Last night was the final debate between C. Ray Nagin and Mitch Landrieu, and after watching it (wwltv.com has it here), I finally figured out who I’d vote for if I were at the polls tomorrow in New Orleans.
It would be Mitch Landrieu.
Like others, Polimom has voiced concerns about the entrenched political power embodied in the Landrieu name, but my worry for the city has been that Landrieu would repeat the many errors of the past. In terms of history, it doesn’t matter who made what mistakes; only the reality on the ground today matters at this point. From a prior post:
The reason […] has nothing to do with Katrina, and everything to do with how the city responded to the slowing of its economic engines decades ago. The results of many years’ muddled policies led to a host of problems, and they’re so tightly intertwined as to be virtually inseparable; a chicken and egg of massive proportions.
Yet last night’s debate, civil as it was, revealed things that someone like me — far removed from the daily struggles and horrified by the slow progress — welcomed.
I think Mitch Landrieu “gets it”. He said some of the hard things that Nagin has been afraid to say — things like, “slab construction” will be a memory in New Orleans; the houses need to be raised; that standards for public housing are not inherently bad.
In the New Orleans political environment, those are hard issues to confront, but unlike Nagin, he did it.
Yes, his family’s power is a real concern, but it’s also one of his greatest strengths for a city that needs to travel a road fraught with misconceptions and pitfalls. As much as I believe Ray Nagin has the best of intentions, Mitch Landrieu’s experience in the Louisiana political system will allow him to travel those roads without looking for directions.
There were a number of well-written endorsements for both candidates, but the Weekly Gambit‘s voiced my thoughts well:
Four years ago, we enthusiastically endorsed Ray Nagin as our new mayor. We still like many things about him — his charm, his swagger, and his honesty among them. Unfortunately, Mayor Nagin has not been very effective at getting things done — mostly because he consistently fails to reach out to other officials whose cooperation is vital to the city’s progress. For the longest time, we hoped that Mayor Nagin would hone some political skills and grow into his job. That hasn’t happened. In fact, Katrina and its aftermath underscored his shortcomings — and the city has suffered for it. New Orleans cannot afford to wait any longer for Mayor Nagin to “get it.” We need a mayor who understands — right now — how to make government work for the greater good. Mitch Landrieu will be that mayor.
Ultimately, I have to agree.
Beyond all of that, though, New Orleans’ image requires a person who can speak reliably in public, and whatever one may or may not like about Ray Nagin, he hasn’t held up his end there.
New Orleans needs every advantage if it hopes to move through recovery into renaissance, and while Nagin would not be a bad mayor for the next few years, “not bad” isn’t enough.
Landrieu would be better.