Calling for a “fresh start” in the city of New Orleans, former School Board member Seth Bloom launched his City Council candidacy on Wednesday night, positioning himself as the vanguard of a new generation of civic leadership.
Bloom was elected to the School Board in 2008 at age 30, and chose not to seek re-election after two terms last year. He said he was brought up in the world of public service, waving campaign signs and helping his mother and grandmother volunteer for charity events.
A lack of opportunity in New Orleans for his peers meant many left the city when he was younger, Bloom said, but it is now time for his generation to step forward.
“I’m part of an age group that left New Orleans in the 1990s in droves during a downturning economy and an upturn in crime — the sad exodus of New Orleans’ most promising, talented and forward thinking minds, until the events of Hurricane Katrina brought this brain drain to an end,” Bloom said in remarks before a crowded ballroom at the Martine Chaisson Gallery in downtown New Orleans.
“Katrina, although a devastating blow to the city, prompted a renewed interest in the great potential and promise of New Orleans,” Bloom continued. “It is our time to rise to the challenges at hand and establish a greater leadership role in our New Orleans community, a fresh start with broad institutional changes to rebuild the foundation of a dated city government machine.”
Bloom is vying for the District B seat vacated by LaToya Cantrell’s run for mayor in the Oct. 14 city elections. He will face a crowded field of four other announced candidates — Jay Banks, Eric Johnson, Catherine Love and Timothy David Ray. Bloom said that his leadership on the School Board — including two years as board president — shows a commitment to reform that he will bring to city government.
“Today I’m taking the next step in furthering that commitment to keep New Orleans on the right track,” Bloom said.
Chief among his priorities, Bloom said, will be combating the city’s current surge in crime. It will take both short-term and long-term solutions, he said, such increasing interdepartmental cooperation, drawing on new anti-terrorism technology, and choosing leadership “with a proven track record of cleaning up urban violence.”
Further, Bloom said, as a criminal defense attorney he knows well the city’s need for a focus on treatment rather than incarceration for the many offenders with drug problems.
“No one was born to commit a crime. The old methods of prevention are simply not working,” Bloom said. “…We can not arrest our way out of the problem. We have to be smart on crime, and not just tough on crime. We need to treat drug addicts and the mentally ill like patients, instead of prisoners, and specifically address the opioid epidemic.”
Bloom said city leaders should do a better job of looking at fast-growing peer cities around the South like Atlanta or Houston for solutions to economic development — without actually allowing the city to become Atlanta or Houston, he said to laughter.
“I believe New Orleans has the greatest character of any American city,” Bloom said. “But if we want to remain a place where people want to visit and live, we need to modernize our infrastructure. Basic issues like streets, green space and blight must be addressed.”
All of these goals, Bloom said, require the entire city working together, and he promised to lead District B in a way that represents all its citizens.
“There is a racial divide in our consciousness and a social divide in our communities that we can and must do something about, especially as we approach our city’s tricentennial,” Bloom said. “This is the time for unity.
This is the time for healing. This is the time for development. I humbly ask you to support me as I run for District B to represent a new generation of leaders in New Orleans.”
Bloom’s colleague on the School Board, Woody Koppel, introduced him, and Bloom praised Koppel as a mentor.
“Seth has always been a standout and a leader,” Koppel said. “He’s quietly gotten things done, which is important on a raucous board at certain points.”
Also attending the kickoff event were former School Board members Lourdes Moran and Thomas Robichaux, St. Charles Parish District Attorney Joel Chaisson, former District B candidate Eric Strachan, and political activists Richard Perque, Scott Shea and Phyllis Landrieu.
Candidates will file the paperwork to run for the office July 12 through 14.