Every election presents a unique opportunity for citizens to give themselves and their community a gut check — and to change direction when needed. In this Saturdays citywide primary, New Orleans voters already know our city needs a drastic change in direction. More than four years after Hurricane Katrina, city government is dysfunctional, our citys brand is synonymous with crime, the current mayor callously and selfishly widens rather than heals a longstanding racial divide, the local economy continues to decline and the recovery citizens have been hoping for still needs a jump start. Now more than ever, New Orleans needs a mayor who gets it at every level and who can move our city forward on many fronts at once. One candidate stands out as that kind of leader: Mitch Landrieu.
A recent WWL-TV survey of New Orleans voters underscored just how dysfunctional City Hall has become. When asked to rate the importance of various issues on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being of the greatest importance, voters rated every major issue above 9 — an unprecedented sign that voters see nothing going right in city government. Those issues included crime, public corruption, putting the citys interests above personal political ambitions, economic development and jobs, public education, better management of city departments and uniting the races to solve problems. The next mayor must tackle all of these issues at once, and Landrieu more than any other candidate has the skills, the competence and the experience to do that. As he declared in his announcement, he knows what to do and how to do it.
Some of Landrieus opponents cast him as a career politician because of his 22 years in public service. In our view, career politician is a plus if a public servant is honest and good at his job. Look at it this way: If you needed emergency medical care, youd want a career doctor — not a businessman who promises to run the ER like a business. After nearly eight years of Ray Nagin, New Orleans desperately needs a mayor who knows how to triage our citys unmet needs and understands politics at the local, state and national levels. Mitch Landrieu will be that mayor.
Speaking of the current mayor, New Orleans also needs to rebrand itself to the world. We need a mayor who embodies and represents all thats good about our city. In Mitch Landrieu, well have such a mayor — one of whom we can all be proud when he travels to Baton Rouge, Washington, Wall Street or abroad; a mayor with little patience for underachievers or laggards; and a mayor who, should another hurricane threaten New Orleans, will inspire confidence and calm rather than doubt and fear.
If theres one thing holding New Orleans back, its our lack of racial unity on matters other than Saints football. Going forward, we need a mayor all New Orleanians can trust. Mitch Landrieu is trained in conflict resolution, mediation and arbitration — all skills New Orleans sorely needs in a leader — and his entire public career reflects a commitment to inclusiveness and coalition building. He has consistently polled strongly in the black community because he has proven, not just promised, that he is sensitive to the concerns of all New Orleanians.
Its not too late for New Orleans to gain traction in the post-Katrina recovery. In fact, economic development and recovery go hand in hand — if we have a mayor who inspires confidence among business leaders, has good contacts at the state and federal levels and has the focus and discipline to see the job through. As lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu has excelled at leading the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism by harnessing Louisianas cultural economy and by continuing to function at a high level in the face of drastic budget cuts.
We recognize that some still object to another Landrieu in office, which is about as sensible as objecting to another Manning in football, another Marsalis in music or another Brennan opening a restaurant. When you know what to do and how to do it, your last name shouldnt matter. Mitch Landrieu offers what the city needs right now. We urge our New Orleans readers to elect Mitch Landrieu mayor this Saturday.
Saturday, February 6th's ballot includes many important offices in addition to that of mayor. If New Orleans is to move forward in the next four years, its important for voters to elect a team of leaders who will work well together. Above all, we urge all our New Orleans readers who have not already voted to cast their ballots on Saturday. Meanwhile, we offer the following recommendations.
City Council at-Large (Vote for Two)
The field of candidates seeking the two at large council seats is large and well qualified — so much so that we recommend more than two candidates. There is much to like about incumbents Arnie Fielkow and Jackie Clarkson, and just as much to admire in civic leader Nolan Marshall III.
Fielkow was elected four years ago after a distinguished career in the private sector. He is best known for his tenure with the New Orleans Saints — and for his devotion to the city and the team after Hurricane Katrina. Since his election in 2006, Fielkow has shown an ability to unite and to lead, particularly during strenuous times. He has championed the cause of openness and transparency in the award of contracts, and he helped establish and fund the Office of Inspector General.
Clarkson has long championed arts and culture as well as reform. She took the lead in establishing the Federal City, which is anchoring the militarys vital presence in New Orleans. She also authored a pair of key City Charter amendments — one to fund the Office of Inspector General, and one to give the new master plan the force of law. Equally important, her career as a Realtor gives her added credibility as the city moves to refurbish large assets and possibly relocate or redevelop City Hall.
Marshall has an impressive resume for someone only 30 years old. He is the associate director of Common Good, a nonprofit that works across racial, religious and other lines to develop consensus for rebuilding New Orleans. He also served as president of the Young Leadership Council, helped establish the New Orleans Crime Coalition, serves as board president of Einstein Charter School and has served on many civic, professional and business boards. As New Orleans looks to the future, Marshall represents a new generation of leadership that is ready to serve.
Council District A
Attorney Susan Guidry is a neighborhood leader who responded to the post-Katrina crisis by getting involved and making a difference. She has served as president of the Parkview Neighborhood Association and as a member of the District 5 Planning Committee (which helped write the citys recovery plan). As a neighborhood leader, she fought to shut down a nuisance bar and helped re-open a fire station. An experienced trial attorney, she knows how to fight and when to compromise. These skills will serve District A well on the council.
Council District B
Heads style can be combative, but few question her motives or her integrity. She is smart, focused and driven to make New Orleans government more efficient and more accountable. Even in the face of controversy and confrontation, Head does not waver — and she has earned a strong base of support among black voters in this majority-African-American district by continuing to advocate for their needs while some played the race card against her. We look forward to seeing Head work with a competent and honest administration.
Council District C
Kristin Gisleson Palmer
Four years ago, we endorsed Palmer for this seat, and we do so again this year. Since 2006, Palmer has served as executive director of Rebuilding Together, one of the most successful programs of the Preservation Resource Center and a model for post-disaster redevelopment using green principles and techniques. Her efforts have helped more than 400 families return home post-Katrina. She also created Confetti Kids, a nonprofit that renovates parks and playgrounds in Algiers Point. She is a dynamo who will be an excellent addition to the council.
Council District D
Incumbent Hedge-Morrell, who chairs the councils Budget Committee, has been a force for fiscal sanity on the council and an effective counterweight to some of Mayor Ray Nagins budgetary excesses. She also has championed recovery efforts across her district, most of which flooded during Hurricane Katrina. As the council gains new voices, her experience and steadiness will make her a natural leader among the district council members.
Council District E
Badon leads a crowded field to represent the citys largest district in terms of landmass. District E also was the hardest hit by Katrina. As a state legislator from eastern New Orleans, he chairs the House Education Committee and authored key education reform bills. He also authored legislation consolidating the citys seven assessors offices into one. His experience as a lawmaker proves that he stands tall against political odds on behalf of reform. He will be a welcome addition to the council.
Criminal Sheriff Marlin Gusman has the education, experience and toughness needed in New Orleans only sheriff. A lawyer with an M.B.A. from the Wharton School, Gusman has worked hard to improve conditions and functions at the citys jail. He will work just as hard to combine his current office with that of the civil sheriff. He has served with distinction on the City Council and as a top administrator under two mayors. His knowledge of local government uniquely qualifies him for this job, which interfaces with all elements of the justice system.
Clerk, Criminal Court
Incumbent Morrell has done a good job of cleaning up a mess he inherited from his predecessor. He continues to advocate for more resources to handle the paperwork and evidence that drives the efficiency of Criminal District Court. He also serves as the chief elections officer for Orleans Parish, a task he has performed well. He has earned another term.
Dr. Frank Minyard
Minyard has served as the citys coroner since 1974 and leads an effort to modernize the office. His opponent, a former school board member who has run for this and other offices in recent years, served time in jail for tax evasion in the early 1990s. The coroners office is too important to politicize. Dr. Minyard deserves one more term to finish the task of upgrading the coroners facilities.
State Senate, District 5
Karen Carter Peterson
Peterson is one of the leaders of a young but talented New Orleans legislative delegation. She serves as House speaker pro tem, which shows the esteem in which her colleagues hold her. In the House, Peterson has led the fight for education reform and against drastic cuts to higher education and health care. As a senator, she will continue to represent her district and her city effectively.
Assessor and Judge
Gambit has long taken the position that judges and assessors should be appointed, not elected. We therefore make no endorsements in the races for citywide assessor and for judgeships at Juvenile Court and Civil District Court.
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