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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Thursday, January 4, 2018

Jefferson Parish sheriff's race will redefine parish politics — and the battle to win is shaping up as a war

Posted By on Thu, Jan 4, 2018 at 5:46 PM

Interim Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, left, and former sheriff’s spokesman Johnny Fortunato will face off in the March 24 election to decide who's the new lawman in charge.
  • Interim Jefferson Parish Sheriff Joe Lopinto, left, and former sheriff’s spokesman Johnny Fortunato will face off in the March 24 election to decide who's the new lawman in charge.

It didn’t take long for the gloves to come off in the Jefferson Parish sheriff’s race. Interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto and former sheriff’s spokesman Johnny Fortunato came out swinging right after qualifying Jan. 3. The attacks are likely to continue — and intensify — right up to Election Day, March 24.

Lopinto became interim sheriff after then-Sheriff Newell Normand abruptly announced in July that he was resigning to become a radio talk show host. Fortunato soon thereafter retired as department spokesman after serving 46 years as a deputy.

Both men logged time on the streets, and both later worked in administrative capacities.

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Wednesday, January 3, 2018

After states refuse to participate, Trump dissolves 'voter fraud' commission

Posted By on Wed, Jan 3, 2018 at 6:23 PM


Louisiana was among more than 40 states last summer that refused to submit detailed voter information requested by President Donald Trump's administration, which sought to investigate "voter fraud" through the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. On Jan. 3, Trump announced that he's dissolved the commission.

In a White House statement, Trump says rather than "engage in endless legal battles" over states' objections, he's handing the efforts over to the Department of Homeland Security.

Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler told Gambit in July that the commission "has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release."

“My response to the Commission is, you're not going to play politics with Louisiana’s voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law, to any candidate running for office," he said. "That’s it.”

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Sunday, December 31, 2017

12 Clancy DuBos 'Politics' columns of 2017

Posted By on Sun, Dec 31, 2017 at 12:00 PM

In our annual Year in Review issue, Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos always composes his Top 10 political stories of the year. Here are 12 of his "Politics" columns from 2017.

• Counting coup, for now: DA Leon Cannizzaro and Mayor Mitch Landrieu exchange barbs over funding and crime

• All-out war in Jefferson Parish: Mike Yenni and Chris Roberts have accused each other of being unfit for office

• The target is truth itself: A National World War II exhibit on Nazi propaganda resonates today

• Our monumental challenge: Coming to grips with the past as the city takes down its monuments to the Confederacy

• Disarm all abusers: House Bill 223 prevents domestic abusers from possessing guns

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29 of the year's Gambit cover stories you may have missed

Posted By on Sun, Dec 31, 2017 at 9:00 AM

It's been a rough year for some alt-weeklies (as well as daily papers and news websites), but what continues to work for us — and seems to work for you — is locally written and produced stories about our city, potholes and all.

We get it. You're busy. But we've been busy too. Here are 29 of the cover stories from 2017 in the five areas in which we specialize: news, politics, city life, food and the arts. Maybe you missed a couple.

• The year in drugs: What lies ahead in drug policy for the U.S., and for Louisiana
• New Orleans protests: Inauguration Day marches, the Women's March and more
• Home sick — the rental registry: New Orleans housing stock in need of repair
• A-breasted development: How New Orleans tattoo artists help breast cancer survivors
• A blueprint for murder reduction: Criminologist Jeff Asher on the crime rate
• Beyond the wall: Local immigrants face an uncertain future under the Trump administration
• Young lives behind bars: Louisiana considers abolishing life without parole for some juvenile offenders
• The facts of life: The sorry state of sex education in Louisiana
• The Landrieu legacy on crime: What the mayor got right — and wrong
• Project Censored: The 10 most under-covered stories of the year
• Breaking the (hurricane) scale: After a destructive hurricane season, is the 1-to-5 Saffir-Simpson scale outdated?
• Shift change: How New Orleans hospitality workers are organizing their industry

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Monday, November 27, 2017

Y@ Speak: It's Christmas now.

Posted By on Mon, Nov 27, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Thanksgiving happened, the Saints broke a win streak, and election cycles never end. Welcome to Christmas.

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Tuesday, November 21, 2017

As Mayor-elect Cantrell begins City Hall transition, Landrieu plans to "finish strong" and glimpses life after term

Posted By on Tue, Nov 21, 2017 at 7:25 PM

Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell with Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell with Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

New Orleans District B City Councilmember LaToya Cantrell celebrated her victory in the mayoral election over the weekend, but City Hall has been working on the transition from Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration to the next mayor-elect for several months.

When Landrieu entered office in 2010, inheriting a City Hall in “dysfunction” and “nearly bankrupt” under Mayor Ray Nagin, “We spent an inordinate amount of time just trying to understand how government was organized, what existed, and where things even were,” he said. “So much of our work in the early days was just trying to organize … I vowed to never leave the city in that shape for folks coming after us.”

In a joint press conference and display of harmony between the two politicians who often were at odds with the other through their terms in office, mayor-elect Cantrell ensured that after an abnormally long transition period, they’ll “not only come out on top but shine for the citizens of New Orleanians, because the people will definitely come first,” she said.

Exactly what will happen in the Cantrell camp within that long transition period (more than 160 days) and who will be a part of it — have not been announced, but some details emerged Nov. 21.

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