With one-at-large seat and the District C and D seats on the New Orleans City Council open races without incumbents, three seats are technically up for grabs. And even where they are not, every single race—including the other at-large seat and three other district seats, A, B, and E are contested, with incumbents facing a wide range of candidates–from political newcomers to seasoned politicians.
Kenneth Cutno says he is challenging the incumbent District 1 Councilwoman-at-large Helena Moreno for the seat because New Orleans needs new leadership.
“We need a council person that understands our community, our traditions as well as our condition. Our communities lack experience and education. Once we bring those to them, they can be empowered to do more. We can do more, we can enhance our surroundings.”
Cutno, says he has more than 30 years of experience in government, from grant management to program development.
The top issues facing the city, he says, are rising utility costs, crime, low wages, and affordable housing. And Cutno says he has a sensible plan to address the latter.
“I have background experience in housing. My plan for affordable housing is that we take the blighted properties that the city has and turn them into homeownership opportunities,” he says. What I propose we do is take $50 million from the American Rescue Plan Act or we can take the funds from the Community Development Block Grant program and put it out there for the people.
While the New Orleans City Council has already taken steps to raise the minimum wage for city employees to $15 an hour, Cutno says it is not enough.
“Within my political platform, I’ve proposed that the minimum wage be brought to $20 an hour for all city workers, firefighters and contract workers.”
When to comes to workers in the private sector, Cutno says the city leaders must continue to advocate for higher wages for all of its residents.
“We cannot force private industries to do anything, but we can set the example for private industries to follow. As the city becomes strong in providing increased wages amongst the city workers, it will encourage private industries (in an effort to retain workers) to make the increase also. If not, then, we have to advocate, demand and fight for increased wages.”
Helena Moreno wants to continue to fight for the people of New Orleans.
As a member of the New Orleans City Council – and a Louisiana Legislator before that – she has worked to broaden economic opportunity, reform our criminal justice system, promote gender equality, and protect and uplift the most vulnerable in our society. Among her victories for working people are banning no-knock warrants, authoring laws to shield victims of sexual assault, reducing incarceration by preventing unnecessary arrests for infractions such as simple possession of marijuana in New Orleans, and restricting weapons from domestic abuses.
On the City Council, she chairs the Utilities, Cable, Telecom, and Technology Committee, which regulates Entergy New Orleans. She also serves on the Budget, Criminal Justice, Smart and Sustainable Cities, Community Development and Government Affairs committees.
Bart Everson says he was hesitant about running for City Council-at-Large. But when he looked at the candidates that emerged and noted that no one was taking up the issue of climate change in a substantial way, he needed to get in the race, he says.
“This summer I was approached by a group of social justice advocates and activists in order to bring attention to climate change,” says Everson. “I thin (climate change) needs to be at the forefront of all of our policies, discussions and decisions,” Everson says. “It really effects everything. We are going to be facing the reality of a changing climate crisis. So no matter who wins this race that needs to be on the front of everyone’s mind.”
Everson has some specific steps he believes New Orleans’ leaders should take in this direction.
“First, we should declare a climate emergency. We should guarantee the right to clean environment, and we should establish an office of climate justice to address the many issues of justice that climate change is raising. We have to hold Entergy accountable; improve transportation; and make New Orleans greener overall.”
And when it comes to affordable housing, Everson looks to environmental-friendly solutions to help address one of the biggest challenges facing New Orleans.
“Making homes more eco-friendly with features such as solar panels and water irrigation systems, thereby reducing the home utility costs, will making the home ownership affordable,” he says.
If elected, Everson says he will advocate for and urge the creation of more worker-led cooperatives as one way to raise the wages that workers across New Orleans earn
The Xavier University professor also says that meeting the needs of the residents of Gordon Plaza must be a priority regardless of who wins the election.
“The council needs to be held responsible,” he says.
KRISTIN GISLESON PALMER
Kristin Gisleson Palmer who currently serves as the representative for District C on the City Council, say she sees herself focusing on big picture, long-term solutions to overall quality of life issues that impact every resident of New Orleans if elected to the at-large position. Still, she says it’s her experience as a district council representative that gives her the edge in this race.
“The City Council primarily focuses on quality of life issues. At the district council position, we’re so engaged in issues within our neighborhood. That’s why having someone with that background is so important. I want to redirect my attention to the root cause and systemic fixes of some of the things we see day in and day out at the district level—things like rise of violent crime, blighted houses, things like that.”
Palmer says varied experiences set her apart from her opponent in the race. She describes herself as an independent voice that can build coalitions across New Orleans.
“I started in college with community service. I volunteered at Hope House in the St. Thomas Housing Development; and after that I became director of this program called Christmas in October, where we would go and fix up homes for elderly and disabled homeowners. I have worked in every single district and I feel that with that kind of background of working with communities and housing all over is important.
When it comes to the issues facing the residents of Gordon Plaza, Palmer says that not only will she work to ensure an equitable buyout for those impacted New Orleanians, but she will also focus on counter-acting environmental racism through policy.
The one issue that impacts residents across the city is crime, Palmer says.
“People are really frustrated with violent crime and think we have seen a post-COVID rise. It’s not just New Orleans. Major cities across the country have seen a 30 percent rise. And we know that this is directly related to lack of resources. We have children that are separated from school and structure as well as people with mental health issues suffering from isolation so with all of the variables at play we can’t simply say that these are issues that we can just ‘police our way out of’. From a council prospective. I’ve been a big leader in the reinstitution of the Cahoots Program a mental health interceptor. I am also working for the expansion of existing youth programs and championing the organization to get free public transportation for youth ages 24 and under.”
Former state Sen. J.P. Morrell says he is running for office because the city is in a “bad way.” He believes he has the experience and know-how to help solve some of its problems. He touts some of the legislative successes he was a part of during his time in Baton Rouge.
“I am a former state senator. I served for four years; and while in that capacity, I was able to achieve some pretty tremendous stuff. I was able to work with Gov. John Bel Edwards to close a $2 billion deficit left by Gov. Jindal. I was able to expand the earned income tax credit. I was able to fight against the NRA and protect domestic violence victims from guns. But the most important thing that I’ve done was passing the constitutional amendment and non-unanimous jury’s which ended 138 years of Jim Crow,” Morrell says.
Morrell says he will stand up for the people of New Orleans if elected, even if that means butting heads with other leaders.
“The Council hasn’t really been in the game of solving problems for a very long time. As someone that grew up in this city, I can remember strong councils that would stare down mayors to make changes if necessary. Councils have so much power and authority to change policy; but this council has done nothing.”
Morrell says he will take an approach to addressing crime that focuses on its root causes.
“If you look at juvenile crime, which is the leading type of crime that we are dealing with here in New Orleans, I would have us return our focus to programs like NORD. We could provide more resources to programs geared towards the youth through recreation and education. As the next council person I’m going to dig into previous budgets (to account for) where funds are going.”
Still, in the short term, Morrell says making sure that the New Orleans Police Department is adequately funded is another important part of tackling crime in the city and it is also a part of his platform.
When it comes to affordable housing, Morrell says a community land trust model that puts the city blighted property in the market makes sense to him.
“We go out and deal with the 25,000 blighted properties throughout New Orleans. We bring those properties back into commerce and use the community land trust model to have the city directly be involved with non profits to create affordable homes that people can purchase through the soft second program.”
Raising the minimum wage for city employees was no special feat, Morrell says, especially because there is no measure in place to include regular cost of living adjustments. The candidate says city council members get COLA adjustments and the men and women who work for the City should as well, vowing to freeze the pay of council members until regular cost of living adjustments are implemented for all city employees.