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Endorsements for the October 14 Election

9th October 2017   ·   0 Comments

The next Mayor of New Orleans will arguably set the course of the Crescent City for the next two generations. As we exit the era of post-Katrina recovery, we enter our tricentennial, so it is incumbent upon Orleans Parish’s next Chief Executive to create for us a vision that transcends settled cliches of the “Big Easy” and to lead us into the city of opportunity as well as culture in the decades to come. That takes a special type of leader.

Equally, the next New Orleans City Council will have the task of finding the money to make this dream fulfilled and yet still stand as a bulwark for the neighborhoods and communities impacted by change. The same is true for the Jefferson Parish Council where the next Councilman will provide the swing vote on that powerful body, choosing between the machine politics of old or the progressive reforms of future opportunity.

Moreover, Louisiana has a real chance of electing the first African-American State Treasurer on Saturday. It’s often said that elections are important, but our choices this weekend will set the stage for the next century. Give our home city a 300th birthday present. Invest in her future. Please vote on October 14, 2017.

Treasurer of the State of Louisiana: Derrick Edwards

The Pelican State has a chance to vote into office a brilliant and accomplished gentleman who has demonstrated eminent qualifications for the office, exceeding those several of the recent incumbents.

Derrick Edwards also has endured a near-heroic personal story. A paraplegic, Edwards overcame his disability with the brilliant application of his mind. His dedication to overcome no matter the odds would stand as an inspiration in office to countless young people. If elected, he would serve as the highest-ranking African American to hold state office since Gov. P.B.S. Pinchback during Reconstruction.

Which makes the decision of the Democratic Party not to endorse their sole standard-bearer so perplexing. The same criticism can be levied at multiple local African-American political groups, who out of political expediency, opted against one of their own, endorsing a North Louisiana Republican in his place.

As the state’s oldest continuously published Black newspaper, we honor our own best potential leaders. Vote Derrick Edwards.

Judge, Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals: Tiffany Chase

If persistence amounts to a virtue, Tiffany Chase has earned her place on the Louisiana Court of Appeals.

The veteran judge lost this Orleans Parish-centric state appellate court position by a razor-thin margin, but had the courage to run again despite her busy docket at the CDC. She is eminently qualified for promotion, having served seven years as a judicial law clerk at the Louisiana Supreme Court, reviewing all cases on all aspects of law which come before the Fourth Circuit, including criminal law, civil law, family law, and domestic violence. The opinions written by Chase (on behalf of the Justices) remain precedent. Then, in private practice, she worked on both sides, for plaintiffs’ and civil defense law firms, before ascending the bench.

Civil District Court Judge – Div. J: Edward Morris

It was so refreshing to meet Ed Morris. He is precisely the kind of candidate whom our editors often hope would run for judge, but rarely do. A successful attorney with decades of practice, he seeks the CDC bench with a view to contribute his long experience to public service, not to seek a title, or a safe sinecure.

Moreover, Morris’ desire to oversee a Family Law docket, and to eventually establish a Family Court section in the CDC constitutes a reform long overdue. Too many Civil Court Judges look at domestic law as something they have to endure before they are promoted to the really interesting “corporate stuff”.

Ed Morris understands people are the most important asset the city has. Not surprising for a leader who is also a licensed counselor and an ordained minister—as well as a lawyer. Let’s add judge to that list of accomplishments.

Coroner: Dr. Dwight McKenna

For years, Dr. Dwight McKenna has been a constructive critic of the operations of the coroner’s office. No outsider knows it better. He runs with a set of reforms, and would be the first African American to hold the office. He deserves a chance to put his reforms into action.

Mayor of New Orleans: LaToya Cantrell

This was an incredibly close decision.

Our newspaper has supported Desiree Charbonnet and Michael Bagneris in the past, and both offer innovative solutions to our city’s problems.

However, only one candidate matches current political experience with a deep connection to the neighborhoods and communities of our city.

LaToya Cantrell made her name saving Broadmoor from destruction post-Katrina. She garnered private monies to rebuild its library and community center, and innovated a new form of neighborhood specific, community millage that can only be used for programs or improvements to that specific neighborhood.

Cantrell proved residents are willing to support their community if the financial focus is hyper-local, and local homeowners are involved in the solutions.

She carried that neighborhood-based resolve onto her tenure on the City Council, where Cantrell achieved advances both in economic development and community preservation. Her campaign to ban indoor smoking made national news, with major publications wondering if Cantrell’s next stop was the Mayor’s office.

LaToya Cantrell needs no on-the-job training. She is an outsider-reformer with an insider’s expertise. She can begin working on behalf of the beleaguered people of New Orleans on Day One, with no delay—an essential requirement thanks to the budgetary and public safety challenges the next Mayor must confront.

Council At-Large – Div. 1: Helena Moreno

This distinguished State Representative has come a long way since her time on television. From her work on domestic violence to equal pay to economic development, Moreno has been one of the leading lights of the State House.

As well as highlighting the “big issues,” Rep. Moreno has developed a reputation for strong constituent services. A focus on the quality-of-life challenges confronting residents of her district uniquely prepares her for the work of a Councilperson. Moreover, her willingness to tackle major issues of gender inequality trumpets Moreno as the best choice to represent the city at-Large on the Council.

Council At-Large – Div. 2: Jason Williams

Council President Williams has served as a constructive critic of the Landrieu Administration, willing to lend a hand for needful reforms, but also unwilling to surrender his responsibility for administrative oversight.

Williams has led the City Council with such distinction that more than a few hoped he would run for mayor. He opted instead to seek a second term At-Large, and has very much earned another four years.

Council — District A: Joe Giarrusso

Stretching from Lakeview to Mid-City to Carrollton to the Riverbend of Uptown (at Jefferson Ave.), the incumbent of this majority White seat must balance suburban-like lakefront, poor Black communities such as Hollygrove, hipster Meccas surrounding Mid-City or Oak St.., and silk stocking neighborhoods near the universities.

It’s a difficult task of the best of times. The successor to the term-limited Susan Guidry must already have a good insight into government operations, as well as being an existing civic leader who can relate to the rising millennial influx into District A. Joe Giarrusso has such a resume.

Forget his famous political name for a moment. His own accomplishments more than qualify him for the City Council. Most prominent on his long list of achievements, serving as President of both Lakeview Civic and the Young Leadership Council give him a particular insight to the needs of both neighborhoods and the young people repopulating them with growing families.

Giarrusso has the seasoning to start working for District A on Day One, and the community-based perspective to achieve for his constituents betterment.

Council — District B: Jay Banks

Jay Banks has a lifetime of service to Central City. Through his work for and with Dryades YMCA, Banks has offered hope to countless young people from desperate backgrounds. Jay Banks is one of the few people who can truly represent the diversity of District B, which goes from the poorest blocks in Central City to the mansions of the Garden District. As a Councilmember, he can bring together the rich and the poor, but isn’t that a job worthy of a King?

Council — District C: Kristen Gisleson Palmer

Councilwoman Palmer wants her old job back, and our editors are very heartened by her return.
Due to family commitments, Palmer did something unusual four years ago. She gave up power when she could have had another term. But even voluntarily out of office, the former housing advocate spent much of her time advocating for her constituents. She was one of the loudest voices opposing a wall of concrete along the river in the Marigny, and has led the fight for those who depend on the Algiers ferry. Her singular efforts may be the difference to having an elevated walkway over the train tracks.

Council — District D: Jared Brossett

Councilman Brossett came into office with extensive experience as a council aide. His background knowledge of the operations of City Hall has proven his greatest asset in representing primarily Lakefront district. He deserves another term.

Council — District E: James Gray II

The veteran statesman of the City Council, his expertise is essential.

James Gray represents the largest geographic district in the city. Some areas still feel the aftermath of Katrina even a decade later, and the residents need a councilman who can get them answers immediately. A Councilman with the influence and gravitas not to accept excuses, but demand results. James Gray is such a Councilman.

Orleans Public School Milliage Renewal

Proposition A – Renews 1.55 mills to generate $5.7 million for school books, materials and supplies: VOTE YES

Proposition B – Renews 1.55 mills to generate $5.7 million for discipline and dropout programs: VOTE YES

Proposition C – Renews 7.27 mills to generate $26.6 million for employee salaries, benefits and incentives: VOTE YES

These three Millages were initially authorized in 1988 and renewed in 1998 and 2008. These are not new taxes but rather are a continuation of existing, badly needed revenues for our schools. In fact, these millages are less than the original 1988 millages, which were 2 mills, 2 mills, and 9.7 mills respectively. These revenues total approximately $850 per student per year for our schools. Ninety-eight percent (98%) of the funds go directly to the schools, with the remaining 2% used to monitor the schools’ performance and to hold them accountable for funds and programs. Consequently, a school with 600 students would face a cut of over $500,000 without these millages.

Jefferson Parish District 4: Dominick Impastato

Unlike in Orleans, true contracting authority, as well as fiscal authority, are invested in the Parish Council rather than the chief executive.

The majority controlling the Jefferson Parish Council determines the awarding of millions of dollars in projects—and where the money goes. This is particularly important for Jefferson’s growing minority population, whose communities amount to over a third of the population, yet are too often ignored.

This close Councilmanic contest pits a representative of the old machine order in Jefferson Parish and a rising star for reform. While still thought of as suburban, Jefferson confronts many of the urban problems that have plagued Orleans for decades. The most populous parish in metropolitan area needs fresh ideas. Jefferson needs Dominick Impastato.

He has gained just enough experience on the Kenner City Council to understand the operational challenges confronting local government, and the demographic changes that the parish as a whole experiences. His current district reflects the changes.

Impastato has received enough of the political education to know how to fight, but stands unconnected to the old courthouse machine in Jefferson Parish—unlike his opponent. He is truly a “fresh voice”.

Right now, the parish council is divided 3-3. The next District 4 representative will become the tiebreaker. Let’s make sure it’s someone with the independence to make the right choice. Vote Impastato.

PW Prop. (MITS Public Transportation) – 1 Mill Renewal – PC – 10 Yrs.: VOTE YES

PW Prop. (Public Transportation) – 2 Mills Renewal – PC – 10 Yrs.: VOTE YES

City of Harahan – 3 Mills – CC – 10 Yrs.: VOTE YES

The first two millage renewals underwrite most of the public support for bus services in Jefferson. Without them, transportation options for needy communities would evaporate. As Jefferson has become the “jobs center” of the metropolitan area, to Jefferson transit but also intact employees traveling from Orleans Parish to work. If you live in Jefferson, please support these renewals. If you live elsewhere in the metro, call a relative or friend in Jefferson and ask them to vote for the renewals.

The last three mills, specifically for the City of Harahan, covers existing operations costs. Since the average milliage rate in Harahan last than that charged across the metro, supporting this tax for a well-governed town is perfectly reasonable. The Mayor and Council of Harahan rarely ask for money—even renewals—unless the need is great.


CA NO. 1 (Act 428 – SB 140) – Exemption of property taxes for construction sites: VOTE NO

CA NO. 2 (Act 427 – HB 145) – Homestead exemption for unmarried surviving spouse: VOTE YES

CA NO. 3 (Act 429 – HB 354) – Dedicate any new taxes (gas) into the Construction Subfund: VOTE YES

The opening proposed Amendment would prohibit assessors from charging a tax on the “material” at a construction site. What is not recognized is that very few do. This would remove an assessor’s discretionary authority, which is a very bad idea. In theory, an unscrupulous property owner could prolong “construction” for years to save on property tax bills.

News reports often show Third World countries with half-finished dwellings where families have lived for years. This is because—in many cases—property taxes are not charged while “buildings are under construction.” Major cities like Cairo end up looking like construction sites for years. Louisiana deserves better. Trust our assessors to know the difference between construction and fraud.

The second amendment ranks as a better idea, though our editors were somewhat divided upon the notion. This proposal would extend the $150,000 homestead exemption enjoyed by retired military veterans (and some first responders) to their surviving spouses.

Some argue that this special tax status is already too widely given to the vets themselves. However, those that wait at home for a loved one—who daily puts his or her life on the line—deserve consideration too.

The third proposed amendment makes the legislature do what its members should have done regardless. Any excess gas taxes that are collected will be automatically directed to pay for infrastructure. No surplus money remains right now in the general fund, but if we ever have any, this amendment would guarantee that the House and Senate will not blow those extra severance funds before their appropriation for a constructive purpose.

This article originally published in the October 9, 2017 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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