Meet New Orleans East District E candidates
District E’s City Council race features a candidate selection of six who all want to tackle the issue of New Orleans East existing at the edge of the city and not thriving as it should in economic development and quality of life.
Ernest “Freddie” Charbonnet
Charbonnet, former interim District E councilman, said he has spent much time preparing himself for public office and believes he is the best candidate.
“I think that the next council person has to realize, much like members of a football team, we are in a competition,” Charbonnet said. “We are competing with other districts and other parishes, competing for developments that can improve the quality of life in the district.”
Charbonnet said this competition extends to attracting the young professional demographic to District E, and he doesn’t see that happening with current District E Councilman James Gray.
A lawsuit was filed against Charbonnet a week after him qualifying, saying that he did not file a tax return in 2012. Charbonnet said he now has to set time aside for the “bogus” legal run.
“I believe I qualified with every requirement with the form that I signed,” Charbonnet said.
In his platform on crime, he said a lot of addressing the issue is on the mayor’s office and that it will take a larger part of the budget than the city is allocating now. However, he has ideas on what else could be done.
“We need to use private, public partnerships to address that. We certainly have our share of athletes from this area, and these people want to contribute to the communities they came from,” Charbonnet said.
He said people and organizations’ collaborations could prevent the young in our community from feeling like they have to become criminals and eventually find themselves in the criminal justice system.
“Here in New Orleans, with the numbers we have, it’s doable.”
Favaroth, who works as a deputy clerk at the Orleans Parish Civil District Courthouse and as a football coach at George Washington Carver Collegiate Academy, wants to focus on improving quality of life, opportunities for children, and development in the lower 9th Ward for District E.
His quality of life ideas involve implementing a “green day” for going out and cutting the grass in different communities. For youth opportunities, Favaroth wants to hone in on education, emphasizing that “every kid is not an athlete”.
Favaroth relayed that in New Orleans East being “left out” from the rest of the city, the future council person of District E must speak for the Lower Ninth Ward as well. He said that there is nothing but a Chicken Mart in the Lower Ninth Ward.
“So we need not only someone that’s going to fight for New Orleans East but that’s going to fight for the Lower Ninth Ward also,” Favaroth said.
Two more big issues for Favaroth are getting a helicopter for the NOPD to use in his district, and consolidating crime departments the city has now. He said that the helicopter could be funded through federal money from the Department of Homeland Security.
“I want to try to consolidate the departments that we have because we have a lot of departments that are riding around not being used: Housing Authority Police, Levee Board, Orleans Parish Office,” Favaroth said. “I want to consolidate those departments to where they can actually answer calls to service. When you look at the bigger picture of crime, we need to have all hands on deck.”
Favaroth said he will be in the community a lot during his candidacy and that he’s been having events at different churches.
Gray, District E’s incumbent, said one can actually view more development under construction in New Orleans East than any other part of the city. However, one of the biggest problems for the entire district is people dumping garbage into easily found empty lots.
He said new security measures will be implemented in the city, and part of the package are cameras in New Orleans East to catch people dumping garbage.
“The citizens said those cameras can be best used to help us with illegal dumping, which is a serious problem, particularly for tires.”
Gray shared that construction has begun on the 188 homes that the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority is making available.
“The Lower Ninth is big enough that 188 houses won’t be noticed. We could build a thousand, and it wouldn’t make the kind of impact that we may need eventually, but it’s a start,” Gray said.
For creating jobs and revenue in the city, Gray thinks New Orleans could expand on its use as a port.
“We are essentially a bulk weight port that moves things in bulk and we just move it,” Gray said. “We’re having conversations to make efforts to change that.”
If the city invested in assembling foreign items shipped in parts, then the products could be labeled “Made in America”, Gray explained.
“We have the space to get stuff off the wharf to New Orleans East, and we have the people who can do that labor intensive job.”
Gray said he feels the biggest struggle is making sure that locals are able to benefit from existing and new activity going on in the district.
Herbet, who worked in the U.S. Postal Service for 37 years, serves as a commissioner on a Non-Flood Protection Authority subcommittee and became a community activist after Hurricane Katrina. She wants to improve District E’s property use and ability in attracting developers.
She said a big problem in the East is code enforcement. She said citizens must take initiative on their own to cite empty lots and vacant buildings, and many times the city won’t address the issues.
“To me, if they helped us clean up that interstate area, it would include the perception that maybe we could get some economic development if developers saw that we care about our area,” Herbert said.
She said if she were Councilwoman, she would definitely be in a position to help clean up the district. Herbert said cleaning up will also change the perception that the East is crime-ridden, which also alienates homeowners as well as developers.
“We are not healthy. We don’t have the walkable areas like other areas. We don’t have stores we can walk to. We need to be treated equitably,” Herbert said.
She said the one thing New Orleans East has that people overlook is nice, maintained neighborhoods for property cheaper than any place else in the city. Herbert said with better transportation access, the stress of living in New Orleans East and the likelihood of working in another district could diminish.
“We have what [developers] need. We have the airport, massive amounts of land, and we have the water,” Herbert said.
Herbet said she feels blessed and upbeat to have so much community support, and that blight and code enforcement issues are some of their main concerns also. Herbert will be hosting a meet and greet event at 211 Oakmont Drive this Friday, July 28 from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Nguyen, the executive director of the nonprofit orgnization Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training (VIET), wants to re-vamp economic development in New Orleans East and establish a loading space for developers.
“There’s got to be a reason why we haven’t gotten our share of development,” Nguyen said.
She said malls and plazas are not what they used to be, and online shopping is more popular now. “I think we have to understand the market. We have to understand how people are spending, and that’s what developers are looking at.”
Nguyen would like to partner frequently with organizations that already have voices in the community and also address crime in a manner that doesn’t solely involve recruitment.
Nguyen said making a decision to run wasn’t easy because of finances, but said she loves the community and wants to learn how to transfer leadership and community skills to younger generations. She recently finished a three-year fellowship with the Kellogg Foundation and wants to establish a fellowship called the Next Generation of Readership. The fellowship would train individuals wishing to serve the community and be a facility for job training and neighborhood engagement.
Nguyen will be having pop-up events throughout the campaign and will be available at Ma Momma’s House of Cornbread, Chicken and Waffles, located on 5741 Crowder Boulevard.
Alicia Plummer Clivens
Clivens, who works in real estate and business development, said her platform centers on economic equality of the city’s budget, capital outlet money for New Orleans East and the lower Ninth Ward, and increased law enforcement numbers and police stations open 24 hours.
“For a long time, New Orleans East has been ignored. Our quality of life issues have been ignored,” Clivens said. “Although the Lower Ninth Ward was used as a poster child to get those FEMA funds, we have yet to see any of it in our district.”
Clivens said she has dealt with infrastructure issues before being an elected official. She is the vice president of the New Orleans East Business Association and a former chairwoman of the original Orleans Parish Hospital Service District board. She said she wants to make sure infrastructure and projects for her district actually come.
She’s interested in developing Chef Menteur Highway and growing District E’s industrial corridors to create manufacturing jobs in facilities in order to start rebuilding the middle class.
“We need to redevelop Lincoln Beach. That’s one of the top things on my list, when it comes to legislation and the kids,” Clivens said. “We need state-of-the-arts programs.”
In terms of crime, Clivens said a police station open 24 hours would really help communities. She also said she thinks some children are suffering from PTSD due to Hurricane Katrina.
“I think we’re overlooking the fact of the stress that has carried over to young adult lives, throughout this entire 12 years post Hurricane Katrina. This is what we’re seeing now,” Clivens said.
Clivens said she thinks she’s been asked to apply for this City Council position because she hasn’t seen any strong leadership in District E, since Councilman Gray has been in office. She explained that some things that have come to the district have just been due to her own initiatives, like the reopening of the former Methodist Hospital, or because they’ve been projects coming down the pipe.