them from neighborhoods altogether — complained of increased housing costs, gentrification and being kept awake late at night by the sound of noisy renters throwing beer bottles into the streets. Those in opposition to the restrictions — including STR owners and some working in the hospitality industry — said they rely on revenue from STRs to make a living and that they worry the regulations would burden some owners.
After hours of impassioned public comments from both owners of short-term rentals (STRs) and residents whose neighborhoods have been impacted …
The council will have a final vote on the measures in a few months, after another round of public comment. But the votes last week signaled the council likely will impose tighter STR restrictions.
Felipe Fischer, who recently moved to New Orleans, said he spends the weekends cleaning up the trash left in his neighborhood streets by short-term renters and knocking on doors asking visitors to keep noise levels down. “I did not buy my house to be the sheriff of the neighborhood,” he said. Others in favor of the restrictions — some with signs reading “I love my neighbors and I want to keep them” — said the proliferation of STRs is changing the “character of their neighborhoods.”
The council voted unanimously to approve a ban on STRs in the Garden District. A proposal to add an exception to an STR ban in the French Quarter along portions of Decatur Street known as the Vieux Carre Entertainment-1 District (VCE-1) sparked disagreement among council members, who ultimately rejected the proposed exception 4-3. STRs are already allowed on several blocks of Bourbon Street (zoned VCE) under the existing ordinance adopted by the previous City Council. That is the only portion of the Quarter where STRs are allowed.
The council also approved a motion that would limit residential STRs to six bedrooms and 12 guests. That’s down significantly from the nine bedrooms and 18 guests recommended by the City Planning Commission. The reduction came via an amendment proposed by Councilmen Joe Giarrusso, Jay Banks and Jared Brossett.
While the council was meeting, the state Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee in Baton Rouge approved a bill that would have New Orleans voters decide in October if they want to raise a tax on STRs by up to 6.75 percent. Proceeds from the tax, if approved, would be split 75/25 between the city’s infrastructure fund and New Orleans & Co., formerly New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau. — KAYLEE POCHE
As candidates in 2017, all seven council members promised to link STR licenses to homestead exemptions.
Louisiana Budget Project issues report on paid family leave
The United States is the only industrialized nation without a paid family leave policy, and a report issued last week by the Louisiana Budget Project (LBP) urges Louisiana lawmakers to take action on a state level to change that — outlining several policy options.
"This report provides many different options for a paid leave program in Louisiana, and we welcome the debate on how this could happen," LBP Executive Director Jan Moller said. "What we should not be debating is whether this should happen. Too much evidence exists that shows that this would be beneficial to the people of our state."
The report recommends any potential paid family leave program in the state be available to all workers, employ a progressive wage replacement model to ensure sufficient benefits to low-wage workers, offer job protections and include caregiving and personal disability. The LPB also proposes defining “family” broadly with consideration of modern family structures and using a state-administered insurance model paid for by employer and employees.
The federal Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA), which was passed in 1993, gives employees 12 weeks of unpaid leave to care for newborns or ill family members — but only for those who have been employed for at least a year and work for a company with at least 50 employees. Support for a national policy is strong. A 2018 poll by consulting firm GBA Strategies found that 82 percent of Louisiana residents support a national paid family and medical leave policy.
Studies show that many workers who are eligible for unpaid leave do not take it because they can’t afford to go without a paycheck. According to the report, that’s the case for an estimated 35 percent of working adults in the state. Additionally, more than 676,000 of Louisiana workers are not eligible to earn a single paid sick day, the report said.
The United States is the only industrialized nation without a paid family leave policy, and a new report by the Louisiana Budget Project (LBP)…
The report comes at a time when lawmakers at both the federal and state levels are considering paid family leave options. However, proposals vary widely when it comes to how the leave is funded.
State Sen. JP Morrell, D-New Orleans, would have both employers and employees pay a portion of their salary into a statewide pool to cover the costs of leave of up to 12 weeks. Employees would pay less than half of 1 percent of their salary, with the company pitching in a similar contribution.
U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-Louisiana, announced last month that he was working on a national bipartisan paid family leave plan with U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Arizona, but details about the policy haven't been released. In February, Cassidy met with Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and advisor, to discuss the issue. Traditionally, Republican-backed plans have involved drawing from existing social insurance programs — such as Social Security — to pay for family leave.
Currently, only five states — California, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Washington — along with Washington D.C. have paid family-leave programs. — KAYLEE POCHE
Michelle Obama to deliver keynote at Essence Festival
Michelle Obama will headline the 2019 Essence Festival with a keynote speech at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome July 6, festival organizers announced last week. The former first lady's autobiography "Becoming" is one of the bestselling memoirs in American publishing, and her book tour has been well-attended both in the U.S. and overseas.
“We are indescribably thrilled and honored to have ‘Forever First Lady’ Michelle Obama as a part of our 25th Anniversary Essence Festival, which will mark our most exciting and extensive programming to date,” Essence Communications CEO Michelle Ebanks said in a statement.
Admission to see the former first lady will be included with Saturday tickets to the festival.
Michelle Obama was in New Orleans last year shortly before the publication of "Becoming," speaking to the 2018 American Library Association's annual conference at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
This year's Essence Fest also will feature Mary J. Blige, Nas, Missy Elliott, H.E.R., Big Freedia, Davido, Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, Jermaine Dupri, MC Lyte, Pharrell Williams, Sheila E. and dozens of other musical acts. — KEVIN ALLMAN
Producers of the 2019 Essence Festival announced early Thursday that Michelle Obama will take part in this year's festival at the Mercedes-Ben…
Rolling Stones, take two
The Rolling Stones will try — once again — to roll into New Orleans. Barring further complications, Mick Jagger and company will return to the city for the first time in 25 years this summer. The band announced last week the addition of a New Orleans stop to the rescheduled No Filter North American tour. The Stones are now slated to play the Superdome July 14, a make-up date for the band's canceled show at the 2019 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival.
The festival offered full refunds for all tickets purchased to see the Stones at Jazz Fest; those tickets, which were general admission, are not valid for the newly announced, reserved-seat show at the Superdome.
Tickets for the Superdome show go on sale May 31 at 10 a.m. Information on ticket prices was not released at press time. — KEITH SPERA | THE NEW ORLEANS ADVOCATE
The Rolling Stones will try -- once again -- to roll into New Orleans.