Viewpoint: Raised to serve, Judge Rachael Johnson plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps

It’s been a fast-paced and fulfilling five years since Judge Rachael Johnson took the bench in Civil District Court Division B. The daughter of retired Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson, Judge Johnson always knew her future lay in public service. She plans to qualify in July to run for  the seat recently vacated by former Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods on the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Division D.

“Service was always part of our lives. It was not optional. Of course I admire my mother and her life-long commitment to fairness, equity and justice, but she never insisted that I become a lawyer or judge,” Judge Johnson said. Her mother was the first African-American chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, where she served from 1994 until her retirement in 2020. 

A graduate of McDonogh 35 High School and Spelman College, where she earned a B.A. in psychology, Judge Johnson went on to Smith College to obtain a master’s in social work.

Viewpoint: Early childhood education, on the April 30 ballot, can prevent crime

In what is predicted to be an extremely low-turnout election on Saturday, April 30, Orleans Parish voters will have the opportunity to support a unique property tax dedicated to early childhood education. If approved, the legislation could generate about $21 million annually — creating 1,500 early childhood education seats in New Orleans. According to the legislation’s advocate Yes for NOLA Kids, the owner of a $200,000 home should expect to pay an additional $5.20 per month in property taxes. An owner of a home assessed at $1 million might pay $26 monthly. Currently more than 8,300 low-income children in New Orleans under the age of 4 are unable to access an affordable, high-quality early childhood education program. 
“When more kids are participating in preschool programs, we won’t have all the crime that we have now.” Cynthia Hedge Morrell
 “We’ve known since the days of famed researchers Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori that early childhood education has always been essential to creating thinking, caring, socialized, well-rounded children,” said long-time educator Cynthia Hedge Morrell, retired teacher and principal of McDonogh 15 Elementary School who later served on the City Council.

Viewpoint: Political action committees made the difference in the runoff elections

It was no surprise that long-time criminal justice reform advocate Norris Henderson was standing right behind newly elected Sheriff Susan Hutson and her most powerful ally, District Attorney Jason Williams, at Saturday night’s election celebration. Most experts say Hutson would never be about to become the parish’s first female sheriff without the outside funds from political action committees operated by Henderson and others. “PAC funds are the new tool in everyone’s political tool box. Though the candidates cannot control them, PACs have become a very effective way to either support or attack a candidate,” said one consultant. PACs can receive unlimited contributions but cannot coordinate with candidates directly.

Uptown neighborhoods south of St. Charles Avenue hand Council B seat to Lesli Harris

In this year’s municipal elections, voters either went all in for their incumbents or they voted them out. Unfortunately for District B’s Jay H. Banks, he landed in the latter category. The council member lost his seat in the runoff election on Saturday (Dec. 11), and attorney Lesli Harris will be taking his place. Harris lost to Banks in the first round of voting in the November primary, but she got 57% of the vote in the runoff.

Uptown voters helped Susan Hutson beat 17-year incumbent Marlin Gusman in sheriff’s race

In a striking underdog victory, Susan Hutson beat incumbent Marlin Gusman in the runoff for the sheriff’s race on Saturday (Dec. 11), becoming the first woman ever elected sheriff in New Orleans and the first Black woman elected sheriff in Louisiana. 

Although Hutson came in second to Gusman in the primary race in November, she won the runoff with 53% of the vote. She garnered around 32,000 votes while Gusman, who has held his post for 17 years, got around 28,000. Turnout was 22.4%, according to unofficial election results from the Louisiana Secretary of State. While Gusman won the most precincts in the neighborhoods of Lakeview, New Orleans East and Algiers, Hutson managed to grab most of Uptown, Central City and Mid-City.

Viewpoint: Opponents of the affordable housing tax are making the perfect the enemy of the good

New Orleans is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that can only be mitigated by addressing the racial equity needs of the city’s most marginalized citizens, said Andreanecia Morris, who leads the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA). A respected affordable housing professional, Morris is having a hard time understanding the mindset of groups, including the Bureau of Governmental Research, that are either neutral or opposed to the renewal of the city’s property tax dedicated to increased affordable housing and blight elimination. The proposition appears on the ballot this Saturday (Dec. 11). If voters reject the renewal, the tax will expire at the end of the year.

Viewpoint: Progressives show mainstream clout in the sheriff’s race

With the Dec. 11 runoff election just nine days away, the candidates and the political action committees behind them are wasting no time getting out their last-minute messages — mostly in the form of attacks. Though not officially on the ballot, the construction of an 89-bed special needs jail is at the heart of this year’s competition between Sheriff Marlin Gusman and former Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. Gusman won 48% of the vote in the primary while Hutson ran second with 32%.  

With the Sheriff’s Office still under the federal consent decree, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk’s posturing has made it clear: build a special needs jail from scratch and commit the resources to operate it or face the consequences. It’s hard to disagree in public with a federal judge.

Janet Hays: Why I’m with Marlin Gusman (sponsored)

“Unconstitutional medical and mental health issues have permeated this litigation, and your efforts have greatly helped the Court address those concerns. Our work is not yet completed, but the path is clear. Once Phase III has been completed, a major obstacle will have been cleared toward substantial compliance.” –  Judge Lance Africk addressing Sheriff Gusman’s progress on federal consent decree, Nov. 3, 2021

“I expect a federal court order, such as any issued by this Court, to be complied with, whether it be by the City of New Orleans or anyone else who is a party to that court order. Throughout history, not complying with federal court orders has not been a successful strategy, and we will just leave it at that.” – Judge Lance Africk addressing the City of New Orleans on their refusal to move forward with Phase III, Nov. 3, 2021 
Really read those quotes above and then think about this: a flashpoint in the sheriff’s race right now is whether or not we are going to build a federally mandated infirmary and mental health facility. I have endorsed Sheriff Marlin Gusman because, as an expert in removing policy barriers for acute mental health disorders and treatments, the Phase III special-needs facility is far more humane than a Phase II retrofit, and because his opponent Susan Hutson’s agenda is harmful to the health and safety of these communities.

Interactive maps show how your neighborhood voted for mayor, sheriff and at-large council members

Saturday’s election snuck up on New Orleans — after Hurricane Ida delayed voting day by a month, it would have been easy to forget that there were still crucial races for mayor, sheriff, City Council and more. Nevertheless, more than 75,000 voters cast their ballots and made their voices heard, a turnout of around 28%. See how your neighborhood voted for mayor, sheriff and the at-large council seats below. 
Mayor’s race
This race was not a nail-biter: as widely expected, Democrat LaToya Cantrell comfortably won re-election with 65% of the vote, around 49,000 ballots. Although Cantrell faced an unlucky 13 opponents, few of them garnered real support. Republican Vina Nguyen came in second with 13% of the vote, around 10,000 ballots.