New Orleans’ Mayor Fights for a Fair Share of Tourism Tax Dollars

By C.C. Campbell-Rock

Mayor LaToya Cantrell is continuing her fight to redistribute the wealth held by state-empowered and New Orleans based tourism and sports entities, whose taxes seem to benefit the state of Louisiana more than the city of New Orleans.  These entities keep more than their fair share of New Orleans’ tourism generated tax dollars.

According to the Louisiana Office of Culture, Recreation and Tourism, $1.8 billion total state and local tax revenue is generated by travel and tourism activities. The University of New Orleans estimated that 10.98 million people visited New Orleans in 2017 and spent $7.51 billion.  The UNO’s numbers differ from D.K. Shiffler & Associates, a data firm, which reported 17.7 million visitors which spent $8.7 billion. Whichever estimate is most accurate, clearly Mayor Cantrell thinks the city is not getting a fair share of tourism tax dollars.

French Quarter Tourists

Mayor Cantrell’s Chief of Staff John Daniel Pourciau last week spent two days before the Louisiana Legislature’s Ways & Means Committee explaining why the mayor is seeking a fair share of the tourism tax dollars generated in the city of New Orleans. “It’s about allowing the city of New Orleans to take care of itself. New Orleans is tired of having to ask the state for help.”

Pourciau cited the city’s 110 year-old drainage systems, spontaneous boiled water advisories, crumbling streets, and flooding events that follow heavy rainfalls as issues that have reached emergency levels.

Several house bills containing Mayor Cantrell’s requests will be voted on by the state House of Representatives next week:

HB 521 authorizes the city of New Orleans, subject to voter approval, to levy and collect an additional hotel occupancy tax that would be deposited into the parish’s infrastructure fund. This would not be a tax on residents but on hotel rooms, the cost of which will be passed onto hotel visitors.

HB522: Restores the “lost penny;” the 1% sales tax the city gave up to fund construction of the Louisiana Superdome.

HB573: Requires the Morial Convention Center to consolidate laws pertaining to the state entity in one place and for the Convention Center to follow the law that stipulates that excess money reserves be given the city. There is also an amendment to HB573 that calls for the establishment of a Disadvantage Business Enterprise program.

Interestingly, the New Orleans & Co. (formerly the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau), the Morial Convention Center of New Orleans, the Louisiana Hotel Lobby Association, the Louisiana Restaurant Association, and others went on record opposing the sharing of the wealth. These are the entities that benefit the most from the tourism industry in New Orleans, yet they don’t seem to want to share in the cost of fixing the city’s deplorable infrastructure.

But several New Orleanians testified in favor of the bills. Ann Milling testified in support of the Mayor’s request. “We are fed up with boil water advisories, street flooding, flat tires and broken axles, and fed up that resources to address our pressing infrastructure needs are going elsewhere. Fourteen percent or $151 million goers to tourism and sports entities, while only three percent is going to our streets. This is indeed the tail wagging the dog.” Millings called for an end to the state’s outdated, lopsided, tax structure; regarding New Orleans-based state authorities.

Civil Engineer Iam Christian Tucker, a small business owner also testified.  “New Orleans is the revenue driver of this state. It is the state’s flagship city. Our current situation is not sustainable. You can’t keep kicking the can down to road. What will it take for the state to finally tend to the most critical aspect of what sustains us?”

The atmosphere of the first day of hearings, conducted by Ways and Means Committee Chairman Representative Neil C. Abramson, was amicable and cordial, with proponents and opponent politely stating their positions.

But on the second day, sensing they were losing the fight to keep all the revenue generated by their entities, opponents lowered the boom on Mayor Cantrell. 

“This is a very earnest attempt to take down and destroy the largest economic development corporation in Louisiana,” said Stephen Perry, the CEO of New Orleans and Company. “New Orleans and Company is the official sales and marketing company for the state. We represent the Superdome and the Convention Center.”

Perry, a perennial government operative, served as Chief of Staff for the late Governor Murphy J. Foster, Jr. While working for Foster, Perry was instrumental in putting financing together for Phase III and planning for Phase IV for the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.

Perry threatened that hotel taxes garnered during the Bayou Classic and the Essence Festival “will go away,” and that the state will have to “figure out how to pay for a lot,” if the bills pass. Perry was referring to the voluntary, self-assessed 1.75% hotel occupancy tax member hotels pay, of which .25% goes to the city. Perry implied that the voluntary tax would go away if the bills pass.

As soon as she took her seat at the hearing table, Mayor LaToya Cantrell told Perry, “You cut me deep…Shrek.  You cut me real deep.” After the laughter subsided over the mayor’s quote from Eddie Murphy’s character, Donkey, in the animated movie Shrek, Cantrell said, “Sewage, water, drainage, street repairs, and other infrastructure needs’ are her administration’s top priorities. Cantrell took time to attend the hearing, although she was supposed to be at the U.S. Conference of Mayors, co-chairing its Infrastructure Committee.

“I do see a light at the end of the tunnel. The New Orleans Tourism & Marketing budget, the New Orleans and Company budget, and the Convention Center have reserve funds. There are dollars there. We looked at our drinking water and got dinged by the state. We found out the same water that is cooling our turbines is the same water that comes out when we turn on our faucets. I’m advocating for dollars that will go into a dedicated infrastructure fund.”

Her administration is not sitting on its hands, though. “The city’s is spending $145 million in green infrastructure projects. And we have doubled sanitation fees. Our residents are doing their part but 400,000 can’t take care of (the needs of) 18 million visitors,” Cantrell explained.

The mayor also took issue with the fact that voters authorized dedicated taxes for the Convention Center, but the Center’s revenue is being used for other projects, thus denying voters input on how those tax dollars are used.

“When the legislation was passed it was for debt service, maintenance, and operations, with any surplus going to the city of New Orleans. And we haven’t seen that at all,” Cantrell said of the surpluses. The Convention Center has been around for 41 years. Currently, there is a $140 million surplus at the Convention Center.

However, Melvin J. Rodrigue, President of MCCNO, told legislators, “We don’t see it as excess.” He said the Center is still spending money and “We need to borrow another $400 million to make our plans happen. We can’t do that with your bills.”

Win, lose, or draw with the current legislation, Cantrell’s battle for a fair share of tourism dollars has exposed a greater problem.

Back in the day, an Iraqi War protester’s sign raised a pivotal question that is applicable to New Orleans’ fair share dilemma.  “How did our oil get under Iraq’s sand?” is akin to “How did all these state entities get on New Orleans’ land, when the city and its voters see very few benefits from them nor exercise any control over how those tax dollars are spent?”

Here are a few of the state-owned businesses that rake in the dollars in New Orleans, while residents share a disproportionate of the tax burden for essential services; streets, sewerage & water, police protection, fire protection, etc., that allows them to continue to function:

  • Ernest N. Morial New Orleans
    Exhibition Hall Authority
  • Florida Parishes Human Services Authority (Algiers)
  • French Quarter Management District
  • City Park
  • Regional Transit Authority
  • Cabildo New Orleans
  • Louisiana State Museum
  • Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District (Superdome, Smoothie King)
  • The Flood Protection Authority
  • Sewerage & Water Board

Clearly, as New Orleans goes, so does the state of Louisiana. Legislators should be wary of killing the goose that laid the golden egg. Everyone in power should protect the jewel of the South. They must be fair and do their share to keep the dollars flowing in a way that all can benefit; especially New Orleans residents.

5 thoughts on “Mayor Cantrell: “You Cut Me Deep…””
  1. Yes, if a disproportionate amount of money is being steered toward New Orleans and not used to maintain/repair infrastructure, then the process needs to be changed. New Orleans needs and deserves a bigger slice of the tourism revenue it so consistently generates. This truly is the most important and most financially productive city in the state of Louisiana. New Orleans needs to be maintained and given plenty of financial support from the state so that it can continue to be strong as the flagship.

  2. Greetings Ms Campbell-Rock,

    I am writing to get some clarity on a matter. In the above article, Is it accurate to state that the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board is a state-owned business?

    Kindly advise!

    Leon A. Waters

  3. Totally agree with “Fair Share”, but…- There’s a Drunken Sailor somewhere in City Hall!

    LBRC- Who’s clueless? Get this!- “Your Local Government is Upside Down”! 

    1. Elections are very expensive! In 1991, Ballots on average run at least $500k in “Public Funds”, soon we’ll be talking real money! Your contributions go to Politicos whoprep resent who? You never asked for an “ENTERGY” Gas oven in NOE but got it anyway over your objections! Politicos average in “Genius Ranges”? Yeah right? 

    What do we know? a. Most have a “Gift of Gab”. b. Once elected and suddenly, they get sprinkled with Fairy Dust and grow with Clairvoyance.  c. They’re always on TV, this alone makes them important? Honestly yes!

    2. NOLA is again sponsoring a “Single Issue” on a single Ballot! Cost to Taxpayers? Anybody ask? Exclude the ‘Simps! Real Power in NOLA (Unelected) made this happen! Public Funds abuse easily! How does your Politicos justify expenditure of “Public Funds” for single issues on Ballots, your money? Wasn’t there another election only weeks ago? Is this how Politicos manage their personal family budgets? Probably yes! Is this frugal? NOLA has so many pressing needs- Infrastructure, projected Pension Shortfalls, S&WB…- How in the, never mind…

    3. Who should be touring “Council Districts”/Your Neighborhoods and know better the pressing needs of Constituents? You give them income, insurance, retirement plans, free gas and chauffeurs? Ans. The Council People themselves! Do they tour at all? 

    a. Representatives have been elected in NOLA who do not live in Districts they represent! Won’t call names yet!

    b. Councilpersons visit “Their” Districts with “Armed” Guards and NOPD?  They “Stunt” but most are afraid to traverse certain areas of their own District alone! If they’re doing a “Good Job”, how come you dare not visit often during daytime let alone night? ‘Luv ‘Dat desk? You have responsibility for? Disclaimer: ‘Dimwits say- “Great, next mayor”?

    4. Council Politicos are beginning to flood citizen email boxes with “Proclamations” aka propaganda about appointments to so- called “Prestigious” ruling class committees and outside boards. Why?

    a. Always look important, “Always Walk Fast and Carry a Piece of Paper!

    b. ‘Simps love following shinny “Glowing Bouncing Balls”! Remember “Sing Along With Mitch”!  Probably not, We digress…

    b. How easy is it taking candy from a baby? Ans. Easier than what it takes to dupe a Low Info Voter aka ‘Simp! Sorry? 

    5. Somebody said- It’s egregious taking advantage of stupidity and we agree! More egregious is “Learned Stupidity” aka “Lemming” aka “Never Question” aka “What Kissinger calls The Useless Eater”, yada…

    6. Was it W.C. Fields who said during a Skit- “Why spend your money, when common schools are graduating Suckers on average every 7 Seconds”! Politicos get this! 

    7. The Good News! A growing number of young people are escaping “Old” Paradigms with respect to manipulation and propaganda. We applaud them! If most Contemporary Elders were responsible and frankly competent, young African- Americans especially, ADOS, would not be looking down the barrel of inherited poverty and perpetual “Inverted Yield Curves”! Apostate Preachers, Sell Out Gift of Gab Politicos, Abdicated Parental Authority and Free have devastated ambitions for lots! Mismanagement of Public Resources is just as grotesque as stealing, maybe worst! 

    Peace Out…

  4. Was asked for more proof! City Hall or “Pity” Hall? WE ARE PRO “Fair Share” but hmmm…, ‘c’mon…
    LBRC- Was asked for More Proof “There’s a Drunken Sailor Somewhere in City Hall”!

    1. Your Council Politicos have proposed “Numerous Tax Hikes and potentially more aka “A Gun Free French Quarter” (Additional Enforcement Cost?). What about “Wholistic Crime” Citywide? Hmmm.., Crickets?

    a. What has these newbies or “Old Heads” ever proposed in terms of needed “Roll Backs” or innovative savings induced via technology ‘Dat “Really Deliver” minus glowing diatribes? Again “Roll Backs” simply because salaries have failed to keep pace with “New Taxes” or “Inflation”, if they comprehend basic economic fundamentals at all! When affordable housing is practically non existent- Except in NOE where Sect. 8 is still “The Dumping Ground” and the “Perennial ‘Okeedoke is “The Status Quo”! The Council Person other than The Dist. E Person appears to have more clout regarding a “Gas Over”/Hydrocarbon in Dist. E. Does B speak for E? Ans. Only when a “Diversion Tactic” is in order aka “Don’t blame E, blame B and conversely Don’t blame me B, blame E”! If you’re a Political Lemming and this sounds like a “Logic or High order Mathematical Process”, so what, right? 

    b. What is an independent thinker? What it isn’t is somebody who walks into a voting booth with an A, B or C aka Alphabet Soup Politico Ballot and functions like what they really are aka “Dependent Mindless Lemming”! Tax Proposal on a Ballot? Let’s see, who says yes? 

    c. Thought Experiment: Whose responsibility is it to explain any “Tax Proposal”? Ans. Anybody who proposed it! Otherwise, what is 1st Hand Data exposed to be “Verified or Not”? 2nd and 3rd Hand Date (Pseudo Science) is “So and so said it’s a Good ‘Thang, or ‘Dat A, B, C Politico Group told me to press ‘Dat Button! More egregious is, “I can’t explain it, but I just have a “Feeling”! Mary, Joseph and 3 in a Fiery Furnace…, aka WTF (Wholly Thinking Fool), oops and sorry?

    c. Why would you vote yes for what you do not comprehend? A 45% Interest over 5 years Auto Loan, it matters not I do not comprehend how much, I need transportation for my “Several Kids”? Stupidity? btw- Pray The Most High Returns before ‘Simps are asked to vote Yea/Nea Ethnic Slavery as a “Single Item Proposition” at the expense of 1/2 Million Dollars of Public Funds to put it there! Mary, Joseph and Marta Caroli…

    3. Your Politicos told you they need to spend and have spent “Billions” for outside Energy Advisors (ENTERGY is a MO- NOP- PULL IN OR MOP- PULLEY, as Johnny would’ve said at Public Hearings! 

    a. Who trained the Utility Advisors? Ans. a “University” somewhere coupled with experience!

    b. Are there “Competent Local Universities” bearing “Contemporary Data, Research, Experiemce? Ans. Yes! Well… (You’ll get it on your drive or bicycle ride home or where night catches you as the ‘Temps would say…

    Lots more unfortunately…, Politicos are all about “Withdrawals” from you know who, “Deposits and Maintenance to them is an “Irresponsible Abdication”!  

    Peace Out…

  5. How about ‘Dis for a “Fair Share” issue?

    LBRC- Hey NOLA- Been to The City Park Golfing Range Lately?

    1. Whose going to pay for overrun expenses expanding debt plus updating the Range, or will The Millage Proposal take care of ‘Dat now? If I were a JFK HIgh Alumnus, in light of all the pesticides used over years ignoring “Best Practices” IPM/Integrated Pest Management (Also JFK is an Old Dump site, not a Landfill!) which exposed students for years to buried toxins ‘Dat are leaking somewhere, at the very least into “Ground H2O!

    2. Didn’t you know ‘Dat when the money is approved to divided’Dat “All New Debts incurred will be used to settle them!

    3. Watch for excuses of the dumbed down (Those trained to press levers or IT Screens)- 

    a. One probable Example- I voted in favor of it because OT said this one might be a “Good” one.

    b. The Mayor said vote for it, so I did- “I believe anything she says”!

    c. I wish I knew what I knew now before I voted in favor of it!

    The Skinny?

    ‘Simps are Lemmings who never investigate or question. The are not independent thinkers but dependent  Lemmings and Mendicants, who especially vote in favor of issues they clearly do not comprehend! 

    Peace Out…

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The NFL is about a 1/4 of the way through the season. The Saints have battled through displacement, injuries, inconsistency, and an adjustment period. Here’s a statistically based assessment of where they stand.

Offense:

The offense has been terrible this year, one of the worst of Sean Payton’s career. They’re down in almost every statistical category – points per game, total yards per game, passing yards per game, rushing yards per game. 5 games into the season, the offense has just struggled to move the ball, especially through the air.

At quarterback, Jameis Winston is only completing 60% of his passes for 178 yards a game. That’s near the bottom of the league statistically. His overall QB rating is skewed by the fact that he has 12 touchdowns and only 3 interceptions. But 4 of those came in one game where he threw goal line touchdowns after the Saints ran the ball down the field. 4 others have come on big plays. Simply put, the Saints have had few sustained drives through the air. In a quarterback driven league, there’s no way you can consider yourself a SuperBowl contender with stats like that.

Part of it can be chalked up to the Saints missing both starting wide receivers. And part of it can be chalked up to Winston just not reading the coverages, or bad play calling on Sean Payton’s part. Whatever the reason, the Saints have got to get the passing game together in order to make the playoffs for the 5th consecutive year.

Saints All Pro Receiver Michael Thomas

Reason to be optimistic: Michael Thomas is coming back. There’s no getting around it. The Saints’ season hinges on Michael Thomas. On paper, he’s not only the best player on the team, but he’s one of the best in the league. The last time we saw a healthy Can’t Guard Mike he was the 2019 Offensive Player of The Year, leading the league in yards and receptions. That year he caught 80% of the balls thrown to him for an average of 9 receptions and a 107 yards per game. To put that in perspective, Jameis Winston barely threw for over 107 yards in each of the first 3 games this season.

Thomas’ presence should open up the offense. With less attention thrown his way, Marquez Calloway should shine as a 2nd option. Alvin Kamara should see more favorable matches coming out the backfield. And in pressure situations, Thomas should serve as a security blanket for Winston when no one else is open or he has trouble reading coverages down the field.

Reason to be concerned: Who knows which Michael Thomas will return. His consistency on the field has been matched by his inconsistency off of it. The last 2 years, his tweets have risen to Antonio Brown levels. Last season, he was suspended for fighting. And this year, he stubbornly waited until training camp neared to have ankle surgery, which is why he’s not on the field now.

Defense:

The defense has been carrying the team. And if you had to pick a MVP so far, it would have to be defensive coordinator Dennis Allen. Since 2017 all Allen has done is scheme up the best defense the Saints have had since the Dome Patrol.

Reason to be optimistic: The defense is actually slightly better this year. They’re only giving up 18 points per game, 3 points less than the 21 they gave up last year. They’re also only allowing 79 yards rushing. That’s down from 93 last year. And despite going up against 3 of the best running backs in the league – Aaron Jones of the Packers, Christian McCaffrey of the Panthers, and Saquon Barkley of the Giants, they have yet to give up 100 yards to a single back.

This means that opposing offenses have been forced to be one dimensional. And even with teams resorting to throwing the ball more, the Saints D hasn’t been giving up big plays down the field consistently. They also rank 3rd in creating turnovers, up a spot from last year.

Reason to be concerned: They’re not sacking the quarterback. The Saints rank 29th in sacks so for this year. Last year they were 8th. They loss an elite pass rusher in Trey Hendrickson. And no one has stepped up to replace him. Cameron Jordan is in year 2 of a late career slide. Marcus Davenport is inconsistent when he does manage to stay on the field. Carl Granderson and Tanoh Kpassagnon have shown flashes. But this lack of a pass rush is partly why the Saints failed to close out the Giants game. This may become a big problem when they step up in QB class later in the season.

Special Teams:

Punter – Blake Gillikin has made us forget all about Thomas Morrestead.

Kicker – absolute disaster. The Saints are now on their 3rd kicker – 5 games into the season.

Reason to be optimistic: Wil Lutz will eventually come back.

Tidbits:

*  Alvin Kamara is averaging 3.9 yards per carry, down from 5.0 last year, but he’s a much better runner now.

*  Malcolm Jenkins is actually playing good football. He’s projected to finish with 86 solo tackles, 3 interceptions, 6 pass defenses, and 10 tackles for a loss.

*  11/14 – 12/2. @ Tennessee, @ Philly, then home against the Bills, and Cowboys. Those 4 weeks will tell you all you need to know about this team.

Prediction:

This team most likely has a ceiling of 11-6. But they’re a disgruntled Michael Thomas or an injury away from being 9-8 or 8-9. In the meantime, sharpen your teeth. Because this should turn out to be a nail biter of a season.

Robert Taibbi L.C.S.W.

What you learned to do isn’t working. 6 ways to begin to turn your life around.

KEY POINTS

  • We often struggle because our old coping styles no longer work.
  • Knowing your old dysfunctional patterns helps you know how to begin to run your life better.
  • Discover what you can’t do and experiment with acting differently.

Life can deliver its share of troubles and we step up and handle them as best we can. But, for some, their struggles seem never to end. While they, too, are doing their best, what often fuels their difficulties is how they are running their lives. They seem to repeatedly fall into the same potholes, replicate the same dysfunctional patterns, and react to problems in old ways that no longer work.

If this seems to be true for you, maybe it’s time to step back, stop doing what isn’t working, and begin replacing this outdated psychological software with upgraded versions. Here are some of the most common potholes and patterns to stop alongside their new-and-improved replacements. See which resonate most with you:

Stop being a victim

You’re upset because your partner always brings up that incident at Christmas that he knows makes you angry. You’re tired all the time because you’re always going a hundred miles an hour juggling work, kids’ demands, and everyday life. The core problem here is that you see yourself as a victim of others and their reactions, a victim of the life that you have created.

What to start doing: Yes, you can’t control your partner; you feel trapped in a lifestyle that drains you. But most of all you’re not taking responsibility—for your emotions and your reactions, for the choices you make even when you feel like you are not making choices.

Stop being emotionally driven

Being emotionally driven easily overlaps with feeling like a victim. What we’re talking about here is you running your everyday life based on how you feel. You’re tired, so you don’t mow the lawn or do your taxes; you’re overwhelmed about the new project at work, so put off tackling it; it’s already 2:00 pm, the day is shot, and so you mentally kick back and coast—you’ll tackle it tomorrow.

Folks who have high anxiety or who have AD/HD are often emotionally driven: They do what they do based on how they feel. The problem with this is that you understandably avoid what you don’t want to do, what is uncomfortable, and don’t follow through when the going gets tough.

What to start doing: The underlying problem is that your emotional brain is driving your life rather than your rational brain. It’s time to stop your rational brain from being a passenger and to allow it to become the driver: time to learn to act despite how you feel; time to develop some perseverance, some discipline so your feelings aren’t constantly derailing you from success.

Stop being passive

It’s okay; that’s fine; no problem; whatever. If you find yourself saying these often, you probably get kudos for being laid back and accommodating, and as an extra bonus, you avoid a lot of conflict and confrontation. But it comes at a cost: by going along and essentially letting others make choices for you, you are living the life of a child rather than an adult who shapes his life by making his own decisions. Periodically, you may find yourself feeling resentful; you may flare up and be self-destructive. Rather than living a life that reflects your unique purpose, the moral of your life is to not make waves, not get into trouble.

What to start doing: While those who are emotionally driven pay too much attention to their emotions, those who are passive tend to not pay enough attention to them. If you feel like it’s time to stop being passive, you have two skills to develop: One is listening to your gut, paying attention to what you don’t like, don’t want to; two is doing something with it.

Speak up, be assertive, tell others how you feel and think. Even if it takes three days to figure out how you feel, that’s fine; it’s okay to take baby steps. All you have to do is act. Not perfectly, not because you expect some magical outcome, not because it will make someone else happy. Simply speak up and act rather than leaning back and doing nothing.

Stop being a martyr

You volunteer for every committee; you’re always doing for others. That’s fine if that is part of your values, your vision of a good life. But all too often, it’s about anxiety, walking on eggshells. While the story you tell yourself is that you are just being a good person, you’re being over-responsible and being good so others like you, to avoid the conflict that may come from saying no. You can tell when you are losing control of your life when you get burned out, or, like those who are passive, you periodically feel resentful that others aren’t appreciating what you’re doing or are not pulling their weight. If this happens to you, your life is out of balance; you’re being a martyr.

What to start doing: Like the others, realize and acknowledge when this is happening. Next, do what you struggle to do. Keep your hand down when they call for volunteers; learn to say no. Change your expectations about what you expect from others in return. Use your burnout as a wake-up call to tell you that you are not living your life.

Stop settling

The vacation your partner planned was “okay.” The salary increase wasn’t what you expected but “understandable.” Good for you for not overreacting and being critical. But…if you are doing this a lot, if your life is an endless series of compromises and watered-down experiences, if you are always settling, eventually it’s going to back up on you. Yes, it is good enough, but like that poor woman who in old age regretted eating too many beans and not enough ice cream, do you too need to learn to slow down on the beans and try going for more ice cream?

What to start doing: Speak up and try not to rationalize that what you get is good enough, or that it’s probably what you should only expect. You deserve more than you think; you can get more than you believe you can. And you have to believe it and try living it to find out.

Stop cutting and running

The relationship isn’t working out—you ghost him. Your supervisor is awful, and you quit. Your mother makes some nasty comments about your partner, and you decide you’re done and never want to talk to her again.

This is about coping with hurtful situations by cutting them off—the situation, the pain, the person. The problem here is your anxiety and your coping style works so you keep doing it. But the downside is that your life becomes a series of emotional cutoffs and unresolved problems; the hurt isn’t ever really resolved. You never learn the lessons that life can teach you. You stay the victim; your life is an accumulation of problems swept under the rug.

What to start doing: Don’t run; talk. Don’t run; tackle the problem. Your supervisor may still be a monster, your mother sticks to her nasty ways, but you’ve pushed back. You’ve been that adult rather than the scared, angry 10-year-old who runs away. At some point, what you say will be heard and the problem will be fixed.

The theme here is clear: Figure out what you can’t do, where you settle, resign, go on auto-pilot, or avoid what is hard. Stop doing it. Try doing the opposite.

The NOLA Project theatre company is getting a new leading artistic

voice.

Ensemble member Brittany N. Williams (HARRY AND THE THIEF, SPARE MISSION 1) has

been tabbed as TNP’s first-ever Co-Artistic Director. She will assume the role in January of

2022.

Brittany N. Williams

“I’m thrilled to be joining The NOLA Project team as Co-Artistic Director,” Williams said.

“Working with this brilliant group of artists as an ensemble member has been wonderful and I’m

excited to help us grow and evolve as a company and as part of the greater New Orleans

community.”

Williams, is an actor, singer and writer. You last saw her on stage in TNP’s last in-person production,

HARRY AND THE THIEF (Vivian), at the Contemporary Arts Center in 2020. During the

pandemic, she penned one of the company’s four original PodPlays as well as provided her

voice for it and two others. Outside of TNP, Williams’ credits include Stage Door Songbook: Cole

Porter (Susan), Mary Full of Gray (Mary/writer) and she was the The National World War II

Museum’s 2019 Stage Door Idol winner.

Williams will share Artistic Director duties with current AD A.J. Allegra.

“I couldn’t be happier to announce the addition of Brittany N. Williams to our new shared

leadership model at The NOLA Project,” Allegra said. “She is a passionate, smart, and creative

theatre artist with an incredible depth of knowledge and experience. The pandemic-forced

pause in our work allowed our ensemble to look inward at ways in which we could strengthen

and improve our organization. And, I am so pleased that in the tradition of NOLA Project, and the

spirit of ensemble, we selected one of our own to co-lead the next era of The NOLA Project.”

Originally from Baltimore, MD, Williams performed across three continents – including a year

spent as a principal vocalist at Hong Kong Disneyland – and several US states prior to

relocating to New Orleans in 2017. Some favorite out-of-town credits include Universal Robots

(Helena), Margaret I (Joan of Arc), Bob Marley’s Three Little Birds (Nansi – Helen Hayes Award

nom.), Antony and Cleopatra (Soothsayer/Clown), and Lear (Cordelia/Fight Captain). Williams

holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from Howard University and an MA in Classical Acting from the

Royal Central School of Speech & Drama.

Last time we saw her

Williams’ latest work will be on display this fall when The NOLA Project and the New Orleans

Museum of Art present her new play, TELL IT TO ME SWEET, in the Besthoff Sculpture Garden.

For more information on the original outdoor production, running October 29-November 14, please visit

NOLAProject.com. PRESS CONTACT: kclaverie@nolaproject.com | 504.913.5057

 In an unprecedented move, two opponents endorse each other during an election

District “C” Councilmember Kristin Palmer and District “D” Councilmember Jared Brossett announced that they are taking the unprecedented step of endorsing each other for the Council At-Large before the November 13th Primary. Palmer and Brossett are running against each other in a four-way race for the Division 2 Council At-Large seat that includes former State Senator JP Morrell. Typically opponents in the same race do not endorse the other until after one loses.

Why would they do this?

The opponents see an opportunity to move voters away from their primary opponent JP Morrell.  Polling shows Morrell making the runoff with either of them.  For Palmer this is a political calculation.  In addition to politics, the personal dispute between Brossett and Morrell just got revved up significantly. 

Brossett and Palmer have worked together on the Council on multiple issues, including the $15 an hour minimum wage for city employees. They worked on the growing Airbnb problem. But this unforeseen action is not only shocking but politically risky for each of them.  

We will see how or if this unprecedented move affects the primary.

Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

Wait, the party out of power was complaining about the party in power trying to raise the debt ceiling? What year is it? I feel like we’ve been here before. Some would call this deja vu. Others would call it a glitch in the Matrix. But this is the debt ceiling debacle.

This episode played out predictably. I had trouble deciphering if it was a new one or just a re-run. At the heart of it all was the funding of President Biden’s $3.5 trillion Build Back Better budget.

Democrats, the party in power, we’re trying to rally two holdouts in the Senate. And Republicans were running around talking about how the budget would usher in the total ruination of the country. This all made for high drama.

Senators Sinema and Manchin contribute to the Debt Ceiling Debate

HOLDOUTS 1 & 2

Senator Krysten Sinema, a Democrat from Arizona, also known as holdout #1, got jacked up in a bathroom by some citizens who still actually take national politics seriously. Not like literally jacked up, but you know, confronted, politely questioned in public about why she’s stalling President Biden’s budget.

Holdout #2, Senator Joe Manchin, a Republican who identifies as a Democrat, did what he usually does in highly partisan showdown. He got squeamish when Democrats started asking how he’ll be voting. Manchin subjected his fellow Democrats to a lot of public foot stomping over the green energy policies included in the budget. This shouldn’t be surprising. He’s a Democrat from West Virginia, a coal mining state that has voted Republican in every presidential election since 2000.

Meanwhile, Republicans were dealing with their own internal drama. In one breath, it wouldn’t make proper partisan sense to be seen voting with the Democrats. But in another, it also wouldn’t make much political sense to sit back and watch the Democrats nuke the filibuster.

The filibuster is the only weapon a minority party in the Senate has to influence legislation. It takes 60 votes to break one, which is something no party in recent memory has had. So, a compromise is forced. Naturally, the threat of losing the filibuster scared the bee gee bees out of Mitch McConnell. So, he did the unthinkable: he rallied votes on behalf of the Democrats.

In the end, McConnell betrayed his party (their words) and did just enough to throw Democrats some cover fire until December. Instead of actually voting to raise the debt ceiling to cover the budget, Republicans and Democrats agreed to raise it just enough to cover the bills until December. The price – $480 billion.

People who try to make sense of this ask: why when they vote to spend money we don’t have, they just don’t also raise the debt ceiling to cover it?

The answer: because there’d be no incentive to curb spending. Imagine if every time you were about to max out your credit card, the bank just increased your credit limit. You know all the trouble you’d get into?

Right now, the federal government is in $28 trillion of trouble, mainly because it has just that – unlimited credit. The debt that incurs is usually only a problem to the party that’s not in control of spending.

Over the years, the rhetoric surrounding the budget and federal spending has degenerated to stomp speeches and red meat for constituents. You can look for this to intensify until one party, probably Republicans, actually do something crazy like block the other party from raising the ceiling. Then all catastrophes will break loose.

But the good people in Washington made sure that is something we won’t have to worry about until Christmas. Think of it as a premature lump of coal in your stocking. In a month and a half, we’ll actually see if they will take all the merry out of Christmas.

By TiOnka Writez

On September 9, 2021,  President Biden signed the executive order to mandate the vaccination of all federal employees and employees operating with one hundred people within the private sector by 12/08/2021. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued guidelines. Unvaccinated employees are to submit a negative COVID-19 test result every 72 hours before reporting for duty. In true American fashion, the edge of a life-altering event stirs dissent. We understand the need to stop the virus. But the plan of tampering with the working classes’ lively hood is a bit extreme.

The three most common vaccine questions are:

1) Are you vaccinated?

2) When will you get vaccinated?

3) Why won’t you get vaccinated?

Depending on who is asking, you may need to ere on the side of caution when preparing to answer. The decision to vaccinate or not is causing a rift in home and work environments worldwide. The unvaccinated now face hostility. How did we, as a “united” nation, get here?

Now, I know what you are thinking. This COVID-19 virus is no joke. Humans have never faced this before. And you cannot fathom why anyone would object to a scientifically formulated and tested solution. However, The unvaccinated have real issues to consider. Initially there was confusing and mixed messaging. For instance, medical professionals advise patients to take the “shot” to save lives. But a liability waiver is necessary to proceed with vaccine administering. And multiple contracting cases and deaths by COVID-19 are on record in vaccinated individuals. Warnings of use labels, of course, are available on all over-the-counter and prescribed medications. But the difference here is choice and the ability to proceed with informed consent.

The first amendment (“Freedom of Speech”) means freedom of expression. If individuals express their desire not to receive the vaccination, accept their decision. Amidst the debt ceiling debate, now is not the ideal time to threaten Americans’ job security. Stifling employee wage-earning potential and restricting medical coverage for COVID-19 testing is counterproductive to replenishing a depleted economy.

We should develop a solution that considers the position of all parties involved. The most relevant question here is, who or what constitutes a valuable person?” The answer is simple; every living person holds value. And their opinion matters. Don’t bully or shame people for staying strong in their conviction. Placing restrictions on employment is not the best create trust and cooperation with the citizens you are attempting to save.

To vaccinate more people, appeal to what matters to them. Implement a solution to address daily issues like the unstable workforce or unjustly inflated insurance rates in certain areas. Address their concerns without gaslighting them, overlooking how they perceive your message or threatening them with excessive force.

RELATED: For some lack of access is the issue

         

            In my recent pandemic rant, I railed against adults, who, for no good reason, refused to get vaccinated. I argued that it constitutes reckless endangerment of our children. As I write this, yesterday (August 25), a baby and a 14-year-old football player died in Louisiana of COVID.

            My daughter Rebecca, who is a physician and has a nine-year-old, thought my rant was spot on. My son, Jonathan, also a physician and whose 8-year-old just recovered from COVID, could relate to my frustration, but he thought I should be more understanding of the unvaccinated. And my unvaccinated friend V called me up to say I can’t just call her a baby killer. I didn’t, and yet . . . what do the facts say?

            I know V extremely well and love her. But I can’t for the life of me see how she reaches her anti-vax conclusion. She’s not stupid. In fact, she is brilliant. She doesn’t buy conspiracy theories. She’s never been betrayed by doctors or the medical establishment. She’s generous and community oriented. But she’s not a Republican. And yet she’s one of those people I referenced in my rant that you can’t reason with.

            I have to grant, therefore, that my son’s approach may be more useful. He had a patient last week, an elderly woman with underlying conditions, who refused to get the shot because she was sure that the Lord would take care of her. He affirmed her strong faith and said he wanted to tell her a story/joke. You know, the one about a person in dire straits who refuses three rescue offers because she believes God will save her. She dies and then takes God to task for not answering her prayers. And God says, but I sent you X, Y, and Z.

            Jonathan, being a homeboy, gave it the New Orleans spin of a woman on a rooftop after Katrina. Boats and a helicopter came to the rescue, and she waved them away. His patient laughed uproariously and said she’d think about it. He had occasion to call her several times as a follow-up to their appointment asking various questions about her medical history. On the fourth call, she said she had some surprising news. She got the shot.

            “Great!” he said. “What made you decide?” She said she shared the hilarious story with a friend. When Jonathan called, she said that was God’s second message to her. When he called again – that was God’s third message. “I got in my car,” she told him, “To drive to the Walgreens. And if nothing happens on the way, I’ll know that God wants me to get the shot.”

            Jonathan is 1 for 0 on convincing people. I am 0 for 0. So I have to admit, as good and righteous as my rant felt – yes, his approach is proving more effective.

Breakthrough infections are to be expected, but it doesn’t mean the COVID-19 vaccines aren’t working.

by Linda Geddes

As a growing number of people in wealthy countries get fully vaccinated, questions are being asked about why some of them are still becoming infected with coronavirus, in some cases even being hospitalised with COVID-19. Such “breakthrough infections” are to be expected, but just how common are they, and what should you expect if you test positive for SARS-CoV-2 having been fully vaccinated?

Vaccine efficacy

No vaccine is 100% effective. Even the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccine – one of the most powerful disease prevention tools we have – is only 96% effective against measles after two doses, while the seasonal flu vaccine is only 45% effective. Still, it is estimated to prevent 130,000 flu deaths in the US alone each year.

COVID-19 vaccines can and do protect the majority of people from hospitalisation and death, which is why as many doses need to administered around the world as rapidly, and equitably, as possible.

Clinical trials of the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna vaccines found them to be 94-95% effective against all symptomatic COVID-19 disease after the second dose. This doesn’t mean that we’d expect 5-6 in every 100 people to develop COVID-19, but that there was a 94-95% reduction in new cases of the disease among people who had been vaccinated, compared to unvaccinated individuals. China’s Sinopharm vaccine was 78% effective and the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 67% effective in clinical trials. Protection against hospitalisation or death from COVID-19 was even higher.

With large numbers of people being vaccinated, and as almost all COVID-19 restrictions are lifted in some countries, it is inevitable that a small proportion of fully vaccinated individuals will become infected. An even smaller proportion will become seriously ill and die. What’s important is that the risk of a serious outcome is vastly lower for those who have been fully vaccinated against COVID-19, compared to those who have received no vaccine doses.

Breakthrough infections

In the US, the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) has been quantifying the number of breakthrough infections, which it defines as cases in which SARS-CoV-2 is detected in a respiratory specimen 14 days or more after an individual has completed all recommended vaccine doses. Between 1 January and 30 April, 2021, 10,262 breakthrough infections were reported from 46 US states. At that time, 101 million people in the US had been fully vaccinated against COVID-19. For comparison, there were 11.8 million COVID-19 infections recorded during the same period – so these vaccine breakthrough infections represented only a tiny fraction of the total number. Also importantly, not all of these individuals reported feeling ill – 27% of those experiencing a breakthrough infection were asymptomatic.

Since 1 May, the CDC has only been identifying and investigating those breakthrough cases in which the individual was hospitalised or died due to any cause (i.e. not just as a result of COVID-19). As of August 2, 2021, more than 164 million people in the US had been fully vaccinated. In that time-span, the CDC identified 7,525 patients with a breakthrough infection who were hospitalised or died.

Shorter milder illness

Another recent analysis, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, analysed breakthrough infections among almost 4000 essential and frontline workers in Arizona, USA, vaccinated with either the Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna vaccines. Of the 205 coronavirus infections identified, the majority occurred among unvaccinated workers – with only five fully and eleven partially vaccinated individuals testing positive between mid-December 2020 and mid-April 2021. Those who had received at least one vaccine dose had a 40% lower viral load (the amount of live virus a person carries) on average, a 66% reduced chance of testing positive for COVID-19 for more than a week on a PCR test, and a 58% lower risk of experiencing fever, compared to unvaccinated individuals. Their other symptoms also subsided about six days earlier and they spent two days fewer ill in bed, on average.

“The mechanisms by which vaccination attenuates COVID-19 are largely unknown, but the effect is probably due to recall of immunologic memory responses that reduce viral replication and accelerate the elimination of virally infected cells,” the researchers wrote.

Delta variant

The initial clinical trials of COVID-19 vaccines were conducted before the emergence and spread of new variants, such as Delta, which are able to overcome the immunity afforded by COVID-19 vaccines to some degree.

In a recent study, which has not yet been peer reviewed, researchers at the Indian Council of Medical Research explored the possible reason for an increased number of breakthrough infections reported across the country. They collected nose and throat swabs from 677 individuals who had tested positive for SARS-CoV-2 after receiving one or two doses or India’s Covaxin vaccine, the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, or the Sinopharm vaccine. Genetic analysis revealed that in 86% of cases, the breakthrough infection was triggered by the Delta variant – although this could simply be a reflection of the variant’s prevalence at that time.

Other research also indicates that the vaccines may be less effective at preventing coronavirus infections in the face of the Delta variant. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine found that two doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine were 88% effective at preventing symptomatic infections, whereas the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 67% effective. A single dose of either vaccine was only 37% effective, underscoring the importance of receiving both doses.

However, COVID-19 vaccines still appear to be highly effective at preventing hospitalisation and deaths from the disease. Data from Public Health England, where the Delta variant now accounts for most COVID-19 cases, suggested that the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine was 96% effective against hospitalisation with Delta after 2 doses, while the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine was 92% effective after 2 doses.

Living with the virus

Most experts agree that COVID-19 is now effectively endemic, meaning it will continue to circulate in pockets of the global population and trigger outbreaks, although it may pose less a danger over time. Many had hoped that once a certain proportion of the population had been infected, or vaccinated against the disease, herd immunity would kick in, meaning those who hadn’t encountered the virus would be buffered from infection by those who were already immune to it. The spread of Delta, and other variants that can partially escape the immunity provided by vaccination or previous infection has raised the threshold for herd immunity, with some even questioning whether it can be achieved at all. However, COVID-19 vaccines can and do protect the majority of people from hospitalisation and death, which is why as many doses need to administered around the world as rapidly, and equitably, as possible.

Could New Public Board Do a Better Job?

In New Orleans, the city council regulates the power company.  This is a unique occurrence.  Everywhere else across the state, the state-run Public Service Commission regulates the power companies for local municipalities.  The commission regulates insures that every district has safe and reliable power at reasonable rates.  Utility regulation is complex and important.  Utility commissions make life changing decisions.  Should the city council regulate Entergy?

The state’s Public Service Commission has  five commissioners that represent different parts of the state. In New Orleans, while the entire council must approve any regulation, the utility committee interacts directly with the power company.  This unique authority provides citizens direct access to all of the regulators.  That council members are the regulatory body, a heightened sense of politicization affects the policy decisions. 

Is this the best solution? 

The notion of local control seems great.  Now, council members have direct management of the power company with access to the company executives circumvents excessive bureaucracy.  And for the company, New Orleans officials directly hear their concerns.  Win-win right?

The complexity of utility regulation is significantly high.  Even the state’s commission hires advisors and experts to help it understand their choices.  And the New Orleans City Council annually spends over a million dollars on utility consultants and attorneys.  Finding the sweet spot – a financially strong and profitable power company that provides safe, reliable and affordable electricity – is an extreme challenge.  Add in climate change and the stakes get higher.  Our Hurricane Ida experience exposes our vulnerability.  100% of the metro was out of power. 

Role of the City Council

The council is the legislative and partly administrative branch of city government.  New laws, potholes, marijuana laws, city budget, crime, internet and cable TV, housing, water and land use are some of the important work done by the council.  Our members serve four-year terms.  The approve the city budget.  The council has several subcommittees that meet regularly in addition to the normal every other Thursday regular meeting.

Entergy New Orleans(ENO) is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation, the city’s only Fortune 500 company.  ENO has been the power company in New Orleans for 99 years.  And ENO is guaranteed a reasonable profit. They must provide always on electricity and gas to homes and businesses. Additionally, the company must maintain the power grid for the city.  ENO attempts to maximize its’ profit through efficiency and minimizing expenses while continuing to provide high quality service.

Justice and Beyond Meeting Headed by Pat Bryant and Dr. Dwight Webster

Relationship Issues

The very nature of this business partnership requires informed and committed regulation.  Business intends to make the most profit possible providing desired service or products.  In the case of Entergy, cutting costs to increase profits might result in potential calamity.  Some have claimed the tower that collapsed during the storm is a prime example. They say the rusted and twisted metal indicates lack of proper maintenance.  Though not a part of ENO, this example provides insight into the difficulty regulators face.  How to oversee the wide and complex power grid.

But the New Orleans City Council is much more than just a regulatory body.  The city council must provide public policy, laws, budgets, and a host of other responsibilities. And the complexity of utility regulation is immense.  Even our state commission hires consultants and law firms.  Furthermore, none of the current council members is a utility expert.  The field is a specialty that requires specific skills and knowledge. We ask too much of council members. They are already burdened with everyday city stuff to oversee a powerful company.  Combine term limits to this equation and it’s no wonder that the same questions come up year after year.

Entergy is able to monetize our city government structure.  Council members cycle off every eight years.  New council members usually have no knowledge of the utility committee’s actions. Sometimes the new members’ campaigns were supported by ENO. Their ability to regulate may not be compromised. However, they may have more information about Entergy’s desires than the city’s position.

Therefore a diverse new board comprised not only of City Council members, but also citizens, independent industry experts, Entergy representatives, the New Orleans representative on the Public Service Commission, and university representatives should serve staggered 8-year terms.  This board should only regulate ENO.  This relieves burdened and inexperienced council members.  This new board will ensure that the threats of climate change are mitigated.  In other words, if we can not keep the lights on, then we no longer exist. 

The new power and gas board of New Orleans means we have a strong city for another 100 years.

               

                I’d like to speak to upper management. I don’t think the City Council’s Utilities Committee is making a big enough mess of its relationship with Entergy. Yes, I know, both sides have been throwing around the D word lately. But this is shaping up to be more of a public tantrum than a full-on split. I feel that any day now their beef will be settled behind closed doors with both sides vowing to never ever take each other for granted again. Public displays of affection will soon follow. And before we know it, the two will be back to old times. As responsible citizens we can’t allow this to happen. Can the city council be trusted to regulate Entergy?

                The Committee is an abusive relationship with Entergy. It may or may not know this. But one thing remains clear: it is powerless to do anything about it. Entergy lies to the Committee at will. It subjects it to rounds of emotional and intellectual abuse. There was even a widely publicized bout of infidelity where it paid for a public display of affection.

                Each time that this happens Entergy is either able to woo itself back into the Committee’s heart with words or money. Twice lately it has thrown a couple of million at the Committee, slapped it on the ass, and told it to go buy itself something nice. Afterwards, the cycle of abuse just starts all over again.

                Clearly, the Committee is too compromised at the moment to be effective regulators of Entergy. As a result, we all to often find our homes reduced to dark, powerless caves, making it clear that we citizens are the ones caught in the middle. No more. But what are our solutions?

                We can suggest the two seek counseling. An intermediary board can act as a go between, a regulator of the regulators. But then it’d become clear that the Committee’s role would be redundant. And the only logical thing to do at that point would be for the Committee and Entergy to split. That’s not going to happen. The Committee will never voluntarily breakup with Entergy. And despite all the hee-hawing and foot stomping, Entergy is never going to voluntarily breakup with the Committee either.

                Maybe we can have a vote, some type of City Charter or City Council amendment to force a legal separation. Yes, the Committee would be hurt, and left feeling betrayed. But at this point, it may be the best thing for both parties. The Committee can disband, and the individual members can devote their time to areas they actually have expertise in. And we can find Entergy a new partner, an equal that will force it to be the best energy provider it can be. It’s a long shot, but who knows.

                Meanwhile, a few suggestions for the Committee going forward:

  • If somebody tells you they can build a plant that’ll do this or that, as a regulator you should be able to look at the specs and determine if that’s the case beforehand. Yelling WTF afterwards is just not acceptable.
  • When hurricane season approaches, maybe, just maybe you should demand some type of state of the power grid report to identify any weak points that may need to be addressed. Otherwise, what exactly is being regulated?
  • Just do better. Somehow, someway. If Sean Payton can squeeze 7 touchdowns and 2 interceptions out of Jameis Winston, surely you can squeeze some type of consistent respect and energy out of your relationship with Entergy.

                Hopefully, this makes its way to upper management. You know we citizens can be emotional too. And we tend to let that emotion out during elections. Don’t take that as a threat. Well…maybe you should. Or maybe you shouldn’t. I don’t know. Just find a way to keep the lights on.