Is the New Orleans area and Louisiana, as a state, entering a new phase of coronavirus protections and risks, too quickly? Are we emphasizing our health and safety needs more than we should? Are we abandoning the very real risks of the aged, the unhealthy and those prone to get sick or worse, die? Or, shouldn’t we recognize the irreparable harm to our institutions, our economy and our way of life?
A few days ago, I discussed these general issues with Arnie Fielkow during a Facebook Live event. I looked forward to the interview because it is not everybody who has held the positions of President of the New Orleans Saints, the New Orleans City Council, the National Basketball Retired Players Association and now, the Greater New Orleans Jewish Federation. I thought he would bring an articulate, divergent and interesting perspective to the controversy. After all, looking at the issue from the vantage point of an NFL team executive would be different from the perspective of a top public servant or a head of a major not-profit organization.
Is New Orleans ready to reopen?
The nation’s economy in a free-fall. The death toll continues to shock and climb day after day. All communities are debating if and when it should abandon their severe lockdowns and return to a more restricted business-as-unusual. Currently, the United States is facing an unimaginable 20 percent unemployment. Yet, the deaths now hovering over 80,000. Some experts predict that by Memorial Day, an unthinkable 100,000 people will have died as a result of the coronavirus.
New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell is a progressive Democrat schooled by the Aspen Institute to follow a very left-wing agenda. It should have been no surprise that she visited Cuba to learn about economic development or Ghana to study how to bring a slave ship attraction to New Orleans.
During this Covid-19 crisis, she has not disappointed her liberal benefactors. Every day, her decisions are following their playbook to seize more government control and limit the freedom of the people.
So many Coronavirus economy questions. For now, very few answers. Lots of disappointments. For some, hopefully, a new promising new normal beginning .
Questions such as: Can businesses in this region recover? Are we ready to reopen? Which industries might be the winners? Which could lose?
Michael Hecht, the President of Greater New Orleans Inc seemed optimistic but worried. Hecht has been the face of the region's economic development engine. He moved to the city after Katrina and has been at the center of major developments in the airline, technology, manufacturing, transportation, aerospace, logistics, just to name a few.
Roughly one month ago, Louisiana had no coronavirus cases report. Today, the state Department of Health and Hospitals claim there are 10,297 reported, 370 deaths reported, 1707 patients in hospitals, 535 of them on ventilators.
Also, over 53,000 tests have been completed, with 49,608 being done by state labs.
The New Orleans region is one of the nation's top hot spots. In New Orleans and Jefferson Parishes, deaths alone amount to 233.
The United States has now become the world leader in a rather unfortunate category with the largest number of coronavirus victims. As of Friday March 27, there were 92, 282 confirmed cases and 1,380 deaths associated with the coronavirus in the United States. The area with the fifth highest total of deaths in the country is Orleans Parish, which leads the nation in fatalities per capita.
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Thankfully, Mardi Gras 2020 is over. It was a very challenging celebration this year as tragedy struck multiple times. Sadly, two people were killed in separate float accidents. The first one occurred during the Krewe of Nyx, while the second one occurred during the largest Mardi Gras krewe, Endymion. The last accidental death at a Mardi Gras parade occurred in 2008, but, in recent years, this was the first time that two people had accidentally died in the same carnival season.
It is a wonderful thing when a local hero, such as retired pharmacist Dan Schneider, gains international attention. It is happening now for Schneider and no one is more deserving. He is featured in a four-part Netflix documentary series, “The Pharmacist.”
The program is riveting television. It starts by chronicling the tragic death of Schneider’s son, Danny Jr. who was killed trying to buy drugs in the Lower Ninth Ward of New Orleans. Danny Jr. was only 22 when he was killed, and his drug addiction was unknown to his family.
With much fanfare, on October 25, 2018, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other political leaders opened a meditation room at City Hall. The purpose of this “safe space” was to allow people “to reflect, even seek counsel if they need it.” It was one of Cantrell’s anti-violence initiatives for “youth in crisis.”
The Mayor touted the center as a “holistic approach about health and wellness,” featuring reclining chairs, essential oils and diffusers.
After 15 months, it seems clear the “holistic” approach is not working. Juvenile violence is on the upswing. It has been particularly horrible in Lakeview. In fact, one recent incident forced schools and homes to be placed on lockdown as police launched a manhunt to find three automobile thieves who had fled from authorities after a traffic stop.
In recent months, Lakeview residents have had to deal with car burglaries and car windows being smashed all too frequently. Their anger reached a boiling point on Tuesday night at a town hall meeting in Lakeview. A massive crowd attended to express their disappointment at the lack of action from City Hall.
Unfortunately, not only did the Mayor not attend, but she also chose not to send a representative to the meeting. This shows a total lack of respect for an area of New Orleans that send millions of tax dollars to City Hall. Sadly, Lakeview has been ignored for many years. For evidence, just examine the pitiful condition of the streets, which are among the worst in New Orleans.
A leading Lakeview activist Elizabeth Schindler said that residents “want actual results, we don’t want placation.”
Truly, the time for “placation” is over for Lakeview, but did the Mayor get the message? It is a legitimate question for she spends plenty of time outside of the city. For example, she is currently enjoying a trip to Washington Mardi Gras in our nation’s capital. Over the New Year holiday, she visited the country of Ghana on a trade and cultural mission. Last summer, she attended a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting in Hawaii and led a panel discussion dealing with issues such as “water” and “infrastructure.” For her birthday, she visited the communist nation of Cuba to learn about their health care system and economic development programs.
Let’s hope for remainder of 2020, the Mayor will spend enough time in New Orleans to realize that her administration must focus on crime, especially juvenile crime, as the most important issue to be addressed.
In response to the Lakeview crime surge, the Cantrell administration announced that it will create an evening reporting center for juveniles and a supervision program with social workers. A better approach is to unleash the police department by removing the consent decree that is limiting proactive measures that officers can take. According to the Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, police officers are “not allowed to participate in chases and again that sort of empowers…the criminal to go out and be more brazen on the streets.”
The real answer is not meditation rooms, social workers or midnight basketball. It is old fashioned law and order and punishment for juvenile criminals so they will be deterred from committing more crime. If they receive no punishment for their illegal activities, criminals are incentivized to continue with their delinquent behavior.
Clearly, essential oils are not doing the trick, it is time to let police officers do their jobs.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at [email protected]
It has been three months since the Hard Rock Hotel collapsed on Canal Street, killing three workers and injuring dozens of others. Since that time, lawsuits have been filed, but very little has been done to demolish the partially collapsed building. After the collapse, an effort to demolish two large cranes on the building site only partially succeeded as one crane is still dangling from the side of the building. To make matters worse, the bodies of two dead construction workers remain in the building.
As you know by now, the Saints will host the San Francisco 49ers Sunday in a game that will break the tie for the NFC’s top seed. Both teams are 10-2 after the Niners lost at Baltimore and the Saints avenged an earlier loss by defeating the Falcons Thanksgiving night. Beating the Falcons anytime, especially after that Week 10 upset, is sweet, but I was looking ahead to this week for a special reason. I hate the 49ers.
For months, New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell and other city leaders have been boasting about the reduction in murders this year. It looks like 2019 will end with a significant decrease in the murder rate. This is great news and should be celebrated by all citizens in New Orleans.
Despite this progress, there are serious concerns which remain about crime in New Orleans. Auto burglaries are on the increase all over New Orleans. Sadly, on Sunday morning, at the end of the Bayou Classic weekend, there was a mass shooting on Canal Street. In this case, 10 people were shot and, thankfully, none were killed.