Candidates who qualified to run for public office in the Oct. 14 citywide primary now have slightly less than three months to get their messages out to voters. The competition will be fierce, particularly in the contests for mayor and City Council.
Voters' challenge will be no less difficult. They must sort through dozens of candidates for various municipal and parochial offices, not to mention candidates seeking to become Louisiana's next state treasurer.
If voters are looking for a reliable metric to assess candidates for mayor and City Council, a coalition of more than two dozen civic, community and neighborhood organizations has the answer: Forward New Orleans' (FNO) 2018 issue-based platform statement. The platform is a collection of 35 specific policies spread across six major areas of focus; during the campaign, candidates will be asked to commit to implementing the policies.
This is not a new concept. FNO first presented more than 100 policy goals in the 2010 citywide elections and got commitments of support from most mayoral and council candidates. A majority of those goals either have been implemented fully or are in the final stages of implementation. Some remain for the next mayor and council.
Once the candidates have ex-pressed their willingness (or lack thereof) to embrace the FNO platform, the coalition will publish a campaign "scorecard" letting voters know which candidates support specific policy goals. The 2017 rollout begins this week, because time is of the essence.
After the election, FNO will hold the winners accountable by publishing periodic scorecards measuring city leaders' progress (or shortcomings) on each policy goal. If candidates merely give lip service to FNO's platform and fail to follow through after getting elected, voters will hear about it.
FNO's aim is to elevate the level of accountability, transparency, efficiency and fiduciary responsibility in city government. The scorecards from 2010 and 2014 were widely covered in the media and held Mayor Mitch Landrieu's and City Council members' feet to the fire.
"This is a vehicle for setting high expectations on the issues that matter most and demanding performance from the leaders we elect," said Christy Harowski, who leads FNO. "Along the way, coalition members stand ready to help our local leaders translate the platform into successful action."
This year, FNO has identified the following main policy areas: public safety, infrastructure, economic opportunity, city services, city finance and civil service system reforms.
It is no accident that public safety is the top issue. FNO's platform focuses on the New Orleans Police Department (NOPD) and the entire criminal justice system. The goals include immediately developing a sustainable, evidence-based strategy to reduce violent crime; growing NOPD by improving recruitment and retention; letting the police chief "lead with autonomy and accountability"; supporting and monitoring jail reforms and other consent decree objectives in the sheriff's office; and other specific policies.
FNO's coalition partners are a diverse group. They include the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, the Urban League of Louisiana, RIDE New Orleans, Common Good, Stand for Children, the Young Leadership Council and other organizations. For more on FNO, check out www.forwardneworleans.com — and hold candidates accountable.