Monday, January 02, 2017

Only seven more months until qualifying day

There's no rest for New Orleanians weary of politics in 2017. Under ordinary circumstances, this would have been a quiet year. But as it happens folks will need to keep their voting arms good and warm for a full round of municipal elections happening this fall.

The scheduling change was enacted a few years back in an effort to move the elections away from the busy winter/spring social season. This is probably for the best. But, since we aren't moving inauguration day until the following cycle, we do end up with a weird little one-time quirk.
The swearing-in switch would be delayed until after June 1, 2018, a political compromise that lets Mayor Mitch Landrieu and the current council serve full, four-year terms through May 2018 regardless of the vote's outcome. But that also means the next round of city leaders, if elected in October 2017, would have to wait more than six months to take office.

The first January inauguration would take place in 2022.
So, after the November run-off, we're going to go through an awkward transition where we have a newly elected government just kind of hanging around in the background all the way into May. Ray Nagin used to complain about the "shadow government" in this city but this takes things a bit literally. Imagine a local version of the uncomfortable dual Presidency we've been enduring for the past month and a half but extended for half a year. Should be fun.

That's just about the same amount of time, by the way, between now and the July deadline for candidates to qualify for these races.  So, sure, let's start trying to figure out who is running for mayor.

We're pretty sure LaToya Cantrell is in.  She was most recently spotted delivering this demagogic over-the-top praise of the city's latest installation of surveillance cameras.
The department won’t specify where the cameras will be located, but said they would be stationed first in high-traffic areas and crime hot spots.

“Crime is out of control, shootings are up,” said Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. “We need to be proactive in terms of catching criminals and deterring crime.”

Cantrell stresses that the readers are not for profiling or harassing people on the street, but for tracking vehicles used in crimes.

“It has nothing to do with profiling at all,” she said. “It doesn’t show you who’s in the vehicle, what they’re wearing, their skin color. It’s totally focused on that license plate as well as the make and model of the car.”

Cantrell said it will be a tool in the crime-fighting arsenal that the city so badly needs.

“My constituents are saying that crime is their number one issue. They not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe.”
Never mind the confused bit about racial profiling. That is, of course, always a concern. But it isn't the primary complaint against panoptic tracking of everyone's public movements by the police which we probably shouldn't have to point out is just inherently bad.   But it's that "My constituents not only want to feel safe, they want to be safe," comment that really floors me.  LaToya clearly doesn't recognize these cameras as the quintessential example of  ineffective, expensive security theater that they are. In fact, she seems to be describing them as precisely the opposite of that. This is worrisome.

We also know Michael Bagneris is in although nobody can figure out, exactly, why.  Back in October, Bagneris told Danae Columbus that running for mayor "is in my DNA." Medical science has not yet developed a treatment for this condition. 

J.P. Morrell might run. He was a vocal opponent of City Council's disastrous decision to legalize short term rentals last year. Affordable housing figures to be a major issue in these elections.  Morrell also recently held a high profile fundraiser at the home of wealthy trash magnate Jimmie Woods which could signal big plans.

Speaking of wealthy trash magnates.  This guy exists.
"One of the reasons I like private [solutions] is because I am looking at my bottom line," he said. "I'm not looking at what's politically correct. I'm not looking at what makes sense in how I am going to get to my next office or who's going to vote for me so I can keep my job as a politician."

Coincidentally, Landrieu's term ends in 2018, and Torres is said to be considering a run of his own. Until that decision is made official, "Trashanova" is returning to the trade that first proved profitable. With the noncompete clause from selling his waste business in 2011 expiring in June, Torres is launching a new waste-management company, IV Waste, slated to begin serving private customers in early August.

"Business leaders should get involved — not just financially involved, but get their hands dirty and find a cause to help out," he said. "I think it's important."
At first glance, Torres would appear to have at least two things working against him.  First, the local political memory still retains at least some of the lessons it learned from its last experience with putting a not-a-politician "business leader" in charge of stuff. Second, it's not clear that New Orleans voters really take Sidney all that seriously. He won "Best Potential Candidate For New Orleans Mayor" in the most recent Gambit "Best Of New Orleans" poll which most readers took to be something of a joke. Sidney took out a full page ad to thank them anyway.

Thanks from Sidney

At the same time, there's this annoying familiar feeling in the back of our minds here. Something about a wealthy, charismatic entrepreneur/reality TV guy who nobody took seriously until it was too late.  Can't quite place it, though. It's probably nothing.

Jason Williams is frequently mentioned as a potential candidate. This is mostly on the strength of the impressive victory by which he was elected Councilman At-Large in 2014.  In that seat, though, he's possibly dampened enthusiasm a bit. Councilman Williams often seems cautious to a fault.

When he ran, Williams was emphatic about his belief in the council's role as "a check and balance on the administration."  "It's not supposed be a rubber stamp," he said. And yet, during the STR debate, Williams proved to be among the more gullible followers of the administration's party line. Williams parroted the prevailing argument about the overwhelming imperative to "appease the platforms" insisting that we could always go back and "tweak" the permissive ordinance later.  Hilariously, at that very same time, Williams' Facebook page featured an obviously hollow statement of support for the DAPL protesters.

State Rep. Walt Leger has certainly sounded at times like he might be running. That shouldn't be too surprising given that things didn't go as he'd hoped in Baton Rouge last year.  He's also not the only member of our local delegation who might be fed up with the situation up there. Karen Carter-Peterson, for example, may have had quite enough of that cake already. There's also State Rep. Helena Moreno who, though her name has popped up regarding the mayor's race, is more likely to run for Stacy Head's Council At-Large seat.

Is that everybody?  Probably not. Clancy DuBos also mentioned Troy Carter and Nadine Ramsey during a recent TV blurb. We'll see about that.  There's also this guy @LarryLarmeu from Twitter who has threatened to run for various offices every few months or so for years now. Larry now says he is moving to England. We'll see about that too, I guess.

What we really need now, though, is polling data. It's never too early. This has been frustratingly difficult to come by in recent local elections.  So this year we're not waiting around for UNO or SMOR to throw out their one anti-climactic survey a week before the election. Instead we're making our own.  Poorly, of course, but so what. What is our method? Well, we just threw a bunch of names into a Twitter poll. There were... um...  problems with this.

First off, Twitter only allows you to create polls with four options.  But, as you can see from all of the above, we've identified quite a few more potential candidates than that.  So we had to put them into two separate groupings. The names appeared in these groups randomly in the order that I happened to think of them.  As it happened, the first grouping received almost 20 more total votes than did the second. Does this make the second group the "kiddie table"? Maybe. Is this in any way fair or valid? Hell no. That's not really our purpose here today or ever, really.

Suffice to say, even for a Twitter poll, the methodology here is highly suspect and pretty stupid generally.  So we're looking forward to doing more of these periodically at least until qualifying day. Anyway here are the results. You can click here to see the groupings. Or, if you like, I've tallied up the total number of votes for every candidate along with each candidate's percentage of the 126 total votes cast. And so, here is your very first, very blurry snapshot of the 2017 race for Mayor of New Orleans.

J.P. Morrell  19%  (24 votes)

LaToya Cantrell  17% (22 votes)

Larry Larmeu 15% (19 votes)

Jason Williams 14% (18 votes)

Karen Carter-Peterson 11% (14 votes)

Sidney Torres 9% (11 votes)

Walt Leger 8% (10 votes)

Michael Bagneris  6% (8 votes)

The big takeaway here, I guess, is that things are pretty tight at this early stage!  And, hey, look at all those votes that suddenly become available once Larry leaves the country.  Anybody's game, right?

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