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.
While Mayor LaToya Cantrell told members of the Save Our Soul (SOS) coalition Tuesday that she was “good” with the Municipal Auditorium not becoming the next City Hall, the historic structure remains her first choice probably because of the $38 million allocation from FEMA that comes with it.
Cantrell has given SOS a 90-day deadline to come up with a solid, fully funded plan to renovate, operate and maintain the auditorium. In the event that SOS successfully meets that goal, city officials might want to start looking at other suitable ›locations across New Orleans. If the prevailing sentiment is to stay in the downtown area, the Plaza Tower could be ripe for the picking. The 485,000-square-foot building features 45 floors, 13 elevators and its own parking garage. There’s even a separate parking lot for sale directly behind the building.
Dozens of candidates and their handlers headed to Criminal District Court early Wednesday (July 14) to beat the long lines of those expected to qualify for the fall municipal elections. While Sheriff Marlin Gusman drew the coveted No. 1 ticket, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Assessor Erroll Williams and many others patiently waited their turn. It’s always fun to watch the maneuvering as candidates jockey for attention. Although Cantrell drew seven opponents, she is still positioned to glide to victory.
A large crowd gathered Wednesday evening (July 7) at Calcasieu in the Warehouse District to show their support for City Council President Helena Moreno, one of dozens of candidates who will be qualifying next week for various municipal offices. Popular with voters, Moreno has put together a substantive war chest, which makes her a formidable candidate. Only affordable housing activist and former candidate Kenneth Cutno has signaled he will run against her for the City Council at-large position.
There is lots of competition in many of the other races. Former state Sen. J.P. Morrell will face off for the other council at-large seat against two current City Council members: Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Jared Brossett, who is term-limited. Morrell is well-situated financially.
Viewpoint: Lusher parents send letter to school officials decrying ‘racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday’
The parents of students at Lusher Charter School sent a letter Monday (July 5) to the school’s Advocates for Arts -Based Education Board and the administration calling for a name change and for greater transparency. The action comes after a reported exodus of faculty members and the exit of Principal Steve Corbett, who is set to become CEO of Audubon Schools. The following was sent with the signatures 175 Lusher parents. Dear Members of the Board, LCS administration, and LCS Community,
We are parents of students who attend LCS, and collectively have decades of experience with LCS. We are dismayed with the administration and board’s response to student and faculty calls to confront racism within our school community in matters symbolic, structural, and everyday.
Viewpoint: Councilman Joe Giarrusso kicks off his campaign for a second term with talk of ‘smart growth’
District A Councilman Joseph Giarrusso told several hundred supporters at Ralph’s on the Park last week that he has spent his first years in office building relationships and working on major issues but that there is much more to accomplish. The fundraising event officially kicked off Giarrusso’s campaign for a second term. “When I ran last time as a first-time candidate, you bet on me not knowing what you were going to get,” he told his supporters. Giarrusso said he has worked hard on the three areas he knew were important to his constituents: economic development, crime and infrastructure in District A, which includes portions of Uptown, Mid-City, Bayou St. John and Lakeview.
It hasn’t been a good couple of months for the Dryades YMCA, the sponsoring organization for the James M. Singleton Charter School. First there were awkward questions about falsified background checks for several charter school employees. Then the CFO’s criminal history and sloppy bookkeeping also became issues. Several people, including long-time head Doug Evans, resigned. Then a Dryades Y board member stepped down to assume the top staff position at the charter school, an action the state ethics board might signal as a violation of state law.
It was a productive legislative session for advocates of the Second Amendment, according to attorney Dan Zelenka, president of the Louisiana Shooting Association. “Overall, the 2021 session was quite good,” Zelenka said. “Four of the five bills our statewide organization supported — HB 48, HB 124, HB 597 and SB 118 — are now sitting on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk awaiting his signature.”
Although three of the four pieces of legislation sailed through both chambers without significant opposition, Gov. Edwards could decide to veto SB 118, known as the concealed-carry bill. Introduced by state Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, and passed by a veto-proof majority, the law would allow Louisiana residents who are otherwise qualified to carry a concealed firearm to now do so without first obtaining a concealed weapons permit. Louisiana has always been a state with powerful pro-gun legislative leaders and zealous gun enthusiasts.
With qualifying for New Orleans’ municipal elections about a month away, politicos are eyeing the party, gender and ethnic make-up of the city’s voters overall and in the individual City Council districts.
A new analysis by seasoned demographer and consultant Greg Rigamer shows that there are currently 273,627 registered voters in Orleans Parish residing in 216,052 households. This includes 119,656 (43.7%) male voters and 153,681 (56.2%) female voters. Of that total, 149,373 (54.6%) are Black; 99,821 (36.5%) are White; and 24,433 (8.9%) are registered as “other.” Democrats make up 64.2% (175,571) of the voters; “other party” 25.9% (70,748); and Republicans 10% (27,303).
Council District A has the highest percentage of White voters, and Council District E has the highest percentage of Black voters. For the first time in recent years, the percentage of White voters in Council District B exceeds the percentage of Black voters.
Almost 30% of the voters in both Council Districts A and B are registered as “other party,” above the local average.
Operation Golden Eagle, the new collaborative partnership between the Louisiana State Police and the New Orleans Police Department, began Tuesday (June 1). Though Mayor LaToya Cantrell is unable to quantify exactly how many state troopers are participating, both she and NOPD Superintendent Shaun D. Ferguson are quick to note that the emphasis is on “constitutional policing.” The State Police officers will also be working in crime-ridden neighborhoods outside the French Quarter.
In the aftermath of the revelations about Ronald Green’s beating death by State Police officer Lt. John Clary in 2019, some Black leaders are fearful of State Police presence in New Orleans this summer. State troopers attempted to pull Greene over for an unspecified traffic violation on a dark, rural roadside outside of Monroe. After a high-speed chase, Greene was shackled, put in a chokehold, punched, dragged and prodded repeatedly with a stun gun. The Louisiana State Police covered up that night’s details for almost two years.
New Orleans had its own police brutality and cover-up problems just after Hurricane Katrina, as seen in the police shootings on the Danzinger Bridge. In the months surrounding the storm, citizens relied on and needed the NOPD to restore order and prevent looting.
In New York, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit and even Jackson, Mississippi, crime and police reform have emerged as the go-to issues in the many 2021 races for mayor across the U.S.
As New Orleans’ crime rate continues to escalate and the federal consent decree lingers on, it’s expected that the New Orleans contest will fall in line along the same issues. “We have a rising crime problem. Crime in New Orleans needs to be an issue in the New Orleans mayor’s race,” said the Metropolitan Crime Commission’s Raphael Goyeneche. Announced City Council at-large candidates Kristin Gisleson Palmer and JP Morrell have already signaled their intent to significantly focus on crime. Statistics from the Metropolitan Crime Commission indicate that shootings have increased 132% from 2019 to 2021; that homicides are up 108%; and that carjacking has increased 173% during the same period. There have been 179 shootings, 77 homicides and 54 carjacking in 2021 to date. Numbers are expected to skyrocket during the warm summer months.