News & Politics

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Landrieu: New Orleans is "fully compliant" under Jeff Sessions' "sanctuary" definition

Posted By on Tue, May 23, 2017 at 5:56 PM

New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January. - PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • PHOTO BY KAT STROMQUIST
  • New Orleanians marched against President Donald Trump's immigration orders in January.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu said New Orleans "is not and has never been a sanctuary city" following a memo from U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions that clarifies President Donald Trump's executive order to crack down on so-called "sanctuary" policies prohibiting local cops from working with federal immigration authorities. Sessions' definition of "sanctuary" policies appears to keep New Orleans out of federal scrutiny, for now.

"It appears that the Attorney General and the Secretary of Homeland Security heard the call from mayors and police chiefs — that our local police should be focused on fighting violent crime and building trust with the communities they serve,” Landrieu said in a statement.

Landrieu has repeatedly ensured New Orleans' compliance with the feds in regards to people living in the country illegally — the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), under a federal consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice, does not ask about an individual's immigration status, but the department is not explicitly prohibited from working with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Landrieu sent a letter to Sessions last month detailing NOPD's policies and urging the feds to "stay focused on the real problem and stop scapegoating the immigrant communities and cities."

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Friday, May 19, 2017

With the removal of Robert E. Lee's statue, what's next for the monuments and New Orleans

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 10:00 PM

Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • Robert E. Lee's statue was removed from its pedestal May 19.

At 11 a.m, a single PA speaker packed into a wagon blasted Ginuwine's "Pony" and Blackstreet's "No Diggity" as a small crowd gathered outside Lee Circle to watch a fourth Confederate-era monument come down.

Robert E. Lee's statue —  16 feet tall, 8,000 pounds, in his Confederate uniform, arms crossed, facing north — would remain on his pedestal, where the statue stood since 1884, for only a few more hours. At a few minutes after 6 p.m. May 19, a crane lifted Lee off the tower to cheers from a growing crowd.

At 3 p.m., Mayor Mitch Landrieu addressed an invitation-only crowd inside Gallier Hall, his period at the end of a nearly three-year sentence arguing for the removal of Confederate-era monuments from New Orleans' public space. In his impassioned 20-minute address, Landrieu challenged the city to acknowledge and reconcile its ugly past while building a more inclusive society. If not, he said, "then this will all have been in vain." Meanwhile, two members of the construction crew tasked with their removal placed the crane's hook to the straps wrapped around Lee's statue.

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Protesters fear the worst at 'die-in' against American Health Care Act

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:59 PM

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As a thick miasma of Trump-Russia news clouded the national consciousness, a small group of demonstrators staged a "die-in" May 19 to draw focus to the American Health Care Act (AHCA).

Around noon Friday, a dozen or so activists — many of whom belong to the Metairie and New Orleans chapters of national progressive group Indivisible — stood in front of Tulane Medical Center, some carrying signs shaped like tombstones. One woman was dressed as the Grim Reaper, with a cardboard scythe that said "Trumpcare." The funereal theme was meant to highlight potential loss of insurance coverage (and, by extension, life) related to the AHCA, which recently passed the House of Representatives.

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House proposal on Uber and Lyft: Newton's First Law of Bad Government

Posted By on Fri, May 19, 2017 at 2:50 PM

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Sir Isaac Newton reduced much of what we know about the universe to a handful of precise mathematical formulas. Good thing Sir Isaac isn’t around today to try to make sense of the Louisiana Legislature. He’d surely go mad.

Or perhaps, upon noticing the extravagance with which hordes of unctuous lobbyists are pushing a bill to regulate web-based transportation network companies (TNCs) like Uber and Lyft, he might be moved to formulate his First Law of Bad Government: A proposed law’s awfulness is geometrically proportional to the number of lobbyists hired to secure its passage.

That is surely the case with House Bill 527 by Rep. Kenny Havard, R-Jackson, which might otherwise be called the No Lobbyist Left Behind Bill.

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Beauregard monument is removed from pedestal outside City Park

Posted By on Wed, May 17, 2017 at 4:51 AM

A monument fo P.G.T. Beauregard is removed early May 17. - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • A monument fo P.G.T. Beauregard is removed early May 17.

The peripheral block party scene at Confederate-era monument removals and demonstrations has become a nearly-weekly ritual. During the seven-hour stretch from when removal crews arrived and when a statue of Confederate Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard was lifted from its pedestal outside City Park, people kayaked on Bayou St. John to get a closer look, pulled up beach chairs along the water, popped Champagne, brought beer and coolers, and then a brass band showed up.

The New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) separated the crowd with a series of barricades at Moss Street and Esplanade Avenue facing Beauregard. Barricades stretched from across the bridge down Esplanade in front of the Shell gas station on Moss, with more around City Park, stretching across Carrollton Avenue. On one side of Esplanade were a couple dozen monument supporters, who draped Confederate flags over the barricades and waved several others, including a half-Stars and Stripes and half-Confederate flag, a flag that said "President Trump," and two flags symbolizing the 3 Percenters. Supporters chanted "where's Mitch?"

A saw cut into the statue's base where it meets the pedestal as crews hovered above in cherry pickers to strap Beauregard to a crane using yellow straps.

Among people in the crowd: musicians Terrence Blanchard and Nicholas Payton, as well as Angela Kinlaw, Michael "Quess" Moore and Malcolm Suber with Take 'Em Down NOLA.

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Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Bill to allow anonymous health risk surveys in high schools fails in Louisiana Senate

Posted By on Tue, May 16, 2017 at 6:00 PM

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Louisiana has the seventh highest rate of teen pregnancies in the U.S. among kids aged 15-19. Half of all new STD diagnoses in the U.S. are among young people — Louisiana leads the U.S. in rates of gonorrhea and syphilis, and it has the second-highest rate of chlamydia, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

A bill from state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, would allow the state's departments of health and education to administer an anonymous survey to school districts to gauge risk behaviors among high school students. The CDC survey already is administered in 42 other states. In Louisiana, the survey omits questions about sexual activity but does ask about drug and alcohol use, among other behaviors. Colomb's Senate Bill 85 would allow those questions on the survey.

Proponents argued that with access to the full scope of risk behavior data among young people, the state could apply for more funding for programming to accurately reflect student behavior and help lower the state's high rates of STDs and unplanned pregnancies. A similar bill won House approval last year, and Colomb's bill cleared the Senate's Health and Welfare Committee last week.

But after pushback from conservative opponents, the bill failed by a vote of 14-22 during Senate debate May 16. The bill is scheduled for reconsideration in the Senate May 17.

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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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Monday, May 15, 2017

Louisiana House passes bill that aims to put monument removal to a vote

Posted By on Mon, May 15, 2017 at 6:53 PM

During demonstrations on May 7, monument opponents stood behind a supporter who gave the finger to other opponents at Lee Circle - PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • PHOTO BY ALEX WOODWARD
  • During demonstrations on May 7, monument opponents stood behind a supporter who gave the finger to other opponents at Lee Circle

Despite powerful testimony from several black lawmakers urging the Louisiana House of Representatives to vote against a measure that aims to prevent the removal of Confederate monuments, the bill passed by a vote of 65-31 on May 15. It now heads to the Senate.

House Bill 71 from state State Rep. Thomas Carmody, R-Shreveport, prevents "altering, removing, relocating, or destroying a memorial, including any structure, plaque, statue, or monument that is located on public property and that commemorates specified wars in U.S. history." It also prohibits renaming or rededicating statues, streets, bridges, buildings and parks that are named "in memory of or named for any historical military figure, historical military event, military organization, or military unit." It doesn't list the Civil War among those events, but rather the "War Between the States."

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Friday, May 12, 2017

SMOR poll: no easy answers

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 4:20 PM

Gov. John Bel Edwards out-polls President Donald Trump in a recent survey. - PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • PHOTO BY CHERYL GERBER
  • Gov. John Bel Edwards out-polls President Donald Trump in a recent survey.

The annual spring survey of Louisiana voters by Southern Media and Opinion Research (SMOR) has mixed news for our state’s politicians. That shouldn’t surprise, given the mixed signals coming out of Baton Rouge.

The bad news for all elected officials is a majority of the state’s voters (52 percent) think Louisiana is going down the tubes, or, as pollsters call it, “headed in the wrong direction.” Roughly 32 percent believe we’re headed in the right direction, while 16 percent don’t know where we’re headed. Considering state lawmakers currently are vexed over how to solve a massive budget problem, the latter group actually may have got it right.

The good news for Gov. John Bel Edwards is he continues to get positive reviews overall despite voters’ gloomy outlook for the state. The bad news for him is that his numbers have slipped since just last autumn. His latest “job performance” ratings show him with an overall 53.8 percent “positive” rating compared to a 42 percent “negative” rating.

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House approves bill adding "dating partner" protections to domestic violence laws

Posted By on Fri, May 12, 2017 at 3:00 PM

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Legislators in Baton Rouge agree that "dating partners" — not just spouses and family members — should be included in domestic violence protections. The Louisiana House of Representatives voted May 11 to extend those protections, including preventing offenders from carrying firearms, to dating partners — a distinction applied in 41 other states.

The House voted 59-30 to approve New Orleans Democratic state Rep. Helena Moreno's House Bill 223, which now heads to the state Senate for approval.

It's a significant arm twist to the National Rifle Association (NRA), whose grip on legislators effectively killed several measures over the years that would prevent violent offenders from possessing firearms. The NRA argued "dating partners" encompasses too broad a group — despite reports from the Louisiana Coalition Against Domestic Violence showing that, in 2016 alone, 60 percent of Louisiana's intimate partner homicide victims were not married to their abuser.

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