Fri, 12 May 2006 17:47:56

As in live last evening. I only went to one Mayoral forum in the first round and I wanted to equal that number. Besides my friend and neighbor Linda is da Prez of the LWVNO so Dr. A and I wanted to show the flag and support her. Linda is always worried that nobody will turn out: last night she didn’t need to worry.

But finding Nunemaker Hall on the Loyola campus wasn’t that easy. Neither Dr. A nor I know our way around that campus so we did some bumbling around: we Greenies get lost easily at the rival institution. There weren’t any signs so we were at the mercy of Loyola students to find our way. One thing even we couldn’t miss was the mondo charter bus parked on St. Charles Avenue. ACORN had rented the bus in H-town to bring evacuees to vote and attend the forum. It was tour bus large y’all so I halfway expected to smell pot smoke and see Willie Nelson stumble down the stairs. Willie was nowhere to be seen but there were dozens of red shirted evacuees both outside and inside the hall.

Nunemaker Hall turned out to be on the 3rd floor of Monroe Hall. They have lots of halls at Loyola: I checked to see if there was a Monte or Fawn Hall but there was not. Dr. A immediately began calling it Funroe Hall which is what she calls Munroe Looziana. Actually the Debrisville version was a funner roe to hoe…<groan>

The Hall is an amphitheater with a stage in the pit and ascending stairs. When we arrived WVUE anchor/debate moderator John Snell was bustling about the stage checking camera angles. He’s done a lot of these things over the years but he looked nervous. Like Mitch and C Ray John Snell is follically challenged (I have no idea if that’s a word but it should be) so the forum could have been called: Bald Guys On Parade. I looked around to see if Rob Couhig was present but he was off being a jerk elsewhere.

As usual we ran into several people we know. Linda’s hubby Jim sat across from us: he’s her chauffeur and biggest fan. James Einstein Hair and his charming wife Olga sat with us. Before our forum I’d told Olga that I was undecided in the At-Large race so she asked me: “I hope you’re not undecided in this race?” I assured her that I was a Mitch man. She was relieved.

Dr. A was surprised that her colleague Dr. G (not to be confused with Kenny G) was there. He’s a hematopathologist who lives on the Northshore. In short he’s a blood doc who lives in suburbia. It turned out that his daughter was there as part of a class project. Now that’s paternal devotion attending a debate in a city where you can’t vote because of your kid. It warms the cockles of my icy blue heart. Now if I could only figure out what the hell cockles are I’d be happy. That has mystified me most of my life…

Since this was on the tube it started on time. John Snell was very funny when he warmed up the crowd. He explained that many surreal events were ahead of us: we wouldn’t be able to hear the televised intro; that he would sign-off on TV after one hour but that we’d continue on radio and maybe Fox News for another half-hour. When I heard the bit about the FNC I slumped in my seat; hoping to not be seen on Bush-O-Vision or as I also like to call it Smell-O-Vision. Roger Ailes has got nothing on John Waters when it comes to being a stinker.

When Mitch and C Ray entered the hall they took different approaches to warming up. Mitch smiled and waved at the crowd whereas C Ray never shut the frick up. His mood swung wildly over the course of the evening: sometimes he looked depressed but other times he acted as if he had ADD. C Ray should be glad that there usually aren’t too many reaction shots on these debates: he smirked rolled his eyes pouted and rubbed his shiny head when Mitch was speaking. All in all he came off as a bratty and smug teenager.

The stools that were provided for the candidates were a bit high for Mitch who’s not NBA material to say the least so he sat on the edge of it the whole evening. Sitting back would have emphasized the fact that C Ray is taller. That was excellent stagecraft by the Landrieu camp. In contrast C Ray slouched and stretched his legs *except* when the camera was on him. C Ray loves the camera as much as a junkie loves to fix. It’s one of the reasons that the recovery has proceeded at a snail’s pace: C Ray would rather chat with Brian Williams or Anderson Cooper than get involved with the nitty gritty unglamorous work of recovery. It’s part of his CEO complex but if this city government is run like a bidness it’s one that’s about to fail.

Bayou St. John David at Moldy City has an excellent substantive analysis of the debate from the TV viewers perspective. I’ll stick with some impressionistic comments and the odd  joke.  I did however take notes so here we go:

The Candidates & The English Language: C Ray says you know more than any adult should you know? He started off most answers with “you know” and that drives me batshit. He also used utilize several times. Mitch speaks standard English without all of C Ray’s faux hipster shtick. It was a relief when he spoke. I gotta say one thing for C Ray: he didn’t say “man” until 70 minutes into the debate. Way to go man.

Body Language:
Mitch has much better posture for one thing. My late mother would have approved but I think that most mamas like Mitch. I understand that he’s spending Mother’s Day handing out flowers to any mama in sight.

Anyway Mitch’s stance was always more alert and respectful than C Ray’s. He actually listened to Nagin but C Ray only listens to himself. And he does go on y’all.

C Ray: From Idea Man to Excuse Makin’ Man-
C Ray’s two main themes of the evening were: It’s not my fault and trust me I’m not a thief. He implied several times that Mitch would loot the city’s coffers on behalf of his campaign contributors. Both Mitch and John Snell pointed out that many of them gave to C Ray pre-K. C Ray shrugged in his teenager-like way. Mitch’s counterpunch  on this comment was one of his best moments of the night.

The bottom line is that C Ray spent the entire evening telling us why things CANNOT BE DONE instead of telling us how to overcome obstacles. For a man who claims NOT to be an old school NOLA pol he sounds a lot like Council Clown Gill-Pratfall who is an unreconstructed machine pol.

Money Makes The World Go Round:
Mitch quite correctly pointed out that C Ray has lowballed the city’s financial difficulties. He’s also been unwilling to fully disclose where all the relief money had gone and what it has been spent on.

Mitch’s Best Moment:
It came when he said that we can correlate the number of jail cells we’ll need in the future with the 3rd grade reading level. I know it’s one of his campaign’s greatest hits but there’s a reason for that: it works.

C Ray’s Lamest Statement: He claimed that the high post-K rents will come down when things settle down. That’s highly unlikely unless there’s either more publicly subsidized housing or the slumlords re-let apartments without fixing them. Given C Ray’s sympathies with fat cat condo lovin’ developers housing prices are likely to stay where they are.

Neighbors: A quick TV ad sidebar. Mitch’s “we’re neighbors and we’re sick of C Ray’s empty promises” ads are classics. The latest one featuring three Vietnamese-Americans probably led to C Ray’s too-ing and fro-ing on the NO East landfill issue.

Anyway Mitch blasted C Ray for the agonizingly slow progress of the neighborhood planning process. C Ray’s reply: “It just needs tweaking.” Tweaking? I’d like to tweak him. The city hasn’t helped the neighborhoods with their planning: they’ve had to do it all on their own.

C Ray Plays To The Evacuees: It was depressing to watch the interaction between C Ray and the evacuees who were bussed in by ACORN. These are in fact the people who were most harmed by C Ray’s incompetence during and after the crisis. I’m sure that many of them were at the Convention Center and/or Domed in September of 2005. His inaction and inconsistency on housing issues is one of the reasons that they’re still in Houston. But most of them laughed at everything he said (C Ray is not funny he just thinks he is) and I think that they probably voted for him. As C Ray’s strange bedfellow Rob Couhig would say “inconceivable” but true…

They All Axed For Dr. A: After closing statements it was audience question time. They passed note cards around for written inquiries. Mine was about C Ray’s credibility and wasn’t asked. BUT Dr. A’s question was the first one asked: it was about Kelo v. New London wherein the US Supremes upheld a city government’s use of eminent domain on behalf of private developers. This bill has united left and right in outrage and Dr. A asked what they thought of it. Both Mitch and C Ray dislike the decision. It was one of the few things said by C Ray that satisfied Dr. A. If you think I don’t like C Ray: she’s hostile enough at times to need a rabies shot. And I don’t blame her.

The Moderator & The Format: Since I’ve been involved in staging 4 candidates forums this is probably of more interest to me than y’all. Tough cookies y’all it’s my blog. Dang now I sound like Frank (Ferret Face) Burns on M*A*S*H. I gotta stop it: I’ve always been more of a Hawkeye kinda guy. End of humongous digression.

Anyway the format was a fairly loose one BUT it worked because there was one strong moderator. John Snell did an excellent job keeping the candidates from wandering as far off-topic than they would have in lesser hands. WWL would be advised to drop its multiple talking heads format and let Dennis Woltering do that voodoo that he can do so well. Hmm I wonder if David Byrne is available…

Finally it’s hard for me to say who “won” the debate. I didn’t see it on the box the way most folks did and I’m so anti-Nagin and so pro-Mitch at this point that I’m as biased as Britt Hume is about VP Duce. As we left Nunemaker Hall Dr. A and I discussed the fact that the smartest candidate doesn’t always win the election. I hope that won’t happen this time. Debrisville desperately needs change but we have a tradition of resisting it until it’s too late. That’s yet another thing that needs to change. That’s better: now I sound like David Bowie: “Turn and face the strain ch-ch-changes.”


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