A WAR ON THE HOMELESS

It was back in August that the city targeted the homeless population, clearing out the encampments many had made underneath the Pontchartrain Expressway. We denounced the move back then as hard and heartless—especially considering that a few years back, the city voted to demolish public housing, replacing it with mixed-income developments (where rents for poorer residents just went up, by the way).

It’s hard out here for everyone, especially the least among us—the impoverished, the homeless, and the needy. And it just doesn’t make much sense for us to go out of the way to create policies and rules that make it harder for distressed groups.

Even more disturbing is that New Orleans is not alone. It seems that cities across what is still one of the richest countries in the world are going out of their way to criminalize the poor and homeless with a new pattern of laws that make it a crime to do things like sleep, eat, lie or solicit donations. Then, with the other hand, they are defunded already underfunded social service programs.

Lately, though, the trend has caught the attention of a United Nations panel that is already reviewing this country’s record on racial discrimination. And they have a lot to say about it. Who can blame them for giving a side eye to this country’s treatment of its poorest residents even as it asserts itself a world leader that lifts up the weak and needy everywhere, except here . . . at home.

NOLA’S ECONOMIC OPPORTUNITY STRATEGY IS POSITIVE STEP

The New Orleans Tribune has not been shy about reminding our readers through editorial content in our monthly magazine, e-blasts or websites that the unemployment rate among working age African-American men in New Orleans is appalling and unacceptable at more than 50 percent.

But news that the city of New Orleans has launched an initiative specifically designed at decreasing the numbers of unemployed Black men and throughout the city gives us something to look forward to.

A real solution that at least begins to address a real problem—now, that’s what we’re talking about!

The new initiative, called the Economic Opportunity Strategy, will focus on assisting disadvantaged job seekers with finding jobs and with job training. Already, the city initiative has established partnerships with local institutions such as Sewerage & Water Board, Louis Armstrong International Airport, and Xavier University among others whose role ostensibly would be to make earnest efforts to hire individuals who take part in the program.

It’s a great start, we say. And we look forward to the initiative as it continues to take shape.

TRY REPAIRING TRUST FIRST

The Orleans Parish School Board has voted to put a tax referendum on the Dec. 6 ballot that, if approved by voters, would create a dedicated facilities fund for the upkeep of public school buildings in New Orleans.

Interestingly enough, the Times-Picayune happened to publish an article the same week that the board approved placing the referendum on the ballot. The story went on and on about the poor physical shape of many of the schools buildings, most of which are occupied by charter school operators, across the city and how they are in need of some essential repairs.

We know. We know. It’s hard to say “no” to schools and even harder to say “no” to children or those things that might benefit. But this tax, which would otherwise expire, must be voted down by the people when they head to the polls In December. And here is why.

Now, all of sudden, there such concern about the buildings where our children attend school? Yeah, right. Wondering where that concern was a few years ago when then RSD Superintendent John White resorted to extortion—dangling a multi-million dollar renovation like a carrot in front of the students and staff at the now-closed John McDonogh High School if and only if the school was turned over to a charter operator. Three years later, not only did John McDonogh not get the much needed renovation, but the campus continued to fail even after shifting from the direct control of the RSD to charter operator Future is Now. When school started in 2014, there was no renovation and no John Mac—just a long-gone charter operator, who despite having to constantly explain financial discrepancies in its fiscal management of the school in past years, has not and will never actually face the taxpayers of this city or a body that represents their interests to give an account of what went wrong or face consequences.

And that is the problem. If any of this were about the children, we would say “yes” to this tax all day long and twice on Sundays. But if it were about the children, we’re thinking that at least some of the billions that have already poured into the city for schools would have been used to make needed repairs to school buildings as opposed to charter school operators raking in big bucks in operation fees and six figure salaries for CEOs. Let’s face it, the poor physical condition of some school buildings is hardly news despite front-page placement in the thrice-weekly Picayune. The story, as far as we are concerned, amounts to little more that hype and hoopla to make the case for the tax. It is propaganda at its best.

Much of the $15.5 million raised each year will be turned over to the dozens of charter school outfits that operate in the city with little or no oversight. The operators of these so-called public schools aren’t upfront about how the money they are already allotted is spent. What do you think they will do if they get $15.5 million more a year? The leaders of these schools do not answer to the people of New Orleans; and they do not deserve any more of our tax dollars.

Even more disconcerting is that a faction on the school board appears to be more concerned about pleasing the so-called reform advocates and agents whose positions, power plays and policies paved the way for the takeover of our public schools.

While the appointed members of the dozens of charter school boards and their operators do not answer to the voters of New Orleans, it seems that members of the Orleans Parish School Board, especially Sarah Usdin, Seth Bloom, Woody Koppel and Nolan Marshall, need to be reminded that they indeed do answer to the voters of Orleans Parish.

These are Our Schools! Our buildings! Our Money! And most of all, Our Students that are hurting!

Instead of introducing tax proposals to turn over more money to charter schools that do not answer to us, the Orleans Parish School Board would do better spending its time figuring out just what it needs to do to regain control of all of public education in New Orleans.

And until every last school is turned over to a board of men and women elected by the people of this city, we must Say NO to new school taxes!

The New Orleans Tribune

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