New Orleans DSA 2021
Voter Guide Runoff Addendum
After a dizzying array of candidates presented themselves in last month’s municipal primary, voters have whittled down the general election ballot to six runoff races, accompanied by two millage propositions. However, this guide will focus on only two of those runoff races, for Sheriff and for City Council District D, because our chapter’s membership voted in our November general meeting to approve our first-ever voter guide recommendations in those races. The races in districts B, C, and E, and for Clerk of Criminal Court of course matter a great deal to the future of the City of New Orleans, but our membership recommends votes sparingly and for specific reasons which will be detailed in those entries, not simply to give our opinion on the lesser of two evils. We encourage readers who are voting in those races to consult the previous edition of our guide for our general conclusions on the candidates in those races.
While our chapter voted in favor of two voter guide recommendations, we are not making an endorsement of any candidate in this election. For those interested, the difference between the two, as defined by resolutions approved by our general membership, is elaborated in the appendix at the end of the guide.
We recommend voting for Susan Hutson for Sheriff. We do not do so out of a belief that a “more efficient” or “better run” sheriff’s office is achievable or even desirable; the chapter reaffirms its commitment to abolition of all police and incarceration. This recommendation acknowledges that any voluntary participant in the carceral system is ultimately tasked with upholding injustices baked into the United States legal system. However, Hutson’s opposition to Phase III jail would mean keeping millions of dollars devoted to expansion out of the prison system, an opportunity far too valuable to ignore when Gusman has stubbornly insisted on expanding the jail and, in turn, his personal power and influence. In short, the chapter does not consider Hutson nor any other actual or potential law enforcement officer an ally, but considers Hutson an enemy we can more effectively oppose as we continue our work to abolish incarceral policing. In our November 27th general meeting, the membership of New Orleans DSA voted to recommend Hutson by a vote of 38 in favor and 2 opposed, with 11 abstentions.
Local incarcerated persons’ advocacy group VOTE, which has endorsed Hutson, released an extensive list of Gusman’s funding to highlight the Gusman campaign’s political financiers, many of which directly benefit from prison contracts that Gusman’s office grants. The jockeying for position in the runoff has led to some strange bedfellows, with former sheriff candidates Janet Hays and Christopher Williams reversing their previous campaign criticisms and supporting Gusman in the runoff. This is likely an attempt by Gusman to counter the large list of prominent new endorsements for Hutson, including DA Jason Williams and former Congressional candidate Gary Chambers. It’s also worth noting a disgusting mailer attacking Hutson on sexist grounds. Gusman’s campaign denies sending it, but that denial may be difficult for some to believe given Gusman’s continued pattern of misinformation and lies.
City Council, District D
We recommend voting for Troy Glover for Council District D, principally because he supports key housing policies (a right to counsel in eviction court, a rental registry, and a healthy homes ordinance) that his opponent, Eugene Greene, does not. Eugene Green is a professional landlord whose policy priorities are directly opposed to those of our organizing efforts, including our recently successful coalition efforts to secure a citywide eviction right to counsel program. Green’s candidacy threatens this program, its future funding, and future programs to improve the conditions of renters in New Orleans, including establishment of a rental registry and other tenant organizing initiatives. In contrast, Troy Glover has dedicated his professional life to improving the conditions of formerly incarcerated people, and has been vocal in supporting right to counsel and other priorities that would improve the conditions of working class renters. In a city where gentrification, evictions, and displacement run rampant, and constitute fiendishly banal everyday violence against our most vulnerable working class neighbors, it is our opinion that organizing for better conditions and citywide protections for renters will be more effective with Glover as Councilmember for District D. In our November 27th general meeting, the membership of New Orleans DSA voted to recommend Glover by a vote of 32 in favor and 5 opposed, with 10 abstentions.
Since the November general election, Glover has won several notable endorsements, including his former opponents Mariah Moore, Kevin Griffin-Clark, Timolynn Sams, Mark “Johari” Lawes, Chantrisse Burnett, and Morgan Clevenger, as well as the now re-elected Mayor LaToya Cantrell. Sunrise Movement New Orleans and Big Easy Magazine, which both previously endorsed Moore, have also come out in support of Glover, joined by Step Up for Action, VOTE, and Gambit.
Millage Proposition #1: New Orleans Public Library
Last year, New Orleans Public Library employees, Friends of the New Orleans Public Library, and New Orleans City Workers Organizing Committee (NOCWOC) members approached our chapter’s membership in the hopes of forming a coalition to oppose an upcoming millage proposal. That proposal, which appeared on the December 2020 ballot as millage proposition #2, would have reallocated 40% of the library’s funding to an obscure economic development initiative controlled by former short-term rental executive turned-chief of “Business and External Services” at City Hall Peter Bowen, as well as a paltry 100 seats at local private preschools. The proposal was part of a package pushed by Mayor LaToya Cantrell, mostly with the support of private education interests. The opposition, under the banner of Save Your NOLA Library, included NOCWOC, Friends of the NOPL, DSA, the AFL-CIO, UNITE HERE Local 23, IATSE, UTNO, Erase the Board, and many other local organizations dedicated to maintaining one of our city’s finest public resources, the library. The opposition campaign was a thorough success: with volunteer effort and some grassroots donations, the Save Your NOLA Library Coalition saved the library from a massive cut, winning 57% of the vote.
Since then, the Save Your NOLA Library Coalition has been hard at work to ensure that the library’s funding would be firmly secured at its current level. Working with the offices of Councilmembers Moreno and Giarrusso, our members drafted a millage renewal proposal that would maintain full funding for the library until 2042. This proposal passed the City Council unanimously and won the support of Mayor Cantrell. Council approval secured a spot on the December 11, 2021 ballot as Proposition #1. If passed, voters will not have to spring to action at the ballot box to save the libraries again until a whole new generation of voters comes of age, and the library system will be able not only continue to provide the vital public services it offers, but expand them, and (bonus!) without a tax increase of any kind. The proposition enjoys evidently unanimous support among local civic organizations, with no apparent organized opposition.
The general membership of New Orleans DSA unanimously voted to finish what we started over one year ago and join the Yes for NOLA Libraries Coalition, whose leadership includes members of New Orleans DSA and the Save Your NOLA Library Coalition steering committee, Friends of the NOPL, and the NOPL Board of Directors, with the support of EveryLibrary, a political nonprofit that supports library ballot initiatives nationwide. We wholeheartedly recommend that voters vote YES on the New Orleans Public Library millage proposition to keep our libraries - the quintessential example of the value of free and open public services - alive, thriving and growing.
Millage Proposition #2: Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund
Backed by local housing groups led by the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, the second millage proposition would renew the Neighborhood Housing Improvement Fund (NHIF). Originally approved by voters in 1995 with the promise of supporting both homeowners and renters, as well as “alleviating blight,” most of the NHIF revenues smoldered away, wasted on code enforcement until 2015, when the City Council required its dedicated use for housing affordability programs and remediation of blight. Unfortunately, the promise of the NHIF has still gone largely unfulfilled, without any institutional political taking the initiative to drive it forward. While the failure for meaningful affordable housing initiatives to materialize out of thin air has earned the NHIF renewal a disapproving finger-wag from the non-profit industrial complex busybodies at the Bureau of Governmental Research, the lack of people in power willing to use the NHIF effectively should not by any means by taken as a condemnation of the NHIF, but of those people who actually have the political power to use it to its full potential and push housing costs down for working class New Orleanians. We’re inclined to take affordable housing advocates at their word over moneyed business interests when it comes to housing affordability, and those advocates are voting yes to keep the NHIF.
Appendix: Recommendations vs. Endorsements
As defined by our general membership through a resolution passed in our July 2021 general meeting, an endorsement represents a direct material investment from our membership into a candidate, including volunteer labor, securing the support of the national DSA organization, and general campaign infrastructure. Whether they are chapter members or not, candidates must initiate the endorsement process themselves by responding to our candidate questionnaire. If at least 1% of chapter members petition in favor of endorsement, and a majority of the elected Local Council approves, candidates are invited to participate in a Q&A meeting with chapter members before the general membership votes on the question of endorsement.
In contrast, a recommendation can be initiated by any member by presenting a recommendation resolution at one of our monthly general meetings. These recommendations can take a variety of forms, from recommending a vote for, a vote against, or even no vote at all, but require the consent of a majority of members in a quorate meeting with at least 10% of dues-paying members present. Recommendations will be made explicit in voter guides, but do not devote member time and resources to a given campaign as a chapter priority, like endorsements do. A lack of recommendation in a given race should not be interpreted as condemnation or praise of any particular candidate(s), but that there is, if anything, no majority opinion on that race among chapter membership. The recommendation process has not been employed since it was established by membership in February 2021; this guide contains our first two candidate recommendations.