Friday, April 27, 2018

No-Nonsense Voter Education Guide for New Orleans, 4/28/18

Greetings, New Orleans voters! If you live in the Garden District, Lakewood, or somewhere called “Upper Hurstville” (I dunno, I think it’s by Audubon Park), you get to vote this Saturday, April 28th! (Check your voting status at GeauxVote.)

In fact, you get to vote for or against property tax money being spent on a private police patrol for your neighborhood.

Our stance is that there are such limited resources in this town, that this tax amounts to allowing certain - usually moneyed - segments of our city to get extra support from law enforcement. Indeed, these private police patrols are often used to harass people who appear not to belong in the neighborhood. I’ve seen the Fair Grounds private patrol bust up a picnic of Central American day laborers, and make everyone show their ID’s. What public does that serve? What jurisdiction do they have to do such a hostile thing?

We think that a better method to invest in the safety and security of New Orleans neighborhoods is to get to know your neighbors and advocate together for more resources that uplift each other, not criminalize others. Check out community-based groups like Jane Place (housing affordability), Louisiana Bucket Brigade (environmental health), and others for more ideas.

SUMMARY: If you live in one of these districts, you have the chance to vote down this nonsense.

Garden District's Security District - 19 Mills Renewal - CC - 8 Yrs. (Select 1)

Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the Garden District's Security District's ("District") special tax or fee, not to exceed nineteen (19) mills on all taxable real property situated within the District, consisting of that area bounded by and including both sides of Carondelet Street, Jackson Avenue, Magazine Street, and Louisiana Avenue, as specified by the New Orleans City Council, for a period of eight (8) years, commencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which special tax or fee is estimated to generate approximately $1,650,000 annually, to be used for promoting and encouraging the security of the District, except a 1% City collection fee?


Lakewood Crime Prev. and Imp. Dist. - $450 Parcel Fee Renewal - CC - 8 Yrs. (Select 1)Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the Lakewood Crime Prevention and Improvement District's ("District") annual Parcel Fee, not to exceed four hundred fifty dollars ($450) per year on each parcel located within the District, which is that area of the City of New Orleans as specified in Resolution R-17-625 of the New Orleans City Council, for a period of eight (8) years, commencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $196,650.00 annually, to be used to aid in crime prevention by providing security for District residents and to serve the needs of the residents of the District by funding beautification and other activities and improvements for the overall betterment of the District, such security services to be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided in the District by the New Orleans Police Department?

Upper Hurstville Security District - $650 Parcel Fee - CC - 8 Yrs. (Select 1)
Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the Upper Hurstville Security District's ("District") annual Parcel Fee, not to exceed six hundred fifty dollars ($650) per year on each parcel located within the District (except parcels owned by individuals who qualify for the special assessment level provided in Article VII, Section 18(G)(1) of the Constitution of Louisiana), bounded by Exposition Boulevard to Prytania Street to Nashville Avenue to Magazine Street and back to Exposition Boulevard, as specified by the New Orleans City Council, for a period of eight (8) years, commencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $213,750 annually, to be used for the primary object and purpose of promoting and encouraging security in the area included within the District and promoting and encouraging the overall betterment of the District?

Monday, March 5, 2018

No-Nonsense Voter Education Guide for New Orleans Elections, 3/24/18

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.

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.

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Just in time for your post-Mardi Gras blues, we’re having another Election Day in New Orleans!


Featuring races for two judges and a state legislature representative, this election is sure to be one heckuva nail-biter for anyone inclined to pay attention.


Election Day: March 24th, 7 am-8 pm
Find your voting location at GeauxVote

Early Voting: March 10th – March 17th, 8:30 am-6 pm (not Sunday)
City Hall, 1300 Perdido Street, Room 1W24
Algiers Courthouse. 225 Morgan Street, Room 105
Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site, 8870 Chef Menteur Highway
Lake Vista Community Center, 6500 Spanish Fort Blvd.


Judge, Court of Appeal 4th Circuit, 1st District, Division F


Dale Atkins (Democrat, Black, Female)
Robin Pittman (Democrat, Black, Female)


Courts of appeal have the authority to review judgments of district courts within their constitutionally assigned geographic area. Courts of appeal hear criminal and civil appeals (except for capital appeals, which go straight to the Louisiana Supreme Court). Appeals are first heard before a panel of three judges. In some cases, a panel of five judges may be necessary to decide the case. If the court of appeal is considering overturning its prior decision, the case will be heard “en banc,” meaning before all of the judges who sit on the court of appeal. The most important function of the appellate courts is to issue “opinions” on the cases they hear. Opinions are long written decisions explaining the factual and legal reasons why the appellate court either affirms or reverses the district court’s judgment. Opinions are very important because lawyers can rely on their reasoning when arguing other cases. Because of this, appellate judges make the case law later cases are decided by. It is very difficult to overturn an appeals court decision.


Longtime Clerk of Civil District Court Dale Atkins is running for this position, with endorsements from United Teachers of New Orleans and the AFL-CIO. Credited with implementing an efficient e-filing system in her office, Atkins is praised for her public relations and congenial personality. She lost the District Attorney’s race to Eddie Jordan in 2002. She has served as Clerk of Court for nearly 30 years, during which time she has not practiced law.


Orleans Parish Criminal District Judge Robin Pittman enjoys a reputation among attorneys for being exacting, consistent, and rule-following, and has been credited with running “one of the most efficient sections of court,” according to the Metro Crime Commission. Since 2009, she has presided over many courtroom proceedings, including the Chelsea Thornton criminal insanity determination. After being misled by the District Attorney’s office over a fake subpoena, she fined a domestic violence survivor who refused to cooperate with a criminal investigation. Pittman is a regular attendee and contributor at Mid-City Neighborhood Organization meetings.


Summary: Both candidates have records of accomplishment. Our concern with Dale Atkins is that she may not have the requisite familiarity with the legal process to make her an efficient appellate court judge who writes clear opinions. Robin Pittman’s style seems well-suited for this position, but she may be too much of a rule-follower to make progressive interpretations of the conservative, state-friendly statutes on the books in Louisiana.


State Representative, 93rd Representative District


Eldon Delloyd "El" Anderson (Democrat, Black, Male)
James Andrews - Withdrew
Kenneth Charles "Kenny" Bordes (Democrat, White, Male)
Royce Duplessis (Democrat, Black, Male)
Danil Faust (Democrat, Hispanic, Male)


This race is for Helena Moreno’s position in the Louisiana House of Representatives, vacated when Moreno won a seat on City Council last year. The 93rd Representative District contains part of the upper French Quarter, most of the CBD, a section of Mid-City, and a sizable chunk of the 6th and 7th Wards.


Whoever wins this race will be responsible for representing New Orleans’ interests at the state legislative level.


Campaigning for your vote is El Anderson, a youth advocate and former NORD playground supervisor. As a teen, Anderson worked for the City through summer workforce development programs, becoming a youth leader at Kingsley House. He also held employment at Juvenile Education and Training, a program for youth on probation and parole. He tried to run against Helena Moreno for City Council last October, but was disqualified for failing to file state tax returns. This candidate has been endorsed by DJ Jubilee.


Kenny Bordes is a labor lawyer and pro bono counsel for indigent civil litigants representing themselves in Federal Court. He also hosts a weekly show called “Overruled Radio” on WHIV, on which he discusses legal issues pertaining to civil rights advocacy work. The founder of the NOLA Film production company, Bordes advertises his artistic chops as a voice actor: “One of my best attributes is a vocal range of unique characters; from kids show 'Donkeys' to scary killers over the phone.”


Also in the ring is Royce Duplessis, currently the Chair of the City Planning Commission (CPC), the City’s zoning advisory board. A former energy and public utility lawyer, Duplessis worked as Chief of Staff for former City Councilmember James Carter. (Carter, a former trial counselor for the Orleans Indigent Defenders Program, is credited with pushing forward the creation of the Independent Police Monitor.) On the CPC, Duplessis voted against whole home short-term rentals, and encouraged testimony “on behalf of poor people...struggling to survive in this city.” He also sided with activists to delay the demolition of the Canal Street Ferry until RTA releases design plans more in-step with commuter and resident concerns.


French Quarter bartender and former candidate for Senate (he got 3.9% of the vote against Steve Scalise in 2016) and Criminal District Court Clerk (he got disqualified for listing his party affiliation as Green instead of Democrat), Danil Faust is a mixed bag of political positions. A proponent of reproductive rights, pay equity for women, LGBTQ rights, and alternatives to fossil fuel energy, Faust has an 86% rating from the National Rifle Association. His hero is Andrew Jackson, because he “took a bullet in the chest defending his wife’s honor.” He has spoken up against law enforcement raids of French Quarter strip clubs, and he rejects Koch Industries’ influence on media news outlets.


Summary: Royce Duplessis seems like the most serious candidate of the bunch, with political experience in urban development and design on the City Planning Commission.


Judge Civil District Court, Division A
Richard Guy "Rick" Duplantier - Withdrew
Taetrece Harrison (Democrat, Black, Female)
Ellen Hazeur (Democrat, Black, Female)
Richard Perque (Democrat, White, Male)


District Court judges are the first judges to hear a case. In Orleans Parish, unlike the rest of the state, the district court level is divided into criminal and civil courts. The Civil District Court in Orleans Parish is further divided into a general civil court, a juvenile court, and family court. Trials take place at the district court level. A district court judge in Civil District Court is responsible for hearing the motions that come before trial, guiding the discovery process (how lawyers exchange evidence between opposing sides), and ultimately, presiding over the trial, which may be by jury or a “judge trial.” In judge trials, the case is presented to the district court judge, who rules directly on the case. District court judges issue judgments on the matters before them, which may, in most cases, be appealed.


This judicial post was vacated when Tiffany Chase was elected to the Court of Appeals last year.


Taetrece Harrison recently was acquitted of aggravated assault charges alleging that she waved a gun in a stranger’s face inside a CBD parking garage. A long-time family lawyer, Harrison lost the 2014 primary for Orleans Parish Civil District Court to Bernadette D’Souza.


The first woman elected to represent District E, Ellen Hazeur served two terms on New Orleans City Council in the 1990s. She negotiated with the EPA to remove and remediate soil at the Agriculture Street/ Moton Elementary School Superfund site, and to create reasonable buyout opportunities for homeowners who wanted to relocate. Hazeur also secured resources for expanded firefighting services in the Venetian Isles. She left City Council in 2000 to serve at her current post, First City Court Clerk. (The First City Court oversees small claims and civil lawsuits up to a certain dollar value, as well as some evictions). After Katrina, Hazeur held landlords accountable for going through legal eviction processes for tenants displaced by the storm. She has also facilitated major technological upgrades for the Clerk’s office. Over the years, she’s received endorsements from the LGBT advocacy group Forum for Equality, United Teachers of New Orleans, and the AFL-CIO union. She lost an ugly 2011 Civil District Court race against Regina Bartholomew, whom she accused of benefiting from the financial and political connections of Bartholomew’s then-fiancee, Metro Disposal owner Jimmie Woods. (The engineering firm owned by Hazeur’s husband currently holds two active contracts with the City of New Orleans, totalling $348,118.24.) Hazeur was a donor to Jay Batt’s City Council campaign in 2010. Batt, who lost to Susan Guidry, is a Crimestoppers Trustee and was tapped to be Donald Trump’s Louisiana campaign chair.


Richard Perque served on the City’s Human Relations Commission, which addresses discrimination in employment, housing, and other sectors of public and private life. Perque is currently on the Louisiana Commission on Human Rights. Endorsed by United Teachers of New Orleans, AFL-CIO, Desiree Charbonnet, Helena Moreno, and Nakia Shavers (Perque is on the Board for the Dinerral Shavers Educational Fund), Perque comes from a Louisiana political family. His grandfather “Pappy” Triche was a long-serving state legislator, and his mother is a federal judge. His 2013 campaign for Traffic Court Judge was undermined by a nasty PAC-funded mailing that targeted Perque, the host of that year’s Pride Family Day, for being gay.


Summary: Ellen Hazeur seems to have a solid record of representing her district on City Council in the 1990s, and by all accounts, runs an efficient Clerk’s office at the First City Court. Richard Perque does important work on behalf of Louisiana residents who report discrimination. Of the three, Taetrece Harrison - with her extensive experience with the nuanced practice of family law - may have the most relevant legal credentials for this job.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Where to donate money in New Orleans where it will go far and do good, 4th annual edition

Occupy Sandy
Y'all, we have almost survived this year.

Congratulations to all who have worked hard to resist the violence in our everyday lives, who have demanded accountability from our elected officials and other authority figures, who have managed to create hopeful art amidst the madness, and to everyone who has continued to exist and breathe and share the wonder that is your human spirit.

Below is the 4th annual guide to "Spending Dollars to Make Some Change" in New Orleans. This year, please honor some of the fighters who toil tirelessly to make New Orleans a better place, especially for the most marginalized among us.

If you are typically inclined to make donations around this time, 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.

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 people who use drugs in southeastern Louisiana. Facilitates workshops on safer drug-use, first aid practices, and overdose prevention.

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
VAYLA
Founded in 2006 by young people in New Orleans East, VAYLA has built a successful local model for community-building post-Katrina. Campaigns have included: the fight against a toxic dumpsite planned for the East after Katrina, the expansion of resources for English language learners, and the improvement of conditions at Sarah T. Reed Senior High School.

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.

The First 72+ 
Provides transitional housing, case management, small business incubation, and other supports for people recently released from incarceration.

Housing
Jane Place 
Advocates for permanently, sustainably affordable housing in our fair city, especially for those among us most likely to experience housing instability. Hosts teach-ins about housing policy and short-term rentals' impacts on our neighborhoods.


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. One of them - a father of two children with special needs - is taking refuge in the First Grace United Church on Canal Street. 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
Mutual Aid Disaster Relief
Provides grassroots-based disaster relief by supporting the autonomy of marginalized populations within impacted communities. Has been running relief missions to Texas and Puerto Rico this past hurricane season.

Leona Tate Foundation for Change
Dedicated to preserving, interpreting and disseminating the story of the Civil Rights struggle for equal education in New Orleans, by sharing the story of the three African-American girls who integrated McDonogh #19 in 1960. Aims to preserve and re-purpose the McDonogh #19 school as a memorial museum and multi-purpose center in New Orleans.

Take Em Down NOLA
These brave folks are on the forefront of the fight for monuments that celebrate people's history, not white supremacy. Stay on board with what they're doing, and you'll be sure to end up on the right side of things.

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.

Junebug
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
New Orleans Comics & Zines Festival (Nov. 18-19)
Local & non-local artists sell their original pieces, celebrating the grassroots history and vitality of zine culture. Workshops & performances for kids.

Marti Dumas Books
New Orleans mom and educator Marti Dumas writes literature featuring children of color as the heroes. The juvenile fantasy story "Jupiter Storm" is her latest work.

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.

* * * *
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.

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

No-Nonsense Voter Education Guide for New Orleans' Runoff Elections, 11/18/2017

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.

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.

***

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And we’re back, voters of Orleans Parish! Just when you thought you’d done your civic duty already, along comes another run-off election. This November 18th, we’re choosing - for real this time! - our State Treasurer, a Civil District Judge, Mayor, and two City Councilmembers, in addition to deciding on a financial management proposition and a whole bunch of so-called security district propositions. Allons voter, mes amis!



TREASURER

Derrick Edwards (Democrat)
John Schroder (Republican)

You might be wondering, What does the State Treasurer do? In our understanding, the jobholder is kind of like the Monopoly banker: Responsible for overseeing the State’s cashflow, the Treasurer monitors public investments, debts, and payouts to various government entities. (The Treasurer also manages the “unclaimed property” registry, which is a fun place to search for secret money you never knew you had!) Importantly, the Treasurer is a non-voting, elected State official who can use the position’s platform to advocate for or against various fiscal policy measures as they are debated in the legislature and executive branch. In short, the Treasurer can broadcast a weighty opinion on issues such as university tuition hikes, but is not actually accountable to any member of the public as to how the issues are resolved. This is why a Treasurer candidate’s political views are important.

Lone Democrat Derrick Edwards made it to the run-off for State Treasurer despite lacking the endorsement of the Democratic establishment (though they finally granted it—without financial backing—on October 28th), doing much campaigning, or soliciting any donations. His main campaign theme is that Louisiana residents “pay the highest sales tax in the United States with little to show for it.” Edwards aims to “stop cuts to education, health care and wasteful government spending,” touting his dual degrees in accounting and law. He proposes greater transparency in government spending, aiming to make State budgetary matters accessible to Louisiana taxpayers, particularly those of the middle class and working class.

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. He is currently appealing a $2,100 late penalty for his campaign finance report, on the grounds that he did not have access to the voice-activated software necessary for filing the report.

He faces Republican challenger John Schroder, a real estate developer and 9-year veteran of the Louisiana House of Representatives from Covington. Schroder’s main goal is to cut the State budget and save the State’s bond rating. In 2016, Schroder sponsored the creation of the Task Force on Structural Changes in Budget and Tax Policy panel, whose proposals aimed at strengthening the State’s finances were almost entirely ignored in the legislature this year.

With a 100% rating from Louisiana Right to Life and a 90% rating from the Louisiana Family Forum, Schroder led the charge in the House Civil Law and Procedure Committee to defer then-Representative Helena Moreno’s 2011 proposal to permit adoptions by homosexual couples. This year, in accordance with a conspiracy theory propagated against Planned Parenthood, he sponsored legislation to prohibit the sale of organs and tissues of aborted fetuses. His name is also on legislation as far-ranging as a commendation for Mardi Gras King Blaine Kern’s 90th birthday, and the removal of derogatory language towards deaf people in the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure.

In a race with very few campaign donations, Schroder raised more than all six of his opponents put together. With 14% voter turnout across the state, Schroder barely beat out fellow Republicans Angele Davis by less than 3 points and Neil Riser by less than 6. Schroder is considered likely to win this run-off.

Summary: It’s hard to know who’s most qualified for this particular position, but Schroder’s conservative legislative track record gives us pause. Edwards will likely be a better representative of the people’s interests.

Judge Civil District Court, Division J

Omar Mason (Democrat)
D. Nicole Sheppard (Democrat)

Civil District Court is where matters like child support, divorce, foreclosure, and unemployment are adjudicated.There are sometimes trials, as many of you civic heroes may already know. (Trust us, the Yelp reviews for CDC jury duty are worth it.)

In this race, two little-known lawyers compete for the position vacated by Paula Brown, who is now an Appeals Court justice.

Business attorney Omar Mason is the preferred candidate of the New Orleans Bar Association membership, a fact that he refers to repeatedly in his campaign materials and appearances. He has represented the gaming industry as well as defendants in asbestos claims.

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. Sheppard also organizes an annual conference on domestic violence, and volunteers pro bono legal services to individuals seeking expungements of criminal records.

Summary: In a race between someone who defends companies being sued for asbestos poisoning (Mason), and someone who organizes Traffic Court Violation Amnesty Day (Sheppard), we go for the Amnesty Day.

Mayor City of New Orleans

LaToya Cantrell (Democrat)
Desiree Charbonnet (Democrat)

This mayoral run-off race pits two herstory-making leaders, each angling to become the first Black woman mayor of New Orleans (about time!).

Campaign rhetoric suggests LaToya Cantrell, New Orleans City Councilmember representing District B, is the progressive candidate of the two. Meanwhile, Desiree Charbonnet, former Chief Judge of Municipal Court, and the major campaign fundraiser in this race, suffered a great loss of voter confidence following negative attacks by two PACs: one a group of monied out-of-towners and white business elites, and another exclusively representing the vitriol of Sidney Torres IV, infuriated by Charbonnet’s refusal to participate in his personal televised candidate debate.

Many of Cantrell’s supporters tout her responsiveness to community concerns as a main reason for her endorsement. In particular, Congress of Day Laborer/Congreso de Jornaleros appreciate Cantrell for writing the Welcoming City resolution and the City Council resolution that requests Sheriff Gusman end ICE holds for unauthorized immigrants.

During a recent Congreso vigil held at Charbonnet’s campaign offices, attendees were frustrated that Charbonnet’s campaign manager appeared only to release a campaign statement supporting immigrants. Charbonnet herself has never specifically addressed this issue in person.

Yet Cantrell has not always been accessible as a City Councilmember, on matters both large and small. For example, in 2016, when members of Jefferson Parish law enforcement killed Eric Harris in District B, Cantrell not only neglected to take a leadership position regarding an independent investigation, but was supremely unresponsive to grassroots efforts to push her in this direction. She has also been demure on issues of public health, showing up for relevant press conferences but declining to commit to tangible follow-up action. Her legislative record has also been particularly inhumane to people living on the streets of New Orleans: In 2014, Cantrell introduced an ordinance empowered the City to conduct  widespread “sweeps” of encampments, raising constitutional concerns among legal experts. Her more recent “not-in-my-backyard” deferral policy with the City’s planned low-barrier shelter also stirred controversy.

But when it comes to campaigning, Cantrell has taken the reins from Charbonnet among liberal supporters. Cantrell has responded favorably to campaign questionnaires from the community advocate groups European Dissent, Know Your Vote NOLA, and Step Up Louisiana, while Charbonnet did not respond at all.

Cantrell’s campaign chest is lighter on funds than Charbonnet’s, but she has legions of phone bankers and social media makers on her side. She won the majority of the vote in the primary, dominating in districts that make up Richard Campanella’s “white teapot” map of the city. In the run-off, she’s likely to earn even more of Uptown and East New Orleans, areas that voted for Frank Stewart-favored Michael Bagneris, who has endorsed Cantrell in the run-off. Her neoliberal policies in favor of short term rentals, ridesharing corporations, and national chain stores are appealing to seemingly most voters of the New New Orleans.

The nine percent lead that Cantrell had over Charbonnet in the primary may have been influenced by social media ads, direct mail, and TV commercials primarily aimed at white voters and sponsored by business elites. As the New Orleans Tribune points out in a recent editorial, those ads tagged Charbonnet as “corrupt” because of her affiliation with behind-the-scenes political players, who are mostly unfamiliar to the public but veterans of local politics. Let it be noted that Charbonnet has faced zero corruption allegations during her combined 20 years as Municipal Court Judge and Parish Recorder of Mortgages.

Sure, Desiree Charbonnet’s campaign strategy has been miscalculated, especially when it comes to accepting the endorsements of the Fraternal Order of the Police and DA Leon Cannizzaro (who is facing a lawsuit from the ACLU and the Civil Rights Corps on behalf of crime victims’ rights group Silence Is Violence and six people who received “fake subpoenas” or spent time in jail as witnesses).

Public defenders, social workers, and politicos alike extol Charbonnet for her compassion and respect for defendants in her Municipal Court. As judge, she developed diversion programs for people with mental health and substance use issues, and for people arrested on prostitution charges. “I’m always looking for ways to divert non-violent offenders from the criminal justice system,” she told WWNO in 2016. “...Over the years I’ve not seen that having any kind of a positive effect on crime or on their lives, either.”

Bill Quigley, law professor and Director of the Law Clinic and the Gillis Long Poverty Law Center at Loyola University New Orleans, has supported her campaign: “It would be very exciting for our community [to elect] a woman born in New Orleans... who has experience trying to come up with creative solutions to poverty and the criminal justice system.” Former mayoral candidate and community advocate Hashim “Mayor for the Millenials” Walters has also thrown his support to Charbonnet.

As voters and advocates, the biggest question in any election may be, “Which candidate do I prefer to engage on the issues that are important to me?” or, in more cynical moments, “Which mayor would be most receptive to the rallies and protests of my community?”

In this race, we believe either candidate could be just fine. Indeed, they have the same or similar platform positions on most major issues, with Cantrell pulling a little heavier on supporting the “development” side of things.

Cantrell often says what her audience wants to hear, but her actions have shown a lack of follow-through with the legitimate concerns of community members. Indeed, her job as Councilmember has primed her to respond to public discourse in a way that Charbonnet’s judicial post has not. The recent revelation about Cantrell’s misuse of her City credit card speaks to a lack of accountability to public funds and, by extension, public trust.

Charbonnet has treated defendants in court with respect and dignity, but her campaign lacks responsiveness to grassroots-based concerns, in particular, those pertaining to the status of our immigrant communities. She has been unfairly attacked by—in the words of The New Orleans Tribune—“the ire of rich, shadowy folk,” despite there being essentially “no substantial differences in [the mayoral candidates’] ability to govern fairly, honestly and with integrity.”

Summary: We’re interested in engaging Desiree Charbonnet on the issues that are important to us because we don’t like how LaToya Cantrell has acted in her role as City Councilmember. We are also suspicious of the motives and moneyed interests behind the anti-Charbonnet attack ads.

Councilmember District B

Jay H. Banks (Democrat)
Seth Bloom (Democrat)

Criminal defense attorney Seth Bloom earned the most in campaign donations this election cycle. Some of his financial support came from fracking company Helis Oil & Gas, the law firm of short-term rental attorney Bob Ellis, and several Bourbon Street stripclubs.

Though he attributes his fundraising success to the relationships he built while serving on the Orleans Parish School Board, Bloom came under attack for his low attendance at school board meetings. His detractors argue that Bloom is a bad actor when it comes to the issues that affect Black youth. Like that of his mentor Woody Koppel, Bloom’s tenure on the school board furthered the hostile, anti-community takeover of public education by charter school boards (they’re awful).

Bloom has come out in favor of alternatives in criminal justice, claiming his own experience with opioid addiction has given him a unique perspective on the War on Drugs: "If you get caught with crack cocaine once, twice or 10 times, Angola is not the place for you. Rehab is the place for you," he has said.

Jay H. Banks, meanwhile, is Director of the Dryades YMCA, and he has a holistic view on how to support youth. He favors investing resources in a high quality standard of living for children and families, including help for single mothers, safe child care, equal pay for women, and addressing domestic violence.

Banks plans to address gentrification head-on, suggesting a freeze on property tax assessments at the time of home purchase. This would prevent the inflation of taxes on the homes of low-income individuals who live in rapidly gentrifying neighborhoods. “The culture doesn’t come from the food, it doesn’t come from the music, it doesn’t come from the architecture,” Banks said. “It comes from the people who cook the food, who play the music, who build the houses.”

Banks is backed by Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD) and politicians Gov. John Bel Edwards, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, and U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond. The 2016 Zulu King, he is a Democratic Committee representative, member of the civil rights base New Zion Baptist Church, and an active Shriner and Prince Hall Mason, which partnered with the NAACP on voting rights and desegregation.

In response to his opponent’s campaign warchest, Banks stated: “What we don’t have in his money, we do have in a proven track record and a history of community service, and a demonstrated history of helping people in this community.”

Summary: Bloom has been too slippery on schools for us to trust him with the rest of our City. Banks seems OK.

Councilmember District E

James A. Gray II (Democrat)
Cyndi Nguyen (Democrat)

Incumbent James Gray and Cyndi Nguyen are in the running for this district that represents New Orleans East and Lower 9th Ward.  Cyndi Nguyen recently completed a three-year Community Leadership Fellowship with the Kellogg Foundation, and has earned many accolades for her community service. She received the Presidential Lifetime Achievement Award, was named Woman of the Year 2016 by New Orleans CityBusiness, Champion of Minority Business in 2014 by Small Business Administration (SBA), and Champion for Children by the Children’s Trust Fund in 2008. Nguyen has said “she loves the community and wants to learn how to transfer leadership and community skills to younger generations.”

Many complain we haven’t seen any strong leadership in current Councilmember Gray. His law license was suspended once, and faces another potential suspension due to professional misconduct. He has mediated the City’s development plans for the Six Flags site, which remain noncommittal. His legislative record does include support for 1,438 bed cap in the jail, and opposition to the unfair ordinance that paved the way for sweeps of homeless encampments.

Summary: Nguyen’s leadership is promising, while Gray hasn’t exactly bowled us over.

CITY CHARTER AMENDMENTS

PW HRC AMENDMENT - SEC. 3-115 & SEC. 6-201 - CC

Shall Sections 3-115 and 6-201 of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans be amended to establish a "Savings Fund" as an operating fund of the City, to provide that appropriations from said Savings Fund may only be made by the City Council upon a two-thirds vote of its membership and only when one or more of the following conditions have been met: 1) a City Council declaration of emergency due to act of God, riot, war, or a grave emergency which threatens widespread loss of life or grievous injury to health or property; 2) a City Council determination that a significant loss in City revenues due to an economic downturn of serious proportions has occurred or is occurring; and/or 3) a mandate by the United States Government that has been determined by the City Attorney to be in accordance with law, and to require appropriations by the City Council to ensure a Savings Fund balance of at least five percent (5%) of the average of the previous five years of actual general fund expenditures except where any of the above conditions have been met?

Days after the first bout of severe flooding in Mid-City and Lakeview in late July, Councilmembers Williams, Head, Guidry, Cantrell, Ramsey, Brossett and Gray sponsored an ordinance that offers a solution for just such types of disasters: a rainy day fund. The ordinance calls for the voters to consider an amendment to the Home Rule Charter that establishes a Savings Fund, which would be administered by City Council. At least 5% of the City’s annual general fund would be appropriated by the Council into the restricted fund—that’s $27.5 million out of the city’s $60 million balance this year, if voters say yes.

According to Deputy Mayor Jeff Hebert, drawing from the city’s existing fund balance will help the city’s bond rating and add another layer of fiscal security as measured by major bond rating agencies. Use of the Rainy Day Fund would be limited to circumstances that include one or more of the following three specific conditions: 1) a City Council declaration of emergency due to act of God, riot, war, or a grave emergency which threatens widespread loss of life or grievous injury to health or property; 2) a City Council determination that a significant loss in City revenues due to an economic downturn of serious proportions has occurred or is occurring; and/or 3) a mandate by the United States Government. Such a rainy day savings fund could have been used to rehabilitate parts of New Orleans East hit by a tornado earlier this year, or funneled toward Sewerage and Water Board repairs this summer.

Summary: Yes, New Orleans needs as many tools in its toolbox to respond to crisis. Let’s also keep pushing for more progressive, preventative investments too.

CRIME PREVENTION DISTRICTS

Summary: All the these propositions propose new fees or fee renewals, which fund so-called “crime prevention,” “security,” or “subdivision improvement” initiatives for very particular neighborhoods. Usually these initiatives manifest as increased spending on private police patrol within those neighborhoods. Here we say NO to unequal allocation of public resources. 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.

LAKE TERRACE CRIME PREV. DIST. - $300/$700 PARCEL FEE RENEWAL - CC - 8 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the Lake Terrace Crime Prevention District's ("District") annual Parcel Fee, $300 per year on each improved real property parcel, except $700 per year on each improved parcel with three or more family units, located within the District, bounded by the center line of Robert E. Lee Boulevard, Pratt Drive, St. Bernard Avenue, the shoreline of Lake Pontchartrain, and Lakeshore Drive, as specified by New Orleans City Council, for a period of eight (8) years, commencing January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $130,500 annually, to be used solely and exclusively for the prevention of crime and the provision of additional security by providing an increase of the presence of law enforcement officers and/or duly authorized security personnel within the District as determined and managed by the Board of Commissioners of the District, which law enforcement officers and/or additional security patrols are paid using funds from the proceeds of the Parcel Fee and that any additional law enforcement officers and/or security patrols are supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?

LAKE WILLOW SUBDIVISION IMPROV. DIST. - $300 ANNUAL FEE RENEWAL - CC - 3 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans renew the special annual fee, called the Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District fee, on each parcel of land in the Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District, excluding Lots 1B, 1C, and 1D (which district is comprised of that area of the City of New Orleans located between Morrison Road on the north, the Lawrence Drainage Canal on the west, the I-10 Service Road on the south, and on the east by a line approximately two hundred feet west of the west line of Crowder Road), in an amount of three hundred dollars ($300) for three (3) years beginning on January 1, 2018 and ending on December 31, 2020, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $52,200 per year, to be used solely and exclusively to promote and encourage the security, beautification and overall betterment of the Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District as determined and managed by the Board of Commissioners of the Lake Willow Subdivision Improvement District, except a 1% City collection fee, which additional security shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided in the district by the New Orleans Police Department?

SPRING LAKE SUBDIVISION IMP. DIST. - $200 PARCEL FEE RENEWAL - CC - 8 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans renew the annual levy of the Spring Lake Subdivision Improvement District fee upon each parcel of taxable real property in the Spring Lake Subdivision Improvement District, which is comprised of that area of the City of New Orleans within the following boundaries: Morrison Road on the north, the Lawrence Drainage Canal on the east, the I-10 Service Road on the south, and the St. Charles Drainage Canal on the west, in the amount of and not exceeding two hundred dollars ($200) for a period of eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $40,800 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Spring Lake Subdivision, 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?

UNIVERSITY NEIGHBORHOOD SEC. & IMPROV. DIST. - $950 PARCEL FEE - CC - 10 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy the University Neighborhood Security and Improvement District's ("District") annual Parcel Fee in the amount of $950 per year for each improved parcel located within the District, bounded by Calhoun Street, downtown side, from Saint Charles Avenue to Freret Street; Freret Street, river side, from Calhoun Street to State Street; State Street from Freret Street to Saint Charles Avenue; Saint Charles Avenue, lake side, from State Street to Calhoun, annually for ten (10) years beginning on January 1, 2018 and ending December 31, 2027, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $139,650 in the first year, to be used solely and exclusively for the purpose and benefit of the District as determined and managed by the Board of Commissioners of the 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 City, the State, or other political subdivisions?

LAKE CARMEL SUBDIVISION IMP. DIST. - $250 PARCEL FEE - CC - 5 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy the Lake Carmel Subdivision Improvement District Fee upon each parcel of taxable real property situated within the boundaries of the Lake Carmel Subdivision Improvement District, in the amount of and not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250) annually for a period of five (5) years, beginning January 1, 2018 and ending December 31, 2022, with an estimated $82,500 expected to be collected from the levy of the fee for an entire year, to be used solely and exclusively to promote and encourage the beautification, security and overall betterment of the Lake Carmel Subdivision Improvement District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and their services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided in the District by the New Orleans Police Department?

AUDUBON AREA SECURITY DISTRICT - $550 PARCEL FEE - CC - 10 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy the Audubon Area Security District's ("District") annual Parcel Fee in an amount not to exceed $550 per year subject to an annual increase of twenty-five dollars ($25) upon subsequent adoption of a resolution of the Board of Commissioners of the District, for each parcel located within the District, bounded by Exposition Boulevard to St. Charles Avenue to Arabella Street to Hurst Street to Nashville Avenue to Prytania Street and back to Exposition Boulevard, annually for ten (10) years beginning on January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2028, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $189,750 in the first year, to be used solely and exclusively for promoting and encouraging security, beautification, and overall betterment within the District as determined and managed by the Board of Commissioners of the 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 City, the State, or other political subdivisions?

LAKEWOOD E. SEC. AND NEIGH. IMP. DIST. - $300 PARCEL FEE RENEWAL - CC - 8 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the annual Lakewood East Security and Neighborhood Improvement District parcel fee on each parcel of land in the Lakewood East Security and Neighborhood Improvement District, which is comprised of that area within the following perimeter: Interstate 10 Service Road, Mayo Boulevard, Orleans Parish School property formerly known as Livingston Middle School, and St. Charles Canal, in the amount of and not exceeding three hundred dollars ($300), for a period of and not exceeding eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $34,800 annually, to be used exclusively, except for a 1% city collection fee, for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Lakewood East Security and Neighborhood Improvement District, and to encourage, promote, and advance the nonprofit interests of homeowners in the subdivision through participation in charitable activities and events; and if such fee is 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?

UPPER AUDUBON SECURITY DISTRICT - $700 PARCEL FEE - CC - 8 YRS.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy the Upper Audubon Security District's ("District") annual Parcel Fee in an amount not to exceed $700 per year for each parcel located within the District, bounded by the Uptown side of Audubon Park to St. Charles Avenue (riverside only) to Broadway Street (both sides) to Magazine Street (lakeside only) and back to the Uptown side of Audubon Park, annually for eight (8) years beginning on January 1, 2019 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $239,400 in the first year, to be used solely and exclusively to aid in crime prevention and reduction by providing additional security for District residents, as determined and managed by the Board of Commissioners of the 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 City, the State, or other political subdivisions, said fee to be in lieu of and replace the $500 parcel fee authorized to be levied through 2020 pursuant to an election held on February 1, 2014?

OFFICIAL ELECTION INFO

Early voting is November 3-11 (except Sunday, 11/5 and Friday, 11/10) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. at the following locations:

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

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is November 14 by 4:30 p.m. The deadline for casting an absentee ballot is November 17 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).

FURTHER READING AND RESOURCES

WYES Informed Sources
Mayoral campaign rumors debunked on public television
League of Women Voters of New Orleans
Candidate biographies and questionnaires

Step Up Louisiana

3 Point economic justice platform

The New Orleans Tribune

“Trib Talk” Live Candidate Interviews on Facebook, from the first Black daily newspaper in the United States

Bureau of Governmental Research

2017 Candidate Q&A election series

Forward New OrleansCandidate scorecard

Voters Organized to Educate
Equal justice and civil rights advocacy

European Dissent
Anti-racism organization's candidate questionnaires

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.

This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an official endorsement of any candidate or proposition by the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network.