In The News › Candidates asked to back reforms

Jan 6, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Contracting, Orleans Parish

Candidates asked to back reforms

Wednesday, January 06, 2010
By Gordon Russell and Frank Donze
The Times-Picayune

Forward New Orleans, a coalition of 30 civic and business groups, has released the results of its push to get all of the candidates for City Council to sign onto its seven-part reform agenda for the city.
A similar scorecard for the mayoral race should be forthcoming next week.

Fourteen of the 25 council contenders pledged to support all seven reforms proposed by the group — in the areas of crime, blight, city finance, economic development, infrastructure, contracting and education — while eight did not respond at all.

The remaining three responses were perhaps most revealing: Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell, running for re-election to the District D seat, committed to six of the seven planks but rejected the plan for education. Former state Sen. Jon Johnson, a candidate for the District E seat, did the same.

The education reform asks candidates to commit to supporting charter schools and continuing state oversight of most of the city’s schools, among other items.

Meanwhile, City Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis, who represents District E but is vying for an at-large seat, rejected the whole passel of reforms, at least according to Forward New Orleans’ original release. A later version changed her answer to “no response,” though she did in fact respond to the group.

The group’s original characterization of Willard-Lewis’ position was based on an e-mail message she sent to Bob Brown, a Forward New Orleans leader. It said in part: “I agree with many of your positions, disagree with some, and think that more should be done on some.”

But Willard-Lewis added in that message that she has a general policy against signing any pledge promulgated by a “special interest group.”

Willard-Lewis did not return phone messages from The Times-Picayune, though her brother, Walter Willard, who is working with her campaign, emphasized that her refusal to sign did not amount to a rejection of its proposals. Greg Rusovich, a leader of the Forward group, crowed about the responses in a prepared statement and promised that the group “will regularly assess whether or not those elected are living up to the commitments that they made.”

Therein, of course, lies the rub. Eight years ago, Mayor Ray Nagin pledged not only to enact a contracting reform pushed by the Bureau of Governmental Research but to go even further than BGR suggested. After getting elected, he reconsidered.

To read the platforms and where the candidates stand, go to www.forwardneworleans.com.

Jan 6, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: City Government, Contracting, Orleans Parish

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