Mitch Landrieu wants us to vote for him. That was the message a Lens reporter got this morning from the New Orleans mayoral candidate. “He saw me there, shook my hand and said ‘Will you vote for me?’ ” the reporter told The Lens this morning, speaking from a cell phone as the reporter exited the 1100 Poydras St office tower where the mini stump occurred. (Full disclosure: The Lens operates out of an office in 1100 Poydras St.)
Curious as The Lens is about the mayoral election, we took this random meeting of the hands as an occasion to conduct our own man-in-the-office-building interview on the candidate who won 45 percent of votes in a survey of 500 voters conducted this month by WWL-TV. Our talk with the building’s daytime security guard, Kevin Batiste, revealed that the racial concerns we’ve heard so much about in the mainstream and African-American press are a real concern to him.
An African-American resident of eastern New Orleans who looks to be in his late 40s, Batiste says that a candidate’s commitment to racial equality is the main factor he is weighing as he decides whom to support. “I have not heard what I need to hear from any of them yet,” he said.
Public contracts are of particular concern to Batiste. “I don’t understand how we (African Americans) are 65 percent majority of this city and only 35 percent of the contracts,” he said.
Although Batiste was quick to say that he had not picked a candidate, he said he is leaning towards former Civil District Judge Nadine Ramsey because of her positions on public contracts and minority contracting.
Ramsey, who is African American, recently came out against rebidding controversial garbage-collection contracts recently extended through 2016 by Mayor Ray Nagin. Both companies that won the awards, Metro Disposal Inc., and Richard’s Disposal Inc., are owned by African American New Orleanians. Her view put her in the same camp as fellow black candidate Troy Henry, and in opposition to James Perry, who is black, and white candidates Landrieu, Rob Couhig and John Georges, according to The Times-Picayune. Among the candidates, Ramsey stands alone in her belief that the city’s non-charter schools should be returned to the control of the Orleans Parish School Board this year.
Like her position on the garbage contracts, this position can be read as a signal of support to local black constituencies who feel disempowered by the state takeover of what was a majority African-American school board.
“She’s a good woman,” Batiste said.
When asked how he felt about Troy Henry, Batiste demurred.
“I am still waiting to hear what I need to hear from him,” he said.
Landrieu has visited 1100 Poydras St. before, Batiste said. He can’t remember the candidate ever asking him, however, for his vote. Which might be just as well.
In the last election, the security guard voted for Nagin. “It was the lesser of two evils,” he said.