In The News › Candidates sharpen tongues for a duel

Jan 23, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, Orleans Parish

Candidates sharpen tongues for a duel

Saturday, January 23, 2010
By Frank Donze
The Times-Picayune

Tensions have been running high between wealthy businessman John Georges and Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu during recent mayoral forums.

During a radio appearance Thursday on WIST-AM, the bad blood came to a boil as the rivals engaged in an edgy back-and-forth triggered by Landrieu, who had needled Georges at an earlier event about the value of his mansion on posh Audubon Place.

“I didn’t laugh at your property tax bill. I was in awe of it,” Landrieu said, his voice dripping with sarcasm. “And I still am. I know your property tax is $45,000 a year. “ And I just said you must live in a big house. That’s all I said. And I’m happy that you do. It’s a beautiful place — behind a guard gate, by the way.”

“Because of the crime problem in the city,” Georges shot back, venturing into a critique of what he described as Landrieu’s pro-tax voting record in the Legislature.

“He has no regard for people’s taxes,” Georges said, his voice rising. “And to talk about people’s taxes in such a way is the reason they live in Jefferson Parish; it’s the reason they live in St. Tammany.”

“That’s laughable,” Landrieu replied. “Maybe it’s the reason all your businesses, except for one, is in Jefferson Parish.”

Georges returned fire, taking a swipe at his opponent’s dad, former Mayor Moon Landrieu, who left office in 1978: “Because when your father was mayor he raised taxes so high.”

“So my plan for economic development, my first plan, is to encourage you to bring your businesses to Orleans Parish,” Landrieu said.

The verbal sparring continued as WIST moderator Kaare Johnson stayed out of the way.

Georges: “You know I have businesses in Orleans Parish.”

Georges attempted to lighten the mood with the final word: “When Rob Couhig is the peacemaker, there’s something wrong with that.”
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BEHIND THE CURTAIN: During a campaign season where every possible question seems to have been posed ad nauseam, Johnson asked the six major mayoral contenders something new: Who did you vote for in the 2006 runoff between Landrieu and Mayor Ray Nagin?

Landrieu, who jokingly asked if he could go first, said: “I voted for me.”

Business consultant Troy Henry and former Civil Court Judge Nadine Ramsey both declined to say.

Fair-housing activist James Perry revealed that he supported Landrieu because he “had grave concerns about the racially divisive campaign that Mayor Nagin waged.”

Not surprisingly, Couhig, who ran fourth in the 2006 mayoral primary and later endorsed Nagin, said he cast his ballot for the incumbent.

Georges offered perhaps the most unusual answer.

“Believe it or not, I supported Mitch,” he said. “But I voted for Ray because at the end of that campaign, I wasn’t satisfied with Mitch. At the very end of the campaign, of course, I listened to Rob. Rob’s a smart guy. And he said go with Ray. So I voted for Ray.”
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LET LETTEN STAY?: The mayor has no say in whether Republican U.S. Attorney Jim Letten gets to keep his job.

But amid concerns by Letten supporters that the Obama White House has yet to send Letten’s nomination to the U.S. Senate, WIST’s Johnson asked the candidates: Should the president install a new U.S. attorney or maintain the status quo?

Ramsey was alone in saying she is “against Jim Letten” and would like to see a new face.

Henry was less definitive but made it clear he’s not a big Letten fan.

“I’ll support whatever decision the president makes,” he said. “I don’t have enough details to really evaluate Mr. Letten. Based on what I’ve seen from his crime-fighting and corruption standpoint, he seems to be doing a good job. (From a) civil rights standpoint, (he) seems to be doing less than a good job.”

The other four contenders all expressed support for Letten.

“I think that he has done an incredibly strong job,” Perry said. “And as I’ve said before, we have to root out corruption and make this an open, transparent government.”

Landrieu said he is “strongly in favor of his reappointment” and pledged to work with Letten in coordinating the criminal-justice system.

Couhig, the only major Republican in the race, offered this glowing assessment: “I think that he is one of those public figures that we need more of.”

Georges, who stirred a minor controversy with some earlier comments about Letten, was succinct this time, saying: “Yes, I’m for it, and I think he’s doing a good job.”
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POSITION PAPERS: A pair of local government watchdog groups this week unveiled the answers that mayoral candidates gave in response to questions about various policy priorities.

The Bureau of Governmental Research asked candidates to weigh in on the city’s budget, municipal services, infrastructure and blight. The group didn’t ask the candidates to make any promises, just to provide succinct answers to two questions per topic. Those responses can be found at www.bgr.org. Meanwhile, the Urban Conservancy, a local nonprofit that promotes “wise stewardship” of urban communities, asked the contenders to reply to 10 questions on issues seen as key to the city’s health. The answers can be found at www.urbanconservancy.org.

Of the six major candidates, only Henry declined both invitations. Ramsey did not participate in the BGR program.

Jan 23, 2010

Source: The Times-Picayune

Filed under: Governance, Orleans Parish

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