Viewpoint: It’s time for action from all criminal justice partners

Every partner in New Orleans criminal justice system is partially responsible for the city’s spiraling crime rate and every partner must do their job to help alleviate it, Councilman at-large JP Morrell said on WWL-TV earlier today (Jan. 20). “People are afraid to leave their homes,” Morrell said. “No one is walking in their neighborhoods.”

The City Council has begun two days of criminal justice hearings, which are already exposing the deep rifts between cops, prosecutors and judges. District Attorney Jason Williams said yesterday that New Orleanians want and deserve to be safe.

Viewpoint: City leaders must work together to get a grip on crime

As with most mayors entering a new term, LaToya Cantrell delivered an upbeat message at Monday’s Covid-restricted inauguration on the steps of Gallier Hall: Though New Orleans has endured a tough four years, citizens are resilient and many opportunities lie ahead. “Our time is now, and the best is yet to come,” Cantrell proclaimed. Like many New Orleanians, I soaked up her words, wanting to believe the city will change. It wasn’t long before the latest crime statistics brought me back to reality. Just 13 days into the New Year, seven innocent people have died.

Viewpoint: Crime and Covid will not mix well with Carnival

It’s Twelfth Night. I rushed out this morning to the King Cake Hub’s annual Carnival Kick Off Party, held this year at Zony Mash Beer Project. As I surveyed all the offerings, I couldn’t help but wonder what kind of impact Mardi Gras will have on Covid and crime, both of which continue to break records. Carnival should be a record-breaking event as well. People are tired of being cooped up and want to celebrate.

Viewpoint: Covid and crime are raging as New Orleanians prepare to ring in the new year

More than 6,000 new Covid-19 cases were identified in Louisiana on Wednesday (Dec. 29). A teenage boy was injured in the second of two Desire-area shootings Tuesday evening. Three lions at the Audubon Zoo tested positive for Covid on Wednesday. In a case of mistaken identity, 7-year-old Dillan Burton was shot to death Sunday night in Algiers while riding in her mother’s car.

Viewpoint: What health risks are you willing to take during the holidays?

Semi-retired businessman Leo Marsh and his daughter Helen rose early Wednesday morning to be among the first in line to receive the city’s free Covid-19 home testing kits. “While we are both fully vaccinated, we wanted to be able to test in advance of seeing family members and friends,” said Marsh, a former AT&T executive. A limited number of kits were available at four New Orleans fire stations “in anticipation of a surge in omicron cases during the busy holiday season,” according to a city-issued press release. 

People around the world have been making difficult decisions about how they will celebrate the winter holidays. Should they continue with travel plans to visit family and friends, or should they keep their guard up and stay close to home? “An event canceled is better than a life canceled,” said World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

Viewpoint: Political action committees made the difference in the runoff elections

It was no surprise that long-time criminal justice reform advocate Norris Henderson was standing right behind newly elected Sheriff Susan Hutson and her most powerful ally, District Attorney Jason Williams, at Saturday night’s election celebration. Most experts say Hutson would never be about to become the parish’s first female sheriff without the outside funds from political action committees operated by Henderson and others. “PAC funds are the new tool in everyone’s political tool box. Though the candidates cannot control them, PACs have become a very effective way to either support or attack a candidate,” said one consultant. PACs can receive unlimited contributions but cannot coordinate with candidates directly.

Viewpoint: Opponents of the affordable housing tax are making the perfect the enemy of the good

New Orleans is in the midst of an affordable housing crisis that can only be mitigated by addressing the racial equity needs of the city’s most marginalized citizens, said Andreanecia Morris, who leads the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance (GNOHA). A respected affordable housing professional, Morris is having a hard time understanding the mindset of groups, including the Bureau of Governmental Research, that are either neutral or opposed to the renewal of the city’s property tax dedicated to increased affordable housing and blight elimination. The proposition appears on the ballot this Saturday (Dec. 11). If voters reject the renewal, the tax will expire at the end of the year.

Viewpoint: Progressives show mainstream clout in the sheriff’s race

With the Dec. 11 runoff election just nine days away, the candidates and the political action committees behind them are wasting no time getting out their last-minute messages — mostly in the form of attacks. Though not officially on the ballot, the construction of an 89-bed special needs jail is at the heart of this year’s competition between Sheriff Marlin Gusman and former Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson. Gusman won 48% of the vote in the primary while Hutson ran second with 32%.  

With the Sheriff’s Office still under the federal consent decree, U.S. District Judge Lance Africk’s posturing has made it clear: build a special needs jail from scratch and commit the resources to operate it or face the consequences. It’s hard to disagree in public with a federal judge.

Viewpoint: Will incumbents rule the day in Saturday’s election?

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s re-election became even more of a certainty after her announcement Tuesday (Nov. 9) that she is abandoning the idea of relocating City Hall to the Municipal Auditorium in Armstrong Park. Even with the anti-Cantrell vote and the personal support her 13 opponents have garnered, Cantrell is still expected to take it in the first round. Four years ago she won with 60% of the vote. Opponents who could win at least a small portion of the votes include small business owner Vina Nguyen, fitness expert Leilani Heno and activist Belden Batiste. 

Many of the other incumbents on the ballot might not coast to victory as easily as Cantrell.