Week in Review, Oct. 26-30: Power Struggles
NEW ORLEANS – Groundhog Day became Groundhog Week: Yet another storm threatened New Orleans, Louisiana lawmakers continued to battle with Gov. John Bel Edwards over coronavirus restrictions, voters continued to turn out in record numbers and everyone was waiting for the tourism industry to show signs of life.
This week, however, there was a twist ending: Hurricane Zeta, unlike the four other storms that came ashore in Louisiana this season, actually scored a direct hit on the city and has left thousands of homes and businesses in the dark two days later. Reports are that roughly 70% Jefferson Parish was still without power as of Friday afternoon – and, New Orleans, the number is a little less than 50%. Fortunately, the storm was only responsible for one death in Louisiana as it moved through the area quickly, leaving downed trees and damaged buildings in its wake.
Here, from staff and wire reports, are the week’s business news highlights:
A Power Struggle of a Different Sort
Gov. John Bel Edwards filed a lawsuit Monday challenging House Republicans’ efforts to rescind Louisiana’s statewide mask mandate, business restrictions and other limits the Democratic governor enacted to combat the coronavirus, keeping the rules in a sort of legal limbo. House Republicans, backed by Attorney General Jeff Landry, say they have nullified the entire public health emergency and the restrictions Edwards enacted through that emergency proclamation. But the Edwards administration continues to enforce the rules, arguing the law used by GOP lawmakers to revoke his emergency orders is unconstitutional.
Record Turnout for Early Voting
Though Election Day is next Tuesday, almost a million Louisiana voters have already cast their ballots. Following Tuesday night, which marked the end of the in-person early voting period, 964,181 state residents had voted. That total includes in-person votes and absentee mail-in ballots and is almost double the previous record set during the 2016 presidential election. “A pandemic or two hurricanes did not prevent nearly one million Louisianians from exercising their right to vote during early voting,” said Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin. “Louisiana voters are energized and eager to make their voices heard in critical elections from the presidency down to local races. It is my strong desire to see 2020 set the record for Louisiana’s highest turnout.”
City Closing French Market Place to Try ‘People-Friendly’ Concept
The City of New Orleans and the French Market Corporation said they will close a section of French Market Place to vehicles during the daytime beginning Friday, Oct. 30 to demonstrate the idea of making that section of the French Quarter more “people friendly.” The block between Governor Nicholls Street and Ursulines Avenue will still be accessible to cars between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m.
Meanwhile, the City announced this week that its Parklet Pilot Program is expanding citywide. One component of the City’s Outdoor Dining initiative, the Parklet Program allows restaurants and bars to use on-street parking spaces in front of their restaurants for additional seating. This can provide additional dining spaces for restaurants while the occupancy limits are reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Big Oil Cutting Jobs
Exxon Mobil is slashing 1,900 jobs from its U.S. workforce, and Chevron plans to cut a quarter of the employees at its recently-acquired Noble Energy as the pandemic saps demand for fuel. Exxon said Thursday the reductions will be both voluntary and involuntary and will largely come from its management offices in Houston. The Irving, Texas oil giant had about 75,000 employees worldwide at the end of 2019.
R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Announces Date
Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation/R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl officials have announced that the 20th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will kick off at 2:30pm CST on Wednesday, Dec. 23 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The game will be internationally broadcast on ESPN and ESPN Radio. “The 20th R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will certainly look different than years past, but we are thrilled to have the opportunity to showcase New Orleans and the Louisiana to a worldwide audience,” said Greater New Orleans Sports Foundation Senior Vice President/R+L Carriers Bowl Executive Director Billy Ferrante. “On behalf of our Bowl Chairman Paul Valteau Jr. and our entire Bowl Committee, I want to thank the State of Louisiana, the City of New Orleans, Conference USA and the Sun Belt Conference for their continued cooperation and partnership throughout this highly unusual year. Without their commitment this year’s game would not be possible.”