Viewpoint: We’re still failing our at-risk youth

The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) and Educators for Quality Alternatives (EQA) announced their new center in New Orleans East on Wednesday (Aug. 8), saying it will “remove barriers to success.” Also on Wednesday, YouthForce NOLA, the city’s youth talent development intermediary, was touting a new round of funding for 13 New Orleans public high schools, including Central City’s Net Charter High School. The funds will “help students gain meaningful work experience and develop appropriate technical, academic and soft skills.” Though worthy programs, their leaders won’t be engaging the at-risk youth who need them the most — those who have no vision for the future and have long-since given up on completing a public school education. 

Despite YEP, EQA, YouthForce NOLA and other well-intentioned programs, far too many New Orleans youth still don’t have a pathway to success. Their parents might be poorly educated or underemployed and therefore forced to work two minimum wage jobs just to pay Entergy and the rent. Many kids survive on junk food because healthier foods are more expensive and not readily available in many of New Orleans’ food desert neighborhoods.

Viewpoint: Should more New Orleanians own guns for self-defense?

Growing up in a small Arkansas town, I was around guns frequently. I spent many an hour watching my cousins who were national skeet shooting champions. One of them, a female, is still ranked on the national circuit. I knew that guns were for hunting and recreation but also for protection. By 1979, I was the proud owner of a Creole cottage in Treme and shortly thereafter a spiffy Triumph TR6 that I usually drove with the top down.

Viewpoint: No stopping Mayor Cantrell now — she’s on the move

Last night’s report from WDSU-TV that Mayor LaToya Cantrell spent nearly $10,000 on airfare for herself on the recent trip to Switzerland probably surprised more than a few citizens. Cantrell made the trip to celebrate a recent sister-city agreement and attend a jazz festival. WDSU’s investigation further revealed that three staff members — a social media manager, the director of international relations and an individual providing security — also made the trip. Their airfare expenses were in addition to the $10,000.  The total costs for food, lodging and entertainment for this taxpayer-funded junket are not fully known. 

The trip to Switzerland was one bookend of her recent European travel, which also included a similar trip to the French Riveria for another sister-city agreement and more music. To Cantrell, both of these trips were all in a day’s work regardless of the costs.

Viewpoint: Old and new faces are showing up for fall elections

There were few surprises Wednesday (July 20) during the first day of qualifying for Louisiana’s mid-term elections, which will be held Nov. 8.  As expected, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy led the pack in his run for re-election. In addition to Democrats Luke Mixon, Syrita Steib and Gary Chambers — whose names have been frequently mentioned in connection with the race against this popular incumbent — several other Senate candidates qualified yesterday, including Vinny Mendoza and Beryl Billiot, who both ran previously. Newcomers in the race include “Xan” John, Thomas Wenn and W. Thomas La Fontaine Olson. Olson (no party), who resides Uptown on Milan Street, chose not to disclose a gender and listed race as “other” on official documents.

Viewpoint: New political season begins next week with qualifying for fall elections

In the middle of this hot summer, we’re getting ready for an even hotter election cycle. Qualifying for almost a dozen races — from U.S. Senate to clerk of First City Court — starts next Wednesday (July 20). The election will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 8. 

With inflation increasing daily, 2022 is a hard year for newbie challengers to raise money. That means incumbents who have not made glaring errors generally have a good shot at getting re-elected.

Viewpoint: Where does PSC leader Lambert Boissiere III stand on Entergy’s settlement offer?

Since 2005, Public Service Commissioner Lambert Boissiere III has represented District 3 — which includes most of New Orleans and the River Parishes — on the Louisiana Public Service Commission. He currently chairs the commission, which gives him a very important voice on all regulatory matters. The major issue currently facing the LPSC is whether Louisiana should accept Entergy’s proposed billion dollar settlement offered in response to inflated operational costs of the Grand Gulf nuclear power plant that were charged to ratepayers. In recent years, Entergy has had a fraught relationship with New Orleans. Complaints regarding over-billing and failure to maintain and upgrade equipment are legendary.

Viewpoint: Should July Fourth 2022 be a day of celebration or reflection?

My ancestors had yet to arrive in America for the first Independence Day in 1776 or even 100 years later for the 1876 Centennial. But by America’s Bicentennial in 1976, my family was a part of all the revelry that included hot dogs, hamburgers and too much potato salad. We were proud to be Americans and still are today. Somehow this year I just don’t feel like celebrating. Sure, I am blessed to be alive, in generally good health and living a relatively comfortable lifestyle in America — still the greatest country in the world.

Viewpoint: Sheriff Susan Hutson faces rocky road ahead

With two unexpected deaths in less than a week and an ongoing staffing crisis that — in her own words — has “destabilized” the Orleans Justice Center, Sheriff Susan Hutson must have quickly realized that her honeymoon was ending sooner than expected. All new sheriffs get tested by their deputies and inmates (let’s not be so naïve to refer to them as “residents”) to gauge the rules. Hutson was no different. The inmates searched for a weak spot — in this instance not enough staff on the tiers — and exploited it. During the campaign, Hutson pounded on the concepts of care, custody and control.

Viewpoint: Are there secrets in the Smart Cities documents Cantrell would prefer to hide?

Many New Orleanians would agree that Mayor LaToya Cantrell is pugnacious, uncompromising and used to getting what she wants. She seemed set on launching a controversial project that was supposed to increase internet connectivity while making retired NBA player Magic Johnson and his partners even richer. Her plans abruptly came to a halt when a skeptical City Council stepped in with a mountain of detailed questions that Cantrell and her staff fought and are finding extremely hard to avoid answering.   

By the middle of their second term, most mayors are thinking about life after City Hall. Mayor Moon Landrieu quickly landed himself a Cabinet position under President Jimmy Carter. Mayor Dutch Morial began practicing law with an eye toward a U.S. Senate race, which was derailed due to his untimely death.