I have lived in St. Charles Parish all my life, but I have always considered myself a New Orleanian. We may not have a vote in New Orleans elections, but the mayor of New Orleans is, in many ways, our mayor as well. As goes New Orleans, so goes the region. The cities successes and weaknesses, and image have tremendous impact on us in a national and global economy.
In a Post Katrina World, there are two things that should be obvious by now. You can't ask for billions in recovery aide from the federal government without expecting to be under a public microscope and you can't fake leadership in such a demanding environment as the pressure will surely expose your weaknesses.
Cases in point, Governor Kathleen Blanco’s hesitation and inability to emerge as a leader when her state needed it the most, Jefferson Parish President Aaron Broussard who seemed to be out of control with his doom and gloom reports, Saints owner Tom Benson who attempted to capitalize on the devastation as an excuse to abandon Louisiana, and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's frequent post Katrina comments that have left many uneasy, questioning his ability to put a united city back on its feet.
Mayor Nagin has his job cut out for him. Never before has a mayor been forced to deal with such widespread destruction. But, it is actually bigger than just a New Orleans issue. As the mayor of the largest populated area and center of the region’s media market, he has the unofficial task of serving as the spokesman for an entire region.
There has been a lot of talk about who should and shouldn’t vote in this Saturday’s mayoral election. It is simple; it should be those who have a vested interest in the survival of New Orleans. If a New Orleans evacuee is in Chicago, they should get to vote, but only if they plan on returning. If they have taken steps to establish themselves elsewhere, they have even less a right to vote than those of us who live outside the city limits, but have a stake in the region’s economy and stability.
Now, I realize what I suggest is not practical, but it is an interesting point. This is an important decision that will affect all of Louisiana for many years to come. For that very reason, this is perhaps the most important election the City of New Orleans has ever undertaken. I for one can’t wait until it is over. It takes a great deal of energy to run elections. The bigger picture is, this is a time when the voters have an opportunity to voice whether the mayor’s vision is actually their vision. But it is taking away from the hard work that lay ahead.