Tops of the Town 2013

Our Readers’ Picks in a Range of Categories

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We heard that there was some sort of other election in 2012, but the one that was most far-ranging in decision-making was when our readers were asked to pick the Tops of the Town.

A self-addressed postage-paid ballot was published in our October 2012 issue. The ballot also appeared on our website. More than 150 were returned.

Winners listed had to receive a certain cluster of votes based on the overall number of votes cast. In categories where the votes were too dispersed to show a clear choice the category was eliminated. Second and third places were included whenever the vote totals fell within the cluster. Wherever there seemed to be an overt case of ballot stuffing, the votes were eliminated. (Fortunately, there was not much of that.) The end product is our annual list of readers’ picks. Some win every year; some are new to the list. All reflect what’s on the mind of our readers. To us they are all Tops of the Town.


NEW ORLEANIAN OF THE YEAR:
TOM BENSON



Some say he’s a fox. Others say he’s a saint. He has certainly created a lot of buzz. And, no doubt, he’s a towering figure.

Tom Benson is all of those things. Best known as the owner of the Saints, Benson doubled his professional holdings in 2012 by buying the NBA’s Hornets (and most likely saving the franchise for the city). Both the Saints and the Hornets now play within the shadow of the renamed Benson Tower and, if you missed these stories, you can hear about them on WVUE-TV, aka FOX 8, which Benson also owns.

No local businessperson has ever amassed such a collection of high-profile properties as Benson has. To buy is one thing, to do something worthy with them is another, and here, too, Benson’s organization has had a solid reputation for management.

Not all was rosy for Benson in 2012. Allegations of a bounty scandal rocked the Saints organization. Severe sanctions were issued though sports commissioners don’t have the same burden of proof that the court system mandates. The debate continues.

No one blamed Benson though, and in February Benson and NFL commissioner Rodger Goodell will at some point stand side by side as New Orleans hosts Super Bowl XLVII, a tourism plum that wouldn’t be possible were it not for the Saints franchise.

Less visible but even more saintly is the elegant cancer recovery center that Benson and his wife Gale funded at the Ochsner hospital main campus. (We have known people who have used its services and who are high in its praise.)

Tom Benson is a local guy who worked his way to the top and along the way provided further proof that genius can rise from the back streets of New Orleans. This city made Tom Benson, and, in many ways, he’s remaking the city.

– Errol Laborde


EDITOR’S PICKS
ALL THE NEWS THAT’S FIT TO PRINT
(Except on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday)
AWARD

While the Newhouse family of New Jersey gets to read the daily New York Times, they have decided that we, and literate folks in other cities where they own newspapers, do not need a daily paper. The strategy is to dazzle us with digital media while sacrificing the unique hold that a daily newspaper has in its market. Meanwhile there are many other digital dazzlers online, so the Newhouses have taken their product from being a community leader to another website among many. We can read all about it in The New York Times.

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