Saturday, February 06, 2010

Go vote 

I'll have a political post later today explaining further and prognosticating. But I got to go vote, and drive around and observe the carnival/political/whodat milieu. And pay my respects.

I'm voting for Mitch Landrieu for Mayor, but I very nearly decided for James Perry. I'll explain more about that later, because Perry has been an instructive example. For now, I'll just say Perry's campaign made some errors and he should've perhaps tried for City Council. More analysis on that later.

CC at large: Arnie Fielgood and Nolan Marshall (yes, I've factored this in, BSJD).

CC Preferences (some of these are somewhat by default)

District A: Susan Guidry
District B: Stacy Head (how she balances 30 Rock with her Council duties, I'll never know)
District C: Kristin Palmer
District D: Cynthia Hedge Morrell
District E: (I honestly didn't study Austin Badon's competition, sorry)

All those renewals of "security district" taxes: NO!

Sheriff: I can't stomach voting for Marlin Gusman again. Can't do it. Won't do it. He doesn't deserve it. Interview with his opposition, who is as unpolished as Gusman is oily, here.

State Senate: Karen Carter Peterson, and let me remind everyone that I miss Cheryl Gray immensely.

Assessor: JANIS LEMLE-- strong endorsement.

Coroner and Clerk of Court-- write in Manny Chevrolet Bruno


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Friday, February 05, 2010

Guidry for Council District A, Lemle for Assessor 

Oh, here's a piece from Raw Story. I hope it doesn't get me miffed and send me on a tangent.

Oliver North, the former Marine implicated in the Iran-Contra scandal and current Fox News host, says allowing gays to serve openly in the military will lead to same-sex marriages in the military and the admission of pedophiles to the armed forces.

Muck you, Ollie, and muck your slippery-sloped head, you pissant tool! Who gives a crap about your dippy "concerns"? Why don't you sell some more weapons to Iran so Nicaraguan leftists don't invade Tejas-- and launder the funds through Herman Beebe's bank, while you're at it.

Unrelated article from December T-P article, plus comments:

Shelley Midura won her seat on the City Council in a knock-down, drag-out fight with Jay Batt in 2006.
Good times.

Now that she's leaving the District A seat and Batt is trying to get it back, Midura's got a parting shot for her old foe.

She's endorsing Susan Guidry, a political outsider who once fought against one of Batt's biggest supporters.

District A candidate Susan Guidry is a lawyer who, like Midura in 2006, is making her first run at office. Midura said she especially liked that Guidry "single-handedly" used public nuisance laws to shut down the Lyric Cafe, a bar across from the American Can building on Orleans Avenue.

Neighbors were complaining about getting their tires slashed by bar patrons, and about violence in front of the establishment. Guidry organized the neighbors, pressured the city to pull the bar's permit in 2008 and then used state statutes to keep it from reopening under other names. She eventually used her position on the Lake Area Zoning District board to get the parcel rezoned as a two-family residential unit.

Nice job, Susan. you showed real tenacity in shutting down that troublesome establishment, not letting it re-open, and then getting the parcel rezoned. I bet the owners were peeved.

The property is owned by Vincent Marcello Jr.'s Minacore Investments.

Great Caesar's ghost! Susan Guidry has stones the size of Betelgeuse.

Marcello and Minacore combined to give Batt $6,500 for his run against Midura in 2006, and Marcello has already pumped $1,000 into Batt's current campaign.

Minacore... that's the original family name, isn't it?

Batt said he also shut down nuisance bars when he was on the council.

"It was I who shut down Butler's bar, a place of crime and drugs on Leake Avenue, for which I received the Southern Christian Leadership Council's Martin Luther King Jr. award, " he said.

"Crime and drugs" in New Orleans-- heaven forfend! That never used to happen in the good ole days. And yes, I think most of us miss Martin King, and honor his legacy. Too bad he got shot by a drug-runnin' thief who never did anything without a profit motive. I guess lone nuts were in season that year.

Largely unrelated December T-P article:

Taking aim at Batt's promise to rid the district of nuisance properties, Guidry sent reporters photos of Batt signs posted at houses on South Murat and South Hennessey streets owned by Batt friend and investment-firm owner Vincent Marcello Jr., who has given Batt at least $1,000 for his current campaign and $6,500 for his unsuccessful 2006 race.

There are at least seven more such properties, said Matt Larson, Guidry's campaign director.
Largely unrelated T-P article from Friday's paper by John Pope titled "Real Estate developer files suit to silence critical duo":

Claiming that he has been "unlawfully ridiculed and derided" during the campaign for the City Council's District A seat, a prominent local real estate developer filed suit Thursday in Civil District Court in an attempt to silence his critics.

Vincent Marcello Jr. sued candidate Virginia Guidry and Keith Hardie, who chairs Anybody But Batt, a political action committee committed to keeping Guidry opponent Jay Batt our of office.
In his suit, Marcello claims the defendants demeaned his reputation by describing him as an owner of "dozens of blighted properties, many of which bore Batt campaign posters. Moreover, he stated, the defendants alleged that his contributions to Batt bought him special treatment for the properties.
[Marcello] described himself as a Batt "acquaintance" but said he did not file the lawsuit at the campaign's behest.

Ahh, not a Batt friend, just a Batt "acquaintance". That's good. One must strive to be clear on one's associations, and to defend one's reputation from ridicule. For example, I'm sure not all of Marcello's properties look like this. Some of his mid-city properties are probably in great shape. He might even own a stately house or two on Canal St. for all I know. And who's to say he got "special treatment" for his donations? That would be like saying he got special treatment just because he owns a lot of real estate and was one of the "top donors" to assessor Claude Mauberret, who always runs high-toned campaigns. Plus, Marcello owns restaurants like Maximo's, which are much more convenient to New Orleanians than Mosca's, which is out in the boonies. Bring the whole family, but cash only please.

Largely unrelated T-P item:

Jay Batt, who is campaigning to regain his District A seat on the City Council, has launched an attack on rival Susan Guidry based on the actions of one of her key supporters, City Councilwoman Shelley Midura.

Using what might be considered twisted logic, Batt concludes that Guidry is soft on crime because of her association with Midura, who ousted Batt from the seat four years ago and is not running for re-election.
Guidry also has accused Batt of having "a criminal record of his own he needs to answer for," claiming Batt was an "aider and abettor" to a bookie with whom he had placed bets. Batt testified at the man's trial, Guidry said, and the bookie was convicted and sentenced to 20 months in prison.

A bookie? I hope it wasn't "Dutz" Murret. Anyway, I'm glad we have crime-fighters like Batt pointing out the softies for us, based on their troubling associations. Batt's a fearless "untouchable", like U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, who always takes down the big fish. Speaking of Letten, isn't it cool that he went out of his way to "set the record straight" in response to claims made by Canal St. Madam Jeanette Maier and her lawyer, Vinny Mosca? Letten didn't add anything substantive at all-- he basically affirmed what Mosca said-- but he did it publicly, at a perilous time for U.S. Senator David Vitter. I wonder: if Jeanette Maier had made some claims about politicians who are currently running for office in elections tomorrow, would Letten have gone out of his way to confirm whether those politicians' names had "surfaced" during the federal investigations of the Canal St. brothel? You know, to set the record straight.

I could go on with these silly tangents forever, it seems. Anyway: though it's nice that we have Jay Batt and Claude Mauberret running to bring rectitude and reform back to New Orleans city government, I'm going to opt for Susan Guidry and Janis Lemle.

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Hoosierleanian Editor B is really seizing the opportunity to pile on Indianapolis during the run-up to the Super Bowl. His critiques of boring, bland Indy have awakened some resistance on Farcebook, and it all seems to be in good fun. Having been born in Indiana, I can't even mount a great defense of the city. It's nothing special-- there's a yearly formula one race and some fine amateur athletic competitions, the streets are relatively clean and smooth, you can get an ear of corn that has some taste to it... but, generally-speaking it's safe to say that few people on their death beds ever regretted never having visited Indianapolis.

The best parts of Indiana are its abundant small towns-- especially (my birthplace) Columbus Indiana, the "Athens of the Midwest", only a quick hour's drive from Indianapolis. You know all the scathing sarcasm, dark humor, cryptic subtexts, chronic cynicism, overblown vocabulary and implied argumentation in which YRHT often luxuriates? Yeah, well, plain-talkin' small town hoosiers don't truck in that crap. And I respect that.

What's a "hoosier", anyway? I've heard it's a distinctive contraction of "who's there", used by folks in Indiana. Yats can probably understand such a phenomenon. Perhaps in the coming days New Orleanians or even Louisianans will become known, permanently, as "hoodats"...

Here's one thing about Indianapolis ...ah, I better save the rest for an update sometime late in the evening or early morning, when I'll also do an all-too-belated sports and politics post. Check back later for that.
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Thursday, February 04, 2010

Never Letten me down, policy of truth remix 

Yesterday, T-P columnist James Gill mocked state Democrats for trying to draw a connection between Senator Vitter and the alleged shenanigans of James O'Keefe and crew. Gill also made fun of Dems for their speculations about Vitter and U.S. Attorney Jim Letten. Gill calls the Dems "crazy", while he dismisses O'keefe as a larky "comedian". (Yeah, O'keefe apparently gets his laughs from the bottom of the barrel.)

That's fine, basically. The attempts by state Dems to insert Vitter into various half-baked conspiracy theories have looked pretty desperate. Nonetheless, Gill made a few statements all his own that had me shaking my head.

Democratic officials have been trying to persuade reporters that U.S. Attorney Jim Letten, when busting the Canal Street madam a few years back, unearthed evidence that Vitter was among her clients.

Letten is supposed to have dummied up in return for Vitter's help in retaining his job.
Given Vitter's celebrated romps with call girls in D.C., it would not have been out of character for him to buy a little on the side in his home town. But it would certainly be out of character for Letten to pervert the course of justice for personal gain.

We wouldn't contend that Letten "perverts" the course of justice. That's pretty heavy-handed. But we would like to remind Gill (who should need no reminding since he wrote a column that touched on this issue) that Letten isn't above making exceptions to normal procedure, which helped his friend Vitty-cent.

U.S. Attorney Jim Letten said... that his office never came across allegations that Sen. David Vitter patronized prostitutes in its probe of the Canal Street brothel in 2002.

The typically circumspect Letten gave the comment Tuesday afternoon in response to media inquiries about Vitter's alleged patronage of the prostitution house, saying he wanted to "set the record straight" after Tuesday's comments from the brothel's madam, Jeanette Maier, who said Vitter patronized her prostitutes.

"At no time during the investigation or prosecution of the Canal Street brothel case did Senator Vitter's name ever surface," Letten said.

Sensitive to public perceptions about how his office handles allegations against high-profile figures, Letten said, "While we normally cannot and do not comment on these kinds of situations, in light of the statements by Jeanette Maier, and her attorney's attempt to address those statements, I felt it was incumbent upon this office to make an exception and set the record straight."

Not to rehash the whole story, but Maier's claims about Vitter being a past client (independently confirmed by my sources) do not necessarily directly conflict with Letten's extraordinarily unusual statement in 07, which defended Vitter at the height of "Sinator"-mania. Now, I don't put a lot of stock in what Maier says because her stories have been inconsistent over time. However, Vitter could've easily been a client of hers back in the early 90's when he was practicing law, well before the feds' 2002 investigation where his name didn't "surface". (By 02 Vitter had moved on to Wendy Cortez in the FQ and then to DC call girls). Or, Vitter might've only enjoyed the Madam's services at remote locations (at, say, a "fishing rodeo" down the bayou) rather than at Canal Street. That's a possibility, too, though it conflicts with what I've been told. But I don't think you have to be a crazy person to entertain the notion that Jim Letten's statement was geared in part to defend Vitter at a crucial time, rather than out of a singular desire to "set the record straight" when (fellow Republican and De La Salle grad) Vitter was experiencing maximum political peril.

Not that it really matters all that much, because Vitter never thought Louisianans deserved a clear and comprehensive explanation about the matter. Vitter himself never decided to "set the record straight" for the people he serves, and explain which New Orleans stories were false and why he was making appointments with call girls in between Congressional votes. But is it really beyond the pale to ask if Letten had more than one motive when he made the highly unusual move to "set the record straight" for Vitter back in 07? Is Letten so untouchable now that we can't question curious maneuvers like that one and note their obvious political ramifications?

Put another way, is it nutty to think that Letten would more likely go out of his way to "set the record straight" for Vitter, his most ardent supporter? Or do you think it's more likely that Letten will ever, say, decide to open up an investigation about why Vitter was introducing high-level Russians to the ethically-challenged Congressman Curt Weldon? Place your bets.

In 2007 Vitter got caught and apologized for some "sins" but said the "New Orleans stories in recent reporting" weren't true. That's it. He's never said anything more substantive than that about his behavior. You can throw out the entire Canal St. Madam story if you want, and you still have Vitter doing business in Wendy Cortez' French Quarter room several times a week over a ten month period. Vitter lied about that on multiple occasions during his career, and tried to discredit the people who asked him about it, yet even after he got caught in the DC prostitution web, he remained vague with his denials, and never decided to come clean and "set the record straight".

So Gill's tentative claim that Vitter might've bought "a little on the side" here in New Orleans is a very charitable way to describe what we know about Vitter's history. Wendy Cortez has made specific, consistent, detailed claims about how she did business with Vitter several times a week for an 11 month stretch. If anything was "on the side" for Vitter, it was up in D.C.-- Vitter's "main course", as it were, was in New Orleans with working girl Cortez, and (allegedly) with Maier's Canal Street gals back in the 90's. Vitter repeatedly claims he's been very "clear" on the matter, when he's actually NEVER been clear on it. Ever. He lied, and then he apologized when he got caught, and then after he apologized he misled everyone with denials about the "New Orleans stories". What precisely happened in New Orleans? Vitter will never say, because the Senator doesn't think we're owed an explanation. There are numerous questions that he should answer before getting consideration for another term, and having columnists downplay the facts to his benefit doesn't help that effort.

Another (fairly minor) quibble: Gill asserts it's nutty to cast Vitter as the "timid victim of blackmail". Perhaps Gill should have been more clear and wrote "the timid victim of blackmail from Letten", because I don't think it's crazy to think that Vitter has been quasi-blackmailed in the past. As conservatives reminded us ten years ago, Bill Clinton's affairs made him vulnerable to blackmail, and that's dangerous. Granted, the Dems Gill criticizes went overboard with their charged rhetoric and half-baked conspiracy ideas. The particular conspiracy they've hinted at doesn't have hard evidence behind it. However, it's not totally crazy to entertain the idea that Vitter has been lightly blackmailed in the past. Do you really think the highly ambitious Vitter abruptly pulled out of the early horserace for Governor (in '02) merely because he wanted to take more marriage counseling classes? Or was there more to it? Once again, Gill himself has written about politicians who threatened Vitter with "dark secrets". If memory serves, Sheriff Harry Lee threatened to call a press conference just prior to Vitter removing himself from consideration for Governor in 02. (Lee made similar noises to Vitter in 99.) Since Vitter has not been candid about what he's done, it's possible that he might be vulnerable to similar (soft) blackmail attempts in the future.

Interestingly, Letten was with Vitter during one of the times when he publicly lied to his constituents about his chronic whoring. YRHT contributor The Flaming Liberal called into a radio show when both Letten and Vitter were guests. Vitter immediately excused himself to adjust his undergarments or make a phone call or something, while The Flaming Lib peppered Letten with questions. Vitter thought the Flaming Liberal's call was over, and returned to the mic, but the Flaming Liberal was still there and he asked Vitter whether he would sign an affidavit denying the "rumors" about Vitter's visits to New Orleans prostitutes. Full account here.

In honor of Vitter's glorious defense of "Who Dat", I assembled the following comic. Click to enlarge and read. (Not sure why the text is so sketchy. Inspiration here.)



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Real Fans 

MTV recently confirmed that its deathless "Real World" show is returning to New Orleans.

Despite pioneering the reality tv concept, "The Real World: New Orleans 2" doesn't have anything on "The Real Fans: Miami". (H/T Liprap's Lament)

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Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Do cyborgs dream of electric sheep? 

This Dream of Carlyfornication attack ad is pretty disturbing. I think Stinque's observation about Republicans being portrayed as sheep is pretty astute. But it's just one of the many bizarre things that goes wrong in this laughable mess of an ad-- do watch the whole thing. There's the pedestals and lightning and pigs... the sheep chewing ominously amidst stock photos of "real" people... the stupid FCINO abbreviation... and then what's the point that gets inserted into all this confused imagery? Carly Fiorina is a real fiscal conservative sheep, not a replicant wolf-man in sheep clothing?


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Maurice "Hippo" Katz 


Long-time political figure Maurice "Hippo" Katz died suddenly at his home in Metairie early Tuesday morning.
Katz, an insurance executive who had clients throughout South Louisiana, has been an important political figure in New Orleans and Jefferson Parish for more than 30 years. He served on the staff of the late Mayor Dutch Morial and was one of Morial's closest friends.

Following the Morial administration, Katz entered the insurance business and was an almost-instant success. He became one of the closest friends of the late Jefferson Parish Sheriff Harry Lee, as well as former Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon. It was said that the best, funniest and most enjoyable lunch companions in Louisiana were Sheriff Lee and Hippo Katz. Katz was a major contributor to political candidates. In 1991, he raised more than $100,000 for the campaign of former Gov. Edwin W. Edwards in the race against former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Several readers have asked me to comment on the passing of Katz, but frankly, I don't have any insider insight on the man. He'd recently been in the news because of his role in the Lagniappe Industries scandal, and I'd venture to say that it probably wasn't his first involvement in an ethically dubious politico/business arrangement, but I don't have anything special to "dish" on him right now. Perhaps the Flaming Liberal will, at a later time. Y'all probably know more than me.

My research of late has been focused on tomato salesmen and also hip hop artists. My attention has been on the Saints and some of the upcoming elections. In other words, I'm in too many different places at once right now. So, feel free to share and spill stuff on "Hippo" Katz in the comments.


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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Tribune endorses Abby Normal for Mayor 

After arguing that Ray Nagin's 2006 election would help New Orleans elect a black mayor in 2010, the New Orleans Tribune endorses... John Georges for Mayor. "It's complicated", the Tribune explains.

Maybe not so much.

BayouStJohnDavid writes:

It certainly makes you wonder what Georges promised the Tribune's editor, Dwight McKenna. It's almost enough to make you wonder about McKenna, Leon Cannizzaro, Georges and Bill Schultz.

Read David's links to get the title reference-- igor, schultz, mckenna, coroner, abby normal (abnormal), Georges.

What can I say? I guess I'm sort of surprised that the Trib didn't endorse Troy Henry. I think their endorsement of Georges actually splits votes in a way that helps Mitch Landrieu, increasing the chances that Georges edges out Henry for second place, and gets into a runoff (if Landrieu doesn't achieve 50% in the primary). It's seems like a pretty nonsensical and curious move, but the Tribune is certainly not above that.

Last week I talked to an informed source whose company has dealt with Georges, and he told me some stories about Georges getting tempermental and making highly unprofessional statements behind closed doors. To be sure, these sorts of episodes occur all the time in real life, and many politicians and businessmen are known to get a bit testy now and then. But the crudity and arrogance that this source described shocked even me, and I'm no shrinking violet. I was left to wonder how in hell Georges had been so unfailingly(?) successful in his business endeavours, given his tendency towards thoughtless outbursts. We've seen echoes of this unfortunate tendency throughout his campaign, none more bizarre than the statement Huck seized on:

The latest vexing thing to come out of Georges's mouth is this choice bit responding to a question on how the mayoral aspirants in the current race voted in the last, 2006 Mayoral race pitting Landrieu against Nagin:

"Believe it or not, I supported Mitch," he said. "But I voted for Ray because at the end of that campaign, I wasn't satisfied with Mitch. At the very end of the campaign, of course, I listened to Rob [Couhig]. Rob's a smart guy. And he said go with Ray. So I voted for Ray."

Try to wrap your mind around that statement. He supported Mitch but didn't support Mitch. And what changed his mind was that the Republican candidate in that race (and who is currently running again in this race!!!) told him to vote for Nagin. And he did!!! Without question!!!

Indeed, that is bananas. And the New Orleans Tribune decides to look past all that lunacy, and much, much more. John Georges "plantation" comment, for example... how does the Trib give him a pass for that? And his desire to seek input from Jefferson Parish officials for the next police chief, after he bankrolled a documentary celebrating the late Harry Lee... how does that get overlooked by the Trib? These blunders would be perceived as mortal "sins" if they came from any other white candidate-- they'd never live it down in the Trib's eyes, especially if it came from a self-described conservative former Republican. (For the record, I think Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand's advice would be well worth considering, but that's another matter.) Read this Trib editorial on Harry Lee, if you don't believe me.

But Georges gets to finance a laudatory documentary about Harry Lee, that was released just this fall, and it doesn't ruffle the Tribune's feathers a bit. Here's the review from the Times Picayune:

The straight-forward Lee is remembered for not mincing words regardless whether the listener liked what he said and regardless of political sensitivities. "What bugged Harry the most about politicians was the way that they ... used their language to hide hypocrisy," said lawyer Joey Lepow.

Notable for a documentary financed by Lee's fans, this one addresses some of the controversies surrounding the late lawman. Old footage of one of his critics, Rev. Tom Watson, is included in a section on Lee's attitude toward race. Elsewhere, there's even new commentary from former state Sen. Ken Hollis, R-Metairie, against whose election prospects Lee sometimes schemed.

Nothing, however, about Lee's favorite target: U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.

Interesting that Lee's clashes with Vitter and his threatening references to Vitty-cent's New Orleans "secrets" go unmentioned in Georges' documentary. Or maybe not.


31 Oct 2008 U.S. Sen. David Vitter on Thursday officially closed his legal defense fund that was created following his involvement in the "D.C. Madam" prostitution case last year. The Louisiana Republican raised $200,010 through 27 contributors, many who gave the maximum $10,000, in less than a month, according to documents requested and obtained by The News-Star from Vitter's office.
Among the 27 contributors are well-known political and business figures like Donald "Boysie" Bollinger of Bollinger Shipyards; John Georges of Imperial Trading Co., who ran unsuccessfully for governor last year; Gary Chouest, a shipbuilder and part owner of the New Orleans Hornets; and New Orleans banker and real estate mogul Joseph Canizaro.

Precisely who are the dark political forces and hidden string-pullers that the Tribune worries about, if not these guys? Bollinger, who, like Georges, has contributed mightily to the election of pro-New Orleans politicians like George W. Bush *cough*, is known for playing devious double games against the city, mere months after it was flooded. (Bollinger is also known for looking the other way when it comes to Vitty-cent.) Similarly, the Greater New Orleans Republicans are known for the same sort of macchiavellian crapola-- privileging Republican state party politics above all, no matter the circumstances or implications for New Orleans. And according to journalist Chris Tidmore, John Georges "helped found" the Greater New Orleans Republicans.

Yet the Tribune can look past all of Georges' lunacy and his previous associations, and endorse him over, say, an African-American candidate like James Perry, whose intellect Georges insulted during a debate. The Trib looks past all that, and still endorses Georges. "It's complicated", they explain.

Perhaps it's not "complicated". Maybe the only thing complicated is the Trib's excuses, and its crazy evolving political "strategery" that has it eating its tail. Or maybe the Trib just got its brains switched with an "Abby Normal" replacement.

Update: American Zombie revisits John Georges' fraternity days, which apparently included participation in "funny" parties with racist overtones (and undertones, and everything in-between).
Update #2: Adrastos looks into Georges' latest endorsement by some little-known "lake area" civic group that's also a PAC.

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Monday, February 01, 2010

Banzai Bill 

This has been a difficult week for displaced New Orleanian Banzai Bill, as he attends to his ailing mother, who seems ready to pass on. Bill shared some poignant reflections about his mother at his blog, and candidly described her circumstances and what he was feeling.

Few noticed. Usually Bill's blog gets only a handful of visitors and a stray comment here or there. But last Thursday (which happened to be his birthday) he received a massive outpouring of support.


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Clay: "The race for the next assessor is critical for the future of New Orleans. It's a battle between old nepotistic assessors that flout the law and back the vampires of the city and a new system that will actually treat everyone fairly, regardless of political connections."

Eli: "Most consequential race flying under radar"

This is a hugely important election, and assessments are an underappreciated issue. Read Clay and Eli's posts and their links to learn why. I'll be voting for Janis Lemle, and hope you seriously consider her, and tell others about her. Millages in New Orleans have dropped due to her commitment to more accurate assessments in the sixth district. They can drop further if we opt for reform rather than the same old cronies who are responsible for the stupid and unfair "system" that has plagued New Orleans for generations.

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