Apr 252016
 
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Perhaps the most crucial skill a citizen can have when viewing the myriad policies proposed by politicians is knowing the difference between that which is substantive, and that which panders. The electorate should know when a politician is genuinely trying to make the world better, as opposed to merely looking like they’re trying to make the world better.

Alas, New Orleanians were exposed to the latter this past Friday, when Mayor Mitch Landrieu, flanked by Councilmembers Jason Williams and James Gray, proposed a five-part ordinance “aimed at promoting gun safety in New Orleans.” Continue reading »

Apr 212016
 
OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. (left) speaks on a panel with Thelma French, Deidre Johnson-Burel, Jamar McKneely and Ben Kleban on Tuesday night. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis Jr. (left) speaks on a panel with Thelma French, Deidre Johnson-Burel, Jamar McKneely and Ben Kleban on Tuesday night. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

The rapidly evolving plan to return all schools in New Orleans to local control by 2018 — effectively ending the 10-year reign of the state’s Recovery School District — was hailed as a vitally important milestone in the rebuilding of the city’s school system, school leaders and education activists said Tuesday night at a forum on the the process of re-unifying the school district hosted by the 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans.

Their comments were greeted, however, with questions ranging from the skeptical to almost hostile from the audience, underscoring the degree to which many residents remain unconvinced that 10 years of publicly celebrated reforms have made any substantive differences in their neighborhoods. Continue reading »

Apr 212016
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus

Charter schools are big business in New Orleans. They basically operate in their own world and are answerable not to the voters but only to their individual boards, each of which is like a mini OPSB.

Charter school organizations can hire whomever they want, pay whatever salaries they want, and purchase supplies and equipment from vendors of their own choosing. As the more successful charter school organizations get the opportunity to start up (or take over) additional schools, their fiefdom grows. Continue reading »

Mar 142016
 
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

It’s not uncommon for something to sound wonderful that is ultimately a bad idea — “freemium” games, bacon-wrapped pizza, going to Bourbon Street — the list is endless. It’s easy to get whipped into a frenzy by hype or sexiness and ignore practical realities.

That’s the category to which the oft-debated commuter rail line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge belongs. Continue reading »

Mar 072016
 
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

Louisiana boasts many peculiarities; things that just don’t fly in most places are commonplace here. Among these, of course, are drive-through daiquiri stands.

I won’t call the drive-through daiquiri stand “the last bastion of American freedom,” but in this regulated, sanitized age, we’re running out of ramparts. Oftentimes that which makes Louisiana more free also makes us unique. Continue reading »

Mar 042016
 

The state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education sent a controversial decision on how to fund individual schools in New Orleans back to the Orleans Parish School Board on Thursday, in a move that appears to at least partially satisfy some schools’ request for more time to consider the impact of a new formula. Continue reading »

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Mar 032016
 
Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus

The recent announcement that former state senator and current chairman of the Louisiana Public Service Commission, Foster Campbell, has thrown his hat into the U.S. Senate competition is just another sign that Gov. John Bel Edwards and Louisiana’s Democratic Party are preparing to aggressively compete against the state’s Republican Party in every race. Continue reading »

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Feb 202016
 

Lusher logoLusher Charter School could be as close to a week away to decision whether to file a lawsuit over a proposed change to state education funding formulas, even after a leading advocate for New Orleans charter schools called the information Lusher is providing to the public “incomplete and wrong.” Continue reading »

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Jan 212016
 

Whether we live Uptown, in Uruguay or Uzbekistan, we are all impacted by oil and the global economy. Though many sectors of New Orleans economy like real estate and technology are prospering, the war in the Middle East and its related immigration crisis, China’s economic slowdown, the broad impact of the continuing drop in oil prices coupled with new state and local taxes on the horizon could squeeze many lower and middle class New Orleanians in 2016. Continue reading »

Jan 192016
 

Walt Leger

Walt Leger

State Rep. Neil Abramson

Neil Abramson

A Democratic lawmaker’s vote for a Republican as Speaker of the state House of Representatives — over a fellow Democrat in the adjacent New Orleans district — has led to a running controversy in the state’s political press and a nascent recall effort on social media. Continue reading »

Jan 142016
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

As Baton Rouge area residents listen President Obama’s remarks on Medicaid expansion today, we can’t help but think how strange our politics are getting. Governor Jon Bel Edwards can’t get his choice for speaker elected but at least St. Rep Walt Leger gets the consolation prize of Pro Tem. The next day Governor Edwards signs an Executive Order expanding Medicaid for a couple hundred thousand Louisiana residents who cannot afford health insurance, which made the President want to visit here this week. Who else noticed that Congressman Cedric Richmond was with the President on Air Force One? Continue reading »

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Dec 282015
 
Owen Courrèges

Owen Courrèges

New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro has really thrown down the gauntlet vis-à-vis his support for gun control. Next year, he plans to lobby the Louisiana legislature to pass an unconstitutional anti-gun law. Not only that, he actually expects the NRA to aid him in his endeavors. Continue reading »

Nov 122015
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Are voters of Louisiana ready to forgive David Vitter? We’re not so sure.

Vitter is now openly discussing ‘the worst mistake of his life.’ We believe in the power of forgiveness and the opportunity for people to atone for their sins in order to rebuild their lives. Let’s face it: adultery is more common that many people like to admit. Even the number of extramarital relationships sought by women is rising.

But we’re not sure the public can forgive him enough to elect him as Louisiana’s next governor. Continue reading »

Nov 052015
 
Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne speaks during a gubernatorial debate as state Rep. John Bel Edwards looks on. Dardenne endorsed Edwards on Thursday morning. (image via Jay Dardenne's Facebook page)

Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne speaks during a gubernatorial debate as state Rep. John Bel Edwards looks on. Dardenne endorsed Edwards on Thursday morning. (image via Jay Dardenne’s Facebook page)

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

It seems like almost everyone is jumping on John Bel Edward’s bandwagon. More than a year ago we ran into John Bel and Donna Edwards at an event in the river parishes. Donna proudly proclaimed that John Bel was going to be Louisiana’s next governor. Yeah, sure, we said at the time. Now we might have to agree.

Today’s endorsement by former candidate Republican Lt. Governor Jay Dardenne who received 166,000 votes is just another indication that Republican voters can give serious consideration to a Democrat who they might not agree with on every issue. We can also add Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand to that growing list of Edwards supporters along with the powerful Louisiana Sheriff’s Association. Continue reading »

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Nov 042015
 
Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards descends from the stage at a political forum in September. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Danae Columbus)

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Bel Edwards descends from the stage at a political forum in September. (UptownMessenger.com file photo by Danae Columbus)

After his easy re-election to the United States Senate in 2010, it might have been reasonable to think that David Vitter had put his seriously sinful past behind him, from a political point of view.

But questions about his dalliance with prostitution prominently and somewhat surprisingly re-emerged in the governor’s race in September — long before videos starring his alleged former paramour — at a forum held by the Orleans chapter of the Alliance for Good Government. The moderator that night asked a seemingly innocuous question, whether the candidates had ever violated Louisiana criminal law, and Vitter refused to answer what he decried as a “gotcha” question.

This week, Vitter apparently hoped to avoid a repeat of that embarrassment, as both he and his staff refrained from attending the Alliance’s forums on the runoff Tuesday evening. Their endorsement went instead to John Bel Edwards, who was represented by state Rep. Walt Leger of New Orleans. Continue reading »

Oct 222015
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

What has happened to our candidates in Louisiana and the U.S.? In the old days, qualifying for public office was a sacred vow people took (men only for so many years) when they put themselves on the line for the public good.

Unfortunately, in our modern election cycle we have candidates who have no qualms lying about where they live, whether their taxes are properly filed and paid, and what their sexual habits might be. More than a few elected officials also commit crimes while in office and end up in jail. Continue reading »

Sep 032015
 
Walt Leger speaks to a supporter at his recent fundraiser. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Walt Leger speaks to a supporter at his recent fundraiser. (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

We like politicians who have a plan for New Orleans’s future. State Representative and House Speaker Pro Temp Walt Leger III definitely fits the bill. Though expected to easily win re-election for a third term at the Louisiana Legislature, Leger delivered thought-provoking remarks at his well-attended Audubon Tea Room fundraiser earlier this week that quickly set the tone for his political future, perhaps as a candidate for mayor in 2017. Continue reading »

Aug 132015
 

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

It’s no secret to political insiders that State Treasurer John Kennedy has his eyes set on David Vitter’s U.S. Senate seat if Vitter is elected governor. Vitter would be in a unique position to recommend his successor and could easily select Louisiana’s popular Republican State Treasurer. Kennedy is now running a television commercial that depicts himself as a statesman worthy of voters’ support. Kennedy is also starting to be a stand-in for Vitter, defending the U.S. Senator on several tough issues. We should all expect more of that coziness as the campaign continues. Continue reading »

Jul 302015
 

By Social Work Students United for Reproductive Freedom at Tulane University

As Social Work students, we are concerned about the deceitful attempt to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that provides vital health care services to 2.7 million Americans each year. In Louisiana alone, Planned Parenthood annually provides 16,000 visits in both Baton Rouge and New Orleans for services that include birth control, cancer screenings, STD tests and treatment, and other preventative healthcare such as much-needed sexual health education. Continue reading »