Clarkson seeks return to District C
23rd December 2013 · 0 Comments
By Christopher Tidmore
The decision by Council-woman At-Large Jackie Clarkson to run for her old job as the District “C” representative actually surprised her staff and intimates more than the general public. Long-time campaign consultant Bill Allerton was so confident that his dear friend had had enough of City Hall that he actually accepted a wager that she would not run. That was on the Friday just before Clarkson’s announcement on the Mississippi River on Tuesday, December 10.
Of course, Clarkson herself had walked out of Stacy Head’s re-election announcement party on Saturday morning unsure about running. It had only been a few days since incumbent Kristen Palmer had opted not to seek re-election, despite being heavily favored to win. And, that left Mitch Landrieu in a quandary. With his closest ally choosing not to stand left Hizzoner scrambling to save his governing coalition on the City Council.
The Mayor’s solution was simple. Urge Jackie Clarkson to run for her old job in Palmer’s place. He knew that Clarkson had actually won African-American women in her At-Large race against Cynthia Willard-Lewis, a key constituency in a District seat that is 58 percent Black, and where the Councilwoman’s main opponent is an African-American woman.
Political reasoning aside, Clarkson was still hesitant. She did not want to break her promise to her husband Buzz that she was retiring. Councilwoman At-Large had pledged she was done after more than two decades at City Hall (on and off).
It’s the same thing that Mitch Landrieu said, and good to his word, the Mayor introduced, and endorsed, Clarkson on Tuesday, December 10.
Clarkson has to beat Nadine Ramsey. The former judge, who resigned to run for Mayor against Landrieu four years ago, has subtly conveyed the message that a majority-Black seat deserves an African American in office to represent that constituency. At first glance, it would seem a strong point in District “C” which runs from Tremé and St. Roch across the river to cover all of Algiers, and where Judge Ramsey’s past popularity with the Black female electorate should prove particularly poignant.
Clarkson, however, when asked by The Louisiana Weekly, if the voters should care if the District “C” Councilperson is Black or white, replied, “A voter should care about leadership that puts the public good first and foremost. A voter should want a representative who does not let personal ambition get in the way of doing the right thing. A voter should care about the issues that affect their life. I’m very proud to have been in office 24 years with a tremendous amount of Black support.”
In an interview with this newspaper, Clarkson said she seeks re-election to the New Orleans City Council because “New Orleans is in the midst of a renaissance that is like no other this city has ever seen.”
Clarkson rated “Experience and dedication” as her unique qualifications to accomplish this task. As she explained, “I grew up in this district and raised my children in this district. I have served this district as a businesswoman, councilwoman, and, a state legislator, for 44 years. Having worked with many wonderful people throughout these years, I have been able to accomplish many things for the district, like redeveloping Fischer Projects into a quality neighborhood for our low-income seniors, saved Federal City which is a major economic engine, and authored the city’s first master plan with a comprehensive zoning code which enables us to preserve residential integrity as we increase economic development.”
“I know how far we have come and I know how far we have to go. This district has unique needs and challenges that face no other part of the city, and right now we need steady leadership to keep us moving forward. Now is a crucial time in our city’s history and I want to be here to make sure all of the great things we are doing to make this place a wonderful place to live and work are continued. We can’t turn back now.”
Her top three campaign planks follow that theme, “Crime. Educa-tion/Workforce Development, and Streets.”
One contentious point in Clarkson’s race is that Sewerage and Water fees will rise by an estimated 200 percent in the next two decades to pay for upgrades mandated under the Federal consent decree. When asked if she would support a state law, backed by a Council ordinance, that would mandate those extra fees would be repealed automatically when the repairs/ upgrades are paid for and completed, she parsed the issue.
“The reason we had to allow an increase in the rates is that the S&WB has been chronically underfunded because it is not politically popular to raise rates, ever. For decades upon decades, we allowed the system to deteriorate so much that we are now wasting 40 percent of our clean water every single day. We can’t let that happen again. I support rates that reflect the costs of maintaining the system that we are going to build with the revenues from the new rates and the federal dollars that we have received to build an updated system. If the costs of maintaining the new system are low enough, I fully support lowering the rates.”
When asked for a personal story about yourself that explains who you are, Clarkson responded, “I was honored to lead the redevelopment of Fischer housing, which required the implosion of the high-rise, which was a symbol of poverty, crime, and disease. This took place before Katrina and was one of the first in the nation to provide quality lifestyle and senior security for our low income residence of Algiers.”
“On the day the implosion was planned, I was supposed to be in Hollywood with my husband, escorting our daughter, Patricia Clarkson, a Golden Globe nominee, down the red carpet. I chose to remain in town to push the lever on that high rise implosion, because it was not only my job, my commitment, but my privilege to be there for this symbolic day. My daughter, Patricia, would say that this is an example of the woman I am and the mother she loves.”
“It has been a privilege and a pleasure to serve the people for 24 years in several capacities in government. With your help, we have accomplished so much, yet there is more to be done. I feel that I have represented you with leadership and integrity, and welcome the opportunity to continue to work with you and finish the job.”
This article originally published in the December 23, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.