Nadine Ramsey wanted Susan Guidry to back off.
The former turned on the latter Thursday as the City Council considered allowing demolition of a former St. Claude Avenue auto parts store.
The property, owned by actor Wendell Pierce and businessman Troy Henry, is in Ramsey’s district, and she favored demolition. Guidry favored upholding a rejection of the request by the Historic District Landmarks Commission.
For decades, it has been an unwritten rule that other council members do not oppose a district member on a zoning or land-use issue in his or her district, but exceptions to that rule have become more common in recent months. Guidry herself couldn’t get her colleagues’ support on zoning issues in her district at least three times last year, and Ramsey twice was among those opposing her.
Nonetheless, Ramsey on Thursday took exception to Guidry’s “digging in to seek information to stop” Pierce and Henry’s plans. “I have supported her in her district,” Ramsey said.
In response, Guidry — who cited communications from the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority that she said cast doubt on Henry’s presentation and also pointed to blight fines the property has incurred — labeled herself as a preservation advocate. While she tries hard “to vote with the district council people,” she said, she “will look at things myself and make independent decisions.”
Several agenda items later, Ramsey was the lone council member to vote against Guidry on a demolition issue in Guidry’s district.
Ramsey and Guidry often have been on opposite sides in the frequent battles before the council between economic development and historic preservation, with Ramsey stating that “people are more important than property” and Guidry voting as a preservationist on numerous occasions.
They also have tussled over an unrelated affair. Early last year, Guidry accused Ramsey and Councilman Jason Williams of rigging the public comment deck by asking proponents of certain proposals to come to meetings early and then requesting, at the last minute, that the items be moved to an earlier time to accommodate those proponents.
In response, Ramsey told Guidry, “You are on a slippery slope” and to never “talk about my intent again.”
The council eventually voted 4-3 in favor of the demolition in Ramsey’s district.
U.S. attorney gets a new top assistant
U.S. Attorney Ken Polite has a new No. 2. And he’s not even that new.
Duane Evans, a longtime prosecutor and supervisor in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office, took over as Polite’s first assistant several months ago. He replaces Richard Westling, who took the job as Polite’s top lieutenant shortly after Polite became the first presidentially appointed U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana since Jim Letten stepped down in 2012.
Evans joined the office 15 years ago.
Westling quietly left the office recently for Nashville, Tennessee, where he had lived and practiced law for several years before coming to New Orleans to take the job as Polite’s first assistant. Westling has returned to the firm of Waller Lansden Dortch and Davis LLP, where he is a partner.
Westling said he returned to Nashville to be with his family, who had remained in Tennessee. Westling, who had a previous tour in the local U.S. Attorney’s Office in the 1990s, was brought in partly to help right the office after an online commenting scandal led to the departures of several top attorneys, including Letten.
In addition to changing the office’s management structure a bit, Westling’s departure will have some impact on one of the office’s most closely watched cases: the prosecution of former 22nd Judicial District Attorney Walter Reed. Westling was one of two lead prosecutors on that case, along with Jordan Ginsberg.
Westling has been replaced on that case by three other prosecutors: Brian Klebba, Maria Carboni and Marquest Meeks. The case is set for trial in April.
Parish logo bridges two administrations
St. Charles Parish President Larry Cochran had an unusual sort of announcement the other day: no news.
Cochran, who took office a month ago, said he had decided to keep the same logo and colors as the official symbol for St. Charles Parish government.
“Traditionally, an incoming parish president changes the parish logo and colors upon taking office,” Cochran said. “My administration considered the effort and cost of this type of endeavor and simply couldn’t bring ourselves to do it. Instead of focusing on logos, we are choosing to focus on levees, infrastructure and other critical parish needs.”
So the parish logo will remain a stylized representation of the Interstate 310/Hale Boggs Bridge across the Mississippi River; the bridge connects the two parts of the parish.
The Cochran administration said it plans to draft a resolution to “solidify the bridge logo and the colors of green, beige and gold as the official parish branding.”
Compiled by Jessica Williams, Gordon Russell and Bruce Eggler