Water, drainage, lead off debate of mayoral candidates

Chris Miller
September 21, 2017 - 9:01 am

There was certainly no lack of topics for a mayoral forum in Lakeview Wednesday night. Just hours after the city of New Orleans had to issue a precautionary boil water notice, six candidates met for the debate sponsored by the Lake Area Advisory Council and the New Orleans Advocate.

Candidates were asked if they thought privatization of the Sewerage and Water Board would help. That wasn't a popular idea with judges Michael Bagneris and Desiree Charbonnet, or councilwoman Latoya Cantrell or CPA and former Sewerage and Water Board member Tommie Vassel.

"We should not ever privatize our water," said Bagneris, calling it one of our most precious and vital resources.

"No to privatization," was Charbonnet's immediate response.

"Privatization? Absolutely not," Cantrell  flatly stated.

"We don't want to privatize the Sewerage and Water Board," agreed Vassel.

Even the two businessmen on the dais, Troy Henry and Frank Scurlock, were against it.

"I don't think that's necessary with me as mayor," Henry said, although he did note that some aspects of the sewer system are already contracted out to a private company.

"We certainly should not privatize the Sewerage and Water Board," Scurlock said.

All candidates also agreed that residents should not be assessed any new taxes or fees to pay for drainage improvements. The Sewerage and Water Board has said it will need $55 million to pay for major drainage projects, but Henry, Scurlock, and Bagneris said they could not trust the water board's assessment of that price tag. 

Latoya Cantrell said tax-exempt non-profits based in the city should have to pay something to contribute to the system. She also said she would work with lawmakers to try and get more money from the state.

And more public accountability for the board was a common theme among the candidates.

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