Thursday, May 17, 2018

Louisiana to restore voting rights to people on probation and parole for felonies

Posted By on Thu, May 17, 2018 at 10:25 PM


After an hourlong debate over the definition of “incarceration,” the parables of Jesus, and whether a person’s time in prison is enough to pay their “debt to society,” Louisiana is poised to restore voting rights to potentially thousands of formerly incarcerated people convicted of felony crimes.

The state House already had approved the measure last week. But when the bill returned to the House from the Senate to approve a set of amendments, the bill faced nearly an hour of pushback and debate from conservative lawmakers, threatening to kill the bill despite backing it a week before.

On May 10, the bill passed the House — on its third try — by a vote of 59-42; it later passed the Senate by a vote of 24-13.

The House approved the amended bill May 17 by a vote of 54-42 and it now heads to Gov. John Bel Edwards, who’s expected to sign it.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Rep. Julie Stokes to run for Louisiana Secretary of State

Posted By on Wed, May 16, 2018 at 11:21 AM

Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, testifies during the 2017 special legislative session on the House floor. - PHOTO BY SARAH GAMARD
  • Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, testifies during the 2017 special legislative session on the House floor.

State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Metairie, has announced plans to run for Louisiana Secretary of State in a fall election to replace the office held by Tom Schedler, who resigned this month following allegations and reports of sexual harassment. Schedler's interim replacement is Kyle Ardoin, who was sworn in last week. Stokes is the first announced candidate in the race.

Stokes halted plans to run for state treasurer in 2017 after she announced her breast cancer diagnosis. (She announced earlier this year that she now is cancer-free.) She has held her seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives since 2013.

In a campaign announcement video, Stokes says she's running to "protect the integrity of our elections, and to defend it from illegal voters and cyber attacks, because good government never flows from corrupt elections."

Here's her announcement statement:
“With the blessings and encouragement of family, friends, constituents, and doctors, I am announcing my candidacy to become our next Secretary of State. I have tremendous respect for the proud history of this office, its role in protecting the integrity of our election system, and the service it provides to entrepreneurs. I will strive to improve upon what I can, remove the obstacles that drag the office back, restore morale across the entire department, and ensure that our elections are fair, honest, secure, and carried out with professionalism. Being a CPA, small business owner, and reform-minded legislator, I am prepared for this challenge and expect to take this office to new heights for the citizens of Louisiana.”

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Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Secretary of State Tom Schedler to resign May 8, citing 'tabloid' coverage of sexual harassment allegations

Posted By on Tue, May 1, 2018 at 1:00 PM


Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler, who has faced calls for his resignation after a sexual harassment lawsuit was filed against him in February by a longtime employee, submitted his resignation this afternoon, saying, "I have been incredibly frustrated with the tabloid approach to an incredibly serious allegation."

Schedler previously had vowed to stay in office but not seek reelection. He claimed the relationship was mutual and consensual.

Gov. John Bel Edwards, who had called for Schedler's resignation in February, said in a brief statement, "In light of the additional information that has been disclosed, I believe this is the best course of action for Tom, his family, and the state of Louisiana.” 
The heat had been turned up on Schedler since late last week, when The New Orleans Advocate published some of the emails he had sent to employee Dawn Ross, many of which were on official state email. After those were made public, both U.S. Sens. John Neely Kennedy and Bill Cassidy called for Schedler's resignation as well.

In his resignation letter, Schedler said his duties would be carried out by First Assistant Kyle Ardoin until the next Secretary of State election, which will be in 2019.

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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Editorial: Vote YES on Gretna police and sewer millages

Posted By on Thu, Apr 19, 2018 at 1:43 PM


Gretna Police and Sewer Millages: YES

Among the items on the April 28 ballot are two important millage propositions in the City of Gretna. One proposition would renew a 2.4-mill property tax for sewer system maintenance and improvements. If approved by voters, the tax would be levied for 10 years and generate approximately $356,000 per year. This renewal is not a tax increase; it would merely continue a property tax already on the books.

Also on the ballot is a new, 8-mill property tax dedicated to maintaining police manpower, which makes up more than 70 percent of the Gretna Police Department’s annual budget. If approved, the proposition would generate nearly $1.3 million a year for 10 years. Gretna in recent years has lost several dozen experienced officers to neighboring jurisdictions. It costs thousands of dollars to recruit and train each new officer; investing in the department’s current officers will keep experienced cops on the force and put more money into keeping citizens safe. We recommend our readers in Gretna vote YES on both these important propositions.

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Saturday, April 7, 2018

Sports-entertainment scholars unafraid to mix it up in the ring

Posted By on Sat, Apr 7, 2018 at 1:44 PM

The conference program
  • The conference program
There's never just one thing happening in New Orleans. At the same time WrestleMania week is slowly, multifariously unfolding across the region, beautiful wrestle-blossoms of different sizes and pay scales blooming in every available metro auditorium or high-school gym, the Southern Sociological Society is holding its annual meeting and conference at the Marriott across from WWE Axxess.

This year's conference theme is "Racial Theory, Analysis, and Politics in Trump's America." Digging into the program, I was gratified to discover multiple panels about pro wrestling, one of which I attended Friday morning.

Dr. Jack Karlis of Georgia College opened, detailing his research into how media framed (or failed to cover) the longstanding connections between President Donald Trump and WWE's owners, the McMahon family. I knew Trump and the McMahons were chummy; I hadn't known that Linda and Vince McMahon were the largest single contributor to the Trump Foundation, a gift Karlis estimates to be around $5,000,000.

JH Roberts
  • JH Roberts
Next up, the University of Georgia's J.H. Roberts discussed activism in pro wrestling during the Trump presidency. Usefully, or perhaps crushingly for some, she defined activism as "not just saying things on Twitter, but doing things." Roberts provided a survey of some forms this has taken, both outward-facing (WWE Superstar Sami Zayn bankrolling a mobile medical clinic in Syria, indy star Zack Sabre Jr. donating merchandise profits to a transgender law center) and inward-facing, which is activism focused on improving pro wrestling itself.

The third panelist, Chris Maverick of Duquesne University, talked about models of performative masculinity in leadership, comparing Trump to Lincoln, an accomplished amateur wrestler, and then to various comic book villains and pro-wrestling characters. The highlight, for me, was the connection Maverick drew between Trump's compelling, crowd-pleasing yet contradictory or semantically incoherent rhetoric and the promos of Dusty Rhodes and the Ultimate Warrior.

Perhaps defying assumptions about those that do vs. those that teach, I discovered both Roberts and Maverick are or have been wrestlers themselves. Roberts is actively training as a pro wrestler, and is part of a collective she describes as "a pro wrestling promotion dedicated to exploring within the boundaries of pro wrestling what you can do with feminist and gender performance."

"For example," Roberts told me, "within pro wrestling there's Ultimo Dragon, Dragon Dragon, Super Dragon ... Drago, in Lucha Underground ... but [in our promotion] we have potentially the first-ever female dragon character. In her storylines she addresses things a female dragon would have to deal with that male dragons wouldn't — aspects of reproduction and female bodily autonomy."
Chris Maverick
  • Chris Maverick

Wrestling is brutal. "I'm in pain pretty much all the time," Roberts says of her training. "At the same time, it's nice to do something so purely physical because it lets me turn my brain off. It's also exciting to push myself in new ways and confront things I'm terrified of, like front flips— since if you don't do those you can't wrestle."

Chris Maverick is on the other side, having retired from in-ring competition. "I did it for six years," he told me. "My last match was maybe eight years ago. I wrestled exactly 50 matches in my career and mostly jobbed," meaning he lost to more prominent wrestlers.

Maverick, a lifelong wrestling fan, joined a wrestling school and started training at age 29. His overwhelmingly younger classmates all dreamed of getting to WWE. "My goal was a little different. I said to myself, 'I'm going to wrestle one match, maybe write a paper about it.' There were 15 of us in the class and only three of us finished because it was so grueling." Maverick's wrestling career did include a stint as a tag-team champ in a West Virginia promotion; it so happened I'd just seen his erstwhile tag-team partner, DJ Z, wrestle at Evolve 102 the night before.

"I wasn't great," Maverick said. "I was older and had bad knees when I started, so I knew my time was limited. I dislocated my shoulder four times... it's hard. It's a very rough sport."

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Thursday, April 5, 2018

Four mayors of New Orleans reflected, joked at Loyola University tonight

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2018 at 8:30 PM

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, former Mayor Moon Landrieu and Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos discussed the state of the city at tonight's Ed Renwick Lecture Series at Loyola University.
  • Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, Mayor Mitch Landrieu, former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy, former Mayor Moon Landrieu and Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos discussed the state of the city at tonight's Ed Renwick Lecture Series at Loyola University.

Three of New Orleans' five living mayors, as well as Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, appeared
tonight at Loyola University's Roussel Hall to discuss "One New Orleans: Five Perspectives" with Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos.

Mayor Moon Landrieu (1970-1978), Mayor Sidney Barthelemy (1986-1994), Mayor Mitch Landrieu (2008-2016) and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell (Marc Morial, mayor from 1994 to 2002 and now president of the National Urban League, had to cancel his appearance; DuBos joked he was visiting former Mayor Ray Nagin, who is serving a sentence in a Texas federal prison.)

The first question for the former mayors: What piece of advice would you give to Cantrell that you wish someone had given you?

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Friday, March 9, 2018

Gambit's endorsements in the March 24 election in Orleans and Jefferson parishes

Posted By on Fri, Mar 9, 2018 at 4:00 PM

Early voting for the March 24 primary in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish has already begun and will continue through Saturday, March 17. Turnout is projected to be low, even though some very important elections are on the ballot. Below are our endorsements in three of those elections — for Jefferson Parish sheriff, Kenner mayor, and state representative in House District 93 in New Orleans. Also on the ballot are judicial contests in New Orleans, a constable’s race in Metairie, and several city council elections in Kenner. We make no recommendations in those races.

The most recent statewide special election — for state treasurer last November — generated a pathetic turnout of just 13 percent. We hope the local turnout on March 24 will be significantly higher. If you don’t turn out on Election Day, don’t complain if things turn out badly later.

For Jefferson Parish Sheriff: Joe Lopinto

When longtime Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand stepped down last year, his chief deputy and legal adviser, Joe Lopinto, by law became interim sheriff until a special election could be held. We consider both Lopinto and his opponent, former sheriff’s office spokesman John Fortunato, to be good public servants — and “good guys,” though the rancorous tenor of this election will put that perception to the test. While Fortunato has logged more years in the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office (JPSO), Lopinto’s superior credentials speak for themselves, which is why we recommend his election.

Lopinto began his career with JPSO in 1997 and became a narcotics detective before leaving the department seven years later to get a degree in criminal justice and a law degree. He served two terms in the Louisiana House of Representatives, where he chaired the Criminal Justice Committee. He also served as legal counsel for the sheriff’s office, defending deputies in state and federal courts. Lopinto makes a strong case that a sheriff needs to be a top-tier administrator as well as the parish’s top crime fighter. Sheriffs also serve as tax collectors, civil process servers and jailers.

The JPSO has a force of more than 1,500 employees. The sheriff should therefore be someone — like legendary Harry Lee and recently retired Newell Normand — who has a wide range of professional and administrative experience. Lopinto has that kind of experience. Moreover, the latest FBI statistics show crime in unincorporated Jefferson Parish is at an all-time low. Amid the attacks and counterattacks of the campaign, Jefferson voters should focus on that fact — and elect Joe Lopinto sheriff.

For Kenner Mayor: Ben Zahn

Incumbent Mayor Ben Zahn has been in office a little more than a year, and in that time he has begun implementing a vision for revitalizing the state’s sixth-largest city. He has pursued significant redevelopment of Kenner’s troubled shopping centers by strategically using code enforcement to draw out-of-state landlords to the table. He proposes to remake the Pontchartrain Center — an underused resource for years — into a draw for larger events, and he has plans for developments near Kenner’s lakefront.

Traffic is another important issue to all Kenner residents. Zahn is pushing to extend the Williams Boulevard neutral ground south of Interstate 10 to Kenner City Hall, which will make turning in to retail establishments along Williams significantly safer. It also will beautify one of Kenner’s major thoroughfares.

Of regional significance, Zahn has a good working relationship with New Orleans Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell. That will be paramount in light of the scheduled opening of the new Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport less than from now. Ben Zahn has earned a full four-year term as Kenner’s mayor.

For State Representative, House District 93: Royce Duplessis

Four candidates are vying to succeed state Rep. Helena Moreno, D-New Orleans, in the state House of Representatives. Moreno was elected to the City Council’s At-Large Division 1 seat in October. The district includes some of the most valuable real estate in Louisiana — downtown, the Superdome, the French Quarter, and other historic neighborhoods. We recommend attorney Royce Duplessis in this race.

Duplessis has a strong background in local government and civic engagement. He served as chief of staff to former City Councilman James Carter and clerked for a judge in the District of Columbia. He also worked for an international law firm and as a special counsel to Louisiana Chief Justice Bernette J. Johnson. His legislative funding priorities will be education — especially early childhood education — public hospitals and TOPS scholarships. He also supports decriminalizing marijuana, allowing cities and parishes to set their own minimum wages, and banning the sale of semi-automatic weapons. He has endorsements from many individuals and organizations, including the Alliance for Good Government.

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Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Candidate forums for March 24 elections to focus on civil rights, students

Posted By on Tue, Feb 6, 2018 at 11:00 AM


Next month, voters in Orleans Parish will select a new state representative to fill a seat held by outgoing state Rep. Helena Moreno, who's moving into a New Orleans City Council At-Large seat in May. Also on that ballot are elections for judges at the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal and Civil District Court.

Voters in Jefferson Parish will vote for a new sheriff, the first election for a sheriff in that parish in more than two decades.

Progressive organizations The Power Coalition, Step Up Louisiana, VOTE and The Jeremiah Group will host two public forums with those candidates in advance of the March 24 elections. All candidates have confirmed their participation, according to the groups.

Candidates in the New Orleans elections will participate in a forum from 6 p.m.-8 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 6 at Corpus Christi Epiphany Community Resource Center (2022 St. Bernard Ave.) to discuss "equity and fairness in the areas of public safety, economic opportunity, criminal and juvenile justice, education and civic engagement rights for all constituents."

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Saturday, January 20, 2018

'It's time to get to work': New Orleans Women's March brings large crowd to the streets

Posted By on Sat, Jan 20, 2018 at 4:37 PM


Thousands of people extended from City Hall to Rampart Street past the Saenger Theater, beginning New Orleans’ second edition of the Women’s March and joining hundreds of thousands of people across the U.S.

In 2017, New Orleans joined millions of women who were inspired to mobilize against newly minted President Donald Trump, misogyny in the executive office, his admission of sexual harassment and assault, and looming threats to women’s health care.

A year later on Jan. 20, many people returned to the march, once again donning pink pussyhats and carrying colorful slogan-filled signs, or turned out to march for the first time. The Women’s March crowd and its speakers and organizers represent a broad political spectrum but encompass a platform for equal pay, equal access to health care, and emphasizing the importance of racial and economic justice as issues that impact women and families.

This year, coming off the heels of #MeToo and momentum behind exposing sexual abuse, the march aimed to have a sharper focus on intersectional feminism and centering the voices of women of color and transgender women, women working low-wage jobs, and currently and formerly incarcerated women.

“There was a time where I wouldn’t hold my head up, and I was afraid,” said Transition Louisiana’s Jada Cardona, among the first transgender women to be employed by the state. “There was a time I wasn’t accepted as as person. There was a time when I was considered ‘insane.’ There was a time, and there still are times, when I am afraid. But not today.”

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Sick and tired of state lawmakers doing nothing about fiscal reform? Remember that next time you vote

Posted By on Fri, Jan 12, 2018 at 2:42 PM


When it comes to fiscal reform, voters should be getting sick and tired of seeing lawmakers do nothing — and I do mean nothing — about a serious problem that hasn’t fundamentally changed in a decade.

In 2002, at the urging of Republican Gov. Mike Foster, voters approved the Stelly Plan, which lowered sales taxes and increased state income taxes. Note that voters approved that plan. And it worked. Louisiana got a tax base that grew as incomes rose.

In 2007 and 2008, Govs. Kathleen Blanco and Bobby Jindal signed legislation effectively gutting the Stelly Plan. Since then, Louisiana has fallen farther and farther behind other southern states in economic development and prosperity, educational funding and attainment, and just about every other “good” list you can imagine.

Meanwhile, lawmakers talk about fiscal reform but do nothing about it.

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