Friday, October 19, 2007

there is an attitude held by many of the candidates this season that a strong connection to the Mayor is the political kiss of death

When this newspaper contacted Mr. Rodney and asked the simple question: who he was supporting and was the candidate Troy Carter, as the rumors alleged, it was his secretary who returned the telephone call in Rodney's place and said definitively that the attorney did not support Carter. So, this reporter responded, "Who is he supporting?"

The secretary said, "I can't tell you that."

"You can't tell me that? Why not?"

"I just can't?" she concluded, and implied that comment would be the last that Rodney would release to the press.

As strong as a political position as L.I.F.E. continues to hold in the Crescent City, there is an attitude held by many of the candidates this season that a strong connection to the Mayor is the political kiss of death, considering the reform attitude that prevails in the city today. One can observe this displayed in the lengths that the Pennington camp goes to separate itself from Mayor Morial and show the Chief's independence.

One source says that Rodney does indeed support his friend and business partner Ray Nagin, but one can never tell in the somewhat Byzantine atmosphere that has descended upon this year's fractured election.

Just for the record, any implication or statement that this column might have made to connect Roy Rodney to Troy Carter is inaccurate, and we retract it.
Christopher Tidmore, Louisiana Weekly, January 2002

Nagin appointed him to the water board, a seat Vassel had to resign to run for the council post.

But Vassel said he has never been a rubber stamp for the mayor. He pointed to the council's recent approval of a S&WB-endorsed water rate increase, which Vassel pushed hard for months while Nagin stayed silent until expressing timid support the day of the vote.

Indeed, Vassel said he met a brick wall when he called the mayor before qualifying last month. "He did not encourage me to run," Vassel said. "His advice to me was: Don't, because government is hard."
Frank Donze and Michelle Krupa, Times Picayune, October 2007

Well, Oyster was impressed, but I don't see how doing the heavy-lifting for Nagin demonstrated independence. Leadership or courage, maybe, but not independence. And, claims of support or discouragement don't mean much from the Nagin circle.

I should probably just refer back to a recently updated post and leave it at that; I have no idea just how close Vassel is to the mayor. Apparently the editors of the Picayune don't either, and the disingenuous mental gymnastics that they use to convince themselves, and us, of his independence are incredible. Notice that Vassel demonstrated his independence by criticizing a privatization plan. He didn't demonstrate his independence by voting against the plan because he didn't need to. As the editors know, Vassel expressed misgivings after the plan was dead.

Of course, I don't vote for candidates because of misleading Times Picayune editorials, so I shouldn't urge anybody to vote against a candidate because of one. However, there is something in the candidates' profiles that Oyster didn't quote:
Vassel, who lives in Treme, also might be the candidate who has known Nagin the longest. The pair went to high school together for one year, became reacquainted through 100 Black Men of Metro New Orleans and both invested in the now-defunct New Orleans Brass hockey team.

Nevertheless, Vassel said he got into the race because he thinks he can help mediate the increasingly tense relationship between the council and the administration.

Trying to get along with the mayor sounds good, but we all know where it led in the past. I've got a hunch, where it could lead:
It may well be appropriate that the city's sanitation director, a member of the executive branch, has a grand vision for the future of recycling in New Orleans. If all goes as hoped, two or three years from now our city will have a state-of-the-art recycling facility.

in upcoming budgets:
White explained that the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality will have to approve the city's recycling plants. By the time the plants are approved and constructed, the Nagin administration may well be out of office.

Even if White and Nagin aren't planning state-of-the-art, Disneyland-like recycling (at total costs that won't be revealed until it's too late to cancel the deal), the third part of Lolis Eric Elie's report on recycling is a must-read for the portrait of Veronica White. I don't want put words in Elie's mouth, but somebody sure sounds like a ... never mind.

As I tried to indicate in my post, what impressed me was THE SEQUENCE of 1) Nagin allegedly discouraging Vassel (in language that sounds exactly like Ray) and then 2) Vassel announcing that he would run and then 3) Nagin endorsing Cynthia. Intuitively, that gave me comfort. Think about why Nagin would endorse CWL (who endorsed Mitch Landrieu) at the expense of his insider long-term friend.

Also, the impolite reason you mentioned in your update was a significant factor in my (most) tepid endorsement, as well. I'd be surprised if Vassel makes the runoff. However, even if he does and beats Clarkson, Vassel is not a person who could become an unbeatable, entrenched political figure during this abbreviated term . Cynthia W-L might be a different story. It's quite likely he'll be vigorously challenged in 3 years-- perhaps by an excellent community activist candidate like LaToya Cantrell (unless Vassel does a tremendous job).

But you understand how the conversation alters if the "unspoken rule" is broken. Are Feelgood and Boulet strong enough to manage such explosive dynamics when everything becomes Black and White? Would they be able to outflank Nagin-- politically-- when the "white" City Council is going after "OUR MAYOR"?

And Clarkson... guh. I'll just say I'm glad she's old.

These weren't overriding considerations, btw, but they were significant.
Maybe it's my adolescent, impatient with hypocrisy side that makes want people to acknowledge a major reason why they're considering Vassel. It's not a bad reason -- the impolite reason is the one reason why I would consider Vassel. The one reason why I don't think the racial split would get too out of hand is Carter's ambition. I think he's less honest than Thomas, but he sees what Thomas' cross-over appeal did for him, or would have done for him. Carter would pick his fight and try to play it both ways in such a situation.

I'm serious about one way that Nagin will try to milk his cash cow, I mean sanitation department, if he gets a spineless council. Of course, "no recycling if you don't approve this contract" doesn't have the same coercive power as "no garbage collection if you don't approve these contracts."
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