Viewpoint: What kind of deal is attorney Billy Gibbens cutting for DA Jason Williams?

With District Attorney Jason Williams’ tax fraud trial scheduled to start in six weeks, now is the time that a seasoned defense attorney like Billy Gibbens would be putting the final touches on the best deal he could strike for his client, in this case Williams. Williams and his former law partner Nicole Burdett are charged with trying to inflate $700,000 in tax write-offs between 2013 and 2017. Though the attorneys at Tuesday’s pretrial hearing said they were “ready for trial,” they could have meant that federal prosecutors are not yet ready to announce the terms of any agreement. The best deal Gibbens could hope for would probably involve Williams pleading guilty to one or two counts and receiving a suspended sentence with house arrest and a big fat fine. In that scenario, Williams would also forfeit his law license and be removed from office. After three years, Williams could ask the Louisiana Supreme Court to reinstate his law license and, if successful, practice civil law.

Viewpoint: It’s time to put that mask on again

Those readers who know me personally understand that I am very involved in the Greek Festival, which is returning Memorial Day weekend after a two-year hiatus. During a visit to the Greek church earlier this week, the festival’s long-time operations director, who comes in from Texas, said, “I see you are wearing a mask again,” to which I replied: “I never stopped wearing a mask.”

Just before Jazz Fest, I wrote about an out-of-town friend, a decades-long Fest enthusiast, who wanted to mask at the Fair Grounds even though he is fully vaccinated and boosted. Impractical, I thought, and way too hot to mask.? He recently flew home after two jam-packed weeks during which he attended the festival all seven days, consumed copious amounts of ice cold watermelon in the WWOZ tent, caught nighttime performances such as singer John Boutté at d.b.a., and dined with old friends at Peche, Brennan’s and Doris Metropolitan. On the way to the airport, he even grabbed an oyster po’boy at the Kenner Seafood Market. By the time his flight landed in New York, he had the dreaded Covid cough.

Viewpoint: Clerk Chelsey Richard Napoleon believes she was called to serve

After a Covid-related delay, Chelsey Richard Napoleon will take the oath of office for her second term as Clerk of Civil District Court and ex-officio recorder on Saturday, (May 14) at Southern University at New Orleans. The investiture ceremony will be followed by a free crawfish boil? at SUNO’s Quad. Surrounded by family and friends, Napoleon will be honored Sunday (May 15) at a special Mass at St. Paul the Apostle Catholic Church, where she is an active member of the church’s pastoral council. The following day, Napoleon will also host a golf tournament at the Audubon Golf Course, 6500 Magazine St.?

“At the end of the day, we are all in this together,” Napoleon said when asked why she created a weekend of activities to thank the community for their ongoing support.

Viewpoint: Supreme Court reminds us ‘there are no permanent victories’

“How dare they tell a woman what she can do or not do with her body,” exclaimed Vice President Kamala Harris on Wednesday (May 3) as she vented her frustration about the U.S. Supreme Court’s leaked draft ruling on abortion written by conservative Justice Samuel Alito. As early as June, the country’s highest court, led by its conservative majority, is expected to release an opinion that will reverse a precedent that millions of women have used to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.?

When the Roe v. Wade case was initially filed half a century ago, public opinion supported the right to choose and the majority of justices concurred. Over the decades, liberal Democrats became complacent that the existing law would remain in effect forever. Unfortunately, Republicans around the country began waging a slow but strategic campaign to sway public opinion and elect or appoint for more conservatives. The rise of Donald Trump — with his convenient, new-found anti-abortion rhetoric along with his ability to appoint judges and endorse candidates — was indeed a major tipping point.?

The mood of the public had also changed.

Viewpoint: Don’t let the latest Covid variant ruin your Jazz Fest

The thousands of tourists and locals who will attend the long-awaited New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival will surely cause an increase in cases of Covid-19 and it newest sub-variant, BA.2. A friend coming in for the festival wants to wear his mask at the Fair Grounds. While a good idea, that’s probably not very practical considering the heat and the ongoing consumption of libations at Jazz Fest and the evening events. Ensuring each attendee takes the personal responsibility to avoid infection at this mostly outdoors event is a better solution. The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, reported Tuesday that the coronavirus has infected nearly 60% of people in the U.S. at least once, including about 75% of children.

Viewpoint: Raised to serve, Judge Rachael Johnson plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps

It’s been a fast-paced and fulfilling five years since Judge Rachael Johnson took the bench in Civil District Court Division B. The daughter of retired Louisiana Supreme Court Chief Justice Bernette Joshua Johnson, Judge Johnson always knew her future lay in public service. She plans to qualify in July to run for? the seat recently vacated by former Judge Regina Bartholomew-Woods on the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal, Division D.

“Service was always part of our lives. It was not optional. Of course I admire my mother and her life-long commitment to fairness, equity and justice, but she never insisted that I become a lawyer or judge,” Judge Johnson said. Her mother was the first African-American chief justice of the Louisiana Supreme Court, where she served from 1994 until her retirement in 2020.?

A graduate of McDonogh 35 High School and Spelman College, where she earned a B.A. in psychology, Judge Johnson went on to Smith College to obtain a master’s in social work.

Review: New Orleans artists present a celebration of diversity and place

By Saskia Ozols, guest columnist

The current exhibit by the Renegade Artists Collective, “Off the Beaten Path,”?includes an outstanding combination of voices that link symbolism of New Orleans and the Greater Gulf South, through commentary on its history and notes on considerations for the future.?

RAC exhibition curators Erin McNutt and Cheryl Anne Grace, both painters themselves, organized the show to include artists of varied genres and professional backgrounds — all currently working in New Orleans and without traditional gallery representation. The exhibit features work by professional mid-career artists along with the works of select students, art majors chosen by a committee from local universities.?

Exhibiting new talent with established professionals has been a formula in historic art communities to assure longevity. It both preserves and promotes a healthy, thriving art community. The structure fosters growth and provides a pathway for both artists and collectors to persevere through generations despite otherwise challenging conditions. Cities such as Boston, New York and Philadelphia have long histories of this structure in their most venerated institutions.??

This structure is especially important now as visual arts practice, preservation and education are quickly slipping away from public view.

Viewpoint: Reflections on taming the demons within

With the ongoing war between Russia and the Ukraine and with New Orleans’ never-ending crusade against crime and corruption, there is much for Christians, Jews and Muslims to reflect upon during Holy Week, Passover and Ramadan. Everyone has demons that haunt them. New Orleanians, it seems, have more than their fair share. The ability to fight off temptation often determines the quality of a person’s character and the kind of life they lead. Yet the longer I observe people — including politicians at all levels of government — the more I wonder what makes integrity fade away.

Viewpoint: Early childhood education, on the April 30 ballot, can prevent crime

In what is predicted to be an extremely low-turnout election on Saturday, April 30, Orleans Parish voters will have the opportunity to support a unique property tax dedicated to early childhood education. If approved, the legislation could generate about $21 million annually — creating 1,500 early childhood education seats in New Orleans. According to the legislation’s advocate Yes for NOLA Kids, the owner of a $200,000 home should expect to pay an additional $5.20 per month in property taxes. An owner of a home assessed at $1 million might pay $26 monthly. Currently more than 8,300 low-income children in New Orleans under the age of 4 are unable to access an affordable, high-quality early childhood education program.?
“When more kids are participating in preschool programs, we won’t have all the crime that we have now.” Cynthia Hedge Morrell
?“We’ve known since the days of famed researchers Jean Piaget and Maria Montessori that early childhood education has always been essential to creating thinking, caring, socialized, well-rounded children,” said long-time educator Cynthia Hedge Morrell, retired teacher and principal of McDonogh 15 Elementary School who later served on the City Council.