Willie Jones To Run For Cedric Richmond New Orleans House Seat
Written by  // Thursday, 23 December 2010 11:54 //

By Christopher Tidmore, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
        It was in attending several neighborhood meetings that inspired Willie Jones to run for the open District 101 State House seat in the January 22nd special election to succeed Cedric Richmond.  
        In those gathering of his neighbors, Jones saw that everyone shared the same concern “more police presence” and a frustration at the pace of recovery.  

        As he explained to The Louisiana Weekly, “Many residents of Little Woods are terrified by the increase in crime in the area.  I have heard their cry for police sub-stations in areas such as Little Woods.  I am committed to working with the Chief of Police, community leaders, constituents, and elected officials in developing a plan on how we can provide more of a police presence in District 101.”
         “My decision to seek elective office,” Jones continued, “actually involved a process of self-evaluation.  I questioned whether or not I can just sit back and watch my already fragile community (New Orleans East) continue to be the 'step-child' of the City of New Orleans.  I answered NO.  I then considered whether I had the courage to call attention to the fact that a strong New Orleans East makes a stronger New Orleans and a great State of Louisiana. I have courage to “Stand” and to “Call out”.  
         “I then questioned whether I have anything to offer the constituents of District 101, the citizens of New Orleans and the State of Louisiana:  (1) Can I re-enforce and/or enhance the progress that has been made by the predecessor to District 101; (2) Do I have answers or at least viable alternatives to situations that plague New Orleans East, District 101, the City of New Orleans, and the State of Louisiana?; and finally (3) Do I have the character, vision, and integrity to leave a great legacy  for our children, grandchildren, and generations  to come?  I can answer all in the affirmative. “
          Jones went on to explain, “My life experiences uniquely qualify me for this office.  I have worked as a political organizer, strategist, and consultant for U.S. Senate and Congressional candidates, judicial candidates and even threw my hat in the ring as a candidate for State Representative District 101 seven years ago.  I have a track record of building coalitions among the business community, between political organizations, and throughout the faith-based and religious community.  Only a successful leader can galvanize diverse groups of people to rally around a person and causes.”  
           As such, he stated, “My top three campaign platform planks include (1) economic development; (2) Education; (3) Crime Prevention.”
          When asked, though, ‘Do you support a single board for Higher Education?  Without closing historically Black Universities and regional colleges, how can we merge academic programs to get more "bang for our buck'?’, Jones replied,   “Fiscal responsibility is critical to the efficient and effective management of State, Local, and Municipal government.  We cannot be so fiscally responsible, however, and eliminate vital programs such as higher education. “
        “I think we have to be careful when we begin talking about dismantling educational systems.  I will respectfully seek an audience with the Presidents of each higher education system within the State and learn how we can be fiscally responsible without jeopardizing g the great institutions of higher education.  I think it important to also study how other States have survived the “economic melt-down” in higher education.  The various Universities have compromised over the years and have effectively eliminated duplicate programs and partnered with each other to enhance programs.  Additionally, I want to see our community colleges such as Delgado continue to thrive.  Many students want to continue their education after high school, but some either do not desire a four year degree, but want to enhance their opportunity for employment and elect community college.  Other students need the remedial courses that are offered at community college to aid their opportunity to enter a four year college.  We definitely do not want to eliminate the opportunity for these two types of students.  We need to build our brain trust not deflate it! Finally, I am not a proponent of closing historically Black Universities.”
      As to whether he supports a single board for the Port systems of Louisiana as State Senator Conrad Appel has proposed, he outlined, “I am interested in what will benefit our State.  I recognize that 500 million tons of cargo move through the Port of New Orleans each year.  Half of the nation’s grain export finds its way to the New Orleans Port.  As state legislators, we have to commit to enhancing the efficiency of our ports whether it calls for consolidating the Boards for our Port systems or allocating funds to the various ports to ensure that each has state of the art systems to continue to rank as the nation’s leading cargo ports.  The bottom line is that our port systems are a vital source of revenue and economic growth for our State.”   
      But, Jones stopped short of giving a definitive yes or no answer.
      As to the question, What is role of an African-American in an increasingly Republican and Caucasian dominated House of Representatives, he answered, “The role of an African-American Democrat in the Louisiana Legislature is to do what is in the best interest of his constituents without regard to political party, race, or ethnicity.  It is my hope that my leadership style will be such that I can build alliances with fellow legislators regardless of race and party affiliation.  All racial, ethnic, and socio-economic groups have suffered from our economic woes.  I do not believe that citizens care about whether a Republican or Democrat introduces the bill to assist with health care, funding for education of their children, and laws that protect our wetlands..   I am not interested in being politically correct but in supporting legislation that will promote what is in the best interest of all citizens!
      Jones did not answer if the parties in the State House should continue organize their leadership elections on a cross party/racial system as they have for years, in light of the recently achieved GOP majority in the State House.
        As with the vote at City Hall last week, considering how many local government bodies have rolled forward millages after rolling them back thanks to higher revenues from rising assessments, Jones said that he backs a state law that would require a public referendum and voter approval before millages could be rolled forward.  
        “I have always believed that voters should be “in the know” on what affects their lives and livelihood.  I am an advocate on educating the voters on issues related to any type of tax assessment.  I will support a state law that will require a public referendum and voter approval before millages can be rolled forward or back.  I am in the process of studying State Representative Jeff Arnold’s bill.  I am certain that I can offer my support to the bill if it does indeed request notice to voters about such action of governmental bodies. “
         As to whether the legislature and the Governor should de-dedicate the third of the state budget that is currently dedicated funding by STATUTE, as opposed to the third that is dedicated by Constitutional Amendment to allow for many of the cuts to higher education and health care to be reversed, Jones explained, “ I am not certain that ‘de-dedicating’ the funds dedicated by Statute as opposed to funds dedicated by Constitutional amendment will necessarily avoid cuts to higher education and health care unless we propose legislation that will guarantee that a certain percentage of the ‘de-dedicated funds’ are allocated to higher education and health care.  I realize that the point of ‘de-dedicating’ funds is for unspecified use, but the history of our legislative and executive branches of government in funding higher education and health care leads me to believe that if we do not dedicate a certain percentage of the de-dedicated funds to higher education and health care we will not see funding in these areas.”
       As for Gov. Jindal effort to change the law and allowing the executive branch to be able to cut across the board 10% of budget in times of deficit, Jones said, “Balancing the budget and eliminating the deficit is the most pressing problems for any elected official.   I am not so certain that the executive branch of government should have the exclusive decision making power to “slash” the state’s budget.   Our citizens do not deserve to suffer from the elimination of health care, mental health care, education, or unemployment insurance benefits.  We are creating a society of homeless families when we make such vital cuts.  We are giving our children a bleak future!  My first order of business in resolving the deficit is to “flush out” waste.  As a freshman legislator, I will make it a priority to learn about the “luxury” expenses of each branch of government, if any exist.”
        Jones offered no example, though, of where he would cut.
        As to what the candidate said he could do to speed up Hurricane recovery in his district, he proposed, “We have to offer economic incentives for retailers and other business entities to invest in New Orleans East.  It is shameful that surrounding parishes enjoy a tax base from Orleans Parish because one of the highest populated areas in the City (New Orleans East) does not have retailers to satisfy our needs.  It is my hope that I will be successful with working the Mayor of New Orleans and City Council in developing and implementing plans to revitalize New Orleans East.”   But, he offered no state solutions to the problem.  
          Of the proposal for a constitutional limitation of growth in the budget, similar to Colorado's TABOR, which limits state governmental growth to the rate of inflation, Jones said, “The problem with amending our constitution to allow for limitations on governmental growth to the rate of inflation is that we put ourselves in danger of possibly limiting the use of revenue during periods of economic growth due to increase in personal income tax and increase in tax base as a result of an influx of new businesses in the State.  A plan like TABOR limits the growth of state and local revenues to a highly restrictive formula.  I do not want to see the citizens of Louisiana suffer from some of the pitfalls of such a plan as TABOR as the citizen of Colorado have experienced.  For instance, Colorado’s TABOR has led to drops in funding for public health care, a decline in education funding for k-12 and finally cuts in higher education..  This is not a viable plan for Louisiana. “
        Jones also declined to take a no new taxes pledge outside of tobacco taxes.  “I cannot at this time make such a pledge without thorough research on the impact such a measure will have on my District, the City of New Orleans, and the State of Louisiana. We are in dire need of new streams of tax base for our City and State.   I will, however, have neighborhood meetings to educate and to hear from my constituents as to their preference on a ‘no new taxes pledge’.”  
            As to the resources available to accelerate the reopening of a Hospital in New Orleans East, he said, “Recovery Block Grant money from the City of New Orleans has been considered for the purchase of Methodist Hospital Properties.  It is my hope that we can encourage the support of investment bankers and private investors to ignite the cash flow that will accelerate the reopening of a Hospital in New Orleans East.  I will encourage tax credit incentives for businesses and banks that are willing to invest in our hospital.”
       Breaking with the other candidates in the field, Jones said, “ I would definitely support a cooperative endeavor with the new proposed St. Bernard Parish Hospital.  We have to begin thinking regionally when it comes to offering services for the citizens of the State. “
        As a legislator to help downtown's Canal Street be reborn, Jones offered few specific ideas.  “I am committed to working with the Downtown Development District, the Canal Street Corporation, the Chamber of Commerce, and the City of New Orleans in introducing legislation that will assist with the revitalization of Canal Street,” he explained.
         Of Paul Pasterek's plan to have a continuation of the RSD, Jones was unsympathetic.   “Unfortunately we find ourselves with a recovery school district because the prior school system was deemed by the State as failing.  The hypocrisy of it all is that the RSD is also failing.  The long-term future of the recovery school district is assessment and re-evaluation of how are schools can achieve excellence in education.”
        Considering that the RSD has already taken over schools in other parishes outside Orleans, to the question, should the model be the same, Jones responded, “I believe parents and educators should play a vital role in the decision making on what type of school system works best for our children.  I will be in favor of any plan that will guarantee that our children (1) master and excel in reading, math, and science; (2) graduate from high school; and (3) upon graduation for high school will be able to compete with other students from across the county for admission to college. “
         As for the proposal to have a state mandated Charter Magnate School in every parish, Jones said, “I realize that Charter Magnet Schools do work but we have to make sure that all students will have access to equal and quality education.  I do not want to see disproportionate funding to non-Charter Magnet Schools.  This is my major concern for such a state mandate.”
        He did not wish to take a pro or con view on any further changes to the post-New London constitutional amendment that outlaws the use of Eminent Domain to take blighted properties.  “I need to do further research on this issue before I can intelligently respond to this question,” Jones told this newspaper.”
       As to next month’s redistricting fight, Jones reflected, “I am concerned that re-districting plans will possibly reduce the number of African American majority Senate seats in Orleans Parish.”  But on the current fight between Black Caucus members, Jones noted, ‘I will have to reserve my opinion of the “shifting black majority seats to the Houma/River Parishes region’ until I can research and understand why such a proposal was suggested.”
           Looking to election day, Jones concluded, “It is my sincere hope that the residents of District 101 will grant me the honor of serving as their next State Representative.  I will be accountable to accessible all people.  I thank you for your prayers and vote on January 22, 2011.”


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