Joe Giarrusso says community activism has always been important to him. It is one of the reasons he wants to continue to serve as the District A representative on the New Orleans City Council. Perhaps even more important, he believes, is the level of commitment needed to serve his community.
“I have always been very active in the community, even before I ran. I was the president of my neighborhood association. I came through the Young Leadership Council. I think these experiences taught me before I sat on the Council. This position takes a lot of time and dedication. I attended over 440 neighborhood meetings with over 187,000 emails during that time.”
While Giarrusso recognizes that crime and public safety are concerns across the city, he says he wants to take a different approach to addressing the problem.
“Crime, overall, is down 20 percent in District A. Our numbers are much lower,” he says. “There are a number of things we should be looking at. We should look at clearance rates—how long it takes law enforcement to solve crimes. That affects trust levels with law enforcement.”
Giarrusso says he is proud of the efforts he and other members of the Council made to ensure that residents did not have to pay exorbitantly higher tax bills by passing a set of ordinances that resulted 4.6-mill overall reduction in taxes by raising some rates for critical services while decreasing others.
“I think one of the most important things that I’m really proud of is the legislation that we passed. My tax plan assured that the property taxes didn’t go up. My job is to represent District A, but my secondary job is to make sure that everyone in the city has a higher quality of life.”
And while there is more that can be done, Giarrusso believes that the City has taken positive steps in addressing affordable housing.
“I think we’re at a three or four (on a scale of five) with affordable housing. I think the mandatory inclusionary project is something that I want to revisit. What are the ways we’re using funding to develop affordable housing? I don’t think the city is getting enough credit for its gap funding to help people with homeownership and finding housing.”
Bob Murrell says he is running for the District A seat because he doesn’t see his interests and those of others like him being represented.
“I didn’t see my values being represented—issues that are important to me like the environment. I am a working class parent,” says Murrell. “I am not a homeowner, I’m a renter, and I didn’t see that type of representation on the Council. I found out that no one was running against Councilman Giarrusso; and with the blessing of my wife, I decided to do it.”
Murrell says the housing crisis is one of the biggest problems the City is facing.
“(The housing crisis) is putting strains on our community,” he says. “Even before the pandemic and Hurricane Ida, the amount that people are spending on rent, mortgage, Entergy, water and internet . . . you’re finding that people are getting priced out. If you can’t afford to live in certain areas, you’re effectively priced out of good schools, jobs and housing.”
Murrell says New Orleans has to get serious about its environmental policy, as well. It is a cause he will lead if elected to the Council.
“Another issue that we have to address is recognizing that we will be facing bigger and stronger storms. The heat is going to be more intense and longer in duration. So things like restoring the thousands of trees that fell during Hurricane Ida is critical to keeping us cooler which will, in turn, keep our utility prices cheaper. We have to reduce the water that is on the street. We have to have access to rain barrels to absorb water that comes off your house. We should at least mitigate this before it gets to the City system. Our City should view this as a public health issue.”
Murrell also promises to examine racial equity issues, including who works in the District A office.
“I’m a White man, but I want to be surrounded by people who will be affected by those decisions. I think it’s a disservice to District A that there is not even one person of color on Councilman Giarrusso’s staff.”