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About Town…

31st March 2014   ·   0 Comments

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

Black Majority Means Split Minority for Mitch… The defeats of his allies Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Jackie Clarkson means that Mayor Mitch Landrieu will not be able to count on a majority of the New Orleans City Council to always be in support of his initiatives.

As the related story in this issue of The Weekly notes the return of a Black Majority on the City Coun­cil, it is critical to note that the political split against the Mayor is not a racial. Of the African-American councilmembers, Mayor Landrieu will generally have the support of two Black Councilmen, James Gray and Jared Brossett and one white Councilwoman Susan Guidry.

One African-American member will be generally neutral, though, neither in Mitch Lan­drieu’s corner, nor in the consistent camp of the opposition—LaToya Cantrell. In usual political opposition to the Mayor (though not always voting against him) generally will be one Caucasian and two African Americans: Stacy Head, Nadine Ramsey, and Jason Williams.

In other words, Landrieu will enter a vote on most ordinances with three votes—generally—he can count on, despite the issue. To win passage of a new law, the Mayor must then convince either a skeptical Cantrell, or one of the opposition members that the ordinance has merit. On the previous City Council, all the Mayor had to do was say he “strongly supported it”, and the law tended to pass.

Making the conflict even more confusing, the breakdown of voting patterns on the Orleans City Council has more to do with personality, and history with the Mayor, rather than ideology. For example, Stacy Head, while a loyal Democrat, ranks on the Right of her party. In theory, she and the Mayor should agree more than they do, yet Head has been a consistent critic of Mitch Landrieu. So much so, in fact, that the At-Large Councilwoman was the only sitting member that the Mayor decided not to endorse for re-election.

Even when Head agreed with the Mayor, she usually refused to accept most of the administration’s claims at face value. Her fight for new street signs throughout the city demonstrates her resolve to be a thorn in the Mayor’s side when an issue that Head considers important is not taken up by the Mayor. The other councilmembers dropped their calls for the signs when Landrieu did not include them in his first budgets. Head took pictures of children with hand made signs of prominent New Orleans streets, and shamed the Administration into appropriating the money.

Nadine Ramsey and Jason Williams both ran against Mitch Landrieu’s most loyal lieutenants on the City Council, Jackie Clarkson and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell; however, Williams and Ramsey’s reasons for opposing Landrieu go beyond Hizzoner’s opposition to their candidacies.

Each pledged a radically different perspective during their tenure than loyalties displayed by their predecessors. Ramsey was openly critical of Jackie Clarkson’s consistent support for Landrieu, no matter what the matter. As one senior City Hall insider said of the outgoing At-Large Councilwoman, “Jackie always tells the Mayor ‘yes’, and is able to go behind closed doors and gets what she wants.” It was an effective strategy that made Clarkson both a vote upon which Landrieu could always count, and a strong voice for her constituents, but not the independent force that Ramsey sees herself as.

The fact that Landrieu backed Ramsey’s and Williams’ opponents does not rank as the major reason that the mayor will have a more difficult time with either. Both ran distinctly outsider campaigns, and were sympathetic to the views of Judge Bagneris of the “forgotten New Orleans.” Expect the mayor’s initiatives to experience a great deal of oversight by both.

The swing vote is LaToya Cantrell. The African-American District B Councilwoman has been willing to occasionally turn a skeptical eye to the Mayor’s initiatives. Conversely, the former Broadmoor Improvement Association President post-Katrina also knows that making the Chief Executive of New Orleans your enemy is not a conducive path to serving your community.

The Mayor spent his first term knowing that any viable idea he presented before the Council would likely pass. Now, the Mayor must horse-trade, convince, and cajole to get the same result.

Could Hedge-Morrell run for the House… With Jared Brossett resigning his State House seat upon his inauguration as a Councilman in May, could his mentor Cynthia Hedge-Morrell opt to run for his legislative seat?

It is, after all, the House seat her husband used to represent, until Arthur Morrell was succeeded by son, J.P. Morrell. Only upon the younger Morrell’s election to the State Senate did Brossett run for the House seat in 2009. With 97th District seat vacated speculation that the outgoing District D Councilwoman might make a bid for the State House has circulated amongst insiders.

Despite her crushing loss across the city for the At-Large post, Hedge-Morrell did passably in District 97, earning a much more sizable portion of the vote in her family’s old seat. Her position is strong enough that a quick election to the legislature could rescue her political career.

What Would Winston Do… In Ukraine, Afghanistan, and elsewhere. Undoubtedly those questions and more will be posed this week, April 2, 3, 4 & 5 when the International Churchill Conference convenes here in New Orleans at Lowe’s Hotel and the National World War II Museum. Experts on Winston Churchill from all over the world will descend upon the Crescent City, with panel discussion moderators to include The Louisiana Weekly’s own Chris­topher Tidmore.

The conference sessions commence with a fascinating roundtable discussion examining the planning and run-up to Operation Overlord moderated by Dr. Nick Mueller, president of the National World War II Museum.

Another fascinating roundtable will feature Alexander Perkins, great-grandson of Sir Winston, Afghanistan veteran and retired Captain of the Scots Guards, speaking with Con Coughlin, Executive Foreign Editor for the Daily Telegraph.

Churchill’s granddaughter and Perkins’ mother, The Hon. Celia Sandys, will also speak on the subject, “Churchill: The Power of Words.” Other speakers include Churchill biographers and historians Peter Clarke, Nigel Hamilton, James W. Muller, David Roll, and Michael Shelden.

There are still tickets available for this once in a lifetime event. Early bird registration is still available for New Orleans locals at, with an opening reception sponsored by the local Churchill Society of New Orleans at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, April 2nd. Call (504) 322-3510 if you wish to purchase a last minute ticket.

This article originally published in the March 31, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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