Saturday, April 09, 2016

Vote today

It's easy. There are only two questions on the ballot in Orleans Parish. One is a simple #FixMyStreets, Yes or No matter.  The other is the more complicated Police and Fire millage. 

We've mentioned these before but here are two articles from Arielle Schecter and from Bart Everson each of which argues that the police funding should really have been a separate question from the firefighters' issue.  Jules Bentley, meanwhile, really goes to town on the police farce in this must-read Antigravity article.
I strongly urge you to go out and vote against this irresponsible money grab. Numerous quantitative and qualitative studies have shown no relation between increasing policing and increasing safety. To the contrary, higher rates of police presence often increase instability and insecurity in communities. Giving police more money is a particularly terrible idea when the force in question is the NOPD, a department beyond salvage. Other forward-thinking communities are re-examining better ways to help people feel (and be) safer; it’s past time we quit throwing our money into the flaming pit that is our city’s unreformably corrupt police and jail system.
Jules looks at the various piles of public and private money thrown at policing the French Quarter presently and finds just the legitimacy of the regime let alone its efficacy highly dubious. And he's right, of course. All three of those articles present compelling arguments against shoveling more money at our corrupt and dangerous criminal justice apparatus without insisting on radical reforms.

I'd love to see two questions on the ballot today instead of just the one. But Mitch has outmaneuvered us here  and I'm afraid there's not much to be done about it.  All three of the articles cited above suggest that a NO vote today eventually will get us a clean fire millage later on. I'm not so sure.

It's taken decades just to get this deal between the city and the fire department. There are firefighters who have died never receiving the back pay they were owed. I don't know for certain that a NO vote today would threaten the deal. But I do know that the legislature is considering a bill that would give the mayor a stronger negotiating hand in future situations like this dispute.
The acrimony of the legal battle over back pay hangs over a separate bill, however. As the fight reached its climax last year, Civil District Court Judge Kern Reese said the decades-old lawsuit firefighters were pursuing against the city had gone on long enough. He held the city in contempt and ordered that Landrieu be placed under house arrest on weekends if payments didn’t start.

Landrieu never ended up in house confinement due to a last-second stay from the state Supreme Court. And this year, state Sen. Conrad Appel, R-Metairie, has filed a measure that would prevent a state court from punishing public officials for failing to appropriate money for such claims.

Louis Robein, an attorney for the firefighters, argued that would take away a tool that could be used to force the city to pay off legal judgments it owes, something state courts cannot do otherwise.

“The way this is structured, these types of judgments would essentially not be enforceable through the power of contempt,” Robein said.
If, god forbid, the city and the firefighters have to go back to the negotiating table, there would be nothing even a judge could do to make the mayor bargain in good faith... or at all, really.  Today might be the last chance to get the firefighters a deal at all.  

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