Political allies become temporary antagonists
It’s common enough for arguments to break out at the New Orleans City Council, but it’s odd for the jabs to start flying when the contenders are on the same side of an issue.
Nevertheless, LaToya Lewis, an organizer for the group Stand with Dignity, managed to get into it last week with Councilman James Gray.
Lewis showed up to support a new policy devised by Mayor Mitch Landrieu that’s aimed at getting more local workers hired for city projects. Gray actually introduced the measure on the mayor’s behalf, and it passed unanimously.
But Lewis got upset when she felt Gray cut her off at the microphone a little too soon. (There’s typically a two-minute cap on public comments.)
“Big business,” she said — referring to the head of the Louisiana Associated General Contractors — got to finish his remarks.
She then started yelling, “Black workers matter! Black lives matter!” and had to be forcibly removed.
As Lewis was led out, Gray shot back: “We can disagree, but we don’t have to be disagreeable.”
And then: “When you have friends, you ought to be nice to your friends, because you might turn them into enemies.”
Lewis, who seemed unfazed by the dustup, said that she did “appreciate how nice the police officer in City Council chambers is, even though he had to kick me out.”
She will continue to be ornery if it gives the disadvantaged a better shot, she said.
Lagasse says opponent is not really a Yenni
Would a Kenner mayor by any other name have as good a shot at becoming Jefferson Parish president?
Elton Lagasse, a parish councilman who is vying with Kenner Mayor Michael Yenni and three others for the job, raised the question in a pair of new attack ads. And he clearly thinks the answer is no.
Lagasse accuses Yenni of having changed his last name from Maunoir in the late 1990s strictly to gain a political edge. “Yenni” was the last name of his grandfather — who served as parish president from 1980 to 1987 — as well as his late uncle, who held the job from 1987 until 1995.
In one of the ads, the narrator says, “Little Mikey Maunoir always wanted political power, so Mikey was determined to fulfill his dream, even changing his own name from Maunoir to Yenni.”
Yenni maintains that he switched his name as an homage to his mother, Peggy Jo Yenni, and grandmother, Lucille Yenni, and that “Yenni blood does run through my veins.”
The Lagasse ad also tries to tie Yenni to former Parish President Aaron Broussard, who is serving a prison term on federal corruption charges. It points out that Broussard was Yenni’s attorney when he filed to change his name and claims Broussard was also Yenni’s “good friend” and “mentor.”
Yenni — who previously tackled questions about his name change when he first won the Kenner mayor’s seat in 2010 — frequently says it was his grandfather who did the mentoring.
Peralta still able to raise some money
Despite having been indicted on four separate occasions, St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta apparently is still capable of raising campaign dollars.
Going for a second term even as he fights numerous criminal charges, Peralta has raised $38,800 in contributions, according to his latest campaign finance reports.
He has spent about $26,029, leaving him $12,771 in the bank as the seven-way Oct. 24 primary approaches.
The biggest chunk of money has gone to his criminal defense attorney, Martin Regan, who received about $10,750 for unspecified legal services.
Peralta’s largest individual donors — none of whom are from St. Bernard — chipped in $2,500 apiece, the legal limit. They include Jeffrey and Timmy Bonura of Metairie, H. Davis Cole, of Baton Rouge; George Kleinpeter, of New Orleans; Richard Shread, of Baton Rouge; and Lydia Sneed, of Metairie.
Former assessor steps into current campaign
Former St. Tammany Parish Assessor Patricia Schwarz Core isn’t running for the office she held for five terms, but that didn’t prevent her from being part of the debate between incumbent Louis Fitzmorris and challenger Chip Bankston on Monday night.
Fitzmorris, who defeated Core in 2011, told the audience at Abita Town Hall that he inherited a mess from Core, with assessments that were “all over the place.”
Bankston defended Core.
“As far as I know, the previous administration did a pretty good job,” he said.
An audience member at the Concerned Citizens of St. Tammany-sponsored forum asked Bankston about the support he’s received from Core, who has passed out his cards and taken other measures to help him.
Bankston replied that he is taking help wherever he can get it. “I’m a political virgin,’’ he said.
But Core wasn’t only a subject of debate — she joined the fray, standing up at the end of the forum to ask Fitzmorris why he let so many qualified staff members go. Then she took a shot at Sheri Campbell, Fitzmorris’ director of public and intergovernmental relations, saying that Campbell had owned a snowball stand before working for the assessor.
Campbell fired back at Core and then appealed to the debate’s moderator. “Are you going to allow that, Rick Franzo?’’ she asked.
Franzo asked Core to sit down and quickly moved to closing statements.
Compiled by Jessica Williams, Ramon Antonio Vargas, Richard Thompson and Sara Pagones