Local NAACP chief announces his candidacy for mayor
21st October 2013 · 0 Comments
Attorney Danatus King,president of the New Orleans Branch of the NAACP, announced last week that he plans to run for the office of Mayor of New Orleans next year.
King, who has been critical of the mayor’s leadership on a number of issues of critical importance to the Black community, made his announcement the same day the mayor submitted a budget that lists spending for the federally mandated NOPD consent decree but does not include the costs of implementing the also federally mandated Orleans Parish Prison consent decree.
In seeking to have both consent decrees tossed out over the past year, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu argued that the City of New Orleans could not afford two consent decrees, that the NOPD consent decree should be tossed out because the process of negotiating its terms was tainted by the involvement of federal prosecutors Sal Perricone and Jan Mann after it was learned that both had improperly posted online comments about active DOJ cases.
In addition to criticizing the mayor’s handling of the NOPD consent decree, King has criticized City Hall’s refusal to take a strong stand against racial profiling by the NOPD, which some leaders say led to the NOPD fatal shooting of 20-year-old Justin Sipp in March of 2012. That issue reached a feverish pitch after two Black teenagers were racially profiled and assaulted by Louisiana State Police and NOPD officers in the French Quarter on Feb. 10 after a Carnival parade. That attack, caught on tape, led to a series of meetings and protests, during which the mayor initially agreed to meet with King and other Black leaders but ultimately decided to host his own meeting on the same date as the NAACP-led meeting and at the same time.
King and the mayor also butted heads when King served as a member of a search committee for a new police chief. King complained that the mayor wanted to give the appearance of a fair, open search for a police chief although Landrieu was widely criticized by Black leaders and residents for selecting the son of one of his father’s friends to serve as police chief. The two men also clashed nearly two years ago when King accused the mayor of excluding him and other civil rights leaders from actively participating in the city-sponsored Martin Luther King Jr. commemorative program.
In an interview Tuesday with The Uptown Messenger, King confirmed his intention to run for mayor, officially becoming the first challenger in next year’s mayoral race.
“I don’t know if anyone else has stepped forward, but I am definitely running,” King said.
King said he was prompted to run by the mayor’s handling, or mishandling, of police reforms, the city’s recreation department and a lack of economic opportunities for Black residents. He has been particularly critical of the mayor’s handling of the NOPD’s off-duty detail policy and the mayor’s efforts to undermine the NOPD consent decree.
As Landrieu presented a budget to the City Council Tuesday that includes no funding for the federally mandated OPP consent decree, King said he is frustrated by the time and money the mayor has spent fighting the federal order — especially after Landrieu initially said he invited the Department of Justice to New Orleans in the first place. King said that both the NOPD and OPP consent decrees should be fully funded by the City of New Orleans.
“Now you’re paying attorneys to fight what you’ve already agreed to,” King told The Uptown Messenger. “Either you spend the money implementing both decrees, or you spend the money fighting them and spend the money paying judgments against us because of the improper police actions or improper actions occurring inside the jail.”
King has been an outspoken critical of the mayor’s creation of the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission and said the public-private partnership has not made things better the city’s children, pointing to the closing of city pools before children returned to school in the fall.
“We were told there would be such an improvement at our parks. That didn’t happen,” King said. “In my opinion, that’s been a failure.”
While King said he is concerned about a number of issues related to public education in New Orleans, he said the city should take steps immediately to get to and from schools faster and keep them out of harm’s way. He recommended utilizing RTA buses to shield children from violent crime.
“That’s something we could take care of right now,” King told The Uptown Messenger.
King said that while recovery money is still flowing into New Orleans, many of those contracts are being awarded to out-of-state companies and that many parts of the 7th, 8th and 9th wards look like Hurricane Katrina and the subsequent levee breaks devastated the city less than a year ago instead of almost a decade ago.
“We need to make sure our local and DBE contractors get the proper share of those contracts,” King said. “All the money that’s flowed through our city, just a portion of that remains in the city. But all of us would be doing better… The more we’re able to build our tax base, that’s the more revenue to pave our streets.”
King said Tuesday that he looks forward to debating the mayor on the issues, and that the discussion will be healthy for the city.
The Landrieu campaign did not immediately respond to a request by The Uptown Messenger for comment on King’s candidacy.
City elections will take place in New Orleans on Feb. 1, with any runoffs necessary on March 15. Qualifying for candidates runs from Dec. 11-13.
This article originally published in the October 21, 2013 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.