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.
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.
While New Orleanians are currently enjoying glorious fall weather and the loosening of mask mandates, don’t think for one minute that the next wave of the virus won’t be heading this way with the cooler temperatures and the influx of tourists during the holiday season.
Stubborn unvaccinated people continue to spread Covid-19 around the world. Every day, more than 1,000 Americans are still dying from the disease. Only three out of five U.S. residents are fully vaccinated against the virus. And only 15% of those eligible have gotten a booster shot.
Louisiana still has a relatively low vaccination rate as compared to many other states. It will also be difficult to assess the vaccination status of visitors who will descend on the Crescent City for Thanksgiving and the Bayou Classic.
Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s re-election became even more of a certainty after her announcement Tuesday (Nov. 9) that she is abandoning the idea of relocating City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium in Armstrong Park. Even with the anti-Cantrell vote and the personal support her 13 opponents have garnered, Cantrell is still expected to take it in the first round. Four years ago she won with 60% of the vote. Opponents who could win at least a small portion of the votes include small business owner Vina Nguyen, fitness expert Leilani Heno and activist Belden Batiste.
Many of the other incumbents on the ballot might not coast to victory as easily as Cantrell.
By Corinne A. Williams, guest columnist
The pandemic along with the racial reckoning in our country and, most recently, Hurricane Ida have all put New Orleans’ kids in a position to experience a collective trauma — much like people my age experienced after Hurricane Katrina. In addition to traumas already thrust upon them, children attending Lusher Charter School are attuned to many internal school-related traumas. Their school leaders have put their best interests last for one of the simplest things that they have control over: the name of their school. Lusher Charter School is named for Robert Mills Lusher, a Confederate tax collector, segregationist and unabashed member of the Crescent City White League. By today’s standards and any anti-racist standard, Mr. Lusher would be someone who should be unequivocally rejected as a person to name anything after.
By Dana Eness, guest columnist
Lusher Charter School’s long-awaited name change may come as soon as the next meeting of the school’s board, the Advocates for Arts-Based Education, on Nov. 11. This follows a very painful and very public reckoning for the namesake of an avowed White supremacist, Robert Mills Lusher. It is the hard-earned outcome of marches and other forms of protest, resistance and attempts at dialogue with the administration led by students and alumni of color and supported by allies. The outcry continued in earnest following the murder of George Floyd in the spring of 2020.
With Covid-19 and Hurricane Ida, plus Jamie Winston’s torn ACL and Michael Thomas’ ankle injury, New Orleans voters are burned out. Although we are in the process of electing a mayor, City Council members and other municipal officials, many New Orleanians don’t even know or care about what’s on the ballot. The early polls are proof of this. We’ve already passed the midway point in early voting for the Nov. 13 elections.
With the unusual level of apathy that has pervaded this year’s election cycle, supporters of the four constitutional amendments on the ballot are naturally worried that the few citizens who plan on voting will just skip over them. “Voters tend to ignore ballot measures that they know nothing about,” said one consultant yesterday. Still, supporters and opponents of the various initiatives are pushing ahead toward election day, Saturday Nov. 13.
Ballot language can be confusing — and sometimes even misleading. Voters should read and study the amendments carefully.
“I encourage people to read about all of the amendments and visit information sources like the Public Affairs Research Council and the Louisiana Budget Project,” said state Rep. Aimee Adatto Freeman.
Constitutional Amendment 1 would streamline how state and local sales taxes are collected by creating an electronic filing and remittance system.
Viewpoint: Sheriff Marlin Gusman on the special needs facility, compliance order and his tenure as sheriff
Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman spoke with the Uptown Messenger about the changes that have occurred in his office and in the criminal justice system during his more than 15 years as sheriff as well as the challenges ahead. Gusman is currently a candidate for re-election and has four challengers: Quentin Brown Jr., Janet Hayes, Susan Hutson and Christopher Williams.
Danae Columbus: Tell us about your background. Where you were born, educated, degrees or certifications you may have received. Sheriff Marlin Gusman: I am a native of New Orleans, born on the West Bank and married a 7th Ward girl who continues to this day to be my best partner and friend. Renee and I have been married for 43 years, raised our family in Gentilly, where we continue to live.
Times are tough since Hurricane Ida decimated New Orleans, and they don’t seem to be getting better quickly enough.
Blue tarps dot the horizon as homeowners wait for their insurance settlements. Storm debris is disappearing slowly, and trash pickup is down to one day a week. Entergy wants to take a hike rather than face the music. Whether the utility stays or goes, utility rates will probably rise. The cost of flood insurance is increasing along with the cost of gasoline, a hamburger at McDonald’s and grocery store staples, the latter blamed on international supply chain issues.
It’s hard to drive around New Orleans long without encountering a pothole or other obstruction. Neighborhood streets will probably flood during the next heavy rain.
Speaking before a packed crowd of Second Amendment advocates, 14 candidates vying for various offices in New Orleans upcoming municipal elections shot from the hip (pun intended) at a live forum hosted Monday evening hosted by the Home Defense Foundation.
Clerk of First City Court Austin Badon described himself as a Black Democrat who likes to hang out in the woods with a rifle. Council candidate Kenneth Cutno acknowledged citizens’ constitutional right to bear arms. Candidates Quentin Brown, Janet Hayes and Christopher Williams all attacked Sheriff Marlin Gusman, and Gusman promptly fired back. Conservative talk show host Jeff Crouere started off the freewheeling evening at the Royal Blend coffee shop in Old Metairie by announcing that Mayor LaToya Cantrell was invited but would not be attending. “By not responding to our invitation, Mayor Cantrell shows obviously that she doesn’t want to engage with other candidates and voters,” Crouere said. The audience cheered as each of the four mayoral candidates who were present echoed Crouere’s remarks.
New data on Mayor Cantrell’s re-election prospects and local quality-of-life issues were released earlier this week. The post-Ida poll was underwritten by ACORN International, United Labor Unions Local 100 and A Community Voice.