Category: Business

Happy Development In Louisiana Booze Laws

In case you missed it last week, there is good news for fans of Louisiana distilled spirits. According to the Times-Picayune:

“Louisiana distillers of spirits now can offer tours of their facilities and sell their products in-house, changes that will help members of that industry expand sales and attract tourists. Senate Bill 64 was passed by the state Legislature at the end of May, giving distilleries the freedom to give tours and sell 12 bottles of a product to an individual.”

A small but welcome step toward alcohol freedom in Louisiana. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dan Morrish, R-Jennings, who gave his rationale for the bill as “Americans drink a lot of rum and hopefully they will drink more Louisiana rum”. I couldn’t agree more.

Now, I’ve written before about the horrible laws affecting Louisiana craft and microbreweries. Hopefully the success of this bill will lend toward some movement next year for beer lovers as well. Reading further in the Times-Picayune article gives credence to that hope.

Andrew Godley, the founder of Parish Brewing in Broussard, said that Senate Bill 64 passed without opposition, which makes him optimistic that something similar will go through for breweries.

“The law that just passed is very encouraging,” he said. “Recently, brewing companies haven’t tried anything. (There will) likely be pushing for modernization of the laws for fairness in the state of our industry.”

Further,

Godley thinks one of the main reasons breweries haven’t pushed for the change in legislation is the lack of a large micro-brewing industry in Louisiana.

“It takes quite a bit of people to force something to move,” he added. “There’s no push for it. You can’t have legislative change without a group of people working for change.”

Well Mr Godley, consider me another member of the group working for change. Cheers!

Not Stopping For Directions

Were it not for GPS I would probably get lost driving around New Orleans quite frequently. The network of street signs in this city is deplorable! However, instead of just complaining about it, I did some research into how it could be better.

The Traffic Division of the Office Of Public Works is responsible for maintaining city traffic signs and lights. This entire division has 11 employees. They have an annual budget of around $1,800,000. That amount is only 10% of the total public works budget and only 0.36% of the total General Fund of the city of New Orleans. Based on 2010 Census figures, that works out to $5.25/year that is paid per resident of New Orleans to finance this aspect of the city. How many other things in life do you pay just $5.25 a year for that affect most people daily?

I bring up all these numbers for one reason. The city of New Orleans should issue a request for proposals to interested companies to take over maintenance and installation of traffic signs and lights from the city.

Other U.S. cities have already done this, notably, New York City, so it’s not like this is a revolutionary idea. The two biggest arguments in favor of this are cost and accountability.

The private company managing this will undoubtedly have lower labor costs mostly due to using private health insurance for their employees (if they choose to provide it) and 401k retirement accounts instead of high cost public employee pensions. Second, this aspect of daily life will finally have accountability on its side. The city can write into the contract a clause that allows the contract to not be renewed if the company isn’t performing to the public’s satisfaction.

So, what we have here is a win-win. Taxpayers pay less for better service and new jobs would most likely be created (I am not aware of an existing company that could absorb the increase of work here without adding staff). To prevent job losses by privatizing this function of Public Works, existing city employees can be shifted to other vacancies or apply to join the new company.

Ideally, not only will this lead to all streets being clearly and properly marked but this also opens up New Orleans street signage and lighting to innovation. Can you imagine a world where major thoroughfares have all traffic lights synchronized? How many of you would benefit from that? Here’s hoping to a future of New Orleans drivers not spent slowing at an unfamiliar intersection searching frantically for a street sign.

Hey Durbin, Quit Dicking With The Saints

So it seems that completely upending the banking industry wasn’t enough for Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). Now he wants to lock up the New Orleans Saints defense. According to the Associated Press, Durbin has called a hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee to explore whether federal law can make “bounty” systems illegal. He has asked representatives from the NFL, NBA, MLB, NHL, and NCAA to testify.

This is yet another example of when the “there oughta be a law” crowd goes wild. Does Durbin feel that the NFL’s punishment of the Saints isn’t enough and now they need to worry about criminal charges? This is completely ridiculous. Hopefully public reaction will be enough to squash this assinine idea before it goes anywhere, but Durbin is from NFC North division territory so you never know.

Parking Hassles Got You Down?

If you’re like me, and your girlfriend has to constantly calm you down while looking for parking in our fair city of New Orleans, then have I got the announcement for you.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, March 13, 2012 from 6-8pm in the Louisiana Pavilion at the WW2 Museum (945 Magazine) UCLA urban planning professor and economist Donald Shoup will be giving a symposium titled “Parking: Can We Do Better for Our Communities and Our Businesses?” The event is sponsored by the Urban Land Institute.

If you are unfamiliar with Mr Shoup’s work, he is the author of “The High Cost of Free Parking” and is profiled in the reason.tv spot below. The focus of his message is that “in addition to making it harder to find a spot when you need one, “free” parking exacerbates other problems, from pollution to traffic congestion. Using the power of market pricing, Shoup explains how to fix the parking mess in three steps.”

An example of how his ideas are being implemented in San Francisco can be found here.

Registration for the event takes place between 5:30-6pm at the museum. The cost is $15 for ULI members and $30 for non-members.

Down With Public Use, Long Live Public Use

Yesterday, February 13, 2012, WDSU reported comments by interim New Orleans City Councilman-At Large Eric Granderson stating his desire that the city step up enforcement efforts of franchise fees on local businesses. These “franchise fees” apply when businesses use public property as part of their business operations, be it tables on the sidewalk or a stage in the public right of way. The problem, according to Granderson, is that some businesses pay the fee and a lot seemingly don’t, costing the city, by Granderson’s estimates, as much as $800,000 annually.

Essentially what’s going on here is that the same government that would just as quickly condemn and seize private property under emminent domain laws for the supposed “public use,” gets all upset over the public actually using public property without paying the city it’s fair share. Sure the city has the right to charge fees to people for using it’s property, but aren’t these businesses and their customers already paying fees for property use indirectly through taxes?

This is just another example of the City Council seeing a revenue source and pursuing it aggressively, good sense be damned. Does Councilman Granderson not understand the implication of these fees? Instead of forcing them upon all non-compliant businesses and potentially putting some out of business (leaving no one to pay the fee or the existing tax income), how about repealing this system entirely and allow New Orleans to slightly become more business friendly increasing the tax base through PRODUCTION. I know, a novel idea.