Day: November 15, 2020

WILL LOWER PROPERTY TAX RATES

By C.C. Campbell-Rock

New Orleans voters go to the polls on December 5, 2020 to select a district attorney, school board members, and judges. They will also have the opportunity to vote on the City of New Orleans’ millage package. Funding for early childhood education and library services, dedicated revenues for infrastructure, affordable housing, and economic development are included.

 “It’s very important for people to continue to vote,” Mayor Cantrell said during a conference call with the black press.

“The package will come to the voters as a tax decrease. We know there will be a reduction in turnout. But our millage proposal is aligned to civic and social unrest we’ve seen and offers a tax decrease and budget renewal plan that supports the initiatives and priorities from the grassroots.”

Early voting will be held Nov. 20-28 (excluding Sunday, Nov. 22, Thursday, Nov. 26 and Friday, Nov. 27) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The current millage ends in 2021. The mayor is seeking to renew it and redistribute some funds to include grassroots’ community’s needs. “This rededication gives us the flexibility to redirect funding to priorities that are important to residents,” Mayor Cantrell explains.

Three propositions are on the ballot:  1) Infrastructure & Maintenance; (2) Early Childhood Education & Libraries and (3) Housing & Economic Development.

“This proposal would reduce taxpayers’ property tax bill in 2021. The millage proposal is a redistribution of current tax revenue so it will not raise taxes. This is a historic opportunity to create long-term funding for early care and education and the New Orleans Public Library,” she adds.

The city has never had a dedicated fund for infrastructure and  maintenance. We invested $1.5 billion since Katrina. But there is no source of funds that will help the city maintain the investment we’ve already made.

The tax revenue will be used for maintenance and repair of roads, the drainage system, street repairs, and vehicle replacements and repairs. “Our capital budget can’t provide funds for operations and  routine maintenance,” Cantrell says of the necessity for a dedicated infrastructure fund.  

The city expects the infrastructure and maintenance millage to generate $10.5 million in its first year and $375 million over the 20 year life span of the millage.  

The Mayor’s proposal redistributes a portion of the Library’s existing millage to the other programs. Approximately $4.5 million will be generated annually for the library and early childhood education.  $1.5 million to early childhood and $3 million for the Library, for a total of over $30 million. “Our children and families need this right now.”

The funds generated from the early childhood education millage will fund 100 additional seats at childcare centers for young children. Currently, there are 7,000 at-risk, low income children who do not have access to early childhood education.

However, there is fierce opposition to the City’s millage package.

“We’re getting pushback from folk who don’t have any issues taking care of their children,” Cantrell comments.

“The biggest issue and challenge on this one (childhood education and library millage) is coming from the library itself, internal,  some of our employees and I think one of our board members,” Cantrell acknowledged.

 “We do anticipate some level of opposition. But at the same time understand that our library system is healthy, will remain healthy, will not see any reduction in library services or programs. It will actually see more effective programming. And increased programming that will be more aligned with the needs of the communities and the people the library system serves.  We’ve looked at the library’s expenses and we know they are running a surplus.”

Andrea Neighbours, a New Orleans Public Library board member, went on record opposing the childhood education and library millage. ‘I hope the voters kill it,’ “ Neighbours told a reporter with The Lens.

 “Our millage doesn’t expire until next year,” she said. “We have time to work on a better solution. So, I can’t support this proposal. I hope we come back in the coming year and come up with a better solution that works for the kids and the families of this city. So, I just want to be on record as a board member who loves this library deeply that I just can’t support it.”

Are Libraries in NOLA under attack

“The library typically has an annual 10-13% attrition rate, which will allow the library to right-size its budget while they supplement the budget with the fund balance. The fund balance has increased to $14.5 million,” Cantrell adds. 

“The library can withstand some cuts but if the entire millage goes away, which is what will happen without an extension, it will make it much harder for the library to develop a sustainable path forward. Our proposal lowers the millage, but it also buys some time for the library to come up with a sustainability plan while it can rely on its large reserve to make up the difference between existing expenses and new revenue.”

“New Orleans Public Library Executive Director Gabriel Morley has been supportive of Cantrell’s plan. He’s repeatedly said that if the ballot measure fails, the library would lose the entire value of the expiring property tax — roughly $11 million a year — instead of just part of it,” according to the non-profit news site.

The Affordable Housing and Economic Development millage will generate about 4.25 million for affordable housing. And another 4.6 million for economic development in its first year. Over 20 years, the millage will provide upwards of $317 million.

Housing Matters

“We have put in place a pipeline to affordable housing and we want to leverage additional resources that we get from HUD, and the state, with the millage.

  • The Affordable Housing millage will fund Affordable Housing Units, Rental Assistance. New Housing Construction. Down Payment Assistance, and Home Repairs for Seniors.

Regarding the Economic Development millage, Cantrell explains, “In this COVID environment, we have an obligation to pivot toward the more diverse economy and helping our people pivot to this growth sectors. We need to bring workforce readiness opportunities to residents in ways we have not done before. We have restructured our Economic Development Plan as a generational plan to build our people up.”

The Mayor’s office says 44,000 New Orleanians are unemployed as a result of the coronavirus pandemic. Another 4,000 have been denied unemployment benefits. Cantrell’s plan is to create an equitable and diversified economy that focuses on  green, blue, and gray infrastructure jobs.  

BGR Opposition

The Bureau of Governmental Research (BGR) opposes all three propositions. The BGR is a nonprofit governmental watchdog, wrote in a recent report.

In its report it cited a lack of spending plans for the tax dedications. And it seemed to think a 10-year millage period was better than the 20-year proposal. 

“The overall plan is to rededicate a group of property taxes that generate approximately $25 million a year. The new dedication would take roughly $6.5 million from the New Orleans Public Library system and distribute the funds to economic development, housing initiatives and infrastructure maintenance. The mayor’s plan would also carve $1.5 million from the Library budget to pay for an existing early childhood education program,”

“Voters are asked to approve a nearly 40% revenue cut for public libraries without a strategic plan or a clear roadmap for right-sizing their budget before their reserves run out. The proposal further asks voters to increase taxes for infrastructure, housing, and economic development without any spending plans. As a result, all propositions have significant flaws, despite the compelling needs they might address,” the BGR report concludes.

Mayor Responds

“While we have plenty of plans, what we don’t have are the resources to accomplish them. We are talking about maintaining city services in the face of a health and financial crisis. These funds will be crucial in helping us keep up with what the city does already. All while dealing with crippling cuts to our other revenue streams. If these dollars are not renewed, the effect will most certainly be felt by our citizens.” the mayor explains.

“This assertion that there isn’t a plan also disregards the work my administration is doing on a generational economic development plan,” says Cantrell.

Cantrell reiterated the fact that the millage package will reduce taxes not increase them. “The current millage in place generates about 41 million, so in the renewal package for 2021, if passed, we will garner 23 to 25 million a year, which is a reflection of the tax reduction.”

For more information on the millage package visit:

https://nola.gov/mayor/2021-millage-rededication/

Check out the BGR Report here: https://www.bgr.org/report-index/bgr-examines-december-5-new-orleans-property-tax-propositions/

GEORGIA’S ON OUR MINDS

BY C.C. Campbell-Rock

“My focus is on Georgia. But the reality is, Georgia matters to everyone, if you change the leadership of Georgia, you change the South. If you change the South, you change the country.”

              Stacey Abrams—Former Georgia State Rep. & Founder, Fair Fight 2018

Civil Rights Era Protest

Georgia is on everyone’s mind.  Georgia’s voters will pick the winners of the state’s two Senate seats in the January 5, 2021 runoff elections. If Democrats win the two seats the party can control the Senate. Vice President-Elect Kamala Harris would cast the deciding vote.

Georgians must choose between Democrat Reverend Raphael Warnock and Incumbent Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. Loeffler is a wealthy financier appointed by Georgia’s Governor Brian Kemp to fill the unexpired term of Sen. Johnny Isakson. The other race pairs Democrat Jon Ossoff and incumbent Republican Senator David Perdue. .

Unethical Behavior

Indeed, “The fate of the country is at stake,” as U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham told a reporter, when asked why he called Georgia’s Secretary of State. Graham represents South Carolina, so he had no right to interfere in Georgia’s electoral process.

However, Republicans are so afraid of losing their grip on the U.S. Senate and their ability to obstruct democratic bills, that they are breaking ethics laws to retain power.

Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger is a Republican who admits to voting for Trump. Raffensberger blasted Graham for calling him and asking him  “whether he had the power to reject certain absentee ballots”. Raffensperger interpreted the questions as a suggestion to toss out legally cast votes. https://www.nbcnews.com/video/graham-denies-asking-georgia-secretary-of-state-to-toss-ballots-96065605814

New Forms of Suppression

Georgia’s  Black community is used to voter suppression efforts. Now the Republicans are boldly interfering with the southern state’s electoral process. Republicans are going to the courts to ask judges to toss out absentee ballots from predominately black counties. They are suing not only in Georgia but also in Pennsylvania. In Pennsylvania, they sued to throw out millions of mail in ballots and overturn a Pennsylvania election law that was passed with overwhelming Republican support.

Thus far, 33 lawsuits have been filed by the Trump Campaign. At least 31 have failed, been settled, or withdrawn, none in Trump’s favor. It’s been nearly four weeks since  the election and Trump is still crying foul. He insists that  the election was rigged and fraudulent. Further Trump claims Biden must  prove that 80 million more ballots cast for Biden are legitimate.

Trump plans two stump trips in Georgia for the two Republican candidates.

A Real New South

Whatever the outcome of the January 5 run-off elections, what is clear is that a New South has emerged. Georgia is leading the transformation, and other states are following, including South Carolina.  Black voters in both states turned up and turned out and put the country on notice that their voices will not be silenced, nor will their demands for equality and justice. Early voting in Georgia this year was record-setting. By the end of October, nearly 4 million people had cast a ballot, a 64 percent increase compared with the same point in 2016.

“The South, and the Deep South in particular, fielded more Black candidates in 2020 than it has since Reconstruction,” Adam Harris wrote in “The South Has Already Changed.” an article that appeared in The Atlantic.

Proof

“We proved that a new South is rising. Tonight, only slowed us down,” Jaime Harrison told aides and supporters, during his concession speech. Harrison lost his senate bid to incumbent Senator Lindsey Graham, who won by a mere 10 percent of the votes cast.

“But a new South with leaders who reflect the community and serve the interests of everyone will be here soon enough,” said Harrison, who worked as director of floor operations for Jim Clyburn, executive director of the House Democratic Caucus and chair of the South Carolina Democratic Party.

Taken for Granted

Many Black southerners have often wondered why the Democratic Party has overlooked voters in so-called  ‘red states.’ While it’s true that Republicans have dominated state legislatures and politically gerrymandered counties (parishes in Louisiana), to retain power locally and nationally, changing demographics and bloc voting by ethnic groups can overcome the GOP’s grip on elective offices.

Obviously, the Democratic National Committee learned nothing from Reverend Jesse Jackson’s 1984 Democratic presidential nomination run. Although he lost to former Vice-President Walter Mondale, in 1984 Jackson won five statewide primaries. The majority of those victories were in Virginia, Louisiana, Mississippi, and his home state of South Carolina. Four years later, when Jackson again made a bid for the White House, he won three times as many delegates in South Carolina as his nearest competitor and swept the Deep South.  Black voters gave Jackson those victories in the Deep South.

The Abrams Impact

Stacey Abrams’ group, Fair Fight, proved that appealing to Black, Latino, Asian voters, and young voters, specifically, is a formula for electoral success. Additionally, Abrams’ group registered 800,000 new voters. Fair Fight did reach out to white voters in urban and rural settings, but the organization focused on registering voting age people who had never cast a ballot before. The group also encouraged absentee ballot voting to avoid long lines and to protect voters’ health during the coronavirus pandemic.

However, Abrams’ electoral performances silently signaled that Georgia was slowly changing from red to blue.

“In 2014, Abrams, then a member of the Georgia House of Representatives, co-created a group called the New Georgia Project that focused on getting people of color in the state who haven’t previously participated in the electoral process to vote. In 2017 and 2018, Abrams ran for governor and diverted from the normal Southern Democrat strategy of centering a campaign on winning as many white swing voters as possible. Abrams did try to win white swing voters, but also invested heavily in boosting turnout among voters of all races in the Atlanta area and among Black people in particular in the state’s more rural areas,” reported FiveThrityEight.com.

In a segment called, “How Georgia Turned from Red to Purple,” National Public Radio interviewed Amy Steigerwalt, a political science professor at Georgia State University.

Purple Reign

Steigerwalt said there are many reasons why Georgia is now in play – among them an increasingly diverse electorate, which includes a growing Black middle class and increasing numbers of Asian and Latino voters. “The ‘blue-ing’ of the suburbs is probably the biggest thing that’s happening,” she said. “These areas that have long been Republican strongholds are not anymore.”

“Steigerwalt also gives substantial credit to activist and former gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, whose Fair Fight organization worked to register and mobilize voters statewide after her narrow – and controversial – loss to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018. The group raised about $40 million from more than 200,000 donors nationwide to turn out Democratic voters in Georgia and other key states,” NPR reported.

Abrams’ group has created a blueprint for flipping states blues.  Lauren Groh-Wargo, Abrams former gubernatorial campaign manager in 2018 announced the release of The Abrams Playbook: The Strategy and Path to Victory in 2020.

https://fairfight.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/09/TheAbramsPlaybook.pdf

Currently, Abrams and Fair Fight and their partner organization are working diligently to flip the U.S. Senate blue by sending Reverend Warnock, who pastors Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr’s historic Ebenezer Baptist Church and who presided over Civil Rights Leader John Lewis’ funeral, and Jon Ossoff, an Investigative Reporter and former national security staffer and aide to Representative Hank Johnson, to the United States Senate.

Senate Keys

Georgia’s voters hold the keys to whether the U.S. Senate will continue to be gridlocked by its GOP members or if a progressive agenda for all the people will move forward, including the Democrats Heroes Act, the 2.2 trillion coronavirus relief package. Indeed, all eyes are on Georgia.

Here’s Stacey Abrams speaking about the upcoming challenge:: https://twitter.com/i/status/1324865042148421633

Changing your mind by force is futile. Do this instead.

by Julia Englund Strait Ph.D.

With COViD-19 and political battles still raging, it’s probably safe to say that almost everyone is feeling a little uneasy—albeit to different degrees and for different reasons. There’s a lot of uncertainty, and uncertainty breeds anxiety. What do we do with all this discomfort? Should we try to make it go away?

Try not to think about a puppy. A fluffy, cuddly, smiley little puppy. He’s so cute. Look at that tiny little tongue. Those pleading eyes. NO! Don’t think about him.

Stop it! Why are you still thinking about that puppy? I told you not to.

Some research on trying to suppress the image of a white bear suggests that you’ll fare no better with that animal, either.

What we resist persists. The harder we fight against a thought, image, or feeling, the more voraciously it will fight back. Has anyone ever told you “Don’t worry!” What about, “Just try not to think about it”? How did that work for you?

I don’t know about you, but when I wake up with an irritated, depressed, or anxious weight on my chest, attempts to analyze or stop it have been met with approximately zero success. The same is true for my therapy patients, who have waning patience for friends and family members who just want them to “cheer up.”

Don’t you think if we could stop our thoughts, or change our feelings, by sheer force of will…we would?

You can’t actually suppress your thoughts…not for very long, at least. And you certainly can’t change the way you feel like changing the TV channel. That’s partly because you aren’t the one who came up with these thoughts and feelings to begin with…at least not deliberately or consciously.

We are always fielding large amounts of data from the environment, our bodies, our memories, and from other people. We are constantly filtering, attending, ignoring, synthesizing, and remembering. Although it may feel deliberate that you just thought of a great idea for your next (post-COVID) vacation, where did that idea really come from? What about the feeling of excitement that came with it? Did you really create that from scratch? Did you choose to feel excited?

Don’t Be Nervous

When you got nervous before your last test or presentation, did you say to yourself, “Gee, I’d love to feel super anxious right now!”

The last time you woke up still reeling from a nightmare about your worst fear, did you say to yourself, “Oh yeah! I forgot that I wanted to think about humiliation and terror all night. Totally my bad”?

That’s just not how our minds work. What you think is control over what you’re thinking and feeling is somewhat of an illusion.

The fire hose of data streaming in at all times gets filtered through thoughts and histories. And that’s how we end up with an emotional experience. Sure, some of those bits may yield to a push here or a pull there. But much of the raw material that creates our emotional experience is automatic, implicit, and outside the realm of conscious control.

Julia Strait

Beware of flaming puppies.Source: Julia Strait

We can’t control our thoughts or emotions, but we can choose how we see them. How we view the things that cross our minds, in turn, affects how we respond. And an unavoidable but understandable feeling is easier to work with than one that we blame ourselves for having, or for being unable to stop.

Next time you find yourself thinking about that pink puppy, then–or more likely, an 8-foot-tall raging grizzly bear–try just letting it be. No need to fight it, argue with it, or push it to the dark, dusty corners of your mind. See it for what it is: A curious amalgam of history, hopes, and biological reactions, fed by attention but arriving without your consent. Remember that you didn’t choose it: It just showed up here. And if you can treat it that way, rather than getting caught up in fighting it off, you’ll find that it often leaves you just as curiously as it came.

by Kenneth Cooper

To the winner goes the spoils, but not before they control the narrative. Which story will it be? Old school law and order Keva Landrum vs criminal justice reform advocate Jason Williams?  An experienced judge and leader of structural change vs a man who cheats on his taxes? Then there’s Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s endorsement. This is the first big race where she puts her name on the line. The New Orleans DA’s Race will have be a hotly contested battle.

In the last administration, an endorsement from the mayor typically didn’t go over well. In fact near the end of Mitch Landrieu’s last term, his endorsement usually was the kiss of death for candidates. Now, in the midst of the Coronavirus, how much influence does mayor Cantrell have after slow walking the city through the reopening process?

Keva Landrum

Like Mitt Romney kept women in a binder, Keva Landrum had better do her best to keep Leon Cannizzaro in a corner. Once a potential contender for mayor, Cannizzaro now bows out as a disgraced DA known for issuing fake subpoenas, harassing witnesses, and trumping up charges to throw black people in jail. He’s also a major backer of Landrum.

While she’s at it, Landrum might also want to keep her record tucked away. Apparently, she’s made a career out of Cannizzaro type practices – withholding evidence and going hard on marijuana to boost convictions. According to the ACLU, her score card is pretty bad when it comes to your civil liberties too.  They say she won’t even pledge to not try juveniles as adults. Of course, the issue is more complicated than that, but it’s not a good look to have that come up next to your name in a google search.

In the primary, Landrum has tried to distance herself from Cannizzaro by vowing reforms. She talks of reforming the the DA’s office reputation so that the office has a better relationship with the public. The main focus will be getting violent criminals off the street. She also talks of moving some marijuana cases from criminal to municipal court. And she has made a point of leaning on her experience as an asset without getting into too much detail about her record. “For people who criticize my experience, it is only an attempt to hide their lack of experience,” she once said.

Jason Williams

How can Jason Williams be trusted to prosecute people who break the law when he’s out here breaking it himself? Are his proposed reforms just a bunch of platitudes, the musings of a naïve candidate who doesn’t understand the inner workings of the DA’s office? So go the narratives.

Like Landrum, Williams has also promised reforms. His approach though has leaned more towards the preemptive rather than the retributive. He has lofty goals. “I’m trying to build better boys and girls,” he once said, “rather than rebuild broken men and women.” Soaring rhetoric aside, on a more practical scale, he talks of reforming the screening division of the DA’s office. Williams will end Cannizzaro’s practice of acceptance 90% of the cases the NOPD sends to the DA’s office. Like Landrum, he also talks of moving some marijuana cases from criminal to municipal court.

Williams appears to be focusing his retributive side toward the NOPD and their alleged sins of the past. He’s vowed to take reports of police conduct more seriously than the previous DA. He’s also vowed to do what his office can to overturn wrongful convictions. Most of this would be accomplished through revamping internal divisions. That sounds nice in a speech but will probably be much harder to implement in practice. Expect Landrum to label some of his plans as naive examples that demonstrate his lack of experience.  

Mayor Cantrell’s Endorsement Of Keva Landrum

If onions, bell pepper, and celery are the holy trinity of New Orleans seasoning, then the Mayor’s, Sheriff’s, and DA’s offices are the holy trinity of its politics. This DA’s race is a big one for Mayor Cantrell. She has a lot to gain. A Landrum win would put the mayor’s stamp on 2/3 of the political trinity.  Paired with her appointed police chief, the win would also give the mayor a lot of control behind the scenes.  She can control the narrative and practice of criminal justice reform in New Orleans. But with a bunch of businessmen and women still bitter about the mayor’s handling of the Coronavirus, it’ll be interesting to see how her endorsement affects Landrum in the runoff.

Narratives aside, this DA’s race is a runoff election is the top of the ballot in New Orleans.  There is no Kamala Harris to give Landrum a stronger than normal turnout of women. Expect the usual low voter turnout. With less than 20% of voters probably headed to the polls, the candidate who wins will most likely be the one with the most engaged base of voters. Landrum and Williams have three weeks until the December 5th election. You can best believe that as the date gets closer there will be an increase in mud slinging as well as knocking on doors.

By Jeff Thomas

Bayou Classic Results

Every year you hear it during Bayou Classic. You probably believe it too.  Black people just don’t tip at restaurants .  So restaurants, if they open at all, close early. Hotels require armbands for guests.  Hotels raise their rates. New Orleans’ tourism economy places the you’re only kinda welcome mat out for Bayou Classic fans.  Cause the prevailing overarching theme is, “Black people don’t tip.”

Also, you hear, you might hear that some manager asked the black person for proof that he was a hotel guest, just after a warm and pleasant greeting to the white person. You might know that the few restaurants that are open only offer limited menus, featuring fried chicken.  And you might know  lines are long, and service is slow.  You probably didn’t hear that the waiters are rude.

Chicken or the Egg

What came first?  The bad service or no tips?  While the narrative is black people don’t tip, is the reality black people get bad service? Is the bad service because huge crowds overwhelm understaffed restaurants? Or do wait staff just expect low tips, so they provide bad service?  Is race a factor?  Most of the servers who complain are white, while most of the Bayou Classic customers are African American.  African American servers rarely complain, and black owned restaurants welcome the huge crowds and big paydays. Yet white restaurants close early and offer limited menus and their white waiters complain. Why don’t black people tip at restaurants?

History

African Americans and restaurants have a complicated relationship in America.  In fact, the Canal St. site of the building collapse was once the epicenter for the civil rights protests in New Orleans.  Oretha Castle Haley led groups of protesters to sit in at the segregated lunch counter at Woolworth.  And across the country African Americans used restaurants sit ins to achieve a sense of equality in America. For years after, African Americans received poor, disgruntled service from restaurant staff who felt forced to comply with changing laws.  To this day, most African Americans are keenly aware of service differences when eating out.  And not tipping is the historical response to bad service.

Narrative Fallacy and Confirmation Bias

We love great stories.  We can remember things better when there is a story attached to the details.  The problem is narrative fallacy occurs meaning later we often ignore facts and cling to the emotion of the story.  This narrative fallacy may be a factor in the widely accepted story that black people don’t tip.  So, when a ready to tip and hungry group of African Americans sit at a table, the waiter’s preconceived notions contribute to poor service and even ignoring the black table for a table of white patrons who suffer no such preconceived bias. 

While some of the Bayou Classic visitors are college students, most are college graduates who fly into town, pay to stay in downtown hotels and are good job having, middle aged professional alumni looking to enjoy the intense rivalry.  Meanwhile some college kid visits and spends $15 bucks at a Daiquiri shop and eats fast food on Canal St.  But confirmation bias – the tendency to see things as you wish them to be – leads to widespread reports of tip shorting.  Even if black people tipped at 35%, there is no way to overcome the built-in beliefs of waiters who believe that black people don’t tip.

 No matter what really happens the narrative will be the same.  People will believe what they want to believe.  Yet the city reports that Bayou Classic had $50 million-dollar economic input. 

With just a little better customer service, that could be a $50.05 million dollar impact.

by Arthur Rizer and Casey Witte

By all accounts, 2020 has been a watershed year for policing. Now more than ever, Americans are looking at how police go about keeping the peace — and they are asking questions. The deaths of George Floyd, Philando Castile, Tamir Rice and too many others have shed a light on long-obscured problems in policing. Racial bias and unrestrained use of force procedures have brought both emotional and physical pain to many communities.

However, with the widespread recognition of these problems, we can begin to solve them. In a way, Iowa has begun to do just that. This past June, Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that largely banned the use of chokeholds by members of law enforcement. And after a year of careful study and deliberation, the governor’s Fueling Ongoing Collaboration and Uncovering Solutions (FOCUS) committee has a few suggestions for the legislature on how to solve the problem of racial bias in criminal justice. The legislature should be quick to adopt these recommendations, but also commit to a long-term agenda of study and reform.

Lesser known victims of police violence

Committee Suggestions

Under one of the committee’s suggestions, a person’s race would be listed on their driver’s license and automatically recorded whenever a member of law enforcement asks for their identity. As it stands, data on race is only collected haphazardly by members of law enforcement, resulting in incomplete or even false data. With more complete data, we can begin to have a deeper understanding of the role that race plays in law enforcement. We can then take targeted action.

The other committee suggestion of note addresses racial bias in a more direct way: If passed as the committee outlines, a new law would not only prohibit the use of racial profiling, but punish offending officers and allow individuals to take civil action if they were profiled. The Iowa Supreme Court recently addressed the issue of racial profiling in traffic stops. But the court declined to create new case law which would place alleged instances of profiling under stricter scrutiny. If adopted by the legislature, this suggested ban on racial profiling could change that.

While these efforts to address racial bias in policing should be commended, we must keep two key things in mind. First, nothing happens until the legislature acts; and second, there is always more to be done when improving our criminal justice system. It should be common sense that discrimination on the basis of race should not be tolerated. But it is not the only component in public safety causing harm to communities of color.

Community Profiling

Further, disproportionate police contact with certain communities is another issue in criminal justice which can cause harm. In fact, some research suggests that more youthful interactions with law enforcement is associated with an increase in future delinquent behavior. This in turn creates its own problem as once someone enters the criminal justice system, the likelihood that they return to crime and add to their record increases. Ultimately, this creates a vicious cycle where more police contact results in more arrests which leads to yet more police contact. Initiatives promoting alternatives to arrest for both youth and adults should be explored.

We should also carefully examine what happens after an arrest is made. Some people still cling to the old notion that the prosecutor with the most convictions is the best at their job. However, this is not necessarily the case. If prosecutors are solely examined by the number of convictions they make, then they might feel outside pressure to pursue insignificant crimes in order to keep their numbers up during times of decreasing criminal activity — a time which we have now lived in for the past three decades. This outdated method of measuring prosecutorial effectiveness on convictions alone stands to warp the pillars of fairness and equal protection which prosecutors try to uphold every day.

Solutions Coming Soon?

While there are serious problems we must address in our criminal justice system, more people than ever are working to find solutions. The vast majority of men and women who strive to maintain and improve public safety today are doing so with the best intentions, and as those that benefit from their protection, we should support them. However, it is also our role as citizens to point out flaws and make corrections when the promise of equal protection under the law is not kept.

This is all to say that while Iowa’s efforts to address the problems endemic in our criminal justice system are commendable, these efforts should not be the end, but only the beginning.

LaToya Cantrell: The People’s Mayor

Leading During Historic Times

Edwin Buggage Editor-in-Chief

In these historic times for our nation and world as we are living through a Pandemic as well as an election that’s testing the fabric of our Democracy; Data News Weekly recently spoke to New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell about these issues and a host of other things facing the City of New Orleans.

In her time in public life Cantrell as a politician has always shown a sense of sincerity and concern for those who have the least. It is this bottom up approach to leadership that’s made her a champion among those often who do not have a voice representing them in the halls of power.

The Need for Investing in Infrastructure, Early Childhood, Libraries, Affordable Housing and Economic Development 

On this day Cantrell is not only speaking more broadly about the historical moments we are facing in the City and nation, but of her support of three millage proposals that will be on the ballot in the December 5th election brining help to the City in the areas of Early Childhood Education and Libraries, Infrastructure, Affordable Housing and Economic Development.

The City over the years have had monies invested in these areas before, but Mayor Cantrell is taking an approach she feels is more efficient and most importantly sustainable and built around the growth of the City where all the citizens can prosper and have access to resources and a better quality of life.

“A millage renewal package is to keep resources very intentional about how we restructure it, and it will come to voters as a tax decrease proposition infrastructure and to maintain and upgrade projects across the entire City. We have never had a dedicated fund for maintenance. Since Katrina we have invested 1.5 billion, but no so call source of funds to maintain the investments we made.”

“Early Childhood Education and libraries are important because we must invest in our young people and also maintain our libraries as they are a valuable resource to our community.”

“Affordable Housing and Economic Development are issues that are at the forefront and as a City we must pivot towards a more diverse economy to growth sectors and workforce development to ways we have not done before to build our people up. This will help lift our entire City if all our people have opportunities to have a job that can provide them the ladder to a better life.”

Civic Engagement and Voting Matters in Shaping the Direction of the City of New Orleans (bold)
People went to the polls across the City and nation in record numbers during the November Election. But what is expected is a drop in voting in the run-off, but Cantrell is optimistic and encourages the voters to stay civically engaged.

“I believe it is important for people to vote and get involved and having a voice on the direction of their community. We wanted to put our best foot forward to support this budget renewal and also in the form of a tax decrease. These millage proposals are important because it aligns with the needs of our community and works to improve the quality of life in our City.”

Affordable Housing continues to be an issue in a City that is experiencing gentrification that’s changing some of the fabric of the neighborhoods. This is an issue that’s divided the City. Mayor Cantrell is an advocate of progress, but also believes that the need for Affordable Housing and the rich diversity of the residents of the City is important to maintain.

“We do not want to create pockets of poverty in our City. The need for Affordable Housing is needed everywhere and no one should be blocked out of any neighborhood. We are looking at this through an equity lens, and we continue to ask the Neighborhood Advisory Committee for their very valuable input.”

On the Millage that focuses on Affordable Housing, Mayor Cantrell says it can assist both renters and homeowner programs the City already has in place and she is taking a long-term approach to fixing this problem that is plaguing the City.

By passing this millage, it will give us the flexibility and enable us to continue our Rental Assistance Programs that are operating. It will also give much needed help to our homeowner community because we are seeing them struggle to pay their mortgages. Our plan is one that takes a long-term approach that will help us immediately works to align us as a City with the needs of the community that may change over the course of 20 years.”

All People Matter…The Need for Equity
While there’s economic activity and investment in new businesses that’s occurring in the City, much of it many African American businesses and residents are not experiencing opportunities equal to their numbers in the population. Equity is something Mayor Cantrell has been fighting for even before her time ascending to the City’s highest elected office. But has become a paramount priority of her administration being one of two Mayors from the U.S. to serve on a Global Task Force of Mayors from across the globe.

“The key to us being the City we can be is our commitment to small and minority businesses and people of color period. It is important we invest workforce development and helping our people and to develop the talent pipeline we need in these industries that are growing in particularly blue, green and grey infrastructure so local people can have access to good paying jobs.”

The Making of “Herstory”
The nation just experienced history as the nation elected its first woman and person of color Kamala Harris as Vice-President Elect. This rings something special for Cantrell as a first in her own right. In which time she’s shown that she has what it takes to lead and take the stands that’s needed and skills to work with people across the political aisles and varied interests.

“We will find great partners in the Biden Harris Administration, but I will say that we have maintained a relationship with all our federal partners. New Orleans sits very nicely, the relationship is good and will remain strong,” says Mayor Cantrell.

On the significance of Kamala Harris being elected Vice-President and for the continued progress of women she says…

“It means progress on so many different levels in that we are one year removed from the 100 years of women getting the right to vote, but not necessarily Black women. But to have her represent women of color in our country the time is definitely right and her using the same words I used, ‘that while she is the first, she will not be the last.’ I appreciate those words coming from her and seeing the change happening from one generation to the next and while we are in these roles it is important that we do these jobs effectively so we will not be the last.”

Student loan debt widens racial wealth gap

By Stacy M. Brown
Contributing Writer

(NNPA Newswire) — President-elect Joe Biden wants to immediately erase student loan debt, a move that could prove more meaningful for African American students who, on average, owe much more than anyone.

With the freeze placed on student loan repayments set to end December 31, Biden has gotten behind the Democrat-led House’s HEROES Act, which calls on the federal government to pay off up to $10,000 in private, nonfederal student loans for economically distressed borrowers.

“People having to make choices between paying their student loan and paying the rent … debt relief should be done immediately,” Biden stated during a news conference on Monday, November 16.

NPR reported that Senate Democrats also are pushing for much more debt relief.

In New Orleans too – local Student loan debt widens racial wealth gap

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) co-authored a resolution in September with Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) calling for the next president to cancel up to $50,000 of outstanding federal student loans per borrower.

According to data from the U.S. College Board, that would mean erasing all debt for more than three-quarters of borrowers.

Andrew Pentis, the student loan debt policy expert at Student Loan Hero, pointed to an analysis published by his company, which shows student loan portfolios now total $1.67 trillion.

Further, the data shows that debt distribution is more massive among borrowers of color, particularly Black students.

Black Male College Students Take on Most Debt Yet Don’t Graduate as Frequently

Nearly 9 in 10 Black students take out federal student loans to pay for college, compared with 7 in 10 white students.

African-American students are far more likely to have large student debt than their white, Hispanic or Asian classmates, with 59.5 percent of African-American students borrowing more than $29,500.

Pentis noted that the Black borrowers are more than twice as likely as white borrowers to default on their student loans, which he said is a by-product of a U.S. median household income that’s about $25,000 less for Black families than whites.

The end of the federal loan moratorium would disproportionately impact Black and brown borrowers, Pentis warned.

“Student loans have long been seen as a tool to make the wealth gap in this country better,” Pentis said.

“We are seeing that those loans are actually making the racial wealth gap worse because the loans become a burden on families that are already disadvantaged in terms of having a lower household income, having a lower net worth, and student loans can be a hindrance for families trying to achieve financial goals like buying a house instead of helping those families sort of climb the social ladder and increase their financial wherewithal.”

Student Loan Hero’s student loan debt analysis also revealed that large amounts of debt could act as a roadblock to completing college on time.

Data showed that while 42.6 percent of students in the Class of 2017 graduated in four years or less.

However, that number drops to 28.8 percent among Black students and 29.7 percent among Hispanic students.

For white and Asian students, Student Loan Hero said the rates were higher than average at 46.7 percent and 48.5 percent, respectively. Conversely, more Black students – 40.7 percent – took over six years to graduate college, compared with 35.2 percent for Hispanic students, 25.3 percent for white students, and 19.7 percent for Asian students.

“It’s proven that earning degrees allows students to earn more income,” Pentis remarked.

“So, if you have students not able to graduate, they’re carrying debt into careers that may not be able to pay for it. Black students are borrowing at higher amounts because of the racial wealth gap in this country.

“Typically, white and Hispanic students might borrow at relatively high rates, but they’re not borrowing as much.”

This article originally published in the November 30, 2020 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

By The New Orleans TribuneIn Right On Time, What We’re Saying

First gratitude and congratulations are extended to U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond for his decade of service to the people of Louisiana’s second congressional district and on his new role in the administration of President-elect Joe Biden. We know he will continue to serve the people of New Orleans, our state, and our nation with dedication and with pride.

Best of luck, Congressman Richmond. Your success is our success!

But the big question—one that has everyone talking—is who will fill Rep. Richmond’s shoes in the House of Representatives?

Whoever is elected will be the “junior” congressman from Louisiana, and that will be a bit of a blow to our district simply because Richmond climbed his way up the ladder of influence and power in the House, through the years serving as assistant to the Whip, as the former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and as the chairman of the CBC Foundation. Rep. Richmond currently serves on the House Ways and Means Committee, which is charged with reviewing and making recommendations for government budgets. The work of this committee is so important that its members are not allowed to serve on any other committee without special permission. And we are sure that his roles as co-chair of the Biden campaign and close advisor to vice-president Biden on the campaign trail would have uniquely positioned him to be an even more formidable force in Congress had he chosen to remain.

To be sure, Cedric Richmond will be taking a lot of political currency with him when he vacates his office in the Cannon Building for new digs in the White House’s west wing.

It’s not clear yet when the election will be called to fill the second congressional district seat. And as to the replacement? Yes, we have heard several names bandied about as potential candidates in the race—from a former mayor to a current city council member.

We don’t know yet who will vie for the position. What we do know is this: Louisiana’s second congressional district needs and deserves someone able to hit the ground running, an individual who represents the diversity of the district and who understands the needs and challenges that it faces, and someone who will not be intimidated by their so-called “junior” status among the Louisiana delegation. The second congressional district is one of the poorest in the state, with a constituency that is among the most disenfranchised and marginalized. It needs a voice and a leader! And to be candid, he or she must be African American.

We learned a tough lesson on Nov. 3. Louisiana’s delegation to Congress currently stands at eight members—two senators and six representatives. And right now, our only shot at having an African-American person among them is the second congressional district. The fact that a West Point graduate, U.S. Army Veteran who also happened to earn a law degree from Harvard and makes Bill Cassidy look like a slacker couldn’t get 20 percent of the vote statewide in his bid for the U.S. Senate convinces us that the voters of the second congressional district must be resolute in electing a Black person to Congress. So yes, race is important. But it is not the only factor. The second congressional district needs someone with a PROVEN history of standing for and with the people of this district. It needs someone beholden to the people—not to special interests and not to big money. We know what it is like to be sold out by our own leaders on the issues that matter most to our families and communities. We cannot afford to have that sort of leadership in Congress.

So while we have read the names others have mentioned as possible candidates, here at The New Orleans Tribune, we have given serious thought and consideration to a short list of our own. No, we have not reached out to either of these individuals to ask them if they are considering a run for the congressional seat. And quite frankly, we don’t know if they are interested. We just happen to think they would serve the second congressional district well. And since everyone else is throwing around names, we decided to offer ours for consideration. We believe our choices are stellar and reflect the type of steadfast leadership our community needs.

Our Top Choices

Joe Bouie

State Sen. Joe Bouie has proven on more than one occasion that he is ready and willing to stand up for the people who elected him. His bills to return Orleans Parish public schools to real local control and to prohibit schools from being built on former toxic waste sites will forever stand out to us as examples of a lawmaker actually trying to deliver on a promise. Washington, D.C., and the second congressional district of Louisiana could use a leader with Bouie’s tenacity and dedication.

Jacques Morial

Jacques Morial is smart, thoughtful, and engaged. He has his finger on the pulse of the community and an understanding of the challenges that it faces while also possessing a wealth of knowledge of policymaking and what it takes to get things done. Though often content to toil behind the scenes, his work as a community organizer and activist on a number of topics has been important and impactful for the people of New Orleans. He is an astute analyst whose honesty and integrity have made him a respected resource of information and insight on the issues that matter to us. He is one that so many in the community have come to know and trust.

RECONSTRUCTION


by Jordan Rock

So, Biden’s in. We can recount all day and all night, but America has spoken. Trump’s so called “silent majority” was, in fact, neither silent nor the majority. Both Georgia and Pennsylvania have recounted, and they still spell victory for Biden. Mainstream outlets like CBS now refer to Biden as the President elect. So, even though it won’t be made official until the Electoral College votes on 14th of December. Joe Biden is the next President of the United States. What do we want from Joe Biden?


Senate Republicans are agreeing to make room for Biden’s cabinet, even though we know the GOP is going to do the same obstructionist song and dance we saw in the Obama administration as soon as Biden sits in the oval office.


According to Senator Lisa Murkowski (R – Alaska), “He’s our president-elect. All presidents have a right to their Cabinet. Our job, our role is to make sure that he selects folks that are … within the mainstream. And are good, qualified credible candidates. And if he does that, sure, I am going to work with him.”

Within the mainstream, she says. What that means is some Republicans in the Senate are going to get onboard with what seems like Biden’s general theme. That theme being a return to normalcy after the screaming insanity that was the Trump administration.

Joe Biden Listening to the People

What do We Want From Joe Biden?

Here’s the problem; there is no “normal” anymore.
“Normal” is what led us to Trump, and you can be sure that the discourse from the left is going to reflect that sentiment.

I agree with much of Biden’s politics in regards to undoing the damage that Trump has inflicted on America. But damage control is not the only concern on our minds. And I can assure you that the discourse from “The Left” is going to reflect that.

RELATED: THE BIDEN PLAN


Progressive Views


According to Ben Burgis of Jacobin magazine, “If there were ever a case where the victory of the lesser evil over the greater evil merited busting out a bottle or two of champagne, this was it. But once you’ve sobered up, remember that being less evil than Trump is fully compatible with being an implacable enemy of the working class.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

He goes on to posit that Joe Biden’s claims that he’ll get America back on track may actually mean that he’s going to lean into the old guard democrats in Congress instead of fulfilling the progressive promises of his campaign.

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-New York) shares this caution. In an interview with the New York Times, AOC had this to say about Biden’s upcoming administration: “I don’t know how open they’ll be. And it’s not a personal thing. It’s just, the history of the party tends to be that we get really excited about the grass roots to get elected. And then those communities are promptly abandoned right after an election.”

Let me get down to brass tacks. It’s not just the House Democrats that got Biden into office. Black community organizers tripled the turnout in Georgia. Organizers in Pennsylvania urged voters to mail in their ballots while the president was screeching about nonsense voter-fraud.  It’s you and me.


So here’s what I think We want from Joe Biden:

  1. A basic approach to Medicare for All in a functioning form that doesn’t break the bank when you break a leg.
  2. An ACTUAL response to the virus that has been tearing our country apart. Free access to vaccination when the vaccine is ready. And stay at home orders with pay in the case of another surge of infections.
  3. Free college tuition across the board for low-income families, not just to community colleges like Biden has promised.
  4. The dismantling of ICE and full transparency of their activities during the last four years.

    If Biden can make those things happen, we’ll be on our way to a new normal better than the dregs we started with when Trump was elected. Biden talks a big game. But we can’t take any of his claims seriously until he starts showing some actual progressive initiative.
    Bonus if he withdraws the violent feds that have been illegally detaining and beating the crap out of protesters.

    In other words, this is no time for Biden to be resting on his laurels. We’ve seen what kind of damage Republicans can do when they run amok. It’s time for the Democratic party to show it can do more than just cry in the corner while the common man gets his rights taken away.

    Biden has his work cut out for him, and the left is going to be watching the whole time.