This Saturday, Dec. 8, voters will return to the polls to settle runoffs in New Orleans City Council Districts B and E and to decide whether to increase the citywide fee for 911 service. Coming just one month after the presidential election, turnout for Saturday's runoffs certainly will be low — which means your vote counts more than ever. To underscore that point, we remind our readers of the narrow margin in the area-wide referendum Nov. 6 to extend the tolls on the Crescent City Connection.
Herewith our recommendations.
N.O. City Council District B: Dana Kaplan — Kaplan is the executive director of the Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL), a nonprofit that seeks to improve the lives of youth in the state's justice system. Under Kaplan, the JJPL attacked the roots of juvenile crime and advocated for better public policy when it comes to juvenile offenders.
In the primary, Kaplan earned the endorsements of a wide array of public officials, including Mayor Mitch Landrieu and — to the surprise of some — Sheriff Marlin Gusman, of whom the Juvenile Justice Project has been critical. District B is one the council's most diverse districts, ethnically and economically. It stretches from the Central Business District through the Garden District, Irish Channel and Uptown, plus much of Central City, Mid-City and Gert Town. Kaplan is well-suited to take on the challenges facing this district.
N.O. City Council District E: James Gray — District E covers the Lower 9th Ward and much of eastern New Orleans. It is the city's largest district in terms of landmass, and it has some of New Orleans' most intractable problems — blight, crime and a chronic lack of economic development.
Gray, a graduate of Harvard Law School, was the first African-American law professor at LSU, and he currently sits on the faculty at Tulane Law School. He's the current president of both the Louisiana State Law Institute and the Orleans Parish Democratic Executive Committee.
Many residents of District E have complained they feel forgotten by the city as it moves forward with the ongoing recovery. Gray would be an ideal champion for them. A military veteran, he knows the importance of leadership as well as working well with existing council members.
911 Service Charge: Yes — The city currently imposes fixed rates of $1 to $2 a month for citywide 911 emergency dial service. Saturday's ballot includes a referendum to increase those rates. The proposed fee schedule would generate just under $7.5 million a year and would be dedicated solely to the Orleans Parish Communication District. We recommend voting "Yes" for the 911 Service Charge proposition.