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Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell and City Council-elect Cyndi Nguyen and Jay Banks victorious!

October 12, 2017

Voters Organized: A Guide to Saturday’s Election

Crisis in Democracy: There are more people with criminal records in New Orleans than the voters who elect our next mayor.

Who do you support for Mayor? How many times have you heard, or spoken, that line? Voters Organized to Educate is getting a lot of inquiries about that endorsement, along with City Council Districts A, B and E. Here are a few thoughts on those races, and why we will be announcing these endorsements on October 19th. See our picks so far HERE.

Roughly 50,000 people have already voted in New Orleans. Typically, a non-Presidential election turns out anywhere from 80,000 to 160,000 people. The larger number is how many came out for the last Mayoral election, and represents about half the eligible voters. This means about 25% of the City can choose our leaders. It is surely a crisis in democracy when the number of people with criminal records is larger than the number who vote for mayor.

Mayor: Is it a 4-Way, or 18-Way race?

Most buzz has focused on four of the 18 candidates: Michael Bagneris, LaToya Cantrell, Desiree Charbonnet, and Troy Henry. Polls have been conducted showing half the people are undecided and the other half are split up evenly- telling us nothing.\

What is important in a mayor? Their integrity, of course, and who they cozy up with. The mayor appoints many jobs, and City Hall hands out all our tax money with those jobs or contracts. The mayor appoints the police chief, who in turn controls the day-to-day activities of the people called on to protect and serve our communities.

The mayor sets the tone, whether they lead or follow the pulse of the people. On justice issues, to Mitch Landrieu’s credit: he came around to the seriousness of TakeEmDown Nola’s organizing. In the end, he did and said the right things to take down these statues which were only erected as symbols of White Supremacy. Landrieu also stood up to the Sheriff and others who have wanted to build a bigger jail. People can argue that Mitch didn’t do this, or didn’t do enough of that, but the reality is he very easily could have been cahoots with expanding the jail. It would have continued to line the pockets of the contractors, and would have added even more low wage jobs that nobody wants. With all the turnover and hiring problems Sheriff Gusman has with his jail, a larger one would only deepen the dilemma.

Voters Organized to Educate drafted a straightforward platform with questions that appeared very simple. For example,

We call on elected officials to support a 1,438 bed cap on the Orleans Justice Center jail, consistent with the City Council Resolution of 2011, and any public health interventions should never be used to justify mass incarceration.”

Easy question. LaToya Cantrell and Troy Henry agreed with this cap, along with other parts of our platform. Our endorsed candidates in District C (Kristen Palmer) and B (TImothy David Ray) endorsed our platform. Interestingly, Palmer voted for the initial resolution when she was a Councilperson, meanwhile Nadine Ramsey has supported the Sheriff’s quest to invest in more cages. Why would someone want a larger jail? That question has not been answered. Michael Bagneris and Desiree Charbonnet have not responded to the platform.

If the next mayor is cozy with both the Sheriff and the District Attorney, and have no problems with the way they do business, and want to give them more funds to double-down… we are all in trouble.

Four Council seats likely to be decided on Oct. 18th.

Jason Williams (At Large) and Jared Brossett (District D) are likely to win without much resistance. Williams has a history of supporting social justice issues, and the courage to face the inevitable criticism of political life. Even when people disagree with Jason WIlliams’ position, he will still take the call, hold the meeting, hear people out, and respond accordingly. We look forward to him continuing in his role, and keeping the People’s agenda in the room.

Joe Bouie, Helena Moreno, and Kenneth Cuttno are likely to have their race decided, but Cuttno may gain enough votes to force a run-off between the two favorites. Voters Organized endorsed Dr. Bouie based on his considerable front line work for civil rights, his signing on to our platform, and his leadership position in the state legislature. This is a fortunate race where decent candidates are running against each other. Rep. Moreno has a shorter record in this arena and although has a good voting record in the Statehouse, she did not sign on to our platform.

Kristen Giselson Palmer wants her old job back, and because only Nadine Ramsey is in the race: it will be decided without a run-off. As mentioned above, Palmer is backing our platform while Ramsey is not. Yet it is more more than that. Councilwoman Ramsey has supported the jail expansion and will not explain why. It is important to hold incumbents accountable for their actions. One of those ways is to take their job away.

Districts A, B, and E look have several candidates to watch

District A is a showdown of people who have never held elected office or government positions. Toyia Washington-Kendrick has been an active campaigner, getting into the community and hearing from some of the people who need the most support. She has an education background, and also signed on to the Step Up Louisiana platform, which includes a Ban the Box plank. Dan Ring, however provided thoughtful answers to our platform. Alongside them are two attorneys, Aylin Maklansky and Joe Giarusso. It would be a surprise if any of them reaches 51% this weekend, so we look forward to hearing more from two of them during our forum next Wednesday evening.

In District B, three people signed on to our platform: Timothy David Ray, Eugene Ben-Oluwole, and Seth Bloom. Although the latter two seem like strong individuals, Timothy Ray’s strong experience fighting for justice in New Orleans made this one of the easier endorsements. We have no doubts that he will be responsive and intelligent, if he can generate the votes to win. With a relatively large field, where everybody has a base to begin with, this race is also quite likely to reach a run-off. We look forward to seeing two of them next Wednesday.

District E is an interesting field as well, where several candidates have strong community activism backgrounds. Dawn Hebert appears to be the safest bet for integrity, leadership, understanding, and positive interactions with all parts of the community. District E’s environmental and housing issues mandate that a strong spine hold down this side of the city. Ms. Hebert also signed on to our platform, showing her recognition that public safety isn’t a matter of more police and more cages.

Judges: Overlooked all too often

In this city, anyone who gets an endorsement from D.A. Leon Cannizzaro will be immediately suspect. Getting an endorsement from him and the bail bond industry should amount to the kiss of death. In the case for 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, Tracey Flemings Davillier got halfway there with Cannizzaro’s support. In spite of this, Judge Davillier has the right background for a court where the bulk of appeals are criminal cases. Her work both in juvenile and adult court has been pretty par for the course, and she has involved herself with the reentry issue through the Louisiana Sentencing Commission. Eventually, it will be people like her who need to convert their power into a revolutionary reversal from the Cannizzaro view that every person charged should receive maximum sentences and destroy people’s lives to the best of the court’s and prison’s abilities.

The 4-way race for Civil District Court has solid candidates. One of them, Edward Morris, has demonstrated strong civic engagement by serving on the boards of The Jeremiah Group (one of Power Coalition’s anchor organizations) and Project Return, focusing on the dilemmas of returning from prison. This judgeship is often used as the entry-level position of the local judiciary, and it is important to propel the people who are most likely to wield their power wisely.

The Coroner: voting for a D.O.A. candidate?

Nobody seems to know what is going on here, but after incumbent Jeffrey Rouse suddenly dropped out, the anti-McKenna sentiment became vocal (it looked to be a rout by Rouse). Many folks will still be voting for Rouse, who could then step down and force an election in the spring for this seat- and give others a chance to step up and run in a wide-open race. Questions about McKenna’s integrity are legitimate- and this race seems like something strange may be afoot. We know as much as you do.

School Board Propositions- Nope.

New Orleans is virtually all charter schools, and there is virtually no accountability to the people they serve. While money is being spent on education, some is siphoned-off as corporate profits for shareholders and bonuses for executives. This is not a new experiment of which we should wait and see the results. We have over a decade of results. If the charter method were successful, why not be fully transparent? There are several fundamental flaws in New Orleans’ privatized public school system, including hiring masses of teachers from outside of New Orleans (barely older than the students themselves), and the use of NOPD and the court system to replace traditional school discipline (aka the School-to-Prison Pipeline).

It is important to fund education, as it is essential to a functioning society. Funding the schools should come with transparency and community control. Lacking transparency, Voters Organized cannot support this experiment continuing ‘business as usual.’

State Treasurer

As the only Democrat, it’s likely that Derrick Edwards needs no recommendation in New Orleans against a field of Republicans. Voters Organized to Educate, however, is as quick to toss a Democrat to the curb as anyone else. In this case however, he is actually the only one who looks capable to write the checks for the state. His degrees in accounting and law are a million times more of a resume builder than being his opponent who voted against voting rights for 71,000 people in Louisiana this past year.

State Propositions: No / No / Yes

The only decent amendment is Yes on #3. For those who follow taxation, you know that they raise it for one thing and spend it on themselves- more often than not. For that reason, we haven’t been raising any infrastructure taxes. So while our state crumbles (except for federal dollars, seen as Monopoly money by some contractors and their elected officials), some legislators were smart enough to first make any monies raised be mandated they go to that infrastructure purpose. And then go and raise some money with a gas tax. This may be excessive and convoluted, but it should work. Anyone who believes that the state constitution is holy document that should be free of meddling… well, they could use a training.

Come back to www.KnowYourVoteNola.org on Sunday to find out your results!

Your Knowledge is Your Power!

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