During the current special legislative session regarding redistricting, there is an attempt to extract political power and clout from New Orleans. Suffering devastating population losses, New Orleans East, particularly the Senate 2 district seat, currently held by Cynthia Willard Lewis, is set to be replaced by a minority district in either central Louisiana or the River Parishes. Curiously a new Senate district, that includes a part of Senate District 2, is also being drawn to accommodate term limited Republican Speaker of the House Jim Tucker. Currently every statewide elected official is or has switched to the Republican Party and 25 other Democratic legislators have become Republicans. When New Orleans was the state's largest city, it always had the political sway to insure a fair and representative share of the state's budget was allocated to the city's coffers. However, during these lean economic times and amidst a state budget reduction, New Orleans' losses in the redistricting battle will only be exacerbated in the upcoming legislative sessions.
Still home to some of the most important and profitable state assets, like the State Supreme Court, LSU Medical School, the Superdome and New Orleans Arena, New Orleans still generates more state tax dollars than any other region in the state. But the anti-New Orleans sentiment, now generationally ingrained, that was historically about resources and geography has morphed and devolved into bigotry and extremism. And in previous years, the New Orleans delegation was able to close ranks and often cross party lines to secure legislation that would benefit the people of New Orleans and the region and combat North Louisiana legislators' money grab. But the strategic, aggressive and successful recruitment by Republican Party leaders of 25 elected Democratic legislators has tipped the scales heavily to the right. The Republican need to compromise has been severely diminished.
Promised financial support and future campaign resources, these new Republicans will certainly attempt to prove their loyalty to their new political parties and vote for issues that most New Orleanians are against, like the SUNO-UNO merger. New Orleanians have usually sent skilled politicians to Baton Rouge. Veteran leaders, like Senator Willard-Lewis, have always delivered projects to the city from the state. And considering that future sessions may have even fewer New Orleans representatives, the current group must coalesce and form a united front against the politics that seeks to dismember the city. Republicans seemed determined to dominate state politics and preventing any input from minorities and dissenting voices. New Orleans area Senator Karen Carter Peterson and Shreveport area Senator Lydia Jackson pushed a plan that made a north Louisiana district only 42 percent minority. But Bob Kostelka, the Republican leader of the Senate committee that overseas redistricting, wants to maintain two Republican districts. Stimulated by the momentum of the Republican takeover of state politicians, Kostelka disregarded all rules of decorum and mutual respect and referred to Senator Peterson as "little lady" as he informed her that she was out of order and that his plan was backed by the governor.
Calls for discipline of Kostelka were ignored, but his appalling lack of respect was only slightly mitigated when his plan was replaced by a very similar plan submitted by Republican Neil Riser. In fact, Kostelka's disrespectful language is indicative of the sense of power and control Republicans feel regarding Democrats from New Orleans. New Orleans can not afford to lose any Senate seats. There are meetings Monday and Tuesday regarding redistricting in the Senate chambers. Call Senate President Joel Chaisson and express your wishes. (225) 342-2040.
Jeff Thomas is publisher of sync504 newsletter, he may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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