1. CHARBONNET STEPS DOWN TO RUN FOR MAYOR
Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet resigned her judgeship last week so she can officially run for mayor. She had been rumored as a possible candidate for at least a month.
In a statement to Gambit, Charbonnet was circumspect about her political future because at that point she still was a judge. A source close to Charbonnet confirmed to Gambit that she had overnighted a letter of resignation to Secretary of State Tom Schedler. Louisiana law bars judges from running for non-judicial offices — unless they resign first — which is why Charbonnet submitted her resignation before declaring her intentions officially.
"The city is too important to me to just sit on the sidelines," Charbonnet told Gambit. "As per the Judicial Canons, there are limits to what I can say at the moment. At the appropriate time, I will provide a more thorough explanation."
Charbonnet, 48, first won elective office in 1998, when she unseated incumbent Michael McCrossen to win the citywide Recorder of Mortgages post. In 2007, she easily won a special election for a seat on Municipal Court with 57 percent of the vote. She ran on a platform of partnering with local agencies to reduce domestic violence. In 2001, while Recorder of Mortgages, Charbonnet backed Paulette Irons for mayor; in 2006, Charbonnet lent her support to mayoral candidate Ron Forman against then-incumbent Ray Nagin.
So far two other candidates have officially declared their intentions — former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. Qualifying is July 12-14, and the primary is Oct. 14. Current Mayor Mitch Landrieu is term limited.
2. Quote of the week
"Many, many, many of the poor in New Orleans are in that condition [dependency]. They weren't going to leave no matter what you did. They were drug-addicted. They weren't going to get turned off from their source. They were thugs, whatever. ... It's the absence of personal responsibility." — Former Fox News host Bill O'Reilly in 2005, days after Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee collapses inundated the city.
Last week, after advertiser defection following a New York Times expose showing the network had paid out $13 million to five women who claimed O'Reilly sexually harassed them, Fox parted ways with their No. 1 host. In 2005, O'Reilly also expressed his desire that Katrina had hit the United Nations building.
3. Kennedy grilled in absentia at 'citizens' town hall'
Questions fell like hail on the impassive white face of a cardboard cutout meant to represent U.S. Sen. John Neely Kennedy, who was not present for a "citizen's town hall" hosted April 19 at First Unitarian Universalist Church by the New Orleans and Metairie chapters of the progressive organization Indivisible.
The crowd of 100 to 150 people voiced wide-ranging concerns about police brutality, deportations, equal pay for women, the preservation of scientific funding, Black Lives Matter, the Affordable Care Act, coastal restoration, President Donald Trump's budget plan and more.
Unlike his counterpart, U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, Kennedy has not held a town hall in Louisiana since taking office in January, nor has he set up many district offices. "We really wanted to give him the opportunity to plan his own [town hall]," event organizer and Indivisible NOLA co-founder Joyce Vansean said. "You write letters, you get no response. You call, you get no response." Kennedy became the target of a "milk carton" protest in March when he failed to open offices in the state promptly after his election.
Speaking against proposed funding cuts for the National Endowment for the Arts, local artist Jebney Lewis tacked on a warning for Kennedy. "If you can't show up to a town hall meeting," he said, "don't even think about showing up to our crawfish boils, our second lines, our festivals."
4. Polite to Entergy
Following his departure from the Department of Justice, former U.S. Attorney Kenneth Polite will go to work at Entergy Corp. In a statement April 18, Entergy announced Polite will serve as the company's chief compliance officer for legal and regulatory matters. He replaced retired compliance officer Neal Jansonius.
Polite announced his resignation as U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana March 10, to be effective March 24, but the announcement came just hours before President Donald Trump requested that all remaining Obama administration U.S. attorneys leave office. "I feel like Craig from Friday," Polite tweeted March 11, referencing Ice Cube's character getting fired on his day off. Polite said he'd announce "his future endeavors, in both the public and private sectors" soon after, leaving many to speculate whether he might run for office.
5. Cannizzaro vs.
ACLU of Louisiana
New Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro made national headlines this month for suggesting victims of violent crimes, including sexual assault, could be jailed for refusing to testify. "Is it more important for this witness to be inconvenienced for a very short period of time or is it better for the community to get the violent offender off the streets and keep him off the streets?" Cannizzaro told WWL-TV April 13.
On April 18, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Louisiana slammed Cannizzaro for a "striking lack of empathy for the victims," according to a statement from the ACLU's Marjorie Esman. "Jailing people who refuse to testify against their abusers or attackers not only compounds the trauma they are already experiencing," Esman wrote, "it effectively criminalizes the innocent for having been victimized."
Cannizzaro's statement followed April's Courtwatch NOLA report criticizing the issuance of material witness warrants, which force victims to testify in court. The report found 15 cases in which prosecutors issued material arrest warrants to get victims and witnesses to testify, but in a statement from Cannizzaro spokesman Chris Bowman, only six cases resulted in jail time — one of which was for a victim of sexual assault or domestic violence.
"In light of the plethora of problems that this criminal justice system faces, the District Attorney is surprised that Courtwatch NOLA focused so much of its resources and attention on an issue that, according to their report, only affected a single person," the statement said.
6. State Senate takes on opioid abuse
A bill from state Sen. Fred Mills, R-Parks, who ushered in the state's plans for medical marijuana, is now taking on opioid abuse. Mills received committee and Senate support last week for a measure to get the state's prescription monitoring program to automatically enroll people who write prescriptions for opioids.
Mills also got support last week for a measure to add consumer advocates without any health industry ties to the state's 25 health professional licensing boards.
According to a 2016 report from the Center for Public Integrity and the Associated Press, Louisiana has the sixth-highest number of painkiller prescriptions per capita, with more opioid prescriptions written than there are residents. In New Orleans, 166 people died following opiate-related drug overdoses in 2016. In 2015, there were 81.
7. Women's issues in politics to be discussed April 25
Voters East of the Industrial Canal (VEOTIC) will host a panel April 25 focusing on women's issues in politics, including politi- cal literacy, gender gaps in voting and women's rights in general. Attendees include every female member of the current New Orleans City Council (Stacy Head, At Large; Susan Guidry, District A; LaToya Cantrell, District B; and Nadine Ramsey, District C), plus state Rep. Helena Moreno, who is running for the council seat being vacated by Head. Veteran organizer Timolynn Sams Sumter will moderate the discussion.
The event is at St. Maria Goretti Church Community Center at 6:30 p.m. It's free to attend.
8. 2017 Saints schedule announced; Christmas wishes already made
The New Orleans Saints' 2017 season schedule was announced last week, and the Black and Gold's season opener will be an away game against the Minnesota Vikings Sept. 11. The first home game will be a Sept. 17 Superdome matchup against the New England Patriots. Dedicated Atlanta Falcons haters will have to wait until December to see the Saints vanquish the Dirty Birds; there's a prime-time game in Atlanta Dec. 7, with a noon home game against the Falcons on Christmas Eve.
9. City Council: Thumbs up to sex ed in local schools
The New Orleans City Council passed a resolution April 20 supporting comprehensive sex education reform and policies promoting access to reproductive health care. The resolution says the Council is "committed to making public health a top priority by promoting policies that ensure access to a full range of reproductive health services and eliminate disparities that prevent low-income women and women of color from seeking safe, high-quality care."
"This resolution serves as a firm and public commitment that New Orleans is committed to quality care for all of our people," said District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell.
The resolution also says the Council will support legislation pushing for New Orleans public schools' participation in anony- mous surveys to assess sexual health risk behaviors, which state Sen. Yvonne Colomb, D-Baton Rouge, has proposed in this year's legislative session.
10. Hayes gets 25 years in Will Smith manslaughter case
Orleans Criminal District Judge Camille Buras last week sentenced Cardell Hayes to 25 years in prison without the possibility of parole for the shooting death of former New Orleans Saints player Will Smith in an April 2016 traffic alter- cation that drew national head- lines. In December 2016 Hayes was convicted of manslaughter and attempted manslaughter in the incident that killed Smith and wounded his wife Racquel.
Buras sentenced Hayes to 25 years for manslaughter and 15 years for attempted manslaughter, but ordered the sentences to run concurrently. Hayes could have been sentenced to 60 years.