Viewpoint: It will take more than a vaccine to restore America’s spirit

Amid an Epiphany Day marred by an unanticipated insurrection at the U.S. Capitol and the state’s highest COVID rates, 87-year-old Isiah Steele received his long-awaited COVID-19 vaccination at New Orleans East Hospital. “I am so blessed to have gotten this vaccine,” said Steele, before lighting a candle at the Shrine of St. Jude. “I will sleep a little easier tonight.”

Steele has been locked down in his family home since mid-March, where he has fretted about his grandson, a senior soon to graduate from LSU, and his caregiver daughter, who goes to work almost every day despite the pandemic.  “While I worry about their health and safety, I am mourning the loss of a year of my life at a time when I don’t have too many years left,” he said. 

A chronic voter, Steele is also troubled by how ugly and divisive politics have become. “I pray that our elected leaders will seek consensus, get the virus under control and everybody back working again.

Viewpoint: Piper Griffin, Jason Williams to ring in 2021 with fresh promise; Lambert Boissiere eyes Richmond’s seat

As a newly elected Louisiana Supreme Court Associate Justice, Piper Griffin takes the bench on Monday (Jan. 4), she said she is humbled by the overwhelming support from the community. “I want to thank the people of New Orleans for the opportunity to be of service and the trust they place in me for such an important position,” Griffin said. 

Joined by her mother Betty Griffin, a retired Charity Hospital nurse; sisters Kaci and Lisa Griffin; nephew Keenan Fortenberry; and ministers Rev. Samuel Gibbs Jr. and Pastor Calvin Woods Jr., Griffin took the oath of office Monday (Dec. 28). Her formal investiture, a public event, is tentatively scheduled for Jan.

Viewpoint: City faces challenges in reaching herd immunity and retooling economy


By almost every measure, Mayor LaToya Cantrell has done a yeoman’s job of keeping COVID-19 at bay in New Orleans, albeit at great cost to our tourism-driven economy. Now that the first doses of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine have reached the region and Moderna’s vaccine is not far behind, Cantrell must face her next big hurdles: convincing enough citizens to get inoculated so that we reach herd immunity, and retooling the economy to better address the city’s long-standing workforce issues. 

Convincing skeptics that the vaccine is effective and without adverse side effects will be a daunting task for Cantrell. A  Gallup poll of 3,000 adults nationwide taken earlier this month reported that only 63% of Americans would be willing to receive an FDA-approved COVID-19 vaccine. 

The vaccine’s effectiveness will be measured not only by how well it works but by how many people agree to be vaccinated. Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation’s leading infectious disease expert, has estimated that 75% to 85% of the population will need to get the vaccine before herd immunity is reached. There has always been a relatively small group of Americans who have opposed vaccinations over safety concerns.

Viewpoint: New School Board members bring promise of systemic change

The four new members recently elected to the Orleans Parish School Board will shake up the system and chart a new direction for an organization that has been ruled in large part by outside influences since Hurricane Katrina. 

Representing a vast number of New Orleans families, this quartet will function as the School Board’s voting majority with the clear ability to pass or eliminate any policy they deem necessary. They will also have to find better solutions to major issues such as school financing, equity, perpetually low-performing schools and how to bring high-quality schools to every neighborhood.  
Katie Baudouin

Incoming District 5 board member Katie Baudouin will represent Central City, the Garden District, the Irish Channel and other neighborhoods above Canal Street. She said her highest priority is helping schools students and families get through the pandemic. “I want to work with schools to develop a plan to measure any learning loss so we can help our students continue to learn and grow,” said Baudouin.  The policy director for Councilman Joe Giarrusso’s District A office and mother of a charter school student, she would like to serve on the policy, property, budget and finance committees. The Bureau of Governmental Research recently issued a detailed report on how to better fund NOLA Schools.

Viewpoint: With Romero victory on School Board, LGBT community seeks greater political power

LGBT leaders were ecstatic when Dr. J.C. Romero, an openly gay educator, won a seat on the Orleans Parish School Board last Saturday. Romero defeated two-term board member Leslie Ellison, who frequently spoke out against gay rights. LGBT community members believe they will not achieve “full citizenship” until gay candidates are elected to the Louisiana Legislature and the New Orleans City Council. Chief of staff at Einstein Charter Schools and adjunct professor at Delgado Community College, Romero is the city’s third gay-identified elected school official, following in the footsteps of two former Orleans Parish School Board presidents Thomas Robichaux and Seth Bloom. Robichaux and other LGBT attorneys provided free services on Romero’s behalf.

Viewpoint: Cedric Richmond’s path to the White House began on the UTNO picket line

Louisiana Second Congressional District Rep. Cedric Levan Richmond, who recently became the highest ranking Black staff member to join President-elect Joseph Biden’s administration, was introduced to politics at a very early age. Richmond was just 5 years old in 1978 when his mother, Maple Richmond Gaines — a dedicated New Orleans public school teacher — would wake him and his brother Sidney Jr. before dawn to accompany her to the picket line, where the United Teachers of New Orleans were striking for higher wages and better working conditions. Richmond would hold up a sign while his mother, the strike leader, made sure no cafeteria workers or other early arrivers entered the school building. “Cedric’s father, Sidney Richmond Sr., was an entrepreneur and very involved in the community,” Richmond Gaines said. “Although he died when Cedric was 7 years old, he left an impression on Cedric about the importance of community service.”

Richmond’s stepfather, Ulis Gaines, was an electrical contractor who imparted a similar message, Richmond Gaines said.


Sponsored: FNOPS congratulates new school board members, looks to runoff

Coalition Reminds Voters to Consider Scorecard in Runoff Election
Early voting is Nov. 20-28 (excluding Sundays and holidays)

Forward New Orleans for Public Schools (FNOPS) congratulates the two candidates who were elected to the Orleans Parish School Board in the Nov. 3 primary election as well as those vying for the remaining five district seats in the Dec. 5. runoff election.

Viewpoint: Who would succeed Cedric Richmond if he leaves Congress for the White House?

For months now rumors have been building that U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond will join President-elect Joe Biden’s new administration in an executive capacity. Though Biden has yet to make a formal announcement, many candidates are already lining up for what will surely be a fierce competition to replace Richmond in Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District.   

Since last week’s election, a new poll has been conducted by John Anzalone, Biden’s pollster, that looked at five candidates already considered to be the prime contenders – former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, City Councilwoman at-large Helena Moreno, state Sen. Troy Carter, state Sen. Cleo Fields and state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson. Any of these candidates would be considered serious players in a district stretches from Orleans Parish through Jefferson and up the River Parishes ending in Baton Rouge. Not surprisingly, former Mayor Mitch Landrieu, now a CNN contributor, ranked first in the poll with 25%. Landrieu served four terms as a state legislator as well as two terms each as mayor and lieutenant governor.

Viewpoint: Women of color and progressives ruled the day in Orleans Parish races

From Keva Landrum to Chanel Payne, women of color and younger progressive-minded voters were the big winners in New Orleans’ election earlier this week.  Women of color were candidates in 21 of the 25 local races on the ballot and won outright or earned a runoff slot in almost every one. 

Progressives qualified for many of the School Board and judicial seats. It’s not just the candidates who were the victors but the men and women behind the scenes who poured their sweat and hard-earned money into the contests. A much-needed new generation of elected officials and consultants will continue to emerge. In the race for district attorney, former Judge Keva Landrum benefited from strong fundraising and her ability to stay on message despite attacks by outside interests. She also has to thank her besties, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and Mayor LaToya Cantrell, for their push.

Viewpoint: Business leaders eyeing potential challengers to Mayor Cantrell

Although qualifying for New Orleans mayor, City Council and other municipal offices is still eight months away, many of the same conservative business leaders who gave Mayor LaToya Cantrell the seed money that launched her campaign have begun the painstaking search for a new candidate. “LaToya won’t be mayor much longer,” said one multi-millionaire businessperson who was an enthusiastic early donor. Though many business owners had become disenchanted with Mayor Cantrell, they were willing to work with her for another four years until COVID-19 soured relationships.  “I’m not surprised that the business community is going to put a candidate up against the mayor,” said Ed Chervenak, UNO political scientist. “They are upset that she is not following the lead of Gov. Edwards, who has opened up the state much quicker than Mayor Cantrell has opened up Orleans Parish.