Thursday, April 06, 2006
By Gordon Russell and Brian Thevenot
Perhaps the most interesting, and telling, exchanges came in response to a couple of pointed questions from reporter Dave McNamara of WWL-TV, which hosted the debate. McNamara first asked each candidate how they intended to pay for city programs in the face of predictions that City Hall is nearly broke.
Former City Councilwoman Peggy Wilson, a Republican, answered the question -- as she has answered most posed during the four debates -- by saying that her signature proposal, a "tax-free city," would provide the relief.
Only once did Forman appear to offer a specific idea: when he spoke of passing a bill that would require the signatures of at least two judges before a criminal bond could be reduced.
Forman was by no means alone in his repetition. Wilson, for example, used every question to hammer home her pet themes, including her idea for a "tax-free city" and her contention that former Mayor Marc Morial's administration mired the city in corruption. She pointed out on two occasions that Landrieu and Forman had supported Morial politically.
She further continued the use of racially charged buzzwords that have brought her some criticism. She insisted that "gangbangers, pimps and welfare cheats" not be allowed back into public housing.
Asked to heal the city's racial divide, Landrieu asserted that he was the only candidate in the race with substantial appeal to both black and white voters and decried the use of racially charged code words such as "welfare queens," which Wilson has used previously.
Nagin highlighted the fact that he's taken fire from both black and white critics, offering that as proof of his even-handed dealings on questions of race. Creating a booming economy, he said, would ease racial problems by narrowing the gap between haves and have-nots.
Wilson did not address the question directly, instead alleging that government corruption created "the scenes at the Superdome."
The root of all evil?
While many debates have included the Rev. Tom Watson, WWL chose not to invite him.
"They didn't want to see money I was putting into my campaign, they wanted to see external funds," he said Wednesday, "the kind you get from cutting deals and the kind that has included nepotism and corruption in City Hall."