News & Politics

Friday, November 17, 2017

A watershed election in New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, Nov 17, 2017 at 12:00 PM

LaToya Cantrell. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • LaToya Cantrell.

Although the 2017 mayoral election gave us a painfully uninspiring field of candidates, it still produced a political watershed in several ways. Here are my takeaways one day before the election, assuming LaToya Cantrell wins easily, as suggested by every poll. (If Desiree Charbonnet somehow pulls off the biggest upset since Bienville hoodwinked the British Navy in 1699, I’ll eat what follows.)

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Thursday, November 16, 2017

Landrieu meets with Jeff Sessions, Sen. Kennedy to discuss 'sanctuary' policies

Posted By on Thu, Nov 16, 2017 at 5:56 PM

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu. - PHOTOS BY GAGE SKIDMORE/NICK PRETE / CREATIVE COMMONS
  • PHOTOS BY GAGE SKIDMORE/NICK PRETE / CREATIVE COMMONS
  • U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu.

The dispute between Mayor Mitch Landrieu and U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions over New Orleans' compliance with federal immigration authorities has seemingly hit another wall.

It's been a caustic back and forth, following hardline immigration policies and rhetoric from President Donald Trump, lawsuits over cities and "sanctuary" policies, and aggressive Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) action.

Landrieu says the city and New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) do communicate with ICE, and nothing in NOPD policy prohibits the department from sharing information with the feds. Sessions says the city harbors people living in the country illegally through NOPD policy that effectively gives them "sanctuary." Landrieu says NOPD arrests people regardless of status and that "New Orleans is not a sanctuary city." Sessions says NOPD policy doesn't go far enough to open communication between the city and the feds when an undocumented person is in custody.

On Nov. 16, Landrieu, City Attorney Rebecca Dietz and NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison met with Sessions and U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy. Landrieu said the meeting went well — once again assuring that the feds agree with Landrieu that the city does not have "sanctuary" policies.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Mid-City church offers sanctuary to Salvadoran man threatened with deportation

Posted By on Wed, Nov 15, 2017 at 2:45 PM

Jose Torres addresses a crowd outside First Grace United Methodist Church, which has offered him sanctuary following attempts from immigration authorities to deport him. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Jose Torres addresses a crowd outside First Grace United Methodist Church, which has offered him sanctuary following attempts from immigration authorities to deport him.

When he was 18 years old, Jose Torres fled violence in El Salvador and later arrived in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures. On Nov. 15, he was scheduled to appear for a check-in appointment at the New Orleans office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), where immigrant advocates say agents planned to hand him a ticket out of the country to “self-deport.”

But on Nov. 15, Torres — standing among immigrant advocates and local faith leaders, along with his two U.S.-born daughters, ages 2 and 8 — announced First Grace United Methodist Church would provide Torres sanctuary.

“I’m tired of being punished over and over, for one reason: for being an immigrant,” Torres said through tears. “It’s time for our immigrant community to rise up, to lift up our voices, and demand respect from this country.”

First Grace — which also provides meeting space for the immigrant advocacy group Congress of Day Laborers and offers shelter to women and children through Hagar’s House — will provide Torres “a safe place to be in our community and have some degree of safety,” Pastor Shawn Anglim told Gambit.

“You remember that you were once in that place, you were once treated as a foreigner, as strange, as a stranger. Being a human being means providing a space for people who once felt that way,” he said. “The word ‘sanctuary’ is to harbor, to protect, and that’s what we’re doing here for Jose.”

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Monday, November 13, 2017

Backed by tax incentives, massive IT company to open in New Orleans, hire 2,000 people

Posted By on Mon, Nov 13, 2017 at 5:56 PM

From outside the Superdome Nov. 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards and officials announced DXC's plans to open an office in New Orleans in 2018 with 2,000 hires over the next several years.
  • From outside the Superdome Nov. 13, Gov. John Bel Edwards and officials announced DXC's plans to open an office in New Orleans in 2018 with 2,000 hires over the next several years.

A multi-billion dollar IT company expects to open its New Orleans office in January 2018, with plans to hire 2,000 people within the next several years — all part of a multi-tiered effort among state and local politicians and business groups, tax incentive programs, local higher education systems, and the company itself, DXC Technology, which courted several states before landing with New Orleans.

At an announcement outside the Superdome Nov. 13, city and state officials didn’t mince words about the company’s arrival.

Gov. John Bel Edwards called it a “historic” announcement, expected to create more permanent direct jobs than any other development in recent Louisiana history. Mayor Mitch Landrieu called it a “game changer” and “a transformational moment” for the city in advance of its 300th anniversary, with the company’s decision signaling a flag-planting moment for the city and large investors, that there’s “no way city will ever be turned around again.” Greater New Orleans Inc.’s Michael Hecht said the arrival of DXC “emphatically validates New Orleans as a place for business and tech.”

The company’s arrival follows the state’s post-Katrina push for tech profusion, bolstered by tax credits and an ongoing narrative among city leaders and public-private partnershipping programs that the city can and will “win” in the highly competitive tech industry.

The city’s last “win” with General Electric followed gains with Gameloft and IBM, among others. DXC is likely to be its biggest “win" yet.

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Thursday, November 9, 2017

At mayoral panel, candidates plan a better future for New Orleans workers

Posted By on Thu, Nov 9, 2017 at 11:01 PM

Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell addressed concerns of New Orleans workers tonight at a forum in Algiers. - KAT STROMQUIST
  • KAT STROMQUIST
  • Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell addressed concerns of New Orleans workers tonight at a forum in Algiers.


At a wide-ranging forum Nov. 9 that seemed to touch on almost every social problem in the city, mayoral candidates LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet presented their visions for helping New Orleans workers share in their hometown's economic prosperity.

The forum at Algiers Auditorium, which was hosted by Loyola College of Law's Workplace Justice Project (WJP) and co-sponsored by several other progressive and civic-minded groups, was designed around a recent WJP report called "The State of Working New Orleans: The Industries That Sustain the Status Quo." The 13-page report laid out a clear picture of the strain felt by of New Orleans workers, many of whom struggle to afford even basic living expenses on their current incomes.

"The reality of workers' lives includes the stress of multiple jobs and rising living costs, made harder by a city that attracts wealthy visitors and demands welcoming hospitality," report author Erika Zucker wrote. "We cannot continue to move forward if so many are held back by poverty despite being employed."

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Tuesday, November 7, 2017

This group wants to train Louisiana Democratic women to run for office

Posted By on Tue, Nov 7, 2017 at 3:00 PM

PHOTO BY ZRFP PHOTO
  • Photo by ZRFP Photo

In a CNN report last weekend, journalists Mallory Simon and Kyung Lah documented record-breaking numbers of Democratic women who have expressed interest in running for political office. Here in Louisiana, a new group wants to bring that surge of progressive women candidates to electoral races statewide.

Emerge Louisiana is the local affiliate of Emerge America, which trains Democratic women candidates to effectively run for office. The local group currently is accepting applicants for its first class of trainees. The organization aims to shake up state politics by training women Democrats to be more competitive as candidates, even in more conservative-leaning rural areas.

"We see the success of women in New Orleans running for judicial positions ... [after the New Orleans mayoral runoff election] our three biggest cities [in Louisiana] will all have mayors that are women of color," Emerge Louisiana executive director Melanie Oubre says. "We just need to branch that out statewide."

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Monday, November 6, 2017

Want to have lunch with Donna Brazile and ask her a few things? Next week's your chance

Posted By on Mon, Nov 6, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Louisiana native Donna Brazile led the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election. - CREATIVE COMMONS/TIM PIERCE
  • CREATIVE COMMONS/TIM PIERCE
  • Louisiana native Donna Brazile led the Democratic National Committee during the 2016 election.

Former Democratic National Committee (DNC) head (and New Orleans native) Donna Brazile is coming home next week to speak to the annual Independent Women's Organization (IWO) at the group's annual fundraising lunch.

Brazile has been in the news a lot in the last week, mostly regarding her recently published memoir about Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign, Hacks: The Inside Story of the Break-ins and Breakdowns that Put Donald Trump in the White House. In it, she says the Clinton campaign controlled the DNC's fundraising, to the detriment of challenger U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. (Former Clinton staffers and many Democratic leaders dispute this.)

But it was one comment she made yesterday on ABC's This Week With George Stephanopoulos that may raise some eyebrows in Louisiana in particular: that her experience at the DNC was worse for her than Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods.

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Thursday, November 2, 2017

Editorial: Mayor's race a mud pit

Posted By on Thu, Nov 2, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell at a debate at Xavier University Oct. 30. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Mayoral candidates Desiree Charbonnet (left) and LaToya Cantrell at a debate at Xavier University Oct. 30.

This editorial has been updated.

The final weeks of the 2017 mayoral election appear to be less a race to the finish line than a long, uncontrolled slide into a mud pit. LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet are exchanging accusations of poor money management and even poorer judgment. While neither set of accusations proves criminality — though both have alleged as much — the volleys raise legitimate concerns about both candidates’ character.

News stories about Cantrell’s freewheeling use of a City Council credit card have dragged on for more than a week as new questions kept cropping up. The District B councilmember reimbursed the city for thousands of dollars in charges — some in the form of a personal check, some from her campaign account. The problem here isn’t just potential illegality, but the wide latitude accorded council members via a $30,000-a-year expense account for constituent services. Mayoral and departmental employees at City Hall have very specific, written policies for the expensing of meals and travel. Council members and their employees likewise must abide by a written set of rules, although Cantrell says many of her credit card expenses fall into “gray areas.” Cantrell insists that her lump repayment of more than $4,400 in credit card charges right after she qualified for mayor demonstrates her scrupulousness, but it could just as easily be seen as the move of someone who knew this would become a campaign issue.

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Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Court rules Gov. Edwards can't protect LGBT workers from discrimination

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 4:02 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards.
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards.

A Louisiana appeals court ruling has sided with state Attorney General Jeff Landry, who challenged a 2016 executive order from Gov. John Bel Edwards that bans discrimination against LGBT people in government and state contracts. The three-judge panel sided with a lower court ruling from late last year.

“I have said repeatedly that discrimination is not a Louisiana value, and this decision does not change my conviction that hiring decisions in state government should be based on merit alone," Edwards said in a statement. "Discrimination in state government and by state contractors is wrong, makes us weaker, and is bad for business and economic development. Even President Trump agrees, as he has kept in place a federal executive order which is virtually identical to the order I put in place. I went a step further and provided an exemption for certain religious organizations."

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Little Freddie King injured after bicycle accident, recovering at home

Posted By on Wed, Nov 1, 2017 at 12:10 PM

Little Freddie King at French Quarter Fest 2012. - PHOTO BY DEREK BRIDGES/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • PHOTO BY DEREK BRIDGES/CREATIVE COMMONS
  • Little Freddie King at French Quarter Fest 2012.

Blues guitarist Little Freddie King has returned home from a weeklong stay at University Medical Center following a recent bicycle accident. The 77-year-old musician injured his spine and neck after hitting road debris, flipping over his handlebars, and landing on his head while riding his bike on Poland Avenue. He was wearing a helmet.

King is "glad to get out of the hospital" after six days, says King's drummer and manager "Wacko" Wade Wright.

"He is feeling much better and needs to regain his strength," Wright said in an email to Gambit. After seven days, doctors will "evaluate if surgery is still required. He rejected surgery, and wanted to go home. So that's what we did, however we did agree to return in [seven] days for an update on condition."

Last night, King wrote on Facebook to thank family, friends and fans for wishing him well in his recovery — and to address bike and street safety in New Orleans:
I want to thank my family, my friends and all my super blues fans for keeping me in their prays, and sending best wishes. I salute you. I will be going home tomorrow, thought it was today, but things happen to change it.

I need a little time to see if I can work thru this and recover. I feel I can, but I will be afraid to get on my two wheel Cadillac after that slap down. Comment: The streets of New Orleans are NOT SAFE for bike riding, no matter how many "bike path" logos and white strips they paint on asphalt. Sooner or later, the [mine] field of "potholes" will eat up your skinny tire, or the big black garbage cans lying in the street that cause you to swerve into traffic, or the piles of building debris people like to throw into the street along the curb will bring you down. I can attest. If I didn't have my HELMET on, my brains would still be on Poland Ave. Be safe bikers, this ain't California.
"You can't kill da King," Wright told Gambit. "Maybe beat him up a little, but he will jump back up."

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