Jan 162014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

How many of you watched the season premiere of Duck Dynasty last night and watched it for the first time because of Phil Robertson’s outlandish but right-in-character remarks? How many of you think that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had no idea that his staff were orchestrating a traffic calamity as pay-back for a lack of endorsement? Christie is lucky that the problem occurred now – so early in the presidential campaign – and probably recoverable, though time will tell for sure.

It is always amazing what these kind of folk can get away with. Danae, a native of New Jersey, loves Christie for his bluntness- even though he is a Republican. But not as much as she admires Hillary Clinton, who will likely square off with him in the next presidential contest. Hillary has been running around the country campaigning without really campaigning. She has gotten the opportunity to talk about every issue she considers important to his democratic base – like extending unemployment benefits, raising the minimum wage, increasing early childhood education, etc. — while identifying donors, not that hubby Bill doesn’t have a group she an already tap into. Fresh new blood, oh we mean donors, is always best.

Those of us who are Hillary fans might get a chance to catch her up-close and personal when she visits New Orleans on January 25 for a convention of national automobile dealers. And she might even take a few minutes to visit with the rest of us, either at a press conference, fundraiser for the Clinton Foundation, or a reception for one constituency or another. Let’s bring Chris Christie to town too so we can really look at both of our potential next choices for president.

Many folks are telling us they are tired of the Mayor’s race, the Sheriff’s race, etc. Well, the next round of campaigns – include for Congress – is right around the corner.

The Orleans Parish School Board held a long-awaited groundbreaking today for a new elementary school in New Orleans East today, the Lake Forest Elementary Charter School — which will relocate from a cramped post-Katrina Haynes Blvd location when completed in 2015. The current school has been recognized by the Department of Education as a Blue Ribbon school and admission is highly sought. Parents, residents and the business community have been asked for this new facility not just as an economic driver for New Orleans East but also so that their children could have all the bells and whistles (science and computer labs, a media center, performing arts facilities, etc) that the city’s best schools offer. The design was adapted from the new Hynes school which is a beacon in Lakeview but costs much more – $35 million – because of different soil conditions – and will be built by the McDonnell Group with a full 35% DBE participation.

But we say, doesn’t every neighborhood deserve a first-class school and resource for the community where children can get a quality education without being bussed across the city? New Orleans has been blessed that FEMA has been picking up the tab for construction and renovation of dozens of school facilities in New Orleans since Katrina both for the OPSB, the RSD and Catholic schools. As a community we should also be focusing on the need for kindergarten in every school to give all kids the head start they need to grow into successful adults. Former BSBE board member Leslie Jacobs understands this. It would be great if the Business Council would want to make this a priority as well.

Let’s not forget the effects to our community of high school dropouts. As District C City Council candidate Nadine Ramsey says at most every forum, including today at the Algiers Kiwanis Club, if we can’t keep a kid in school, how can we think they will grow into contributing members of society? Many of our criminals start as dropouts. That’s why some many GEDs are earned by inmates at the Orleans Parish Prison. After the elections, it would be beneficial for New Orleans future to create a city-wide dialogue on our long-term education goals and how to reach them, a dialogue that would include those at all socio-economic levels.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board, and Columbus is working on the municipal campaigns of Stacy Head, Charles Foti and Jared Brossett. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and council candidate Dana Kaplan.

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