Sure you know where to vote? And are you sure you know who represents you on the City Council?
New Orleans voters should confirm their ward and precinct numbers before heading to the polls on Saturday, Feb. 2, officials say. An estimated 11,000 voters citywide have been moved thanks to redrawn council boundaries, based on new census figures. And not everyone may know about the changes.
"There were a total 18 precincts changed out of 442 precincts citywide," says Carlo Hernandez, an officer with the City Council's research office. "All five council districts saw changes. We are going to mail to voters in each one of the 18 precincts a card that will inform them that their council district has changed. Hopefully we will get those out by Monday, Jan. 28. So, they should get them certainly before the election."
However, Council Research will send out only one card per household, which may leave a residence with more than one voter unaware of the change.
Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Louis Keller Sr. says anyone who voted absentee does not have anything to worry about. "We have updated the information, so anyone voting absentee will be in the correct ward and precinct," Keller says. Voters can confirm their correct precinct by calling their current council member, or by calling Council Research at 565-6376.
A Wonderful Life
Civil Sheriff Paul Valteau, one of only four candidates who was automatically re-elected without opposition, describes the Feb. 2 citywide elections from the political sidelines.
"It's wonderful," the sheriff says, the bliss evident in his voice. "Because you don't have to raise the money and you don't have to spend it."
Valteau has run unopposed for the last 20 years -- five consecutive four-year terms. But just because no one qualifies against you does not mean you do not have to raise money, he says. In 1987, the sheriff spent $100,000 because he thought he might have opposition. It took three years to pay off that campaign debt, he says.
Valteau still keeps a campaign war chest. "You spend money to put together the workings of a campaign -- advertising, printing, etc. -- in case you have opposition." The sheriff says he limits his political fundraisers to once every four years, and his most recent fundraiser was held last year. "We raised about $45,000," he says. "We don't get very much in these little parochial offices."
The other three incumbents who were elected without opposition are assessors Claude Mauberret, Betty Jefferson and Tom Arnold.
Perhaps contrary to popular belief, the oldest candidate in the Feb. 2 city elections is not Jim Singleton, who at 68 is the dean of the City Council and the eldest of the 15 candidates for mayor. The senior-most candidate is incumbent Coroner Dr. Frank Minyard, who is 72.
According to the League of Women Voters' "New Orleans 2002 Election Guide," the youngest candidate is Timothy Hill, 21, a Republican candidate for mayor and a student at the University of New Orleans. "The other candidates are very respectful," Hill says. "[Fellow mayoral candidate] Ray Nagin said I will be pretty dangerous at 25 if I'm this good at 21."
If Joe Jones has raised any money in his campaign to unseat the incumbent assessor of the Seventh District, he better not spend it. Jones, a tax consultant, owes $460 in overdue fees to the Louisiana Ethics Commission for his 2000 race for School Board.
Under a new state law, candidates who owe fines, penalties and late fees to the ethics board cannot spend any campaign contributions until they pay off old debts to the ethics board. Anyone who violates Act 1208 may be subject to a $1,000 fine or 200 percent of the expenditure, whichever is greater. And the Ethics Commission will be monitoring Jones' campaign finance reports. "Absolutely," says board staff attorney Maris McCrory.
Searching for Winners
Two nonprofits -- one dedicated to restoring Louisiana's coastline, the other to advancing gay and lesbian rights -- are accepting local nominations for their annual awards.
The Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana is seeking candidates for its Coastal Stewardship Awards. The organization will accept nominations of individuals, groups, and businesses "who have set an example of stewardship for our coastal wetlands and serve as a vision for the future," says executive director Mark Davis. Entries must be received by March 1; the awards will be distributed at a ceremony on April 19. For more information, call the organization at (225) 344-6555 or (888) LA-COAST, or visit the Coalition's Web site at www.crcl.org.
Also accepting nominations is the state chapter of the Human Rights Campaign, a national organization dedicated to gay and lesbian rights. The Louisiana Human Rights Campaign Awards are open to people of all sexual orientations. Nominations should be in writing. The awards ceremony will be on June 8 in New Orleans. Entries for the Louisiana Human Rights Campaign Awards should be mailed to: Jack Sullivan, Awards Sub-Committee Co-chair; 862 Camp St., New Orleans, La. 70130. All nominations must be received by Feb. 18.