New Orleans City Councilwoman Stacy Head is making it clear she’ll be glad when her term is over in 2018.
Head, who cannot run for re-election due to term limits, twice indicated that her time in New Orleans politics is coming to an end during a council committee meeting last week about plans to develop a soccer complex on “The Fly” portion of Audubon Park.
At one point, Head chastised opponents of the plan for what she said were unfair remarks impugning the motives of those involved with the Carrollton Boosters, which put forward the proposal, and the Audubon Commission, which approved it.
Head, who has seldom been shy about sharing her thoughts on issues or people before the council, cast her criticisms as coming from the freedom that not having to run for re-election provides.
“For the next two years I’m going to start saying the things that need to be said,” Head said. “After that, I’m out of here.”
Earlier in the meeting, she had referred to the upcoming “end of (her) political career.”
It’s not the first time in recent months that Head — who once talked about running for a judgeship and was discussed as a potential mayoral candidate — has publicly expressed relief that her council service will end after 12 years.
Late last year, as the council was considering the fate of four Confederate monuments in New Orleans, Head and Mayor Mitch Landrieu clashed over what might happen to other potentially controversial statues in the city. During the heated exchange, Landrieu, who also is term-limited, said that decision would be up to administrations and councils that didn’t include either of them.
That drew a “thank God” from Head.
Businessman criticized over unpaid taxes
New Orleans businessman Troy Henry, who was criticized by some neighbors recently when he successfully petitioned the New Orleans City Council for a building demolition, once again is under fire, this time for allegedly failing to pay his property taxes on time.
City records show Henry’s company, Infinity Fuels, has not paid taxes on at least seven properties, including the former auto parts store on St. Claude Avenue that Henry plans to demolish to put up a convenience store.
The city’s tax deadline was Feb. 1.
Some St. Claude neighbors called on Henry to renovate, not demolish, the building, but he said it is too damaged to be rehabilitated and its design is unsuitable for his business.
Those critics now are blasting Henry for unpaid taxes, particularly because he had assured the council that those payments were current.
“They don’t pay any of their property taxes. I don’t know why we are doing these people any favors, except that he is politically connected and (his business partner) Wendell Pierce is an actor,” Tara Cox said.
There’s an explanation for some of the missed payments, Henry said. The city has fined Infinity more than $123,000 in code enforcement liens on the St. Claude store. Henry is protesting the liens in court, and according to the city code, property owners with such liens must pay them in full before they may pay taxes on that property. Thus, if Henry and Pierce are protesting the liens, they might avoid tax payments until that issue is resolved.
That logic doesn’t explain the tardiness of the taxes on the two men’s other properties, however.
In any case, Henry said he fully intends to pay what he owes. “We’ve been in business a long time, and we will continue to pay our property taxes,” he said.
His critics “have a different definition of ‘current’ than I have,” he said.
Tax hike, bond issue to go before voters
The State Bond Commission has signed off on putting a $26.6 million annual property tax increase and a $120 million bond issue on the April ballot for New Orleans residents to approve or reject.
The commission’s approval was the last hurdle the measures needed to clear before they go to the voters on April 9.
The property tax increase would raise the millage dedicated to police by 5 mills and the millage for fire protection by 2.5 mills.
Officials have said the $17.73 million the police millage would generate is needed if the city is to meet its ambitious recruitment goals for the New Orleans Police Department over the coming years.
The fire millage, expected to generate about $8.87 million in its first year, will be plugged into the firefighters’ pension system, freeing up money that then can be used to pay a $75 million judgment against the city over back pay owed to firefighters and helping offset other money the city now spends on firefighters’ retirement.
About $100 million of the bond issue would be spent on roads and drainage improvements. Another $15 million would go toward public buildings and parks, with the remaining $5 million going to buy firetrucks and equipment.
Convicted lawyer’s license suspended
New Orleans lawyer Michael Arata may have avoided prison for his role in a scheme involving state film tax credits, but his law license is now in jeopardy.
The Louisiana Supreme Court suspended Arata’s license to practice law Wednesday while disciplinary proceedings get underway.
A federal jury last year convicted Arata of cheating the state’s tax credit program for movie production infrastructure in a scheme involving the transformation of a Victorian mansion on Esplanade Avenue into a post-production studio. Prosecutors accused Arata, Hollywood producer Peter Hoffman and Hoffman’s wife, Susan Hoffman, of misleading auditors and state officials about the cost of the work so as to claim $1.1 million in tax credits.
Although Arata was convicted on 13 counts, U.S. District Judge Martin Feldman reversed 12 of them and sentenced Arata to probation, a fine and community service.
Arata is married to Emily Sneed Arata, who was a deputy mayor under Mayor Mitch Landrieu before taking a job with Ochsner Health Systems earlier this year.
Compiled by Jeff Adelson and Jessica Williams