Viewpoint: Between panic and denial, there’s a more sensible road to tread

By Christian Willbern, guest columnist

In a few weeks, I was supposed to get up at 7 a.m., put on a starchy cap and gown, and walk across a stage in front of hundreds of people to receive an empty diploma sleeve. While that sounds more revolting than Burger King’s 2002 green ketchup, I was inexplicably looking forward to it. Many of my fellow seniors were. That walk across a stage was earned through four (in my case, five) years of hard work and panic attacks — just to be taken away within a blink of an eye. Instead, now, I am using hand sanitizer my dad made with baby lotion from the 1990s.

Viewpoint: Individual efforts are meaningful, but significant federal help is essential

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Every morning just before 7 a.m. Jonathan Rietmaier unlocks the doors of Mammoth Expresso, his popular CBD coffeehouse, so his employees can serve up the aromatic brew and pastries for which his small business is well known. Although strictly take-out these days, Riethmaier hadn’t changed Mammoth’s hours or staffing in an effort to help his five part-time employees. “I am strictly trying to support the hourly wage earners who work for us. I want to help them earn a living so that they do not fall in a vulnerable space,” Rietmaier said. “As long as we can serve our customers in a safe and sanitary environment, we’d like to remain open.”

Though Mammoth does not operate at its pre-corona pace, customers — usually one at a time — trickle in all day long.

Viewpoint: Movies about New Orleans to watch during self-quarantine

By Sue Strachan, Uptown Messenger

When a movie says it is set in New Orleans, it is hard not spending most of the time trying to pick out landmarks and laughing at what the filmmakers got wrong. So, with many of us at home watching TV, it’s a great time to check out movies and TV shows that showcase New Orleans, and remind us why we love it. Here are a few of my recommendations, plus where to find them. (True confession: I talk about movies on “Hollywood Highlights” on WWL-TV’s Great Day Louisiana.)

I have divided into “Watch Now!”; “That’s Not Right!”; “Vintage”; “Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward collaborations,” and “Mardi Gras.” I am not choosing any movies about Hurricane Katrina or pandemics, such as “Panic in the Streets,” as I don’t want to trigger anything in these stressful times. Watch now!

Viewpoint: Leaders must demand sheltering in place to flatten the curve

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Gov. John Bel Edwards and Mayor LaToya Cantrell are being too soft on New Orleans. With the number of confirmed cases and deaths skyrocketing, our elected officials don’t have the luxury of merely suggesting that people stay home as much as possible. Some form of sheltering in place must become the law of the land if we don’t want martial law and the additional restrictions it will bring. Though it might sound extreme, sheltering in place slowed the virus in China and is currently being implemented in Italy, Spain, Belgium and France. The Ukraine has shut down all transportation.

View from Tulane: Why are we still going out?

By Julia Prager-Hessel, guest columnist

Students, faculty, and staff at Tulane received an email last Wednesday that said classes will cease or go online, and those living on campus are to leave in the next week and a half. However fracturing to our semesters, this move came as no surprise and with little resentment from students. Tulane is largely a flight school that draws many of its students from Los Angeles, New York and Chicago, and our friends at schools across the country had been sent home throughout the week. There is also a sense of gratefulness on campus — our university is offering emergency housing and food, and most of us have the opportunity to go home if it becomes suddenly necessary. Students recognize that we are in a beautiful city that is not being hit as hard as many other metropolises in the United States — metropolises that many Tulanians come from.

Viewpoint: City’s response to pandemic will be true test of Cantrell’s leadership

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Now that Mayor LaToya Cantrell has declared a state of emergency and called for the Louisiana National Guard, New Orleanians who are used to hugging and kissing everyone in sight are being asked to embrace social distancing and other practices like constant hand washing that hopefully can slow the spread of the deadly coronavirus. How well Mayor Cantrell is able to manage the city’s ever-evolving response will be her enduring legacy. Just like during Hurricane Katrina, there are a thousand parts and pieces. Most important is the coordination with local health care providers to ensure they have the necessary test kits, staff, equipment and other resources to treat the sick. Some supplies have become scarce, which could jeopardize quality of care.

Viewpoint: Criminals are in control because of NOPD officer shortages, Cannizzaro says

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Although he has yet to formally signal whether he will seek re-election in the fall of 2020,
District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro gave a rousing address about New Orleans’ many crime problems and potential solutions to a packed crowd of Second Amendment supporters at the Home Defense Foundation’s meeting earlier this week. Attendees included New Orleans independent police monitor Susan Hutson. “We have a crime problem in the city of New Orleans,” said Cannizzaro who has worked in criminal justice for more than 40 years. “Since I first became an assistant district attorney in 1978, I’ve never seen crowds as were gathered at Hynes School in January and at the Jewish Community Center. People are upset.”

Cannizzaro told attendees that a significant part of the problem can be blamed on former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, who set in motion the current police manpower shortage by failing to prioritize classes for new recruits during his first term.

Viewpoint: Is the coronavirus the next Katrina for New Orleans?

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

I am not a naysaying fatalist or someone who rushes to conclusions early. But last night I went to my neighborhood grocery store and picked up 10 cases of bottled water and placed it next to the five cases I bought the other day. I intend to get another 10 cases this weekend and begin stocking up on canned fruits and vegetables too.  And antiseptic cleaning supplies and cough medicine. Am I opening a bodega? No, I am preparing for what could be life-as-unusual if the coronavirus really hits New Orleans.

Viewpoint: Cantrell still the queen despite changing poll numbers

By Danae Columbus, opinion columnist
Although Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s job performance ratings took a hit from last year, according to a new poll, Cantrell still reigns supreme over all things News Orleans. The poll — taken earlier this month by Ed Chervenak’s Edgewater Research and Tony Liccardi’s My People Vote — provided a snapshot of the mayor’s favorability midway through her first term.  Results showed that Cantrell is less popular than either mayors Landrieu or Nagin were at this point in their administrations. The biggest take-out from the poll was her drop in favorability with white voters. African-American voters – especially males — clearly appreciate Cantrell. She is most popular in Council District E, followed by districts C and D. Caucasian voters, especially women and Republicans, are much less enchanted with the mayor by almost polar opposite numbers.