New Orleans City Council

Friday, November 10, 2017

The New Orleans City Council: What's in their wallets?

Posted By on Fri, Nov 10, 2017 at 3:31 PM

The New Orleans City Council.
  • The New Orleans City Council.

The 2017 mayoral runoff has not fostered much enthusiasm among New Orleans voters, but it at least has dredged up an issue that could stir voters’ passions in the election’s aftermath: City Council members’ liberal use of taxpayer-funded credit cards.

District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell’s profligate charges on her city-issued card have become the dominant issue since the Oct. 14 primary, which Cantrell led with 39 percent of the vote. Former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet finished 8.5 percentage points behind after beginning the race as the odds-on frontrunner.

A well-financed political action committee (PAC) calling itself NotForSaleNOLA beat up Charbonnet pretty badly in the primary, accusing her of being under the spell of unsavory patronage political power brokers. While the PAC’s broadsides failed to knock Charbonnet completely out of the running, they left her so badly wounded that the former judge’s subsequent exposure of Cantrell’s extravagant — and possibly illegal — charges on her city-issued credit card do not appear to have had much effect. Polls showed Cantrell with a double-digit lead going into the campaign’s final two weeks.

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Thursday, October 26, 2017

Cantrell: ‘Gray areas’ were not improper spending

Posted By on Thu, Oct 26, 2017 at 10:05 PM

LaToya Cantrell announcing her mayoral candidacy at the New Orleans Jazz Market July 18.
  • LaToya Cantrell announcing her mayoral candidacy at the New Orleans Jazz Market July 18.

In an interview with Gambit Thursday evening, District B City Councilwoman and mayoral candidate LaToya Cantrell addressed the latest salvo in the mayor’s race: charges that she misused her city-provided credit card. A packet of information relating to Cantrell’s spending — and money she had reimbursed the city — was provided anonymously to newsrooms around town yesterday. Everyone assumes the delivery came from the camp of Cantrell’s mayoral opponent, Desiree Charbonnet.

Cantrell said her personal check in the amount of $4,433.22, which was received by the council’s fiscal office on July 17 (one day before her campaign kickoff party), was not evidence of wrongdoing or sloppiness, but was her attempt to “take a laser focus on everything” she has spent on her nearly five years on the council.

“A lot of this is gray area,” she said, referring to expenses that the Charbonnet campaign claims were not directly related to daily council business. Cantrell said she asked then-Council Chief of Staff Evelyn Pugh, who is a lawyer, to “opine” on some of her expenses. “I never got the opine, so I reimbursed it,” she told Gambit. “If it’s [a gray area], well, then just go ahead and reimburse.

“It’s not even that those expenses wouldn’t qualify as legitimate on the city’s [credit] card,” Cantrell added, “but if it’s gray, just do it.”

Louisiana law and city policy prohibit the use of public funds for personal expenses.

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Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Cantrell used city credit card for personal purchases, partially reimbursing the city around the time mayoral campaign began

Posted By on Wed, Oct 25, 2017 at 11:35 PM

LaToya Cantrell.
  • LaToya Cantrell.

New Orleans City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who led the 18-candidate field in the Oct. 14 mayoral primary, charged nearly $9,000 in personal or political expenses to her city-issued, taxpayer-financed credit card since taking office in 2012, according to public records given to Gambit and other news organizations by the campaign of Cantrell’s runoff opponent Desiree Charbonnet.

According to those public records, Cantrell reimbursed the city for at least $8,950 in such charges. The Charbonnet campaign alleges in radio ads and in public statements that Cantrell has a lot more explaining to do — allegedly because she charged a total of more than $40,000 in questionable expenses to the city-issued credit card over the years.

Moreover, almost half of Cantrell’s reimbursements — $4,433.22 — came via a single check received by the City Council Fiscal Office on July 17, 2017, five days after Cantrell qualified for mayor. The date on the check reads “7/1/2017,” but a memo from Cantrell’s office noting the “attached” check is dated July 14. She qualified for mayor on July 12.

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Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Facing ACLU lawsuit and court ruling, Cannizzaro pressured to turn over info on subpoenas

Posted By on Tue, Oct 24, 2017 at 4:45 PM

DA Leon Cannizzaro at Holy Angels Convent in 2014. - PHOTO BY JEANIE RIESS
  • PHOTO BY JEANIE RIESS
  • DA Leon Cannizzaro at Holy Angels Convent in 2014.

New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro is facing pressure from the New Orleans City Council and a Civil District Court judge to hand over details about the office's case work as well as copies of so-called "fake subpoenas" at the center of a news investigation and lawsuit.

Following a contentious budget hearing in September, members of the New Orleans City Council issued a formal call to Cannizzaro's office for specific data sets on the number of cases accepted by the office, as well as conviction rates, juvenile offenders transferred into the city's Criminal Court, and details about material witness warrants and subpoenas.

City Council President Jason Williams and District A Councilmember Susan Guidry — who chairs the Council's Criminal Justice Committee — sent a letter Oct. 23 telling Cannizzaro "increased data collection and sharing will represent a good faith effort toward more efficient and effective administration of the law as well as fiscally sound budget allocations."

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Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Editorial: Why every vote really does count in the New Orleans runoff

Posted By on Wed, Oct 18, 2017 at 2:52 PM

Campaign signs on a neutral ground on Election Day, Oct. 14. - PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • PHOTO BY KEVIN ALLMAN
  • Campaign signs on a neutral ground on Election Day, Oct. 14.

As Election Day dawned Oct. 14, many worried — and Secretary of State Tom Schedler predicted — that turnout would be abysmally low. Schedler even offered to eat crow, literally, if statewide turnout hit just 15 percent. It didn’t, though it did reach nearly 32 percent in New Orleans, where the ballot included hotly contested races for mayor, all seven City Council seats and two judgeships. Statewide, the main attraction was a low-key contest for state treasurer. As Jeremy Alford of LaPolitics put it, the low turnout “basically means that 400,000 voters collectively called the shots for Louisiana’s entire electorate, which numbers around 2.9 million voters.”

While the rest of the state may not have been fired up about the treasurer’s race, New Orleanians had no excuse for not voting in larger numbers. The mayoral and council races had forums galore, offering voters many opportunities to see and hear the candidates. Locally, voters have a chance to do better on Nov. 18, when they will choose a new mayor and settle two still-undecided City Council elections. There’s also a statewide runoff for treasurer.

Much has been said about voters’ lack of enthusiasm about the 2017 crop of candidates, but the simple truth is that either District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell or former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet will become New Orleans’ next mayor on May 7, 2018. The winner will lead New Orleans’ tricentennial celebration and face some of the most daunting challenges in our city’s history.

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Saturday, October 14, 2017

Cantrell, Charbonnet head for mayoral runoff; all but two New Orleans City Council races settled tonight

Posted By , and on Sat, Oct 14, 2017 at 11:00 PM

LaToya Cantrell (left) and Desiree Charbonnet, who will be advancing to a Nov. 18 runoff for the New Orleans mayoralty, addressing supporters at their election night parties.
  • LaToya Cantrell (left) and Desiree Charbonnet, who will be advancing to a Nov. 18 runoff for the New Orleans mayoralty, addressing supporters at their election night parties.

LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet are headed to a Nov. 18 runoff to determine which candidate will become the first woman mayor in New Orleans history.

Charbonnet, a Gentilly native and former municipal court judge, received 30 percent of the vote and celebrated with a party at the New Orleans Hilton Riverside, with longtime allies former Mayor Sidney Barthelemy and Constable Lambert Boissiere in the crowd, along with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, who came out early for Charbonnet's candidacy. Also giving interviews was U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, another Charbonnet supporter.

"We have taken lots of fire, lots of hard, hard hits," she said, referring to two anti-Charbonnet campaigns that were active in recent weeks. "They tried to threaten us and even smear us with those old stereotypes. We refused to be bullied or accept the status quo."

Cantrell, the current District B Councilwoman who received 39 percent of the vote, celebrated with a party at the New Orleans Jazz Market, the site of her original campaign announcement, As a DJ spun celebratory funk from Kool and the Gang and McFadden and Whitehead, the crowd at the New Orleans Jazz Market danced while watching poll results roll out on local news and cheering as Cantrell's numbers ticked up.

Following a lively gospel choir and band, Cantrell stood behind the podium onstage, surrounded by family and supporters and facing a crowd chanting "give 'em hell, Cantrell." Among the crowd onstage were state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, state Rep. Neil Abramson and outgoing District A Councilmember Susan Guidry

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Landrieu issues endorsements in Saturday's election

Posted By on Tue, Oct 10, 2017 at 6:05 PM

Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
  • Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

Without press conference or fanfare, Mayor Mitch Landrieu this afternoon announced his endorsements in Saturday's election.

Most notably, Landrieu did not issue an endorsement in the mayoral race, nor in the race for City Council District A. In the City Council races, he endorsed Helena Moreno and Jason Williams for the At-Large Division 1 and At-Large Division 2 seats respectively, as well as Jay Banks in District B, Nadine Ramsey in District C, Jared Brossett in District D and James Gray in District E. He also urged renewal of three Orleans Parish School Board millages on the ballot.

Under the jump: Landrieu's statement.

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Friday, September 15, 2017

School board votes to limit law enforcement interaction with students

Posted By on Fri, Sep 15, 2017 at 11:48 AM

Mary Moran with Nuestra Voz at a New Orleans rally to preserve DACA Sept. 7. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • Mary Moran with Nuestra Voz at a New Orleans rally to preserve DACA Sept. 7.

The Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB) has approved new guidelines that immigrant advocacy groups hope will protect students from law enforcement interaction and intimidation.

“School should be a safe place for all children,” OPSB Superintendent Henderson Lewis, Jr. said in a statement Sept. 15. “The Orleans Parish School Board holds this as a basic principle.”

The policies provide guidelines for school administration for what to do when law enforcement and immigration agents arrive on a campus. The policies (which apply only to direct-run OPSB schools) clarify that "such investigations should not disrupt the education environment at school sites."

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Monday, August 28, 2017

Landrieu urges New Orleanians to stay home Tuesday due to anticipated weather

Posted By on Mon, Aug 28, 2017 at 4:39 PM

At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged New Orleanians to stay home tomorrow due to what is expected to be some heavy rain.
  • At a press conference this afternoon, Mayor Mitch Landrieu urged New Orleanians to stay home tomorrow due to what is expected to be some heavy rain.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu is recommending New Orleans residents stay home tomorrow in anticipation of what may be heavy rainfall from feeder bands related to Tropical Storm Harvey. At today's press conference of city leaders, Landrieu said that the likelihood of heavy rain and possible tornado activity was what led him to make the call.

"Out of an abundance of caution, I recommend that everyone stay home tomorrow," Landrieu said.

All Orleans Parish public schools and Catholic schools will be closed, as will the University of New Orleans and Delgado College. All New Orleans Public Library branches will be closed. The Louisiana SPCA also will not be open, nor will the New Orleans Museum of Art. Jefferson Parish announced its schools and offices would be open.

Today's rainstorm brought minor street flooding to parts of the city that were most affected by the Aug. 5 flood, including Gentilly, Lakeview and Mid-City. According to the National Weather Service, parts of the city received two inches of rain today.

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Thursday, August 24, 2017

New Orleans youth who commit minor crimes will face warnings or summonses instead of arrests

Posted By on Thu, Aug 24, 2017 at 1:40 PM

click image PHOTO BY DANIEL X. O'NEIL/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • PHOTO BY DANIEL X. O'NEIL/CREATIVE COMMONS

New Orleans youth who commit minor offenses could receive a summons or warning instead of an arrest under an ordiannce unanimously passed by the New Orleans City Council Aug. 24.

District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry said the Policing Alternatives for Youth (PAY) ordinance adds "more tools in the tool chests for officers in dealing with our youth" and aids in "preventing unnecessary arrests and their consequences." She called its passage "one of the more exciting moments" in her career on the Council.

The ordinance covers 11 types of misdemeanors eligible for juvenile warning notices. Offenses eligible for a court summons include any of those 11 offenses after a juvenile already has been issued a warning, outstanding warrants, and traffic violations with the officer's discretion whether the violation rises above a warning.

The laws go into effect Jan. 1 (for warnings) and March 1 (for summonses).

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