NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Three of the major candidates for New Orleans mayor fielded questions before dozens of business and professional leaders.
The topic of how to reduce the city's crime problem led the questioning.
"Nothing stops a bullet like a job, so connecting our young people to workforce development, and training opportunities so again they can reach their full potential has to be a part of it," said candidate Latoya Cantrell.
"We have an opioid problem here in the city of New Orleans today, so some of the reasons that you see the smash and grabs and the criminal activity today has to be addressed and I have a plan to address the opioid addictions that go on," stated candidate Troy Henry.
"We've got to build up our police department right now and the way we build up the police department for of all across the board give a $10,000 raise. That's not only going to help with recruitment, that's going to help with retention," candidate Michael Bagneris said.
Bagneris believes the funds are already available to pay for such raises.
"What we're talking about in payment is $10 million. You know, we already had projected for 2018 a $10 million additional funds, so the money is already there. But even if it wasn't already there, if public safety is your number one priority, then you find it in the budget. It's less than two-percent of the budget" he said.
Candidate Desiree Charbonnet, whose fundraising bested the other candidates in the last state campaign finance reports, was invited but did not attend. A spokesman said there was a scheduling conflict.
The candidates also were asked about the recent problems at the Sewerage and Water Board and the flooding last month from heavy rainfall.
"I would look to getting a constitutional amendment that would create would the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Department, building in better accountability and internal controls locally," said Cantrell.
"I've seen and managed very well performing water systems throughout the country. Today the Sewerage and Water Board is a debacle," added Henry.
Bagneris favors reaching out to some of the best minds in the field for an assessment.
"We shouldn't do a knee-jerk reaction because of the August 5th flood. What we should do is get the knowledgeable individuals in, like I would the National Regulatory Research Institute. Federal programmers to come in and give us an idea, not only about our equipment. I'd have them give us information as it relates to the positions that have to operate that equipment," said Bagneris.
The three candidates were also asked about the number of people working here at city hall and whether they will work to pare down that number.
"Yes, it's top-heavy," replied Bagneris.
"It is too top-heavy. I would right-size city hall," said Cantrell.
"We will reduce the head count of city hall. It's inefficient today," said Henry.
They also talked bringing new jobs to the city.
"The way you get 40,000 new jobs to migrate to this city of New Orleans is through the aggressive recruitment of Fortune 1000 companies," Henry said.
"One key component is to restructure our incentives and how we incentivize development," said Cantrell.
A member of the audience asked the candidates if they would support the removal of the Andrew Jackson statue in the city.
"I would not be taking up that issue as mayor as I do not have the authority to," said Cantrell.
"Change the trajectory of our city and not get involved in a lot of this other nonsense stuff that divides us," said Henry.
"Where do we stop? What about Jackson Avenue? Do we get rid of Jackson Avenue, too. Yeah, Michael Jackson would be in jeopardy," said Bagneris to laughter from the audience.
"This election was very important so we wanted to get the candidates and hear what they had to say about some important issues," said Tommy Moore, President of the New Orleans Rotary Club.