Voters in Orleans and Jefferson parishes will elect a bevy of local leaders on Saturday, two years after Hurricane Katrina. Now more than ever, our area needs leaders with vision who can help us all rise above differences in race, class and geography. We need officials who can get things done together. With that in mind, we make the following recommendations. New Orleans Council At-Large " Thirteen candidates are running for the at-large seat vacated by Oliver Thomas, who resigned Aug. 13 after pleading guilty to a federal bribery and kickback scheme. In this office, New Orleans needs a trustworthy, knowledgeable public servant who can put some snap into the recovery " without dividing us. In our view, two candidates stand out in that regard, and we endorse them both: Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson and Cynthia Willard-Lewis.
Clarkson, a realtor, still has more energy at 71 than many candidates half her age. She has served Algiers and the French Quarter as the District C council member twice already, from 1990 to 1994 and from 2002 to 2006; she also served as a West Bank state representative from 1994 to 2002. In those capacities, Clarkson authored legislation on governmental ethics and led the fight to win Washington's approval of a military-friendly 'federal city" on the West Bank. She will be a tireless advocate against violent crime and corruption, and she will work at reforming city contracts. Clarkson's pledge to be a coalition builder on the council may test her relentless, get-it-done nature, but we've never known her to shrink from a challenge.
Elected as the District E Council member in 2000, Willard-Lewis is the longest-serving member of the council and a former state representative (from 1993 to 2000). She has fought tirelessly to rebuild her storm-battered council district, which includes eastern New Orleans and the Lower Ninth Ward. Willard-Lewis is a vocal champion for children, the elderly, and the return of New Orleans' black middle class. Above all, she has shown courage and determination in standing up to the latent recalcitrance of Mayor Ray Nagin, whose 'reform" credentials seem to have been misplaced since Katrina.
We urge our readers to vote for either Jackie Clarkson or Cynthia Willard-Lewis.
Jefferson Parish President " Embattled incumbent Aaron Broussard, D-Kenner, has worked hard to rework the parish's 100-year hurricane protection plan since Katrina flooded much of the parish. Thanks to Broussard's leadership and his 30-plus years of experience, Jefferson is back with a bang. In fact, Jefferson Parish has become the staging area for New Orleans' recovery.
Broussard has a clear plan of action for the parish's promising future. He will help improve levees and drainage, restore wetlands and rebuild highway and sewerage infrastructure. Moreover, Broussard is a longtime friend of New Orleans. He consistently reaches across parish lines to cooperate in regional endeavors while always protecting the interests of his constituents. He deserves another term.
Jefferson Council At Large 'A" " Incumbent John F. Young, R-Metairie, has endured a very public and obviously painful chapter in his family life and his political career " through no fault of his own " and he has done it with dignity and poise. Those are the qualities any parish should seek in a leader.
Young has sought regional solutions to problems, and he is progressive on issues of crime and punishment, ethics, race relations and economic development. In fact, Jefferson Parish has seen a net increase of more than 3,500 businesses since Katrina. On that front, Young is a proven 'salesman" for more economic growth in Jefferson. We heartily endorse his re-election.
Jefferson Council At Large 'B" " Incumbent Tom Capella currently chairs the parish council and is a clear and effective voice for progress in Jefferson. He has steeped himself in the inner workings of government, from code enforcement to blight-busting 'environmental" courts and, of course, parish drainage and traffic issues.
Like Young, Capella is a friend to neighboring parishes. As a member of the Regional Planning Commission, he supported keeping the VA hospital in downtown New Orleans. He also persuaded the Jefferson Parish Council to lend air-conditioned buses to the RTA during the sweltering summer months. 'This region is going to be better than ever, and we need as many people as possible to help us build it from the ground up," he says. We agree, and we endorse his re-election
Jefferson Council District 2 " We endorse incumbent Elton Lagasse, R-River Ridge, for a second, four-year term. The district covers parts of the East Bank and West Bank. A retired superintendent of the parish public school system, Lagasse has worked to improve crime prevention, flood protection and quality-of-life issues. He joins the council in supporting retention ponds and other drainage projects. He supports vocational training to develop the parish workforce, and we support his re-election.