Uptown city council, school board races begin this week with appearances, campaign organizing

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In the first official week of the race for the District B seat on the City Council, Eric Strachan will be meeting tonight with a neighborhood association his parents helped found, LaToya Cantrell and Dana Kaplan are beginning to knock on doors in Uptown neighborhoods, and late entrants Buck Horton and Donald Vallee are both getting their campaigns organized.

LaToya Cantrell

Broadmoor Improvement Association leader LaToya Cantrell‘s primary activity this week will be canvassing District B neighborhoods, knocking on doors and talking to voters, said campaign spokesman David Winkler-Schmit. Cantrell’s four simultaneous campaign launch parties around the district went well on Friday evening, Winkler-Schmit said.

“It was a nice, diverse audience, and despite the Saints preseason game, a lot of supporters got out there,” Winkler-Schmit said. “It was a really good vibe going into this election season.”

Marlon “Buck” Horton

Bounce artist and restaurant owner Marlon “Buck” Horton said he also had a busy weekend assembling a campaign team, meeting supporters and collecting his first campaign contributions. Horton is planning a campaign launch party at 9 p.m. Saturday at the Behind the 8 Ball club at 3715 Tchoupitoulas, he said, and next week will speak at a Katrina anniversary event on Wednesday at Hunter’s Field at St. Bernard and North Claiborne, stressing to young people the importance of registering to vote.

“I want them to put in their head that: Now is your time to vote,” Horton said. “Now you’re part of society, so voice your opinion.”

Dana Kaplan

Dana Kaplan, director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana, said her campaign will be organizing volunteer meetings and will also be canvassing District B neighborhoods, returning to the homes of the more than 1,000 people who signed a petition to get her on the ballot and introducing herself to more of their neighbors.

“I’m excited to be getting out there,” Kaplan said. “Hopefully, we’ll meet even more voters than before.”

Eric Strachan

Eric Strachan, former chief of staff for Councilwoman Stacy Head, will make a presentation to the Coliseum Square Association, home turf in a way since his parents were founding members of the organization. The meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. tonight (Monday, Aug. 20) at the Bridge Lounge, 1201 Magazine Street. The Strachan campaign could not be immediately reached Monday morning to discuss other plans for the week.

Donald Vallee

Businessman Donald Vallee said he attended a meeting of the City Council’s Housing and Human Needs committee on Monday morning, and planned to spend the rest of the week meeting with supporters and community groups that want to get to know him since he filed to run. A longtime New Orleans businessman involved in commercial banking and real-estate with a long personal and family history of public service, Vallee said he knows two of his opponents well, Cantrell and Strachan, and praised both of them for the work they’ve both done, but said he felt compelled to serve.

“It’s time to get back involved again. I have the expertise, I have the experience, and I have the contacts,” Vallee said. “I’m a businessman, and I would like to see the city to grow economically. We need to be more frugal, but at the same time, provide the services that are needed.”

School Board races
Uptown New Orleans will also see a contested race for Orleans Parish School Board District 6 (which covers the Carrollton and university areas), where incumbent Woody Koppel will face a challenge from Jason Coleman, a Democratic Party official and third-generation member of the Coleman Cab Company family.

Jason Coleman

Coleman said he will be attending the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte in two weeks, and that his school board campaign will begin in earnest after he returns. In the meantime, he has been meeting with the NOPD Second District leadership about improving relationships with west Carrollton residents after a successful anti-crime march there, and plans to represent the Democratic Party at the upcoming budget meeting for City Council’s District A. He will also be meeting with the teacher’s union seeking their support, he said.

Among his reasons for running, Coleman said he is concerned about the governance of the Orleans Parish School Board — with a separate superintendent over charter schools alone — and with what he sees as the slow pace of renovations among OPSB-owned properties around the city.

“I’m blessed. In Uptown, we have the best schools with the highest rating,” Coleman said, but said that he would represent the entire city. “But the RSD is way past the OPSB in putting buildings up. We need to come up with a funding source to provide for constant renovations.”

Woody Koppel

Koppel said he has already begun meeting with neighborhood leaders and will soon begin going door-to-door — four years ago, he went to nearly every home in District 6, he said. The board’s challenge moving forward, Koppel said, will to continue working to allocate limited tax dollars for education, as well as monitoring the progress of the board’s charters as closely as possible without interfering.

In his campaign, Koppel said he will focus on the improvements at the Orleans Parish School Board over his four years — rising from 17th in the state to second academically, and getting a clean bill of fiscal health after years of financial chaos.

“Where we we before, and where are we now?” Koppel said. “I think we’re in a lot better place.”

[Note: This article was first published at 1:38 p.m. Monday and updated with Koppel’s comments and the details of Horton’s launch party at 2:40 p.m.]

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