As we enter the final week of the citywide elections, voters are getting bombarded by messages from candidates and third-party committees. Hopefully, that will translate into increased voter interest and higher voter turnout. It will not, I suspect, change voters' overall perception of the mayoral field as less than inspiring.
That is not to say the would-be mayors, individually or collectively, can't or won't do a good job. As pollster Ron Faucheux put it several weeks earlier on these pages, "Nobody hates any of these candidates, and voters don't love one of them more than the others." That more than anything explains voters' political ennui.
Faucheux's citywide poll for WWL-TV and The Advocate showed LaToya Cantrell and Desiree Charbonnet leading the field with 27 and 26 percent of the vote, respectively, with Michael Bagneris at 19 percent. Faucheux was quick to note that polls are not crystal balls; they are snapshots in time. By Saturday's primary, a lot could change.
Only this much is certain: One of these candidates will be New Orleans' next mayor. If that doesn't get voters to focus on the race to succeed Mitch Landrieu, shame on voters.
Here's something else on which voters should focus: Those who may harbor reservations about our next mayor — whoever he or she may be — should really pay attention to the City Council elections.
One refrain that has echoed through discussions with and forums among City Council candidates is the current council's trust in Landrieu. Give Hizzoner credit for knowing how to sell his initiatives. He mostly had his way with the council, and no one is accusing him of raiding the city treasury.
That said, the Aug. 5 flood and ensuing revelations about longstanding problems at the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB) have underscored the notion that the next council must be far more assertive than the current body in serving as a check on the mayor's enormous powers.
New Orleans' City Charter unequivocally establishes a "strong mayor" form of government. It does not, however, render the council subservient or irrelevant. Quite the opposite. The council still controls the purse strings, at budget time and throughout the year. It also has the power to reject some of the mayor's appointments and contracts and override his or her vetoes.
At a minimum, the next council must appropriately question every administration proposal — and do so in a nonpartisan, nonpolitical manner. That's the council's job.
A recent survey showed that New Orleans voters rated former Mayor Marc Morial as the best among the city's recent mayors. What that survey did not reflect is the fact that the City Council, led by then-At-Large Councilman Jim Singleton, gave Morial fits during his tenure as mayor. Morial often groused about that at the time, but Singleton and his fellow council members said they were just doing their job.
Time has shown that an assertive council not only looked out for the interests of taxpayers, but also helped make Morial a better mayor.
Let's hope the next council does the same for Landrieu's successor.