New Orleans Advocate a.m. 

Feb. 13, 2018

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Welcome to the inaugural edition of the New Orleans Advocate a.m., a daily roundup we're putting together of all the top local news of the day, combined with headlines from around the web. It's designed to give you a quick, comprehensive summary of what's going on in New Orleans, with links to the stories that have all the details. Please aim comments, complaints, tips at Advocate Deputy Editor Andrew Vanacore: avanacore@theadvocate.com


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The Southern University Board of Supervisors has authorized a contract with Advanced Biomedics LLC, a Lafayette company, to cultivate and produce nonsmokable medical marijuana under the university's state-granted license.

Louisiana's going green 

You'll still need a prescription. But the state's pharmacy board is getting ready to hand out 10 medical marijuana pharmacy permits to providers around the state.  

In the New Orleans area, a company called Rx Greenhouse is applying to set up shop at an office building near the intersection of I-10 and Causeway Boulevard.  


More school threats

The rash of threats against local schools continues. UNO had to cancel most classes Monday after a 20-year-old suspect Nicholas Heard allegedly made some threatening comments toward fellow students on campus. 

Since the massacre in Parkland, Florida, last month, area police have made more than a dozen arrests over school-related threats, whether because of copy-cat behavior or extra vigilance. Several campuses have been forced to cancel school while police investigate. 

And the NOPD is going to start training staff at public schools in New Orleans on how to respond during an active-shooter scenario. 

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A sign at the entry of the University of New Orleans Campus states that guns are not allowed on campus in New Orleans, La., Monday, March 12, 2018. The University canceled its classes Monday after a student who lives on campus threatened two other students, university officials said.


Legislature off to an angry start 

Just a week after lawmakers ended an unsuccessful attempt to patch up Louisiana's awful budget situation, they were back in the same room with one another Monday for the start of this year's regular legislative session. They didn't seem thrilled about it.  

One Republican said he was abandoning a committee chairmanship because he was so frustrated with the chamber's leadership, writes Elizabeth Crisp in Baton Rouge, while others circulated rumors of a of an effort to oust House Speaker Taylor Barras, R-New Iberia.

And ironically lawmakers are actually barred by state law from addressing the state's most urgent problem, a budget shortfall of at least $600 million. Here's our rundown of what may actually happen during this session, including the first big push in decades to expand casino gambling in Louisiana.  


In JP politics: Fortunato backs Yenni 

John Fortunato, one of the two candidates for sheriff in Jefferson Parish, said during a televised debate Sunday evening that he would back Parish President Mike Yenni for reelection in 2019.

That's a risky stance. Yenni survived a recall effort last year after it came out that he had been sending sexually explicit text messages to a teenager. But most other elected officials in Jefferson have called for him to resign. 

And Fortunato, the former long-time spokesman for the Sheriff's Office, is in a tight race with incumbent Joe Lopinto, who said during Sunday's debate that he thought Yenni should step down. The latest poll puts them in a statistical tie.

In a text message to Jim Mustian, Fortunato elaborated that he doesn't "condone what Mike Yenni said or did, but I also believe the administration is managing the parish well."   


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DeSoto Parish School Superintendent Dr. Cade Brumley talks to Mansfield Elementary student Carson Washington during a walk around in Mansfield, Louisiana on Friday March 2, 2018.

Executive compensation  

When we called around about the guy who was just hired to run public schools in Jefferson, it was hard to find anyone who would say something negative about him. But luring away a well-regarded superintendent from DeSoto Parish is going to cost Jefferson's school board.

On Tuesday, board members will take up a proposed contract for the new super that calls for an average annual salary of almost $270,000, plus a car and gas. That's about $60,000 more than his predecessor. 

(By the way, the school board in New Orleans is trying to get another $50 million out of FEMA for post-Katrina rebuilding.)


About that enormous ball of flames

Della Hasselle and Faimon Roberts get to the bottom a huge flare coming out of a Chalmette oil refinery over the weekend: Turns out the plant had some routine maintenance going on, along with an unexpected problem that shunted all of the plant's excess waste chemicals into a single flare. The company that owns the plant now has a week to report back with state environmental officials detailing the cause and any resulting emissions. 


From around the web

Looks like President Trump won't go as far as some had hoped in pushing for new gun control measures. The porn star who says she was paid not to talk about an affair with the president is offering to give back the money. Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee looking into Russian interference in last year's election say they haven't found any evidence Trump colluded with the Kremlin. But the U.K. says the Russians did poison a former spy on British soil. A string of bombings has killed two people in Austin. 


Also...

A quick book recommendation: Former NYT reporter Isabel Wilkerson was in New Orleans this past weekend to talk about the Great Migration. Her book on the subject, "The Warmth of other Suns," is a masterpiece. 

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The Advocate a.m. is compiled by Andrew Vanacore, deputy editor for the New Orleans Advocate. Get in touch with feedback, tips, complaints at avanacore@theadvocate.com.

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