Seven candidates are running in a New Orleans City Council District C race that has raised important questions about how the city manages crime and vacation rentals.
They are: nonprofit executive Stephanie Bridges, lawyer Freddie King III, business owner Alonzo Knox, cosmetologist Vincent Milligan Jr. and business owners Stephen Mosgrove, Frank Perez and Barbara Waiters.
All hope to replace City Council member Kristin Gisleson Palmer, who is running for council member at-large.
District C encompasses Algiers, the French Quarter, the Marigny, Treme, St. Roch and the Bywater. The primary is Nov. 13, and a runoff, if needed, will be Dec. 11.
Bridges, the director of the New Orleans Council for Community and Justice, a nonprofit focused on fighting bias and racism, signed up for the council race because she sees an opportunity to fix some of the city’s long-standing problems.
She also said that as a former city attorney, she’s familiar with local government’s inner workings.
“Looking at the streets, the blight, and the crime … there is so much that needs to be done in this city to better our community and to improve the quality of life for our citizens,” said Bridges, a 60-year-old Democrat.
The New Orleans Police Department needs help, but not necessarily more money, Bridges said. Instead, the force should examine why it is losing so many of the officers it hires each year, and why it has trouble recruiting them at all.
The council’s regulation of Entergy New Orleans is inadequate, as Entergy mounted a sluggish response to Hurricane Ida’s pummeling of its grid, Bridges said.
Freddie King III
King, 37, is a Democrat and a lawyer at his own firm. As a mentor of boys and young men in the New Orleans area, member of the InspireNOLA charter school board, and constituent services director in former City Council member Nadine Ramsey’s office, King said he’s well prepared for the job he seeks.
“A lot of people say what they are going to do,” King said. “But I have been doing things in my community for several years, not as an elected official, and with limited resources.”
King said the New Orleans Police Department should expand its ranks by reducing its age requirement from 20 to 19. Mental health experts, not police, should be responding to calls involving mental health crises. And the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission needs more money for its programs, he said.
To stop illegal vacation rentals, the city should raise the fine it imposes on rulebreakers from $500 per offense to $2000, he said.
Officials should also create a nighttime enforcement team that would monitor operators who post their illegal whole-home rentals at night, when City Hall would otherwise be closed.
Knox, a Democrat who owns Backatown Coffee Parlor in the Iberville neighborhood, said residents should see his candidacy as a breath of fresh air for anyone looking for real change.
“It’s the same-old people running for office, and it’s the same results that we keep getting,” said Knox, 50. “I’m independent, and I’m not relying on any political machine or social group.”
Violent crime will taper off when more resources are put into crime-ravaged neighborhoods, Knox said. First responders should also get higher salaries, and New Orleans should have a dedicated lab to process DNA and other evidence key in solving crimes. Currently, New Orleans police outsource that lab work to the Louisiana State Police.
Knox also proposed an Office of Night life and Culture that would hold the owners of vacation rentals accountable when they break the city’s rules. Those rules should also be tweaked to prevent rental operators from taking over large swaths of city neighborhoods, he added.
Vincent Milligan Jr.
Milligan, a 53-year-old cosmetologist who is not registered to a party, moved to New Orleans five years ago after flooding ravaged his Baton Rouge home.
He said that local government often fails to provide basic services to residents, despite collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in hospitality and other tax revenues each year.
“If we are getting over a billion dollars in the city every year, where is it going?” Milligan said. “A lot of money is being wasted in this city on different things.”
The council has too often kowtowed to Mayor LaToya Cantrell, despite its ability to control the government’s purse strings and make decisions in residents’ best interests, he added.
NOPD needs a bigger budget to allow it to hire more police; so too does the city’s public works department need more funding to fix potholes and other infrastructure problems, he said.
The Louisiana Public Service Commission should also be regulating Entergy New Orleans, not the council, he said.
Mosgrove, a 50-year-old Democrat, is running because he wants to create a New Orleans that people never want to leave. The city needs better police protection, an economy that offers more than tourism, and an efficient government, he said.
“I’ve been an early and longtime voice advocating for positive progress in New Orleans,” Mosgrove said.
He said the government should serve people, “and not the political ambitions within the political machines and circles.”
Mosgrove would prioritize crime reduction and the revitalization of small businesses in Algiers and along St. Claude Avenue and North and South Claiborne avenues. He would also work to revive Algiers’ Brechtel Park.
Perez, a 53-year-old Democrat, is running for the District C seat because he hopes to remedy the dysfunction he said has long been present in every facet of local government. An anemic Department of Public Works, spotty sanitation collections and inadequate zoning laws are just some examples, he said.
“People say, ‘Oh, that’s just New Orleans. That’s the way things have always been,'” Perez said. “Look, I think we can keep our quirkiness, our eccentricity, our oddball nature of our city, without being incompetent.”
Perez wants to beef up the police force by allowing lateral transfers of officers from other departments.
He would also push the Orleans Parish Juvenile Court to expand its services, and enforce long-held city laws that have long gone ignored.
He also favors opening a “nighttime city government” to catch violators of short-term rental rules and of the city’s noise ordinance.
Having lived in the district for 38 years, Waiters, a 59-year-old Democrat, remembers when crime was low and kids had no shortage of after-school programs to keep them out of trouble, she said.
She blames political machines, which have done their part to mobilize Black voters but “have lost their way” when it comes to solving the problems people care about, she said.
“I think we need to go back to basics, and so that’s my platform,” Waiters said.
The city should create more programs to improve relationships between young people and the police, Waiters said. Upgrades are needed for the decades-old pumps that make up the city’s drainage system, and stronger internet connections are needed for residents who can’t afford their own service.
The city should also enforce rules that require developers to add more affordable housing units in large projects, to help stop the gentrification of neighborhoods, Waiters said.