By Jeff Thomas
Another year has come and gone. Before we look ahead to next year, let’s reflect on the top stories of 2019.
10. LSU Football
LSU not only wins the SEC Championship but advances to the national championship game. Joe Burrow wins the Heisman after Joe Brady installed an offense the catapults the program to incredible new heights. LSU faces defending champ Clemson for the title. Jamar Chase and the elite receiving corps transformed the old school grind ‘em up rushing attack with a dynamic passing game that no team has been able to contain this year. The only feat left is to win the national championship. LSU football is king in Louisiana.
9. The deaths of Kathleen Blanco, Nancy Parker and Claudette Thomas.
These three extraordinary women led lives that inspire. Blanco was the first and only female governor in the state’s history. She faced the devastating winds and floods of Hurricane Katrina and helped this region rebound after the worst disaster in Louisiana history. Local news reporter Nancy Parker was a beloved storyteller whose smile and wit infused her TV stories with a wisdom and sensitivity never seen before in this market. And Claudette Thomas was a woman who lived a more private but equally inspirational life. Despite physical challenges, she was a loving mother and friend who embodied persistence, resilience, strength and courage daily. Those whom she touched are forever better because of her presence in their lives.
8. Exposure of problems of Sewerage and Water Board
The most critical government agency in the city is plagued by years of neglect and abuse that threatens the long-term future of New Orleans. From the 100-year-old pipes regularly bursting and flooding streets and cars to the abandoned vehicles and other debris clogging drainage canals across the city, New Orleans ability to be a safe and viable city is uncertain. And exploding turbines coupled with funding shortages make stabilizing the system a huge challenge. After years of neglect and can kicking, the time is now to right the ship and secure a strong and vibrant future for our city.
7. Louisiana Rejects Trump
President Donald Trump made numerous personal visits, tweets, and TV, radio and internet ads to try to elect a Republican candidate as governor of the state. Despite this huge investment, Louisiana voters – who have only elected Republicans for every other statewide office – rejected the President and reelected a Democrat to be their governor. This is part of a national trend in ruby red states to reject partisanship at the highest levels.
6. Property Taxes Skyrocket in New Orleans
The effects of gentrification and short-term rentals collided with the required quadrennial property assessments and radically increased property taxes for huge parts of the city of New Orleans. In some extreme cases, owners saw their taxes increase by a factor of ten. Government agencies have accepted the cash windfalls and stressed the city’s core population. Voters reacted by rejecting an ask for more property taxes from the mayor and seek remedies in the courts and by appealing these new tax increases to their city council members who can help individuals get some relief.
5. Saints lose playoff game to Rams
The Saints lost a home playoff game to the L.A. Rams on a blown call by the referees. The play led to a rule change allowing coaches to challenge pass interference calls. Most of the year challenged calls were not changed by the review officials, except ironically in a Saints game where a critical pass interference call was challenged, and the call went against the Saints. Of course, it did!
4. Building Collapse on Canal Street
A hotel construction project went horribly wrong, as concrete floors pancaked killing construction workers and creating a hazard in downtown New Orleans. Whether shoddy workmanship combined with lax inspection or poor design contributed to the catastrophe, New Orleans has a black eye for all the world to see.
3. Mayor Cantrell secures infrastructure money
New Orleans mayor LaToya Cantrell secured state funding for infrastructure in New Orleans. Initially rebuffed and roundly criticized by the hospitality industry, Cantrell pushed forward and convinced the governor and conservative legislators that the entire state benefits from a safe and working New Orleans. Tourism tax dollars can only flow if after a rainfall the water flows into the drains. Cantrell overcame tremendous odds and showed remarkable political acumen in securing this victory for the city.
2. John Bel Edwards reelected as governor for the state of Louisiana.
Despite being the only Democratic governor in the South and the only Democrat elected statewide in Louisiana and facing the influence and wrath of President Trump, Edwards was able to win reelection. Edwards convinced enough Republicans and motivated high African American turnout in New Orleans and Baton Rouge to capture the seat again. Edwards promised a progressive agenda for his 2nd term despite a more polarized legislature.
1. Local partners combine to purchase the state’s oldest black owned radio station
Wendell Pierce, Troy Henry, Cleveland Spears, and Jeff Thomas formed Equity Media and purchased WBOK radio. The new company plans to broaden the scope and audience of the legacy station and create a vibrant local talk radio market in New Orleans.