Why democracy in New Orleans depends on amending the City Charter

In the Times Picayune today, Norris Henderson writes about how the Jim Crow-era charter that governs the New Orleans City Council threatens democracy in the city.

Henderson, who was wrongfully incarcerated for 27 years, then founded VOTE (Voice Of The Ex-offender), says that amending the City Charter is key because, “Protecting people’s access to political representation is a fundamental part of our democracy. If people feel that they don’t have a choice in the political process, they will opt out of it. This weakens the power of our right to vote.”

Read his Letter to the Editor:

Redistricting plans divide neighborhoods: A letter to the editor

by Norris Henderson

New Orleans' City Council is operating under a 1954 Home Rule Charter that does not represent the interests of the residents of this city. Fifty-seven years ago when the new charter was adopted, a member of the Charter Committee noted that the charter had been in effect for 40 years, and "there have been radical changes in the social and economic lives in the citizens of New Orleans."

Our city has radically changed politically since 1954 -- then, a significant group of our citizens could not vote. Now, we uphold an obsolete political system that divides our neighborhoods and separates communities that share common goals.

We must amend the city's charter to increase the number of City Council districts for better representation under redistricting. Amending the charter can be achieved before the 2014 council election. Here's the process: it requires an ordinance by the council or 10 percent or 10,000 signatures (whichever is fewer) of registered New Orleans voters to place the amendment on the ballot.
Read the rest of the letter at NOLA.com

Rosana Cruz is Associate Director of VOTE (Voice Of The Ex-offender). Previously Rosana worked with Safe Streets/Strong Communities and the National Immigration Law Center. Prior to joining NILC, she worked with SEIU1991 in Miami, after having been displaced from New Orleans by Katrina. Before the storm, Rosana worked for a diverse range of community organizations, including the Latin American Library, Hispanic Apostolate, the Lesbian and Gay Community Center of New Orleans, and People's Youth Freedom School. Rosana came to New Orleans through her work with the Southern Regional Office of Amnesty International in Atlanta.