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Inside Jeff Parish 

Muniz Throws Hat Into Ring
Jefferson Parish Councilman Ed Muniz, who has served on the Jefferson Parish Council since 1987, has decided to run for Council chairman in 2003. This decision was made after six months of reflection and some encouragement from his wife, Muniz says. It is widely expected that Council Chairman Aaron Broussard, who has to vacate his position because of term limits, will run for parish president. Muniz was appointed to the Council to fill the un-expired term of Willie Hof and has won re-election handily since that time.

Muniz's strength will be on the East Bank of Jefferson Parish, which comprises 55 percent of the parish's electorate. The other 45 percent of the electorate live on the West Bank and the strongest candidate for council chairman from that area will be Jefferson Parish Councilman Lloyd Giardina, who has already started campaigning. According to Muniz, "Lloyd and I have always been good friends." It will be interesting to see what type of election these "good friends" wage against each other for the top position on the council.

Democrats Spring Into Action
Karen Wiedemann, chairman of the Jefferson Parish Democratic Executive Committee, has announced plans for getting involved in the Kenner races this spring.

The Democrats will hold their endorsement meeting in March. The endorsement of the 35-member Democratic Executive Committee does not necessarily translate into the endorsement of the state party, but it should lead to some funding. According to Wiedemann, endorsed candidates receive up to $500 each for their campaign, as well as significant volunteer support on the grassroots level.

Prominent Kenner democrats seeking support in March include Police Chief Nick Congemi and several Council candidates. Wiedemann announced that the next meeting of the Executive Committee will be held on the evening of Feb. 19 at the Gretna Historical Society and is open to the public.

Coulon Receives Encouragement for Higher Office
A few weeks ago, it was reported in this column that Parish President Tim Coulon, who has to vacate his office due to term limits, could run for public service commissioner. Now it has been learned that several Jefferson Parish political heavyweights are urging Coulon to seek even higher office: lieutenant governor.

Those supporting Coulon believe that he can use his skills to succeed on the statewide level, and -- according to one of them -- their ultimate goal is to see Coulon as governor.

Those urging Coulon point out that he has been an excellent administrator who has accomplished a great deal for the parish. "I have never seen a more effective administration, and I have never seen one get along better with the Council," says one Coulon booster.

To hear Coulon's reaction to all of this urging, listen to Ringside on WTIX 690 AM this Wednesday at 11 a.m. when he will be the special guest for the whole hour.

Charter Change Brewing
Various sources are reporting that Jefferson Parish voters will be asked to approve a revamping of the Jefferson Parish Council. The plan being promoted would reduce the number of council districts from six to five and create two at-large positions in place of the chairman's position. This system is identical to the council format in Kenner and New Orleans.

Sources report that Councilman Donald Jones is spearheading this change and will bring it to the entire council for approval. If a majority of the council approves this change, it will then be brought before the voters for approval.

All district boundary changes need the approval of the Justice Department, which will be looking to insure that at least one of the districts has a voting majority of African-Americans. The proposed plan should meet guidelines, since one of the five districts will retain an African-American majority.

If this passes, Council members Lloyd Giardina and Ed Muniz will be running for two at-large seats instead of one council chairman's position, insuring a much easier election for both of them.

One other change being discussed would involve extending terms. Right now, council members have a two-term limit, but some are advocating a similar system to the one in New Orleans that was recently unsuccessfully utilized by Mayor Marc Morial. Morial gathered 10,000 petitions to gain access to the ballot for a charter change amendment that would allow him to run for a third term. He failed, receiving only 39 percent of the vote. The Jefferson Parish proposal would allow councilmen a chance to run for a third term if they garner signed petitions from at least 25 precent of the voters in their district.

As with the other charter change being discussed, before being implemented it would need approval from the council and then the voters of Jefferson Parish.

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