1. Voting rights complaints
Election Day, Nov. 8, is almost here (thank goodness) and U.S. Attorney Kenneth A. Polite announced last week he had appointed Assistant U.S. Attorney Irene Gonzalez as district election officer for the Eastern District of Louisiana, which covers Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany and nine other parishes. Gonzalez will be the point person for handling voting rights and election fraud complaints. Voters can reach Gonzalez on Election Day at (504) 680-3000 or (504) 680-3077.
Louisianans also can contact the local FBI office at (504) 816-3000 or the federal government's Civil Rights Division's Voting Section at (800) 253-3931.
2. Quote of the week
"The Louisiana Senatorial Debate being held at Dillard University has garnered attention locally and nationally and has spurred a wide range of emotions within the university's student body, our alumni and from people across America. ... Dillard stands by its contractual obligation to host the debate. ... Understanding the electoral process, including the elements that we may not agree with, is vital to the success of our American democracy." — A press release from Dillard University, addressing the news that U.S. Senate candidate and former Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard David Duke met the criterion (5 percent support in a statewide poll) to participate in the Nov. 2 Senate debate organized by Raycom and hosted by Dillard, a historically black university.
3. License to panhandle?
The city of Slidell passed an ordinance last week requiring anyone asking for money within the city limits to get a free sign from the city's police department and display it while panhandling. In an open letter, Marjorie Esman, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Louisiana, cited case law that found begging to be free speech and added, "Slidell's public streets, like all public streets, are traditional public forums in which any content-based regulation of speech is presumptively invalid." After a short grace period, the city is expected to begin enforcing the new ordinance.
4. The Big Issue: Public transit and jobs
Tulane Hillel will host a "Big Issue" panel Nov. 1 titled "Intersection: Public Transit, Jobs and Prosperity in NOLA," which will examine transit funding, "issues with route connections," and how it affects people who depend on public transit to get to work or around the city. Flozell Daniels of the Foundation for Louisiana will moderate a panel that includes Regional Transit Authority General Manager Justin Augustine, RIDE New Orleans Executive Director Alex Posorske and others. The event is free and begins at 7 p.m. at the Mintz Center (912 Broadway St.).
5. Marconi bike path a go
After six years of planning and waiting, New Orleans City Park's Marconi Bike Path is inching closer to completion. Negotiations between the state and federal government slowed the process, which is why the new trail took so long, according to City Park CEO Bob Becker. "For us it's just a 10-foot strip of concrete," Becker said. "But the state wanted to be fastidious, so it dragged on." The path is set to run up Marconi Drive and meet up with existing bike trails along Wisner and Robert E. Lee boulevards, connecting with the Harrison Avenue trail.
The park's board of directors heard updates on the bike path at its regular meeting Oct. 25. Becker said the path's progress is "thrilling" after six years of struggle.
"It's really, really important to have this path, if you see the number of people who jog in the right of way on Marconi," Becker said. "It's a huge safety measure." Construction could start up as early as December, Becker said, and the new path is expected to open by spring 2017.
6. UNO Poll: Kennedy leads Senate race, Boustany and Campbell tied for second
A poll released last week by the University of New Orleans' Survey Research Center found State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy in the lead in the Nov. 8 race for the U.S. Senate, with 22 percent support. Kennedy was followed by U.S. Rep. Charles Boustany and Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, each with 15 percent. U.S. Rep. John Fleming had 11 percent, and attorney Caroline Fayard scored 10 percent. No other candidate polled above 4 percent.
In the presidential race, Donald Trump solidly outscored Hillary Clinton, but Clinton had the support of 41 percent of Louisiana women to Trump's 44 percent (within the poll's 4 percent error margin), while Clinton garnered only 27 percent among Louisiana men to Trump's 56 percent. The poll was conducted Oct. 15-21 and surveyed 603 likely voters by telephone.
7. Council hears city plans for traffic cameras
On the first day of city budget hearings for 2017, New Orleans City Council members questioned Mayor Mitch Landrieu's controversial plan to add 55 traffic cameras to New Orleans streets, a plan he unveiled recently as part of next year's budget plan. Traffic cameras are expected to bring in $24 million in 2017. Jeff Hebert, Landrieu's chief administrative officer, said Oct. 26 that neighborhood groups and schools had requested the cameras, and the city conducted speed tests in school zones and found that drivers speed 60 percent of the time.
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell asked the administration to present more data on whether more cameras mean safer roads. District E Councilman James Gray said the city should rethink the cost of installation — $3 million, with nearly $2.5 million going to the vendor, Arizona-based Traffic Solutions.
8. NOPD unveils
New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) Chief Michael Harrison previewed some of NOPD's technology plans for 2017 at his department's budget hearing in front of the New Orleans City Council Oct. 27. NOPD's 2017 budget includes an $8 million increase from its 2016 allocation.
NOPD will roll out license plate readers on its fleet of vehicles, and the department has a vendor lined up for its false alarm enforcement, for which the city expanded fee increases in 2015 after reports found that officers often responded to false alarms at the potential expense of responding to actual crimes. Harrison said NOPD reduced false alarms from the 50 biggest false alarm offenders by 40 percent. Officers also will be able to issue tickets and citations through its "ecitation" improvements expected before Mardi Gras 2017. NOPD's INSIGHT program aims to be one of the country's largest and "most sophisticated" early detection systems to identify problem officers. NOPD recently rolled out its open-data MAX system, which Harrison says allows the public to access the same data as NOPD, part of an effort to make NOPD "the most transparent" police department in the U.S.
The City Council will vote on the city budget after all departments have presented their plans.
9. It's a Long Shot
A new book about the 2015 Louisiana gubernatorial race, Long Shot, will be released next month. LaPolitics editor Jeremy Alford and Tyler Bridges, a contributor to The Advocate, collaborated on the story of how Democrat state Rep. John Bel Edwards defeated GOP Sen. David Vitter in the race for the statehouse. The book, which is being published by Lisburn Press, has a foreword by political consultants and pundits James Carville and Mary Matalin.
10. Take Gleason home
Gleason, the documentary about former New Orleans Saints player Steve Gleason, will be released on DVD Nov. 2, and The Cannery (3803 Toulouse St.) is holding a release party to benefit the Team Gleason Foundation. Tickets are $25 in advance ($35 at the door)For more information, visit www.cannerynola.com/gleason.