Axios New Orleans
February 26, 2024
It's Monday. Hope you had a great weekend.
☀️ Today's weather: Sunny with a high of 78.
🎧 Sounds like: "Jambalaya (On The Bayou)" by Fats Domino, who was born this day in 1928.
Situational awareness: Jefferson Parish authorities are looking for an inmate who escaped last night on the West Bank. Go deeper.
Today's newsletter is 896 words — a 3.5-minute read.
1 big thing: Crime perception becomes reality
As the Louisiana Legislature is poised to backtrack a slate of criminal justice reforms, one expert says there's no data to suggest the legislation being considered will actually help deter crime.
- "It feels like trying to fix the Saints' quarterback problems by drafting a center-fielder," says crime analyst Jeff Asher, co-founder of the New Orleans firm AH Datalytics.
Why it matters: Legislators have been in Baton Rouge since last Monday rapidly pushing bills through committee during a special session on crime that stands to reshape the state's approach to criminal justice.
- 77% of Americans believe U.S. crime increased over the previous year, according to Gallup data released in November, despite violent crime actually trending down.
- Meanwhile, as the Washington Post reported, proposals to roll back criminal justice reforms have popped up in Georgia, Vermont, California and Maryland.
State of play: At the Capitol, Louisiana legislators are considering bills to create stricter parole standards, reclassify illegal use of a weapon as a crime of violence, raise carjacking sentences, treat 17-year-olds as adults in the criminal justice system and increase immunity for law enforcement.
- But "there's no evidence that any of this is going to work," Asher says.
- The problem with the approach the current bills take is that they focus on what happens after an arrest and especially after prosecution and conviction, Asher says.
- "But those things have little effect on deterring future crime, for the most part," Asher says, because parole recidivism is so low and it doesn't help to lengthen sentences for people who "age out of crime."
2. 🐀 The fight for Saffron
Driving the news: Bill Voiles tells Axios he has applied for an exhibitionist permit from the state so he can get Saffron, his 1-year-old opossum, returned.
- The state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries confiscated Saffron over Mardi Gras amid a crackdown on exotic animals in the French Quarter.
The big picture: Some street performers have exotic animals and charge to take pictures with them.
- Voiles said tourists snapped selfies with Saffron, but he thought of the opossum like a child.
Catch up quick: Voiles said he found Saffron a year ago clinging to his dead mother, who had been run over.
- Saffron rode in Voiles' tricycle with his dogs and slept in his house.
- It's similar to what happened with Neuty last year, which ultimately led to the pet nutria being allowed to stay with its Bucktown family.
Where's Saffron? Taylor Brazan, LDWF's communications director, declined to comment to Axios about Saffron, citing the pending legal matter.
- Voiles said he was told Saffron is safe with a rehabber.
What's next: Voiles' friends are putting together a fundraiser for him and Saffron.
- He's also hoping to hear back from the state about other requirements he needs to legally own Saffron.
3. Fully Dressed: 🏀 Tempers flare at Pels game
🏀 The NBA suspended five Pelicans and Miami Heat players after an on-court brawl during Friday night's game at the Smoothie King Center. (AP)
🏛️ New Orleans City Hall is closed today due to water problems. Virtual services are still available. (WWL)
📞 The story everyone was talking about Friday: A New Orleans magician says a political consultant hired him to impersonate President Joe Biden for a "deepfake robocall" that's now under police investigation. (NBC)
👀 A YouTuber from St. John Parish is facing several charges after authorities say he faked a bomb threat at Lakeside Shopping Center. (NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune 🔒)
4. 🏅 Ca, c'est bon!
France will bestow its highest military and civil decoration tomorrow on a New Orleanian who served in World War II.
Driving the news: Samuel Meyer, the owner of Meyer the Hatter, will be honored at an 11am ceremony at the National WWII Museum.
- Laurent Bili, France's ambassador to the U.S., will bestow Meyer with the rank of Chevalier (Knight) of the National Order of the Legion of Honor.
Zoom out: Napoleon Bonaparte created the Legion of Honor in 1802 to acknowledge services rendered to France of exceptional merit.
- American veterans who served in the liberation of France during WWII qualify for the honor.
Zoom in: Meyer was drafted at 18 and served in the 85th Fighter Squadron, 370th Fighter Group, Ninth Air Force, according to the museum.
5. 🎙️ 1 legend to go: Celebrating Fats Domino
Antoine Domino Jr. aka Fats Domino was born 96 years ago today.
The big picture: The New Orleanian sold more than 65 million records and created more than 25 gold singles, thereby embedding the city's music into the fundamental fabric of rock 'n' roll.
Before his big break, Fats worked in a mattress factory by day, and by night he played music.
- "Fats was rocking the joint," said legendary producer Dave Bartholomew. "And he was sweating and playing, he'd put his whole heart and soul in what he was doing, and the people was crazy about him — so that was it. We made our first record, 'The Fat Man,' and we never turned around."
🥪 Carlie spent the weekend picnicking and playing in City Park.
🤔 Chelsea is wondering where the line gets drawn between "possum" and "opossum."
Tell a rock 'n' roll star to subscribe.
Thanks to our editor Fadel Allassan and copy editor Carlin Becker.