Many of you may not know State Rep. Wesley Bishop, born in the Ninth Ward. Bishop grew up in Lower 9 and, as an adult, has been a resident of Eastern New Orleans. It is guys like Bishop who are going to help make New Orleans safer because his greatest concerns are exactly the same as any Uptown legislator or resident – violence and crime.
Rep. Bishop, 45, a third generation graduate of McDonough 35 High School and holder of university degrees from Southern University in New Orleans, the University of Mississippi, the Ohio State University and Harvard University, has a lot of compassion for Mayor Mitch Landrieu and Police Chief Ronal Serpas. Bishop thinks the mayor and the chief are pushing hard to get a grip on the fight against crime. “I’m not satisfied and I don’t think any of us should be satisfied,” he says. “I’m not looking at this from an ivory tower. In my House district, the two officers who are in charge of the police districts are a high school classmate of mine and the other guy is a former student of mine. But I tell them that the average citizen doesn’t feel safe in their homes, in their cars, at the mall or at the school. If we don’t solve the crime problem, all the economic development in the world won’t make any difference. And, I think that people Uptown, in Mid-City, on the Riverfront or the Lakefront, in Upper 9 or Lower 9 and in the East would agree with me on that.”
Rep. Bishop, a practicing attorney, also knows the importance of jobs and economic development in combating crime. He is dissatisfied with the progress of economic development in Lower 9 and the East. “We’ve picked up the pace,” he says. “There are a lot of people working very hard to get our economy going again. We can point to Eastern New Orleans Hospital, two Wal-Marts, a Big Lots, DMV and others. But we are still waiting for and working towards getting the new schools, restaurants and other basic services that a strong, viable community expects and deserves.”
The enormity of the task that Rep. Bishop, District E Councilman James Gray and others working to rebuild Lower 9 and the East face also has given Bishop some perspective on the kind of teamwork that he and his legislative teammates need to practice.
“It doesn’t take a genius to know that no one person can do all that needs to be done alone,” he says. “That’s why I take such pride in working with my colleagues from Uptown, the Lakefront and the rest of the city. We often rise above party labels because there are times when unity for the city is more important than ideology. I think we have that in the New Orleans House delegation and, when we are all on board, we can be a mighty force.”
Rep. Bishop was pleased when Gov. Bobby Jindal “parked” his tax reform package. “The governor parked for two very good reasons,” says Rep. Bishop. “The first is that he didn’t have the votes to pass it and the second is that he and his staff couldn’t assure local communities that their funding would be the same under his plan as it is under our current system.”
Bishop strongly believes that strengthening the city’s educational system will help build a better trained workforce and give young people more opportunities for the future. That’s why as a member of House Education Committee, he is handling legislation for the Orleans Parish School Board.
Rep. Bishop believes that New Orleans won’t be as safe as possible until Lower 9 and the East are fully reconstructed and citadels of positive growth. He’s grateful for the support of the Uptown legislative delegation in the efforts to pass legislation that will get Lower 9 and the East moving at full speed. “We’re all in the same boat and it behooves us to row together,” he says.
Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several televsion programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City Councilwoman Stacy Head, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne and council candidate Dana Kaplan.