Is Louisiana ready for her super close-up?
After the Saints' miserably agonizing Bountygate year, the football gods spared New Orleans the final indignity by not sending the archrival Atlanta Falcons to the Super Bowl. While San Francisco fans, past conference foes, are only a wee bit more welcome, the crowd for the Big Game is far more than about the opposing teams. Rather, attendance is dominated by the sports elite, along with the movers and shakers in entertainment and big business, who are part of the show come to town.
They last came to the city for the 2002 game, and, though so much has happened since, they will marvel at how much remains the same. What both high rollers and cheap drunks love about New Orleans is that it's a place where anything goes as long as nothing changes. Tourists delight that they can walk French Quarter streets carrying drinks and drop in and out of sex shows, but that every window frame and shutter, regardless of what goes on behind it, is constitutionally protected. Since they last came, no edifice has been modernized, gentrified or torn down to make way for a McMansion, as happens all the time back where they come from.
Getting around town, visitors will see that plenty is changing, as evidenced by actual cranes in the sky, as the community and its economy continue to rebuild and, within reason, reinvent themselves. Also, the political scene of the city and the state is represented by a clean, energetic new cast. Yet old reputations die hard and can overshadow shiny new images. From what's been in the news lately, outsiders can be forgiven for assuming that Ray Nagin is still the mayor and Edwin Edwards is the governor of Louisiana.
Had the statute of limitations fallen a few weeks later, the former mayor's indictment would not have been the major news greeting the early-arriving press and TV crews. To media veterans, the 21-count indictment must read as though the old-school form of political corruption, with its brazenness and entitlement, never went away here. Nagin will have his days in court to prove his accusers wrong, if he doesn't cop a plea first, but, please, not until the converged press leaves town.
These sad events make it all the more important that Mayor Mitch Landrieu be front and center for the big doings next week, but he would be anyway, as it would take the 49ers' offensive line to move him out of camera range.
The Super Bowl gives even Gov. Bobby Jindal a good reason not to leave the state this week. Instead of his having to go to where potential rich supporters are, as he did for his recent Las Vegas audience with casino magnate and top Republican giver Sherman Adelson, the deep-pocketed will be here for the same receptions he will attend. On behalf of the state, this is Jindal's opportunity to urge the moneyed class to move here with their businesses, now that he is getting rid of personal and corporate income taxes. Perhaps he won't mention that when they come back, they will be clipped every time they turn around by the new sales tax, destined to be the country's highest once he's through.
The big wheels from the entertainment industry already know about Louisiana's lucrative movie tax credits, the latest applicant for which is the producer of the TV reality show co-starring Edwin Edwards and his wife Trina. If tax credits are approved for The Governor's Wife, taxpayers would cover 30% of eligible in-state production costs and another 5% of payroll. Our tax investment is sure to put Louisiana in as favorable a light as do Swamp People and Bayou Billionaires.
If Edwards really were to be the star of the show, I would be a big fan. But while he will have his one-liners, from the way things sound, the theme will more closely track a train wreck, as new mom-to-be Trina engages with her stepdaughters nearly twice her age: Anna Edwards, known for her directness, and Vicki Edwards, for her drama. Spoiler alert: There will be words.
If so, the show promises to be both unmissable and unwatchable for many Louisiana viewers, who, fortunately, alone will not keep it running on A&E. But should it attract a wide national audience, combined with a Nagin trial, the state's carefully crafted new image of ethics and reform will need another do-over fast.
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