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Kenner Election Endorsements

This past weekend, voters in New Orleans finally got the chance to send a message to elected officials in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. This Saturday, voters in Kenner -- Louisiana's sixth-largest city -- get to finish the job of electing a mayor, police chief and city council members after several years of rancorous relations among the city's elected leaders. We urge all our readers in Kenner to vote in the runoff elections this Saturday (April 29), and we recommend the following candidates:

Mayor: Ed Muniz

Ed Muniz served honorably on the Kenner City Council and on the Jefferson Parish Council for more than two decades. Throughout his years of public service, Muniz has been a consistent voice for reform and common sense. A retired successful businessman, Muniz seeks the mayor's job for the right reason: to help Kenner heal after years of bitter political infighting. In the April 1 primary, he surprised many by running first in the field of five candidates. His message was simple: Kenner cannot allow vengeful, entrenched politicians to continue their divisive, destructive feud any longer. Voters agreed -- and now it's time to finish the job. In addition to ending the state of siege at Kenner City Hall, Muniz will bring needed reforms to the process of awarding city contracts. His entire political career has been built on integrity and openness. He's what Kenner needs now more than ever.

Police Chief: Steve Caraway

In his first bid for public office, veteran lawman Steve Caraway nearly won this election outright on April 1 against a field of six other candidates. Caraway is a career police officer, having served in the military police while in the U.S. Marine Corps, and having worked his way up the ranks to become one of Kenner's three top police commanders. His career and qualifications show that he brings both street-level and management experience to the task of guiding Kenner's Police Department. He pledges to improve communication with the city's fire and EMS divisions and with the administration. His broad range of police experience set him apart as the best candidate for this important job.

Council at-Large: Michele Branigan

Michele Branigan has served Kenner well for nine years as the representative from District 4. During that time, she showed that she has the temperament and consensus-building skills to help city government heal after years of bickering between the current mayor and some council members. Long active in civic and charitable causes, she stays in close touch with her constituents and responds to citizens' concerns. Branigan served recently as council vice president and should emerge as one of the council's leaders in this post-Katrina era.

Council, District 4: Kevin Delahoussaye

We like both candidates in the runoff to succeed Michele Branigan in District 4, but we give the nod to Kevin Delahoussaye because of his experience as a member and past chair of the Kenner Planning & Zoning Board and as a member of the Jefferson Parish Economic Development Committee. Recent closures at Esplanade Mall are a grave concern, and Delahoussaye's experience as a banker will serve the district well as the shopping center's owners and prospective tenants look for signals that local government has adopted a businesslike approach to solving Kenner's problems.

One Assessor for New Orleans

Senate Bill 141 by Sen. Ann Duplessis of New Orleans is a proposed constitutional amendment that would consolidate the city's seven assessors into one office. If approved by two-thirds of the Legislature and a majority of the state's voters -- and voters in New Orleans -- the proposal would give our city the same number of assessors as every other Louisiana parish: one.

This is not a new idea. Gambit Weekly has long advocated the idea of one assessor for New Orleans -- and for all Louisiana assessors to be appointed, not elected. Furthermore, each assessor should possess a level of professional experience and real- estate expertise that would ensure fair, equitable and accurate assessments of all forms of property in Louisiana. The current system of seven assessors virtually guarantees that assessments will not be uniform -- or equitable -- from one municipal district to another.

Senate Bill 141 would not make assessors appointive, nor would it establish minimum qualifications for the office. However, it's still a big step in the right direction, and we therefore urge its passage.

Two weeks ago, the Senate Local and Municipal Affairs Committee deferred a vote on this measure after it became clear that the bill lacked enough votes to make it to the full Senate. It comes up for another committee vote this Thursday (April 27). We urge the committee to send Senate Bill 141 to the full Senate, and we urge state lawmakers to give voters a chance to weigh in on this important measure. It's time to let the people of Louisiana -- and New Orleans in particular -- take a stand on the issue of fair, uniform and accurate assessments.

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