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Jefferson Parish's Top 10

Here is my review of the top 10 events of 2002 in Jefferson Parish. Few could have predicted this list at the beginning of the year. Let's see if next year is just as unpredictable.

10. Governor's Race. In the beginning of the year, Congressman David Vitter announced his intention to look at the governor's race, immediately becoming the Republican Party frontrunner. In May, however, Vitter shocked political observers with his withdrawal from the race, leaving a vacuum on the Republican side eventually filled in December when state Sen. John Hainkel announced his intention to run for governor.

9. Redevelopment of Clearview Mall. In a major boost to Jefferson shoppers, the once-outdated Clearview Mall received a massive facelift. While these improvements added to the congestion at the already busy intersection of Clearview and Veterans, the result will be that Clearview Mall will now give other parish malls stiff competition.

8. Harahan and Kenner Elections. In Harahan, Paul Johnston edged out fellow Council member Kerry Lauricella in the mayor's race to succeed term-limited Vinny Mosca, who was elected to the City Council. In the race to replace the late John Doyle as Harahan police chief, his son John Doyle III was defeated by Council member Peter Dale. In Kenner, political newcomer Dominic Weilbaecher stunned political observers when he defeated incumbent Betty Bonura for the Council-at-large post. Also, Council member Phil Capitano scored an easy reelection (despite the opposition of the Kenner chief of police and multiple candidates) and will now be looking at the upcoming Kenner mayor's race.

7. Plans for Bucktown Marina Face Severe Opposition. The Bucktown Civic Association scored a major victory when work was halted on the redevelopment of the Bucktown Marina area. Association members objected to the retail plans and office space component of the project, getting hundreds of residents to sign a petition calling for a project redesign. After hundreds braved a driving rain storm to attend a meeting with JEDCO representatives, the plans need to be redone and sent back to the State Lands office for approval.

6. Coulon's Support of Landrieu. To the consternation of Jefferson Republicans and to the delight of Sen. Mary Landrieu, Jefferson Parish President Tim Coulon crossed party lines and backed Landrieu in her close reelection victory over Suzanne Terrell. Coulon's endorsement was prominently used by Landrieu's campaign in mailers, newspaper advertisements and radio commercials.

5. Construction, Construction and More Construction. It seemed that everywhere in Jefferson Parish, construction clogged traffic and created upset motorists. On I-10, major roads and highways, construction was started or continued in 2002. Political leaders cited the price of progress, but motorists seemed more than frustrated with the additional delays.

4. Sales Tax Increase Defeated. The parish usually looks upon tax increases with skepticism, and this election was no exception. Sometimes, proponents of a plan are successful if they are able to severely outspend the opponents, and this was one of those elections, with the School Board allocating funds for a glitzy media campaign. Opposing the increase were two ladies, Margie Seeman and Margaret Baird, who used automated calls and created an opposition organization that triumphed in the end.

3. Ballot Propositions Face Voters. Politicians did not dream that the voters would approve the proposition to change the structure of the parish Council to a five-member, two at-large arrangement; however, that is exactly what happened. Now, districts will have to be drawn and a potential court fight survived. In the same election, term limits were ratified once again. A ballot proposition to allow for members to receive signed petitions calling for an extension of their term in office by the voters in their district was soundly defeated, a loophole rejected by voters intent on preventing Council members from circumventing term limits. This means that an almost entirely new Jefferson Parish Council will be elected this fall.

2. Back-Up Generators Fail. During Tropical Storm Isidore, back-up generators failed, resulting in an awful flooding problem. By the next week, money was discovered to provide back-up generators for the bad weather associated with Hurricane Lily. The firestorm of criticism was very intense, and the scorched politicians are now attempting to secure bids to find a permanent solution.

1. Bodenheimer Investigation. The investigation into Judge Ronald Bodenheimer shocked Jefferson Parish voters, who elected Bodenheimer in 1999. Bodenheimer was known as a tough former prosecutor; however, the investigation has now shown questionable dealings with an eastern New Orleans marina, accusations that an associate planted drugs in the car of an opponent to the marina, and audio tapes that show him trying to curry favor with restaurant magnate Al Copeland. Now, the investigation has broadened to include others such as Judge Alan Green, a prominent bail bondsman, as well as others associated with the 24th Judicial Court.

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