Friday, November 03, 2006
By Bruce Eggler
Eleven years after the idea was endorsed by voters, the New Orleans City Council voted 7-0 Thursday to create an inspector general's office to seek out waste, fraud, corruption and inefficiency in the government of a city long fabled for easy morals and flexible ethics.
But the approval came only after an acrimonious debate that featured numerous accusations of racism from community activists and that left Councilwoman Shelley Midura, the measure's lead author, in tears, saying the debate's heavy racial overtones were just what she had wanted to avoid.
No one spoke in favor of waste and corruption during the debate. But Michael Cowan, a literacy educator at Loyola University who supported the proposal, summarized much of the opposition when he said people have asked him, "Why didn't white folks do this when they had power" at City Hall?
Former Orleans Parish District Attorney Harry Connick said the inspector general's office would encroach on the duties and responsibilities of the district attorney's office and warned against creating an "unfettered" office.
As she (Midura) struggled to compose herself, the council voted 7-0 to approve the ordinance with the long list of amendments sought by the administration.