New Orleans mayoral candidates talk crime fighting in Monday night forum

Posted on Jan 19, 2010 in Local Issues


By Brendan McCarthy, The Times-Picayune
January 19, 2010, 7:32AM

new orleans mayoral candidates.jpgTed Jackson / The Times-PicayuneRob Couhig, John Georges, Troy Henry, Mitch Landrieu James Perry and Nadine Ramsey, left to right, on Jan. 5. All attended a crime forum sponsored by Silence Is Violence Monday.With their platforms long ago solidified, the top candidates for mayor pounded home the key points of their proposed criminal justice reforms in a forum Monday night.

Attorney Rob Couhig, businessmen John Georges and Troy Henry, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu, housing activist James Perry and former Civil District Court Judge Nadine Ramsey participated in the forum at Goody’s restaurant on St. Claude Avenue. The event was sponsored by influential community group, Silence Is Violence.

Some overwhelming themes emerged in the 90-minute forum, with candidates largely agreeing to several like-minded reforms. All want to better fund and revamp the New Orleans Recreation Department. All vow to take a more hands-on approach to crime — going to crime scenes, reaching out to the families of homicide victims, and reducing the murder and violent crime rates.

Perry pounced on the issue of accountability, reiterating that he would lower the murder rate by 40 percent, or he would not run for re-election.

“That’s as real as it gets,” he said.

He pointed to continued platform chatter that lacks specific goals, saying he is the one candidate willing to be held accountable.

Landrieu explained the planks of his platform: lowering crime, bettering NORD and revamping the juvenile justice system.

He also spoke of an incident in which he was robbed at gunpoint as a child. “It was a life-changing experience for me,” he said. “It is seared in my brain.”

He called crime the single most important issue facing the city, and said the next mayor has to get it right.

Henry emphasized his experience as a businessman and the importance of having an executive at City Hall. He spoke of performance measures for police, and noted that the criminal justice system’s ankle-bracelet monitoring system needs to be revamped and made more efficient.

Couhig, the lone Republican at the forum, repeated a mantra that the city needs a “dose of tough love” – blunt reforms in many departments, including the police department. He reiterated a pledge not to raise taxes and said the city must fight blight.

“Clean up this city and we are going to clean up some of this crime,” he said.

Georges, who said he takes every murder personally, noted that the city is not as aggressive as it should be in going after sales taxes. He said the administration could get more than $30 million in sales taxes, which could be used to fight crime. He said too much of the police budget is going to police overtime.

In the most direct attack on another contender, Georges aimed at a salvo at Landrieu, saying that being lieutenant governor is nothing like being mayor. Georges pointed to his business acumen in lobbying for the crowd’s votes.

Ramsey, meanwhile, pushed the importance of faith-based organizations and the role of the community in combating crime. She said a new police superintendent will have to possess a long term commitment to solving crime and will have to address low morale in the police department.

Brendan McCarthy can be reached at bmccarthy@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3301.

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