City Council-at-Large Div. 2 candidates discuss tackling city problems, other issues

New campaign finance reports give insight into their war chests
Published: Oct. 15, 2021 at 7:57 PM CDT
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Three Democrats and one Green Party Member are running for the N.O. City Council-at-Large Div....
Three Democrats and one Green Party Member are running for the N.O. City Council-at-Large Div. 2 seat on the November 13 ballot.(Source: WVUE)

NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - In the race for the New Orleans City Council-at-Large Division 2 seat, three Democrats and a Green Party candidate are running. Three of the candidates are experienced politicians.

Current District “D” Councilman Jared Brossett, Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer who represents District “C” on the council, and former state senator J.P. Morrell are on the ballot as is Bart Everson, a Xavier University Creative Generalist for Faculty Development. Everson is a Green Party candidate who says he intentionally does not have campaign signs because he is focused on green policies.

The candidates were asked why they believe they are the best choice for the council-at-large seat and to represent people around the city.

“I’ve been a very hands-on, proactive District ‘D’ council member. In the last eight years, working on the issues that matter most to our families, stormwater projects, livable wages and you know, expanding small business and affordable housing,” answered Brossett.

“I think it’s really important to have somebody with a district council background in the at-large position, you know every day we deal with the quality-of-life issues that have faced this city from violent crime to trash to blight to housing,” said Palmer.

“It’s really simple, my two primary opponents are both sitting councilmembers and they’ve been there for eight years apiece and the question I posit to people is pretty straightforward, are you better off than you were 8 years ago? As a citizen of this city I think we can do so much more, the problems that we face whether it Sewerage and Water Board, whether it’s Entergy, whether it’s the streets, whether it’s crime, these are all perennial problems and no one’s solved them yet and I think I’m the one to solve them,” Morrell replied.

“I’m just a concerned citizen. I’m concerned about the climate crisis, global warming, they say it’s the biggest challenge facing humanity at a global level, well, we need to take action here in New Orleans because we’re one of the most vulnerable cities to climate change,” said Everson.

The latest campaign finance reports for the period covering early July to October 4 show Morrell received contributions of $114,805.00 and had $145,517.25 on hand.

Palmer according to her campaign finance report received contributions of $130,795.00 and funds on hand totaled $37,532.45.

Brossett had contributions during the same period of $25,700.00 and funds on hand at the close of the reporting period in the amount of $44,154.90.

And Everson got contributions of $1,927.00 and his funds on hand were $2,165.50.

The candidates were asked about the top problems they would tackle if elected.

“We have to tackle public safety, it’s an issue with the crime issue, we got to solve the whole problem with the juvenile crime. That’s the one thing that I will focus on enhancing the police force,” said Brossett. “We have to invest in recruitment. A thousand police officers is not going to cut it for our city, it must be increased and I’m going to work with the police forcer on that, invest in social programming for juveniles.”

Palmer said she would take actionable steps.

“We need a councilmember such as myself that understands that we need multiple ways of attacking that, not just from increased youth services but other really thoughtful programs like Cahoots with mental health services,” Palmer said. “My items that I’m talking about, that I’m discussing are actionable, right, and I think the population wants, we all want something actionable, not just another study.”

Morrell talked about addressing the city’s electric and gas utility, Entergy New Orleans.

“Immediately, utilities is a huge issue, what’s happened with Entergy over the last couple of months, the council has the unique ability of any other city council of the entire state that they directly regulate Entergy as a utility, our rates are too high and Entergy has been given the farm by this council for over eight years. As the next council-at-large I will reign Entergy in,” said Morrell.

Everson stuck with his theme of climate issues.

“Number one we have to hold Entergy accountable for providing not just cheap energy but clean energy, not just contributing to the climate crisis. Number two, we have to have better transportation options particularly public transit,” Everson stated.

Brossett said he also wants to address more infrastructure problems including at the Sewerage and Water Board.

The candidates were also asked their thoughts on the tenor of the campaign.

“The tenor of the campaign I believe is, you know, people are closely looking or starting to closely look and I’m encouraged by the support on the ground,” said Brossett.

Morrell said, “I’ve run a positive campaign, my campaign has been based upon my solutions, my plans.”

Palmer said it is changing and targeted Morrell as part of her response.

“With any campaign, it’s going to start getting more frazzled. I think I have an opponent who wants to politicize a tragedy on Canal Street which is really horrific,” Palmer said in reference to the deadly Hard Rock Hotel construction site collapse. “I think we all know when the council passed a conceptual idea many years ago, it changed, these developers changed it. It was never supposed to be a hotel, it was never supposed to be what they created it, but you know it’s unfortunate, but you know he has to grasp at straws.

Morrell replied to her claim.

“My campaign has said nothing about the Hard Rock collapse. What I will say is if anyone is politicizing the Hard Rock collapse the only person that’s held press conferences, that’s filed bills and that who’s attempted to capitalize on the Hard Rock collapse is Councilmember Palmer and she’s doing that because she fails to tell voters that she was the author of the bill that allowed Hard Rock to get built,” said Morrell.

Palmer went on to accuse Morrell of being a lobbyist.

“It’s not a claim, it’s a fact that J.P. Morrell is a lobbyist he works with Middleberg Riddle, one of the premier law firms that’s dealing with lobbyists both in the state and in the city of New Orleans, and when you look at the city council that deals with a lot of land use issues and things that come before us I think it’s very worrisome that we have somebody running for office that is a lobbyist,” said Palmer.

She claims Morrell has even lobbied her as a council member for clients he represents as an attorney.

“Oh yeah, to support his client absolutely and I think that’s a problem and he’s done it repeatedly, no one’s holding him accountable to that,” said Palmer.

Morrell adamantly denies Palmer’s accusations and calls on her to prove them.

“To be clear, I am not a lobbyist. I have never worked or been associated with lobbying. I am a lawyer who represents clients in court but what I will say is this, I can say definitively, and I invite her to produce proof that since I’ve left the legislature, I’ve never spoken to Councilman Palmer other than in passing, anywhere,” said Morrell.

He says Palmer’s actions speak of desperation.

“It’s completely false,” said Morrell. “She willing to say absolutely anything to stay in office. She is so desperate to have eight more years on the council and she will say and do anything.”

Brossett was also asked whether he thought his highly publicized DWI arrest and vehicle accident would hurt him with voters.

“I would hope not. I did what I had to do. I made a mistake, I did not run from it, I’m human. I addressed it. I’m a stronger man today than I’ve ever been before.”

The candidates also were asked if they had concerns about voters being distracted by the Hurricane Ida recovery.

“I think the election being moved back five weeks has certainly helped with that. I think if the election were held on its original timeline that would be a problem but think by November people will have reengaged the race, the issues that we face are so significant, I think people will eventually look at our platform,” said Morrell.

“Absolutely people are distracted right now but we really believe really strongly that when we go door-to-door and we talk to people about who we are and what we represent we’ve been getting an overwhelming response,” said Palmer.

Brossett says he is involved with constituents on the campaign trail and during his council work.

“I’m on the ground every day because I have a present job as the District D councilmember. I also chair the budget committee which we’re in the process of not only about to plan for the 2022 budget hearings but also in the process of appropriating and coordinating money from the ARP [American Rescue Plan],” Brossett stated.

And Everson said, “I’m worried that because of the hurricane and people trying to rebuild their lives they may not be focused on this election.”

Early voting begins October 30 and election day is November 13.

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