Insiders expect interim Superintendent Michelle Woodfork to be appointed as the next superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department. Woodfork, they say, is clearly the best choice among the six semi-finalists that Mayor LaToya Cantrell presented to the select committee of business, civic and political leaders for interviews this week. Two of the candidates are tainted, having left their previous positions under a cloud. Others might not be suitable because of their race, level of experience or lack of working knowledge about the city.
With crime on top of almost every citizen’s mind, the city doesn’t have the luxury of hiring a chief who needs a couple of months to familiarize himself or herself with the neighborhood rivalries, gangs and drug culture behind much of the violence. While yesterday (July 19) was a rare murder-free day, other crimes still took place.
It’s no secret that Cantrell handpicked Woodfork and that Woodfork has closely followed her boss’s lead.
New Orleans property owners in select neighborhoods — including Uptown areas — should anticipate paying higher taxes due in 2024 due to the increased valuation of properties in those areas, according to longtime Orleans Parish Assessor Erroll Williams. Williams and his staff of in-house appraisers have spent the past year reviewing every parcel of commercial and residential property on the parish tax rolls.
Louisiana law requires a re-evaluation on all properties once every four years. Because 2024 is a quadrennial year, Orleans Parish assessments for tax years 2024-27 will reflect market values as of Jan. 1, 2023. A similar review took place in 2019.
State law now requires all tax recipient agencies to reduce their millage rates when a quadrennial revaluation results in an increase in taxable assessments, as is the case this year, according to an Assessor’s Office press release. This is referred to as a “mandatory rollback.” The intent of the rollback is to keep funding streams level for tax recipient agencies.
Just call me F-23,931. Those are my unique numerals in the chronological list of citizens who requested an item number from the New Orleans Police Department in June 2023. I called the cops on June 25 because thieves decided to destroy the top of my car. After causing several thousand dollars of damage, the thugs got away with a few quarters and a pocket knife. Luckily, my insurance will cover the repairs.
The 2023 legislative session in Baton Rouge ended June 8 with a controversial last-minute budget bill and a package of bills targeting the transgender community. Attempts by Democrats to add rape and incest as exceptions to the state’s near total abortion ban, raise the minimum wage and abolish the death penalty were unsuccessful. Yet New Orleans’ Democratic contingent is able to tout some successes despite the tough political climate.
The 2023 legislative session was “challenging,” according to District 5 state Sen. Royce Duplessis. He was nonetheless pleased with several budget wins, including $44 million for early childhood education as well as stipends for teachers and support personnel. “I am committed to continuing the fight for a permanent pay rise because our teachers and our children deserve much more,” Duplessis said.
After four years of hard work, Duplessis was able to pass Senate Bill 111, which streamlines the expungement process for some criminal records and makes it easier and more affordable.
For more than a month now, Attorney General Jeff Landry, a former sheriff’s deputy and the leading candidate for governor of Louisiana, has been airing television commercials about his experience fighting crime. Not to be outdone, a political action committee supporting gubernatorial candidate Steve Waguespack, the former head of the state’s business lobby and a previous aide to Gov. Bobby Jindal, has counter-claimed that Landry has done little to solve the problem as the state’s top law enforcement official. State Treasurer John Schroeder, also a Republican candidate for governor, has been spending big bucks on television addressing the issue. Democratic candidate Shawn Wilson, a native New Orleanian, speaks passionately on the subject. Last week, District Attorney Jason Williams surprised many political insiders with his pronouncement that he, too, might enter the race because Landry’s commercials had offended his sensibilities.
Lawyer Bill Aaron, a former city attorney under Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, raised a few eyebrows recently when he posted support for Republican state Rep. Debbie Villio’s House Bill 321, the Truth and Transparency Act, which would make public the criminal records of juveniles over the age of 13 who commit violent crimes in Orleans and other large parishes. Several of Aaron’s social media followers, including former Judge Ron Sholes and former Criminal Magistrate Marie Bookman, disagreed and suggested the bill targeted juveniles only in majority-Black parishes and at too young an age.
A separate WDSU-TV news report Tuesday evening (May 30) pointed to the high percentage of Black homicide victims in New Orleans. Councilmember Oliver Thomas, who was interviewed for the story, blamed those murders in part on systemic racism and a lack of resources. Who is committing these crimes? More often than not, other Black males — many of whom start down the wrong path while still juveniles — are named as the perpetrators. Their crimes can be viewed as status symbols by their peers.
Let’s take for example 22-year-old convicted felon Kyron Keith Fazande, whom WWL Radio broadcaster Newell Normand labeled “a pure killer” during his on-air interview Wednesday (May 31) with Rafael Goyeneche of the Metropolitan Crime Commission.
When I want to know what New Orleanians are thinking about the news of the day, I need not look any further than the app Nextdoor to get an unvarnished, uncensored view.
Gina Melita posted about a carjacking at Sycamore near Carrollton. Laurel Street’s Avi Scott wrote about two teenage males who were pulling on door handles on her block. A clearly aggravated James Henderson in Algiers Riverview shared a video of his “lazy G-Man,” who picked up the trash bag on the curb but ignored the trash can. De Borah Wells in Milan posted a photo of Sir Paul, a Doberman she was mourning after his passing. Jenn C in Huntlee Village was warning neighbors about a hustler prying for information about her home security system.
Then there’s Paulette Perrien from Maple Area who, along with several dozen others, remarked about the May 20 early-morning theft of $300,000 worth of iron beams and additional sheet metal from the former Times-Picayune site at 3800 Howard Ave., where the upscale Five O Fore driving range is under construction.
I was more than a little envious this week of the millions of dollars Jefferson Parish Council members are doling out to pet projects mostly in their districts — from support for festivals, community centers and churches to cheerleader uniforms, swimming classes and tutoring. Jefferson’s council members, all up for re-election in the fall, enjoy broad leeway in making those discretionary selections. The allocations are available not only because of one-time dollars from the American Rescue Plan but from ongoing funding sources such as gaming revenue and hotel/motel taxes.
Jefferson’s council recently voted to give each district council member an additional $12.5 million and each at-large member $1 million of allocate. Surely the council could have voted instead to distribute those dollars to their transit system, which is having budget problems, or toward building secure housing with wrap-around services for Jefferson’s growing homeless population.
Fortunately for them, the Parish Council enjoys the luxury of significant discretionary spending because Jefferson has something that New Orleans hasn’t had in more than half of century – a fully-functioning vibrant economy with industry beyond tourism, a healthy retail tax base, and an infrastructure system that is not about to collapse into the Mississippi River. Sure, Jefferson Parish has potholes, streets that need resurfacing and new playgrounds to build.
Two like-minded bills that together will fundamentally redefine the recall process for Louisiana elected officials are working their way through the 2023 legislative session in Baton Rouge. Though the new laws, if ultimately approved, will bring Louisiana’s rules in closer alignment with other states, a political action committee associated with Mayor LaToya Cantrell is raising its voice in protest and soliciting funds to fight back. An email sent Tuesday (May 9) to supporters by Cantrell’s long-time campaign manager Maggie Carroll labels one of the pieces of legislation, House Bill 212, as “voter suppression.” Carroll further asks for assistance in gathering $250,000 for the Cantrell-supported Action New Orleans PAC.
In an interview, Cantrell said she knows nothing about the recall legislation and doesn’t care whether it passes. She also distanced herself from Carroll’s comments and current fundraising efforts. Carroll confirmed that Cantrell was not behind the PAC’s latest activities.
When the Greater New Orleans Foundation started GiveNOLA Day in 2014, they probably had no idea how successful the event would quickly become. Sponsored in 2023 by Baptist Community Ministries, GiveNOLA Day is an online one-day giving event that raised almost $50 million for deserving nonprofits during its first eight years. In 2022, 947 organizations shared $7.9 million.
In anticipation of this year’s event, almost 1,000 local nonprofits have been touching base with their previous donors and utilizing social media to increase their reach. Organizations can earn special prizes in categories including the most individual donors. With the early donation program well underway, approximately 4,000 donors have already given almost $600,000 to 600 organizations.