1. THREE HEALTH CARE PROTESTERSARRESTED AT CASSIDY OFFICE
As part of a national demonstration urging U.S. senators to vote against repeal of the Affordable Care Act, three people were arrested July 6 while inside the Causeway Boulevard building that houses U.S. Sen. Bill Cassidy's Metairie office.
Roughly 20 demonstrators demanding Cassidy vote against the Better Care Reconciliation Act joined a nationwide "sit-in" at Senate offices across the U.S., a multi-pronged effort coordinated by Democratic Socialists of America chapters as well as Democracy Spring, Our Revolution, #AllOfUs, Progressive Democrats of America, UltraViolet, The People's Consortium for Human and Civil Rights, ResistHere.org and the Working Families Party. The national Sit-In to #StopTrumpcare also calls for single-payer health care through a Medicare For All platform.
The organizations also called for senators to protect Medicaid, which likely faces cuts if the bill passes. More than 436,000 people in Louisiana have qualified for Medicaid coverage following the state's 2016 expansion of the health program.
After demonstrators arrived in the building's lobby, property managers and Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office (JPSO) officers warned the protestors would be arrested if they remained on the property. About 30 minutes later, JPSO officers arrested three people — Mark D'Arensbourg, Laura Welter and Haley Saucier. JPSO deputies booked them with criminal trespassing for "remaining in place after being forbidden," a misdemeanor that can carry up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $500.
2. Quote of the week
"The theme of this whole thing is: You've got to stay woke." — Mayor Mitch Landrieu in an interview July 1 at the Essence Music Festival, which had presented him with an honorary "Woke" award the day before. Accepting it, he said, "The Haitian proverb comes to mind that after every mountain, there is another mountain," Landrieu said after he accepted the award. "I was hoping that wasn't the end of the proverb. When somebody first said it to me, I was thinking, 'After every mountain we can take a lap around the pool and lay out and get a pina colada.' I was hoping that was the end of the story."
3. State of the city
Mayor Mitch Landrieu's 2017 State of the City address last week reflected on the "foundation" his administration set as the city looks to elect his successor, but he also underlined the city's two ongoing "existential and immediate threats": climate change and violent crime.
Landrieu said violent crime remains "the most difficult, the most immediate and the most urgent issue we face," and that it should be a rallying point for the entire city. "If young people don't have good opportunities, if there's no path to prosperity (other) than crime and drugs," Landrieu said, "then we'll continue to be cursed with the same violence the city has been cursed with for generations."
Landrieu pressed the need for comprehensive criminal justice system reform to change the "hangover from Jim Crow" that disproportionately locks up poor people of color and jails people for nonviolent crimes while breaking up families. Landrieu acknowledged that those longer-term plans likely will take years to show progress. "No one is happy with where we are," he said. "People are afraid and I understand impatience and fear given the surge in violent crime. It's disturbing and it's unacceptable."
Landrieu also released the city's Climate Action for a Resilient New Orleans strategy July 7, detailing plans to cut the city's emissions in half by 2030. "No other city in the world has more at stake than New Orleans," Landrieu said, adding the city needs to "go a step further" in addressing the state's eroding coast and wetlands. "Anything less would be a grave betrayal to future generations."
But those challenges and the yearslong plans to solve them will remain with the next administration and incoming New Orleans City Council members. "The candidates need to tell us how they plan to take on these difficult challenges," Landrieu said. "Details, not sound bites."
4. Louisiana Secretary of State refuses Trump request for voter info
>Louisiana joins a growing number of states across the U.S. refusing to submit detailed voter information to a commission assembled by President Donald Trump. In a letter from a presidential commission on "election integrity" sent to secretaries of state last month, commission vice-chair Kris Kobach asked states to submit a list of all voter names, addresses, party affiliations, dates of birth, the last four digits of social security numbers and voting history. On July 3, Louisiana Secretary of State Tom Schedler said he doesn't intend to release that information.
"The President's Commission has quickly politicized its work by asking states for an incredible amount of voter data that I have, time and time again, refused to release," Schedler said in a statement to Gambit. "My response to the Commission is, you're not going to play politics with Louisiana's voter data, and if you are, then you can purchase the limited public information available by law to any candidate running for office. That's it."
Louisiana does, however, participate in the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, which Kobach instituted as Kansas Secretary of State, as well as the Electronic Registration Information Center. Crosscheck compiles voter databases to check whether people are registered in more than one state to determine whether they can be removed from voter rolls. Louisiana Secretary of State Press Secretary Meg Casper Sunstrom said the president's commission hasn't given states any assurance that the data will be secure or how it will be used, unlike the voter databases Louisiana currently joins.
Schedler, a Republican, joins critics who argue the commission's request could lead to voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression. The commission purports to investigate voter fraud, which numerous studies confirm has not happened on the scales of "millions" as the Trump administration has suggested.
5. NOPD proposes new pay plan, raises
Following an increase in shootings in the New Orleans area, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced plans for pay increases for New Orleans Police Department officers, including a 10 percent raise for entry-level officers, larger raises for sergeants and lieutenants and instituting a career track for detectives. The proposed pay plan aims to retain officers and incentivize new recruits.
The pay changes will be funded by sales of city-owned property, including the World Trade Center site, and must be approved by the Civil Service Commission and New Orleans City Council.
The city approved a 10 percent pay raise for NOPD in 2015 and a 5 percent raise for detectives earlier this year. "We believe this new pay plan is the best way forward to compensate our hard-working men and women in the department appropriately and to attract and retain the kind of experienced, accomplished police officers we want to be protecting the people of New Orleans," NOPD Superintendent Michael Harrison said in a statement.
6. Report: Medicaid
cuts harmful to Louisiana kids
More than 207,000 children in Louisiana have severe disabilities or special health needs, and nearly 60 percent rely wholly or partially on Medicaid to supplement their care. According to a June Democratic staff report from the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the U.S. Senate's plan to gradually slash Medicaid funding will have "particularly harmful and lasting effects" on those children in Louisiana "despite the fact that these children have done absolutely nothing to warrant such treatment."
A June statement from the Children's Hospital Association called on senators to reject the bill, which the group called "a major step backward for children and their health."
One year after Gov. John Bel Edwards approved Medicaid's expansion in Louisiana, cov-ering more than 436,000 people, Edwards and state health officials are urging the Senate to keep the program. The Senate plan would cut Medicaid funding over 10 years and leave more than 22 million people uninsured.
7. Higgins and the Auschwitz video
Back when he was a St. Landry Parish cop, U.S. Rep. Clay Higgins became a YouTube star of sorts with his hammy homemade videos vowing to track down criminals. Last week, however, his talent for video (and self-promotion) bit him hard, when a selfie video he recorded in a former gas chamber at the Auschwitz concentration camp drew wide condemnation for both the location and the message itself, which focused not on the Holocaust, but on "Islamic terror, the foreign horror that oppresses millions and intends to convert, kill or enslave the entire world," as he put it.
The Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial & Museum issued a statement saying "Everyone has the right to personal reflections. However, inside a former gas chamber, there should be mournful silence. It's not a stage." The museum also posted a photo of a sign outside the gas chamber, which said in German, Hebrew and English, "You are in a building where the SS murdered thousands of people. Please maintain silence here: Remember their suffering and show respect for their memory."
Higgins eventually offered an apology of sorts, saying he regretted any "unintended pain" the video may have caused. "My intent was to offer a reverent homage to those who were murdered in Auschwitz and to remind the world that evil exists, that free nations must remember, and stand strong," he wrote. "However, my message has caused pain to some whom I love and respect. For that, my own heart feels sorrow. Out of respect to any who may feel that my video posting was wrong or caused pain, I have retracted my video."
8. Stokes reveals breast cancer diagnosis; will not run for state treasurer
State Rep. Julie Stokes, R-Kenner, who announced her intent to run for state treasurer earlier this year, sent a letter last week to friends and supporters revealing she has been diagnosed with breast cancer and will not run.
Stokes, who represents District 79 in the state Legislature, will continue in that job. "My passion to lead our state through this fiscal crisis remains healthy, true and undeterred," she wrote. "By the time of the 2018 Legislative session, I will be energized, focused and ready to roll up my sleeves and help lead our state out of its current slump."
9. Peterson decides not to run for mayor
Four days after telling Gambit she was seriously eyeing a run for New Orleans mayor, state Sen. Karen Carter Peterson decided against the notion, saying, "After careful consideration, I have decided not to become a candidate for Mayor of the City of New Orleans." Before the July 4th weekend, she told Gambit's Clancy DuBos, "I'm doing all the due diligence that a serious potential candidate has to do" and added that she had talked to declared candidate LaToya Cantrell about the possibility, calling the District B councilwoman a "dear friend."
With nearly two decades in public service, Peterson was expected to be a strong candidate (and formidable fundraiser) in a field that includes former Judge Michael Bagneris, Cantrell, former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, businessman Frank Scurlock and registered nurse Ed Bruski. Other possible candidates whose names have been mentioned are Walt Leger, speaker pro tempore of the Louisiana House of Representatives; and businessman Sidney Torres IV.
Peterson also is head of the state Democratic Party, as well as a vice-chair of civic engagement and voter participation of the Democratic National Committee. In an informal text message to some friends, she wrote, "State senate, DNC and Dentons [the law firm where she works] will keep me busy and fulfilled in my public service. Thanks for the encouragement. KCP."
Qualifying for the mayor's race begins Wednesday, July 12 and ends Friday, July 14.
10. 'Recall Yenni' campaign now takes
aim at Yenni allies
Metairie attorney Robert Evans, who spearheaded the unsuccessful attempt to recall Jefferson Parish President Mike Yenni earlier this year, is now launching a new movement he calls "Defeat Yenni," targeting those he sees as Yenni's political allies — specifically Kenner Mayor Ben Zahn and his allies.
Evans has sent a letter to a selected list of registered voters in Jefferson Parish, asking for their support. "I am writing to you to once again ask for your support in making sure that Parish President Mike Yenni does not get re-elected," the letter reads, adding, "Wherever a Yenni ally seeks election or re-election, I will advocate the defeat of that ally to weaken Yenni's attempted re-election effort. The next election of a pro-Yenni ally is the re-election campaign of Mayor Ben Zahn of Kenner."
Evans did not respond to Gambit's request for comment on Evans' latest campaign.
Qualifying for the Kenner mayor's race will take place in spring 2018.