All five District A candidates make their cases at forum

City Councilwoman Susan Guidry stands by her record as she seeks a second term, but challenger Jason Coleman thinks New Orleans should be doing better. David Capasso would focus on raising workers’ wages, Stephen Gordon wants city government to run more like a small business, and Drew Ward thinks that New Orleans is being rebuilt in the wrong way. These were the pitches the five candidates for the District A seat on the City Council made to the Alliance for Good Government this week, as they also debated issues such as how to fix the streets in Lakeview, a proposed railroad through Hollygrove and Mid-City, the behavior of corner stores and, of course, crime. David Capasso
Capasso, a labor and civil-rights attorney, described himself to the Alliance as a “progressive Democrat with a capital ‘D'” with a “passion for social justice.” The state has dismantled a number of important government entities, he said, and his election would “send a message for a progressive agenda.”

Council members, challengers, call for new police chief in Alliance for Good Government forum

Two sitting members of the New Orleans City Council and all of their challengers said the city needs a new police chief on Wednesday night in a response to a question asked by the Alliance for Good Government. Councilwomen Stacy Head and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell — who are running in separate races for the at-large seats on the City Council — both answered “yes” in a yes-or-no lightning-round question that simply asked whether a new chief is needed. All three of their challengers — Jason Williams and Freddie Charbonnet, who are running against Hedge-Morrell, and Eugene Green, who is running against Head — answered “yes” as well. In the District A race, Councilwoman Susan Guidry was the lone vote of support for Superintendent Ronal Serpas, answering “no.” Three of her opponents — Jason Coleman, Stephen Gordon and David Capasso — all answered “yes.”

Democratic candidates meet in first forum for New Orleans city elections

Violent crime in neighborhoods, economic development and opportunity, balancing the city budget and even gay marriage and marijuana legalization were all discussed Tuesday night by Democratic candidates in the New Orleans city elections, many appearing on the same stage for the first time a mere three weeks before the Feb. 1 election day. The pace was brisk and the tone was mostly — though not always — genial as the Independent Women’s Organization asked a handful of questions to more than two dozen Democratic candidates for mayor, City Council and other citywide offices. City Council District A
For the District A City Council seat (which runs from the university area of Uptown through Carrollton, Mid-City, Bayou St. John and Lakeview), incumbent Susan Guidry was joined on stage by two other Democrats, Jason Coleman of Coleman Cab Company and attorney David Capasso.

New Orleans police show off new body cameras amid recruiting drive

New Orleans Police officials modeled the new cameras Friday that will be part of all on-duty officers’ uniforms this year, as efforts continue to recruit more officers to shore up the ranks of the shrinking police force. The city has purchased 420 body cameras, enough to be worn by all uniformed officers when they are in the field. The cameras can be placed on a helmet or visor, or directly on the officers’ chests, and are to be turned on whenever the officer is interacting with the public to increase the amount of evidence available and reduce disputes about those interactions, said NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas. The video is then downloaded at the end of the shift and stored. “This is the future of policing,” Serpas said.

Mayor highlights Lyons Center re-opening among 2013 recreation accomplishments

Mayor Mitch Landrieu used the Lyons Center — fully renovated and reopened this past summer after languishing since Hurricane Katrina — as a backdrop Thursday morning for a news conference touting New Orleans’ progress in public recreation in 2013. The $5 million renovation project improved the pool and the gym, as well as added computer rooms and a dance studio used by the New Orleans Ballet Association. Landrieu recalled that it was in the Lyons Center gym that he “attempted to learn how to play basketball when I was a baby boy” — to which City Councilwoman James Gray reminded him of his own memories sitting in the same bleachers, watching his son on the dominant team from Rosenwald that “tormented” the Lyons Center players and other city teams.

The project broke ground in 2012, and the center held its grand reopening ceremony in June. The mayor noted that it was one of the sites across New Orleans where the Red Cross offered 42,000 hours of swimming lessons this summer. “It is quite amazing, the work that has been done here,” Landrieu said of the Lyons Center.

Two Republicans unite campaigns in race for District A City Council seat

The two Republicans running for the New Orleans City Council District A seat are effectively joining forces in the Democratic district, with entrepreneur Reid Stone announcing his withdrawal Monday afternoon and joining the campaign of neighborhood-activist Drew Ward. Stone, an Uptown resident and founder of the HERO|farm marketing firm, said he originally decided to run for council based on three major issues — crime, streets and quality of life — but that included in that was an emphasis on making business easier to do in New Orleans. “If we could cater to small businesses as much as we cater to big business, I think we would see New Orleans making pretty big strides, quicker than we have been,” Stone said. But as he and Ward discussed their candidacies after the filing period ended, they realized that they shared some obvious similarities. Both are young and Catholic, and both see themselves as progressive Republicans — their statement announcing the endorsement describe the party as in need of rebranding, for example.

District A field expands to six candidates at close of qualifying; Cantrell draws no opponent

An advocate for Lakeview street repairs and a marketing entrepreneur bring the field of candidates vying for Susan Guidry’s seat on the New Orleans City Council to six when qualifying closed Friday afternoon, but Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell drew no opponents. Stephen Gordon and Reid Stone

New Orleans native Stephen Gordon is the owner of FlashTech, a company that designs automotive lighting, but he said his platform is simple: “Fix the streets in Lakeview.” “We have probably the worst streets in the city of New Orleans and nobody seems to be doing anything about it,” Gordon said. “The complaint falls on deaf ears, year in and year out. …

District A becomes a four-way race with entry of two more challengers, Capasso and Coleman

What had appeared to be a quiet re-election campaign for District A City Councilwoman Susan Guidry is heating up, with the unexpected entry of two more candidates: Jason Coleman, a Democratic activist and member of the Coleman Cab Company family, and David Capasso, an attorney active in progressive causes. Capasso filed papers to run for the seat Thursday. He is a member of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, the Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice, the Local 100 United Labor Unions and other progressive groups, and he cites civil-rights and labor issues among his legal specialties, according to the website for his law firm, Capasso & Associates. A Carrollton resident, Coleman qualified for the District A race on Friday morning. In addition to his advocacy for the taxi industry, Coleman ran last year for the Orleans Parish School Board seat held by Woody Koppel, and has served on the governing board for Audubon Charter School.

Guidry, Cantrell qualify for re-election; Guidry draws first challenger

On the first day of qualifying for the Feb. 1 City Council elections, LaToya Cantrell and Susan Guidry both filed for re-election, and Guidry drew her first challenger, a Riverbend neighborhood activist. As of the end of the qualifying period on Wednesday, Cantrell is the only candidate listed for the District B seat, which covers most of Uptown and the Central Business District, plus part of Mid-City. In District A, which spans from the university area of Uptown through Carrollton and Mid-City into Lakeview, Guidry will face Drew Ward, who filed as a Republican. Ward is frequent presence at Riverbend neighborhood businesses and often a vocal supporter of new businesses — strongly opposing the alcohol moratorium in the area, for example — and he has also created a project to restore brick sidewalks in the area.