Friday, February 26, 2010

Volunteers Needed for Community Event to Build for 2010 Census

A coalition of activists is calling for volunteers to join them tomorrow, February 27, for census canvassing in the Lower 9th Ward.

Activists say $400 Billion in funding is at stake in this census, and communities of color are the most at risk at being undercounted. The organizers invite concerned residents to "Come and learn how our community can protect its voting rights and get its fair share of Census dollars!"

Sponsored by Moving Forward Gulf Coast in partnership with the Lower 9th Ward Village Community Center, Lower 9th Ward Complete Count Committee, Semeaj Consulting, Urban League, VOTE, Neighborhood Partnership Network, and Puentes of New Orleans, organizers promise a day of "community action to make sure our communities are included in the upcoming 2010 Census. So community by community lets join together to do ALL WE can to be in that number and ensure we get the resources and funding for a just recovery for our communities!"

Volunteers are needed to canvas the Lower Ninth Ward from 11am to 1pm. If you are interested, meet at the Lower 9th Ward Village Community Center. From there, volunteers will canvass the neighborhood with Census Surveys and assist community members in completing ten short questions.

Organizers are especially seeking any Lower 9th Ward community members available to walk with student volunteers.

Orientation and canvassing begins at 11:00am at Village Community Center, 1001 Charbonnet St, in the Lower Ninth Ward.

From 1:00pm to 3:00pm, there will be a community event and entertainment, featuring speakers, live entertainment, secondline, a DJ, and free food.

See also this video by Moving Forward Gulf Coast.

For more information, contact Trap Bonner at 504.382.9772, or Please RSVP to

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Is Reform Possible in the New Orleans Police Department?

More news has come forward in Federal investigations of the New Orleans Police Department. According to today's Times-Picayune, Lt. Michael Lohman, a 21-year veteran of the NOPD who was involved in the investigation of the Danziger Bridge shootings but not the incident itself, will be charged in a bill of information. The Picayune notes that "Such a charge usually signals that a defendant is cooperating with the government and thus would represent a major break in the case for federal prosecutors."

However, another news report from today indicates how difficult reform of the police department will be. Sgt. Warren Keller Jr, an officer who was fired by Warren Riley for initiating a racist drunken brawl at the Beach Corner bar in Mid City was reinstated by the city's Civil Service Commission on Tuesday. According to the Picayune, "In its ruling, the commission issued a scathing indictment of Riley, calling his termination of Sgt. Warren Keller Jr. 'arbitrary, capricious, and a clear abuse of his discretion.'"

This news comes a few months after a state appeals court overruled the New Orleans Police Department's decision to fire an officer who was caught on video beating Robert Davis, a 64-year-old retired teacher, in the days after Katrina.

It is extremely rare for an officer to be fired. These two situations were exceptional. In one case, the officer was shown on a video, replayed on news stations around the world, beating an elderly man; and in the other case the officer was one of the instigators of a racist clash that seemed like it must have happened in 1950, not 2008.

Yet in both these cases, the decision to fire the officer was overruled, and the officers will likely receive cash settlements and have the option to get their jobs back.

If officers caught in high-profile abuse of their power cannot even be fired, can the NOPD be reformed at all?

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Community Book Center Presents Forum on Haiti This Thursday

The Community Book Center, at 2523 Bayou Road, will present a Community Forum and press conference on Haiti this Thursday, from 5:00-7:00pm. The event will also feature a slideshow with new photos from Haiti by photojournalist Julie Dermansky.

This event has been scheduled to provide information on Haiti and the Hope for Hatian Children Foundation, Inc. initiative. The organization supports and advocates for Foyer Espoir Pour Les Enfants Orphanage and Foyer Pour La Renovation D'Haiti Orphanage, both located in Port-au-Prince, Haiti.

The event will begin with a panel discussion featuring Marie Jose Poux, Vera Warren-Williams, Al Grandoit, and Maryse Dejean, from 5:00-6:00pm. Then at 6:15, photojournalist Julie Dermansky will show her unseen work from Haiti until 7:00pm.

For more information, contact Shon "Sable" Gipson-Thomas at (504) 460-4193, or Vera Warren-Williams (504) 915-4782.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Fight for Charity Hospital Continues

Local activists are continuing to organize for tomorrow's public hearing of the City Planning Commission, which represents another opportunity in the fight to save both Charity Hospital and Lower MidCity.

According to one organizer,
The public hearing of the Commission will first take up zoning changes, and this portion will probably last less than 45 minutes. The big item of the hearing is labeled "Property Disposition #2/10." This is Mayor Ray Nagin's plan to begin the demolition of Lower Mid City. We urge people to get to City Hall well before 1:30pm. To get on the list of speakers for "PD #2/10," sign the list on the table at the front of the City Council Chamber. We urge everybody to sign up, even if all you are going to say is "Save Lower Mid City," or "Renew, Restore, Reopen Charity Hospital." The time limit for audience speakers is 2 minutes.

If you get there after 1:30pm, after the meeting starts, when PD #2/10 comes up, the chair will ask for more speakers, that's when you raise your hand and get on the list. At the point that PD #2/10 comes up for audience discussion, the CPC will first hear the pro-speakers - all those who support the Mayor's plan to demolish Lower Mid City (LMC). Afterwards, the con-speakers - those who oppose the demolition of LMC.

If the sentiment of the metro area is reflected in the public hearing, there will be a flood of speakers agitating and educating on Lower Mid City and Charity. Remember, this hearing will be televised, we want to explain what's at stake to the vast public at large. The Commissioners are secondary. If we do our job, we could possibly get across to the CPC that his meeting format is inadequate for the popular expression of opinion on the hospital proposals. A public hearing in the evening at 6pm would be better than one at 1:30pm, when most people are at work. To make this point overwhelmingly, everybody must be there who can make it at 1:30pm. We will not pack the hearing at this time slot. But, if we can get close to 100, with 30 or 40 speakers, I think we will have made our point.
The hearing will be tomorrow, February 23, in City Council Chambers, City Hall, 1300 Perdido St. We hope to see you all there!

Panel Discussion: New Orleans’ Future and its Next Mayor

This Thursday, February 25, from 6:30-8:30pm, the New Orleans Public Library will host a discussion on the future of New Orleans and the leadership of its next mayor.

Speakers include:
*WDSU investigative reporter Travers Mackel
*Times-Picayune reporter Stephanie Grace
*Civil rights attorney and Louisiana Justice Institute director Tracie Washington
*Educator and activist Dr. Elliot Willard

Writer and Free Southern Theatre veteran James Borders will moderate the panel, and the program will begin with a performance by Greer Goff Mendy and the Tekrema Center. Samplings of unique New Orleans cuisine will also be served.

The event will be held at the New Orleans Public Library, Main Branch, at 219 Loyola Avenue.

Sneak Preview Screening of "Race" This Tuesday Night

RACE, A documentary film by Katherine Cecil, will have a sneak preview screening this Tuesday, February 23, at 6:00pm, at the Lawless Memorial Chapel, at Dillard University, 2600 Gentilly Blvd. The screening is hosted by the Political Science Department at Dillard.

From the film publicity:
The Saints have just won the Super Bowl, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu is Mayor-elect of New Orleans, and a prominent local journalist has suggested that New Orleans could now be on the cusp of post-racial politics.

But while 45% of registered white voters turned out to vote in the 2010 election, only 28% of registered African-American voters cast ballots, a sharp contrast to the election of 2006 in which many more voters turned out despite unprecedented obstacles.

'RACE' is a documentary film about the first election held in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina. The film examines the intersection of race and politics post-disaster and explores how Ray Nagin was re-elected from a completely different base than had previously supported him in 2002. This Sneak Preview is generously hosted by the Dillard Political Science Department, and will be followed by a panel discussion. Please come and give your feedback!

For information about the screening, contact Dr. Gary Clark (504)-816-4094. For information about the documentary, contact Katherine Cecil (504)-584-9028, or visit the film's website:

African American Heritage Preservation Program Presents: "Past, Present, and Future of Pontchartrain Park"

New Orleans' Preservation Resource Center will be hosting a commemoration and panel discussion on the history, development, renovation, and community of Pontchartrain Park, New Orleans' first African American suburban development. This neighborhood has a rich history and revitalization story, and it has been home to many of New Orleans' major political figures and jazz legends.

Organizations being honored include:
Holy Cross Lutheran Church
Bethany United Methodist Church
St. Gabriel Catholic Church
Pontilly Neighborhood Association
Southern University at New Orleans
Pontchartrain Park Neighborhood Association
Coghill School

Speakers include:
Jacques Morial, senior organizer at the Louisiana Justice Institute and resident of Pontchartrain Park.
David Greenup, developer of the subdivision.
Dr. Lisa Crump, historian of Bethany United Methodist Church.
Gloria Moultrie, of Southern University at New Orleans.
Donna Fricker, historian and PRC board member.
Tommye Myrick, community activist.

Presented by the PRC's African American Heritage Preservation program, chaired by Janie Blackmon and Bridget Carter. For more information, contact Suzanne Blaum at 504.636.3399 or

Sunday, February 21, 2010

New Developments in Local Struggles for Housing, Criminal Justice, and Healthcare

The city has seen some major developments in housing, criminal justice, and healthcare in the past few days.

First, housing: Activists have been complaining for years about problems with HANO, the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Some validation came this week in a report from HUD, which the Times-Picayune referred to as, "74 pages of unrelenting criticism." Katy Reckdahl reports in Friday's Picayune, "The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development on Thursday issued a scathing assessment of the Housing Authority of New Orleans, saying its finances are a mess, its staff makes decisions without good information and hundreds of public-housing apartments sit vacant because the agency doesn't have a system to turn them around when families move out."

HUD promises that they fix the problems with HANO. We've heard this from HUD before, but we hope this time real change will come.

On to criminal justice: Just days after the Picayune revealed new information about the federal investigations of police shootings of civilians in the days after Katrina, another update: "Two veteran New Orleans police sergeants involved in the Danziger Bridge shooting -- one accused of shooting civilians and the other an investigator who examined the incident -- have received letters stating they are targets of a federal investigation."

Juvenile justice advocates also took steps forward this week, as US District Judge Ivan Lemelle signed off on consent decrees that spell out improvements at the city's notorious youth prison.

On healthcare, this news came to us from our friends at SaveCharity:

The City Planning Commission has called its first public hearing on the hospital controversy for this Tuesday, February 23rd, at 1:30 p.m. It will be considering a request by the administration of Mayor Ray Nagin to close 16 blocks of city streets in the proposed Lower Mid-City site for the Veteran Affairs hospital:

This is our first chance to be on the public record and have a public hearing in front of the City Planning Commission. Tuesday will mark the first time that the commission has ever held public hearings on any aspect of the hospital controversy. Without approval of the street closings, the hospitals cannot be built as planned on the Lower Mid-City site. We will have an opportunity to present testimony and comments to the CPC about the current destructive proposal.

Please join us at this meeting. There are a number of reasons the City Planning Commission should deny Mayor Nagin's request to close these streets. The process has been flawed from the start, has not included the hospitals in the Master Plan, and the current proposal would destroy the Lower Mid-City neighborhood and negatively effect the city for decades to come.

The street question will gives interested members of the public an opportunity to comment on the economic impact of the hospital, its effect on drainage and traffic flow, the demolition of historic buildings, the relocation of the hospitals from the Central Business District and other matters.

One of the lessons we've learned in the past four years since Hurricane Katrina is that we -- as citizens of New Orleans -- must be involved in the planning process for our city. When we fail to participate in the decisions that shape our home, the whole city suffers.

For more information, email the folks at Save Charity directly, at We hope to see you there.

Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project Fills Barge to Capacity with Supplies to Haiti, Requests Additional Donations Today

The New Orleans to Haiti Barge Initiative, a program of The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project (formerly the Haitian Emergency Village Project), will deliver 100,000 cubic tons of donated medical supplies, tents, household goods, and food to the port of Jacmel during the second week of March 2010. The barge is now filled to capacity thanks to the prompt and generous response of people from Greater New Orleans and Louisiana.

The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project will extend its hours of operation to continue receiving donations to fill a second barge. LHSVP is asking New Orleans and Louisiana residents to bring more items to 600 Edwards Avenue in Elmwood on Sunday, February 21 from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project is a group of more than 40 disaster recovery and urban infrastructure professionals working to build an emergency village in Haiti that will provide housing, infrastructure and other services that constitute communities rather than camps. With major involvement of New Orleans residents, supporters and rebuilders, this group is laying the foundation for a model for recovery. The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project has already airlifted more than six tons of medical supplies to the medical teams in Jacmel and La Vallee de Jacmel in Haiti and is preparing to send a second team of medical and other professionals to the area.

For additional information about the Barge Project, please call 800.971.6640, or email: Financial contributions to the Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project can be made online through the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation:

Friday, February 19, 2010

LJI Community Profile: Photographer Harold Baquet

Award-winning photographer Harold Baquet is the University Photographer at Loyola University New Orleans. His family has been in Louisiana for seven generations, and he has worked as a professional photographer for more than 25 years.

As a photojournalist, he has photographed many New Orleans civil rights and political leaders, and covered the changing social and cultural influences of the region. His work has been featured in national publications including Rolling Stone, in books like The Last Hayride by John MaGinnis, and featured in the collections of museums in New Orleans, Chicago and Washington D.C.

In an interview with LJI today, Baquet listed Gordon Parks' book A Choice of Weapons as an important early interest, helping set his mission of "using photography as a means of revealing the inequities in society." Baquet lists themes such as housing, criminal justice and workers rights as among the issues his work has focused on. He says his decisions as a photographer were never guided by commercial interests, "just things I thought were important."

Baquet has long been inspired by New Orleans and its people. He is especially interested in celebrating the history of resistance that free Black people engaged in. "We defied social conventions by attacking Jim Crow and by attacking the inequities that occurred after reconstruction," he says. In addition, "We were a people that defied European musical convention and invented a new music form. One of the things I want to do is celebrate this history, and this work."

On Wednesday, February 24, from 7:00pm to 8:30pm, Baquet will discuss his 30-plus year career in photography and tell the stories behind the images he has captured during his career. Baquet will discuss his Louisiana roots, as well as New Orleans culture, music, food, faith, work ethic, craft ethic, racial identity, and more. He will also explore how his work relates to his personal experience and motivation. He will also cover the skill sets young people who want to pursue photography as a career should develop.

Loyola University will present the discussion with Baquet at Miller Hall, Room 114, on the Loyola campus. Baquet notes that much of the work on display will be from early in his career. "Most of it has never been published, and most of it had never been seen," he says. For anyone concerned about New Orleans history and its future, this event represents an exciting opportunity.

This event is free. For additional information contact: Lisa Martin at 504-865-2438 or by email at

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project Launches Barge Project to Haiti

The New Orleans to Haiti Barge Initiative, a program of The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project (formerly the Haiti Emergency Village Project), will deliver 100,000 cubic tons of donated medical supplies, tents, household goods, and food to the port of Jacmel, Haiti on Monday, March 1, 2010. Already, more than sixty percent of the space has been filled with donations. The barge will leave from New Iberia and sail to Haiti where the goods will be distributed throughout the southern region of the country to provide relief to the population affected by the January 12 earthquake.

The use of the barge and tugboat were donated by generous companies with operations in Louisiana. The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project (LHSVP) is asking businesses, individuals and organizations for financial contributions and for additional goods to fill the remainder of the barge to capacity. LHSVP is also asking residents, and students to volunteers to help sort, and pack these items on Thursday, February 18 and Friday, February 19 from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm at their warehouse, 600 Edwards Avenue and Pepsi Street, in Elmwood, LA (approximately 30 minutes from New Orleans). Businesses, organizations and individuals wishing to contribute goods may bring them to 600 Edwards Avenue on Thursday and Friday. A truck will carry the additional relief items from the warehouse to New Iberia on Saturday, February 27 at noon.

The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project is a group of more than 40 disaster recovery and urban infrastructure professionals working to build an emergency village in Haiti that will provide housing, infrastructure and other services that constitute communities rather than camps. The coalition was convened by Louisiana Justice Institute's Co-Director Jacques Morial and Charles Allen III, Director of the Center for Sustainable Engagement and Development. With major involvement of New Orleans residents, supporters and rebuilders, this group is laying the foundation for a model for recovery. The Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project has already airlifted more than six tons of medical supplies to the medical teams in Jacmel and La Vallee de Jacmel in Haiti and is preparing to send a second team of medical and other professionals to the area.

Financial contributions to the Louisiana/Haiti Sustainable Village Project can be made online through the Louisiana Disaster Recovery Foundation: For additional information about the Barge Project, please call 800.971.6640 or 504.628-5517 or email

Three in a Million - Voices from the Haitian Camps, By Bill Quigley

The United Nations reported there are 1.2 million people living in “spontaneous settlements” or homeless camps around Port au Prince. Three people living in the camps spoke with this author this week, before the hard rains hit.

Jean Dora, 71

My name is Jean Dora. I was born in 1939. I live in a plaza in front of St. Pierre’s church in Petionville [outside of Port au Prince]. I am here with twelve members of my family. We all lost our home.

We have a sheet of green plastic to shade us from the sun. We put up some bed sheets around our space.

I have many small grandchildren living here with me. My son and daughters live with here too.

My daughter will soon have a child. She will go to the Red Cross tent when it is time for the baby to come.

I worked for the Chinese Embassy for 36 years. I cleaned their offices. I retired in 2007. Until the earthquake I lived in an apartment with my family. The building was destroyed.

At night we put a piece of carpet down on the ground. Then we lay covers down and try to sleep. When it rains, the water comes in.

We bring bottles to fill up with water. But we have very little food.

There is no toilet in the park. We must go behind the church.

My son used to work to support us. He is a good chef. He worked at a restaurant by the Hotel Montana. The restaurant was destroyed. He lost his job. There is no work.

During all my days, I have never seen anything like this. I am not in a good position to say what will happen next. I think things are not going to change. I hope things will get better. But I don’t think so.

My son has no job and he cannot help our family. If my son is working, we can all stand up. If he is not working, we are down.

The future is not clear. It looks dark for us.

Nadege Dora, 28

My name is Nadege Dora. I am 28. I have three boys and one girl. I am supposed to deliver my baby this month.

I now live in the plaza in Petionville with the rest of my family. Our house was destroyed. I used to sell bread on the street to make a little money. The father of the children does not help us. It is as if we are not alive to him.

We are just trying to survive. No one in our family is working. There is no work.

If you get a ticket you can go get a bag of rice. But I am a pregnant woman. I cannot fight the crowds for a ticket. I tried. But people were squashing me and I was afraid I would get knocked down and crushed.

My niece helped a woman bring rice back from Delmas [another neighborhood outside of Port au Prince. She shared her rice with us. Right now we still have some rice. But we have no oil. No meat, no milk, nothing but rice. We have no money to buy other ingredients.

Since the earthquake I have never eaten a full meal.

When my baby comes, I will go to the Red Cross tent to have the baby. I went there to see a Doctor. They gave me some pills. Those pills made me sick.

The mayor came here and asked people if we had relatives in the countryside. They would help us go there. But we do not want to go to the countryside. We don’t know anybody in the countryside. We need to have a better life than this.

Garry Philippe, 47

My name is Garry Philippe. I am 47. I live by the airport entrance. I built my own tent. I tied a sheet to a tree and I put up poles to hold up other sheets.

I live here with my five children. My wife was killed in our house in the incident. We lived in Village Solidarity. I owned our house. I built our house over 4 years, step by step, as I got the money. I was outside when it happened. My girls were by the front door and ran out. My wife ran back to help the boys and she died.

We had no funeral for my wife because we have no money for a funeral. I buried her myself in a cemetery by Cite Soleil.

The children cannot imagine that their mother is gone just like that. They are always thinking about their mother.

We do not have beds. When it is time to sleep we put bags on the ground. Then we put our covers on the bags and sleep.

We wash ourselves by putting water in a bottle. Then we stand in a pot and pour the water on our selves.

When it rained we went to a place where they had a plastic tent. We stayed there till the rain stopped. More than 20 people were inside that tent.

Before, I was a mechanic in a garage. Where I worked was destroyed. There is no work since the quake.

We heard other camps got bags of rice. In our camp, nothing. I ask friends for food. Sometimes someone will give us something to eat.

We have no toilet in this camp. When we have to make a toilet, we do it in a bag. Then we bring the bag to the edge of the camp. It is about a one minute walk away.

We see the trucks going in and out of the airport. Many trucks. But the trucks never stop for us.

It is not safe here. But what can I do? I accept it, it is God’s work. We pray in the camp together.

No one has come to talk to us to tell us what is going on. We know nothing about tents or tarps. There is no school for the children.

I cannot tell you exactly what is going to happen next. I am not the Lord. I think it is going to get worse for us in the camps. We need tents and food. We need water and school and jobs. We need help to find a place to stay. The rain is coming soon. Water is going to come and our babies will
lose their lives.

Bill Quigley is legal director at the Center for Constitutional rights and a long time human rights advocate. This article was written with the assistance of Vladimir Laguerre in Port au Prince. You can contact Bill at

Monday, February 15, 2010

New Evidence in Post-Katrina Police Shootings of Unarmed Civilians

In a news report that was almost buried by Carnival weekend, the Times-Picayune revealed new information on Saturday about the federal investigations of police shootings of civilians in the days after Katrina.

According to the Times-Picayune article, which was written with ProPublica reporter A.C. Thompson, investigators believe they have found out who killed Henry Glover, an unarmed father of four.

Former N.O. police officer David Warren has been identified as the shooter. According to the article,

[Warren] was an unconventional rookie: He joined the force mid-career and holds several degrees, including a master's of business administration degree from the University of Wisconsin... His resume also states he has worked in the armed services, and participated in "use of force and threat assessment" training at the Lethal Force Institute Inc. At the NOPD's graduation for his recruit class, Warren was honored with a precision shooting award for having the highest cumulative score during firearms training.
The article also identifies Capt. Jeff Winn and Lt. Dwayne Scheuermann, leaders of the NOPD SWAT unit, as the officers who apparently took the car containing Glover and burned the car, with Glover in the back seat. According to video evidence in the investigation, a skull that appears to be Glovers had two holes in it, indicating that sometime after Glover was seized by police and before his body was taken to the coroners office, he was shot twice in the head.

We hope that federal investigators, as well as the local media, stay on top of this crucial story.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

US Brags Haiti Response is a “Model” While More Than a Million Remain Homeless in Haiti, By Bill Quigley

Despite the fact that over a million people remained homeless in Haiti one month after the earthquake, the US Ambassador to Haiti, Ken Merten, is quoted at a State Department briefing on February 12, saying “In terms of humanitarian aid delivery…frankly, it’s working really well, and I believe that this will be something that people will be able to look back on in the future as a model for how we’ve been able to sort ourselves out as donors on the ground and responding to an earthquake.”

What? Haiti is a model of how the international government and donor community should respond to an earthquake? The Ambassador must be overworked and need some R&R. Look at the facts.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported February 11 there are still 1.2 million people living in “spontaneous settlements” in and around Port au Prince as a result of the January 12 earthquake. These spontaneous settlements are sprawling camps of homeless Haitian children and families living on the ground under sheets.

Over 300,000 are in camps in Carrefour, nearly 200,000 in Port au Prince, and over 100,000 each in Delmas, Petitionville and Leogane according to the UN.

About 25,000 people are camped out on one golf course in Petitionville. Hundreds of thousands of others are living in soccer fields, church yards, on hillsides, in gullies, and even on the strips of land in the middle of the street. The UN has identified over 300 such spontaneous settlements. The Red Cross reports there are over 700.

The UN reported that barely one in five of the people in camps have received tents or tarps as of February 11. Eighty percent of the hundreds of thousands of children and families still live on the ground under sheets.

Many of these camps are huge. Nineteen of these homeless camps in the Port au Prince area together house 180,000 people. More than half of these camps are so spontaneous that there is no organization in the camp to even comprehensively report their needs.

Another half a million people have left Port au Prince, most to the countryside. As a result there are significant food problems in the countryside. About 168,000 internally displaced people are living along the border with the Dominican Republic. Many are with families. Others are in “spontaneous settlements” of up to a 1000 people.

People living in these densely populated camps will be asked to move to more organized settlements outside the city. Relocation, says the UN, will be on a voluntary basis.

The US Ambassador knows full well there are 900 or so aid agencies are on the ground in Haiti. Coordination and communication between those agencies and between them and the Haitian government continues to be a very serious challenge.

Though many people are trying hard to meet the survival needs Haiti, no one besides the Ambassador dares say that it is a model of how to respond. Partners in Health director Dr. Louise Ivers reported on the very same day that “there is more and more misery” in Port au Prince as fears of typhoid and dysentery haunt the camps as the rainy season looms.

But still the Haitian spirit prevails. Everyone who has been to Haiti since the earthquake reports inspiring stories of Haitians helping Haitians despite the tragically inadequate response of the Haitian government and the international community. That spirit is something people should admire. Let me finish with a story that illustrates.

One orphanage outside of Port au Prince, home to 57 children, was promised a big tent so the children would no longer have to sleep under the stars. The tent arrived but without poles to hold it up. The same group was promised food from UNICEF. Twelve days later, no food had arrived. They improvised and constructed scaffolding to create an awning over the mattresses lying on the dirt. They are finding food from anywhere they can. “We’re holding on,” said the Haitian director Etienne Bruny, “We’re used to difficult times.”

Haitians are holding on despite the inadequate humanitarian response. They are the model.

Bill is the legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights and a frequent visitor to Haiti for human rights work over the past decade. You can reach him at

Friday, February 12, 2010

New Orleans Charter Schools and Privatization, by Dr. Lance Hill

The Congressional Research Service has prepared an excellent publication on privatization and government. Its definition of privatization places charters and vouchers clearly in the privatization category. I think that it is crucial in the debate on school reform to not allow charter advocates to obscure their free market theory theoretical foundation with the use of the word "charters" (Fannie Mae was not a "charter" mortgage company--it is a privatized public service).

The author defines privatization as the use of the private sector in the provision of a good or service. Private sector is defined as any non-government entity, including non-profits, religious organizations, and volunteer groups. The heart of the definition is that with the transfer of services from the government to the private sector comes, to some degree, a transfer of power, i.e. the public loses some measure of control over the service.

I find it very useful that the author, Kevin Korsar, lists the preconditions of free market benefits to prevail, such as that the consumer has to have full knowledge of the quality of the service or good in order to make rational choices. Rational consumer behavior is what brings about efficiency in the market; consumers use services that deliver the most for the least cost. Thus, when we transfer a government service to a private entity (and non-profits are private entities by his definition) we have to have complete transparency. For example, school operators can't hide special funding that gives them a temporary advantage in the market; which drives out better operators and results in inferior products.

Even food consumers have that kind of transparency necessary for free markets to produce the best product for the least cost: every can of beans has to list it's nutritional qualities on the label so that consumers can make rational, informed decisions on which brand is the best buy. In contrast, charter schools are not bound by that kind of transparency; they don't have to advertise test scores, low school evaluations, accurate teacher-student ratios, etc.

Competition breeds marketing and, as the author points out, while government does only what the law permits and proscribes, private entities may do whatever the law does not forbid. While we are in the midst of a revolution in cognitive science and neuroscience that is making tremendous advances in our understanding of how humans learn, little of this has made its way into the charter reform movement. Free market forces favor marketing over science.
I also like his notion that only government has the common weal at interest (ideally). Private entities, be they profit or non-profit, are driven by narrower goals such as profits, organizational mission, and bureaucratic self-preservation (no one likes putting themselves out of a job, even if they are doing a bad job.)

The issue at stake in New Orleans is privatization, not "chartering." To properly evaluate the charter reforms, as well as the privatization of teacher recruitment (TFA), we need to know the underlying "process change theory." In this case, it is privatization. Understanding the underlying change theory will help us understand the potential benefits and dangers of the reform strategy and how best to measure it against alternative strategies. As we have seen locally, when we privatize teacher recruitment, we lose the government's mandate for equitable employment with respect to race and age.

That outcome was a predictable outcome of free market theory emphasis on lowering overhead costs. The exclusion of special education children from charter schools was also a predictable free market outcome of the tendency of private entities to reduce services to increase profits or to operate within a limited revenue stream. BESE's mandate forcing charters to enroll special education students reflects their understanding that they, as an elected body, had to compensate for the narrow goal focus of privatized groups.

Which activities are essential to the state and should remain directly accountable to the elected representatives and which may be carried out by the private sector? That's the central question of the public education debate. Children are not municipal services, like garbage collection or parking-fine collections. Bad schooling affects children for a lifetime and can consign them to a life of despair. Education is ultimately a social service that affects the equitable allocation of future resources. To what degree can we safely surrender accountability to the public in this realm?

So, I would propose that in the public debate on charter schools, the following definition is the most useful:

Charter schools are publicly funded schools operated by private businesses or non-profit organizations.

Hence the debate in New Orleans, on both school operation and teacher recruitment, is a debate on the privatization of public services. If the experiment in New Orleans succeeds in bringing about excellent and equitable education, then privatization deserves the credit and the theory can be replicated elsewhere. If it fails to achieve better and equitable outcomes for the same inputs, then privatization, as a theory of educational reform, must be reconsidered.

Dr. Lance Hill is the Executive Director of the Southern Institute for Education and Research, a tolerance education and race relations research center based at Tulane University in New Orleans. He is the author of The Deacons for Defense: Armed Resistance and The Civil Rights Movement (University of North Carolina Press, 2004).

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Haiti Numbers - 27 Days After Quake, By Bill Quigley

890 million. Amount of international debt that Haiti owes creditors. Finance ministers from developing countries announced they will forgive $290 million. Source: Wall Street Journal

644 million. Donations for Haiti to private organizations have exceed $644 million. Over $200 million has gone to the Red Cross, who had 15 people working on health projects in Haiti before the earthquake. About $40 million has gone to Partners in Health, which had 5,000 people working on health in Haiti before the quake. Source: New York Times.

1 million. People still homeless or needing shelter in Haiti. Source: MSNBC.

1 million. People who have been given food by the UN World Food Program in Port au Prince - another million in Port au Prince still need help. Source: UN World Food Program.

300,000. People injured in the earthquake, reported by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Source: CNN.

212,000. People reported killed by earthquake by Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Source: CNN.

63,000. Number of pregnant women among the people displaced by the earthquake. 7,000 women will deliver their children each month. Source: UN Populations Fund.

17,000. Number of United States troops stationed on or off coast in Haiti, down from a high of 22,000. Source: AFP.

9,000. United Nations troops in Haiti. Source: Miami Herald.

7,000. Number of tents distributed by United Nations. Source: Miami Herald.
President Preval of Haiti has asked for 200,000 tents. Source: Reuters.

4,000. Number of amputations performed in Haiti since the earthquake. Source: AFP.

900. Number of latrines that have been dug for the people displaced from their homes. Another 950,000 people still need sanitation. Source: New York Times.

75. An hourly wage of 75 cents is paid by the United Nations Development Program to people in Haiti who have been hired to help in the clean up. The UNDP is paying 30,000 people 180 Haitian Gourdes ($4.47) for six hours of work. The program hopes to hire 100,000 people. Source: United Nations News Briefing.

1.25. The U.S. is pledged to spend as much as $379 million in Haitian relief. This is about $1.25 for each person in the United States. Source: Canadian Press.

1. For every one dollar of U.S. aid to Haiti, 42 cents is for disaster assistance, 33 cents is for the U.S. military, 9 cents is for food, 9 cents is to transport the food, 5 cents to pay Haitians to help with recovery effort, 1 cent is for the Haitian government and ½ a cent is for the government of the Dominican Republic. Source: Associated Press.

Bill Quigley has visited Haiti numerous times working for human rights. He is legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights. His email is

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Friday, February 5, 2010

Haiti - Still Starving After 23 Days, By Bill Quigley

You can walk down many of the streets of Port au Prince and see absolutely no evidence that the world community has helped Haiti.

Twenty three days after the earthquake jolted Haiti and killed over 200,000 people, as many as a million people have still not received any international food assistance.

On February 4, the UN World Food Program reported they had given at least some food, mostly 55 pound bags of rice, to over a million people. The UN acknowledges that it still needs to reach another one million people. The 55 pounds of rice are expected to provide a two week food ration for a family. Beans and cooking oil are scheduled to come later.

The Associated Press reported that people in Haiti at small protests were holding up banners reading "Help us, we're starving."

Over a million people are displaced. About 10,000 families are in tents, the rest are living under sheets, blankets and tarps.

One of the people living under a sheet is a brand new mother with her one day old baby. The New York Times reports that Rosalie Antoine, 33, and her one day old baby were living in a neighbor's yard with puppies and chickens under a sheet in the Bel-Air neighborhood of Port au Prince.

Haiti and the United Nations estimate 250,000 children under the age of 7 are living in temporary housing. Most need vaccinations.

Flavia Cherry, of the Caribbean Association for Feminist Research and Action, this week witnessed a pregnant double amputee give birth on the ground in one of the tent camps without any medical assistance at all. "This poor mother had nothing, no milk, no clothing for the baby, nothing!"

Even people who can afford to purchase food are having a difficult time. A 55 pound bag of rice costs 40 percent more today than it did before the earthquake. Dr. Louise Ivers, a Partners in Health physician in Port au Prince, reports a 25 kg (55 pounds) bag of rice that sold for $30 US dollars (1,207 Haitian Gourdes) before the quake, now costs $42 US dollars (1,690 Haitian Gourdes).

The World Food Program reports prices are still rising and people outside the earthquake zone are having difficulty meeting their basic food needs.

Twenty three days after the quake.

Bill is Legal Director for the Center for Constitutional Rights and a long-time Haiti human rights advocate. He can be reached at

Analysis of Race in the 2006 Mayoral Elections, Part Five, By Katherine Cecil

As we enter the final days before New Orleans' historic municipal elections, Louisiana Justice Institute presents excerpts from Race, Representation, and Recovery: Documenting the 2006 New Orleans Mayoral Elections, by Katherine Cecil. We believe her analysis of the 2006 elections forms an important basis for understanding the current election.

Dubbed “Ray Reagan” for his conservative views and largely unpopular with the majority of black voters prior to Katrina, Nagin campaign strategists believed that African-Americans would vote for him, especially within the uncertain post-Katrina political climate. During this time it is possible to observe a significant shift in Nagin’s electoral rhetoric as well as his stance on policies that had begun to be interpreted by the black and white communities along racial lines. The most publicized shift was Nagin’s “Chocolate City” speech, given on Martin Luther King Day, in which Nagin attempted to reach out to African-American displaced citizens by calling for New Orleans to remain a majority-black town.

Audubon Nature Institute Chief Executive Ron Forman came to replace Ray Nagin as the conservatives’ candidate of choice shortly after the unveiling of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission plan and before the 2006 mayoral election period began. Forman was another Republican turned Democrat but also white and from Uptown. Alluding to the old-line and almost exclusively white carnival krewes drawing members from this area of the city, white Tulane political scientist Dr. Thomas Langston noted a correlation between the “flags of Mardi Gras royalty” alongside the “Vote for Ron Forman” signs.

Like Nagin, Forman had not previously held political office, which his supporters saw as a strength. He had exhibited business and organizational skills in the private sector that they wished to see applied to the running of city government, and significantly, with the racial demographic shifts post-hurricane, his campaign managers disregarded the prior necessity of coalition building that had been essential to ensure victory within recent history. Also like Nagin, through his social and business connections, Forman had ties to the white economic powerbrokers within the business community, and he was to promote a platform that highlighted economic development over equity and downplayed social justice issues.

Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu, a more progressive Democrat and son of the last white mayor, was the incumbent’s main viable opponent, and he emerged to Nagin’s political left. Appearing more capable of garnering significant support from the center, Landrieu entered into the race as the candidate with stronger Democratic credentials than either Forman or Nagin, which was an advantage in a hitherto distinctly Democratic city.

But as New Orleans looked whiter in 2006 than it had since Moon had been in office, it became a prevailing undercurrent to this mayoral election that City Hall could “go white” for the first time since Moon Landrieu had left office nearly thirty years earlier. It was speculated that without the pre-storm African-American population levels, the city might have lost its majority black population of all socio-economic groups for the foreseeable future, and that a racial group that had not produced a winning mayoral candidate for many decades might now have an occasion to do so.

Indeed, the large number of white candidates entering into the field seemed to have the joint effect of simultaneously confirming black candidates’ reservations about white voter support in the absence of a black majority, while also testing this racial voting balance of coalition-building that had guided New Orleans politics since the federal safeguards of the modern Civil Rights era had begun to take effect. Furthermore, the dearth of viable black candidates as alternative challengers to the incumbent’s re-election bid compounded an emerging fear amongst African-American communities of losing political representation.

(You can read the complete essay online here.)

Born in the UK, and living in New Orleans since 2001, Katherine Cecil began her film career as a researcher and field producer. She formed her small company CecilFilm Productions shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and is currently working as a co-producer on a documentary looking into recent changes to the New Orleans public school system.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Analysis of Race in the 2006 Mayoral Election, Part Four, By Katherine Cecil

In these final days before New Orleans' historic municipal elections, Louisiana Justice Institute presents excerpts from Race, Representation, and Recovery: Documenting the 2006 New Orleans Mayoral Elections, by Katherine Cecil. We believe her analysis of the 2006 elections forms an important basis for understanding the current election.

In the months following Hurricane Katrina, there had been enough evidence coming from within New Orleans for many exiled and returned African-Americans to sense a narrow re-assertion of racial interests from amongst the white community, and many feared the rolling back of the recent few decades of political progress and representation.

Following the devastation wrought by the failure of the federal levees, talk of a geographical and demographic “shrunken footprint” entered into the public discourse of those who had returned as well as within rebuilding plans such as the one espoused by the Bring New Orleans Back Commission, which provided little inclusion for the return of flooded neighborhoods that had been predominantly African-American.

This term – along with others such as the “right to return,” which referred to every citizens right to come home – became key components of a 2006 New Orleans electoral glossary. As it became apparent that many socially and economically-disadvantaged evacuees lacked the means to return – or neighborhoods to return to – a white minority become cognizant of itself as a determining and political force that had not been possible since African-Americans had attained a voting majority. It is significant that the rhetoric that reflected this realization, regardless of the degrees in which it was expressed, conspicuously bypassed the earlier paradigm of coalition building that had been either necessary – or politically expedient – between the races while New Orleans had been a majority African-American city.

As Ray Nagin’s first term drew to a close the recovery discourses continued, and New Orleans headed towards a contentious election. White conservatives’ sentiments concerning a “new” New Orleans, where rebuilding efforts might make use of a now desolate and largely de-populated landscape to pursue opportunities of changing the city, were then amalgamated by more white liberal interests, but still remained exclusionary in nature and were hardly focused on re-populating the city exactly as it had been pre-Katrina. When used in the context of rebuilding efforts, phrases such as a “new New Orleans” and words such as “opportunity” became racially charged in a manner not seen before the storm, and many displaced citizens felt somewhat justifiably that at their root lay ulterior motives for reconstructing a city that would exclude them.

White conservatives and white liberals had both rallied behind Nagin as a political newcomer in 2002, and the composition of the BNOBC, which was formed in the months following Katrina, largely reflected the interests of the more business-oriented amongst this support. Dr. Lance Hill of the Southern Institute for Education and Research spoke of the nature of the BNOBC in relation to Nagin’s original political base, “Nagin appointed the BNOBC when I think that he was politically identified with and beholden to the wealthy white elite, and I think it was reflected by and large in the leadership of the Commission, and the Commission was not a democratic institution.” Nagin’s shifting relationship with the BNOBC plan, and his equivocation on the rebuilding permit moratorium subsequent to the plan’s unveiling was to prove significant in his ability to hold onto his white conservative electoral base.

Chaired by the Republican Real Estate developer Joe Canizaro, and supported by 2002 Nagin backer James Reiss, the BNOBC unveiled its first plan in early 2006. The plan advocated a reduction of the city’s footprint, and questioned the viability of restoring the most flooded neighborhoods, the majority of which had been predominantly African-American. The plan also promoted a moratorium on the issuing of building permits within these neighborhoods for the next four months during which time, still-displaced citizens were asked to gather together to prove the viability of their neighborhoods returning, also factoring in the long-awaited publication of FEMA flood-maps to gauge the necessity of raising the height of their homes.

This most controversial aspect of the BNOBC plan was the now infamous “green space map,” which appeared to propose that the most flooded residential areas return to swampland. Political observer and pollster Dr. Silas Lee noted the divisive nature of the proposed rebuilding strategy, “green space means elimination, because you’re replacing spaces and communities where people live which gave this city some unique character, with some open areas.” Others more involved in the BNOBC plan also expressed their reservations; Paul Rookwood, a principal of Wallace Roberts & Todd, the Philadelphia-based consulting firm charged with creating the BNOBC action plan for rebuilding the city of New Orleans, was quoted in an online interview:

We heard lots of ideas that didn't stand up to scrutiny. For example: that the deeply flooded areas should be transformed into wetlands. That doesn't make sense. The soil is compacted and contaminated, and you'd have to remove all the infrastructure — roads, buildings, and so on — and then attempt to recreate wetlands below sea level.
Combined with the BNOBC’s advocation of a moratorium on issuing rebuilding permits in the most devastated areas, both of these issues created an enormous amount of fear and distrust between the communities that were already back, and those that were still attempting to return home.

To add to this, Nagin’s white supporters had begun to abandon him between one of the closed-door meetings in Dallas shortly after the storm, and his January equivocation over those BNOBC recommendations that were unfriendly towards the African-American communities most devastated by the flood. This timing suggests that Nagin’s equivocation sent a final signal to those in the white New Orleans community who were advocating for a “smaller footprint” that he would no longer be representative of their newfound interests. The Mayor’s decision not to endorse wholeheartedly these more controversial recommendations of his own commission, while also advocating rebuilding “smartly,” reflected his uncertain position in the upcoming election, and this prevarication was further evidence of the political tightrope that he walked post-Katrina.

(You can read the complete essay online here.)

Born in the UK, and living in New Orleans since 2001, Katherine Cecil began her film career as a researcher and field producer. She formed her small company CecilFilm Productions shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and is currently working as a co-producer on a documentary looking into recent changes to the New Orleans public school system.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010


17 Years, 25 Days. It’s been that long, yet it seems like just yesterday when a 15 year old high school student, her mom, and God, gave me the best gift ever imaginable. I became an adoptive mother. So I write this blog with some emotion, and I speak this truth from the perspective of a parent and a Christian – not a Thief.

See, real parents, real Christians don’t steal children. Let’s not mince words, and CNN – PLEASE – make your reporters ask the hard questions. The Idaho Baptist who entered Haiti illegally, took non-orphaned children from their parents, and planned to secret them cross borders are human traffickers. Not parents, and certainly not Christians.

My God teaches charity. So when I see Haitians starving, and parents desperate to feed their children, I know my obligation is to do everything I can to provide resources so that these men and women can provide for their children. For the $1,500 - $2,000 each of these Idaho residents spent to travel to Haiti to steal these 33 children – supposedly to give them better lives – they could have donated $33,000 to those parents.

And with this act of charity – with this understanding of the heart-wrenching grief those Haitian men and women had to have felt when releasing their sons and daughters to strangers from a different land, simply because they are too poor to feed the people MOST PRECIOUS to them – Rev. Clint Henry and the Central Valley Baptist Church congregation would have provided more evidence of humanity and the certainty of a God than many Haitians have seen in weeks.

Analysis of Race in the 2006 Mayoral Election, Part Three, By Katherine Cecil

As we enter the final days before New Orleans' historic municipal elections, Louisiana Justice Institute presents excerpts from Race, Representation, and Recovery: Documenting the 2006 New Orleans Mayoral Elections, by Katherine Cecil. We believe her analysis of the 2006 elections forms an important basis for understanding the current election.

In 2006, twenty-nine years after Moon Landrieu had left office, the pattern of coalition building looked as if it might radically change. The 2006 Primary election involved an inordinate number of challengers to Nagin’s re-election bid, and these twenty-three challengers reinforced the idea that to many white election observers, this election would be a referendum on the incumbent’s leadership skills as tested during hurricane Katrina. However to many African-American election observers and to Nagin’s chief campaign manager, the veteran political strategist Jim Carvin, the large number of white candidates running constituted a continuation of a re-assertion of narrow racial interests first signaled by the moneyed class within the white community in the early days following Katrina. Concerning this economically influential group that had backed Nagin in 2002, Carvin said, “They were delusional. They thought that they could re-capture City Hall, and I’m really talking about the moneyed class in New Orleans. They felt that Nagin was so crippled that he could not win.”

In the months following the storm, numerous articles and essays began to appear on the Internet referencing conspiracies to whiten New Orleans, and many attested to these as “real and substantial fears.” National print and online media reported talk of a “new” New Orleans which had began to surface within conversations amongst the largely white, wealthy, and Uptown populations that had returned to the city for the most part unscathed. Combined with the stark shift in New Orleans demographics, it was therefore little wonder that within the months following the storm locals would also witness the fracturing of a more inclusive rebuilding rhetoric, and this had fundamental implications upon how the 2006 elections played out. These less than inclusive interests at the hands of a hitherto white minority had been voiced in the early days after Hurricane Katrina, within a series of closed-door meetings in Dallas and Houston in which the meetings’ organizers had done little to reach out to prominent African-American officials in exile, and one of these meetings was widely publicized by print and online media outlets after the fact.

The most written about example of these sentiments was Christopher Cooper’s Wall Street Journal article titled “Old-Line Families Escape Worst of Flood And Plot the Future,” where Cooper quotes former Nagin supporter and Regional Transit Authority head James Reiss:

The new city must be something very different, Mr. Reiss says, with better services and fewer poor people. "Those who want to see this city rebuilt want to see it done in a completely different way: demographically, geographically and politically," he says. "I'm not just speaking for myself here. The way we've been living is not going to happen again, or we're out."
Reiss was Chairman of the majority white New Orleans Business Council and before moving into the world of money management and real estate he ran a lucrative automation and control systems manufacturer called TANO Corp for thirty years, and is defined by many sources as the archetypal old-line Uptown New Orleanian with downtown business interests; successful, well-connected, influential, and powerful behind the scenes of several mayoral campaigns, including Mayor Nagin’s 2002 election run.

The sentiments reported by Cooper in the WSJ article were in some shape or form shared by a significant number of prominent white citizens. Whether due to the dramatic alterations in racial demographics resulting from Hurricane Katrina, the outrage felt by vocal white citizens following the ineptitude of early disaster recovery, or as a mark of outright opportunism, the 2006 Mayoral Election involved an unprecedented number of white candidates qualifying. This factor had particularly interesting significance due to a trend noted by political scientists that “the historic pattern among New Orleans mayoral elections [is that] black mayoral candidates receive a majority of the vote cast by whites only in the absence of a viable white contender.”

Taking little account of the concerns of the predominantly African-American Diaspora, such opinions were first vocalized by prominent men within the white business community, and were then further voiced by the early rebuilding plans of the Bring New Orleans Back Commission (BNOBC), a body primarily made up of citizens appointed by Mayor Nagin before it had become apparent that he had lost support from within the white conservative community. Nagin had established the BNOBC following Katrina, and its purpose was to “finalize a master plan to advise, assist and plan the direct funding on the rebuilding of New Orleans.” The BNOBC’s mission statement specified its goal as directed “uniquely for every citizen;” however, the most controversial aspects of the plan did not represent the interests of those who had suffered most during the flooding.

(You can read the complete essay online here.)

Born in the UK, and living in New Orleans since 2001, Katherine Cecil began her film career as a researcher and field producer. She formed her small company CecilFilm Productions shortly after Hurricane Katrina, and is currently working as a co-producer on a documentary looking into recent changes to the New Orleans public school system.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Justice Department to Monitor Upcoming Election

In response to a complaint filed to the United States Department of Justice, the U.S. Attorney’s office is sending at least four representatives, including two attorneys, to monitor Saturday’s Municipal Primary Election. Attorneys Earnest McFarland and Steven Wright, and two other department personnel, will travel throughout Orleans Parish to monitor elections and to respond to complaints from voters.

After receiving numerous complaints from early voters attempting to exercise their right to vote for only one candidate in the election for Council-At-Large last week, the Louisiana Justice Institute (LJI) filed a Voting Rights Act complaint with the Voting Section of the Civil Rights Division of the United States Department of Justice. Voters complained that when they attempted to exercise their constitutionally protected right to vote for only one candidate, the voting machine showed the voters’ single selection in red with the message “NO SELECTION MADE” below the voters’ choice of a single candidate. Voters also reported that poll commissioners had suggested to them that their votes would not count unless two selections were made by the voter in the at-large election. Furthermore, the message on the screen could lead a reasonable person to believe that unless they cast two votes in the at large council election, none of their votes in the other races might be recorded or counted.

Tracie Washington, Managing Director of LJI, stated, “Louisiana Justice Institute is pleased that the United States Department of Justice has responded so quickly to citizens’ complaints. We understand voters were confused about Council-at-Large ballots. Further, we understand there were complaints that machines were shutting down as ballots were cast.”

The right of a voter to choose only one candidate in multi-candidate election (also known as “single shot” or “casting a bullet ballot” is specifically protected by Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.

As we embark upon a new era of New Orleans’ recovery process, this is one of the most important elections in the history of this great city. New Orleans area voters must be assured this election is legitimate, and that all of the voting procedures and regulations are in strict compliance with the Voting Rights Act and other applicable laws.

Any complaints concerning the inability to cast a vote for a single Council-at-Large or other irregularities in voting, please contact Earnest McFarland ( or Steven Wright ( of the Department of Justice, or fax complaints to the Department of Justice at (202)307-3961. In addition, you are welcomed to contact the Louisiana Justice Institute at (504)872-9134 with any complaints or questions.

Upcoming Event: The Episcopal Church in Louisiana and the 19th Century Slave Trade

As a part of Trinity Episcopal Church's Wednesday Night Program, the Church has organized a presentation titled "The Episcopal Church in Louisiana and the 19th Century Slave Trade." The following is a press release on the event:

"On Wednesday evening February 3. 2010m at 6:30 PM Trinity Church is presenting a program on how churches in our diocese supported slavery in various ways in the 19th century. Until the Civil War, slave holders' wealth was an essential part of south Louisiana;s economy. A historian at Tulane University, Michael Goldston, has been working with the Episcopal Diocesan Anti-Racism Committee, helping us to learn more about slavery and the Episcopal Church.

Our work is part of the National Church's effort to face up to our past so that we can move forward towards a deeper reconciliation. On February 3, Michael will give a talk on his detailed primary research. Panelists to respond are: the Rev. Phoebe Road, Nell Bolton, and Corinne Barnwell. Another expert who will respond is Rosanne Adderley, Ph.D., historian at Tulane University. For more information, call William Barnwell at (504) 862-0311. "