Tuesday, April 04, 2006
Picture: Former Mayor Marc Morial wore a "Bring New Orleans Black" T-shirt to the march.
By Michelle Krupa and Frank Donze
Though generally lacking in attacks, the program did include a few pointed remarks, the most scathing from Wilson. Portraying herself as the sole candidate with a record of fighting graft at City Hall, Wilson took aim at Landrieu and Forman for supporting the re-election campaign of former Mayor Marc Morial, who was in town during the weekend leading a march for voters' rights in the April 22 primary.
"I am the only candidate who has fought corruption while some of my colleagues have sat back and participated and supported the origins of that corruption, which is the Morial administration," Wilson said. "That is unacceptable. We cannot build a new city as long as we tolerate and wink at and laugh at corruption in this city and in this state."
Landrieu also took a light hit from Forman, who rarely has had unkind words for any of his opponents. After Landrieu's pledge to foster a safe, smart, accountable and world-class city, Forman took a dig at Landrieu's two decades in Baton Rouge: "Mitch, I'm listening to you. We had 20 years to do all those things, and now is not the time to start. We should have done them a long time ago."
The candidates also gave quick-hit answers that cut to the heart of the debate about whether as many as 150,000 displaced voters, many of them African-American, will be disenfranchised if the state does not provide polling places in Texas, Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee.
Nevertheless, Bell posed the question: "Would you as mayor ask Governor Blanco, to sign an executive order . . . to allow such satellite voting if it can be done within this time frame?" He asked for yes or no answers, a request some of the candidates could not honor.
Wilson: "Absolutely not."
Also posed to all candidates was the question of whether recent racially charged rhetoric is driving voters to choose their favorite candidate based solely on race. Boulet called out Wilson for her frequent use of a phrase that some have deemed insensitive.
"I cringe every time Peggy Wilson says 'welfare queens,' " Boulet said. "I think this is race baiting. And it's not leadership, and it's not where we want our city to go. And it's not the kind of city we want to build."
Wilson steadfastly defended her choice of words.
"Welfare queens refers to behavior and not to race," she said. "When someone talks about 'welfare queens,' we mean people who take advantage of the system in a fraudulent way. We do not want to commit fraud in the welfare system because it deprives good people and honest people of what they have coming to them."