Voters across Louisiana will go back to the polls starting Saturday, Nov. 22, to decide local and statewide runoffs. The local ballot also includes some important propositions. We encourage all our readers to take advantage of early voting opportunities, which continue through Nov. 29, although early voting will be closed Sunday, Nov. 23, Thanksgiving Day and "Black Friday," Nov. 28. We offer the following recommendations, and we urge our readers to download our Gambit ballot at www.bestofneworleans.com.
»U.S. Senate: Mary Landrieu
Louisiana voters don't like President Barack Obama, and U.S. Rep. Bill Cassidy is taking full advantage of that. That's his right as a candidate, and politically it makes sense. However, Obama will be out of office in less than 26 months; Louisiana's next senator will serve at least six years. Louisiana desperately needs a senator who consistently delivers for our state — not someone who postures for the cameras and then hides from voters and media. Landrieu has worked successfully with presidents and senators from both political parties, regardless of which party controls the Senate. Louisiana voters delivered their anti-Obama message on Nov. 4. On Dec. 6, we hope voters will recognize that they have a lot to lose if they replace a proven veteran like Landrieu with a rookie who will not be able to deliver for Louisiana.
»Public Service Commission: Forest Bradley-Wright
The Louisiana Public Service Commission (PSC) regulates monopoly utilities outside New Orleans, but its decisions affect every corner of the state. PSC District 1 incumbent Eric Skrmetta has been a proxy for regulated utilities since he joined the commission in 2009. That's why regulated utilities contributed handsomely to Skrmetta's bulging campaign war chest. That portends more of the kind of anti-consumer measures that Skrmetta has advocated on the PSC. His challenger, Forest Bradley-Wright, finished slightly ahead of Skrmetta in the Nov. 4 primary, despite being outspent nearly three-to-one. As a former director of the nonprofit Alliance for Affordable Energy, Wright has championed forward-looking energy conservation initiatives and lower utility rates for consumers. Wright would make an excellent addition to the PSC.
»New Orleans Schools Tax: FOR
The Orleans Parish School Board is proposing a 10-year property tax that would replace an existing 4.97-mill tax. The current tax is dedicated to debt service. The new tax — at the same rate — would allow the board to use for facility repairs that portion of the tax no longer needed for debt service. This is not a tax increase, just a rededication of an existing tax. We urge our readers in New Orleans to vote for this proposition.
Jefferson Parish Charter Revisions
Jefferson Parish voters will consider 11 proposed amendments to the Parish Charter. We support all but two of those propositions, as follows:
»Proposition 1: FOR. This amendment would clarify the Parish Council's investigative powers.
»Proposition 2: FOR. This amendment would make the office of parish president a full-time position and limit the president's outside income.
»Proposition 3: AGAINST. This proposed amendment would weaken public notice requirements for proposed council ordinances by removing the requirement that proposed ordinances be published at least one week prior to a hearing. Public notice of proposed ordinances helps guarantee transparency in government and should not be diluted.
»Proposition 4: FOR. This amendment would clarify the current understanding that the parish Law Enforcement District is excluded from the finance director's purview.
»Proposition 5: FOR. This amendment would modernize the parish Civil Service system and give the inspector general independent control over his staff, among other changes.
»Proposition 6: FOR. This amendment gives the parish attorney greater flexibility in hiring and firing staff, subject to minimum qualifications set by the council, and increases the parish attorney's authority to protect the parish's interests in legal matters.
»Proposition 7: FOR. This amendment would allow for expansion of the parish planning board's duties and also expand the range of duties for boards and commissions established by the Parish Council.
»Proposition 8: FOR. This amendment would increase the independence and fiscal stability of the Office of Inspector General.
»Proposition 9: FOR. This amend- ment makes technical corrections regarding the names of local universities, which nominate people to the Ethics and Compliance Commission.
»Proposition 10: AGAINST. This amendment includes some worthy ideas relative to parish hospital districts and JEDCO, but in the end it gives the Parish Council too much control over those important entities.
»Proposition 11: FOR. This amendment would safeguard the records of the parish Charter Advisory Committee by making them public records.