New Orleans District E is the largest of the city's five council districts, stretching from the Lower 9th Ward to the easternmost parts of New Orleans East. But despite its size, its residents often feel neglected, left behind while the rest of the city lunges forward.
The problems of the district are no secret. Especially since Hurricane Katrina, a lack of retail options, decaying infrastructure, crime and the need for economic development have been well-documented and persistent.
The four challengers to James Gray, who has held the district's City Council seat since 2012, generally agree on the problems and the solution: luring more businesses and more public money into the district as a way to spur revitalization and growth, as well as to reduce crime.
Where they differ, however, is on who is the right person to make those things happen.
All five touting their qualifications for the job are Democrats.
Gray, 71, acknowledges that many are frustrated with the slow pace of change in District E.
"I share that frustration," he said. "While the progress might not be as fast as I would like it, we are making progress in both" parts of the district: New Orleans East and the Lower 9th Ward.
Gray pointed to the development of the New Orleans East Hospital and the addition of Walmart and Big Lots stores as signs that District E is seeing progress.
If re-elected to a second full term, he said, he would continue to focus on luring not just businesses but also residents to the district, saying that the key to solving blight and crime is making the area attractive to both.
"We are sending a message to business that we are friendly," he said, adding that he helped resolve conflicts over the Big Lots store and that he helped kill a requirement that businesses in the East go through additional licensing, which was driving them away.
Alicia Plummer Clivens
Clivens, 58, a real estate consultant who ran for a state House seat in 2015 and lost in a runoff, said her experience founding the New Orleans East Business Association and working to bring residents back to the area gives her ample preparation for being on the council.
Unlike Gray, she charged, she would fight to see the East gets a fair share of city resources. "I've been fighting for our slice of the pie for years," she said. "The Lower 9 and New Orleans East is forgotten."
Clivens also alleged that Mayor Mitch Landrieu has steered major retailers away from New Orleans East. "We are not getting anything besides dollar stores," she said. "We need more economic development."
If elected, she said, she would pore over the city's budget, identifying available money and making the case that those resources should be dedicated to her district.
"I am known to be a strong leader, and that's what the community needs," she said. "I am not a pawn of an organization or a political machine."
Favaroth, a 37-year-old deputy clerk in Civil District Court, agreed that there needs to be more retail development in the East but noted that one of the key problems is crime. The solution, he said, is to consolidate the various police agencies in New Orleans, including the NOPD, Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office, Harbor Police and Housing Authority Police to get more cops on the streets.
"We need a consolidated effort to get a grip on crime," he said. "You need to solve the crime problem before we can get to economics."
Favaroth, who also coaches football at Carver High School, said that if elected, he would work to get federal funds to purchase a police helicopter and then work on adding a $1 or $2 tax on each vehicle registration in Orleans Parish to provide the revenue to operate the chopper.
He also called for upgrading the drainage system so that pumps can be operated from a remote location, saying that during recent rains, canals along Morrison Road nearly overflowed before pumps were activated.
"We can't live in the Stone Age," he said.
Retired postal worker Hebert also said that a lack of retail development is a major problem in District E. If elected, she would work with the city's Office of Economic Development to develop a comprehensive plan to upgrade the options available to residents.
One part of that plan would be an aggressive fight against blight. "We still have blighted properties that have not been addressed," she said.
A community activist for years, the 63-year-old Hebert said voters are responding to her grass-roots experience, noting that she was one of those who spoke up in opposition to a proposed new Entergy power plant in New Orleans East.
She also said she would work with the NOPD to help get substations placed in both the Michoud area and the Lower 9th Ward, arguing that increased police presence would help stem the area's crime problem.
Nguyen, a community organizer who helped found Vietnamese Initiatives in Economic Training, or VIET, lost a bid for the council eight years ago but said that did not dampen her enthusiasm for working in the community.
Like the others, she cited economic development as the top issue.
The abandoned Six Flags property comes up frequently in talks with voters, and residents often mention "blight and how dirty certain areas of District E look," she said.
"Because of the lack of economic development, you have crime," she said.
Nguyen, 47, who is vice chair of the East New Orleans Business Development District, said that as a council member she would focus on "removing barriers" to development. "If something is good for the community, then we should remove red tape," she said.