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Yogurt wars voting extended through Friday

Published: Friday, September 07, 2012,  9:11 AM     Updated: Friday, September 07, 2012,  9:12 AM

Editor's note: Voting for the yogurt wars contest has been extended through Friday, Sept. 7, because of Hurricane Isaac. Voting ends today at 5 p.m.

yogurt-shop.jpgSusan Poag/The Times-Picayune archiveYogurt makes for a great after-school snack for kids and parents alike.

We asked for your nominations for the best-tasting yogurt in the New Orleans area, and you delivered. More than a dozen local yogurt shops were suggested, representing the east and west banks and south and north shores.

This week's challenge? Check out the list of nominees at nola.com/food, and check out some of the other recommended shops -- even those outside your neighborhood. Then come back and cast your vote for the one you think is selling the best-tasting yogurt.

Voting concludes Friday, Sept. 7, and the top 5 shops will be announced that evening. From there, our taste-testing panel will choose the winning yogurt.

Follow along with us online for videos, polls and blog posts as we visit local shop owners and customers, collect poll data on your favorite flavors and toppings and dissect the much-hyped health benefits of the sweet treat.

 

Fashion's Night Out events to be held in New Orleans tonight

Published: Thursday, September 06, 2012, 10:35 AM     Updated: Thursday, September 06, 2012, 10:36 AM
Fashionistas bummed about missing New York Fashion Week need not sit at home tonight. Fashion's Night Out, the international shopping event that is the brainchild of 'Vogue' editor Anna Wintour, will be celebrated with more than 4,000 events in 18 countries, and New Orleans is among the participants.
Festivities at The Shops at Canal Place and the 600 block of Old Metairie kick off at 6 p.m. Here's a look at what you can expect:
In New Orleans
6-8 p.m.: The Shops at Canal Place, Fashion Week New Orleans and Amelie G Magazine will present a fall fashion show on a runway staged on level one in the atrium.  Fashions will include looks from Saks Fifth Avenue, Michael Kors, BCBGMAXAZRIA, Banana Republic, Brooks Brothers, Anthropologie, jeantherapy, White House/Black Market and Francesca’s Collections.  DJ Soul Sister will provide music, and specialty cocktails will be served on levels one and two. Be on the lookout for in-store promotions as well.

In Old Metairie

6-10 p.m.: Mirabella, Hemline, Pilates Loft, Salon Tereska, and SNAP will present trunk shows by local and national designers, fitness demonstrations, make-up and hair “quick-fixes,” giveaways, discounts, music and cocktails. The Uptown men’s store Vernon will have a “pop-up shop” on site.

 

Hurricane Isaac will introduce many New Orleans homeowners to wind deductibles

Published: Tuesday, September 04, 2012, 7:35 PM     Updated: Wednesday, September 05, 2012, 8:54 AM

Most of Hurricane Isaac's damage is likely to come from flooding, but for those with wind damage, a special type of deductible instituted after Katrina could be an unwelcome surprise. "I think it's going to bring to the forefront for the first time since Hurricane Katrina, the existence of these named-storm deductibles," Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon said. "I have described it as being for New Orleans what Gustav was to Baton Rouge four years ago."

isaac-tamale-stand-arabi.jpgView full sizeDavid J. Phillip, The Associated PressJoe Boudoin helps clear fallen tree limbs from a tamale stand damaged during Isaac in Arabi on Thursday.

After Hurricane Katrina, insurance companies in coastal areas from Texas to Maine instituted special deductibles to shift a major portion of the damage bill back onto the policyholder. In big events such as tropical storms or hurricanes, many insurers in Louisiana require policyholders to pay the equivalent of 2 percent, 3 percent or 5 percent of the value of their home as a deductible before their insurance coverage kicks in.

At Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp., the state-sponsored insurer of last resort, which insures many homes in hard-hit coastal parishes, all policies must carry at least a 2 percent hurricane deductible, and a properties below the Intracoastal Waterway come with at least a 5 percent deductible.

chart-insurance-090412.jpgView full size

For a $200,000 house, a 2 percent deductible would mean that homeowners need to pay for the first $4,000 worth of damage on their own, and a 5 percent deductible would mean that the homeowners need to pay for the first $10,000 worth of damage on their own.

To find out how much the storm deductible is on your house, check out the first page of your homeowners insurance policy. Companies are required to state in large type what percentage deductible customers have, and do the math on how much money it will be based on the insured value of a home.

Marc Eagan, president of the Eagan Insurance Agency in Metairie, said that most of the downed trees, damaged roofs, leaning fences and water damage from wind-driven rain seeping through windows that his customers are reporting aren't likely to reach the level of the deductible, so customers are going to have to pay to fix things on their own.

"Many of the claims that have been reported to us probably fall under that deductible," Eagan said.

But Al Pappalardo, president of Pappalardo Insurance, said that it's important for people to document their damage and keep receipts for money they spend to fix it, because that spending will count toward the deductible if Louisiana gets hit by a second storm this season that causes more damage.

The Legislature passed a law recently saying that insurance companies could only charge one deductible per hurricane season.

"We're seeing a number of people who are just documenting for a multiple storm-deductible situation," Pappalardo said.

If someone has damage that's unlikely to hit the deductible, it's unclear whether that person needs to file a claim to have an insurance adjuster deem that the level of damage is below the deductible in order to document the amount of damage in case of another storm. It is recommended that homeowners document their damage by taking pictures, writing a description of it and saving receipts, and then call their insurance agent or insurer to find out what they should do.

Another question is what homeowners with significant wind damage should do if they don't have the savings to cover a hurricane deductible.

Donelon said that he has a meeting with the Federal Emergency Management Agency today and plans to ask whether FEMA will make any grant money available to help cover them, or whether policyholders will be able to apply for a low-interest individual disaster assistance loan from the U.S. Small Business Administration to borrow money to cover the deductible and access their insurance coverage.

When Hurricane Gustav hit Baton Rouge in 2008, triggering storm deductibles, Donelon said that many people clearly had trouble paying them. "A lot of blue tarps stayed on roofs for year or more," he said.

Even as hurricane deductibles on homeowners policies are likely to be a problem for people, the bigger source of damage to homes is likely to come from flooding, insurance professionals, computer modeling experts and public officials said.

FEMA, which runs the National Flood Insurance Program, says it has no estimates of flood damage. And catastrophe modeling companies typically don't pay much attention to it because the private insurers which are their clients don't pay for it.

But for anyone who looks at the amount of water covering parishes in southeast Louisiana, it's clear that rising water will account for the lion's share of damage.

"The drivers of loss are definitely going to be on the flood side," said Michael Kistler, director of model solutions at the New Jersey catastrophe modeling company RMS.

For customers of State Farm, the largest insurer of homes in the state, with about 308,000 policies, any flood claims from Isaac will unfold differently than any flood claims they may have made in the past.

In 2010, State Farm stopped participating in the National Flood Insurance Program, meaning that State Farm will not send its own agents or those under contract with State Farm to investigate claims. Now, all flood policies sold in tandem with State Farm homeowners coverage come straight from the U.S. government, which will send its own adjusters to homes.

Gary Stephenson, a spokesman for State Farm in Louisiana, said that agents are instructing customers to call the flood program directly at 800.767.4341 to make claims. "We are directing them to the federal flood program," he said.

Pappalardo, the independent insurance agent, said unfortunately, many Louisianians could be making flood claims at the very moment when FEMA could be poised to raise rates on high-risk properties or get rid of provisions that allow some homes to be grandfathered in at lower rates.

When Congress passed legislation in June that re-authorized the flood program for five years, it did so with a mandate for FEMA to make the program more actuarily sound. FEMA is still working on plans to translate that legislation into action, but it could result in higher rates for repetitive loss properties.

"It's very important to watch what will happen on the flood insurance side," Pappalardo said.

Hurricane Isaac is not expected to be a big event for business interruption claims. Unlike Katrina or Gustav, there was no mandatory evacuation order compelling people to leave town and businesses to close. And even though the mangled electrical grid forced many businesses to remain closed after Isaac's winds stopped, insurance experts say that policies generally require some manifestation of physical damage to the premises before a business interruption claim can be filed.

Even though many of the insurance companies that moved into Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina are small and have only been in business for a few years, Donelon does not expect any companies to have solvency issues because these companies have bought insurance coverage of their own to make sure they can pay claims.

"These new smaller companies are not in danger, because they have reinsurance up to their earlobes," Donelon said.

Meanwhile, in case a company did fail, the Louisiana Insurance Guaranty Fund, which steps in to pay claims if insurers can't, has expanded its coverage from $150,000 per home to $500,000 per home.

Meanwhile, Donelon passed an emergency rule last week that freezes all forms of insurance coverage in place and prevents insurers from canceling customers for not paying their premiums for 30 days. The rule also requires health insurers to allow policyholders go outside of their networks, but only charge them in-network co-payments and deductibles.

The rules, which are similar to rules enacted after Katrina, are designed to protect people in case the mail is delayed in getting their premium checks to their insurers, and are designed to recognize that people might be displaced and need medical attention.

Donelon also said that under Louisiana law, companies must begin the process of adjusting a storm loss within 30 days of the policyholder notifying them of damage, and companies have 30 days to pay a claim once the adjuster as determined the amount of damage.

Rebecca Mowbray can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 504.826.3417.

 

New Orleans City Council to tackle Entergy, other Isaac issues Tuesday

Published: Tuesday, September 04, 2012,  8:53 AM     Updated: Tuesday, September 04, 2012,  8:53 AM
Times-Picayune Staff By Times-Picayune StaffThe Times-Picayune

New Orleans city government begins returning to normal today after losing a week to Hurricane Isaac. The first high-profile event will be a special City Council meeting this morning at which council members plan to vent their frustration over how long it took Entergy to make a major dent in the huge number of customers who lost electricity because of the storm.

Hurricane Isaac New Orleans power outage comparison
Enlarge David Grunfeld, The Times-PicayuneLooking from the Claiborne entrance to the I-10, power has been lost in the Treme area of New Orleans as Hurricane Isaac comes to shore, Tuesday August 28, 2012, and on the right the same location by on Monday September 3rd. According to Entergy, 90 percent of the city has restored power. DAVID GRUNFELD / THE TIMES-PICAYUNENew Orleans has 90% powergallery (1 photos)

However, a bit of the steam might have gone out of the council's wrath since the meeting was announced Saturday. At that time, Utility Committee Chairwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell said she was "extremely disappointed in Entergy New Orleans' response." She said its "inability to provide an assessment of the amount of work that must be done in each council district and a reasonable timeline for completion has left the citizens of New Orleans angry and frustrated -- and rightly so."

Since then, though, Entergy has made rapid progress, with the company saying that by 3 p.m. Monday, it had restored power to 88 percent of the 161,000 Orleans Parish customers who lost power Tuesday and Wednesday of last week. The company indicated it expected to reach more than 90 percent by today.

Still, council members are expected to pepper Entergy officials with questions about why so many people lost power.

AT THE HEAD OF THE ACTION

Today's special meeting and Thursday's regular council meeting could spotlight some of the tensions among council members that Isaac apparently exacerbated.

On Aug. 27, the day before the storm arrived, Council President Stacy Head issued a news release in the name of the council that it seems the other six members had not seen.

The release was innocuous, saying the council was monitoring the storm's course and urging "everyone staying in the city to prepare for what could be several days without power or water." It quoted Head individually as saying: "While Isaac is not a hurricane yet, we urge all residents to prepare home and property for hurricane winds and rain. Please be sure to have enough food and water for your family, should we have extended power outages. Stay tuned to local media outlets for the latest updates."

Although there seemed to be nothing in the release that anyone could disagree with, Head's colleagues responded with a unanimous "Dear Stacy" memorandum that took her to task for not clearing the release with them.

It said: "We appreciate your willingness and diligence in representing all of us during this difficult period. However, we respectfully request that all communications coming from the City Council, as a whole, first be approved by every member of the council before being disseminated to the public and the media. During this very important time, it is imperative that we, as a council, speak with one voice and from the same page."

Aside from one other, also innocuous release that same day, the council then was not heard from until Thursday, when it issued a brief statement urging "the utmost caution" as residents returned and started to clean up their property. Late on Friday, Vice President Jackie Clarkson issued an individual statement, saying that "Mayor (Mitch) Landrieu and his staff and the City Council and our staffs have been working 24/7 to ensure all necessary emergency services have been in action."

Head, meanwhile, was on hand for the mayor's first few televised news conferences about the storm. On Aug. 26, in fact, as the conference was about to begin, Landrieu looked around and asked whether Clarkson -- who until less than a month earlier was the council president -- was on hand. Making her way to a spot just to the mayor's left, Head shot back: "I'm the president now. Don't forget it."

After Tuesday, however, Head disappeared from the daily City Hall news conferences.

Asked by email Monday whether she had left town, Head replied that she was at home through the storm and was "among the first to lose power." She said she then took her children "to be with friends, came back, been working whole time." She did not respond to a question about reports she was seen at a Florida beachfront resort.

Head commented in her email that the "mayoral press conferences did get a little strained, " with people making jokes like, "How many hot-aired politicians can fit in a room?" She also complained that Landrieu refused to allow any council members into "strategy meetings" with Entergy, the Regional Transit Authority, the Sewerage & Water Board and other agencies.

She said she was at City Hall all day Monday and "was sure lonely there. ... Funny how when cameras are gone, City Hall becomes a ghost town."

FIGURING THE COST

One result of Isaac is that the city almost certainly incurred extra expenses and lost some normal revenue. It likely will take a while, though, to figure out just how big a hole Isaac punched in the 2012 budget.

It will be a fairly easy matter to calculate the cost of extra overtime for police officers and other first responders. It will be harder to estimate the cost of the lost week's work by dozens of other city agencies.

Some retail sales were lost because most stores were closed for at least a few days, but those could be offset by extra purchases residents made before and after the storm. Hotel taxes will undoubtedly take a hit thanks to canceled or shortened stays by many visitors. The city lost one major convention, and attendance at the Southern Decadence festival over Labor Day weekend probably suffered.

With four months left in the year, there probably is time for the Landrieu administration to institute further belt-tightening moves to ensure the city ends the year in the black, but it had already taken several such measures earlier in the year, so the options are growing fewer.

WHO'S IN? WHO'S OUT?

Among the countless court cases delayed by the storm were challenges to three candidates in the special City Council election in District E. State law provides very tight deadlines for the trial and appellate courts to rule on such challenges, and Isaac blew those deadlines out of the water.

Judges will have to scramble to deal with the lawsuits questioning the eligibility of candidates Austin Badon, James Gray and Cynthia Willard-Lewis to seek the seat formerly held by Jon Johnson.

PICKING THEIR PRIORITIES

One of the many meetings canceled or postponed by the storm was the last of Mayor Mitch Landrieu's scheduled five public meetings on 2013 budget priorities. He is expected to announce a new date for the meeting for residents of City Council District D.

This year, unlike the past two years, Landrieu held only one meeting each in Districts C and E, not two. So residents of some east bank neighborhoods in District C, unhappy they were asked to drive to Algiers for their meeting, held an unofficial meeting of their own.

According to the organization Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates, more than 60 people from the French Quarter, Marigny, Treme and Bywater showed up for the Aug. 23 meeting. The group said three major themes emerged: support for increased appropriations for the Vieux Carre Commission and Historic District Landmarks Commission; calls for "stepped-up enforcement on all fronts, including noise, zoning and more"; and calls for a plan to manage the ever-growing number of tourists who visit New Orleans, and particularly the French Quarter.

Bruce Eggler can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 504.826.3320. Claire Galofaro can be reached at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or 504.717.7701.

 

Gentilly Fest plans are starting to take shape

Published: Thursday, August 23, 2012, 1:53 AM

Plans for the fifth annual Gentilly Fest are in full swing. The festival is Oct. 5-7, and in honor of the fifth anniversary, there are some new additions.

gentilly-fest-2011.jpgView full sizeMatthew Hinton, Times-Picayune archiveAt Gentilly Fest 2011, Stephanie Williams dances with her father Irvin Randall to the music of Real Love.

There will be a Gentilly Fest Friday Night Kick-off Concert sponsored by Capital One Bank with an opening performance by Kermit Ruffins and closing second-line with the Hot 8 Brass band.

On Saturday there is a new stage added to the lineup thanks to Gentilly business owner and entrepreneur, Percy Marchand of NOLA Copy and Print, who is sponsoring the Brass Band stage.

It will be located in the arts and crafts area to bring second-line traffic and attention to the vendors.

Additionally, Marchand’s Brass Band Stage will a sponsor a contest for aspiring brass bands and local school kids interested in showcasing their musical chops.

For more information on this, contact Jimmy Stokes at 504.319.6051.

The medical tent this year will again be sponsored by the Daughters of Charity, which is planning a health fair in conjunction with the festival.

Available will be blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol screenings, dental and vision screenings.

Entergy Corp. will continue to sponsor the Kids Village complete with a rock climbing wall, arts and crafts, and other kid friendly activities.

All 24 food vendor spots are taken, but Gentilly Fest planners are still looking for festival sponsors. If interested please email Karen Domino at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or call me, Denise McConduit, at 504.957.9191.

Gretchen Bradford can also answer questions and can be reached at 504.813.4164.

Arts and crafts chairperson Jackie Blossom is still soliciting vendors. Please call Jackie at 504.338.8008 to reserve your spot. More to come because it will be a fantastic fifth-year anniversary celebration.

••••••••

Classes are filling up for one of the best-kept secrets in New Orleans, the People Program.

This nonprofit membership organization is for people 50 and older who are looking for creative ways to spend leisure time.

It is sponsored by the ministry of the Sisters of St. Joseph, and there are more than 500 members enrolled of diverse backgrounds, ranging from 50 to 93.

The program offers a wide variety of courses such as exercise, computer, dance, art, needlework, crafts, games, languages, music and more.

For a membership fee of $150, you can take as many classes as you’d like. The program is located at 2240 Lakeshore Drive in New Orleans.

To become a volunteer instructor or for more information, contact Lynn Crean, executive director, at 504.284.7678, or email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

••••••••

Gentilly Terrace resident Alfred J. Hardouin sent me an email noting that the New Orleans City Council passed Resolutions R-12-297 and R-12-298, authored by Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, issuing calls for a special election Nov. 6 in the Gentilly Terrace and North Kenilworth subdivisions to create security and improvement districts.

The North Kenilworth proposition specifies an eight-year levy not to exceed $300 per parcel of land, beginning in January.

The Gentilly Terrace proposition specifies a three-year levy not to exceed $260 per residential parcel and not to exceed $360 per commercial parcel, also beginning in January.

Please get involved with your neighborhood association to see how these resolutions would impact you. For the Gentilly Terrace Association visit www.gentillyterrace.org, or email Leslie Bouie at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

••••••••

The Gentilly neighborhood and business leader social last week was a success.

Dalton Savwoir introduced panelists Michelle Ingram of the New Freret Business Association, Dana Eness of Stay Local!, Roderick Miller of the New Orleans Business Alliance and David Baker of the Gentilly Business Alliance. There are more than 90 businesses in the association. Visit www.shopgentilly.com to learn more.

••••••••

Last week the city broke ground for the new NOPD Fifth District Police Station at 3900 N. Claiborne Ave.

The 17,600-square foot police station will support hundreds of officers in the St. Claude and Lower 9th Ward areas.

Cost of construction is $7.2 million. The station is being financed by FEMA, insurance and the city.

••••••••

Denise Walter McConduit writes about the Gentilly neighborhoods. To send in information to the column email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

 
Related topics: gentilly, gentilly fest
 
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