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Residents begin to focus on mayoral race

6th January 2014   ·   0 Comments

With Christmas, New Year’s Day and most of the annual college football bowl games in the rearview mirror, New Orleans residents have begun to consider the choices to be made before the upcoming local elections. With less than a month before residents line up to cast their ballots — and even less time if they opt to take advantage of early voting. —

Some of the issues being discussed with increasing frequency in the Black community are blight, pubic safety, rising fees for city services, NOPD and OPP reforms, access to health care, the lack of affordable housing, racial injustice, unconstitutional policing, economic injustice and what some have called “educational apartheid” in the city’s three-tiered school system.

The Rev. Raymond Brown, a community activist and president of National Action Now, touched on some of these issues in a recent press release. “Who is the CEO of the Louisiana Superdome? Who manages the Convention Center? Who manages Audubon Park and the Aquarium? Who manages City Park? Who manages the Riverwalk? Who is over the Sports Foundation? Who runs the airport? Who runs the French Quarter?

“I hope that these issues are talked about during the mayor’s race,” Brown added. Remember New Orleans is 70 percent African-American or majority-Black… You show me a major city in the United States where white people are 67 percent of the population but all the major businesses are managed by Black men and women.”

Other residents have also ex­pressed concerns about the city’s handling of economic opportunities for people of color and the Landrieu administration’s treatment of Black people.

“You can count me among the residents who are very disappointed in Mitch Landrieu,” one New Orleans resident said on the condition of anonymity. “After Ray Nagin, I thought we couldn’t do any worse but Mitch Landrieu has made me reconsider that theory. He has a lot to answer for, like why he is fighting the Justice Department to block the consent decree, why he is making it more expensive to live in New Orleans and why he routinely ignores the needs and concerns of Black residents.”

“I’m ready to vote for Michael Bagneris today,” Tutti Francis, a Gentilly resident, told The Louisiana Weekly. “As a judge, he seemed to be fair, compassionate and impartial, and I trust him the most to give Black residents to share decision-making power in this majority-Black city.

Paul Simpson, who moved to the city three years ago, said he’s not likely to cast a vote for the incumbent mayor because Landrieu “seems to have his hand in everything.

Adding to the drama and intrigue of the upcoming mayoral race are a number of unconfirmed rumors, among them the suggestion that one of the Black candidates, Danatus King, was recruited by a small group of wealthy Black businessmen to ensure that the Black vote would be split should a second Black candidate enter the race, and a rumor that former Civil Court Judge Michael Bagneris was recruited and will be bankrolled by an unnamed group of wealthy white Republicans hoping to use the upcoming mayoral race to stick it to the Landrieu family.

To date, The Louisiana Weekly has found nothing to substantiate either rumor.

Still, people are talking and wondering about what’s happening behind the scenes as the election nears.

“In a condensed campaign cycle, you have to be aggressive in getting the attention of voters,” Xavier University political analyst Dr Silas Lee told FOX 8 News last week.

Despite the enormity of the challenge of running against an incumbent with a deep campaign war chest, Bagneris campaign workers and supporters appear to be upbeat about Bagneris’ prospects.

“It is a challenge, but we will have 300 people on the street,” wife and campaign worker Madlyn Bagneris told FOX 8 News.

FOX 8 News reported Thursday that Bagneris has filed his first campaign finance report showing that the former judge has $219,925 on hand, and he’s about to begin spending thousands of dollars for TV ads in his bid to gain name recognition.

“When you’re running against an incumbent, it takes more time, but we have to see what kind of campaign he will run in terms of gaining momentum,” Silas Lee told FOX 8.

NAACP branch president Danatus King reportedly has $219,000 in campaign funds available for the race.

He has been a staunch critic of the mayor in recent years, criticizing the mayor’s selection process for a new police chief, the city’s NOPD off-duty detail policy, the mayor’s stance on racial profiling and the mayor’s decision to exclude Black leaders who criticize him from participating in the City’s annual MLK Jr. observance.

King, an attorney, has also criticized the handling of the Merritt Landry case, which involves the shooting of a 14-year-old boy in the head after he was discovered trespassing in the yard of a Marigny resident. King has offered counsel and support to the family of Henry Glover, the West Bank man slain by police after Katrina, but said recently in an interview with The Louisiana Weekly that he would step back from the spotlight in the case to avoid even the possibility of criticism from some who have accused him of using that case to boost his candidacy.

This article originally published in the January 6, 2014 print edition of The Louisiana Weekly newspaper.

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