Greetings, friends and fellow travelers, and welcome to the collaborative Anti-Oppression / Anti-Bullshit Voting Guide for the New Orleans election on November 8, 2016!
Voter Registration and Official Election Information
Voter Registration in Louisiana is now closed. You can register before November 10 to vote in the December 10 run-off.
If you are registered and don’t care, please find someone who is currently incarcerated or on parole but wants their opinions heard. You can vote for their interest.
Early Voting is a great option if you’re the type to forget, or if you hate lines, or if the pressure of voting within one specific day is ultimately too much. Early voting is a whole week, and you can go in-and-out without a wait time.
October 25, 2016 through November 1, 2016 8:30 am to 4:30 pm
•Registrar’s Office, City Hall, RM 1W23; 1300 Perdido St.
•Registrar’s Office, Algiers Courthouse, RM 105; 225 Morgan St.
•Voting Machine Warehouse; 8870 Chef Menteur Hwy.
•Lake Vista Community Center; 6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. (2nd floor meeting room)
Depending on where you live, your ballot may differ from this guide. Visit voterportal.sos.la.gov to view your ballot by your name or address.
For some back story, these guides have been produced lovingly and carefully since 2014 by a group of individuals who wish to confront the existing lack of accountability in the branches of Louisiana government, and in the election process more generally. We did a lot of research and talked with our neighbors, friends, and allies. We tried to cut through the opaque language of the Constitutional amendments so people feel more comfortable and knowledgeable about voting either way (or not voting). We agreed on the following guidelines to make — or in some cases, decline to make—our recommendations:
•Promote justice and advancement for people of color, poor people, queer people, immigrants, youth, people most affected by environmental degradation, and other marginalized populations in our communities; prioritize the needs of these people above others.
•Favor the judicial candidates least destructive to the lives of the poor and others caught in the dragnet of our punitive legal 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.
We approach this work with a harm reduction ethos—that is, we understand we cannot easily nor quickly move the mountains of inequality, prejudice, (bureaucracy!), and oppression that keep people down. We considered the view that deliberating on “Who is going to harm us?” is actually not a form of harm reduction at all. Ultimately, we believe we can work to ease the suffering and trauma that exist in our communities. In this way, we advance towards a visionary society in which everyone’s needs are met, and our values are reflected in our system of governance.
These guides start as working drafts, so expect updates as we continue to do research. Feel free to submit your contributions!
On November 8, Louisianans vote for a new president, choose among 24 candidates to replace Senator David Vitter, select from numerous candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives, and decide on six amendments to the Constitution of the State of Louisiana. Then there’s local elections: New Orleanians choose two judges and decide on one parishwide proposition; some of us are choosing members for the Orleans Parish School Board.
Let’s be real: The two main candidates are going to be on the spectrum of destructive-to-nightmarish for Louisiana, the country, and geopolitics at large. (And Mike Pence is the WORST) To everyone who feels like there isn’t really a choice in this election, there are actually 13 people running for president who made it to the Louisiana ballot this year. Maybe you’ve heard of Jill Stein (Green Party) or Gary Johnson (Libertarian); maybe you haven’t. Maybe you’re a diehard Socialist Workers Party member, bless your heart.
The point is, the obscene amounts of money involved in this election—as well as the entrenched Party machinery in collusion with the mainstream media—keep people from knowing that there are options other than the big D or R. So-called pundits will tell you that Louisiana is already bought and sold as a “Red State,” which means you have the opportunity to register your objection to this nonsense by voting for a non-Red candidate, or not voting at all.
Don’t let people shame you into voting for Hillary just because she has lady parts. I tried voting with my vagina one time, and they threw me out of the polling location. True, she might let you get an abortion, but she’s also responsible for violence against women around the world in the form of war, coups, the War on Drugs, and detainment of immigrants. Our struggles are related, friends. She would be less awful than Trump in many ways, but that’s not very inspiring. Personally, I want a dyke for president.
We encourage voters to focus their political passion on the more local elections, which offer a greater opportunity to get your voice heard.
Vote: Vote your conscience
Labor Day is the traditional kick-off of campaign season, but in Louisiana, candidates and voters were thinking about something else entirely: the recent Louisiana floods. This is actually a great time to remind the country that the Gulf Coast is the canary in the climate change coal mine. Remember us down here? We’re suffering because of the predatory oil and gas industry, decades of indifferent and opportunistic politicians, degraded infrastructure, and brutally underfunded social services like education, workforce development, healthcare, and housing. We need political representatives who understand the threats to our well-being and will work doggedly to protect us, investing in the sustainability of our communities.
Meanwhile, only one of our major candidates (Foster Campbell, endorsed by the Sierra Club’s Delta Chapter) for U.S. Senate admits he believes—because the Pope said so—that global warming is a real threat caused by human activity. We’ll let the others speak for themselves:
Caroline Fayard: “I’m not a scientist”*
Troy Hebert: “I’m not a scientist.”
John Fleming (who is a physician and should know more about science): “It’s very unscientific to say we had a big rain so it was caused by global warming.”
John Kennedy: “Global temperatures are rising but the evidence does not clearly explain why.”
Rob Maness: “Humans are partly responsible for warming temperatures but it doesn’t represent a major threat.”
Charles Boustany: “Pushing the narrative that climate change caused the flooding in Louisiana has significant flaws.”
David Duke: Actually, we don’t care what he has to say.
OMG, y’all need to SIT DOWN.
*Updated position platform from Caroline Fayard: “Anthropogenic climate change is perhaps the number one challenge facing the future of Louisiana.” Okay, then! Fayard ultra-recently released a three-page plan to fight climate change and coastal erosion throughout Louisiana. Though she opposes suing oil companies- largely because she’s in their pocket – she is the only Senate candidate with a written public plan to address climate change. Is this person for actual environmental justice, or opportunistic privatization of the public sector? It’s hard to tell here. She is endorsed by the Landrieus, if that gives you any idea of her commitment to The People.
We are not completely rah-rah about Campbell either. People say he has been a reliable advocate for the working class during his decades-long career in public service, but if he’s been doing that for decades and we’re still in this state of affairs…well shit. Also, given the historical Southeastern vs. Northern Louisiana tension, will Campbell advocate for us on the national stage as we get washed away into the Gulf?
On another note, U.S. senators play an essential role in the nomination and selection of judges for federal court benches, including the Supreme Court. However, our current lineup of senators—prime example, outgoing Sen. David Vitter—have not been doing their job, leaving many vacancies unfilled for years. This has prevented initiatives to racially diversify the Judiciary, as two Latino judges nominated by President Obama (Dax Lopez and Gonzalo Curiel) have been blocked by the inaction in the Senate. In the lower courts alone, more than 70,000 cases have been missed, creating a judicial logjam. We need to elect senators who are committed to getting our judicial vacancies filled in a timely fashion. In other words, #DoYourJob.
This is the reality of Louisiana having lost a lot of seniority and clout in the Senate and House over the years, not to mention the millions of dollars the Koch brothers are funneling into Republican Senate campaigns. This is an important race, kids. There will be a run-off on December 10th for sure.
VOTE (forecast): We’re with the Pope and Foster Campbell, even though they’re both pretty reactionary on reproductive rights. We also still LOVE Vinny Mendoza, the Air Force veteran and organic farmer who ran against Scalise in the House race of 2014. His Facebook page is a fount of hope and change. Here’s a snippet of his fundraising tactic: “If you are able to spare $27 dollars, go to the Burger King near St. Charles and Earhart, and buy lunch for 5 homeless people sitting under the bypass.”
Suggested Resources: Louisiana Senate candidates begin attacks by The Associated Press, August 07, 2016 Louisiana’s political derby: the race to replace David Vitter by Clancy DuBos, from The Gambit, August 1, 2016. While most U.S. Senate candidates back their party’s presidential nominee, one Louisiana candidate won’t talk about it and 24 U.S. Senate candidates still largely unknown to Louisiana voters, but that could soon change by Tyler Bridges, from The New Orleans Advocate 2016 Louisiana Senate race: Who’s in? Who can win? the 2016 Louisiana Senate race is poised to kick into high gear, with a crowded field battling in the shadow of Donald Trump’s popularity in the Pelican State. by Richard Rainey, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, September 02, 2016 Sick of reading? Listen in on this podcast Introducing The CenLamar Podcast: Episode 1: Caroline Fayard from Lamar White, Jr. on September 2, 2016. U.S. Senate Candidate Panel, 1h46min video from Louisiana Hometown, Louisiana Chemical Association 2016 Annual Legislative Conference, May 6, 2016 2016 U.S. Senate Candidates Forum 1h video from Louisiana Hometown, Louisiana Municipal Association 2016 Annual Convention, August 4, 2016. Sierra Club Senate Forum, Louisiana Senate Debate 1h video from C-Span, October 18, 2016.
Speaking of politicians in the pocket of oil and gas, incumbent Scalise says FRACKING is safe. For those of you in the dark, suffice it to say that fracking will probably end the world as we know it. Scalise occupies the dangerous territory of Congress known as U.S. House Majority Whip, which means that this guy, who has referred to his politics as “David Duke without the baggage,” threatens members of the GOP to stay in line with his anti-environment, anti-people, pro-corporate agenda. But Scalise has a million dollars to spend on his campaign, and his challengers have neither money to spend nor plans to win.
VOTE: Wait and see who poses the most credible threat to Scalise’s re-election. Dugas or Barron are our top contenders.
Suggested Resource: In our first ever Anti-BS voting guide from 2014, we explained why Scalise should not be reelected. Mendoza was a unicorn of a challenger, running on a climate change platform in Louisiana no less, but Mendoza and Dugas split the opposing vote, while Scalise won by a hundred thousand votes.
After Holden’s negligent behavior all summer long, it’s a joke to see him on the ballot. This is the man who “left to go eat a Kip Burger” after surveying the flooding damage earlier in the summer, and claimed, “I’m not a showboat politician” upon being asked for comment on the police murder of Alton Sterling in Baton Rouge. Re-electing Cedric Richmond is to the benefit of Southeastern Louisiana: Richmond is empowered by the House’s Democratic whip and a bipartisan congressional working group on law enforcement and community relations. Richmond showed up for reals this summer, as a speaker at the ceremony to celebrate the life of Alton Sterling.
VOTE: We’re with Cedric Richmond, incumbent.
Bartholomew-Woods is Civil Court judge, darling of local Democrats and labor organizations with endorsements up the wazoo, and the pick of D.A. Leon Cannizzaro, who applauds her “judicial demeanor.” FYI, possible conflict of interest for endorsements: Her hubbie holds one of the city’s largest contracts as owner of Metro Disposal Inc. Overall, she’s well-rounded and well-connected.
White is Chief Judge of Criminal Court, a frequent adversary of Cannizzaro – he does not evaluate her “judicial demeanor” positively – and kind of a rock star! Here are a couple of Louisiana firsts she is responsible for: White served as co-counsel to the New York Innocence Project in the first exoneration case based on DNA science. She launched a recidivism prevention program for people re-entering society from prisons. She and other judges order nonviolent offenders with relatively short sentences to earn their GEDs and attend “life skills” classes under the mentorship of older inmates at Angola.
VOTE: Undetermined. Expect some unsavory headlines just before election day. The campaign attacks between Bartholomew-Woods and Ellen Hazeur in 2011 were messy, but White can spar (she owned and managed a boxing gym!).
Suggested resources: Judicial Forum for candidates of 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, 25min video from Court Watch NOLA. Short on time? You can skip to their summaries at 20 minutes, which is where the drama comes in! Live on Facebook with Laurie White and Regina Bartholomew-Woods, short videos on The New Orleans Tribune Facebook page, September 2016. What’s the deal with the White and Cannizzaro beef? Oldies, but interesting: Some judges who were challenged by DA say he gamed the system when he was on bench and D.A. Cannizzaro fires back by releasing Judge White’s attendance record by Matt Davis, The Lens NOLA, March 2011; Judge Laurie White airs enmity for DA Cannizzaro during home invasion hearing by Ken Daley, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, June 23, 2016 What went down between Regina Bartholomew-Woods and Ellen Hazeur?judicial candidates clash over contentious ad by Frank Donze, The Times-Picayune, October 21, 2011
Frank Marullo, the longest-running judge in Louisiana with the worst ratings from Court Watch NOLA, retired this year. Whoever takes this election serves the remainder of Marullo’s vacated seat until 2020. Moore is a former software engineer-turned-defense lawyer with Orleans Public Defenders, whose campaign promises to streamline court processes by incorporating the Internet. Bonin is an old hat, who is choosing to take the perceived “step down” to Criminal Court because he says he is sick of seeing bad cases go through appeals.
VOTE: This one is a toss up: We want Moore to get on the bench sometime soon, but Bonin would do well here too.
Suggested resources: PART 1: Judicial Forum for candidates of Orleans Parish Criminal District Court, Section D office, three-part video from Court Watch NOLA. Live on Facebook with Dennis Moore, Paul Bonin, and Kevin Guillory short videos on The New Orleans Tribune Facebook page, September 2016.
* * *
Next up, folks in the French Quarter, Algiers, Marigny, and Bywater (District 4), in the Uptown/Carrollton area (District 6), and in Gentilly (District 7) are electing board members to serve for the next four years on the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB).
The future holds a brand new experiment in public education: OPSB will be governing a never-before-seen public school system of mostly charter schools. Act 91, signed by the Governor this May, provides for the “unification” of New Orleans’ schools by limiting the School Board’s abilities. OPSB can open or close a school. It can evaluate the quality of education at schools. If the quality of education passes the check, but the charter network is paying their CEO $200K, OPSB can’t do anything about it. Charter networks will have unprecedented autonomy over their financial matters, which is expected to exacerbate inequity between schools. This is the new reality of public education in New Orleans.
As OPSB’s role moves into this unchartered (ha!) territory, how will these candidates operate? Do they support the collective bargaining and the organized labor of teachers? How do they engage community voices in decision-making about how charter schools are managed? Are they reacting to crises in schools or building a community feedback tool to foster community dialogue about issues earlier on? How will they address the drastic differences between school environments? Incumbent OPSB members have only minimally engaged community voices. Further, they have not been proactive about equity in the few schools they’re managing now. Many school board members won their seats by default, with no challengers, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t still collecting a bunch of campaign contributions.
Suggested Resources: $310,000 in for sleepy Orleans Parish School Board race by Danielle Dreilinger, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune on October 14, 2016. 6 key facts about the New Orleans school unification plan (and 5 for geeks), New Orleans school unification is spelled M-O-N-E-Y, and ‘We are ready’: School Board OKs unification plan. And School districts outline next steps for reunification by Kari Dequine Harden from The Louisiana Weekly, May 31, 2016 and Educate Now! presents OPSB Approves School Unification Plan from The New Orleans Agenda, September 14, 2016.
Ellison, the incumbent, faces Umrani, a community organizer from the realm of criminal justice reform. We trust Umrani’s experience in grassroots-style work to prioritize community engagement in OPSB. However, his focus on the connection between juvenile incarceration and public education is unlikely to be relevant at this time. I know that’s harsh, but have you seen OPSB’s schedule? They’re strictly dealing with unification through its July 2018 deadline!
We thought Ellison might be an efficient, good-enough choice for this position – she wants to return charter school control to OPSB from the state – until someone sent us some intel on her straight-up saying “There is no such thing” as the separation of church and state (Thanks to Matt Patterson for his comments at Shtetl Chic). This was in the context of her support of a 2013 OPSB bill that would have allowed charter schools to willfully exclude gay students from enrollment. Um, welcome to humanity, Louisiana politicians!
Meanwhile, Morris “Moe” Reed, Jr. (dropped out, but still appears on the ballot) was caught up in some flak after he posted a Facebook message sympathetic to the man who killed the Dallas cops over the summer. He later apologized, writing “You can understand a black man waking up and being a little bit upset.” He has since suspended his campaign, citing fortune cookie advice to “Keep your goals away from the trolls.”
VOTE: Umrani all the way
Suggested Resources: Okay, so many of the candidates have their own campaign websites, but just Ellison has her own theme song: turn up the volume, then click the link! Live on Facebook with Walter Umrani, short videos on The New Orleans Tribune Facebook page, September 2016.
Koppel is generally not-well-liked as incumbent among concerned community members, mostly for being a landlord and business-first politician, who does not take a strong leadership position on equity. David Alvarez’s campaign materials call for increased transparency of charter school management, social justice and accountability, community engagement on education reform, and “restorative” methods to student discipline. Hey, I like his campaign materials!
Incumbent Nolan is pleading to stay on OPSB because of a $1 million grant that he wants to continue working on. His challengers are both contenders for the position given their strong critiques of the status quo at OPSB and at charter schools. It’s nearly impossible to find information on Crusto except one hard-to-find video interview and his campaign finances (Ever been duped by the Carson Company realtors? They manage some of Crusto’s real estate listings and contributed a whole lot to his campaign). Smith, on the other hand, is an outspoken challenger. His responses to the League of Women Voters questionnaire seem favorable: Collective bargaining and the organized labor of teachers? Check. Community voice in decision-making? Check. Equitable resources for teachers, students, and facilities? Check.
VOTE: Kwame Smith
STATEWIDE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
Suggested resources: Analysis by League of Women Voters of Louisiana; Public Affairs Research Council Guide Legislative Services – Louisiana House Of Representatives Analysis Of Amendments
In response to a more technically difficult system of voting, lawmakers want to increase the educational requirements of the Registrar of Voters. Opposition to this amendment centers on rural areas where that educational requirement would be hard to meet. Supporters want the voting process to be managed by people with qualifications, and they say this measure could curb nepotism. All in all, there are no immediate consequences to this change: all the Registrar of Voters positions in the State are filled, and those currently holding this position who don’t meet the new proposed educational requirements would be grandfathered in. Typically, the Registrar of Voters is hired from within the Registrar’s office already anyway, so what’s the point? This would make government neither more efficient nor transparent.
Vote YES or NO… because seriously, what’s the point?
This amendment proposes that control of tuition cost-setting for public universities and colleges move from the legislature to pre-existing “management boards.” These schools have traditionally been regulated by the State in order to provide low-cost options and greater accessibility to higher learning for the public. On principle, we are against the deregulation of public institutions with this kind of mission. This amendment smells like the largely unaccountable trend towards privatization that has been steadily encroaching on public schools here, and eroding public oversight of them.
But, to be sure, Louisiana’s public universities and colleges have been needlessly suffering the brunt of the State’s budget crisis. Since 2008, higher education budget cuts in Louisiana have been more brutal than in any other state. As such, Louisiana schools are pushing for greater autonomy: to raise tuition to cover costs in most cases, and in some cases, to become more competitive by lowering tuition for out-of-state students.
Vote NO because higher education needs more investment, but deregulation isn’t the answer. Or YES if you’re exasperated by how little Louisiana spends on its public universities and colleges.
Suggested Resource: Tuition-Setting Authority and Deregulation at State Colleges and Universities by Lesley McBain from the American Association of State Colleges and Universities Higher Education Policy Brief, May 2010
At this time, corporations can deduct their federal tax payments when preparing their state corporate income taxes. This is wrongfully letting corporations off the hook.
Vote YES so federal tax payments cannot be used as a deduction when calculating state corporate income taxes.
Don’t let the headline fool you: it is not the homestead exemption but an exemption on all ad valorem property taxes. This is an amendment to a property tax exemption for widowed police/fire/military spouses that would allow them to keep their exemption if they move to a different house. What with flooding, hurricanes, fracking, and coastal erosion, housing displacement comes as no surprise to residents of this state. We support any effort to keep people housed affordably and safely.
So what’s the catch here? It seems Mike Johnson (Republican-Bossier City) introduced this amendment for political points. Remember him? The guy who introduced Indiana-style religious freedom, anti-LGBTQA legislation in 2015 with the support of ol’ Bobby Jindal (it died in committee) and became the hero of nihilistic social conservatives? He is establishing himself as a professional politician (and Trump still), and has bigger aims than state legislature. Johnson is likely trying to use this amendment to build his supportive voter base with military and law enforcement families.
But we don’t like dividing people this way. Where are the bills that protect, honor, and advantage the protesters who were attacked by police and National Guard in Baton Rouge this summer? Where’s the ad valorem property tax exemption for the family of Alton Sterling (may he rest in peace)? We need better ways to support our heroes.
VOTE: YES, but let’s do more to promote housing justice.
Louisiana’s budget is unsustainable, and the sponsor of this bill, Walt Leger III (Democrat-New Orleans), thinks this new trust fund will help steady it in the long term. Basically, some money will be deposited in this hands-off account, so there’s no spending when times are good only to cut when times are bad. Smart decision.
This proposed amendment reduces constitutional protection of funds in one year, with the purpose of funding gaps in the next year. The major drawback is that presently protected funds are made vulnerable to mid-year budget cuts. Makes sense if it were personal budgets, but when it is the State’s budget and we’ve elected some folks to be responsible for adequately funding public operations, then we’d prefer those legislators simply be responsible and do their jobs. This one had near unanimous support in House and Senate because they don’t care to work hard for us.
A dangerous precedent is set by crowd-sourcing greater safety and security for people with expendable income, favoring the lives and livelihood of certain people and making those neighborhoods less affordable to live in. Invest those hundreds of thousands of dollars in something that benefits the vibrant, urban fabric of our city, like community organizations and schools.
The New Orleans Independent Police Monitor (NOIPM) is an independent, civilian police oversight agency through which you can file complaints against NOPD (or commend an officer). In 2006, a coalition of community groups brought their concerns about New Orleans Police Department to the New Orleans City Council. By 2008, the city council supported the Police Monitor’s Office in a resolution. In 2008, the Police Monitor’s Office, along with the Office of Inspector General, were voted into the city charter by over 70% of the New Orleans electorate.
Y’all remember last Fall when the epic battle between Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux and Police Monitor Susan Hutson played out? He tried to gut her position; she called him racist/misogynist/vengeful/vindictive, etc. Then, City Council intervened.
City Council members introduced an ordinance to give the police monitor a set budget and increase its staff, but us voters have to give it our support. In the meantime, the temporary resolution (conditional that there be no more public trash talk) stipulated that NOIPM was to be guaranteed a percentage of funding from the Inspector General’s office, but it had to move out of its shared office in the Federal Reserve building. Well NOIPM is in its spot by Canal and Broad.
VOTE: Despite the ridiculous idea of having to vote to resolve a bureaucratic dispute, now is the time for us to vote YES to granting autonomy for NOIPM.
Suggested Resources: When Independent Police Oversight Becomes Too Independent by Brentin Mock from City Lab, Sep 30, 2015, Truce between New Orleans Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux, Independent Police Monitor Susan Hutson a big win by James Gill from New Orleans Advocate, October 31, 2015, Inspector general, police monitor split backed by City Council by Greg LaRose, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune, October 15, 2015, Letters: Voters should support ethics proposition by David Marcello and Cornelius Tilton New Orleans Advocate October3, 2016, and On the Ballot from the Bureau of Governmental Research, October 12, 2016. BGR finds faults in New Orleans police monitor charter amendment
FURTHER READINGS AND RESOURCES
• Public Affairs Research Council of Louisiana Guides to the Constitutional amendments with pro and con arguments for each.
• League of Women Voters of New Orleans Candidate biographies and questionnaires.
• Court Watch NOLA Collected data and rankings on New Orleans criminal judges, including timeliness, transparency, and neutrality
• WBOK1230AM Committed to relevant, informative programming from an African American perspective, these locals cover elections a lot, and they sponsored the “Candidate Debate: OPSB” this year.
• The Louisiana Weekly Multicultural news medium
• The New Orleans Tribune The 1st Black daily newspaper in the United States
• Justice And Beyond “Workable solutions [for New Orleans] through constructive dialogue”
• Unchain the Vote Formerly incarcerated people working to “have a place, and a voice, in the world”
• Alternative Election Coverage Frustrated that radio news is dominated by Trump and Clinton stories? Listen to Alternative Radio’s alternative election coverage.
• Democracy NOW! Daily independent news show includes election coverage
This voting guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an official endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY or New Orleans Harm Reduction Network.