The Big Issue is a series of public debates that aims to build dialogue and serves as a platform for community building in Uptown New Orleans.

The Big Issue brings together a wide range of civic-minded New Orleanians and activists to make connections between culture and politics, arts and economics, the unique history of New Orleans and where we imagine our community and ourselves in the future. The Big Issue will address issues of national importance and feature debaters who can make connections to New Orleans and Louisiana.

Our events have featured esteemed panelists including Melissa Harris-Perry, Buddy Roemer, Ellis Marsalis, Shamarr Allen, and Mike Pesca, and have brought hundreds of people together for a town-hall style meeting to discuss many of the major issues facing our country.

Upcoming Event: Thursday, April 3rd 2014 7:30 pm

New Orleans 2.0: Fact or Fiction?

Since 2005, New Orleans has come to represent a true 21st Century example of how an American city can face extreme challenge, survive and then emerge leaner, stronger and better.  Or…has it?

In this next session of The Big Issue, we tackle this question head on. Is New Orleans a truly transformed city, represented by real, positive change? Is it a template of success and regeneration for the rest of the country? Or…is it experiencing post-crisis boom and bust?

We ask this question with a real sense of purpose: If New Orleans has truly transformed, what are the lessons? Can the city act as a model of excellence and reach out to other American and global cities that have faced crisis? In a rapidly changing and increasingly interconnected world, New Orleans may just be the model of the future. 

To explore this, we have assembled a stellar line-up of participants for a debate where we ask these challenging questions and seek to build a working consensus that we can all share and build upon. 

Doors open at 7:00, event begins at 7:30


Greg LaRose:  Editor, New Orleans City Business


Andrea Chen: Co-Founder and Executive Director, Propeller

Rodrick Miller: President and CEO, New Orleans Business Alliance

Gregory Rusovich: CEO, Transoceanic Trading and Development Company

Gordon Russell: Managing Editor, Investigations, The New Orleans Advocate

Jeff Schwartz: Executive Director, Broad Community Connections

Twitter: @the_big_issue   Refreshments: There will be a cash bar serving beer and wine


Steering Committee

  • Gabe Feldman, Assoc. Professor of Law & Director of Sports Law Program, Tulane University
  • Jordan Friedman, Partner, Bond PR & Brand Strategy
  • Stephanie Grace, Columnist for the New Orleans Advocate
  • Michael Hecht, President & CEO, GNO Inc.
  • Greg LaRose, Editor, New Orleans City Business
  • Gordon Stewart, CEO Bootleg Distillation LLC 
  • Tania Tetlow, Assoc. Professor of Law & Director, Domestic Violence Clinic, Tulane University
  • Kyle Wedberg, President & CEO, NOCCA 
  • Yonah Schiller, Executive Director, Tulane Hillel
  • Corey Smith, Associate Director, Tulane Hillel



Past Events:


TUESDAY, October 29, 2013

Can We Solve the Murder Problem?

Can We Stop the Murder Problem? The City is suffering a continuous drumbeat of murder, including the killing of several children caught in the crossfire.  In its fourth installation, “The Big Issue” asked broad questions about what can be done. What are the root causes of violent crime?  What programs have proved successful around the country to prevent violent crime and how well are some of those programs working here?  At what age is it too late to have an impact on the young people committing these crimes? 

We heard presentations (in Ted Talk like format) from a sociologist who studies trends in homicides and particular locations, and a neurobiologist who studies the connections between violence and the wiring of the brain.  We heard from the director of the City’s “NOLA for Life” prevention efforts to see how public health approaches can prevent murders before they happen, and from U.S. Attorney Polite on the cities efforts to curb violent crime through the legal system.


Tania Tetlow: Tulane Law School Professor and former Assistant United States Attorney.


Marcus Kondkar is a Professor of Sociology at Loyola University.  He has spent years studying the patterns on domestic violence and homicides in New Orleans. Dr. Kondkar has theories regarding the predictability of certain locations of murder and how we should adjust policing accordingly. 

Kenneth Polite is the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana. As U.S. Attorney, Mr. Polite oversees the investigation and litigation of all criminal and civil cases brought on behalf of the United States in the Eastern District of Louisiana.

Elizabeth Shirtcliff is a professor of Applied Biopsychology at the University of New Orleans. She maintains the Stress Physiology In Teens (SPIT) laboratory and uses a variety of noninvasive tools to investigate psychobiological development. She also conducts research that examines both short and long term behavioral responses to stressors such as exposure to poverty or experience with racism or child maltreatment.

Charles West is the leader of New Orleans’ Innovation Delivery Team that is tasked with finding innovative strategies to reduce murder holistically. In this role he chairs the “NOLA for Life” campaign.



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Does Progress Destroy Culture?

New Orleans, the birthplace of Jazz and home to a thriving arts scene, has recently become a hotbed of entrepreneurship, industry and development. The current economic boom raises serious questions about the continued viability of New Orleans as an authentic cultural epicenter.
The Big Issue: Does Progress Destroy Culture? tackled questions regarding how urban and economic development impacts New Orleans culture.
Moderator: NICK SPITZER professor of American studies and anthropology at Tulane University where he specializes in cultures of the Gulf South, creolization, cultural representation and policy. Nick is creator and host of public radio’s American Routes. Devoted to American music and cultures, now in its 15th year, American Routes reaches up to a million weekly listeners with interviews, documentaries and music. The founder of the Louisiana Folklife program, Spitzer helped create the Louisiana Folklife Pavilion at the 1984 World Exposition. A former senior folklife specialist at the Smithsonian, Nick has been artistic director for concerts broadcast from the National Mall to Carnegie Hall. In New Orleans he’s worked closely with building artisans and was instrumental in bringing ‘Raised to the Trade’: Creole Building Arts of New Orleans to NOMA. A fellow of the American Folklore Society and Guggenheim recipient, in 2006 Nick was named Louisiana Humanist of the Year for his cultural efforts in the post-Katrina flood recovery.
Speaker: SHAMARR ALLEN a New Orleans born trumpet player and local music prodigy. Mr. Allen’s countless career accomplishments are highlighted by performances with artists Patti LaBelle, Lenny Kravitz, Harry Connick Jr., Branford Marsalis, and a multi-city tour and studio recordings with country legend Willie Nelson, Ray Price, Leon Russell, and R.E.M.
Speaker: RICHARD CAMPANELLA a geographer with the Tulane University School of Architecture, is the author of six critically acclaimed books on the geography of New Orleans. His research has been praised in regional and national publications, he is cited regularly in the New Orleans Times-Picayune and New York Times; and has been featured on NPR All Things Considered, CBS Evening News, PBS NewsHour, CNN, and BBC.
Speaker: ELLIS MARSALIS is regarded by many as the premier modern jazz pianist in New Orleans. He was the first occupant and Director of the Coca Cola endowed Chair of Jazz Studies at the University of New Orleans.  During his tenure at UNO he helped fellow colleague Charles Blancq develop a campus performance center called the Sand Bar.  Marsalis continues to be active as a performing pianist leading, and occasionally touring, his own quartet. He has several recordings on the CBS-SONY label and currently releases recordings on his own recording label, ELM RECORDS, developed with his wife Dolores and son Jason.
Speaker:KATY RECKDAHL is a journalist who has written insightfully about Mardi Gras Indians, second lines, school bands and attempts to regulate culture for many years, for Gambit, the Times-Picayune and other publications.
Speaker: MIKE VALENTINO is a New Orleans native who has been involved in the Travel & Hospitality business for 40 years.  He is the Chief Operating Officer of Hotel Management of New Orleans and past president of the New Orleans Hotel & Lodging Association. Over his career he has developed and expanded his family’s holdings to include hotels, restaurants, parking facilities, apartment buildings, and Basin St. Station, the renovation of the old Southern Railway Building on the edge of the French Quarter and Treme, into a Visitor Information & Cultural Center. Michael recently launched City Sightseeing New Orleans, the hop-on hop-off double-decker open-top bus tour of the city. He’s the designer and developer of several web sites, LAsameday and the soon to launch New Orleans & Me.


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Future of Football

The city of New Orleans has been a major player in the NFL this year. Between the bounty scandal and being host city to the Super Bowl XLVII, New Orleans has held the attention of national audiences. To join the conversation and launch Super Bowl week, Hillel at Tulane University is hosting the second installment of The Big Issue debate series.

The Big Issue: The Future of Football will tackle questions regarding injuries within the league, the New Orleans bounty scandal, and other topics surrounding the current NFL landscape. An array of the game’s most knowledgeable sources will present in this exciting forum.

According to Rabbi Yonah Schiller, Executive Director of Tulane Hillel, “We are excited The Big Issue is continuing with another compelling issue for the city of New Orleans. With a panel of nationaI experts, we expect this will be a lively, informative and fun discussion. Our goal with The Big Issue series, and this event in particular, is to give voice to and express various perspectives. I’m looking forward to it.”

Moderator Gabe Feldman says, “I’m thrilled that the New Orleans and Tulane communities will get this unique opportunity to participate in a dialog with some of the leading voices in the NFL.”

The goal of this forum is not only to educate viewers about current affairs, but it is also to blur the lines that often separate presenter from audience and to continue to promote the constructive analysis of an ever-changing national landscape.

Moderator: GABE FELDMAN Professor Feldman is an associate professor of law at Tulane University School of Law, as well as the Director of the Sports Law Program and the Associate Provost for NCAA Compliance. He served as the legal analyst for the NFL Network during the NFL lockout and his Twitter handle “@SportsLawGuy” is listed among Sports Illustrated’s top 100 feeds for sports information.

Speaker: GEORGE ATALLAH Mr. Atallah is the Assistant Executive Director of External Affairs for the NFL Players Association.

Speaker: ANDREW BRANDT A former player agent and Vice President/General Counsel of the Green Bay Packers, Mr. Brandt is now a lecturer at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School of Business, the Director of Villanova’s Jeffrey Moorad Center for Sports Law, as well as an analyst on ESPN.

Speaker: MIKE PESCA Mr. Pesca is a national sports correspondent for NPR and a panelist on Slate Magazine’s weekly “Hang Up and Listen” sports podcast.



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Is America Moving to The Left? Was This Election About Ideology at All? A face-off between Melissa Harris-Perry and Buddy Roemer moderated by Lee Zurik

Amidst the rise of reality television, 24-hour news coverage and daytime talk shows, political discourse in this country has been diluted by media portrayals of scandal and fame.  As a response to this trend, Hillel at Tulane University is hosting a new ongoing series called “The Big Issue,” where in front of a live audience, representatives from across the political spectra will face-off in an uncensored debate about today’s most pressing political issues.

Our goal is for the people who attend ‘The Big Issue’ to enjoy themselves and at the same time come away feeling informed – whatever conclusions they reach, and whichever side of the political aisle they are affiliated. In addition, the unique Oxford-style debate format is a high octane and entertaining way of getting to the root issues. It will be a lot of fun.



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