We urge all our readers in Kenner and New Orleans to vote next Saturday, and we make the following recommendations:
Councilmember At-Large. Incumbent Betty Bonura, a grant writer and administrator for Jefferson Sheriff Harry Lee, is seeking a third (and final) four-year term. She previously served on the Jefferson Parish School Board. Bonura pledges her continued support for reducing Kenner's $47 million debt (reportedly one of the lowest per-capita debts in the South). She echoes her constituents' opposition to expansion of Louis Armstrong International Airport because of noise and other quality-of-life concerns.
Bonura's only opponent, fellow Republican Dominic Weilbaecher, is an attractive candidate, but we see no reason to replace the incumbent. We endorse Betty Bonura.
Council District 2. Incumbent Councilman John Lavarine III, a Republican and son of Jefferson Parish Councilman John Lavarine Jr., seeks a second four-year term. The younger Lavarine is a force in his own right. He is a responsible voice for fiscal accountability and integrity on the council. He helped the fire districts improve their ratings, which helped lower insurance rates. He also helped write a multi-million dollar grant to acquire federal funding for a new sewerage treatment plant, and he secured more than $2 million in repairs to major boulevards.
Lavarine authored a zoning ordinance that protects Kenner neighborhoods from future extension of airport runways. He also serves as a regional director of a national advocacy organization that fights noise pollution. His opposition to airport expansion puts him at odds with New Orleans, but he brings much-needed dignity to the debate. He gets our enthusiastic endorsement.
Council District 5. We found the candidacy of Jules Corona, a retired district manager for Continental Airlines, to be quite an education. While it's a "given" that Kenner officials oppose airport expansion, Corona distinguishes himself from other critics because of his first-hand knowledge of the aviation industry.
He argues that a third runway is unnecessary. Instead, he says, improved airport management will boost the metro area economy significantly. We don't know if Corona will be proved right or wrong, but he clearly brings an informed, assured perspective to the airport debate. He will be an effective advocate for Kenner's position in this regard. We also believe that Corona will be independent and fiscally conservative. We endorse Jules Corona.
Elsewhere in Kenner, the following incumbents were re-elected without opposition:
· Mayor Louis J. Congemi, a Republican.
· Police Chief Nick Congemi, a Democrat.
· District 1 Councilman Marc E. Johnson, a Democrat.
· District 3 Councilman Jeannine Black, Republican.
· District 4 Councilwoman Michele Branigan, a Republican.
· Councilman-at-Large Terry McCarthy, a Republican.
In New Orleans, voters in both House District 91 and House District 102 will select interim replacements for state Reps. Renee Gill Pratt and Jackie Clarkson, respectively. Pratt and Clarkson were recently elected to the New Orleans City Council.
House District 91. Blighted housing is the problem in this district, which includes some of the city's poorest neighborhoods. Rosalind Peychaud, executive director of the Neighborhood Development Foundation and a 15-year resident of the district, has served our city as a housing advocate, social worker, and as a former legislative coordinator for late Mayor Dutch Morial. She already knows her way around the state Capitol.
She will work hard to bring economic development to our city, to fund capital improvements at our schools, and to find money for the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority (NORA), a housing initiative created by the state but not yet funded by the Legislature.
In 2001, she was named a "Role Model of the Year" by both the Young Leadership Council and the YWCA. We strongly endorse her.
House District 102. Of the five candidates in the race to represent Algiers, two impressive political newcomers share our endorsement: Jeffrey Arnold and Demetrie Ford .
As an assistant to Mayor Marc Morial for intergovernmental relations, Arnold specializes in lobbying the legislature on economic development projects for the city. The son of Algiers assessor Tom Arnold, he also acts as the mayors liaison to the City Council and to armed forces in the city.
Ford is an ad hoc judge at Juvenile Court, a former assistant attorney for the City of New Orleans, and a former clerk of Second City Court in Algiers.
Both men are quick studies. Each has a good grasp of issues affecting Algiers and the city. Either will help move Louisiana into the New Economy. Both distinguish themselves in different ways: Arnold is more fiscally conservative and favors downsizing government; Ford opposes any expansion of gambling, including the introduction of slots at the Fair Grounds. Both Arnold and Ford, citing neighborhood opposition, say they would not support a proposed off-ramp from the Crescent City Connection to increase access to Mardi Gras World. Arnold adds that he believes the off-ramp would increase neighborhood property values, but he wont support it without residents approval.
Algiers residents cannot lose with either Jeffrey Arnold or Demetrie Ford representing them in Baton Rouge.