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New Orleans City Council's 'Awkward' Period

Updated 5/18/12

The Case of the Missing Quorum reached fever pitch today, as City Councilpeople Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and Jon Johnson didn't show up for the first meeting called since the duo walked out of the May 3 meeting in protest. Another meeting is scheduled for tomorrow, and the four Councillors who showed up this morning hoped the absent members would shed some light on their intentions by the end of the day. But instead they issued a statement about a different sort of light.


To pre-empt calls that streetlights weren't being fixed while the Council wasn't doing things that were before them on regular agendas, the two missing councillors issued a joint statement this afternoon. Nothing was said about the District B replacement for Stacy Head, Errol George, who still needs to be voted in, or any of the other pending legislative business. But there was plently of talk about streetlights.


"The City Administration has assured us that the absence of City Council legislative action at its May 3rd regular meeting pertaining to this matter will in no way impact the ongoing street light program," the statement said. "Street lights are currently being repaired, and we are on schedule to have every light in the City turned on by the end of the year."


Meanwhile, Head and Councilwoman Jackie Clarkson issued their own statement, characterizing this as an "awkward" period for the Council that they hope to put behind them.


"Ultimately, it appears that the real issue is about council integrity and autonomy. Standing on different sides of an issue is an expected and necessary component of a democratic body and should not result in the cessation of city business. We urge our colleagues to return to the Council tomorrow for our regular meeting at 10:00 a.m. so that we are able to establish a quorum and resolve unfinished matters."


All Council members are behind the proposal that calls for a change to the way at-large City Council elections are undertaken, Head and Clarkson's statement said. The proposal would replace the current threshold to win a City Council election with a simple majority in a primary or runoff. If approved by the Council. the measure would still have to go before voters on Election Day to change the City Charter.


UPDATE: Johnson and Hedge-Morrell were no shows at Thursday's meeting, as well. Head issued a statement:


"My hope was that this legislative body would come together in fairness and respect. I have reached out to my colleagues and urged them to return to the Chamber and join the majority of the City Council to resolve this issue and the other pressing issues of our City." 

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