Monday, August 31, 2009

The Most Misunderstood Mayor in America

What do this Christian Science Monitor article:
Some 64 percent of New Orleanians say they want a mayor with "political connections." This might sound like a step backward – toward backroom politics. But to political consultant Greg Rigamer, who advises nearly all New Orleans candidates, it suggests a post-Katrina desire to find someone who can navigate the federal bureaucracy, the prickly relationship with Baton Rouge (the city's main patron), and New Orleans' own political spiderwebs.

and these American Zombie posts have in common?

It might be better for for me to begin with a related question, if Nagin's such a buffoon, moron, walking id, or whatever it is you choose to call him, how did he did he triumph so easily in two very important, fiercely contested campaigns in less than three years? Maybe not so fiercely contested*, when Nagin declared* the second campaign finished after a victory over his city council opponents, nobody objected.

IMO, the common denominator is a few misconceptions about the mayor that even his harshest critics have failed to correct. In some cases, his critics helped spread those misconceptions. Frankly, I have no idea whether Nagin was too incompetent, unintelligent or inexperienced to be mayor of a city that faced New Orleans' post-Katrina problems. I just don't know how you can judge the competence of a mayor who obviously doesn't give a f***. That was obvious to me by the end of 2005, but I guess I really need to finish up on this post. Still, I suspect the attitude that the city needs an experienced politician in the mayor's office stems, at least partially, from the idea that the mayor was overwhelmed by Katrina rather than under-concerned about anything other than himself and his cronies.

I'll have to return to the subject later this week, because it's getting late and I want to be careful how I word some criticisms of the local press and suggestions for the local blogosphere. Still, I couldn't help but think of that other Jason Berry when I read today's paper.

*In fairness to Landrieu, he was severely constrained by the fact that the supposedly anti-Nagin media insisted on complimenting both candidates on running clean, high-minded campaigns without innuendo or mud-slinging even after the Nagin campaign began an ad blitz that was based on innuendo. After the veto override (linked above) failed, Nagin declared the issue dead until the next mayoral election. Nobody, in politics or in the press, seemed to consider the implications. I think the next mayor will be saddled with an unprecedented number of expensive contracts for city services when he takes office.

Obviously, there's at least one incomplete sentence in the comment that I made at People Get Ready (also linked above), but it's a topic that I returned to frequently here and in comments on other blogs. In all honesty, I say this more to establish credibility than to brag, I called it earlier and more accurately than just about anybody: Nagin's second term would amount to one continuous campaign for control of reconstruction spending that he would win easily if he was seen as a stupid buffoon rather than a ruthless opportunist.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Then, we'll securitize the city debt and sell credit derivatives

If Thursday's headline about the city budget came as a surprise to you, you haven't given much thought to the city's financial situation. Earlier this year, there seemed to be chance that a post-Katrina reconstruction boom would hide the extent of the city's financial difficulties for a couple of years, but there was also reason to doubt that federal money alone could keep the city afloat. Still, the best anyone could have realistically hoped for was a couple of good years before hitting the tiffing point at some point during the next mayor's first term. But it was soon obvious that we wouldn't even be that lucky, especially since the local tourism and convention industry has failed to buck that new normal trend. The sad thing is, most city council members seem to realize that the city faces real financial difficulties, but they seem to have a collective TIF addiction.

So, what makes Austin Badon think that the city has enough money to get into the business of flipping commercial real estate? In a recent appearance on WDSU, he said that the City Council should have voted to spend $8M on the Chevron Building, even though the Chevron Building would only be a temporary location for City Hall. Seriously, Badon's plan would call for buying the Chevron Building, then spending the money to build a new city hall, and then offering the Chevron Building to some company so that it would come into New Orleans and create jobs. There's no transcript that I can find, but he outlines his proposal at about the 2:30 mark of pt. 2 of his recent hot seat appearance on WDSU with Ed Murray (Pt. 1 can be found here). I also don't want to put words in Badon's mouth, but I honestly don't know why he brought up the Chevron Building in reference to racial divisions on the City Council. Does he think that at least one white council member should have voted for the mayor's plan in the interest of racial harmony?

Yet, Norman Robinson (or his producer) and Errol LaBorde have decided that Badon is a serious candidate, but James Perry isn't worth mentioning. Even a gun battle outside his campaign headquarters can't get Perry on the news, what's up with that?

Just to be clear, I'm not the "Perry bandwagon." There are a couple of things that I really like about Perry, but I also have some strong reservations. However, the reservations aren't based an utterly superficial resemblance between his candidacy and Nagin's candidacy eight years ago. I also think he deserves to be taken at least as seriously as either Austin Badon or Rob Couhig.

I'll probably won't be at Rising Tide tomorrow

I've already registered, but the recovery from a procedure that I underwent Wednesday won't be as quite as fast as I had hoped. So, I've decided that it would be prudent to avoid potentially chaotic situations in which punches may be thrown. However, if anybody reads this on time, I do have one favor to ask. I suspect that at least one member of the politics panel will talk about the need for visionary leadership. If that happens, please ask him how many peyote buttons he thinks the city can afford.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Three announced candidates for mayor, three mayoral candidates on WDSU

Edited edition.


The Times Picayune on August 9th:
So far, though, the tally of declared candidates totals just three: state Sen. Ed Murray, state Rep. Austin Badon and James Perry, executive director of a fair housing organization.

The Picayune last Saturday:
In fact, it happened during what amounted to the campaign's first televised event this month, as two of the candidates looking to move into City Hall next year took dead aim at Nagin, whose popularity stood at 24 percent in a recent University of New Orleans poll.

Asked by WDSU-TV anchor Norman Robinson to assess how the city is faring as Nagin nears the end of his eight-year tenure, state Sen. Ed Murray and state Rep. Austin Badon didn't mince words

Before just assuming that WDSU took it upon itself to exclude one of the three announced candidates from "what amounted to the campaign's first televised event," I decided to see whether Norman Robinson said anything about James Perry being unable to attend. I ddn't hear anything when I watched the video. Moreover, potential candidate Rob Couhig was on last night to say that he'll run if it looks like enough voters realize just how much the city needs his brilliant leadership. He appeared alone, he didn't even have to share time with any other candidates or potential candidates.

More on Badon, Murray, Couhig and Perry to come, but it's past time for me to get around to some posts that I've been thinking about since May.

I bent over backwards to be diplomatic toward the local media in my last post before I went on vacation because I had some serious criticism planned. Not that I wanted to go back to taking pot shots at the local media, but Nagin's last State of the City address prompted me to read some old articles and that research led to three conclusions

1. Though almost nobody acknowledged it, it was obvious by the end of 2005 that Nagin really didn't give a shit about the city.

2. The consensus historians and pleasant conversationalists of the local media either couldn't see or refused to acknowledge the obvious fact that Nagin has never given a shit about anybody but Nagin. They have no business defining the candidates in the next mayor's race.

3. Jay Batt has too much baggage to be either effective or believable as a reformer.

Before I start on the media criticism I will make an offer to any local journalists who happen to read and take offense at anything that I might write about the second point. Nagin's handling of the NIMBY/FEMA trailer issue was only part of the reason why I decided that Nagin didn't give a shit. However, Nagin vacationed in Jamaica the last week of November 2005. The first news report that I could find on the FEMA trailer controversy appeared in the Dec. 1, 2006 Times Picayune, and the issue wasn't resolved until some time in January 2006. If anybody can show me any evidence that, during that time period (Dec. 2005-Jan. 2006), a single local journalist even suggested that maybe, just maybe, Nagin should have stayed in town to discuss FEMA trailer placement instead of travelling to Jamaica, I'll will apologize for every negative thing that I've ever written about every local journalist.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Sounds reasonable to me

On Meet the Press this morning:
MR. GREGORY: “Pull the plug on grandma.” That’s not part of this debate. It’s not in the bill, Senator.

SEN. DASCHLE: Well, David, it’s hyperbolic, it’s fearmongering, it’s actually politics at its worst. That’s the kind of thing that generates the kind of anger and fear and anxiety that people have today. You know, it’s, it’s amazing to me that a very good idea, one I’m sure that maybe even all of us agree with, that there ought to be some consultation, some opportunity to talk about these things outside of that moment when you’re at your most emotionally vulnerable state in life. And, and, you know, the amazing thing is—and Johnny Isakson, a, a member of the, the Health Committee, actually offered as a mandatory requirement that there be this mandatory counseling. He—as it turns out, it, it was, it—they, they persuaded him to offer it as a voluntary measure. But that voluntary counseling is something that we ought to be encouraging, not discouraging.

MR. GREGORY: And in fact, Senator Coburn, the prescription drug bill that the Republican Congress passed back in 2003 had a similar provision, did it not?

SEN. COBURN: I don’t know. I wasn’t in Congress in 2003, so I’m not familiar with that.

The only comment I'll make is that Coburn does a have a seat on the Senate Commitment responsible for health care legislation.

Update: Henry Blodget, of all people, provides a common sense take on the issue.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Two things I wondered about last week

Can't believe I'm asking this, but is it possible that Texas librarians are cooler than Louisiana librarians? When I saw the Tattooed Ladies of TLA calendar on sale last week, I expected body piercings on the LLA website -- couldn't even find any interesting hairdos. I'd say something about the need for us paraprofessionals to assert ourselves, but I don't have any tattoos either. Don't recall seeing on that other blogging library worker either. In my defense, I don't have the kind of arms that other bloggers gush about. The tattoo I've always wanted, a heart with an arrow through it (with "me" written in it), would look downright pathetic on my puny bicep.

On a totally unrelated note, isn't it a little pointless to list being elected "Louisiana’s first black congressman since Reconstruction" (not to single out Clancy DuBos, just using a readily available link to a phrase that I heard a few too many times) among William Jefferson's accomplishments? It's true, but all he did was win a congressional election. He wasn't a trailblazer like James Meredith or Jackie Robinson who braved threats and abuse, and he wasn't even like Dutch Morial who beat the odds in being elected the city's first black mayor -- while the majority of the city's electorate was white*. When you say that Jefferson was the state's first black congressman since Reconstruction, all you're saying is that he won the first election in Louisiana's 2nd congressional district after Lindy Boggs retired.

While I'm on the subject, I will point out that Jefferson was no Willie Stark who started out as an idealistic champion of the poor and became corrupted. From his early days in the state legislature
About the same time, Jefferson launched one of his earliest ventures, in the rent-to-own appliance business. that was, like others that would follow, a joint project with several siblings, in this case brothers Mose and Bennie and sister Betty, a former School Board member who is now a city assessor. Through Jefferson Interests, a company they founded, the group acquired four REMCO stores starting in the early 1980s, after Jefferson had joined the Legislature.

Some called the business predatory. In 1986, Rudy Lombard, one of Jefferson's opponents in his second bid for mayor, noted in debates that some public-housing tenants in Algiers late on payments had complained of being "harassed and intimidated" by REMCO officials.

Lombard also ripped Jefferson for sponsoring a bill that would have allowed theft charges to be filed against renters who did not return appliances on time. Jefferson denied sponsoring such a bill at first, but the next day he conceded he had when reporters confronted him with the evidence. The bill never passed.

through his career in congress, Jefferson always put his own interests, and those of his wealthy backers, ahead of the concerns of poor people.

*The majority of the city's population was black in 1978, but, in part because the black population was younger, voter registration was still majority white. I don't know if an apparent error in yesterday's paper was the result of shoddy research (or no research) or merely a poorly worded sentence:
As always, a key piece of the puzzle is race. Political experts tend to agree that voters gravitate toward candidates who look like themselves. The rule of thumb has played out in New Orleans for decades as a majority black electorate installed African-American candidates in key government posts, including the mayor's office in every election since 1978.

It's not a major point, but the crowd that thinks that the city's worst racists didn't move to the suburbs but chose to stay in the city in an attempt to use "reform" as part of a nefarious plot to steal back the power they couldn't hold on to democratically always seems to get the history wrong.

I've heard people even say that "Figaro" (the defunct local weekly that in the 70's occupied a similar niche to the one filled by "Gambit" today) helped elect Morial by convincing liberal-leaning white professionals that Morial was a superior candidate to Joe DiRosa. This piece (you may need to use this link and click a second link) of pseudoscholarship tells a similar story:
According to Allen Rosensweig, a prominent New Orleans pollster, Morial got 97% of the black vote and 19% of the white vote. Political writers for the New Orleans Times-Picayune had only slightly different figures. They analyzed 42 precincts with 10 or fewer white voters and found Morial getting 94.73% of the black vote. In 68 precincts identified as having 10 or fewer black voters DiRosa got 78.29%to Morial’s 21.61%. Morial fared extremely well in the Uptown wards, frequently referred to as the “Silk Stocking” area, near Tulane and Loyola universities. In that area he garnered more than one third of the white vote according to detailed analysis. Candidate DiRosa’s son told the story in frank language. By his account, “The uptown white vote killed us. I guess it was just fashionable to vote for a black man” (Gillis, 11/14/1977).

Had the internet yet been invented, a four or five year old kid in Gentilly might have expressed his dissatisfaction with a choice between the racist candidate and the candidate of the yuppie left. Well, the word "yuppie" hadn't yet been invented either.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?

Old Favorites
  • Political Boxing (untitled)
  • Did Bush Take His Ball and Go Home
  • Teratogens and Plan B
  • Foghorn Leghorn Republicans
  • Quote of the Day
  • October's News(Dec.1)
  • untitled, Nov.19 (offshore revenue)
  • Remember Upton Sinclair
  • Oct. Liar of thr month
  • Jindal's True Colors
  • No bid contracts