The upcoming election, which includes an open primary for all City Council seats, will be Nov. 13. To give voters a chance to learn the policies, platforms and personal attributes their City Council candidates plan to bring to the office, Uptown Messenger has sent questionnaires to all of the District A and District B candidates. District B Councilman Jay H. Banks, who is running for re-election, reveals his answers below.
City Council District B
Jay H. Banks, Democrat
Place of birth: New Orleans
Education: McMain Magnet Secondary School; Dillard University, bachelor’s degree in business administration; Springfield College, master’s degree in organizational management
Current neighborhood: My wife and I live the Milan neighborhood after relocating in 2006 from Broadmoor due to Katrina.
Profession: Business administrator
Previous public office: Elected in 2018 and currently serving on the New Orleans City Council, District B; Democratic State Central Committee, 1995-2020; Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee, 1989-2020; at-large delegate for Joe Biden, 2020; at-large delegate for Hillary Clinton, 2016; at-large delegate for Barack Obama, 2008 and 2012
Memberships: New Zion Baptist Church, Zulu Social Aid & Pleasure Club, Rho Phi Chapter of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Acacia Lodge 248 of the Prince Hall Masons
Platta Temple 15 of the Shriners
Covid vaccination status: Fully vaccinated
What is your vision for the district?
The most important thing, and the reason I first ran for this position, is to enhance and maintain a high quality of life for all of our residents while ensuring the ability for working families to live and thrive in New Orleans.
What would be the first ordinance or resolution you would introduce?
My first priority will remain: keeping residents, families and neighbors in their neighborhoods. I’ll continue to build upon my legislative successes, especially in inclusionary zoning. There are numerous factors that have pushed generations of families from their homes, including short-term rentals, the lack of access to transportation and significant increases in property taxes. We have to use the laws to keep families in their homes as opposed to using laws to drive them out.
What should be the spending priorities for the $388 million the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan?
My priorities, in addition to public safety, are focused on modernizing and maintaining a functioning water and drainage system — because if we are 6 feet under water, none of the issues can be addressed. Whatever path we take with the funds, I am committed to the strategic, equitable, transparent and responsible use of these funds. I recently introduced a resolution emphasizing that commitment, which passed with unanimous support.
What would you do to better address juvenile crime?
I will continue to work to expand educational opportunities and increase opportunities for safe and structured activities that engage our youth. As chair of the council’s Community Development Committee, I have invited nonprofits to present on programs geared specifically to develop skills for children. We have to give our young people realistic opportunities for success that they can see, so that crime never becomes an option.
Should cash bail be eliminated?
We must focus on efforts that ensure public safety while minimizing the use of detention where it is not warranted. If the offense is of a non-serious nature that would allow the individual to be released if he pays, paying bail does not benefit anyone other than the bondsman. However, if he can’t pay, he is incarcerated and could lose his job, and then he becomes a burden on all of us. This system is extremely regressive on poor people and has no measurable benefit to the community. Yes, it should be eliminated.
What ideas do you have to bring non-tourism jobs and economic activity to New Orleans?
I will continue to help prospective businesses through the sometimes very complicated zoning process, while making sure that the residents’ needs and quality of life are enhanced and not diminished by commercial development. My office has been working with the administration as well as local and regional economic development organizations to craft a carefully structured BioDistrict TIF. The goal of this financing district is to catalyze growth in the biosciences fields and in health-related research, treatment, industry workforce development and economic equity. This could support more than 1,000 jobs per year with total earnings of $44.5 million. I am working to ensure that local residents get a significant portion of the jobs and that the economic benefits remain within Orleans Parish.
How can the city more quickly increase the number of affordable housing units?
I will work to expand the Inclusionary Zoning Policy that I introduced and passed on the council. It incentivizes and requires that new developments include affordable housing units. This legislative framework has already created more than 400 affordable units. We’re currently hard at work on the next steps: the creation of more affordable homeownership opportunities by utilizing blighted and adjudicated properties.
Is the city successfully handling short-term rental licensing and enforcement?
Unfortunately, no. Enforcement of the current laws ranges from very little to none. The current laws would be very effective if they were enforced. I pushed for and passed some of the most stringent laws in the country but enforcement is sorely lacking.
What can the Sewerage & Water Board do to reduce street flooding in non-hurricane events?
We made it through a Category 4 hurricane without significant flooding. The key to continued progress for the Sewerage & Water Board is good management, appropriate funding, open honest communication with the public, and solid decision making. The one common denominator that everyone in New Orleans has is the drainage, sewer and water system. We live below sea level, in a tropical climate and global warming is increasing. The reality of water is one that we cannot elude. We have to focus on continuing to modernize and maintain a functioning drainage system.
What is the most important personal attribute you would bring to city government?
I will continue to bring a proven and demonstrated record of service to New Orleans, extensive experience in performing the duties of a council member, a true understanding of the functions and responsibilities of the branches of government, honesty, transparency, straight talk and the 100% commitment to making New Orleans better for all of our citizens.
The deadline to register to vote in the GeauxVote Online Registration System is Oct. 23. (The deadline for in-person registration has passed.) Early voting is Oct. 30 through Nov. 6 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 31). The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 9 by 4:30 p.m. Absentee ballots must be received by the registrar of voters by Nov. 12 at 4:30 p.m.