Mar 092017
 

State Sen. J.P. Morrell (left) and state Reps. Helena Moreno and Walt Leger hold a legislative briefing for constituents in May 2015. All three are considered viable contenders for major city offices this year. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

The New Orleans City Council is entering a transition phase as popular term-limited At-Large City Councilmember Stacy Head prepares to leave office and fresh new faces like State Representative Helena Moreno and others prepare to run for the City Council.

While Head reviews her bucket list of initiatives she still wants to accomplish or shore up during her remaining thirteen months in office, Moreno is holding a news conference tonight where she is expected to announce this evening that she will seek one of the two councilmember-at-large seats. With qualifying just four months away, other candidates are beginning to make similar announcements.

City Council president Stacy Head (right) embraces LaToya Cantrell after endorsing Cantrell’s bid for the District B council seat in 2012. (Robert Morris, UptownMessenger.com)

“I’m ready to move on,” Head proclaimed this week. A leader who has never shied away from a controversy, Head says it has always been her goal to bring important issues to the public and will remain focused on doing the right thing. “If someone has done something that I believe is wrong, are they then immune from me taking any appropriate action? I can’t live that way,” said Head in a previous interview.

An LSU-trained corporate lawyer who originally worked for Stanley, Flanagan and Reuter, Head has taken on many challenges during her years as a district and at-large councilmember. “I try very hard to be even in the way I deal with things,” she explained.

Head was inspired to run for the City Council after Hurricane Katrina in 2006 and soundly defeated incumbent District B Councilmember Renee Gill Pratt who was tied to controversial Congressman William Jefferson. Head then won a tight race against former Councilmember Cynthia Willard-Lewis for an at-large seat and handily won re-election four years later.

“What doesn’t work in New Orleans is the small stuff,” said Head. She feels that many city departments lack effective leadership which causes lower ranking employees to fall down on the job. “The system is fundamentally broken,” Head said.

Head believes there are some good city department heads and that most solutions to the city’s problems are not complicated. “Many of these solutions are rarely sexy or politically expedient. But the Mayor and the City Council should stand together to push for improvements,” she said.

In addition to working on major initiatives like “tweaking the city’s pension program to make it healthy and last for generations,” Head immerses herself in small day to day accomplishments. “I am an optimist and am pleased by some progress that the City has made,” Head explained. Until she leaves office in May, 2018, Head says she expects to work hard “every single day” to fix what is broken in New Orleans.

Head believes the City of New Orleans is like “an ‘A’ student who continually gets a ‘C’ because we have never reached our potential. I am so glad to have been a part of bettering the community,” she said.

Head remains optimistic that improvements can be made in the police department and considers dramatically reducing violent crime to be the main discussion. “How are we going to ensure that the city is well managed in every way? We need real outcomes for success and repercussions for poor performance,” she said.

Head feels that District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro had done “an amazing job” and has the highest functioning department in the criminal justice system. She finds value in the reports Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux and his staff prepare. “I am very pleased with his work product.”

Head also praises Mayor Landrieu and his administration on lining up federal dollars for New Orleans. “It’s one of the great talents of the Administration,” she said. “But there are serious management problems and not enough coordination between the Sewerage and Water Board, the Department of Public Works and the Corps of Engineers,” she said. Head believes that better contract management is needed.

Head plans to watch the upcoming race for mayor closely and hopes that the public makes demands of candidates not to use broad statements but rather talk about incremental changes. “The new administration should set policies and hire people who can get it done. We must truly manage people,” she said.

Head is not certain about her future but she intends to stay involved in the community. She says her children — who basically grew up at City Hall — will enjoy having a mom who is not involved in politics. “Their exposure to people and ideas has given them a depth of knowledge far beyond most average kids,” Head continued.

Head believes that women still have a long way to go in terms of equity and status in the community including equal pay and serving on boards and commissions. “I do really get tired of the grand gestures of protecting and saving women. Instead of grand gestures, let’s look at salaries,” Head said.

Another woman with similar ideas is State Representative Helena Moreno who has become an outspoken advocate of many issues important to women including caring for victims of sexual assault, helping victims of domestic violence, eliminating bullying and sexist remarks by men, and restoring funding for health care and cancer clinics.

A former award-winning broadcaster and talented equestrian who worked a semester during college for First Lady Hillary Clinton, Moreno was named Legislator of the Year by the Alliance for Good Government. She is extremely popular among women voters, enjoys great crossover appeal, and has built a strong base of support in the business community.

In her 2008 run for Congress against William Jefferson, Moreno said she was “sick of the same old recycled politicians” and vowed to usher in a new era of honesty and change. Admirers call Moreno “tenacious, aggressive, and respectful.” Blessed with many talents and abundant resources, Moreno will run this race to win. Expect a packed house tonight at Basin Street Station.

ALICIA PLUMMER TO RUN AGAINST JAMES GRAY FOR COUNCIL DISTRICT E

New Orleans Real estate broker and advocate Alicia Plummer is expected to seek the Council District E seat against incumbent James Gray. A former public health nurse for the City of New Orleans, Plummer ran unsuccessfully for the State Legislature in 2015. She is a member of the Louisiana Democratic State Central Committee and the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee. Plummer is along the long-time Vice President of the New Orleans East Business Association.

Danae Columbus, who has had a 30-year career in politics and public relations, offers her opinions on Thursdays. Her career includes stints at City Hall, the Dock Board and the Orleans Parish School Board and work for City Council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Foster Campbell, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell. Her current clients include judicial candidates Suzanne Montero and Paula Brown.

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