While in Colorado this past weekend, some 1,600 miles away from the politics of New Orleans, I was surprised Saturday night when television programming was interrupted with breaking news that Ray Nagin had been re-elected as Mayor of the City of New Orleans. A week earlier, while in Washington, DC, the mayoral debate was carried live in that city. For good or bad, the whole world watched this election. During the rest of my visit in Western Colorado, those who I came in contact with asked how Nagin would be returned to office. They seemed confused with antics coming out of New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina rearranged our worlds. The best answer I could offer as an explanation was by giving them a response in the form of single name… Marc Morial.
The New Orleans mayoral election is in the history books with Ray Nagin edging out Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu for a second term. Nagin will have many challenges before him during his next four years as the head of a crippled city with unbelievable needs. The largest of which will be to successfully convince the world that New Orleans is a stable environment which business and industry should invest in.
With all these challenges also comes opportunity, a chance to fix years of decay to a city that topped the list of the worst in crime, schools, poverty, and so on. He has a clear canvas upon which to build a model city.
For the New Orleans region to survive, it will have to overcome the negative publicity we have endured for decades, an image that was galvanized in the media fascination of a post Hurricane Katrina.
The elections are over; the finger pointing has ended, (hopefully). Now we can get down to the business of taking care of business. There is much to be done in our region. Better drainage, better levee protection, better educations, and the like. But, perhaps the greatest need is a better image.
Nagin is a businessman who made a good living in a regional market before deciding to become the Mayor of New Orleans. His business prospered because it took on a regional approach with a customer base that extended well past the New Orleans city limits. It will be getting back to these basics that could give Nagin all he needs to upright his floundering ship.
As for the election and my answer to the Coloradoans who wondered why Nagin would be re-elected, well, putting aside the wild comments he made during the storm, what you have is a mayor that ended a great deal of the political patronage that plagued the city for decades. To see what gave Nagin the win was the need for change. Simply look at the political machine that stood behind Mitch Landrieu and you will have your answer. Many were the longtime supporters of Marc Morial, the previous mayor of New Orleans.
It is clear that the majority in New Orleans wanted change from the way their city conducted itself for decades. Unfortunately for Landrieu, the political machine behind him was far from the change they had hoped for.