Apr 132017
 

Frank Scurlock (photo by Danae Columbus for UptownMessenger.com)

Danae Columbus

Danae Columbus, opinion columnist

Wealthy entrepreneur and world traveler Frank Scurlock, who recently submitted one of the failed bids to redevelop the Six Flags site, is a strong contender the most unconventional candidate to announce for mayor in this cycle. Some even call Scurlock “the Rodney Fertel” of 2017.

Fertel was the husband of the late restaurateur Ruth Fertel who founded the Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse chain. He ran for mayor in 1969 with one campaign promise — to acquire a pair of gorillas for the Audubon Zoo. Fertel became known as the “The Gorilla Man” and was memorialized in the book The Gorilla Man and the Empress of Steakby his son philanthropist Randy Fertel.

Scurlock could best be called “The Fun Man.” A 54 year-old Republican, Scurlock coined the phrase “Make America Fun Again,” and selected “Make New Orleans Fun Again” as his campaign theme. Scurlock currently earns a damn good living building floating water parks around the globe. Several weeks ago Spurlock completed a marathon 10-day, 10-city tour to meet with government officials interested in bringing his style of economic development to their regions. Scurlock boasts that he will open 40 water parks “somewhere in the world” during the next 60 days. He would also like to redevelop the Lincoln Beach site in eastern New Orleans.

Scurlock says he was a “kindergarten drop-out” who graduated from Sam Barthe School for Boys (now Ecole Classique) and briefly attended Loyola University. He operated his family’s highly successful business – Space Walk, an inflatable children’s birthday party staple, and later the Fun Factory which was developed for indoor entertainment. Scurlock’s father John, a visionary engineer, constructed the first inflatable amusement ride in 1959 in New Orleans.

“I will be respectful of the past,” explained Scurlock who carries five cell phones to keep up with his ever-increasing number of employees and consultants around the globe. “I have no desire to be a politician but have a desire to do good.”

Scurlock believes that New Orleans problems can best be described through the acronym ACE – affordable housing, crime and education. “The lack of affordable housing is the top issue followed by education and crime. Crime ties back to education and housing. The police department needs a serious overhaul. We should give it every resource. Our current police chief is a complete puppet of the mayor,” Scurlock explained.

Scurlock says he was carjacked at the corner of Tchoupitoulas and Napoleon in 2010. After sitting for two hours in the district station to give a statement, “I came to realize that it was worthless to make a police report,” said Scurlock. He plans to change political party affiliation in the near future.

A big fan of technology and its application in every facet of daily living, Scurlock ran a flight of television spots last weekend on Cox Channel 15 and recently shot a campaign commercial at Paris’ Eiffel Tower. He is also well known for operating the airplanes that “sky write” messages over Jazz Fest each year.

Scurlock resides in the French Quarter, and often decamps to the Columns Hotel during Mardi Gras to get away from the hectic Quarter scene.

Scurlock will primarily self-fund his campaign. He has “no idea” how much money he will spend because he has never “done it before” and is not going to run a traditional campaign. Either way, Scurlock is bringing a new, unorthodox voice to New Orleans politics that will certainly make the mayor’s race more fun.

HIGH STAKES MAYORAL MATCH UP BETWEEN CANTRELL & CHARBONNET LOOMING

It’s becoming more and more possible that the two leading candidates in the race for New Orleans mayor will be African-American females – Councilmember Latoya Cantrell and Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet, who is leaning strongly to entering the fray.

According to the New York Times, when women run for political office these days, they are just as likely as men to be elected. The main reason women are still so under-represented, the Times says, is that they don’t run often enough in the first place.

Only 19.3 percent of candidates for mayor in the most recent elections held in America’s top 100 cities were women, according to a report by the City University of New York’s Institute for State and Local Governance. Study co-author Victoria Lawson says that women often “don’t see running as viable even when they are qualified.”

Cantrell and Charbonnet both have a clear vision of themselves as mayor. Charbonnet is a “tried and true” elected official, according to one consultant, who already has won three city-wide elections decisively. Charbonnet also beat a candidate Mayor Marc Morial was supporting while he was in office.

Charbonnet is “battle-tested” and could start with a huge coalition of people from various political factions not normally supporting the same candidate.

Cantrell is passionate and a tireless worker. Not having run city-wide previously, Cantrell had to step out early to build name recognition. Rumors abound that Cantrell’s fundraising is moving slowly, and she is not expected to report more than $300,000 in the next filing, only a fraction of what is needed for a successful mayor’s race. Critics also say that Cantrell has on several occasions flip-flopped on issues and retreated from promises when pressure was applied, making it difficult for those affected to always rely on her.

Another prospective mayoral candidate – State Rep Walt Leger – was born just down the road in St. Bernard Parish. Leger – who allegedly has hired consultants for the race – could find himself in a real squeeze between the two formidable females. A clearly attractive candidate with a solid track record, Leger has long been an asset to New Orleans and has tremendous fundraising ability with the business community. He should not be counted out any time soon.

JASON WILLIAMS LIVING THE GOOD LIFE AS COUNCILMEMBER AT LARGE

Councilmember At Large Jason Williams, who was encouraged by many to seek the office of Mayor, said yesterday his decision not to run was based in part on his children. “My oldest is getting ready to attend college and we have been looking at various schools. My 11-year-old son plays soccer and is becoming a good athlete. I try to attend all his games,” explained Williams. He also enjoys the flexibility the council-at-large job offers.

While Williams will qualify for re-election, he acknowledges a future race for District Attorney could be on the horizon.

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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