Two-term at-large New Orleans Councilmember Jackie Clarkson will announce on Tuesday that she is running for the District C seat being vacated by Councilmember Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who announced last week that she would not seek a second term.
From the moment Palmer announced she would not run again, Clarkson's cell phone lit up with callers urging her to run — including Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Clarkson has been a staunch ally of the mayor for the past four years and often refers to him as "the best mayor I've had the pleasure to serve with." The plan, according to a source close to Clarkson, is for Landrieu to formally endorse her at her announcement on Tuesday, along with a group of civic, business and community leaders.
In running for the District C seat, Clarkson will be returning to her roots. Her first foray into elective politics came in 1990 when she won an open election for that seat. She lost a bid to keep that seat in March 1994 to state Rep. Troy Carter, but then won Carter's state House of Representatives seat in a special election in the autumn of that same year. She captured the District C seat again in 2002, then lost her first bid for an at-large council seat in the spring of 2006.
When Oliver Thomas resigned from the Council in the midst of a bribery scandal in the summer of 2007, Clarkson won the special election to succeed him that November. She has held that at-large seat since.
Clarkson easily will be the front-runner in District C, and her entry could keep some others from running — though the Feb. 1 primary is sure to be contested. The only other announced candidate thus far is former judge and one-time mayoral candidate Nadine Ramsey. Qualifying runs this week from Wednesday through Friday.
District C New Orleans City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer will not seek reelection in the February race, according to a statement from her office this morning.
Palmer, who was elected to the District C seat in 2010, said in a statement, "As I look to the future, I'm eager to pursue other opportunities and spend a lot more time with my daughters."
"I'm proud of the success we've had in growing our economy, improving our infrastructure, reducing blight and providing law enforcement the tools they need to fight crime. While I will continue working to make New Orleans a better place to live, work and raise a family, I have decided to not seek re-election in the February election. ... Even though I won't be a candidate for re-election, the residents of District 'C' can be assured that I will work as hard during the last five months of my term as I have the first three and a half years. I truly love public service and will never quit fighting to help the City of New Orleans fulfill its full potential."
Palmer chairs the Disaster and Recovery, Housing and Human Needs, Sanitation and Environmental, and Transportation committees, and she's a member of the Governmental Affairs and Public Works committees.
Nadine Ramsey, the former civil district court judge who ran for mayor in 2010, announced in October that she will seek the District C seat. With Palmer out of the running, Ramsey remains the only announced contender.
As the only “local” utility regulator in the four-state Entergy system, the New Orleans City Council often finds itself in the position of being the tail that wags the dog. Regulating a utility giant ranks among the most far-reaching powers that council members have. They guard that authority jealously.
Major decisions by Entergy Corp. and its various subsidiaries often get rubber-stamped by statewide regulators in Louisiana, Texas, Arkansas and Mississippi, but those same decisions get put under an electron microscope in New Orleans. That frustrates Entergy executives — and some self-proclaimed “reformers” who want to transfer local utility regulation back to the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC).
Supporters of local regulation say the council’s regulatory authority is the only thing standing between New Orleans ratepayers and significantly higher utility bills. It doesn’t happen easily.
Utility regulation at City Hall is an intricate — and intensely political — dance. Council members know they can’t squeeze the utility too much lest it become insolvent. They also are constantly looking over their shoulders at restless voters, who want the lowest rates possible.
Most of the time, the relationship between the council and Entergy New Orleans (ENO), the local subsidiary, is cordial. Sometimes, particularly when ENO makes decisions that put the interests of its parent company in conflict with the interests of local ratepayers, the council flexes its regulatory muscle. This can take the form of calling utility execs before the council Utilities Committee, subpoenaing documents, or even taking the company to court.
On rare occasions, as happened on Nov. 21, the council exercises its nuclear option: a prudence investigation of the utility’s decisions.
That is, the utility must demonstrate that it 'went through a reasonable decision making process to arrive at a course of action and, given the facts as they were or should have been known at the time, responded in a reasonable manner.'
A prudence investigation is the regulatory equivalent of a declaration of war. It gives the council authority to examine documents and decisions that otherwise would not be subject to public review — and if the council deems decisions by the utility to be unreasonable or imprudent, the council can spare ratepayers from any adverse economic impact.
In some ways, it's like taking the utility to court — only the council gets to be judge and jury. This is not something the council does lightly. In the past 30 years, the council has conducted only three prudence investigations; each time, the investigation led to huge savings for local ratepayers — after a protracted, bitter fight with the utility.
Following more than a year's worth of meetings, reports and legislative battles around a new plan for New Orleans' "noise ordinance," the Music and Culture Coalition of New Orleans (MACCNO) hosts a panel discussion and one-stop Q&A with sound experts and musicians to fill in the knowledge gaps over the legislation. The "Science of Sound" panel is 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. tonight at Cafe Istanbul inside the New Orleans Healing Center. Admission is free.
New Orleans City Council is helping redraft the city's decades-old noise ordinance based one recommendations made by sound expert David Woolworth in his 100-page assessment of sound in New Orleans. District C New Orleans City Councilwoman Kristin Gisleson Palmer — who represents the entertainment-heavy French Quarter and Marigny — is leading the City Council's efforts. But there have been other recommendations, made by businesses and small neighborhood groups, as well as suggestions offered by the music community and its supporters. Read more about the city's "noise" legislation in Gambit.
Tonight's panel will address conflicting points made by disparate groups and the largely abstract, science-based reports that inform City Council's pending legislation. From MACCNO's announcement:
Does bass rattling from a passing car actually affect your health or building stability? Can you prevent sound issues in your home by just closing your window? Will vacuum cleaners and leaf blowers find themselves forever banned from the French Quarter under new regulations? The time has come to answer these questions with real world examples!
Lost in the rhetorical din over the sound ordinance is the actual science behind measuring sound and what decibel levels mean to performers, audiences, and others. By making these abstract concepts more real and applicable to the actual environment of New Orleans, MaCCNO hopes to further the discussion around the sound ordinance and find practical, viable solutions that preserves the culture of this city and allows all citizens to reside and thrive in our historical neighborhoods.
Woolworth will join the panel, as well as members of Young Fellaz Brass Band and FireBug and others.
More than 100 firefighters gathered outside City Hall Oct. 25 before the New Orleans City Council began its budget hearings for the New Orleans Fire Department (NOFD). Wearing yellow shirts bearing the International Association of Fire Fighters union insignia and the phrase “Support New Orleans Firefighters,” the attendees rallied as speakers in the bed of a nearby truck blasted Bruce Springsteen’s cover of “Pay Me My Money Down,” and other firefighters and their supporters waved signs as cars drove past on Perdido Street.
At the crux of the union’s concerns with the NOFD’s $86.2 million budget is staffing, and whether NOFD Superintendent Timothy McConnell is properly budgeted to safely staff stations and engines throughout the city. City Council President Jackie Clarkson’s first question to McConnell was whether he has adequate staff. He answered “yes” — which was met with boos from the firefighters and their supporters in the audience.
(Before the hearing outside City Hall, firefighters chanted, “If you don’t have four, you need more,” referring to fewer than four firefighters operating trucks at first response scenes. NOFD institutes a “two in, two out” policy where two firefighters manage the scene while the others operate the truck.)
“Every department would love to have more staff,” McConnell told the council. “We can keep the city safe in this budget.”
It's called a rhetorical question.
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