Sensitive suggestions for French Quarter groups revealed in memo mistakenly sent to media _lowres

Advocate staff photo by JOHN McCUSKER -- New district C council menber Nadine Ramsey takes the oath of office Monday, May 5, 2014.

French Quarter residential groups should keep City Councilwoman Nadine Ramsey “on the defensive” by focusing on complaints about crime and development on both sides of the Mississippi River and should continue efforts to hire a black spokesperson to combat perceptions of a lack of diversity among their membership, according to an internal memo from a political consultant advising the groups.

The memo, written by consultant Cheron Brylski, was intended to provide recommendations to the two groups — Vieux Carre Property Owners, Residents and Associates and French Quarter Citizens — in their ongoing battles with Ramsey over development issues and regulation of bars and restaurants in the city’s most-visited neighborhood.

But when she emailed the memo Friday morning, Brylski accidentally copied it to a list including members of the news media and many others.

Brylski said the memo represents her own opinions and advice and not the views of VCPORA or FQC. While she has offered help to those groups, she said, she is not being paid by either one.

Much of the memo, which summarizes the discussion at a strategy meeting, focuses on Ramsey, whose district includes the Quarter and who has frequently drawn the ire of the residential groups for proposals they argue put the interests of bars, restaurants and hotels above residents.

“I have been fairly vocal that I don’t think she’s standing up for our residents,” Brylski said in an interview Friday. “That’s my feeling for not just the French Quarter but also the Bywater and Marigny, which she also represents.”

While VCPORA and FQC focus mainly on issues in the Quarter, Brylski recommends ramping up a “grass-roots” campaign focused on crime and development issues in Algiers, Ramsey’s base of electoral support, such as a proposal to build a gas station that is opposed by some residents there.

The memo discusses efforts to get the Fraternal Order of Police and former Police Superintendent Warren Woodfork to come out in opposition to a proposal by Ramsey that would loosen restrictions on bars within restaurants in the Quarter, and it suggests that on some issues VCPORA and FQC should pin their hopes on the courts, rather than trying to defeat them at the council.

“It does appear we have more hope to get favorable support in court than before the council as our votes continue to dwindle and the Ramsey coalition gains strength,” Brylski wrote.

The “Ramsey coalition” apparently refers to Council President Jason Williams and Councilmen Jared Brossett and James Gray. Councilwomen Stacy Head and Susan Guidry have opposed several of Ramsey’s proposals.

Brylski also suggests Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell’s support might be difficult to get if she thinks she is seen as voting too often with Head and Guidry, the only white members of the seven-person council.

The memo recommends the Quarter groups continue to look for a black spokesperson. Brylski said that suggestion is aimed at combating the perception that the groups are “whites-only groups,” something she said might be hampering their effectiveness.

“It seems to be of particular concern to Nadine,” Brylski said. “She’s communicated in different ways to some of these groups that she doesn’t feel anything in common with them. Really, that’s just not true, but if that is the barrier, let’s get across it.”

Jefferson GOP group snubs parish president

The Jefferson Parish Republican Party Executive Committee endorsed former Plaquemines Parish President Billy Nungesser for lieutenant governor Saturday, snubbing Jefferson’s own parish president.

The decision to endorse Nungesser over Jefferson Parish President John Young was the biggest surprise to come out of the endorsement meeting, which also saw the strongly conservative committee put its support behind the gubernatorial campaign of U.S. Sen. David Vitter, who is from Jefferson.

On a local level, the committee endorsed Kenner Mayor Mike Yenni for parish president over Councilman Elton Lagasse.

It also endorsed Councilmen Chris Roberts, Ricky Templet, Paul Johnston and Ben Zahn in their re-election bids and former parish Chief Administrative Officer Jennifer Van Vrancken for the council seat representing Metairie.

Incumbents received endorsements in almost all other parish, legislative and statewide races. The one exception was the endorsement of former U.S. Rep. Jeff Landry in his bid to replace Republican Attorney General Buddy Caldwell.

Caldwell and Young are seen by some observers as less ideologically inclined than Landry and Nungesser.

Candidate quits race for Senate District 9

Former Jefferson Parish School Board member Polly Thomas, the chairwoman of the Jefferson Parish Republican Party Executive Committee, has bowed out of the crowded race for a Metairie-based state Senate district.

Thomas said she decided to withdraw from the District 9 race because she felt there was no clear path for her to win the four-person race and staying in would not be fair to her family or the district.

That leaves incumbent state Sen. Conrad Appel to face off against former state Rep. John LaBruzzo and Scott Songy. Appel and LaBruzzo are Republicans; Songy is not registered with a major political party.

Public Defenders Office hits fund drive goal

With a late public-relations boost from comedian John Oliver on his HBO show, the Orleans Parish Public Defenders Office has exceeded the $50,000 goal it set for an unusual online crowdfunding campaign.

By Friday night, the last day of the campaign, the office had raised more than $53,700 in online donations.

The campaign, launched earlier this month, sought to offset a small part of what is projected to be a $1 million drop in revenue for the office. In response to that cut, Chief Public Defender Derwyn Bunton has announced a hiring freeze and four weeks of unpaid furloughs for his staff.

Oliver early last week pointed to the New Orleans office as a poster child for the poor state of public defense nationwide on his show “Last Week Tonight,” prompting an overnight influx of donations that more than doubled the $7,000 that had been raised until that point. Another $40,000 was raised over the next few days.

Compiled by staff writers Jeff Adelson and Ramon Antonio Vargas