The races have started in Harahan for the top two positions in the city: mayor and police chief. Joining Councilman Paul Johnston in the mayor's race is fellow Councilman Kerry Lauricella. Lauricella previously ran for mayor in 1986 and received 40 percent of the vote. Subsequently, Lauricella served two terms on the City Council, the second of which he is now just finishing. "I believe I have been one of Harahan's most productive councilmen ever," Lauricella says.
Lauricella is most proud of his work annexing property for the city, building batting cages for the youth of the community, and being what he calls an effective salesman for Harahan. He claims that annexing property has brought in an extra $200,000 per year to the city in tax revenue, but believes his role may have cost him the support of the Jefferson Parish political establishment. "When you annex property in Elmwood, Louisiana, you won't get the endorsement of Jefferson Parish politicians," he says.
Outside of his council duties, Lauricella is employed as the executive director of the National Association of Cities, a non-profit organization which he founded. The organization is focused on bringing economic development opportunities nationally to cities, towns and villages that have less than 50,000 residents. The organization has grown from 68 members to a current membership of over 10,000.
In the race for police chief, a multiple-candidate field is in place to succeed the outgoing incumbent John Doyle. The candidates include Jimmy Cavalier, Mickey Lamonte, Ray Uloth, and councilmen Peter Dale and Tim Walker. The Walker team includes veteran media consultant Ray Teddlie and headquarters manager Charlotte Ruiz. Walker was a prominent supporter of Joan Benge in her judge's race last year, and many of the same volunteer and paid staff are involved in Walker's campaign.
Judging the Candidates
Looking at Jefferson Parish judgeship campaigns, no candidates have lined up so far to oppose the now-incumbent Joan Benge, but a plethora of candidates are expressing interest in the seat now being held by Judge Ronnie Bodenheimer.
Bodenheimer is currently under federal investigation concerning an accusation that he was involved in planting drugs in the car of an individual who opposed the development of a marina he owns in eastern New Orleans. In addition, federal investigators are looking into Bodenheimer's caseload of the past few years. Cases being examined include restaurateur Al Copeland's divorce proceeding, as well as litigation involving a prominent Jefferson Parish bail bondsman. Currently, Bodenheimer is under electronic monitoring at his home and is not expected to remain officially on the bench for much longer.
The candidates looking at a run for his seat include Anne Neeb, Debbie Villeo, Tony Glorioso, Hans Liljeberg and Bruce Lizana. The early favorite appears to be Lizana, who several years ago was planning to run for the seat but backed out after State Rep. Jim Donelon announced for the position. Lizana felt he would not be able to beat the well-known Donelon, who had almost all the political endorsements. Bodenheimer decided to buck the endorsements and not only challenged Donelon, but won in a shocking upset. Now, just a few years later, Lizana has a chance to run for the same seat, but this time be considered the early favorite.
Clearview Mall Progress on Target
On July 28, the highly anticipated opening of the Target store in Clearview Mall will take place. Construction on the 170,000-square-foot store began in August of last year. The two-level store will incorporate both traditional elevators and a Vermaport, a German escalator that transports shoppers along with their shopping carts. This will be the first time the Vermaport will be introduced in a store in the Gulf South.
Along with the Clearview opening, Target will be opening locations on the West Bank and in Houma. Currently, there are no Target stores in the metropolitan New Orleans area.
Clearview Mall General Manager Blaine Gahagan believes that the store will generate a huge volume of shoppers to Clearview. "We're expecting the shopping center to be packed, and Clearview and Veterans to be packed as well," he says. In anticipation of large crowds, Gahagan has brought on extra security and reconfigured the parking lot to handle more cars.
This opening is the latest in the radical transformation of the Clearview Mall. In November 1999, Zea's Rotisserie Grill opened, followed by the 12-screen Palace Theatre in November 2001, Serrano's Restaurant in March 2002 and Semolina Restaurant in May of this year. The next big opening will occur in November when Bed, Bath and Beyond opens its doors.