Viewpoint: Crime and Cantrell will hurt the city’s bottom line

Like many New Orleanians, I’ve been inundated with national and international news reports about New Orleans’ crime and Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s missteps. This week’s piece in the New York Post is only one of many recent examples. With New Orleans’ designation as “Murder Capital of the U.S.” and the lack of progress being made in reversing that trend, I expect those stories to become more frequent. Bourbon Street is still hopping and no conventions have cancelled because of the record number of murders, armed robberies and carjackings. Perhaps some are naïve enough to believe that crime and Mayor Cantrell are not hurting our economy.

Viewpoint: Norman C. Francis documentary showcases WYES’ commitment to New Orleans

“We knew he was destined for something, because he had all the qualities of a leader,” said the city’s former First Lady Sybil Morial about her friend and college classmate Norman C. Francis. A courageous civil rights icon, chairman of Liberty Bank, original investor in the Saints, and former president of Xavier University, where he served with honor and distinction for 47 years, Francis is the subject of a new documentary on WYES-TV that will premiere Tuesday (Sept. 27) at 8 p.m.

Produced by WYES Executive Vice President Dominic Massa and moderated by Sally-Ann Roberts with Thanh Truong, the documentary is filled with interviews from key community leaders, including former Tulane President Scott Cowen and former Mayors Marc Morial and the late Moon Landrieu, as well as members of the Francis family. Born into a working-class family in Lafayette, Francis was steeped in the Catholic faith and the importance of receiving a good education. The nuns at Lafayette’s St.

Viewpoint: Candidates gather endorsements as Election Day draws closer

With the mid-term elections less than eight weeks away, political organizations are giving the nod to their preferred candidates. In turn, those endorsements are fueling fundraising for the all-important get-out-the-vote efforts, which will make or break most races. Last night, Municipal Court Judge Mark Shea courted donors at Junior’s in Lakeview, while his opponent Derek Russ entertained his supporters at Bijou on the edge of the French Quarter. 

The red hot race between Shea and Russ is a classic example of a well-liked, seasoned elected official being challenged by a younger upstart who has tired of waiting in the wings. Many pundits believe race is a factor in this campaign. As to be expected, Shea has garnered the lion’s share of endorsements, including from the Alliance for Good Government, the AFL-CIO and nine other organizations.

Viewpoint: New survey reveals broad voter dissatisfaction

Regardless of race, gender, age, political affiliation or neighborhood, the residents of New Orleans are clearly at a crossroads. Voters in every City Council district voiced displeasure about the direction the city is moving in a survey released Wednesday (Sept. 7). Conducted by Edgewater Research in cooperation with My People Vote, the poll indicated that nearly two-thirds (64.5%) of respondents believe that New Orleans is headed in the wrong direction. The survey also tested the strength of the current campaign aimed at recalling Mayor LaToya Cantrell.

Viewpoint: Mayor’s ongoing missteps fuel recall campaign

Social media guru Eileen Carter and community organizer Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste grew up on the opposite sides of New Orleans. While it’s easy to think of them as an odd couple, they’re really a perfect match. Batiste, who was trained in grassroots organizing by Treme living legend Jerome “Duck” Smith, verbally attacked Carter’s sister Karen Carter Peterson at a political forum a few years back when both were running for Congress. Yet the spontaneous, organic, people-powered movement Carter and Batiste launched together last week has a chance to force a recall election of Mayor LaToya Cantrell.  

The campaign, which is in the early stages of organization, offers an easy-to-navigate website (noLatoya.org), detailed instructions on how to download the petition and what information is needed for anyone who wants to sign it. There is also an opportunity for people to join the site’s mailing list, volunteer their services or even host a petition signing “party.” The website includes a feature that counts down the days until the campaign ends, Ash Wednesday 2023, and how many signatures have been turned in.    

There are several things that make this campaign unique and could give it the lift needed to succeed. 

First of all, Mayor Cantrell somehow continues to anger more than a few of her constituents, and that number keeps growing.

Viewpoint: How are victims of crime in New Orleans supported?

I am not a fan of ultra-conservative Fox television personality Tucker Carlson. Yet I could not ignore his 15-minute diatribe Tuesday evening (Aug. 23) on Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s recent ill-advised actions, a diatribe that was viewed in prime time by millions across the world.  

Carlson’s premise was carjackings are the “clearest possible sign” that a civilization is “falling apart.” He made a direct connection between carjackings and decaying societies where “armed predators” — rather than the police — are in charge and where “force, violence and clan loyalty” have taken the place of law and order. With almost 200 carjackings already reported in 2022 versus a figure he gave as 177 for all of 2021, Carlson claimed that New Orleans has become a city like Johannesburg, South Africa, where carjackings are now “a way of life.”  The hundreds of New Orleans carjacking victims and many other citizens who live in fear of being carjacked probably agree. 

Carlson was drawn to this topic after Mayor Cantrell suddenly appeared — without prior notice to the victims, district attorney or the court — at the sentencing hearing of a juvenile offender who was convicted in three carjackings committed in two days. Cantrell came to support the 14-year-old and his mother because he completed her little-known taxpayer-funded Pathways Youth Internship Program, which teaches life skills and work readiness to youths already involved in the criminal justice system.

Viewpoint: Fall campaigns getting off to a slow start; money is tight in most races

Labor Day is recognized as the traditional start of our fall campaign season. So these hot August weeks are when candidates flesh out their messages, pick up a few early endorsements, and beg friends, family and deep-pocketed business associates for money. With the economic uncertainty brought on first by Covid-19 and now by inflation, fundraising for most candidates – especially first-timers — has been especially tough this year. While U.S. Rep. Troy Carter drew only one opponent, Republican Dan Lux, his fundraising efforts continue. House Minority Whip Steve Scalise has two opponents, Democrat Katie Darling and Libertarian Howard Kearney, and is also raising money through political action committees. 

In the judicial races, only two contenders — Criminal Court Judge Karen Herman and Municipal and Traffic Court Judge Mark Shea — have opponents.

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. 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.