When Mayor Ray Nagin appeared before the city council last week in response to an apparent scandal, he pleaded that his office and the council should work together "as a team." Sometimes there are teams that are best not to be on.
More than ever, the New Orleans City Council has to be an entity in itself. Never has a city council had to face the task of rebuilding a city; never has the need for leadership been so grave. At a time when there is a perceived leadership vacuum within the mayor’s office the council has to take the lead. It has to show the world and, more importantly, the people of New Orleans, that there’s reason to believe in local government and reason to want to commit to and invest in the city.
Teamwork as a concept is laudable enough but not inherent in a democracy where there is a tradition of separation of powers. There are times when executives and lawmakers can stand united on certain issues as happened last December when there was unity on the volatile issue of demolishing the public housing developments. Call it teamwork, but in government when the day is over the executives and the lawmakers should not go home on the same bus.
Ray Nagin, I think, is a fundamentally decent man who came into office wanting to do right, but either he has taken bad advice or no advice at all. Certainly some people he has trusted have betrayed his confidence.
Let the administration and the council continue to find spots for unity where they can, but let the council continue to stand alone as it should, not only balancing power but directing it in the right direction. When it comes to cheering for teams, we have the Saints and the Hornets. Government needs to be guiding us through the recovery-and that is no game.
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