Viewpoint: If not the Municipal Auditorium, what could become the next City Hall?

While Mayor LaToya Cantrell told members of the Save Our Soul (SOS) coalition Tuesday that she was “good” with the Municipal Auditorium not becoming the next City Hall, the historic structure remains her first choice probably because of the $38 million allocation from FEMA that comes with it. 

Cantrell has given SOS a 90-day deadline to come up with a solid, fully funded plan to renovate, operate and maintain the auditorium. In the event that SOS successfully meets that goal, city officials might want to start looking at other suitable ›locations across New Orleans. If the prevailing sentiment is to stay in the downtown area, the Plaza Tower could be ripe for the picking. The 485,000-square-foot building features 45 floors, 13 elevators and its own parking garage. There’s even a separate parking lot for sale directly behind the building.

Viewpoint: Incumbents and their challengers qualify to run in the fall elections

Dozens of candidates and their handlers headed to Criminal District Court early Wednesday (July 14) to beat the long lines of those expected to qualify for the fall municipal elections. While Sheriff Marlin Gusman drew the coveted No. 1 ticket, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Assessor Erroll Williams and many others patiently waited their turn. It’s always fun to watch the maneuvering as candidates jockey for attention. Although Cantrell drew seven opponents, she is still positioned to glide to victory.

Viewpoint: Candidates starting to line up for fall municipal elections

A large crowd gathered Wednesday evening (July 7) at Calcasieu in the Warehouse District to show their support for City Council President Helena Moreno, one of dozens of candidates who will be qualifying next week for various municipal offices. Popular with voters, Moreno has put together a substantive war chest, which makes her a formidable candidate. Only affordable housing activist and former candidate Kenneth Cutno has signaled he will run against her for the City Council at-large position. 

There is lots of competition in many of the other races. Former state Sen. J.P. Morrell will face off for the other council at-large seat against two current City Council members: Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Jared Brossett, who is term-limited. Morrell is well-situated financially.

Viewpoint: Councilman Joe Giarrusso kicks off his campaign for a second term with talk of ‘smart growth’

District A Councilman Joseph Giarrusso told several hundred supporters at Ralph’s on the Park last week that he has spent his first years in office building relationships and working on major issues but that there is much more to accomplish. The fundraising event officially kicked off Giarrusso’s campaign for a second term. “When I ran last time as a first-time candidate, you bet on me not knowing what you were going to get,” he told his supporters. Giarrusso said he has worked hard on the three areas he knew were important to his constituents: economic development, crime and infrastructure in District A, which includes portions of Uptown, Mid-City, Bayou St. John and Lakeview.

Viewpoint: Second Amendment supporters pleased with 2021 legislative session

It was a productive legislative session for advocates of the Second Amendment, according to attorney Dan Zelenka, president of the Louisiana Shooting Association. “Overall, the 2021 session was quite good,” Zelenka said. “Four of the five bills our statewide organization supported — HB 48, HB 124, HB 597 and SB 118 — are now sitting on Gov. John Bel Edwards’ desk awaiting his signature.”

Although three of the four pieces of legislation sailed through both chambers without significant opposition, Gov. Edwards could decide to veto SB 118, known as the concealed-carry bill. Introduced by state Sen. Jay Morris, R-West Monroe, and passed by a veto-proof majority, the law would allow Louisiana residents who are otherwise qualified to carry a concealed firearm to now do so without first obtaining a concealed weapons permit. Louisiana has always been a state with powerful pro-gun legislative leaders and zealous gun enthusiasts.

Viewpoint: State Police presence is only a Band-Aid to cover the city’s real crime problem

Operation Golden Eagle, the new collaborative partnership between the Louisiana State Police and the New Orleans Police Department, began Tuesday (June 1). Though Mayor LaToya Cantrell is unable to quantify exactly how many state troopers are participating, both she and NOPD Superintendent Shaun D. Ferguson are quick to note that the emphasis is on “constitutional policing.”  The State Police officers will also be working in crime-ridden neighborhoods outside the French Quarter.  
In the aftermath of the revelations about Ronald Green’s beating death by State Police officer Lt. John Clary in 2019, some Black leaders are fearful of State Police presence in New Orleans this summer. State troopers attempted to pull Greene over for an unspecified traffic violation on a dark, rural roadside outside of Monroe. After a high-speed chase, Greene was shackled, put in a chokehold, punched, dragged and prodded repeatedly with a stun gun.  The Louisiana State Police covered up that night’s details for almost two years. 

New Orleans had its own police brutality and cover-up problems just after Hurricane Katrina, as seen in the police shootings on the Danzinger Bridge. In the months surrounding the storm, citizens relied on and needed the NOPD to restore order and prevent looting.

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.