Jun 262014
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Since Mayor Landrieu did not succeed in getting the Legislature to approve many of the new taxes he wanted to pay for the police consent decree, the firefighters’ lawsuit, the jail consent decree, etc, it is no surprise that he is punting to the voters to choose.

Unfortunately, average citizens often lack the information needed to make such decisions. That’s why we elect leaders who can study these important issues and provide recommendations to us. Not every citizen has time to read through budget materials like the City Councilmembers do. Nor do they have experts at their disposal to evaluate various proposals.

Nobody wants to pay taxes, but additional taxes are inevitable at this time if we want city services to continue at current levels. Do you like being able to visit a public library? Do you like having your garbage picked up twice a week? Do you want your potholes fixed even occasionally? Many streets still don’t have signs since Katrina. All these things could get worse before they get better.

We’re familiar with the mayor’s budgeting process and the neighborhood meetings that take place each year. This year we need a whole lot more meetings lead by well-informed city leaders ready to dig in to solve this problem.

NEW ORLEANS AVIATION BOARD DOES NOT NEED OUTSIDE PANEL TO REVIEW CONTRACT

With one of the largest public works contracts in recent years to construct a new terminal and other improvements at the Airport now out for rebid, citizens are asking why an outside panel is needed to make a recommendation to the New Orleans Aviation Board. After all, they say, if board member Doug Thornton can oversee 20 or 30 domes and arenas around the country, much less rebuild the Superdome after Hurricane Katrina and if board member Ti Martin can manage several of the city’s most respected restaurants and build a new culinary institute in the CBD, why is an outside panel handpicked by Mayor Landrieu needed?

We’ve been told more than a few NOAB members want a clean and open process where the winning bidder will provide an outstanding product for the best price possible. Citizens expect value from the contract, and they should get it. There is no room for politics in that decision, they say. The bids are due in about three weeks. Then the fun begins.

FEDERAL JUDGE MARTIN FELDMAN STEPPING UP IN GAY RIGHTS DEBATE

With more than 50 percent of Americans supporting laws that recognize gay marriage, it should be no surprise that Federal Judge Marty Feldman would want to address whether marriages by Louisiana’s gay and lesbian citizens performed in another state should be recognized as legal in Louisiana. It is even bolder of him to want to rule whether gay and lesbians have the right to marry in Louisiana.

Gay marriage is now legal in 19 states, but not in Louisiana. For the first time a federal appeals court ruled just yesterday in favor or gay marriages. That occurred in Utah and the ruling is expected to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which could finally decide the matter on a national level.

CIVIL RIGHTS ANNIVERSARY TIME TO REFLECT ON THE PAST & THE FUTURE

Some say that the cry for civil rights/human rights began in Louisiana when the first enslaved Africans arrived here almost 300 years ago. And that the need for civil rights/human rights still exists today for those disenfranchised. Civil rights has always been a hot-button issue in Louisiana because of our unique ethnic blend, our “gumbo” so to speak which brought together French, Spanish, Africans and people from the Caribbean early on in our history.

With Wednesday’s 50th Anniversary of the Civil Rights Act signing, there are several activities worth noting. Arnie Fielkow, LaToya Cantrell and a group of children took off early this morning for Birmingham. New Orleans Freedom Riders — most of them now in their 70s and 80s — had a reunion last weekend. Liberty ’64, a non-profit that Danae and her friends Cheron Byrlski and Dionne Butler created, also have a series of events planned.

They include a photo and video exhibit which opens at 11:30 Saturday at the National Park Service’s Visitor Information Center, 916 N. Peters; Civil Rights Sunday, proclaimed by the City Council, at area churches; a July 2nd bell-ringing ceremony with Congressman Cedric Richmond on the steps of the Louisiana Supreme Court at noon; a series of panel discussions on civil rights topics which will be taped at WWL and air online and through the Orleans Parish School Board; a Music of the Movement performance and panel at the US Mint on July 5; and a Civil Rights Gospel Brunch at the House of Blues on July 6. There is also a Guided Walking Tour and a self-guided tour of civil rights historical sites available.

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. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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