Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Collaborative anti-oppression / anti-bullshit voting guide for New Orleans mid-term elections 2014

The following is a New Orleans voters guide for the upcoming November 4th, 2014 elections. It was compiled by a group of individuals who wish to confront the existing lack of accountability in the executive and judicial branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally. We are disgusted by the opaque language of the proposed state constitutional amendments, rendering confused even the most well-educated voter. We did a lot of research, and we did a lot of talking with our neighbors, friends, and allies. We found out that a lot of this stuff matters, and a lot of it prolly doesn't. We agreed on the following guidelines to make - or in some cases, decline to make - our recommendations:

• Commit to an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist agenda;

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

• Favor the judicial candidates (especially the incumbents) less destructively inclined towards the lives of the poor and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive 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.

This is a working draft, so expect updates as we continue to do research. Feel free to submit your contributions! Also, no one paid us to do this. We just care like that.

Sorry we didn't get this done before early voting. Vote early and vote often!

Check out some other voting guides on http://nolavoting.info/ if ya dare!

Louisiana Legislators

U. S. Senator

Wayne Ables #1 Democrat
“Bill” Cassidy #3 Republican
Thomas Clements #4 Republican
Mary L. Landrieu #5 Democrat
“Rob” Maness #6 Republican
Brannon Lee McMorris #7 Libertarian
Vallian Senegal #8 Democrat
William P. Waymire, Jr. #9 Democrat

The urge to recommend Mary L. Landrieu comes from a place of solidarity with those working in reproductive justice. A candidate like Bill Cassidy deeply risks access to self-actualizing tools for the people of Louisiana, such as the right to reproductive choice. And recommending Mary Landrieu recognizes her support of her common sense policies, such as ending the federal ban on syringe access funding. However, Landrieu’s position as Chair of the Senate's Oil and Gas Committee is deeply problematic. We must recognize that every Louisiana politician is in the pocket of the oil and gas industry. As such, they should not be in positions of influence over oil and gas legislation - related to fracking, Tar Sands, the Keystone Pipeline, etc - at the federal level. You can use your vote this election to unseat Landrieu and protect Louisiana land from the oil and gas industries’ harms, as administered by her. But we're not sure there's a better alternative.

No Recommendation: We’re UNDECIDED.

U. S. Representative 1st Congressional District

Scalise
Dugas
Mendoza
Sanford

The “keywords” field for Mendoza’s website is as follows: “Scalise wants U.S. boots on the ground in Iraq and Syria and I dont, Scalise says FRACKING is safe. I say is not--it produces cancer, Scalise blows over $64 000 for dinners for volunteers at Ruth Chris and Acadiana Restaurants when at the 1st CD we have more than 64 000 umployed and homeless!” [sic] This passionate Ponchatoula planter, Ph.D, USAF (Ret.) is the organic herbal antidote to toxic incumbent Steve Scalise. Vote FOR Vinny Mendoza.

U. S. Representative 2nd Congressional District

David Brooks #14 No Party
Samuel Davenport #15 Libertarian
Gary Landrieu #17 Democrat
Cedric Richmond #18 Democrat

Re-electing Cedric Richmond is to the benefit of Southeastern Louisiana. He is currently a key member of the Congressional Black Caucus and on his way to a spot on the House Ways and Means Committee. Vote FOR Cedric Richmond, incumbent.

Orleans Parish Court Seats


Recommended Reading:
Candidates line up for Orleans Parish court seats” The Advocate
November 4 Contested Offices and Candidates” The League of Women’s Voters New Orleans

Judge Civil District Court, Division D

Nakisha Ervin-Knott #59 Democrat
Lloyd J. Medley, Jr. #60 Democrat

The challenger Nakisha Ervin-Knott won the endorsement of the majority of New Orleans lawyers in the New Orleans Bar Association Poll, was named a 2014 Leader in Law by New Orleans City Business Magazine, and is an important community leader with involvement in the Independent Women’s Organization, ProBono Project, and ASI Federal Credit Union. Not to mention that unseating those in power is great, especially when our incumbent Lloyd Medley, Jr. used all CAPS in his personal responses and can’t spell “plethora.” Vote FOR Nakisha Ervin-Knott.

Recommended Reading:
Judge Civil District Court, Division D” The League of Women Voters
Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Lloyd Medley, Jr. to run for re-election” Nola.com

Judge Civil District Court, Division F

“Chris” Bruno #61 Democrat
Ruth Ramsey #62 Democrat

Unseat the incumbent. Vote FOR Ruth Ramsey. Why not.

Recommended Reading:
Judge Civil District Court, Division F” The League of Women Voters

Judge Civil District Court, Domestic Section 1

Bernadette D’Souza #63 Democrat
Taetrece Harrison #64 Democrat

For Family Court, you want a judge who understands that sometimes families have unmet needs, or are unconventionally structured. You don't want a judge who throws every kid into foster care, or forces parents/guardians into culturally insensitive & surveillance-oriented "programs." D'Souza has been pretty hip to mediation and other court interventions that streamline cases. Harrison is a single mom who used to be on government assistance, so presumably her experience would make her compassionate about the struggles of court-involved New Orleans families. D'Souza's done well; Harrison would probably do well too.

Recommended Reading
Orleans Parish Family Court race pits Bernadette D’Souza against Taetrece Harrison" Nola.com
Judge Civil District Court, Domestic Section 1” The League of Women Voters

Judge Civil District Court, Domestic Section 2 For Reg. and Unexp. Term

Janet Ahern #65 Democrat
Monique Barial #66 Democrat
Michelle Scott-Bennett #67 Democrat

Based on her interview with the Lens, it sounds like Monique Barial will do the most good in this spot.

Recommended Reading:
"Monique Barial would encourage mediation if elected domestic judge" Lens
Judge Civil District Court, Domestic Section 1” The League of Women Voters

Judge Criminal District Court, Section D

Graham Bosworth #73 Democrat
Frank A. Marullo, Jr. #76 Democrat
Marie Williams #77 Democrat

Bosworth - whose family has influence over the public health industry in the city - wants to streamline/internetize the court, which sounds good, except you never know what young upstarters will do to prove themselves in positions of power. Judge Marullo frequently lets accused criminals go free, because the NOPD and the District Attorney are too lazy and stupid to file cases correctly. We agree with this policy. When possible, use the masters' tools. Marullo was CARJACKED recently at gunpoint, and he basically laughed it off, saying “It’s just part of the scene.” This is the least blood-thirsty judge you can imagine. Does that mean he sometimes makes bad calls? Certainly. Also, he's been known to be shitty to victims of domestic violence. But until we have a justice system that isn't a for-profit engine of racism, and a jail that isn't a banana-republic version of Abu Ghraib, we need judges like Marullo. Vote FOR Frank Marullo.

Recommended Reading
Orleans Parish judge after carjacking: 'It's just part of the scene' Nola.com
Judge Criminal District Court, Section D” The League of Women Voters

Judge Criminal District Court, Section G

Paul N. Sens #78 Democrat
Byron C. Williams #79 Democrat

Just a cute story here (please read sarcasm): Paul Sens’ hired Gusman’s wife around the same time Sheriff Gusman hired Sens’ wife! And, I won’t even tell you about his brother. We couldn't really find anything magnetic about Williams, either. He's kinda a committed go-to-jail-for-weed-possession prosecutor type. Vote or not.

Recommended Reading
Judge, Criminal District Court G” League of Women Voters
Orleans Parish Judge - Criminal District Court, Section G: Meet the candidates” Nola.com

Judge Juvenile Court, Section E

Jacqueline Carroll-Gilds #84 Democrat
Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet #85 Democrat
Desiree Cook-Calvin #86 Democrat
Yolanda King #88 Democrat
“Niki” Roberts #89 Democrat
Cynthia D. Samuel #90 Democrat

Cynthia Samuel lost to Yolanda King last year, but made an impression on one of our contributors during a debate in which she discussed the importance of not "chipping away at the right not to have cruel and unusual punishment.” Is there a candidate that is 1. less awkward, and 2. would address the racist, classist court system, rather than blame youth themselves and their parents and teachers? We wish. Otherwise, vote FOR Cynthia Samuel, though she's recently made some flip-floppy remarks about harsher punishments for first-time law-breakers. Cook-Calvin might be alright. Really, who knows about this crew - largely a mix of prosecutors and others who want to lock up our city's youth -?  Also, Yolanda King doesn't know what "domicile" means. It means "home," dear. "Home."

Recommended Reading
Meet the Candidates” Nola.com
"Judge Juvenile Court, Section E” League of Women Voters
Indicted Judge Yolanda King, accused of lying about her residency, lists three different addresses during qualifying” Nola.com

Amendments, State

Recommended Reading
Guide to the 2014 Constitutional Amendments, an Independent, Non-Partisan Review by Public Affairs Research Council, Louisiana

CA NO. 1 (Act 439 – HB 533) – Medical Assistance Trust Fund

Do you support an amendment to authorize the legislature to create the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund, for the payment of Medicaid reimbursement to the health care provider groups paying fees into the fund? (Adds Article VII, Section 10.14)

The Gambit editorial board supports this amendment, and suggests that it would protect the Louisiana Medical Assistance Trust Fund - which contains funding for nursing homes, group homes, and pharmacies - from executive branch plundering. The Advocacy Center's assessment of this amendment's consequences is different: The amendment will constrain the state healthcare budget, leave unprotected "most of the services that affect the 45,000 people with chronic and long-term disabilities who are on a waiting list to receive health and related services in their home rather than in institutions. If passed, CA #1 will leave the following important services vulnerable to additional budget cuts: Home and community based waiver services that assist seniors and people with disabilities to remain in their own homes; Individual and family support services for people with disabilities; Mental health services; Hospice; Services provided by Councils on Aging; Primary care; Early Intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities; and Employment supports for people with disabilities." The Advocacy Center is wise to highlight the relatively influential lobbies for nursing homes, group homes, and pharmacies that support this amendment. However, we are not certain if we have enough information to take a definitive stance on this amendment, which appears to be a double-sided coin. UNDECIDED, leaning AGAINST

CA NO. 2 (Act 438 – HB 532) – Hospital Stabilization Fund

Do you support an amendment to create the Hospital Stabilization Fund to stabilize and protect Medicaid reimbursements for health care services by depositing assessments paid by hospitals, as authorized by the legislature, into a fund to support Louisiana hospital reimbursement? (Adds Article VII, Section 10.13)

Most of what goes for the previous amendment holds true of this one. Scarily supercapitalist for-profit hospitals and their lobbyists are still less scary than the region’s dominant oil & gas & chemical-refinery death-industries or the Bosch-like world of the hospitality industry. The mega-hospital lobby is just trying to protect itself against Bobby Jindal. Wouldn’t you try and protect yourself against Bobby Jindal, if you could? *touches forehead of mega-hospital lobby* ...It’s afraid! ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PKpIzlcV7QY )

The Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana's explanation of this proposal provides a fairly compelling argument against the amendment:"Creating constitutional protections for a certain class of health care providers – hospitals – will create problems for other programs without this special status. In particular, higher education and health care providers without this protection will be at greater risk for reductions because of the state’s limited discretionary spending authority. Constitutional provisions limiting the budgetary options of policymakers should be avoided. The financing system created by this amendment could be done without constitutional protection or an amendment. The same program could be created by statute, which would give the governor and Legislature more flexibility to tweak the law if necessary." In other words, this amendment may benefit hospitals - including those which treat the uninsured - but potentially at the expense of other healthcare spaces such as clinics, as well as institutions of higher education.

This amendment obviously does not do enough to improve the conditions of Louisiana's abysmal healthcare system, and may put education institutions at jeopardy. However, it is unclear whether the amendment will alleviate or deepen the vulnerability of social service resources that a "flexible budget" presents to executive branch pillaging. UNDECIDED.

CA NO. 3 (Act 871 – HB 488) – Tax Sale

Do you support an amendment allowing an authorized agent of a tax collector to assist in the tax sale process, including the sale of property for delinquent taxes and that the fee charged by the authorized agent be included within the costs that the collector can recover in the tax sale? (Amends Article VII, Section 25(A)(1) and (E))

This amendment seeks to allow local governments and tax collection departments to use outside contractors to collect back taxes and sell properties that have a tax backlog attached. We do not want more money going towards tax collector shakedowns of property owners, many of whom struggle to maintain their houses, let alone keep up with rising property tax rates. We agree with the Gambit's assessment here: "We think tax collectors should do their jobs themselves." Vote AGAINST this amendment.

CA NO. 4 (Act 873 – HB 628) – Investment of Public Funds

Do you support an amendment to authorize the investment of public funds to capitalize a state infrastructure bank and the loan, pledge, guarantee, or donation of public funds by a state infrastructure bank for eligible transportation projects? (Amends Article VII, Section 14(B))

Remember when Gov. Bobby Jindal refused federal transportation monies to applause of anti-Obama conservatives? It happened. The gist is that the state and non-profits are going to be the funders of local transportation projects such as road and infrastructure improvements, or even the fantasy of an Amtrak line between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, and this amendment opens a path to such funds. This would allow the State Treasurer to invest funds in a bank, if such a bank were created, and a vote for does not designate any tax revenue toward it yet. Vote FOR this amendment.

CA NO. 5 (Act 875 – HB 96) – Remove Mandatory Retirement Age of Judges

Do you support an amendment to remove the constitutional requirement that a judge retire upon attaining the age of seventy or, if his seventieth birthday occurs during his term, that he retire upon completion of that term? (Amends Article V, Section 23)

Do you ever have a depressing conversation with someone who just seems totally intractably ignorant, and the only way you can stop from feeling suicidally depressed by the interaction is telling yourself, “Whatever, they’ll probably be dead soon anyway” ? Come on, sure you do. This state tends to have very elderly people in positions of power. It’s not like the young people in power are any better, but at least they grew up in a time when interracial marriage wasn’t a felony. Our state’s relatively recent (and, it should be said, outrageously ageist) law against re-electing judges past 70 is anti-incumbent, so we’re for it. This amendment would change that law, so we recommend you vote AGAINST it.

CA NO. 6 (Act 870 – HB 111) – Fire and Police Protection Orleans Parish

Do you support an amendment to authorize the governing authority of Orleans Parish to increase the annual millage rate levied for fire and police protection, to require that the revenue from the fire and police millages be used for fire and police protection service enhancements, and to require that any increase be approved by the voters of Orleans Parish? (Amends Article VI, Section 26(E))

This would give money to NOPD. If you want to give more money to NOPD, a violent and unaccountable institution so corrupt and unjust that even the federal government said so, you might be reading the wrong voter guide. The Fire Department’s funding is safe - - don’t be fooled. We strongly urge you to vote AGAINST this.

CA NO. 7 (Act 433 – SB 96) – Disabled Veterans

Do you support an amendment to provide that the homesteads of veterans with a service-connected disability rating of one hundred percent unemployability or totally disabled by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs, and their surviving spouses, shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation for up to one hundred fifty thousand dollars, and that a parishwide vote shall not be required to implement this change in qualification for the exemption? (Amends Article VII, Section 21(K)(1) and (3))

This amendment will make it easier for disabled veterans to obtain and maintain their housing. We support any initiative to keep people housed without unnecessary bureaucratic surveillance. Vote FOR this amendment.

CA NO. 8 (Act 434 – SB 128) – Artificial Reef Development Fund

Do you support an amendment to establish the Artificial Reef Development Fund in the state treasury by depositing in to the fund monies that have been received by the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries in the form of grants, donations, or other assistance to provide funding for programs dedicated to managing an artificial reef system, the wild seafood certification program, and inshore fisheries habitat enhancement projects? (Adds Article VII, Section 10.11)

This fund was raided to balance the State’s budget, which is not okay. Funding dedicated to Southern Louisiana lands and wildlife needs to be protected from misuse of Executive power in the future. Vote FOR this amendment.

CA NO. 9 (Act 432 – SB 56) – Special Assessment Level – Disabled

Do you support an amendment to exclude owners who are permanently totally disabled from the requirement that they annually certify to the assessor the amount of their adjusted gross income in order to receive the Special Assessment Level on their residences for property tax purposes? (Amends Article VII, Section 18(G)(1)(a)(iv))

This amendment will remove a layer of bureaucratic surveillance for the housing of permanently disabled persons under the age of 65. We believe an annual application in which people need to prove their disability is invasive, a waste of time, and an affront to the dignity of our differently abled neighbors. Vote FOR this amendment.

CA NO. 10 (Act 436 – HB 256) – Redemption Period, Abandoned Property

Do you support an amendment providing for an eighteen-month redemption period in any parish other than Orleans, for vacant property sold at tax sale which is blighted or abandoned? (Effective January 1, 2015) (Adds Article VII, Section 25(B)(3))

This would lower the “redemption period” for properties declared blighted. Eighteen months is already the law in Orleans Parish. We urge you to vote AGAINST this amendment, which has the potential to take more property out of the hands of the poor.

CA NO. 11 (Act 874 – HB 341) – Executive Branch Departments

Do you support an amendment to change the maximum number of departments in the executive branch of state government from twenty to twenty-one? (Amends Article IV, Section 1(B))

This is specifically up for vote to add a Department of Elderly Affairs - important, yes. Thing is, services to the elderly are already provided via appropriate and functional departments, and adding a department may not cost much now but bureaucracies tend to grow over time. Why increase bureaucracy? Vote AGAINST this amendment.

CA NO. 12 (Act 437 – HB 426) – Wildlife and Fisheries Commission

Do you support an amendment to require that two members of the Wildlife and Fisheries Commission be electors from parishes located north of the parishes of Beauregard, Allen, Evangeline, Avoyelles, and Pointe Coupee? (Amends Article IX, Section 7(A))

This amendment will guarantee some more conservative Northern Louisiana parishes more seats on the state Wildlife & Fisheries Commission. (Apologies to any unicorn enlightened North Louisiana candidate scientists who may exist for this position). We think that Louisiana overall is too conservative on environmental matters as it is. We don't need Wildlife and Fisheries Commissioners who think climate change is a communist hoax. Also, North Louisiana doesn't have the oily Gulf lapping up on their city. Vote AGAINST this amendment.

CA NO. 13 (Act 872 – HB 489) – Lower Ninth Ward Property Sale

Do you support an amendment to authorize the governing authority of the city of New Orleans to sell at a price fixed by the legislature property located in the Lower Ninth Ward of the city of New Orleans? (Amends Article VII, Section (14)(B))

Since NORA (the state agency, not the person) is so dysfunctional it can’t sell off “abandoned” parcels of the Lower 9th Ward, we get a state amendment taking that authority from NORA. If this passes, the city will auction off lots at a low, low price set by the State Legislator - - maybe a dollar a lot! Wowee! Maybe not! Sure, the New Orleans Redevelopment Agency is a spider’s nest of bureaucratic do-nothings, but we’re suspicious of this plan’s outcome. We noncommitally suggest you vote AGAINST this amendment because hey, it actually could be worse.

CA NO. 14 (Act 435 – HB 131) – Tax Rebates, Incentives, Abatements

Do you support an amendment to provide that legislation relative to tax rebates, tax incentives, and tax abatements may not be introduced or considered by the legislature in a regular session held in an even-numbered year? (Amends Article III, Section 2(A)(3)(b) and (4)(b)(introductory paragraph))

Currently the split session system in which legislators can convene on fiscal matters in one year and general matters in another is being stymied by the appearance of these fiscal issues in general sessions. In support of greater accountability of legislators and clarity of process, vote FOR this amendment. On a sidebar, we encourage our legislative branch to hold general sessions only on even-numbered years when the moon is nigh, the crows are at rest, and the wind comes from the east. Whyyyyy are we spending time on this

Amendments, Municipal

PW Law Enf. Dist. – 2.9 Mills – Sheriff – 10 Yrs.

Shall the Law Enforcement District of the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana (the “District”), levy a special tax of not exceeding 2.9 mills on all property subject to taxation in the District (an estimated $9,073,000 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of 10 years, beginning with the year 2015 and ending with the year 2024, with said millage levied each year to be reduced by the millage rate levied that year for the District’s currently outstanding General Obligation Bonds, for the purpose of providing additional funding for the District and the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, including the operation, maintenance and upkeep of jails and related facilities?

This mill is intended to pay for new jail construction, and pump money into jail operations and maintenance. Proponents claim that it will help Sheriff Gusman comply with the federal consent decree regarding the decrepit conditions at Orleans Parish Prison. Given Sheriff Gusman's stubborn recalcitrance to adhere to the consent decree, we do not believe this millage will be the tipping point for his compliance. More broadly, we do not want to spend more money on jails in this city, especially when so many public resources are in dire need of funding. Vote AGAINST.

New Orleans City Charter Amendment, Inauguration DatePW HRC Amendment Sec. 3 – CC – Sec. 3-102 & 4-201

Shall City Charter Sections 3-102 and 4-201 be amended, effective June 1, 2018, to read as follows: Section 3-102. Number and Terms of Councilmembers. The Council shall consist of seven members, of whom five shall be elected from districts, one from the City at-Large as Councilmember-at-Large, Division “1” and one from the City at-Large as Councilmember-at-Large, Division “2”, each to be voted on as separate offices. The terms of councilmembers shall be four years beginning the second Monday in January next following their election except that a councilmember elected to fill a vacancy shall serve only for the remainder of the unexpired term. The two Councilmember-at-Large offices shall not be considered to be new or different offices for purposes of Section 3-105(3) herein. Section 4-201. Election and Term. The electors of the City shall elect a Mayor at an election to be held in accordance with the election laws of the State. The Mayor shall take office on the second Monday in January and every four years thereafter following election. A person who has served as Mayor for more than one and one-half terms in two consecutive terms shall not be eligible for election as Mayor for the succeeding term?

This amendment would re-jigger the date at which the newly elected take power. In line with our distrust of the New Orleans government, we urge you to vote AGAINST this amendment. Mostly because we don't want underhanded lame-duck shit, and we certainly don't want underhanded new-duck shit.

New Orleans City Charter Amendment, ContractingPW HRC Amendment Sec. 6 – CC – Sec. 6-308(1) & 6-308(5)(b)

Shall Sections 6-308(1) and 6-308(5)(b) of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans relative to written contracts to which the City is a party beamended, effective January 1, 2015: (1) to require that the executive branch competitive selection process for professional services contracts involve a selection committee, composed of at least three (3) individuals from local government except the Mayor, possessing relevant subject matter expertise, to review and evaluate proposals and make selections in meetings noticed and open to the public, and that the committee’s records shall be public; (2) to allow the Mayor to authorize, by executive order, exceptions to such competitive selection process resulting from emergencies that pose a threat to public health, safety, and welfare, as authorized by law; (3) to require that the City establish and maintain a program to encourage disadvantaged business enterprises to participate in City contracts; and (4) to allow, with the Mayor’s authorization, the Chief Administrative Officer instead of the Director of Finance to sign such contracts on the City’s behalf?

There’s way too much executive power in these contracting rules (less than in previous rules). Worse, future administrations could still do away with the selection committees. Yeah, we want to support "disadvantaged businesses," but this seems like a sneaky maneuver to keep power hierarchies exactly how they are. Vote AGAINST this amendment.

Recommended Reading: