Oh Crap, I Have to Vote Tomorrow

October 3rd, 2008 by Editor B

Now that we’ve gone back to closed primaries in this state, I was under the impression that there would be nothing on the ballot for me tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that I cannot participate in the high-profile Democratic primary for the 2nd Congressional District. I believe the Democrats let independents vote in their primaries, but I’m not independent; I’m registered Green. I just assumed everything on the ballot was primary stuff, so I haven’t been paying much attention.

Frankly I was happy with that situation. Voting is the least effective means of civic participation. It’s a duty, and kind of a pain, so I was glad to be sitting on the sidelines for this one.

But it turns out there’s a bunch of stuff on the ballot that I can vote for. Or at least I think I can. The Secretary of State’s sample ballots unfortunately don’t account for party affiliation. I guess I won’t really know what I can vote for until I get in the booth.

There’s six judges and a magistrate on the ballot. There’s also the District Attorney and our district seat on the school board. I don’t understand why there is no primary for these races, but it looks like there isn’t. I am open to any and all voting advice.

There are also two propositions, a bond issue and a charter amendment. The amendment would fund the office of the Inspector General. I’m definitely voting for that.

The bond issue I’m more conflicted about. It’s $63 million for criminal justice stuff, mainly through the agency of the Criminal Sheriff. That’s the guy who runs the prison among other things. Our city has the highest incarceration rate in the state. Or state has the highest incarceration rate in the nation. Our nation has the highest incarceration rate in the “developed” world. There’s entirely too much incarceration going on. I’m hesitant to support anything that seems to expand that capacity. And yet some of these funds would be dedicated to facilities for educational and vocational programs in the prison. As long as we’re locking people up with such reckless abandon, it would seem like a good idea to provide literacy classes and the like. Those programs are important, and they are currently running them in old broom closets. So I may end up voting for this one too.

Update: Oyster has some endorsements.

Then again, Ed McGinnis just forwarded an e-mail from Michael Cowan which makes a pretty convincing argument against the bond issue.

From: Michael Cowan
Sent: Friday, October 03, 2008 7:37 AM
To: undisclosed-recipients
Subject: Big obligation, no citizen input

Dear Common Good leaders,

When New Orleanians go to bed on Friday night, we will already owe $12,000,000 over the next 8 years to support the Law Enforcement District run by the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff. If the bond issue passes on Saturday, we will wake up on Sunday morning obligated to pay $112,000,000 to the district over the next 20 years. That amounts to $100,000,000 million dollars in new taxes. The criminal sheriff is selling this proposal with the mantra “No new taxes.”

National criminal justice experts who have studied our local justice system in detail over the past year have concluded that New Orleans has a major “front-end” problem: We arrest, charge and incarcerate thousands of people annually who pose no threat to public safety. Their cases can and should be handled by fines, alternative sentences, and referral to psychological and chemical dependency treatment. These failed arrest and charging policies, which have been in place for more than 15 years, are a major reason why our police, DA, public defender, courts and jail are overloaded. While we continue to waste precious and limited resources in this way, our per capita murder rate repeatedly tops the nation. We are spending taxpayers’ money in ways that are not giving us justice or safety.

The criminal sheriff proposes to use almost $65,000,000 to build a 4,000 bed prison. That facility would hold 5 times the national average of local prison beds given our current population, and more than 3 times the national average if our population goes back to its pre-Katrina level. A big local prison is only necessary if we continue to flood our system with people who do not need to be in it. In other municipalities, including Jefferson Parish, they are not. Handling these cases in other proven ways will free up the resources of all elements of our system to deal swiftly and fairly with those whose criminal behavior does threaten public safety.

Most New Orleanians do not even know that this measure will be on the ballot when they enter the voting booth on Saturday. The sheriff chose to ask voters to take on over $100,000,000 in new taxes without holding a single public hearing. He did not give organizations working hard at local criminal justice reform like Safe Streets, Strong Communities and the New Orleans Crime Coalition the opportunity to work with him to create a plan that we could have supported wholeheartedly. It is his legal right to do this, but it leaves those who question the wisdom of a 4,000 bed prison no choice but to go along or oppose the measure. Opposition is warranted for all three of the reasons above.

A “no” vote on the bond proposal and a “yes” vote on the charter amendment to protect the inspector general’s office from political manipulation will make our streets safer and our government more honest and efficient.

With best wishes,

Michael Cowan
Common Good
Loyola University

5 Responses to “Oh Crap, I Have to Vote Tomorrow”

  1. lemming Says:

    Speaking as someone who teaches people in prison, vote for anything and everything that increases their access to education. I don’t care what the motives of the individual in name might be for taking a class, the fact that at some places they have access to the library only by special permission twice a month… or no access to education at all… I’m of the biased opinion that prisoners who have something to do with their time are less likely to create trouble.

  2. Mary Hogan Says:

    The think the primary was the scheduled for the same weekend as Gustav made us all panic.

    Look back through the MCNO yahoo group emails of the last week. There’s been a bunch of posts with links to info abou the bond issues, candidates, etc.

  3. daddy o Says:

    Jason Wms. for DA: young; owes no political favors; loves the city; and most importantly, will be a paradigm shift from Connick/ Jordan mentalities and send the mid-level deputy chiefs of trial who insist upon hard time for addicts packing to private industry.

    re-elect Judge Hunter, section K: a fair, even handed judge who insists that the aforementioned deputy trial chiefs in the DAs office do not send drug users to jail for lengthy prison terms. Gives hard time for violent offenders and multiple chances for defendants with drug problems.
    Lon Burns, his opponent, has been a corrupt DA (planted evidence in a trial), and showed a disregard for ethichal standards as a judicial candidate (broke several election rules by commenting on ongoing criminal cases as a candidate). What kind of judge will he be? Scores of well known defense lawyers have indicated they will not take cases in section K if he is elected because he is simply unable to be reasoned with. Judge Hunter holds the only Mental Health court at Tulane and Broad–a docket that allows the mentally ill to be monitored by social workers and function in society rather than be locked up on the 10th floor of HOD or banished to Feliciana, simply because they are sick.
    As to Oyster, I don’t know where he gets his info, but if thinks this race is worth vomiting in the booth over, he should get new sources–it’s a no brainer, especially if you’re a Green.

    Judges Van Davis and Derbigny likewise deserve re-election. Karen Herman seems a shoe-in for section I, and Hunter Harris or Gary Wainwright would be a fantastic sunrise on as Dennis Waldron’s interesting and punitive 20 years sets in section F.

    My 2 cents.. Happy primary day

  4. bayoustjohndavid Says:

    I was ready to vote for Jason Williams until I found out that Ron Nabonne was his campaign manager. I could overlook the fact that he’s Barthelemy’s son-in-law if he didn’t seem to have the same organization, or key elements of it.

    In addition to Michael Cowan’s analysis, I’d also recommend the conservative (calls itself non-partisan, but seems conservative) BGR and the more liberal Indymedia. Saying it’s for a good cause isn’t convincing enough.

  5. Anthony Says:

    I wish I had read this before I ran into ya’ll at Warren Easton.

    PS – Persephone is adorable.

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