After the Feb. 2 primary, New Orleans was awash in the afterglow of putting two non-traditional, seemingly clean candidates in the runoff. Neither Nagin nor Richard Pennington had ever sought public office before, and each appeared to offer a break from the politics of the past. As we enter the campaign's final week, the choice remains clear.
The Pennington campaign has been a study in disorganization. The former police chief, who had tremendous goodwill at the outset of his campaign, followed bad advice from people who appear to have their own interests more at heart than his. Some of them have close ties to the current administration and no doubt hope to keep their snouts in the patronage trough. His Washington-based consultants, brought in by Congressman and campaign chairman Bill Jefferson, ran off Pennington's local advisers and proceeded to steer him on an uncharacteristic course of vicious attacks, which backfired. Things got so bad that Pennington admitted last week that he would do things differently if he could start over -- after announcing that he had taken back control of his campaign.
Nagin, by contrast, has defended himself against attacks but otherwise has taken the high road. On this alone, he has proved himself capable of mayoral leadership. He likewise has shown grace under pressure. One of the big question marks about business people who enter the political arena is whether they can handle scrutiny by the media and other politicians. In his brief trial run, Nagin has passed that test.
But most of all, we repeat our endorsement of Ray Nagin for the same reason we liked him in the primary: he offers the best hope for fundamental change. That's what this election, more than anything else, is all about.
The Chamber's political action committee, NOAPAC, had this to say in endorsing Nagin: "As a business executive, he brings to the office the ability to think out of the box to help make New Orleans a leading Southern center for growth. His articulate, candid and sensible approach to the city's key challenges will make him an excellent spokesman for New Orleans and a strong partner with regional leaders as we take to the nation the message that a new era is dawning in New Orleans and Louisiana."
We couldn't agree more. We urge our readers to vote for Ray Nagin for mayor this Saturday.
Shea in District A
We also repeat our endorsement of incumbent Scott Shea in City Council District A. We endorsed Shea in a special election in 2000 because we liked his people skills and because we believed he had the right temperament for the job. That's still the case. Shea has worked with neighborhood groups and preservationists to resolve bitter development disputes, and on the council he offers a voice of reason. Those are important assets in light of ongoing development and reform battles. We urge our readers in District A to give Shea a full term to show how much more he can do.
Yes to Proposition A
We applaud Mayor Marc Morial's decision last week to ask the Sewerage and Water Board to delay its vote on bids for a contract to privatize water and sewer operations. Morial acknowledged that the proposals were too complex and far-reaching for his administration to reach a decision before leaving office.
In doing so, Morial put the best interests of New Orleans ahead of a schedule that would guarantee his administration the opportunity to award a $1 billion, 20-year agreement. We urge the Sewerage and Water Board to take the next step by retooling the proposed contract to correct a number of problems -- including the lack of a financial disclosure requirement for Sewerage and Water Board members who are elected officials.
Voters likewise can do their part this Saturday, March 2. Proposition A would amend the City Charter to subject all Sewerage and Water Board contracts worth more than $5 million to public approval. This change would give the public more oversight over a process that should not be completely controlled by a handful of elected and appointed officials. More important, passage of Proposition A would not require privatization of any S&WB operations. Rather, it would require voter approval before any operations could be privatized.
We urge our readers in New Orleans to VOTE YES on Proposition A this Saturday.