Nov 012018
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

While President Donald Trump and others barnstorm the country for that elusive vote, local candidates — plagued by slow fundraising — are stretching resources to include robust Get Out The Vote plans. Only a few campaigns, such as the Unanimous Jury amendment, seem to have the money needed.

Congrats to the almost 30,000 New Orleanians — a 15-percent increase — who early voted this year. The number of white and female early voters also increased. It appears that whites are becoming more comfortable with the process when polling locations are convenient. With rain predicted for Tuesday and darkness by 5:30, it might not be a good day to go to the polls.

Though no polls have been released, local pundits are making several predictions. Well-financed three-time candidate Richard Perque has run a strong campaign and should make the runoff. Whom he will face is still a toss-up. Omar Mason won the bar poll and has many endorsements including the local Democratic and Republican Party. Marie Williams has run multiple times and African-Americans know her better than Mason. Kenneth Plaisance has a familiar last name but barely campaigned.

Insiders believed that Councilmember Jared Brossett would run away with the Clerk of Civil District Court race. He is well funded and has almost every endorsement. Current Clerk Chelsey Napoleon Richard, a virtual unknown except inside the office, was hungry and worked very hard. Fundraising has been tough for Napoleon but her uncle Alvin Richard stepped up. If women — especially African-Americans — early voted for Chelsey, she will have the advantage going into the runoff. If not, Brossett will prevail.

Timothy David Ray became the incumbent Clerk of First City Court when former Clerk Ellen Hazeur was elected judge. He has raised more money than his opponent — former state Rep. Austin Badon — but is still not a household name. In any low-budget race, name recognition is a big deal. Austin is well known and his wife Therese runs the United Negro College Fund in this region.

Polls close at 8 p.m. Tuesday night.

SHAME ON ENTERGY BUT NEW ORLEANS NEEDS GAS PLANT

Led by dynamo Helena Moreno, the City Council’s move yesterday to fine Entergy $5 million for blatantly hiring actors shows how differently their Council operates. Even though Entergy cannot directly contribute to Council campaigns, Entergy would sway many Councilmembers through a combination of donating money to favored charities, providing free polling data and hiring consultants with ties to Councilmembers. One former elected official has privately said the fine is too light.

Yet, citizens who believe the gas plant is not needed are mistaken. With our increasingly hot summers and frequent brownouts, a new gas plant is the only currently available solution to keep rates down. If we have to consistently buy power on the open market especially during the hottest months, look out for higher utility bills. Why Entergy chose to close the old plant before the new one was approved is a mystery. Alternatives like wind and solar are part of the future, but not available yet.

If the Council revisits the previous vote, Entergy needs to engage in a full throttle education campaign — neighborhood by neighborhood — to explain why the plant is needed. As for Entergy New Orleans’ Charles Rice (who took the fall for hiring the actors), no one should believe Rice made that decision without the full support of his superiors. The scheme just might have worked if the actors had only been asked to appear and not speak. Either way, the public has the grassroots group Justice & Beyond to thank for bringing this situation to light.

The City Of New Orleans needs Entergy to operate the grid. Entergy needs to respect the Council and ratepayers. It’s a partnership that can work for all.

CHANGES AT RTA ARE LONG OVERDUE

Guided by trusted advisor Bob Tucker, Mayor LaToya Cantrell always had planned to make big changes at the RTA. Transdev has played their politics pretty well except for the inexcusable firing of Mark Major who was blamed for something he didn’t do. An audit of any consultant’s contract should occur on a regular basis. Transdev played an important role when they were able to pay for equipment and other hard costs the city could not afford. Over the years Transdev, a deep-pocketed French conglomerate, probably has grabbed too much power and employees. Thousands of New Orleans residents, especially those in New Orleans East, depend on the RTA to get to their jobs every day. Clearly those individuals have been underserved. When the dust clears, let’s hope that ridership increases because buses operate when and where people need them.

Most New Orleanians don’t know that another division of Transdev also operates the waste treatment facilities for the Sewerage and Water Board and has always provided excellent service. Our Sewerage lines went online fast after Katrina because of their diligence.

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 former clients such as District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, City Councilwoman-elect Helena Moreno, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

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