VOTER EDUCATION GUIDE: SATURDAY, APRIL 29, 2023


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 April 29 election.

We have published these guides since 2014—previously in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network and now under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. We utilized national media, local media, and social media. Our research included but was not limited to public records, campaign finance reports, court filings, real estate records, and information from trusted, local sources and experts.

Despite lacking faith in politicians or the political order, we create this document as a way to dissect and map power. 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.


On this ballot you will be electing a new judge to Section A of the Criminal District Court, a millage dedicated to providing funding for the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office, and (depending on your precinct) a handful of parcel fees for specific neighborhoods.


Judge Criminal District Court
Section A

Simone Levine (Democrat)
Leon Roché (Democrat)

Criminal District Court handles cases where someone is arrested and charged with a crime. In New Orleans, there are 12 elected divisions (A through L) and one magistrate division of Criminal District Court.

This is a run-off election after a nearly three-way tie between Simone Levine, Leon Roché, and the now-eliminated Diedre Piece Kelly—who received endorsements from all sitting City councilmembers.

Simone Levine is an assistant district attorney for Orleans Parish and former executive director of Court Watch NOLA, a watchdog organization that monitors the Criminal District Court itself. Levine had an early career as a criminal defense attorney and white collar crime prosecutor in New York and is a “former competitive boxer,” according to a campaign video entitled “Do the Right Thing”—perhaps in a nod to Spike Lee’s classic film? She began the New Orleans portion of her career in 2011 as deputy police monitor for the Office of Independent Police Monitor, where she primarily supervised NOPD major use of force cases (including officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths) and officer disciplinary hearings.

In 2015, Levine took the position of executive director for Court Watch NOLA, expanding court observers into Magistrate and Municipal Courts as well. The organization focuses on training Court Watchers on court system procedures and leading community advocacy efforts to keep elected officials accountable. Court Watch NOLA also monitors law enforcement, defense attorneys, the public defenders office, and the sheriff’s office. As we noted in the previous guide, the jump from observing the horrific intricacies of the District Attorney’s Office, to then choosing to work for them is intriguing—but it may increase electability. On at least some levels of the judiciary, including state supreme courts and the federal bench, studies have shown former prosecutors are more heavily represented than former public defenders.

During her time at Court Watch NOLA, Levine focused on trying to end the use of fake subpoenas by the District Attorney’s office and warrants that led to the incarceration of victims of rape and violent crime for failure to testify in court. Levine claims she will use a “trauma-informed” approach to changing the criminal court system by implementing a “survivor-focused” courtroom which includes “separate space in the courtroom” for the victims.

Levine has stated that the court system is structured for “insiders” to maintain harmful practices that benefit them financially. “The way that it is benefits them. They get salaries out of this process, it’s life as usual, they have their own language.” Levine is now seeking to be a part of that system. An anonymous criminal defense attorney we spoke with said they “do not believe that Ms. Levine has the requisite experience or values to be the judge New Orleans needs… We need judges who will do the right thing in the face of fear mongering headlines. This kind of win-at-all-costs, shape-shifting approach is a signal that she will not be that judge.” They are one of several peers in the criminal legal field who have expressed concerns to us (on the condition of anonymity) about Levine.

Levine has received an endorsement from her former boss Sheriff Susan Hutson—as well as community advocate and charter school exec Timolynn Sams, singer-songwriter Ani DiFranco, and most recently District Attorney Jason Williams. Levine has also received support from former New Orleans Chief of Police Michael Harrison—his support “does not constitute an endorsement as [Harrison] is an appointed official,” according to press releases from the Levine campaign.

In addition to her legal work, Levine has operated a short-term rental in the Seventh Ward, according to City licensing records (Levine held a license through June 2022). The City Council recently voted on new regulations for short-term rentals as New Orleans continues facing a major housing crisis, with many New Orleanians urging for an outright ban on them.

Leon Roché was a criminal defense attorney for the Orleans Public Defenders Office for 13 years and now owns and operates Leon T. Roché II Law Firm. Roché is a New Orleans native and has been endorsed by United Teachers of New Orleans (UTNO), Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO and its president “Tiger” Hammond, the National Association of Letter Carriers, the American Federation of Musicians, and Voters Organized To Educate (VOTE), as well as NOLA Defenders for Equal Justice. Having spent his entire career as a criminal defense attorney, he has garnered the favor of other defense attorneys.

On his campaign website, Roché says that as a judge he will seek “alternatives to incarceration for people suffering from mental illness, drug addiction, or veteran status; where possible.” In a poll by the New Orleans Bar Association, he says that his nearly 14 years of experience assures that he “know[s] the tactics defense attornies [sic] use to stall out cases and I know the tactics prosecutors use to stall out cases” and would prevent that, in a way not specified in his answer. His campaign materials mostly cover his background rather than his platform, so it’s difficult to know his specific vision for his role on the bench.

Roché has expressed concerns about convictions based on a single witness’ testimony and about the use of questionable forensic science in court, according to the March 25th Democratic Socialists of America voter guide.

Summary: Levine emphasizes her role working many angles of the criminal legal system, but is most recently a prosecutor; and much of her high-profile support comes from prosecutors and police. Roché has built his platform on being a criminal defense attorney and has received support from other defense attorneys, labor unions, and those who have been formerly incarcerated.


PW Law Enforcement District
5.5 Mills In-Lieu – Sheriff – 10 Yrs.

Shall the Law Enforcement District of the Parish of Orleans, State of Louisiana (the “District”), levy a tax of 5.5 mills on all property subject to taxation in the District (an estimated $23,805,370 reasonably expected at this time to be collected from the levy of the tax for an entire year), for a period of 10 years, beginning with the year 2024 and ending with the year 2033, for the purpose of providing additional funding for Orleans Parish Sheriffs Office, including, but not limited to, payment of salaries, equipment and training, with said millage levied each year to be reduced by the millage rate levied that year for the Districts currently outstanding General Obligation Bonds, said tax to be in lieu of and replace an ad valorem tax of 2.8 mills authorized to be levied in the District through the year 2025 at an election held in the District on May 2, 2015?

Since the 1990s, the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office has levied property taxes to fund the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District, a special taxing mechanism founded by the Sheriff’s Office to become independent from City funding and garner additional funding for daily operations and expenses like jail construction.The Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District currently collects a voter-approved 2.8 mill property tax yielding nearly $11 million annually. (“Mills” in tax terms refer to dollars of tax collected per $1,000 of assessed property value, so a 2.8 mill tax charges property owners $1 for every $1,000 of property value, after various exemptions). This proposed millage will replace the 2.8 mills with a 5.5 mill (or $5.5 per $1,000) tax and collect approximately $24 million property tax dollars per year starting in 2024. Meanwhile, the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District has outstanding bond repayments for general obligation bonds used to fund jail construction. The annual millage rate of 2.9 mills levied to repay those bonds will detract from the 5.5 millage rate until the outstanding general obligation bonds are repaid.

We don’t think including tax jargon on voters’ ballots is at all useful, so the important thing to know is that this will route up to $13 million more tax dollars per year directly to the Orleans Parish Sheriff’s Office. According to a Bureau of Governmental Research report released last year, 2019 jail operating revenues in New Orleans were mostly funded by the City ($66.1 million, 77% of funds) and property taxes ($9.8 million, 13% of funds). To give a broader perspective, Orleans Parish Sheriff Hutson last year advocated for a $13 million budget increase from the City to help fund deputy salary raises, though the City Council ultimately kept funding at roughly the previous year’s level, with Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s administration arguing vacancies meant raises would still be possible. At the time of writing, Hutson and her office haven’t said much publicly about this ballot measure, and both the Times-Picayune and Gambit have urged voters to reject it, citing in part the lack of transparency.

As an independent fund run more or less directly by the sheriff with little oversight by City officials, the Orleans Parish Law Enforcement District has seen questions about its use of funds for decades. Meanwhile, Sheriff Hutson is attempting to address a staffing crisis within her office, where only 45% of staff positions are filled and deputies make less than $16 per hour. The City Council is in support of these raises but have expressed concern over “frivolous” expenses. Recent reports point to more than $29,000 for Mardi Gras-season hotel stays for 13 deputies and more than $15,000 in outside consultant fees, as well as the removal of four top staff members and other office strife.

There’s great concern for the mismanagement of funds, particularly when the Sheriff’s office has sole authority over a silo of taxpayer dollars. The Bureau of Governmental Research has recommended the City and Sheriff’s Office “improve fiscal transparency and accountability, both to ensure adequate City funding for the jail and careful tracking of how the Sheriff uses it.” Without a clear path toward stabilizing the office’s administrative operations, increasing the amount of taxpayer money is not a valid organizational solution for the Sheriff’s Office.

Summary: This would potentially double the amount of direct property tax money currently allocated to the Sheriff’s Office. Even if that’s where we wanted our money going, the office has historically proven they cannot manage it effectively. No.


Eastover Neighborhood Imp. and Security Dist.
$2,152 Parcel Fee – CC – Perp.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy, in perpetuity, an annual flat $2,152 “Eastover Neighborhood Improvement and Security District Fee” on each parcel of land (including condominium parcels) within the Eastover Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, comprised of that area within the following boundaries: northern boundary is the northern boundary of the Eastover Subdivision, southern boundary is Dwyer Road, eastern boundary is the I-10 Service Road, and western boundary is the Jahncke Canal (except, conditionally, the property located at 5690 Eastover Drive), provided that when a single family dwelling occupies multiple adjacent parcels, the flat fee for the combined parcel shall be calculated at 1.4 times the single parcel fee for two adjacent parcels and 1.6 times the single parcel fee for three or more adjacent parcels, commencing January 1, 2024, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $822,064 annually, to be used exclusively for promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the 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 by the New Orleans Police Department?

These types of fees are special property taxes that only apply in particular neighborhood districts in the city established by state law.

These districts are perhaps most closely associated with private security patrols (often provided by off-duty cops), but the details of how money is spent varies from district to district. While some use their funds almost exclusively for security, others support neighborhood events and facilities. A study from 2013 by the City Office of the Inspector General found security-focused districts do seem to have lower rates of property crime, but it didn’t find any significant effect on violent crime or murder rates. It’s worth noting that many experts say providing services beyond simply putting more cops on the street can do more to stop crime (without the well-publicized downsides of policing).

How these districts are governed also varies, with board members often appointed by a mix of neighborhood associations and elected officials like the mayor, members of the City Council, or state legislators.

This particular tax would apply only in the Eastover subdivision in New Orleans East, where according to state law, this district is run by the Eastover Property Owners Association’s board.

According to the most recent district financial statement available, this tax is used to “maintain and provide landscaping to the community, providing for personnel to monitor the front gate entrance to the subdivision, and to provide for all other administrative functions.” In 2021, they took in $525,033 and spent $499,095. Expenses in 2021 included $206,791 toward “security” costs—the largest portion of the budget—and $164,806 toward “maintenance” expenses.

Summary: About 38% of this money goes toward “security.” Say no to privatized police.


Kingswood Subdivision Improvement District
$240 Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy annually the Kingswood Subdivision Improvement District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the Kingswood Subdivision Improvement District, which is comprised of that area within the following boundaries: the I-10 Service Road, the West right-of-way line of the Kingswood Subdivision, the center line of the Morrison Canal, and the center line of the Vincent Canal (excluding property within the District which is zoned and used as commercial property), in an amount not to exceed two hundred forty dollars ($240) per parcel per year, beginning on January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $90,480.00 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Kingswood 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 by the New Orleans Police Department?

This district is located in the Kingswood subdivision in New Orleans East. It’s run by a board appointed by a mix of the Kingswood Homeowners’ Association board and various elected officials.

According to financial records, it took in $80,895 and spent $81,039 in 2021, the vast majority of which—$70,429—went to “security.” The next largest expense was “lawn care,” which saw $7,200 in spending.

Summary: About 87% of this money goes towards “security.” Say no to privatized police.


Lake Carmel Subdivision Improvement District
$250 Parcel Fee – CC – 5 Yrs.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy annually the Lake Carmel Subdivision Improvement District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the Lake Carmel Subdivision Improvement District, which is comprised of that area within the boundaries delineated in Act 1233 (R.S. 33:9071(B)), in the amount of two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per parcel per year, for a period of and not exceeding five (5) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2028, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $91,575.00 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Lake Carmel 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 by the New Orleans Police Department?

This district is in the Lake Carmel subdivision in New Orleans East. It’s run by a board appointed by the local HOA and various elected officials.

In 2021, records show, it took in $87,237 and spent $79,063, mostly on security-related expenses. That included $65,581 for “security services,” another $4,301 for “guard house maintenance & utilities,” and $6,525 on “landscaping.”

Summary: About 80% of this money goes to security and security maintenance. Say no to privatized police.


McKendall Estates Neighborhood Improvement Dist.
$300 Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy annually the McKendall Estates Neighborhood Improvement District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the McKendall Estates Neighborhood Improvement District, which is comprised of that area within the following boundaries: Bullard Avenue, South Easterlyn Circle, Jahncke Road or Canal (side), and Melvin Place (excluding the properties located at 5555 Bullard Avenue and 5661 Bullard Avenue), in the amount of and not exceeding three hundred dollars ($300), for a period of and not exceeding eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $43,800.00 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the McKendall Estates Neighborhood 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 by the New Orleans Police Department?

This district is also located in New Orleans East. Its board includes the president and vice president of the local McKendall Estates HOA, plus five members selected by the HOA board from nominees put forth by HOA members, meaning local homeowners.

Its financial reports on file with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor somewhat confusingly refer to both the district and the HOA. They brought in $36,412 and spent $34,078 in 2021, of which more than half—$17,100—went to “landscaping and groundskeeping.” Another $3,091 went to security.

Summary: Only 8.4% of this money goes towards security. The majority, 46%, goes towards landscaping.


Tamaron Subdivision Improvement District
$250 Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy annually the Tamaron Subdivision Improvement District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the Tamaron Subdivision Improvement District, which is comprised of that area within the following boundaries: the North I-10 Service Road, Morrison Road, Kingswood Subdivision, and Gannon Road, in the amount of and not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars ($250) per year for each parcel, for a period of and not exceeding eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $19,800.00 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Tamaron 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 by the New Orleans Police Department?

This is another district in a New Orleans East subdivision, adjacent to the Kingswood subdivision. The subdivision homeowners’ association appoints five members of its board by majority vote of its membership, and an additional four members are appointed by various elected officials.

Its 2021 financial paperwork shows that they brought in $20,473 and spent $30,616, including $6,675 on “landscaping,” $6,354 on “legal” expenses, $7,800 on “repairs,” and $7,525 on “security.”

Summary: About 38% of this money goes towards security. Say no to privatized police.


Twinbrook Security District
$575 Parcel Fee – CC – 8 Yrs.

Shall the City of New Orleans levy annually the Twinbrook Security District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the Twinbrook Security District, which is comprised of that area within the boundaries delineated in Act 76 (R.S. 33:9091.9), in the amount of and not exceeding five hundred seventy-five dollars ($575) per year for each improved parcel for calendar year 2024; however, the maximum fee amount may be increased by twenty-five dollars ($25) per year for each calendar year after 2024 for each improved parcel of land within the Twinbrook Security District, for a period of and not exceeding eight (8) years, beginning January 1, 2024 and ending December 31, 2031, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $345,000 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Twinbrook Security 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 is located in Uptown New Orleans. It’s governed by a board including the Twinbrook Neighborhood Association president, four members appointed by the Neighborhood Association board, and another four members chosen by various elected officials from Neighborhood Association nominees.

As the name implies, it’s focused on security, according to its financial statements. The district brought in $249,089 and spent $235,139 in 2021, of which $212,881 went to “patrol and security services.”

Summary: About 85% of this money goes towards “patrol and security services.” Say no to privatized police.


ELECTION INFO

voterportal.sos.la.gov

The deadline to request a mail ballot is April 25 by 4:30 p.m (other than military and overseas voters).

The deadline for the registrar of voters to receive a mail ballot is April 28 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).

Early voting for this election began on April 15 and ends on April 22, from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Saturday election voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.


EARLY VOTING

Click here for more info on early voting

City Hall
1300 Perdido Street 70112
Room 1W24

Algiers Courthouse
225 Morgan Street 70114
Room 105

Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70127

Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
2nd Floor Meeting Room


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This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.

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