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OneRouge Community Check-In - Week 172

Stop me if you have heard this one before, but elections do matter. And we have a pretty big one coming up this November 18. In case you were wondering, qualifying deadline was August 10. Although there are a slew of uncontested Legislative seats, there are 16 people running for governor. We also have open lieutenant governor, secretary of state, attorney general, treasurer, and insurance commissioner seats. It’s gonna be a wild one!

Since the primary is October 14, OneRouge is doing two super interesting things. First, we are partnering with Sierra Club and a few other organizations to host a gubernatorial candidate forum later this month. Second, we are getting down with an election breakdown call this Friday because nearly nothing impacts poverty like law and policy.

Please join us and our featured speakers as we learn about who is stepping up to fill the open seats and what is at stake locally, regionally, and statewide:

Alfreda Tillman-Bester - Special Counsel for Human Services Southern University Law Center

Jan Moller - Executive Director at Louisiana Budget Project

Enlight, Unite, & Ignite!



Casey Phillips: Happy Friday, everyone. And welcome to the space. And two incredible human beings that are featured speakers today. And I look forward to stepping back and listening and learning.

So thank all for being here today.

Pepper Roussel: Good morning, OneRouge. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for sharing part of your Friday morning with me. You know how much I enjoy that today we are going to be talking about the upcoming election, now we are not trying to tell you who to vote for we are trying to tell you what the voting means.

What is at stake? As you're voting, who is running for these offices, and as we shared it in the reminder, there are a what, 16 different folks who are running for governor, we've got some open seats all over the place, and on deck we've got some of our favorite Some of our favorite wonks who are going to be talking about the elections and what all these things mean.

In order from left to my right on my screen, we'll start with Alfreda Tillman Bester. Let us know who you are, what you do, and how we can be of help.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Good morning, everybody. I'm Alfreda Tillman Bester, and I currently serve as Special Counsel for Human Services at Southern University Law Center.

I am a former Louisiana Labor Secretary. I am a former General Counsel for the Louisiana State Conference of the NAACP. I'm a mom. I'm a wife. And I am most recently a grandmother and I am very proud and excited about that. But, and I think that one of my most important things that I'm very proud of is that I'm a former Sunday School teacher and that informs everything that I do and all of my interactions because everything that I learned that is worth sharing is something that I learned in Sunday School.

So if you all will bear with me from that lens, I'll go ahead and I'll get started. I want to say good morning to everybody and to thank OneRouge and my friend Pepper for inviting me to participate in this morning's discussion. One that is very close to my heart and one of my good friends that he and I have been doing this together for a number of years, and we won't say how many but Jan, I'm so excited to be here with you.

The statewide primary election is coming up on October 14th, as everyone knows every statewide office in every state office. from Governor to Lieutenant Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer the Attorney General. Every seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives and the Senate, as well as the Insurance Commissioner, are on the ballot.

It is important that we start to educate ourselves about the issues and the candidates, and to show up at the polls and to vote in every category. And I say that intentionally because it is not enough for you to show up and vote for the governor. The governor needs a sane legislature in order to accomplish anything meaningful for the citizens of Louisiana.

You can make that happen. Be an informed voter and vote like your life, your civil rights and liberties depend on it. Because they literally do. Let's talk about what's at stake. Access to food is on the ballot. SNAP program work requirements have again reared their ugly head at the national level, where persons receiving SNAP, in order to receive food, you must work up to four, up to 80 hours a month.

If you are between the ages of 18 and 50, kind of job, you need to work 80 hours, so there you go in order to be able to get food. Affordable, equitable access to health care is on the ballot. Reproductive health and abortion rights, that is a woman's right to seek health care services and to make determinations about her own body is on the ballot.

Voting rights are on the ballot. Equal employment opportunity. LGBTQ rights. Quality affordable housing, which in my opinion, and this is, I state this very clearly, it is, separate from Southern University Law Center, but affordable, quality health housing is a human right. It is the very basic that we can think about for human dignity is to have a safe place to lay your head.

Your ability to earn a living wage. Okay, so I'm going to say it, because I know that nobody else is going to say it, but forget about the minimum wage. Nobody can live on $7.25 an hour, yet we go to the legislature every year and ask them to raise the minimum wage. It has never been able to take care of a family, and it definitely is not able to take care of a family at this time.

Equal access to quality, equitable education. Seek to erase people of color, particularly black history from our history books. Censorship is of books and that address real life to keep them out of our public libraries. Though, that's insane to me. Environmental justice is on the ballot. We have some deadlines that are coming up that everyone needs to be aware of.

And let me say those, I'll say them again, Pepper, and I'll put them also in the chat, if you would like for me to do that. But the last day to register in person if you want to vote on October 14th is September 13th. September 13th is the last day to vote in person or by mail. You can also vote online up to September 23rd and it needs to be really clear about what that means because there are some people who think that if you register online that's it.

You also have to show up with acceptable identification on election day. If you register online and also let me just stop right there. Okay. October 10th is the deadline to request a mail ballot. From the registrar. Don't do that. If you need a mail ballot on October 10th, go and pick it up because by the time it gets to you, it'll be too late.

October 13th is the deadline to register to receive, for the registrar to actually receive the mail ballots. Do not mail that ballot if you're in the last week before election. Take it to the registrar's office. September 30th is when early voting begins, and we will have early voting from September 30th through October 7th.

Y'all, I'm going to say this again. I know I started off saying it. Vote and take someone with you, but vote like your lives, our civil rights and liberties, and our democracy depend on it. Because they literally do.

Pepper Roussel: Wow, looks like we are jumping right in. Be first. Ah, favorite subjects.

Jan Moller: Okay good morning everybody. That's a hard act to follow as always. But it's always great to be on with Ms. Alfreda. We have been doing this for a long time. And talking about elections. I'm Jan Moller. My organization that I'm lucky to lead is the Louisiana Budget Project.

And as the name implies, we look at fiscal policies that affect low and moderate-income families. And of course, the state budget is probably the most important thing that the legislature has to do every year is figure out, how much are we going to tax? Who are we going to tax?

And how are we going to distribute those dollars among all the needs of the state? And if you've been watching the crisis in our schools or you've been watching some of the cuts that happened in years past to higher education or cuts going on to healthcare, you understand that all of this starts with the budget.

We are not partisan. And we don't ever tell anybody how to vote or endorse candidates. We can't do any of that. But we do pay close attention to elections because the elected officials are the ones who make this decision. And I want to echo everything Alfredo said about getting out to vote.

I wish I had better news about. The state legislature as far as civic participation, because, unfortunately a lot of the legislature and the makeup of the legislature is really set in stone. You probably know that there was legislative redistricting every 10 years, the lines get redrawn.

So this is the first election under the new districts. Which look a lot like the old districts during the past decade, Louisiana went from having a democratic controlled House and Senate. I flipped around 2010, 2011. We are now looking at Republican super majorities in both houses. And I was just looking through the the ballots and a lot of these races an uncomfortably large number of these races.

We're either decided at the end of the qualifying period when nobody filed against the incumbent or in some cases a completely new person got elected without opposition or there's there's just token opposition or it's an all party primary. Maybe it's a Democratic districts and you have several Democrats running against each other, but no Republican or independent.

or vice versa. It's an all-Republican race. When you look through the ballot, not just an EBR. But around the state, there are distressingly few races where there is a true choice between competing philosophies of how the state should be run. That doesn't mean there aren't some interesting races. Now my math is a little bit imperfect because I was scrolling through.

But in the state Senate there are 39 State Senate seats. 20 of these seats were decided at the close of qualifying. So more than half of the state Senate was reelected or elected without opposition. There are 12 races that are, all partisan affairs. It's going to be either, all Democrats or all Republicans.

Out of 39 Senate seats, there are only seven races that are a real D versus R contest and none that I could find in the Baton Rouge region. We do have a couple of interesting races there's Rick Edmonds against Barry Ivey up in the northern suburbs that's an all-Republican affair.

There's Buddy Hodges against Valerie Hodges against Buddy Mincey. Is it the one? That's again an all Republican affair. But so if you're looking at the legislature, I wish I could say there was a lot of real choice between philosophies. It just doesn't exist. In the House. And again, my math is imperfect here because it just doesn't add up to 105, which is how many House seats.

45 House members out of 105 were elected without opposition at the close of qualifying. I counted 41 kind of all-partisan affairs where there's really no partisan choice to be made and 17 kind of true races out of 105. There are a few interesting ones in the Baton Rouge region.

I'm not going to go through all of those. Then of course we have the statewide races led by the state, by the governor's race. I think if you're on this call, you probably know we're getting a new governor. this year. John Bel Edwards is term-limited. We have a lot of candidates, about a half dozen, I think, serious candidates, and in all likelihood, the race for governor is coming down to a runoff.

So we have the October 14th primary and then November 18th. If there's nobody that gets 50 percent plus one, it goes to the runoff and we're probably looking at a runoff for that. And then down ballot. We also have some interesting races here. We have the race for lieutenant governor has a lot of candidates.

The race for secretary of state is an open seat. There are a lot of candidates. I don't have any idea who's going to win that. Attorney General's office is open, of course, because the current attorney general is one of the candidates for governor. We have an open race for treasurer where there are some strong candidates.

And then we have local races. We have BESE races, of course. And then there are eight constitutional amendments that are also going to be on the ballot. Four of them are going to be on the October 14th primary ballot, and another four amendments are going to be on the November ballot.

The Louisiana Budget Project, my organization, we are working on a guide right now On those amendments will have that published before early voting starts on September 30th, hopefully well in advance of that. So if you want to know about the amendments, be a little patient, and there will be guides coming out from the Public Affairs Research Council and CABL the Council for A Better Louisiana. So there will be plenty of places where you can. Oh, and I forgot about the Sheriff. Yeah, so you have local races as well. Again, these are critical elections. I hope wherever your politics may land that you ask them about their plans for how are we going to have a sustainable tax structure that allows for investments in the kind of things that we know are going to bring the economy forward and help people survive food, health care, access to education the basic building blocks of a strong safe, vibrant community?

Candidates need to be asked about these questions. Even the ones who got elected without opposition, you need to have answers to these questions. One of the things that has been districting to watch in the last 20 years that I've been doing this type of work in one capacity or another in Louisiana is there seems to be less and less discussion of issues and candidates feel less compelled to put out really detailed platforms explaining what they plan to do.

And that's really up to us to press them on that. And to get answers from them. Because I think if they don't do it and there's no consequence to that, then there's no incentive to tell voters what you plan to do once elected. I wish I had better news about the legislative elections.

But I still hope everybody get even if you don't have a legislative seat or a Senate seat that's contested in your area. There's still a lot of important things on this ballot, and I hope people get out and vote and make your voice heard. So thanks again to Casey and the Walls Project for having me. I truly appreciate this.

Pepper Roussel: Jan, I'm going to ask you to help me level set, right? So there are all of these positions, right? We vote every year based on whatever it is that we vote on. Can you give me just one sentence for each one of these? What do they do? Secretary of State, Attorney General, Insurance Commissioner, just what is their job?

What should we be expecting of them at the end? And then, ATB, I'm going to shift to you because I've got an important question about things that are on the balance.

Jan Moller: The Secretary, the Lieutenant Governor does a number of things, but the main thing they do is oversee, they're the chief marketing officer of the state and they oversee the Office of Culture, Recreation, and Tourism.

So their job is to essentially market the state and to be the governor when the governor leaves the secretary of state oversees business filings, but probably the most high-profile job is running elections and making sure our elections are safe and secure and people have access to the ballot.

The attorney general is the chief law enforcement officer of the state. That's the kind of main thing that they do. The treasurer in my opinion, is a job that probably doesn't need to be elected, but they oversee the state's money. They don't raise taxes or control tax policy or set a lot of policy, but they make sure that our accounts are secure.

And they also oversee unclaimed property is probably the most likely interaction a citizen is gonna have with the treasurer's office. The commissioner of insurance, and this is one that is personally distressing to me is that insurance is such a huge issue in Louisiana right now, especially for people south of us where property insurance has become either unaffordable or unattainable for a lot of people.

The incumbent did not seek another term. So we got a brand new insurance commissioner who was elected without opposition when his only opponent dropped out. So I certainly as a citizen wish we could have had a robust public debate in front of the election about what we should do about not just help that property and casualty insurance, but health insurance.

The sale of Blue Cross is coming up and the insurance commissioner is going to have a lot to say about that. We're not going to have that debate. Because we have a new insurance commissioner who never had to really answer those questions before the voters and then something that's I think, often overlooked BESE, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education is the state's school board and they make critical decisions about public schools All around the state.

And so if you have kids in the public schools, you care about public schools, these Bessie elections are extremely important, and that support that I think doesn't get enough attention comparable to what the important role it plays in how our children learn and the quality of our schools.

Pepper Roussel: Agreed. Thank you. Yeah, you're absolutely right. Everybody, whether you have kids in the schools or not, should care about the public schools because there's really very little that's more important about how Louisiana's going to be doing. The next generation is obviously critical. I hope that helps.

It does. Very much. Thank you. I'll try to tell them faster. You'd mentioned a few times that there are all these things on the ballot that I've never seen sitting on a ballot, reproductive justice, environmental justice. I've never seen a, do you want environmental justice in your region question yes or no.

What do you mean when you say all these things are on the ballot?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Pepper, one of the things that we have to understand in this, what we, what is supposed to be representative government, and I'll let that rest for just second, what is supposed to be represented to the government, the people who we elect vote for us and often without consulting us and often ignoring the position of the overwhelming majority of the citizens of Louisiana.

So my point is that in evaluating these people and determining whether they are worthy of your vote. Is that you would look at their voting record because most of them do have a voting record, whether in the position that they're running for, or in a previous office, or because of something that they've said that is on the record that we can readily find.

Do those people's position represent your views on these issues? And if not, You have a choice to show up and vote, and I want to make this point, Pepper because I think that oftentimes people don't understand it. When you don't vote, you actually do. And you vote for the person that you would least like to see in that office.

Voting is an affirmative action. Oh Lord, did I say that out loud? Voting is an affirmative action. It is something that you do. That you affirmatively do, but if you don't affirmatively state your position, you get people in office who could talk about what you think or about your position or about, for instance, let me just go back for just a second.

We talked about a living wage, the overwhelming, I think about 85 percent of the people in Louisiana want to see a living wage and every year we can't even get to $10 an hour. And let me be clear, $10 an hour is not a living wage. We have people in the legislature who readily have put the lives of every woman in her reproductive age at risk.

for dying because doctors are afraid to provide them with health care. You need to know who those people are. Are those people who would tell you to leave the state if you don't like putting your life in danger?

I could go on. Do you want me to?

Pepper Roussel: No, we're just going to let that, listen, we're just going to let that sit right there. We're just going to leave it right there on the table. So for both of you All of us are, belong to some sort of group, organization, coalition, institution, foundation, something, right?

What do these, and we've talked a lot about like your individual vote, but I want to make sure that I have clarity on what does this mean for my organization? If I am a non-profit we talked about the treasurer. You should, maybe you, what do they do and how do they, how are they involved? We've heard that there are folks who are in legislature who may not be voting in my personal best interest, but what are they doing for the mission of the organization for which I belong to?

How do these elections impact where I work? So you want me to start there, y'all? Okay, so where you work. You've heard me say here almost every time I attend that public policy determines the quality of our lives. And whether or not we have adequate funds. to assure that children are not hungry.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Depends on the votes of people who are in elective office. What does that mean? It means that we have a house where bills are introduced. We have a Senate where bills are introduced. We have a governor who signs off or vetoes those bills. And we have an attorney general who will decide whether or not to defend It's being constitutional, not constitutional, or whether they are, whether the state will defend something that is abhorrent.

So that is where they, they have an impact on our lives. Whether the treasurer is, and I agree with Jan, that's probably a position that should be appointed, but the treasurer has so much power. Because the treasurer determines where our funds are invested and where they're not invested and can interject.

And we've seen this, I'm not going to call it all out, but we've seen this where politics has entered into it because they don't want to invest in companies that they don't agree with. And so we have to be vigilant about all of these offices because they're there for a purpose.

Jan Moller: Yeah, I think I echo everything that I forgot one key thing that the treasurer does is he shares the bond, your sheet shares the bond commission, and the bond commission votes on bond issues for local entities all around the state. So if you have, if you live in Breaux Bridge and there's a road project or a local building, that project has to go through the bond commission. And there's, every year the legislature passed as a capital outlay bill. They put a bunch of projects in there, but that money doesn't actually go to those projects until it goes through the state bond commission. So that's a small group of very powerful people led by the state treasurer that gets to help decide which projects and programs get funded.

As far as what you know, what these offices overall mean, I think one reason I do what I do is when you walk the halls of the state Capital, you realize that the people who have the most power at the state Capital are usually the ones who are already doing the best and need government the least, but they are it's the powerful industries and so forth. The people who need government the most in order to are the ones who are often least represented, and I think that's where the nonprofit sector comes in because if you are a family that's maybe struggling to make ends meet, maybe you're working, but you're not making enough at your job.

Maybe your community isn't as safe as it could be, or your schools aren't what they could be, or maybe your kid is having trouble getting on the bus in the morning because the bus driver they don't have enough bus drivers. You need state government to work for you and the budget decisions that get made and the spending decisions that get made and the policies that get made have a direct impact.

So I think that's again, I think these decisions matter. And so I hope even though even if you live in a district, and chances are the person, your state senator or your state rep was elected without opposition because that's, that was most of the seats in the Baton Rouge region.

If you are lucky enough to be in a contested district, ask questions of the candidates, figure out just because four candidates have an R next to their name doesn't mean they're the same. They could have very different views of on a lot of issues. Same thing with if they have a D next to their name or an I next to their name.

So ask those questions because they are very important. And even if your state rep got elected without opposition make a connection with that person, because it's the off-season where you know, and we're in the kind of political off-season. The session doesn't start until the spring, now is a good time to make connections and talk with them because they probably have more time for constituents.

And there's no substitute for kind of personal contact with the people we elect because they really are there to represent.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: They work for us, and let me just say one other thing that even if these people were elected without opposition, we cannot allow them to think that means that we're signing off on everything that they believe.

Yeah. We still have to show up and ask and hold them accountable for representing the views of the people that they represent. We have to show up at public forums. We have to show up at the legislature. And I know that everybody can't get off work to go and do that, but we can show up in an email.

We can show up in a letter. We can show up in letters to the editors if we want to make sure that other people are thinking in critical thinking critically, right? Because people don't go to the legislature to listen to all of that because of those committee hearings.

Boy, I've left with my blood pressure at 200 over 7, over, over 200, I think sometimes. But we do have to remain engaged even after the elections. That's my point.

Pepper Roussel: Before I ask, before I say this and set off a firestorm, if you have any questions, please drop them in the chat.

But. Yeah, there, there was a shift back in 2010 from a Democratic-dominated legislator legislature to a Republican-dominated legislature. I don't know that my life has changed to me, and I'm trying to understand what difference does it make, whether there's a Republican, a Democrat, or an Independent that's sitting in the office.

What should I be looking for and where do I get information to get there?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: So I'm a strong advocate of both parties. Let me just say that I, and when I say that, we need a duality. We need both sides so that we get the very best of government. But we need everybody to be the same.

We need everybody to I, okay, so I'm gonna age myself a little bit. I worked as under Secretary and Secretary of Labor in the Romer administration, and one of the things that I saw was it didn't matter whether you were a D or an R or an I or a no party. We didn't have very many no parties at that time, but what I noticed was whether you were a D or an R, which was predominant.

Everybody seemed to be working for the best interest of the state. Even when there were different ideologies, even if there were differences in the way that we got there, it was like an overall goal of making sure that the state was better. That's what we're missing now. Pepper. We have people who go to the legislature who don't care what the constituents who don't care if women die, who don't care if we don't have housing or food or a good education system they work for the people that that they believe support them and fund them in many instances.

That's the difference. We don't have, I think an overall goal of being inclusive of all of Louisiana. It was never a utopia, but there was a, there seemed to be a common goal of making the state better and of moving the state forward. And that's what I don't see.

Jan Moller: I would echo. What Alfreda said, and I haven't been around. I wasn't here for the Romer administration, but when I came to the legislature as a reporter in 2003 party identification was about the fourth or fifth most important thing. You had the kind of ins versus the outs.

You had urban versus rural. You had white versus black. You had everybody versus New Orleans. You had all these little different factions depending on the issue. But there wasn't really like party caucuses and in the same way there is today but I would say just, and I don't mean this at all in a partisan sense, the Republican party has gotten much bigger and the same divisions that used to exist in the Democratic party are now on the Republican side where you just have a lot of, you have some moderates, you have some sort of true believers, you have some bomb throwers.

So there's a lot of difference and diversity of thought within the Republican within the Republican coalition, I would say pepper to your question about, how has your life changed? I would say that things have changed. And we shouldn't look back on, We shouldn't ignore some of the progress that has been made in the past eight years.

And I look at it specifically on the budget side. We came from an era where the budget was getting cut every single year when Louisiana had the highest cut higher education farther and faster than any state in the entire country. And that meant education got more expensive for students and families and you got less and return on that investment.

That has changed. We've stabilized, we expanded Medicaid. Half a million people in Louisiana have health coverage to date and did not have it in January of 2016. And as a result, there have been no rural hospitals closed up.

There's more access to health care. Just clinics around Baton Rouge. There's more clinic access to primary health community did not exist before. So there's been some progress. There's a lot that needs to be done. We haven't done nearly enough but I think The past elections matter and these elections matter too because there's some big decisions that have to happen on taxes and budgets coming up very early in the next governor's term.

And we could be, if we make the wrong decisions, I think we could be right back in a situation where the budget is in deficit and they're not arguing about where to invest, but which programs are going to be cut. We're already seeing it on the Medicaid side. People are losing Medicaid coverage this year because of the unwinding.

And I would hate to go back to a situation where every year we're raising tuition on students. We're closing schools. We're letting teachers fall further behind the Southern average. And just look at Baton Rouge with the bus crisis. That's a consequence of not properly funding or prioritizing funding.

We have a school system that is falling down at the most basic task, getting kids to and from school. Because we decided not to and by we, the school system fund and, call it what you will. It's black women who drive those buses and they're getting paid $19,000 a year.

And that's why we have a transportation crisis in this state. And that's a consequence of budget decisions and failure to fund and prioritize things. And that's why we have elections.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Jan, you raised a really important point about access to care. And let us not forget that Medicaid was expanded in Louisiana by executive order.

It was expanded by executive order. And let us remember also that we have the worst maternal childbirth outcome. We are one of the worst in the nation. We're either 51 or 50. Okay? And we're getting worse because of public policy that is forcing physicians to leave the state. Doctors don't want to be involved in politics. They want to provide the best care available to Their patients based on the standard of care, but we have put in policy that says we don't put them in jail if they don't do what we want to what certain people in our state want to do.

And I've had friends, personal friends who have lost their lives. One life, Ashley Mitchell. That was before, but we lost Ashley and her baby. Ashley was a young attorney at the legislature. My, I think that everybody on this call knows Kaitlyn Joshua. Kaitlyn nearly bled to death because of that policy, because the physicians were afraid to treat her when she was actively in having a miscarriage and bleeding out at the hospital.

They sent her home to, I don't know. I don't know what their goal was, but I know the impact. And I know how mad I was about it, okay? Public policy matters and public policy is implemented by the people that we elect or the people that we allow to be elected by not voting. We don't have a choice for not voting.

We have to vote and we have to take like-minded people with us to the polls.

Pepper Roussel: So, I have a question then, that's a follow-up. I am a regular person who works in addressing drivers of poverty, right? What do I do? In order to educate, and encourage my people to get to the polls. How do I get them more information?

Where can I point them? Yeah, I'm going to be looking to the budget projects recommendations on constitutional amendments, but there are all these other things that are on the ballots. How do I help?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: You first, Jan!

Jan Moller: That's a great question. I wish there was a single comprehensive source that I could point you to. But if there was, I'm not aware of it. But I would say definitely educate yourself on the constitutional amendments. Go to the Secretary of State's website and you can find out exactly what's on your specific ballot.

A lot of people don't know what districts they're in, but and what they have, and if you go on that and you look up your ballot, they'll have an email address and in some cases, a phone number for the people running for office who are on your ballot. You're probably not going to be able to get Jeff Landry on the phone to talk about his positions on crime or taxes or the state budget.

If you do, please let me know, cause I'd love to understand more. But there's a very good chance that you can reach the candidates who are running for the legislature or some of the other offices. A lot of them are quite accessible. If you're on social media, you can go follow their accounts.

They'll often tell you a lot about who they are and what their priorities are. But by doing that, I think it's educating yourself on this shouldn't be as hard as it is. When I worked at a different daily newspaper years ago, we used to do like an election tab every year where we literally had a story.

On every single race, and it was meant to be a book that voters could take with them to the polls. We don't do that here in Louisiana. I wish we did. I wish there was some kind of compendium. There's a real need for that. But as a result, I'm afraid that it takes a little bit of work to get truly educated on these things.

But I think it's worth the time and investment and I've found that if you're the person who knows about this stuff word will get out in your circles and people will start to ask you everybody has that friend who you ask about, about candidates who follows that stuff and we should all aspire to be that friend who people ask when election time comes and encourage your friends to vote.

Ask people when, it's not maybe not the most exciting topic during football season with a lot going on. But I think it's important and that's how civic participation increases. One thing I always used to point out was that Barack Obama lost Louisiana twice by wide margins, but he got more votes in Louisiana both times than Bobby Jindal ever got in Louisiana.

Even though Bobby Jindal won the governorship in Louisiana by wide margins both times. And so that just speaks to the increase, the difference in participation between presidential years and gubernatorial years. That's the bad news. A lot of people who come out to vote every four years stay home when those state elections happen.

But it does mean that if you are out there voting, then your vote frankly counts more because it's against, there's a smaller denominator. Be aware of the power of your vote. I was at the gym last night and there was a guy there with a Jordan Faircloth shirt. This is a man who ran for, judge a couple of years ago, and it was an off one of these off-year elections. It was March or April or something. And my wife and I went out and we voted like an hour before the polls closed. It was a Saturday and we forgot he lost by two votes. My wife and I’s decision on a Saturday to go out and vote literally made the difference between a judge being elected or a different judge being elected.

So that doesn't happen a lot, but your vote counts

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Every vote does count. I want to get back to the original question, which was how do we know it is difficult to find out whether someone is worthy of your vote and to find their voting records. But in our gubernatorial race, And in some of the other high-profile races, it's easier to find out what their records are because they are public.

In terms of the legislature, you can find out how every legislator voted on issues that are important to you by going to And you can put in the subject matter and then see how they voted on different bills. It's tedious. It's crazy. But Jan said everybody has a friend in their network that they text on early voting morning and on election morning to find out.

What's on the ballot. First, what's on the ballot and then how to vote. I don't tell people how to vote. But my friends, I'll tell them how I'm going to vote. That's me personally, not me as a representative of Southern University Law Center or the state of Louisiana. That's me personally. Because it's important.

We used to have reliable sources of let me back up. We all have the ability, even as a nonprofit, to educate. You can make a comparison, as a nonprofit organization, of the way that people have voted on issues in their record. There's nothing wrong with that. That's education. You don't tell them how to vote.

You just say, “Alfreda Tillman Bester did this, and Jan did that”. You can do that as a nonprofit organization, again, that is not being partisan, that's education. So we have to learn to get good information to people who want to make good decisions. The same way I can, look, I'm desirous of getting back to the point where there was spin.

In politics, because spin has given way to just outright lies and people have no apprehension about the line because there are no consequences for it. We have, we need better policy on that as well.

Pepper Roussel: Speaking of policy, there are two questions that I want to get to real quick. One is campaign finance. That was the last thing that was put in.

So if one of y'all can talk to me about campaign finance and then the polls, right? So there was every year they send out surveys. Do they have any impact whatsoever?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: Jan, you do the campaign thing and I'll talk about the other issue.

Jan Moller: of polls. Yeah, so campaign finance is Somebody put in the chat.

All of that is public record. At least the camp, the campaigns, the contributions that go directly to candidates. There are also these outside groups that can spend pretty much-unlimited amounts of money. A lot of the flyers that you get before elections are from outside groups that are not allowed to coordinate with the candidates, but they certainly have a vested interest.

So if you want to know who contributed to the governor or or to candidates for a particular office, you can go to the ethics board's website. It's easy to find and you can look that up and there will be an electronic record of who contributed if you get one of these mailers with a kind of strange sounding name, citizens for good government or whatever, and that may The, you all often don't know exactly who's funding those things, and that's when it gets a little bit more nefarious, unfortunately but they have, according to the U.S. Supreme Court has a constitutional right to do that. So that's the system we have. As far as polling Yeah, I'll let Alfreda handle that. But I wish there was more polling. Frankly, I think it's it's tough to pull some of these local races because people don't have landlines anymore, and it's tough to get people to respond.

And they're expensive, and there aren't a lot of independent organizations funding polls. So a lot of the polls that you see are paid for by somebody with kind of a vested interest or the campaigns themselves. So I remember in my reporting days, it was always something you had to parse before some, somebody would hand you a poll and you had to make a decision.

Is this a legitimate poll? Or is this something that somebody with a vested interest paid for and are just trying to get a certain message out. Try before you really you know, look at a poll. I would say, try to find out, see if you can see the cross tabs. See if you can see who paid for the poll.

Is it truly independent? What were the questions that were asked? You can get a lot of different results based on how you ask a question. But they are, they can be a useful guide. Those of us who love politics, you love polls because it's a window into what, what's motivating people.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: So I used to love polls when I thought that they meant something. My experience in recent years is that they don't. They just don't. There are no consequences for lies. There are, and people will readily lie. There are and to talk about, just a little bit about the PACs. There's supposed to be no coordination.

between the PACs and the campaigns. But if you, when I know the position of the campaigns, what keeps the PACs from the campaigns, right? So it doesn't have, it's a farce. It's a corporation as a person. That's nonsense. Let's just be clear. That's just nonsense. It's a, it's anyway, I don't.

I don't have any level of confidence in most polls, because think about it. We all have caller ID now. And when someone calls and we don't know who it is, we don't answer. So who is it that they're polling? The people that will answer the phone. And it's often, although they may have a representative sample when they begin the poll.

The people that they actually reach are not in a representative sample of the community. And so I have very little confidence in the polls. And I also I don't, I think that the best predictor of future behavior is the behavior that people have exhibited while they're in the public square.

So if you want to be an informed voter, And you want to vote for the person that will best represent your interests and the interests of your community, look at their history yourself. If you're, if you narrowed it down to three people, look at the history of those three people and decide whether those three people, whether, which of those three people best represents you, your family, your community, your values.

Because you really I'm going to be honest to tell you, I don't trust most polls.

Pepper Roussel: Speaking of polls, and using that word in a different way, what about those folks who have limited mobility? How do we make sure that their voices are heard as well?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: I'll go first this time, Jan. We have mail-in ballots. We have early voting. Please don't forget early voting. Early voting is a better tool that if they haven't, but they can ask for a mail ballot and mail those ballots in. But if there, there are still a lot of people who are disabled who want to go to the polls.

And for those people, it's best to go during early voting because you don't have as big a crowd. And if you show up with obvious mobility issues, they will move you to the front of the line. But it's best if they can to vote absentee, which means either mail it in or have someone just take their ballot or they could take their ballot into the the registrar's office in their parish.

I told you, y'all have been doing this together for a number of years.

Pepper Roussel: Yeah opening up one more time for anybody who's got some questions to throw in the chat. I see that Sherreta's got a question to other nonprofits as to how is it that you do you do and how do you actually manage working around folks who are actively working against your nonprofit's mission and vision?

So if y'all are in a nonprofit working, leading volunteer with a nonprofit. Please put a response to that question over as a reply to Sharita's question. My besties in there doing the things. And Morgan is absolutely, love you Morgan and SK riling up the folks in the chat. Thank you very much. Last thing just want to make sure That we do make space for and allow folks who maybe work with different types of vulnerable communities.

Sorry about that folks, who maybe work with vulnerable communities that are not often represented in these types of settings, if y'all have any questions, if y'all have anything specific.

Please let me know. And Casey, do you want to come off mute and share anything before?

I endeavor to be a problem child. Well done. Well done, madam. Well done.

All right. Hey, it's St. John. Thank y'all. I see everybody who's hanging out over here. And I wasn't looking just a second ago. Thanks y'all for being here. Oh, there you are. It's response. Yeah. So any last or following, excuse me final directives or guidance that you might have for us?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: This one thing I did want to say yeah I am an advocate of early voting and I am a true advocate of early voting because one of the things that people who don't want us to vote do is they will purge the roads and they will also change our voting precincts.

And you show up at your voting precinct and you're, and they're like you're not on the road and you know that you voted in the last election and that you should be, but you're not in the right place and you don't know where to go where you can find out where to go. But during early voting, you can vote at any one of the four in the, in East Baton Rouge Parish.

Or if you're in a different parish, you can vote in the designated place in your parish. And it doesn't matter where your polling place is. I will be honest to tell you, they changed mine sometime. Took mine out of my neighborhood, and put it in another neighborhood. And I, but I haven't voted on election day in I don't know how many years.

But I don't. You don't. So if you do vote early, you don't have to worry about where you're holding places.

Jan Moller: That is an absolutely wonderful point. And when I was going to make earlier is check your polling place. And I'm just saying this because I got a court in the mail just in the last month. And my voting, the polling place where I'm an election-day voter. I'm one of these paranoid people.

I'm terrified of voting early and then learning something about the candidates before election day. That might have changed my votes. That's never happened but I want to, take all the time I can to decide that's just my personal choice. But, my polling place changed.

And it was my wife who noticed it. I was wondering why are they sending me the hard-up and registered for years. So take the time to figure out where you vote. That's the most basic thing, but To the other question, how do you sustain yourself? Yeah, I just have to keep believing that, as Dr.King said, “The arc of the moral universe bends slowly, but it bends towards justice.” And as much as, there's setbacks and bad news, I try to cling to the good. Progress that's made. And it happens incrementally and slowly. But it doesn't happen without people pushing collectively.

So I draw inspiration from folks on this call from the amazing staff that's on my team. The amazing partners we have at at other nonprofits. And just everyday citizens. I wouldn't do this if I didn't think that things will get better. But election times are one of those odd times for a nonprofit because again, we can't, we don't get involved in the electoral politics.

Our job is to educate voters and educate candidates about the issues that we care about, whether they're no matter what letter they have next to their name.

Alfreda Tillman Bester: So I did want to answer Casey’s question about how do we sustain ourselves? I started off telling you guys That one of the things I'm most proud of is my years as a Sunday school teacher.

And I truly believe that faith is the substance of the things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. And I also know that the word says that faith without works is dead. And so I can't, let me tell you, nobody wakes up one day and says, I think I'm going to be a civil rights lawyer because I just really like helping people.

You have to be called to this work y'all. Those of us who do this work in nonprofits, we have to be called to this work because you could get discouraged really easily if you are not called to do it. You just you just, so you're I'm very prayerful. My faith life is very important to me, but I also.

I am one of those people who works toward the goal because what you'll hear John Bell say all the time, “God will order our steps, but we have to move our feet.”

Pepper Roussel: Come and see NATB on this fun Friday morning. Thank y'all. I really, we've gone a little over time for the hour that I asked of you. I appreciate you being here. Round of applause for the amazing information that y'all have shared today. I really super duper appreciate it. The only other thing that I want to make sure that you'll know about is that OneRouge will be working with or partnering with Sierra Club in order to do a gubernatorial forum.

Coming up and the flower will be going out as soon as it's finished so that y'all can share with your networks and speaking of things that are happening, what's going on in Baton Rouge, y'all? Time for community announcements.

Rev. Alexis Anderson: I'm assuming that my friend is going to allow me to talk now. As we know, voting is my love language, so let me just say that. But I did want to point out, and I put it in the chat and I wanted to reiterate it because we are such an incarceration state that when people have been incarcerated, and particularly if they're on what's called paper, meaning they're still actively on probation or parole, they need to get in touch with an organization called Vote Voice of the experience, unfortunately, around the country.

Those states that have allowed people who are formerly incarcerated to vote again, have been turning around and literally arresting these people because of rules or technicalities that they themselves put into place. So it is critical that people who have concerns Talk to somebody who is an expert on this because the legislature did in fact, put a myriad of steps into the process.

So they need to make sure they've covered everything. And again, there are lots and lots of people in this state who have been impacted by traffic and other things that you would think have nothing to do with your right to vote, but they can. And so I would suggest to anybody, if you have a concern, reach out to vote, See, that's all I got.

Casey Phillips: That was, it's so good to see you so many times in one week. There's a few of you that I've seen multiple times this week and it's made for him for a really good week. Yeah, that's right. Cool beans. You can shake your head. It was awesome hanging out with you interested yesterday. I don't think he's going to do it on his own to self-promote, but I'm going to Lift up Jan in the Louisiana budget projects.

Big event that's coming up on September 20th. Young, did you want to talk about it or would you like me to awkwardly talk about your organization?

Jan Moller: Okay, awkwardly good. Oh, there you go. Wait no. Sorry. I'm already registered. Coffee stepping away for just a quick second, making a second cup of coffee. Yeah, so we have the invest in Louisiana Policy Conference happening on September 20th/21st two weeks from yesterday. It's at the water campus down on River Road.

Registration is open. You can find all the details on our webpage. You can find it on the webpage as well. We got we're going to feed you well. And our keynote speaker is none other than Clint Smith New Orleans, native bestselling author who we are really looking forward to hearing from.

We're going to have a fireside chat with Clint Smith, but we have a lot of other panels And workshops. It's going to be a full day starting at 8:30 in the morning. I hope you will register. I hope you will come out and we're going to have another, we're going to have a special announcement to which I'm not ready to reveal yet, but that will be ready to reveal at the conference.

So I hope you will register. There's still some spots left.

Pepper Roussel: Gorgeous. Thank you so much. Appreciate that. What else we got? You can register. Thank you, Danielle, for dropping that link in the chat so you can register there. There seems to be a football game happening on October 14, which is the primary.

So please either go early in the day or go early before for early voting. Make sure that you encourage your people to go early as well and to vote within your best interest because If you don't do it, who will? All right, folks.

Casey Phillips: Pepper, hold on. I keep seeing in the chat. I keep hearing people talk about this.

What's this football thing that people are talking about? What is that? What? What? What is that?

Alfreda Tillman Bester: It's a reason to cook outside. Is it the Coliseum? What happened? Oh,

Casey Phillips: I thought we were talking about the Coliseum with the Romans. So that the people are distracted. Instead of paying attention to what everyone's doing.

So can we just know that is, if I had been smart, instead of paying for an MBA for my six foot four son, I would have paid for him to go to football camp because maybe he would make, been making $275 million instead of...

Pepper Roussel: Where is the mute button? Where is the mute?

Casey Phillips: No, I love it. That's it. I'm kidding. There's room in this world for everything. There's world there's room in this world for everything. Anything any other community announcements of anything that's coming up this weekend or anything that anyone needs collaboration and help with you drowning in your event?

Are you drowning in your program? And you wish someone would just help. You can use that space for this too, right? If you need help and if you need a partnership, please use this community announcement space for that as well.

Helena Williams: I will take that up and just let everybody know that the Futures Fund is doing a lot of programs in September, so I'll just put our workshop listing link in the chat.

But if you know anybody who's looking to get any technology skills, we have a bunch of different workshops around Just a whole bunch of things introductions to things Just allowing people for their personal business their nonprofit anything to beef up those skills Make sure that they know we're hosting a lot at the library.

We're hosting a lot at Southern University And just elevate it to help people elevate themselves and their digital skills. Thanks.

Pepper Roussel: All right. It looks like the Bakery is still looking for beta testers. I know that there's are a couple of job openings that I will put in the notes. I can't remember them all off the top of my head, so I won't mention any. All right, folks. Thanks for being here. You know how much I appreciate you spending part of your Friday with me.

Be that said, we will see you back here hopefully. Same bat time, same bat channel.

Casey Phillips: Thank you everyone. Thank you to our speakers. Thank you, Jan. Thank you, Alfreda. Thank you so much.


Community Announcements

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