May 042017
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

State Representative Stephanie Hilferty hails from the most conservative legislative district in New Orleans – House District 94 in Lakeview. In a move that has scorched the hearts of some of New Orleans’ biggest job and tax generators, Republican Hilferty is joining Mayor Mitch Landrieu — considered in some circles around the state to be a tax-and-spend Democrat — in an wildcard move to divert tax dollars already dedicated to the Morial Convention Center to a new taxing authority, the New Orleans Street Maintenance District.

Landrieu ruffled tourism industry feathers last year when he tried unsuccessfully to steal away a penny from the hotel tax. Loaded with political appointees, this new New Orleans Street Maintenance District will distribute the funds to repair neighborhood streets in New Orleans. Such a maneuver is not very acceptable among many conservatives who feel that the taxes they are already paying should be more than enough for city government to provide basic services like police, fire, garbage and street repair.

Late last week, already-overtaxed homeowners received an extra tax bill which will fund sewerage and water repairs. While Hilferty’s constituents might feel happy now that something could be done to repair their crater-filled streets, by election time they might think of her as a Republican-in-name-only who teamed up on a tax issue with one of the era’s most liberal Democrats.

No one knows for sure how the political appointees of the New Orleans Street Maintenance District will determine which streets to repair first. The board could become fertile ground to wildly spend tax dollars rather than taking the more conservative approach of budget tightening and protecting the public coffers.

Tails are already wagging that Hilferty, a new inexperienced legislator, may be being used by Landrieu to make good on one of the promises he made seven years ago to “fix our streets” on which he has obviously fallen very short. The question remains, is Hilferty making a bad decision while at the same time sacrificing core conservative values by participating in a scheme to redirect taxes at the behest of a lame duck Democratic mayor?

LESSONS LEARNED FROM CIVIL DISTRICT COURT JUDGE RACHEL JOHNSON’S ELECTION

Rachel Johnson and her consultants deserve full credit for successfully running a very strategic campaign in which Johnson, daughter of Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, handily won a Civil District Court judgeship last Saturday in a low turnout election. Johnson’s finely crafted runoff message was that African-Americans had struggled for the right to vote and needed to exercise it.

Early in the campaign season former congressional candidate Gary Landrieu wagered that a white candidate could no longer be elected to city-wide office in Orleans Parish. At that time, I was working with judicial candidate Suzy Montero and disagreed.

Landrieu was only partially correct. Based on Orleans Parish current voter registration, the vast majority of our future city-wide elected officials will continue to be African-American. Candidates who are not African-American must be able to win significant cross-over votes.

This reality can most easily be achieved by candidates who have an existing base in the African-American community like Judge Paul Bonin who was recently elected to Criminal Court against two lesser-known African-American opponents. Several candidates who planned future campaigns are reevaluating their options.

It might not impact a potential wildcard mayoral candidate like Sidney Torres IV. If he decided to run, Torres could defy the odds and change the current dynamic. Nothing in politics ever stays the same too long.

EQUAL PAY SUPPORTERS PREPARE TO FIGHT ANOTHER DAY

Supporters of State Rep. Helena Moreno’s pay secrecy legislation (House Bill 222) were disappointed yesterday when the Republican dominated House Labor and Industrial Relations Committee killed the bill. Dozens of New Orleans women leaders dressed in red and green had flocked to Baton Rouge to show their support for this long overdue measure. Kenner Republican State Rep. Julie Stokes, a candidate for State Treasurer, spoke in favor of the legislation as did many other men and women.

Pay secrecy is a big problem in Louisiana which has the largest pay gap of any state. A new study presented by the United Way of Southeast Louisiana points out that women of color are the most severely impacted.

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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