Apr 072017

Derrick Edwards and his mother Madeline at the New Orleans Coalition 50th Anniversary earlier this week. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

There are few obstacles Derrick Edwards won’t tackle. A former John F. Kennedy High School football star paralyzed from the neck down in a 1989 catastrophic injury, Edwards is undaunted by a crowded field of moneyed Republicans seeking to become Louisiana’s next state treasurer. He is a Democrat and resides on the West Bank of Jefferson Parish.

Edwards is on the campaign trail today because his mother Madeline, a single parent with few resources, refused to place him in an institution at the time of his accident. “If God did not take Derrick the night of his injury, then I’m bringing him home with me,” she told the attending physicians.

After a long recovery, Edwards turned his focus toward earning a bachelors and masters degree in accounting from Tulane University and a law degree from Loyola in 2003. He currently practices personal injury and contract law at Usry, Weeks and Mathews and is also involved in advocacy work, and his life story was recently highlighted by Hoda Kotb on The Today Show.

“I’m running for State Treasurer because we can no longer afford to have billion-dollar deficits in our state budgets. I will fight to stop cuts in education and health care. Middle class and working people can no longer afford to pay for wasteful government spending,” said Edwards.

Edwards says the citizens of Louisiana need to know exactly how their tax dollars are being “spent and wasted.” He will use websites and social media to educate the public regarding individual legislator’s votes on bills that waste taxpayers’ money. Edwards considers himself to be a public servant who will vote independently, rather than a career politician.

Edwards was a candidate for U.S. Senate in 2016 and ran eighth in a field of 24. He spent less than $40,000 while the top five candidates each spent between $2.1 million and $6.2 million, according to campaign finance reports.

Edwards plans to conduct a grassroots fundraising campaign patterned after former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. “Bernie Sanders’ average donation was $27,” said Edwards. “I don’t want to be bought and paid for by corporate America.”

Edwards believes that all government subsidies should be reviewed, especially those benefitting the oil and gas industry, and supports capital outlay projects that create jobs. Edwards utilizes a specialized wheel chair with a mouth control, known as a sip-and-puff. Regardless of his disability, Edwards enjoys the campaign trail and the opportunity to talk with voters every day. Qualifying takes place in mid-July.


While Mayor Mitch Landrieu grapples with the lone $600,000 bid he received Tuesday to take down three historic civil war monuments, growing resistance in other southern states will most likely save a number of monuments, statues and flags.

Persuasive arguments to “preserve history” are being made in city halls, legislatures and courtrooms in all 11 former Confederate states. Supporters of the Civil War iconography argue that these emblems “honor the South’s past, not racism, segregation or slavery,” according to the Wall Street Journal.

Last month preservationists and like-minded individuals in Charlottesville, Virginia sued the City of Charlottesville to block a statue of Robert E. Lee from being removed. When the Memphis City Council attempted to move the statue of one-time KKK grand wizard and Confederate Lt. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Tennessee state historical commission blocked the effort.

Just last month the Alabama state Senate passed the Alabama Memorial Preservation Act which would “save” any markers more than twenty-years old. While the Alabama state House still has the bill under consideration, it is expected to pass.

In 2016, a 70-foot-tall Confederate monument was relocated almost 50 miles from near the University of Louisville to Brandenburg, Ky. When the Louisiana Legislature begins its regular session on Monday, April 10, a bill by State Rep. Thomas Carmody (R-Shreveport) will be heard that seeks to prevent the removal of all civil war statues in Louisiana. Carmody filed similar legislation last year which failed.

Although the one bid Mayor Landrieu received far exceeded the anticipated budget for the project, Landrieu is expected to act quickly before Carmody’s legislation is heard.

Created by artist Alexander Doyle, the Robert E. Lee monument was the largest statue ever modeled in the United States at that time, according to an 1883 story in the Daily Picayune. Prior to Doyle’s project, statues of this size and type were fashioned and finished in European studios. “The model contained about 10,000 pounds of potters’ clay, supported on a strong iron frame with a skeleton of crossbars and wires to hold together this mass of plastic mud.” The model was then completed in plaster of paris and sent to a northern brass foundry to be cast in bronze.

At the statue’s unveiling which coincided with George Washington’s birthday, New Orleans Mayor William H. Behan said that the statue was “an enduring tribute to valor, worth and military genius.”

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and work for City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include judicial candidates Suzanne Montero and Paula Brown.

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