1 . CHARBONNET, CANTRELL SET
District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, who is facing off against former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet in the mayoral runoff election, last week challenged Charbonnet to three live debates before the Nov. 18 general election. She cited low election turnout as part of the reason, saying in a statement, "I feel it's up to us to give the people a reason to vote. ... Our people deserve this, and they need to see the candidates sticking to the issues without negativity, but with an eye for creating a better and safer city for all."
Two debates will be held this week. Both Charbonnet and Cantrell have confirmed attendance at a debate at Tulane University, which will be held from 4:30 to 6 p.m. Oct. 24 in the Lavin-Bernick Center for University Life. That debate is sponsored by the Isaiah Institute of New Orleans.
The following night a debate titled "Flood Risk and Adapting to Coastal and Environmental Change" will take place in Lupin Hall on the campus of the New Orleans Center for Creative Arts from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. The debate is being hosted by the Coalition to Restore Coastal Louisiana, the Urban Conservancy and the Greater New Orleans Foundation. It's open to the public and will be broadcast on WYES-TV at 10 p.m. Oct. 26.
2. Quote of the week
"We PROUDLY SERVE Popeyes' spicy tenders — the best fried chicken anywhere and from New Orleans — which are delivered twice a day." — Kim Sanchez, owner of the Sweet Dixie Kitchen in Long Beach, California, after a Yelp reviewer called out the restaurant for using Pop-eyes in its chicken-and-waffles dish.
"I tried Costco chicken, I tried Restaurant Depot chicken, and then I went to dinner at Popeyes and knew this was the chicken we had to use for the store," Sanchez told Fox News.
The cost of Sweet Dixie's version? $13.
3. Despite recount, Palmer still beats Ramsey in District C race
Incumbent District C Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey requested a recount of absentee ballots after losing her seat to challenger Kristin Gisleson Palmer by only 112 votes in the Oct. 14 election. That recount took place Oct. 19, and officials found only one error, ultimately giving Palmer a 111-vote lead in a race where more than 13,000 ballots had been cast.
Palmer, who represented District C from 2010 to 2014, decided not to run for reelection at the end of her first term, setting up a race between former District C Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson and Ramsey. Ramsey won that contest, then Palmer said she decided to run again this year. She came out swinging, labeling Ramsey "No-Show Nadine." Ramsey answered that Palmer was a "quitter."
The new council members will take office on Inauguration Day, May 7, 2018.
4. Bagneris' daughter severely injured by drunk driver on
Tulane University professor Mia Kearney-Bagneris, the daughter of mayoral candidate Michael Bagneris, was struck by a drunk driver Oct. 14 after her father's election night party.
In a statement, Bagneris family spokeswoman Cheron Brylski said, "Late Saturday night, after attending an election night event for her father, Tulane Professor Mia Bagneris was getting out of her car as she returned home. At that time, a drunken driver hit her causing serious, life-threatening injuries. Her stabilization is the focus of Michael and his family. We ask you to keep them all in your prayers." Devin Johnson, who works with Brylski, told Gambit there would be no further comment at this time.
According to the Tulane University website, Mia Kearney-Bagneris is an assistant professor in the art history department, specializing in "African American/Diaspora art history and studies of race in Western Art."
A GoFundMe account to help the family pay hospital expenses had raised more than $29,000 as of Oct. 20.
5. Truck stop
Tony — a 17-year-old Siberian Bengal tiger — has died, after living his life as a Grosse Tete truck stop attraction at the center of a controversial legal battle over his captivity in Louisiana. According to a statement from the Tiger Truck Stop website, Tony was euthanized Oct. 16 after exhibiting "typical signs that death was imminent." The website said the animal was euthanized to "prevent Tony from suffering" and that Tony will be "preserved through taxidermy" following an autopsy.
Tony had lived at the truck stop since January 2001, when the tiger was six months old. The Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) — an animal welfare organization that led several legal challenges to move Tony to a sanctuary — says the group is "deeply saddened" by Tony's death.
In July, the group filed Freedom of Information Act requests from the U.S. Department of Agriculture related to the tiger's health and wellbeing. The group is "frustrated and angered" Tony remained at the truck stop despite a 2012 judgment prohibiting the state from issuing permits allowing Tony's captivity. Tony's owner Michael Sandlin argued in a 2012 lawsuit that the state's ban on private ownership of big cats is unconstitutional.
In 2014, the Louisiana Legislature and then-Gov. Bobby Jindal passed a law exempting Tiger Truck Stop from that ban on captive big cats, going against the previous court ruling.
6. In new plan, NOPD to carry naloxone to combat opioid deaths
The U.S. Department of Justice has awarded the New Orleans Health Department $298,706 to combat a recent spike in opioid use and to support prevention efforts. As part of a plan to address the opioid epidemic, Mayor Mitch Landrieu and city officials also revealed Oct. 18 that New Orleans Police Department officers will carry naloxone, the life-saving drug that can prevent overdose deaths.
A 2016 Gambit cover story found that no Louisiana law enforcement agency carried naloxone — and that locally it had only been previously carried by EMS and New Orleans Fire Department first responders, despite a 2014 statewide law encouraging law enforcement to carry it.
More than 200 people in New Orleans died from drug-related causes in 2016, more than double the number of similar deaths from 2015. Of last year's drug-related deaths, 166 involved opiates, and 48 people died with the synthetic opioid fentanyl in their system.
City Hall also has issued a request for proposals from Louisiana law firms regarding the role that pharmaceutical companies and distributors may have played in contributing to the opioid crisis.
7. ACLU files suit against Cannizzaro
The ACLU of Louisiana filed a lawsuit last week against Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro and 10 assistant district attorneys. The suit alleges the DA oversaw an "illegal scheme of fabricating subpoenas" that forced victims and witnesses to submit to interrogations and that his office presented "fraudulent" documents to get judges to issue arrest warrants. The use of "fake subpoenas" was first uncovered by New Orleans online news organization The Lens earlier this year and has gained significant national exposure. The ACLU and Civil Rights Corps filed the lawsuit on behalf of six people who were either jailed as witnesses or had received "fake" subpoenas to testify.
"Louisiana is ground zero for the fight against mass incarceration, but we know we are not unique when it comes to top prosecutors who seek punishment at any costs instead of building trust with their communities to achieve justice," said Marjorie Esman, executive director of the ACLU of Louisiana.
Following coverage by The Lens, Cannizzaro announced the office had ended the practice of sending those subpoenas. In a statement following the lawsuit's filing, Cannizzaro said, "No individual who alleges that they were aggrieved by my office's policies and practices has contacted me. I look forward to addressing these allegations in federal court before a fair and impartial tribunal. I look forward to litigating these issues in a venue where naked allegations must be supported by substantive proof."
The Orleans Public Defenders Office issued a statement saying it is "not surprised by the allegations in the lawsuit."
"We repeatedly witness this District Attorney's willingness to try to win at all costs — ignoring law, ethics and the best interests of the community," the statement said.
8. Service industry workers turn out for union rally
At an Oct. 19 rally that was part of nationwide demonstrations held by the UNITE HERE hospitality workers union, New Orleans and Biloxi hotel, convention center and casino employees called for local service industry workers to organize and spoke out in praise of the union.
About 75 people, a few still in chef coats and pants, gathered Oct. 19 at the corner of Convention Center Boulevard and Canal Street to chant and hear speakers who are members of Local 2262, UNITE HERE's area chapter.
"When hospitality jobs are unionized, they become middle-class jobs," Marlene Patrick-Cooper, UNITE HERE organizing director, said. "It's the best answer for fighting poverty in the United States."
Two City Council candidates who attended the rally already had pledged their support. James Gray, the incumbent District E councilman currently in a Nov. 18 runoff election against opponent Cyndi Nguyen, donned a red UNITE HERE shirt and vowed to assist to the union in contract negotiations if he is re-elected. Jay Banks, who faces Seth Bloom in a runoff for the District B City Council seat, also spoke, saying he would be "a friend" to unions if elected. "Making sure that families can work and afford to live is crucial to the survival of this city," he said.
The rally was just one of a series of recent events which indicate new momentum in efforts to organize the city's hospitality industry, which employs more than 80,000 people. Last month, the newly formed New Orleans Hospitality Workers Committee marched through the French Quarter to call for more equitable treatment. Earlier this year, 500 workers at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside hotel voted to unionize with UNITE HERE, joining workers at the Loews New Orleans Hotel, Harrah's New Orleans Hotel and Casino and some departments at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
9. Fortunato to
challenge Lopinto for
Jeff Parish sheriff
John Fortunato, longtime public information officer for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Department, resigned last month in what many took to be a sign he would challenge interim Sheriff Joe Lopinto. Fortunato made it official last week with a campaign kickoff in Metairie.
"Leading this department and protecting this parish against crime has been a lifelong dream. I just don't believe that we have to accept a politician's handpicked candidate to serve as sheriff," Fortunato said in his retirement announcement — a swipe at former Sheriff Newell Normand, who now works as a talk show host on WWL-AM and who appointed Lopinto as his successor. Fortunato also has hired veteran Jefferson Parish political consultant Greg Buisson to steer his campaign.
The Jefferson Parish sheriff's election will be held March 24, 2018, with a runoff (if necessary) April 28, 2018.
10. Two mild and crazy guys at the Saenger
Comedians Steve Martin and Martin Short promise "An Evening You Will Forget for the Rest of Your Lives" at the Saenger Theatre Jan. 21, 2018.
Martin is a prolific humorist, actor, stand-up comic and writer whose bluegrass outfit Steep Canyon Rangers released The Long-Awaited Album (Rounder Records) last month. Short is an actor, comedian and perennial scene-stealer on stage, in movies and on TV. They will be joined by the Steep Canyon Rangers and musician Jeff Babko. Tickets are on sale now.