City Council, At-Large Division 1
Relative to her fellow councilmembers duking it out for the very competitive At-Large Division 2 seat, incumbent At-Large Division 1 Councilmember Helena Moreno (D) is probably feeling pretty good right now. She drew just one unlikely challenger, and had a considerable $180,000-plus left in her campaign coffers a month before election day. A former WDSU anchor, state legislator, and current real estate agent, when onlookers theorized potentially successful challengers to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Moreno’s name frequently came up. Despite her evident popularity, Moreno herself likely had no intention of contesting an incumbent mayor, the local political equivalent of a moonshot, especially with what looks to be a comfortable re-election to her citywide seat on the horizon. Should she sail back into office, as is most likely, Moreno has a lot of options after her second term on the Council. Plenty of local offices will be open in 2025 — namely, the mayoralty.
Moreno has been able to score some favorability points by engaging in a soft feud with Entergy. Her office successfully pushed through an ordinance calling for an independent audit of Entergy, which would determine whether Entergy corporate has effectively managed the utility and its obligations to New Orleans residents. Entergy was spooked enough to (maybe) accidentally leak their talking points against the audit to Moreno’s office in a botched email, which hinted at the utility’s consideration to sell off Entergy New Orleans to another operator or to Entergy Louisiana to avoid City Council regulation. New Orleans is one of only two United States cities with regulatory control over its electrical utility, and Entergy’s attempts to abandon New Orleans are a direct threat to that rare privilege, which, in the right conditions, can empower voters to exert substantial influence over utility regulation. Moreno has stayed pretty quiet, though, not committing to staying with Entergy, a privatized de-monopolization scheme, a nonprofit conversion, or municipalization. All but that final option would keep control over our utilities in the hands of a select few chosen elites, rather than with voters. Municipalization would give residents ultimate ownership and control over their electrical grid.
Moreno also cuddles up to property developers in a prodigious way. She’s a realtor herself, having bought, renovated, and sold several properties, and accepts donations from a wide range of real estate figures. Perhaps most egregious among them is Sidney Torres IV, the solid waste tycoon and Property Brother wannabe behind IV Waste and, more recently, a litany of property acquisitions and developments, mostly bars and restaurants, including Circle Foods, Vaso, Wrong Iron Beer Garden, D Mac’s, and many more. Torres himself, the scion of a prominent St. Bernard Parish family, had political ambitions of his own as recently as 2017, when he floated a possible mayoral run that was scuttled when his donations to the Trump inauguration were discovered. Now, Torres mostly works behind the scenes; last year he funded a campaign against Civil District Court Division F Judge Chris Bruno, who ruled against Torres in a case involving his ownership of Vaso, successfully pushing challenger Jennifer Medley over the edge with a flood of campaign cash and ads to pull off an upset and get revenge. Maybe Moreno wants to stay on his good side to stave off competition later on in 2025.
It might not make a difference in how you vote in this particular race, but if and when Moreno runs for something else in the future, remember: while she can talk a big game, she hasn’t put her money where her mouth is yet. For instance, Moreno pushed the rest of the Council to reject Entergy contributions, but she’s happy to accept checks from Helis Oil & Gas. Renewable public utilities do exist and have worked well. The solutions are there, and they are, in fact, very possible. But is Moreno truly willing to pursue those solutions? It’s hard to know for sure.
In some ways, Kenneth Cutno (D) may be one of most quixotic challengers of this election, taking on the formidable Moreno in a head-to-head contest. His theme song suggests “Everyone’s voting for [him],” however he has not yet won a race this century as far as we can tell. Cutno has been on the political scene for some decades now, running since at least 2000 when he was angling for a seat on the City Council of Gonzales, Louisiana. His other notable campaigns include runs for State Representative in 2015, U.S. Congress for LA-02 in 2016, and New Orleans City Council in 2017. Cutno’s campaign style has typically been to show up and engage with voters directly at events. This past summer he attended multiple cookouts for the New Orleans Renters’ Rights Assembly to try to convince activists to support him. They politely declined.
His business card lists his campaign platform in one sentence: “Please act now to join our team for a better community that is safe from crime and promote jobs, affordable housing, free healthcare, free internet for all, public neighborhood schools, anti-poverty programs, criminal justice reform, open Lincoln beach, legalizing marijuana, vocational training for our youth, Gordon plaza resident’s relocation from toxic land, turned off red light traffic cameras, add crime cameras, create the New Orleans motion picture/films job creation program, raise minimum wage to $18 per hour, small businesses 15 percent payroll tax credit, lower taxes, less government regulation on the taxicab’s drivers and owners in New Orleans and STOP RACISM.” Truly something for everyone. Since Ida, he has pivoted to holding Entergy accountable, posting multiple calls to action on his Facebook page asking residents to oppose rate increases.
Being the only opponent of an incumbent, Cutno was likely to attract some unfortunate funding, and it ultimately arrived in the form of a check for $1,000 and in-kind donations from known Uber masturbator and former mayoral candidate Frank Scurlock. (Scurlock runs the Florida-based Noiglier Foundation, who officially cut the check to Cutno.) Cutno has received other endorsements, notably from Erase the Board, who are especially suspicious of Moreno’s positioning with regard to Entergy, and the Better Leadership Ticket, who have opposed every possible incumbent running.
City Council, At-Large Division 2
One of two citywide City Council positions, the At-Large Division 2 seat is being vacated by Councilmember Donna Glapion, who was appointed to replace Jason Williams on an interim basis after his election as District Attorney. Two of four candidates on the ballot to fill this hotly contested seat are incumbent councilmembers. But this race isn’t more heated than the others just because incumbents are trying to keep a seat on the Council. The seat is so coveted in this election cycle because it is functionally the highest available position up for election right now, because of an astronomical incumbency bias in the mayoral race. The other at-large Council seat is also occupied by an incumbent, Helena Moreno, who perhaps has a greater assumption of breezy re-election than even the mayor this time around. When the 2025 mayoral election approaches, speculation as to the top contenders for the office will likely center on the two occupants of the at-large seats. Both will have extensive experience with running a citywide campaign and in city government - and all the experience schmoozing donors that comes along with that.
Jared Brossett (D) is the incumbent councilmember for District D, a former state representative, and a former candidate for Civil Court clerk. Term limited, Brossett sought to continue his tenure on the City Council. In a highly unusual move at the height of his campaign, Brossett joined forces with fellow candidate and incumbent councilmember Kristin Giselson Palmer (D) in an attempt to ensure at least one of them would make it to the runoff. Brossett was arrested for the third time for driving under the influence of alcohol a few days later. He has since suspended his campaign and entered treatment, but Brossett will remain on the ballot due to an official withdrawal deadline. Someone has taken it upon themselves to place yard signs on his behalf, probably to boost Palmer’s chances.
Palmer currently represents District C on the Council. In office and in her campaigns, Palmer has the peculiar but persistent habit of planting one foot firmly in progressive rhetoric and the other solidly on the more conservative side. Let’s start with a dissection of Palmer, the progressive, and then move into Palmer, the conservative.
Palmer has worked to pass some progressive policy through the Council chambers, introducing “ban the box” and the “Stop Formosa” resolution. Palmer is among the most committed councilmembers to public transit issues, undoubtedly because her constituents rely on the network's most strained and distant bus lines. She has also taken on the role of short-term rental skeptic on the Council and has called for increased regulations, which makes sense given the heart of the city’s tourism economy lies within her district.
But the conservative side of Palmer, like Jekyll and Hyde, tears down much of her progressive side’s facade. The lax short-term rental policy that Palmer is working to shore up is one she signed off on initially (and one she tried to take advantage of to rent out a whole home on the short-term rental market). In the interim, the stranglehold that STRs have secured on our city has only tightened. Palmer has recently paid a lot of lip service to harm reduction, but rarely backs it up with support, other than her vote in favor of decriminalizing fentanyl test strips in the city, which passed unanimously last year. While she now seems to have some regrets, Palmer was behind the unjustified criminalization of French Quarter gay bars and strip club workers, citing dubious reports of sex trafficking that finally went unsubstantiated. Palmer definitely leans more toward the enforcement side of law enforcement. The “violent crime” boogeyman takes precedence over anything else. Stopping it is listed above police accountability on her 4-item list of priorities on her website, which lacks a detailed issues page, probably giving you a clue as to what her impulses and implicit preferences are. It’s also what her canvassers lead with when door-knocking. Palmer’s dissembling insistence on having it both ways is ultimately self-defeating, and reveals her true colors. Watering down progressivism can never create a progressive candidate. The math just doesn’t add up. Mix in some conservatism with your progressivism and, ultimately, you will spoil the whole batch.
JP Morrell (D) is the newcomer to municipal-level politics that Brossett and Palmer evidently fear could win this election outright by earning at least 50% of the vote, which would preclude a runoff for this race. Morrell is however far from being new to politics writ-large; he was a longtime member of the Louisiana state legislature representing various New Orleans constituencies, sitting in the state house from 2006 to 2008 and the state senate from 2008 to 2020, when recently instituted term limits forced him out. He is part of a political family, headed by his father Arthur Morell, the retiring Orleans Parish Criminal Court Clerk, who held that office since 2006. Before then, the elder Morrell was a state legislator; his son filled his seat. JP’s mother, Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, represented District D on the City Council from 2005 to 2014. So Morrell is a newcomer, but by no means an outsider.
Morrell enjoys several notable endorsements. Governor John Bel Edwards, Congressman Troy Carter (LA-02), DA Jason Williams, incumbent interim Councilmember Donna Glapion, several New Orleans area state legislators, among others, are listed as supporters on his website. As for organizations, Morrell has courted and won the Independent Women’s Organization, the Alliance for Good Government, the New Orleans Coalition, VOTE, the Times-Picayune and its little brother Gambit, United Teachers of New Orleans, Unite Here Local 23, IATSE, and the AFL-CIO. We like a lot of these groups and work with some of them often, and they have our utmost respect, differences in endorsement opinions aside.
Like so many candidates, Morrell is less specific about his actual policy platform than he is about his endorsements. He has two Elizabeth Warren-esque big plans, one of infrastructure and one on “public safety” that is still fundamentally rooted in violent and incarceral policing. His “issues” page is all about vague “change,” but the fluff and qualifications give away the ultimate lack of a real drive for that change. “Fight Crime without Compromising Reform” sounds nice, but it mostly means hiring more cops and paying for more ineffectual training, which was just about the first thing Morrell’s campaign announced he’d do.
Otherwise, Morrell talks the talk but can’t walk the walk. He wants to break up utility monopolies and “work towards” things like municipal broadband, but isn’t willing to commit to municipal utilities in the short-term, at least not meaningfully. He wants to take on Entergy and S&WB, but doesn’t really say how. It’s probably that Morrell’s just not used to speaking this way, and more used to talking representatives of those utilities - along with oil and gas - into donating to his campaigns, like he did back when he was in the legislature. The Palmer and Brossett campaigns have been sure to use that as a cudgel against Morrell, calling him a lobbyist, but they aren’t much better on the questionable donation history front than Morrell.
Bart Everson (G) is 2021’s climate candidate, running on the Green Party ticket. On his website he says that his campaign focus will be on “strengthening the movement for ecological sanity, a collective vision that integrates social justice, grassroots democracy, and nonviolence.” He proposes a fiercely anti-capitalist Green New Deal for New Orleans that advocates for regional self-sufficiency and worker-run cooperatives. He broadly supports the Gulf South for a Green New Deal platform. He was calling for Entergy to be held accountable before Hurricane Ida, and is “philosophically opposed to privatization.” He would like to expand transportation infrastructure in the city. Of the three (remaining) candidates in this race, Everson is the only one to state he favors a short term rental regulation strictly tied to homestead exemption status. He also favors UBI and recreational drug legalization. Prior to running for office, he spearheaded the community driven effort to create the Lafitte Greenway linear park.
His writing on public affairs has appeared at Mid City Messenger and on his personal blog, which has archives going back as far as 1999, but took on particular significance during the post-Katrina period in New Orleans when Everson was a prominent voice in the Web 1.0 proto-social media community that sprung up in the aftermath of the storm. In 2007, Everson participated in a march on City Hall to protest a spike in crime and the general sense that the city was not recovering well. Audio from all of the speakers at that event still survives on the internet as does the text of the speech as written by Everson which concludes: “We know that law enforcement alone can’t solve these problems. We need long-term solutions too. We must have better schools. We must have an economy beyond tourism. We must pay workers a living wage. We must fight racism and classism. It will take all of us. It will take community involvement. Well, look around. The community IS involved. And we will stay involved. To our political class: You’re on notice. We will be watching.” During a televised debate this year, Everson added that today he regrets saying in his speech that New Orleans needed more police. He now says, in fact, we should have “as few police as possible.”
City Council, District A
District A comprises the parts of New Orleans that have been gerrymandered into Steve Scalise’s district- the Tulane/Loyola University area and Lakeview- as well as Hollygrove, the Fairgrounds, and Bayou St. John. District A is something of an enigma- the median income is actually higher than the city-wide median. However, this median is offset by the significantly higher income areas in Lakeview and the Audubon area. The wealth inequality in District A is also a wider gap than other districts.
It should be noted that challenger Bob Murrell (D) is a member of the New Orleans DSA chapter but has not been formally endorsed by the chapter. This should not be read as any reflection on Murrell; rather, this is a testament to our rigorous endorsement process and the intentionally high expectations for membership to participate wholeheartedly in endorsed campaigns. Given a litany of extenuating circumstances from COVID to Hurricane Ida putting a strain on our chapter’s capacity, neither the Electoral Working Group nor Chapter leadership could reasonably recommend an endorsement to the general membership in this cycle. Regardless, Murrell identifies as a democratic socialist, and his platform is by-and-large true to our understanding of socialism. Examining Murrell’s campaign finance reports reveals mostly small-dollar donations – almost all less than $100 – primarily from family and local supporters, including chapter members. His largest contribution, totalling $900 via several smaller contributions, comes from his mother-in-law Sydna Peterson, a social worker with Home Instead, Inc., an elderly care service company based in Metairie. In line with his pledges made in our endorsement questionnaire, Murrell has not taken any contributions from oil & gas, short-term rental operators, or real estate developers.
During a recent virtual candidate forum, Murrell echoed the platform articulated on his campaign website- housing justice, racial and economic justice, ecological justice, flipping the budget, and protecting worker’s rights. Rhetoric is important, and the words that candidates choose to use are indicative of their approach to governing. In this regard, it’s important to note that during the same forum Murrell consistently used community-centered language- focusing all of his pitches on what he feels would uplift community members and “close the gap between the have and the have nots.” Murrell’s use of “we,” as opposed to Giarrusso’s use of “I,” is a small but pertinent indication that Murrell shares with us a perspective central to a socialist conception of local politics.
Murrell talks a big game: He openly supports reallocating NOPD funds to affordable housing and other justice-centered causes and creating a constituent portal (in line with Murrell’s background in software development) to increase accountability and transparency for the council (this would probably lighten councilmembers’ email workload… more on that later). Many of Murrell’s platform points do appear to center the working-class of the city and his district, with housing justice of particular concern to residents of working class District A neighborhoods like Hollygrove experiencing the effects of gentrification.
Key takeaways are Murrell’s pitch to democratize the city’s budget process and allow New Orleans voters to approve or strike down proposed budgets, push for an $25 minimum wage for city workers by 2025 and a city worker’s union, and being a more proactive regulator of Entergy, with the ultimate goal of municipalizing the power grid. Notably among his fellow candidates for office this cycle, Murrell appears to not love cops, and seems to understand that the best way to prevent crime is to address the contributing factors to and causes of activities that the city deems criminal — primarily by investing the most in those that need it the most. In February, Murrell apologized for years-old tweets in which he used transphobic language.
Amy Misko (L) is perhaps the most interesting, for lack of a better word, of the bunch. No matter how one interprets the term interesting in this context, this adjective is apropos. Misko is a Libertarian real estate agent/developer, whose campaign finance reports indicate is almost entirely self-funded- over $17,000 of her total contributions have come from herself. It’s worth noting, too, that typically when candidates inject their war chest with personal funds, it’s done so via 0% interest loans, so the candidate’s can recoup those costs as contributions roll in. However, when they are direct contributions, they are not generally paid back. It should at least be relatively suspicious that an incredibly long-shot Libertarian candidate has $17,000 to throw away on a vanity campaign, especially when Misko isn’t really even making that much noise.
Misko, who once was photographed with a campaign sign that accused Mayor Cantrell of being a ‘carpetbagger from California’ also appears to be from California- where she was a real estate agent. Her biggest ‘claim to fame’ prior to running has been her nonprofit, ‘Libertarian Little Free Libraries’ which provide Pre-K - 2 learning books and school supplies to kids in the city. It should be noted that her nonprofit does not appear to be registered as such with the IRS - can you believe it?
In true Libertarian fashion, she wants no masks, no mandates, lower taxes, and to improve our roads (it’s unclear how to do this without paying taxes… and Misko’s website articulates no alternative funding system). She does say that we should get rid of traffic and red light cameras, and then redistribute that money back to New Orleanians.
Most interestingly, Misko’s platform states that she wants NOPD patrolling every street - but also has yard signs that say to ‘end police harassment.’ These would seem to be contradicting statements. Because Misko did not attend the most recent candidate forum, there was no opportunity for her to explain how she would ensure that increasing NOPD patrols would not result in an increase in police harassment.
Misko, like Murrell, believes that citizens should be able to vote on the budget, which is objectively a good thing. However, we’ve got to assume that her budget priorities would differ drastically from Murrell’s.
The incumbent, Joe Giarrusso (D), is reaching the end of his first term. He currently sits on the Budget, Economic Development, Government Affairs, Smart & Sustainable Cities, Transportation & Airport, Utility, Cable, & Telecommunications and Ad Valorem committees, and chairs the Public Works and Quality of Life committees. He’s been endorsed by the Alliance for Good Government, IWO, AFL-CIO, OPDEC, IDEA, and the New Orleans Coalition.
When Giarrusso first ran in 2017, part of his platform was to ‘stay in touch with neighborhoods’ which he must’ve done well. In at least three separate settings, he has proudly boasted about the 187,000 emails that his office has sent or received. That’s an average of 128 emails per day, every day, since he has been in office. That is a lot. It’s probably easier to get your anomalous S&WB bills addressed through Giarrusso’s office (or any councilmember’s office, for that matter) than the S&WB itself.
But when Giarrusso is not sending or receiving emails, he’s raking in the dough from the usual suspects in New Orleans politics. Jimmie Woods, the Metro Services garbage baron who can’t pay his employees an adequate wage or effectively pick up trash, is perhaps the most egregious contributor in the current context. He’s also received contributions from Morris Bart, Oceana Grill, Chip Forstall, and other local attorneys. Also of note is Paul Sterbcow, Giarrusso’s appointee to the Street Renaming Committee and local attorney; both him and his wife have made relatively significant contributions to his re-election campaign ($1,000 each).
During the previously mentioned virtual forum, Giarrusso articulated that he was in favor of a “safer city,” and, given his personal and family history, this almost certainly just means more cops and more money for cops. Giarrusso’s lineage includes a former segregationist superintendent of police who once kicked Black protestors out of a whites-only cafeteria in City Hall. Whenhen Audubon Zoo canceled a pro-NOPD ‘Blue at the Zoo’ event, Giarrusso stated “I don’t think supporting the police, or fire, or EMS, or anybody else is per se something that people should get upset about.” He dismissively suggested that those who want to reallocate police funds towards other public services should exercise more “nuance.” That he made these comments a mere days after reports surrounding the 2019 Louisiana State Police murder of Ronald Greene, demonstrates, at the very least, a remarkable degree of tone-deafness.
City Council, District B
District B represents a wedge of the city that includes the Central Business District, the Lower Garden District, the Irish Channel, Tulane-Gravier, Central City, bits of Mid-City, a portion of Fontainbleu, and a sizeable chunk of Treme. The district has long been associated with the Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), a local political machine currently represented in the City Council by incumbent Jay Banks.
There are 4 candidates here, and they represent a unique microcosm of municipal politics in post-millenium New Orleans. We have a corrupt old machine politics incumbent, a new machine politics business driven challenger, a neighborhood association head with ambitions, and a political outsider with an axe to grind.
Jay Banks (D) represents (as chief operations officer) BOLD, a 40 year multigenerational political organization. BOLD was founded in the 80s by Kenneth Carter, father of state senator and former state Democratic Party chair Karen Carter Peterson, mainly to oppose a different political machine now under the purview of former Congressman Cedric Richmond. New Orleans politics has changed since those days. While the deep grudges between the various political dynasties endure, the organizations that effectively centralized power around those grudges have largely died with their founders or collapsed amidst corruption scandals.
Despite the decline of those official political organizations, the members of them are still well-connected, which is probably why Jay Banks was able to turn the tables on Seth Bloom, his well-funded, business-oriented opponent in 2017, coming from a 27% 2nd place primary result to a 50.4% win. Here we are again in 2021 with Banks coming in less funded than his primary challenger Lesli Harris, a recipient from many of the same donors as Bloom.
During council hearings where Banks made a big push for the proposed Entergy gas plant, a local citizen revealed that Banks had failed to disclose that he used to work for Entergy and later for the Legends consulting group that also worked for Entergy. Banks lashed out, arrogantly suggesting that he’s above such basic accountability requirements. Here we are today after the gas plant and Entergy have failed us in the wake of Ida, and he’s still pushing the line that his past experience makes him more effective, rather than more obviously corrupt.
On crime, Banks hammers home the idea that there are “some people” who are “out to hurt us,” without elaborating on who those people are or where they might be. This is an extremely simplistic view covering a narrow window of crime that doesn’t have any reference to statistics or reality. In keeping with his gut-based, reality-agnostic approach to “fighting crime,” Banks pushed an ordinance to raise the age of curfew to 17, ensuring that 16 year olds seen out of doors after dark can legally be kidnapped and hassled by police for, say, taking a walk, or coming home from work.
Banks continues to express a bizarrely nihilistic point of view toward his own job, claiming that he’s incapable of solving many of the problems constituents come to him with. He may be correct in that the political levers he’s in front of are complex and indirect, but it makes you wonder why he wants to stay in the job if he can’t solve anything.
This year’s election theme is a continuation of the Crime Narrative that’s been sitting on the pot all year, and Lesli Harris (D) has understood the assignment, flagrantly claiming that a “flood” of illegal guns has caused violent crime “as bad as the 1990s.” Here in the real world, violent crime is at about 2011 levels, only notable for a big increase over 2019. But this is not especially surprising considering the glut of despair and poverty resulting from compounding disasters inadequately addressed by the powers-that-be in all levels of government. You don’t hear much about that, however, from neo-tough-on-crime candidates like Harris and Banks. Her plan is the same as so many others: to give more money to the police, even though they already gobble up nearly two-thirds of the city budget with next to nothing to show for it, and definitely not anything good.
Harris’s most recent experience is as the chief of staff of the president of Loyola University, a position that involves a great deal of schmoozing. Before this, she was a corporate lawyer. You’ll notice she lists as one of her accomplishments her participation in Robichaux v Caldwell, a lawsuit against the state’s gay marriage ban in 2014. What she doesn’t mention is that it was as one member of a team of seven lawyers representing a mess of firms, nor does she mention that it was a moot case, superseded by the Obergefell v Hodges decision while the case was still pending. It’s understandable to pick this case as a demonstration of your bonafides as an LGBT ally, but this extremely marginal dismissed case is highlighted as the case that she’s “most proud of,” which makes sense if you want to sound progressive even though most of your career was spent serving corporate interests.
The boilerplate nature of her policy positions (all promises we’ve heard before and from many candidates now, from contract reviews to no rate increases from Entergy) suggest that Harris is bringing nothing personal to the table, just seeking a lateral career move and petitioning some of the same funders of Seth Bloom’s 2017 campaign to fuel it.
As for Rella Zapletal (D), every election we get one or two of these — well-heeled neighborhood association chairs who cut their teeth in New Orleans politics through big fights with City Council over historical preservation and have decided they want to move on to bigger and better things. In her campaign, Zapletal has said she'd want to pursue policies to expand affordable housing, but hypocritically has publicly opposed affordable developments in her neighborhood. This is a tactic that white-led neighborhood associations often use and has hampered affordable housing in the city. A lot of her donations comes from out-of-towners, as well as the more local Krewe of Pandora and the extremely cancelled Krewe of Nyx.
Rosalind “Roz” Reed-Thibodeaux (I) represents the other sort of candidate we get every election, an average citizen with a bone to pick and a bit of money to burn. Her political ideas are fundamentally inconsistent, both anti-tax and pro-surveillance. This seems to be more of a vanity-driven project than anything else.
City Council, District C
With Kristin Gisleson Palmer in the race for for At-Large, those who are running for her seat are vying to represent New Orleans most oddly-apportioned district, which lumps all of Algiers with the French Quarter, bits of Treme, Marigny, St. Roch, and Bywater. As the saying goes: the money’s on the East Bank, the votes are on the West Bank. Candidates with deep connections to Algiers tend to have success here, including Palmer, Troy Carter, and James Carter before her.
Of particular note in this race, the transformation of many of the neighborhoods in the city over the past five years has been staggering, primarily through the explosion of Short Term Rentals, which have continued to have devastating impacts on housing affordability. There have been half-measures by city leaders, including Palmer, to rein them in with limited success. In addition to the ongoing housing affordability crisis, the proliferation of STRs had thrown New Orleans into its worst eviction crisis even before the pandemic hit. Voters in District C should be paying very close attention to how candidates respond on all issues, but housing in particular. Readers should note where candidates’ allegiances to developers might betray the needs of renters and homeowners who have suffered incredible losses during the pandemic.
Stephanie Bridges (D) is running for council this year after an unsuccessful run at Criminal Court Section K in 2020, where she was narrowly defeated by Marcus DeLarge. While she remains oddly under-endorsed in this race, her previous backers for Section K included Karen Carter Peterson, Kristin Palmer, and BOLD. She appears to have the support of Algiers Proud, a relatively new organization run by her son, Jordan Bridges, who is running for State House District 102. She only has a handful of donors, with the largest contribution coming from a small development firm featured on Sidney Torres’ show The Deed.
Freddie King III (D) appears to be the anointed candidate this election, boasting early endorsements from Governor John Bel Edwards, Congressman Troy Carter, and Mary Landrieu, among many others. While this is his first race for public office, King is clearly ambitious and well-connected. He is a board member of InspireNOLA Charter Schools, a commissioner for the Convention Center, an OPDEC member, and a member of the Audubon Commission. His handsome funding largely comes from the expected variety of French Quarter club owners and real estate law firms, as well as Ike Spears’ Deep South Political Consulting, an outfit central to former Congressman Cedric Richmond’s political machine.
King’s connection to just about every deep-pocketed player of the Cedric Richmond political establishment may be a liability when it comes to regulating Entergy. While King hasn’t reported any cash donations from the utility, Richmond is a well-known recipient of oil and gas and Entergy money.
It’s unclear how King vows to “Fight the Red Tape of City Hall and Review the Permitting Process,” or what that even means. However it is clear in his duties of City Council that he will be one of the arbiters of land use and zoning, and pass regulation on matters around short term rentals. He formerly worked for then-Councilmember Nadine Ramsey as a coordinator of constituent services. Ramsey was notoriously awful when it came to affordable housing, and worked to remove minimum affordability requirements for big developers. That’s a big red flag for renters and housing advocates hoping to advance a rental registry.
King is a lawyer who lives in Algiers with his wife, Casandra. Together they own and operate LeBeouf Street Properties, a Gretna-based real estate company with a handful of properties in Algiers.
Alonzo Knox (D) is known around town as one of the owners of Backatown Coffee and a fervent historic preservationist who appeared in the foreground of efforts to keep City Hall out of Treme as one of many organizers within the Save Our Soul Coalition. He is endorsed by Step Up Louisiana.
Knox is a resident of Treme and has been working in historic preservation since around 2011, when he was appointed to the Historic District Landmarks Commission. That body oversees demolition permits for historic buildings and determines architectural appropriateness in historic neighborhoods. As a commissioner, he used his position to speak out against slumlords who allowed their buildings to fall into disrepair. His partner Jessica Knox sits on the board of the Preservation Resource Center. While promising in some areas on housing (he and all other District C candidates have voiced support for free legal defense for residents facing eviction), it is mildly notable that some developers (Marcel Wiznia) and realtors (Katie Witry) still appear to have contributed to his campaign efforts. Still, he is one of very few candidates vocal about the damage done by Short Term Rentals, which have done particular damage to the Treme.
Like others running around the city, he is touting an agenda to fight “violent crime.” With a degree from Southern University in Law Enforcement, where course descriptions don’t leave much room for non-police thinking, it’s unlikely that he is on ideological ground to pursue defunding cops. However, he does seem to acknowledge a link between poverty and harm caused in our communities. He has the likeliest shot of the East bank candidates of making the District C runoff.
Vincent Milligan, Jr. (no party) is the owner of Hair by Vincent and a self identified “activist” by virtue of his anti-mask, anti-vaccine and anti-mandates online advocacy. He moved from Baton Rouge a few years ago and “can’t stand the corruption” in New Orleans. (Please don’t tell him about the corruption in Baton Rouge!) He is possibly the first candidate actively campaigning against bike lanes (point 4 of his 10 point plan). Mostly though, Milligan is a massive racist who deserves no support. His unhinged pro-police, anti-Semitic, anti-Black Facebook posts about Mayor Cantrell, Haitians, and critical race theory need not be repeated here.
Stephen Mosgrove (D) is a technocrat from the Cantrell administration, where he was community engagement liaison for District A. Mosgrove has struggled to find an audience, and has shown up to (at least) one fundraiser for Republican mayoral candidate Vina Ngyuen. While Mosgrove certainly has one of the most detailed platforms of any District C, it tows a dangerously regressive “smart-on-crime” line that includes increasing NOPD’s ranks and using automated technology wherever possible in policing. It’s fair to say that Mosgrove didn’t get the memo about abolitionist reforms NOT increasing police budgets, and frankly he doesn’t seem to care. He’s too busy on Royal Street, where his campaign tactics seem to include casually tossing change to street performers.
Frank Perez (D) is the guy with the hat! You may also know him from his blog, “French Quarter Frank,” or seen him at Southern Decadence 2018, holding the banner as Grand Marshall. Perez is an author and historian who runs the LGBT+ Archives of Louisiana. One of his big ideas is “night time” city government, which is a lovely idea in theory, but makes little sense for city workers who are already overworked and underpaid. He is for affordable housing, but says he “will consult with local neighborhood associations for the best answer,” an idea that sounds good until you realize that neighborhood associations are predominantly led by white residents opposed to affordable housing. In fact, according to a recent and extensive study by the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, City Council has killed or delayed over 600 affordable units, largely due to the outsize influence of the neighborhood associations.
Barbara Waiters (D) is a pro-development, yes-to-business kind of politician. She is the Director of Public Affairs Policy at the city’s Downtown Development District. Regarding Short Term Rentals, one of her listed accomplishments with the DDD was to ensure that “regulations adopted by the City Council [are] aligned with the development opportunities and quality of life concerns of the Downtown residential and commercial property owners and stakeholders.” Or, in other words, directly opposed to the needs of renters. She has held appointments on the Vieux Carre Commission, the Regional Transit Authority, the Oschner West Bank Governing Board, and the New Orleans Public Library Foundation Board (the fundraising arm that was ransacked by Irvin Mayfield in 2015, not the actual library Board of Directors). Her campaign contributions come from a garden variety of lawyers, developers, consulting firms, and a fairly large proportion of out-of-state supporters.
City Council, District D
Chelsea Ardoin (R) is one of 14 candidates for District D but the only Republican. She’s an HR project manager for Entergy (but always makes sure to emphasize her position is in HR to distance herself from Entergy’s baggage) and a member of the Women’s Republican Club of New Orleans. This appears to be her second rendezvous into politics, her first being for the 2nd District Congressional seat in March 2021 where she got 3.4% of the vote. Like the majority of candidates in this race, her website is vague about priorities and leaves us to assume the standard Republican positions on safety and security, economic growth, affordable and accessible healthcare (though this one may deviate). Of the $5,740 raised in her campaign, only 2 people from New Orleans donated to her campaign with only $20 coming from district D. But luckily for her, Florida resident Ryan Phillips and his company Phillips Capital inc. believes in her so much he donated the lion’s share, $5000.
Chantrisse Burnett (D) is a graduate from Southern University with a masters in public administration and a board member of the New Orleans Coalition (something only mentioned during their candidate forum). She recently quit her job as a youth specialist at Total Community Action, Inc. to run for the district D seat. Burnett’s campaign finance records show grassroots funding. Her vaguely stated priorities are economic opportunity, infrastructure and crime prevention with the general liberal strategy of working with law enforcement and criminal justice reform agencies “to find innovative solutions,” the same thing we’ve all heard before without any improvement, because cops don’t make us safe. When talking about economic opportunity she said “we need a saving wage in the city and the pandemic has proven to us that we can’t rely on tourism” -- a relatable sentiment for a lot of folks in New Orleans before COVID and especially after.
Morgan Clevenger (D) has been the president of the Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association since 2010. Her claim to neighborhood fame (as she describes it) was heading a multi-year neighborhood battle that “closed liquor stores and fought drugs and guns out of our playgrounds” when the city wouldn’t do anything about it. She described this “crime haven” as holding her neighborhood “hostage”. She’s been a community activist and organizer for decades and claims to be a founding organizer of Save our Soul Coalition, which campaigned against the mayor’s last ditch effort to spend $38 million in Katrina funds to retrofit Municipal Auditorium as her new office. Regardless, she was one of hundreds of people who came out in those efforts. As she fumbles with zoom during the candidate forums, she quotes Dr. Martin Luther King and boasts of her parents' civil rights activism. Her campaign priorities are vaguely stated as equity, opportunity, infrastructure, crime prevention, safety and blight while claiming she wants community policing and restorative justice -- but her record doesn’t really show that she knows what restorative justice is beyond it being a buzzword.
She was previously in the film industry but now she makes 100% of her money from her short term rentals, New Orleans Festival house, that has three STR permits (all expired 6/2/17) and recently purchased 2 adjacent vacant lots. STR regulation is definitely nowhere in her campaign priorities. She is currently taking Venmo donations via her website, which is a clever way to both use emojis ❤️🗳❤️ and avoid financing reports. Her official campaign financing is primarily from family sources.
Being a candidate where 100% of her income comes from owning and operating STR’s in the neighborhood, it’s easy to see her as another MLK quoting, gentrifying white liberal. But she has lived in the 6th and 7th Wards her entire life. When asked about gentrification during the NOC candidate forum she said it is a “core issue in our city with the erosion and erasure of our people and our culture … with the displacement of Black homeowners'' she views her neighborhood organizing as “resist[ing] a massive gentrification attempt by taking the crime problem upon ourselves because the city wouldn't do it, we were successful after 10 years and we kept our home owners'' and believes that the crime problem was a factor in displacement with Black homeowners leaving. She continues to talk about how that effort was then penalized by the city through the raising of property taxes that further displaced homeowners and long term renters. But of course, she’s said nothing about her short term rentals and their role in gentrification, displacement and cultural erosion. All of this sparks the regular questions around who is prioritized in public space. Who gets to define what those spaces look like? Who still holds the power in a predominantly Black city and in “diverse” neighborhoods like the Fairgrounds? And for efforts to “better” a neighborhood by making it “safer,” safer for who? Can a neighborhood be safe with active displacement?
Anthony Doby (no party) notably started the unsuccessful recall request on Councilmember Brossett after his DUI arrest last year. He reportedly has had no campaign expenditures or contributions and there seems to be some inconsistencies in his personal disclosure form. The form states that he’s unemployed and has no other income or business positions, only mentions his nonprofit DSN Health & Athletics, Inc. that organizes camp and events for kids and young adults. On Facebook he lists his job as “Property Master at Doby’s B&B,” his website mentions being the CEO of Anthony Doby Investments as his career since 2003. He has several LLCs, all of which are either inactive or not in good standing. Even Anthony Doby Investments wasn’t registered until 2012 and is currently inactive. His website describes his CEO career experience as “owned and controlled more than 30 duplexes throughout the city”, “constantly targeting land purchasing opportunities to increase property value”, and researching properties based on “real estate trends and financial upside.” Major yikes - but all this and he doesn’t currently own any properties?
His disclosure form says he doesn’t and assessor records confirm that. However his girlfriend and business partner Kendall Griffin owns three properties in her name; one that his father sold to Kendall that he uses as his mailing address, where the majority of his LLC’s are registered to and where Doby’s B&B operates as an STR, another 8th Ward home, and a Carrollton-area home sold to Kendall by Anthony’s mother in 2018 for a grand total of $0. Under Doby-Griffin Holdings LLC there’s another 4 plots recently purchased in the 8th Ward. Why won’t he or his parents put property in his name?
As far as his platform, his website mentions 8 priorities, including legalization and decriminalization of marijuana in the parish to increase tax revenue, decriminalizing sex work (we love to see it!), infrastructure, have the assessor tax church and nonprofit real estate holdings, youth programs, and limiting STRs in residential zones but of course not his residential zone. Do you want another capitalist STR operating “property master” representing you?
The two most open candidates about their upbringing in New Orleans and how it’s institutions have impacted them and now guide their candidacy are Mariah Moore and Troy Glover (D). As he accurately puts it: “someone with [my] story doesn’t often get to run for City Council”. Glover grew up in the Calliope (B.W. Cooper) projects where his father was shot and killed when he was one year old, his mother struggled with addiction, and he was later incarcerated as a teenager. He has his Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from University of New Orleans and started the New Orleans chapter of Center for Employment Opportunities that employs citizens returning home from incarceration. His chapter also does work to prevent recidivism and cut down on blighted properties. While he was the president of the St. Roch neighborhood association, he “hosted several gun buybacks, taking over 300 guns off the streets”. During his time at the Louisiana Center for Children’s Rights, the juvenile public defender's office, he worked on the campaign to pass senate bill 324 that prevents “children from being snatched from schools and put directly into adult prisons.”
Glover’s been an advocate for criminal justice reform and that shows through his community work that centers those impacted by incarceration, coming from a place of empathy and advocating for our communities to have the basic needs to thrive. He sees preventing crime and recidivism as being resource-based; give people accessible housing, quality education, economic opportunities and restore our public services and crime will decrease. He supports a fully funded relocation of Gordon Plaza residents, a city funded housing community built on a toxic landfill (a few candidates in this race also support this). When asked about first things he would do if elected, he mentioned renewing the St. Roch area’s affordable housing millage, and also calls for the immediate utilization of the $300 million the city received in COVID relief money and $500 million set aside for infrastructure for their intended purposes and getting those resources to the people that need it the most. The Gambit has endorsed Glover alongside Timolynn Sams. As of November 9th, Troy Glover has yet to file a personal disclosure form or release a campaign finance report, which isn’t very transparent, something this city doesn’t need more of.
Eugene Green (D) is a well-established perennial New Orleans candidate, having run previously for the Council’s At-Large seat in 2012 and 2014, and for State Rep in 2019 (here’s our DSA voter guide for that race). He has been involved in New Orleans politics for decades, notably serving as Congressman William Jefferson’s chief of staff for some time, who was convicted in 2009 of bribery and fraud. He is the president and owner of the generic-branded Nationwide Real Estate Corporation, making him a massive property manager throughout the city. He’s sat on many nonprofit boards along with receiving numerous appointments on local agency boards such as Lakefront Management Authority (a state agency that manages the Non-Flood assets of the Orleans Levee District), Industrial Development Board of the City of New Orleans, Construction Review Committee for S&WB, and New Orleans City Planning Commission. He’s been a significant player behind the scenes without ever actually being in elected office. His platform includes reducing regulations for developers and pro-cop, soft-lib reform strategies that include using ankle monitoring bracelets. Green is leading the field in spending but is only collecting contributions from around 30 donors (including Ike Spears’ Deep South Political Consulting) and notable past contributors have been $3450 from Ann D. Duplessis, $5000 from Plumbers & Steamfitters Local U. 60, $2500 from Richard’s Disposal, and various amounts from different financial, law, real estate groups). He’s the candidate with the most connections, money, and endorsements in this race. While moderates may see him as the most experienced, he’s part of the old guard in the New Orleans political arena that we hope to see dramatically change.
Kevin Griffin-Clark (D) has received an endorsement by the AFL-CIO (alongside Eugene Green) and has had continued support from the 2021 2nd district Congressional candidate Gary Chambers throughout his campaign. This is his second shot at public office, his first being for Orleans Parish School Board in 2019. He’s a Step Up Louisiana board member, a youth minister, a mentor with the Silverback Society, and creator of Beaucoup Media LLC. Griffin-Clark has been an advocate of increasing the size and power of UTNO (the teacher’s union which has been systematically weakened and fragmented since Katrina) and was an active member / organizer of the Erase The Board Coalition - who made powerful endorsements and provided grassroots support to anti-charter school board candidates (most of whom were actually teachers, a novel idea).
While having a rather vague website, during forums his priorities have been a full city funded relocation of Gordon Plaza residents to safe homes, infrastructure, keeping contracts local and in house, and restructuring our city budget to address the “63% being used on criminal justice and to increase the dollars spent on youth and family services that currently sits at 3-4% of our city budget” (note: the percentages here are what he stated during a candidate forum). He’s also mentioned a desire to “take 25% of the home auction market and make it available only for first time homebuyers and helping people get off section 8”. Through grassroots fundraising, he’s received $2800 in contributions, including $100 from district 91 LA House Rep Mandie Landry.
Mark “Johari” Lawes (D) is a long time businessman, most notably owner of Half Shell on the Bayou, part of a Black owned cooperative on Bayou Road, and former owner of Cafe Negril. This is Johari’s first time running for public office. Endorsed by the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and affiliated with many local orgs like the Reserve Special Deputy Sheriff and the New Orleans East Business Association. A core thing about him that he’s repeated several times is that he has 4 children in law enforcement, 2 being NOPD officers, and one who is a teacher -- so don’t count on any criminal justice reform with his pro cop sentiments. He did say that “arresting everybody is not going to slow [crime] down any”, too bad his version of crime prevention looks like more cops patrolling the streets. Besides the economy and crime, he’s remained really vague about priorities.
And to the surprise of no one, as a long term New Orleans businessman, his campaign contributions aren’t so vague. He’s raised over $23,000 in contributions including several large donations from law firms, realtors, hospitality business owners, construction contracting companies, and media companies. Johari mentioned in a recent interview that for “potholes and seemingly endless construction projects” that “rebidding construction contracts and ensuring greater competition” was part of the solution and called the city’s One Stop app “the one stop from hell” and that his business advantage is being able to “wiggle my way through the system, just because I know a lot of people at City Hall.” Oh my God, he admit it! He’s a candidate that will bring us just more of the same bullshit we already have.
Robert “Bob” Murray (D) is a retired businessman with a bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice from Southern University. He is a member of the NAACP and Urban League. He does community work around helping houseless people find shelter and youth mentorship. Murray ran for public office before in the 2003 and 2006 Criminal District Court clerk races as well as 91st district State Representative in 2007… though he’ll tell you he’s only ran one time 20 years ago because he thinks not running over and over and over again (cough cough Eugene Green) gives him more cred. His brother is the former District 96 state representative and state senator Ed Murray, and he boasts his experience with the legislative process and parliamentary skills from working with his brother. He spews the regular infantilizing hate for millenials we’ve all grown to love,saying “this is not the time to bring millennials in who do not understand [the] process. We have important issues that must be handled. This is not a time to write resumes.” The oldest millennials are turning 40 this year, the youngest are turning 25. People have got to stop pretending that millennial means “youngster with no job experience” and not an age-defined cohort that gets older and closer to the sweet release of death everyday like everyone else before.
Murray has self funded his campaign and his website says he’s endorsed by Orleans Parish District Attorney Jason Williams. His priorities are the houselessness crisis, disability access, affordable housing, regressive crime prevention through increased police patrol and camera watch programs, COVID relief with an emphasis on forgiving unpaid utility bills to let residents have continued access without water and energy shut offs, and infrastructure and S&WB reform. When asked one of the first things he would do in office he stated “immediately write an ordinance to address the losses people had during the 2017 flood [that was exacerbated by S&WB pump failures] because the city hasn’t done anything to compensate them. Problems at S&WB are not an act of god, they’re an act of failure”,a sentiment that rings true for so many of us. Murray lost 2 cars due to the flooding. All people deserve disaster relief, and he’s the only candidate currently proposing relief money specifically for the 2017 flood. While this would have a positive impact for those affected and a step in the right direction for the City taking ownership of their role in damages, Murray doesn’t seem to have this same energy for Gordon Plaza, which leads us to question whether or not he only wants the City to be accountable, take ownership of failures and compensate its residents when it personally affects him.
Keith “KP” Parker (D) has worked for the City of New Orleans in a variety of departments and positions from Code Enforcement, Department of Sanitation, to deputy clerk for Orleans Parish Criminal Court. KP currently works for Court Intervention Services as a Field Agent. He’s part of Men of Excellence and a SUNO project for Black male teacher development sponsored by Joint Task Force Katrina veteran turned environmentalist Gen. Russel Honoré. Yet another candidate with vague priorities, KP’s sparse digital presence mentions pot holes, crime reduction and economic opportunity as his priorities -- he even said he’s used his own money to fill potholes himself. While talking about criminal justice he's mentioned “dealing with a brother who was incarcerated for over 20 years, the system failed everyone. Now I work with people who were formerly incarcerated and in mental health”. Unfortunately he hasn’t really expanded on criminal justice beyond that, hasn’t mentioned reform or his thoughts on the phase 3 jail expansion.
KP also recently started his own clothing/t-shirt company at the end of December 2020 called The Lapeyrouse Project, LLC (a small fraction of his yearly income). The mailing address KP listed on his personal disclosure is the same as the rental address for this business. The disclosure form mentions that his wife owns a home in Jefferson Parish.
This is a curious situation; though KP is born and raised in the 7th Ward, does he currently live in District D? One of the qualifications for council members is to “have been domiciled in the district from which elected for at least 2 years immediately preceding their election”. Without knowing his living arrangements with his wife, it’s hard to say. But unless he’s been renting and living in District D for the last two years, and not at home with his wife in Jefferson Parish, then it doesn’t seem like he meets the parish residency qualifications.
Dulaine Troy Vining (D) previously worked as a clinical researcher for severe respiratory unknown illness and has management experience from catering to Shweggman supermarkets. He has a lot of campaign focuses, some being ending cash bail, fighting corruption & auditing misappropriation of funds, ending cronyism, and having our health department oversee our sanitation services (S&WB, trash, recycling). Many of his focuses have an environmentalist lens to them. He also wants district D to have a dog park and to “reimagine our parks with water”. Unfortunately, it seemed that he had some pretty significant tech issues leading to him not being able to participate in IWO and NOC candidate forums.
Mariah Moore (D) is a Senior National Organizer at the Transgender Law Center and the Executive Director at House of Tulip. House of Tulip is a community land trust that provides safe affordable housing to transgender and gender non-conforming residents. Moore talks the talk and walks the walk – at the Independent Women’s Organization Forum she spoke about how she bought a home for the community before she even owned a home herself. As a councilmember, Moore says she will continue to fight for affordable housing. Her goals include ending the issuance of short-term rental permits to commercial properties, extending the short-term rental ban that’s in place in the French Quarter and Garden District to Treme and the 7th Ward, and funding the relocation of Gordon Plaza residents. She also promises to work with the assessor’s office to make sure property taxes are affordable for residents, and are not based on gentrified short-term rental market values. Moore says she is prepared to take the fight to the state legislature to give New Orleans the right to set its own minimum wage and rent control laws. She would reduce funding to New Orleans and Co. and reinvest in the City’s residents who create the culture New Orleans and Co. markets. Previously, Moore served on the Mayor’s human rights and equity LGBTQ+ taskforce. She enjoys the endorsement and volunteer support of the local Sunrise Movement chapter, which considers her the candidate most capable of securing a municipal Green New Deal. If elected she would become the first openly transgender councilmember.
Timolynn “Tim” Sams (D) is twenty years deep in the City’s non-profit and charter school sector and it shows from her website, which reads like a non-profit resume without saying much in the way of platform. To her resume: Tim is the “Director of Community Engagement and Impact” for Inspire NOLA charter schools. She is also the Founder and “Chief Innovation Officer” for a consulting group called One Degree Impact. According to her website, she is the “driving force” behind the “Healthy NOLA” citywide health equity agenda. She claims credit for “nurture[ing]” a number of non-profits, including Son of a Saint, Brothers Empowered to Teach, Playbuild NOLA, Citizen She, and the Justice and Accountability Center. Tim also “designed and built” the city office of neighborhood engagement. She hosts a talk radio show called Pumps Pearls and Politics. The list goes on. With regard to platform and vision, there’s none on her website. At the New Orleans Coalition Facebook Forum, in classic non-profit lingo, she described her platform as, “people-centric policies for transformational change.” But we’re still waiting for her to tell us what that change would be.
Kortney Youngblood’s (D) campaign website is comprehensive, compelling, and includes a masterpiece of a campaign platform with 10 neatly organized major issues and 20+ detailed subpoints. She is a renter who works at her family’s small cleaning business and dreams of buying her own home in the neighborhood where she grew up. Some highlights from Youngblood’s platform include her support for teachers’ unions and vow to impose a moratorium on charter schools. She wants to see city contracts awarded to community workers instead of to privatized/out of town contractors. Youngblood advocates for flipping the budget to create programs like 24-hour walk-in mental health facilities, and 24-hour childcare centers. She would also expand access to fentanyl testing strips. Youngblood supports ending cash bail, ending for-profit prisons, and the release of individuals incarcerated for non-violent drug offenses.
City Council, District E
District E combines New Orleans East with the Lower Ninth Ward, representing the city’s geographically largest yet economically most disadvantaged district. Divided from the rest of the city by the Industrial Canal, it is frequently overlooked by the city’s leadership. Organizers here have fought tirelessly to get basic needs met in District E, as access to fresh food and produce, transportation, and employment have been perennially lacking.
Cyndi Nguyen (D) may be the most endangered incumbent this year. She is finishing up her first term as councilmember after her surprise win in 2018 against James Gray, who had held the seat since 2012 and had massively outspent her. Nguyen had run for the seat once before, but had no background in representative politics. Nguyen came from the non-profit world, where she had started the non-profit Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET). As a council member, Nguyen has gone along with the City Council on progressive measures when there was heavy public pressure and Council support for them. She voted to raise city contractor pay to $15 an hour, to create a crisis response and intervention team as an alternative to police officers, and (after delaying the vote twice) to reject ITEP tax exemptions for the Folgers plan in her district, all unanimously approved measures. She also was one of six council members who voted to ban the use of facial recognition technology in our city’s police camera system. Still, she has voiced support for our city’s surveillance system and level of camera monitoring. In her answers to a candidate survey issued by Voters Organized to Educate, Nguyen didn’t voice support for the decriminalization of illegal drugs but said she was open to learning more in that area. She also wrote that she was not in favor of decriminalizing sex work, with her reasoning appearing to be that she did not consider sex work consensual. Finally, it may be concerning to some that VIET has received significant contributions from Entergy, including more than $27,000 between 2016 to 2018.
Nguyen has been criticized for comments she has made while taking media on tours of her district: speaking on the blight in District E, she said: “You know what I really want to do with all this? Burn it down.” She later clarified she meant a controlled burn of certain areas. Nguyen also came under fire for saying “I’ll be candid — having Walmart come to the neighborhood, it ain’t gonna happen...The concept of even like a Raising Cane’s, I don’t think it’s going to happen...This is just a reality, OK, and this is not putting anybody down: I think people in the Lower Nine like those greasy fried chicken [places].” Nguyen later addressed this in a statement: “In the context they were presented, my example of residents enjoying fried chicken and its abundance in the area came off as insensitive, and for that, I apologize.”
John Bagneris (D) has been running for political office in New Orleans since 2015, when he was lifted to victory in the District 100 race by plenty of PACs and special interest groups, including Entergy’s ENPAC. He served four years in the statehouse, most notably co-sponsoring the constitutional amendment to strip abortion protections in Louisiana, should the Supreme Court strike down Roe v. Wade. During an unsuccessful run for the State Senate in 2019, he was endorsed by the pro-charter Democrats for Education Reform. According to The Advocate, Bagneris’ campaign ideas for District E include increasing NOPD presence, plowing forward with a developer for the former Six Flags site, and allowing competitors to Entergy to bid for operation of New Orleans’ energy infrastructure.
Michon Copelin (D) is a 9th Ward native who has been working on political campaigns since she was a teenager. Her father is Sherman Copelin, who was a founding organizer of the Black-led SOUL (Southern Organization for Unified Leadership) and served for 14 years as State Representative for District 99. Sherman’s reputation is marred by associations with bribery and fraud. Copelin the Younger is running on a platform to eliminate blight and increase community policing. She was the deputy director of community outreach for the Orleans Parish District Attorney’s office under Leon Cannizzarro, which was known to be especially harsh and was frequently credibly accused of foul play.
Vanessa Gueringer-Johnson (D) is the founding vice-president of A Community Voice, an advocacy organization dedicated to local issues that range from holding the Sewerage and Water Board accountable for lead poisoning and unfair rate structures and speaking out against the expansion of the Industrial Canal. According to her website, her campaign’s top priority is addressing the increased crime rate in the district through hiring more NOPD officers and redistributing them throughout the district. She has stated that she is in favor of the “community’s vision” for redeveloping the former Six Flags site. Johnson has also indicated an interest in bringing a “New Orleans-based” grocery chain to her district. She is running a modestly-funded campaign backed by friends and family.
Rev. Aaron Miller (D) is the Dean of Schools at the Mildred Osborne Charter School and a pastor with the Triune Outreach Ministry. His campaign appears to be entirely self-funded. On his campaign website, he lists the same exact issues in nearly identical language as his opponent Vanessa Johnson. Either they both share a perfect analysis of the issues and solutions faced in District E, or the teacher just got caught plagiarizing.
Finally, Oliver Thomas (D) returns to the race for City Council where he has gone 4-for-4 in his runs, with wins in 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2006. He previously represented District B and held the At-Large seat until his resignation in 2007, when he was convicted of bribery charges. That scheme involved him taking kickbacks from parking lot operators in the French Quarter while he was on the French Market Board. Before his arrest, Thomas was considered a top contender to succeed Ray Nagin as Mayor. After spending 37 months in Federal prison, Oliver returned to New Orleans in 2010. Over the years he has recaptured his lost glow as the host of the Good Morning Show on WBOK, which has restored his wide popularity. Thomas’ other political affiliations include BOLD, and he has close ties with Councilmember Jay Banks, who currently represents his old district.
When not on air, Thomas’ other job is marketing the services of Stuart Consulting Group, Inc, a civil engineering and construction management firm that has won major contracts with the city for road construction. His campaign finance reports are bursting with thousands of dollars worth of contributions from construction and engineering firms. Developers and realtors are lining up behind Thomas as well, including Pres Kabacoff, Anthony Marullo III, Marcel Wiznia, and the Louisiana Association of Realtors. For good measure, there are a few parking lot operators in there as well. In total he has over $193,000 to burn on this race, making his campaign one of the best-funded in the city. While Thomas may be asking voters to look beyond his past bribery convictions, this seems to be a bad bet for the district.This bodes extremely poorly for residents demanding accountability in city contracts.
When he was on City Council previously, he was a hard-to-pin-down figure. For years, he had supported a local protectionist ordinance that stated city workers had to live within New Orleans to be hired or promoted. It was highly popular with Black residents and irked white officials, especially with regard to the hiring of NOPD officers. After Katrina, however, he cast the deciding vote in a 4-3 split which ultimately reversed that rule. In another odd instance, he introduced a resolution endorsing humaculture, which was described in the resolution as "a study of the self with 'how to' tools for realigning the self to live at one's maximum potential."
If he wins, it could signal a return to his previous political trajectory -- one where the mayor’s office was next on his political horizon. He is already angling for an oppositional relationship with Mayor Cantrell, signaling for a “strong council” position to counter the mayor’s power. Given her relative unpopularity, it’s a play that may pay off in dividends for Thomas down the road, especially with white residents. The question is: will the residents in District E be carried with him, or are they just a stepping stone to his greater ambitions?