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Thursday, June 22, 2017

The 2017 New Orleans mayoral race: A familiar but unique election scenario

Posted By on Thu, Jun 22, 2017 at 4:18 PM

Who's moving in next year?
  • Who's moving in next year?

No two elections are alike, but this year’s race for mayor of New Orleans reminds me (so far) of the 2002 mayor’s race. Ray Nagin won that contest, but don’t panic. I don’t see another Nagin in our future. What looks familiar is the slow pace at which the field is taking shape and the lack of a clear front runner, at least as this stage.

Now consider this factoid: the last three mayors didn’t announce their candidacies until shortly before qualifying. That’s what leads some to whisper that we haven’t yet heard the name of the next mayor.

Of course, two of those three late-entry candidates were named Morial and Landrieu. They didn’t need to start early. The third was Nagin, and he won mainly because the eventual front runner, then-state Sen. Paulette Irons, imploded in the final weeks.

I don’t see any of this year’s candidates imploding, but I do see other parallels between this year’s race and the one that gave us Nagin.

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Saturday, June 17, 2017

New Orleans mayoral candidates Bagneris and Cantrell discuss minimum wage, law enforcement

Posted By on Sat, Jun 17, 2017 at 3:35 PM

LaToya Cantrell and Michael Bagneris fielded questions from progressive group Indivisible NOLA.
  • LaToya Cantrell and Michael Bagneris fielded questions from progressive group Indivisible NOLA.

New Orleans mayoral candidates Michael Bagneris and LaToya Cantrell found a lot of common ground at a forum hosted by progressive group Indivisible NOLA, broadly covering wage inequity, immigration, racial justice, homelessness, substance abuse and mental health services, among other issues. Another announced candidate, Civil District Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, also was invited to the forum but had to drop out due to a scheduling conflict. But the invitation-only event was this year's candidates' first large public introductions before qualifying begins.

Candidates sat in front of an orange Black Lives Matter banner at First Unitarian Universalist Church at Jefferson and Claiborne avenues June 17, fielding questions from event moderators, Indivisible members and members of the roughly 300 people in attendance.

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Landrieu postpones State of the City, says 'senseless violence cannot go unchecked' in wake of Scalise shooting

Posted By on Wed, Jun 14, 2017 at 1:10 PM

U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise.
  • U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu postponed his annual State of the City address this morning following the shooting of Louisiana U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and several Congressional staffers at a baseball field outside Washington D.C.

The speech was scheduled for 10:30 a.m. June 14 at the Civic Theatre. Landrieu will announce a rescheduled date for the address at a later date.

“In times like these, we have to pause and reflect, which is why I postponed the State of the City Address," Landrieu said from City Hall. "I want to ask the people of New Orleans and the country to keep him and the other victims in your thoughts and prayers. I am encouraged by reports that he is in stable condition."
Landrieu and District D City Councilman Jared Brossett both served with Scalise in the Louisiana House of Representatives. Brossett said he's glad the shooting "was not a worse event than it is."

Landrieu called the shooting an "attack on our very democracy" and called for unity "against cowardly violence."

"Unfortunately we have been here before, but it's no less shocking," he said. "This is not a partisan issue ... This senseless violence in America cannot go unchecked."

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Desiree Charbonnet plans 'important announcement' Mon. May 22

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 3:17 PM

Desiree Charbonnet.
  • Desiree Charbonnet.

Former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who stepped down from her judgeship last month in what was seen as preamble to joining the New Orleans mayor's race, has invited supporters to "an important announcement" May 22 at the Sheraton Hotel New Orleans.

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Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Federal judge blocks Trump's order to pull funding from "sanctuary" cities

Posted By on Tue, Apr 25, 2017 at 6:08 PM

Protesters in New Orleans march against Trump's immigration orders in January.
  • Protesters in New Orleans march against Trump's immigration orders in January.

As Mayor Mitch Landrieu and other U.S. mayors met with Attorney General Jeff Sessions over "sanctuary" cities, a federal judge in California halted an order from President Donald Trump that threatens to withhold federal funds from those cities.

U.S. District Judge William Orrick granted a preliminary injunction in two lawsuits against Trump's order to halt funding to cities with so-called "sanctuary" policies that prevent local law enforcement from complying with federal immigration authorities over immigration issues. New Orleans was listed among nine jurisdictions targeted by the Trump administration, despite Landrieu and other officials repeatedly assuring the city's compliance with the feds. Santa Clara County and San Francisco said billions of dollars in funding could be at stake; New Orleans similarly relies on several million federal dollars annually for citywide funding.
Trump is unable to withhold federal funding "that bears no meaningful relationship to immigration enforcement ... merely because a jurisdiction chooses an immigration enforcement strategy of which the President disapproves," according to the ruling.

"These constitutional violations are not limited to San Francisco or Santa Clara, but apply equally to all states and local jurisdictions," the ruling says. "Given the nationwide scope of the Order, and its apparent constitutional flaws, a nationwide injunction is appropriate."

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Monday, April 24, 2017

New Orleans removes first of four Confederate-era monuments, announces funding to take down the rest

Posted By on Mon, Apr 24, 2017 at 9:03 AM

The Battle of Liberty Place statue at Canal Place was removed in the early morning hours April 24.
  • The Battle of Liberty Place statue at Canal Place was removed in the early morning hours April 24.
A few hours after construction crews began removing a statue intended to recognize "white supremacy in the South," Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced that the city should "truly remember all of our history, not part of it." The Battle of Liberty Place obelisk — one of four statues targeted for removal by the city, and what Landrieu called the "most offensive" of the four — was the first to come down.

The statues — which Landrieu said were "first erected as an affront to America, intended to deny the humanity of millions of Americans" — will be moved to a city-held warehouse before they move to a museum or similar building. Other statues to be removed include Robert E. Lee at Lee Circle, P.G.T. Beauregard at the entrance to City Park, and Jefferson Davis on Jefferson Davis Parkway in Mid-City.

Debate over their removal has swirled over the last several decades, but it came into sharp focus when Landrieu announced their removal in 2015. Debates continued at City Hall and elsewhere as officials mulled a "nuisance" ordinance under which the monuments could be removed, arguing their construction "suggests the supremacy of one ethnic, religious, or racial group over any other, or gives honor or praise to any violent actions taken wrongfully against citizens of the city to promote ethnic, religious, or racial supremacy of any group over another."

“The removal of these statues sends a clear and unequivocal message to the people of New Orleans and the nation: New Orleans celebrates our diversity, inclusion and tolerance,” Landrieu said in a statement early this morning. “Relocating these Confederate monuments is not about taking something away from someone else. This is not about politics, blame or retaliation. This is not a naïve quest to solve all our problems at once. This is about showing the whole world that we as a city and as a people are able to acknowledge, understand, reconcile — and most importantly — choose a better future. We can remember these divisive chapters in our history in a museum or other facility where they can be put in context — and that’s where these statues belong.”

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Friday, March 31, 2017

LaToya Cantrell is running for mayor

Posted By on Fri, Mar 31, 2017 at 1:03 PM

City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell speaks at the Women's March New Orleans in January. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • KAT STROMQUIST
  • City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell speaks at the Women's March New Orleans in January.

As was widely speculated, District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell will be running for mayor in the municipal election this fall. A spokesman for Cantrell confirmed today that an announcement will be coming soon.

Though Cantrell has made no formal announcement, she's dropped hints over the past few months about feeling a “call to serve.” Today a slick election website was unveiled seeking donations and highlighting her accomplishments as a Broadmoor community leader and city councilwoman.

The only other announced candidate is former Judge Michael Bagneris, though many familiar names are expected to join the race. Among the possibilities: State Rep. Walt Leger, State Sen. JP Morrell, State Sen. Troy Carter, Councilman At-Large Jason Williams, Judge Desiree Charbonnet and real estate developer Sidney Torres.

Qualifying takes place in July.

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Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Landrieu: "NOPD's policy on immigration complies with federal law"

Posted By on Wed, Mar 22, 2017 at 7:15 PM

Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • KAT STROMQUIST
  • Protesters outside City Hall following Trump's January immigration order.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu stood by New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) policy following a report that puts New Orleans on a list of U.S. cities that "limit cooperation" with federal immigration authorities.

Landrieu says targeting immigrant communities is likely to break any trust between them and police, which could prevent people from reporting crimes or testifying as witnesses, under threat of their immigration status being questioned.

“First and foremost, the NOPD does now and will continue to follow federal laws and focus on arresting people who commit crime, regardless of their immigration status," Landrieu said in a March 21 statement. "The NOPD’s policy on immigration complies with federal law and makes New Orleans safer because individuals are more likely to report crime, and victims and witnesses can testify without fear of being questioned about their immigration status. That’s why the NOPD will continue to focus on arresting those who commit violent crimes, not enforcing civil immigration laws."

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Landrieu selects old VA hospital for low-barrier homeless shelter

Posted By on Wed, Mar 15, 2017 at 6:05 PM

PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Photo by Cheryl Gerber
Following debate among city officials and residents over the placement of a proposed low-barrier homeless shelter, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced on March 15 an expansion of homeless services at the former Veterans Affairs hospital on Gravier Street. The expansion is expected to add 100 overnight beds with little or no barrier for entry, including no cost of admission or sobriety test, and 24-hour access.

In 2015, Landrieu announced the city had effectively eliminated homelessness among veterans by using a housing-first model and partnering with a broad group of federal, state and local agencies and nonprofit groups. It has since housed nearly 500 veterans. Landrieu said 44 people experiencing homelessness died in New Orleans last year, and the inclusion of 100 new low-barrier beds — in the same building with nearby health and housing services — "can be critical as we seek to connect even more homeless to the necessary services they need to get into stable housing.”

"Today’s announcement allows us to deliver on our promise to expand services and reduce barriers that prevent the homeless in our city from accessing care,” Landrieu said in a statement.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

City Council defers vote on rental registry to March 9

Posted By on Wed, Feb 22, 2017 at 4:35 PM

New Orleans City Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams at a press conference outside City Hall before debate over a proposed rental registry.
  • New Orleans City Councilmembers LaToya Cantrell and Jason Williams at a press conference outside City Hall before debate over a proposed rental registry.

The New Orleans City Council will delay a vote on a rental registry and inspection program to next month. At-Large Councilmember Jason Williams and District B Councilmember LaToya Cantrell sponsored a measure that would require landlords of most private rentals to register their properties with the city and subject them to inspections that must meet a checklist of health and safety requirements before they can be rented out. The City Council deferred voting on the measure last month, and it will defer the measure again to March 9 at its meeting on Feb. 23.

Cantrell and Williams will "continue to work on the legislation with their fellow Councilmembers and with New Orleans citizens to ensure the best ordinance going forward," according to the City Council's agenda announcement.

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