The formal search for a new superintendent of the Jefferson Parish Public School system can now begin, after the Jefferson Parish School Board voted to establish a search committee. "I am so pleased that we can now move forward," says board member Judy Colgan. "The committee is now in place and we can begin our advertising." There had been a controversy about the composition of the committee, with some school board members wanting more West Bank representation and others wanting a larger and more broadly based committee. The board, however, voted to approve the committee as originally drafted. Now, advertising for the position will begin, and applications will be accepted until mid-December. From that point until Jan. 31, 2003, the committee will screen candidates and conduct interviews. The committee will then select four finalists and present that list to the board. During the month of February 2003, the school board will interview the four finalists and make a selection by March 1.
Voters Approve New Council Structure
In a landslide last week (58-42 percent), Jefferson Parish voters approved Proposition 2, which will alter the structure of the Parish Council from a 6-1 arrangement to a 5-2 arrangement.
With one district council person and two at-large council members, each citizen in Jefferson Parish will now have three representatives, which proponents believe will reduce parochialism. The next step is for the new districts to be drawn by the council, which will submit the plan to the Department of Justice for approval. Once approved, the new structure will be in place for the elections of 2003.
While this proposition passed, the proposition to alter term limits by allowing council members to garner a certain number of petitions failed to gain the public's approval. Jefferson Parish Council Chairman Aaron Broussard was impressed by the selectivity of parish voters. "I thought that the ballot was so crowded that it would have generated confusion, which usually equals defeat," Broussard says. "However, the public educated themselves and recognized the merit of the propositions and voted accordingly."
Due to the passage of Proposition 2, two at-large seats will be created, Division A and Division B, and both will represent all of Jefferson Parish. Candidates will choose which division seat they want to run for. Aaron Broussard still plans to run for parish president to replace the term-limited Tim Coulon. However, with Proposition 4 failing and term limits still in place, many of the district council members are considering a run for the at-large positions. Definitely running at this point are council members Lloyd Giardina and Donald Jones. Considering the race are council members John Lavarine Jr., Nick Giambelluca and Ed Muniz.
Muniz has also been receiving calls from friends in Kenner about running for mayor of Kenner. The current Kenner mayor, Louis Congemi, has expressed an interest in running for Muniz's council seat next year, which would create the need for a special election to fill Congemi's seat. "Now I'm confused," says Muniz, who was pleasantly surprised that the voters created the two council at-large positions. Muniz had been leaning against running for council chairman in the old 6-1 set-up, believing the position to be long on title, but short on substance. Now he believes the at-large council position and the mayor of Kenner to both be attractive possibilities, so, for now, Muniz has not made up his mind.
Bucktown Marina Project Still
For months, a controversy has been brewing over a proposed project to develop the Bucktown Marina area. After initial plans for office space and retail space met resistance and a "hold" was placed on the project by the State Lands Office, a scaled-down development plan was created eliminating the office and retail space from the project. Parish President Tim Coulon led a delegation of parish officials to Baton Rouge to meet with the State Lands Office and followed up with a written request for the project to begin again; Coulon also requested written concurrence to changes in the lease agreement with the state of Louisiana. In response, Clay Carter of the State Land Office noted that Attorney General Richard Ieyoub will need to concur with the agreement. Ieyoub is requesting, prior to any decision, detailed drawings and a written statement describing the new proposal. Therefore, the hold is still in place on the project and will be in place until the attorney general's office and the governor's office approve the changes.
"Our association is pleased with the actions of the governor's office, attorney general's office and State Lands Office to again deny this most recent attempt of parish officials to circumvent state laws in order to commercialize the Bucktown Marina site," says Peggy Poche of the Bucktown Civic Association, who has been loudly protesting the project.
JEDCO has been working with parish officials to try to develop the area. Pete Chocheles, the director of port and public affairs for JEDCO says, "We are still negotiating with a lot of people. Right now the project is in a state of flux as we talk to developers and the state."