title page | introduction
The Charter of 1805

New Orleans' first charter was granted by the territorial legislature of 1805, and went into effect the following year. It established a mayor-council form of government with a mayor appointed by the governor for a term of one year. The council consisted of fourteen members-two from each ward of the city-who were elected for two year terms, one-half the membership being elected each year. The mayor was a justice of the peace and superintendent of the city police. There was also a recorder, who was a kind of assistant mayor, appointed by the governor for the same term and who served both as a justice of the peace and president of the council without vote. Generally speaking, the mayor was fairly strong, having the power to veto ordinances and appoint his subordinates. This charter, with certain changes, lasted until 1836. The most important of these changes occurred in 1812, when the mayor was made elective and given a two-year term. The following year there were similar changes in the office of the recorder. The size of the council was reduced to ten in 1827, all of whom were elected for a term of one year.

p a g e   1 William Kenner (1774-1824) and Julien Poydras (1746-1824) were two of the members of the Legislative Council of the Territory of Orleans, the body that adopted the city’s first charter in 1805. Kenner (right) was a prominent merchant and planter. Poydras (left) was also a planter and merchant, but is probably best remembered as an early New Orleans philanthropist.
          [National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Louisiana. Historical Activities Committee. Louisiana Portraits. New Orleans, 1975]
p a g e   2 Three days following adoption of the city’s first charter by the Legislative Council of the Territory of Orleans Governor William C. C. Claiborne sent an English language copy of the document to Mayor James Pitot. Though Claiborne’s cover letter has survived the copy of the charter has not, at least not in the City Archives.
          [Letters, petitions, and decrees of the Conseil de Ville]
p a g e   3 The Louisiana Gazette printed the full text of the 1805 Charter in its February 22, 1805 edition, five days after the law was adopted by the Legislative Council. The Gazette was New Orleans’ first English-language newspaper of any significance. It was published throughout the period 1804-1926.
p a g e   4 Section 13 of the 1805 Charter confirmed municipal ownership of all lands that had belonged to the city under the Spanish and French dominations. It was thus necessary for the Mayor and Conseil de Ville to investigate Bernard Marigny’s claim to property on the eastern side of the city before giving him final permission to subdivide those lands into the Faubourg Marigny. Displayed here is the report of a committee appointed by the Conseil de Ville to conduct that investigation.
          [Ordinances and resolutions of the Conseil de Ville, 1805-1815]
p a g e   5 On adoption of the 1805 Charter New Orleans was officially an American city after having existed as a European outpost on American soil for the better part of a century. It is rather ironic, therefore, that within a month the Conseil de Ville was asked by the Roman Catholic Vicar General, Rev. Patrick Walsh, to intervene in an ecclesiastical dispute with Pere Antoine. Father Walsh’s letter suggests that the Conseil should suppress, or at least discourage, a meeting to be held on the following day to elect a pastor for the New Orleans congregation. One day after the meeting, though, three members of the Conseil de Ville—Nicolas Girod, Charles Poree, and Paul Lanusse—reported that the meeting had taken place and that Pere Antoine had been chosen to be the pastor. For more information on this complex situation, see Stanley Fay’s article, “The Schism of 1805 in New Orleans,” published in the Louisiana Historical Quarterly, v. XX (1939), pp. 98-141.
          [Ordinances and resolutions of the Conseil de Ville, 1805-1815]
p a g e   6 Five months after adoption of the 1805 Charter Daniel Clark questioned the city’s right to demand that he prove ownership of lands, comprising a rope walk, needed for the extension of several streets. Clark asserted that his reading of the charter left doubts as to the validity of the resolution that directed him to produce valid title to the property in question.
          [Conseil de Ville. Messages from the Mayor, 1805]
p a g e   7 Pierre Seuzeneau cites the 1805 Charter in his lawsuit against Barthelemy Lafon for non-payment of an amount due for laying the sidewalk (banquette) in front of Lafon’s property on St. Peter Street. County Court Judge James Workman ruled in favor of Seuzeneau and ordered Lafon to pay $75 plus court costs. Seuzeneau’s petition is shown below and at right is his bill for the work.
          [County Court #218, Seuzeneau vs. Lafon (1806)]
p a g e   8 James Pitot (1784-1831) was mayor of New Orleans when the city’s first charter was adopted by the Legislative Council in 1805. A native of France, Pitot found his way to New Orleans after being forced to flee his homeland following the French Revolution. Governor Claiborne had appointed him as mayor in 1804 and resigned the office in the middle of 1805. Claiborne then appointed him to serve as the first judge of the Court of Probates in New Orleans, a post that he held until his death.
          [National Society of the Colonial Dames of America in the State of Louisiana. Historical Activities Committee. Louisiana Portraits. New Orleans, 1975]
The Charter of 1836

The charter of 1836 was not a completely new document since it provided for the continuation of the former charter provisions which were not specifically superseded. The basic character of the city's government, however, was completely changed. The city was divided into three municipalities, each with its own governmental structure but with some overall powers delegated to a central government. There was only one mayor, but each municipality had its own council composed of a recorder and aldermen, the former elected at large and the latter, by wards on the basis of one alderman for each hundred voters and an additional one if the remainder exceeded sixty. The three councils meeting together constituted the general city council. In 1840 this system was changed to provide for municipal councils of a fixed size and for a general city council of twelve members, four of whom were elected in each municipality at the time the aldermen were elected. The municipal councils possessed all the legislative powers except those specifically delegated to the general council. The latter, however, had certain police powers, as well as the authority to determine the contribution of each municipality to the sinking fund used to liquidate the indebtedness of the city under its previous charter. This authority was transferred to a sinking fund commission in 1840, composed of the mayor and six commissioners, two of whom were appointed by each of the municipal councils. Finally, the charter of 1836 continued the position of recorder, with one for each municipality and one for the city as a whole.

p a g e   9 Although it was styled as an amendment to the 1805 Charter the law that took effect in 1836 deserves recognition as a new charter if only because of the undeniably dramatic effect that it had on the city’s geography if not on the course of its history. The essential geographic change wrought by the 1836 Charter is presented in its very first section.
          [Acts of Louisiana, 1836]
p a g e   10 Under the 1836 Charter some officials served in a city-wide capacity while others held office within a single municipality government. C. Bayon, for example, was elected to be the Printer for the General Council, representing the city as a whole. L. U. Gaiennie, on the other hand, wrote to the Third Municipality Council to express his interest in serving as the Attorney for that section of the city. [Records of the General Council; Records of the Third Municipality Council]
p a g e   11 B. M. Norman’s 1849 map of New Orleans delineates the boundaries of the three municipalities into which the city was divided by the 1836 Charter. The neighboring city of Lafayette, also shown on the Norman map, would soon come to play an important part in the history of the Crescent City.
          [Louisiana Map Collection]
p a g e   12 Before New Orleans could effectively be divided into three separate municipalities it was necessary to inventory the lands under public ownership. The document displayed here lists thirty-seven properties, from City Hall to a square of land intended for the construction of a hospital for lepers. The most valuable item shown, the Halle des Boucheries, is today the building that houses the Café du Monde and other shops in the historic French Market complex.
          [Mayor’s Office. Letterbook, 1833-1838, 1842]
p a g e   13 The building that we know today as the Cabildo served as New Orleans’ City Hall from 1805-1852. This 1838 view shows the Cabildo and Presbytere before the addition of their mansard roofs and cupolas. It also shows St. Louis Cathedral as it appeared prior to the J. N. B. DePouilly renovation of 1849-1851.
          [Gibson’s guide and directory of the state of Louisiana, and the cities of New Orleans and Lafayette (New Orleans, 1838)]
p a g e   14 These pages from the 1842 city directory illustrate the multi-governmental reality of New Orleans during the period of the 1836 Charter.
          [New Orleans directory for 1842 (New Orleans, 1842)]
The Charter of 1852

Agitation for reuniting the municipalities resulted in 1850 in a proposed new charter and a referendum on consolidation, which failed to pass. In 1852, however, the town of Lafayette in Jefferson Parish agreed to unite with the three New Orleans municipalities, and a new charter was put into effect without a referendum. This charter provided for a bicameral council composed of two boards-a board of aldermen with a term of either one or two years as determined by lot and a board of assistant aldermen with a term of one year. The former consisted of from ten to thirteen members, and the latter, of from twenty to twenty-seven, the size in each case being dependent on the number of registered voters in the areas which were used as the units of representation. In the case of the aldermen, the units were districts which corresponded to the former municipalities; in the case of the assistant aldermen, they were wards within these districts. The boards met separately but their legislative powers were the same. The only officeholders who were elected by city-wide vote were the mayor and four of the department heads, all of whom were chosen for two-year terms. The mayor had the veto power but it could be overridden by a three-fifths vote of the council.

p a g e   15 One result of the reunification of New Orleans under the 1852 Charter was the change in location of the seat of government from the Cabildo to the former Second Municipality Hall on St. Charles Street at Lafayette Square. James Gallier’s magnificent building, shown here as it appeared in the mid-1850s, would serve as New Orleans’ City Hall for more than 100 years. After the new Civic Center opened for business in 1957 the old building was renamed Gallier Hall to honor the architect who had designed it.
          [Crescent City Business Directory for 1858-1859]
p a g e   16 Abdil Daily Crossman (1803-1859) was Mayor of New Orleans when the Charter of 1852 took effect. He had been elected for the first time in 1846 and served through the first part of the year 1854. He is memorialized by Crossman Street in the Vieux Carre and also by A. D. Crossman Elementary School on South Carrollton Avenue.
          [Cohen’s New Orleans Directory … for 1853 (New Orleans, 1852)]
p a g e   17 A major defect of the municipality scheme introduced by the 1836 Charter lay in the difficulty that the several governing bodies faced in retiring their individual and collective debts in the face of fierce competition for limited funding sources following the Panic of 1837. The 1852 Charter provided for the mayor, comptroller, and treasurer, along with the chairmen of the Finance Committees of the two boards making up the Common Council, to act as the Commissioners of the Consolidated Debt of New Orleans. That debt included the debt that was outstanding in 1836 when the city was divided into three municipalities, along with the separate debts undertaken by the individual municipalities during their existence. To this amount was soon added the debt of the city of Lafayette outstanding at the time of its annexation by the city of New Orleans. Shown here is the first page of the Commissioners’ minutes in which the Charter is cited as the body’s authority.
          [Minutes of the Commissioners of the Consolidated Debt of New Orleans]
p a g e   18 The charter of 1852 was extensively revised in 1856 without changing, however, the basic pattern of the city's government. The bicameral council was retained but both boards were given a fixed size and the number of members was reduced. The three-fifths majority required to override the mayor's veto was changed to two-thirds. Reorganization of the administration was provided for through the abolition of certain boards, the creation of others, and council rather than popular election of two department heads. This charter remained in effect throughout the Civil War period, although there were a number of changes in the city's government. During the period of military occupation the mayor was appointed by the military authority, and after the restoration of civilian government in 1866 the reconstruction legislature actively controlled the city. The city's police force, for example, was replaced by a metropolitan police force under the control of the governor, which, although established for Orleans, Jefferson and St. Bernard parishes, had police powers throughout the state.
          [The City Charter, 1856. (New Orleans, 1856)]
The Charter of 1870

The city was given a new charter in 1870. This provided for what was in effect a commission form of government. Seven administrators and a mayor were elected by city-wide vote for a term of two years. Each administrator served as the head of a city department, being elected to that particular position. The departments were finance, commerce, improvements, assessments, police, public accounts, and water works and public buildings. The mayor was not the head of any department but served with the administrators as a member of the legislative body. He had no vote except to break a tie, but possessed the veto power, which could be overridden by five of the seven administrators. Even under the new charter, however, the state legislature continued its direction of city affairs until federal troops were withdrawn from the state in 1877.

p a g e   19 Record of the meeting to organize the new Council established by the Charter of 1870. The document, in a published series of the body’s Official Proceedings (1870-1873), identifies the seven men who would serve as Administrators of the city of New Orleans.
          [City Council. Official Proceedings, 1870-1873]
p a g e   20 The 1870 Charter (Act #7 of the 1870 Louisiana Legislature) in its first two sections effected the city’s annexation of Jefferson City, formerly part of Jefferson Parish. The law also for the first time included the right bank (now known as the West Bank) of the Mississippi River as part of the city of New Orleans. Prior to 1870 the right bank, comprising the community of Algiers, existed as part of unincorporated Orleans Parish, and was governed by a Police Jury.
          [Acts of Louisiana, 1870]
p a g e   21 Benjamin Franklin Flanders (1816-1896) was mayor of New Orleans when the Charter of 1870 went into effect. A native of New Hampshire, Flanders came to the Crescent City in 1842 to pursue a career in politics, journalism, and the law. He was appointed mayor by Governor Henry Clay Warmouth and was later elected under the terms of the new charter. Flanders remained in office until November 29, 1872.
          [Jewell’s Crescent City Illustrated (1873)]
p a g e   22 The legal significance of the city charter is demonstrated by these pages from the published report of the Louisiana Supreme Court’s opinion in the matter of the City of New Orleans vs. Louisiana Savings Bank and Safe Deposit Company. Justice Robert Hardin Marr’s opinion makes direct reference to the 1870 Charter as the authority for a subsequent New Orleans license ordinance. Ruling in favor of the city Justice Marr also wrote “that the city had the power and authority, by the express terms of the charter, to require the bank to pay the license tax. . . . ” [Reports of cases argued and determined in the Supreme Court of Louisiana during the year 1879 (New Orleans, 1880)]
The Charter of 1882

The city returned to the mayor-council form of government in 1882 with a mayor elected for four years and a council of thirty members, all of whom were elected by districts. Four department heads were also elected, with the remainder appointed by the mayor with council approval.

p a g e   23 Governor Samuel Douglas McEnery’s discussion of the need for a new city charter, part of his message to the Legislature at the outset of its 1882 session. Article 254 of the 1879 state constitution had given the Legislature authority to cancel the city’s 1870 charter. The 1880 legislative session failed to take action but in 1882 legislators did finally succeed in giving New Orleans a new fundamental law.
          [Official Journal of the Proceedings of the Senate, 1882]
p a g e   24 The 1882 Charter was printed in the annual publication of state laws as Act 20 of 1882.
          [Acts of Louisiana, 1882]
p a g e   25 Mayor William J. Behan (1840-1928) was the first mayor of New Orleans under the Charter of 1882. Behan, an officer with the Washington Artillery during the Civil War and later an organizer of the Crescent City White League, held the office from 1882-1884. His administration witnessed the first stirrings of the city’s “Ring” machine, but after leaving office Behan joined the Republican party. He was its unsuccessful candidate for the governor’s office in the 1904 election.
          [John Smith Kendall. History of New Orleans (Chicago, 1922), v. II, p. 784]
p a g e   26 One of the most striking features of the 1882 Charter was its expansion of the City Council from seven to thirty members. The size of the pages needed to record the new body’s roll call votes had to grow as well in order to display all of the members’ names on a single page. Earlier record book pages of this type measured only 7” x 12.5” rather than the 9.5” x 15” example shown here. It is unlikely that anyone in city government during the 1880s calculated the increased cost of buying the larger volumes!
          [City Council. Roll book of yeas and nays, 1883]
The Charter of 1896

Another charter was given to the city in 1896. This one continued the mayor-council form of government but reduced the size of the council to seventeen members. Only two department heads-the treasurer and comptroller-were elected. A civil service system was established, which lasted, however, only until 1900, when the reform government at city hall was turned out of office. The charter itself lasted until 1912.

p a g e   27 This page from a 1903 city publication illustrates how often the 1896 Charter had been amended in the seven years since its adoption by the state Legislature.
          [Manual of the city of New Orleans (New Orleans, 1903)]
p a g e   28 Walter Chew Flower (1850-1900) served as mayor of New Orleans at the time that the 1896 Charter went into effect. A journalist, attorney, and cotton factor, Flower was elected as a reform mayor and is credited with bringing significant improvements to the operations of city government. He died within a year of leaving office.
          [John Smith Kendall. History of New Orleans (Chicago, 1922), v. II, p. 519]
The Charter of 1912

The charter of 1912 provided for a commission form of government with a mayor and four commissioners elected at large for four-year terms. The mayor headed the department of public affairs, but assignments to the other departments-public finance, public safety, public utilities and public property-were by majority vote of the council. The commission was the legislative body, and its acts were not subject to veto by the mayor. It also appointed other top administrative officials and was responsible for preparing the budget of the city. In 1948 the commission was reorganized to consist of eight members-the mayor and seven commissioners, each of the seven being elected from a municipal district. The number of departments was similarly increased through the addition of public streets, public sanitation, and parks and institutions.

p a g e   29 Page one of a 1936 printing of the 1912 Charter. The document, with amendments, covered 105 pages (the original act had only forty-one). With the addition of an appendix of statutes governing specific boards, taxes, and powers of the city of New Orleans, and an index, the 1936 publication weighed in at a hefty 327 pages!
          [Commission Council. Charter of the City of New Orleans, 1936]
p a g e   30 These men, together with Mayor Martin Behrman (who also held the title Commissioner of Public Affairs) served as the Commission Council of New Orleans in the year 1917.
          [Martin Behrman Administration Biography, 1904-1916 (New Orleans, 1917)]
p a g e   31 Mayor Martin Behrman (1864-1926) was in office when the 1912 Charter went into effect. He was a native of New York City who came to New Orleans when he was very young. Behrman was in the grocery business before entering politics with the Francis T. Nicholls gubernatorial campaign in 1888. He held numerous positions in local and state government prior to his election as mayor in 1904. He held that position until 1920 when he was defeated by Andrew McShane, but came back into office after being elected for an unprecedented fifth time in 1925. Martin Behrman died in office in 1926. The photograph displayed here is undated but we know that it was taken before 1912 since the mayor is shown with 16th Ward Councilman A. J. Harmeyer; with the 1912 Charter the city’s councilmen were replaced by commissioners.
          [Louisiana Photograph Collection, Martin Behrman Album (photographs by John Hypolite Coquille)]
p a g e   32 Mayor Martin Behrman’s message to the Commission Council at its first meeting (December 2, 1912) includes reference to his, and their, responsibility for forming a new government under the terms of the charter adopted earlier that year.
          [Official Proceedings of the Commission Council]
The Charter of 1954

The commission form of government lasted until 1954 when it was replaced by a mayor-council form provided for in a home rule charter authorized by constitutional amendment of 1950. This amendment declared that the city would have "the authority to adopt and enforce local police, sanitary and similar regulations and to do and perform all of the acts pertaining to its local affairs, property and government, which are necessary or proper in the legitimate exercise of its corporate powers and municipal functions." This grant of power did not apply, however, to constitutional agencies, the Board of Liquidation, City Debt, the civil service system and the pension systems of the Sewerage and Water Board and the fire and police departments. The city was also prohibited from exercising any power which is inconsistent or in conflict with general law, and, without legislative sanction, from decreasing the salaries or increasing the hours of employment in the fire and police departments. The state legislature, in turn, was forbidden to amend or repeal the home rule charter "other than by general law which uniformly applies, both in terms and in effect, to all cities of the state." The classification of cities for purposes of legislation was permitted only if the classification is based on total population and is made to apply to no fewer than the five largest cities of the state, including New Orleans. Such legislation is not to become effective in New Orleans, however, until approved by the voters of the city. The city can amend or replace its own charter either by ordinance or by petition signed by 10,000 voters, with approval by a majority of the electorate in both instances.

While the home rule amendment was before the legislature, Mayor Morrison issued a public statement in which he declared that, if the amendment was passed by the legislature and approved by the voters, the council would create a non-partisan commission of civic leaders to prepare the draft of a new charter. Shortly after the November election, in which the amendment was approved by a majority of more than two to one, the mayor asked a group of civic organizations and institutions to name three persons from whom the council could choose one. When several members of the council objected to this system, the mayor modified his proposed ordinance to authorize the organizations either to designate one representative on the committee or to nominate two or more persons from whom the council would select one. The ordinance also provided for two additional representatives to be named by the council itself. In this form it was passed, with April 1, 1952 as the deadline for submission of the proposed charter to the council for approval.'

The committee hired a small research staff, which was headed by the director of the Bureau of Governmental Research. The staff prepared a total of 111 brief reports on the boards and commissions located in the city, devoted principally to their historical and legal background." The committee considered the various forms of city government used in the United States and held public hearings to permit interested citizens and organizations to present their views. The proposed charter was submitted to the council by the deadline date and approved by it with some amendments. The voters of the city were given an opportunity the following November to vote either for the retention of the old form of government or in favor of the new. The new charter was adopted and went into effect on May 1, 1954.

The charter provides for a mayor-council form of government with a chief administrative officer who is appointed by, and is responsible to, the mayor. The council, which is the legislative body, is composed of seven members, five of whom are elected from districts and two at large. The term of office is four years and the salary is $7500 per year. It is the mandatory duty of the council to redistrict the city within six months after each decennial census, and if this is not done the members receive no further salaries. A redistricting ordinance may not be vetoed by the mayor.

p a g e   33 The anti-New Orleans actions of Governor Long and the Louisiana Legislature during the year 1948 sparked interest in efforts to secure home rule for the city. The protest shown in this photograph was an outward manifestation of this new interest in protecting the Crescent City from the depredations off state government.
          [Municipal Government Photograph Collection, Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison series]
p a g e   34 This chart reflects the structure of the Crescent City’s government after the Legislature, in 1948, amended the 1912 Charter to increase the Commission Council from five to eight members. This was one of more than 100 bills introduced that year at the behest of Governor Earl K. Long in what Professor Edward F. Haas has called “the rape of New Orleans.” Long’s interference in local affairs led to a movement to secure a true home rule charter for the city, one that would lessen the state’s ability to control the operations of municipal government.
          [Records of the Charter Committee for the City of New Orleans; see also Edward F. Haas. DeLesseps S. Morrison and the Image of Reform (LSU Press, 1974), pp. 124 ff.]
p a g e   35 The Commission Council passed this ordinance to put the charter revision process in motion. It sets out the legal basis for a home rule charter, affirms the Council’s preference that an independent body prepare the document, and identifies the various constituencies that would be represented on the Charter Committee.
          [Commission Council Records]
p a g e   36 Record of the organizational meeting of the Charter Committee held on January 3, 1951. The body met a total of ninety-four times, sometimes more than twice a week, until its final session on May 12, 1952. Total expenditures by the Committee during its seventeen months of deliberations amounted to just over $54,000 out of the $76,000 appropriated by the Commission Council. The draft that they ultimately presented to the Council was truly a bargain!
          [Records of the Charter Committee of the City of New Orleans, 1950-1952]
p a g e   37 Mayor Chep Morrison’s letter to Lester Lautenschlaeger of the Charter Committee suggests the close relationship that existed between that body and the city government. Lautenschlaeger himself served during the period as Director of the New Orleans Recreation Department.
          [Mayor deLesseps S. Morrison Records]
p a g e   38 Martha Robinson’s letter, written during the first week of the Charter Committee’s deliberations, provides a thumbnail sketch of the movement for a new charter up to that time. Mrs. Robinson had been an early supporter of Mayor Chep Morrison but disagreed with him on several issues that came before the Committee, notably those designed to restrict patronage at City Hall. In 1954 she ran an unsuccessful campaign for the City Council seat held by Morrison ally, and eventual successor, Victor H. Schiro.
          [Records of the Charter Committee of the City of New Orleans, 1950-1952]
p a g e   39 The Charter Committee hired a professional staff to assist in the work of drafting a new charter. Val Mogensen, Executive Director of the Bureau of Governmental Research, also served as director of the Committee’s staff. Lennox L. Moak, an expert in municipal government finances, was another key member of that staff. The two memorandums shown here testify to the degree of study that went into the preparation of the home rule charter.
          [Records of the Charter Committee of the City of New Orleans, 1950-1952]
p a g e   40 If this letter from Edgar Stern is any indication, it appears that the members of the Charter Committee took their jobs very seriously. Stern owned a broadcasting company, served as a director of Sears, Roebuck & Company, and was quite active in numerous civic, cultural, and educational organizations, yet he still took the time to list the typographical errors that he found in one of the drafts of the new charter. He did, of course, also make more substantive contributions to the charter deliberations.
          [Records of the Charter Committee of the City of New Orleans, 1950-1952]
p a g e   41 This July 17, 1951 communication from Clem H. Sehrt, Chairman of the Regular Democratic Organization indicates that there were political implications regarding the makeup of the Charter Committee. It also presents a somewhat different interpretation of charter-making in the twentieth century than the one presented in this exhibit. Interestingly, though, the remaining pages of Sehrt’s report spell out an agenda for charter revision that differed little from the document that was finally adopted.
          [Records of the Charter Committee of the City of New Orleans, 1950-1952]
p a g e   42 Mayor Morrison and members of the Commission Council accepting the final draft of the proposed home rule charter from members of the Charter Committee, April 1, 1952.
          [Mayor’s Office. Annual report, 1951-1952]
p a g e   43 May 1, 1954 was the occasion for a combined of the new Home Rule Charter and of the new City Council elected according to its provisions. The cover of the event’s program notes that it took place on the “steps of City Hall.” In 1954 City Hall was still housed in what we know today as Gallier Hall. It was not until 1958 that the new City Hall on Perdido Street hosted the municipal swearing-in ceremony.
          [Mayor’s Office. Inauguration Program, 1954]
p a g e   44 The 1954 was not a perfect document despite the improvements that it made in the governmental structure of the Crescent City. By 1960 the Charter Advisory Committee, comprising the same individuals who had drafted the original law, was acknowledging fifty-six proposed changes in the law. The Committee did not, however, deem any of the proposals important enough to warrant an election. There were several charter amendments on the ballot in the following year (1961), but all went down to defeat.
          [Charter Advisory Committee. Report, 1960]
p a g e   45 The 1954 Charter limited the Mayor to two consecutive terms in office. After Mayor Morrison lost his third and final bid for the Louisiana Governor’s office (in 1960), he decided to seek a charter amendment that would allow him to run for another four-years in City Hall. A sometimes bitter campaign led up to the April 15, 1961 election with local politicians taking sides pro (left) and con (right) on the issue. When the votes were counted the amendment—and Chep Morrison—had gone down to defeat. Within two months of this setback Morrison would resign to become U.S. Ambassador to the Organization of American States.
          [Mayor DeLesseps S. Morrison Records]
p a g e   46 The first page of the preliminary draft of the home rule charter revision recommended by the Mayor’s Advisory Committee on Charter Revision in 1977. Among other things it sought to increase the size of the City Council from seven to twelve members, to change the date of municipal inaugurations from May to March, and to allow the Mayor periodically to reorganization the executive branch of city government. These proposals did not come to a vote, however, probably because there was insufficient public support for the revision package.
          [Preliminary Draft of the Home Rule Charter, 1977]
p a g e   47 In 1983 Mayor Ernest N. “Dutch” Morial tried to accomplish what Mayor Chep Morrison had failed to do twenty-two years earlier. Morial’s attempt to change the charter in order to allow him, and all future mayors, to run for an unlimited number of terms was rejected by the city’s voters in the November 22 election. Two years later he tried again, this time asking only that he be given the opportunity to run for a third term. The electorate voted down that proposal as well. Shown here are examples of pro and con literature from the 1983 campaign along with campaign pins and a photograph from the 1985 effort.
          [Ernest N. Morial Records; Municipal Government Photograph Collection, Ernest N. Morial Series]
p a g e   48 The League of Women Voters of New Orleans in 1986 and the New Orleans Business Council in 1989 actively sought to secure key changes in the city’s home rule charter. Both groups urged that the charter be amended to make it possible for the Mayor and City Council to save money be eliminating or combining existing municipal agencies. Much of what they sought had been proposed during the 1970s but had not come to a vote. There would be no popular vote on the 1980s changes either.
          [Anthony Gagliano Papers (Gagliano headed the support staff for Mayor Sidney J. Barthelemy’s Advisory Committee on Charter Revision)]
p a g e   49 During his first year in office Mayor Marc H. Morial appointed the Mayor’s Charter Revision Advisory Committee. The Committee, headed by attorney David Marcello, presented the mayor a number of recommendations. The document displayed here comprises those recommendations along with changes made by the mayor and his staff. In presenting this version to the City Council Mayor Morial noted that it represented the culmination of the charter revision efforts proposed by Mayor Moon Landrieu, the League of Women Voters, the New Orleans Business Council, and the administration of Mayor Sidney J. Barthelemy. The mayor was careful to not as well that
”… it is very important to emphasize that we are not submitting a "new' or "substitute" charter to you. Rather, we are submitting proposed amendments to the 1954 Charter. This distinction is critical because the Louisiana Constitution of 1974 grants enhanced authority to municipalities with a pre-1974 Home Rule Charter. While we are proposing a number of amendments, the basic 1954 Charter will remain intact. It is our intent to amend rather than replace the 1954 Charter.”

          [Home Rule Charter for the City of New Orleans: Mayor’s Recommendations, Amendments to the Charter (March 16, 1995)]
p a g e   50 The Bureau of Governmental Research had been a strong supporter of the 1995 charter revision package presented by the Morial administration. This document identifies several provisions of the new law that had not been implemented within the ten month period since the voters had given their approval to the new charter. Some elements, including changes to the dates of municipal elections and inaugurations, have yet to be put into effect.
          [Bureau of Governmental Research. Status Report: Implementation of Amendments to New Orleans City Charter (September 1996)]
p a g e   51 Following his earlier success with charter revision Mayor Marc H. Morial in 2001 sought the prize that had eluded his father and Chep Morrison. His effort to have the charter amended to allow him and future mayors to run for three consecutive terms found stiff opposition throughout the city, including from among the members of the City Council. Shown here is a staff member’s summary of a press conference called by four council members to express their views on the matter along with a press release issued by Mayor Morial in response to the council members’ presentation. In the end, the council members were on the winning side as, once again, the charter revision went down to defeat.
          [Mayor Marc H. Morial Records]
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