Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Observations and sneaking feelings on the upcoming mayoral race...
  • Stop asking the mayoral candidates what they will do about education in this town, unless it relates to their past experiences (like, say, those of soon-to-declare-her-candidacy Leslie Jacobs). The state runs most of the schools, the mostly-neutered OPSB runs a small fraction of the rest, and neither one is under the purview of the mayor's office.
  • Having said that, I must also say that the illogic of politics in general - and local politics in particular - is going to ensure that, in the case of Jacobs, stuff like this will probably be scrutinized and somehow used to the candidate's detriment. Just the realities of running for office these days, all. This is what dedicated, smart, savvy campaign managers-cum-spin doctors are for - in concert with politically astute candidates, of course.
The above mentioned observations are about the most sane things that can be said about the upcoming mayoral rodeo that is already taking on some strong farcical elements. Because we are in New Orleans, I'd say, from past observations of and my voting participation in mayoral races held here since 1996 (my first year of living here), approximately 40% of the reasons why people will vote for one candidate or another will actually be based on the hopefuls' stands on the issues, their past experiences, and all the other things that, in a democracy devoid of entangling alliances and tabloid talk shows, would probably dominate the decisions in places like, say, Omaha.

BUT we are in New Orleans.

40% is wildly optimistic in this four-years-on-after-8/29/05, still shell-shocked, already depressed before the national recession even came, crime-ridden, killer potholed, Walking-Id-on-his-mayoral-way-to-possible-indictment-led crazy town. Just being a competent candidate who is fully cognizant of the issues and the Sisyphean tasks ahead in the next four years probably won't even get a hopeful a snowball's chance in City Hall without air conditioning during a south Louisiana August. Outreach to neighborhood organizations and smaller communities within this city is a great start - after all, they are largely the reason why there is still a New Orleans.

But, to varying degrees, most of us are weary, disheartened, trying to keep our heads above varying degrees of debt, and short on hope. Ideally, much will have to be promised and then done by a candidate who captures our imaginations as well as our need for basic city services and a government that actually works...and what we will most likely settle for is someone who is only slightly less corrupt and slightly more competent than C. Ray Nagin has proven to be. The home-insulation fiberglas to the Walking Id's Tyvek, if you will.

Full disclosure: Reason why I bring up Leslie Jacobs is due to my attendance at a meeting of blogging folk with the soon-to-be candidate last night. Since we are not a bunch of shy violets, a good many questions were asked of Jacobs and many suggestions on what she should do during her campaign (and if she actually gets voted into office) were kicked back to her, tips that she dutifully took down in a blank book.

Has she got that mayoral melamine thing going on?

(mayoral melamine?
Just...think "presidential timber" and put it in the parlance of rebuilding New Orleans...
you lost me
Oh, fuhgettaboutit)

She wants to change the budget process, feels we need more of a strategic plan to deal with blight and a better way to handle the contracting process in City Hall. She wants to get tough on crime and is very interested in learning more about Brian Denzer's NolaStat and how it could work for New Orleans. Implementing transparency and accountability in City Hall and the mayor's office is also of great importance to her...

...but elections are not won solely on these stances. It's too early to tell if Jacobs will loosen up a little, start working hard to reach out and make connections with all segments of the city, no matter what their races, creeds, religions, or sexual orientations are, and if she will be able to play the political hopscotch that many times involves keeping friends close and enemies closer...and we haven't even gotten to how she will come across in the T-P and on local teevee news & debates.

One thing is for certain: she expressed having "a new level of understanding and fear" accompanied by 3 AM awakenings on a regular basis when thinking of how hard the mayor's job will be after the 2010 election.

The candidate is afraid. She is very afraid.

Time will tell as to whether or not those fears will be constructive or paralyzing.

Update, 11/18: BSJD has some legitimate beefs in the comment to this post:
I'm getting worried, bloggers are paying attention to pointless or stupid questions (demanding a yes or no answer to a question about a complicated issues strikes me as incredibly stupid -- question was by a reporter, discussion in the comments), when how Nagin is viewed could determine the next election. If he's seen as having been an unsophisticated novice who was overwhelmed and then possibly corrupted, certain candidates (Murray, Landrieu if he gets in) benefit immensely. James Perry's chances go from slim to nonexistent if it's not established that Nagin was a politically-connected insider before he ran for office.
Hell, we should all be very afraid at this point, but we can't let it overwhelm us either.

Anudder update, 11/19: Well, we got some clue as to what's going on with the candidates yesterday....and it looks like, in a simple Q&A format, most of it ain't too good unless you're James Perry. Get a f%$!ing clue on what's going on here before you run for mayor, people. Really.


Kevin said...

Excellent context, food for thought.

Will Scott said...


Wonderful hanging out with you people (think Ross Perot) Monday night and I'm looking forward to your continuing commentary on this election and all that other stuff.

I look forward to other drinking opportunities too.

By the way, Leslie's new site just went live -- tons of video on various issues. Not meaty enough yet but a start.


bayoustjohndavid said...

"Stop asking the mayoral candidates what they will do about education in this town...and neither one is under the purview of the mayor's office."

Since the city already recognizes domestic partnerships for municipal employees, isn't that equally true about gay marriage?

Leigh C. said...

I would think so. The next mayor does have the chance to do something about it IF it comes up as a major issue here. She just didn't answer the question straight...in fact, she preferred not to answer it.