Monday, October 2, 2017

No-Nonsense Voter Education Guide for New Orleans' Primary Election, October 14, 2017


Wow, this election is chock-full of candidates for all kinds of offices! This month, we choose a new mayor, new City Council reps, judges, court clerks, Treasurer, and we decide on some Constitutional Amendments and Citywide Propositions to boot. Some of these races will decide the runoff candidates for November’s elections, so tie your laces and get voting—it’s a big day for New Orleans!

EARLY VOTING
Vote early and vote often! If you are registered and don’t care, please find someone who is currently incarcerated, on parole, undocumented, or otherwise disenfranchised from voting, but wants their opinions heard. You can vote for their interests.

Saturday, September 30—October 7 (Not Sunday) 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

Registrar's Office (City Hall)
RM 1W23; 1300 Perdido St.  70112

Registrar's Office (Algiers Courthouse)
RM 105; 225 Morgan St.  70114

Voting Machine Warehouse
8870 Chef Menteur Highway  70127

Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 2nd floor meeting room

Depending on where you live, your ballot may differ from this guide. Visit voterportal.sos.la.gov to view your ballot by your name or address.

Interestingly, progressive community groups got an early start shaping the dialogue on the upcoming election:

An Indivisible NOLA-sponsored mayoral debate in mid-June launched the platform put forward by the People’s Assembly, which calls for $15 minimum wages, rent controls, a hospitality workers’ "bill of rights," funding to relocate those living on the former Agriculture Street landfill, and improved 24/7 RTA service.

Before the end of July, Step Up Louisiana announced 20 candidates who support their 3 Point Economic Justice Platform: $15 Minimum Wage, Equal Pay For Equal Work for Women, and Ban the Box - Fair Chance.

Forward New Orleans, a coalition of community groups, asked candidates to make a pledge for their platform, which includes directions such as “develop a coordinated strategic plan for improving the criminal and juvenile justice systems within 12 months of taking office.” Many candidates—even those who submitted stipulations to these platforms—have been influenced to focus their campaigns on such forward-thinking issues.

Only time will tell how/if these candidates will follow through with their campaign promises. But in the meantime, we’ll give you the run-down on our best guesses.

TREASURER
"Ron" Ceasar (Independent, disqualified due to unpaid fines dating to 2011 gubernatorial campaign)
Angele Davis (Republican)
Derrick Edwards (Democrat)
Terry Hughes (Republican)
Joseph D. Little (Libertarian)
Neil Riser (Republican)
John Schroder (Republican)

Though the Treasurer doesn’t have a lot of direct political clout, many heavy-hitters like Mary Landrieu and John Kennedy—who vacated this position after holding it for 17 years—used the position to ascend to the U.S. Senate. Whoever wins will be responsible for Louisiana’s investments, maintaining liquid assets for the Governor’s projects, as well as approving State construction projects.

Despite not having obtained the official Democratic Party endorsement, the only Democrat in this race, attorney Derrick Edwards, is polling well. His main platform plank is to put the unclaimed property registry online, which is, sadly, a novel practice in Louisiana governance. Quadriplegic from a high school football accident, Edwards works as a motivational speaker. He claims that his ability to overcome adversity in life makes him well-suited to bringing accountability and transparency to the Treasurer’s office.

Republican and NRA member Angele Davis touts her experience in budget management under the quasi-broke Bobby Jindal administration, which is like waving a giant red flag in voters’ eyes. She aligns herself with Trump’s agenda to acquire public financing of private economic development projects.

Republican State Senator and former Chairman of the State Senate Revenue and Fiscal Affairs Committee Neil Riser has had some terrible ideas: He introduced legislation to restrict bathroom access to transgender people, and advocated for looser gun laws and stricter immigration policies. Though these issues are not relevant to the Treasurer’s duties, Riser has stated he’s not afraid to take on “controversial issues.” Backed by Jindal, the Republican Party, and the northern Louisiana political establishment, Riser opposes tax increases in general, and received an A+ rating from the NRA.

Covington Republican and former House Rep John Schroder is the best-funded candidate in this race. His main goal is to cut the State budget, and he has gone to bat with both Jindal and current Governor Edwards on this issue. He was removed from the House Appropriations Committee, supposedly for opposing annual pay raises for state employees.

Lafayette Republican and oilman Terry Hughes is self-funding his campaign, claiming that he will “bring the state back without levying additional taxes.” OK, Terry. I hope you know something about math that we don’t.

Lake Charles Libertarian and mail carrier Joseph Little has a luxurious mustache and a vision for a “blue-collar” Treasury. His vision is to post the State budget on the Treasurer’s website. He also supports State Constitutional measures that make it easier to own and use guns. That is about all we could find on him.

Summary: All of these Republicans will probably be terrible. Edwards will probably not be terrible.

JUDGE, COURT OF APPEAL 4TH CIRCUIT
1ST DISTRICT, DIVISION B
Tiffany Gautier Chase (Democrat)
Tracey Flemings-Davillier (Democrat)

This race pits two New Orleanian judges for a seat on the bench of the Appeals Court, which sits in between New Orleans Civil District Court and the State Supreme Court.

Tiffany Chase ran for Appeals Court in March, narrowly losing to Paula Brown. A former State Supreme Court clerk and current Civil District Court judge, Chase seeks to improve Appeals Court access by establishing a “Self-Help Desk,” a popular initiative she spearheaded at Civil District Court. An ally of community movements, Chase has been endorsed by the United Teachers of New Orleans, the Alliance for Good Government, and the majority of the membership of the New Orleans Bar Association.

Tracey Flemings-Davillier worked as a civil attorney for the 16 years leading up to her election to the Criminal District Court. She has volunteered a great deal of time as pro bono counsel to youth caught in the juvenile justice system, citing this experience as her impetus to seek the judgeship. As judge, she has overseen an enormous caseload of criminal matters, including the prosecution of the 110’ers gang (a 10th and 11th Ward street gang implicated in a violent turf war with other gangs, including the Get Money Boyz from the 12th Ward and the Young Melph Mafia from the 3rd Ward. A five-year-old girl and a 33-year-old woman were killed when the 110'ers opened fire on a unsuspecting group of partygoers in Central City on May 29, 2012). Flemings-Davillier’s courtroom efficiency has been criticized by the Metropolitan Crime Commission, which calculated that the average felony case took 154% longer to be resolved by her than other judges. Flemings-Davillier has collected a mixed-bag of support from State Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center, and the New Orleans Pro Bono Project, as well as D.A. Leon Cannizzaro and City Councilmember Stacy Head.

Summary: Though we appreciate Flemings-Davillier’s community service engagement and criminal law experience, we think Chase will be the more progressive judge.

JUDGE CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, DIVISION J
Omar Mason (Democrat)
Edward "Ed" Morris (Democrat)
Morris Reed Jr. (Democrat)
D. Nicole Sheppard (Democrat)

This judgeship, vacated due to Paula Brown’s election to Appeals Court, oversees civil law matters in Orleans Parish.

Business attorney Omar Mason is the preferred candidate of the New Orleans Bar Association membership. He has represented the gaming industry as well as defendants in asbestos claims.

Ordained minister Edward Morris seeks a “biblical” and “servant-leader model of leadership” (#ServantLeader) in this post, promising to use his experience as legal counsel to the Orleans Parish School Board in representing the best interests of New Orleanians.

You may recognize Morris “Moe” Reed, Jr. from his highway billboards advertising services for victims of traffic accidents. Son of the New Orleans NAACP president, Reed withdrew his candidacy for Orleans Parish School Board after drawing criticism over social media posts related to the gunman who shot two Dallas cops last year ("Can we shoot police when they walk up to our cars now and say we feared for our lives?" reads one). He also represented the woman who sued Huck Finn’s Cafe in 2015 after finding the “N word” printed on her receipt.

Television talk show host, attorney, and college professor Nicole Sheppard ran unsuccessfully for Orleans Parish Traffic Court in 2013, though she was able to establish the first (and hugely popular) Traffic Court Violation Amnesty Day. She promotes HIV-testing among religious communities in New Orleans, and is endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government. She organizes an annual conference on domestic violence, and volunteers pro bono legal services to individuals seeking expungements of criminal records.

Summary: Sheppard seems like she knows what’s going on.

SHERIFF
Fredrick "Freddy" Brooks (disqualified for failing to file state income tax returns for several years)
Marlin Gusman (Democrat, unopposed)

Summary: We’re stuck with Sheriff Gusman again.

CLERK
CIVIL DISTRICT COURT
Dale Atkins (Democrat, unopposed)

CLERK
CRIMINAL DISTRICT COURT
Danil Faust (Green, disqualified from qualifying as a Green Party candidate when he was registered as a Democrat)
Arthur A. Morrell (Democrat, unopposed)

ASSESSOR
Anthony Brown (Democrat, disqualified for failing to file state income tax returns for the past two years. How you gonna try to be the TAX assessor if you don’t pay your own taxes?)
Erroll G. Williams (Democrat, unopposed)

CORONER
Dwight McKenna  (Democrat)
Jeffrey Rouse (Democrat, not actually running)

Current Coroner Jeffrey Rouse decided to abandon his re-election bid, but missed the deadline to officially withdraw from the race. His name will still appear on the ballot, and you can vote for him. If elected, he will have to accept the position, then resign, resulting in a special election in the spring.

Summary: McKenna, who served federal time for tax evasion in the 1990s, will likely be our Coroner. We’re not thrilled with him and this weird sham “vote.” A vote for Rouse would be a vote for a re-do in March.

MAYOR
Thomas J. Albert Jr. (Democrat)
Charles Anderson (Democrat)
Michael Bagneris (Democrat)
"Manny Chevrolet" Bruno (No Party)
Edward "Ed" Bruski (Independent)
LaToya Cantrell (Democrat)
Desiree M. Charbonnet (Democrat)
Byron Stephan Cole (No Party)
Edward Collins Sr. (Democrat)
Brandon Dorrington (Democrat)
Troy Henry (Democrat)
Matthew Hill (No Party)
Derrick O'Brien Martin (No Party)
Frank Scurlock (Democrat)
Johnese Smith (Democrat)
Patrick Van Hoorebeek (Independent)
Tommie A. Vassel (Democrat)
Hashim Walters (Independent)

Looks like we’ve got a full house for this primary race, friends! Here’s the breakdown:

Dr. Thomas Albert, Jr. claims to have the “mind of a miser” needed to best manage New Orleanians’ “hard-earned money taken away by the tax-collector.” He uses alarmist and racialized tactics to decry violent crime in our city, claiming “we are in despair.” While Albert does propose to do away with traffic cameras, his other dollar-saving ideas are rooted in the reduction of taxes and city expenses which will only lead to a reduction in social services that might actually prevent crime.

Artist Charles Anderson bases his campaign goals off the model of CeaseFire, a successful national homicide reduction program. He hopes to achieve citywide nonviolence by employing peer mentors in violence “hotspots,” an effort he believes will affirm the “dignity and worth of the human life.”

Retired Civil District Court Judge and former mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris plans to recruit more cops from the ranks of retired NOPD officers (huh?). He promotes the manufacture of “nuts and bolts” from the steel imported through the Port of New Orleans. He also wants to fight crime through the use of “crime cameras” and improved police retention. Choice quote: “We will never stop the bleeding if we can’t stop the blue hemorrhage.”

Bagneris earned the endorsement of the Alliance for Good Government and split the New Orleans Coalition’s endorsement with Latoya Cantrell. He’s the second highest earner in campaign contributions, with significant influence from Frank Stewart, the guy who bought full page advertisements from The Times-Picayune and filled them with complaints against Landrieu.

This is “Manny Chevrolet” Bruno’s fifth attempt running for mayor. Using humor to bring attention to corruption, Bruno says, “Who better to run a dysfunctional place than a dysfunctional man?”

Air Force veteran and oncology nurse Edward “Isn’t It Time For A” Bruski has made drug addiction a main concern of his campaign. He seeks expanded mental health treatment facilities as both a support measure for people who use drugs, as well as a method to reduce the jail population. He also wants to fund more vocational programs for youth who don’t go to college. Of Landrieu’s program to close all bars at 3 a.m., Bruski states, “George Orwell is turning over in his grave.”

As early as January, a huge billboard with “LaToya” in block letters graced the Pontchartrain Expressway. LaToya Cantrell released a statement saying it wasn’t hers and extending “support to each and every LaToya who calls New Orleans home,” which is cute. Indeed, this LaToya ranks #1 for name recognition in the mayoral race—by design. Her mayoral aspirations have been a subject all year, as Cantrell publicly demonstrated her oppositional stances to Mayor Landrieu’s recent initiatives (most notably her flip-flopping on the monument removal issue). She uses key phrases like “meet people where they’re at” to the point of repetition that we’re not sure she even knows what she’s saying.

Before her first run for City Council in 2012, Cantrell was pretty active with Broadmoor community organizing which, to be clear, is a broad movement of cooperative and collaborative action, not a one-woman show. To her great credit, she is lauded by many civil rights activists for her support of immigrant communities in our City. She was the author of 2016's Welcoming Cities initiative.

She earned the endorsement of Step Up LouisianaEuropean Dissent, Voters Organized to Educate, the Independent Women's Organization and a split endorsement from The New Orleans Coalition. Unlike most candidates in this race, Cantrell does have a legislative record for us to look at, which was conflicting on zoning and short term rental regulations, wishy-washy on monument removal, and criticized for being overly broad and toothless regarding the Mardi Gras clean-up and citywide anti-smoking ordinances. Cantrell postponed her rental regulations legislation, which was slated for proposal in 2015.

Her fellow city council members have remarked that Cantrell’s modus operandi is to move at a fast pace and keep the discussions insular, which is worrisome. In one zoning issue, when a working group failed to achieve consensus, Cantrell seemingly greenlit a 20-story budget hotel on Canal Street, though the company later withdrew its proposal. For an STR-complaint in the Irish Channel, which the City Planning Commission voted unanimously on, Cantrell made a motion to overrule the Planning Commission and approve the homeowner’s request to AirBNB the whole property. Additionally, Cantrell’s failure to pay enough federal taxes from 2010-2012 doesn’t sit well.

Desiree Charbonnet has been lauded by public defenders and politicos alike for her affect on the bench. She was, up until recently, the chief judge of Municipal Court, where she said, “I’m always looking for ways to divert non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system because over the years I’ve not seen that having any kind of a positive effect on crime or on their lives, either.”

As member of the American Bar Association’s Racial Justice Improvement Project, Charbonnet was inspired to develop diversion programs: a two-year pilot project for people with mental health issues called Community Alternatives Program and Crossroads, for people arrested on prostitution charges, in partnership with Women with a Vision. Charbonnet helped bring Project IMPACT, which offers HIV and HCV testing, to the Orleans Parish Municipal Court. In response to the tireless advocacy of grassroots powerhouse Stand with Dignity, Charbonnet partnered with her colleague at Municipal Court as well as Traffic Court to host a Warrant Clinic. Attended by over a thousand people, the judges offered community service and reduced fines to resolve traffic or other low-level offenses.

In this mayoral race, Charbonnet released an early report on crime-fighting that rankled social justice types, especially when she proposed reducing the amount of money paid by the city to monitor the provisions of the consent decree. Given the emptiness of election season rhetoric, we trust that community members to hold Charbonnet back from the more dystopian police state policies (that we can expect from any of these mayoral hopefuls). 

Charbonnet also developed two other platform planks: affordable housing and economic development. Her economic development priorities are in line with Step Up Louisiana’s 3 Point Economic Platform, even if she didn’t sign on to it.

Charbonnet earned the endorsements (and a suspiciously large amount of $) of a long list of supporters, including labor (AFL-CIO, ILA, UTNO), New Orleans Fire Fighters, the Independent Democratic Electors Association, and a slew of elected officials (hiding at the bottom of that list is a very difficult pill to swallow: DA Leon Cannizzaro, whose public feuds with our current Mayor and City Council have been bombastic).

Attacked on two sides by PACs (unusual because it’s not so much by fellow candidates, which would be standard), negativity directed at Charbonnet is LOUD. Outside of the campaign carnival, there is one issue out there that really does pull her standing down: the rights of immigrants in New Orleans. According to a recent meeting of the Congress of Day Laborers/Congreso de Journaleros, Charbonnet remains the only candidate that is refusing to release a statement supporting immigrants. Congreso and allies are hosting a vigil, scheduled for October 10th, to hold Charbonnet accountable on this issue.

Byron Stephan Cole, the son of the late activist Dyan French "Mama D" Cole, seeks to “upset the set up” by addressing the roots of inequality and racism in our city. He wants to roll back the ferry fare and invest in grassroots-based economic growth.

The only thing we could find out about Edward Collins, Sr. is that he registered for the election using a Chalmette address. Nobody has bothered to try to get him disqualified.

Army veteran and former NOPD criminal justice intern Brandon Dorrington is best known for suing the Orleans Parish School Board and the Louisiana Association of Public Charter Schools in 2014, in objection to the display of pro-tax election signs on public school property.

Earning 14% in the 2010 mayoral race, Troy Henry is a businessman who wants to attract Amazon-level companies for jobs. Henry says he will wage a “War on Thugs and Drugs” and he’ll make it “very very difficult to live in this city” for criminals and their families.

Executive coach (whatever that is) Matthew Hill appears to be running on a libertarian-esque small government platform, but posts videos exclusively about cartoons, cats, and dogs on his social media outlet. He wants to repave all City streets with polystyrene (similar to packing peanuts).

Former NFL employee Derrick O’Brien Martin emphasizes his business development work in Maricopa County, Arizona as his main credential for this office. Having moved to New Orleans five years ago, he now works as Executive Director of the Algiers Economic Development Foundation.

“Anti-Mitch” candidate, bouncy castle entrepreneur, and alleged Uber masturbator Frank Scurlock likens himself to be the Trump figure who will “make New Orleans fun again.” His ideas include the preservation of Confederate monuments and the use of skywriting to promote tourism in New Orleans.

A paralegal for Crescent Care, Johnese Smith reports she was called by G-d to run for this office. She demonstrates a sense of urgency around flood prevention and in streamlining the City’s bidding process for small business contractors. Smith is pro-tourism, which isn’t in and of itself bad, except for her disdain for all the people “begging on the street.”

Patrick’s Bar Vin owner Patrick Van Hoorebeek’s first and seemingly only press engagement as a mayoral candidate was his admission that he had drank several glasses of wine before registering for the election. Other than his “beverage expertise” and sartorial flair, little is known about this candidate’s position on any issue other than fine dining.

Tommie A. Vassel has spent the past four years as Chairman of the Budget Working Group for the Orleans Parish Jail Consent Decree, and has worked as the Chief Financial Officer at the Criminal District Court since 2014. An accountant, he has extensive financial management experience, in addition to decades of volunteer work as a youth mentor. His crime reduction plan is centered around expanding employment opportunities for Black men.

22-year-old Hashim Walters is the youngest candidate for Mayor, and is the self-proclaimed “Mayor for the Millenials.” Endorsed by the Millenial Voter Engagement Initiative (a.k.a. MOVE), he supports the consent decree, local control over public schools, equal pay for women, expansion of low-income housing options, and the creation of two City Council seats to represent New Orleans East.

Summary: In an ideal world, we’d like there to be a fighting chance for some of these lesser-known candidates, though none caught our attention. We think Desiree Charbonnet has some really relevant experience and some really good ideas.

Suggested resources: Sidney Torres' much talked about (Warpath3 Things We LearnedVoice Pac Debate, Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing Forum, Shaping a Livable Historical City forum, Flood Risk and Adapting to Environmental Change forum, South Broad Business Coalition forum, Grade-Level Reading forum, WDSU Debate, and Tribune's FB Interviews.

COUNCILMEMBER AT LARGE
DIVISION 1
Eldon Delloyd "El" Anderson (Democrat, disqualified for failing to file state tax returns between 2012 and 2016)
Joseph "Joe" Bouie (Democrat)
Kenneth Cutno (Democrat)
Helena Moreno (Democrat)

A pretty easy strikeout in this election is Kenneth Cutno, who’s in support of some good things like $18 an hour pay rates and reopening Charity Hospital as a one-stop shop for mental health care, but also in favor of returning to incentivizing Hollywood productions with tax cuts (like the tax cuts during the Jindal administration that cost Louisiana big bucks amidst cuts to healthcare and higher education? No thanks).

Dr. Joe Bouie was fired as SUNO’s Chancellor in 2002 amidst a legislative audit. He tried to bring charter schools back under local control, though his bill was dismissed in in the State legislature. As for his credentials in this race, Bouie touts his decades-ago efforts to establish diversion programs for people who violated drug laws, as well as his current “Community Wealth Building” initiative to promote economic security in under-resourced neighborhoods. Chairman of the Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus, Bouie is Step Up Louisiana’s pick for this race, as well as AFL-CIO’s.

Helena Moreno was born in Mexico, raised in Texas, and located to New Orleans as a WDSU recruit. Winning awards for her post-Katrina journalism, Moreno was inspired to jump into local politics in pursuit of bringing transparency and decency to a pretty corrupt lot. Her first runs at elected office were the stuff of TV drama, with a contentious debate on drug testing—during which she left abruptly to go get tested—and a deeply personal attack for a horrible traffic accident she was involved in (though not at fault). The stuff Moreno has campaigned on is a little weird (during the 2010 run-off she highlighted eliminating pensions for elected officials convicted of crimes while in office), but her accomplishments as State Representative have been solid, especially on the issues of fair pay for women, support for domestic and sexual violence survivors, and opioid overdose rates.

Summary: We like Bouie’s talk about community-based economic development, but Moreno seems to be more of a mover-and-shaker.

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing Forum, WWLTV Debateand Tribune's FB Interviews.

COUNCILMEMBER AT LARGE
DIVISION 2
David Baird (Republican)
Aaron "Ace" Christopher (No Party)
Jason Coleman (Democrat)
David Gregory Nowak (Democrat)
Jason Williams (Incumbent, Democrat)

Three first-time campaigners are in the running for this At-Large seat, which is intended to represent the entire City. The only Republican challenger is David Baird. His main campaign promise is to build monuments to musicians, Native American history, and Louisiana's first Black Lieutenant Governor, Oscar Dunn. Neither he nor the other first-timers reported raising any campaign funds.

Aaron "ACE" Christopher™ proposes de-funding the downtown police state in favor of spending on universal income. His campaign is run exclusively on Facebook and YouTube.

David Nowak is a supporter of the Step Up Louisiana 3 Point Platform, who proposes building tiny homes on vacant city lots to end homelessness by 2025, offering community college for free (especially to NOPD recruits), and instituting Universal Basic Income. His campaign is run on “just tweets.”

Like Nowak, Jason Coleman, heir to Coleman Cabs, supports the Step Up platform. Coleman earned 9% of the vote in 2014 when he challenged Susan Guidry for the District A City Council seat. He hasn’t campaigned much, but he has hung out in City Council chambers, where he vocalized opposition to Uber and Lyft legalisation in 2015.

Incumbent Jason Williams has pulled in all the progressive endorsements in this race: Alliance for Good Government, Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, Independent Women's Organization and New Orleans Coalition. We’ve been pretty happy with his support of Take Em Down NOLA, as well as his pledge to improve resources for people with mental and physical health conditions as well as for people with unstable housing.

Summary: Let’s keep holding Jason Williams accountable as a community representative.

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing Forum, WWLTV Debate, and Tribune's FB Interviews. NOLA Votes 2017: Jason Williams faces 4 challengers in City Council at-large race
COUNCILMEMBER
DISTRICT A
Parts of Uptown, Carrollton, Lakeview, Fairgrounds, City Park and Audubon Park
Aylin Acikalin Maklansky (Democrat)
Joseph "Joe" Giarrusso III (Democrat)
Tilman Hardy (Democrat)
Daniel "Dan" Ring (Democrat)
"Drew" Ward (Democrat)
Toyia Washington-Kendrick (Democrat)

As Susan Guidry vacates her council seat, six Democratic candidates vy for the position. One sucks (Joe Giarrusso), and the other five are supportive of community oversight over police, economic development, and social services to help reduce crime. All are into living wages, though Aylin Maklansky and “Drew” Ward do not endorse Step Up’s call for a $15 hourly wage. Maklansky, who was the Legislative Director for City Councilmember Nadine Ramsey, said instead of a citywide $15 platform, she wants to rework living wage ordinances and build the local economy.

Maklansky seems to be the most qualified candidate by far. Her career began as legislative aide to former United States Senator Mary Landrieu; she was a law clerk to former Judge Nadine Ramsey; and she only just left Ramsey’s City Council office in June, where she was tasked with land use and zoning matters, budget, legislation, and staffing the Committee on Public Works, Sanitation and Environment, and the Special Committee for Youth Services and Empowerment. Maklansky promises to focus on environmental initiatives, and she’s also adept at talking about social issues. For example, when it comes to the War on Drugs, Maklansky proposes the “demand reduction model,” which links prevention providers, treatment services, the criminal justice system, and the community at large. She points out that the City of New Orleans invests no money into treatment services, but spends hundred of millions of dollars combating crime.

Other top contenders include a community development leader and WBOK DJ Tilman Hardy; longtime educator Toyia Washington-Kendrick; and Boston-born Daniel "Dan" Ring. Hardy is the other candidate that sticks out to us: during the Confederate monuments’ removals, he was one of few attempting to engage in dialogue with Confederate-clad protesters. Whether mutual respect was engendered, who knows? He also advocates utilizing data, technology, and volunteer resources to gain consensus around re-prioritizing our city's resources and finding common ground for sustainable community development.

The remaining and least likeable candidates are a linguist and veteran from Alexandria, "Drew" Ward, and Joseph "Joe" Giarrusso III. Readers of Black Rage may recognize the Giarrusso family name. This candidate’s lineage within NOPD and City Council is deeply oppositional to community leaders and groups that have been fighting against police brutality in our communities for many decades. Within that historical context, Giarrusso III’s call for technology to find and track criminals is just way too predatory to even consider his candidacy. Giarrusso also was the sole candidate in this race who would not support the removal of the Confederate monuments. Yet, he’s endorsed by Independent Women’s Organization (IWO), who also endorses Aylin Acikalin Maklansky. Get with it, IWO.

"Drew" Ward, meanwhile, lashed out against Susan Guidry after she won the 2014 elections, calling her a “bitch,” among other unacceptable descriptors. He did apologize at an IWO debate  this July, but it’s too little too late from this misogynist. Ward wants to toss the “strong mayor” form of government, eliminate the “mini governments” like the Sewerage and Water Board and RTA, and place all City government under a single Army-inspired umbrella.

Summary: Maklansky for qualifications, Hardy for community-centered ethos.

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing ForumCarrollton Area Network Forum, WDSU Hot Seat, IWO forum, and Tribune's FB Interviews.

COUNCILMEMBER
DISTRICT B
Uptown, Broadmoor, Central City, and CBD
Jay H. Banks (Democrat)
Eugene Ben-Oluwole (Democrat)
Seth Bloom (Democrat)
Catherine Love (Democrat)
Timothy David Ray (Democrat)
Andre "Action Andre" Strumer (Democrat)

Who will replace Latoya Cantrell, who is pursuing the Mayoral seat? For this district that encompasses Uptown, Broadmoor, Central City, and the CBD, six candidates have launched campaigns.

Jay H. Banks is a longtime Central City resident and Democratic Committee representative. His role as Director of the Dryades YMCA maintains his campaign’s focus on youth programming, keeping individuals out of the criminal justice system, and addressing the gentrification that threatens the homes and livelihoods of New Orleanians.

Even more committed to affordable housing are candidates Eugene Ben-Oluwole and Timothy David Ray.

Eugene Ben-Oluwole has international architecture experience, including serious infrastructure work in the NYC area. He came to New Orleans following Katrina, as a Project Officer/Specialist for FEMA. We ask: doesn’t that mean he’s complicit in the “New New Orleans” that forced thousands of Central City residents out? Given his past affiliation, it’s difficult to trust any positive potential in his platform of “streamlining project design,” building affordable housing, and economic development. Indeed, while affordable homeownership programs are widely considered unobtainable in New Orleans, we can’t judge candidates based solely on that shifting platform plank.

Timothy David Ray does have one of the more user-friendly campaign websites, and his does actually contain a section on his platform (this is—unfortunately—very novel and exciting for New Orleans electioneers!). He supports improving the efficacy and autonomy of the Independent Police Monitor, the guarantee of paid sick leave and a $15.15 minimum wage for all City employees and contractors, and the development of clean energy that would directly benefit New Orleans households. Moreover, Ray is particularly likeable for his calm assertiveness and willingness to listen to the varied voices of community stakeholders. An attorney, he regularly provides pro bono legal counsel, as well as free notary services at the Rosa F. Keller Library and Community Center.

A founder of Our Revolution, “Action Andre” presents the most community-oriented campaigns of the bunch, and is sure to force progressive issues onto the Council agenda. He advocates for expanded internet access among low-income households in New Orleans, and sends his “limitless love” to the City’s hospitality workers agitating for fair wages and schedules.

Similarly from the grassroots side of the aisle, Dr. Catherine Love vows that her service as a candidate and as a Councilmember won't be about building a political career or personal power. For all the heartwarming sentiment (and actual heart-shapes) on her campaign materials, Love is quick-witted and a straight-shooter. On the issue of drug use and its intersections with public health and law enforcement, Love argues that access to treatment and other life-saving opportunities is wholly unequal, and predicated on racial bounds. She opposes jail sentences for those who are too destitute to afford the care they need.

Remarkably, all of these candidates agree on that. It’s the major talking point of Seth Bloom, who wants to address the opioid epidemic by medicalizing everyone who uses drugs or experiences neurodiversity. Bloom is a criminal defense attorney, claims Woody Koppel as a mentor, and served 8 years on the Orleans Parish School Board. But Bloom’s detractors argue that he sealed the fate of Black youth in the school-to-prison pipeline by supporting charter school control over education. We don’t care for the privatization of our public resources, and as such, we don’t care much for this Bloom character.

Summary: We think Timothy David Ray or Catherine Love will be great in this position.

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing ForumUptown neighborhood groups forum, WDSU Hot SeatMid-City Neighborhood Organization forumIWO forum, and Tribune's FB Interviews.

COUNCILMEMBER
DISTRICT C
French Quarter, Bywater, and Algiers
Kristin Gisleson Palmer (Democrat)
Nadine Ramsey (Democrat)

In her time on City Council (2010—2014), Kristin Gisleson Palmer scripted the legislation for the contentious pre-Super Bowl taxicab regulations and noise ordinance that inspired the unpopular crackdowns on Circle Bar, Siberia, and Mimi's in the Marigny, among others. Since leaving City Council, Palmer has been busy targeting strip clubs and LGBTQ bars on and around Bourbon Street. Ms. Palmer, is that the true threat to public safety in New Orleans?

An advocate of so-called smart growth (read: self-conscious gentrification), Palmer’s zoning initiatives have enabled the creation of more bike lanes, as well as the Frenchmen Street Art Market, but she failed to bring back grocery stores and other businesses that might contribute to the vitality of her district. From all the other crappy policies she has supported—including former Councilmember Jackie Clarkson’s “anti-blight” efforts to partner NOPD with Neighborhood Associations—we make an exception for her work on developing a long-overdue plan for a passenger rail line between Baton Rouge and New Orleans. Palmer has fashioned herself as a transit advocate: she claims to be challenging Nadine Ramsey almost exclusively over the proposal to demolish the Canal Street ferry terminal and its railroad bridge (Breaking: Funding for the pedestrian bridge was resolved). Palmer insists on the construction of a pedestrian bridge. Ramsey says, Show Me The Money.

Nadine Ramsey’s service to New Orleans’ communities has a slightly more positive bent than Palmer’s, even if her office consistently fails to be responsive to citizen complaints. (To be fair, Palmer’s office also wasn’t super responsive back in the day.) Ramsey’s legislation has put tourists’ interests above residents’, as in the case of her last-minute amendments to the Comprehensive Zoning Ordinance in favor of short-term rentals. She has also accepted money and fundraising initiatives from AirBnB and its affiliate, Alliance for Neighborhood Prosperity, which doesn’t suggest a high degree of accountability to the beleaguered renters of our city. To her credit, Ramsey has used her office to fund youth empowerment initiatives, including hosting “Know Your Rights” civic trainings, extending NORDC clubs to hundreds of 14-19 year olds, and organizing job fairs and STEM clubs. According to her City Council website’s news feed, Ramsey seeks to address the root causes of criminal violence by promoting school-based conflict resolution and trauma-informed mental healthcare. Ramsey also has fostered the leadership of young progressive female people like Rachael Johnson, now Civil Court judge, and Aylin Acikalin Maklansky, a candidate for City Council District A. Through press releases, she has supported the Welcoming Cities initiative and condemned President Trump's travel bans.

Summary: Nadine Ramsey has been an iffy representative so far, but maybe better than Palmer was. Many of our dear readers have expressed dismay - nay, disdain - for Ramsey, but an equal number voiced dissatisfaction with Palmer when she held the post. Unfortunately, these are the only two candidates running in this race. In the sage words of local immigrant rights activist Jose Torres Tama, “as always, it’s Hard Living in the Big Easy.”

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing Forum, WDSU Hot SeatIWO forum, and Tribune's FB Interviews.

COUNCILMEMBER
DISTRICT D
Parts of Mid-City and Lakeview, St. Bernard, Gentilly
Belden "Noonie Man" Batiste (Democrat, disqualified for failing to file his state taxes in recent years)
Jared C. Brossett (Democrat)
T. "Thad" Cossabone (No Party, dropped out)
Joel Jackson (Democrat)

Two challengers are out, so your choices are political newcomer Joel Jackson and incumbent Jared C. Brossett. Jackson waxes poetic as a “NOLA’phile” who has spent time shuffling between Portland (Oregon) and New Orleans since ‘94. He has a platform (!) that states support for gender pay equality, further oversight of FEMA money intended for road repair, and a complete overhaul of the City’s traffic camera program, among other progressive ideas. He also shares YouTube videos he likes on a webpage that aesthetically nods to Dr. John’s 1974 Desitively Bonnaroo album.

Incumbent Jared Brossett is a New Orleans born, raised, and educated former State Representative with a leading role in promoting transportation for the City and the State. He was the only Councilmember to vote against the disappointing short term rental legislation, and he has proposed such legislative gems as the progressive Living Wage and Affordable Housing Impact ordinances.

Summary: Incumbent Brossett has done a good job so far.

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing ForumFairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association forumIWO forum, and Tribune's FB Interviews.

COUNCILMEMBER
DISTRICT E
Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East
Ernest "Freddie" Charbonnet (Democrat)
Alicia Plummer Clivens (Democrat)
Cederick Favaroth (Democrat)
James A. Gray II (Democrat)
Dawn Hebert (Democrat)
Cyndi Nguyen (Democrat)

Most candidates in District E focus on addressing crime in New Orleans East, incentivizing the young professional crowd moving there, and making hopeful investment deals with big businesses. Attorney and former interim Councilmember Freddie Charbonnet—who was almost disqualified from this race after being sued over unfiled tax returns—likens this dynamic to an inter-district fight, stating “I think that the next council person has to realize, much like members of a football team, we are in a competition. We are competing with other districts and other parishes.”

The East has become an affordable housing refuge as other districts in New Orleans have become unbearingly expensive to live in. It seems pretty clear that we need to support the schools, transportation infrastructure, social services, and other quality-of-life resources in the places where New Orleanians are fleeing. However, some of these candidates have it all wrong.

Security District liaison Dawn Hebert is preoccupied with the East’s reputation, and “cleaning up” the district (read: more law enforcement, less community-based power).

The Lower Ninth Ward is also part of this district, and there are a few champions of that neighborhood vying for this City Council seat.

Cederick Favaroth is one. He ran for the City Council seat in 2006 and earned 2.62% of the vote then. We’re not sure he’s going to make much of a splash this time, either, as his GoFundMe fundraising website is looking pretty abandoned. This is OK because his qualifications include working as Clerk of Civil Court and a football coach. His platform specifically calls for the purchase of a police helicopter (why?).

Let’s pay more attention to the other L9W booster, veteran Democratic Party campaigner, real estate broker, and public health nurse Alicia Clivens: “Our quality of life issues have been ignored,” she asserts. “Although the Lower Ninth Ward was used as a poster child to get those FEMA funds, we have yet to see any of it in our district.” Sing it, sister!

Incumbent James Gray defends his position following the 2015 suspension of his law license due to misconduct. His professional ethics notwithstanding, Gray’s City Council service has been a bit mixed. Here’s the good: He supported the removal of the Confederate monuments; supported the 1,438 bed cap on OPP (Sorry, “Orleans Justice Center”); and has served as a Board Member of NORDC. He claims that “the real secret to crime reduction is not more money for so-called public safety, but more money for preventive programs like supervised recreation and summer job programs at NORDC, like mental health programs, and drug prevention and treatment programs…”

And the bad: He ultimately supported legalizing short-term rentals; supported an amendment that shifted the character of Bourbon Street further towards touristic uses, rather than mixed residential/commercial supportive of residents; and voted against further historical requirements in the French Quarter that would have preserved certain quality-of-life measures for the remaining residents there. He also takes quasi-credit for the reopening of the former Methodist Hospital and other development projects that were actually spearheaded by community members, including Alicia Clivens.

Refreshingly, this race introduces voters to a champion of youth empowerment and diversity, Cyndi Nguyen. Co-founder and executive director of VIET, a crucial community development nonprofit in the East, Nguyen has also served as a board member for the New Orleans Multi-Cultural Network and for the Girl Scouts of America, as well as a member of the Louisiana Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights. Her stated aims are “to open opportunities for working families” and “to learn how to transfer leadership and community skills to younger generations.”

Summary: Alicia Clivens or Cyndi Nguyen would be great for this position.

Suggested resources: Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance and Providence Community Housing ForumIWO forum, and Tribune's FB Interviews.


CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS

PROPOSED AMENDMENT No. 1
Act 428 of the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to add Article VII, Section 21(N) to the Louisiana Constitution. "Do you support an amendment to exempt from property taxes materials and other property delivered to a construction site to be made part of a building or other construction?"

This Amendment seeks to establish a property tax exemption for construction work in progress, primarily affecting large industrial projects. Currently, the Louisiana Tax Commission has no specific rules regarding construction work in progress. Indeed, the only relevant language states that “Assessments shall be made on the basis of the condition of things.” So there you have it.

As such, Louisiana’s (locally elected) tax assessors can exercise individual discretion how to interpret this language: some do not tax new buildings if construction is incomplete; others assess taxes on a portion of the project completed. Passing this amendment may advance a certain uniformity of tax assessments across the state. However, it could enable businesses to avoid property taxes for years, burdening local government and, potentially, the smaller construction firms who might be unduly taxed in order to compensate for the loss of public revenue.

Summary: Do we really need to amend our State Constitution for this? NO. We think the courts might be better at arbitrating this issue.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT No. 2
Act 427 of the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to amend Article VII, Section 21(M)(1) of the Louisiana Constitution. "Do you support an amendment to authorize an exemption from ad valorem property tax for the total assessed value of the homestead of an unmarried surviving spouse of a person who died while performing their duties as an emergency medical responder, technician, paramedic, volunteer firefighter, or a law enforcement or fire protection officer?"
This amendment is similar to a proposal that voters passed last November. This one expands the eligibility criteria for tax exempt status to the unmarried surviving spouses of the listed first-responders, not just the members of the armed forces, National Guard, state police, law enforcement, or fire protection.

Summary: YES to expand housing options for first-responders and their families, but let’s remember to work towards housing equality for all.

PROPOSED AMENDMENT No. 3
Act 429 of the 2017 Regular Session of the Louisiana Legislature proposing to amend Article VII, Section 27(B) of the Louisiana Constitution. "Do you support an amendment that would dedicate any new tax levied on gasoline, diesel, and special fuels into the Construction Subfund, which solely shall be used for project delivery, construction, and maintenance of transportation and capital transit infrastructure projects and not for funding for the payment of employee wages and related benefits or employee retirement benefits?"

This amendment would establish a “Construction Subfund” within the State’s Transportation Trust Fund. The money would come from state gas taxes, and could not be used for state employee salaries. This Trust Fund was created in 1990 to ensure that gas taxes would be spent on transportation initiatives. Some of this money has financed the salaries and benefits of state employees who work on transportation programs.

Proponents of this amendment claim that the management of revenue from gas taxes needs more oversight. The creation of the Construction Subfund is intended to provide a layer of security that transportation funds will not be diverted from actual transportation infrastructure. However, detractors note that funds from the Subfund could still be used to pay state police, engineers, and other unspecified workers.

Summary: This amendment would create additional bureaucracy that, NO, does not seem compellingly necessary.

LOCAL PROPOSITIONS

Parishwide School Board Propositions (Renewal Purpose A) (School Books, Materials & Supplies)
Shall the Orleans Parish School Board continue to levy a tax of one and fifty-five hundredths (1.55) mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $5,665,635 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in 2019, for the purpose of providing textbooks, instructional equipment and materials, library books and school supplies, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, said tax to be a renewal of the tax approved at an election held on July 19, 2008, which tax expires with the 2018 levy?

This proposition requests the continuation of an existing tax mill that funds educational supplies for Orleans Parish School Board schools.

Summary: YES to books for school children, but let’s continue to demand financial transparency from our educational administrators.

Parishwide School Board Propositions (Renewal Purpose B) (Discipline & Dropout Programs)
Shall the Orleans Parish School Board continue to levy a tax of one and fifty-five hundredths (1.55) mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $5,665,635 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in 2019, for the purpose of funding programs for improving discipline and decreasing dropouts, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, said tax to be a renewal of the tax approved at an election held on July 19, 2008, which tax expires with the 2018 levy?

This proposition requests the continuation of an existing tax mill that funds supportive intervention programming for public school students deemed “at risk” for expulsion or dropping out of school.

Summary: YES to programs that address the school-to-prison pipeline in a proactive manner.

Parishwide School Board Propositions (Renewal Purpose C) (Employee Salaries, Benefits & Incentives)
Shall the Orleans Parish School Board continue to levy a tax of seven and twenty-seven hundredths (7.27) mills on the dollar of the assessed valuation of property within the City of New Orleans assessed for City Taxation, (an estimated $26,573,656 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year) for a period of ten (10) years, beginning in 2019, for the purpose of providing salaries, fringe benefits and productivity incentives for employees, to be levied and collected in the same manner as is set forth in Article VIII, Section 13(C)(Second) of the Louisiana Constitution of 1974, said tax to be a renewal of the tax approved at an election held on July 19, 2008, which tax expires with the 2018 levy?

This proposition requests the continuation of an existing tax mill that funds the salaries and benefits of Orleans Parish School Board employees.

Summary: YES to renewing the approved tax that pays our school teachers and staff.

Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District Proposition
Shall the City of New Orleans levy annually the Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, which is comprised of that area within the following boundaries: Filmore Avenue, Leon C. Simon Boulevard, St. Roch Avenue, and Peoples Avenue, in the amount of and not exceeding two hundred dollars ($200), but one hundred dollars ($100) if any owner of the parcel is sixty-five years of age or older or has been a full-time active duty member of the armed forces of the United States for three consecutive years, for a period of and not exceeding four (4) years, beginning January 1, 2018 and ending December 31, 2021, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $200,000 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?

This proposition requests a tax mill assessed on the Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, for the primary purpose of funding a greater police presence there. A dangerous precedent is set by crowd-sourcing greater safety and security for people with expendable income, favoring the lives and livelihood of certain people and making those neighborhoods less affordable to live in. Invest those hundreds of thousands of dollars in something that benefits the vibrant, urban fabric of our city, like community organizations and schools.

Summary: We say NO to unequal allocation of public resources.

MORE RESOURCES
Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana 
Guides to the Constitutional amendments with pro and con arguments for each.

League of Women Voters of New Orleans
Candidate biographies and questionnaires.

Step Up Louisiana
3 Point economic justice platform

Bureau of Governmental Research
2017 Candidate Q&A election series

New Orleans Tribune
Endorsements and Facebook Live Interviews with Candidates

WDSU
Hot seat candidate debates

Forward New Orleans
Candidate scorecard

Voters Organized to Educate
Equal justice and civil rights advocacy

Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance
"Put Housing First" campaign candidate scorecard

Committee for a Better New Orleans
Forums and Debates

European Dissent New Orleans
Political Education Working Group's questionnaire and endorsements