1. ORDINANCE WOULD ALLOW NOPD TO ISSUE SUMMONSES TO YOUTH FOR MISDEMEANORS
New Orleans youth who commit misdemeanor offenses could receive warnings or summonses to appear in court with a guardian rather than be arrested under a proposed ordinance aimed at preventing young people from entering, and often re-entering, the criminal justice system.
The ordinance was supported by the New Orleans City Council's Criminal Justice Committee July 24. It now heads to the full City Council for approval.
Police also would write warnings or issue summonses for 11 types of misdemeanor crimes — including simple assault and simple possession of marijuana, misdemeanor theft, criminal mischief and criminal trespassing — at officers' discretion.
Advocates supporting the measure argue it could drastically change the racial disparity in the arrests made for misdemeanor juvenile offenses. According to Juvenile Court Chief Justice Candice Bates-Anderson, 96 percent of all juveniles processed in court in 2016 were African-American. Fourteen percent of all arrests were for school-based offenses — misdemeanors that occurred during school hours on school grounds that could've been handled by the school rather than entering the court. Of those misdemeanor arrests in 2016, 28 percent would be eligible for summonses or warnings.
"Hopefully somebody is realizing how important this is," Bates-Anderson said. "If we count the number of children who we have lost from 2014 to 2017, who elected not to return to school after they're arrested for a school-based offense, who elected not to have faith or trust the criminal justice system, and who also lost faith in the courts. ... Let's really take action and get this done."
2. Quote of the week
"Nothing happens around here without a deadline. I've been working on this for eight years and working on it intensely for last year, and it's only when there's a deadline that things start melding, right?" — U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy, defending his vote to advance GOP health care legislation last week. As for his famous line saying that any repeal-and-replace legislation would have to pass the "Jimmy Kimmel test," he said, "The status quo does not pass the Jimmy Kimmel test. Status quo is failing the Jimmy Kimmel test."
3. Normand steps down, joins WWL-AM
Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand announced last week that he will step down Aug. 31 and soon after will start a new career: as midday talk show host on WWL-AM, taking the slot held for years by Garland Robinette, who retired last month.
In a statement provided by Entercom, the company that owns WWL-AM, Normand said, "I always listened to Garland and admired his voice in our community. He played a pivotal role in New Orleans' recovery & rebirth from Katrina. Plus, good leaders know when it's time to move on. I'm satisfied that Jefferson Parish is in great shape. The crime rate hasn't been this low since 1974. And strong leadership is ready to step in and take over a great team — one I care about deeply and will miss dearly."
Normand, who has been sheriff of Jefferson Parish since 2007, worked in the Jefferson Parish sheriff's office for 37 years and was the chief criminal deputy (and protege) of popular longtime Sheriff Harry Lee. He is leaving the department with high personal approval ratings.
Normand's new show, which will replace Robinette's The Think Tank, will debut Sept. 11 and run in the 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. slot on weekdays, according to Entercom.
Chief Deputy Joe Lopinto will serve as interim parish sheriff and said he plans to run in the special election to fill the remainder of Normand's term. The soonest that election can be held is March 2018.
4. After six weeks, Scalise discharged from hospital
Six weeks after the shooting at a Virginia baseball field that injured U.S. Rep. Steve Scalise and three others, the House majority whip was discharged from MedStar Washington Hospital to begin inpatient rehabilitation for his injuries. Scalise, who was struck with a single bullet, suffered damage to internal organs and blood vessels.
The hospital said Scalise had undergone multiple surgeries, and added, "He is in good spirits and is looking forward to his return to work once he completes rehabilitation."
5. Forums and town halls set this month
This month, community groups and progressive organizations will host several forums for candidates running for office in New Orleans' fall elections. Here are some forums and the candidates who have confirmed to attend.
Step Up Louisiana and VOTE, among others, will host a forum with New Orleans City Council District C candidates Nadine Ramsey and Kristin Gisleson Palmer and District D's Joel Jackson at 6 p.m. Aug. 2 at Corpus Christi Community Center.
On Aug. 5, Indivisible NOLA hosts a forum for New Orleans City Council At-Large Division 1 candidates from 4:30 p.m. to 6 p.m. at Temple Sinai. Eldon Anderson, Joe Bouie, Kenneth Cutno and Helena Moreno plan to attend (according to the Secretary of State's Office, Anderson has been disqualified).
Indivisible also has schedued a forum for Orleans Parish Sheriff, even though Frederick Brooks, the lone challenger to incumbent Marlin Gusman, was disqualified by Judge Kern Reese for failure to file income tax returns. That forum is set for 4:30 p.m. Aug. 19 at Temple Sinai.[Update: This forum has been canceled.]
Youth Voices Council, supported by the Louisiana Center for Children's Rights, also hosts a mayoral forum from 10 a.m. to noon Aug. 19 at First Presbyterian Church.
6. Petition seeks to put use of traffic cameras on the ballot
A recently formed group is circulating a petition and scheduling sign-up events to gather support to put the fate of New Orleans' network of traffic cameras on a citywide ballot.
The NOLA Initiative (www.nolainitiative.org) seeks 10,000 signatures from voters registered in Orleans Parish to call a charter referendum to ban the use of traffic cameras. The issue recently made headlines when mayoral candidate and District B City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell said that if elected mayor, she would remove all traffic cameras, the fines from which account for roughly 2 percent of the city budget.
7. Minimum wage a topic at candidate forum
At a rambunctious "Town Hall for Better Jobs" July 25, a crowded field of more than 20 candidates in upcoming mayoral, New Orleans City Council and assessor's elections vied for the support of progressive groups, making big promises on better wages, better jobs and a more secure future for New Orleanians.
Several candidates, including mayoral candidate Byron Cole, City Council District B candidate Timothy David Ray and Council At-Large candidate David Gregory Nowak, pledged support for a $15 minimum wage in New Orleans. Council At-Large candidate Kenneth Cutno suggested an $18 per hour minimum wage, citing a recent study that indicated that's how much one needs to survive in the city. Only one person who addressed the issue, City Council District B candidate Seth Bloom, said he opposed a $15 wage.
The event at Ashe Cultural Arts Center was hosted by a coalition of groups that advocate for social justice and workers' rights, including Stand with Dignity, Step Up Louisiana, Unite HERE!, European Dissent, United Teachers of New Orleans and Show Me $15.
8. Basin blues
Members of the New Orleans City Council will discuss the city's backlog of "broken and missing catch basins" on Aug. 1, after the council's Public Works Committee postponed the meeting from July 26. Councilwoman-At-Large Stacy Head says despite $3 million in the city's 2017 budget set aside for clearing a backlog of drainage repairs, there is still work to be done.
Head has requested Mayor Mitch Landrieu's administration discuss how many catch basins have been repaired and whether the city has a timeline for completing repairs.
Head's request followed heavy rains last month that brought more than 4 inches of rain to areas of Lakeview and Mid-City and pushed rain water into homes and businesses.
9. "Museum Month" kicks off
A network of New Orleans museums is offering free admission in August during "Museum Month," as long as you're a member at one of the participating institutions.
The event includes 16 venues, including the New Orleans Museum of Art, Ogden Museum of Southern Art and others, plus cultural landmarks such as Longue Vue House and Gardens, The National World War II Museum and New Orleans Pharmacy Museum. The promotion is a good way to take advantage of a period when facilities tend to be less crowded.
Some of the more economical memberships include Ashe Cultural Arts Center ($25-$49), Beauregard-Keyes House and Garden Museum ($30) and Contemporary Arts Center ($45). For a full list, visit www.touristathome.com.
10. Daniel Johnston to start final tour in New Orleans
Prolific songwriter and beloved outsider artist Daniel Johnston will begin a rare — and final — North American tour in New Orleans Sept. 28. Johnston has invited bands sharing the bill each night to create the set list at that show; Preservation Hall's Preservation All-Stars are on the New Orleans bill. Each show will begin with a screening of the acclaimed 2005 documentary The Devil and Daniel Johnston. Tickets are $32.50-$52.50.