Did we just see a miracle in New Orleans or was it just a natural reaction? On Saturday the voters of New Orleans turned down an emotional plea for a millage to create a City funding stream for the Council on Aging, a NGO (Non-Government Organization). But not only did the millage lose, it was crushed in an overwhelming defeat.
The story of this vote is telling. The New Orleans City Council is a political body that has by its history demonstrated that there are no left-wing agendas that it doesn’t support. In this case the Council had defied the new mayor, LaToya Cantrell, by voting to call an election for the millage for the Council on Aging. The City Council’s action, true to form, demonstrated that they saw the millage as a perfect feel-good initiative that would enhance their social creds.
The Mayor, whose service on the Council would convince anyone that she was as liberal as her fellow Council members, had a different perspective. Since becoming mayor she has had to face a stark reality. The simple fact is that the City’s basic infrastructure, the things that define the very existence of a city, are crumbling. Over a very few decades what had been models of quality services in criminal justice, streets, beautification, potable water, drainage, and sewage treatment have now reached the verge of functional failure. All the while the long suffering people of New Orleans have been called upon to pay the highest taxes in the region so that the Council and Mayors could play liberal politics.
But Mayor Cantrell, in response to the reality that New Orleans will literally cease to exist if basic infrastructure and services are not brought back to a level of even average quality, had staked out a different path for her old Council friends. She told them that taxes raised to fund social services operated by NGOs must not be allowed to divert financial support from basic city services. In effect, in total violation of traditional liberal tax and spend philosophy, she told them that the good of the whole must take precedence over the good of the few.
To the great shock of the Council, the people listened. I suppose there could be two different takeaways from the reality of the people’s vote. I suppose the simple answer could be that the people are just tired of taxes imposed on them to support a government that has failed them.
Maybe, but I would rather believe that the people have demonstrated a much more sophisticated response. I choose to believe that they accepted the message the Mayor was sending. A message that taxes are not intrinsically bad but they must be prioritized so that the people’s hard-earned money should be spent to support that good of the whole before the good of the few. In this case the Mayor has defiantly made the case that the good of the whole is defined as the monumental changes and costs that are necessary to correct generations of ignoring infrastructure by City leaders in favor of liberal experimentation.
The leaders of the state and of local government would be wise to understand the significance of the Mayor’s successful stand. The people will support a leader who presents a meaningful vision that is not seen as just another politician pandering to the loudest special interest. The Mayor of New Orleans courageously stood against a liberal Council and presented the case that the correction of infrastructure was a far more important use of scarce public funds than an indisputably good, but lower priority social service organization. Unheard of in Louisiana, a liberal leader who sees where we must go and is willing to stand up and be counted.
It could have been that the New Orleans’ miracle was just a natural reaction to over taxation, but I choose to believe that it was the people’s response to a positive vision presented by strong leadership.
It would be great if such political courage was the rule and not the exemption in Louisiana government, but one miracle at a time.