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Council hopefuls square off

A dozen candidates answer questions in speed round



  New Orleans got its first look at candidates running in each New Orleans City Council district in the upcoming municipal elections at a Jan. 8 candidate forum hosted by the League of Women Voters, the Urban League of Greater New Orleans, the National Council of Jewish Women's New Orleans section, The Public Law Center and the National Coalition of Black Women.

  Not all candidates attended the forum, however. Among the no-shows were Lourdes Moran and Eloise Williams, running in District C; James Gray, the incumbent in District E; and Stephen Gordon, a challenger in District A. Jackie Clarkson, who hopes to return to the council representing District C following her term as council president, left halfway through the forum, as did Jason Coleman, who is running in District A. (The Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee was holding its mayoral forum across town.)

  The candidates who did show up — 12 among them — had only 45 seconds each to respond to a short list of questions, which covered topics ranging from civil service reform to mental health services.

  Regarding the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD), District C candidate Carlos Williams suggested NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas should be fired, and District A candidate Drew Ward said the only crime walk he wants to see is an officer walking his "butt" on the street. David Capasso, an attorney who has worked with labor unions and is running in District A, suggested NOPD officers should have collective bargaining rights. All candidates agreed that the city should be pursuing and fully funding the NOPD federal consent decree.

  Candidates cited crime, blight and job creation as top priorities, as well as economic development. District E challenger Cynthia Willard-Lewis suggested making the abandoned Six Flags site a "Silicon Bayou." In listing their top three priorities for their respective districts, Ward said his were addressing "poverty, poverty, poverty," and District E candidate Andre Kelly said combating "hopelessness."

  With the exception of Coleman, all said they would support a smoking ban in bars (District A incumbent Susan Guidry said she would support such a measure "in a heartbeat"), and all agreed they want to raise the minimum wage in New Orleans.

  The same groups will hold their mayoral forum at Dillard University at 7 p.m. Jan. 16. The event is open to the public.

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