Ten people, including two incumbents, are vying to fill five spots on the Harahan City Council in the Nov. 4 election.
All of the candidates run citywide. The top five vote-getters are elected.
Seeking to keep their seats are council members Tim Baudier and Dana Huete, while outgoing Mayor Vinny Mosca is hoping to return to the council, where he served previously.
Craig Johnston, who ran for the council but lost in 2012, is hoping the second time will see him victorious, while Patrick McDaniel and Carrie Wheeler are making their inaugural runs for office.
Also on the ballot are Susan Benton, Alan “A.J.” Boudreaux, Michael Maxwell and Bryan “Keko” Whittle.
Peter Dale also qualified for the race but said he has withdrawn.
The candidates’ platforms differ in many regards, but they dovetail when it comes to upkeep of the city’s sewer system and economic development.
Huete, 39, has been a councilwoman since 2010, when she first sought public office.
If elected to a second term, she said, she would focus on providing resources to the Harahan police and fire departments while working with state and federal agencies to try to find money to help operate and maintain the city’s drainage and sewage infrastructure. The city and Jefferson Parish are discussing having the parish take over the sewer system, but nothing has been finalized.
Huete also would focus on luring new businesses to the city of about 9,000 people and would work as an advocate for the city’s senior center and recreation department.
Baudier, 45, is trying to secure a second full term in his fourth run for office. He ran and lost in 1996. He won an interim seat in 1998 and was elected to his first full term in 2010.
During a second term, he said, he would focus on finding grant money to repair the city’s “disintegrating” drainage system and on promoting economic development.
Baudier said he would oppose any residential development on plots of land that have been zoned commercial at the site of the former Colonial Country Club on Jefferson Highway, whose future has been a point of contention. The site is owned in part by John Georges, owner of The New Orleans Advocate. Ultimately, Baudier said, he would fight for development at the site that is “done in a manner that is neighbor-friendly and fits the décor of Harahan.”
Mosca, 66, who has served as mayor or a councilman since the mid-1990s, was the mayor in 2013, when the Legislative Auditor’s Office found the city had spent more than $5.8 million while its budget was $5.4 million, a roughly 8.6 percent difference. State law requires municipalities to amend their budget when actual revenues or expenditures differ from the plan by more than 5 percent.
Mosca said the extra money was spent to pay for three sinkholes caused by sewer issues and because the city had not yet received repayment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for some costs. He also said a revised budget was approved by the council in December.
He said that as a councilman, he would work with the federal government’s asset forfeiture unit to help bolster the city’s funds. The money, he said, is needed to “overhaul Harahan’s outdated sewer system” and repair the streets.
Johnston, 33, would work to obtain state capital outlay funds for various infrastructure improvements, including the sewage and drainage systems, and also would work to close open drainage ditches in the city, focusing on Jefferson Highway and Hickory Avenue.
“These open ditches are a safety hazard to traffic and are constantly becoming clogged, reducing the efficiency of the removal of stormwater runoff,” he said.
Business retention and attraction through a partnership with the Jefferson Economic Development Commission is another of Johnston’s platform planks, as is transparent budgeting for the city by posting all budgets online as soon as they’re enacted and putting the city’s check register online each month.
McDaniel, 46, who served on the council on an interim appointment in 2012 to fill the vacancy left when Paul Johnston was elected to the Jefferson Parish Council, said the budget is his most pressing concern.
If elected, he said, he would call for an itemized review of the budget with the possibility of making cuts that would not affect public safety. “Bottom line, every position and department would be looked at,” he said.
McDaniel said the city also needs to build up a rainy day fund as well as draw up a long-term plan to deal with updating the sewage and drainage systems.
He also would push for an audit of all city contracts, regardless of when they are set to expire, to determine if there are ways to make the government operate more smoothly.
Wheeler, 39, said a key goal of hers would be to “rebuild the integrity” of the city’s government, which she said has been damaged in recent years by revelations that it overspent its budget last year and that the city bought two vehicles without obtaining competitive bids.
Wheeler said she also would make the city’s budget and financial information more readily available to residents who might want to review it, as well as seek new revenue streams “without placing that burden on the citizens of Harahan.”
Another key platform plan, she said, is trying to attract new small businesses to the city while trying to retain existing ones.
Benton refused to speak to a reporter about her candidacy. Boudreaux, Maxwell and Whittle did not respond to messages from The New Orleans Advocate.
Follow Danny Monteverde on Twitter, @DCMonteverde.