Friday, September 05, 2008

Clusterf#ck to Congress

It has been announced that the primary election to hopefully replace Congressman William Jefferson originally scheduled for this Saturday has been postponed for a month. We can rejoice that this is the case because none of the candidates have distinguished themselves.

Sure there are some posters and signs up, but even before Hurricane Gustav interrupted our regularly scheduled programming, one wouldn't have guessed that a critically important election was just one week away. It seemed as though candidates were just rolling out their first ads, just beginning to articulate their positions.

Now certainly there is a back-and-forth involved. It doesn't seem to me that my neighbors are paying particular attention to this race and had the election occurred as scheduled, I imagine we would see extremely low turnout on par with what we remember from last November. On the other end, we have a slate of candidates that has done next to nothing to engage the people of New Orleans in any meaningful way.

Remember that this Congressional seat is one of the most important posts in the city. The post represents the citizens' most direct line to the federal government. Our next Congressperson must not only be able to bring home the federal money so desperately needed for our recovery, but he or she must also know where that money should go.

We Could Be Famous is about a year old now and the one thing I've tried to touch on continuously throughout my work here is that while civic leaders have, in some cases, improperly allocated precious resources and/or administered with inexplicable incompetence, the single greatest overarching failure of this city's leaders has been the tacit acceptance of a reactionary recovery ideology. It is the inability or refusal to reconcile competing interests into an articulate recovery game plan that explicitly prioritizes still unaddressed immediate poverty-exacerbating emergencies AND develops a longer term vision for wise urban growth that has been the saddest failure of New Orleans' leaders. Incompetence and corruption are certainly contributing factors to this overarching failure but campaign demonization of these two phenomena alone will not distinguish a candidate in this election.


To the candidates:

What is your plan?

What are your immediate priorities and what is your longer term vision?

Articulate these things to voters and do it now.

Stop treating your desired constituencies as idiots that need placating. See partners instead.

New Orleans may be a unique place but that does not mean that its citizens live in a box. Recognize the shifting national political dynamics and realize that you can and must articulate a positive progressive vision for this city's present and future as well as an idea of how Congress can help.


I've been trying to follow this race as best I can but could not attend many forums due to my work schedule and competing civic events. We were less than a week from the election when the Gustav approached and I was still an undecided voter because no candidate seemed willing or able to meet the challenge that I shouldn't have had to express above.

I am still undecided but now there is another month for a candidate to express a detailed vision for New Orleans. Here is a brief rundown of some contenders:


1. William Jefferson - Maybe he once was an effective bacon bringer but now he is a Congressional carcass. He has no credibility, no leadership position, and his colleagues don't even want to be in the same room as him out of fear of cameras.

2. Byron Lee - No Jefferson Parish official has a legitimate shot of winning nor can be trusted truly understand New Orleans. That his political life is inextricably linked to his cousin Derrick Shepherd is an even bigger problem.

3. Kenya Smith - The only way his candidacy could elicit anything other than the laughter of the citizens of New Orleans would be if he went straight to the press with each detail of every one of Mayor Nagin's many and obvious 2nd term failures.

4. Helena Moreno - Last night at my service industry job a gentleman with a WDSU credential came in and I jokingly asked him if he'd be supporting his colleague. He said with a deadly seriousness on his face, "Absolutely not, I work with her." That's a true story but more substantively, as the Oyster touches on, Moreno is not-so-gracefully masking her lack of knowledge of policy basics AND her devotion to conservatism and the Republican party platform. Beyond that, there's some personal/professional rumors swirling all over town to the point that I'm comfortable alluding to them. Now I don't really care at all about the personal lives of politicians insofar as they don't inform an individual's policies or decisions. Unfortunately, these particular rumors raise many questions about Moreno's ideas and expertise.


5. James Carter - Has had every opportunity to demonstrate leadership on many critical issues from City Council and has largely shied away from such opportunities. He seems content to collect establishment endorsements and coast toward election day. He could win with a mandate if he'd step up and outline a detailed vision.

6. Troy "C" Carter - The initialed one seems to be running the most organized ground campaign, which I like, and by all accounts is holding his own in the candidate forums. He has nonetheless failed to distinguish himself in any substantive sense.

7. Cedric Richmond - Maybe the most impressive progressive legislative record of any candidate but he's GOT to answer questions about ties to William Jefferson and leave us 100% certain that he won't be even indirectly caught up in that probe. That his campaign appears to run out of the same building as the Jefferson lawyer is problematic.


Leigh C. said...

Happy early blog day!

One hell of a first year, I must say. Keep it up, man!

Civitch said...

Troy Carter was notoriously and unabashedly corrupt while on the City Council.

Cedric Richmond lied about his domicile when he ran for City Council against Hedge-Morrell and is facing censure if not disbarment for that offense.

James Carter has not been the forceful leader that we would have hoped, but he's young and energetic and ambitious. And he's by far the best of the bunch.

Anonymous said...

What's that smell? James Carter's incompetence. First, the congressional candidate failed out of law school at Southern. Then, Mr. Carter had to take the Louisiana Bar 6 times before passing the test. In other words, it took Mr. Carter three years to study before he passed. How long will it take him to pass legislation in favor of New Orleans? 3 years? We don't have that long...

Jonathan said...

At a point we have to rally behind a candidate, or continue down the path that we've been on for the last 17 or so years. We can squabble over each candidate's flaws, but in the end the city needs a candidate that can put the city's needs first. While we're squabbling that won't happen. The city needs to rally behind a candidate.