Viewpoint: Returning tourists drive New Orleans business recovery

City College of San Francisco biology professor Jonathan Siekmann was enjoying his visit to New Orleans when he spotted Meyer the Hatter, known to be the South’s largest hat store. Within minutes, Siekmann was sporting a new Panama-style straw to shield him from the Louisiana sun. “The pandemic has been a struggle. It was the worst business climate I’ve ever seen in my 46 years selling hats,” said Paul Meyer, a fourth generation hatter. “We depend on tourists and, until recently, there just weren’t any.”

Meyer’s great-great grandfather Samuel H. Meyer started the business in 1894 on St.

Viewpoint: Did James Singleton Charter School and Dryades YMCA officials put children at risk?

The Dryades YMCA and its affiliate programs, including the School of Commerce and the James M. Singleton Charter School, have played an important role in providing recreational and educational services to New Orleanians for almost a century. The Dryades Y is well known for its child care services, aquatics programs, mobile youth pantry, young filmmakers’ workshop and, formerly, Midnight Basketball. 

The Dryades School of Commerce goes back to 1928, when it began offering classes in clerical skills such as bookkeeping, speedwriting and typing. With the leadership of District B Councilman Jay Banks, the School of Commerce currently operates a state-certified program to train licensed practical nurses. Under the direction of Principal Erika Mann, the James M. Singleton Charter School has successfully raised the test scores of their students, many of whom are considered disadvantaged. The Dryades Y board of directors includes respected members of the community such as cultural leader Barbara Lacen Keller, the Rev. Tom Watson, investment consultant Ed Shanklin, attorney Carlos Hornbrook and contractor Cedric Patin. 

Now a story in The Lens has revealed that the charter school reportedly falsified some of the criminal background checks required for school employees.

Viewpoint: Displaced hospitality workers can learn medical-industry skills through Goodwill

Like many New Orleanians, Tiffany Turner has been having a tough time during the pandemic.  She was eager to train for a different career when she saw a Facebook post about Goodwill Technical College’s new Hospitality to Healthcare program for displaced tourism industry workers. “As a driver for Uber and Lyft, I am used to making a good living taking passengers to and from the airport, but it got much harder to make a profit,” she said. Armed with a love of accounting, Turner quickly realized that Goodwill could help her achieve her goal of transitioning to a well-paying job in medical billing without expensive college loans. “I am so thankful for this opportunity,” Turner said. 

According to the Louisiana Workforce Commission, 56,000 individuals in the state have been displaced during the pandemic. More specifically, about 25,000 workers in New Orleans are faced with a difficult decision to pivot current skills into other sectors and career pathways, according to Goodwill.

Viewpoint: Cassidy offers support to ensure minority-owned businesses maximize opportunities

In a webinar sponsored Wednesday (March 3) by the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy told participants that his staff in Washington and Louisiana will be available to help resolve problems businesses might encounter when applying for the Payroll Protection Program, Small Business Administration and other funding available from the $1.9 billion federal stimulus package currently in the U.S. Senate. 

“Everybody in my state has a seat at the table,” Cassidy said. Several of Cassidy’s staff members were also on the call to introduce themselves and field questions from participants. 

The pandemic was “a punch in the gut” for cities like New Orleans that depend on tourism, he said. Cassidy congratulated attendees for their work in building businesses that will “employ future generations.”

Cassidy said he expects the economy to grow by 4.2 percent in the coming year, which he called “a good thing” and the highest growth spurt in recent years. “We’re trying to get the economy reopened by trying to control the pandemic,” he continued. Though President Joe Biden’s efforts to include the $15 minimum wage in the stimulus package is now off the table, Cassidy said he would not be surprised if another push was made soon to pass the legislation.

Troy Carter leads congressional field, pollster Silas Lee finds

In a recent poll of 450 chronic voters in the Second Congressional District, state Sen. Troy Carter has a nine point lead over state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, 28 percent to 19 percent. Polling third at 6 percent was Baton Rouge activist was Baton Rouge activist Gary Chambers Jr.

Small business owner Desiree Ontiveros came in fourth at 2 percent followed by Gonzales Republican challenger Claston Bernard, who also polled at 2 percent. Collectively the 10 remaining candidates — Chelsea Ardoin, Belden Batiste, Harold John, J. Christopher Johnson, Brandon Jolicoeur, Jenette Porter, Lloyd Kelly, Greg Lirette, Mindy McConnell and Sheldon Vincent — polled at a combined 6 percent.  District-wide, 38 percent of voters are still undecided.  In a heads-up competition between Carter and Carter Peterson the undecided vote dropped to 9 percent. Paid for by Sen. Carter’s campaign, the poll was taken Feb. 12-14 by Silas Lee using landlines and cell phones.  The margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percent.

Viewpoint: Term-limited Jared Brossett leads City Council in campaign cash

District D Councilman Jared Brossett almost has as much cash on hand in his campaign account than all the other council members combined. Brossett, who is term limited and expected to run for an at-large City Council position later this year, reported $103,471.61 in available dollars on his 2020 annual campaign finance report, which was filed last week. 

The other five City Council members (excluding newly appointed at-large member Donna Glapion) show a total of approximately $116,000 in available dollars.  

Brossett started 2020 with $102,178 in the bank and took in $1,750 during the year. Though his only donation in 2020 was to St. Augustine Church, Brossett’s 2019 expenditures included Biden for President, Kamala Harris for the People, JBE for Louisiana Leadership PAC and the McDonogh 35 Alumni Association. In 2019 and 2020, Brossett’s biggest donors include Liberty Bank President Alden McDonald, attorney James Williams, the Motwani family, the Helis Foundation, Eli Khoury’s Southeast Restaurant Group and Chase Catering & Concessions, which operates a restaurant at the Armstrong International Airport.