Thursday, June 15, 2017

Commentary: Steve Scalise — Out of tragedy, common purpose

Posted By on Thu, Jun 15, 2017 at 9:41 AM


There were many thoughtful statements of sympathy following the shooting of House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-Jefferson, and four others during a baseball practice in a Virginia park last week. Perhaps none was more thoughtful than that of former Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was shot and nearly killed at a constituent event in 2011 (six people died in that attack). “It doesn’t matter if you’re a Democrat or a Republican, nor if you’re a senator or a representative, nor a staffer or a sworn officer,” Giffords wrote. “This shooting is an attack on all who serve and on all who participate in our democracy.”

That didn’t stop many from jumping online and filtering the tragedy through their own ideological lenses — whether it was noting that the shooter had been a volunteer with Vermont U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ 2016 presidential campaign, or trying to make ironic comparisons between Scalise’s hospital stay and his support for President Donald Trump’s attempts to roll back the Affordable Care Act, or Scalise’s pro-gun position and the alleged shooter. All this was being batted around even as Scalise was undergoing surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, where he remained in critical condition at the end of last week.

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Editorial: Abolish Louisiana’s death penalty

Posted By on Wed, Apr 26, 2017 at 6:13 PM


Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have abolished the death penalty. If some state lawmakers have their way, Louisiana will become the 20th state — but they face strong opposition. Some district attorneys and sheriffs say the death penalty is a deterrent as well as leverage to convince those accused of capital crimes to plead to lesser but still severe charges.

Senate Bill 142 would abolish the death penalty effective Aug. 1, but it would not apply to the more than 70 people currently on Death Row in Louisiana. House Bill 10 would mandate life in prison without parole for people convicted of first-degree murder, first-degree rape or treason. This week, a Senate committee approved SB 142 by a 6-1 vote, sending it to the full Senate.

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Friday, November 25, 2016

Editorial: Gambit ballot recommendations for the Dec. 10 runoff election

Posted By on Fri, Nov 25, 2016 at 9:00 AM

While the rest of America prepares for a (hopefully) peaceful holiday season after a divisive, often toxic election season, Louisiana has one more Election Day left. On Dec. 10, the local ballot features a half-dozen important tax propositions — most of them renewals — and runoffs for U.S. Senate and mayor of Kenner. Early voting begins Sat. Nov. 26 and ends Sat. Nov. 3.

We previously endorsed Jefferson Parish Councilman Ben Zahn for mayor of Kenner. We still support him as he he faces Kenner City Councilman Gregory Carroll in the runoff. In the Senate primary, we recommended both Republican Congressman Charles Boustany and Democrat Caroline Fayard, neither of whom made the runoff. We make no further recommendation in that contest.

Meanwhile, we make the following recommendations on the ballot propositions in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish:

New Orleans voters will see two citywide propositions — a new 2.5-mill property tax increase for fire protection services and renewal of an existing property tax for drainage services. We support both propositions.

The fire protection proposition would yield nearly $9 million a year for 12 years, beginning next year, and would not be subject to the homestead exemption. Revenue from the tax will help pay for tens of millions of dollars in legal judgments the city owes firefighters and their pension fund. If voters reject this tax, the city will still have to pay the judgments — by cutting vital services elsewhere. We urge our readers in New Orleans to vote YES on the fire projection millage proposition.

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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Editorial: Blue.

Posted By on Wed, Nov 9, 2016 at 6:17 PM


“A little blue dot in a big red state.”

That’s a description often applied to Austin, Texas by national politicos, but it’s just as applicable to New Orleans. The results of the presidential and senatorial elections last week confirmed that. Travis County, Texas (home of Austin) voted for Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump, 66 percent to 27 percent. Support for Clinton over Trump in Orleans Parish (81-15 percent) left Austin in the dust. Last night's vote for Clinton in New Orleans was one point larger than the city’s vote to reelect President Barack Obama in 2012. The local percentage for Clinton was substantially larger than Austin’s, Seattle’s and Portland’s.

In fact. metro-wide, Clinton and Trump literally split the vote right down the middle, getting 48 percent each in greater New Orleans, according to University of New Orleans political science professor Ed Chervenak.

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Friday, June 10, 2016

Lawmakers' political games are hurting Louisiana

Posted By on Fri, Jun 10, 2016 at 4:50 PM

  • zrfphoto

Like Nero fiddling while Rome burned, the leadership of the Louisiana House of Representatives has played childish political games as the state descends further into fiscal chaos. Evidence of this is overwhelming.

Since Day One of Gov. John Bel Edwards’ term, a handful of leading Republicans has blindly refused to consider reasonable revenue measures — yet they offer no real plan to cover the $2 billion deficit left by Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal. Some of those Republicans opposed Jindal’s fiscal policies on solid philosophical grounds; now they oppose Edwards’ fiscal cures simply because he’s a Democrat. They are shameless.

Further evidence of their irresponsibility came last week. House Speaker Taylor Barras, a Republican from New Iberia, and Ways and Means Committee Chairman Neil Abramson, a Democrat from New Orleans who is in league with the GOP’s “Gang of No,” strained credulity in preventing a vote on the so-called Capital Outlay budget before the annual session adjourned. Both said the measure as approved by the Senate had unspecified “technical” defects, yet they did nothing with the bill for the final five days of the session. Abramson literally hid from his colleagues to avoid bringing up the bill for a vote. Then, one day after the regular session ended (on the first morning of the special session), Abramson’s committee approved the measure in an hour — with millions more for projects in Abramson’s district. He blamed committee staffers for that “technical” error.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Guest editorial: How New Orleans should compromise on the Confederate monuments

Posted By on Tue, Dec 15, 2015 at 3:53 PM

  • Lee Circle.

The following is a guest editorial by Quin Hillyer in response to the New Orleans City Council's upcoming vote on whether to remove four Confederate monuments on public land.

The Battle of New Orleans Monuments should come to an end through compromise. Mayor Mitch Landrieu should promote the compromise and thus become a uniter and a healer, rather than a divider and bully.

The compromise must include the continuation of Robert E. Lee’s perch above the circle bearing his name, with an appropriately worded new display (more about which later in this column). The other three monuments at issue, even as historically significant as they are, might best be moved off of public property (to the consternation of many well-intentioned citizens) and donated to a legitimate historical/preservationist group or museum.

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Friday, November 21, 2014

Early voting begins Sat. Nov. 22: Our recommendations in the races

Posted By on Fri, Nov 21, 2014 at 5:19 PM

Early voting for Louisiana’s Dec. 6 runoff election begins Sat. Nov. 22 and concludes Sat., Nov. 29. There is no voting on Thu., Nov. 27, or Fri., Nov. 28, in honor of Thanksgiving.

Early voting has become increasingly prevalent, according to Secretary of State Tom Schedler, and in some elections it accounts for nearly 20 percent of ballots cast — though overall voting totals remain static. President Barack Obama advocated early voting at a speech last month in Chicago, and First Lady Michelle Obama did the same at a campaign appearance in Florida. But early voting is not a Democrat thing or a Republican thing. It’s about participation.

The bipartisan Presidential Commission on Election Administration reports that expanded early voting is popular with voters across the board, regardless of party. Lines are shorter, and voters usually are able to take their time. State law imposes a three-minute limit in voting booths, which usually goes unenforced as long as there’s no one waiting. By voting early, you’re virtually assured of more time with your ballot — and lines tend to be nonexistent. On ballots with a lot of propositions or amendments, taking your time can be important — in the Nov. 4 primary, voters were asked to decide on 14 proposed state constitutional amendments, and the Dec. 6 ballot in Jefferson Parish will have 11 proposed charter amendments.

More than 9 million people across the country voted early in the midterm elections — roughly 245,000 in Louisiana — and political campaigns have adjusted their strategies accordingly. Candidates campaign earlier and stress get-out-the-vote efforts more. “Enabling voters to cast a ballot at a time convenient to them, not the election authority, is the whole point of allowing voting before Election Day,” the Presidential Commission concluded in its report recommending the practice. We agree.

To find your early voting location, check with the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office, either at www.geauxvote.com or by calling 1-800-883-2805.

Beneath the cut: Our recommendations for the Dec. 6 election.

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Thursday, June 5, 2014

The Legislature’s Godzilla

Posted By on Thu, Jun 5, 2014 at 9:35 PM

In a New York Times op-ed published late last month about Senate Bill 469, retired Lt. General Russel Honore wrote, “The oil and gas industries and pipeline companies aren’t responsible for all of Louisiana’s coastal loss. Nobody claims that they are. It’s important, though, that the industry be held to account for the damage it has done.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal clearly disagrees with Honore. Jindal, who was absent from much of the recently concluded 2014 legislative session in Baton Rouge, staunchly supported SB 469. The bill’s aim is clear: it’s designed to kill a Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) lawsuit against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies whose energy-related activities in southeast Louisiana have contributed to coastal land loss, an increased risk of hurricane-related flooding and higher costs of flood protection.

Jindal was all set to sign SB 469 into law at a June 2 press conference. Then, in a move that surprised both sides, the governor instead postponed his signature at the request of Louisiana Attorney General Buddy Caldwell, who asked for time to review the bill.

Caldwell was right to ask the governor to delay signing the measure. Shortly after SB 469 passed, a group of legal scholars opined that its retroactive provisions could actually undercut dozens — possibly hundreds — of pending lawsuits brought by parishes and state agencies against oil giant BP for damages related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster. (As of the evening of June 5, more than 80 scholars had signed the legal opinion.) The experts, along with a growing number of local officials, say SB 469 is so overly broad that it could scuttle countless other legal claims that have nothing to do with the SLFPA-E lawsuit.

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Friday, April 18, 2014

Dissing the Constitution

Posted By on Fri, Apr 18, 2014 at 10:17 AM


The next time you hear a Louisiana legislator praise or cite the U.S. Constitution, keep in mind recent and ongoing antics in Baton Rouge. The state House of Representatives this week refused to remove laws from the books that had already been declared unconstitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and it is poised to enact a brand-new law that is sure to suffer the same fate.

House Bill 12 by State Rep. Pat Smith, D-Baton Rouge, would have removed from the state’s criminal code our archaic sodomy laws, which were declared unconstitutional nearly a decade ago. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2003 struck down a similar Texas sodomy statute, and two years later the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals dealt the same fate to Louisiana’s sodomy statute. Nevertheless, Louisiana’s sodomy laws (effectively criminalizing consensual oral and anal sex) remain on the books, despite the fact they cannot be enforced. A House committee had approved Smith’s bill and sent it to a vote of the full House, but it went down in flames on a lopsided 27-66 vote April 15.

The chief opponents to removing the unconstitutional language were, of course, the Louisiana Family Forum and those legislators who are perpetually under its spell. “We’re not here to rubber stamp the Supreme Court,” said state Rep. Valarie Hodges, R-Denham Springs — as if the Louisiana Legislature had the authority to affirm or overrule a case decided by the nation’s highest court. Kudos to local legislators who had the sense — and the courage — to vote for Smith’s legislation: Reps. Jeff Arnold, Austin Badon, Wesley Bishop, Jared Brossett, Walt Leger III, Helena Moreno and Ebony Woodruff. Unfortunately, they could not carry the day, and Louisiana was the object of another round of embarrassing national headlines.

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Friday, April 5, 2013

Editorial: Guns, drugs and videotape

Posted By on Fri, Apr 5, 2013 at 2:28 PM

Sheriff Marlin Gusman addresses the press April 4, discussing the infamous video of prisoners cavorting with guns, beer and drugs in Orleans Parish Prison. - ALEX WOODWARD
  • Sheriff Marlin Gusman addresses the press April 4, discussing the infamous video of prisoners cavorting with guns, beer and drugs in Orleans Parish Prison.

It finally came down to three videos.

After years of allegations of human rights abuses at Orleans Parish Prison (OPP); after years of suicides, mysterious deaths and brazen daylight escapes; after innumerable stories of beatings and rapes; after scathing reports by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) that found jailhouse conditions so intolerable that it forced the negotiation of a consent decree; after a federal class-action suit by the Southern Poverty Law Center on behalf of OPP inmates — after all that, what finally pushed everyone over the edge about conditions at OPP were three videos, shot in 2009 at the now-closed House of Detention (HOD).

The videos were mind-numbing. They included footage of inmates shooting dice behind bars, waving fistfuls of cash, showing off a loaded handgun and discharging live ammo on the floor of a cell to prove the weapon was loaded. They portrayed prisoners crushing pills, snorting them, and shooting injectable drugs. Most outrageous of all, one video showed a “prisoner” strolling down Bourbon Street, boasting that he was supposed to be behind bars and that he could walk out the door again if things didn’t go his way at trial. “If they don’t let me go, I’m running,” he says with a grin.

If the videos hadn’t been introduced into evidence in federal court — with no objection from Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman — people might mistake them for parodies on Saturday Night Live. Sadly, they are all too real. They show in graphic detail the jailhouse culture that Gusman has overseen since he took office in 2004. Moreover, if the accusations brought by the plaintiffs and the DOJ weren’t enough; if the escapes, suicides and suspicious deaths inside OPP weren’t enough; if the recent federal corruption charges filed against two of Gusman’s ranking deputies weren’t enough; then surely the videos — which aired on every local newscast and went national — make it plain that Gusman has to go. He is not fit to continue serving as New Orleans’ sheriff.

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