Sexual assault survivors in the criminal justice system discussed in virtual ‘listening session’ for DA’s office

 

The new District Attorney’s Office transition team held a virtual forum on Saturday (Jan. 23) for the public to discuss their concerns and priorities with the DA’s office, now led by the newly elected Jason Williams.

The theme of Saturday’s zoom meeting was “Protect Vulnerable Communities.” This is also one of the working groups in his transition team. Attendees brought up a wide range of concerns: police treatment of sexual assault survivors, policing in schools, racism in policing and the treatment of homeless people. The working group — led by Madeleine Landrieu, the Loyola Law School dean and a former judge, and Mary Claire Landry, the director of the New Orleans Family Justice Center — aims to enhance witness and victim support, address threats to vulnerable communities, increase connection to community and care, and addressing child abuse and intimate partner violence. 

What constitutes the term “vulnerable communities” was left undefined, and attendees were encouraged to suggest which groups could be included. 

Jason Williams was not in attendance. Rather, the representatives were there to hear concerns and suggestions from the public and advocacy groups, with the understanding that their comments would be taken into consideration when the group issued their final recommendations to Williams.

As chief prosecutor, the Orleans Parish DA holds tremendous power in a city with an extremely high rate of incarceration.

Ghost bike honoring unnamed cyclist is part of ‘a community effort’

 

Just days after the a cyclist was killed in traffic on St. Charles Avenue, a “ghost bike” was placed at the site to honor his memory. There are a number of groups that make and place these ghost bikes (not to be confused with the Germany-based bicycle company of the same name) around New Orleans. This one was made by Angie Bailleux, who has been fabricating the bikes for going on five years. Bailleux said she does not know the victim.

Traffic advisory: Lane closures for sidewalk repairs begin Monday on St. Charles, South Claiborne

From the Mayor’s Office
Beginning on Monday (Jan. 11), weather permitting, the New Orleans Department of Public Works’ contractor, Hard Rock Construction Co., will close a travel lane in the 2400 block of South Claiborne Avenue and a portion of the bike lane in the 7900 block of St. Charles Avenue to accommodate sidewalk repairs as part of a city bond-funded sidewalk improvement program. The closures will be in effect from 8 a.m. Monday through the end of the month. Residents and commuters are reminded to use caution when driving, bicycling and walking near the construction site.

Bicyclist killed on St. Charles Avenue near Louisiana

 

A bicyclist was killed Tuesday (Dec. 29) night after being hit by a sport utility vehicle while crossing St. Charles Avenue, the New Orleans Police Department reported. The cyclist was traveling toward the river on Delachaise Street at about 11:35 p.m., police said. He went through a stop sign and entered St.

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.

‘These streets are built to share’: Coalition works toward making transportation safer and easier for everyone

The city and the New Orleans Complete Streets Coalition, a group of organizations, businesses, civic leaders and community members, are on a mission to improve roadways and safe transportation options to enhance health, equity, sustainability, prosperity and quality of life in the city.  

“It [NOCSC] really is focused on the fact that we as a coalition believe in constructing streets in a way that best accommodate all people safely and easily, no matter how they travel,” said Dan Favre, executive director of Bike Easy, a local bike advocacy and education program and a part of NOCSC. “Whether you’re someone driving, walking, riding a bike, taking transit or using a wheelchair or other mobility assistance devices, we really think that these streets are built to share.”

Through Moving New Orleans Bikes, a city initiative that began in April of last year that the NOCSC is heavily involved with, New Orleans is embarking on a city-wide bike planning effort, building low-stress bikeways in Central City, The Lower Garden District, Mid-City, Faubourg St. John, the 7th Ward, and the CBD. Data used for construction planning include a bicycle equity index, which looks at where people are shown to have historic disadvantages when it comes to transportation, as well as technical aspects such as street sizes and speed limits. In addition to research and data, feedback from the community has also been incorporated.

City plans safer bike paths in Central City and Lower Garden District

The Office of Neighborhood Engagement hosted a pre-construction meeting Thursday to inform Central City and Lower Garden District residents about bicycle infrastructure improvements coming to their neighborhoods. Construction on the project on the East Bank began in August 2020, and the Thursday meeting allowed residents to view the proposals for their area. The project will bring bike lanes and street redesigns to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard from St. Charles Avenue to South Broad Street, Melpomene Street from St. Charles Avenue to Camp Street, Baronne Street from Calliope to Phillips Street, South Galvez Street from MLK to Erato Street, and South Broad Street from Fourth Street to Thalia Street.

Viewpoint: Support public safety officers threatened with furloughs

People are getting desperate. Led by an increase in homicides and aggravated assaults, the crime wave sweeping across New Orleans and America can be blamed in large part on COVID-19 and the economic turmoil it has caused. A recent Council on Criminal Justice analysis of homicide rates in 27 U.S. cities found that the sheer number of crimes increased sharply during the summer months.  Overall domestic violence and carjackings are also skyrocketing together with drug and gang violence.  

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s almost singular focus on reducing the virus in Orleans Parish has successfully limited hospitalizations and deaths, especially as the virus’ latest wave is wreaking havoc nationally. We applaud her for those efforts. Yet its accompanying financial devastation is driving up crime in New Orleans as desperate individuals resort to reckless acts to put a few dollars in their pockets.  

Along with a very real concern about how to pay the bills during New Orleans’ stalled economic recovery are factors such as an increase in gun sales, mental health issues such as depression, boredom and a lack of interaction with others. 

New Orleans is a poor city where the Police Department has perpetually been understaffed and underpaid by regional and national standards.