The candidates for the District B seat on the New Orleans City Council were invited to share their visions for Central City on Tuesday night, but all four stayed close to the message they have delivered all over Uptown.
With only three weeks left until the Nov. 6 election, none of the four candidates had any surprises for the members and partners of the Central City Renaissance Alliance in the quick, 30-minute discussion at the Mahalia Jackson Early Childhood and Family Learning Center.
LaToya Cantrell promised to replicate her work in Broadmoor in the Central City area. She’d begin by targeting the blighted properties owned by slumlords, she said, and then focus on creating public-private investments that bring a range of social services, access to health care and job training centered around schools and libraries — all while holding the city administration accountable for basic services.
“I say that because that’s been my work on the ground,” Cantrell said. “I’m not only just talking it. I have done it and I want to transfer my experience to the entire District B.”
Marlon “Buck” Horton used the patronage of his restaurant by both black and white customers as a metaphor for the more inclusive society he’d like to see in New Orleans. He has encouraged thousands of young people to register to vote, and by including them in the political process for the first time, they can now take on the work of building a better city themselves, he said.
“I don’t want them to just be excited because Obama is the first black president,” Horton said. “I want them to be excited because you have a future, and we’re working on your future.”
Dana Kaplan said the themes of public safety, opportunity for young people and economic development are all just as relevant in Central City as they are from the Warehouse District to Gert Town. She described the need to find incentives for developers to hire locally, and said that Central City’s culture should assist in its own development. In one example, she mentioned that the best way to increase public safety by making the ankle monitors more effective is to provide additional social services alongside the monitoring.
“It becomes a funding question,” Kaplan said. “Are we willing to fund the additional programs and services, supervision and support that come with the electronic ankle monitors?”
Eric Strachan also emphasized public safety, offering one idea to try to find ways to encourage police officers who live outside the city to move back in. He touted the redevelopment of O.C. Haley Boulevard as one of the most encouraging signs in the city, but acknowledged that much of Central City lacks basic services such as working street lights and pothole repair.
“We have to be single minded in addressing these problems, and keep at them until we get them under hand,” Strachan said.
The event was recorded live by Uptown Messenger, and that video can be viewed at the top of the page. Below, read our live coverage of the forum.