Coastal parishes creating a united front, and other area political news

Group to address flood insurance hikes

Jefferson Parish President John Young will lead a new organization dedicated to coordinating coastal parishes’ efforts to present a unified front as they work on coastal-erosion and wetlands-restoration issues and fight flood insurance hikes.

Louisiana Parishes Against Coastal Erosion brings together 20 south Louisiana parishes to advocate in front of state and national lawmakers for solutions to coastal issues, Young said.

“We’ll be working together as a group,” he said. “We’ll be speaking with a unified voice.”

One of the group’s first focuses will be scheduled increases in federal flood insurance rates. A bill to delay those increases is expected to come up for a vote in the U.S. Senate in January, and Young said the organization will continue to fight for changes in the Biggert-Waters Act, which prompted the new rates, to prevent residents from being hit with massive increases in their premiums.

Beyond that, Young said, the new group will serve as a united front on a variety of other issues related to coastal erosion and restoration.

The group is the outgrowth of efforts to fight Biggert-Waters and of interparish collaboration that started during the Deepwater Horizon oil-spill disaster, Young said.

The group is not likely to take a stand on several recent lawsuits accusing oil and gas companies of damaging coastal wetlands, including cases filed by Jefferson Parish. The organization includes Terrebonne and Lafourche parishes, hubs of the state’s energy industry.

“The organization is very lukewarm” on the suits, Young said.

The other parishes involved in the organization are: Orleans, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John the Baptist, St. Bernard, Plaquemines, Calcasieu, Cameron, Vermilion, St. Martin, Iberia, St. Mary, Ascension, St. James, Assumption, Livingston and Tangipahoa.

Hats in ring in Harahan

The election may be months away, but the campaign for Harahan’s top cop has already kicked off.

Two candidates, both with law enforcement backgrounds, formally threw their hats in the ring during Thursday’s City Council meeting.

The announcements portend a long campaign season for Darlene Schwartz and Tim Walker. Candidates can’t even qualify for the April 5 election until February.

Schwartz has most recently served as the community policing coordinator for Harahan, following a 35-year career in federal law enforcement.

“I’m very strong-minded about having a good community policing program to continue with citizen participation,” she told the council Thursday.

Walker, a former Harahan council member, served with the New Orleans Police Department for 17 years before retiring.

“Harahan is the closest thing to country living on this side of Lake Pontchartrain, and I want to keep it that way,” he said.

Former Chief Mac Dickinson left the department in October to return to the Louisiana State Police as a teacher at the agency’s training academy. Joseph Lorenzo, who worked at the Harahan Police Department for a year after decades with the New Orleans Police Department, has served as interim chief since mid-October.

Lorenzo will not be running for the permanent chief’s position.

Love him or hate him

It hasn’t been the easiest couple of months for Harahan Mayor Vinny Mosca.

As a leading proponent of a controversial plan to build a shopping center on part of the former Colonial Golf and Country Club site, Mosca has heard his share of harsh criticism from constituents. Some opponents of building on the property — which is owned by John Georges, who also owns The New Orleans Advocate — have even launched a recall petition against the mayor.

So perhaps it wasn’t surprising that Mosca closed out the last City Council meeting of the year by saying he was sorry.

“For all of you who hate me, I apologize again,” Mosca said. “It’s the end of the year, so I apologize.”

“For all of those who love me, my heartfelt thanks,” he added, singling out his wife for particular gratitude.

Endorsements aplenty

With the election season gearing up, candidates for New Orleans offices have started picking up endorsements — most of them expected.

In the two highest-profile citywide races, the Greater New Orleans AFL-CIO has endorsed incumbent Mayor Mitch Landrieu and incumbent Sheriff Marlin Gusman.

The union federation went against incumbents in two other races. It endorsed Dwight McKenna for coroner over Frank Minyard, who has held the office since the 1970s, and Eugene Green, a onetime aide to former Mayor Marc Morial, over City Councilwoman Stacy Head for an at-large council seat.

The union also backed Clerk of Criminal District Court Arthur Morrell for re-election and his wife, Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, a longtime council district member, for the other at-large spot. Incumbent council members Susan Guidry and James Gray got the nods in districts A and E, while newcomers Nadine Ramsey, a former civil court judge, and state Rep. Jared Brossett received the endorsements in open districts C and D. LaToya Cantrell is unopposed in District B.

While Head did not get the union’s backing, she did pick up two endorsements from contrasting organizations: the Central City-based black organization BOLD and the conservative white Regular Democratic Organization.

Candidate forums set

Two forums for various Orleans Parish candidates are scheduled for early January.

The Independent Women’s Organization will host a forum for mayoral, sheriff, council and coroner candidates at 6 p.m. Jan. 7 at the ILA Office Building, 601 Louisiana Ave.

The East New Orleans Neighborhood Advisory Commission will hold a candidate forum at 6:30 p.m. Jan. 14 at the St. Maria Goretti Community Center, 7300 Crowder Blvd. Candidates from City Council districts D and E, as well as the two citywide council seats, are expected to attend.

Compiled by Jeff Adelson and Laura Maggi