Viewpoint: Should July Fourth 2022 be a day of celebration or reflection?

My ancestors had yet to arrive in America for the first Independence Day in 1776 or even 100 years later for the 1876 Centennial. But by America’s Bicentennial in 1976, my family was a part of all the revelry that included hot dogs, hamburgers and too much potato salad. We were proud to be Americans and still are today. Somehow this year I just don’t feel like celebrating. Sure, I am blessed to be alive, in generally good health and living a relatively comfortable lifestyle in America — still the greatest country in the world.

Viewpoint: Sheriff Susan Hutson faces rocky road ahead

With two unexpected deaths in less than a week and an ongoing staffing crisis that — in her own words — has “destabilized” the Orleans Justice Center, Sheriff Susan Hutson must have quickly realized that her honeymoon was ending sooner than expected. All new sheriffs get tested by their deputies and inmates (let’s not be so naïve to refer to them as “residents”) to gauge the rules. Hutson was no different. The inmates searched for a weak spot — in this instance not enough staff on the tiers — and exploited it. During the campaign, Hutson pounded on the concepts of care, custody and control.

Viewpoint: Are there secrets in the Smart Cities documents Cantrell would prefer to hide?

Many New Orleanians would agree that Mayor LaToya Cantrell is pugnacious, uncompromising and used to getting what she wants. She seemed set on launching a controversial project that was supposed to increase internet connectivity while making retired NBA player Magic Johnson and his partners even richer. Her plans abruptly came to a halt when a skeptical City Council stepped in with a mountain of detailed questions that Cantrell and her staff fought and are finding extremely hard to avoid answering.   

By the middle of their second term, most mayors are thinking about life after City Hall. Mayor Moon Landrieu quickly landed himself a Cabinet position under President Jimmy Carter. Mayor Dutch Morial began practicing law with an eye toward a U.S. Senate race, which was derailed due to his untimely death.

Viewpoint: What kind of deal is attorney Billy Gibbens cutting for DA Jason Williams?

With District Attorney Jason Williams’ tax fraud trial scheduled to start in six weeks, now is the time that a seasoned defense attorney like Billy Gibbens would be putting the final touches on the best deal he could strike for his client, in this case Williams. Williams and his former law partner Nicole Burdett are charged with trying to inflate $700,000 in tax write-offs between 2013 and 2017. Though the attorneys at Tuesday’s pretrial hearing said they were “ready for trial,” they could have meant that federal prosecutors are not yet ready to announce the terms of any agreement. The best deal Gibbens could hope for would probably involve Williams pleading guilty to one or two counts and receiving a suspended sentence with house arrest and a big fat fine. In that scenario, Williams would also forfeit his law license and be removed from office. After three years, Williams could ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to reinstate his law license and, if successful, practice civil law.

Viewpoint: It’s time to put that mask on again

Those readers who know me personally understand that I am very involved in the Greek Festival, which is returning Memorial Day weekend after a two-year hiatus. During a visit to the Greek church earlier this week, the festival’s long-time operations director, who comes in from Texas, said, “I see you are wearing a mask again,” to which I replied: “I never stopped wearing a mask.”

Just before Jazz Fest, I wrote about an out-of-town friend, a decades-long Fest enthusiast, who wanted to mask at the Fair Grounds even though he is fully vaccinated and boosted. Impractical, I thought, and way too hot to mask.  He recently flew home after two jam-packed weeks during which he attended the festival all seven days, consumed copious amounts of ice cold watermelon in the WWOZ tent, caught nighttime performances such as singer John Boutté at d.b.a., and dined with old friends at Peche, Brennan’s and Doris Metropolitan. On the way to the airport, he even grabbed an oyster po’boy at the Kenner Seafood Market. By the time his flight landed in New York, he had the dreaded Covid cough.

Viewpoint: Clerk Chelsey Richard Napoleon believes she was called to serve

After a Covid-related delay, Chelsey Richard Napoleon will take the oath of office for her second term as Clerk of Civil District Court and ex-officio recorder on Saturday, (May 14) at Southern University at New Orleans. The investiture ceremony will be followed by a free crawfish boil  at SUNO’s Quad. Surrounded by family and friends, Napoleon will be honored Sunday (May 15) at a special Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, where she is an active member of the church’s pastoral council. The following day, Napoleon will also host a golf tournament at the Audubon Golf Course, 6500 Magazine St. 

“At the end of the day, we are all in this together,” Napoleon said when asked why she created a weekend of activities to thank the community for their ongoing support.

Viewpoint: Supreme Court reminds us ‘there are no permanent victories’

“How dare they tell a woman what she can do or not do with her body,” exclaimed Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday (May 3) as she vented her frustration about the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked draft ruling on abortion written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito. As early as June, the country’s highest court, led by its conservative majority, is expected to release an opinion that will reverse a precedent that millions of women have used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy. 

When the Roe v. Wade case was initially filed half a century ago, public opinion supported the right to choose and the majority of justices concurred. Over the decades, liberal Democrats became complacent that the existing law would remain in effect forever. Unfortunately, Republicans around the country began waging a slow but strategic campaign to sway public opinion and elect or appoint for more conservatives. The rise of Donald Trump — with his convenient, new-found anti-abortion rhetoric along with his ability to appoint judges and endorse candidates — was indeed a major tipping point. 

The mood of the public had also changed.

Viewpoint: Don’t let the latest Covid variant ruin your Jazz Fest

The thousands of tourists and locals who will attend the long-awaited New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will surely cause an increase in cases of Covid-19 and it newest sub-variant, BA.2. A friend coming in for the festival wants to wear his mask at the Fair Grounds. While a good idea, that’s probably not very practical considering the heat and the ongoing consumption of libations at Jazz Fest and the evening events. Ensuring each attendee takes the personal responsibility to avoid infection at this mostly outdoors event is a better solution. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reported Tuesday that the coronavirus has infected nearly 60% of people in the U.S. at least once, including about 75% of children.

Viewpoint: Raised to serve, Judge Rachael Johnson plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps

It’s been a fast-paced and fulfilling five years since Judge Rachael Johnson took the bench in Civil District Court Division B. The daughter of retired Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson, Judge Johnson always knew her future lay in public service. She plans to qualify in July to run for  the seat recently vacated by former Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods on the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Division D.

“Service was always part of our lives. It was not optional. Of course I admire my mother and her life-long commitment to fairness, equity and justice, but she never insisted that I become a lawyer or judge,” Judge Johnson said. Her mother was the first African-American chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, where she served from 1994 until her retirement in 2020. 

A graduate of McDonogh 35 High School and Spelman College, where she earned a B.A. in psychology, Judge Johnson went on to Smith College to obtain a master’s in social work.