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At Large

Now that Oliver Thomas has resigned, the New Orleans City Council’s At-Large seat will be on the ballot October 20.

The question is, will we get any good candidates?

It’s been extremely flattering to have had my name bandied about on the radio, on blogs, and in e-mails. People have urged me to run.

I would seem to be an unlikely candidate, but that’s the whole point. I’ve long held to the belief that ordinary citizens should run for public office as often as possible. We should not concede the power of the state to a political class. And after all, I was contemplating a run for my City Council district seat just before the storm.

So the idea is kind of appealing. But it’s not gonna happen.

Of course, there are many reasons not to run for public office. I’m not sure I have the stomach for it. The timing’s not right. And there are a thousand other reasons.

But there’s one reason that trumps ’em all. When I mentioned the idea to Xy, she wouldn’t hear of it. “You’re gone too much as it is, and the house still isn’t done.” She has a point. Here we are two years after the fact with half our house still not ready for habitation. If our renovation was complete, I might have a little more support from the spouse. Without that spousal support, there’s really no point in contemplating the prospect.

If you wanted me to run, sorry to disappoint. You can blame my contractor. Or you can blame me.

So the question remains: Who will be in the running? The paper today indicates that Cynthia Willard-Lewis (City Council) and Tommie Vassel (Sewerage & Water Board) plan to enter the race. See my comments above regarding the dominance of a political class.

I remember Malik Rahim ran for the at-large seat in 2002. I was marginally involved with that campaign, and it was not nearly as well executed as it could have been. Malik got 3,664 votes, which was only 2% and put him in last place in a field of seven. Even so it was a surprisingly good show for a grassroots candidate with virtually no funds.

I haven’t heard anything about whether Malik plans another run at the seat, but it occurs to me that his credibility and profile could only be enhanced since he founded Common Ground in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. Common Ground has grown to be a big organization which continues to have an enduring impact in the area. He’d still be a very long shot to actually win.

Speaking of grassroots candidates, Schroeder posted the following:

For the At-Large seat vacated by Thomas, I’m going to suggest Mary Queen of Vietnam’s Father Luke, the Hispanic-American Apostolate’s Martin Gutierrez, and Patricia Jones of the Lower Ninth Ward community association, NENA.

All three of these activists have excellent reputations for their work in the community. I’d support any one of them. But I’m afraid they’d have to be drafted, and who has the time to go out and twist reluctant arms?

This is why I believe it’s important to revive the Green Party of Louisiana, to create an alternative to politics as usual, a framework that makes it a little easier to run citizen candidates. The party only gained official ballot status a few weeks before the flooding of New Orleans, and it’s been dormant since. Hopefully the upcoming convention will begin that revival.

Published inLife with XyNew OrleansPolitix


  1. Bart, I’ve been following your blog — and your and XY’s personal journey — for over a year now and I just have to say: I think it’s great that you even considered running for city council. That shows that you really do feel a connection with others in your community and that you were, if only for a moment, willing to place yourself in the service of those friends and neighbors. It takes courage to run, and as you pointed out, it takes support from those closest to you because the costs can be high.

    I applaud you for considering it and hope that once the house is finished and your lives settle down a bit that you may consider it again. People really like to vote for “one of their own”. And that’s not in any way to diminish XY’s concerns. I wish you both a lot of luck whatever you decide.

    In the meantime, your blog has been a great source of on-the-ground information for me and I do try to work in a link to you and other NOLA bloggers whenever possible.

  2. Anonymous Anonymous

    Just wanted to say I saw you and Xy on TLC’s “This House Must Go” tonight….you both looked great!

  3. new orleans deserves to have some honest people helping it. Just sayin’ (yeah I mean you).

  4. Good call, Bart.

    This is not the usual council election. For anyone but a well-known and either self-financed or with an existing war chest and laundry list of previous donors to tap (or all three) to even make a 2% dent in the at-large race is a tall order. The time frame is simply too short and the election cycle is just as tight. As for drafting someone, that would have needed to been done several weeks ago. Qualifying begins this Tuesday and ends Thursday, so we will know what the cast of clowns/characters will be by Friday. Let’s hope for a pleasant surprise.

  5. I’m afraid Celcus is right about the kind of field we can expect here. Maybe you’ll consider it again in time for the next thing. In the meantime….. anyone know what Karen’s doing?

  6. I’m totally, completely, and utterly serious.

    Quentin “NO BS” Brown.

    Talk about grassroots…hell, he will mow your grass.

  7. Quentin livens up a debate like no one else can…

  8. That’s an understatement, Celcus.

  9. I have a template in mind for a successful campaign for a “citizen activist” type candidate in New Orleans. I spent a huge chunk of 2005 researching and putting together a strategy for a potential run for Assessor against Al Coman, because he would’ve been vulnerable even if there were no Fed Flood. Sure enough, a no name political newcomer with a small budget displaced a family that had been in power for eighty years.

    I’d be willing to advise a quality candidate for free, if the candidate has a decent resume and a fair amount of political skill (or is teachable). Preferably, you’d need eight months of prep time, or have 50 or 100k that you’re willing to blow, depending on the office.

    I don’t want to sound like a blowhard, but actually winning would be the goal. Not 2 percent, not a moral victory, not some crap about what a pleasure it is to run an honorable campaign and lose to a weasel, not some excuse about why “the media” or “the powers that be” doomed you… no, I’m talking about actually winning the damn election.

    It’s much more possible than y’all might think.

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