Viewpoint: It’s time to give firefighters their fair share

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

It’s no secret that the New Orleans Fire Department has been understaffed and underfunded for far more than a decade. The city has consistently told firefighters that they should be good soldiers and wait their turn. But their turn has never come. Firefighters are asking — if not now, when? Instead of having the city attorney schedule a negotiating session to discuss outstanding issues, Mayor LaToya Cantrell cancelled all leave and vacation time, in an effort to force firefighters to work extra shifts during Mardi Gras season.

Viewpoint: Diverse crowd attends opening of Bloomberg campaign’s N.O. headquarters

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

With a rocky Democratic presidential nomination competition currently underway, Democrats and other voters in New Orleans are giving serious consideration to former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a 77-year old self-made billionaire and declared presidential candidates who is not participating in the tumultuous early state primaries. Bloomberg launched a multi-million dollar national advertising campaign and has opened up strategic headquarters around the country, including in New Orleans at 642 Julia St. where dozens of interested citizens turned up Tuesday night. Among those present were civic activists Anne and King Milling, award-winning author Walter Isaacson, Cantrell insider Bob Tucker, writer John Pope, community leader Anne Redd, tax credit adviser Morris Kahn, Metairie businessman Rod Caccioppi, and philanthropist Leslie Jacobs. “I’m impressed by Michael Bloomberg’s experience and accomplishments as well as the campaign he’s putting together.

Danae Columbus: Can a Republican win a citywide election?

Not since Peggy Wilson was last elected as an at-large member of the New Orleans City Council in the mid 1990s has a New Orleans Republican won a citywide race. But that didn’t stop Republican lawyer Scott Shea from joining the crowded field of candidates for Judge, First City Court, Division B.

Shea himself served two years on the City Council and hails from a family of judges. His brother Mark currently serves on Traffic & Municipal Court. His father, former Municipal Court Judge John Shea, enjoyed an illustrious 30-year career on the bench. His late uncle Frank Shea was a no-nonsense Criminal District Court jurist.

Danae Columbus: More than 50 candidates sign on to run for parish, state offices

A mixture of seasoned elected officials and political newcomers wanting to make a difference streamed into Criminal District Court yesterday, Jan. 8, to qualify for parish and state political committees and a lone judgeship in First City Court. As expected, attorney Robbins Graham, who retired from the state’s Office of Family and Children’s Services earlier this week, became the first candidate to file for the open seat at First City Court. Graham had been planning for run for Civil District Court later this year but moved up his timetable when this vacancy suddenly occurred. Graham might get an almost-free ride.

Danae Columbus: Qualifying is next week for First City Court, state and parish committees

Though it might seem like our political season just ended, Louisiana’s campaigns are cranking up again next week with qualifying Jan. 8-10 for a vacant judgeship at First City Court and for dozens of seats on the Orleans Parish Democratic and Republican Parish Executive Committees and State Central Committees. The First City Court vacancy is due to the recent untimely passing of Senior Judge Angelique Reed, 59, the first African-American to be elected to that court. Reed served with distinction for 21 years. Attorney Robbins Graham, 61, a graduate of Southern University Law Center, told Uptown Messenger he was “seriously interested in qualifying.”  The Louisiana State Bar Association lists Graham as an attorney for the Louisiana Department of Children and Family Services.

Danae Columbus: Does President Trump’s impeachment really matter to American voters?

In tonight’s Democratic presidential debate in Los Angeles, the seven participating candidates probably won’t dwell on yesterday’s impeachment vote by the U.S. House of Representatives.  Though some – especially former Vice President Joe Biden – might strongly believe that President Trump abused his power, America’s voters are evenly split as to whether he should be removed from office. 

A just released Wall Street Journal/NBC News poll of 900 adults showed that 48% of voters surveyed favor impeachment and removal from office and that 44% believe that President Trump’s previous actions before the situation with Ukraine were already grounds for impeachment. Congressional Democrats took a big risk when they stood by their principles knowing full well that the Republican controlled Senate will acquit President Trump. Not even one House Republican voted for impeachment. At the same time, some members of Congress — but not 2nd District Rep. Cedric Richmond — could have done serious damage to their own electability in 2020 if the mood of the voters in the suburbs and among minorities shifts more toward the president. GOP-aligned super PACs have already been pouring millions into digital ads against those who voted for impeachment.

Danae Columbus: Cantrell, BOLD, Richmond were all winners in Saturday’s elections

Mayor LaToya Cantrell and the political organization BOLD scored big in Saturday’s elections. Cantrell built a strong bond with Gov. John Bel Edwards more than a year ago when she sought his help on increasing New Orleans’ share of tax dollars generated here. She became an integral part of his campaign and his victory, which should yield generous dividends for New Orleans during the next four years. Cantrell’s Action New Orleans team of more than 250 volunteers knocked on 70,000 doors, sent 3,500 text messages and made 50,000 calls in support of Gov. Edwards and Cantrell’s Ballot of Yes. They also assisted with two GOTV (get out the vote) rallies, including an election eve event that drew 5,000.

Freeman sweeps Audubon, university neighborhoods in District 98 runoff win

To cinch her victory in the District 98 runoff on Saturday, Aimee Adatto Freeman consolidated her base in the Audubon and university-area neighborhoods to sweep every precinct between Jefferson and Carrollton avenues. District-wide, Freeman won 42 precincts on Saturday to Kea Sherman’s 10. Freeman won all but one of the 37 where she had placed first in October’s crowded six-person primary, adding five where Carlos Zervigon had led and one where Ravi Sangisetty had placed first. Sherman held on to all six of those where she led in the primary in Freret and west Carrollton, and added four more nearby: two where Zervigon had led, one of Sangisetty’s, and one where Freeman had led in October. The bellwether precinct — where Freeman won 57.8 percent of the vote, most similar to her total across the district — was Ward 13 Precinct 15 in Broadmoor (along Claiborne between Jefferson and Napoleon).

Landry picked up nearly every precinct led by Dinkler to win District 91

The October primary for the District 91 seat in the state House of Representatives was nearly a three-way tie in votes cast between Robert McKnight, Mandie Landry and third-place finisher Carling Dinkler. To secure her victory in the runoff Saturday night, Landry picked up nearly every precinct where Dinkler had led — ultimately holding McKnight to the same number of precincts where he led in the primary. In October, McKnight led in 23 precincts of the district’s 53 voting precincts. Dinkler led in 17; Landry led in 12 and Dinkler and Landry tied exactly in one. On Saturday, Landry won 30 of the 53.

Landry, Freeman win open seats representing Uptown New Orleans in state legislature

Political newcomers Mandie Landry and Aimee Adatto Freeman will join newly re-elected Gov. John Bel Edwards in Baton Rouge next year, after each won competitive runoffs Saturday to represent Uptown New Orleans in the state House of Representatives. Landry, a lawyer who has represented pro-choice advocacy groups, won 53 percent of the vote in District 91 in the runoff against fellow lawyer Robert McKnight, an attorney with the Orleans Public Defenders. District 91 — held by term-limited State Rep. Walt Leger — represents a ribbon of Uptown that stretches from Hollygrove and Gert Town down through parts of Central City and Milan to the Irish Channel and Lower Garden District. Freeman, an adjunct professor at Tulane University’s business school, won 57 percent of the vote in District 98 over Kea Sherman, a small-business attorney. District 98 — held by state Rep. Neil Abramson, who is also term-limited — is nestled in the Riverbend roughly between the Jefferson Parish line and Napoleon Avenue, and including the Carrollton, Broadmoor, Audubon, University and Freret neighborhoods.