Voters in parts of Orleans and Jefferson parishes go to the polls Saturday, April 2, with the possibility of runoffs on April 23. Voters in New Orleans City Council District D will cast ballots in the special election for City Council, but all East Bank voters in New Orleans can choose the new constable of First City Court. In Jefferson Parish, the makeup of the ballot varies by location. The parish council is asking voters in the unincorporated areas to renew a 10-year, 3.5-millage property tax to pay for construction of road lighting outside the municipalities. In Gretna, a mayor and two council members will be chosen. Westwego will elect four council members.
We take the following positions in Saturday's races:
Cynthia Morrell for Council, District D
Three candidates qualified -- or so they thought -- to fill the unexpired term of former City Councilman Marlin Gusman, who recently was elected criminal sheriff. Crime and economic development are top issues in this largely residential district, which includes the UNO Technology Park, Gentilly and wards Seven, Eight and Nine. The new council member may also prove to be a critical vote on a number of citywide issues, including proposed changes to the controversial domicile requirement as it applies to police officers.
Unfortunately, most of the campaign focused on the domiciliary qualifications of one candidate: state Rep. Cedric Richmond. Last Thursday, the state Supreme Court unanimously declared Richmond ineligible to run because he has not been domiciled in the district for at least two years prior to qualifying -- as required by the City Charter. The challenge to Richmond's qualifications underscores the need for a longer election season, both locally and statewide ("Timing is Everything," July 29, 2003). Qualifying for the District D race began Feb. 9, the day after Mardi Gras. The campaign dragged through the courts until the day before the long Easter weekend. Voters now have less than a week to study the two remaining candidates. As we have stated before, when voters have little time to get to know candidates, the odds favor incumbents and others with higher name recognition. Louisiana needs more time between qualifying and Election Day.
In the District D race, we heartily endorse Cynthia Morrell, who is principal of the New Orleans Center for the Creative Arts Academy. A lifelong resident of the district, Morrell has served in our public schools for 29 years as a teacher, principal and government liaison. She is a licensed thoroughbred horse trainer and the first African-American female member of the Louisiana Racing Commission. She also is the mother of four grown sons, including one who is a New Orleans police officer. She vows to fight crime by strengthening Neighborhood Watch programs, improving police-community relations and establishing an "Anonymous Gun Hotline." She also pledges to remove abandoned cars from district streets. We believe Cynthia Morrell will make District D proud, and we urge our readers to vote for her on Saturday.
At the same time, we are gravely disappointed by Richmond's "sore-loser" reaction to the Supreme Court's decision. In a televised interview, Richmond challenged the authority of the justices and urged voters to "send a message" to the Supreme Court by casting ballots for him -- knowing full well such votes will not be counted. In our view, Richmond is the one who needs to get the message. The court has ruled, and he has lost. Furthermore, it wasn't a close call. As an attorney, he should know better than to attack judges and to attempt to influence a court of law. He deserves to be brought up on disciplinary or contempt-of-court charges for such unprofessional conduct.
Constable, First City Court
Four candidates are running to fill the seat vacated by the recent election of Lambert Boissiere III to the state Public Service Commission. The constable oversees an office of 30 employees and a $1.5 million budget. Responsibilities include executing eviction orders, processing wage garnishments, serving pleadings and selling property. This is a low-profile but important office. Although each of the major candidates has considerable potential, we also have major concerns about each. In the end, we cannot lend our name to any candidate in this race, and we therefore make no endorsement for constable.
John Lavarine III for Kenner City Council, At-Large
There are two candidates in the race for the Division A at-large seat on the Kenner City Council, recently vacated by Terry McCarthy. For us, the choice is clear -- John Lavarine III. First elected as a district council member in 1996, then twice more, Lavarine has been a strong voice for quality-of-life issues in Kenner. We expect Lavarine will continue to be a strong advocate for Kenner and a fair partner with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and airport officials as they work to address myriad problems associated with Louis Armstrong International Airport. In addition, Lavarine will continue to support citywide improvements to Kenner's roads, sewerage and drainage systems.