J.P. Morrell Announces Candidacy for City Council At-Large; Discusses Policy Positions in Interview

Photo Courtesy of Facebook

Former state Senator JP Morrell announced his candidacy for city council at-large today. In his first interview as a candidate, Morrell reflected on his past legislative accomplishments and his views on the major problems facing the city of New Orleans.

DC: What inspired you to a life of public service?

JPM: I grew up in a household that always stressed public service and community activism, but that was not what drove me to pursue politics. Life experience, namely my time as a public defender and community advocate after Hurricane Katrina is what led me to pursue public office.

DC: Why was passing unanimous jury legislation important?

JPM: Ending split juries in Louisiana was about restoring the Bill of Rights for all our citizens and protecting future generations of black boys and girls in New Orleans, and throughout Louisiana, from losing their freedom to a vestige of Jim Crow.

DC: What additional criminal justice reform is still needed?

JPM: Quite a bit of reform is still needed. The criminal justice system in the state is woefully underfunded and weighed in the favor of prosecution and incarceration. Everything, from marijuana legalization to people serving life in prison for drug possession is tied to a prison industrial complex where local governments are paid to have bodies in beds. That is not justice, it is perverse economic development.

DC: What were your other major accomplishments as a legislator?

JPM: I passed a variety of reform measures, including raising the age for juvenile prosecution, significantly reducing the penalties for marijuana possession, and protecting the rights of individuals for governmental overreach. Equally important, I drastically expanded the authority of law enforcement to protect victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, including fighting and beating the NRA to empower the courts to seize firearms from those who abuse their families and loved ones. As Chair of Revenue and Fiscal Affairs, I ended the 2-billion-dollar deficit left by Governor Bobby Jindal, expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, protecting the incentives for our cultural economy and infused the city of New Orleans with over a hundred million dollars of capital construction projects.

DC: Why do you want to serve on the City Council?

JPM: I was born and raised in New Orleans. Catherine and I are raising our family here and it‘s important that we have new leadership on the local level. It is hard to live in the city we love, and it should not be. I have a 14-year history of achieving results, not pandering, and talking, and this city needs real results.

DC: What are the major problem areas you will address?

JPM: We need criminal justice reform, but we must also fight crime. We have a chronically underfunded criminal justice system, on all levels, as compared to our neighbors and we should not be surprised that our outcomes are so much worse. The Sewerage and Water Board is the existential threat of our time. If we do not solve our drainage problems, investment will stagnate, and our citizens will continue to be paralyzed with fear during every rainstorm and hurricane season. These are just two of a host of problems facing our city, and our community is tired of the same old politicians’ shuffling chairs in municipal seats without ever accomplishing the jobs they were elected to do. We need a fresh voice, with proven experience, to lead, and I am ready to step up.

DC: How will you help get more citizens vaccinated?

JPM: By identifying WHY people are choosing not to get vaccinated and addressing their concerns. We have an excessive number of available vaccines, and simply saying “come and get it” is not working. We need to work with more non-profits and faith-based organizations that have credibility on a micro-level to reach herd immunity. We cannot control what happens around the state, but we can protect our neighbors.

DC: Assessor Errol Williams has been criticized for recent reductions in commercial property taxes. Is NO’s tax system unfair?

JPM: Yes. There is a need for a complete overhaul in how the government assesses taxes. The city council can reduce the tax burden on citizens and should reevaluate how residents are taxed. The system is not fair because some big businesses get exemptions they are not due, while older folks are priced out of their neighborhoods due to gentrification. We need to broaden our tax base and pursue a fair and equitable system to keep our city affordable. 

DC: More affordable housing is needed. How will you lead in that effort?

JPM: By focusing on making affordable homes in addition to the current effort to make affordable rental units. There is a tremendous amount of derelict and blighted properties in the city. Enforcement needs to be more aggressive, and the city needs to bring more property into commerce in a cohesive way. We should be working with home builders to make citizens homeowners and not just focusing on how to stick them in high rises as renters. Our city is a coalition of neighborhoods, and families should be able to live in actual neighborhoods.

DC: New Orleans is on pace for a deadly summer and even a more deadly 2021 overall.  What will you do to address crime?

JPM: The council election is in fall of 2021. My plan for fighting crime in 2022 would be to evaluate where the deficiencies are in criminal justice delivery and address them. Arrest and prosecution are important parts of the system, but they are not the system itself. A fully funded system, particularly juvenile court and its related services, is how you disrupt the wave of juvenile crime.

DC: Early childhood education is paramount. Should every 4 yrs. old be in school?

JPM: Yes, Early childhood education should be accessible and available to every child, especially for families who can least afford it.

DC: Should possession of marijuana for recreational use be legal?

JPM: Yes.

DC: Rebuilding our tourism economy is important. What must be done to get employees to return to relatively low paying food, beverage, and hotel jobs?

JPM: We need to rethink how we evaluate what our city does for employees in the hospitality industry. The city has failed to make affordable housing available near where people work. The council has not done enough for our businesses to ensure they are successful enough to pay their employees a livable wage and has not prioritized that quality of life is paramount for all citizens. Having to take two connecting buses through the gentrified neighborhood you used to live in, with the possibility of being robbed while walking from the bus stop to a restaurant/bar/hotel that may or may not be open is a lot to expect from a working parent who, also, does not have access to affordable childcare.

Check out JP Morrell’s newsletter and watch his campaign video below.

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