Who Wants To Be New Orleans Mayor, Anyway?
On Saturday, New Orleans residents go to the polls to vote in the mayoral primary. There are more than 20 candidates vying for the position. The winner faces the thankless job of rebuilding the devastated city.
These mayoral hopefuls also have to think about another problem: police brutality. Commentator Deborah Mathis is curious what plans the candidates have to combat the problem.
Professor DEBORAH MATHIS (syndicated columnist and a professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago): Why in the world anyone would want to be mayor of New Orleans right now is beyond me. But to be fair, there are people who believe in their ideas and want to do the public good.
More power to them, for whoever eventually wins the mayor's seat, has a mountain of messes with which to contend. One of them being the election itself, with 21 candidates and voters scattered all around the country.
Then of course, the winner has to deal with the aftermath of a wicked gal named Katrina, who caused substantial hemorrhaging of the city's lifeblood. Who knows when and whether the city will get cleaned up; when and whether all the schools and hospitals will open; when and whether the levees will be rebuilt; when and whether the housing will be adequate and affordable; when and whether, if they rebuild it, they will come…back?
And then there's this: apparently the New Orleans Police Department has, in the popular lingo, some serious issues. And the next mayor will need to hop on them, ASAP.
Have you heard this latest? A woman is driving home after visiting her sick father. She's two blocks from her house when police come up behind her. She pulls over in front of her house. Something happens, and Junie Pratt--black and petite--ends up with a swollen head, a black eye, a fractured wrist, and mace in her face.
Watching from a window, Junie's mother-in-law says one cop was swearing at her, pounding on the car, and pulled her out by her hair. The three officers on the scene that day were all white.
What really makes this story outstanding is that Junie Pratt is married to a 10-year veteran of the New Orleans Police Department. Her sister is also a member of the NOPD. The thin blue line was black and blue that day.
According to the mother-in-law, when a bunch of black officers showed up, the white officers took one stance, the black officers took another. At least on that day, there was nothing fraternal, or orderly, about this legendary brotherhood. And this is certainly not the first case of alleged cops gone wild in the wake of Katrina.
So, Mr. or Ms. Mayor Elect, good luck. It's not easy in the Big Easy these days. But to bring order out of the chaos that is New Orleans, you're going to need some help. You're going to need a police department committed and trained to equal protection and fair treatment. You're going to have to deliver that yourself.
And may the force be with you.
GORDON: Deborah Mathis is a syndicated columnist and a professor at the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in Chicago.
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