It’s always fun to go to the Mayor’s Mardi Gras Ball at Gallier Hall because you never know who you are going to run into. Last night’s ball was a jam-packed but chilly affair with plenty of women in stunning backless, strapless creations and masks. The first people Danae saw crawling out of a big SUV were James Carville (New Orleans best known media darling) and Ryan Berni, the Mayor’s former press secretary/campaign manager who is now contemplating his next step. Could Hillary’s campaign be on Berni’s horizon?
Voting is one of the most treasured rights of every American. But it is amazing how many people either never register or find some excuse not to vote. Then of course there is the perceived voter fatigue caused by having too frequent elections, failure to educate oneself on the issues, or being too lazy to physically go to the polls.
With early voting set to begin March 1, political eyes will be watching to see what impact voter apathy – due in part to our love of all things Mardi Gras – will have on voter turnout for the March 15 runoff elections for Council At Large, Council C, Sheriff and Coroner. In the primary election held on February 1, approximately 12,000 voters cast their votes early and a much smaller number voted by mail.
Good for the jurors who yesterday found former Mayor Ray Nagin guilty on 20 of 21 criminal charges in federal court.
Those of us who have watched Nagin closely for the eight years he was in office believe Ray thought he could con the jury, just as he fooled New Orleans voters in the 2002 and 2006 mayoral elections. His hubris brought to mind Danae’s initial impression after Ray’s emergence as a major candidate in the 2002 election. “Ray is a rock star,” Danae said. “He’s cool, handsome and clever. Ray’s not about substance. He’s about being Ray.”
How many of you watched the season premiere of Duck Dynasty last night and watched it for the first time because of Phil Robertson’s outlandish but right-in-character remarks? How many of you think that New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had no idea that his staff were orchestrating a traffic calamity as pay-back for a lack of endorsement? Christie is lucky that the problem occurred now – so early in the presidential campaign – and probably recoverable, though time will tell for sure.
That old Morial magic still works.
When the invitations went out from National Urban League CEO Marc Morial’s office for a Friday luncheon at Dooky Chase’s Restaurant, you could feel the stir in the political community. Last Friday, with the restaurant closed for the private event, there wasn’t an empty chair in the place.
We could not let this week pass without commenting on the 50th Anniversary of President John F. Kennedy’s death. Allan was a reporter at the States Item Picayune when Kennedy died and actually met and talked with Lee Harvey Oswald during a trip to the newsroom just weeks before. Allan’s memory of Lee Harvey Oswald 50 years ago is that Oswald was considered a very weird, insignificant guy who was an advocate for Fidel Castro, not a very popular point of view in 1963 New Orleans. At the time, Danae was in junior high school in Hot Springs, Arkansas.
Mayor Landrieu could be encouraging his CAO Andy Kopplin to enter the At-Large Council race against Stacy Head in order to preserve his legacy when the Mayor runs for Governor, according to the hottest rumor circulating among politicos lately — and the theory may make some sense.
So who gets to decide how many judges are too many? Mayor Mitch Landrieu has strong feelings on the subject, based on his own experiences when he was in the private practice of law and his observations from the mayor’s office. There are too many judges and the money devoted to supporting empty courtrooms and under-worked judges could be better spent if the money was instead in the city’s general fund, Landrieu says.
Even Tulane alum Allan Katz thinks that Mike Perlstein of WWL and Gordon Russell of the Advocate certainly did a bang up job on their first-rate investigation regarding Tulane’s century-old scholarship program. Like many old habits in New Orleans, there is an aversion to change. But change is definitely necessary for this program.
We were pleased to hear Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s remarks yesterday in Washington. The epidemic of youth committing crimes is a national problem that every city faces. New Orleans and many American cities are strapped for cash and don’t have the available resources to implement clear solutions. It would be great if Congress allocated funds to create innovative programs that would address the problem.
But we think the real issue lies in economic equity for young African Americans. With the unemployment rate of African-Americans in New Orleans reaching almost 50%, it is quite easy to see why young men (and young women) commit crimes every day. The future does not seem bright for them. Excellent programs like Each One Save One and the new male mentoring program at McDonogh #35 High School can and do address the problem. But much more is needed – jobs are needed for adult black males and females and for their children.
We were shocked and saddened this week about the latest developments in the Danzinger Bridge case. Who are the worst perpetrators? The cops who tried to cover up what they had done? The U.S. Attorney’s Office for using anonymous blogs to spin their tale? Or the Justice Department, while charged with providing oversight for local U.S. Attorneys, almost turned a blind eye to what might be going on here in the Big Easy.
In our opinion, C. Ray Nagin was the worst mayor of our lifetimes. It is entirely possible that Nagin was the worst mayor in New Orleans’ 295-year history, going all the way back to the French and Spanish chief executives whom Danae has been studying recently.
However, being a terrible mayor is not of itself a crime. Later this month, a jury will be convened in federal court to consider whether accepting some $200,000 in cash and gifts, along with several truckloads of free granite, is indeed a federal crime. The jurors will presumably hear Nagin’s Chief Administrative Officer Greg Meffert and big-time vendor Mark St. Pierre, both of whom are currently doing time in the federal pen.
At the time, Allan was a first-year reporter at the States-Item, New Orleans’ afternoon paper. The editorial pages of The Times-Picayune and States-Item were adamantly opposed to the civil-rights movement then gaining steam throughout the South. The newspapers’ opposition to civil rights was based on the theory of “States Rights,” which held that the federal government had no right to impose an end to segregation on the sovereign states of the United States. Today, we all know how that has turned out in the last 50 years but, at that time, it was legal linchpin to the fight conducted in the courts by segregationist entities.
Several weeks ago, we wrote a column listing a number of reasons why Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to move City Hall to the iconic but empty Charity Hospital was an excellent idea.
In the course of our interview with him, Pres Kabacoff said he hoped that the Civil District Court judges would reconsider their plans to build a new Civil District Court building in Duncan Plaza – adjacent to the current City Hall on Loyola Avenue – and instead decide to join Mayor Landrieu’s administration and the City Council in the move to Charity.
That all seemed reasonable enough to us, but then we received a visit from Civil District Court Judges Michael Bagneris and Kern Reese who told us the court is dead set on building their own structure and won’t be swayed by the mayor to move to Charity.
Although Wednesday’s announcement by the New Orleans Community Data Center showed several great signs in the New Orleans economy, it also pointed several great disparities that do not bode well for New Orleans’ future.
Yes, our economy is diversifying beyond tourism, we weathered the recession better than most cities, home sales have increased, our number of new entrepreneurs is high, and construction jobs are on the rise since Katrina (no kidding). All great stuff to be sure.
To put our views in some kind of context, you should know that Allan started covering politics in 1963 at the old States-Item and Danae worked in her first political campaign as a 12-year-old in 1962. She grew up in Hot Springs, Arkansas and, campaign veteran that she was, was a blue chip worker in Bill Clinton’s first campaign – a race for Congress in 1974 which he lost but later won a few.
In the 1960s and early 70s, it didn’t take a sex scandal to put a candidate in trouble. Back in the day, a candidate running for the first time who had a divorce in his background was in serious trouble. Voters did not like divorces, although incumbents who had proved their electability could survive a divorce, especially if they re-married and the new wife embraced the political life and was a good campaigner.
We are among the many thousands who are remembering Lindy Boggs with love today, relishing the moments we spent with her and celebrating her remarkable life.
Although we were certainly not members of her inner circle, Lindy always treated us – and everyone else – as though we were.
Allan always thought there was a special feminine bond between Lindy and other women, especially those like Danae, who were driven by a great work ethic and a desire to get things done. For thousands of women of accomplishment, Lindy was the ultimate role model who got things done in Congress, at the Vatican and in her own private life. Danae loved to be in Lindy’s company. Allan thought they both glowed when they laughed together and swapped stories about their lives.
Nothing in New Orleans is ever simple. For example, consider Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s plan to move our obsolete City Hall over to vacant Charity Hospital.
Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris says that’s a fine idea for city government but it doesn’t work for the Civil Courts who have their own plans and money to refit the former state office building site in Duncan Plaza. “We won’t be moving to Charity Hospital,” says Judge Bagneris. Evidently many other CDC judges agree.
We are in mourning for our dear friend Hank Braden, a wonderful person, a gifted political strategist, an outstanding legislator and a visionary who put together coalitions of like-minded people from across racial lines.
U.S. Senator Mary Landrieu has won three elections for the Senate without ever surpassing 52 percent of the vote. Every one of her races has been tough and close but she faces an ultimate political test this year in a state that each year turns more Republican. Landrieu is one of the Deep South’s last two Democrats in the U.S. Senate. But many think that Southern Democratic elected officials closely resemble dinosaurs at the end of their era, except for State Senator Karen Carter Peterson who chairs Louisiana’s Democratic Party.