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About Town…

10th February 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Indian Red to LSM Green…

Considerable media attention centers on the plight of L.A. universities amidst rounds and rounds of budget cuts, yet, almost unnoticed, the Louisiana State Museum system has felt an even greater sting from Jindal budgets over the last half decade. In not just in inflation adjusted terms—but in real dollars—museum budgets have declined steady since 2009, curators and staff have dwindled, and entrance fees visitors pay do not even cover the salaries of the ticket sellers.

Faced with an already stretched budget thanks to legislative mandates for a new museum in Natchitoches celebrating Louisi-ana Sports heroes, and exhibitions at rural museums pushed by politically influential patrons, the anchor museums of the LSM here in New Orleans have suffered in contrast. Private contributors have tried to soften the budgetary blow at the Cabildo and Presby-tere, yet educational programs and outreach at the LSM flagship museums would effectively end if it were not for the Friends of the Cabildo.

This volunteer organization of museum enthusiasts raises money for exhibits and programs at the New Orleans-based LSMs; though its volunteer driven walking tours, and profits derived from them. However, despite the thousands of paying tourists the FOC members guide each year, the sums are often not enough. So, the Friends are calling upon the Big Chief.

The most famous Mardi Gras Indians, Jazz Impresario Donald Harrison, will headline an FOC concert to raise money for the Louisiana State Museum on Feb­ruary 20, in full Mardi Gras Indian regalia. As FOC Chief Ad­min­istra­tive Officer Jason Strada explained to The Louisiana Weekly, “We are excited to have Donald at the Mint because of his willingness to preserve a culture of music from Congo Square and that has evolved into music such as funk and jazz.”

Harrison, one of the leading lights of contemporary Jazz and creator of “Nouveau Swing”, could be earning a small fortune on tour around the world. Yet, he spends much of his time on educational pursuits, mentoring young musicians, and keeping the story of the key elements of Creole African-American history alive.

A Jazz saxophonist and native, New Orleanian, Harrison created the Congo Square Nation in 1999 to keep the music of Congo Square alive. As a former member of the Guardians of the Flame, his father Donald Harrison, Sr. founded, Harrison merges Afro-New Orleans cultural songs, funk and jazz to create a unique sound.

Those wishing to attend his fundraiser of the LSM can purchase tickets online at http://www.­friendsofthecabildo.org/events-calendar/ or by calling the FOC Office at (504) 523-3939. Very few tickets will be available at the door.

A Chairmanship without a Pipeline…

It was a mixed week for Mary Landrieu. She watched her colleagues in the Senate confirm one of their own, Max Baccus as President Obama’s new ambassador to China. And, with his departure, a chain reaction of Chair switching will likely land Louisiana’s Senior U.S. Senator with the powerful Energy and Natural Resources Committee Chairmanship, prior to the 2014 election.

That perch kept Bennett Johnston in the U.S. Senate long after his popularity at home dwindled. For an oil producing state, such seniority proves essential, if the Senator in question can deliver on a major job producing measure for the Chemical industry.

Thanks to GOP disorganization and the opposition of the environmental wing of her own caucus (which is to say most Democratic Senators not in the South or Alaska), the major measure she would use the Chairmanship to help pass may not be a possibility, even once she ascends the Chairmanship.

The news Wednesday, February 6, that House Republican leaders will not tie a debt limit increase to authorization of the Keystone Pipeline and a serious political disadvantage to Landrieu.

The State Department ruled the pipeline ecologically sound a few days before. Nothing stands in the way of Keystone and the thousands of jobs it would create across the South and the Midwest, except the Environmental left wing of the Democratic Party. Liberals stand in a pitched battle to reject the pipeline, placing President Obama in the middle of a fight between the Greens and moderate Democrats up for re-election in 2014 like Landrieu, Mark Beglich of Alaska, and David Prior of Arkansas. Each stands to benefit from the pipeline.

Which is why tying the pipeline to the debt limit provided an out for Landrieu. Publically, she supports President Obama’s stance supporting a “clean debt limit” without strings. Unofficially, had the House Republicans passed an increase in the limit with one string attached, the Keystone Pipeline approval, the six most endangered Democrats might have been able to break with their party and enact the bill. And, Obama would not dare reject a debt limit under those terms (or, at least, Landrieu partisans reasoned.)

A meeting of the House Repub­lican conference could not bring together 218 votes, a majority, behind any specific measure to approve an increase in the debt.

The Tolls Took a Toll on Clarkson…

District C is 58 percent Black, but it is also a place where Jackie Clarkson has won the female Black vote repeatedly, even in her contests against other African-American candidates like Cynthia Willard-Lewis. She did less well this time, however, against Nadine Ramsey, losing many Black precincts to the former judge.

What is interesting is that while Susan Guidry’s returns in District A, and Stacy Head’s Citywide matched or exceeded Mitch Landrieu’s returns, Clarkson’s often lagged the Mayor’s electorate, resulting in a 45 percent to 45 percent statistical tie with Ramsey. Only 24 votes separated the two.

Former School Board member Lourdes Moran earned six percent of the vote on Saturday, February 1, despite barely campaigning, and traditionally many of her voters also matched Clarkson’s moderately conservative Democratic profile. However, the X Factor in the race may have been Ramsey’s use of the CCC Toll Renewal as an effective weapon to either depress Clarkson’s Caucasian support, or send it Moran’s way.

Clarkson supported the $1 re­newal on the CCC, earning the ire of many anti-toll politicians on the West Bank, like Jeff Arnold, and conservative activists. In truth, Clarkson’s position was nuanced. She wanted the tolls renewed, but cut in half the amount to $50., funding enough for police, sanitation, and ferries. However, little of that message made it to the voters, earning the 26 year political veteran a runoff when others with crowded fields like Council Contenders like Susan Guidry and Jared Brossett won it in the first.

Kenner Candidates to the Starting Gates…With the words, “One race for mayor ends and another begins,” Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni officially announced his re-election campaign on May 4th.

Kenner politics are often as tumultuous as New Orleans, and Yenni may face challengers. More exciting that the Mayor’s race, however, will likely be the Chief of Police’s contest, where Deputy Chief Mike Glaser stands for what an open seat. Councilmanic elections are also up for grabs. Qualifying is February 12-14, and the Kenner election is April 5.

This article originally published in the February 10, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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