Viewpoint: Support public safety officers threatened with furloughs

People are getting desperate. Led by an increase in homicides and aggravated assaults, the crime wave sweeping across New Orleans and America can be blamed in large part on COVID-19 and the economic turmoil it has caused. A recent Council on Criminal Justice analysis of homicide rates in 27 U.S. cities found that the sheer number of crimes increased sharply during the summer months.  Overall domestic violence and carjackings are also skyrocketing together with drug and gang violence.  

Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s almost singular focus on reducing the virus in Orleans Parish has successfully limited hospitalizations and deaths, especially as the virus’ latest wave is wreaking havoc nationally. We applaud her for those efforts. Yet its accompanying financial devastation is driving up crime in New Orleans as desperate individuals resort to reckless acts to put a few dollars in their pockets.  

Along with a very real concern about how to pay the bills during New Orleans’ stalled economic recovery are factors such as an increase in gun sales, mental health issues such as depression, boredom and a lack of interaction with others. 

New Orleans is a poor city where the Police Department has perpetually been understaffed and underpaid by regional and national standards.

Viewpoint: Women of color and progressives ruled the day in Orleans Parish races

From Keva Landrum to Chanel Payne, women of color and younger progressive-minded voters were the big winners in New Orleans’ election earlier this week.  Women of color were candidates in 21 of the 25 local races on the ballot and won outright or earned a runoff slot in almost every one. 

Progressives qualified for many of the School Board and judicial seats. It’s not just the candidates who were the victors but the men and women behind the scenes who poured their sweat and hard-earned money into the contests. A much-needed new generation of elected officials and consultants will continue to emerge. In the race for district attorney, former Judge Keva Landrum benefited from strong fundraising and her ability to stay on message despite attacks by outside interests. She also has to thank her besties, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson and Mayor LaToya Cantrell, for their push.

Viewpoint: Time is running out to vote by mail

Like almost every other city and town in the nation, New Orleans enjoyed a record-breaking early voting period during which 98,259 Orleans Parish residents cast their votes for president, seven constitutional amendments, sports betting, and an alphabet soup of local races. While the vast majority of Orleans voters – 86,979 – visited one of the five early voting locations, 11,280 citizens mailed in their ballots. Almost 100 mail-in ballots have been received since early voting ending. Today (Oct. 30) at 4:30 p.m. is the last day and time to request a mail-in ballot.

Viewpoint: Business leaders eyeing potential challengers to Mayor Cantrell

Although qualifying for New Orleans mayor, City Council and other municipal offices is still eight months away, many of the same conservative business leaders who gave Mayor LaToya Cantrell the seed money that launched her campaign have begun the painstaking search for a new candidate. “LaToya won’t be mayor much longer,” said one multi-millionaire businessperson who was an enthusiastic early donor. Though many business owners had become disenchanted with Mayor Cantrell, they were willing to work with her for another four years until COVID-19 soured relationships.  “I’m not surprised that the business community is going to put a candidate up against the mayor,” said Ed Chervenak, UNO political scientist. “They are upset that she is not following the lead of Gov. Edwards, who has opened up the state much quicker than Mayor Cantrell has opened up Orleans Parish.

Viewpoint: An open letter to Mayor Cantrell: Only New Orleans can save New Orleans

Dear Mayor LaToya Cantrell:

Long gone are the days when the Louisiana Legislature is willing or even able to solve New Orleans’ financial problems, especially in the years of ever-tightening budgets and Republican dominance of the upper and lower chambers. Though we appreciate you asking state leaders for an extra share of available federal dollars, surely you knew in advance it was a futile attempt.  

Every city and town in Louisiana is hurting, especially those that have been hit once or even twice by storms this season. Legislators are elected to bring home the bacon. How could they explain to constituents that additional funding for New Orleans should be their priority?    

The very people that can save New Orleans from even greater economic disaster are the citizens of New Orleans – the business owners small and large who are desperate for customers; the Saints fans who want to watch the games from inside the Superdome; the music lovers who want to dance at Tips, the Maple Leaf or on Frenchmen Street; the foodies who want to linger inside their favorite bistros or savor chef Meg Bickford’s new Sunday brunch at Commander’s Palace.  

The ongoing regional and national media coverage detailing New Orleans still-strict COVID-19 restrictions has scared away many potential visitors. It has put a damper on conventions returning, on national developers’ willingness to invest in our city, and on the ability of too many citizens to eat, pay the rent and keep their utilities on.  

We’re proud of your role in ensuring that Louisiana is one of the few states that has handled COVID-19 effectively and that cases are not exploding in our city.

Viewpoint: Campaign finance reports provide bird’s-eye view of race

With the Nov. 3 elections just weeks away, the newly released campaign finance reports provide a long-awaited snapshot on how the various local races are unfolding. Several trends are evident.  

Money is tight in almost every race across the board, forcing most candidates to dip into their own pockets to keep going and also attract donors large and small from outside the region. With the exception of law firms and supporters of the new PAC for Justice, many members of the business community have been sitting these races out, perhaps not realizing how important they are to public safety and quality of life. Finally, a number of more progressive donors, their associated consultants and style of campaigning are bringing generational change to our politics.  

Going into the final few weeks, which judicial candidate reported the most cash on hand?

Viewpoint: To combat potential voter intimidation, make sure you’re vote-ready

Although Olga J. Hedge Pedesclaux was born after women earned the right to vote, as a Black female, she faced down intimidation registering to vote in the 1940s. “They didn’t want us voting and threw all kinds of barriers in the way,” said Pedesclaux, a 96-year-old Donaldsonville native now living in Gentilly.  

The mother of former City Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, Pedesclaux remembers that it took several trips to New Orleans City Hall to finally get registered. On her first attempt, officials asked Pedesclaux, then 20, to recite the entire Preamble to the Constitution of the United States.  

Pedesclaux forgot to wear her wedding ring on her second try and was rejected for lying about her marital status. On the third attempt, she brought along the neighborhood ward boss, who simply stood in the back of the room while Pesdesclaux successfully completed the necessary paperwork.  

Because of the intimidation she encountered just to get registered, Pedesclaux considers voting a sacred honor. “There is no reason anybody shouldn’t vote in every election,” she said. 

Although Pedesclaux is eligible to vote by mail, she prefers to cast her ballot in person during the early voting period.  “There is something special about going to the polls to vote,” she said.

Viewpoint: America needs leadership from a ‘gumbo coalition,’ Marc Morial says

National Urban League President and former Mayor New Orleans Marc Morial was born to lead.  His parents, former Mayor Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial and educator Sybil Haydel Morial, wouldn’t have had it any other way. From his NORD playground days as a national champion Little League football star to his groundbreaking work in civil rights and economic empowerment, Morial has united voices and created meaningful change first in Louisiana and later across the globe.  

“A good gumbo depends on diversity and inclusion, the very thing companies, schools and institutions of all kinds find themselves wrestling with,” Morial said, discussing his new book “The Gumbo Coalition: 10 Leadership Lessons That Help You Inspire, Unite and Achieve.”

He believes that most leaders of large organizations are not taking full advantage of America’s “incredible diversity.”  

“America needs a national Gumbo Coalition movement right now because the ingredients for the most diverse gumbo in the world are already at our fingertips,” said Morial. “We have all the spices and flavors to create all manner of coalitions.”  

One of only 14 Black students out of 1,000 at Jesuit High School, Morial graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and Georgetown University before returning home to become a member of the Louisiana State Senate in 1992 and mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002. While mayor, Morial addressed corruption at the New Orleans Police Department, reduced violent crime by almost 60%, renamed and improved the Louisiana Armstrong New Orleans International Airport and accelerated economic growth. 

He also expanded the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, beefed up year-round youth programming, increased home ownership, initiated the return of the historic Canal and Rampart streetcars, strengthened ties to Latin America and the Caribbean, and brought NBA basketball back of New Orleans.  During his final year as mayor, Morial served as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. He was selected to lead the National Urban League in 2003. 

Morial coined the phrase “Gumbo Coalition” after a campaign supporter prepared gumbo for a party being hosted in his honor.

Viewpoint: Does Churchill Downs prioritize gaming over horse racing?

In a decision that critics say speaks directly to corporate greed, Churchill Downs is challenging the Louisiana State Racing Commission’s emergency ruling that requires Churchill to temporarily take in 500 horses displaced from Delta Downs by Hurricane Laura. The showdown will take place Friday, Sept. 11, in front of Judge Sidney Cates in Orleans Parish Civil District Court. 

Churchill Downs, the owner of the Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots since 2004, grew from a one race-track company to a publicly traded conglomerate with multiple tracks, casinos and the country’s leading online wagering operation. They offer 800 video poker games at 13 facilities in Louisiana.    

Horsemen are puzzled because they know Churchill has the extra barn space needed for Delta’s horses and that it would be compensated for the additional operating expenses. But Churchill would not reap the same profit from horses as online wagering and video poker.