In The News › Jefferson gets word bouquet from Nagin

Nov 1, 2008

Source: Times-Picayune

Filed under: On the Ballot, Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

Jefferson gets word bouquet from Nagin

Jefferson gets word bouquet from Nagin;
ALSO: Budgeting bright and early; Master plan proposal stumbles; A mystery wrapped in a billboard

BYLINE: By Frank Donze, and Bruce Eggler, Staff writers

SECTION: METRO; NEW ORLEANS POLITICS; Pg. 1

LENGTH: 1059 words

As he seeks a 10th term from the 2nd District, U.S. Rep. William Jefferson has yet to draw an endorsement from a single local elected official. But it seems he can count on Mayor Ray Nagin’s vote Tuesday.

In an appearance this week on WGNO-TV, Nagin said he was not endorsing Jefferson, who is awaiting trial on federal corruption charges. Instead, Nagin said, he was expressing his personal opinion that Jefferson is a better choice than his Democratic runoff opponent, former television reporter Helena Moreno.

“I’m looking at the two candidates, and I see one who’s very experienced who has some legal problems, and I see one who’s very inexperienced,” Nagin told WGNO anchor Michael Hill. “I think about my last visit to Congress, when they were dealing with the financial crisis on Wall Street. Congressman Jefferson had the best grasp of this issue of anybody I met with, and I met with congressional leadership. And I just think we need that going forward.”

Two years ago, when Jefferson was under investigation but not yet charged with a crime, Nagin gave him a ringing endorsement. At the time, Nagin noted Jefferson’s role in steering billions of dollars in federal aid to the hurricane-ravaged city and the fact that Jefferson was one of the few politicians who had backed Nagin’s own run for re-election.

As for the possibility that Jefferson might be found guilty on some of the 16 criminal counts against him, the mayor said this week that that’s a problem for another day. “Now whatever happens to him, if he gets sentenced or whatever, then we’ll deal with a change,” Nagin said.

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BUDGETING YOUR TIME: If Tuesday’s presidential election or other major races prove to be late-night nail-biters, there could be a lot of bleary eyes when the City Council begins its review of Nagin’s proposed 2009 budget Wednesday morning.

Hearings on individual department and agency budgets will run through Nov. 21, with morning and afternoon sessions set for almost every day.

Unlike in the past, when four or five departments often were scheduled for a single session — with the result that officials were kept waiting for hours and sometimes had to come back a second day — this year’s schedule lists only two agencies for most sessions.

For those who want to follow the action in person or on the government access cable channel, the schedule of hearings can be found at the council’s Web site, www.nocitycouncil.com. The mayor’s operating budget, all 447 pages of it, also is available there, along with the capital budget and the mayor’s presentation to the council explaining highlights of his plans.

The same documents also can be found at the city’s Web site, www.cityofno.com.

Warning: Be prepared to wait a while for the budgets to open.

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MASTER PLAN AMENDMENT IN TROUBLE? Unlike last month’s relatively noncontroversial vote on a City Charter amendment guaranteeing the inspector general’s office’s existence and budget, the effort to amend the charter to give the city’s forthcoming master plan the force of law has turned into a real battle in advance of Tuesday’s vote.

The extent of the opposition has been a surprise. When council President Jackie Clarkson introduced an ordinance in the summer to put the issue on the ballot, it sailed through the council with unanimous support from her colleagues and only a couple of objections from the public.

But since then the opponents’ basic argument — that the public should not be asked to confer legal force on a plan they have never seen — seems to have gained many more adherents.

Councilwoman Cynthia Willard-Lewis switched her position this week, and political consultant Ron Nabonne has been helping organize the opposition.

Much of the opposition seems to have been driven by two basic emotions: the ever-present suspicion among many New Orleanians that people in positions of power and authority are secretly plotting to harm them, and anger that all the post-Katrina recovery planning that people engaged in citywide does not seem to have borne much fruit.

One leading opponent, Mtangulizi Sanyika, said he thinks everyone would “agree on the necessity and desirability of a consistent and predictable master plan,” but that amending the charter to say a still-unwritten plan will guide all future land-use and zoning decisions “is ill-advised blind faith.”

On the other side, proponents argue that the charter change should not be seen as a referendum on a specific plan but simply as a way to establish the process by which the master plan will be enacted and enforced, and to let people know while it is being created just how important it will be.

Groups backing the proposal include the Bureau of Governmental Research, Citizens for 1 Greater New Orleans, Downtown Development District, Business Council and a flock of neighborhood organizations.

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IS EDDIE READY AGAIN? Eddie Sapir has already pulled off one comeback during his four-decade political career. Does he have another one up his sleeve?

Political circles were buzzing this week after a mysterious billboard reading “Eddie” appeared atop a Central Business District building. Sapir, a former City Council district member and judge who came out of retirement in 1998 to begin an eight-year stint as an at-large council member, said Friday he doesn’t know anything about the sign, which sports the same color scheme he used in past campaigns.

“I want it clear,” Sapir said. “This is not my doing.” But he said that since he left City Hall, friends and supporters — he declined to name names — have encouraged him to run for mayor, or his old council job, in 2010.

Asked if he’s considering a return to politics, Sapir said, “I owe it to everybody who’s asked, those who have been so kind to me in the past and who know me and my record, to honestly and sincerely consider it.”

With Nagin barred from seeking a third term, the next mayor’s race is expected to be wide open. The two current at-large council members, Clarkson and Arnie Fielkow, both can run for re-election. Fielkow, however, is eyeing a run for mayor.

Since he finished his second stint on the council, Sapir has served as a temporary judge at several local courts.

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Frank Donze can be reached at fdonze@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3328. Bruce Eggler can be reached at beggler@timespicayune.com or 504.826.3320.

Nov 1, 2008

Source: Times-Picayune

Filed under: On the Ballot, Orleans Parish, Planning Issues

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