Monday, November 23, 2009

Preliminary Thoughts on Leslie Jacobs for Mayor of New Orleans

It has been a week since I had the chance, along with a number of other NOLA bloggers, to meet with Leslie Jacobs, to hear her out on her vision for the City, and to offer some suggestions to her as she geared up for her campaign. I have pondered that meeting, have given it some measured consideration, and am now ready to offer up some commentary.

First, I should start by saying it's too early for me to declare any endorsement for any candidate. So, although I find Leslie Jacobs to be an appealing candidate at one level, she is only one of a number of candidates I find appealing for different reasons at this point.

Second, unlike fellow NOLA blogger Leigh C., I don't think Leslie Jacobs is at all scared of the enormity of the task facing the next Mayor. In fact, I thought Jacobs not only was confident and composed, but had faced the beast of the job that will oppress the next Mayor, and had come to peace with it and was ready to embrace the task. This is not to say that Jacobs did not acknowledge the challenges facing the next Mayor. She most certainly did and was realistic about it (which is refreshing, if you ask me); but she appeared comfortable facing the prospect of assuming that responsibility.

Third, along with being at peace with her decision to run for this thankless job and take up its difficult work, she was unhesitating (and I would even say aggressive) in declaring that she would spare no expense to run a full-throttle, all-out campaign. She clearly wants the job and is committed to the campaign.

Now, moving on to a bit of analysis of the content of the meeting, I would like to concentrate on two things in particular (and leave the rest of the evaluation of the meeting to others who were there). The first thing, which I consider something that quite impressed me positively, was her sincere and honest openness to the thoughts and ideas of those of us who were present. The nature of the event was less a Q&A session with a mayoral candidate (though she did, for the most part, answer questions when asked), and more of a collaborative conversation. She did not once come across, in my view, as that typical egotistical politician type who can talk your ear off with all the great ideas he or she has and how wonderful the future will be with him or her at the helm of government. And I felt comfortable enough to throw out a few of my own campaign platform ideas to her by way of some things to ponder and think about. And Jacobs really seemed genuinely interested in hearing such suggestions from all of us who were present. In short, she was real, approachable, collaborative, and engaged. And that is a far cry from our current Mayor, not to mention some of the other declared candidates in the race. So she has that going for her. I also think her progressive credentials are solid, and I am generally supportive of her work in the realm of educational policy and her involvement with the educational reform and charter school movement. So, she's an attractive candidate for me, and one that I will be following closely over the next weeks and months.

But I can't say that I was 100% satisfied and pleased with everything that took place at the meeting. And this leads me to my second focus area, which represents a criticism of sorts as much as a recommendation for conducting herself in the future of her campaign. When questioned about her positions on some of the hot button social issues of the day, such as the pro-life/pro-choice and gay marriage debates, she seemed reluctant to reveal herself and actually punted altogether on the gay marriage question. Her argument was that these issues are really beyond the scope of the job of Mayor and so she didn't see the need to complicate her campaign with stances on issues that were unrelated to the job. And at one level she's right on this point. However, what disappointed me is that she acted the politician when she didn't need to. Frankly, I have my own opinions on this subject and it would have been good, simply in order to know her better, to hear her opinions on them. Precisely because I know that her positions on these issues aren't directly pertinent to the job, makes her revealing them ultimately harmless -- at least when it comes to my vote. I would have no problems voting for a person for Mayor with whom I may have a disagreement on these particular social issues. And, likewise, I would have no problems rejecting a candidate for Mayor who agreed with me on these issues, but who also didn't pass muster on issues more clearly related to the running of the City. What her response to these questions did was to make her seem a bit uncomfortable in her own skin on sensitive social issues. And that's just not what a candidate should want to project to any audience at any time. My advice to Jacobs would be to answer such questions matter-of-factly and honestly, and then move casually on to local issues of substance that the Mayor can control and influence in the running of the City -- like repairing the streets, fighting crime, and improving the efficiency and honesty of municipal government. Outside of this lapse into "politician" mode, Jacobs came across well to me.

But I'm not sold. Yet. I'm open to her candidacy, as I remain open to other candidacies. I will be watching closely and will lay it all out when the time comes. I like her as a candidate and am glad she entered the race. I think she brings some good (even if controversial) experience in education, an area in which perhaps the next Mayor can attempt to exercise a bit more leadership. And all the other dudes in the race could use some competition from a strong, female voice.

UPDATE: Tuesday, November 24, 2009: 12:30PM -- Editilla is all over the Jacobs campaign for its seeming ambiguity regarding laying the blame for the "flood that destroyed the City" at the feet of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and instead seems to not want to disassociate itself from the common, but wrong, representation that the devastation wrought on the City was directly related to the natural phenomenon known as Hurricane Katrina. While I think Jacobs agrees with Editilla on the point, Editilla is correct to note that Jacobs has not corrected the record. Jacobs should fix this, and any delay is simply not good politics. Editilla will make sure of that!


Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Sharp Chuck'up, Huck.
I particularly liked the way you called one of the other bloggers on the Fear Factor.

I wish there were some way to inject into this election debate: flood safety and the Corps relationship to the City (and visa versa).
I am not prepared to accept Nagin's own vacillation as the example of the Mayor's office position with regards to Corps projects in the city.
But alas, I did not see it in any of the blogger questions either.
I did however communicate my veiws on this issue fairly fluently directly to the candidate, and you can find my response to her first-out campaign ad here:

I also thought she punted on re-opening Charity Hospital.

Nice post, Mon.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Note: I followed this meeting on Gambit's Twitter feed, and got one of 2 Questions in to the Candidate, (thank you Kevin Allman)
1) The Charity Hospital Question (on which she "spiked the ball")
2) Her thoughts on the Mayor's Leadership Role as regards the Corps New Orleans District projects in New Orleans. (which did not make the que)

These 2 issues are so fundamental to me since I saw the worth of all these other civic issues when the Corps of Engineers flooded New Orleans on 8/29/05, to wit: not a whit!
The qualities of a wholly functioning city would have made matters better during that Nightmare Flood, but we do not have the luxury of Time on our side to get to them for a Safe Future without addressing these 2 important realities.

A rising tide will float nothing but more bodies if we don't get the Bad Floodwalls out of the way and make sure we have Charity to in which to turn for crisis triage.
Charity Hospital Held The Line when our Flood Safety turned out to be a Lie.
The Corps continues to this very day to Shift the Line in rectifying their role in telling that Lie to the American Taxpayers, over 1000 of whom died as a result.

Thank you

charlotte said...

Thanks for a clear, concise over-view of the meeting with Jacobs. Very good post.

Frolic said...

I saw her speak last night and was relatively impressed.

I wonder how much of her evasiveness on the social issues is political calculation (which I have no problem with). To put it in crude terms, she needs all the African-American votes she can get. As California showed, large parts of the African-American community are not comfortable with gay marriage. I can't blame her for punting when an irrelevant issue that could have a major negative impact on her candidacy.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Frolic, I'm wit'you.
But the Irony in your assessment of Tactics versus Strategy hits me the same as it did with that JoP over interracial marriage, like a wet moon pie, to wit: slaves who until the 1900s were required to "Jump the Broom" held by their Owner to marry within the color/race of their plantation rosters, have a problem today with marriage strictures of any kind for any other minority --based on the Providence of their Religious Beliefs.

I'm not disagreeing with you, just noting the Irony of the situation here. Couple that with Mrs Jacob's gender and own ethnic background and you have a pretty sticky wicket indeed when it comes to personal/political views of African Americans towards Jews, Homosexuals, Latinos, Asians and Caucasians. I have long held apprehension for African American Homophobia, which (as recently illustrated) seems deeper than the main stream of the frigging Mormon Church.

I enjoy how Huck nailed that cross in the most pristine way, to offer the idea of whether this candidate is "comfortable in her own skin" when discussing these issues with another human being on a personal level as candidate regardless of its irrelevance to his vote.
I agree.

Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

Get a load of this! The Jacobs campaign tried to Astro-turf yer'oh'so humble Editilla on the Ladder.
Hahahahaha this is rich! Check out the comments.
To continue Huck's football imagery, such tactics reflect not Punting, or even Spiking the ball, but an Off-Sides Penalty that borders on Personal Fowl.
Instead of Answers from the Candidate, we get Ad Words from a Mouthpiece.
Jeez Louie.

Will Scott said...


In deference to our dear friend Editilla, and in the interests of disclosure - I am both volunteering for, and doing work with, the Jacobs campaign.

Now that's out of the way, I was glad to have you there and I hope you can continue to give feedback to the campaign.

I'm sorry the presentation wasn't enough to convince you and the other bloggers present of what I believe. I'm glad however that you caught on to the fact that this was supposed to be more listening than talking.

Thanks for coming and for keeping an open mind about the process as it unfolds.

And, much as I agree that one who thinks can overlook a difference or two, it's a challenge. They don't call 'em wedge issues for nothin'.

There are groups for whom the wrong answer on those, not so nuanced, questions would be a deal-killer. I'm hopeful we can get past that but many can't.

Again, thanks for coming out and for so fair-minded a review.


Editilla~New Orleans Ladder said...

They don't call'em Wedgie Issues for nothing, Will. Nice try at covering your ass, but this dog ain't gonna hunt and here's why: You have an ethical problem of Conflict of Interest that needs to get squared away with your boss.
What you are attempting here may be legal but it isn't right, because you have a financial stake in this campaign.

No, you do not have the right to make money from the campaign and yet go around expressing your "opinion", trying to manipulate blogger commentary about your candidate, as if you are a disinterested party, just some guy who loves Leslie, a wild-eyed volunteer full of The Audacity of Hope. That is Bull.

It would be better at this point to bump this up a notch and hear from the Campaign Manager or even the Candidate here. You have a problem and it is getting in the way of our quest to get at the Issues with your Candidate.
Stop apologizing for it and do the right thing, to wit: step aside and become a real volunteer or shut your forking ice hole.

So, now since I disagree with your campaign's lack of positions on what I perceive as 2 important issues, you (a paid employee of that campaign) would seek to Label me as "one who doesn't think" or "one of the many who can't get past that 'wrong answer'" and the real Velvetta: "not fair-minded". What is this, the Obama Factor?
She didn't give a Wrong Answer. She didn't Give Any Answers.
That is the problem here, not your attempts to redirect the Questions in bloggers' commentaries.

Straight bu Still Affected said...

I feel that it is important to get real answers to real questions. On the gay issues, a passive agressive Mayor may not dedicate or prioritze police resources toward parts of the French Quarter which will jeopardize all citizens in those areas. They may stupidly understaff during Labor Day weekend killing a major economic engine in this city.