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.
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.
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.