Tuesday, 14 December 2010 17:56

Louisiana’s Jindal, Landrieu At New Orleans Hornets’ Foul Line

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Timing is everything and so is the bounce.

On Monday, Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu led the charge urging the community to buy New Orleans Hornets tickets so the team would not be able to exercise an op-out agreement.  Yet, today, I receive a new report claiming New Orleans is on the brink of reaching the “inflection point”.

Greater New Orleans Inc. ha released a memorandum called, “Greater New Orleans at the Inflection Point”.

The first paragraph of the memorandum states, in part “

 The economic comeback of Greater New Orleans has been gaining steady momentum in the years since 2005. Today, broad evidence suggests that this progress is at an "inflection point" - on the brink of rapid acceleration in a number of key areas, including entrepreneurship, human talent, positive perception and business development.”

The GNO document states “Greater New Orleans has been experiencing a historic "brain gain," whereby the best and brightest in the country and now choosing to move - or come back to - New Orleans.

• Tulane had more applications this year, 44,000, than any other private school in the country

• For every one professional that left after the storm, two have moved in

Forbes ranked New Orleans as a top ten city for relocation

• New Orleans is now the #1 Teach for America location, per capita, in the US

• Louisiana has enjoyed three years of net in-migration for the first time in decades

 Importantly, perceptions of New Orleans and Louisiana are rapidly improving, as reflected in a range of recent polls and rankings:

• Featured twice on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine

3rd fastest wage growth in the U.S. [CareerBuilder.com]

• Louisiana placed 9th on the Business Climate Rankings Index, the first time in the top ten in history [Site Selection]

1st in the nation for education reform [Thomas B. Fordham Institute]

10th on a “Next Cities” ranking of the best places to live and work for young professionals [Next Generation Consulting]

• Benjamin Franklin placed 27th on list of the 100 best high schools in the nation [U.S. News] “

After checking the online dictionary, “inflection point” essentially means-- a point of upward climb.

So, GNO Inc. is promoting that New Orleans is on the brink of some new sky-high jumps right when there is concern that the New Orleans Hornets might jump ship should attendance not dramatically improve.

In the scheme of things, I much rather have well educated, future oriented, inspired populace and group of entrepreneurs attending our schools and populating our offices and streets than Hornets fans at the arena.

But, realistically, I know that if New Orleans loses the Hornets as Charlotte did and as other unfortunate cities have lost their respective pro teams, it will be a major step back for the city and the state.  Ironically, it would come at a time when the city, virtually destroyed by Katrina , miraculously has emerged from under the waters and has symbolically in a group hug lifting the Lombardi Trophy for the world to applaud.

On Monday, city leaders met with Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, local parish officials and business leaders to show support for the team and to urge the community to buy tickets so the Hornets top 14,800 people per game over the next twelve home events.

There is also talk of various local entrepreneurs jumping up to the hoop to invest in the team.

However, this is a team that has been dropping in attendance as the team has remarkably improved in performance.

This is a team where one buyer has pulled out from the mix which prompted the NBA to buy and take over affairs.

This is a team where so far the talk of purchase by local buyers is just talk and there is a possibility the club could walk.

To their credit, Governor Jindal and Mitch Landrieu are leading the charge to ensure the team does not fall under the 14,800 mark which could be an interesting challenge itself considering there are so many distractions in competition including other major holiday, sports events, and football bowls.

To his disadvantage, Landrieu cannot come up with any money to sweeten the pot as the city is raising taxes.

And, Jindal is being hammered by hospitals, medical providers and schools as he wants them to swallow budget cutting medicine at a time when they have a sour taste in their own respective bellies.

The Louisiana populace is in no mood to hand out money to a bunch of rich men although it means that other rich men in other cities are dribbling at the mouth to own a piece of the NBA ball.  

Things are so rough in Louisiana that it appears Jindal is not in favor of allowing tax credits to help keep the team (such as the movie incentives that launched a thriving industry in state)  because it will cause a reduction in state revenues.

Which is somewhat odd since he is strongly in favor of extending Bush tax reductions for the rich but does not want the rich to save taxes to invest in a an international symbol of civic success such as the Hornets—but this seeming inconsistency is another story yet, for another time.

While the “Save The Hornets” press event was positive and hopeful, the reality is--we built it (the New Orleans arena) and the fans are just not coming, enough.  The reality is also that despite all of rah-rah by Landrieu, Jindal, and the local politicians, should the city and state lose this team on their “watch”  it will be a major black eye in prestige, GNO Inc’s  “inflection point” talk, notwithstanding.

Not trying to push the panic button, New Orleans has been on the brink before in recent days.  We almost lost the Saints but at the time we were not talking about selling government properties such as prisons so we can keep universities and medical centers.

We almost lost New Orleans during the storms but at the time the feds came in and bailed out the state and the Gulf coast.

We almost lost Mardi Gras but New Orleans without Fat Tuesday City was like Monday without red beans and the community rallied.

We almost lost the tourist and seafood industries but BP has a fat wallet and somewhat of a guilty conscience.  Plus, there is enough political stroke to make the oil company  belly up to help keep those businesses afloat.

We’re on the brink of losing the oil industry which is only causing more economic erosion in the area paralleling the incredible eroding Louisiana coastline only hours away from Jackson Square.

Hopefully GNO Inc. is right and New Orleans curve upward does not match the Mississippi River’s curve meandering down to the Gulf Of Mexico.

Also, hopefully, Governor Jindal can reach into his bag of tricks and book deals and come up with imaginative ways to keep the Hornets in New Orleans and enticing the locals to enter a building to watch an NBA game an event some are wondering if he has ever done since he has been so busy signing autographs, going on national TV and raising campaign money for virtual strangers.        

True, an NBA game is just a game and an NBA team is just a team.  New Orleans and Louisiana has made it before and could rise above the doomsayers and pull it out again.

Still, let us not forget that we were told that in short notice, Louisiana would climb jump out of the health-of-the-state basement but somehow, it appears we are now falling backwards and are now ranked 49th in one of those major “bad lists” we hoped to escape.

The city and state government leaders can talk a good talk that our Hornets will stay but our kids need educating, our poor and middle class need health care and our hospitals need cash to operate.  Talk makes for good media but in reality the state and local governments are crashing and bleeding.

Make no mistake about it. Landrieu are at the foul line and the seconds are ticking.  Even if New Orleans continues to make the good lists of entrepreneurship, and even if the state and city can somehow work the books locating funds to meet the creditors who are slamming down the doors, should our state and city’s two most recognizable players not win it at the New Orleans Arena, they both will be forever marked as political failures.   Then, the talk of leadership and crises will be a mere bouncing ball squirting out of bounds.








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