With the incumbent barred by term limits, District D has three candidates vying to bring their brand of leadership to the area. State Rep. Jared Brossett, former Southern University at New Orleans Chancellor Joseph Bouie, Ph.D., and educator and consultant Dalton Savwoir round out the field. All three men are Democrats. With many of the communities that are a part of the district among those hardest hit by Hurricane Katrina, continued recovery as well as economic growth tops the list of concerns.
A retired educator and former chancellor of Southern University at New Orleans, Joseph Bouie says he will be the independent, effective and accountable leader that District D needs. Bouie says he knows the District and will immediately begin working with other members of the Council to address major issues of its residents if elected while remaining responsive and open to his constituents.
“I plan to create a different paradigm for public service,” he says. “Elected officials often function as if that position belongs to them and they forget that it belongs to the people.”
Among the issues Bouie cites are crime, economic development, blight reduction and infrastructure needs.
“We must create the safest environment possible for our families and community,” Bouie says. His plan includes addressing NOPD’s manpower shortage, but says he does not think relaxing residency requirements is the answer to the problem.
He believes the department’s recruitment policies should be reviewed, questioning whether the 60 hours of college or two years of military service are practical or even necessary requirements.
“I embrace education,” Bouie says. “I also know that there is a different way to do that. We can prepare our own citizens to be the kind of police we want.”
As for economic development, Bouie says strict compliance with the ordinances governing city contracts as they relate to disadvantaged and local businesses is the only way to ensure equity for New Orleans residents.
“The purpose of government is to ensure that a community has what it needs on a day-to-day basis to not only survive, but to thrive,” Bouie says, “And if members of the community aren’t participating in the production, construction and consumption taking place in the city, then government is not doing its job. Too many of our contracts are given to out-of-city and state contractors who import workers to perform the city’s capital and operational business. The nine percent city-wide unemployment rate is an indicator of non- compliance (with DBE and local business ordinances). And the 52 percent unemployment rate among African American males is a major factor contributing to the city’s poverty and crime rates in our community.”
Bouie says he is also committed to working with the City Council to encourage a living wage for citizens. One of his ideas is to offer local businesses a tax incentive program to raise employee wages.
“We do it for the movie industry. Why can’t we do it for our small businesses?
As for infrastructure, Bouie says he will work to make certain that District D gets it fair share of allocations for street repairs and other infrastructure needs and will investigate why $1.5 billion in federal disaster recovery aid has not been released by the state, money earmarked for home rebuilding, infrastructure repairs and business assistance.
Attempts to reach state Rep. Jared Brossett were unsuccessful.
As a member for six years president for the past two years of the Gentilly Improvement Association, Dalton Savwoir says he has been politically active in his community for some time. He wants to bring his political involvement to the next level by representing the district on the City Council.
As a community leader, Savwoir says he understands true civic engagement. The Gentilly Improvement Association he heads brings together 22 neighborhood associations. District D has needs Savwoir says have yet to be addressed in a community that suffered great loss as a result of Hurricane Katrina.
He wants to see more economic development in District D, he says, adding that he is unimpressed by the coming of Wal-Mart Supercenter.
“Wal-Mart is still a low-end box store, and I think we have sufficient income to warrant high-end and high-quality retail. We have a lot to do in District D, and we need a person dedicated to getting that done.”
As a city council member, Savwoir says he would also focus on helping local small businesses grow while working to create training for high-quality jobs in New Orleans beyond the city’s tourism-driven cultural economy.
Savwoir, who has a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and a doctorate in epidemiology, says he understands firsthand the issues of unemployment and underemployment residents across the city face. He now works a substitute teacher while also attending school to earn his teaching certification.
“I have two degrees and couldn’t find a job,” Savwoir says. “This is a majority Black city and we are not taking care of our own.”
He says intense performance monitoring and transparency are critical to enforcing the city’s DBE and local business rules.
And crime and public safety are also important issues for Savwoir’s campaign. While violent offenders need to be incarcerated, Savwoir says the city must begin to address root causes of crime by investing more in education, recreation and job opportunities.
And when it comes to recruiting police officers, he doesn’t think residency should be an issue, though he wants to see increased sensitivity training and more stringent psychological evaluations of recruits and officers.
“The NOPD has such a hard time recruiting and maintaining officers that we should not limit it to New Orleans residents,” he says. “We are lucky to find people willing to risk their lives.”