Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Debate

Tangents not a candidate by candidate breakdown

It was good to see that city finances were finally addressed as a paramount issue in the election. Had I been able been able to post more last week (at least more than quick cut and paste jobs), I had hoped to explain that city finances were a more important issue for the mayoral election than levee repairs or federal compensation for failed levees. Good thing I didn't do that post, might have led to delusions of grandeur, or at least relevance. Although, nah, like I said, delusions.

Because all the candidates would agree that the federal government should take responsibilty for the damage caused by the failed levees, shouldn't any candidate who makes that a major part of his campaign or features signs in his commercials withdraw in favor of Tom Watson? If the job of the mayor is to convert the rest of the country to our way of thinking, who better than a preacher? He should have no problem finding a text to preach from.

Sure the real,human issue of resettlement seems more important than the dry, wonkish matter of city finances, but remember the original reason given for the "reduced footprint" was the city's inability to provide essential services to the entire city. Even now that the mayor is emphasizing concerns about flooding in statements about the "rebuild at your own risk" policy (for certain areas), he does add, "understand we're concentrating city resources in the areas that are in the immediate recovery zone."* Clearly, the issues of resettlement and city finances are inseperable.

Now to the actual debate, on the whole it was managed much better than the first one, but how could it not be? Even the questions were much better (again, how could they not be?), until Michael Hill's pointless question about whether the candidates had actually picked up a hammer themselves. You'd have to respect Peggy "dreamworld" Wilson for calling him on it, if she had done so differently. Any points she would have gained for pointing out the question's irrelevance were lost by whinily "resenting" the question.

"Third Battle" gave a good candidate by candidate rundown in the above link. A few thoughts though:

I wish that some candidate other than Wilson would start emphasizing the importance of transparency and information. It might have saved the city at last one recent headache. I'd even like to hear what the mayor would have to say on the subject. If he made the case that explaining his every move would have slowed down the city's efficiently planned recovery, I'd certainly listen. Of course, explaining the failure to share information might involve the actual sharing of information.

I like Boulet, I would consider voting for her if I weren't afraid of a Nagin/Forman runoff, but why is she getting a free pass on the free medical care proposal? Along with Couhig, she seems to be the only candidate that accepts the fact that even though the federal government is responsible for the city's immediate crisis, we can't count on it to help the city out of that crisis. So how does she reconcile that fiscal realism with a call for free health care?

Does Couhig even acknowledge that the federal government is responsible for the city's immediate crisis?

I said that I could tolerate wedge or identity politics more in a candidate than in an incumbent, but Watson was pushing it with that "not wanting my people to return" exchange with Couhig.

The spend money to make money model might work for a cash cow like the Audubon Institute, but it doesn't work for strapped city governments. After talking about the fact that city's broke, Forman goes on to suggest that the city create four new high-paying positions!? Wouldn't they quickly turn into patronage/political payoff positions anyway?

Leo Watermeir gave a good rundown on the three frontrunners in today's Picayune:

Of Nagin, he wrote: "the most knowledgeable and confident. If I knew nothing of his record, he'd get my vote." Of Landrieu: "the most polished speaker, but what does he say?" And of Forman: "unimpressive when he gets beyond his campaign slogans."

Of course, you can always form your own opinion by watching the debate, video available either at or through WGNO.

*Have to ask, is my memory faulty or does the reporter of the linked story have a faulty memory? Or did his editor fail to correct him on the proper usage of the word steadfast? Opening paragraph:

All along, Mayor Ray Nagin has been steadfast in his commitment to residents of New Orleans' flood-ravaged neighborhoods that they -- and not the government -- should have sole authority to decide whether to rebuild or relocate.

Really, I thought I remembered the mayor expressing doubts about that part of the Canizarro plan. I'm not deliberately being petty; but I don't believe the mayor's been steadfast in anything post-K. Except, of course, his refusal to share information.

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