Sunday, August 26, 2007

It needs to be an issue

By all accounts, Ray's description of events is unfair to the panelists. Also, rumor has it that Carter won't be running, but the questions raised should be asked of Willard-Lewis, who is running.

It's been nearly two weeks since Thomas resigned his citywide position after pleading guilty to federal charges of accepting bribes. By Friday, no one had announced plans to run, though several hopefuls were reportedly contemplating the race.

City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who is barred by term limits from seeking re-election to her District E seat, has reportedly decided to run, associates said. District C Councilman James Carter, another rumored candidate, has been mum about his plans.
Yesterday's Picayune

Eleven years after the idea was endorsed by voters, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 Thursday to create an inspector general's office to seek out waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency in the government of a city long fabled for easy morals and flexible ethics.
The council's only divided vote on the issue came on an amendment by Councilman James Carter to have the council, rather than the five-member advisory committee, do a three-month review of the new office's "guidelines and procedures."

Midura said that would compromise the office's immunity from politics, but Carter said it would help allay the fears of those who think the office would "discriminate against certain people."

His amendment passed 4-3, with Hedge-Morrell, Willard-Lewis and Oliver Thomas joining Carter, and Fielkow and Head joining Midura.*
Nov. 3, 2006 Times Picayune

I couldn't make it to yesterday's Rising Tide conference, but I read this at Ray's:
Dangerblond asks "what can we as citizens do about corruption, other than vote?" Panelists stare blankly and then go back to making political predictions about who will run for what. I mean, I think that's the crux of the issue and the point of the whole conference: taking action. But when asked about citizen action, the only response anybody has is "that's hard, let's talk about something else".

So let's see, we're having a special election to fill Oliver Thomas' city council seat because Oliver Thomas turned out to be corrupt. James Carter and Cynthia Willard-Lewis are widely reported to be interested in running for Thomas' old seat. When the inspector general's office was created, James Carter and Cynthia Willard-Lewis sucessfully altered the bill to make the man who investigates corruption in city government answerable to the city council.

It's only a small part of the answer to the question posed at yesterday's conference, but an obvious starting point is to not allow the council to put off questions about how much funding and authority the inspector general's office will have until after the election. Next year's budget won't be voted on until after the election, but any candidate for at at-large seat can be forced to commit to a position, not just on funding but also authority. If the charter allows it, an effort should be made to re-write the law to make the office independent of the council. It as racially divisive before, but it would be a lot riskier for a council member or council candidate to try to exploit that now.

A post that I did about Carter's move to weaken the IG's office wasn't particularly interesting. But some of the comments were, Adrastos seems to have been dead on about Thomas. I can't remember what made us both think that an anonymous comment was Dambala, or if a comment was altered or deleted.

*From the same article:
Even so, the ordinance was extensively rewritten Thursday with approval of a six-page amendment incorporating dozens of last-minute changes sought by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

Among other things, the changes eliminated a plan to finance the office by imposing a 0.25 percent fee on all contracts awarded by the city or other local agencies worth $10,000 or more. Thus, a company getting a $1 million contract would have had to pay $2,500 to the inspector general's office. The idea was borrowed from the inspector general's office for Miami-Dade County, Fla., whose director testified twice before the council this year.

Instead, the local office will be financed from the city's general fund.

Nagin OK expected

Kenya Smith, Nagin's executive assistant for intergovernmental relations, said after the vote that he expects Nagin to sign the revised ordinance. Although Nagin included no money for the inspector general's office in the 2007 budget he submitted Wednesday to the council, Smith said he expects money for it will be added by the council.

Citizen's need a reliable independant voice to help them decide who to vote for and between elections what to do to expose corrupt officials.
There is an effort underway to set up a venue where exactly these sorts of questions can be put before the at-large candidates. More to come...
Ray must have been typing when the panelists replied to the "what can citizens do about corruption. We essentially said that they need to keep the public pressure up, vote more wisely inb the future and call the feebs if they know anything. We didn't reply with blank stares.
Peter is right. The panelists were not... taken off guard, I guess... by that question. I don't know if there exists an official audio record but.. perhaps that might help.

I don't know that it's a particularly fair or interesting question in the first place myself. But this is perhaps a continuance of my bemusement at the unnecessary amount of importance.. relevance.. or responsibility some of the overachievers in the group tend to burden themselves with.

Simply put, most of us simply aren't.. important enough to have any effect on these events whatsoever. At least, I certainly understand myself to fit such a description. This doesn't mean we aren't entitled to our opinion.. it just means that opinions don't change the world... and that's okay.
Now who's taking bloggers too seriously? I quote Ray in order to offer my suggested answer to the question and you all are more worried about Ray's representation of bloggers than the issue at hand.

Jeffrey, if you really believe what you say, you must have a lot of free time on your hands. I assume that most bloggers hold a similar theory to what I said here. At the very least, if you spend time blogging you must think that if enough letter writers, bloggers etc. bring up a taboo subject, it will stop being taboo.

Before a much busier schedule causes me to cut way back on the blogging, I'll make one more attmept to explain why I think it's pretty half-ass for anyone who thinks that Nagin is ruining the recovery to link to Dambala and leave it at that, especially if they run around saying, "Sinn Fein." I'll do that by Labor Day (otherwise, I'll never do it); when most of the criticism of Nagin was that he's incompetent and sticks his foot in his mouth, I was writing:

"Simple boiled down talking point: Nagin takes money and endorsements from people who do business with the city (some of whom have received some interesting city contracts) and he refuses (in violation of campaign law) to disclose the source of the funding for his recent barrage of attack ads that question Landrieu's integrity.

Personally, I think that if Nagin is re-elected, everyone will soon wonder how he got elected and re-elected as an honest reformer. Certainly by the end of his term."

So I think that I've earned some right to say that people aren't attacking him as effectively as they could be. Give some context to the complicated deals involving the technology office and the the council might eventually feel compelled to stand up to Nagin (not because a few bloggers say it, but because a shift in public opinion has to start somewhere). Otherwise, we're waiting for the feds to give us good (or halfway decent) government. Sinn Fein.

Again, Dambala's doing great stuff, but there's a lot of context that's a lot less complicated that could sway public opinion a lot faster if it were widely discussed.
Yeah but that just brings the question back to whether or not blogging about something has an effect on it being widely discussed.

I doubt it.. or at least.. I don't think it has as big an impact as some other people do.

And you're right. I'm sorry I didn't mean to help veer this discussion in the direction of blogger navel gazing. I think that's the influence of my reading the conversation on some other sites today.
Sorry to ignore you anonymous, can you give any details on the vene, or the effort to set up the venue?
Uh, David, my comment was an attempt to set the record straight not an example of having too much time on my hands. Nobody likes to be misreprsented.
I didn't say that you have too much time on your hands, Adrastos. I said that Jeffrey must -- if he really thinks that blogging can't change anything and he posts as much he does.

Personally, I think that anybody who posts frequently must entertain at least the slight hope that he can somehow affect public opinion, even if it's a very slow and indirect process.
It's a little weird to find out that a post of mine that, as far as I could tell, only five people read, is being widely discussed as "unfair".

Obviously I didn't mean that the panelists literally "stared blankly" and changed the subject. But the options for citizen action that were offered: "keep the public pressure up, vote more wisely" etc just struck me as vague and feeble, and not really something that the panelists were interested in talking about much. Considering the proportion of time spent talking about citizen action vs. the amount dedicated to political horse-races and predictions, I don't think this is an unfair characterization.

This is not an indictment of the panelists, it's more my own despair and cynicism about what options are really available to the average "non-playa" citizen for effecting change. My thinking is along Jeffrey's lines as far as that is concerned.

I think the panel was really valuable because you can't really begin to effect change if you don't know who the main actors are, and the panelists are clearly well-informed in that area. I didn't intend for the post to come across as an attack on them.
I think it's pretty obvious that when I criticize reporters or bloggers, I don't try to be subtle about it. I actually thought it was a harmless quote to use as an introduction to my suggestion, I wasn't trying to stir shit. I would have been more obvious if i had been.

I added the italicized comment at the top when I realized that I may well have reason to refer back to that post during the council campaign, but didn't want to imply a criticism of the politics panel every time that i did.
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