Mayor Mitch Landrieu's appointment last week of former State Sen. Diana Bajoie as the interim District B member of the New Orleans City Council was hardly a surprise in political circles. Landrieu and Bajoie go back a long way.
The two served in the state Legislature more than a decade ago and had similar voting records in the House. Bajoie later served in the state Senate as well, while Landrieu went on to become lieutenant governor. As legislators, they both worked on state budgets and pushed issues important to the city on behalf of Mayors Sidney Barthelemy, Marc Morial and Ray Nagin.
Their longstanding political friendship naturally raises suspicions that Bajoie will be an easy vote for Landrieu on the council. Given Hizzoner's sometimes-testy relationship with four council members — Stacy Head, Jackie Clarkson, Susan Guidry and Kristin Gisleson Palmer — he needs a sure vote to sustain possible vetoes. In fairness, the mayor's relationships with council members at times is good.
In recent weeks, Landrieu has been at odds with the four-member majority on some key issues, particularly the fight over Tulane University's plans to build a new stadium.
Bajoie's appointment ended a monthlong council stalemate after a May 3 walkout by District D Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and District E Councilman Jon Johnson. Hedge-Morrell and Johnson were absent from council meetings until last week, leaving the council one member short of a quorum and thus unable to approve the appointment of Head's preferred replacement, urban planner Errol George. On June 1 — 30 days after Head took her oath as the new at-large council member — the choice became Landrieu's.
Bajoie will serve as the interim District B council member until at least the Nov. 6 primary. The City Charter bars Bajoie from running in that election. A runoff, if needed, will be Dec. 8. — Clancy DuBos and Charles Maldonado