Viewpoint: Police reform and crime dominate upcoming mayoral races across U.S.

In New York, Boston, Seattle, Atlanta, Detroit and even Jackson, Mississippi, crime and police reform have emerged as the go-to issues in the many 2021 races for mayor across the U.S.

As New Orleans’ crime rate continues to escalate and the federal consent decree lingers on, it’s expected that the New Orleans contest will fall in line along the same issues. “We have a rising crime problem. Crime in New Orleans  needs to be an issue in the New Orleans mayor’s race,” said the Metropolitan Crime Commission’s Raphael Goyeneche. Announced City Council at-large candidates Kristin Gisleson Palmer and JP Morrell have already signaled their intent to significantly focus on crime. Statistics from the Metropolitan Crime Commission indicate that shootings have increased 132% from 2019 to 2021; that homicides are up 108%; and that carjacking has increased 173% during the same period.  There have been 179 shootings, 77 homicides and 54 carjacking in 2021 to date. Numbers are expected to skyrocket during the warm summer months.

Viewpoint: Candidates lining up to fill Troy Carter’s state Senate seat

With victory firmly in hand, U.S. Rep.-elect Troy Carter is wrapping up his work in Baton Rouge in preparation for his move to Washington, D.C. After his resignation today (April 29) from the Louisiana Senate, Senate President Page Cortez called the election for June 12 with a runoff if necessary on July 10. Qualifying will take place next week: May 5, 6 and 7. Five diverse candidates are already considering the race for this West Bank seat: former state Sen. David Heitmeier, state Rep. Mack Cormier, state Rep. Rodney Lyons, Belle Chasse political insider Joanna Leopold, and Carter’s nephew, state Rep. Gary M. Carter Jr. 

Long-time Democrats, the Heitmeiers have been political players on the West Bank for decades. Before David Heitmeier ran for office in 2007, his brother Francis C. Heitmeier served in the Legislature for 16 years. An Algiers-based optometrist, Heitmeier chaired the Senate’s Health and Welfare Committee and was a member of the Environmental Quality, the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, and the Transportation, Highways and Public Works committees.  

He chose not to seek re-election for personal reasons in 2015, a decision that paved the way for then-Rep. Troy Carter to move to the upper chamber in 2016.

Viewpoint: Oscar nod for ‘Time’ could bring international attention to Louisiana’s prison system

Sibil Fox and Rob Richardson (also known as Fox and Rob Rich) are among a handful of New Orleanians who have a personal stake in Sunday night’s 2021 Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences Awards. The poignant film about their two-decade-long effort to find justice in what is often considered a racially charged and overly harsh prison-industrial complex, “Time,” is a favorite for Best Documentary Feature. 

Also up for Oscar consideration is “One Night in Miami,” which was shot in New Orleans and LaPlace, as well as musical works by New Orleans natives and NOCCA graduates Terence Blanchard and Jon Batiste, who have been nominated in the Best Score category. LSU grad Steven Soderbergh is one of the event’s producers. “Time” is only the second documentary post-Katrina New Orleans to be nominated for an Oscar. New Orleans-based award-winning filmmaker and Loyola University instructor Garrett Bradley directed “Time.”

Viewpoint: Inclement weather and apathy inhibit early voting

Although state Sens. Troy Carter and Karen Carter Peterson have continued to campaign almost around the clock, days of heavy rainfall coupled with a general lack of interest has led to exceedingly low early voting numbers in the Second Congressional District race to replace Cedric Richmond, now a high-ranking aide to President Joe Biden. Early voting ends Saturday (April 17). In Orleans Parish so far, voting is down more than 50% from the March primary election. By Thursday, with just two days of early voting remaining, only 6,909 Orleans Parish residents had cast their votes including 6,062 Democrats, 288 Republicans and 559 Independents. 

With no Republican in the runoff, some pundits believe that Republican voters will decide which Democrat is elected.

Viewpoint: It’s hard for law-abiding citizens to get justice these days

It probably was a case of mistaken identity that could have turned deadly for Jhamal Shelby Jr., a soft-spoken St. Augustine High School star athlete and honor student.  

One recent afternoon after practice, Shelby drove to his father’s home in New Orleans East. Before he could park his car, a young man jumped out of a nearby vehicle and began shooting. Eighteen shots were fired before the perpetrators fled the scene. One bullet visibly grazed the side of Shelby’s head and damaged his eyesight.

Viewpoint: Returning tourists drive New Orleans business recovery

City College of San Francisco biology professor Jonathan Siekmann was enjoying his visit to New Orleans when he spotted Meyer the Hatter, known to be the South’s largest hat store. Within minutes, Siekmann was sporting a new Panama-style straw to shield him from the Louisiana sun. “The pandemic has been a struggle. It was the worst business climate I’ve ever seen in my 46 years selling hats,” said Paul Meyer, a fourth generation hatter. “We depend on tourists and, until recently, there just weren’t any.”

Meyer’s great-great grandfather Samuel H. Meyer started the business in 1894 on St.

Viewpoint: Did James Singleton Charter School and Dryades YMCA officials put children at risk?

The Dryades YMCA and its affiliate programs, including the School of Commerce and the James M. Singleton Charter School, have played an important role in providing recreational and educational services to New Orleanians for almost a century. The Dryades Y is well known for its child care services, aquatics programs, mobile youth pantry, young filmmakers’ workshop and, formerly, Midnight Basketball. 

The Dryades School of Commerce goes back to 1928, when it began offering classes in clerical skills such as bookkeeping, speedwriting and typing. With the leadership of District B Councilman Jay Banks, the School of Commerce currently operates a state-certified program to train licensed practical nurses. Under the direction of Principal Erika Mann, the James M. Singleton Charter School has successfully raised the test scores of their students, many of whom are considered disadvantaged. The Dryades Y board of directors includes respected members of the community such as cultural leader Barbara Lacen Keller, the Rev. Tom Watson, investment consultant Ed Shanklin, attorney Carlos Hornbrook and contractor Cedric Patin. 

Now a story in The Lens has revealed that the charter school reportedly falsified some of the criminal background checks required for school employees.