Week in Review: Cantrell PAC slams tourism leader over ‘unhinged’ Lens interview

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Action New Orleans, a political action committee formed last year to back Mayor LaToya Cantrell’s political agenda, on Tuesday morning criticized comments made by New Orleans tourism leader Stephen Perry in an interview with The Lens, calling Perry “unhinged.”

In the interview, which was featured on The Lens’ weekly podcast Behind The Lens, Perry — president of New Orleans & Company, formerly the New Orleans Convention and Visitors Bureau — shot back against Cantrell’s recent campaign to redirect local tourism tax revenue from the tourism industry to city government.

Cantrell says the city needs the money to pay for what her administration estimates are tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure repairs. But Perry told The Lens that such a move would undercut the city’s economy, saying that new revenue would be wasted on what he characterized as an underperforming city government.

“In an unhinged interview with the Lens, J. Stephen Perry, who takes home over $430K per year to promote the City, spent most of his time tearing it down,” Action New Orleans wrote in a Tuesday morning press release.

State Supreme Court denies Orleans DA’s appeal request in fake subpoena records lawsuit

It’s finally time for Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro to follow a local judge’s 2017 order and fully respond to The Lens’ 2017 public records request for 16 months of fake subpoenas, the legally worthless documents used for decades to convince reluctant witnesses to speak with prosecutors.

On Tuesday, the Louisiana Supreme Court denied District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s request to reconsider lower court rulings requiring his office to find and turn over the records.

The high court’s decision effectively ends the key legal dispute between the DA’s office and the news outlet. An Orleans Parish Civil District Court judge and a state appeals court had previously sided with The Lens.

On Wednesday afternoon, the DA’s office provided two new records to The Lens. Cannizzaro’s spokesman Ken Daley said in a statement that the documents fulfill The Lens’ records requests and the court order, though there are still additional fake subpoenas outstanding. Daley said more will be turned over as they become available.

Thanks to you, we reached our goal

We did it! Thanks to readers like you who donated to The Lens, we reached our NewsMatch goal of $50,000! What an inspiring and energizing way to head into 2019.

As you know, nonprofit news organizations can face significant funding challenges. And it takes a lot of hard work and creativity to produce the kind of transparent, accountability-driven reporting we strive for every day.

That’s why we’re so grateful for your support, which allows us to continue telling the stories that matter to you and that the world needs.

Please continue to support our work in 2019.

Orleans Parish transitions Harney to direct-run school over long winter break

Thirteen-year-old Erriona Wiliams is spending this week between the library and her home, completing a dad-assigned book report to present to her family on Friday.

The eighth-grader has been out of school since before Christmas during an extra-long winter break that allowed the Orleans Parish school district to take over Edgar Harney charter school.

But Erriona’s mother, Lateisha Vallery-Broden, decided Tuesday night that Erriona would not be returning to the school when it reopens on Monday. After speaking with her daughter, she said she has concerns about one of the teachers. She also said she learned learned that there had been two fires at the school last fall that she was never told about.

Even though she’s pulling her daughter out, Vallery-Broden said she still supports the district’s decision to take the reins from the nonprofit that had run Harney for years.

“I feel like it was a good time to transition because the kids have not been getting a quality learning since all of this started,” she said.

Behind The Lens episode 14: ‘Unduly burdensome’

This week on Behind The Lens, host and producer Tom Wright talks to Scott Sternberg, The Lens’ attorney, about The Lens’ public records lawsuit seeking fake subpoenas from the Orleans District Attorney’s Office.

Editor Charles Maldonado talks about proposed changes to the city’s short-term rental regulations.

And we have a segment about climate change and Louisiana politics.

Last year came to a close with ample warnings about the state of the global environment. Climate change is already affecting Louisiana communities in the severity of extreme weather events, coastal erosion and more. But are state politicians getting the message? Tom speaks with reporter Julie Dermansky about her recent work for DeSmog Blog on the state’s political environment.

Opinion: Zooming in on ACORN’s Wade Rathke and a time before the far right owned ‘populism’

In a column for The Lens, filmmaker Nick Taylor asks what you remember about ACORN, “once the biggest and most effective community-organizing group in the U.S.”

“A Google search mostly yields results about ACORN’s downfall: the coordinated attacks by the Republican Party and Fox News, the video sting. I think that’s unfortunate because in this moment there’s more value in the lessons about how ACORN was built than in how it was destroyed. It’s what fascinated me when I began researching the film we’ve made about ACORN and Rathke—“The Organizer”—and what we decided to concentrate on when constructing it.”

“How did Rathke, who in 1970 was a young New Orleans-raised organizer based in Little Rock, Arkansas, manage to grow ACORN into a nationwide powerhouse for the poor? How was he able to recruit and train many of the best political organizers of their time? What is the process of building a truly democratic and grassroots political movement? And, more importantly, why, in the years since the organization’s demise has the desperate need to confront the fundamentally unfair market-driven politics of the last decades been filled, not by new ACORNs, but by a different, more sinister and fundamentally contradictory type of populist politics?”

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