Nola News in Brief

Amy Nankin, Associate News Editor

People are packing the French Quarter more by the day, the sea of beads make the roads underneath unrecognizable, and Tulane students have left the frozen food aisles of local grocery stores desolate, so it is safe to say that Mardi Gras 2019 is in full swing. As festival season takes over the city, however, life within the city goes on as usual. From three Jefferson Parish schools closing and nine others expanding to felony charges placed on two former car salesmen, here are four under-the-radar New Orleans news stories from this past week.

Superintendent Cade Brumley released a proposal to close three Jefferson Parish public schools and enact expansions on nine others in hopes to improve the retention rates of students and their performance within schools. The proposal lists Live Oak Elementary and Miller Waller Elementary as schools to be closed and properties to be leased. Catherine Strehle Elementary will become an “alternative school.” Nine other schools in Jefferson Parish are to be expanded. His recommendation will be presented at a school board public hearing in two weeks and has been met with both praise and criticism. If Brumley’s plan is enacted, this would be the most extensive reconfiguration of Jefferson Parish schools in a generation. A benefit of the proposal would be the ability to provide more competitive sports team opportunities to all students. Hundreds of teachers and school employees, however, would be negatively affected by the plan. The public hearing is scheduled for March 13 at 5 p.m. at 501 Manhattan Blvd. in Harvey, Louisiana.

Amid felony theft charges, a former car sales manager at a New Orleans East car dealership went to court for stealing $350,000 of customers’ money. Bryan Ashley Collins and Lawrence “Mike” Thornton worked for Troy Duhon Premier Automotive Group and were running a fraudulent scheme, until they were caught and arrested for theft in 2017. Thornton pleaded guilty as charged, while Collins pleaded no contest to the theft charges. The two workers had been targeting primarily female customers who needed immediate transportation, pocketing their down payments and sending them out with loaner cars. The salesmen never finalized the payments and receipts of the down payments were not filed. Their schemes were uncovered when New Orleans police arrested a woman at her home after her loaner vehicle was reported stolen due to the inability to track down the car by the company. Collins and Thornton have been sentenced to three years of active probation and $10,000 in restitution.

Fourteen different New Orleans chefs and restaurants have been placed on the list of semifinalists for awards from the James Beard Foundation, a non-profit organization that highlights chefs, restaurants and culinary culture around the country. Being in contention for an award from the Foundation is considered one of the highest honors in the culinary world. New Orleans chefs such as pastry chef Kelly Fields of Willa Jean and Donald Link of Herbsaint are semifinalists for “Outstanding Pastry Chef” and “Outstanding Chef” respectively, while Bywater American Bistro and Elysian Bar were dubbed “Best New Restaurant.” Others made the list under categories of “Outstanding Service,” “Outstanding Wine Program,” “Outstanding Restaurateur,” “Rising Star of the Year” and more.

With the start of Mardi Gras comes the wave of regulations for the safety of those partaking in the festivities. A headliner this year is the regulation of viewing ladders by Mayor LaToya Cantrell, who has vowed to destroy any illegally placed ladders along the parade routes. Cantrell posted a warning on Twitter that any ladders placed less than six feet from the curb or will be “destroyed.” City code states that in addition to ladders, chairs, ice chests, chaise lounges, barbeque grills and other similar items will be under the same regulations. Last year, Mayor Mitch Landrieu implemented strict ladder policies, and Cantrell plans to follow suit with regulations this Mardi Gras.

Leave a Comment