city government elections

Candidate questions: Bob Murrell, City Council District A

The election originally scheduled for Oct. 9, which includes an open primary for all City Council seats, has been rescheduled for Nov. 13 due to Hurricane Ida.

To give voters a chance to learn the policies, platforms and personal attributes their City Council candidates plan to bring to the office, Mid-City Messenger has sent questionnaires to all of the District A and District B candidates.

Bob Murrell

City Council District A

Robert “Bob” Murrell, Democrat

Place of birth: Charity Hospital, New Orleans
Schools attended and degrees obtained: Riverdale High School 2000-03, Tulane University 2003-06, University of Missouri 2005-08. High school diploma
Current neighborhood: Lakeview
Profession: Software developer
Memberships: Orleans Parish Prison Reform Coalition, Democratic Socialists of America New Orleans, Lakeview Civic Improvement Association, Industrial Workers of the World
Covid vaccination status: Fully vaccinated and masked up

What is your vision for the district?
I envision a habitable and prosperous district where my 2-year-old and all kids in New Orleans can develop and grow into the next generation of change makers. So many of the solutions to our current problems neglect long-term vision, but my platform is firmly centered on a just and equitable path toward healing what’s broken now, restoring what’s been lost, and building toward a sustainable future.

What would be the first ordinance or resolution you would introduce?
Establishing housing as a right for all people in New Orleans.

What should be the spending priorities for the $388 million the city will receive from the American Rescue Plan?
Let the people decide. The ad-hoc process that’s currently happening isn’t transparent or participatory. The people continue to ask for more funding for schools, affordable housing and improved transit. We can use this opportunity to put the power of the purse in the people’s hands with a participatory budget.

What would you do to better address juvenile crime?
We need to dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline and replace it with a school-to-success pipeline. That means working with the New Orleans Recreation Development Commission, New Orleans Public Library and Office of Business & External Services to create programming designed to engage kids and teenagers with a growth mindset, so they’re in a better position to succeed as adults. Further, we need to fully fund diversion programming so it’s not tied to court penalties with dedicated funding from millages, grants, federal dollars and from the general fund.

Should cash bail be eliminated?

What ideas do you have to bring non-tourism jobs and economic activity to New Orleans?
“Bringing” jobs implies there aren’t jobs already here. There are jobs available, and people are actively looking for work. The issue lies with employers offering insufficient wages and unrealistic expectations of our workforce. We need an economy to satisfy the needs of our people over profits.

Our health sector is a growing industry in New Orleans while health inequities are killing people. What ZIP code you live in shouldn’t correlate to your life expectancy. We can expand our health sector to ensure all people are provided with adequate health care while increasing workforce training and expanding the great education programs that are provided by our local colleges and universities.

I’m a supporter of a Green New Deal, and part of that is a jobs guarantee with an emphasis on green jobs. After Hurricane Ida, it’s imperative that we begin to create a resilient energy grid that is decentralized and distributed so we can continue to provide some power to residents during tropical weather events. The City Council can regulate Entergy’s excess revenue to be directed into programs to create such a system as a complement to our current grid by creating work opportunities and job training.

How can the city more quickly increase the number of affordable housing units?
We should expand public housing and work to increase landlords accepting vouchers. We can implement a vacancy fee structure to encourage more housing stock to hit the market, and work with community land trusts to acquire vacant properties. We can reduce the number of STRs permitted so they can start housing people that live here instead of tourists.

Is the city successfully handling short-term rental licensing and enforcement?
No. We should ban whole home STRs and instruct the Office of Inspector General to examine OBES permitting and the inadequate enforcement of illegal STRs.

What can the Sewerage & Water Board do to reduce street flooding in non-hurricane events?
The neglect of our pumping and drainage systems from previous administrations has put the S&WB in a position of failure, and I do not think it’s wise for us to continue to force a square peg in a round hole. There is only so much the S&WB can do based on the physics of water pumping, the geography of our city and the lack of dedicated state and federal funding to replace aging systems. In order to put the S&WB in the best position to succeed in reducing street flooding, we need to reduce the amount of water that reaches the streets in the first place. I would work to ensure federal infrastructure dollars are spent increasing water retention across the city and requiring water retention on permits for construction that do not utilize permeable concrete or are in flood-prone neighborhoods. Rain barrels are cheap and programs like Green Light are already available to encourage water retention on residential properties. We should be doing the same with commercial properties.

What is the most important personal attribute you would bring to city government?
I am a member of the working class. I do not own property, and I sell my labor to feed and house my family. Like over half of District A prior to the pandemic, I was cost burdened, paying over 30% of my monthly income on housing costs. I am a cyclist and use public transit, and I will not utilize a take-home car if elected.

When your elected officials aren’t directly impacted by their decisions, our city winds up in the position it’s currently in — massive gaps in the quality of life for the haves and the have nots. I won’t be bought by wealthy interests — unlike the incumbent, I refuse campaign contributions from oil & gas, real estate developers, charter schools, and owners of city contractors. Instead, I will answer to the people who live, work and go to school in District A. I have no aspirations of power — I only want the people of District A and all of New Orleans to be prioritized over profits for Entergy, real estate developers and other capitalist interests.

The deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 13 election is Oct. 13 in person or by mail or Oct. 23 through the GeauxVote Online Registration System.

Early voting is Oct. 30 through Nov. 6 (excluding Sunday, Oct. 31. The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Nov. 9 by 4:30 p.m. Absentee ballots must be received by the registrar of voters is Nov. 12 by 4:30 p.m. 

See here for a complete list of candidates. See here to find out what your ballot will look like.

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