Since early March we have all become accustomed to — and perhaps cynical of — phrases like “the new normal” and “these uncertain times.” Nothing quite describes what so many of us are experiencing, this constant hum of anxiety and powerlessness. In contrast, we also see celebrations of creativity, of learning a new skill or reinventing yourself. But even this encouragement exhibits problems, as for many these past months have simply been about trying to keep it together, a constant struggle to preserve their sanity and well-being. There are so many ways we describe the pandemic experience and so many ways we have responded, but there is one movement I have seen in neighborhoods that has not only captured my attention, but as of late, drawn my family in. Early this summer, my wife discovered The Little Copa — fresh fruit daiquiris prepared right in our neighborhood, the Irish Channel.
Scott Presler is on a mission to convince Republican voters that they must take personal responsibility for their party and America’s future. “You can make a difference. I dare you to say, ‘I will!’” Presley issued the challenge to an enthusiastic audience of 100 plus Republicans, including former congressional candidate Claston Bernard, Wednesday (May 5), the night before President Joe Biden’s visit to New Orleans, at The Cannery in Mid-City.
A Navy brat and former dog walker who has become the darling of conservative Republicans around the country, Presler is in New Orleans on a three-day tour to build party leadership, raise money, and rally grassroots support for litter clean-up and other community campaigns. An honors graduate of George Mason University, Presler is a successful activist with 806,000 followers on Twitter under his hashtag #ThePersistence.
“It’s our Republican Party, not theirs. I’m coming for you in 2022 peacefully,” he continued. Presler has already visited 25 states this year, registering voters and campaigning for Republican candidates, including Susan Wright who just made the runoff for an open congressional seat in Texas. He is conducting a letter-writing campaign to support Arkansas gubernatorial candidate Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the former White House press secretary.
Decked out in skinny jeans, cowboy boots and long Fabio-like locks, Presler exudes that Hollywood-style charisma that keeps his listeners fully engaged.
The recipient of the coveted Ronald Reagan Freedom Award from the Conservative Political Action Conference in February, Presler delivers a concise, conversational message on electing “America-first patriots.” His mission is to reclaim the spirit of America one city at a time.
Presler said he “fully supports” the proposed ousting of Wyoming Congresswoman Liz Cheney from Republican leadership over Cheney’s anti-Trump statements.
With victory firmly in hand, U.S. Rep.-elect Troy Carter is wrapping up his work in Baton Rouge in preparation for his move to Washington, D.C. After his resignation today (April 29) from the Louisiana Senate, Senate President Page Cortez called the election for June 12 with a runoff if necessary on July 10. Qualifying will take place next week: May 5, 6 and 7. Five diverse candidates are already considering the race for this West Bank seat: former state Sen. David Heitmeier, state Rep. Mack Cormier, state Rep. Rodney Lyons, Belle Chasse political insider Joanna Leopold, and Carter’s nephew, state Rep. Gary M. Carter Jr.
Long-time Democrats, the Heitmeiers have been political players on the West Bank for decades. Before David Heitmeier ran for office in 2007, his brother Francis C. Heitmeier served in the Legislature for 16 years. An Algiers-based optometrist, Heitmeier chaired the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee and was a member of the Environmental Quality, the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, and the Transportation, Highways and Public Works committees.
He chose not to seek re-election for personal reasons in 2015, a decision that paved the way for then-Rep. Troy Carter to move to the upper chamber in 2016.
Sibil Fox and Rob Richardson (also known as Fox and Rob Rich) are among a handful of New Orleanians who have a personal stake in Sunday night’s 2021 Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Awards. The poignant film about their two-decade-long effort to find justice in what is often considered a racially charged and overly harsh prison-industrial complex, “Time,” is a favorite for Best Documentary Feature.
Also up for Oscar consideration is “One Night in Miami,” which was shot in New Orleans and LaPlace, as well as musical works by New Orleans natives and NOCCA graduates Terence Blanchard and Jon Batiste, who have been nominated in the Best Score category. LSU grad Steven Soderbergh is one of the event’s producers. “Time” is only the second documentary post-Katrina New Orleans to be nominated for an Oscar. New Orleans-based award-winning filmmaker and Loyola University instructor Garrett Bradley directed “Time.”
Although state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson have continued to campaign almost around the clock, days of heavy rainfall coupled with a general lack of interest has led to exceedingly low early voting numbers in the Second Congressional District race to replace Cedric Richmond, now a high-ranking aide to President Joe Biden. Early voting ends Saturday (April 17). In Orleans Parish so far, voting is down more than 50% from the March primary election. By Thursday, with just two days of early voting remaining, only 6,909 Orleans Parish residents had cast their votes including 6,062 Democrats, 288 Republicans and 559 Independents.
With no Republican in the runoff, some pundits believe that Republican voters will decide which Democrat is elected.
City Council President Helena Moreno said Wednesday (April 14) that she is proud of New Orleanians’ response to the smart decisions of the city’s public health leaders during the pandemic. “I think we showed that we can adapt and follow the science and, by doing so, we can manage an emergency and save lives,” Moreno said in an exclusive interview that touched on a wide range of topics. “We’re coming out of this not because of what elected officials did, but because of the tenaciousness and grit of New Orleanians.”
The past year has been “heartbreaking and grueling,” she said. “To get through it and emerge from the pandemic, we’ve had to come together and lift each other up.” That has meant supporting the public health responses like masking and restricting in-person contact, as well as now increasing the pace of vaccinations.
“Much of what science told us we had to ask of New Orleanians was unprecedented. Yet the people of this city responded and took us from the red zone to one of the leaders in virus suppression and now vaccination,” Moreno continued.
She expects that the pandemic will encourage government leaders to properly prioritize public health. “This will help raise the standard of living for so many in our community.
It probably was a case of mistaken identity that could have turned deadly for Jhamal Shelby Jr., a soft-spoken St. Augustine High School star athlete and honor student.
One recent afternoon after practice, Shelby drove to his father’s home in New Orleans East. Before he could park his car, a young man jumped out of a nearby vehicle and began shooting. Eighteen shots were fired before the perpetrators fled the scene. One bullet visibly grazed the side of Shelby’s head and damaged his eyesight.
City College of San Francisco biology professor Jonathan Siekmann was enjoying his visit to New Orleans when he spotted Meyer the Hatter, known to be the South’s largest hat store. Within minutes, Siekmann was sporting a new Panama-style straw to shield him from the Louisiana sun. “The pandemic has been a struggle. It was the worst business climate I’ve ever seen in my 46 years selling hats,” said Paul Meyer, a fourth generation hatter. “We depend on tourists and, until recently, there just weren’t any.”
Meyer’s great-great grandfather Samuel H. Meyer started the business in 1894 on St.
The Dryades YMCA and its affiliate programs, including the School of Commerce and the James M. Singleton Charter School, have played an important role in providing recreational and educational services to New Orleanians for almost a century. The Dryades Y is well known for its child care services, aquatics programs, mobile youth pantry, young filmmakers’ workshop and, formerly, Midnight Basketball.
The Dryades School of Commerce goes back to 1928, when it began offering classes in clerical skills such as bookkeeping, speedwriting and typing. With the leadership of District B Councilman Jay Banks, the School of Commerce currently operates a state-certified program to train licensed practical nurses. Under the direction of Principal Erika Mann, the James M. Singleton Charter School has successfully raised the test scores of their students, many of whom are considered disadvantaged. The Dryades Y board of directors includes respected members of the community such as cultural leader Barbara Lacen Keller, the Rev. Tom Watson, investment consultant Ed Shanklin, attorney Carlos Hornbrook and contractor Cedric Patin.
Now a story in The Lens has revealed that the charter school reportedly falsified some of the criminal background checks required for school employees.
Viewpoint: Voters in Louisiana’s ‘majority minority district’ to choose a U.S. representative Saturday
The 2nd Congressional District as it exists today is a “majority minority district” created during the 1990 redistricting cycle, according to Ed Chervenak, a UNO political scientist who has polled the race through his firm Edgewater Research.
The intent of the 1990 redistricting was to create a voting district where a “representative of choice” could be elected. The district runs from New Orleans East to Baton Rouge and includes parishes along the Mississippi River.
Except for Joseph Cao, who served one two-year term after defeating William Jefferson, there has not been a Republican member of Congress elected from the metro New Orleans area in more than 100 years. Jefferson had already been indicted for bribery when Cao opposed him in 2008. In that era, Louisiana had an election system in which the winners of separate Democratic and Republican primaries automatically advanced to the run-off. Cao easily beat Jefferson but lost his re-election bid on Nov. 2, 2010, to Cedric Richmond, who subsequently served 10 years before he was named a senior adviser to President Joseph Biden.
In Saturday’s election to replace Richmond in Congress, the lengthy ballot includes eight Democrats and four Republicans, along with an Independent, a Libertarian and a No Party candidate.
Like many New Orleanians, Tiffany Turner has been having a tough time during the pandemic. She was eager to train for a different career when she saw a Facebook post about Goodwill Technical College’s new Hospitality to Healthcare program for displaced tourism industry workers. “As a driver for Uber and Lyft, I am used to making a good living taking passengers to and from the airport, but it got much harder to make a profit,” she said. Armed with a love of accounting, Turner quickly realized that Goodwill could help her achieve her goal of transitioning to a well-paying job in medical billing without expensive college loans. “I am so thankful for this opportunity,” Turner said.
According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, 56,000 individuals in the state have been displaced during the pandemic. More specifically, about 25,000 workers in New Orleans are faced with a difficult decision to pivot current skills into other sectors and career pathways, according to Goodwill.