Wednesday, May 02, 2018

Fresh New Dynamic

Sounds like a detergent ad.  Please don't eat the pods, though.
By his own admission, Gilbert Montano says he does not fit the "archetype" of a chief administrative officer. He's just turned 37 years old, is a single father of two young kids and is about to head hundreds of miles from his hometown of Albuquerque, New Mexico, to take the No. 2 job at City Hall in New Orleans.

Montano, who climbed the ranks of city government in Albuquerque, is set to become New Orleans' first Latin American CAO on Monday (May 7), when Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell becomes the city's first female mayor.

"I don't have a long, white beard, and I don't have 35 years of experience," Montano said over the phone Tuesday. "But I do bring fresh, new dynamic ideas."
Okay let's fact check that "archetype" thing.  Kimberly Williamson Butler was 40 years old when she became Ray Nagin's CAO.  (It didn't go so well for her there but that's a whole other can of worms.)  She was replaced by Charles Rice who was 38 or 39 at the time. He was replaced by Brenda Hatfield. Hatfield was in her early 60s. But, really, she seems to be the person outside of the "archetype" here.

When Mitch took over, he named Andy Kopplin as "First Deputy Mayor." Kopplin was 44.  Jeff Hebert was in his mid or late 30s when he took over for Kopplin in 2016.  (I can't find his birthdate anywhere but Linked In says he got his Bachelor's degree in 2002 so it's a reasonable assumption.)
Anyway, you see where this is going. The current First Deputy Mayor, Judy Reese Morse, also does not have a long white beard. Montano's age is comparable to five of his six predecessors. There isn't anything "fresh" or "new" implied by it. The first line in this article goes right along with this obviously false conceit. I have no idea why.

Anyway, here are the fresh new dynamic ideas Montano brings with him from Albuquerque. They seem to involve cutting wages and firing people.  
Keller's report found Albuquerque was able to balance its budget over the years through shuffling funds between departments, slicing city-employee wages across the board and either cutting out or leaving unfilled hundreds of staff positions - including 100 police officer positions axed in 2015.
When that's not going on, he's also got some experience purposing an ostensible anti-crime program toward what any of us who watched NOLA For Life closely wouldn't be surprised to learn are political patronage pay outs and making the transit system bad. 
But Montano has also caught heat for leading a team that reportedly spent much of a Bloomberg-funded $1.2 million grant meant for developing crime-fighting tactics instead on "brainstorming sessions about arts and culture," KOB-TV reported. In his chief-of-staff hat, Montano has also fielded criticism for backing former Mayor Berry's rollout of new bus-rapid transit infrastructure, which current Mayor Keller claims to have inherited with a host of mechanical problem and in January called "a bit of a lemon," the Albuquerque Journal reported.
So far it sounds like he'll fit the "archetype" pretty well.  Also who needs Palantir when you have a CAO who knows his predictive algorithms?
Montano said the last year of the grant is being used to develop the so-called alert system that identifies repeat offenders and analyzing their behavior.

"And create an algorithm, essentially, that can help the DA and the judges identify repeat offenders.," he said.
Speaking of police and public safety, Cantrell held a press conference today in the surveillance batcave where she named 5 people to top positions. The police and fire chiefs are keeping their jobs. She's replacing the health director. There's also a new Criminal Justice Commissioner who comes from the DA's office. That bears looking into, probably. But the big news was this. 

Warren Riley, who led the New Orleans Police Department through a turbulent half-decade after Katrina, will not, at least for now, become director of public safety and homeland security, Cantrell said. She cited pushback from the community — what she referred to as an "uptick" — after she said last week that he was a top candidate for the job.

"I have determined that I am pressing 'pause' at this time," Cantrell said. "Because what I am big on is community, and I am big on listening to my people."
I hope Cantrell spends a lot of time speaking extemporaneously on camera during her term. It leads to interesting things such as this new usage for the word, uptick. Also this sentence, which I think was about police recruitment.

"I have my finger on the pulse of really trying to improve the quality and conditions of our officers"

The pulse of really trying. There's your fresh new dynamic for you right there.  That line about being "big on community and listening to my people" is a little suspect, though. If that were true, she might be little more forthcoming with them.
For example, why hire a chief administrative officer from Albuquerque, N.M., over someone more familiar with New Orleans? Were there concerns about her new chief financial officer, Norman White, who served under a Detroit mayor who's now in prison on corruption charges?

Who else was in the running for these leadership posts -- and other critical roles in the administration, for that matter?

Cantrell and other transition officials have not divulged that information, and New Orleanians may never know because her transition team is set up as a nonprofit, which relies on private contributions to pay staff and other bills.

When NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune requested internal documents from the transition, the response outlined how, even though Cantrell will serve in the city's highest public office, the group doesn't consider itself a public entity.

"Forward Together New Orleans does not qualify as a public or quasi-public non-profit corporation," Mason Harrison, a transition spokesman at the time, wrote in  a March letter. "Forward Together New Orleans strives to follow the spirit of the State of Louisiana's sunshine laws, though the transition organization is not required to do so by law."
If the "spirit" of the transparency laws is to keep everything under wraps until the last minute and hope there's no sudden "uptick" from the community,  then, yes, they're right on target so far.

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