Monday, November 23, 2015

Where to spend money in New Orleans during the holiday season, 2nd Annual Edition

Hey you! Over there, with the disposable income!

Just in time for this holiday season, here's a list of places to spend money in New Orleans where your dollars are going to have positive impact on the local economy.

Consider donating money to the following groups in honor of your sister or whoever, for whatever holiday you observe. It beats that "candles and potholders" gift idea you had for her!

In no particular order:

Trystereo / New Orleans Harm Reduction Network
Provides health supplies, wellness education, wound-care consultations, toiletries, and clothing to drug-users in southeastern Louisiana. Facilitates workshops on safer drug-use, first aid practices, and overdose prevention. Self-funded (no overhead!). Runs a 12-Step Alternative support group for people who feel kinda judged or unwelcome at AA/NA/etc meetings.

Sex Workers Outreach Project
This anti-violence network provides health, legal, and safety information to people engaged in sex work (stripping, escorting, etc)  in New Orleans. It is an important support in an industry where many laborers experience stigma and alienation.

Women with a Vision
Facilitates the empowerment of low-income women of color through legislative advocacy, educational programming, and other initiatives that nobody else is taking up. They do important work around harm reduction for drug-users and sex workers; they're currently running domestic violence support groups as well.

Common Ground Health Clinic
"Solidarity, not Charity" is the motto of this Algiers community-based clinic that focuses care on low-income residents of New Orleans. They also publish and distribute a free (and extremely useful) guide to mental and physical health resources in the GNO area.

Food Justice
Supporting Urban Agriculture
Grows food in the Lower 9th Ward and gives it to the neighbors, sells it to the people who can pay. Kinda evens things out, and promotes healthy eating for everybody.

Community Kitchen
Makes and serves free meals (including vegan and gluten-free options!) for anyone who's hungry. Caters events for other radical groups in the city.

Break Out
Organizes against police profiling and brutality of queer and transgender youth of color. A totally self-determined group of badass visionary young people.

Apex Youth Center
Originally run by a couple out of their living room, this organization does an awesome job of providing free afterschool care for youth in the city. Kids get snacks, clothes, tutoring, whatever. The older kids are the "mentors." The center is often open to the neighborhood for barbecues and other parties. The founders even negotiated with the police to extend the nighttime youth curfew to kids leaving the Center late at night.

Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools / The Rethinkers
A participatory education group of New Orleans students who reject the school-to-prison pipeline, and the teach-to-the-test pedagogical approach. Instead, they work to make their schools supportive environments for learning and leadership development.

Arts, sports, foreign language, yoga, drama, dance, culinary, etc. classes for youth in New Orleans. This program - formerly called CP3 Afterschool Zone - used to be funded by Chase Bank, but Chase Bank no longer cares about the children of New Orleans. Somehow the program has to fund itself now. You can help!

All-volunteer run bicycle shop that teaches neighborhood kids how to build and repair their own bikes.

LOUD: New Orleans Queer Youth Theater
Queer youth create, design, and perform top-notch theatrical productions. Also produce educational workshops on civil rights and sexual health.

The Prison System, and the People Affected by It
Cornerstone Builders
Free buses to prisons around Louisiana. Help a mama visit her son while he's locked up!

Books 2 Prisoners
Sends free books to people in the South's jails and prisons. 

Voice of the Ex-Offender
Helps formerly incarcerated individuals re-acclimate to society. Provides legal resources, financial management education, and leadership development opportunities. Promotes community education and collaboration around voting rights and interaction with law enforcement.

Resurrection After Exoneration
Say you spent a lot of time in prison for a crime you didn't commit. Then you get released, but you have nowhere to go. This organization will let you live in their house for free! They'll also hook you up with clothing, legal resources, and whatever else you might need.

Youth Rebuilding New Orleans
Founded by two New Orleans-born brothers in their 20s, this agency engages youth to build houses for public school teachers. They also make room to train and mentor young people doing court-mandated community service.
Rebuilds people's houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Pretty simple. The homeowners just pay for the construction materials; volunteers do the rest. On a side note, it's pretty ridiculous that we're still relying on volunteers and donations to rebuild people's houses in the Lower 9th Ward. Let's get it done already.

Survivors Village
Stands up for people whose housing was seized after Katrina for "abandonment," "blight," or other political reasons, when really they just didn't have enough money to come home.

New Orleans Workers' Center for Racial Justice, specifically:

Congreso de Jornaleros / Congress of Day Laborers
One of the bravest groups around - a union of undocumented workers. These people rebuilt New Orleans after Katrina; now they're being deported. Fuck that. Give them money to access healthcare, education, labor rights, housing, and stable legal standing.

Stand with Dignity
Tirelessly advocates to improve the housing, employment, and educational opportunities for low-income residents of New Orleans. These people were left in deplorable conditions during Katrina, and stood up to (successfully) demand radical changes to the city's shelter and evacuation protocols.

General Community Development
Asserts the rights and needs of Spanish-speaking populations in New Orleans. They do stuff like: help clinics translate health flyers; advocate to get interpreters wherever they're needed; link families to information about schools and housing; and hold businesses and social services accountable for working with Spanish-speakers.

Crescent City Childcare Collective
Provides free babysitting for kids while their primary guardians are at community development meetings and events. A super-crucial solidarity effort.

Ashe Cultural Arts Center
Promotes African, Caribbean, and African-American art and artists. Hosts community groups about health and fatherhood, among other themes.

The successor of the Free Southern Theater, this organization produces and encourages social justice-driven art. Recent productions have concerned the privatization of New Orleans schools, and the experience of displacement in the environmentally fragile Gulf Coast.

A film festival that spotlights the struggles and triumphs of marginalized populations.

A multidisciplinary arts group that produces works around ecological and other civic concerns. Their stellar outdoor "Cry You One" show was performed on the canals and swamps of St. Bernard Parish, highlighting the human consequences of environmental degradation.

A multidisciplinary performance arts group that uses theatre as a tool of healing and recovery. Runs a theatre group at Louisiana's St. Gabriel prison for women.

New Orleans Community Printshop & Darkroom
A low-cost studio space for artist-entrepreneurs. Also runs free workshops for neighborhood kids to learn screenprinting, photography, and zine-making.

Books & Other Things for Purchase
Jala and the Wolves, and the Jaden Toussaint series, by Marti Dumas. Lacking many promising options for literature featuring children of color as the main characters, this New Orleans mom and educator started writing her own books.

Immigrant Dreams & Alien Nightmares, by José Torres Tama. Explores the bilingual, bicultural identity of the author as he poetically documents his own experience of immigration to the United States and in New Orleans.

Mixed Company, by women of color in Louisiana. A collection of writing and visual art that confronts spatial and mental boundaries, and expresses contemporary Black intellectualism.

Floodlines: Community and Resistance from Katrina to the Jena Six, by Jordan Flaherty. Tells the oftentimes underheard stories of grassroots organizing and collaboration in New Orleans, during and around the time of Hurricane Katrina.

Art, comics, and ephemera, by Ben Passmore. This hyper-talented, hyper-sensitive Black New Orleans-based artist explores masculinity, anarchist theory, and police violence in his playful art.

Also check out:

* * * *
Hit up the comments section if you want something included! Thanks to everyone who helped me compile this list by doing the work / shouting out others who do the work.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Anti-oppression / Anti-bullshit voting guide for New Orleans RUNOFF elections, Nov. 21st

Hello, New Orleans!

We're back with your runoff election voting guide for November 21st, 2015.

Early voting is November 7th-14th, but not November 8th or November 11th. Who said democracy is convenient?

As always, we are against oppression and bullshit, and we are for a reasonable way of life. This guide is a working draft, and we welcome your input in the comments section below. Please see our guidelines as to what constitutes "reasonable." Big thanks to local human rights attorney Monique Harden for compiling the candidate demographics.

This election is the runoff for Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Attorney General. Depending on where you live, you might also be asked to vote for State Senator, State Representative, and/or Orleans Parish School Board member. Check GeauxVote for the ballot that corresponds to your address.

Vote early and vote often! Or there's always a vote for Nobody. Why vote for Nobody? Because Nobody is the best candidate. Nobody cares. Nobody will keep election promises. Nobody will listen to your concerns. Nobody tells the truth. Nobody will lower your taxes. Nobody will defend your rights. Nobody has all the answers.

Love ya!

John Bel Edwards - Democrat, White, Male
David Vitter - Republican, White, Male

Good Lord, this is truly not a good situation. On the one hand, we have Vitter, an anti-abortion, pro-business career politician guided by his conservative religious conviction. On the other hand, we have Edwards, an anti-abortion, pro-business career politician guided by his conservative religious conviction.

The benefit to a Governor Vitter is that if we truly believe that the apocalypse is upon us, he will hasten it by killing the environment even faster than we already are, with his hands in the diapers of oil&gas.

Edwards pays lip service to improving higher education and pay equity for women, so that's good.

VOTE: Edwards, just because Vitter is actually crazy enough to kill us all

Lieutenant Governor
Melvin "Kip" Holden - Democrat, Black, Male
"Billy" Nungesser - Republican, White, Male

Of the bunch last time, we liked Holden the best (disliked him the least?). To review: He may or may not have sexually harassed his employee; he thinks that oil&gas are just a part of state economic development, not the whole thing; and he's done quite a bit to invest in the arts in Baton Rouge.

The Pat Buchanan-booster Nungesser is likable in the avuncular, Plaquemines-punchy kind of way, and he has stood up for the defense of coastal Louisiana throughout his political career, at least on camera. His record as Plaquemines Parish president is warped towards conservative fiscal and social values. He has also been sued for sexual harassment. (Maybe that's a campaign requirement these days?) Pretty much everyone who's endorsing Vitter is also endorsing Nungesser.

VOTE: Holden

Attorney General
James "Buddy" Caldwell - Republican, White, Male
"Jeff" Landry - Republican, White, Male

The tricky part about this race is that our favorite from the last go-round, Geri Baloney, endorsed Jeff Landry in the runoff. I'd say to trust her judgment but hang on, this guy is like NRA Gangbusters, fresh from the Tea Party Caucus. The dude literally kicked the underdog during his career as a business lawyer, when - in his words - he "represented numerous job creators and business owners" [read: oil&gas corporations] "against frivolous lawsuits" [read: the environment]. In 2012, he lobbied against an LGBT studies program at the University of Louisiana, Lafayette, saying it was "an unnecessary use of taxpayer money." He thinks people don't serve enough time in jail for criminal activity, and wants more surveillance for those on probation and parole. Get a grip, wingnut.

Then there's Wingnut #2, Elvis-impersonating incumbent Buddy Caldwell, who not only spent public funds on golfing equipment and a vacation to Montana, but actively refused to prosecute his own embezzler family members. Before that, he was a district attorney who boasted about keeping non-violent offenders locked up. This guy has engaged in seriously dubious ethics and flouted the public interest mandate of his position, only to seek election to his third frickin term.

VOTE: Ugh, it breaks my heart to endorse Caldwell. But as my neighbor Creole Sassy says, "We have to hold our nose for him because otherwise, who knows."

State Senator, 7th District
Jeffrey "Jeff" Arnold - Democrat, White, Male
Troy Carter - Democrat, Black, Male

Troy Carter is a former City Councilmember and State Representative endorsed by Mitch Landrieu. He supports Medicaid expansion, and is against further state budget cuts to higher education and healthcare. His nephew just won the election for the State Rep position that Troy Carter held in the 90s, and that Jeff Arnold is vacating due to term limits.

Confused, much? Yeah, these two are career politicians from political families.

Current State Rep and NBC Bank Vice President Jeff Arnold has publicly called for the secession of Algiers from the city of New Orleans. He sees crime as a major problem in New Orleans, and wants to "examine" public defender services as a dimension of criminal justice. Arnold is the son of Algiers' assessor.

VOTE: Honestly, it's a toss-up. Nobody impresses us here, but we can't in good conscience tell you to vote for a banker. Troy Carter it is.

State Representative. 99th District
Ray Crawford - Democrat, Black, Male
"Jimmy" Harris - Democrat, Black, Male

A Ray Crawford canvasser accosted me with great enthusiasm at the Mirliton Festival this past weekend, and told me that "Ray's a pastor, so you know he's gonna look out for you." Being Jewish myself, I wasn't so convinced. But Crawford's said some good stuff about Medicaid expansion, as well as the rights of teachers and parents to make decisions for public education. His candidacy was originally challenged in the Louisiana Supreme Court on the grounds of residency requirements, but it was allowed to proceed when it was found that the court documents misnamed him as "Raymond," instead of "Ray." Ah, the mighty wheels of justice.

Former Attorney General staffer Jimmy Harris' campaigning has focused largely on incentivizing business development in this district, which includes parts of New Orleans East and the 9th Ward. He used to be part of Congressman Cedric Richmond's machinery, and we usually like us some Cedric Richmond.

VOTE: Harris, but Crawford probably wouldn't be terrible either.

State Representative, 100th District
John Bagneris - Democrat, Black, Male
Alicia Plummer Clivens - Democrat, Black, Female

We like Alicia Plummer Clivens' consistently strong advocacy for public education and accessible healthcare in her community. Endorsed by teachers' unions and the AFL-CIO, she has confronted the Landrieu administration on New Orleans East's stagnant post-Katrina recovery. She is also endorsed by an outfit known as the Independent Women's Organization, which promotes female Democratic Party candidates. The NRA gave her a 0% rating, which is probably good for the children of America.

Bagneris is from a political family with ties to the Morials. He shares Clivens' goal to attract business growth to the East, as well as her 0% NRA approval rating. He might be fine as a State Rep, but we're trying to undermine political dynasties here.

VOTE: We're gonna go with Alicia Clivens on this one.

State Representative, 103rd District
"Ray" Garofalo - Republican, White, Male
Casey Hunnicutt - Democrat, White, Male

Ultra-conservative current State Rep Garofalo was one of two legislators to support something called the "Marriage and Conscience Act," which, as you can imagine, was not designed with any kind of recognizable civil rights orientation except towards businesses that want to discriminate against LGBTQ employees and still reap the benefits of state tax incentives. So you could say he's really gone out on a limb for his rightwing gay-hating constituency.

Casey Hunnicutt was elected to St. Bernard Parish Council at age 24, and has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO. It's hard to find more information about him, but he's probably not worse than Ray Garofalo.

VOTE: Casey Hunnicutt

Orleans Parish School Board, 1st District
Keith Barney - Democrat, Black, Male
John Brown - Democrat, Black, Male

Keith Barney was a special education teacher before joining the charter board at Mary Coghill, a Gentilly school under the purview of the state-run Recovery School District. He voted not to return the school to the locally controlled OPSB last year, citing poor leadership and "bad behavior."

Former principal John Brown was somewhat contentiously appointed to the OPSB back in March, after former member Ira Thomas was indicted for bribery. At the time, Brown was asked to pledge not to run for the position this November, but whoops - he forgot about that. So you can see the ethical precedent on this Board is, er, let's say "not strong." But Brown has contended that success in public education occurs "where community partnerships are reciprocal and demand coordination, collaboration and mutual investment...[The Orleans Parish school system should be] providing quality learning environments that promote academic excellence and engaging the family and community in the support of student achievement." Stand for Children endorses his candidacy.

VOTE: John Brown

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Another collaborative anti-oppression / anti-bullshit voting guide, for New Orleans' elections, October 24th!

Welcome to the latest edition of the Collaborative Anti-Oppression / Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for New Orleans' elections on October 24th (early voting October 10th-17th)!

To review, the following is produced by a group of individuals who wish to confront the existing lack of accountability in the executive and judicial branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally.

We did a lot of research, and we did a lot of talking with  our neighbors, friends, and allies. We found out that a lot of this stuff matters, and a lot of it prolly doesn't. We agreed on the following guidelines to make - or in some cases, decline to make - our recommendations:

• Commit to an anti-racist, anti-sexist, anti-classist agenda;
• Promote justice and advancement for people of color, poor people, immigrants, youth, people  affected by environmental degradation, and other marginalized populations in our communities;  prioritize the needs of these people above others;
• Favor the judicial candidates (especially the incumbents) less destructively inclined towards the lives of the poor and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive system;
• Be strategic about New Orleanians' specific needs being adequately addressed on the state and federal levels, especially with regard to environmental, economic, and healthcare concerns;
• Reject the influence of post-Katrina opportunism at all levels of government.

These guides start as working drafts, so expect updates as we continue to do research. Feel free to submit your contributions! Also, no one paid us to do this. We just care like that.

Vote early and vote often!

A note on the October 24 Elections: 

Toni Morrison recently said, "We used to be called citizens. Now we’re called taxpayers."

It's a bleak situation, kids.

Death and suffering have been the consequence of Bobby Jindal's violent ineptitude, so this is no idle vote. Not only are we replacing Jindal (finally!), but some of the most influential political positions are also transitioning. This is a pivotal time to make choices that will impact our access to healthcare, housing, and education.

Please don't feel like we've led you astray if you notice that some of these candidates don't appear on your ballot on Election Day. It depends on where you live. Also, some people drop out right before the race. Check the GeauxVOTE app to preview your ballot right before you head over to vote.

#1 Scott A. Angelle Republican
#2 Beryl Billiot No Party
#3 "Jay" Dardenne Republican
#4 Cary Deaton Democrat
#5 John Bel Edwards Democrat
#6 Jeremy "JW" Odom No Party
#7 Eric Paul Orgeron Other
#8 S L Simpson Democrat
#9 David Vitter Republican

We ignored all the candidates who did not participate in the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana’s Coastal Issues Forum, because ya know New Orleans will be below water in the year 2100, and a candidate for Governor who ignores that just needs to sit in a corner for the next 85 years and be done. If only there were another forum through which to identify a shortlist of candidates that would respect reproductive justice, Black lives, a living wage, etc...

John Bel Edwards, we demand you anti that anti-abortion! Of these candidates, Edwards is the only one who ever resisted and outspokenly fought Bobby Jindal’s policies. Edwards is also likable for his participation in local community-based forums, during which he showed a dedication to healthcare, higher education, equal pay for women, and other social issues. He thinks we should end mass incarceration, which, duh, we should. He promised, "By the end of my first term, Louisiana will be the second most incarcerated state in the country," which would actually be an improvement. Oy, the aspiration!

Dardenne, now Lt. Governor, is the Gambit’s pick. He wants federal funds for Medicaid and talks up public education and funding for higher education. NOT LIKE HE DID ANYTHING ABOUT JINDAL’S PLUNDERING OF THE LATTER AND FLOUNDERING OF THE FORMER. He’s not into raising minimum wage or recognizing any issues with patriarchy and misogyny. Not into this one.

Vitter: I like receiving his emails because they are just so bad. Sometimes I cry, sometimes I laugh. Just. Don’t. Consider. This. Candidate.

Then there’s NRA and "Ducks Unlimited" member Angelle, who’s blatantly off-key when it comes to access to healthcare and other vital services that respect the dignity and human rights of his constituents. He - along with Vitter - refused to be interviewed by the Advocacy Center about his views on disability services. What a stand-up guy!

VOTE: A tepid endorsement for John Bel Edwards.

Lieutenant Governor
#10 Elbert Lee Guillory Republican
#11 Melvin L. "Kip" Holden Democrat
#12 "Billy" Nungesser Republican
#13 John Young Republican

Lieutenant Governor is second to the Governor’s Office. Don’t let that be forgotten when all the talk is about their role in - in Holden’s words - “getting out there to sell and promote Louisiana.” Heavy emphasis on Lieutenant Governor’s oversight of tourism and hospitality, Louisiana’s #2 industry, deeply distracts from the issues that are actually important to our communities. Louisiana’s investment in a tourism industry at the expense of other resources results in impoverished workers, income and housing inequality, low-quality education, and mass incarceration. It’s also one of the main sources of political tension between New Orleans and the rest of the State, in that for all the shit New Orleanians take for hosting major sporting and entertainment events, little tax revenue is directed back here where it is needed.

Guillory wants total control over women’s bodies. He created an unconstitutional bill to ban abortions that (thank the goddesses) never went anywhere. He claims as Lt. Governor he will act from a “bully pulpit” preaching family values. Hell NO.

Holden recruited major employers to the Baton Rouge area and expanded arts and culture in the Capitol city. He loves to dress up in costumes. He also may have sexually harassed an employee repeatedly, but she settled out of court with his agency, not him personally, so we'll never know for sure. What's Pro-Holden: Economic development for him is not totally extractive (oil/gas/etc)-industry-happy. What's Con-Holden: He’s from Baton Rouge, and probably doesn’t  want to do New Orleans any favors, but we want someone who has coastal Louisiana’s back as Lt. Governor. He's a mixed bag of nuts, as far as we're concerned.

Young cleaned up a corrupt Inspector General’s office in Jefferson Parish. He also would continue current Lt. Governor Dardenne’s practice of keeping high-salaried jobs in his office vacant as a cost-cutting measure. He says a bit about attracting large employers for economic development, and capitalizing on retirees enjoying our “mild” climate (um, hurricanes?). He’s boring, and that might have been the best option...except for his exuberance for the railroad rerouting project through Shrewsbury, Hollygrove, and Mid-City. One of our correspondents makes the point that this effort would literally expropriate playgrounds, businesses, and houses in communities largely composed of low-income households and people of color. Y'heard that? Young is gonna take away your playgrounds.

Billy Nungesser is the dysfunctional Plaquemines Parish President, one who hardly attended council meetings, and administrated without transparency.  While he “stood up for our coast” when Plaquemines got an ass-kicking from Hurricane Isaac in 2012, his choice in “running the parish like a business” sets us up for further environmental disaster. The Times-Pic says that in his cartoonish public figure role as “America’s Bubba,” at least Louisiana would garner attention/money on the national level. That's not good enough, Bubs!

VOTE: Holden, we guess.

Secretary of State
#14 "Tom" Schedler Republican
#15 "Chris" Tyson Democrat

This office controls ballots for elections, voting equipment, and also something mysteriously called "The Museum Division." This race is a matter of getting the incumbent out: Schedler has spent $1.3 million fighting lawsuits that attempt to address the racial and economic disparities in voter registration. He also has failed to upgrade Louisiana's voting machines in so many years that - according to challenger Chris Tyson - the manufacturer no longer produces replacement parts. Tyson, an LSU law professor, seeks to take us into the 21st century and keep us moving forward.

VOTE: Tyson

Attorney General
#16 Geraldine "Geri" Broussard Baloney Democrat (Her name is Baloney; that's not an editorial statement)
#17 James D. "Buddy" Caldwell Republican
#18 Isaac "Ike" Jackson Democrat
#19 "Jeff" Landry Republican
#20 "Marty" Maley Republican

Geri Broussard Baloney impressed our correspondent at the Justice & Beyond candidates forum. She promised to be accountable to the public, and also wants to get state money out of prisons and into more useful infrastructure, like higher education. She says we have to spend coastal restoration monies on - get this - coastal restoration. Fun fact: She has owned a funeral parlor.

VOTE: Geri Baloney!

#21 John Kennedy Republican
#22 Jennifer Treadway Republican

The Gambit endorses Kennedy. BUT OMG have you heard how backward this guy is? In his presentation to New Orleans’ Downtown Development District he recommended "Aggressive Stop and Frisk"! He called  New Orleanians "thugs" and said we need to get off the street to make way for richer, whiter people to move in. WTF Fuck that guy.

Jennifer Treadway makes jabs at Jindal's robbing of transportation funds. She further hits on some New Orleans heart with a response to the impending sale of Charity Hospital: “The Treasurer, as fiduciary to the taxpayers, should oversee any sale of public property to ensure the amount received is fair market value and not sold to a friend, relative or supporter of any political candidate who takes part in the sale.” Sounds about right.

VOTE: Treadway

Commissioner of Agriculture and Forestry
#23 "Charlie" Greer - Democrat
#24 Adrian "Ace" Juttner - Green
#25 Jamie LaBranche - Republican
#26 Michael G. "Mike" Strain - Republican

This department generates close to the amount of money that oil&gas does for Louisiana, and its budget has been pillaged by the outgoing administration. Strain is the incumbent who has efficiently ridden out the budget cuts, but the challengers say they need more money. Greer wants to appeal to legislators for funding, LaBranche wants to grow plants for pharmaceuticals. Bee-keeping Green Party member Adrian “Ace” Juttner wants to legalize and produce marijuana like Colorado. Anti-prohibitionists that we are, how do we not vote for a beekeeper with a common-sense approach to marijuana?

VOTE: Juttner

Commissioner of Insurance
#27 "Jim" Donelon - Republican
#28 Donald Hodge, Jr. - Democrat
#29 Charlotte C. McDaniel McGehee - Democrat
#30 Matt Parker - Republican

This office oversees all kinds of insurance regulation in the state, the licensing of insurance companies, and compliance with relevant legislation such as the Affordable Care Act.

The incumbent Jim Donelon shills for insurance companies, claiming that the reason why it's hard for people to get health insurance is because the free market is being repressed by the federal government. If I had a dime for every time some rich corporate guy cried about the repressed free market, I could buy a dozen free markets. Go home, Jim Donelon.

Donald Hodge equally puts his faith in "competition," explaining that he would address the problem of uninsured Louisianans by, super-helpfully, "send[ing] out letters notifying families eligible to enroll [in health insurance] how to do so online or on the phone."

Auto repair shop owner Matt Parker calls out the current Commissioner Donelon for accepting over $100 million from the very insurance companies that this agency is supposed to regulate. Parker says he will "institute a much more aggressive complaint review process" to protect Louisiana residents from predatory insurance companies. Auto repair shops across the state have endorsed Parker, for what it's worth.

And hello there, Charlotte McDaniel McGehee, with her whole "The Commissioner of Insurance must put the public interest first" thing.  She sees a crucial place for "informed, educated people" in this office, as well as the need to "protect Louisiana people" from too-expensive automobile, health, and homeowners insurance.

VOTE: Parker or McGehee look alright.

Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, District 1
Lee Price Barrios
James “Jim” Garvey
Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, District 2
#34 Kira Orange Jones Democrat
#35 Kara Tamara Washington Democrat

Our friends at United Teachers of New Orleans are supporting Lee Price Barrios and Kara Washington for BESE board. Barrios thinks that maybe there's more to education than standardized testing and business-motivated charter schools. She even said, "I would get rid of the high stakes testing system for all students," and "I will also move toward reducing and eventually eliminating most charters."

Lee Barrios and Kara Washington are also endorsed by an outfit known as FlipBESE. This lobby group seeks to unseat some of the more reactionary Board members, but is also virulently against Common Core, which is its own thing. But there’s no question the current BESE board majority is a matter of corporate-reform-bent bullshit (hello, non-local billionaire campaign contributors). Incumbent Kira Jones is a big Teach for America booster and ran a nasty personal-attacky campaign last go-round. Maybe things can be better with some new characters?

VOTE: Lee Price Barrios & Kara Tamara Washington

School Board District 1
Keith Barney - Democrat
Shawon Bernard - Democrat
John A. Brown, Sr. - Democrat

Keith Barney supports the concept of neighborhood schools, and "would give schools bonus points on their school performance scores for enrolling and maintaining a 65% or higher population of students who live within two miles of the school."

Shawon Bernard is a former teacher, current attorney, and parent of a public school student. She wants more transparency on student disciplinary measures, as well as schools' return to local control from the Recovery School District, which is "not accountable to taxpayers." 

John Brown stands for neighborhood schools and better student transportation, with the added interest in what can only be read as an extracurricular activity in custodial work: He would "explore incentives for students to maintain upkeep of their facilities."

VOTE: Leaning towards Shawon Bernard.

State Senate District 1
Sharon Hewitt
"Pete" Schneider


VOTE: Jury's still out. Anybody know anything about "Pete"?

State Senate District 4
Wesley Bishop
R. Erich Caulfield
Joseph "Joe" Swider

Wesley Bishop is a Tribune-endorsed Louisiana Legislative Black Caucus unicorn who's all about that gun control, equal pay for women, Medicaid expansion, and universal pre-kindergarten.

Caulfield is a smooth operator, a natural politician. Most of his campaign money is coming from California, for some reason. He did economic development work for the Obama administration.

Joe Swider is a Coroner Rouse-employed psychiatrist who tried to open a free clinic for drug-users, but Jindal's healthcare budget shut it down. One of his main platform ideas is to restore recess to public schools.

VOTE: Bishop?

State Senate District 7
Jeffery "Jeff" Arnold
Troy Carter
Leslie Ellison
Roy A. Glapion

Jeff Arnold seemed to be confused about what he was running for when asked about his support of disability rights:  "For 14 years I have supported Disability Issues and I plan on supporting them for the next 12 years as your Senator." Your term's for four years, dear.

Roy Glapion wins points for enthusiasm around issues of social equality, as evidenced by his creative use of punctuation: "YES!!! ...HARD WORK PAYS OFF!....for everyone! There are a tremendous amount of single women in America who are raising family's alone. Equal pay is a MUST!"

Word on the street tends to favor Troy Carter, but we really couldn't say one way or the other.

VOTE: Uhhh we dunno.

State Senate District 9
Conrad Appel
John LaBruzzo
Scott Songy

Scott Songy is paraplegic, and is specifically running in this race to "be an advocate for individuals with disabilities and better pay for people working hands on with them."

Meanwhile, John LaBruzzo wants people to prove how worthy they are to earn their pittance, perhaps not recognizing that mental health disabilities exist as well: "Instead of funding abled-bodied persons that decline to work, we should support our disabled citizens."

 VOTE: Jury's still out on this one.

State Representative District 94
Stephanie Hilferty
Nicholas J. "Nick" Lorusso

VOTE: Jury's still out on this one.

State Representative District 97
Joseph "Joe" Bouie Jr.
Eutis Guillemet Jr.
Keith Prevost

Bouie seems to be the only one of this bunch who has shown interest in restoring local control over public schools.

VOTE: Bouie?

State Representative District 99
Ray Crawford
"Jimmy" Harris
Markeita Prevost

Jury's still out on this one, though United Teachers of New Orleans and The Tribune like Jimmy Harris (for unspecified reasons. What is with the blind endorsements, people? We need some INFO.)

State Representative District 100
John Bagneris
Jason Hughes
Willie Jones
Shawn Lockett
Alicia Plummer Clivens

Jury's still out on this one, though United Teachers of New Orleans and The Tribune like Alicia Clivens (for unspecified reasons. What is with the blind endorsements, people? We need some INFO. Didn't I just say this?)

State Representative District 102
Gary Carter Jr.
Kenneth Cutno
"Skip" Gallagher
Kenneth P. Garrett Sr.
Anthony Ibert
Lourdes Moran

Jury's still out on this one, though United Teachers of New Orleans and The Tribune like Gary Carter (for unspecified reasons. What is with the blind endorsements, people? We need some INFO. I know I just said this. Why is it so fucking hard to find information about people who are gonna make decisions FOR ME LIKE I DON'T EVEN EXIST?!?!?!!? I just can't even deal right now.)

State Representative District 103
Leola Anderson
George Cavignac
"Ray" Garofalo
Casey Hunnicutt

Jury's still out on this one.

State Representative District 105
Alexis Catherine Billiot
Christopher J. "Chris" Leopold

Jury's still out on this one.

A note on Constitutional Amendments, from our friends at the Public Affairs Research Council:

"Since its implementation in 1974, the Louisiana Constitution has been amended 181 times. Louisiana has a long history of frequent constitutional changes. Too often, amendments are drafted for a specific situation rather than setting a guiding principle and leaving the Legislature to fill in the details by statute. Special interests often demand constitutional protection for favored programs to avoid future legislative interference, resulting in numerous revenue dedications and trust fund provisions. The concept of the constitution as a relatively permanent statement of basic law fades with the adoption of many amendments...One important consideration should always be whether the proposed language belongs in the Constitution."

CA NO. 1 (Act 473 - SB 202) - Budget and Transportation Stabilization Trust
Do you support an amendment to rename the Budget Stabilization Fund to the Budget and Transportation Stabilization Trust; to authorize the mineral revenue base to be increased every five years; to create the Budget Stabilization Subfund as a subfund in the Trust, to be funded with mineral  revenues until reaching a maximum balance of five hundred million dollars, to be appropriated and used when the state has a deficit; to create the Transportation Stabilization Subfund as a subfund in the Trust, to be funded with mineral revenues until reaching a maximum balance of five hundred million dollars, to be appropriated and used for planning, design, construction, and maintenance connected with the state highway program, with twenty percent dedicated for use by the Louisiana Intermodal Connector Program; and to provide for the interruption of deposits into the Budget Stabilization Subfund and the Transportation Trust Subfund the year that the state has a deficit and the following year with the resumption of deposit of mineral revenues in the Budget and Transportation Stabilization Trust thereafter? (Amends Article VII, Section 10(D)(2)(d), 10.3(A)(introductory paragraph) and (A)(2)(a)(introductory paragraph) and (b), and 10.5(B); adds Article VII, Section 10.3(A)(2)(c))

Flashback to when Gov. Bobby Jindal refused federal transportation monies, and guess what? Now the state and non-profits are the funders of local transportation projects such as road and infrastructure improvements. This amendment tries to appropriate additional money for transportation infrastructure by restructuring the state's existing Rainy Day Fund, which is a real thing that exists to stabilize the state's budget while adjusting for the volatility of the petrochemical industry.

The good thing about this amendment is that is makes it easier for the state to stabilize the budget without pinching money from other designated funds. It would protect some transportation money from legislative pillage. It doesn't raise taxes.

The bad thing about this amendment is that it is written fairly opaquely, and limits the legislature's ability to prioritize transportation project spending. It makes the Rainy Day Fund less flexible, and also places a static cap on the stabilization fund that may not be appropriate in the future.

All that considered, the stabilization fund has been underutilized (five times, ever), and may be due for a makeover. We think of it kind of like that $10 you need to keep in your checking account so it stays open. That $10 is not actually yours to spend. But if you split it into $5 you can't spend, and $5 you can maybe spend, that's a better thing, right? This amendment would split the stabilization fund in two. We don't really have a problem with that, especially if they're gonna use the money to fix our roads.

VOTE: Yes?

CA NO. 2 (Act 471 - HB 618) - Funds for Transportation
Do you support an amendment to authorize the investment of funds for a state infrastructure bank to be used solely for transportation projects? (Amends Article VII, Section 14(B))

Whether this amendment passes or doesn't, the State Infrastructure Bank can offer loans for transportation infrastructure, once it has deposits. Last year voters rejected a similar amendment that allows the State Treasurer to invest funds in an infrastructure bank, if such a bank were created. Such a bank exists, but it has no funding source. Once the bank has deposits, it can make loans for state bridge and roadway repairs. This amendment is annoying because it doesn’t make anything happen; it just offers a potential.

However, the bank would be under the control of a small board that can effectively sidestep the legislative appropriations process and the state's pre-vetted priority plan for infrastructure spending. In essence, a few special-interests-minded people are going to be able to make decisions about government money with very little oversight...kinda like how the entire government functions!

While we recognize that this amendment will feed the very bureaucracy that drives Louisiana's notorious ineptitude, we did advocate for this amendment the last time it was up for a vote. We are not giving up on our dream for light rail between Baton Rouge and New Orleans, and other such transportation infrastructure that theoretically is enabled by this legislation.


CA NO. 3 (Act 472 - HB 518) - Fiscal Legislative Session
Do you support an amendment to allow any legislation regarding the dedication of revenue, rebates, and taxes to be considered during a fiscal legislative session? (Amends Article III, Section 2(A)(4)(b))

On odd-numbered years like this one, the Legislature hosts a fiscal session, which is defined strictly in the constitution so as to keep the Legislative session "efficient. Ha! I'm ROTFLing, on the actual legislative Floor!

This constitutional amendment tries to do away with the technical/procedural rules that determine what fiscal bills can be presented in what years, so theoretically the legislators could introduce fiscal bills whenever they deem them appropriate to address. Some say that the technical rules limit relevant debate; others say the technical rules are important to keep our elected officials organized and on track to not fuck the whole thing up. I say, don't we have other things to vote on?

VOTE: Yes or No. Moving on.

CA NO. 4 (Act 470 - HB 360) - Property Tax Exemption for Public Land/Property
Do you support an amendment to specify that the ad valorem property tax exemption for public lands and other public property shall not apply to land or property owned by another state or a political subdivision of another state? (Amends Article VII, Section 21(A))

This is the kind of legislation that truly vexes your anti-capitalist voting guide authors. It is a reactionary amendment that tries to boost little West Carroll Parish's claim to taxes owed by Tennessee for natural gas storage, despite an appeals court decision that denied such a claim. Huh?

The skinny is that other states have laws that say, for instance, if Louisiana wants to store its collection of Elvis memorabilia in Tennessee, Tennessee can tax Louisiana on the value of the property. On the other hand, Louisiana's like your mom when she says, "Yeah, you can keep your stuff in the attic, no charge." This generous approach - thanks, Mom! - means that West Carroll Parish misses out on $100,000 of tax dollars each year for storing another state's stuff. You don't want to do that to Carroll, do you? Voting for this amendment would keep Louisiana in line with similar legislation that exists in Texas, Arkansas, Mississippi and Tennessee, and theoretically would make it easier for local governments to maintain revenue sources.

However, it would add a constitutional amendment that is unclear and likely unnecessary. And that very same "making it easier for local governments to maintain revenue sources" bit actually means putting more money in the pockets of assessors and sheriffs across Louisiana. Fuck the sheriffs. Is this supposed "missing money" even enough to support any kind of worthwhile public initiative in West Carroll Parish? Why amend the Constitution for such a small issue that doesn't seem to benefit the general citizenry of Louisiana? Figure it out, Carroll.


French Quarter Economic Development District
Shall an increase of .2495% in the sales tax be levied within the boundaries of the French Quarter Economic Development District ("FQ EDD"), (the area bounded by the Mississippi River, the center line of Canal Street, the rear property line of the properties fronting on the lake side of North Rampart Street, and the rear property line of the properties fronting on the downriver side of Esplanade Avenue to the Mississippi River), to be collected on the sale at retail, the use, the lease or rental, the consumption and storage for use or the consumption of tangible personal property and sales of services within the boundaries of the FQ EDD for a period of five years, beginning January 1, 2016 and ending December 31, 2020 (an estimated $2 million reasonably expected at this time to be collected as a result of the incremental increase per year) for the purpose of funding enhanced and supplemental public safety services to facilitate economic development within the FQ EDD?

This amendment proposes an uptick in sales tax in the French Quarter that would specifically fund "enhanced security" in that district, in the form of full-time state troopers and other law enforcement agents. Ummmm, this kinda sounds like Sidney Torres wants other people to pay for his private fiefdom's golfcart army. Why don't we make a tax to fund streetlamps and a higher minimum wage, and maybe then we wouldn't need so much damn "security"?

VOTE: Fuck No

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Bay St. Louis MS, October 2005
I first came to the Gulf Coast in October 2005, a few weeks after Hurricane Katrina made landfall. 

As nationally and locally we reflect on the trauma and recovery process brought on by that experience, I encourage you to think about how your own community may be growing or stunted.

We are living in revolutionary times, and we have many opportunities to build a better way for ourselves.

With love from New Orleans,

Where to donate money in New Orleans

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Conversations with a real-live misogynist!

My fake neighbor who rents out his entire house on AirBnB stopped by this afternoon, and managed to piss me off within seconds:

White guy my age who is not from New Orleans: Hey, my baby!

Me: I'm not your baby.

Guy: That's not what I meant. I was just saying hey.

Me: Then just say "hey." Don't call me "baby."

Guy: I mean, it's not a big deal.

Me: It doesn't have to be.

Guy: Saying "Hey, my baby" isn't offensive.

Me: [Stares] What do you want, anyway?

Guy: Well, if you're going to be like that...

I've spoken with this particular individual before about calling me out of my name, and he never seems to learn. Not only is it falsely intimate and uncute, it's demeaning.

I'm a woman, and calling me "baby," "girl," or any variation of that diminishes the knowledge and life experiences that I have earned. Unless you're my friend or romantic partner, and we've consensually adopted certain expressions of affection, you don't really need to be calling me names at all.

Also, don't ever tell someone what is or isn't offensive. You don't know all the ways in which I experience disrespect in the world. Especially if I'm taking the time to be patient with you and explain my objections to your behavior, you should listen to and heed my boundaries. You're welcome for pointing out misogyny, which is a form of gender-based violence. Now go and unlearn it.

Besides, there are really only two people in the world allowed to choose my name, and they are my parents. They've been around since I was a wee one, and they changed all my diapers. They can call me whatever they want. But actually, they never call me "baby"; they just call me "Arielle." And you can too.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Hibakusha: The atomic-bombed people of Japan

"At exactly fifteen minutes past eight in the morning, on August 6th, 1945, Japanese time, at the moment when the atomic bomb flashed above Hiroshima, Miss Toshiko Sasaki, a clerk in the personnel department at the East Asia Tin Works, had just sat down at her place in the plant office and was turning her head to speak to the girl at the next desk.

"At that same moment, Dr. Masakazu Fujii was settling down cross-legged to read the Osaka Asahi on the porch of his private hospital, overhanging one of the seven deltaic rivers which divide Hiroshima; Mrs. Hatsuyo Nakamura, a tailor's widow, stood by the window of her kitchen watching a neighbor tearing down his house because it lay in the path of an air-raid-defence fire lane; Father Wilhelm Kleinsorge, a German priest of the Society of Jesus, reclined in his underwear on a cot on the top floor of his order's three-storey mission house, reading a Jesuit magazine, Stimmen der Zeit; Dr. Terufumi Sasaki, a young member of the surgical staff of the city's large, modern Red Cross Hospital, walked along one of the hospital corridors with a blood specimen for a Wassennann test in his hand; and the Reverend Mr. Kiyoshi Tammoto, pastor of the Hiroshima Methodist Church, paused at the door of a rich man's house in Koi, the city's western suburb, and prepared to unload a handcart full of things he had evacuated from town in fear of the massive B-29 raid which everyone expected Hiroshima to suffer. . .

". . . Hiroshima had been getting such warnings almost every night for weeks, for at that time the B-29s were using Lake Biwa, north-east of Hiroshima, as a rendezvous point, and no matter what city the Americans planned to hit, the Super-fortresses streamed in over the coast near Hiroshima. The frequency of the 'warnings and the continued abstinence of Mr. B with respect to Hiroshima had made its citizens jittery; a rumour was going around that the Americans were saving something special for the city."

- John Hersey, Hiroshima

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Wtf parklet now has no benches, but it does have a list of rules

The parklet on Independence and St. Claude has no trash bin, no street lamp, and now no benches. It does, however, have a new name, a list of rules, and a curfew.

Private property developed with public money

My neighbors and I wondered how the parklet operators, an amalgamation of neighborhood associations and St. Claude Main Street, arrived at the decision to remove the benches and post the rules.

An email inquiry to the Bywater Neighborhood Association and St. Claude Main Street Board member/former President Jonathan Rhodes went unanswered for 12 days, at which point the BNA suggested I contact St. Claude Main Street or "the property owner," for whom no contact information was given.

[I actually do have the property owner's phone number because he creepily stuck his business card in my front door one night when I wasn't home, requesting that I blog about "the good things [he's] doing for the neighborhood, such as with youth."]

Interestingly, St. Claude Main Street just received a litter-abatement grant from an entity known as Keep Louisiana Beautiful. SCMS' excuse for the lack of conventional garbage pick-up at the parklet has been to blame the City for not providing a trash bin. Maybe now they can afford their own?

Art park with no art but, inexplicably, a gazillion bike racks

The immediate result of the bench removal is that parklet visitors now sit on the uncomfortably low mound patios. (There must be an architectural term for these structures?)

There is still a bunch of trash strewn about the lawn, and the lone tree continues to wilt due to landscaperly negligence.

Sad wilting tree of Wtf Parklet

I tried to look again at the "community survey" results from when SCMS kind of asked for neighborhood residents' opinions about parklets, but the webpage was taken down.

Instead I found a page thanking Maurice and Cynthia Slaughter, the owners of the parklet, for their recent generous contribution to SCMS: "We couldn't do it without you!" Indeed.