Midnight deadline means Landrieu to decide vacant council seat

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wwltv.com

Posted on June 1, 2012 at 9:52 PM

Updated Friday, Jun 1 at 10:20 PM

Tania Dall / Eyewitness News
Email: tdall@wwltv.com | Twitter: @taniadall

NEW ORLEANS - The thirty days are up for the New Orleans City Council to fill a vacant City Council seat.

A standoff between city council members now means that at midnight on Saturday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu gets to decide.

"It is very unfortunate that our City Council, or largest elected body, can not get together on a simple item like this," said Greg Ensslen.

The historic real estate developer is a big part of the "New Freret Street" redevelopment project.

Ensslen is excited about the Uptown neighborhood's growing potential but unhappy with the political standoff at City Hall. For more than a month now, Ensslen and others in District B have been without representation.

Council members Jon Johnson and Cynthia Hedge-Morrell left a meeting after a disagreement with other council members and they didn't return for other meetings, preventing a vote on Head's choice to replace her - Errol George.

With several new businesses signing leases on Freret Street, Ensslen worries that the fireworks downtown could have a lasting effect.

"With the City Council effectively out of service for the last 30 days and probably going to be a challenge to get people to cooperate in the 30, 60, 90 days until the November election, there's a lot of business of the city that's not getting done," said Ensslen.

With the fate of the District B seat now in Mayor Landrieu's hands, he says he will fill it soon but the City Charter does not spell out a deadline.

"I assume that responsibility under the charter is going to fall to me. As I've said many times I'm happy to receive recommendations from the Council members or from the public," said Landrieu, "I would hope to do it sooner rather then later."

Those same sentiments are being echoed by Council President Jackie Clarkson and District C Council member Kristin Palmer who met with the Mayor on Friday afternoon.

"I'm looking forward to getting all the Council members back. I think we'll be able to keep moving forward and I'm looking forward to working with whoever the appointment will be," said Palmer.

UNO Political Science Professor Ed Chervenak says what has happened inside the City Council works against the democratic process.

"Here we have an example of a legislative branch of government ceding power to the executive branch and that's not typically viewed in a positive manner by anyone who watches American politics," said Chervenak.

At least one Uptown resident says the city's politics needs to be refocused on the people.

"It's complete political gamesmanship and the public shouldn't have to suffer through it. It's truly an unfortunate miscarriage of their position," said Ensslen.

The city charter says that whomever Mayor Landrieu picks for the interim seat will not be eligible to run for the vacant seat in November.

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