Viewpoint: Candidates line up to lead the state Democratic Party out of its doldrums

Qualifying for the March 2024 elections got off to a quick start yesterday at the Clerk’s Office, Criminal District Court.  Two attorneys, Dianne Alexander and LaKeisha Jefferson, signed up for open seats in First City Court and Civil District Court respectively. In addition 71 other contenders — including a number of fresh faces of the more progressive persuasion — qualified for Democratic and Republican parish and state committees. Ronald Coleman, president of the local NAACP, was first in line to qualify for re-election to the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee. Yesterday’s turnout was higher than four years ago, when only 48 candidates qualified on the first day followed by 49 the second day and 114 the third and final day for the state political committees. With the poor showing in the fall elections, the Louisiana Democratic Party is clearly at a crossroads.

Viewpoint: Saturday’s elections are important, but voters are not enthused

For the past month, the candidates still in the running for parish and statewide offices have been pulling out all the stops to encourage voters to cast their ballots in Saturday’s (Nov. 18) elections. Only 11,140 Orleans Parish voters took part in early voting last week, the vast majority in person. Orleans Parish ranked sixth overall in early voting turnout behind Jefferson, St. Tammany, Lafayette, East Baton Rouge and Caddo parishes, where more local races on the ballot.

Viewpoint: Does anyone really care about the Oct. 14 elections?

Saturday’s elections for statewide and parish offices along with a number of other ballot initiatives will be the culmination of many months of hard work and millions of dollar spent by candidates, their supporters and public and quasi-public agencies such as school boards. Yet there is a broad swath of voters who are likely to attend their favorite football game or fall festival and bypass the polls. Perhaps that’s why Shawn Wilson was greeting Democratic voters in Alexandria on Tuesday, why Jeff Landry is midway through a series of Diner Dashes in seven cities around the state, and why lieutenant governor contender Elbert Guillory borrowed a jet for a statewide tour this week. 
Early voting was off 42,000 people statewide in comparison to the 2019 statewide elections. The vast majority of those who did vote were 65 and older. On the other end of the spectrum, fewer than a thousand 18- to 20-year-olds made the effort to visit the polls last week.

Viewpoint: Leading gubernatorial candidates make their pitches to voters

The three top contenders in the race for governor of Louisiana — Republican Jeff Landry, Democrat Shawn Wilson and Independent Hunter Lundy — recently visited the metro areas to spark enthusiasm for what is likely to be a lackluster, low-turnout election. This trio of candidates — along with State Treasurer John Schroeder, business lobbyist Steve Waguespack and state Sen. Sharon Hewitt — have been invited to participate in a statewide televised debate tonight (Sept. 9). With Attorney General Landry refusing to appear, the event will be informative but lack a clear comparison on important issues. 

Landry has no real need to face off against other candidates. All the polls, including one taken recently by Ron Faucheux, have him way out in front.

Viewpoint: Can the city fix its broken bureaucracy?

Most New Orleanians shudder at the thought of having to go to City Hall to get a permit — any permit. It’s not now, nor has it ever been, a quick, easy or transparent process. The requirements are hard to understand. A staff person might not be available to discuss or explain a puzzling issue, which can add more time and more cost to the already lengthy, expensive process. If citizens are able to actually connect with a live staffer in person or on the phone, that individual might be less than user friendly.

Viewpoint: Republican candidates make their pitches to voters at forum

More than a dozen contenders for local and statewide office addressed a packed house Wednesday (Aug. 16) at the Home Defense Foundation’s candidate forum. The gun-rights lobbying group attracted an array of Republican candidates, including gubernatorial candidates state Treasurer John Schroder, state Sen. Sharon Hewitt and state Rep. Richard Nelson; secretary of state candidate and grocer Brandon Trosclair; former U.S. Rep. John Fleming and state Rep. Scott McKnight, who are running for state treasurer; attorney general candidates state Rep. John Stefanski and former prosecutor Marty Maley; retired state Sen. Elbert Guillory, who is seeking the office of lieutenant governor; and legislative candidate Charles Marsala, who is running to represent House District 94. “I want to bring integrity back to state government. I recently went to a national conference where I got tired of hearing jokes about corruption in Louisiana.

Viewpoint: Parish and statewide candidates queue up for qualifying next week

Judge Monique Barial is ready to move up. For almost 10 years, she has handled family-law cases at Orleans Parish Civil District Court Division H, Domestic Section 2.  A graduate of Xavier University and the Southern University Law Center and a former attorney adviser for the U.S. Small Business Administration, Barial believes that she is well-prepared to take on new judicial challenges beyond the domestic arena. She recently announced her candidacy for the open seat in Division D previously held by Judge Nakisha Ervin Knott, who was elected to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. Barial is one of the dozens of candidates who will begin qualifying next Tuesday (Aug. 8), for judicial, legislative, regional and statewide offices.

Viewpoint: The system is designed for New Orleans mayors to prevail

Critics of Mayor LaToya Cantrell have been having a field day recently with multiple incidents about which to complain. Yet it seems no matter how much venom is directed toward her, Cantrell manages to adroitly deflect every accusation like a sizzling fried egg sliding off a Teflon-coated pan.   

Case in point: U.S. District Court Judge Susie Morgan is demanding answers about the Public Integrity Bureau’s shoddy investigation of NOPD officer and Cantrell bodyguard Jeffrey Vappie. The good judge must know that it’s Cantrell who wields the big stick at the NOPD. Other than to extend the consent decree even longer, what recourse does the judge actually have?  Cantrell has already refused to allow her staff appear in Morgan’s courtroom. A long-awaited investigation by lawyers working for the City Council concluded that the informational mailer that Cantrell authorized during the recall campaign probably violated state law.

Viewpoint: What will the next police chief be able to accomplish?

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.

Viewpoint: Property taxes may rise in 2024 for many New Orleans homeowners

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.