This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.
Welcome once again to your ANTIGRAVITY voter education guide for the November 8 election. On this ballot you may be choosing: U.S. senator, representative in Congress, state court of appeals judge, public service commissioner, state senator, municipal and traffic court judge, clerk of 1st City Court, school board member, a handful of amendments to the state constitution, a city charter amendment, and/or neighborhood improvement district measures.
We have published these guides since 2014—previously in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network and now under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. This guide was written by a team of five people, including ANTIGRAVITY editorial staff. We utilized national media, local media, and social media. Our research included but was not limited to public records, campaign finance reports, court filings, and real estate records.
Despite lacking faith in politicians or the political order, we create this document as a way to dissect and map power—and because our readers enthusiastically and repeatedly ask for it. We do not offer endorsements, but we do provide summaries, as this is a resource designed to aid and alleviate the work for you, dear reader. News relevant to this ballot will continue to break. We are but one resource, and we hope that you consult as many as possible before heading to the polls.
We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit, which vouches for your identity.
If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters Office.
The makeup of this ballot, including names of candidates and information about how, where, and when to register and vote is based on information provided by the Louisiana Secretary of State and the City of New Orleans website. For info on what your ballot looks like, as well as information about disability and voting, go to the SoS website, voterportal.sos.la.gov.
Beryl A. Billiot (No Party)
Gary Chambers Jr. (Democrat)
Devin Lance Graham (Republican)
“Xan” John (Other)
John Kennedy (Republican)
W. Thomas La Fontaine Olson (No Party)
Bradley McMorris (Independent)
MV “Vinny” Mendoza (Democrat)
“Luke” Mixon (Democrat)
Salvador P. Rodriguez (Democrat)
Aaron C. Sigler (Libertarian)
Syrita Steib (Democrat)
Thomas Wenn (Other)
This is a statewide race for one of Louisiana’s two seats in the U.S. Senate.
Perennial candidate Beryl Billiot is back for a fourth run for office. The Marine veteran and business owner is “PRO LIFE, PRO GUN, and PRO AMERICA,” according to his campaign website. He believes we need to “put discipline back in the class room [sic], and God in the midst of our lives,” and “forget ‘Political Correctness’ and focus on the ‘TRUTH!’” (Scare quotes and capitalization his.)
He previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2020 and 2016, against Bill Cassidy and then John Kennedy. He also ran for governor in 2015.
While he refused to “debate social issues” in 2020, he had this to say to BRProud.com about Black Lives Matter: “Although I agree that there needs to be change in our enforcement practices, the BLM movement is doing nothing to unite us or correct any issues. It is driving bigger wedges between the American people. In many cases their actions are in direct conflict with their agenda.”
Gary Chambers hadn’t yet made a big name for himself when he ran for Louisiana’s State Senate District 15 seat in 2019 and received 26% of the vote. Many first learned his name from the 2020 viral video showing him calling out an East Baton Rouge School Board member for shopping online during a public comment meeting about renaming Robert E. Lee High School (now Liberty High). Others first encountered him when he rode that wave into a run for U.S. representative for Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional District in 2021. He missed the run-off for that seat by less than 1,400 votes in a race with less than 18% turnout.
Lately, he’s been harder to miss. In his campaign for a U.S. Senate seat, he’s released ads in which he smokes weed and burns a Confederate flag. Another, which begins with a graphic content warning, depicts a fatally botched abortion in a motel room in post-Roe America. “Abortions won’t end, but this democracy will if the government refuses to stay out of people’s personal choices,” he says in the ad. “Make no mistake about it, women will die. There’s nothing pro-life about that.”
He’s got a massive social media following for a local politician, and all the noise has earned him national attention, including a profile in the Washington Post.
Chambers faces not only incumbent Senator John Kennedy, but two other Democratic candidates. This is both unusual and controversial. As Howard University student paper The Hilltop reported, Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee broke with protocol when it decided to endorse and put its resources behind three candidates. Normally, they’d throw their weight behind the candidate selected by their executive committee—Chambers, in this case. Instead, State Rep. C. Denise Marcelle proposed a resolution to endorse all three candidates and Chair Katie Bernhardt suspended the five-day advance requirement for voting on resolutions, sending it quickly to a vote. Chambers has decried the whole process on Twitter.
So, what does Chambers stand for? His policy goals are laid out specifically and at length on his campaign website, including improving access to health care, overhauling public education and job skills training in Louisiana, passing student loan debt forgiveness, advocating “for the COMPLETE autonomous return and funding of Orleans Parish Public School System, using a Community Schools Model,” codifying Roe v. Wade, demilitarizing the police, enacting “common sense” gun control policies like banning the sale of military-grade weapons, and passing the Green New Deal.
In April 2021, he launched a nonprofit called Bigger Than Me to further “a progressive movement in the Deep South” and “organize, strategize and mobilize on the next level.” Biggerthanme.com was down when we checked several times, and the state lists the nonprofit as “not in good standing for failure to file annual report.” We haven’t found signs it’s done work since Hurricane Ida. Chambers was also publisher of the now-defunct Baton Rouge lifestyle magazine The Rouge Collection.
Chambers has come under fire in the past for his association with the controversial activist Shaun King, who has repeatedly faced questions about how he spent millions of dollars in donated funds. In the past, Chambers has always defended King and their association. “Shaun has invested thousands of dollars in my community without ever asking for anything in return,” he tweeted last year. “Is he perfect? Nope. Has he made mistakes? Yes. So have you.”
“Who am I? I am the everyday Louisiana man. I work, I play, and I know the struggles,” said real estate broker Devin Lance Graham, seemingly channeling Walt Whitman by way of Doug Kershaw, in a Voters Organized to Educate survey. He ran for Louisiana’s 6th U.S. Congressional District in 2018 and got about 2% of the vote. His campaign website lists three priorities: “Serving the People First. Before party, business or foreign country;” “Protecting Louisiana: Our People, Culture, & Coast;” and “Protecting Our American Values, Rights, Independence, & Prosperity.”
The second and third points don’t seem to include specific policy plans, but the first involves bringing back “the taxes we send to D.C. to build new roads and ports, start dredging projects and open up opportunities for the present and the future” and “jobs that have been pushed away by an anti energy administration.”
Xan John is many things. He’s a “seasoned sommelier” and “oil and gas production expert,” according to his LinkedIn profile, which indicates that the bulk of his professional life has been spent at Texas Petroleum Investment Company. His family owns a company called JohnPac, which, confusingly, is not a political action committee—it’s a packing material company that got its start selling rice sacks to Crowley farmers.
He’s also a 16th Amendment truther who argues the amendment allowing Congress to levy an income tax was “never properly ratified.” John also claims he’s been banned from Twitter, and his Instagram links to Infowars, the site run by the shouty Texan conspiracy theorist and supplement seller Alex Jones.
John is a perennial candidate for political office in Louisiana who has also announced a plan to run for governor next year. His Senate campaign website is down (as of press time), but in a 2021 Ballotpedia survey he listed his three key messages: the conspiracy-minded “The welfare of humanity is always the alibi of tyrants,” the presumably COVID-related “Unmasking Our Future!”, and the bumper sticker standby “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
Incumbent Sen. John Kennedy is looking for his second term representing Louisiana in the U.S. Senate. This will be his fourth run for this particular office—he lost the first two times, once as a Democrat. But Kennedy has a track record of holding on to power once he gets it. He spent 18 years as Louisiana state treasurer, and ran unopposed three times in his tenure.
As a U.S. senator during the COVID-19 pandemic, he called early on for an end to virus-related shutdowns. In April 2020, just one month into lockdown, he told Tucker Carlson everyone needed to get back to work to save the economy. “When we end the shutdown, the virus is going to spread faster. That’s just a fact. And the American people understand that,” he said. In December 2021, he walked right up to the edge of helpful when he said “the Covid vaccine is good,” but he said so while announcing he’d joined an amicus brief opposing the federal vaccine mandate.
Kennedy also used the pandemic to attack reproductive rights. In April 2020, he called for abortion clinics to be closed as “non-essential services.” And one year later, he and Senator Rand Paul demanded that Planned Parenthood return $80 million in Paycheck Protection Program loans they said were wrongfully obtained. This came at the same time he and Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) introduced a bill to defund Planned Parenthood, framing it as an effort to “protect women’s health.” He’s used the same supposedly pro-woman framing when introducing legislation that would require abortion providers to have admitting privileges at hospitals within 15 miles of their clinics.
Severely limiting access to abortion is one of Kennedy’s 12 priorities, as listed on his campaign website. Embedded in some of the other priorities is his support of the oil and gas industry, and climate change denial. He says he’s “working hard to bring back America’s energy independence by unleashing Louisiana’s oil and gas production” and that he’ll “take the handcuffs off America’s oil and gas industry.” He’s previously said that “global temperatures are rising but the evidence does not clearly explain why.”
The real threat to Louisianans, his priorities suggest, is criminal justice reform and gun control. And in a viral campaign ad, he said, “Look, if you hate cops just because they’re cops, the next time you get in trouble, call a crackhead.” Of course, many (including but certainly not limited to Chambers) have observed that “crackhead” is thinly-veiled dog-whistle racist language.
His other priorities include finishing building a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, “Standing up to communist China and ending the bad trade deals that hurt our American workers,” and opposing “policies that will increase inflation and add to our debt.”
One upside of his platform: he believes in keeping National Flood Insurance Program rates low. Among the pieces of Kennedy-sponsored legislation that have become law are the National Flood Insurance Program Extension Acts of 2018 and 2019. He also sponsored the Rebuilding Small Businesses After Disasters Act.
W. Thomas La Fontaine Olson does not appear to have a campaign website for his run for U.S. Senate—and that’s his thing. When he ran for office in Illinois in 2020 (yes, Illinois, two years ago) he told TV news station WTTW, “Nevermind an impersonal website, write me direct” and provided his email address. In response to the question of why he was running for office, he told them, “Because I’m over 30.”
Bradley McMorris is yet another Louisiana realtor running for office. The Facebook page for his campaign says he “plans on implementing National Programs, Immigration Reform, and Green Energy” and will “focus on public education and lowering the incarceration rates.” In an August 2022 post, his campaign references a Times-Picayune story about abuse of undocumented workers in Louisiana, and writes that McMorris “plans on implementing a one-time $1,000 reprieve for undocumented immigrants and DACA recipients to pay and then begin their legalization process.” The funds would “go towards state funded programs and tax cuts to improve the state of Louisiana.”
He also criticizes both President Joe Biden and Senator John Kennedy for their handling of the “drug crisis,” yet he said in response to a Power Coalition survey that he considers the War on Drugs to be a success, though with a caveat that few could disagree with: “Its [sic] successful as it can be. There would be no drugs coming in if Americans did not have such a thirst for those drugs.”
He also told the Power Coalition that “abortion should be illegal in every state” and, despite his claims to favor immigration reform, says “ICE should have a bigger budget. We should electrify the border wall. We only need to let individuals in the country that can improve our country.” McMorris also called for Medicare for All, with a $50 per person premium.
M.V. “Vinny” Mendoza is an organic farmer, Air Force veteran, and perennial candidate (a phrase we find ourselves using a lot in this guide). Speaking of common candidate themes, he’s also a real estate investor. He’s run for Congress several times and previously ran for Senate in 2020. He also ran for governor in 2019 and was disqualified for not filing his state and federal income tax returns sometime within the prior five years, the Times-Picayune reported.
Mendoza is an anti-abortion and pro-gun Democrat who believes “the only way to fight inflation is by boosting the economy of low-income and middle-class families instead of giving tax breaks to Big Oil to and allowing them to do price gauging and oil production manipulation,” his campaign website says. His “five-point action pledge” says he’ll regulate oil companies, order an investigation into Entergy, fight for the Veterans Burn Pits Exposure Recognition Act (Biden signed a version of this law in August), provide health care to all Americans and reduce the cost of all prescription drugs, and “end the war on women’s rights” by sponsoring “The Lorena Bobbitt Peewee AXE Act” (a phrase which seems to appear online only in his campaign materials). This is the lengthiest section of his pledge, and it says when men are found guilty of rape, “their penis will be cut off as punishment.” We will leave the Constitutional, ethical, scientific, logistical, and other issues with this proposal as an exercise for the reader.
Luke Mixon is a commercial airline pilot and misses no chance to tell you about his military lineage. His campaign materials are rife with his experience as a fighter pilot, the fact that he graduated from TOPGUN, and how his grandfather’s military experience inspired him to join himself. He is in favor of funneling more money to the police, a belief in-line with a pro-military veteran, though he says he doesn’t want cops using military equipment—at least, most of the time. “As a veteran, I do not believe weapons of war or military vehicles should be used to police our civilian communities, except in the rarest and most dangerous of situations,” he told Voters Organized to Educate.
His policies generally seem a bit more nuanced, however, despite not being thoroughly fleshed out. In an ad he ran, he says he “served 20 years fighting extremism around the world” and now he’s “fighting extremism at home”—by pushing to codify Roe v. Wade. He still, however, claims to be “pro-life.” Outside of this, his most concrete policy plan on his website is implementing Louisiana’s Coastal Master Plan. Mixon also commended Biden for pardoning a few thousand people convicted on federal marijuana possession charges, but in general he seems to be campaigning on not being John Kennedy and, often, simply maintaining the status quo. “I will not privatize social security and Medicare,” he pledges, as others vow to bring about Medicare for All.
Salvador Rodriguez is a Navy veteran and self-described “newbie to the political arena.” He doesn’t have a campaign website, and he mostly uses his campaign Twitter account to criticize former President Donald Trump and other federal-level politicians in colorful language. “This clown has his head so far up Trump’s ass that if Trump sneezes, [Michael] Flynn will fart CO2,” he said on Twitter. In case you find this metaphor confusing or question the fluid dynamics of the scenario, we asked DALL-E Mini, that AI bot that generates images from text prompts, to illustrate it here for your viewing pleasure.
In response to a Power Coalition survey, Rodriguez appears to confuse Medicare (which provides health care for seniors and some people with disabilities) and Medicaid (which provides health care for people with low incomes), referring repeatedly to Medicare in a question about Medicaid work requirements. He also appears to answer “Yes, No” to some yes-or-no questions, including whether he supports Medicare for All.
Aaron Sigler is a “Libertarian neurosurgeon fighting for a brighter and more free future, for all,” according to the Sigler for Liberty Facebook page. Siglerforliberty.com, which he links there, is not a working website (as of press time), and we were unable to find his policy positions elsewhere, besides calls on the Facebook page to audit and shut down the Federal Reserve. He previously ran for U.S. Senate in 2020, then calling for an end to the War on Drugs, demilitarization of police, and an end to “qualified immunity“—the court-created doctrine that makes it extremely difficult to sue cops and other officials for violating civil rights.
Syrita Steib is not the most famous New Orleanian to be pardoned by former President Donald Trump—that’d be Lil Wayne—but she might be the most politically involved. Steib has spent years as a criminal justice reform advocate, most notably winning a Louisiana “ban the box” law that prohibits state colleges and universities from requiring criminal history disclosures on their applications. She also helped win the passage of the FIRST STEP Act, which allows incarcerated people to shorten their sentences by participating in training and educational programs meant to improve their opportunities once they’re released. And yes, the name is an acronym; it stands for “Formerly Incarcerated Reenter Society Transformed Safely Transitioning Every Person.”
Steib did this work through Operation Restoration, a nonprofit she founded in 2016 to help formerly incarcerated women transition back into regular life. After spending 10 years in prison for arson and burglary of a car dealership in Texas at the age of 19, she applied to the University of New Orleans and checked the box acknowledging she’d been convicted of a crime and was rejected. When she tried again without checking the box, she was accepted.
She’s also been involved in local politics, serving as co-chair for the healthy families committee on New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s transition team; and she served on the Protect Vulnerable Communities Committee of District Attorney Jason Williams’ transition team. On the state level, she was appointed to the Justice Reinvestment Implementation Oversight Council by Governor John Bel Edwards and served as vice-chair for the Louisiana Women’s Incarceration Task Force.
Steib’s campaign website offers a detailed policy roadmap focusing on “common-sense infrastructure,” “high-quality accessible education,” “women’s rights and domestic violence,” “energy for a new economy” and “collaboration at home and abroad.” Her priorities include updating Louisiana’s power grid, fully funding state colleges and universities to “guarantee that all students have the economic opportunity they need to pursue the careers that inspire them;” pushing for legislation that “guarantees everyone has access– at reasonable prices– to both healthcare and the resources necessary to raise strong, healthy families;” promoting “a dual energy economy, using clean oil and gas to supply current baseload energy demand while stimulating the development of a second, renewable energy system;” and fighting restrictive voting laws.
In campaign press releases, Steib has addressed the U.S. Supreme Court’s attacks on reproductive and marriage rights. In June, she called the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade a “tragic miscarriage of Justice on the rights of women” and decried Louisiana’s trigger law immediately criminalizing abortion. In July, her campaign addressed the likelihood that the Court would attack same-sex and interracial marriage next, and said she would “support the Respect for Marriage Act and any other legislation that promised to protect same-sex and interracial relationships.”
Thomas Wenn is on the ballot as an independent, but there doesn’t appear to be any other public information about him or his campaign.
SUMMARY: Steib and Chambers advocate clear progressive positions. Mixon appears to be running as a patriotic white guy who’s not John Kennedy.
U. S. Representative
1st Congressional District
Katie Darling (Democrat)
Howard Kearney (Libertarian)
Steve Scalise (Republican)
Katie Darling is the sole Democrat in the race for Louisiana’s 1st Congressional District, which includes suburban and rural areas around New Orleans on the north and south shores of Lake Pontchartrain, as well as portions of the city itself (around Audubon Park and the Jefferson-Orleans Parish line at Metairie).
Darling, who lives in Covington, is proudly pro-choice—even featuring footage of herself giving birth to her son in one ad promoting her position on reproductive rights—and campaigns as a supporter of LGBTQ+ and labor rights, with at least one “#UNIONYES” hashtag post on her campaign Facebook page.
“I jumped into the race to advocate for reproductive freedom, for the right to privacy, but I know that there are many issues that touch everybody in Louisiana, so in addition to reproductive freedom, my campaign is focused on storm mitigation and climate change,” she said in one discussion with members of the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee, which has endorsed her.
Darling now works at a company that makes software for school-based care providers like nurses and counselors, but she has experience as a craft bartender and once worked as CEO of Celebration Distillation, the makers of Old New Orleans Rum, as well as a food-and-beverage director at some upscale New Orleans hotels. She’s also on the board of the Homer Plessy Community School in the French Quarter.
Darling is one of a small number of local candidates with post-adolescent service industry experience—even if much of it was on the management level—in a region that’s economically dependent on hospitality workers but often politically dominated by the kind of people who think suggested tip amounts on coffee shop checkout screens are ruining the Land Of The Free.
“Don’t be a coward–vote for Howard,” says Libertarian Howard Kearney in one campaign video, where he appears, possibly greenscreened, in front of what appears to be a suburban lakeside gazebo.
Kearney, who previously ran for this seat in 2016, 2018, and 2020, is running on a fairly standard libertarian platform. He opposes the War on Drugs and the Patriot Act, wants to audit the Federal Reserve and potentially shut it down, doesn’t like the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”), and criticizes incumbent Steve Scalise for failing to oppose “unconstitutional and non-declared wars by rouge [sic] past and present Presidents.”
In his gazebo address, Kearney pledges to “insist that we follow the Constitution,” saying “it is only in the Constitution that we can regain our liberty and our safety.” But as the Supreme Court’s recent and rapid rightward shift (aided by advocacy from conservative Constitutional lawyers backed by groups like the Federalist Society) shows, there are a lot of ways to interpret the Constitution. Kearney, for instance, says on his campaign site he backs the “right to life including full protection of the unborn,” while until this year courts held that the Constitution guaranteed a right to abortion.
Kearney’s a computer programmer who’s been working in the field since 1978—long ago enough that, according to a resume posted to his LinkedIn page, his duties at Church’s Fried Chicken, Inc. then included “tape librarian,” and he’s developed mastery of now-esoteric software tools with names like CICS, JCL, PDS, and Concurrent DOS. But the legal system is not like the IBM mainframes he’s expert in, which proudly advertise that they still run software code from more than 50 years ago just as computers would have processed it at the time it was created. Governing takes more than simply reading a centuries-old document that’s been interpreted in wildly divergent ways essentially since it was written.
Kearney, in fact, doesn’t seem to even believe entirely in the Constitution as it stands: He says “government’s only constitutional role should be to help individuals defend themselves from force or fraud.” That’s not what our current Constitution says and it’s also not as simple a principle as many Libertarians would want to believe: The best ways to protect people from “force and fraud” aren’t always obvious, and they’re often not simply equipping agents of the government with the right to themselves use force.
What’s there to say about incumbent Steve Scalise that hasn’t been said since he first took office (in the Louisiana State Legislature) in 1996?
He famously once described himself to a Times-Picayune reporter as being “like David Duke without the baggage,” as she’s publicly recalled it. As the party whip, responsible for getting his colleagues to show up and vote the party line, he’s one of the top GOP members in the House. And he delivers the noxious politics and policies that have now become thoroughly mainstream in the Republican Party, with fewer faux-folksy Fox soundbites than John Kennedy or Clay Higgins.
Lately, he’s been spouting the latest Republican talking points, criticizing the Biden Administration for plans to beef up the IRS (which has fallen behind in both auditing rich scofflaws and providing assistance to confused taxpayers), calling for a border wall even as he touts being descended from Italian immigrants, backing increased oil and gas production, “standing up for pro-life values,” and backing the right-wing witch hunt against those “trying to ram some of this gender garbage and all this other stuff down your throat” in public schools. In 2004, as a state rep, he spearheaded a state Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage, and he voted just this July against a federal bill that aims to protect marriage equality from the right-wing rampages of the Supreme Court. He’s staunchly pro-Second Amendment, with an A+ rating from the NRA, even though at time of writing the second entry on his Second Amendment page is oddly a press release about that time he got shot.
It’s easy to let your eyes glaze over when you read (or write) about Scalise, because despite the fleur-de-lis he’s added to his RepublicanWhip.gov homepage, the fact that he’s been known to put out a press release when it’s his turn to bring king cake to the office, and the odd Gambit endorsement from 2018 (Scalise also won their “Best Congress member from Louisiana” readers’ poll in 2021), there’s little unique or even Louisiana-flavored about him. His conservative views are the same ones that have been paraded on Fox News, shouted on AM radio, wrapped in refined language and misleading anecdotes for newspaper editorials, mumbled on the floor of the House and Senate, and mocked by The Onion and left-of-center comedians for as long as many of us have been alive. An ad where he pumps gas and complains about the price while his daughter sits behind the wheel of the family car could largely have been filmed by any suburban Republican in the country.
But don’t let Scalise’s polo shirt dad banality distract you from the very real power he wields—power that would only increase if Republicans take a House majority—and the very real harm his policies do.
SUMMARY: Scalise is a straight party line Republican—as party whip, that’s literally his job. Kearney is a typical anti-abortion Libertarian. And Darling is a fairly standard-issue suburban Democrat.
2nd Congressional District
Troy A. Carter (Democrat)
“Dan” Lux (Republican)
This district includes most of Orleans Parish and the Westbank, and stretches through parts of the River Parishes up to Baton Rouge.
It’s worth noting that it’s the only one of Louisiana’s six Congressional districts with a Black majority, despite the fact that almost one in three voting-age residents of the state is Black. The Republican legislative majority designed the districts, which are drawn anew every 10 years when new Census data comes out. Democratic Governor John Bel Edwards vetoed the district map, saying without a second Black-majority district, it violated the federal Voting Rights Act, but the legislature overrode his veto.
Civil rights advocates then successfully sued—“The 2022 congressional map dilutes Black voting strength in violation of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (‘VRA’) by ‘packing’ large numbers of Black voters into a single majority-Black congressional district, and ‘cracking’ the State’s remaining Black voters among the five remaining districts, where they constitute an ineffective minority unable to participate equally in the electoral process,” they argued in a court filing—and a federal judge ordered the state to come up with a new map. A federal appeals court refused to block her order while it held the case. But the conservative majority in the Supreme Court, already planning to hear a similar case from Alabama, blocked the ruling while it decides that case, meaning the Republican map will stay in place for this election. Justices Stephen Breyer (who has since retired and been replaced by Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson), Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented from the ruling, which is just the latest in a series of decisions that have weakened the power of the Voting Rights Act, passed in 1965 to combat widespread discrimination against Black voters.
Democrats including Biden have called for a new voting rights law, to be named after the late civil rights activist and U.S. Representative John Lewis, but they don’t have the votes to get it past a Senate filibuster and can’t rally enough Democratic senators to change the filibuster rules.
Up for re-election is incumbent Troy Carter. If it seems like you just saw Carter’s name on the ballot, that’s because he was elected to the 2nd District seat in spring 2021, after previous officeholder Cedric Richmond left to work in the Biden White House. Like all seats in the House, it’s up for election again, since it’s an even-numbered year.
The Algiers native beat out 14 opponents, which included facing off against Karen Carter Peterson (no relation) in a runoff election. At the time, we lamented that there was little appreciable difference between those two candidates, both of whom were state senators and fairly standard issue New Orleans establishment Democrats who didn’t seem likely to rock the Biden boat.
That prediction has largely held true. Carter sits on the House Transportation and Infrastructure and Small Business committees at a time when transportation, infrastructure, and small businesses in his district could all use some work. But when asked in May by the architecture and design publication Common Edge what to do about the elevated portion of I-10 that cleaves Claiborne Avenue and the surrounding historically Black neighborhoods, he didn’t give a particularly clear answer or take any final opinion on what a solution looks like. “To an extent he hedged, attempting understandably to leave all of the possible funding options open,” as the author put it.
Carter did introduce bipartisan legislation, along with Illinois Republican Rodney Davis, to provide a means to expunge low-level federal marijuana offenses from people’s records. The bill remains pending in committee, and Carter continues to call for its package to clear people’s records even after Biden pardoned people convicted of certain federal marijuana possession charges. As drafted, the bill also appears to cover charges related to misdemeanor distribution not listed in Biden’s pardon proclamation. Carter also sponsored a bill, also still in committee, that would make it easier for marijuana businesses to legally access the financial system. Currently, state-permitted marijuana businesses face difficulties in banking and raising investment since weed is still illegal under federal law. “Cannabis must be legalized,” he told Voters Organized to Educate. “It is simply time.”
Carter has also introduced a bill, also still in committee, that would set up federal grants to groups that help formerly incarcerated people get small business loans and entrepreneurship training. Additionally, he’s introduced some legislation that would promote disaster planning and offer student loan relief for people who get small business disaster loans.
Louisiana’s sole Democratic representative, Carter joined fellow Democrats in voting in favor of the two major spending bills passed by Congress this year, called the Inflation Reduction Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The rest of the state’s Congressional delegation, all Republicans, voted against both bills. The Inflation Reduction Act, in particular, has been criticized for not doing enough to reduce carbon emissions, which is likely bad news for communities along the Gulf, but the bills do bring billions in federal infrastructure and other spending to the state.
Carter has also supported the right to abortion and supported related bills to codify rights to abortion and birth control. The bills passed the House and now linger in the Senate, where supporters don’t have the votes to get them past a filibuster or change the rules that make a filibuster possible.
This time around, Carter’s sole challenger is Republican Dan Lux, who naturally uses the web domain VoteDLux.com, where a deluxe animation glides an image of the candidate onto the page.
“Enough of the Nonsense!” reads the caption, from a TV producer and real estate investor (yes, of course he owns D. Lux Homes, LLC) who touts his “proud working class” upbringing and “common sense” approach.
“I’ve been called an unconventional thinker, a master storyteller, and a spiritual guru, but I like to consider myself just a regular guy!” he says on the website for his book Soul School: The Purpose of Life Revealed, which claims to tell readers the truth about things like whether they have souls and what happens after death.
“How did life start?” he asks in a snippet of the book we previewed on Amazon, since we were unwilling to spend our beloved readers’ donations on a full copy of this text. “I’m not talking about the start of life back on that fateful night when your dad looked at your mom with a gleam in his eye as she radiated a glow of fertility.”
When it comes to politics, Lux—who brags of being the executive producer for an ABC Trump biopic and a hologram exhibit “that digitally resurrects President Reagan”—is more or less a conventional 2022 conservative. Lux, whose D. Lux Homes business appears from public records to own several properties in suburban Jefferson Parish, complains of New Orleans crime and “defund the police” politicians. It’s unclear who he’s talking about, in a city where the mayor is pushing to end a federal consent decree aimed to prevent police corruption and brutality. He also attempts to appeal to parents worried about the “radical take-over of their children’s education.”
Lux wants to cut business regulation, do something unspecified about homelessness (“Allowing people to live openly on the streets is NOT humane, but rather cruel and unconscionable,” he claims, without proposing an alternative), and fight “censorship and loss of freedoms” by “reciting the pledge of allegiance in schools, standing for the national anthem, and ending programs that teach racism and hatred.”
A “proud father” who is “dedicated to maintaining the purity of what our founding fathers created,” Lux is also a former story producer on the TLC reality series “Sex Sent Me to the ER.”
He’s endorsed by the Republican Party of Louisiana, as well as the “Holy N Patriotic Jambalaya Radio Show” on WGSO-AM, where he was recently a guest. His platform doesn’t seem to explicitly address reproductive freedom issues, but he rails against “gender studies” in schools and claims would-be moms emit a “glow of fertility.”
SUMMARY: Despite what some letter writers to the Times-Pic may claim, Troy Carter is far from a radical leftist. Republican alternative Dan “D. Lux” is a conventional 2022 conservative who harps on crime, family values, and the like.
Judge, Court of Appeal
4th Circuit at Large
“Joseph” Cao (Republican)
Karen Herman (Democrat)
Paul N. Sens (Democrat, withdrew)
Marie Williams (Democrat)
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeal handles appeals of criminal, civil, and family law cases. One of five appellate courts in Louisiana, the 4th circuit court handles cases in Orleans, St. Bernard, and Plaquemines parishes. Unlike legislative candidates, judicial candidates don’t broadcast how they’ll vote on matters that come before their courts, but we can still take a look at the records of the people running for judge.
Joseph Cao is a former U.S. House representative who served one term from 2009 to 2011, representing Louisiana’s 2nd Congressional district as a Republican. He was the first Vietnamese-American to be elected to Congress. While in Congress, Cao (who has worked as an immigration lawyer) broke with his party to support immigration reform and the DREAM Act, as well as repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, which restricted the rights of LGBTQ people to serve openly in the armed forces. He also initially supported the Affordable Care Act while in Congress, but later withdrew his support and voted against the ACA as he reportedly did not think it adequately restricted abortion coverage to individuals who got insurance through the ACA (Obamacare). Before his Congressional term, he participated in community advocacy against a landfill in New Orleans East, and while in Congress he advocated for constituents impacted by the BP oil spill in 2010. In December 2008, Cao was a named plaintiff in a lawsuit filed in conjunction with the Republican National Committee and the Republican Party of Louisiana that attempted to declare political contribution limits imposed on state and national political parties unconstitutional. “Joseph will bring fairness, uphold the law, and use judicial temperament as Judge,” he says on his campaign site.
Marie Wiliams is an attorney who has been practicing law for 26 years. She has worked as an attorney for the Pro Bono Project, and for the Loyola Post Conviction Defender’s project, defending death row inmates, as well as representing ALERT Fair Housing, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), and the Local 100 union. She has run for the bench several times before (this is her ninth run), and in 2016 she was disqualified for failing to file taxes. In 2018 members of the nonprofit suffrage group VOTE (Voice of the Experienced) called Williams out for allegedly falsely claiming she helped found the group, which was founded by a group of men incarcerated at the Louisiana State Penitentiary. In a 2020 race for Juvenile Court judge, when asked about judicial bypass, which (prior to the enaction of Louisiana’s trigger ban after Roe v. Wade was overturned) helped minors get abortions who could not access in-person parental support for the procedure, she responded, “I would not feel comfortable making that decision on my own,” saying she’d need to consult a health care professional.
Paul N. Sens withdrew from this race.
Karen Herman is a judicial veteran who was first elected Criminal Court judge in 2008, and has twice been re-elected (unopposed) since then in 2014 and 2020. It’s worth noting in her response to a New Orleans Bar Association survey, of all three candidates her response was the most nuanced when it came to the question of “the rule of law”: “every law in existence is subject to review on a statewide level and/or a federal level. Laws tend to sway with the influence of cultural norms. While judges must uphold the rule of law, as part of their ethical obligations under the Judicial Canons, judges certainly are within their rights to explore the genesis of a given law and the applicability of that law in today’s society.”
Before serving as judge, Herman was executive director of Court Watch NOLA, an organization where volunteers monitor criminal court proceedings, and was instrumental in the organization’s beginnings. She has worked for the Orleans Parish DA as a law clerk and prosecutor prior to her judgeship.
SUMMARY: Karen Herman has experience, and her time as executive director of Court Watch NOLA shows she supports community oversight in the justice system. Marie Williams has some solid law experience, but has allegedly made questionable claims and was hesitant to grant judicial bypass for minors seeking abortions.
PSC District 3
Lambert C. Boissiere III (Democrat)
Willie Jones (Democrat)
Davante Lewis (Democrat)
Gregory Manning (Democrat)
Jesse T. Thompson (Democrat)
The Public Service Commission is a state agency that regulates utilities like electric, gas, and telecom companies, as well as a smattering of other industries, like intrastate moving and bus companies, plus what it calls “non-consensual towing” companies. It’s run by five elected commissioners from districts around the state. District 3—the sole majority-minority district—includes parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes, as well as a string of parishes from here out to the Baton Rouge area.
New Orleans is unusual in that the City Council has primary responsibility for regulating utilities–most notably, Entergy New Orleans–operating within the city limits, including approving rates. After briefly ceding that power to the PSC in the ’80s, it took back regulatory authority after concerns that the PSC wasn’t adequately representing New Orleans interests. It’s not a perfect solution: The City Council has other things to worry about, and its members aren’t elected based on their expertise around utility law, which means the City spends heavily on legal consultants to help it regulate Entergy.
And, in practice, decisions that the PSC makes still impact New Orleans, since Entergy subunits operate throughout the state, and electricity and gas (and pollution associated with generating and extracting them) flow across municipal lines. As of September, the City Council is seeking to weigh in on at least five proceedings before the commission, on topics like hardening the power grid for “future storm events,” how to handle utility expenses tied to Hurricane Ida, and a broad look at “customer-centric options” for electric power, which could lead to a limit on monopolies held by Entergy and other utilities.
During the last election for this seat in 2016, incumbent Lambert Boissiere III ran unopposed, and candidates and media organizations alike have commented on how the public often pays little attention to the PSC’s workings. These can seem esoteric even by the standards of other public agencies: A recently posted docket sheet includes everything from a towing company being cited for excessive charges to Entergy’s efforts to pass Ida-related costs onto consumers to a pair of power companies seeking to close a no-longer-cost-effective coal mine, all tersely described in short summaries riddled with industry jargon. But amid rising energy bills, and rising discontent after extended Ida-related outages, Boissiere now faces four opponents calling for a new look at how Entergy and other power companies are regulated.
Before Boissiere was first elected to this seat in 2005, he was constable for First City Court, leading an office that enforces court orders, perhaps most notably performing evictions. He comes from a political family: In fact, his father, Lambert C. Boissiere, Jr., now holds his old job as First City Court constable.
In his campaign materials, he points to his role in pushing to expand internet access in underserved parts of the state and his efforts to keep utility bills affordable. He’s recently critiqued Entergy for relying too much on fossil fuels—”Entergy doesn’t like solar until they figure out how to own the sun,” he quipped—and says he wants to continue to push for renewable energy and lower bills.
Willie Jones has held a seat on the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, and he previously ran for the state House of Representatives and lieutenant governor. As has been the case in his previous campaigns, he doesn’t yet have a big campaign presence. In a September candidate forum hosted by the Alliance for Affordable Energy, he railed against utilities passing costs onto consumers. “I’m here because I want to be the voice of the people,” he said.
Davante Lewis is probably best known for his work with the Louisiana Budget Project, a group that works to analyze potential state legislation’s effects on low and middle-income residents and is generally considered to be on the progressive side of things.
He recently advocated against a bill to loosen regulation on payday lenders, he’s called for laws preventing kids from being shamed or punished because their families can’t afford school lunch, and he’s pushed for a raise in the state minimum wage. Lewis was also a plaintiff in the challenge to Louisiana’s Congressional districting, challenging the Republican legislative majority creating only one Black-majority district out of the state’s six Congressional districts.
In his run for PSC, he says on Twitter that he’s running to be “Entergy’s worst nightmare.” He’s calling for a “Ratepayers’ Bill of Rights” that would limit power cutoffs and late fees and put seniors on fixed billing plans. He also wants utilities to adopt more wind and solar power and encourage residents to install rooftop solar and batteries. Lewis has also said he won’t take donations from industries regulated by the PSC and wants strengthened ethics rules around the matter. The New Orleans City Council recently passed a similar rule, barring campaign donations from companies it regulates. Ties to Entergy, including employment and consulting arrangements with the company, are, to say the least, very common among Louisiana politicians.
He’s also advocated for more municipally-run utilities in Louisiana, like the ones that exist in cities like Alexandria, Houma, and Lafayette. Pushes for a public agency to take over Entergy’s operations in New Orleans have periodically been launched at times when people have been even more dissatisfied with the utility than usual, but they’ve never been successful.
Gregory Manning is the pastor of Broadmoor Community Church and founded the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition, leading efforts to oppose the controversial power plant Entergy opened in New Orleans East in 2020 after an Entergy PR subcontractor packed City Council meetings with paid actors to support the facility.
Manning, long a critic of politicians taking money from Entergy, advocated for the rule barring City Council members from accepting donations from organizations they regulate, and he wants to impose a similar rule on the PSC. He wants to force power companies to shift to 100% renewables by 2040, require them to make updates for a more resilient grid, and require net metering for home solar power. That means people with solar panels on their houses would be able to sell electricity back to their utility companies at the normal retail rate. Such a policy was in place until 2019, and remains in place in other states, but people who installed solar after 2019 only get to sell power back to their utilities at a fraction of the retail price.
Manning also pledges to set up his PSC district office to assist constituents with billing issues and service complaints, provide easy-to-understand descriptions of matters before the PSC, and hold town halls with the public. He also vows to use the power of the PSC to end “exorbitant collect-call rates for prisoners in Louisiana jails.” Prisons and jails typically contract with telecom companies, which often front the cost of installing equipment in the facilities, then charge incarcerated people and their families rates significantly higher than they’d pay in the outside world, with the revenue split between the phone companies and the agencies that run the jail. That forces often-poor people to dig into their pockets to stay in touch with their incarcerated loved ones and further isolates people in custody.
In recent years, some jurisdictions have moved to free phone calls, saying that even putting moral arguments aside, enabling people in jail to stay in touch with family helps reduce recidivism.
Jesse T. Thompson doesn’t have the same campaign presence as many of his rivals in the race and he didn’t appear at the September Alliance for Affordable Energy forum. A self-employed civil engineer, Thompson emphasized, in answering questions from the Power Coalition, the obligation of the PSC to be “just & fair.”
He appears less critical of Entergy and other utility companies than others in the race—”The regulated utility companies are provided financial protections that afford them a fair profit which I understand and I am pro-business; but, that does not mean that the government (PSC) should facilitate the growth of a monopolized company,” he said—and he suggests the PSC could educate consumers about existing power bill assistance programs and, it seems, also tell poor people to use less energy.
“Through energy efficiency programs and increased education/outreach, the PSC can help tackle the disproportionate energy consumption (inefficiencies/waste) of our poorest households; [it] may not be able to eradicate poverty, but through education, consumers can better understand the cost of consuming utilities and be more informed/educated,” he said, adding “we all know that people usually do not want to [sic] government telling them what to do in their lives but sometimes explaining to people (education) on how to utilize electrical consumption and ways to conserve energy would help tremendously.”
It’s difficult to know exactly what that means, but it’s certainly questionable to suggest that people with limited funds aren’t already adept at trading off comfort and convenience for affordable bills.
SUMMARY: Manning and Lewis have both put forth concrete proposals to use the power of the PSC to rein in the power companies.
5th Senatorial District
Royce Duplessis (Democrat)
Mandie Landry (Democrat)
This state Senate district is mainly Uptown New Orleans, covering Central City, the Garden District, Leonidas, parts of Mid-City, and a small section of Jefferson Parish. Once a predominantly Black district, the district is now 46% white and 44% Black, according to the Times-Picayune. The seat has been vacant since Karen Carter Peterson’s resignation.
State Rep. Royce Duplessis is a fairly progressive candidate. He has sponsored bills to limit the use of solitary confinement on juveniles and limit the release of pre-conviction mugshots (this is not without controversy: Some claim this move is bad for victims—especially of sex and violent crimes, who might recognize serial offenders—and others suggest politicians’ mugshots should still be public). He has called for investment in health care, social services, education, not more incarceration, and has been an outspoken critic of Louisiana’s oppressive laws against trans people. He has also been a vocal advocate for a second Black-majority Congressional district, as the strip from New Orleans to Baton Rouge along the Mississippi River is currently Louisiana’s only predominantly Black district. He has also tried to curb “qualified immunity” for cops. Duplessis is staunchly pro-choice, and a recent campaign ad featured the story of Duplessis’ great-grandmother, who nearly died from a self-induced abortion and, Duplessis’ mother recounts in the ad, later died at 24 “after attempting suicide because of the depression, shame, and guilt she was feeling.” He has also stated that he supports decriminalizing sex work in responding to a survey from Voters Organized to Educate. He has been endorsed by the AFL-CIO, Unite Here! Local 23, Step Up Louisiana, and the Orleans and Jefferson Parish Democratic Party executive committees.
Not to be outdone, Mandie Landry (also a state rep) has progressive credentials of her own. She has shown that she is not afraid to anger sheriffs in towns across the state by fighting to introduce term limits on sheriffs; and she has also worked with Women With a Vision to sponsor a bill to decriminalize sex work in Louisiana. As a lawyer, she has represented an abortion clinic and women seeking abortions. Landry has also worked for antidiscrimination measures for the state’s medical marijuana patients, and successfully passed protections for those patients who are also state employees.
She has pushed to limit noncompete clauses, which restrict people’s ability to find new work in their industries even after leaving or losing a job. In general, she’s serious about pushing back against mass incarceration. “As a legislator, I do not support increased sentencing as a reaction to crime,” she told Voters Organized to Educate. “This year, I took a very hard ‘no’ vote (the only one to do so) on a bill that increased the mandatory minimum for carjacking from 2 to 10 years. We as legislators need to work on being more prepared for these hard votes, in terms of resources and time (both limited at the capitol).”
As originally reported by nola.com, Landry has ranked lower on scorecards by two conservative groups in Louisiana. In the Louisiana Right to Life Legislative Scorecard for the 2022 legislative session, Duplessis voted for the group’s preferred legislation 14% of the time, while Landry earned a zero (each got 33% the previous year). In free enterprise defender Louisiana Association of Business and Industry’s most recent scorecard, Landry was clocked voting with LABI 21% of the time, Duplessis 44%.
While serving in the Louisiana House of Reprepresentatives, they have also coauthored some legislation, including a bill to ban homophobic “conversion therapy” and a bill that would allow New Orleans more control over regulating guns and ammo within the city.
SUMMARY: Both candidates are fairly progressive, especially when it comes to their would-be fellow state senators. Both are pro-choice and have sponsored legislation that protects the well-being of their constituents; Landry seems to have voted with conservatives slightly less. Both seem like adequate choices. It’s a pity they’re running for the same seat in a state Senate that could sorely use more progressive, non-reactionary voices.
Judge Municipal and Traffic Court
Derek Russ (Democrat)
Mark J. Shea (Democrat)
Municipal and traffic court handles lower level criminal offenses, traffic violations, public intoxication, and other smaller infractions. This court rakes in a lot of money through traffic tickets, and it’s ballooned into an entity that can’t efficiently work through their docket, while poor people are made poorer being dragged through the labyrinthine legal system. As we’ve mentioned in previous voter education guides, the “court and DMV have no obligation to notify when a license is suspended,” so if someone gets pulled over during a routine traffic stop and discovers then and there that their license is suspended, they could be going to jail that day.
Derek Russ has run the gamut in roles in the criminal legal system. He’s worked as a minute clerk and assistant DA in municipal and traffic court, as a public defender, a lawyer in private practice, and as an adjunct law professor at Southern University, where he got his law degree.
Russ’ campaign website says he is “offering… not just his face, but a new F.A.C.E. on the court, one that is Fair, Accessible, Compassionate, and Experienced.” In his platform he says he wants to institute a night court “to accommodate citizens’ busy schedules,” create a virtual courtroom, and increase accessibility efforts.
He recently posted on social media pictures of signs of his that had been torn down, saying, “Tearing down signs to win a judgeship in New Orleans Municipal and Traffic Court, Division D? I will focus on tearing down a broken system that does not serve our community.”
Mark Shea is the incumbent in this race, and has a plethora of endorsements to show for it, including: Congressman Troy Carter, Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Councilmembers JP Morrell, Helena Moreno, Joe Giarrusso, and Eugene Green, Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO, Alliance for Good Government, Independent Women’s Organization, New Orleans Coalition, Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, Forum For Equality PAC, Fraternal Order of Police (FOPNO), and more. An incumbent with a plethora of endorsements by the top people in power, however, doesn’t suggest a beacon of change.
Shea comes from a political family, and his father was also a judge. Shea was elected to judgeship in 2009 after working as a public defender from 1984 to 2006. He has since had his differences with Orleans Parish Defenders (OPD). In 2012, Derwyn Bunton, chief public defender at OPD, wrote an op-ed claiming that traffic court owed money that could help keep OPD afloat financially, saying “Beyond simply withholding money crucial to OPD’s operation, the Traffic Court creates a chilling perception: Traffic Court judges are above the law.” Shea wrote in response, “I fiercely denounce Mr. Bunton’s libelous accusation and potentially injurious claim that the judges of Traffic Court are above the law.”
As with many incumbents, Shea’s policy points aren’t at the forefront of—or really noted at all within—his campaign materials. He seems to be running a campaign based on the acceptance of the status quo.
SUMMARY: Russ is running on a platform of making the court more accessible. Shea doesn’t really have a platform.
Judge Municipal and Traffic Court
Geoffrey L. Gates (Democrat)
Bobbie Smith (Democrat)
This court handles traffic court summons, including DWI charges, and other criminal offenses such as intimate partner violence-related charges.
Geoffrey Gates has worked as a prosecutor in New Orleans Municipal and Traffic Court and been an assistant DA (specifically focused on child support enforcement). He has also worked as a law clerk for the First City Court of New Orleans and as an adjunct professor at Dillard. While his campaign website is fairly vague on his platform, he did fill out a Voters Organized to Educate (VOTE) candidate survey in which he claimed to oppose habitual offender sentencing enhancement (which creates harsher penalties for someone if they have more than one felony conviction), supported greater leniency on cases of technical probation violations, and said he would take into account people’s socioeconomic and mental health conditions while on the bench. He also supported greater use of mental health professionals over policing in crisis intervention. Gates also acknowledged, “all cases are unique and at times following precedent may not lead to a just outcome.” Additionally, within the survey, he says he supports “all people with a non-unanimous conviction should be immediately released from any sentence currently being served” in the wake of Louisiana’s overturning of its non-unanimous jury law, which infamously dated back to the Jim Crow era. In an unofficial poll of New Orleans Bar Association members, Gates won 58% of the vote compared to Smith’s 42%.
Bobbie Smith is a similarly experienced candidate, who has his own law practice specializing in personal injury and DWI cases, as well as experience working for the City Attorney’s office in general litigation and municipal and traffic court, and has served as ad-hoc judge in the court. He points to endorsements by the Independent Women’s Organization, the AFL-CIO of Greater New Orleans, the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, the Alliance for Good Government, Congressman Troy Carter, Councilmember Joe Giarrusso, and District Attorney Jason Williams.
However, in his answers to the VOTE candidate survey, he put out a few responses that were more conservative than his opponent’s, saying he disagreed with the statement that “habitual offender laws are unnecessarily punitive.” He also said simply “I follow precedent” when asked how legal precedent would factor into his rulings, and also opposed “the establishment of strong and empowered community boards, which will monitor public servants in the police department, the courthouse, and the jails.”. He also marked “disagree” when asked if he would recuse himself from cases involving donors or family members, and did not answer a question concerning how he would rule on retroactivity concerning people convicted by non-unanimous juries.
In a judicial debate hosted by WDSU, Smith suggested a grace period for those who miss court (rather than immediately issuing an arrest warrant) while Gates favored court via Zoom as a solution. However, Smith brought up using drug testing as part of a suite of mental health evaluation tools, which can lead to further punitive treatment of people who happen to use drugs or even falsely test positive, even if they’re in court for something entirely unrelated. Both candidates addressed the issue of mental health care, with Smith advocating for pre-sentencing mental health evaluations, while Gates put forth a potential for adding mental health services as a wrap-around suite of services to be housed in the courthouse itself. On the issue of the court’s speed handling intimate partner violence cases, Gates suggested prioritizing those cases over “disturbing the peace” charges. He also suggested putting “pressure on the district attorneys and city attorneys” who are prosecuting those cases to speed up and to “make sure the police are involved” as well as lining up evidence and contacting survivors. Both candidates generally seem to back the NOPD: Gates lamented the fact that there is a low number of officers in the department currently, and Smith’s website mentions his donations to the Black Order of Police.
SUMMARY: While Smith has more endorsements from local Democratic politicians and institutions, the candidates’ peers favored Gates in an unofficial poll from the New Orleans Bar Association. These candidates seem evenly matched in experience, though Gates’ responses to a candidate survey suggest more progressive views.
1st City Court
Austin Badon (Democrat)
Donna Glapion (Democrat)
First City Court handles small claims and landlord-tenant matters, notably evictions, for the East Bank of New Orleans. (Second City Court serves the same purpose on the West Bank.) The clerk’s office is in charge of court administration, including managing records and processing filings. It sounds dull, but for people facing eviction or other suits, or seeking justice in small claims court without legal counsel or experience with the system, an easily accessible court system can make a big difference.
Incumbent Austin Badon was first elected to this position in 2018. Prior to that, he had been a state representative. Badon, who unsuccessfully ran for Criminal District Court clerk last year, has said he’s improved efficiency in this court through an ongoing push to put records online and cutting the costs of copying documents. His website (as of press time) actually says “coping,” but what’s a clerk without a few clerical errors?
He made a name for himself during the early days of the pandemic by sounding the alarm about a possible rise in evictions, although he wasn’t stridently pro-tenant: He’s said he thinks landlords and tenants were both hurt by the pandemic and once put out a press release with the subject “GOOD NEWS: FUNDS FOR LANDLORDS COMING! SAID CLERK BADON.”
As a state rep, he sponsored a bill that was designed to make it easier for sex workers to be “hassled by the cops,” in his words. The bill was broadly worded enough that experts thought it could be used to crack down on anyone asking for money, and Badon said at the time that was a positive, complaining of purportedly scammy panhandlers. Badon also authored a bill to require brain-dead pregnant people be kept alive until they give birth if they didn’t have a living will to the contrary, regardless of family members’ wishes, and according to legislative records voted for other anti-abortion bills and co-authored a House resolution calling for probes of Planned Parenthood.
Criminal laws on sex work, reproductive rights, and panhandling arrests don’t typically directly result in cases in City Court, which handles civil matters. But the court does see litigants from all walks of life, including—perhaps especially—people in economically precarious situations, and it’s hard to think it’s not better to have a clerk who views them with sympathy rather than as crooks and scammers.
Badon did, on the other hand, author a bill to cut penalties for marijuana possession. He also successfully got the state Department of Transportation and Development to fix a sign on I-10 that seemed to refer to the city as “New Orleag,” after a label for New Orleans covering up an old reference to Baton Rouge was partially damaged. “Maybe they should go back to grammar school and use some of that money to learn spelling,” Badon said at the time, according to a 2007 Times-Picayune article.
Opponent Donna Glapion recently served as an interim member of the City Council, after Jason Williams left to be district attorney. She got her political start working for Dorothy Mae Taylor, the first Black woman elected to a councilmember-at-large seat, and has also worked for Whitney Bank, for two local charter schools as an operations manager (Dryades YMCA -James Singleton Charter School and William J. Fischer Accelerated Academy), and for No Kid Hungry Louisiana, which promotes access to school meals.
Glapion says she’d make the court’s filing system more accessible and understandable to the public, let people know what kind of help they can get filing papers with the court, and make court records easy to access.
“People who come into this court are often representing themselves pro se,” she said in a Voters Organized to Educate survey response. “It’s important we make the process easier and more accessible for them.”
She’s called herself the only pro-choice candidate in the race, saying that she’s “dedicated to fostering an environment in and outside the office that supports the reproductive health of New Orleanians.” Reproductive health questions might not often directly come up before the court but, again, they will almost certainly impact litigants indirectly. It may also be worth sending the message to politicians that bodily autonomy and reproductive freedom are non-negotiable, no matter the type of office they seek.
SUMMARY: Badon’s voting record on reproductive rights and his anti-sex worker rhetoric don’t inspire confidence in his willingness to protect the most vulnerable among us. Glapion so far has less political presence to scrutinize, but she has openly branded herself as pro-choice.
Member of School Board
Leila J. Eames (Democrat)
Deidra A. Louis (Democrat, withdrew)
Patrice Sentino (Democrat)
This seat is up for grabs after John Brown stepped down when his daughter was seeking to be schools superintendent. For a primer on the School Board in Orleans Parish, check out our voter education guide from September 2020.
Leila Eames was appointed to the school board on an interim basis in April 2022 after Brown stepped down. She has served on “multiple charter boards” and is an officer of Lake Forest Elementary Charter School Corporation and director of Lusher East Gentilly Parents’ Association. She’s worked within the school district for 33 years, starting as a fifth grade teacher then “managing federal programs and professional development for the entire district,” WWNO reported. An October 11 campaign filing indicates Eames’ campaign committee is chaired by Dana Henry, an attorney and former charter school exec who controversially backed a property tax proposal in 2020 that would have cut funding to the New Orleans Public Library, then joined the library’s board.
In a Voters Organized to Educate survey she said that she’s not in favor of expanding the charter school system, but charter schools who have letter grades of A, B, and C should be allowed to operate as is, while those with lower scores need more direct oversight. She also believes that we should decrease the amount of law enforcement in schools.
Deidra Louis withdrew from the race.
Patrice Sentino unsuccessfully ran for this seat in 2020 against John Brown. She is a licensed social worker and runs Center for Hope Children and Family Services in New Orleans East. In our previous coverage, we noted that her background in social work is good for considering the emotional well-being of the student, but her lack of experience within the school system directly makes her “perhaps a bit naive in how it practically works in an all-charter system.”
Her survey responses for Voters Organized to Educate were a bit more fleshed out than her opponent. She wrote that two main areas needing additional funding within the school system were “trauma-informed care professional development” and “maintenance and repairs through the School Facility Preservation Program.” For underperforming charter schools, she says she would “look at the unique circumstance of the school to determine if the school should have an opportunity for turnaround with provided support or direct run to assist the school with becoming independent again.”
SUMMARY: Eames has more experience within the school system and managing school budgets, while Sentino has more experience as a social worker and working with struggling families.
CA No. 1 (ACT 130, 2021 – HB 154) – Modifies the maximum amount of monies in certain state funds that may be invested in equities
Do you support an amendment to increase to 65% the cap on the amount of monies in certain state funds that may be invested in stocks? (Amends Article VII, Sections 10.1(B), 10.8(B), 10.11(D), and 14(B))
This amendment would cover more than $3 billion in state funds stored in trusts for particular purposes, including the Louisiana Education Quality Trust Fund (created to fund educational programs with offshore oil and gas revenue), the Millennium Trust (which uses money from a large settlement with tobacco companies to help fund health and education programs, including the popular TOPS scholarships), the Medicaid Trust Fund for the Elderly, and some environmental conservation-related funds.
The state treasurer is responsible for investing money from the funds and is restricted in how much can be invested in the stock market. Advocates say putting more money in stocks, as opposed to relatively low-risk investments like bonds issued by organizations with good credit, could make more money for the state to spend on good causes, but that also means more risk.
The Council for a Better Louisiana has endorsed the measure and says the treasurer’s office has indicated “its investment strategy is to expose its portfolio to less risk than the overall stock market” and points out that some of the funds’ sources of money, like the tobacco settlement and offshore oil and gas revenue, are contributing less than they used to (which could just as easily be an argument for making sure to preserve the money already in the fund through more conservative investments).
Ultimately, the question is whether you trust the judgment of Treasurer John Schroder—a conservative Republican from Covington who has worked as a real estate developer and narcotics detective before succeeding now-Senator John Kennedy in this office, and recently pulled state funds from investment manager BlackRock for essentially calling for reductions in carbon emissions—and his successors enough to relax the restrictions previously placed on how these funds are invested.
SUMMARY: No. Stocks are risky investments that the current constitution limits these funds’ exposure to for a reason. And state treasurers have shown they’re not averse to mixing investment decisions with party line politics. Let’s not give them any more room for dubious decisions.
CA No. 2 (ACT 172, 2022 – HB 599) – Expands property tax exemptions for homestead exemption property for veterans with disabilities
Do you support an amendment to expand certain property tax exemptions for property on which the homestead exemption is claimed for certain veterans with disabilities? (Amends Article VII, Section 21(K))
Every homeowner in Louisiana gets a homestead exemption of $75,000 on their lived-in property, meaning they don’t pay taxes on the first $75,000 of the property’s value. Right now, parishes have the ability to give a homestead exemption of up to $150,000 to veterans classified as having a 100% service-connected disability rating or 100% unemployability rating (and their surviving spouses if they continue to live in the home once the veteran dies).
This amendment would go further, giving such veterans a 100% exemption from property tax on their homes and giving veterans having a 70% to 99% service-connected disability rating a $120,000 homestead exemption. Veterans classified as having a 50% to 69% disability rating would get an exemption of $100,000. (The Department of Veterans Affairs system of determining disability and unemployability ratings is complicated; you can read a bit about it on the VA site here).
Of course, that means that other taxpayers would have to pick up the remaining tax difference through property or sales tax, or local governments would have to make do with less, as they say.
SUMMARY: No. Veterans disabled as a result of their service are certainly a sympathetic group, and few people wouldn’t want to help them. But we’re wary of giving out tax breaks based on complicated formulas while denying them to others arguably equally deserving, in this case even including other people who have disabilities that make it difficult or impossible for them to work. Provisions to keep people who can’t work from being forced out of their homes by property taxes should apply to everyone, not just those who became disabled through a particular kind of service.
CA No. 3 (ACT 156, 2021 – HB 315) – Allows classified civil service employees to support election of family members to public office
Do you support an amendment to allow classified civil service employees to support the election to public office of members of their own families? (Amends Article X, Sections 9 and 20)
Currently, civil servants are legally restricted in what they can do around elections. They can vote like anyone else, but they’re generally not allowed to donate to candidates, ask others to do so, work on campaigns, or participate in most campaign advertising and events.
These sorts of laws are in place to prevent government employees from feeling compelled to give money, do unpaid labor for, or otherwise support the politicians who oversee the agencies where they work. Huey Long, in particular, was famous for a “deduct box” that held campaign contributions deducted from state worker salaries.
This amendment would relax this restriction a bit, letting off-duty civil servants go to campaign events and appear in campaign photos for a candidate who is an “immediate family member.” That term is defined to include a lengthy list of types of relative: spouses, parents, grandparents, children, grandchildren, siblings, half-siblings, and various “step” and in-law variations on all these kinds of relatives.
The State Civil Service Commission, which regulates the civil service, opposes the amendment, saying it could lead to “employment conflicts”—essentially what civil service laws are designed to prevent in the first place. And Louisiana Budget Project executive director Jan Moller pointed out in a recent Public Affairs Research Council webinar that the push didn’t come from civil service workers themselves. The Council for a Better Louisiana also opposes the change on similar grounds.
“It’s also not hard to notice that the term ‘immediate family member’ is actually pretty large,” the group argues. “Twenty-one different [types of] relatives is a lot and if you’re running for office in some jurisdictions, you could potentially be talking about a large part of a small town.”
At the same time, the proposed law clearly favors candidates from more traditional families. Parents, children, spouses, and siblings are given privileges that others who might be closer than blood ties would indicate—including nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, cousins, close friends, unmarried partners, next-door neighbors, amicably divorced ex-spouses, and fellow worshipers in a congregation—are not.
SUMMARY: No. The anti-corruption laws keeping civil servants away from campaigns are there for proven reasons, and creating a complex formula of partial exemptions based on family trees does more harm than good.
CA No. 4 (ACT 155, 2021 – HB 59) – Authorizes a political subdivision to waive charges for water under certain circumstances
Do you support an amendment to allow local governments to waive water charges that are the result of damage to the water system not caused by the customer? (Amends Article VII, Section 14(B))
Currently, Louisiana’s state and local governments are prohibited from crediting individuals and businesses except for special exceptions. This amendment would give local governments the option to waive water usage charges if those charges were due to water infrastructure damage and not caused by the customer. It would not mandate that the charges be waived, only make it allowable to do so. This would allow water system administrators the flexibility to reduce water usage bills due to water lost from damage outside of a customer’s control—not caused by the property owner through their actions or inactions.
The argument against this amendment is that this measure could divert money from water infrastructure as charges are waived, or that water system administrators could be subject to political pressure to lower individual bills.
While New Orleans and other Louisiana water systems certainly need repair and additional funding, this should not come from charges levied against ratepayers who have the misfortune of paying for leaks, meter damage, or waterline breaks outside of their control. If you have never had to argue against an astronomical bill from your beloved local water authority, count yourself lucky.
SUMMARY: Yes. While water infrastructure absolutely needs funding, it should not come from ratepayers penalized for damages outside of their control.
CA No. 5 (ACT 133, 2021 – SB 154) – Provides relative to property tax millage rate adjustments and maximum authorized millage rates
Do you support an amendment to allow the levying of a lower millage rate by a local taxing authority while maintaining the authority’s ability to adjust to the current authorized millage rate? (Amend Article VII, Section 23(C))
This is an example of the type of amendment it’s basically impossible for a non-expert to understand purely from the text on the ballot.
For whatever historic reason, property taxes in Louisiana and many other places are measured in “mills”—1/1000th, or a tenth of a percentage point, of the property’s assessed value. Various taxing authorities—cities, parishes, school districts, mosquito control districts, and such—assess property taxes in terms of mills, often for a set number of years specified in a ballot measure, like the four-mill, 20-year library tax New Orleans voters approved last year.
To make sure people are paying the right amount of tax, the state constitution requires properties to be reassessed every four years. Once that happens, it also requires millage rates to be essentially automatically increased or decreased so that the total amount of tax collected stays the same. If property values go up, as they tend to do, millage rates will thus decrease below what voters signed off on.
If property values go up, so the tax rates go down, authorities are allowed to “roll forward” rates back up to the existing maximum millage by a two-thirds vote (by the authority’s governing body, such as a city council; individual voters don’t vote again). Under a quirk in the current law, if authorities don’t do this before the next assessment, the maximum tax rate is generally capped at the lower level, and they can never collect at the full rate authorized by voters without passing a new millage with voter approval.
The Public Affairs Research Council and Council for a Better Louisiana both indicate that what this means in practice is that authorities raise taxes back to the max before the next assessment to preserve the ability to charge the maximum rate, even if they don’t immediately need the money. So in practice, a provision that seems designed to keep taxes low actually causes them to periodically be artificially high.
This amendment would fix that problem by letting city councils and other taxing authorities vote (by a two-thirds majority) to reset taxes up to the maximum rate at any point in the lifetime of a tax, which is typically longer than the four-year assessment cycle. In effect, it would give officials more power to tweak tax rates as needed while staying within limits already approved by voters.
SUMMARY: Yes. The current system is overly complicated and leads to confusing and costly gyrations of property taxes.
CA No. 6 (ACT 129, 2021 – HB 143) – Limits the increase in assessed value of certain property following reappraisal in Orleans Parish
Do you support an amendment to limit the amount of an increase in the assessed value of residential property subject to the homestead exemption in Orleans Parish following reappraisal at ten percent of the property’s assessed value in the previous year? (January 1, 2023) (Amends Article VII, Section 18(F)(2)(a)(introductory paragraph) and Adds Article VII, Section 18(F)(3))
This amendment would limit the increase in the assessed value of residential property for homestead exempt properties to 10% of the property’s assessed value from the prior year. About 7,000 properties meet this criteria. The amendment includes a provision that it will not create additional taxes for other taxpayers in the parish if it diminishes overall property tax revenue.
According to the Orleans Parish Assessor’s Office, this amendment will protect homeowners from large property tax increases due to rapid price spikes in the real estate market. The Parish Assessor gives the following example: “if the home you bought for $200,000 is reappraised to be worth $400,000, instead of your taxable assessment doubling ($20,000 to $40,000), the increase would be capped at 10% per year ($20,000 to $22,000).” This would continue until reaching fair market value (in this example, it would take 8 years to reach $40,000). This cap does not apply for reappraisals when properties are sold or after other ownership transfers.
The amendment could counter the property tax burden caused by surging property values caused by gentrification and proliferation of short-term rentals. The 10% increase cap per year gives homeowners more time to adjust to the higher assessments. However, deferring property tax revenue reduces the revenue stream to Orleans Parish. While the amendment is meant to assist middle-class homeowners, it isn’t limited to them and could apply to wealthier and newer homeowners who qualify for the homestead exemption.
This is a somewhat unusual amendment, as it specifically applies to Orleans Parish, but requires a statewide vote.
SUMMARY: Yes. This measure will protect people (a little) who are being squeezed by ballooning property values due to gentrification.
CA No. 7 (ACT 246, 2022 – HB 298) – Provides relative to the prohibition of involuntary servitude and administration of criminal justice
Do you support an amendment to prohibit the use of involuntary servitude except as it applies to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice? (Amends Article I, Section 3)
This amendment is one that on its face seems like a no-brainer, but grows more puzzling upon closer examination. As many people know, especially in the state of Louisiana, once the capital of incarceration in the nation—a nation which itself has the highest rate of incarceration in the world—the Thirteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution outlawed slavery but allowed for forced labor as the punishment of a crime. This amendment would add language to our state’s constitution stating “Slavery and involuntary servitude are prohibited” and remove the addendum “except in the latter case as punishment for a crime.”
However, it would then add that this “does not apply to the otherwise lawful administration of criminal justice.”
This exemption seems to reinstate what we currently live under: a state where forced labor is legal “in the administration of criminal justice.” It is unclear then, what this change of language will mean for practical implementation of the amendment, or if it could even broaden the application of forced labor under the law. In fact, Rep. Edmond Jordan, D-Baton Rouge, who originally sponsored the bill, now opposes it on those grounds.
SUMMARY: No. Considering the vague language and the fact that Jordan (the bill sponsor) has withdrawn his support, we find ourselves unable to support the passage of this measure.
CA No. 8 (ACT 171, 2022 – HB 395) – Removes requirement of annual certification of income for certain eligible disabled homeowners
Do you support an amendment to remove the requirement that homeowners who are permanently totally disabled must annually re-certify their income to keep their special assessment level on their residences for property tax purposes? (Amends Article VII, Section 18(G)(1)(a)(iv))
A vote in favor of this amendment would mean that qualifying “permanently and totally disabled” homeowners making under $100,000 would receive a permanent property tax assessment freeze on a property legally designated as their primary residence (where they also receive the “homestead exemption” on their property taxes), rather than having to recertify each year that they still make under $100,000.
This amendment would not expand the tax freeze, only stipulate that people meeting this criteria no longer have to annually re-certify their income. The hypothetical lost tax revenue is only in a scenario where an individual who received the tax freeze through their disabled status came into money and began making over $100,000. People who are over 65 get a similar assessment freeze and already don’t have to recertify their income each year.
SUMMARY: Yes. It is already extremely difficult to be a disabled person in this country—in this city—without having to deal with more administrative hurdles.
New Orleans City
PW HRC Amendment – Art. IV, Sec. 4-106 – CC
Shall Article IV, Section 4-106 of the Home Rule Charter of the City of New Orleans be amended (1) to require City Council confirmation of appointments by the Mayor or Chief Administrative Officer to head any executive branch department established by Article IV of the Charter; (2) to permit the City Council, by ordinance, to require confirmation of any appointment to head any other department, office or unit to which executive powers have been assigned or transferred in accordance with Sections 4-105 or 9-201(2) of the Charter; and (3) to allow interim appointments of up to 120 days without first obtaining City Council confirmation, as provided in Ordinance No. 28999 M.C.S.?
Legislatures often have the power to sign off when people are appointed to major public office. The U.S. Senate gets to vote to approve judges, department secretaries, and other powerful officials appointed by the president, and the Louisiana Senate similarly gets to confirm or reject people appointed by the governor to many state offices. Some cities, from Houston, Texas, to Salem, Massachusetts, have similar rules, requiring city councils to sign off on mayoral appointments, while other municipalities let mayors make the final call on who to appoint to various offices. The nonprofit Bureau of Governmental Research, a think tank that backs this amendment, has a list of “peer cities” that do and don’t require confirmation; 80% of the cities in their sample, picked by what seems like a reasonable-enough methodology, have at least some provision for council confirmation.
Currently, the mayor and chief administrative officer of New Orleans can appoint officials like city department heads without needing Council approval. This measure would amend the City Charter to require the City Council to sign off on these kinds of appointments, effectively limiting the power of the mayor.
Councilmembers JP Morrell and Helena Moreno, both of whom have been critical of Cantrell in her second term, backed the amendment. Morrell pointed in particular to Cantrell’s widely criticized appointment of Peter Bowen, a former executive at short term rental company Sonder, to an office whose responsibilities included overseeing short term rentals. Bowen, another certified sommelier who has expressed an interest in innovative approaches to historic preservation and creating “roadmaps to success,” was ultimately fired after allegedly drunkenly veering from the mapped road and successfully crashing his truck into two parked cars and even innovatively hitting some balcony support columns in the historically preserved French Quarter. He also allegedly threatened to use his influence to punish cops who arrested him.
The City Council voted 5-2 (with Councilmembers Eugene Green and Oliver Thomas in opposition) in support of this amendment. Cantrell vetoed the measure, calling it a “power grab” by the Council and warning that the appearance of “internal turmoil or gridlock” could jeopardize federal funding and outside investment in the city.
The Council overrode her veto, putting this item on the ballot. Former Mayor Marc Morial has also spoken against the idea, warning it would create gridlock and turn appointments into a political “circus.”
It’s likely true that a particularly contentious relationship between a mayor and council could make appointments difficult. In the 1980s, white Chicago councilmembers in opposition to Harold Washington, the city’s first Black mayor, infamously blocked numerous mayoral appointments. And just this year in Wisconsin, the Republican-dominated state Senate has refused to approve the Democratic governor’s appointments to various state offices, which a conservative state Supreme Court ruled means people appointed by his GOP predecessors get to stay in office.
But legislative approval rules can generally make it harder for executives to appoint questionable people to office for reasons of personal politics. Controversial appointments aren’t unique to New Orleans: New York Mayor Eric Adams has recently faced pushback for appointing controversial allies to some positions (in another city that doesn’t allow councilmembers to block mayoral appointments).
And, as the BGR analysis points out, the amendment allows for interim appointments of up to 120 days, which could help in cases where the mayor and City Council simply can’t come to an agreement on a candidate.
SUMMARY: Yes. While legislative approvals are not a perfect solution to questionable appointments, as recent Senate-confirmed appointments to the U.S. Supreme Court have shown, approval hearings can provide an additional opportunity to probe the qualifications and backgrounds of people being considered for positions of power.
The state legislature has created special taxing districts around the city that levy small extra property taxes, sometimes called parcel fees, to pay for local services. What those are can vary from district to district, but in practice many of them spend their money on security patrols, which are often provided by off-duty cops.
It’s not surprising to find some people clamoring for extra policing with politicians, local media, and plenty of posts on social media doing their best to promote fears of crime. But there’s little evidence these types of patrols do much good. A study from 2013 by the City Office of the Inspector General found such districts do seem to have lower rates of property crime, but it didn’t find any significant difference in violent crime or murder rates.
In general, government agencies providing basic services other than policing do a better job of stopping crime than putting more armed cops on the street. They don’t carry the risks of exposing more opportunities for police encounters which can often go bad (especially if you’re not rich, and white, and known to the cops in the neighborhood), and they can improve quality of life for everyone while they’re at it.
We wish more neighborhood taxing districts would follow the lead of the Broadmoor Neighborhood Improvement District, where taxes go to support things like affordable counseling and classes for the community rather than extra police patrols. Unfortunately, since many of these districts don’t allow residents to directly elect their boards, who are often appointed by convoluted mixes of people like neighborhood association leaders, City Council members, state legislators, and the mayor, public oversight over these districts is especially indirect.
But these periodic elections to renew funding for these districts do provide at least some opportunity for residents to tap the brakes if they don’t like how their tax money is being spent (whether they own their own homes and pay taxes to the City, or rent and pay indirectly through whatever portion of their rent goes to property taxes).
Lake Oaks Subdivision Improvement District Proposition
Shall the City of New Orleans renew the levy of the Lake Oaks Subdivision Improvement District’s (“District”) annual parcel fee, not to exceed four hundred dollars ($400) per year on each parcel of taxable real property located within the District, which is that area of the City of New Orleans specified in Resolution R-22-93 of the New Orleans City Council, for a period of four (4) years, commencing January 1, 2023 and ending December 31, 2026, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $110,000 annually, to be used for the primary object and purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Lake Oaks Subdivision Improvement District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided in the District by the New Orleans Police Department?
This proposition will only appear on your ballot if you live in the Lake Oaks Subdivision, legally defined by the state legislature to be a small area of New Orleans near the shore of Lake Pontchartrain and the University of New Orleans.
If this measure is approved, it will renew for four years the existing small property tax in this area which will provide funding to the Lake Oaks Subdivision Improvement District. Despite the prospect of “beautification” and “overall betterment” in the ballot measure, the district’s financial statements from last year indicate spending went almost entirely to “security and patrol services,” except for small sums spent on insurance, administrative and office expenses, and “accounting and audit services.”
SUMMARY: No. Say no to privatized police.
Hurstville Sec. and Neighborhood Improvement Dist. – $575.00 Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy an annual parcel fee, not to exceed five hundred seventy-five dollars ($575.00) per year plus twenty-five dollars ($25) per year for each calendar year after 2023, on each parcel of improved land (except as otherwise provided in La. R.S. 33:9091.11) in the Hurstville Security and Neighborhood Improvement District (the “District”), which is that area of the City of New Orleans specified in Resolution [R-22-183] of the New Orleans City Council, for a period of eight (8) years, commencing January 1, 2023 and ending December 31, 2030, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $425,000 annually, to promote and encourage District security, beautification, and overall betterment, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided in the District by the New Orleans Police Department?
This district, in an Uptown area not too far from Audubon Park, provides more transparency than many around the city. Its website provides a detailed map of the district, budget resolutions passed by its board, a number to call for the local security patrol, information on meetings of the New Orleans Neighborhood Police Anti-Crime Council, and even a list of the cops who patrol the district.
If you’re sensing a pattern there, you won’t be surprised to know that like many other districts, the majority of its spending goes to policing, including “patrol / security services,” a “patrol supervisor,” and something called “enhanced security.” Other expenses in the 2022 budget include administration, insurance, accounting, lighting—which appears to be a program to add “security lights” to the neighborhood—and $1,000 for the website.
SUMMARY: No. Say no to privatized police.
Delachaise Security and Imp. Dist. – $300.00 Parcel Fee – CC – 1 Yr.
Shall the City of New Orleans levy an annual parcel fee, not to exceed three hundred dollars ($300.00) per year, on each parcel of land in the Delachaise Security and Improvement District (“District”) (the area starting from Louisiana Avenue and Carondelet Street and proceeding along Carondelet Street (both sides) to its intersection with Marengo Street, along Marengo Street (both sides) to its intersection with South Saratoga Street, then along South Saratoga Street (both sides) to its intersection with Louisiana Avenue, and along Louisiana Avenue (interior side) back to its intersection with Carondelet Street), except parcels whose owner(s) qualifies for the special assessment under Louisiana Constitution Article VII, Section 18(G)(1), for one (1) year beginning January 1, 2023, and ending December 31, 2023, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $100,000.00 annually, to provide security for the District and to fund other activities and improvements for the betterment of the District, except a one percent (1%) City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
This district was initially created in 2018, and its boundaries were updated earlier this year by the state legislature. Like other districts, it has the potential to use this tax money on “other activities and improvements for the betterment of the District” beyond simply security.
We weren’t able to locate any current or proposed budget information for the district, so we can’t say for sure whether it spends money on causes other than security.
SUMMARY: If you live in this district, you probably know better than we do whether you’re getting your money’s worth from this tax. And since it’s a small district, your vote can easily make a real difference.
The deadline to request a mail ballot is November 4 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters).
The deadline for the registrar of voters to receive a mail ballot is November 7 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
Early voting for this election began on Oct. 25 and ends on November 1, (excluding Sunday, October 30) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Tuesday election voting hours are 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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