Here’s something you would not have expected to see even a few months ago: Sheriff Marlin Gusman at a news conference called by Mayor Mitch Landrieu.
After all, the mayor spent a good part of this year arguing that Gusman has been such a poor manager of the local jail that the federal government should step in and take it over. Gusman has been happy to fire back, even suggesting at one point in an interview with the New Orleans Tribune — though without mentioning Landrieu by name — that some of the criticism was racist.
And yet, there they were on Tuesday, both talking up the Landrieu administration’s efforts to bring the murder rate down by targeting the city’s most dangerous gang members. Taking the podium with the mayor at his right, Gusman turned, looked back at Landrieu and said, “Mayor, it’s showing results.”
Then again, it’s been a campaign season of odd, or at least interesting, bedfellows. Just a couple of weeks ago it was Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell raising eyebrows by showing up for a re-election kickoff event for her council colleague Stacy Head. Allies, these two have not always been.
The apparent thaw between Landrieu and Gusman has been slowly coming into view over the past few months. The mayor ultimately could not convince a judge to put Orleans Parish Prison into federal receivership. Gusman took a relatively modest budget appropriation from the mayor to run the jail in 2014 without protesting much.
And, contrary to some expectations, the mayor has not backed anyone else to run against Gusman for sheriff in February’s election, although his cousin, former longtime Sheriff Charles Foti, has joined the race. Landrieu has not said whether he plans to make an endorsement.
Civic group outlines electoral priorities
The group Forward New Orleans, a coalition of civic and business organizations, issued the list of priorities Tuesday that it will be asking candidates for mayor and the City Council to pledge to support this campaign season.
The group’s platform is similar to the one it drew up for elections in 2010, though somewhat broader in scope and more detailed. Typically, most candidates for major offices have agreed to support the group’s goals, or at least most of them.
On perhaps the city’s highest-profile issue, crime and the criminal-justice system, the group is asking candidates to promise immediate steps to address attrition in the New Orleans Police Department, develop a budget and strategic plan that cut across all of the city’s criminal-justice agencies, and come up with new techniques for combating violent crime, among other steps.
On blight, the group wants candidates to pledge to keep up the city’s “aggressive” approach to enforcing existing laws, reach out to neighborhood groups for help and support efforts to stimulate market demand for fallow properties.
And on public education, the group asks candidates to support independent charter schools, giving parents a choice about which schools their children attend, and the use of “performance standards” to gauge how schools are measuring up.
In all, Forward New Orleans lists 11 issues, calling for a handful of measures in each category. The group will ask candidates to sign their names to the platform over the next few weeks, then follow up periodically after the elections with status reports on each issue.
Covington council kills alley proposal
The Covington City Council had a back-alley fight last week after one councilman tried to rename a 260-foot strip of gravel, lined by dilapidated apartments, to honor his father.
The motion to introduce an ordinance to change the name of Voss Alley to Alex Coner Way drew no support from the rest of the seven-member council and quickly died.
Councilman Jerry Coner, who owns the properties that line the alley, offered the motion. It drew an angry response from Judy Voss, the daughter of Louis Voss, a former Covington councilman, streets commissioner and businessman. Voss never lived on Voss Alley, but he had a grocery store and built apartments in the area.
Judy Voss said Coner’s suggestion dishonored her father’s legacy, and she seemed to see a racial animus behind it.
“He did a lot for the black community,” Voss said of her father. The Vosses are white, while Coner is black.
Coner said there are already two other streets — one private — named for Voss, and that he wished to honor his own father, who he said worked two jobs to support his family.
Coner’s proposal also drew the ire of former Councilwoman Frances Dunn, who called it a distraction from issues like poverty and blight that plague the West 30s neighborhood in which the alley lies. Dunn is also black.
When Coner moved to introduce the ordinance, no one offered a second. Afterward, he refused to comment on the ordinance or talk about his father.
Compiled by staff writers Andrew Vanacore and Faimon A. Roberts III