Ferriday, Louisiana, native and early rock and roller Jerry Lee Lewis once famously sang "There's A Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On." Looking for a theme song for 2017? I think we just found it. The year brought down the seemingly invincible.
The nasty stench of sexual harassment reared its all too prevalent head in 2017. But a corresponding wave of righteous indignation followed, ending careers, ruining reputations, and crumbling empires. Twenty-five women accused New Orleans chef and accomplished restaurateur John Besh of fostering a culture of sexual harassment at the company he ran and co-owned. As a result, his name was banished from his restaurants, and he lost his television show.
Gov. John Bel Edwards got caught up in the whirlwind. His deputy chief of staff, Johnny Anderson, was forced to resign amid accusations of sexual harassment. The governor responded to the scandal as politicos often do. He created a task force.
The shaking in 2017 will hopefully help end the days of leveraging power in the workplace for sexual favors. Sexual harassers crawled out of their dark crevices from all segments of society to face their consequences. Most of them lost their careers. The shaking of 2017 should give more women the courage to settle for nothing less than the respect they deserve.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu shook things up in 2017 after he advanced the removal of several historical monuments that were iconic parts of the city's landscape. His critics accused him of using the monuments to boost his national political aspirations even if it meant dividing the city. We may never know Landrieu's true motives. But we do know, for a season, the monument controversy divided New Orleans as nothing had in recent memory. And we know that Landrieu's tearing down of the monuments made him a superstar nationally with his identity-politics base. If Landrieu ever does become president, he'll have Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, and P.G.T. Beauregard to thank for it.
We also witnessed the shaking of the political establishment in 2017 — something that had begun the year before with the election of Donald J. Trump as president. In the New Orleans mayor's race, Desiree Charbonnet, a member of a powerful, politically connected family, was the clear establishment candidate. Early on in the race, all kinds of special-interest folks and potential city contractors lined up to fill her campaign coffers with big chunks of cash. She was endorsed by Democratic heavyweights like U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond and the powerful AFL-CIO union. She even had the endorsement of the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee, and Orleans Parish District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro. But Charbonnet lost to a California-born transplant, LaToya Cantrell. New Orleans voters famous for their parochial politics rejected Charbonnet and instead opted for the less establishment type.
New Orleans voters were so tired of the status quo that they ignored Cantrell's well-documented and highly suspicious handling of her city-issued credit card. They also looked past her history of personal financial mismanagement. Even though Cantrell was a city council member, voters didn't view her as "old guard" as much as they did Charbonnet.
The shaking of 2017 brought down Mike Edmonson, the longest-serving superintendent in Louisiana State Police history. Edmonson gamed taxpayers by lavishing out perks for himself, his wife and friends. The seemingly untouchable top cop could face serious legal charges and tax problems in 2018.
What shaking will 2018 bring? 2017 has put the powerful on notice. Don't get too comfortable.
Dan Fagan is a former TV and radio broadcaster who lives in Metairie. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.