Two vie for District 5 seat on Jefferson Parish Council - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Two vie for District 5 seat on Jefferson Parish Council

Both Mike Thomas and Jennifer Van Vrancken want to represent District 5 on the Jefferson Parish Council.

“I’ve served in parish government for the past five years. We worked very hard in the Young administration to restore trust in government so far, and foremost I want to protect what we’ve done and not lose that ground,” Van Vrancken said Monday.

Thomas believes he is fully qualified for the position.

“I’ve been involved in government pretty much my whole adult life, and I think that we need good people to be our leaders,” Thomas said.

Van Vrancken, a lawyer and former television journalist, rose to the No. 2 position in Parish President John Young’s administration and resigned to run for the Parish Council seat now held by Cynthia Lee-Sheng. Lee-Sheng was elected without opposition recently to one of the two council at-large seats.

Thomas, also an attorney, served as a councilman-at-large on an interim basis between 2011 and 2012, was an aide to Councilman Tom Capella, and is a former assistant district attorney and former assistant parish attorney.

“When I was on the council before as an interim councilman, I helped vote and provide the funding for the license plate recognition cameras that caught those two people that did that horrible murders on Clifford Avenue,” he said.

Both want the best crime-fighting tools for the sheriff’s office.

“A council person gets discretionary funding, also there are some monies that we will have from BP. I would like to make available crime cameras in every neighborhoods that wants them.”

East Jefferson Hospital sits in District 5, and it remains without a lease partner. Before leasing the hospital, Van Vrancken wants to make sure it is not a rush to judgment. She said she would work with state lawmakers to see if more dollars could be received for uncompensated care.

“I think it’s time to catch our breath with East Jefferson Hospital. We’ve been traumatized in this lengthy process - doctors, nurses, patients need stability.  I’m not opposed to leasing in the future, but I don’t want to rush into the wrong lease.”

"This is where my partner and I differ greatly, I believe the only solution to this problem is a long-term lease for East Jefferson,” Thomas said.

Drainage canals in District 5 have been the site of numerous vehicles driving into the water. Both candidates believe public awareness is a must and said barriers are not the only solution.

"I think better educating the people, saying you what put your phones down and concentrate on driving will reduce those incidences,” said Thomas.

"One of the examples of how we can re-envision our canals is look at Canal Street, on Canal Street we're putting in double box culverts, we're going to fill in on top of that, and then put a walking path in both directions,” said Van Vrancken.

As election day nears, attacks fly.

"Here are the facts about Jennifer, fact 1, when she was Deputy Chief Operating Officer the State Ethics Board had to block her from awarding lucrative legal contracts to her husband's law firm,” a radio ad for Thomas said.

"Everything that I'm trying to inform people of are the things that she's done while she was in a position to serve,” he said.

"I did not expect outright blatant defamatory lies. I can answer that with one sentence. With my husband's law firm, the firm sought  an advisory opinion in advance to see if a lawyer in the firm could do any work with the parish, the Ethics Board advised no, they did not seek the contract, they've never had a contract with the parish,” said Van Vrancken.

In a TV ad she hits Thomas.
“…You can’t go around telling were a crime fighter as an assistant DA, I mean you were assigned to Traffic Court for Pete’s sake, you prosecuted people for traffic violations which is not exactly fighting crime, come on Mike, just because you were busting people for parking tickets doesn't make you a crime fighter that's bulls**t Mike,” an ad being run by the Committee to Elect Jennifer Van Vrancken says.

"For her to take the ads out against me, I think she really does need to look at her facts and when you look at the facts, I think my facts will win,” said Thomas in response to the ad.

"I think it's a light-hearted way to ask people to check his math, he says he prosecuted 78,000 in a three year period of time, you take away holidays and weekends, that's more and a hundred cases a day,” said Van Vrancken.

To bring more young families to Jefferson Van Vrancken wants a concert stage for Bucktown Marina. Thomas would like First Parish Court moved to Fat City to spur more economic development.

The election is Oct. 24.

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