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A NEW ORLEANS TRIBUNE EDITORIAL

It is time to move forward as one city. And we at McKenna Publishing are ready.

We look forward to sitting down with Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell soon, so as to learn about and share with our readers information on her transition plans and the future of the city under her leadership.

We promise that this is the last time you will hear from The New Orleans Tribune about the undercurrent of activity surrounding the recent municipal elections.

Actually, we wouldn’t be pausing to reflect on the campaign again at all had it not been for a recent prominently placed article in the Dec. 5 edition of The New Orleans Advocate wherein an in-your-face Leslie Jacobs proudly claims credit for her role in shaping and shifting the electoral process. We knew we could not, in good conscience, remain quiet about what her actions portend for this city and our community. We must realize what’s going on, come together and fight fire with fire and resist the nefarious tactics that undermine our community.

To us, it is disturbing and downright frightening. So, this is a warning—a serious SOS. It is time to wake up what has been happening around us, to us and, at times, with our complicity.

If you missed the article, here’s the rundown: Without fear or trepidation, Leslie Jacobs admits in a front-page story published in The Advocate that she and her friends organized a political action committee to thwart Desiree Charbonnet’s candidacy (and confuse and divide our community) supposedly because she didn’t like the folk that urged Charbonnet and consulted for her campaign. Jacobs was no shrinking violet; She did not even attempt to downplay her calculated role in the election. After all, she was just looking out for us, y’all. At least that is what she wants New Orleanians to believe. But, we know better.

NotForSaleNOLA had big money; and campaign finance rules governing PACs allowed them to wield it with a good deal of anonymity until the very last minute. It didn’t matter that the deleterious things they said about Charbonnet were also deceitful. Jacobs condescendingly said so in her Advocate interview. NotForSaleNOLA had enough money to spew whatever untruths and treacherous deceits it could spin and determining whether or not any of it was true was “for the voters to decide,” Jacobs reportedly opined. That phrase doesn’t sit well with us. In fact, it drips with arrogance and disregard for the people of this city. It is a dangerous mindset. NotForSaleNOLA lies and deceives and leaves the people of this city to sort through its garbage.

Let’s get this straight, again. There is no lamenting the election results here. We welcome our city’s first female mayor and are rooting for her success and the success of the entire city and ALL of its residents. Before the primary election, we asserted that she would make a good mayor. We were impressed by her and other frontrunners, including Charbonnet, Michael Bagneris, Troy Henry and Tommie Vassel. We didn’t make an endorsement in the primary for that very reason. The people of New Orleans may have had to make a hard decision, but as we saw it, none of the top choices would have been a bad decision. So let the people decide based on facts, their gut feelings or the flip of a coin if they chose to—that was our posture.

What they should not have had to consider was a pack of baseless lies as promulgated by NotForSaleNOLA. So here, one month after the election, we will not sit back and say nothing about outside forces pulling strings that impact our communities, stirring up ill will and creating havoc amongst us—you, know, the old divide and conquer. Meanwhile, they pat themselves on the back for their efforts. We’ve said it before and it is worth repeating. We have no reason to trust Leslie Jacobs. As the architect of the so-called education reform movement, her actions have been disastrous for our communities, especially our young people rapped in schools that are failing them with low performance schools some 12 years after being taken over.

We didn’t get into the fray until it became apparent that Jacobs and her PAC were wielding influence and control based on lies and bought by big money for their own self-serving goals and egos. According to campaign finance reports, Jacobs alone poured $135,000 of her money into the PAC within the span of roughly six weeks between Sept. 12 and Oct. 31. We pray that no one is so gullible as to believe that Leslie Jacobs spent an average of $22,500 a week for six weeks to fund incessant television advertising, vicious robo-calls, pamphlets, and signs besmirching candidates in other races out of concern for the hardworking people of New Orleans.

Still,  we didn’t really begin to worry until otherwise intelligent folk we knew began repeating the NotForSaleNOLA rhetoric as if it were the first four books of the New Testament. To say you were voting for one candidate or the other based on which one you like more or by referencing her record of work and results, for example LaToya Cantrell’s superior community organizing skills and leadership in rebuilding Broadmoor in the wake of Katrina, was just fine. To say you were voting for one candidate over the other because of the lies you read in a NotForSaleNOLA pamphlet, made us cringe.

who picked jacobs?

Make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen Mayor-Elect Cantrell by a landslide. She has our full support, as well. That doesn’t mean that we like that NotForSaleNOLA has emerged as a key factor in this election, or that Jacobs has seemingly solidified her role in our city’s political, social and economic landscapes in general. And yes, we are still bothered by that—even more so since Jacobs’ brazen justification for inserting her two cents in this election and making it about something other than the caliber and quality of the candidates and their platforms. So why did she do it? Two reasons—because she wanted to and because she could. To read the recent Advocate article, in which Jacobs essentially gloats about her role in this election, is sickening.

Many of the folk that contributed to Jacob’s PAC don’t even live in Orleans Parish, including Jacobs, who may still own her Uptown address but has moved to Metairie as we understand it.

The real question is who decided that Leslie Jacobs and her cronies get to determine what is best for New Orleans and New Orleanians? Who gave them the right to determine who is worthy of our attention and our trust? With the influence and impact of NotForSaleNOLA, Jacobs and her friends have created a precedent that spells bad news. It can be easily replicated by those with the inclination and money to pour into PACs with little regard or integrity.

The only folks we are more upset with than Jacobs and her krewe for perpetrating their fraud are our very OWN people for allowing themselves to fall victim to it.

Here’s the reality. Despite what Jacobs might want the unassuming people of New Orleans to believe, we KNOW better. Exacting influence in this election was not about Desiree Charbonnet. It was not about the people surrounding and consulting Charbonnet. It was not even about Mayor-Elect Cantrell. Everything Leslie Jacobs did was all about and for Leslie Jacobs and her crowd.

The Game is Chess

Sooo…you still don’t think it’s a game or that we are being used as pawns? Because of her deep pockets, Leslie Jacobs is a go-to figure for many seeking office at the local and state levels.

Who can be counted as recipients of her civic and political contributions, you ask?

Well, let’s just say the shorter list would be a rundown of projects, political candidates, elected officials Jacobs has not contributed to over the years.

There are few Orleans Parish School Board members in the last 12 years whose campaign have not received contributions from Jacobs. And that makes sense as she has been the architect of the so-called reform movement that has decimated public education in New Orleans. She needed to have friends on that board, and her money and influence have helped place more than a few on the OPSB over the years. You know some of the names—Una Anderson, Sarah Usdin, Seth Bloom, Lourdes Moran, Nolan Marshall Jr., Leslie Ellison, Ethan Ashley and so on.

She has also contributed to the campaigns of those running for the state board of education, including sizable contributions to TFA exec Kira Orange Jones, James Garvey and Dr. Holly Buffy, each of whom currently serve on the state board of education, as well as to former BESE member Chas Roemer. She has also added to the political coffers of school board members in neighboring Jefferson Parish, with current Jefferson Parish Public School Board members Larry Dale and Sandra Denapolis Bosarge, as well as former member Michael Delesdernier among those who have received contributions from Jacobs over the years.

And that’s okay. The truth is Jacobs has contributed to the campaigns of plenty of folk running for public office from the state legislature, the city council, the mayor’s office, the governor’s office, the BESE board, other statewide positions, elected positions in parishes across the region, numerous PACs and beyond. And there is nothing wrong with that on its face, except that in politics it’s always safe to assume that no one is making a contribution without expecting something in return—maybe not today or tomorrow, but rest assured next month, next week, next year, they will remind you. The American political system and the campaign process require candidates, particularly those who are not independently wealthy, to solicit contributions in order to fund their bids for public office. And while small dollar contributions–$10, $25, $50 or $100 here and there—can add up, the power of deep pockets is an unfortunate reality.

It Was Always about Leslie Jacobs

We find it ironic that in The Advocate article, Jacobs admits to having, in the past, worked with the very people—Ike Spears and Blair Boutte—she targeted and lambasted in her campaign against Charbonnet. Spears and Boutte, both veteran political consultants are hardly new to politics. So of course, they have crossed paths with Jacobs before. In fact, they have worked on a number of campaigns during which Jacobs never once bothered to question their ethics or influence.

So do you understand that NotForSaleNOLA was not about Spears and Boutte? They were simply made convenient targets. Jacobs held them up to distract and deflect the voters of this city from what really mattered. In fact, if she really had a problem with the duo, why wasn’t City Councilwoman-At-Large-Elect Helena Moreno a NotForSaleNOLA target as they were consultants on her campaign as well?

By the way…another name that doesn’t make that short list of people whose campaigns Leslie Jacobs has NOT contributed to is Desiree Charbonnet. Charbonnet received a total of $6,000 from Jacobs in 2002 during her re-election bid for Orleans Parish Recorder of Mortgages. Of course, 15 years is a long time in politics and Jacobs is free to shift her political leanings any way she chooses. But let’s be honest, what could Charbonnet have conceivably done in 15 years (during about six of which she was still serving as recorder of mortgages, essentially maintaining real estate records for the parish, before being elected to municipal court in 2007) to go from being worthy of a sizable campaign contributions from Jacobs to being the target of vicious political attacks from Jacobs?

Jacobs even made a donation to former Mayor Ray Nagin. Yep, in our search of Jacobs’ political contributions over the last 16 years or so, we found one in December of 2004 to Nagin for $2500. Not a big deal, you think? Here is why that fact is important. NotForSaleNOLA made a flimsy attempt to tie the former mayor to Charbonnet in their baseless and relentless attacks against the candidate. NotForSaleNOLA suggested that because a business owner who had contributed to former mayor Nagin’s campaign in the past also contributed to Charbonnet’s recent bid for mayor, something must be awry. Never mind that Jacobs herself had contributed to Nagin’s political war chest in the past. Talk about hypocrisy. With that, it is clear that NotForSaleNOLA wasn’t even about thwarting so-called corruption.

If NotForSaleNOLA wasn’t really about Desiree Charbonnet, or about Spears and Boutte, or against corruption, or for the people of New Orleans whom Jacobs is, by her own admission, content to let sift through the bevy of lies she pushed, then there is only one person ultimately served by the NotForSaleNOLA campaign. And that person is Leslie Jacobs and her oversized ego. For her, everything else is collateral and inadvertent.

Hey, it’s politics, we get it. And as Jacobs puts it, politics is not for the faint of heart. We agree. It’s not much of a place for folks without guts, courage, discernment and independent thought either. Black New Orleanians better start stockpiling and utilizing a heaping share of those characteristics or we will continue to find ourselves being used as nothing more than throw-away pawns in a game we will NEVER win.

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