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Nov. 7, 2013, 9:56 a.m.

“With his sur­pris­ing, 11th-hour entry in­to the” may­or’s race last week, ‘94/‘06 can­did­ate/LG Mitch Landrieu (D), “achieved the seem­ingly im­possible: to get people talk­ing about something oth­er than the Saints, for a day or so any­way. Not only has Landrieu turned loc­al polit­ics on its head,” his bid “re­ver­ber­ates statewide, spark­ing spec­u­la­tion over who would fill” the LG po­s­i­tion “should he va­cate it.” GOP­ers “would see that as a golden op­por­tun­ity to se­cure” the gov. should Gov. Bobby Jin­dal (R) “not com­plete this term or next.” For Dems, “hold­ing onto” the LG “keeps the fly in the oint­ment of Jin­dal’s am­bi­tions.”

A “re­cent poll gave Landrieu the highest ap­prov­al rat­ing of any state of­fi­cial. Some ar­dent” Dem “sup­port­ers even urged Landrieu to chal­lenge Jin­dal’s re-elec­tion. Yet, for whatever reas­on, he de­term­ined that his fore­see­able fu­ture was not in statewide polit­ics. He may also have giv­en up on the out­side chance that Jin­dal would change his own mind and run against” Sen. Dav­id Vit­ter (R) next year.

“It could just be that Landrieu, not the most pa­tient sort, does not care to be the lead­ing politi­cian in wait­ing any longer. Win­ning a third term — no sure bet — would risk his be­ing typecast as a per­en­ni­al second ba­nana.” Next to be­ing gov., N.O. may­or “is where the ac­tion is. The city is on the cusp of a second post-hur­ricane build­ing boom,” as FEMA “loosens the purse strings on hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars for pro­jects tied up in red tape, the biggest of which is LSU’s claim for a new teach­ing hos­pit­al.”

Also, “at every level of the com­munity there is a pent-up de­mand, a yearn­ing, for ef­fect­ive and con­sist­ent lead­er­ship from City Hall, which un­pop­u­lar lame duck” May­or Ray Nagin (D) “has not de­livered. Pos­it­ive polit­ic­al lead­er­ship” in N.O. “is im­port­ant for all” LA. “As the state’s front door, it is a prime gen­er­at­or of jobs and tax rev­en­ue, as well as where so many tax dol­lars are spent. How well or poorly the city is run af­fects those who do busi­ness there or who just come in a few times a year for shop­ping and din­ner, and hope to re­turn home safely.”

Des­pite “his late start, Landrieu is the early fron­trun­ner, though he forms a big tar­get for some well-heeled op­pon­ents who have little re­course but to try to take him down.” ‘07 GOV can­did­ate/busi­ness­man John Georges (I), who spent $11M “of his own money” in ‘07, “isn’t known for hold­ing back.” Busi­ness­wo­man Leslie Jac­obs, “whose re­cent con­ver­sa­tions with Landrieu led her to be­lieve he was not run­ning, fills the role of wo­man scorned.” ‘06 can­did­ate/‘99 LA-01 can­did­ate/ex-minor league base­ball team own­er/atty Rob Couhig (R) “speaks to a small but de­term­ined GOP vot­ing bloc that was in­stru­ment­al in beat­ing Landrieu last time. And those are just the white can­did­ates.”

If “Landrieu sur­vives them, he would likely face in the run­off the Afric­an-Amer­ic­an can­did­ate who emerges as the con­sensus choice of that com­munity, which, in elec­tions that really mat­ter, still ac­counts for the ma­jor­ity of votes. With­in three months we will know if” Landrieu “meets his des­tiny or his Wa­ter­loo. For now, the cam­paign un­fold­ing demon­strates that, however the rest of the city’s long re­cov­ery is faring, its polit­ics is back to full form” (Ma­gin­nis, LaPolit­ics Weekly, 12/16).

Only The Amish Can Make It Right

The may­or­al cam­paign “hit prime time” 12/15 “with the cam­paign’s first tele­vised de­bate of­fer­ing a mish­mash of opin­ions, ob­ser­va­tions and hu­mor. With 12 of the 13 can­did­ates for” the primary “scram­bling to cram thumb­nail ver­sions of their top pri­or­it­ies in­to just 60 minutes, the for­um, which was broad­cast live from” Xavi­er Univ., “at times seemed like a breath­less sprint.”

The “eight ma­jor con­tenders, who all ar­rived with well-re­hearsed talk­ing points, also found them­selves com­pet­ing with long shots who hi­jacked the pro­ceed­ings with such non­tra­di­tion­al pro­pos­als as leg­al­iz­ing marijuana, re­cruit­ing the Amish to re­build neigh­bor­hoods and turn­ing the city’s sea of blighted prop­er­ties in­to farm­land. … Con­sid­er­ing that the event marked the can­did­ates’ only op­por­tun­ity un­til” Jan. “to speak dir­ectly to a city­wide TV audi­ence, it was re­l­at­ively free of fire­works. While a few barbs were cast, no one landed a glove on” Landrieu.

“As ex­pec­ted,” Nagin “took sev­er­al dir­ect hits. Landrieu, who was cri­ti­cized for not be­ing tough enough on Nagin when he tried to un­seat” him four years ago, “was first to at­tack. Asked his po­s­i­tion on an ef­fort to unite cor­por­ate” and gov’t in­terests “to pro­mote eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment, a pro­pos­al Nagin has re­fused to au­thor­ize,” Landrieu “didn’t mince words.” Landrieu: “May­or Nagin’s de­cision was a mis­take. There is no suc­cess­ful eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment ini­ti­at­ive tak­ing place in any ma­jor city that doesn’t have a pub­lic-private part­ner­ship.”

Next up was Couhig, “who answered a ques­tion about how to stop young pro­fes­sion­als from leav­ing the city by tak­ing a swing at Nagin’s no­tori­ous travel sched­ule.” Couhig: “We don’t need to fly around the coun­try look­ing for things. We’ve had a may­or do that. We’re go­ing to have a may­or who goes to work every morn­ing, works hard, has dis­cip­line and brings con­sist­ency to gov­ern­ment.” Couhig “also took a shot at the may­or for ‘chok(ing) our at­tempts to get rid of blight.’”

The “is­sue of blight also landed” state Sen. Ed Mur­ray (D) “squarely in the bull’s-eye.” Fair Hous­ing Atty James Perry (D) “and Landrieu both took swipes at Mur­ray for coau­thor­ing” in ‘06 a “con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment pro­hib­it­ing” gov’t from “us­ing its ex­pro­pri­ation power to ad­vance private de­vel­op­ment. Mur­ray sup­por­ted that meas­ure after a sim­il­ar bill he wrote stalled” in cmte.

Perry: “Sen. Mur­ray put forth a bill that made it al­most im­possible for the New Or­leans Re­devel­op­ment Au­thor­ity to ac­quire va­cant and blighted prop­erty. The bill was so bad and the is­sue was so dif­fi­cult that he went back two years later and tried to re­verse what happened in that bill.” Landrieu: “we have to undo what the Le­gis­lature did be­cause they have made it al­most im­possible to take blighted prop­er­ties back.”

In “his typ­ic­ally calm style, Mur­ray de­fen­ded his ac­tions.” Mur­ray: “This con­sti­tu­tion­al amend­ment that my col­leagues have talked about does not pro­hib­it NORA from ac­quir­ing these prop­er­ties. It’s been tested in court, and the court has said they can pro­ceed.”

Georges, “mean­while, ad­voc­ated re­mov­ing NORA en­tirely from the pro­cess.” Georges: “The most im­port­ant thing we can do is ac­tu­ally by­pass NORA and al­low the cit­izens to go dir­ectly and buy those homes. NORA ac­tu­ally adds a cost to people buy­ing homes.” Un­veil­ing a “new policy po­s­i­tion, Georges also re­vealed that he sup­ports ‘the im­me­di­ate re­open­ing of Char­ity Hos­pit­al … so we can im­me­di­ately im­pact the re­devel­op­ment of our down­town.’” Georges said City Hall should “save the his­tor­ic neigh­bor­hoods they’re plan­ning to put the new hos­pit­al in.”

The “oth­er ma­jor can­did­ates took ad­vant­age of their 30-second clos­ing state­ments to try to dis­tin­guish them­selves in a crowded field.” Jac­obs: “I took a small fam­ily busi­ness and grew it to an in­dustry lead­er. I formed a re­gion­al co­ali­tion to deal with eco­nom­ic de­vel­op­ment and qual­ity-of-life is­sues. I’ve led a move­ment to re­tain our tal­en­ted youth in the city … and I took on our schools, which had been fail­ing our youth for years.”

Busi­ness­man Troy Henry “pitched him­self as ‘the only can­did­ate who has ac­tu­ally man­aged a budget that is the size of the city, … the only one who has man­aged op­er­a­tions of people that is that or­der of mag­nitude, the only one that is re­devel­op­ing a neigh­bor­hood.”

Ex-judge Nad­ine Ram­sey “offered a sober­ing mo­tiv­a­tion for her” bid. Ram­sey: “For so long we have listened to politi­cians telling us about what they have done for our city. Our ques­tion must be quite simple: If so much has been done, why is our city in the con­di­tion that it is in?”

Comedi­an Jo­nah Bascle, artist Manny Chev­ro­let-Bruno, busi­ness­man Jerry Jac­obs and Thomas Lam­bert provided “off­beat ideas and com­ic re­lief.” ‘06 can­did­ate Norbert Rome “de­clined to par­ti­cip­ate.” Bruno “drew the biggest laughs. Asked how he would erad­ic­ate blight, he re­peated an idea he floated” in ‘06. Bruno: “One way to re­devel­op our blighted neigh­bor­hoods is to bring the Amish down and help us build. They can build a barn in one day without any elec­tri­city; just think what they can do with a city block. The an­swer is: the Amish” (Krupa/Donze, New Or­leans Times-Pi­cay­une, 12/16).

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