Dec 182014

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

A recent WSJ/NBC News poll pointed out that the majority of voters were pleased with the results of this year’s midterm elections and thought the Congress — rather than President Obama — should take the lead in setting policy for the country.  Though an overwhelming majority felt that not much change in direction for the country will result from the election, the numbers are a good starting point for former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, 61, as he aims to clear the field in advance of a brutal campaign against Hillary Clinton.

Although there are other GOP candidates worthy of voter consideration (including Mitt Romney and Chris Christie), Bush — with his “Double B” presidential pedigree and easy access to donors — is the early favorite, ramping up pressure on potential rivals and reshuffling the GOP’s policy debate.

Bush had much success as a popular, notably conservative Republican governor in Florida, cutting taxes many times and leading K-12 reform. He will not be able to run as a moderate and expect to win the nomination, as John McCain and Jon Huntsman can both testify. GOP conservatives will be looking for a champion for their principles, not someone who supports immigration and Common Core.

Bush’s decision to release 250,000 emails in advance of the campaign, is a signal that he wants to air any issues in the public now and not the week before the election.  Though his recent work with hedge funds and private equity could make him a ripe target for attack, his name and experience make him a formidable candidate.

The Democrats have lost their traditional middle class base. The liberal wing of the party would prefer a candidate like Elizabeth Warren rather than Clinton. Time says millionaires love Hillary and will surely fill her war chest in advance of this rough and tumble presidential election.


GNO Inc.’s Michael Hecht has scored again for New Orleans with the January opening of the new video game development studio, High Voltage, which will create 80 direct high-paying jobs and 116 new indirect jobs. Though the negotiation took more than a year to complete, High Voltage CEO Kerry Ganofsky clearly understood that New Orleans is a great place to expand a business.


Cuba and Havana have always had a symbiotic relationship that will only grow with President Obama’s surprise announcement yesterday. Mayor Landrieu will sponsor a trade mission; Port of NO president Gary LaGrange will prepare for increased exports and maybe even some imports; oil and gas companies will consider long term drilling; hoteliers like Warren Reuther will dream of tourism opportunities;  Airport Director Ahmad Iktafar will ramp up plans for flights between the two countries; Ron Forman will want to open a zoo or aquarium there; Harrah’s will negotiate to build a casino; and Cuba’s unique culture – music, art, religion, and architecture – will be more easily accessible to us all. Santa Claus Obama brought New Orleans a great gift indeed.


In response to the federal government’s multi-million dollar Consent Decree and the spending, hiring, management mandates it requires, overall progress seems slow and inconsistent at the Orleans Parish Prison.  While compliance officer Tracy Washington is on board, Michael Tidwell, the corrections expert who was to oversee day to day operations of the jail itself, has resigned due to a difference of direction with Gusman.  Without a strong presence like Tidwell, inmate on inmate crime will continue to increase.

Long overdue, Gusman is holding two job fairs this week to begin to fill the hundreds of positions also required by the decree.  While New York Mayor Bill DeBlasio is revamping the treatment of mental-health patients in prisons, the plight of mental-health patients in New Orleans is still a tragedy.

With this backdrop, Sheriff Gusman will again ask the voters later this spring to approve a change in the way he spends tax dollars collected by the sheriff’s Law Enforcement District, of which he is the only board member.  Transparency and accountability are not the hallmarks of the Sheriff’s Office. Perhaps public trust could be built if the LED’s board included community representatives, which will require a legislative change.

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 television 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, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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