This voter education guide is published primarily as a resource and does not constitute an endorsement of any candidate or proposition by ANTIGRAVITY Magazine.
Welcome once again to your ANTIGRAVITY voter education for the November 13 election. For this election, you will be choosing your next mayor, city councilmembers, sheriff, assessor, and court clerks, as well as voting on several amendments and, if you live in Algiers, picking your next state representative. It’s a long ballot with a plethora of candidates, so we hope to ease some of the burden of keeping track of who’s who and what’s what.
We have published these guides since 2014—previously in collaboration with the New Orleans Harm Reduction Network and now under the ANTIGRAVITY banner. This guide was written by a team of five people, including ANTIGRAVITY editorial staff. We utilized national media, local media, and social media. Our research included but was not limited to public records, campaign finance reports, court filings, and real estate records, as well as a survey sent to candidates and conversations with people throughout the community.
Despite lacking faith in politicians or the political order, we create this document as a way to dissect and map power. We do not offer endorsements, but we do provide summaries, as this is a resource designed to aid and alleviate the work for you, dear reader. News relevant to this ballot will continue to break. We are but one resource, and we hope that you consult as many as possible before heading to the polls.
We suggest you bring a photo ID to the polls, but if you do not have one you can still cast a ballot by signing a voter affidavit which vouches for your identity.
If you have a disability, you are entitled to receive assistance to cast your vote. If your assigned polling place is not accessible, you can vote at the nearest polling place with the same ballot or at the Registrar of Voters Office.
The makeup of this ballot, including names of candidates and information about how, where, and when to register and vote is based on information provided by the Louisiana Secretary of State and the City of New Orleans website. For info on what your ballot looks like, as well as information about disability and voting, go to the SoS website, voterportal.sos.la.gov.
State Representative 102nd Representative District
Delisha Boyd (Democrat)
Jordan Bridges (Democrat)
The state House seat in this district, which is essentially Algiers, is vacant since Gary Carter Jr. left it open when he was elected to the state Senate in a June special election. He was elected to replace his uncle, Troy Carter, who won a special election to the U.S. House in April. That special election came about when former U.S. Representative Cedric Richmond left Congress to serve as an advisor to President Joe Biden.
Delisha Boyd is the Democratic Parish Executive Committee incumbent for District A and runs her own real estate business. Her candidacy enjoys strong support from nearly every Democratic state senator, representative, and the governor, owing to her deep ties to the party. Her platform offers simple, single-sentence pledges like: “Fight for criminal justice reform, equal pay and a living wage,” but without any descriptions about how she plans to accomplish them. There just isn’t a ton out there about her legislative efforts. And while it’s not as uncommon as it should be for legislators to have vested interests, it’s worth pointing out that Boyd’s personal real estate business would likely benefit from housing price increases. She also received $4,500 from the Louisiana Realtors PAC, according to campaign finance records. The PAC boasts that among other achievements it recently “DEFEATED legislation increasing landlord eviction court fees intended to pay tenants’ attorneys.”
Jordan Bridges is the founder of Algiers Proud, a “community care organization” that was formed in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida. Following the storm, he brought attention to abuses at Boyd Manor, a senior living facility in Algiers, prompting an investigation from the governor’s office and, according to campaign finance records, bought residents dinner from Popeyes after the storm. The campaign also gave $1,000 to Mutual Aid Disaster Relief, according to its filings. Having never held or run for public office before, there isn’t much in the way of record for Bridges, and he doesn’t have a ton of support from fellow Democrats in the state. Bridges says he’s “in full support of exploring a publicly-run utility,” he believes sex workers deserve legal protections, and he supports city worker unions. When it comes to police, he says he’s in a “conundrum,” acknowledging that “corruption & discrimination systemically run rampant within our community policing” while also reasoning that there must be a “remnant of officers” who work for the benefit of the people.
SUMMARY: Bridges’ semi-pro-police stance is worrisome, but he supports sex workers and city worker unions, and seems to have more community involvement than Boyd, who stands to benefit from rising housing prices.
Quentin R. Brown Jr. (Independent)
Marlin Gusman (Democrat)
Janet Hays (No Party)
Susan Hutson (Democrat)
Christopher Williams (Democrat)
No matter which way you look at this race, you will ultimately be electing one of the top cops for the city. The sheriff’s job is to oversee the day-to-day of jail operations, courtroom security, and executory process (the seizing of assets), as well as serving subpoenas. No matter how “progressively” one claims they can do the job, their job is still to run and maintain a jail.
That being said, some candidates are more odious than others. Marlin Gusman has been the sheriff since 2004 and is running for a fifth term, and his legacy is littered with failure and abuse. The prison still universally referred to as OPP has a long and notorious history of mistreatment and below subpar living conditions, and under Gusman’s watch, these conditions reached such a peak that there was federal intervention. In 2013, a federal judge called the prison “an indelible stain on the community,” and Gusman agreed to a federal consent decree requiring major changes there. In 2016 Gusman essentially had control of the jail stripped from him, and a federally appointed “compliance director” assumed control—the position was created when Gusman “failed to show adequate progress in meeting the provisions of a 2013 federal consent decree,” as The Lens reported. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Leather, the former ANTIGRAVITY correspondent from inside OPP, described receiving very little information from Gusman. The sheriff has often called for the facility to be expanded: In 2011, he pushed for a larger jail to replace OPP and later opposed a 1,438-bed cap for the jail facility, according to The Lens. He’s currently advocating for a controversial Phase III of the jail with an infirmary and mental health facilities. Gusman’s laundry list of civil rights complaints and abuses is extensive, and any search of him in any direction will lead you to something horrific he’s done or said. Many have sought his removal and he’s had massive amounts of litigation against him. After Katrina, under Gusman’s rule, people inside OPP were left in horrendous living conditions, and the American Civil Liberties Union collected over 1,000 statements that contradicted Gusman’s public statements on the matter.
Susan Hutson is being billed as the “progressive” alternative to beat Gusman. She was the Independent Police Monitor, heading an “independent, civilian police oversight agency” whose stated mission is to “improve police service to the community, citizen trust in the NOPD, and officer safety and working conditions.” Through it, you can file a complaint against NOPD, or commend them. The Independent Police Monitor was conceptualized in 2006 and was voted into the City Charter in 2008. Hutson has been working to align herself with recently elected “progressive” DA Jason Williams (who already broke a campaign promise to never charge children as adults by doing exactly that). In a recent Justice and Beyond forum, she stated, “You have to have everyone rowing in the same direction, progressively. I am that progressive candidate.” The PAC For Justice, which previously backed the “Flip the Bench” slate of progressive judges, is now supporting Hutson, and it’s pulled in more than $190,000 in contributions this election cycle, including from national progressive orgs and individual big money progressive donors. In response to the survey that we sent out, Hutson said that she supports the decriminalization of sex work, but “until the law is changed to decriminalize sex work, as the Sheriff, I will provide a safe environment inside the jail to protect these vulnerable individuals.” If we can take anything from DA Williams, it’s that a prosecutor is a prosecutor and a sheriff is a sheriff and neither are—nor will they ever be—progressive or on your side.
Janet Hays is also framing herself as one of these progressive candidates. She is the founder of Healing Minds NOLA, a nonprofit that’s committed to tackling “serious mental illness.” The organization’s website recognizes that jails serve as the “number one inpatient psychiatric institutions,” but there is little clarification on what “serious mental illness” means. One of her ideas with Healing Minds NOLA was turning the Charity Hospital building into a “‘one-stop shop’ Mental Healthcare and Research Facility.” Her main focus appears to be on mental health, and intervening before people are brought to jail, though it’s unclear how this will translate into her duties as sheriff, which generally begin once people are in the jail. Her campaign website doesn’t seem to have many second eyes on it, with a direct quote being: “I believe you can tell the success of a community by the condition of their prisons jails.’” Despite her progressive branding, Hays actually seems to be in favor of expanding police presence. In her response to our survey question about police response after Hurricane Ida, she said “The city needs to not only meet the minimum required number of officers for our population, but also to recruit more officers to establish crisis intervention.”
If there are two types of candidates in this race—those attempting to be progressive and those focusing on tackling crime—Dr. Christopher Williams falls into the latter group. Williams is the former police chief of Dillard University and a veteran, and his campaign website boasts over 32 years in law enforcement experience. His vision for the office is to “transform the Orleans Parish Sheriff Office into a world-class law enforcement professional department.”
Quentin R. Brown Jr. doesn’t appear to have a social media presence or a campaign website, but in 2014 he and another candidate were the reason that Marlin Gusman had to enter a runoff in the race for sheriff, as they siphoned off enough votes in the primary to only land Gusman at 49%. In the survey he completed for Ballotpedia, he stated his main goals are “Crime, No more Bs in prison, [and] Weekly reports for the public to view.” He repeatedly refers to “Dr. King’s quotes” as inspiration within the survey. In response to our own survey, Brown listed his pronouns as “No more bs in city government.” He also voiced support for the NOPD response in the wake of Ida, including the anti-looting arrests. He said he would support the decriminalization of sex work. The rest of his answers are short and without much substance, and beyond these surveys, not much about his platform appears to be publicly available.
SUMMARY: Hutson certainly appears better than Gusman, but wouldn’t anyone?
Clerk Civil District Court
Yiesha McFarland (Democrat) — Withdrew
Chelsey Richard Napoleon (Democrat) — Unopposed
Yiesha McFarland withdrew from the race, meaning incumbent Chelsey Richard Napoleon is running unopposed. Beating out Councilmember Jared Brossett for the office in 2018, she had already worked in the clerk’s office—which manages records about civil court cases and land ownership in Orleans Parish—in various positions since 2002 and also served a stint there in the 1990s.
Napoleon says she’s boosted the office’s use of technology and improved customer service during her time there.
This seat, like others in the parish, doesn’t frequently change hands: Napoleon’s predecessor and onetime boss Dale Atkins held onto the office for almost 30 years before she won a seat as a state appellate judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal.
SUMMARY: Napoleon is running unopposed.
Clerk Criminal District Court
Austin Badon (Democrat)
Patricia Boyd-Robertson (Democrat)
Darren Lombard (Democrat)
Current Criminal District Court Clerk Arthur Morrell is retiring, so this position administering criminal court operations and local elections is up for grabs.
Austin Badon is currently clerk in First City Court, which handles small civil suits and evictions on the East Bank, where he says he’s boosted efficiency, cut copying costs, and is developing an online records system.
During the pandemic, Badon has frequently lamented the potential for a burst in evictions. But he’s repeatedly said he sympathizes with “both sides” of landlord-tenant fights—one press release we received from him about federal funds had the bolded, all-caps headline “GOOD NEWS: FUNDS FOR LANDLORDS COMING! SAID CLERK BADON”—and he confirmed in our candidate survey that he believes landlords and tenants have been equally hurt by the pandemic.
He was previously a state legislator, where he sponsored a controversial bill designed to make it easier for sex workers to be “hassled by the cops,” in his words, for soliciting business on the street. Critics said the bill could also criminalize panhandling and hitchhiking, which Badon countered by saying that people begging are often part of a “racket” and “paying their cellphone bills,” part of a long and tired tradition of deciding what expenses are or aren’t valid for poor people to incur.
In our candidate survey, he says he wants to see sex work remain illegal. “I do not support the decriminalization of sex work,” he told us. “I believe this is immoral and it has extremely far-reaching ramifications. I cannot support people selling their bodies. This country is seeing an increase in HIV cases as well as other STD’s, plus the impact on relationships can be detrimental. This is not the right thing to do.” Badon’s argument isn’t new or creative, nor is it based on facts. Criminalizing sex work only furthers a systemic culture of stigma, exploitation, and violence. As with the argument to legalize drugs, the data actually shows that decriminalizing sex work provides more protection for individuals, and helps reduce the spread of HIV and other transmittable diseases.
He also authored a bill requiring brain-dead pregnant people without a living will to be kept on life support until they give birth, regardless of their family’s wishes, as well as a bill to cut penalties for marijuana possession.
As court clerk, he’s said he’d upgrade computer systems, increase the number of voting precincts to make voting more accessible, and strive for faster election returns. He also wants to make the criminal record expungement process more efficient. Expungement lets people get old charges off their records so they can get jobs and otherwise avoid discrimination.
Patricia Boyd-Robertson is an associate professor of public administration at Southern University at New Orleans (SUNO). She previously worked as an accounting supervisor for the Criminal District Court clerk’s office and unsuccessfully ran for the clerk position in 2006. She also owns a financial consulting company and runs an organization that offers math tutoring to public school students.
Boyd-Robertson told the League of Women Voters that she’d improve technology in the courts and work to make sure people aren’t erroneously purged from voter rolls.
She’s also the author of a book called Be Strong, which encourages people to, well, be strong. “Being strong is a choice…” according to a blurb, presumably by Boyd-Robertson, on the book’s back cover. “I choose every day to get up at 4am to meet the Lord for prayer and fellowship at 5 am. After prayer, I choose to go to the park or to the gym to workout or walk/jog 4-5 miles.”
Darren Lombard is Austin Badon’s Westbank counterpart, as the clerk of Second City Court, which handles small civil suits and evictions on that side of the Mississippi River. He’s generally kept a lower profile during recent housing and eviction struggles.
Lombard previously served as deputy clerk under Morrell and has pointed to previous experience working on elections in that role. Like Badon, he also points to experience modernizing systems in his court, and says he wants to upgrade criminal court computers and make expungements easier to secure.
SUMMARY: Lombard has experience as a clerk and deputy clerk, and he hasn’t publicly ranted about sex workers and panhandlers.
Anthony Brown (Democrat)
Andrew (Low Tax) Gressett (Democrat)
Carlos J. Hornbrook (Democrat)
Gregory “Greg” Lirette (No Party) — Disqualified
Erroll G. Williams (Democrat)
The assessor is in charge of figuring out what every property in the city is legally worth for tax purposes. It sounds incredibly dry, and longtime Assessor Erroll G. Williams likes to emphasize his office’s reliance on computerized systems, but in reality it’s always going to be a highly political process.
High assessments can lead to lifelong residents struggling to afford the taxes in neighborhoods where their families have owned property for generations. That means that gentrification, with wealthy buyers and renters willing to pay rising amounts to live in particular neighborhoods, can even price out people who’ve owned their homes for decades. Renters certainly don’t have it any easier: Landlords, who are already raising rents around the city, often pass on those tax increases to their tenants (or kick them out to find new tenants who can pay the higher rates). That’s only made worse by short-term rentals, which, by replacing actual neighbors with visiting bachelorettes or bitcoin bros, can boost the tax value of nearby people’s homes whether they like it or not—even while they’re attracting crime, creating noise, and bringing Bourbon Street-style pools of piss and vomit to new and exciting places.
Low assessments, on the other hand, would mean a shortfall in taxes which the City and other local agencies heavily rely on to fund basic services.
Around the country, cheaper homes often owned by poorer people are typically assessed for higher percentages of their actual market value than expensive homes owned by the rich. And, as much as they may sometimes claim to simply be plugging sale prices and other data into algorithms, assessors do have power over who pays more or less in taxes. There’s a reason voters in 2006 approved replacing a system that divided Orleans Parish into seven assessment districts—where typically politically connected assessors applied their own rules of pricing—into the current citywide office.
More recently, Williams, who has been in office since 1985—he’s the assessor who stayed on when seven districts finally became one in 2010—faced fire for cutting commercial assessments, and therefore taxes, on businesses including big chain hotels due to the coronavirus pandemic. That’s while residents saw growing tax bills and the City struggled with lost revenue.
Assessors can also use the power of their office—considerable enough that they just won the right statewide to sizable annual vehicle allowances on top of their six-figure salaries—to lobby for things beyond personal access to Apple CarPlay and lane-keeping assistance, like taxing the many commercial properties owned by the state’s very wealthy nonprofits or taxing STRs as commercial properties.
Anthony Brown previously ran for assessor in 2017, but he was disqualified by a court ruling for allegedly failing to file prior years’ state tax returns, leaving Williams then running unopposed. In this election, Brown emphasizes housing as a human right. “We are running because a large majority of our fellow New Orleanians are living under the Claiborne Bridge or any other bridge that’s accessible to them,” he said in announcing his run. He’s vowed to uphold the Louisiana constitution’s tax provisions, but he’s so far been light on detail about what that would mean in practice, or what his assessment practices would actually look like on a day-to-day basis.
Many candidates in Louisiana include a nickname when they run for office. Andrew (Low Tax) Gressett, a real estate broker who runs New Orleans Realty, isn’t one of them. He legally adopted the middle name “(Low Tax),” parentheses and all, through a court filing made last December.
It wasn’t his first name change: He became Andrew Ludwig Oskar Gressett in the mid-1990s, adopting the middle names as a tribute to Beethoven and to Oskar Schindler, the German industrialist revered for saving the lives of more than 1,000 Jews during the Holocaust. Gressett said in a court filing at the time that he has “many, many of the same personality traits” as Schindler, “one being that of an eccentric, and believing that he would have done what Oskar Schindler did to help the Jews in World War II.”
A 1994 Times-Picayune profile described Gressett as a former child magician who dropped out of high school in grade 10, becoming a chauffeur to First City Court deputy constables. “They taught him to play the horses, to drink, to evict a family from an apartment by breaking down the door and coldly seizing their belongings,” wrote the late New Orleans journalist Bill Grady, chronicling Gressett’s subsequent rise in the world of New Orleans real estate and “gargantuan appetites” that led to him reportedly vomiting two bottles of rosé in a Las Vegas men’s room on a spur-of-the-moment trip to see comedian Shecky Greene, a fixture of the Johnny Carson-era Tonight Show.
Now, Gressett has said he’d like to see assessors limited to 12 years in office to prevent them from becoming too powerful, warning under the current system they can “feed political organizations through professional service contracts and the like.”
He criticized Williams for cutting business assessments while homeowners struggle. “He is taxing so much that New Orleanians cannot afford to live in New Orleans,” he told the League of Women Voters.
Gressett also wants to see the homestead exemption raised to “at least $10,000.” That means, since residential property is technically assessed at 10% of its value, the first $100,000 of an owner-occupied home’s value would be exempt from most tax. The current limit is $75,000, set more than 40 years ago. This would be a good deal for people who own their own houses, but wouldn’t benefit many renters, since rental properties where the landlord doesn’t live don’t get homestead exemptions.
Beyond the two name changes, Gressett has fairly frequently used the court system to address grievances, including at least two slip-and-fall injuries, multiple altercations with police, an argument with a Southwest flight attendant he alleges threw bagged peanuts at him, and at least three disputes arising from work by contractors or movers at his own home.
According to court records, Gressett hired a Metairie-based painting and renovation company to do work on his home last year. He alleged the company’s workers violated the contract by showing up early, smoking on his property, playing music, using spray paint where the contract called for hand painting, and not properly cleaning up. That included using his “family’s personal residential garbage cans” for disposing of job waste and going into a storage area they weren’t supposed to access, where they took the family’s “private residential broom and dust pan” to clean up. After multiple disagreements with the workers, he alleged they “sprayed graffiti” on his house, applying “unauthorized writings,” and deliberately delayed the job. The situation made it “almost impossible” to have the house ready for Christmas card photos and even caused Gressett concern he wouldn’t be able to raise his tenants’ rent, according to his court filings. The case appears to still be pending in Jefferson Parish court.
In another incident, Gressett and his wife Bam sued a moving company they hired in 2016. When the movers arrived, Gressett alleged in court, they repeatedly claimed services he thought were covered by the contract weren’t, “and these episodes went on from almost beginning to end of the contracted work shift until the defendants finally wrecked the moving truck into the plaintiffs’ home…” The case was ultimately settled, according to court records.
In 2017, Gressett sued a former contractor who he alleged assaulted him when they ran into each other in a Kenner Waffle House, after Gressett successfully made “a claim of some kind” for “shoddy work performed” by the man’s company. Gressett said he was “aggressively and brutally physically bumped into and body-checked by the man,” who also cursed at him repeatedly and called him a “piece of s^^^,” as the court records put it. The contractor was arrested by Kenner police, according to Gressett’s legal filing, and Gressett later experienced chest pains that sent him to the emergency room and later to his cardiologist’s office. The lawsuit was ultimately settled, according to court records.
That wasn’t the only time a visit to Waffle House led to litigation for Gressett. He sued the City of New Orleans in 2017, representing himself, saying that he was on the phone in the Canal Street Waffle House discussing the 2016 presidential election shortly after it took place, when an NOPD officer sat in the next booth and started talking loudly, saying that “anyone that voted for Donald Trump is a racist” and later “yelling very anti-Trump and pro-Black statements.” Gressett said in a court filing he felt threatened, quickly finished his breakfast, and later wrote to the FBI about what happened. The next month, he said, he went back to Waffle House and on his way out ran into the same cop. The officer, he said, had his hands on his gun and taser, seemed to move into his path, and told him “you’re still being an asshole.” Gressett complained to the judge overseeing the police consent decree and later heard from NOPD that the matter was under internal investigation, according to the court documents. A federal judge, and later a federal appeals court, dismissed the case, saying he failed to state a valid claim.
Gressett and his wife brought a federal case against Southwest Airlines over a 2014 dispute with a flight attendant. According to a judge’s ruling, Gressett was looking for a row of seats on the choose-your-own-seat airline where he could sit with his family while accommodating a “recent back injury,” when he spotted a row where the flight attendant was already sitting. She remarked “I guess I need to move before he [Mr. Gressett] runs me over” and later commented on Gressett purportedly blocking the aisle while stowing baggage, according to the ruling. Gressett alleged that she threw multiple bags of peanuts “at his face and torso” while handing out snacks. “The plaintiffs in this litigation are suing, both literally and metaphorically, over peanuts,” the judge wrote. According to the ruling, he made a comment to his wife about “Southwest white trash professional behavior.” He alleged the flight attendant threatened to have him met by security if he didn’t watch his language. He also claimed she later bumped into him at least twice but couldn’t say for certain whether it was intentional. “According to the plaintiffs, Kelly’s peanut hurling, hip checking, and threat of arrest constituted assault and defamation,” the judge wrote, before dismissing all of what he called “the plaintiffs’ frivolous and seemingly vindictive claims.”
Gressett also sued Walmart last year after allegedly losing consciousness, then waking up in pain in the cleaning products aisle, thanks to slipping on a Tide Pod in the chain’s Kenner superstore. The case appears to still be pending. In 2016, he separately sued SpringHill Suites by Marriott after he said he had (in 2014) slipped on a spot of what he called “a very slick, almost algae-like slipperiness” outside one of the chain’s hotels in Houston, injuring his head and leg. The case was ultimately settled.
He has previously run unsuccessfully for office, running for City Council in 1976 and 2012, state legislature in 1982, and for assessor in 2006, according to the Times-Picayune. In 2012, though he ran as a Republican, the Orleans Parish Republican Executive Committee chose instead to endorse Democrat Stacy Head, who went on to win. Gressett was kicked out of an Alliance for Good Government candidate forum in that race after he refused to stop verbally lashing out at Head, shouting on the way out about “cowards” and people “in the pocket of Stacy Head,” the Times-Picayune reported at the time.
“Let GRESSETT ASSESS IT and forget the rest!” he recently told the League of Women Voters, but his pattern of conflict leaves a lot to be forgotten.
Carlos J. Hornbrook, a lawyer and financial planner who has sat on local charity boards, says he seeks to be fair with property owners and promote business ownership in New Orleans East, the Ninth Ward, and Central City. He advocates increasing homeowners’ protection from creditors seizing their homes, similar to Florida law, and suggests verifying whether nonprofits exempt from property tax are complying with federal nonprofit law.
Hornbrook also worked with his friend, the actor John Goodman, to find and donate 300 gallons of hand sanitizer last year for the City and medical workers. Goodman apparently feels firmly in his element supporting Hornbrook: He and his wife Anna Beth Goodman each contributed $5,000 to Hornbrook’s campaign, according to campaign finance records.
While Hornbrook seems to have plenty of experience with real estate and tax issues, he hasn’t revealed too much about how he’d run the assessor’s office: His website tells us that he won something called the “Sporting Goods Manufacturing Association’s (SGMA) Hero’s Award” in 2000 and the “Louisiana Playground Distinguished Service Award” that same year, but says little about how he’d accomplish his goals of promoting business ownership or, most importantly, how exactly he’d go about assessing properties.
Gregory “Greg” Lirette was disqualified by a Civil District Court judge for failing to file past income tax returns.
That leaves Williams, who has been in office since 1985, when there were multiple assessment districts, and has been the city’s sole assessor since 2010, when the city’s seven assessment districts were replaced with one in a push for efficiency and eliminating corruption. He presided over making assessment data, once only accessible in person during a two-week summer period, easy to search online. He said on taking office that the days of schmoozing tax assessors over a cup of coffee in hopes of a better tax deal were done and presided over a push toward automated assessment.
Still, the Bureau of Governmental Research found in 2019 that Williams’ office isn’t that transparent about how its digital tools are actually used to value property. Williams reportedly claimed its agreements with software vendors limited how much he could reveal, but according to BGR, other assessors in other places don’t have that issue, and replacing handshake deals in smoke-filled rooms with mystery algorithms from outside vendors isn’t necessarily an improvement.
“The assessor’s lack of transparency on mass appraisal leaves the public with an incomplete understanding of one of the most fundamental tools for property valuation,” BGR warned at the time. “It also raises questions about whether the office is properly utilizing the technology to produce accurate and uniform property valuations.”
Before Williams was assessor, he was finance director under Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial, when he fought unsuccessfully in court to limit nonprofits’ ability to exempt their commercial-use land from tax, a serious issue in a city where plenty of valuable land is owned by nonprofits, from arms of the Catholic Church to Tulane University. He’s continued to litigate about the issue, including around nonprofit commercial and vacant land, with various degrees of success.
He also supported a limit on assessment increases for owner-occupied properties with homestead exemptions, which voters are set to vote on next year. That would benefit homeowners but generally not renters, whose properties aren’t subject to homestead exemptions despite being, well, homes.
On the plus side, he recognizes that short-term rentals in residential areas aren’t homes either, and calls for them to be taxed at the higher commercial rate, rather than the current residential rate.
Williams made cuts to assessments for businesses during the coronavirus pandemic, saying he was essentially required by law to consider how the crisis affected the properties’ value. Homeowners faced with rising taxes weren’t too happy about that, nor (at least outwardly) were the City Council members they elected, and he’s since managed to raise the ire of some business owners by asking for information about how they’ve been doing during the pandemic.
SUMMARY: Erroll Williams is far from perfect, but he’s by far the most experienced dealing with this arcane area of city administration and has shown he’s willing to fight to get the City the tax revenue it needs to operate.
Dwight McKenna (Democrat)
Dwight McKenna is the incumbent and is running unopposed, so he will be our next coroner. But it’s worth taking a quick second to get to know the man who will make the final determination of death in the city’s approximately 1,500 death investigations annually, oversee sexual assault-related medical exams, and issue orders for involuntary psychiatric commitment.
McKenna is a physician and former school board member who served nine months in prison after being convicted of income tax evasion in 1992. In 2004, while he was employed as a physician with the Orleans Parish Criminal Sheriff’s Office (OPCSO), he settled a lawsuit with a prisoner who said he didn’t receive proper medical care for an open wound that eventually required the amputation of his leg. Specifically, the patient alleged, “OPCSO defendants, particularly Dr. McKenna, ignored his open wound, refused to give him the medication prescribed by the [Medical Center of Louisiana at New Orleans] physicians . . . ignored the puss [sic] evidencing infection, thereby exhibiting a deliberate indifference to his medical condition.”
As coroner, McKenna promises that each death will be “thoroughly and professionally investigated,” and that an “accurate determination of each case will be properly and truthfully classified,” which is exactly what we hope and expect.
SUMMARY: Meet your new coroner. He’s your current coroner.
City of New Orleans
Joseph Amato (Independent)
Eldon Delloyd “El” Anderson (Democrat)
Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste (Democrat)
Douglas Bentley I (Independent)
Manuel “Chevrolet” Bruno (No Party)
LaToya Cantrell (Democrat)
Byron Stephan Cole (No Party)
Luke Fontana (Democrat)
Leilani Heno (No Party)
Matthew Hill (Independent)
Nathaniel “Nate” Jones (Independent)
Reginald Merchant (No Party)
Vina Nguyen (Republican)
Johnese Lamar Smith (Democrat)
Joseph Amato says in his campaign biography that, after college, he went on a two-year trip “circling the globe” and “was quickly pulled into the bottomless well of knowledge and experience that is independent travel.” Since then, he’s visited dozens of countries and has spent time “working with an art collective, organizing protests and immersing [him]self into the culture,” he says, on a campaign page where he’s pictured sitting pensively with a guitar. “Throughout it all I managed a portfolio of properties and opened a business in the Quarter,” he writes.
That’s probably enough to get who Amato is, but what does he stand for? His plans include setting up rapid response teams for road work, burying power lines and installing solar power tech, and focusing police on violent crime while providing free mental health care. He wants to raise the citywide minimum wage to $12 per hour ($8 for tipped workers), give businesses tax breaks to pay for it, offer free preschool and day care, and build a train to the airport.
Eldon Delloyd “El” Anderson has worked for Take Fo’ Entertainment, the record label of artists like DJ Jubilee and Choppa, for decades. He previously ran for City Council but was disqualified for failure to file previous state taxes, and he’s also run for state rep. When he was younger, he worked as a supervisor at a New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) playground and in a program to help kids on probation and parole.
In this election, he’s gotten attention for his campaign materials that mimic the Chick-fil-A logo, though he seems to share little of the politics of the chicken chain’s right-wing owners. He’s spoken of the need to provide better support to New Orleans kids and seniors.
Do we have to introduce him at this point? Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste has graced our guides probably more than any other candidate, and he promises to “never tell you to put trash in your car.” His policies have remained steadfast, previously advocating for a $22 minimum wage, $5,000 a month COVID-19 relief, and a moratorium on petrochemical plants in Cancer Alley plus compensation for those impacted by them. He also believes crime must be taken more seriously, and a solution is to pay police officers more. He’s not in favor of mask mandates, and he also believes king cake should be sold year-round.
There comes a point in many New Orleanians’ political progression where, after weighing out the abysmal frontrunners, you hitch your ride to the Noonie Man train. This time around, the New Orleans Coalition joins that number. After Mayor Cantrell was a no-show (though she did send a boilerplate letter) to their candidate forum—presumably because she knows she doesn’t need to make a case for herself in order to get reelected—the influential group in the city’s Democratic establishment threw their endorsement to Batiste, with one member stating “The mayor does not respect community. She does not listen to anyone other than developers and financiers.”
“Let’s ride in style,” says Douglas Bentley I‘s campaign page on Facebook. “Let a Bentley get you there.” On Ballotpedia, he listed the three key messages of his campaign to be “IT’S SIMPLE….. IT’S DONE, Fraud has no place in Public Office, [and] Decision making got us here, Decision making can move us from here.” Beyond that, Bentley hasn’t publicly offered much detail about what he’d do in office.
Manuel “Chevrolet” Bruno is a comedian, podcast host, and self-proclaimed “perennial candidate“ for mayor, perpetually promoting himself as “a troubled man for troubled times.” He’s more known for introducing levity into political races than for any particular policies. “In order to preserve our green space, I promise not to sleep in our parks,” he wrote on Facebook, where he also posted the vaccine-affirming comment “I got my first dose today, and I feel great!” alongside what looks like a stock photo of someone injecting heroin. He says he wants to, as the Times-Picayune summarized it, “restore a sense of normalcy to the city and create a nine-day weekend.”
Is he the worst choice in this election? Not even close.
LaToya Cantrell is running for re-election, and it’s difficult to see any viable competition to beat her. She’s the only candidate in this race who has previously held elected office, and it’s been more than 80 years since a New Orleans mayor has served fewer than two terms. She was elected in 2017, beating out Desiree Charbonnet, one of whom would become the first Black woman to be mayor of New Orleans. Cantrell won because she had more political savvy, and because she worked to position herself as the progressive candidate in the race—a tale that keeps repeating itself.
Cantrell made a name for herself as a community leader, and she was instrumental in revitalization efforts of the Broadmoor area after Katrina. As she’s become more entrenched in local politics and has accumulated more power along the way, her allegiance to the business community and to land development profiteers has unfortunately only become more frequent and flagrant.
Over the span of her time in office, Cantrell has been making City government friendlier and more palatable to business interests, with the hiring of former short-term rental executive Peter Bowen to oversee land-use regulation in the city as part of what her newly created Office of Business and External Services called an effort to make New Orleans “the world’s best city to do business.” Cantrell also pushed a controversial and highly misleading ballot initiative to defund the libraries by 40% over the next 20 years, with the majority of those funds being “rededicated for the city’s economic development fund,” according to The Lens. This issue got a lot of attention, and a coalition to save the libraries mobilized to shut down all three millage propositions. But the public has not forgotten Cantrell’s willingness to lie in favor of business interests and economic growth.
Cantrell has not made herself a friend to workers. While her handling of COVID-19 left New Orleans in relatively better shape than a lot of the country in the earlier months of the pandemic, that’s an extremely low bar, and many died unnecessarily as a result of government mismanagement at every single level and a willingness to prioritize business interests over human life. Service industry workers were left to fend for themselves, while hoppers went on strike at Metro Service Group; and due to the labyrinth of public-private contracts that the City has created for its services, the mayor and Metro were “insulated” and remained “one or two steps removed from dealing directly with the men on the front lines,” as then-City Waste Union spokesperson Daytrian Wilken wrote in The New York Times.
Cantrell repeatedly spoke of individual responsibility to combat the pandemic, even as tourists often flocked to crowded bars and sections of the French Quarter. After Hurricane Ida, she became seemingly fixated on the possibility of people looting closed businesses. With just a few hours’ notice, she imposed a curfew that made it harder for people to get gas and other supplies with limited availability and dealt yet another blow to restaurants, bars, and other businesses struggling after the pandemic and storm. Her administration was slow to react to the garbage pickup crisis, finally responding weeks later by inviting people to bring their own rotting, maggot-riddled trash—for a limited time only!—to the Elysian Fields Transfer Station, an offer that drew commentary from national journalists for its deeply dystopian vibe.
After the under-construction Hard Rock Hotel collapsed in 2019, killing three workers and injuring numerous more, Cantrell’s administration had harsher words for ordinary people exposing the City’s failure to keep the victims’ bodies covered than for any of the very wealthy people involved in the debacle.
More recently, she told residents concerned about the City’s difficulties that “New Orleans might not be the place for you.”
This is the nature of neoliberalism, and it’s a methodology Cantrell has embraced. It shirks responsibility for providing the city with its needs—a constant finger-pointing to some other person in some other department who catches the nebulous blame.
More directly, however, Cantrell quietly replaced the Civil Service Commission chair, Michelle Craig, “citing concerns that there was an overrepresentation of union interests on the commission,” as The Lens put it.
While the city was still reeling from Ida, Cantrell found time to film what’s essentially a campaign video where she claimed that people “didn’t die” from being stranded on rooftops, lauding the City’s response to the storm. Her schedule does not make it clear when exactly the video was shot, but in the video she notes being able to walk around her neighborhood which she “couldn’t do four days after Katrina,” implying the video was shot somewhere around the four-day post-Ida mark—before senior resident facilities were checked on by the City.
There’s no question that, like pretty much all high profile Black U.S. politicians, Cantrell has been the target of racist attacks, including by people you’ll see on your ballot. But she also faces quite legitimate criticism that she’s dealt gently with big business owners while chastising, punishing and—in the case of Craig—firing ordinary workers and their allies.
Byron Stephan Cole is the son of the late activist Dyan “Mama D” French Cole and went locally viral back in May for confronting white people who had closed off the street without permits for a block party. He has had multiple civil court cases against him for various forms of harassment, one involving threatening his ex’s roommate, all of which have been dismissed, according to court records. He also pled guilty to aggravated assault in 2019 after allegedly brandishing a gun at a protest outside of the Manchu Food Store on Dorgenois Street.
In a video from his last mayoral run in 2017, he stated that “racism and abject poverty are the two biggest issues” facing New Orleans, and he says that the conversation that’s had about crime is an ineffective conversation because it doesn’t reflect the correlation between poverty, racism, and crime. He also notes that it’s been proven that more police presence does not help curb crime, and says that “a lot of the policing budget is fluff.” This was years before defunding the police rhetoric was mainstream and before other politicians mimicked the talking point to hollow out the phrasing. His campaign presence seems more half-hearted this time around, perhaps because he’s facing an incumbent, but he’s been saying the right things since before it was popular to do so.
Starting in the late 1960s, Luke Fontana was known as a crusading attorney, successfully challenging conditions at OPP and state prison facilities, fighting for the free speech rights of controversial groups like the Hare Krishna movement, and advocating for consumer protections against unscrupulous companies selling overpriced appliances on the installment plan.
Fontana has also engaged in decades of environmental litigation and advocacy through his group Save Our Wetlands, even successfully challenging a 2018 arrest for tabling at French Quarter Fest without permission. In his first try for public office more than 50 years ago, he unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Rep. F. Edward Hebert in 1970, running as an independent on a progressive, anti-Vietnam War platform.
As a mayoral candidate, he supports replacing Entergy with a publicly owned utility and called for the police and DA to no longer pursue marijuana-related charges and for the police to end undercover operations to ensnare sex workers, focusing instead on “rescuing those being trafficked for sex work and prosecuting those who traffic sex workers.”
On health issues, Fontana says he’d work to make Narcan available to those who want to have it on hand—and eliminate COVID-19 mask and vaccine requirements.
Fontana’s positions haven’t always been ones we’d automatically support: In 1990, he represented Jackson Square area merchants and residents seeking to force the City to enforce its noise ordinance against brass bands performing in that section of the Quarter.
But during the pandemic, his legal crusades have taken a turn for the bizarre. He filed a number of lawsuits citing COVID-19 conspiracy theories, including suing Cantrell and Catholic Archbishop Gregory M. Aymond for in-person church restrictions that made it impossible for him to confess his sins. The restrictions were “causing immediate irreparable harm and damage” by creating the risk “he would face an eternity in Hell” if he were to die without confession, he wrote in a court filing.
“Now, the Archbishop Gregory Aymond is following the dictates of WHO, CDC, and Bill Gates,” Fontana wrote. “The Mayor is following the dictates of Bill Gates’ and Dr. Anthony Fauci’s criminally corrupt industrial pharmaceutical empire.”
He’s also repeatedly referred to the mayor as “LaToya the Destroya.” While this phrase seems relatively innocuous on face value, it’s been observed anecdotally by us that it’s been used overwhelmingly by white conservative social media posters, many of whom don’t even live in the parish.
Leilani Heno’s campaign website begins: “My bio reads: Local Business Owner, Author, TV Personality, Weight Loss Coach, Motivational Speaker, and 2nd Degree Black Belt. Who I really am is a fed-up citizen, who pays her taxes on time, crosses her ‘t’s’, dots her ‘i’s’, maintains her property, and supports her fellow business owners, who is watching the City that she loves decline.” She runs a fitness business (and was at one point sued for allegedly not letting a real estate developer out of his personal training membership for health reasons, according to court records) and has “renovated and flipped several houses” in Mid-City.
Her policies appear to be a bit scattered. One of the issues listed on her website is “youth crime,” where she notes that lack of education and recreational activities are leading to this, but then she goes on to say that she plans to work closely with the DA “to hold repeat offenders away from law-abiding citizens,” implying that she will work with Jason Williams to break his campaign promise even further. She’s also in favor of an anti-graffiti task force, and suggests creating “a designated graffiti artist space.” She’s in favor of more enforcement of short-term rental guidelines—naming Peter Bowen’s hire as a failure of Cantrell’s administration—and wants the Municipal Auditorium “restored to its original use,” according to her official platform.
Entrepreneur and executive coach Matthew Hill previously ran for mayor in 2017. His logo is a superhero-style shield with the initial ‘H,” and he wants the City to implement Lean Six Sigma, a set of management techniques where, among other things, managers are awarded martial arts-style colored belts based on their training.
“If anomalies are detected, then they will be eliminated,” he writes, suggesting City workers will be subject to intense scrutiny. “Anomalies will not be able to hide in our system due to the nature of Lean Government; constant performance measurement will provide no places to hide corruption.”
He is the author of a book titled Superhero Leadership. “You will understand how to read intuition like Spider-Man, think outside of the box like MacGyver, and manage diverse personalities like The Black Canary,” he promises readers.
According to his platform, Hill wants to reduce taxes, legalize recreational marijuana “with or without the consent of the state,” have cops walk regular beats, “break the federal consent decree” restricting NOPD, put in permeable streets for flood control, and decriminalize various types of gambling in the hopes of setting up an IT sector servicing the industry. He also wants to make birth control available over the counter, which seems to be beyond the traditional power of the mayor’s office.
“No more prescriptions [for birth control] in Orleans Parish,” he writes. “We will be the only place in the country where women can buy birth control anytime, anywhere, and in any quantity. Once the women in the rest of the country figure out they can buy online from New Orleans they will flood our market.”
Nathaniel “Nate” Jones promotes an eclectic mix of policies on his Facebook page, including giving all City employees a one-time bonus of $5,000 because he says they were forced to be vaccinated whether they wished to or not, hiring 300 new police officers, and building a “super causeway” that would cross Lake Pontchartrain from Slidell to Laplace and, he alleges, generate $50 million to $60 million in annual revenue.
He also advocates hiring “300 capable strong, healthy men”—separate from those new police officers—to fix city streets through what he calls “Operation Smooth Operator,” because “we want to operate our cars on a smooth road.” He suggests hiring formerly incarcerated men and, after they do seven years of road labor, giving them a free house.
Reginald Merchant doesn’t appear to have any online campaign presence. The Times-Picayune reported that he didn’t provide a working email address or phone number when he registered to run, and he doesn’t appear to have responded to our campaign survey or one from the League of Women Voters. We couldn’t find any campaign finance filings from him, either.
Vina Nguyen is running on a platform titled “Pro-Police, Pumps Performing and Potholes will finally be Paved!” She’s the only Republican in this race and is running a campaign extremely focused on crime.
An early fan of capitalism, Nguyen “started her first company selling odds and ends” to her middle school classmates. Her LinkedIn page states that she now runs a credit card processing company, a real estate investment company, a prints collection, and an art gallery. On top of all of this, and running this campaign, she’s also dodging constant “LOVE notes, dinner requests, and marriage proposals” bombarding her inbox, according to a recent Facebook post.
In an earlier version of Nguyen’s campaign website she referred to Cantrell as “Latoya [sic] Da Destroya,” and repeatedly misspelled the mayor’s first name, but she has since scrubbed her website of any mention of Cantrell or racist nicknames given to her. Campaign signs for Nguyen also started popping up around town that said “paid for by Frank Scurlock,” though Scurlock does not appear anywhere in her campaign finance report. Scurlock, the bouncy house heir who previously ran for mayor and made headlines protesting COVID-19 restrictions in New York last year, seemed to be a fan of both Nguyens up for election (Vina Nguyen and incumbent District E Councilmember Cyndi Nguyen), though the connection between the two is unclear, considering they aren’t related and belong to different political parties. He later posted on Facebook that “Team Scurlock is No longer supporting Vina Nguyen for Mayor due to unexpected issues we discovered,” citing “several internal conflicts and differences of opinion.” Scurlock taking a liking to Vina Nguyen makes more sense than him supporting Cyndi Nguyen, considering Vina is against mask and vaccine mandates and is herself not vaccinated.
Her current website says that she wants to focus on tackling violent crime, as well as “cyber schemes, and physical theft.” She also says she wants to reform NOPD so that criminals won’t be allowed “to commit the same crimes in different districts, often without being caught.” Her plan for potholes is yet to be determined, though we hope it involves filling them with miniature bouncy houses.
Paralegal Johnese Lamar Smith previously ran for mayor in 2017. This time around, she’s said she wants to see underground reservoirs built to hold floodwaters, to “enlist ambassadors from all our high schools where our young adults are engaging with international corporations,” and to set higher standards for police officer recruits.
One of her responses to a League of Women Voters survey wins our award for best Godfather reference of the election cycle, although we’re unsure exactly what it means. “To reduce crime in our city is to show those who are committing violent crimes that this administration will give them an offer that [sic] cannot refuse!” she said.
SUMMARY: Cantrell seems poised to win a second term, but only you can know when you’ve boarded the Noonie Man Express.
Councilmember at Large Division 1
Kenneth Cutno (Democrat)
Helena Moreno (Democrat)
David Nowak (Democrat) — Disqualified
The City Council is in charge of approving operating and capital budgets for the City, monitoring revenue and expenditures for local government operations, having the final say in matters of land use, zoning, and economic development projects for the City, as well as examining appeals of property tax assessments for real estate taxes, and certifying tax rolls to the Louisiana Tax Commission.
Another major and unique responsibility of theirs is being the regulatory body of public utilities; in most parishes in Louisiana, they’re under the jurisdiction of the state Public Service Commission, but Orleans Parish utilities are regulated by the City Council. This means when your utility provider is trying to screw you over, it’s these people’s jobs to, in theory, make sure that doesn’t happen. This has been a hot button issue for years, but especially recently following Hurricane Ida, as New Orleans was left without power for days on end and people died from the heat.
The Council constitutes seven councilmembers—one from each of the five districts, and two at-large seats—Division 1 and Division 2—that are chosen by the entire parish. Helena Moreno is running for reelection for the at-large seat for Division 1. Moreno is a former WDSU journalist and held a seat in the Louisiana House of Representatives from 2010 until she was elected to her current position in 2017, snagging 65% of the vote. She has served as the City Council president since 2019. In addition to being the Council president, she’s a realtor (and received $2,500 from the Louisiana Realtors PAC, according to her campaign filings).
She has a fairly decent track record with regard to drug policy. In her time as a state representative, she introduced legislation that allowed first responders to carry naloxone as well as a bill authorizing the dispensation of naloxone to third parties. As City Council president, she’s sponsored legislation to decriminalize fentanyl test strips as well as helped pass an ordinance to remove penalties from simple marijuana possession. But these are the bare minimum and far behind the times. The City’s drug paraphernalia ordinance—which “criminalizes possession of bowls, blenders, spoons and envelopes” if the police decide they’re intended for drug use—remains in effect, and the marijuana possession ordinance leaves out every other drug, further stigmatizing and endangering the users of those drugs.
In 2019, Moreno announced that she wanted to overhaul Entergy regulation by creating a bigger in-house staff to handle day-to-day operation, thereby decreasing the exorbitant amount of money the City pays to consultants. Following more Entergy failures in early 2021, she announced that she wanted to launch an independent audit of the company; and following the post-Ida power catastrophe the Council’s utility committee, which Moreno is the chair of, advanced “accountability measures” including delaying a rate increase for customers. The New Orleans Ethics Review Board recently recommended barring City Council from receiving campaign donations from the utilities they regulate—something that is astonishingly not already illegal. Moreno did not respond to our survey where we asked about this directly, but Moreno’s chief of staff told The Lens that it was “in line with our views on avoiding conflicts of interest or instances in which regulated entities exert undue influence.” While it isn’t the company she regulates, we did notice some campaign contributions from another oil and gas company, as well as some engineering and real estate interests.
When a ban on facial recognition technology came before the council, Moreno was one of the few councilmembers who suggested the technology be banned until comprehensive policy could be created, as others asked simply for a deferment. In The Lens’ recent deep-dive into the City’s sprawling, decentralized surveillance apparatus, they note that in 2013, Oakland was basically where New Orleans is today, and in 2018 Oakland passed a “new gold standard” of surveillance oversight. Any City Council candidate, let alone president, should be pushed to take similar action.
Moreno is not the only returning contender in this race. Kenneth Cutno vied for this seat back in 2017, again against Moreno, winning only 6% of the vote. In 2016, he ran for LA District 2, receiving just over 10% of the vote, and in 2015 he ran for the Louisiana House of Representatives, receiving 4% of the vote. He’s from New Orleans and he graduated from Southern University.
His campaign website says that he wants to lower Entergy and Sewerage & Water Board rates, create more affordable housing, decrease crime—which includes a 15% pay-raise to all police officers—and have higher wages. It also lists a lot of specific projects for revenue-producing strategies for New Orleans East, an area that doesn’t get a whole lot of center-focus from politicians usually.
Incidentally, Cutno appears to, unlike Vina Nguyen, still be backed by Frank Scurlock, who contributed $692 in campaign materials to his bid for office, according to campaign finance filings, and endorsed him on Facebook in August, showing a picture of a house with a Cutno sign flying and multiple Vina Nguyen signs appearing to be discarded on the ground. Cutno’s campaign also took in $1,000 from Noigiler Foundation Inc., a Florida organization headed by Scurlock.
David Nowak was disqualified by a judge for apparently failing to file state income tax returns.
Summary: Moreno could be a lot worse, but we still need to hold her feet to the fire.
Councilmember at Large Division 2
Jared Brossett (Democrat)
“Bart” Everson (Green)
Kristin Gisleson Palmer (Democrat)
Jean-Paul “JP” Morrell (Democrat)
This election is for the seat vacated by Jason Williams after he was elected as DA. It is currently held by interim councilmember Donna Glapion. According to city code, an appointed interim member is ineligible to run in the next election cycle for the seat they were holding, a stipulation which—to the best of our knowledge—seems designed to head off any potential foul play. The winner of this election will hold the seat for the next four years.
Candidates Kristin Gisleson Palmer and Jared Brossett are both nearing the end of their second terms as City Councilmembers for District C and D, respectively. Though two terms is the term-limit, candidates like Palmer and Brossett can circumvent this limit by running for at-large after serving as a district member (or vice versa).
We’ve written about Palmer in the past, particularly her attacks on strip clubs and LGBTQ bars in the Quarter. As a city council member, she helped pass noise ordinances and restrictions that led to crackdowns on many establishments, the most notorious of which put many strippers and sex workers out of their jobs after sex trafficking raids that ultimately did not lead to arrests for such a crime. At the time, Palmer was vocal about her sister, who worked in a strip club and died by suicide, but her personal connection was undermined by her dehumanizing rhetoric about dancers and sex workers as helpless victims rather than women and femmes using their autonomy. For what it’s worth, Palmer expressed awareness about her reputation on this issue in response to our survey. Acknowledging a “tense” relationship with the sex worker advocacy community, she said “I am committed to mending this relationship and stepping forward with good policy and public support to back up that sentiment.” She went on to say she supports the decriminalization of sex work, and suggests a policy similiar to the recent decriminalization of marijuana, which both removed penalties for possession and retroactively pardoned those who had been previously charged. We’ll leave it to you to decide whether you think Palmer has truly had a change of heart on this issue. To her credit, the rest of her track record on the council has been solid for the most part, including working with Brossett to increase regulations against short-term rentals, and advocating for an affordable housing project in her district. She also introduced the “Ban the Box” ordinance, which prohibits certain employers from asking about past arrests and convictions.
In a rather bizarre move, Palmer and Brossett endorsed one another in this race, imploring voters to choose either of them over opponent JP Morrell, a former state senator and current lawyer. They want to be clear that this totally unorthodox coalition is not what it looks like, y’all, and is in fact a self-sacrificing maneuver for the greater good of the city, calling Morrell a Baton Rouge lobbyist attempting to “get control of the City Council.” Just in case you’re still thinking there might be some funny business going on, Palmer told NOLA.com that she “polled it” and she could totally beat Morrell herself if she needed to, employing a classic argumentative technique commonly known as You’re Lucky I Don’t Have the Right Shoes On.
For his part, Morrell denied Palmer and Brossett’s allegations in a long-winded and insult-laden response, in which he accused Palmer of also having ties to lobbyists. He might very well have a point, as Palmer, who has herself stressed the influence the City Council has in land-use matters, has accepted money from multiple engineering firms, according to her campaign finance reports. Brossett previously took money from the developers behind the Hard Rock site that ultimately collapsed. This type of conflict of interest between who funds political campaigns and the duties carried out by those politicians once elected is baked into the very fabric of our political system, and it seems unlikely any of these three candidates are innocent in this case.
Morrell himself has seemingly changed his views on appropriate sources of funding over time: Campaign finance reports indicate he’s historically received at least $14,000 in campaign funding from an Entergy PAC over the course of his career, but the most recent such contribution was in 2016, and he’s said he’d no longer take such funds after the recent Ethics Review Board recommendation to bar contributions from council-regulated utilities. “After receiving the Council’s resolution, we created a complete bar within my campaign of receiving funds from anyone affiliated with Entergy New Orleans or other Entergy affiliates,” he said in response to our survey.
Shortly after announcing the coalition with Palmer, Brossett was arrested following an alleged drunk driving incident. This is the second arrest for alleged drunk driving in as many years for Brossett, including a 2020 incident in which he crashed a city-owned SUV (and ultimately entered a diversion program). As we said at the time, we don’t find it productive to judge a person based on their relationship to substances or run-ins with the law alone. He has since suspended his campaign and says he will enter treatment.
Rounding out this race is I’m-here-too-guys Bart Everson. Everson is a member of the Green Party—which has endorsed him—and is running on a primarily climate-focused platform. Everson says his number-one priority if elected would be to “hold Entergy accountable.” In response to our survey, he calls for deprivatization and/or demonopolization of city utilities, and rightfully points out how low-income households in New Orleans bear some of the highest energy rates in the nation. He says he wants to invest in community solar power as a means to lower rates and move towards cleaner energy reliance. Everson is a member of the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition (he is on hiatus for his candidacy in this race), which brought a recently-accepted recommendation to the Ethics Review Board that city officials should not be able to accept donations or money from the utilities they regulate.
Everson works at Xavier University and produced Rox, a public access TV program in the 90s, which he claims was the first TV show on the internet. Everson’s claim proves difficult to dispute, and in this latest edition of actual-real-facts-about-New-Orleans-political-candidates-too-wild-to-be-made-up, his own involvement began after he was court-ordered to complete community service at the station following an arrest for streaking.
In response to our survey questions, Everson said he supports the decriminalizaton of sex work, as well as all recreational drugs, adding that he supports a harm-reduction approach to drug use. In response to a question about landlords, he said “Our system whereby land can be owned by non-resident landlords does not serve us well, as revealed after Katrina. Ownership without occupation is tyranny.”
SUMMARY: Most of the candidates said the “right things” in response to our survey questions and in debates. They all came out in support of decriminalizing sex work, and spoke about regulating and holding Entergy accountable. But Bart Everson’s responses are not in the same contention with past actions and monies received as his opponents. We like him, but he’s a long shot for this race. Palmer and Morrell aren’t bad choices either, and maybe Palmer really has changed her tune on how some people choose to make money. With the Brossett ordeal mixing up this race in the final hours, it’s starting to look more and more likely that she will get to put those head-to-head poll forecasts to the test in a run-off against Morrell.
Councilmember District A
Joseph “Joe” Giarrusso III (Democrat)
Amy Misko (Libertarian)
Robert “Bob” Murrell (Democrat)
District A stretches along the East Bank of the city, including parts of Lakeview, the City Park and Fairgrounds neighborhoods, Mid City, Carrollton, Uptown, and the Audubon Park area.
We’ve written before about incumbent Joe Giarrusso, who is the grandson of a New Orleans police chief turned councilmember, and his support for the NOPD and technology designed to track crime. He still is calling to “increase police manpower to patrol neighborhoods and strengthen NOPD’s capacity to solve and investigate crimes,” as well as sensible spending of federal funds by the Sewerage & Water Board. He’s called the national push to defund the police a “non-starter” in New Orleans.
Giarrusso has gained a reputation for focusing on block-by-block issues affecting his constituents, including relaying information from Entergy on his social media accounts post-Ida and brandishing a thick binder of resident complaints about road conditions in a City Council meeting.
While we applaud his attention to power outage and pothole issues in his district, his vigorous support for the police still gives us serious concern.
Misko, who the Times-Picayune reported said she believes white senior citizens like herself don’t have enough of a voice in government, calls for spending tax money in the district where it’s collected—which would benefit rich districts at the expense of poorer ones and likely ones with more businesses at the expense of more residential ones—and closing city planning and permitting offices in what she calls an anti-corruption move.
A staunch opponent of the mask mandates put in place by who she on Facebook calls “Latroya [sic] and her team of thugs” (which readers can interpret as they may in light of the rich, racialized history of such language), she wants to end emergency powers for City officials.
Her solution to the city’s garbage woes is making trash pickup a “deregulated non monopolistic service that WE pay for directly,” presumably meaning individual businesses and residents would be responsible for selecting trash carters for themselves, contracting with them, and pursuing individual claims if trash isn’t adequately picked up. New York City has tried this for business trash pickup—as ProPublica has reported, it’s led to streets being served by multiple, overworked and exhausted sets of garbage haulers racing from stop to stop along complex routes, contributing to numerous crashes, some fatal. New York’s public, unionized Sanitation Department, which serves residences, has a much better safety record.
Misko also runs a group called Libertarians for Learning that distributes free early childhood education materials, including through a Little Free Library in Lakeview.
Bob Murrell is a software developer, comedian, and self-described democratic socialist who has contributed to the satirical website Neutral Ground News.
He’s by far the candidate on the District A ballot furthest to the left, with a long list of proposals on his website. He “would support municipalization of our electricity and natural gas infrastructure,” according to his responses in our candidate survey, and wants to see City workers make $25 per hour by 2025. He also advocates for free transit and internet access, an end to solitary confinement and money bail, decriminalization of sex work, and the legal right to counsel for people facing eviction. On housing issues, he also supports increased support for renters, calls to “increase public housing,” and curbs on short-term rentals with actual enforcement. He also supports making “non-profits pay their fair share on properties” and ending contracts with “failing charter” schools, moving them back to public control.
SUMMARY: Murrell feels like a breath of fresh air compared to cozy-with-cops Giarrusso and libertarian Misko.
Councilmember District B
Jay H. Banks (Democrat)
Lesli Harris (Democrat)
Timothy David Ray (Democrat) — Withdrew
Rosalind “Roz” Reed-Thibodeaux (Independent)
Rella Zapletal (Democrat)
District B includes the Central Business District, Central City, Broadmoor, the Garden District and Lower Garden District, and parts of Uptown.
Incumbent Jay Banks is a city politics power player both literally—he worked for Entergy, like many a Louisiana political figure, then later consulted for the City about regulating the utility—and figuratively—he’s held various offices in the influential Black Organization for Leadership Development (BOLD), been chairman of the board at the Zulu Social Aid and Pleasure Club (where he was also once king), and a member of the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Foundation board.
He made the news for a bizarre incident with current mayoral candidate Belden “Noonie Man” Batiste when he showed up at Batiste’s home during a Congressional race that saw Batiste among rivals to Banks’ ally Karen Carter Peterson. Banks reportedly said Noonie Man had made a strange call to Banks’ office and he was concerned about Batiste’s mental health, though he’s more recently declined to comment on the matter due to legal issues. Batiste, in turn, has said Banks threatened him and has since questioned why Banks wouldn’t have called in medical professionals instead of showing up himself.
When he hasn’t been providing impromptu mental health services, Banks has pushed for pro-affordable-housing legislation like the inclusionary zoning ordinance that encourages developers to set aside 10% of units for low-income residents, and limits on short-term rentals in residential neighborhoods. Neither policy is anything close to a true fix for the city’s housing crisis: Housing advocates have essentially said the inclusionary zoning law came too late for the last pre-pandemic burst of housing construction, and STR regulations often go unenforced, but we guess they’re something, right?
Banks has also taken the coronavirus pandemic quite seriously, especially after losing a number of friends to COVID-19, and has worked to distribute masks and hand sanitizer and encourage people to get vaccinated.
Lawyer Lesli Harris has represented a variety of clients, including giving legal counsel to the Saints and the Pelicans and arguing on behalf of clients challenging Louisiana’s since-overturned law against same-sex marriage.
More recently, she’s worked as chief of staff to the president of Loyola University and been a member and board official for a number of local nonprofits.
She leads her platform with the claim that “violent crime hasn’t been this bad since the 1990s.” Her definition of violent crime may also be broader than others: In our candidate survey, she equated stopping “looting” after Hurricane Ida with the “safety” of the community. She also credited NOPD with protecting mutual aid efforts after the storm, which is not supported by anything we’ve heard from any mutual aid providers or recipients, who in some cases said overblown official fears of crime in fact impeded their efforts.
“NOPD officers were equally impacted by the storm but still had to serve as first responders to ensure our community’s safety, including answering calls to deal with looting,” she wrote. “They also ensured that mutual aid food lines and distribution sites stayed safe.”
In response to the perceived crime situation, she wants to hire more cops and pay cops more—and also invest in job training and non-police responses for car crashes and mental health crises (something supported in at least some form by plenty of current councilmembers).
She supports an audit of Entergy’s management, with the possibility of municipalizing the utility or at least requiring the company to harden its systems, as well as improvements around road work and at the Sewerage & Water Board. She endorses trash “hoppers’ demands for a living wage and PPE” and “universal broadband” for the city, though it’s not clear exactly how she’d bring either about.
When it comes to housing, she wants assistance for low-income homeowners, the use of City properties for affordable housing and homeless shelters, and improved enforcement of short-term rental regulations.
Real estate broker Rosalind “Roz” Reed Thibodeaux’s platform is a mix of empty platitudes and proposals for frightening surveillance schemes. “Simple idea, create an environment that is open to new industry and an infrastructure that can support it,” she suggests, without further detail.
She offers more concrete suggestions when it comes to drugs and juvenile behavior, suggesting “more drug testing in hospitals, medical clinics for people asking for narcotics or complaining of chronic pain”—something that seems designed to discourage people who use drugs from seeking medical care—and even testing kids who skip school. And, she says, “parents cannot be allowed to receive government funding or tax credits to care for children that they are not caring for,” though it’s unclear exactly what that means or to what extent it even falls under the City Council’s purview. It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t further disadvantage struggling families and subject them to more government scrutiny.
Not surprisingly, she does favor tax credits for people who install surveillance cameras on their homes. (As The Lens just reported, there’s already a program that lets businesses and residences share camera footage with the City, though the information sharing only goes one way: Officials declined to say which residences participate, citing privacy concerns).
When it comes to the NOPD, she wants to pay cops to do things beyond policing, while somehow also freeing up their time to chase down crime. “We can reduce corruption by adding funding to the police department that would allow officers to be paid to coach little league, tutor, work in our behavioral intervention programs, teach self defense and other community involvement,” according to her platform. “We need to take mental health issues away from offers [sic] and hand that over to more qualified individuals, this will free up officers to deal with more pressing crimes and reduce unnecessary violence.”
Rella Zapletal has worked as an attorney for legal aid group Southeast Louisiana Legal Services representing kids in foster care and as a public defender.
She’s also head of the Touro Bouligny Neighborhood Association and a “commissioner for the neighborhood security district.” In 2019, she and her neighborhood association sued the school board to block them from turning over the McDonogh School Number 7 site to the City for affordable housing units. They argued that turning it over would ensure a potential school would be lost in their neighborhood, but also made sure to note that they were seeking to “preserve the character of [their] central Uptown neighborhood” and “protect their property interests.” This might be a good place to point out that a study from the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center found that “white-led neighborhood groups perpetuate segregation” and are granted “significant power over land use decisions.” As a councilmember, she would have even more power over land use decisions. It’s worth noting campaign finance records show Zapletal’s campaign also received $1,000 from the Louisiana Realtors PAC.
Her positions on policing make sense for a public defender turned security district commissioner: she wants to make sure the NOPD has “all the resources” it needs, supports pay raises for officers, and find out why the Department isn’t hiring more. On the other hand, she wants to fund “preventative services,” meaning legal activities for kids to do after school, which politicians depressingly often feel the need to sell as crime prevention measures.
She also favors “an accountable ankle monitoring system” that is “fully funded,” presumably meaning that people ordered to wear such devices on bail wouldn’t have to pay the onerous fees they’re currently charged.
When it comes to infrastructure, she wants to hold construction and trash contractors accountable with penalties for nonperformance, have public works officials appear monthly at City Council meetings, and improve Entergy regulation. Zapletal also wants to pay City workers at least $15 per hour.
SUMMARY: Once again, we’re faced with a less-than-perfect incumbent, this time Jay Banks, but at least he’s trying to solve the city’s housing woes.
Councilmember District C
Stephanie Bridges (Democrat)
Freddie King III (Democrat)
Alonzo Knox (Democrat)
Vincent Milligan Jr. (No Party)
Stephen Mosgrove (Democrat)
“Frank” Perez (Democrat)
Barbara Waiters (Democrat)
District C includes the French Quarter, Marigny, and Bywater; as well as portions of the Treme, St. Claude, and St. Roch neighborhoods; and all of Algiers.
This seat is up for grabs since incumbent Kristin Gisleson Palmer is running for an at-large seat.
Stephanie Bridges is an attorney and the executive director of the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice, a decades-old organization “dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism.”
She pledges to “speak up for the marginalized” and fight for equitable housing, combat the gender pay gap, and push restorative justice. Her campaign materials don’t offer a lot of details, something we’ve noted when she’s run for office before, and she also advocates “economic partnerships that lead to purposeful jobs & work” and turning New Orleans into a “Smart City”—a buzzword that often in practice means digital surveillance and dubious partnerships with Silicon Valley companies that often (luckily?) don’t pan out.
Freddie King III has won some big endorsements, including from U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, state Sen. Gary Carter (who won the seat when his uncle Troy went off to Congress), former U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, and Gov. John Bel Edwards. He’s also endorsed by the local AFL-CIO, the United Teachers of New Orleans, and the Independent Women’s Organization.
An attorney, King previously worked as director of constituent services for Nadine Ramsey, who previously held the District C seat, and as a public defender.
Unsurprisingly for a candidate endorsed by so many establishment figures, he says the City isn’t ready to municipalize the electrical utility but he does say the council needs to hold Entergy accountable and that it shouldn’t raise rates to cover Ida damage.
His response to a question on our candidate survey about post-Ida police response was similarly wishy-washy. “I think that the police response was appropriate and that it is important we have officers protecting our community in a time of need like this,” he told us. “However, I do believe that clarity and concise communication are integral in such a time and our leaders could have done a better job communicating with the public in regards to looting as a result of Hurricane Ida. It all boils down to providing residents with the resources they need so they do not resort to looting.”
In a city where we’re quite familiar with having to boil down our basic resources, it’s disheartening to see so many candidates framing providing civic services from emergency food to kids’ activities as a means to prevent crime. And yes, King leads his online platform saying he’ll be “tackling violent crime,” though he doesn’t provide much detail on what this means.
His answers to our question on drug policy also left us scratching our heads. “Marijuana decriminalization was a common-sense step for our community to take in order to achieve true criminal justice reform,” he said. “However, the city council must hold NOPD accountable to follow the policies set forth by the council. There is absolutely no reason that New Orleanians should be taken into custody for marijuana possession. I am in favor of anything that makes our city safer like supervised injection sites. However, our city should first invest in the programs we currently have before introducing such a program. Diversion programs in our community need attention and investment.”
We like the idea of holding the NOPD accountable for really and truly not busting people for decriminalized drugs. But we don’t see much logic in putting more money into diversion programs, which are often basically probation without a guilty plea and less judicial oversight, before setting up places where people can more safely use drugs.
King also wouldn’t give us a straight answer when asked if he supports decriminalizing sex work, though he did give a shout-out to state Rep. Mandie Landry who has introduced legislation to do so. “I am proud to be supported by Representative Mandy [sic] Landry and will work with her to help protect the health and safety of sex workers and fighting against trafficking,” he told us. Landry hasn’t made an endorsement in this race.
Alonzo Knox and his wife Jessica own Backatown Coffee Parlour in the Treme. He’s committed to the neighborhood, having spent six years on the Historic District Landmarks Commission and been active in the fight to restore the Municipal Auditorium as a cultural center, not a new City Hall.
He also advocates for the ultimate municipalization of electricity service but says we first need to reform the City Charter to fight corruption.
He has a degree in law enforcement and previously worked for the New Orleans Police and Justice Foundation, which takes private donations to support the NOPD’s activities and its officers. That naturally makes us wary, as does his vow that “he’ll be laser-focused on stopping violent crime.”
In our candidate survey, Knox indicated he opposes marijuana arrests and is “open to exploring the decriminalization of other regulated substances” and wants the City to quickly explore the legality of safe drug consumption sites. “Safe Consumption Sites not only bring in drug use off the streets, they also stop the spread of HIV and most importantly save the lives of New Orleans residents who struggle with opioid addiction,” he told us.
On sex work, he opposes the current system of criminalization and “rather than just decriminalization, I would be more interested in exploring regulation of sex work similar to countries in Europe and in Australia.” (Sex workers themselves generally say they support decriminalization rather than imposing new regulatory systems that can themselves prove abusive).
As far as policing, he emphasizes redirecting police to “solving violent crime,” including through technologies like DNA testing, saying “Black communities are over policed but underserved which creates a cycle of violence and cycles our communities through a system that crushes youth rather than lifts them up.”
Knox also supports “addressing its root causes like poverty, lack of opportunity, and mental illness”—likely better and longer-lasting solutions than attempting to build a better police force.
“The Campaign has started and May the best man win lol Me!!!” announced Vincent Milligan Jr. in July.
A hairstylist who lives in the French Quarter, he’s adamantly opposed to Mayor Cantrell seemingly on both political and, well, other grounds. “You can take the chick out of the ghetto but not the ghetto out of the chick,” he posted on Facebook after her well-publicized confrontation at the Windsor Court Hotel. He’s also spoken out against the coronavirus restrictions Cantrell has put in place. “We have to do something with this mayor now,” he posted on Facebook last year. “She can no longer control this city. Let’s get together and throw her out like the old days.”
What old days he’s referring to are left as an exercise for the reader, but it’s worth noting he also likes to rant about crime, “globalist”-run organizations, and billionaire investor George Soros’ purported ties to the Nazis—whatever you may think of his business and politics, Soros is Jewish and saw his native Hungary taken over by the Nazis—and Black Lives Matter, which probably makes for some interesting hair salon conversations.
He also wants to raise City worker salaries, restore the Municipal Auditorium, and eliminate bicycle lanes in Algiers.
Stephen Mosgrove is an Algiers resident who has worked in various City Hall positions and owns his own small business consulting company.
He wants to see New Orleans build a more diverse base of industries and redevelop sites like Federal City in Algiers and the old Navy site in the Bywater. His plans for improving City services are what mostly you’d imagine from a business consultant: building a better-functioning bureaucracy, implementing “best practices,” building a healthy work culture, and eliminating favoritism. He also envisions public-private partnerships to beautify sites like parks.
On the definite plus side, Mosgrove favors higher wages and annual cost-of-living increases for City workers.
Like many candidates, he wants to staff up the NOPD and make it more efficient, plus “invest in effective technology that both deters crime and catches criminals,” which, if not handled carefully, could subject residents and visitors to heightened surveillance. He also wants to “invest in people” to reduce crime, including education, youth programming, and programs for formerly incarcerated people.
Frank Perez is a community activist, author of multiple books on New Orleans history and a regular columnist for local LGBTQ magazine Ambush, educator who’s taught at multiple local universities, cofounder of the LGBT+ Archives Project of Louisiana, and head of a business that offers itinerary planning for visitors.
He wants annual independent audits of Entergy and for the utility to set up a fund to help people most vulnerable to heat and other issues after storms like Ida. In our candidate survey, he came out strongly against the emphasis on looting after the storm. “The focus on that instead of on saving lives was extremely disheartening and out of step with our community’s attitudes, opinions, and needs,” he told us.
Perez supports banning police chokeholds and legalizing recreational marijuana, improving public transit, providing City support for the arts, and supporting more supermarkets in “food deserts.”
On housing, he says “I will fight for affordable housing for all and will consult with local neighborhood associations for the best answer.” Similarly, he says he’d want zoning variances to be rare and only granted “with the approval of neighborhood residents.”
The problem is neighborhood groups are usually run by well-heeled residents who have time to research zoning issues—and often oppose affordable and subsidized housing developments. According to a recent report from the Louisiana Fair Housing Action Center, neighborhood association members are generally richer and whiter than their average neighbors and that they have, in fact, killed or delayed hundreds of potential affordable apartments since Hurricane Katrina.
Barbara Waiters worked for now-U.S. Rep. Troy Carter when he represented District C on the City Council. She also worked after Hurricane Katrina for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul in Houston, managing a multimillion-dollar grant and securing services for displaced New Orleanians, and led the Algiers Economic Development Foundation as executive director. Most recently she was director of public affairs and policy at the Downtown Development District, an agency that, well, supports development in the area around the Central Business District.
Despite her credentials, her platform is relatively sparse, perhaps deliberately so: “Barbara’s vision is simple,” according to her website, including points like a desire to “lead independently and fairly” and “ensure a strong quality of life and opportunities for all citizens.”
She similarly has said she wants to “go back to basics and so that’s my platform,” according to the Times-Picayune, which also reported she wants to improve relationships between young people and police, give people good affordable internet, improve drainage pumps, and better enforce rules around affordable housing units.
SUMMARY: While Perez’s focus on consulting neighborhood associations worries us, he does seem to understand the city, his district, and the need to hold people in positions of power accountable.
Councilmember District D
Chelsea Ardoin (Republican)
Chantrisse Burnett (Democrat)
Morgan Clevenger (Democrat)
Anthony Doby (No Party)
Troy Glover (Democrat)
Eugene Green (Democrat)
Kevin Griffin-Clark (Democrat)
Mark “Johari” Lawes (Democrat)
Mariah Moore (Democrat)
Robert “Bob” Murray (Democrat)
Keith “KP” Parker (Democrat)
Timolynn “Tim” Sams (Democrat)
Dulaine Troy Vining (Democrat)
Kourtney Youngblood (Democrat)
District D includes parts of Mid City, Lakeview, Gentilly, and the St. Bernard neighborhood.
Chelsea Ardoin, who works as a benefits project manager for human resources at Entergy, says she is “not your typical Republican candidate.” Yet she is pro-military, doesn’t believe in defunding the police, and supports the Second Amendment. And, she says, she wants “a business climate where entrepreneurs are not strapped with undue regulation, taxes or expenses.” But, she says, she wants “a social justice system that will treat every American citizen with fairness and respect” and “a healthcare system that is accessible and affordable to all.”
Ardoin previously ran unsuccessfully for Congress, and most of those ballot points apply more to federal office than to the City Council. Like almost every candidate in this election, she supports “safe and secure community and neighborhoods” and improved infrastructure, though her campaign is light on details about how she’d achieve this.
Chantrisse Burnett, who has worked for a variety of nonprofits and now is an independent consultant and grant writer, has said she backs “working with law enforcement agencies, neighborhood leaders, and criminal justice reform agencies to find innovative approaches to crime prevention.”
With regard to other City services, she wants to improve the 311 system so people can phone in about problems with infrastructure and get better results.
Burnett also wants to use Opportunity Zones to spur development. Opportunity Zones are designated low-income areas where businesses get tax incentives to invest. In practice, the funds often go to big real estate investors rather than local businesses, according to a report put out last year by the Urban Institute.
Morgan Clevenger is head of the Fairgrounds Triangle Neighborhood Association, and she’s been involved with the push to keep the City from turning the Municipal Auditorium into a new City Hall. She’s also spoken out about rising home prices leading to higher taxes, which can be a hardship for longtime homeowners.
Like other neighborhood association leaders, Clevenger has pushed for more policing in her neighborhood, calling for Fair Grounds Race Course-funded patrols to do more to stop crime in the area. Her group also pushed to close a corner store that she said had become a “haven for crime” in the area.
Anthony Doby is a real estate investor who wants to see more development in his district. He also wants to legalize and tax recreational marijuana, decriminalize sex work, get rid of residential area short-term rentals where the homeowner doesn’t live, and find ways to assess fees on nonprofit-owned land, a big part of the city’s tax base that goes untaxed.
Other proposals include moving City Hall to New Orleans East—an area that has abundant land and does need development, although it is hard to reach by public transit—and getting rid of take-home cars and drivers for City Council members.
He also wants to hire more cops and put up more police cameras.
Troy Glover is the founder of the New Orleans Center for Employment Opportunities, which helps put formerly incarcerated people to work on projects around the city. He’s also the former head of the Faubourg St. Roch Improvement Association, where he worked with businesses to promote hiring men of color.
He says he’ll continue supporting minority-owned businesses and also backs “reforming money bail, reducing the jail population and fighting for criminal justice reform” and “working to understand & prevent crime,” which is a bit of fresh air compared to some other candidates’ emphasis on boosting policing. He also wants more funding for early childhood education, accessible and affordable housing, and fighting for a living wage.
Eugene Green is yet another candidate with a real estate background, heading a family-owned real estate business.
He worked for the City under Mayor Marc Morial and also briefly worked as chief of staff for former Rep. William Jefferson, who ultimately went to prison on bribery charges.
Green has run for office in the past, including for Congress and City Council, and he’s sat on boards of various agencies and nonprofits. He says his priority is “making sure that residents feel safe,” and public safety is the largest part of his platform, including hiring more cops (but improving their training, something that experts and activists often say does limited good), better mental health services, and setting up a task force to collect community input on crime.
On public safety, which is the most detailed section of his campaign materials, Green also supports giving more information to community members about crime prevention tips like “increased lighting and camera use,” locking gates, and “not leaving guns in cars.” He also calls for bail reform, although he wants to supplement that with “increased utilization of ankle monitors,” an incarceration alternative that can still be quite punitive and expensive.
Green also didn’t quite answer the question of whether City workers should make more money when it was posed in a League of Women Voters survey. “I support our citizens having enhanced economic opportunities,” he said. “I do plan to study the city’s wage system to compare it to cost of living figures, inflation, and other variables to determine what moves can be made to improve income opportunities.”
Kevin Griffin-Clark, who runs a photo and multimedia business, has said among his top priorities are finally relocating the residents of Gordon Plaza, an affordable housing development built in the 1980s on the site of a polluted former landfill where residents have heightened risk of cancer and other diseases.
Otherwise, his campaign has been a bit short on detailed proposals, though he generally vows to do things differently than typical politicians. “District D needs a proven fighter, someone who’s unbossed and unbought!” according to his official Facebook page.
Mark “Johari” Lawes, who owns the oyster bar and restaurant The Half Shell on the Bayou, is perhaps the first candidate we’ve seen carry an endorsement from a bar—beloved neighborhood hangout Seal’s Class Act.
A bit light on details, his campaign has called for improved economic opportunities, more use of community policing techniques, and improvements in City contracts and the permitting process. “Electing the same politicos and ambitious individuals looking for political stepping-stones is why we are in the shape we’re in,” he said on Instagram.
Mariah Moore, who is executive director of the House of Tulip, a nonprofit focused on transgender housing issues, would be the first openly trans member of the City Council.
She’s said she’d continue to fight for housing—including by extending the short-term rental bans currently in effect in the French Quarter and Garden District to more neighborhoods—and she’d push for equitable employment opportunities and has called for a minimum $15-an-hour wage for City workers and contractors with adjustments for inflation.
Moore has also called for more accountability for Entergy, improved public transit, drug decriminalization, and funding to relocate Gordon Plaza residents. She also wants to create a City Public Advocate’s Office—a kind of ombudsman role that exists most prominently in New York City.
Bob Murray, a retired businessman, told the Times-Picayune he decided to seek office after the August 2017 flood and Sewerage & Water Board pump destroyed two of his cars. He’s calling for a utility board to regulate the agency.
He’s one of the few candidates to simply answer “yes” when asked by the League of Women Voters whether City employee wages are adequate. City workers and labor activists we know usually seem to disagree.
His campaign site calls for a “solution for homelessness” and “criminal justice reform,” though he also pushes increased police patrols and cameras for the district. Murray, like some other candidates, also wants to see more activities for kids, although he seems more focused on keeping them from committing crime than boosting their quality of life. “It is also important to give our youth activities including but not limited to Boys and Girls Clubs to keep them from standing on the street causing problems,” according to his campaign site. “By giving our youth specific duties and after school tutorial programs, they will have positive options to integrate into their lives.”
Keith “KP” Parker is a field agent for Court Intervention Services at New Orleans Criminal District Court. He previously worked in Code Enforcement for the City.
His platform is light on details and he hasn’t responded to our candidate survey or participated in a survey from the League of Women Voters or an interview with the Times-Picayune.
“I can be a leader who has the ability to garner support from the community, civic and business leaders to make things happen. I share the vision of many of my neighbors – safer streets, quality schools, and responsible economic development,” he writes on his campaign site. “As a new age leader, I will begin to cure the ills that plague the residents of District D and improve the overall quality of life.”
Tim Sams was until recently the executive director of the Neighborhoods Partnership Network, a nonprofit set up after Hurricane Katrina to encourage collaboration between neighborhoods. She also hosts a talk radio show called Pumps Pearls and Politics and is chief innovation officer at a consulting group called One Degree Impact.
A lot of her campaign rhetoric has a big nonprofit grant application vibe: She discusses “building a stronger collaborative with NOPD” and “making district D a technology hub” and told the Times-Picayune that “we need to build a stronger intentional effort around community being a part of this dialogue,” a long-winded way of saying the City needs to consult residents more often.
Dulaine Troy Vining, who has previously worked as a clinical researcher and catering manager, has a long list of changes he wants to see in New Orleans.
He’s calling for a public advocate position, direct election of the police chief, limiting schooling to three days per week, more accountability for Entergy, better streetcar routes, and “no-cash bails.” He’s also expressed concern about the lack of dog parks and other infrastructure for “our furry friends” in District D.
Kourtney Youngblood is one of this election’s staunchest opponents of the New Orleans carceral system.
She was one of the few candidates to come out unambiguously in favor of supervised drug use sites in our candidate survey and she’s called for better access to naloxone—the opioid overdose reversal medication sold under the brand name Narcan—as well as fentanyl test trips so people can test their drugs, and addiction treatment. She’s pledged to keep pressure on District Attorney Jason Williams (who ran on a progressive platform but has already broken a promise not to charge kids as adults) and also had harsh words for the City focus on “looting” after Hurricane Ida. “No person should be threatened with brutality because they are hungry,” she said. “The attention to ‘looting’ was far too extreme and prevalent, when we should have been putting the safety, well being and needs of our people first. We should have been talking about and preparing evacuation methods, power supplies and food for our residents, far before worrying about retaliation and the possibility of looting.”
She’s called for more funding for public education, an end to police in schools (explicitly referring to the “school-to-prison pipeline”), work to combat school employees’ implicit biases, and a moratorium on charter schools. She wants more accountability for City contractors. Like other candidates, she’s pushing for living wages for City employees and contractors but her worker protection proposals are more concrete than many others: paid sick leave, parental leave, combating the gender pay gap, “banning ‘locker room talk’ and upholding of gender-identities,” and hiring people who’ve been incarcerated.
Youngblood also wants to see affordable childcare for “all working families” and full funding for the relocation of Gordon Plaza residents.
Will her entire agenda get passed if she’s elected to the City Council? Almost certainly not. But the city would benefit from having someone with her agenda in a position of power and ready to challenge other officials like Cantrell, Williams, and whoever is elected sheriff.
SUMMARY: Youngblood and Moore both seem like valuable voices to have on the City Council.
Councilmember District E
John Bagneris (Democrat)
Michon Copelin (Democrat)
Vanessa “Gueringer” Johnson (Democrat)
Aaron Miller (Democrat)
Cyndi Nguyen (Democrat)
Oliver M. Thomas (Democrat)
District E includes the Lower Ninth Ward and New Orleans East
John Bagneris is a businessman and former state rep. He’s said we need to give more money to firefighters and other City workers and “bring in some competition” for Entergy.
He’s in favor of moving City Hall to New Orleans East and wants to see other development in the area, including at the infamous abandoned Six Flags site, saying the region has been neglected. “For too long District E has been treated like a third world country with empty promises, crumbling roads, poor drainage, no economic development, and way too much crime,” he said on Facebook in launching his campaign in July.
According to the Times-Picayune, he wants to ramp up NOPD patrols—and police-community meetings—in the area.
Mental health professional and former teacher Michon Copelin wants to set up a City Blight Eradication Task Force and utilize Code Enforcement to clean up blighted property around the city. The daughter of former state Rep. Sherman Copelin, she has said she “will work each day to unravel years of neglect and political dysfunction that has crippled this district.”
The younger Copelin, who has a master’s degree in criminal justice from Southern University and previously worked in community outreach at the District Attorney’s Office, also plans to reorganize police command centers to expedite responses and push the NOPD to do more community policing, an often nebulous term.
Vanessa Gueringer-Johnson is a founder and vice president of a nonprofit called A Community Voice that exists to “fight for social and economic justice for low to moderate income families.”
Previously, she was involved with the community organizing group ACORN and gained national prominence advocating for New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward after Hurricane Katrina and the levee failures.
Now, she’s advocating for increased police presence—and better police training—for her would-be council district, as well as more funding for public defenders. She also wants to seek community input when it comes to development in the district, including at the former Six Flags site. She has also called for better public transit in the area and said she’ll push for a “New Orleans-based grocery chain” to open in the district.
Public school teacher and church pastor Aaron Miller has expressed concern over crime in the district, saying he’ll push to redirect police resources toward that issue and away from things like mental health crises.
He also wants to get community input on the Six Flags site and spur economic development in the district including, reported the Times-Picayune, by encouraging residents to do more business within the area and pushing local grocery chains to open up shop.
He also backs plans to beef up infrastructure, though how he’ll do so is a bit vague. “Let’s stop allowing authorities to give us the excuse of ‘red tape,'” he says on his campaign website. “With your help, I will cut through the excuses.”
Incumbent Cyndi Nguyen has taken credit for supporting developments in the district, including a revitalized Holiday Inn on Chef Menteur Highway, the Lake Forest Tower senior housing, and Optimus Entertainment, a family fun center, reported the Times-Picayune.
She’s called for moving City Hall to New Orleans East to continue revitalizing the area and said she’d like to see higher wages for City employees and contractors. She’s also advocated for the reopening of Lincoln Beach, the closed historically Black lakeshore area in the district, though some residents who’ve already been involved in cleanup efforts there have said her vision for the beach’s development doesn’t match their vision of its use for tranquil relaxation.
Nguyen, who came with her family from Vietnam fleeing the Communist government after the Vietnam War, previously founded and ran Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET), a nonprofit offering educational programs and other services to Vietnamese people in New Orleans.
Though Nguyen has praised the diversity of the district—which is majority Black but also has a sizable Vietnamese population—she did come under fire last year after saying in a Times-Picayune interview about economic development in the Lower Ninth Ward that residents liked “greasy fried chicken” places, echoing a stereotype about Black people’s food tastes. Nguyen apologized and said she simply meant to highlight that the area is a “food desert.”
Oliver Thomas previously represented District B on the City Council and later served as an at-large councilmember and appeared like a potential candidate for mayor. That seemingly came to an end in 2007, when he pled guilty to a federal bribery charge related to City contracts to run parking lots in the French Quarter and Marigny.
He’s said that was the result of a gambling addiction he’s recovered from, according to the Times-Picayune, telling the newspaper he’d like to come back and reinvigorate a City Council that wouldn’t just rubber-stamp mayoral decisions and would stand up to Entergy.
Like his rivals, Thomas wants to spiff up infrastructure in the district. He says he’d also take on crime by “prioritize public safety by addressing police presence to ensure a fair balance of officers to cover our neighborhoods and crime hot spots, implement aggressive youth programs that will give our youth opportunities, and institute a task force for conflict resolution in schools.”
Thomas has also hosted a morning talk show on WBOK radio and served as a consultant on “Jailbirds New Orleans,” the reality TV show that controversially filmed women incarcerated at the Orleans Parish jail. Thomas tried to advocate for the production after the Sheriff’s Office kicked film crews out of the jail last year, according to a report from The Lens. A variety of civil rights groups and groups that advocate for incarcerated people have criticized “Jailbirds” and Sheriff Marlin Gusman, calling on the City Council to hold hearings into the production.
SUMMARY: Johnson has a long history of fighting for people in her district.
CA NO. 1 (ACT 131, 2021 – HB 199) – Authorizes streamlined electronic filing, remittance, and collection of sales and use tax
Do you support an amendment to authorize the legislature to provide for the streamlined electronic filing, electronic remittance, and the collection of sales and use taxes levied within the state by the State and Local Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Commission and to provide for the funding, duties, and responsibilities of the commission? (Adds Article VII, Section 3.1)
Unlike most states, there’s not one centralized office to collect sales tax in Louisiana. Merchants have to pay the state portion of sales tax to the state Department of Revenue and then separately pay local taxes to tax collectors in each parish they do business. Naturally, big businesses like chain stores that operate all over the state are the most affected.
They say that’s a pain, and business groups have called for this amendment that would create a new state commission to collect all sales tax in Louisiana and send it to the state and local agencies that are supposed to receive it.
That sounds logical in theory, and in the 1990s the state already took steps so that there’s only one tax collector to deal with per parish, as opposed to multiple ones for different cities and other government bodies within a parish.
But critics warn that the details of this proposal aren’t yet hammered out. Exactly how this new system will work will be determined by a future vote of the legislature, so voters don’t know the details of what they’re being asked to sign off on here. This is unusual and worrisome—often when we write about amendments, the state legislature has already passed a law that goes into effect when the amendment passes to specify the details.
Additionally, as we saw when Republicans on the Louisiana Bond Commission held back funds for New Orleans because they didn’t like Cantrell’s COVID-19 restrictions, there’s a risk that the state tax collection agency could delay payments to local government either out of malice or incompetence, causing problems for agencies that rely heavily on sales tax.
SUMMARY: No, don’t pass this until the state legislature tells us more about exactly how it would work—including concrete steps to make sure the state doesn’t try to stiff cities.
CA NO. 2 (ACT 134, 2021 – SB 159) – Lowers maximum allowed rate of income tax and allows providing a deduction for federal income taxes
Do you support an amendment to lower the maximum allowable rate of individual income tax and to authorize the legislature to provide by law for a deduction for federal income taxes paid? (Amends Article VII, Section 4(A))
Louisiana is one of only a few states that let you deduct what you pay in federal income taxes from your income when you figure out your state tax. That sounds like a nice tax break, but keep in mind that it disproportionately benefits people who pay higher federal income tax rates, which usually means people with higher income.
It also creates a weird situation where Louisiana’s tax revenue is partly controlled by what the federal government does. Basically, if Congress votes to raise federal taxes, Louisiana taxpayers get bigger state deductions, and the state suddenly takes in less money. If Congress lowers federal taxes, Louisiana takes in more money.
Right now, that tax break is baked into the state constitution. This amendment would change that, leaving it up to the legislature, which passed a bill to get rid of the deduction if the amendment passes. Because getting rid of a deduction would raise people’s taxes, the amendment also lowers the maximum allowable state income tax rate from 6% to 4.75%, and the legislature would actually lower tax rates a little bit more. That’s also supposed to keep the amendment from suddenly changing how much the state takes in, but the Louisiana Budget Project points to Legislative Fiscal Office estimates saying it would actually cut revenue by $27 million a year, which is not great in a perennially cash-strapped state (unless you’re the kind of politician who likes it that way).
Part of the amendment is reasonable—getting rid of the weird link between federal and state income taxes is probably a good idea—but lowering the maximum tax rate the legislature can ever impose without going back to voters is a bad idea. There’s also no guarantee the legislature won’t quietly put the federal-state deduction back in place in the future.
SUMMARY: No, hold out for an amendment that gets rid of the complex link between federal and state taxes but doesn’t cap how much the state can tax.
CA NO. 3 (ACT 132, 2021 – SB 87) – Allows certain levee districts to levy an annual tax for certain purposes
Do you support an amendment to allow levee districts created after January 1, 2006, and before October 9, 2021, whose electors approve the amendment to levy an annual tax not to exceed five mills for the purpose of constructing and maintaining levees, levee drainage, flood protection, and hurricane flood protection? (Amends Article VI, Section 39)
Right now, levee districts—government bodies that maintain flood protection systems—are allowed to impose property tax millages of up to five mills, meaning up to $5 per $1,000 of assessed property value but only if those districts were set up before 2006. Newer districts have to get voter approval for any levee levies.
There are five new districts that are affected by this restriction, although they can impose a levy if voters sign off, and other districts can pass even a more heavy levee levy (or a whole levy bevy—the Orleans Levee District, for instance, has a levy count to equal Schitt’s Creek) with voter signoff. The Orleans Levee District, for example, has a total 11.18 mill tax in place, according to a Public Affairs Research Council report. The nearest affected new districts to New Orleans are in Tangipahoa and St. Tammany parishes.
For the limit to be lifted, voters statewide have to approve this amendment, and it would only be lifted for parishes where the majority of voters also approve. In other words, this amendment basically just lets voters in a handful of parishes pre-approve up to 5 mills in taxes right now if they so choose.
SUMMARY: Yes, let voters in affected parishes sign off on a 5-mill levee levy now if that’s what they want.
CA NO. 4 (ACT 157, 2021 – HB 487) – Increases amount of allowed reduction to certain dedicated funds when a budget deficit is projected
Do you support an amendment to increase the amount of allowable deficit reductions to statutory dedications and constitutionally protected funds from five percent to ten percent? (Amends Article VII, Section 10(F)(2)(a) and (b))
When the government is facing a deficit, officials can currently pull up to 5% and reallocate it to the state general fund to help close the deficit. This would allow them to increase that figure to 10%.
Because of the amount of dedicated funds Louisiana has, as ANTIGRAVITY has previously reported, “as soon as money comes into the state nearly two-thirds of it has already been spoken for.” There is a real problem regarding the lack of general funds that Louisiana has to spend, and the supposed upside of this amendment would be that it frees up more of that overwhelming majority of pre-dedicated money. But this tax amendment would allow the state little oversight in terms of what they’re pulling from and how much. The goal should be to lessen the amount of money going to dedicated funds rather than allowing the state to pull dedicated money when they’re in a bind. It would mean they don’t really have to fix the problem of what money goes where through proper channels.
SUMMARY: This is an issue that needs to be fixed, but it should be fixed by permanently changing how much money is allocated to dedicated funds. No.
Seabrook Neighborhood Imp. and Security District – $200/$100 Parcel Fee Renewal – CC – 4 Yrs.
Shall the City of New Orleans renew the annual Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District parcel fee on each improved parcel of land in the Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, which is comprised of that area within the following boundaries: Filmore Avenue, Leon C. Simon Boulevard, St. Roch Avenue, and Peoples Avenue, in the amount of and not exceeding two hundred dollars ($200), but one hundred dollars ($100) if any owner of the parcel is sixty-five years of age or older or has been a full-time active duty member of the armed forces of the United States for three consecutive years, for a period of and not exceeding four (4) years, beginning January 1, 2022 and ending December 31, 2025, which fee is estimated to generate approximately $200,000 annually, to be used exclusively for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the beautification, security, and overall betterment of the Seabrook Neighborhood Improvement and Security District, except a 1% City collection fee, and if used for additional law enforcement or security personnel and their services, such personnel and services shall be supplemental to and not in lieu of personnel and services provided by the New Orleans Police Department?
This would renew what’s basically a special property tax to provide privatized policing for people in this neighborhood near the University of New Orleans and Southern University, bordered by Filmore Avenue, Leon C. Simon Boulevard, St. Roch Avenue, and Peoples Avenue.
The District, like others around the city, spends the vast majority of what it takes in on “patrol and security expenses,” according to publicly available financial statements, along with a small amount on neighborhood “beautification” and “overall betterment.” (A notable exception is the Broadmoor Neighborhood Improvement District, which funds services like arts programming, classes, and counseling for its residents). Security expenses apparently include offering property owners surveillance cameras to put on their homes, with the agreement that they’ll turn over footage to the District and police if a crime is reported.
There’s little evidence that these districts are particularly effective at their job: One study from 2013 by the City Office of the Inspector General found they seem to have lower rates of property crime, but it didn’t find any significant difference in violent crime or murder rates. And as anyone who’s spent time on neighborhood Facebook or Nextdoor groups knows, surveillance footage is often used to harass or violate the privacy of people whose only crime is looking out of place or being in some sort of distress that could be better addressed by a human-to-human conversation than automated videography.
To its credit, Seabrook is more transparent than a lot of public bodies, posting detailed financial records and meeting minutes online, at least through last year. But these only confirm that the District’s essential purpose is bringing extra policing to a very limited swath of the city.
SUMMARY: Say no to privatized police.
Early voting is October 30 through November 6 (excluding Sunday, October 31) from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The deadline to request an absentee ballot is November 9 by 4:30 p.m.
The deadline for a registrar of voters to receive a voted absentee ballot is November 12 by 4:30 p.m. (other than military and overseas voters).
Saturday election voting hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
1300 Perdido Street 70112
225 Morgan Street 70114
Chef Menteur Voting Machine Warehouse Site
8870 Chef Menteur Highway 70126
Lake Vista Community Center
6500 Spanish Fort Blvd. 70124
LSU Health Science Center (Lions Eye Building)
2020 Gravier St. 70112
1st Floor, Lions Eye Rm
Saturday, December 11
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