I watched the debate online. Although it made for good TV (in my case, good internet), and being nationally televised was a true service for the displaced residents, I thought the presence of Chris Matthews and MSNBC detracted from the informational value of the debate and the relevance to New Orleans’ voters, as evidenced by Matthews’ introduction:
“This is about a city. But, it’s also about a country that is being asked to pay to rebuild it.”And his general questions reflected that national viewpoint, rehashing issues that we have already dealt with locally as well as issues that have nothing to do with a municipal election:
CM: “Why should a guy driving a cab up in Detroit pay for somebody down here in New Orleans to rebuild a house below sea level?”I can understand why Chris Matthews and MSNBC would be interested in the answers to these questions. I, too, was interested. But, given the time constraints, it would have been nice to have focused on more local issues. For example, I don’t remember anyone even mentioning the recently released FEMA advisory base flood elevations.
CM: “Do you approve or disapprove of President Bush’s job performance?”
CM: “If those faces [at the Convention Center] had been white, would the reaction from the people of America have been different?”
CM: “When you think of a great American mayor, when you think of the role model for the kind of person you’d like to run this city, or any city in America, who is it?”
CM: “This city has long had the nickname ‘The Big Easy.’ Can it afford that nickname?”
CM: “The National Auto Dealer’s Association, just as an example, is trying to decide whether to come here with their convention. What’s your best pitch?”
CM: “Who’s Dickie Brennan?”
CM: “How come the French and the Brits can build a tunnel under the English Channel? It never leaks. It works. The Dutch have their dikes and stuff like that. It works. How come we have dirt piles to protect this city?”
Norman Robinson did provide some local relevance with his questions:
NR: “A category 4 hurricane is barreling down on the city of New Orleans. What would you do first?”While voters are interested in the answers to these questions, they also need to know the answers. And those questions just scratched the surface of what voters need to know.
NR: [after playing Nagin’s “Get off your ass” comment] “What would you [all the candidates] have done to save lives in that situation?”
NR: “What about the people who live here, Ms. Boulet and the rest of the candidates? You’re talking about tourism. That’s wonderful. But, three quarters of the city where people lived... totally ruined. And what people are saying is it is an affront to us to tell us to come back when you don’t have hospital beds, when you only have a fraction of the schools open, and where hundreds of kids are running the street everyday with no place to go.”
NR: “There’s no guarantee – this coming from engineers – that the largest segment of the city, 144 square miles, Eastern New Orleans, will be protected in future hurricanes. What is your moral responsibility when people inquire about whether it is safe to rebuild there?”
NR: [regarding still finding the dead in the debris] “Why does that happen in the United States of America in 2006?
Tom Watson said, “There are people watching this who want to come home.” I do not think they were fully served by this debate.
But I enjoyed it. I am enjoying all the debates. We should have them all year round, even when there are no elections in sight, just to keep the elected officials honest.
My two cents on the performances of the candidates: I have the least negative and the most positive things to say about Virginia Boulet.