Sunday, October 14, 2007

I don't really disagree


Today's Picayune endorses Tommie Vassel in the council-at-large race, but the editorial isn't yet available online. I have a test tomorrow night, so I don't have time to go into detail, but I've rethought my objections to Vassel. I still have very strong misgivings, but he's now one of three candidates that I might vote for. I really have misgivings about Picayune-endorsed CPA's, but that's not exactly a rational prejudice.


Actually, I have very strong reservations. To begin with the Times Picayune wrote something misleading in its endorsement:
More recently, as Mayor Ray Nagin's appointee to the Sewerage & Water Board, Mr. Vassel was an independent voice -- criticizing an ill-conceived proposal to privatize the agency.

The deal was already sunk, the example of Atlanta was no longer a selling point.

There is no way to talk honestly about this election without talking about race, and the fact is, I wouldn't have even considered Vassel if he were white. I would never say that being a water board appointee is proof that somebody is a crook; as a general rule, I'd guess that it only takes a couple of crooked board members to push through crooked deals. The fact that Vassel was a "business partner" (in the same way as John Georges), whom Nagin appointed when he was determined to overhaul the water board, doesn't make him a crook. The fact that he was appointed to the school board when Morial was mayor, doesn't make him a crook.

As a matter of fact, I have no idea whether Vassel is a crook or the most honest man in city government. But, he certainly appears to be what anybody would call an insider. I wouldn't take a chance on him without good reason.

Though it's not considered polite to bring it up, race is a valid reason. Having a white at-large has certainly been reassuring to most white residents for the almost three decades that black voters have been in the majority. Even if that had less to do with an "unspoken rule" than the wording of the city charter, demographics, and the fact that we rarely had two serious white at-large candidates, it certainly had a stabilizing effect. Upsetting that balance now would certainly be a serious matter.

As I discussed at Maitri's, I'd also hate to see a council that was racially divided on reform and expenditure issues. Of course, if you still believe that Carter is a reformer, that won't be an issue. I don't, that's why I won't take a chance on somebody with strong Nagin connections. It doesn't help that he's said the council should have tried harder to avoid the recent subpoena fight; after last year's garbage scam, I have strong reservations about anybody who would say that.

Listening to Vassel *could* cure chronic insomnia, David. I mistrust the Nagin connection even if C Ray is "for" Windy-Lewis.
The C Ray connection is the real source of my reservations. What the the T/P said about his vote against privatization is probably hogwash -- I think the city lucked out there. If I remember correctly, the firm that C Ray had in mind had become discredited over its handling of Atlanta's water system by the time it came up for vote.

You're probably right, but I'll add to the post when I have a chance. I'm sure that part of the reason that I'm going soft on Vassel is that I'm a white guy who's written so many negative things about Carter and Nagin, but a friend who works for the S&WB likes Vassel. Of course, that friend isn't high enough up to know anything, other than Vassel doesn't treat S&WB employees like shit the way the good Christian minister does.
Vassel also sided with Nagin against the Council on the subpoena issue.
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