Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Anti-Oppression / Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for New Orleans' Runoff Election, April 29, 2017

Oh goodness, is it time to vote again? Well you're in luck, because the Harm Reductionists of New Orleans have your April 29, 2017 election guide right here!

As you know, these guides have been produced lovingly and carefully since 2014 by a group of individuals who seek:
  • to confront the existing lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally; and
  • to promote justice, wellness, and advancement for all marginalized people in our communities. 

Logistics

Depending on where you live, your ballot may differ from this guide. Visit voterportal.sos.la.gov or call 225-922-0900 to review your sample ballot and voting location. 
 
Be sure to bring your government-issued ID.

Early Voting
Saturday, April 15 - April 22, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (not Sunday)

Pick any of these locations for Early Voting:
REGISTRAR’S OFFICE, CITY HALL 1300 Perdido St. Room 1W23
REGISTRAR’S OFFICE, ALGIERS COURTHOUSE, 225 Morgan St. Room 105
VOTING MACHINE WAREHOUSE, 8870 Chef Menteur Highway
LAKE VISTA COMMUNITY CENTER, 6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 2nd floor meeting room

The Ballot

JUDGE CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, DIVISION B
Rachael Johnson (Democrat, Black, Female)
M. Suzanne "Suzy" Montero (Democrat, White, Female)

After some sensational antics in the low-turnout primary election, first-time campaigners Rachael Johnson and Suzy Montero are facing a runoff for the Civil District Court judgeship vacated by Regina Batholomew-Woods. This is the state-level court where people sue each other over civil disputes such as land-use, divorce, contracts, personal injury, and hurricane litigation.

Suzy Montero
Suzy Montero is a longtime litigator for Chip Forstall's personal injury firm (of television commercial fame). This type of law is a profit-driven consequence of our happy-go-lawsuit legal climate. Personal injury law firms invest heavily in lobbyists and campaigns of State legislators, who then return the favor. Though many issues (like car accidents and workplace injuries) are resolved through litigation, this practice is responsible for state-wide hikes in car insurance rates, cost of goods, and disincentives for raising low-wage salaries.

So why does a career personal injury lawyer vie for a seat on the City’s Civil District Court? In Montero’s words, her legal career has trained her “to serve our great city as a qualified, prepared, fair, and impartial judge.” Following Hurricane Katrina, she fought insurance companies who were trying to avoid paying out claims to displaced homeowners. She says that public servants have a duty to educate legislators about the “unintended consequences” of the laws they write, and the “real-life impact of...mass incarceration.” Having represented a diverse clientele in her 24 years of legal work, Montero says she is committed to offering a multilingual courtroom that treats people with “equal dignity” and “human decency.”

A queer woman, Montero is endorsed by the anti-discrimination PAC Forum for Equality and, curiously, the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee. Her campaign has accused Johnson's people of kicking Montero out of a recent event at St. Stephen's Church due to Montero’s support of LGBTQ rights, which is awfully wack. (That event honored church-member Rachael Johnson's mother, begging the question of why Montero was campaigning there in the first place.)

Rachael Johnson
As for Montero’s opponent, Rachael Johnson says her aim is to serve the public with “merit” and “distinguished hardworking leadership.” With 12 years of legal work experience - including a clerkship for then-Civil District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey - she now practices insurance-defense law for the Hartford Insurance Group. This affiliation presents another messy example of the power of the judicial system: Insurance-defense law curtails the excessive lawsuits that waste time and money, but it also limits the rights of private citizens to sue large corporations.

So do we trust this insurance attorney with our civic affairs? Let’s follow the campaign trail: Johnson has picked up a large number of endorsements from progressive politicians in the Greater New Orleans Area. A former social worker and Second Harvest volunteer, she is on the Board of the Pro Bono Project. Johnson was endorsed by the AFL-CIO Building Trades Council union, as well as several local civil rights attorneys (and Sheriff Marlin Gusman, just to keep things interesting). She is the daughter of Black History-making Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Judge Bernette Johnson.

Hashtag Wars
Shamefully, we’ve seen some real underhandedness in this election, coming from both sides: Each campaign has requested restraining orders against the other after Montero’s people sent out mailers mischaracterizing Johnson’s court attendance record, and Johnson’s people sent out mailers - with a stinging #MeritMatters tagline - distorting Montero’s tax payment record.

Montero’s campaign people post millenial-targeted, alarmist social media messages around the clock, while Cheron Brylski - a major force behind the charter school movement in New Orleans - does more traditional PR.

Johnson uses the same media liaison as Marlin Gusman (and, somehow, an anti-David Duke outfit), and rarely responds to inquiries. Yet she found the time to circulate a mean-spirited and gravely offensive attack ad featuring a decontextualized "inmate booking information" photo of the third candidate in the primary race. Montero’s campaign then reblogged the photo, a cheap excuse to play with their own #IntegrityMatters hashtag.

First Merit, now Integrity: We’re missing a few things that matter here, kids.

The Issues at Stake
So how to choose, dear Voter? What can we know about our candidates beyond the bland websites and attack ads? We need to see real improvements in the way our state’s powerful Judiciary interacts with the public it serves.

Montero wants to invest in courtroom technology, expand resources for non-English speakers, and create more accessible facilities for folks with physical mobility differences.

Johnson is well-regarded by members of the progressive political establishment as well as by grassroots community advocates, though her campaign has been more reserved about communicating specific visions for the Judgeship.

Civil District Court has long been regarded as a launchpad for career ascension to Appeals Court, where civil and criminal cases are heard. Let’s make sure we send the best people to the bench.

VOTE: So far, undecided. Expect updates as we continue to do research and interview the candidates. Feel free to submit your intel and opinions!


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Anti-Oppression / Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for New Orleans' Elections, March 25, 2017

Greetings, neighbors! We hope you have been doing well since the last time we voted, just a slick three months ago!

New Orleans gets another Election Day, on March 25th. Check GeauxVote for your polling location and sample ballot. Note: This guide may differ somewhat from the ballot you see on Election Day.

Be sure to bring your government-issued ID, and Vote Early if you can:

When: Saturday, March 11- March 18, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm (not Sunday)

Where:
REGISTRAR’S OFFICE, CITY HALL 1300 Perdido St. Room 1W23
REGISTRAR’S OFFICE, ALGIERS COURTHOUSE, 225 Morgan St. Room 105
VOTING MACHINE WAREHOUSE, 8870 Chef Menteur Highway
LAKE VISTA COMMUNITY CENTER, 6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 2nd floor meeting room

If you are registered and don’t care, please find someone who is currently incarcerated, on parole, or otherwise disenfranchised from voting, but wants their opinions heard. You can vote for their interests. Contact our hardworking friends at VOTE to learn more about access to voting rights.

These guides have been produced lovingly and carefully since 2014 by a group of individuals who wish to confront the existing lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally. We did a lot of research and talked with our neighbors, friends, and allies. We agreed on the following guidelines to make—or in some cases, decline to make—our recommendations:

• Commit to a social justice (anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist, anti-hateful, etc) agenda;

•Promote justice and advancement for people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, people most affected by environmental degradation, and other marginalized populations in our communities; prioritize the needs of these people above others.

•Favor the judicial candidates least destructive to the lives of the poor and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive legal system.

•Be strategic about New Orleanians' specific needs getting adequately addressed on the state and federal levels, especially with regard to environmental, economic, and healthcare concerns.

•Reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism at all levels of government. Many New Orleanians have not yet come home, due to lack of resources. For those who have returned, they find the city expensive, and meaningful employment unobtainable. Healthcare has been slashed, as have other vital social services. The charterization of public schools has thoroughly devalued community input. We do not reward the public officials or business folks who dismantle public works and civic life.

We approach this work with a harm reduction ethos—that is, we understand we cannot easily nor quickly move the mountains of inequality, prejudice, (bureaucracy!), and oppression that keep people down. We consider the view that deliberating on “Who is going to harm us?” is actually not a form of harm reduction at all. Ultimately, we believe we can work to ease the suffering and trauma that exist in our communities. In this way, we advance towards a visionary society in which everyone's needs are met, and our values are reflected in our system of governance.

These guides usually start as working drafts, so expect updates as we continue to do research. Feel free to submit your contributions!

* * * * * *
Firstly, your Harm Reduction Voter Guides would like to commend 18-year-old William Boartfield, Jr, for trying to run for Mayor of Gretna this election. Though ultimately disqualified, Boartfield - who is also the co-chair of the Louisiana Green Party - told the New Orleans Advocate that "I ran mostly because no one was running against an administration that isn't being held accountable… I still will fight for what I believe in."

He pledged to push for law enforcement reform through grassroots organizing. We respect you, Boartfield, for acknowledging the power of local office to effect positive change.

Indeed, Boartfield is among many this year to turn away from complacency and step into political activism: New Orleans’ turnout for the J20 protest and Women’s March has not been matched in recent memory!

It is an exciting thing to see so many folks showing up in solidarity with their Brown, Black, immigrant, femme, and gender-nonconforming neighbors: listening to each other, learning, and trying to get smarter about stuff. We hope to see this energy not only sustain itself, but grow and grow and grow.

A great time to get involved is during elections, and also between elections. There are some amazing and brave movements in this town, and we encourage you to get your friends together and get involved. Check out the Black Workers Organize NOLA Timeline for some motivational political history lessons about New Orleans.
 
In the meantime, we’ve got our local government to hold accountable, and we’re voting this month for two judges to replace (1) a retired judge and (2) Regina Bartholomew-Woods, who ascended to the Court of Appeals after November’s 2016 election.

These offices are important because they're high enough to be directly accountable to state government, and low enough to influence policy on the ground in New Orleans (law enforcement, drug criminalization, etc). The best candidates will be those who already have demonstrated a commitment to the public good: through community involvement and accountability of government.


You may find it refreshing that all the candidates are Black women, except a white lady who is queer.

JUDGE CIVIL DISTRICT COURT, DIVISION B 
Rachael Johnson
M. Suzanne "Suzy" Montero
Marie Williams

For this one, let’s brush up on some Black herstory: In the 1990s, the Louisiana Supreme Court was tasked with racial reconciliation, as part of the settlement of a federal voting rights lawsuit. Through that process, an additional judge joined the state’s highest bench, and she - Judge Bernette Johnson - is a Black woman. Having ascended to longest-serving member on the court in 2012, Judge Johnson expected (as per convention) to become Chief Justice. But it took a damn hard court battle and the advocacy of civil rights supporters to protect the law and Johnson’s rightful role. (Fun Fact: New Orleans’ Justice & Beyond Coalition was born from this effort.)

Now, Bernette Johnson’s daughter Rachael Johnson is a first-time campaigner going after this Civil Court judgeship. After years of experience as a lawyer and as law clerk for then-Civil District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey, Johnson says she aims to serve the public. A former social worker and Second Harvest volunteer, she is on the Board of the Pro Bono Project and was endorsed by the AFL-CIO Building Trades Council union. However, she's made some nasty - and highly personal - campaign attacks on her opponents, which only paints Johnson as underhanded and, well, typical.

Also campaigning are first-time candidate Suzy "Everyone in the legal community knows I am gay, but I am not running as a gay candidate" Montero and veteran electioneer Marie Williams.

Montero is a longtime litigator for Chip Forstall's personal injury firm, daughter of local criminal defense attorney Wilson Montero, and former partner of the late super-lawyer Jack Martzell. She is endorsed by the Forum for Equality, an anti-discrimination PAC. While she hasn't made her personal life part of the campaign, Montero's campaign has accused Rachael Johnson's campaign of getting Montero kicked out of a recent event at St. Stephen's Church due to her support of LGBTQ rights. (That event was honoring Rachael Johnson's mother, begging the question of why Montero was campaigning there in the first place.) Montero posts "anti-trafficking" messages (wherein survivors become helpless "victims") on her Facebook page, and her PR is done by Cheron Brylski, who represents several New Orleans area charter schools.

A repeat political candidate never earning more than a quarter of the votes, Williams ran for a Civil District Court seat in 2004, Juvenile Court in 2010, Second City Court in 2012, and Criminal Court in 2014 and 2016, when she was disqualified for failing to file her taxes. Her Facebook page is full of Christian affirmations, which is maybe the least interesting part of her media presence: In 2014, she made videos of then-Judge and election competitor Frank Marullo trying to convince her to drop out of the race. The FBI later investigated these videos as evidence of Marullo committing campaign fraud.

Williams, who has a good resume of volunteer work and community activism in New Orleans, has said that "New Orleans will have a safer community when the criminal justice system reduces the number of people behind bars and increases the treatment of mental illness and addiction, which are seen as primary root causes of crime." Her campaign promises are to “Reduce Violence in Prison by Improving Prison Accountability and Leadership," "Support Alternatives-to-Arrest and -Incarceration Programs," and "Support Public Defender Offices and Other Organizations that Fight for Equality in the Criminal Justice system.”

VOTE: Undecided. Since Johnson and Montero are new candidates for public office, there isn’t much information about these candidates’ stances on relevant issues. Johnson and Williams do seem the most committed to the public good, but we don't like Johnson's (and now Montero's) dirty campaign tactics. Williams has been the most persistently and visibly community-minded of the bunch.

Judge, Court of Appeal 4th Circuit, 1st District, Division C
Paula Brown
Tiffany Gautier Chase

Two colleagues from Civil Court vie for this seat in Court of Appeals. Their experiences in Civil Court are about equal in duration, and they both have the charmingly cultivated public personas you might expect from local politicians. Both have quality backgrounds: Brown’s mentor is Chief Justice Bernette Johnson, for whom she served as clerk, and Chase snapped a selfie at the Women’s March with her former law professor and esteemed civil rights attorney Bill Quigley. Both candidates were endorsed by the AFL-CIO's Building Trades Council union.

Originally from Ocean Springs, Mississippi, Brown came to New Orleans via a Tulane basketball scholarship in 1982. She graduated from Tulane’s Freeman School of Business, then received her J.D. from Southern University Law Center. Her 24-year career has included being a staff attorney with the Orleans Indigent Defender Program and an adjunct professor at Southern University. A breast cancer survivor, Brown is active in the Susan G. Komen Foundation, as well as Covenant House's annual "Sleep Out to Support Homeless Youth." Brown officiated Louisiana's first same-sex marriage in 2015, earning an endorsement from the Forum for Equalit.

Chase's Facebook page is filled with photos of the candidate with prominent community leaders like Helena Moreno and J.P. Morrell. Lauded for her work on improving technology in the Court, Chase established the Self Help Desk at Civil District Court, which allows people to meet with volunteer lawyers to explore legal options. Chase was the judge for the Canal Place development suit that went nutty, and her decision was overruled in appeals. Her campaign is also run by the charter-boosting Brylski Company.

VOTE: We're tempted to defer to our shero Bernette Johnson on this one, and choose her disciple Paula Brown. Some sources say Chase is a bit more straightforward and personable than Brown. Either way, both seem like they'd be good for the job.

Additional Resources: Judge Paula Brown announces a run for Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Division C - The New Orleans Agenda; Judge Profiles - Louisiana Judicial Council; Chase wins Civil District Court judgeship race - Nola.com THE RACE IS ON! FOUR WOMEN QUALIFY FOR TWO JUDGESHIPS - Uptown Messenger; Qualifying for March 25 election draws plenty of incumbents - The Advocate; Is this the first ad of the 2017 New Orleans mayor's race? - Nola.com BROWN ENDORSED BY LABOR; MONTERO KICKS OFF CAMPAIGN - Uptown Messenger Johnson, Montero and Williams campaign for empty CDC seat - The Louisiana Weekly; Election 2017: Chase vs. Brown for La. Appellate Court seat - The Louisiana Weekly

While New Orleanians wait until the Fall to vote on Mayor and Councilmembers, some Greater New Orleans area elections include the following:

State Representative 92nd Representative District (Kenner)
Gisela Chevalier, Republican, White, Female
"Joe" Stagni, Republican, White, Male
"Chuck" Toney, Democrat, Black, Male

Forum for Equality has endorsed Joe Stagni.

Alderman District 1, Town of Basile
LaToya Howze, Democrat, Black, Female
Darrell Reed, Democrat, Black, Male

Alderman District 5, Town of Delcambre
Bryan Glatter, Republican, White, Male
Stacey "T-Mom" Trim, No Party, White, Female

Mayor City of Westwego
Ted J. Munch, Democrat, White, Male (Ran against Incumbent last election)
Joe Peoples, Democrat, White, Male
John I. "Johnny" Shaddinger Jr., Democrat, White, Male (Incumbent)

Council Member District 2, City of Westwego
Joshua Melford, Democrat, White, Male
Johnny Nobles Jr., Democrat, White, Male (Incumbent)

Council Member District 3, City of Westwego
Norman J. Fonseca, Democrat, White, Male (Incumbent)
Michael J. "Mike" Hymel, Republican White, Male
Lisa Valence, , Republican White, Female

Council Member District 4, City of Westwego
Matthew J. Rivere, Republican White, Male
Garrison "Gary" Toups Sr., Republican White, Male (Incumbent)

Council Member District 5, City of Westwego
Robert "Rob" Heffker, Republican White, Male
Courtney Watts Reyes, No Party, White, Female
Johnnie Lynn Thibodeaux, Republican White, Female

Seat vacated by Councilman Larry Warino.

Councilman at Large, City of Covington
W. T. "Trey" Blackall III, Republican, White, Male
Jerry Coner, No Party, Black, Male
Patrick McMath, Republican, White, Male

Vying for the seat that became vacant with the Oct. 28 death of longtime member Lee Alexius are District B Councilman Jerry Coner, former Councilman Trey Blackall and businessman Patrick McMath. Coner has experience of 20 years on the City Council, Blackall is a commercial plumbing contractor and part owner of health food store in downtown Covington, who served on City Council from 1999 to 2007 and in an at-large seat from 2007 to 2011, while McMath is vice president of a local, family-owned contracting business and a former assistant St. Tammany district attorney.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Anti-Oppression, Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for New Orleans RUNOFF Election, Dec. 10, 2016

We're back! You're back! On December 10, we return to the polls to vote on our Senator, Criminal Court Judge, and some Public Works provisions.
 

Early voting: 
Nov. 26 and Nov. 28-Dec. 3
8am - 6pm
Bring your government-issued photo ID.

CITY HALL, 1300 PERDIDO ST., #1W24, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70112-2127

ALGIERS COURTHOUSE, 225 MORGAN ST RM#105, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70114

VOTING MACHINE WAREHOUSE, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70127

LAKE VISTA COMMUNITY CENTER, 6500 SPANISH FORT BLVD, 2ND FLOOR MEETING ROOM, NEW ORLEANS, LA 70124


These guides have been produced lovingly and carefully since 2014 by a group of individuals who wish to confront the existing lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally. We did a lot of research and talked with our neighbors, friends, and allies. We agreed on the following guidelines to make—or in some cases, decline to make—our recommendations:

•Promote justice and advancement for people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, people most affected by environmental degradation, and other marginalized populations in our communities; prioritize the needs of these people above others.

•Favor the judicial candidates least destructive to the lives of the poor and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive legal system.

•Be strategic about New Orleanians' specific needs being adequately addressed on the state and federal levels, especially with regard to environmental, economic, and healthcare concerns.

•Reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism at all levels of government. Many New Orleanians have not yet come home, due to lack of resources. For those who have returned, they find the city expensive, and meaningful employment unobtainable. Healthcare has been slashed, as have other vital social services. The charterization of public schools has thoroughly devalued community input. We do not reward the public officials or business folks who dismantle public works and civic life.

We approach this work with a harm reduction ethos—that is, we understand we cannot easily nor quickly move the mountains of inequality, prejudice, (bureaucracy!), and oppression that keep people down. We considered the view that deliberating on “Who is going to harm us?” is actually not a form of harm reduction at all. Ultimately, we believe we can work to ease the suffering and trauma that exist in our communities. In this way, we advance towards a visionary society in which everyone's needs are met, and our values are reflected in our system of governance.

U.S. SENATE
Foster Campbell (Democrat-Bossier City)
John Kennedy (Republican-Baton Rouge)

John Kennedy has been the elected Treasurer since 1999, and has never had any viable, adequately funded opponents to challenge him. He ran unsuccessfully for Senate in 2004 and 2008, changing his party affiliation from Democrat to Republican in 2007 to run against David Vitter. He is a big Trump booster, describing him - to put it mildly - as "a change agent."

Having entered state politics as special counsel to Governor Buddy Roemer, Kennedy has since made his role about "streamlining government": eliminating "wasteful" and favoritist government spending. That said, he has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from law firms - some out-of-state - who have regular business before the Louisiana Bond Commission he chairs.

He has clashed with Governor Jindal and Governor Edwards over the State’s budget, likening Edwards’ tax hike proposal to “hysterics” and “drama.”

On the social issues front, Kennedy recommended a crime-fighting plan he called “aggressive Stop and Frisk” to combat the “thugs” of New Orleans. He said he’d rather “drink weed-killer” than support the Affordable Care Act. He also ran some pretty brutal attacks on his primary opponent Charles Boustany, suggesting he had some involvement with three sex workers who were murdered. He stated recently that he would not support legislation that allows a woman to get an abortion if she becomes pregnant by rape or incest. This guy is a fucking creep.

Following the national election on November 8th, Foster Campbell represents the last remaining hope for Democrats to flip a seat in the Senate.

Though he lost three campaigns for the U.S. House of Representatives, he’s been a popular civil servant as Public Service Commissioner since 2003, and has maintained good working relationships with Louisiana’s Legislative Black Caucus. He believes in global warming, favors public control over public schools, and is generally regarded as an advocate for the working class. He is revered in rural parishes like Natchitoches, where he successfully championed the installation of telephone lines in 2005 (!) after decades of corporate feet-dragging in the region.

After the Wall Street Journal reported that Donald Trump might tap Bobby Jindal for his new Cabinet, Campbell warned that Jindal “can’t be trusted” after his “cold-hearted, irresponsible budgeting.” He placed the blame squarely on Treasurer Kennedy, who “rubberstamped Jindal’s dishonest budget tactics that bankrupted our state” and “let Jindal rob Louisiana.”

Campbell, who lost a son to suicide, has stated that he holds mental healthcare to be a priority in government spending: "We have to have the money, but it always gets cut because most of the people with mental illness are poor folks...It troubles me greatly to come to New Orleans and see people sleeping on cardboard. That drives me wild." 

Louisiana needs an advocate in the Senate who will stand up to malfeasance on all forms.

VOTE: Campbell


Judge Criminal District Court, Section D (Select 1)
Paul A. Bonin -  Democrat
Kevin Guillory - Democrat

We don’t really dig Kevin Guillory’s prosecution background, especially for someone who wants to judge criminal cases from the supposedly unbiased bench.

Paul Bonin has been an Appeals Court Judge, and wants to be on the Criminal Court so he can introduce greater transparency during proceedings, and restrict D.A. Cannizzaro’s “strong-arm tactics.” He calls wrongful conviction “the greatest tragedy in our criminal justice system.” Both Susan Guidry and Latoya Cantrell - of New Orleans City Council - endorse Bonin, so read into that what you will.

Vote: Bonin

Suggested Resources: After 20 months, New Orleans voters finally to choose Judge Marullo's replacement; Bonin, Guillory advance to Orleans Criminal Court runoffJudicial Forum for candidates of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Section D office three-part video from Court Watch NOLA. ; Live on Facebook with Paul Bonin and Kevin Guillory short videos on The New Orleans Tribune Facebook page, September 2016: https://www.facebook.com/theneworleanstribune/videos/1242728029103279/; https://www.facebook.com/theneworleanstribune/videos/1248221108553971/; https://www.facebook.com/theneworleanstribune/videos/1248221108553971/

PW Drainage - 4.46 Mills - CC - 30 Yrs. (Select 1)
Parishwide Drainage Proposition (Millage Continuation) Shall the City of New Orleans (the "City") continue to levy an ad valorem tax in the amount of 4.46 mills on all property subject to taxation within the City for a period of thirty (30) years, beginning with the year 2017 and ending with the year 2046 (an estimated $15,400,000 reasonably expected to be collected at this time for an entire year from the 4.46 mills levy), to be used solely and exclusively for the purpose of operating and maintaining the City's drainage system and for the construction and extension of said drainage system?

This mill would decrease the property tax for Sewerage and Water Board’s drainage system from 4.66 mills to 4.46 mills, lasting for 30 years.

As it stands, S&WB doesn’t have enough money to follow its own capital plan. The Office of the Inspector General has blasted it for ineffectiveness, fiscal mismanagement, and suspected payroll fraud.

But if we all vote against this mill, the property tax for this purpose would decrease from 4.66 mills to 0, a cut representing about a quarter of the S&WB’s total income from taxes.

Obviously water management is of crucial importance to our swampy city. Let’s keep a close eye on the S&WB to make sure it’s working for us and the sustainability of our infrastructure.

VOTE: Yes
Suggested Resources: S&WB Drainage & Millage Education Film

PW Prop. (Fire Protection) - 2.5 Mills - CC - 12 Yrs. (Select 1)
Parishwide Proposition (Authorizing Levy of Ad Valorem Tax for Fire Protection) Shall the City of New Orleans (the "City") be authorized to levy an ad valorem tax in the amount of two and one-half (2.50) mills (the "Tax") on all property subject to taxation within the City for a period of twelve (12) years, beginning January 1, 2017 and ending December 31, 2028 (an estimated $8.87 million reasonably expected to be collected at this time for an entire year as a result of the levy of the Tax), to be dedicated solely to fire protection in accordance with Article VI, Section 26(E) of the Louisiana Constitution?

Y’all, remember in April when a tricky double-mill wound up on our ballot, combining increased funds for police AND firefighters? Well, New Orleans voters refused to be force-fed some irresponsible fiscal action disguised as “public safety.” This time, we have the chance to directly support our firefighters by paying into their overdue pension settlement.

It may strike you as unfair to have to help the City balance the budget by paying more in taxes, but listen: Some firefighters have literally died waiting for their pension pay-outs. The City is trying to make good on its settlement plan, and we can help insure the stability of the public service fund designated for this - and only this - expenditure.

VOTE: Yes

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Where to donate money in New Orleans, 3rd annual edition

Occupy Sandy
Y'all, we are in quite a situation.

A president-elect who promotes violence, an election season that asked us to choose between some major evils, a social and physical ecology of degradation in the Deep South...Whoo, baby, are we gonna have to work hard to build our way out of this!

And so, here is the 3rd annual guide to "Spending Dollars to Make Some Change" in New Orleans. If you are typically inclined to make donations, please continue to do so. If you usually buy your friends and families presents for the holidays, consider making a donation in their honor instead.

Think of it less as a charitable contribution, and more of an opportunity to flex your humanitarian muscles, and lift up those among us who are struggling to gain recognition, respect, and autonomy in our society.

All power to the people.

In no particular order: 

Healthcare
Trystereo / New Orleans Harm Reduction Network
Provides health supplies, wellness education, wound-care consultations, toiletries, and clothing to drug-users in southeastern Louisiana. Facilitates workshops on safer drug-use, first aid practices, and overdose prevention. Runs a 12-Step Alternative support group for people who feel kinda judged or unwelcome at AA/NA/etc meetings. Runs a support group for people whose loved ones may be drug-users.

New Orleans Abortion Fund
Y'all, abortions might become even harder to come by. These kind people raise money to get you to your doctor so you can make decisions that are right for you.

Women with a Vision
Facilitates the empowerment of low-income women of color through legislative advocacy, educational programming, and other initiatives that nobody else is taking up. Their director is currently battling breast cancer while continuing to do her brave work.

Luke's House
This two-night-a-week clinic welcomes the poor, the undocumented, the anybody who needs healthcare and may not be able to get it elsewhere. Volunteer nurses, doctors, and Spanish-language interpreters make sure everyone is welcome.

Birthmark Doulas
An important information and healthcare resource for pregnant and parenting people in New Orleans. Sliding scale for low-income families. #BlackBirthMatters

Food Justice
Grow Dat Youth Farm
Teaches kids how to farm. Promotes food justice and fights environmental racism.

Community Kitchen
Makes and serves free meals (including vegan and gluten-free options!) for anyone who's hungry. Caters events for other radical groups in the city.

Queer Safety, Queer Power
Break Out
Organizes for the civil rights of queer and transgender youth of color, and against police brutality of these groups. Raises money to help trans people change their names, especially in anticipation of violence against queers in this country under the Trump administration. I cannot say enough about the bravery of this group.

LGBT Community Center of New Orleans
Advocates for queer access to economic and social opportunities in the Greater New Orleans region.

LOUD: New Orleans Queer Youth Theater
Queer youth create, design, and perform top-notch theatrical productions. Produce educational workshops on civil rights and sexual health.

Youth
Black Youth Project
The local affiliate of a national movement to connect Black youth with their liberation. Very hardworking and brave group that stands for collective empowerment, and monuments to real heroes of our history.

Project Butterfly New Orleans
An African-centered, rites of passage program designed to prepare girls of African descent for their transition from adolescence to adulthood. Builds self-esteem, decision-making skills, and positive cultural values.

Girls Rock New Orleans
Fosters artistic expression in girls, transgender, and gender-nonconforming youth.

Apex Youth Center
Originally run by a couple out of their living room, this organization does an awesome job of providing free afterschool care for youth in the city. Kids get snacks, clothes, tutoring, whatever. The older kids are the "mentors." The center is often open to the neighborhood for barbecues and other parties. The founders even negotiated with the police to extend the nighttime youth curfew to kids leaving the Center late at night.

Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools / The Rethinkers
A participatory education group of New Orleans students who reject the school-to-prison pipeline, and the teach-to-the-test pedagogical approach. Instead, they work to make their schools supportive environments for learning and leadership development.

Free arts, sports, foreign language, yoga, drama, dance, culinary, etc. classes for youth in New Orleans. Directed by a born-and-raised New Orleanian.

RUBARB
All-volunteer run bicycle shop that teaches neighborhood kids how to build and repair their own bikes.

The Prison System, and the People Affected by It
Cornerstone Builders
Free buses to prisons around Louisiana. Help a mama visit her son while he's locked up!

Books 2 Prisoners
Sends free books to people in the South's jails and prisons. 

Voice of the Experienced (Formerly known as Voice of the Ex-Offender.)
Helps formerly incarcerated individuals re-acclimate to society. Provides legal resources, financial management education, and leadership development opportunities. Promotes community education and collaboration around voting rights and interaction with law enforcement.

Resurrection After Exoneration
Say you spent a lot of time in prison for a crime you didn't commit. Then you get released, but you have nowhere to go. This organization will let you live in their house for free! They'll also hook you up with clothing, legal resources, and whatever else you might need.

Housing
Jane Place 
Sustainable and actually affordable housing for those among us who have historically suffered most from unstable housing access.


Youth Rebuilding New Orleans 
Founded by two New Orleans-born brothers in their 20s, this agency engages youth to build houses for public school teachers. They also make room to train and mentor young people doing court-mandated community service.

LowerNine.org
Rebuilds people's houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Pretty simple. The homeowners just pay for the construction materials; volunteers do the rest. On a side note, it's pretty ridiculous that we're still relying on volunteers and donations to rebuild people's houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Let's get it done already. 

Labor
New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, specifically: 

Congreso de Jornaleros / Congress of Day Laborers
One of the bravest groups around - a union of undocumented workers. These people rebuilt New Orleans after Katrina; now they're being deported. Fuck that. Give them money to access healthcare, education, labor rights, housing, and stable legal standing.

Stand with Dignity
Tirelessly advocates to improve the housing, employment, and educational opportunities for low-income residents of New Orleans. These people were left in deplorable conditions during Katrina, and stood up to (successfully) demand radical changes to the city's shelter and evacuation protocols.

General Community Development
Puentes
Asserts the rights and needs of Spanish-speaking populations in New Orleans. They do stuff like: help clinics translate health flyers; advocate to get interpreters wherever they're needed; link families to information about schools and housing; and hold businesses and social services accountable for working with Spanish-speakers.

Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training
Promotes education, economic self-sufficiency, and access to social resources in the Vietnamese communities of New Orleans East. Runs free summer camps for children.

Advocacy Center of Louisiana
A vital legal and social work resource for the elderly and people with diagnosed disabilities.

Arts
Wildseeds: The Octavia Butler Emergent Strategy Collective
Feminists of color creating visionary and justice-driven art.

The Land Memory Bank and Seed Exchange
Works to preserve and promote the cultural and ecological vitality of southeast Louisiana.

Ashe Cultural Arts Center
Promotes African, Caribbean, and African-American art and artists. Hosts community groups about health and fatherhood, among other themes.

The successor of the Free Southern Theater, this organization produces and encourages social justice-driven art. Recent productions have concerned the privatization of New Orleans schools, and the experience of displacement in the environmentally fragile Gulf Coast.

A film festival that spotlights the struggles and triumphs of marginalized populations.

A multidisciplinary arts group that produces works around ecological and other civic concerns. Their stellar outdoor "Cry You One" show was performed on the canals and swamps of St. Bernard Parish, highlighting the human consequences of environmental degradation.

A multidisciplinary performance arts group that uses theatre as a tool of healing and recovery. Runs a theatre group at Louisiana's St. Gabriel prison for women.

New Orleans Community Printshop & Darkroom
A low-cost studio space for artist-entrepreneurs. Also runs free workshops for neighborhood kids to learn screenprinting, photography, and zine-making.

Books & Other Things for Purchase/Action

Take Em Down NOLA - Sign the Petition
Organizes against racism and racist monuments in New Orleans. Have recently been attacked personally by David Duke.

Jaden Toussaint, the Greatest - Episode 4: Attack of the Swamp Thing, by Marti Dumas

The newest book in a series written by a New Orleans eeducator about her precocious son. Marti had trouble finding children's literature featuring protagonists of color, so she started writing them.

No More Heroes, by Jordan Flaherty.
Confronts the "white savior" complex that has pervaded post-Katrina New Orleans. Advocates for grassroots mobility and empowerment.

New Orleans Comics & Zines Festival (Nov. 19-20)
Local & non-local artists sell their original pieces, celebrating the grassroots history and vitality of zine culture. Workshops & performances for kids.

Neighborhood Story Project
Check out these books and the Queer Cartography series from a group that has been collecting and publishing oral histories in New Orleans since before Katrina.

Supporting Urban Agriculture CSA Box
Grows food in the Lower 9th Ward and gives it to the neighbors, sells it to the people who can pay. Kinda evens things out, and promotes healthy eating for everybody.


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Hit up the comments section if you want something included! Thanks to everyone who helped me compile this list by doing the work / shouting out others who do the work.