Friday, April 27, 2018

Schedler should resign

Posted By on Fri, Apr 27, 2018 at 2:05 PM

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler.
  • Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler.
For as long as I can remember, the Louisiana Secretary of State’s office has been one of the best-run agencies in state government. From its website to its main and satellite offices, the agency and its staff have done a terrific job of maintaining important business and public records, conducting elections, managing the state archives and operating some of the state’s museums.

That’s why it’s a shame what current Secretary of State Tom Schedler has brought upon himself and the office. Schedler is embroiled in an embarrassing, high-profile sexual harassment lawsuit brought by a female subordinate. It is undisputed that he sent her suggestive — and sometimes explicit — love letters and emails. She now alleges that he retaliated after she rebuffed him.

Schedler claims he and the woman, Dawn Ross, had a “consensual sexual relationship.” Ross denies that.

Regardless of who’s telling the truth about the nature of their relationship — including whether they even had a relationship beyond the workplace — Schedler already has admitted enough to justify calls for his resignation. People in positions of power should not abuse their positions by propositioning those who work for them. Period.

This is not an opinion; it’s state and federal law.

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Thursday, March 22, 2018

Editorial: Time to revisit New Orleans' short-term rental laws

Posted By on Thu, Mar 22, 2018 at 6:13 PM

A 2016 rally in the Bywater against short-term rentals. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • A 2016 rally in the Bywater against short-term rentals.

Are short-term rentals (STRs) like Airbnb making it harder for New Orleanians to live in the city where they work? The STR industry says it’s just the opposite. By renting out a spare bedroom or half a double, the argument goes, more rather than fewer locals can live affordably here. That argument suffered a serious blow earlier this month when Airbnb’s updated website easily showed who are the city’s biggest Airbnb landlords.

The largest local Airbnb operator — with 154 rental units scattered all over town — is a Spokane, Washington-based company called Stay Alfred, which has thousands of units in various cities across the country. Another out-of-town company, Sonder, controls 124 units in New Orleans. These aren’t mom-and-pop landlords; they’re hoteliers posing as small-time operators.
Breonne DeDecker of the housing rights organization Jane Place Neighborhood Sustainability Initiative told WVUE-TV that the top 10 Airbnb landlords in the city control a total of 568 units — apartments and condos that otherwise could be occupied by full-time New Orleanians. In the Faubourg Marigny, a neighborhood once filled with service industry personnel and others who worked nearby in the French Quarter, one in 10 units now is a short-term rental, according to a story published last year by The Huffington Post and The Lens.

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Friday, January 5, 2018

Editorial: Derrick Shepherd and 'second chances'

Posted By on Fri, Jan 5, 2018 at 2:13 PM

Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, in an image from his "2nd Chance NOLA" commercial.
  • Former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd, in an image from his "2nd Chance NOLA" commercial.

Doesn’t every ex-offender deserve a second chance? That’s what former state Sen. Derrick Shepherd wants to know — especially as applied to himself. Shepherd was sentenced to 37 months in federal prison in 2010 for his role in a money-laundering scheme, and he recently launched “2nd Chance NOLA” with the stated goal of helping ex-offenders return to society. It’s a worthy goal, but Shepherd’s timing suggests it’s more about him getting a second chance in politics.

The backstory: The New Orleans Advocate reported that Shepherd attended a Dec. 18 meeting between New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell and local legislators, most of whom were alarmed to see Shepherd there. At least one, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, walked out. The Cantrell campaign sent mixed messages until a spokesperson categorically denied Shepherd would have any role in her transition or administration. Gambit later reported that Shepherd also attended an Algiers luncheon where Cantrell was the featured speaker.
In his Gambit interview, Shepherd said he went to the Algiers meeting because he had ideas on how to improve the Sewerage & Water Board, and wanted to share them with Cantrell. Less than 48 hours later, however, a public records request by The Times-Picayune | NOLA.com found Shepherd had written a speech for Cantrell to deliver at the meeting — though both Shepherd and the Cantrell campaign say it was unsolicited.

Criticism of Cantrell’s apparent association with the disgraced former lawmaker led to Shepherd cutting what looked a lot like a campaign ad earlier this week. Standing in front of a giant American flag, he complained that “fake local news began to attack me.” He did not refute any of The Advocate or Gambit’s reporting, however. “Why can’t someone like me contribute to the growth of our city?” Shepherd asked.

A fair question, and we have an answer: Shepherd is absolutely free to contribute to society, but his violation of the public trust by committing a federal felony — and a crime of egregious dishonesty at that — should preclude him from appointed or elected public office.

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Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Editorial: The latest GOP health care bill brought great harm — to Sen. Bill Cassidy's reputation

Posted By on Wed, Sep 27, 2017 at 8:30 AM

U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.
  • U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy.

As the latest rushed attempt to end the Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) collapsed this week, it took with it another casualty: U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy’s reputation.

Cassidy, a mild-mannered physician, had insisted for months that he would hold President Donald Trump to his campaign promise that any health care replacement would have to be affordable, cover preexisting conditions and insure more people. None of that made it into the GOP’s latest repeal effort. The “Graham-Cassidy plan,” sponsored by Cassidy and South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, was widely agreed to be the worst repeal bill of all.

It was slammed by major medical organizations, physicians’ groups and hospitals, and some health insurance giants for its plan to turn over responsibility and most funding to the states while phasing out Medicaid dollars entirely. This was the bill that Cassidy and Graham sought to push through Congress in little more than a week.

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Friday, September 22, 2017

Gambit's endorsements for mayor, city council and other races on the Oct. 14 ballot

Posted By on Fri, Sep 22, 2017 at 7:00 PM

LaToya Cantrell.
  • LaToya Cantrell.

Early voting starts this Saturday, Sept. 30, across Louisiana — but nowhere is that date more important than in metro New Orleans. Voters in New Orleans will elect a new mayor, at least three new City Council members, and two judges. They also will decide the fate of three important school board millages.

In Jefferson Parish, voters in Council District 4 will choose a new parish councilman, and voters parishwide will decide whether to renew two transportation millages. Statewide, voters will elect a new treasurer and consider three proposed constitutional amendments.

These are vitally important decisions, yet early indicators suggest a low turnout statewide — and only tepid interest locally. With so much at stake for New Orleans, we hope voters heed the “wake-up call” described in our upcoming Sunday cover story.

As we considered whom to endorse in these critical elections, we looked for candidates who not only had the skill sets to get things done, but who also understood the sense of urgency that will be needed to address the challenges facing our city, region and state. Whether you agree with our recommendations or not, we hope you’ll take time to vote. Our recommendations in the election are below the jump.

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Tuesday, August 29, 2017

How New Orleans can help survivors of Hurricane Harvey

Posted By on Tue, Aug 29, 2017 at 3:43 PM


So much water. So much pain. And so much ahead.

While all Americans can sympathize with Houston and southeast Texas in the wake in Hurricane Harvey, New Orleanians can truly empathize with what our neighbors are going through — 12 years to the day after Hurricane Katrina felled the federal levees and flooded our city. We remember all too well the feeling of helplessness in the face of nature. We also remember the hope that sprang from strangers providing aid and comfort in our time of such devastating need.

Let’s channel those memories — and those feelings — into action. We can’t all hitch up our boats like the Cajun Navy, but the main thing survivors of Hurricane Harvey need now is money. Lots of money. Here are several ways to give:

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Thursday, August 17, 2017

Editorial: After Charlottesville

Posted By on Thu, Aug 17, 2017 at 6:09 PM

Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017. - CREATIVE COMMONS/ANTHONY CRIDER
  • Charlottesville, Virginia, Aug. 12, 2017.

Watching the images and hearing the words out of Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend was depressing, sickening, infuriating — and necessary. Necessary because the country got a good look at the people who call themselves the “alt-right,” which is their sanitized term for neo-Nazis, white supremacists, Klansmen and other haters who feel emboldened in America today. It’s also necessary because some of them are planning similar rallies in Boston, San Francisco and elsewhere in the coming days and weeks.

Some of the malefactors who caused harm in Charlottesville also were in New Orleans during the weeks surrounding the hotly contested removal of four Confederate monuments. It’s easy to say New Orleans was lucky it didn’t have the chaos and death that marked Charlottesville, but it was more than luck. It was planning.

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Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Editorial: A not-so-dry run exposes Sewerage & Water Board ineptitude

Posted By on Wed, Aug 9, 2017 at 6:30 PM

Floodwaters rising on Banks Street in Mid-City Aug. 5. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Floodwaters rising on Banks Street in Mid-City Aug. 5.

When Joe Becker, general superintendent of the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, began answering questions from the New Orleans City Council Tuesday (Aug. 8), it was clear the S&WB’s original story about its performance during the Aug. 5 storm was taking on more water than a Lamborghini stranded in Lakeview. Just before the council’s special meeting, S&WB Executive Director Cedric Grant announced he would be retiring by the end of the year. “Some parts of our system did not operate as they should have, which is disappointing because it contradicts information that I was given to provide to the public,” Grant said. That was an understatement.

The information referenced by Grant — that all the drainage pumps were in working order during the storm — was contradicted by statistics that councilmembers tweezed out of Becker during the special meeting. Becker floated the equivocal meme that “all the pump stations were working at the capacity they had available to them.” As it turned out, 14 of the system’s 121 pumps were out of commission. A Lakeview pumping station operating at 100 percent of its “available capacity” was actually working at 57 percent of capacity. Other stations reported similar problems.

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Friday, June 30, 2017

Commentary: Truly honoring our veterans

Posted By on Fri, Jun 30, 2017 at 5:10 PM

Ret. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a former U.S. Senate candidate, announced a run for a seat in the state House of Representatives.
  • Ret. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, a former U.S. Senate candidate, announced a run for a seat in the state House of Representatives.

Imagine a scenario in which a candidate for U.S. Senate urges people to boycott the largest city in his or her state. That’s what retired U.S. Air Force Col. Rob Maness, who twice lost races for the Senate, did last week by suggesting in a radio interview that American veterans avoid New Orleans in response to the removal of four Confederate-
era statues.

Speaking on the syndicated Lars Larson Show, Maness said veterans should stay away from New Orleans, including those set to attend the Veterans of Foreign Wars’ (VFW) 118th annual convention here next month. He suggested Kenner would be a better place for them to meet. When Larson mentioned that he and his wife wanted to visit the National World War II Museum in downtown New Orleans, Maness told him, “You can go visit that — but don’t give the hotel taxes and the convention taxes and all that stuff to the city of New Orleans.”

Maness has been an outspoken critic of the monuments’ removal, going so far as to say Mayor Mitch Landrieu “has created his own ISIS.” (Yes, really.) On his WGSO-AM radio show last week (which is broadcast from New Orleans), Maness denied using the word “boycott” and called Gambit’s report on it “fake news.” He then repeated his call for the VFW to move its convention to Kenner. “They [New Orleans] don’t deserve those tax dollars,” Maness said. Sounds like a boycott to us.

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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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