In The News › Alliance seeks election pledges

Dec 2, 2009

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Orleans Parish

Alliance seeks election pledges

Wednesday, December 02, 2009
By Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze
The Times-Picayune

Persuading candidates, especially front-runners, to sign a pledge vowing to undertake a particular reform can be an uphill battle. Getting the winner to live up his or her commitment can be even harder.

Nonetheless, a diverse coalition of nearly three dozen business, civic and community groups led by the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region is trying to wangle promises from the candidates gunning to become New Orleans’ next mayor and City Council members — and not just on one issue.

The alliance, called Forward New Orleans, wants hopefuls to agree to all seven planks of its agenda, slated to be unveiled in detail this afternoon. (Candidates may also mix and match, signing planks they agree with while ignoring others.)

The categories will shock no one: crime, blight, city finances, city services and infrastructure, economic development, city contracting and public education.

Generally, Forward New Orleans leaders want candidates to agree to do the following in each category: adopt best practices and performance measures; work with residents to improve services and implement reforms where appropriate; eliminate corruption; and exhibit careful leadership that improves public perception of local government.

The coalition plans to meet with every willing candidate, who will then choose which planks to commit to. The cafeteria-style results will be publicized in a “scorecard” on the coalition’s Web site, www.forwardneworleans.com.

A similar effort that sparked controversy in the 2002 mayoral contest was spearheaded by the Bureau of Governmental Research, which asked candidates to commit to reforming city contracting.

Eventual winner Ray Nagin signed the pledge, while his runoff opponent, then-Police Superintendent Richard Pennington, declined. Nagin then said he would modify it so that the mayor could maintain the power to select contractors from a list screened by a selection committee. Bureau officials considered the change a 180-degree turnabout.

When the bureau revived its pledge four years later, only three of 22 primary candidates responded, two with flat-out refusals and one in the affirmative. Nagin never responded.

The Business Council led successful efforts after Hurricane Katrina to remake the systems of city tax assessors and regional levee boards, but fell flat in its 2008 attempt to require members of the city’s Sewerage & Water Board to be experts in specific fields.

Dec 2, 2009

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Orleans Parish

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