Jun 152017
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Indivisible New Orleans, a group of about 150 New Orleans voters aligned with the national “Indivisible” movement that sprung up to oppose President Trump’s agenda, are holding the first mayoral candidate forum of this campaign season Saturday morning at the Unitarian Universalist Church in uptown New Orleans.

Candidates LaToya Cantrell, Michael Bagneris and Desiree Charbonnet were invited. All three initially confirmed their participation. Charbonnet recently notified INO of a previously scheduled out of town trip to Washington, D.C. and will not be attending.

When a friend of declared mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock asked via Instagram if Scurlock could participate, the organization responded, “We do not intend to include him on the panel. We are a progressive group.”

INO leader Joyce Vansean told me yesterday that the event was created to give their members a chance to engage with progressive candidates before the filing deadline and they never intended to present every candidate to the public. She further said that Scurlock’s “specific campaign and public statements are not in line with our values.” The organization posted a similar yet more detailed response on their Facebook page last night.

We decided to host this event to give our members, members of other progressive groups, and the public a chance to engage with progressive candidates. It is before the filing deadline, therefore was never intended to be an event that presented every single candidate to the public. It is also not a debate- rather it is a deep-dive conversation about issues that are relevant to our members. We wanted to offer a space for members to get engaged and invested in the local political process before the campaigns went into full swing.

It was our decision that we wanted fewer candidates, and more time to hear from each, rather than more candidates, less time. We also selected candidates who we believed share our progressive values. We were in touch with candidates from two other campaigns that we are definitely going to follow. We wish them the best, think they have some great ideas, and can’t wait to see what they do. If we host additional forums before the election, they will be included in those if our members would like to hear from them.

Either way, INO determined that they did not want to hear what Scurlock – a registered Democrat – had to say on his major issues – affordable housing, crime prevention and education spelled out on his CBD billboard. These are probably the same issues the other candidates consider crucial to New Orleans future.

Reached by text in Singapore where he is attending an international amusement parks convention, Scurlock said he believes INO’s decision was “all racial.”

With the senseless shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise and the ongoing discontent in Washington, national leaders are calling for citizens with different political opinions to come together and focus on the big picture rather than the smaller issues that divide. By doing so, more brains and more opinions can connect. A better-informed perspective then leads to creative problem solving. Perhaps INO should adopt that same philosophy.

SHOULD MAYOR LANDRIEU’S TERM BE SHORTENED?

When the next New Orleans mayor and city council are elected this fall, should they have to wait until six months to take office or should they be able to actually begin working in January 2018?

Nola Smarter Inauguration is coordinating a petition drive which would place a charter change amendment on the fall ballot to move the inauguration for mayor and council from May 2018 to January 2018. If approved, Landrieu and the current council would effectively lose several months from their current terms. Without the amendment, the next mayor and council would lose six months from their term.

In an effort to increase voter participation, the League of Women Voters lobbied many years to change Louisiana law which moved New Orleans elections away from the Mardi Gras-Sugar Bowl – Super Bowl season to the fall calendar.

The new law was scheduled to take effect for the 2017 elections. But Mayor Landrieu wanted to postpone implementation and maintain the opportunity to lead the city’s Tri-centennial celebration. In addition, delaying implementation would allow the mayor to accumulate a larger pension, appoint more individuals to boards and commissions and give out more contracts, according to petition organizers.

They say “time is running out” for 10,000 registered voters to sign the petitions and have set a June 19 deadline. Petitions are available at Parlay’s, 837 Harrison Avenue; Sterling Framing, 3440 Magazine Street; and Moldaners Digital Imaging, 3801 Canal Street. For more information, email nolasmarterinaguration@gmail.com or visit their website: NolaSmarterInauguration.org

[Clarification: An earlier version of this column included a comment from the petition website attributed to state Sen. J.P. Morrell. On Friday morning, Morrell disavowed the group, saying that if he has made any reference to the inauguration, it was prior to the existence of the petition, and “I have no position on this referendum whatsoever.”]

HELP WANDA ROUZAN PERFORM AT SANTIAGO CUBA’S INTERNATIONAL CARIBBEAN FESTIVAL

Organizers of a cultural exchange that will bring New Orleans artists and musicians including well-known New Orleans singer Wanda Rouzan to perform at the annual International Caribbean Festival in Santiago Cuba in early July, 2017, are seeking donations to increase the number of musicians who will attend.

The International Caribbean Festival, also known as the Festival of Fire, is akin to the New Orleans Jazz Fest and draws 200,000 attendees from across the Central and South America for ten days of performances, good food, and educational seminars. Because of previous travel restrictions, U.S. participation has always been limited. Now festival organizers have invited artists and musicians from New Orleans to perform this year and be the focus of the 2018 festival.

“Several members of the New Orleans City Council are providing funds through the Harrah’s grant program,” said organizer Pat Bryant. “We have also raised some funds privately and are applying to the State Office of Tourism’s Music Ambassadors program to pay Ms. Rouzan’s expenses. We still need additional money to bring musicians to accompany Ms. Rouzan.”

Greer Goff Mendy and her dancers from The Tekrema Center for the Arts & Culture will also be performing in Santiago. The Tekrema Center is excepting donations to pay for musicians to accompany Rouzan. Checks- tax deductible – should be made payable to the Tekrema Center and mailed to Mendy at 1515 S. Salcedo Street, Ste 214, New Orleans, Louisiana 70125.

OPDEC PASSES MOTION URGING SUPPORT OF GLOBAL EFFORTS TO COMBAT CLIMATE CHANGE

Last night the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee unanimously passed a resolution urging local, state and federal elected and appointed officials to support global effort to combat climate change, build a clean energy economy and secure environmental justice. The resolution was initiated by lawyer Aylin Maklansky who is considering a campaign for New Orleans City Council District A. Maklansky hopes to make a decision on whether to enter the race next week. Attorney Joe Giarrusso III has already kicked off his campaign for the open seat.

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 District B City Council candidate Seth Bloom.