Moderator: Dr. Edward Chervenak, University of New Orleans
Panelists: Dr. Jinx Broussard, Barthelemy Press Secretary
Clancy DuBos, Gambit Weekly, WWL-TV
Ron Nabonne, former Barthelemy aide
Born and raised in New Orleans’ Seventh Ward, Sidney Barthelemy ascended to the office of mayor in a career that paralleled the rise of African-American political power in the city. After leaving St. Joseph’s Seminary in Washington, D.C., with a degree in philosophy, he took at a position at Total Community Action and became active in the founding of Community Organization of Urban Politics (COUP). Mayor Moon Landrieu appointed Barthelemy to head the city’s welfare department, and in 1974 he became the first African-American state senator since Reconstruction. In 1978 he became the city’s first African-American councilman-at-large. He won a hard-fought battle against William Jefferson in the Democratic run-off in 1986, and faced a difficult financial landscape upon taking office. Taking several emergency measures to stabilize the City’s budget, Barthelemy continued to search for ways to navigate the shifts in the local economy. While police scandals and accusations of cronyism marred his tenure, he was instrumental in bringing a land-based casino to the city, as well as the building of the New Orleans Arena. Click here to view LEH’s interview with Sidney Barthelemy.Watch a video of the panel on Sidney Barthelemy, 2009 at the Louisiana Humanities Center
March 1986: After finishing second to William Jefferson in the primary, Barthelemy wins the run-off with 58% of the vote.
July 1986: Facing a $30 million deficit and $25m in cuts in state funding, announces layoffs of city employees, new temporary taxes, and proposes a property service charge. Despite the support of 3 of his predecessors, the public votes down the service charge. Soon after, city workers are given pay cuts and a 4-day work week.
February 1987: Jefferson Parish authorizes the erection of barriers at the border between a white neighborhood and a black New Orleans neighborhood. Protests ensue and Barthelemy orders them demolished.
1987: Successful efforts in the legislature lead to approx. $50m in funds for expanding the Convention Center, as well as assistance in securing the Pic ‘N’ Save distribution center.
February 1988: City-funded study recommends demolition of major portions of public housing, resulting in public outcry and the mayor’s denial of rumors that the projects would be sold off and residents thrown out.
June 1988: UNO poll shows high level of African-American dissatisfaction with the administration.
August 1988: Republican National Convention held in New Orleans.
June 1989: Accusations arise over contracts awarded by the Aviation Board to firms with ties to the mayor.
November 1989: Former mayor Dutch Morial announces he will not run in the 1990 election, making Barthelemy the favorite vs. Dock Board Chair Donald Mintz.
February 1990: Defeats Mintz in a run-off preceded by accusations of race-baiting from both sides. After winning 85% of the white vote in 1986, Barthelemy garners only 23% of white voters while winning 86% of the black vote (vs. 25% in 1986).
September 1990: Aquarium of the Americas opens on Riverwalk.
April 1991: Police Superintendent Warren Woodfork retires amidst revelations of police brutality and ongoing federal probes into corruption. As a replacement, Barthelemy names Arnesta Taylor, an NOPD veteran and family friend who holds the position for two tumultuous years.
December 1991: City Council adopts Dorothy Mae Taylor’s ordinance prohibiting discrimination by Mardi Gras krewes. As a result, old-line Momus, Comus, and Proteus krewes cancel parades. In search for a compromise, Barthelemy supports the ordinance but creates a panel to study the issue. The panel amends the ordinance, which is later ruled illegal by a federal judge.
1991: Successfully refinances $165m of city’s bonded debt, secures $145m from state for capital projects and 17m in federal funds for local housing.
April 1992: City secures ownership of Rivergate site, securing city revenue from a planned land-based casino.
June 1992: State legislature approves casino.
May 1992: US Justice Dept. ranks the city first in complaints of police brutality between 1984 and 1990. Between 1985 and 1991, murders rose 127% according to the NOPD.
June 1993: Controversy arises over the mayor’s awarding of a scholarship to Tulane to his son.
June 1993: New Orleans Arena approved by state legislature. Barthelemy is a key actor in securing the funding and state cooperation.
March 5, 1994: Marc Morial elected next Mayor of New Orleans.