Jackie Clarkson’s staff walks out; City Councilwoman confesses to pushing them “to the wall”

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- New Orleans City Council member Jacqueline Clarkson, right, and Mark Romig look over the schedule for the 30th annual French Quarter Festival.
Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- New Orleans City Council member Jacqueline Clarkson, right, and Mark Romig look over the schedule for the 30th annual French Quarter Festival.

By Andrew Vanacore and Jeff Adelson

New Orleans bureau

Clarkson’s staff rebels, takes break

Don’t be fooled. Less than a year out from retirement, Jackie Clarkson is all smiles and grandmotherly affection while she’s running City Council meetings, but behind the scenes she’s apparently still driving her staff as hard as ever.

In fact, this week, she drove them right out of City Hall.

After a nearly five-hour council meeting on Thursday, Clarkson’s staff had had enough. They gave her a list of demands and told her they wouldn’t be coming in on Friday. “We had a very full agenda and I was giving a lot of orders and so they just got pushed to the wall,” Clarkson explained.

She insisted that everyone would be back at work on Monday after taking some time to cool off, but she made no apologies for plowing ahead in her last few months in office.

“I’m going harder than ever because I want to get so much done in such little time,” she said.

Clarkson will complete her two terms as at-large city councilwoman in May.

District B adversaries patching things up

LaToya Cantrell and Dana Kaplan campaigned against one another for the District B City Council seat with all of the mudslinging gusto that is typical of local council races.

Cantrell painted Kaplan, the head of Louisiana’s Juvenile Justice Project, as an intruding out-of-towner, a pretender spinning a “fairy tale about herself as a crime fighter.” Kaplan hit back by pointing out an ethics fine dating from Cantrell’s 2004 run for the School Board and dropping a mention or two about her husband’s marijuana arrest.

Have they patched things up so quickly? It’s certainly starting to look that way.

First there was a surprise joint appearance on Melissa Harris-Perry’s MSNBC show during the Essence Festival last weekend. A small step perhaps, given they were on to talk about gun violence, not politics.

But then just a few days later Cantrell used her spot on the council to recommend Kaplan for a two-year post on the New Orleans Human Relations Commission.

Dropping the talk about fairy tales, Cantrell gushed, “Given Dana’s experience with fighting for the dispossessed, it is only fitting that she serve on the Human Relations Commission and add her voice and expertise to the effort to make New Orleans a more equitable city.”

What a difference a few months makes.

Beautification bond challenge thrown out

Kenner can go ahead with a $47-million bond refinancing plan that would pay for beautification and drainage improvements after a Jefferson Parish judge tossed a lawsuit arguing the plan violated the city charter.

District Judge Michael Mentz threw out the suit on procedural grounds Tuesday, agreeing with city officials that Citizens for a Better Kenner, long-time opponents of Mayor Mike Yenni, had not followed the proper procedures in filing the suit.

The refinancing will extend the life of the bonds, which were supposed to mature in 2018, and provide about $28 million extra for the city to pursue capital improvement projects. That’s about $3.1 million less than had originally been projected because interest rates have gone up while the refinancing was stalled by the lawsuit.

The Kenner City Council is expected to take a final vote on the refinancing at its Thursday meeting.

Compiled by Andrew Vanacore and Jeff Adelson of
the New Orleans bureau