Mayor Mitch Landrieu will head to the Sheraton Hotel on Wednesday to start making his case that taxpayers need to cough up more money if the city is going to stay on an upward trajectory.
The Bureau of Governmental Research has invited the mayor for one of its regular “breakfast briefings,” billing the event as a chance to hear the “administration’s plans for meeting the city’s looming financial obligations.”
Those obligations include a big bill — about $17.5 million — due to the city’s troubled firefighters pension fund and sums yet unknown to help implement needed reforms at the jail, not to mention expensive reforms already underway at the Police Department.
The administration’s plans for meeting those obligations and others will include a property tax hike — if voters give the OK. The Legislature has already approved the increase, which could bring in as much as $30 million a year. Next, it will have to clear both statewide and local votes. Then the City Council will have to put the question on a second local ballot.
Landrieu will have to be on his game to convince property owners they should open their purse strings a little wider. He may have won re-election with nearly two-thirds of the vote, but the last tax proposal on the local ballot — for the Audubon Nature Institute’s zoo, aquarium and other attractions — appealed to only about one third of the voters.
Potential Reed rival socks away cash
Walter Reed, the embattled St. Tammany Parish district attorney, hasn’t faced an opponent at the polls since 1996, but media reports and federal investigations about his campaign spending and personal finances could encourage someone to finally make a run for his seat.
One formidable obstacle for any challenger would be Reed’s war chest — more than $319,000, according to his most recent campaign filing.
Still, one hopeful seems undaunted. Roy Burns, who has said he will run regardless of whether Reed does, has seeded his campaign with $200,000 of his own money, a signal that he may be willing to go dollar-to-dollar with Reed for the job.
Burns’ self-funding was confirmed by his political consultant, James Hartman, who recently ran Chuck Preston’s successful campaign for St. Tammany Parish coroner. In that race, Preston largely self-funded his own campaign.
The other rumored candidates include state District Judge Ray Childress, St. Tammany Parish Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Brian Trainor and Slidell attorney Alan Black; all have said they are considering it.
A nominee with a colorful history
Among the nominees for various city boards up for approval at a City Council committee meeting Monday is William Schultz, a veteran New Orleans political consultant as well as a man with a bit of a past.
In 2007, Schultz was sentenced to a year in federal prison for failing to pay federal income taxes over several years, a misdemeanor charge. Even so, he has maintained close relationships with many local politicians, and he continues to work on political campaigns.
And now, newly minted City Councilman Jason Williams has nominated him to serve on the Alcohol Beverage Control Board, which votes on whether to revoke permits from businesses licensed to sell alcohol.
Williams, a veteran defense lawyer, said he was aware of Schultz’s record but doesn’t believe it should disqualify him from serving.
“I weigh everything — all the good things a person has done and all the bad things they’ve done,” Williams said. “I look at what they can bring to the table. I don’t judge anyone by just one aspect of their lives.”
He said Schultz is an ideal candidate for the post because “he has relationships and interests in every single part of the city. Regardless of a person’s race, their socioeconomic position, he’s in every one of those circles. I didn’t want to appoint someone who would only relate to one type of person. I find him to cross many different paths.”
Compiled by Andrew Vanacore, Faimon A. Roberts III and Gordon Russell