What a difference eight months make. Last January, we published two cover stories: one handicapping the possible candidates for mayor, and the other a profile of then-New Orleans Inspector General Robert Cerasoli. At the time, it seemed candidates by now would be champing at the bit to succeed Ray Nagin, and that the IG's office, after a fitful and difficult first year, would be issuing reports and recommendations. That seems a long time ago.
Back then, only two mayoral candidates had "anted up" and declared their intention to run for mayor: state Sen. Ed Murray and state Rep. Austin Badon. Since then, the only other declared candidate has been fair-housing advocate James Perry, whose campaign has been largely confined to online social-media circles. Murray is an effective legislator, but less of a campaigner; Badon's biggest problem is his lack of name recognition and a fundraising base. Ditto for Perry. So far, none of them has electrified voters.
The bigger story is what hasn't happened in the mayoral race. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu would have been the frontrunner, but in early July he opted out. Landrieu's move was seen as clearing the field for at-large City Councilman Arnie Fielkow, who promised to announce his intentions by Labor Day. When his self-imposed deadline rolled around, though, Fielkow issued a statement saying he needed more time — precisely the wrong move when voters were hungering for decisive leadership. It left political watchers to wonder if Fielkow had the stomach for the campaign; two weeks later, he made it clear he didn't and bowed out. And last Wednesday (Sept. 23), Karen Carter Peterson, speaker pro tem of the Louisiana House, announced she would not be running.
So who is still likely to jump in? Businessman and former gubernatorial candidate John Georges is one possibility. Others, including attorney Rob Couhig, former at-large Councilman Eddie Sapir and trumpeter Irvin Mayfield, have played footsie with the press and the public as to their intentions. Businessman/engineer Roy A. Glapion Jr. is another possibility.
Whether any of these candidates can capture the public imagination — or make a case as to why he or she is the best person for the job — is another story. But they all need to get moving; qualifying for the mayor's race is Dec. 9-11, less than 11 weeks from now.
Meanwhile, the Office of Inspector General (OIG) has been a revolving door since Cerasoli resigned for health reasons at the end of January. Cerasoli's then-friend and interim successor, Leonard Odom, prepared a scathing report about Cerasoli's tenure, turning what had been a private spat into a public contretemps. The leaked report never made it onto the IG's Web site, but instead wound up in the hands of attorney Tracie Washington, who published it on her own site, www.nolapublicrecords.org.
It got stranger. Odom's hand-picked No. 2 man, Deputy Inspector General Neely Moody, who came on board in August as the city's first police monitor, resigned one month later around the time the report became public. Then Edouard Quatrevaux, the incoming inspector general who was hired Sept. 3, left the office one week later to take care of unspecified business affairs — leaving the office in the hands of a second interim IG.
The OIG, founded to foster transparency in city government, has produced lots of drama but little in the way of substantive reports since its inception, and the public's patience is rightly strained. Quatrevaux's first job when he retakes the reins in mid-October should be to restore public confidence.
As the mayor's race finally gets started, candidates will surely be asked their opinions of the OIG. The question is: Will anyone be listening? After qualifying closes Dec. 11, the official campaign will be a sprint through Christmas, New Year's and Twelfth Night to the Feb. 6 primary — and the beginning of Mardi Gras parade season. In fact, Feb. 6 will see seven major parades roll in Orleans and Jefferson parishes, including the krewes of Caesar and Sparta. Given New Orleans' recent political landscape, voters might be reminded more of Chaos and Misrule. We hope otherwise, but it's up to the candidates to throw us something more than the usual political trinkets.