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Senator Karen Carter-Peterson wants to shut the public out

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Protesters at New Orleans City Hall

from‘s Joshua Delano

Senator Karen Carter-Peterson wants to take the “public” out of public servant and allow New Orleans city council and other city and parish councils across the state to meet in private. If Senator Peterson gets her way with Senate Bill 583, this legislation will revise the open meetings section of the Louisiana Constitution allowing the public to attend all city council meetings. Peterson’s SB 583 will close certain council meetings to the public when the members are meeting with their respective parish President or Mayor.

The meetings closed to the public would likely consist of committee meetings as well. FYI, New Orleans city council committees consist of 3-4 persons.

Here is the language of the bill for your review.

The Louisiana Press Association is already in a frenzy over this bill. The voting public should be as well.

Last April, the New Orleans city council applauded Peterson when they heard that she was going to be proposing this legislation. So much so, the members of New Orleans’ city council wrote a letter signed by every member. I suppose they didn’t want another repeat of the public voicing their disapproval of New Orleans federal housing projects being boarded up. Or maybe they don’t want to see the public outcry during their meetings repeated as in the Stacy Head incident.

Maybe Senator Carter-Peterson and her friends in City Council don’t want protestors showing up during meetings like those many disenfranchised who showed up after Katrina who were shut out of government housing. Maybe she and some elected officials like her don’t need to run for office if they don’t want to hear the needs of the people who elected them.

Open meetings are a basic facet of every state constitution and embodied in the spirit of our nation’s constitution. The voting public do not work for these elected officials who seem to want to be treated like corporate executives or movie stars. Public service is just that. The voters elect their officials and should have as much access to them as possible. If Senator Peterson and New Orleans council members want to hide from the public and not be bothered with the needs and yes, sometimes the anger of their constituents, they should go work for Goldman Sachs or the Bank of America where they can operate with impunity and hide from the public without fear of reprisal.

As time passes citizen involvement, especially in a time of economic and environmental crises, grows to a feverish pitch with the diminishing of moral integrity and accountability. The public are showing up to town hall meetings, writing their elected officials, and of course making their presence known inside and outside of legislative meetings. Hopefully as the situation becomes more desperate, elected officials will come to respect their constituents who need substantive change to take place and stop pandering to their corporate campaign contributors who have run local, state, and federal politics since the birth of our nation.

Anti-incumbent sentiment has become commonplace across the nation and contains no clearly definitive partisan preference. If you don’t agree, just ask Martha Coakley of Massachusetts and Senator Bob Bennett of Utah. Legislators like Senator Peterson and some of the New Orleans council members still left over from last April seek to quell the rising tide of public participation in local government.

The adage “all politics is local,” still holds true. This is especially true in times of difficulty when the shift from apathy to anger can completely re-shape the political landscape across every city, state and our nation. Establishment and corporate rule can only last for so long regardless of whose Administration or Party is in power. Eventually, the masses will rise up and make their voices heard.

Are you and your friends on New Orleans city council listening Senator Peterson?

Well, it is my hope that you will call and email Senator Karen Carter-Peterson and let her know that you don’t want to be silenced.

Sen. Peterson’s contact information:


Capitol Office
P.O. Box 94183
Baton Rouge, LA 70804
(225) 342-2040

District Office
1215 Prytania Street
Suite 364
New Orleans, LA 70130
(504) 568-8346


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