Nov 292013

Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Recent complaints about the City’s Taxi Cab Bureau, its director Malachi Hull and several members of his staff lead us to ponder whether it is time to replace the Taxi Cab Bureau with a state-of-the-industry Taxi and Limousine Commission modeled after New York City’s, which was created more than 40 years ago.

Few will disagree that our Taxicab Bureau has been a troubled agency for quite a while. Even Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s critics will have to admit that Landrieu has made some good changes in taxi operations during recent years. But Malachi and his staff have been acting like cowboys on the frontier and this needs to stop. Who’s in charge here? Creating a Taxi/Limo Commission with a new director would take this city service that visitors and locals depend on to the next level.

Like in NYC, our Commission could have a paid “Chairman” appointed by the Mayor (think of Armstrong International or the Port as that model) with unpaid Commissioners. But instead of Mitch getting to appoint all of them, each Councilmember could select one member and the business community could recommend three nominees that the Mayor/Council would select one from. That would give us the NYC working group of 9 who could hold televised public meetings, also available on line, and present an annual report to the Council and the public.

The big operational change we also would like to see – NYC style – is that the Taxi and Limo permits become Medallions that drivers and purchase and by doing so accumulate wealth and a business asset they can use to get a mortgage or pay their kid’s tuition. Since many of our drivers are minorities or foreign born, this move would help strengthen the City’s middle class and create more taxpayers to fund NORDC and the NOPD.

This idea won’t happen overnight. But someone like Stacy Head could grab onto the concept, refine it and move it through the system within a year. We’re waiting for the day when we can order a United Cab through an App on our phones, just like in NYC!

Will the coroner face tougher opposition this year?
Dr. Frank Minyard has been the Orleans Parish Coroner for as long as we can remember. He loves every minute of it. While we originally thought that Minyard was going to retire after this term because of his age, we now know he wants to run again. Based on our current voting base, if anyone could beat Minyard, it would be an African-American. We hear that Dr. Corey Hebert, the popular WDSU doc who is also LSU-affiliated, is looking hard at the seat. He would be a younger, attractive candidate who could energize black females – our city’s largest voting bloc.

Stacy Head kicks off campaign at City Park next Saturday
Stacy Head is holding a family-style campaign kick-off and holiday party at the Pavilion of the Two Sisters in City Park midday Saturday December 7 that will be complete with a live entertainment, food, children’s activities, and Santa’s elves, headed up by Stacy’s vivacious mom, Cathy Singleton. A fun time should be had by all.

Jason Williams announces for at-large seat on City Council
Attorney Jason Williams has made it official that he will seek the at-large council seat currently occupied by the term-limited Jackie Clarkson. Williams will face Councilmember Cynthia Hedge-Morrell who seeks to move from District D to At-Large, and attorney Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet, who served as interim councilmember prior to James Gray’s election.

Williams, the son-in-law of former mayor Sidney Barthelemy, previously ran for District Attorney against Leon Cannizzaro, and was also a criminal court analyst for WWL-TV. This at-large contest will be one of the most interesting races in this coming cycle. Only two weeks until qualifying.

Giving thanks
As we all rush through our busy lives, we often forget to be thankful for our blessings. This weekend we should all pause between the turkey and the shopping to give thanks.

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.

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