(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurricane Katrina bears down, flooding 80 percent
of the city.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Portraits of despair.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You‘ll be lying to us, telling us you‘re coming.
We‘re coming. We‘re coming. You ain‘t coming!
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It‘s not about rich people, poor people. It‘s
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hurricane Katrina exposed a great divide.
MAYOR RAY NAGIN (D), NEW ORLEANS: This city will be chocolate at the
end of the day.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Eight months later, a city struggles to rebuild.
But does everyone have a voice?
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The right to vote! We need some satellite voting!
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Or a vote?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We‘ll keep marching until it‘s happening.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: A city scattered across the country.
GEORGE WALKER BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: There is no way
to imagine America without New Orleans.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The battle for billions.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Building a city 10 feet below sea level does not
strike me as inherently basically a good idea.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: This election affects us all.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ANNOUNCER: Live from the Crescent City at WDSU studios and in partnership with MSNBC, this is the debate for New Orleans mayor.
Tonight‘s moderators are MSNBC‘s election anchor Chris Matthews and WDSU
anchor Norman Robinson.
NORMAN ROBINSON, WDSU-TV, MODERATOR: Good evening. We want to welcome all of you, especially our New Orleans viewers, those living in town now and those who are unfortunately displaced across the country.
CHRIS MATTHEWS, MSNBC, MODERATOR: This is about a city, but it‘s also
a country being ask to pay to rebuild it. Let‘s meet the candidates. In
alphabetical order, we have Virginia Boulet is a Democrat. Ms. Boulet is a
corporate attorney and political newcomer with Wall Street connections.
Rob Couhig is a Republican. He‘s a corporate attorney and businessman and
is the person responsible for bringing minor league baseball to New
Orleans. Ron Forman is a Democrat. He‘s also the president and CEO of the
Audubon Society—the Audubon Zoo, I should say, and Nature Institute.
He‘s the businessman who oversees some of the city‘s most popular tourist
ROBINSON: Mitch Landrieu, a Democrat, current lieutenant governor.
Mr. Landrieu comes from a political family. His father was a former New
Orleans mayor, and his sister is a current U.S. senator. And the
incumbent, Mayor C. Ray Nagin, Democrat, former corporate executive,
political reformist. Mr. Nagin was in charge of the city during Hurricane
Katrina. Tom Watson, Democrat, minister, Civil Rights activist and social
worker. Peggy Wilson, Republican, former president of the New Orleans city
council, and Ms. Wilson is calling for a tax freeze.
MATTHEWS: We‘re going to run a tight ship tonight, Norman and I. You
have 45 seconds to respond to the questions, 30 seconds to use (ph) and follow-up to respond to a follow-up.
ROBINSON: And we‘re also going to give each candidate a chance to ask
each candidate a question. And we‘re also going to allow you to ask
questions submitted by our audience on the Web at wdsu.com and msnbc.com.
So right now, candidates, let‘s rock-and-roll. The first is a general
question for each candidate, beginning with Ms. Virginia Boulet. The question. A category 4 hurricane is barreling down on the city of New Orleans. What would you do first?
VIRGINIA BOULET (D), CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: I would start to work long
before a category 4 storm approaches New Orleans. We need to start to work
immediately having a new mayor. Every family has to have its own
evacuation plan, and the city has to help each family meet its plan. We
have to take care of their pets and help them board up their homes. We
have to provide transportation, if they need it, to where they‘re going.
Everyone needs to know, Where am I going? How am I going to get there?
How am I going to come back? And we also have to provide for a
communications system that keeps everyone in touch both before, during and
following the storm.
ROBINSON: Mr. Couhig.
ROB COUHIG ®, CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: Well, I think you start before,
and you have it laid out so that everyone can go both through the Internet
and to stations like your own. So that when you say “barreling in on us,”
Norman, I start with, Where are we talking about? Are we 92 hours away?
We need to take the infirm, the aged, the poor away. We need to use those
city services to get them out. As they get closer, we need to make sure
that people evacuate the city quickly, timely and efficiently.
Let me suggest one other thing to you, Norman. Those people who
choose to stay next time need to know one thing and know it for certain:
Nobody‘s going to stay and profit ever again. We‘re going to have zero tolerance on looting. We‘re not going to allow people to come after people‘s possessions or to prey on those who stay.
ROBINSON: Thank you, Mr. Couhig. Mr. Forman.
RON FORMAN (D), CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: We know another hurricane‘s
going to hit our city. It happened before. We were not prepared. This
time, we have to work with the federal government, the state, the National
Guard, Homeland Security, all working together with one clear plan.
You know what? If it doesn‘t happen to us, it‘s going to happen to
another city. We need to not only prepare our city but prepare the very
best hurricane preparation plan and the very best recovery plan and share
it with the rest of the country. This country was not ready the last time.
It‘s going to happen again. We have to do a better job as a country to be
prepared next time.
ROBINSON: Mr. Landrieu.
MITCH LANDRIEU (D), LA LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR, CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR:
First of all, we‘re not safe from a category 4 storm. Everybody has to
hear that clearly and directly. The Corps of Engineers is only protecting
us from a category 3, and it will be done by June 1.
There are three things that were wrong: no clear command and control,
no communication and no coordination. Secretary Chertoff was here today at
the governor‘s mansion, and the programming has starting already. So
what‘s important to correct those three fundamental mistakes, to have a
very clear plan, to start early and to be definitive. If a category 4
storm‘s coming, everybody‘s gone and we‘re going to implement the plan as
ROBINSON: Mr. Nagin.
NAGIN: A category 4 storm is approaching New Orleans, I have the
experience of already being through something very similar. I had a
private session with Secretary Chertoff today. We talked about evacuation.
We talked about how we can improve. We‘re going to evacuate everyone out
of the city. We‘re not going to have shelters of last resort. We‘re going
to use Amtrak to move, you know, people that have special needs outside the
Then once we have that done, after the event, we will have buses pre-
staged. If there‘s anyone who we needed to rescue, we will be able to take
them from the convention center right on the interstate and get them out of
There is not a lot of time. Hurricane season‘s going to start June 1,
and we need to be ready, and I think we are.
ROBINSON: Thank you, Mr. Nagin. Mr. Watson.
REV. TOM WATSON (D), CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: Internally, I would ensure
that we would start evacuating within 48 hours of landfall of that category
4 storm. Secondly, we would evacuate by zip codes. There will be
decentralized leaders all over the city, hurricane evacuation leaders in
every major area of our city.
Then we have to externally ensure that across this region, we are
coordinating with our neighboring parishes. We have to ensure that we are
not a burden on Houston again, we‘re not a burden on Atlanta again. So I
will be coordinating through my city hall annexes to ensure that my managers in those areas ensure that our people are safely evacuated to their cities.
ROBINSON: Thank you. Ms. Wilson.
PEGGY WILSON ®, CANDIDATE FOR MAYOR: You know, there was a plan in
place, and there was even a medical plan. There‘s only one problem. They
forgot to use it. It‘s very important for us to practice the plan so that
everybody understands what it is and what his or her role is within that
plan. We should do things like use closed military bases. We should take
advantage of the offerings made to us that we never did take advantage of.
But let me say the most important thing is that what you saw out in
front of the Superdome and the convention center was the result of
generations of corruption, political corruption, a culture of poverty and
Welfare, where people were totally dependent on somebody else to take care
of them. That has to be overcome.
MATTHEWS: OK, let me ask you a question, Mr. Landrieu. Why should a
guy driving a cab up in Detroit pay for somebody down here in New Orleans
to rebuild a house below sea level?
LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, this is an American tragedy. It
requires an American response. We‘re not the only vulnerable city in
America. San Francisco, as you know, got rocked by the earthquakes. There
have been fires. There have been tornadoes. There are certain things that
happen in America that America needs to respond to.
The city of New Orleans is a great American treasure. We, in fact,
believe that we‘re the soul of America. We think our culture can‘t be
matched, and we think it can‘t be replicated. And if we don‘t rebuild the
city of New Orleans, and it seems to me that when a terrorist attack strikes another city, we‘re not going to have the replica to replace another American city. I think it‘s important.
Also, we did this in 1976 in New York, when they almost went bankrupt.
America rallied to that challenge, and we believe that they should rally to
MATTHEWS: Back to my question. Why should a cab driver in Detroit
pay for somebody down here to rebuild a house or build a house below sea
LANDRIEU: Well, because we would do the same for them. This is not -
being below sea level is not the only natural disaster possibility that
happen in the country. There are lots of places in the world that are
below sea level, and there are other places that are in danger. New York,
as you can see, in the possibility of having another terrorist attack—
why should we rebuild New York. It‘s part of the American landscape. It‘s
part of the American way. And we believe that it‘s important.
ROBINSON: But what about those who say, Mr. Couhig, that New Orleans
is being irresponsible, that it‘s not protecting the areas that it can
effectively protect, instead of just throwing care to the wind and inviting
people to repopulate when and wherever?
COUHIG: Norman, that‘s exactly why I got into this race. What we
have is a culture of waiting for other people to come and help us. And I
disagree with Mitch on this point. It‘s as though he wants the fellow up
in Detroit to come down, give us his money, or the congressman in Iowa,
without us demonstrating to them we‘re prudent stewards of the money, that
we‘re doing things ourselves.
Let me suggest to you that the answer to that fellow in Detroit can be
found in the independent actions of people who are determined to get things
going. We‘ve got folks out in Gentilly, we‘ve got folks in Algiers in who
are working hard to regain their lives. When we start advertising that and
let them see that, instead of the constant asking of the federal government
for more, people are going to want to help us. That‘s why I‘m running. I
want them to help us on that basis.
MATTHEWS: Let me ask you all the same question. I‘ll start with
Virginia, with Ms. Boulet. We have a standard question, NBC and “The Wall
Street Journal.” It‘s a very simple question that has two possible
answers, approve or disapprove. Do you approve or disapprove of President
Bush‘s job performance? There‘s two answers here.
MATTHEWS: There‘s two answers here.
ROBINSON: Yes or no.
BOULET: There are two answers. Disapprove.
COUHIG: Overall approve.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Forman?
MATTHEWS: So we have three approves. Interesting.
ROBINSON: I find it interesting, though, Mr. Nagin says he
disapproves. Several months ago, you were beaming about the kind of
cooperation that you were getting from the president of the United States.
NAGIN: Well, you know, you‘re asking me an overall question on all
the issues that the president is dealing with. The president of the United
States is the largest banker in the world. We need federal help. As it
relates to the federal help that we‘ve gotten, the $3 billion for levees,
the $8 billion for incentives for business, and now the $12 billion for housing, I‘m definitely in approval of that.
ROBINSON: So what are you disapproving?
NAGIN: Well, you know, there‘s lots of things. The economy could be
moving in a much better direction. The things that we‘re doing, you know,
in Iraq, you know, I‘m not necessarily in agreement with that. There‘s several things there I think could do better.
MATTHEWS: So everybody sticks to their vote here, the disapproves and
FORMAN: Let me answer that my approval (INAUDIBLE) This city is not
going to come back without people working together. We‘re in very difficult shape. Our city was destroyed by one of the worst natural disasters of this country. It shouldn‘t have happened. Our Corps of Engineers failed with the levee failure. This country wants us to come back. We will work together with people...
MATTHEWS: If you believe that if say you approve of the president‘s
performance, you have a better shot of getting some money from him.
FORMAN: I think you have to work with people.
FORMAN: You have to work with people and not create...
MATTHEWS: Ms. Wilson.
WILSON: Oh, I would say this leads me to the tax-free city idea
because maybe the problem—when we go to Congress and we go to the White
House, maybe the problem is that we‘re asking for the wrong thing. Perhaps
we should be going to Congress and the White House and saying, Lend us the
money, and we‘ll pay it back.” That sounds much better to the cab driver
MATTHEWS: OK, let‘s go to now...
WATSON: I disapprove because this is a Civil Rights matter.
President Bush‘s record on Civil Rights is not a good one. Voting,
disproportionately African-Americans were damaged by Hurricane Katrina than
any other group. So I believe if it was another group of people that were
disproportionately affected, that President Bush and Congress would have
done a lot more by now.
ROBINSON: We‘re going to get to that...
MATTHEWS: I want to point out a little fact for tonight‘s program,
for those watching tonight. Norman and I are going to be showing some
taped moments from what you‘ve all said at different times. Let‘s begin
with Mayor Nagin at the Martin Luther King rally earlier this year.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAGIN: It‘s time for us to rebuild a New Orleans, the one that should
be, a chocolate New Orleans. And I don‘t care what people are saying
uptown or wherever they are, this city will be chocolate at the end of the
(END VIDEO CLIP)
MATTHEWS: Other than Washington, D.C.—and that phrase, “chocolate
city,” used to be a very positive term (INAUDIBLE) used in Washington.
Before I came there, it wasn‘t negative, it wasn‘t positive, it was kind of
celebratory for a city that was largely African-American. It was, in fact,
called chocolate city, not the chocolate city. It was called chocolate city—C.C., like D.C.
NAGIN: I know...
MATTHEWS: OK, you know about that. So what‘s wrong with what you
NAGIN: What‘s wrong with it?
NAGIN: You know, it seemed to have generated an incredible backlash
or outrage from certain people. And what I was trying to do at the time
was to deal with the hopelessness of some of our citizens who were spread
out all over the country. And some people took that to mean that I‘m
excluding other individuals. Chocolate is a term that I‘ve used throughout
MATTHEWS: Why did you follow it up by saying, I don‘t care what they
say, uptown or anywhere else? You were talking in adversarial terms about
one group against the other, weren‘t you?
NAGIN: Let me tell you why...
MATTHEWS: Weren‘t you?
NAGIN: No. But let me tell you why...
MATTHEWS: You weren‘t? What did you mean by, I don‘t care what the
people uptown were saying?
NAGIN: Let me tell you why. You know, after coming out of the
Superdome situation, where I was managing that particular crisis, I went to
meet with some business leaders in Texas. At that particular time, right
before I got there, there was an article in the paper that certain leaders
in this community were saying they did not want certain people back. And
that‘s what I was referring to.
ROBINSON: Did they? Did they? You have yet to answer that question. Did certain leaders tell you that to your face, that they didn‘t want certain people back?
NAGIN: It was in the article.
ROBINSON: Yes, I‘m well aware of that. Did they tell you to your
face? Did you hear that with your own ears?
NAGIN: I did not.
ROBINSON: That certain people we don‘t want back?
NAGIN: I did not.
ROBINSON: Did you suspect that was the case?
NAGIN: That was in the article, and it was widely being talked about
around the city. And I wanted to make sure that everyone understood that
they were welcome back to the city.
MATTHEWS: I‘m here from out of town. I love this city. I‘ve been
here during Peace Corps training. Virginia and I had that experience down
here. I love this town. We‘re back (INAUDIBLE) a couple weeks. So I want
to ask you a question, Mr. Forman, and it gets to the very point we‘re talking about here, which is ethnicity—race, if you will.
What we‘re looking at right now—and everybody in the country‘s seen
it a million times—we‘re looking at it right now—if those faces had
been white, would the reaction from the people of America have been different?
FORMAN: Well, I don‘t believe so. I believe the reaction of the
people in the country saw a city that failed 20 years before the hurricane.
We were not educating our kids, giving them a chance in life. We had not
had good housing. We had not had good jobs, other than the tourist
industry. We have not provided good leadership in the city for a long
time, and what we saw was the poverty come out because of the failure of
government for the last 20 years.
ROBINSON: Well, did they see the face of poverty representing one
particular group? And did that make a difference?
FORMAN: I think—I think, no, it did not make a difference. The
face of this city was majority African-American. The face of the city is
that we‘re not educating our community for a long time, and we failed, and
that‘s the face it showed. This country has to do a better job serving our
communities through educating people and giving them a chance...
MATTHEWS: You all want to leave that line. If the faces had all been
white, there wouldn‘t have been a different, stronger reaction to this present (ph)?
MATTHEWS: Mr. Landrieu first.
LANDRIEU: I think that America looked itself in the mirror and did
not like what it saw. It ignored the issues of race and poverty for years
and years and years, and all of a sudden, they found out there were people
that were living in America that were living in dangerous circumstances,
and they felt helpless because the greatest country in the world couldn‘t
help them. I do think the reaction was slower. I think the issue of race
is a very difficult issue. I do think white and African-Americans got hurt
equally in this storm, but I think there is a curious twist to this, and it
is the most difficult issue that we‘re facing in the city. It‘s a reason
why we have to come together as one people, get beyond the issue of race,
and think about getting people back in their homes.
ROBINSON: You‘ve stirred a hornets‘ nest up. Mr. Nagin, Ms. Wilson
and then Mr. Couhig.
NAGIN: You know, I had the unfortunate or fortunate position of being
in the middle of this, and I did not leave my post. And I saw a change in
the response as the images started to go out across this country. And I
talked to the president and I talked to the governor, and I couldn‘t get
them to act. And you know when I got them to really move, besides going
off on the radio, was when I started talking about people in hotels that
were now being displaced and people from all over this country that were
moving into the convention center.
ROBINSON: Time‘s up. Thank you. Ms. Wilson.
WILSON: The good news is, is when they saw those people out in front
of the convention center, all of a sudden, corruption wasn‘t funny anymore.
The poor school system wasn‘t funny anymore. And it was obvious that the
whole community was going to rise up and say, We can‘t do this anymore.
And I think that‘s why you have so many people running for mayor, because
everyone realizes that for the first time in many years, everyone understood it‘s not funny.
ROBINSON: Mr. Couhig.
COUHIG: Yes. I was going to say, actually, Chris, you know, we all
wish that the response had been better, but we would be doing a disservice
to the country and to our community if we didn‘t thank America tonight for
the tremendous help we were given. Sure, we wish it had been more timely.
But I disagree with Mitch and Ray. It wasn‘t about race. It was a
catastrophic thing. And frankly, it disturbs me a great deal that whenever
they get a chance to use racial pandering, they do. You asked...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s they?
COUHIG: The mayor in particular. When I‘ve been with him, he‘s apologized for the chocolate speech, and then he said it was OK.
ROBINSON: I mean, he has—he has won, though.
COUHIG: And Mitch has a tendency to do the same.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Watson.
WATSON: Yes. New Orleans needs to get out of denial. Mitch said
America saw something. When is New Orleans going to confront its severe
racism? It‘s been going on for hundreds of years. We have a plantation
model in this city. The rich have it, the poor try to get it, and we have
a person sitting up here right now that has the audacity to call out people
Welfare queens, nobody says anything. We need to stop the racism and confront it immediately.
MATTHEWS: Ms. Boulet.
BOULET: Tom, I do say something. I call Peggy on that whenever I
BOULET: I disagree with using terms like chocolate city and using
terms like Welfare queen. We‘ve got to stop dividing people in this city,
lock arms and rebuild our city. We also don‘t need to be criticizing President Bush or Governor Blanco, Ray, because we‘ve got to work with these people. That was the hesitancy I had in saying anything about President Bush‘s performance. I care about the future.
WILSON: Welfare queen had nothing to do with race. It has to do with
ROBINSON: Ladies, gentlemen, we have to speak in turn. We‘re speaking out of turn now.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to a question that has nothing to do with race, I
don‘t think, but it may. I want you each to give me an objective with a
proper noun beginning with it, all right? A proper name, I should say.
When you think of a great American mayor, you think of the role model for
the kind of person you‘d like to run this city, or any city in America, who
is it? Role model, best mayor you can think of in the world. Who‘s been
the great mayor?
BOULET: Andrew Young.
COUHIG: Richard Daley, a Democrat.
MATTHEWS: The first or the second?
COUHIG: Both, but the second has been extraordinary. He has rebuilt
Chicago because he understands leadership and he understands taking risk
and pushing things through.
MATTHEWS: Richard Daley. OK. Mr. Forman.
FORMAN: Rudy Giuliani. And he offered to help us in our recovery,
and we backed him away.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Landrieu.
LANDRIEU: Richard Daley, hands down.
MATTHEWS: Interesting. Mr. Mayor?
NAGIN: I have two, Andy Young and Richard Daley.
MATTHEWS: Wow. Mr. Watson.
WATSON: Two, Dutch Morial (ph) and Emmanuel Cleaver (ph), Kansas City, Missouri.
WILSON: Rudy Giuliani for cutting crime in New York.
ROBINSON: Does he get any points for his performance during 9/11?
WILSON: Yes, he gets a lot of points, but the big thing was turning
around a city like New York.
MATTHEWS: Nobody mentioned you, Mr. Mayor. Does that bother you?
NAGIN: No, because the story is not fully written.
ROBINSON: All right. And talking about a story that‘s not fully
written, we‘re talking about all the criticism that came because of the
lack of a swift response from the federal government. There was enough
blame to go around both locally, state and federal. We all know help did
not arrive when it should have. The criticism goes all the way back to the
president. Here‘s what the mayor had to say about the president.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NAGIN: Don‘t it tell me 40,000 people are coming here! They‘re not
here! It‘s too doggone late. Now, get off your (DELETED) and let‘s do
something, and let‘s fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBINSON: A very upset mayor. Mr. Landrieu, what would you have done
to save lives in that situation?
LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, I did. I got down here right away. I
was one of the first people on the ground at the St. Claude (ph) bridge. I
was on my way to see Junior Rodriguez (ph) to try to communicate with them
because, you know, the communications system was down. On the way, we
actually rescued people lower 9, in St. Bernard. I actually walked through
three feet of water to find the mayor in the Hyatt Regency and then went
and found Aaron Broussard (ph). So it was important for us to get on the
ground as quickly as possible. The state was here. Wildlife and Fisheries
agent, NOPD, NOFD...
LANDRIEU: ... breaking their backs.
ROBINSON: What do you say to those who have criticized your reaction,
that you brought television cameras with you to take advantage of an opportunity for a photo op?
LANDRIEU: Well, first of all, that‘s a farce. That‘s not true. We
didn‘t have anybody embedded with us. That was a photographer that was
there. We didn‘t even know the pictures were being taken, and he told us
four or five weeks ago. And the fact of the matter is that the fact that I
was there was a communication breakdown because I was having to communicate
by voice with the people. So there was, as everybody said, even post-
September 11, we knew there was no command-and-control, no communication,
no coordination. But the Louisiana folks and the city folks were on the
ground, in the water, doing as much as they could do immediately.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Couhig, this city‘s long had the nickname “the big easy.” Can it afford that nickname?
COUHIG: It can‘t. We have to dramatically change our whole culture.
And I probably disagree with everybody up here about that. We have to
become a society of self-reliant people. We have to understand the federal
government has failed us. Our state government has failed us. Certainly,
our city government has failed us. We have to begin building a culture of
empowerment, rather than entitlement. We have to take responsibility for
our own lives.
You know, I hear Mitch talking about coming down, and I‘m glad for
that. But you know, we go back even further. Where was the
interoperability system that the federal government had offered and paid
for? It wasn‘t even in existence. We didn‘t have communication because
the mayor didn‘t follow up on the money that was available.
NAGIN: That‘s not true.
ROBINSON: Time‘s up, Mr. Couhig. What happened to the money, Mr.
NAGIN: The grant was provided, and we were in the process of going
through a cycle of trying to identify the best solution. We had a
conflict. The guy who wrote the grant was now taking advantage of the
grant. When it came time for me to sign that, I said that was improper...
ROBINSON: Well, what do you mean he was taking advantage of the grant?
NAGIN: He was going to be part of the contract. We wrote the federal
government to see if this was OK, and they said it wasn‘t OK.
ROBINSON: Thank you. Ms. Boulet.
BOULET: Yes. The convention center should never have happened. The
police were telling people to go to the convention center after the levees
broke. They should have been telling people to go on the buses, hundreds
of buses that were high and dry and could have taken people out of town.
This was badly planned from the beginning. But then, when there was a
moment to rescue all of these people, the decision was made by the city and
Mayor Nagin to leave the people with no food or water until FEMA came.
FEMA came days and days later.
MATTHEWS: That‘s a great question. Mr. Mayor, a lot of people who
may be rooting for you still want to know what happened. Four hundred buses available—were they really available?
NAGIN: They weren‘t really available. Most of those buses that were
on TV were the school board buses. We had tried to get an agreement with
the school board for many, many months, but everybody knows how dysfunctional that group is.
MATTHEWS: But they...
MATTHEWS: ... to an emergency call for buses?
NAGIN: We put the RTA buses in a spot that had never flooded before. And those were the ones that were available. And unfortunately, they flooded this time.
FORMAN: Mitch keeps talking about what he did in the hurricane. You
know, a lot people with the city did incredible work to save our community,
saved many, many, many, many lives. The problem was the leadership
(INAUDIBLE) governor level, the lieutenant governor and the mayor‘s level,
was not prepared. We knew the hurricane was coming. We‘ve been told for
years, Be prepared. When the hurricane comes, we‘re going to flood, people
are going to die. We need to prepare better next time, and do such a good
job that we can lead the country in preparing for hurricanes and recovery.
We‘ve got to do it better because it‘s going to happen again.
MATTHEWS: Ms. Boulet, a question for you. And this is generic
question, and I want this—I‘m asking for a very professional answer, so
take a minute.
BOULET: All right.
MATTHEWS: OK? The National Auto Dealers Association, just as an
example, is trying to decide whether to come here with their convention,
all right? What‘s your best pitch?
BOULET: My best pitch to get them to come?
BOULET: I would say that when you come to New Orleans, you will have
the best food you‘ve had in your life. You will hear the best music. And
we are ready for people to come. I have to admit, you shouldn‘t come if
you have serious health problems because we do have a health care crisis of
immense proportion. But the downtown and the French Quarter are ready to
welcome you. We have people working in the hotels now. And you should come and enjoy and you should come and share our culture with us.
ROBINSON: What about the people who live here, Ms. Boulet and the
rest of the candidates? You‘re talking about tourism. That‘s wonderful.
But three quarters of the city, where people lived, is totally ruined. And
what people are saying is, It‘s an affront to us to tell us to come back
when you don‘t have hospital beds, when you only have a fraction of the
schools open, and where hundreds of kids are running the street every day
with no place to go.
FORMAN: I would welcome tourism back. We need to grow our economy.
But at the same time, tourism‘s not the answer. We have to put the same
emphasis on General Motors and Ford to come to New Orleans as we do
building hospitals, building economic development with diversity and a
construction industry with tens of billions of dollars. We have a chance
to do it better. We—you know, we have the best city for history, culture, music, food, fun. Our diversity‘s...
ROBINSON: I‘m still not hearing—I‘m still not hearing anything
that‘s going to...
WILSON: I can answer the question!
LANDRIEU: The tourism industry is our greatest punch right now. It
is the one thing that‘s putting money into the economy. It is the one
thing that‘s putting money into state government coffers that can then be
used to pay police, pay fire, pay for neighborhood design and get people
back quickly. It is not the only thing that we should rely on, but it is
not an accident that the industry...
MATTHEWS: Mr. Mayor, what is the current pitch? You‘re an expert at
this. You‘ve tried different pitches to bring people here for conventions.
WILSON: I have an idea!
NAGIN: If you love New Orleans, it‘s your time to say something
special to New Orleans and to come to our great city. We have been
devastated, but the areas that you would visit, nothing happened to them,
for the most part. We have the utilities back up. We have all the services. Our restaurants are back up. We‘re not at 100 percent, but we‘re probably at 75 percent. If you want to help this great city come back, come back and visit us.
WILSON: You know, Norman talked about the fact that we have a huge
section of the city that‘s not occupied and people want to come home. The
only thing that is going to jump-start the economy of this city is a tax-
free city. We have had an out-migration of 1,000 a month over 35 years.
We‘ve lost businesses by the droves. And we cannot rebuild the city, even
when we have tourism, unless we have a tax-free city and we have an incentive for people to come back. There has been no incentive. We‘ve been running people out of town for years.
COUHIG: I just fundamentally disagree. And this is what we‘ve been
doing for 40 years, building towards a tourist economy. Let‘s be honest
with these people who want to come in in a major convention. We would have
trouble today servicing a major convention. Our hotels don‘t have enough
people to work in them. Our restaurants are not fully only, don‘t have
enough people to work in them. Ask Dickie Brennan (ph). When you come—
and you can ask him, and he will tell you that they can‘t...
MATTHEWS: Who‘s Dickie Brennan?
COUHIG: He owns...
COUHIG: He owns the Palace (ph) Cafe. He owns a half a dozen restaurants, one of the great restaurateurs in America. And they don‘t have enough people. That‘s why we have to build...
MATTHEWS: We‘re changing the pace of this for a second. This is all
part of our plan here. I‘m letting you all in on it now. We‘re now going
to let each of you ask questions of the other candidates.
MATTHEWS: ... so you get to play what we call back home “Hardball,”
ROBINSON: The questions can be no longer than 15 seconds, and of
course, the answers are limited to 45 seconds, and we‘ll have to cut you
off if you go beyond that.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Forman, your question‘s for Mr. Landrieu.
FORMAN: Lieutenant Governor Landrieu (INAUDIBLE) our city and state‘s
failed for 20 years. We have not educated our children. We‘ve not had a
safe city. Crime is out of control. We don‘t have a good economy besides
tourism. You talk about one chance to get it right. What have you been
doing for 20 years to this leader and electoral process?
LANDRIEU: Well, Ron, the last time you asked me that, I answered it
this way. I‘ve been helping you finance the Audubon Institute. You‘ve been on the forefront of every administration that‘s been in office.
You‘ve been the one that‘s generated a lot of public money for the Audubon
Institute. I was actually your floor leader helping you with those wonderful things, and I‘ve been trying to work with you to get it done.
But I‘ve also been in the forefront of every major reform that‘s taken
place, from ethics reform, to campaign finance reform, to juvenile justice
reform. And, as you know, because you helped me—you were the chairman
of my museum board—leading the tourism and the (INAUDIBLE) industry back
ROBINSON: All right, Mr. Landrieu, your question for Mr. Couhig?
LANDRIEU: Rob, you mentioned this before, and I wanted to explore it
with you a little bit. You know, the mayor has had three CAOs, three city
attorneys. He‘s had three legislative liaisons. He‘s had two folks that
ran as economic development.
My question to you is: Do you think that‘s impaired his ability to
get us a speedy recovery and to actually get the cars picked up and the debris picked up?
COUHIG: Mitch, I go further. I look at all the ladies who have left
his employ, as well, and I say, “What‘s going on there?” If he was in
private business, the CEO would have been dismissed long ago. When he
failed to do anything in advance of the storm in order to have evacuation
planning and training, that was another, frankly, indictment of his performance.
And it all comes down to the type of management style he has. Ray is
a fun, glib guy. But you know what we need? We need somebody who‘s going
to work hard, who‘s disciplined, who follows up, and who sets real
objectives and does it. You can‘t just come out one day and say, “I‘m
going to have gambling all up and down Canal Street” without thinking about
the consequences citywide.
ROBINSON: Time‘s up.
MATTHEWS: Let‘s go to Mister...
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: (OFF-MIKE)
MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s not set up that way, actually.
Mr. Couhig, your question for Mr. Forman?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Jesus Christ.
NAGIN: Who? Who‘s next?
COUHIG: It‘s me to Ron. I‘ll let you know, Ray.
BOULET: Tag it on.
COUHIG: Ron, I went and met with you early on. And you said you
wouldn‘t run if your good friend, Mitch, was running. We‘ve been in these
forums now for two months. You never attacked him. You never said a bad
word about him.
ROBINSON: OK, question?
COUHIG: In the past week, you‘ve started running commercials attacking his record. What is it that‘s motivated you to change your approach towards Mitch?
FORMAN: Well, first of all, I‘m running for mayor. And Mitch and I
talked about it for about six months. I really believe that Mitch was
running for governor. He‘s lieutenant governor. I thought that‘s where he
Once he decided he was running for mayor, I was already running for
mayor. I‘m running for mayor for the same reason you‘re running for mayor.
We‘re all up here for one purpose: to try and bring this city back to the
great city that New Orleans deserves to be.
We have that opportunity. I don‘t think politics of the past is the
way to go. The first few months of my campaign I had to introduce myself
to a lot of people and say, “I‘m Ron Forman. I‘m running for mayor.”
We‘re at the end of this campaign now. It‘s important that people
make a decision. I had 33 years building world-class facilities, operating
world-class facilities. We have a chance to build New Orleans back the right way this time.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
Reverend Watson, your question now to Ms. Wilson.
WATSON: Ms. Wilson, you have often used the term “welfare queens.”
And just a moment ago, I asked you, “Were there any white ones?” And you
said yes. So my specific question is: What are you going to do to create
specific wealth-building opportunities, so that welfare queens will never
be around us again, specific wealth-building opportunities?
WILSON: I have proposed a tax-free city for five years. The city tax
recipient bodies would be funded by a bond issue which would be guaranteed.
WATSON: What does that have to do with welfare queens?
WILSON: It has everything to do with it.
WATSON: They don‘t pay taxes.
WILSON: I‘m sorry. Excuse me. It‘s my turn to answer your question,
WATSON: OK. But I said this specific...
WILSON: Yes, I‘m giving you something specific for welfare queens.
We want to build this economy so that we have a real city with real
business, so that people can have real jobs and not just jobs to make beds
and jobs to wait on tables. And that is the kind of economy we had before
We have been losing people. We‘ve been losing businesses. And if we
want to prevent—and when we talk about welfare queens, we‘re talking
about behavior. We‘re talking about people who cheat the system. We don‘t
want to have—continue to have people who drag our economy down and who
drag the city down. We can ill afford that.
ROBINSON: Ms. Wilson, do you have a question for the mayor, Mr.
WILSON: Yes, I do. And I want to ask him this question, and I want
him to think about behavior and not think about race. I want to know: Do
you want the welfare cheats, the pimps, the drug dealers, the murderers,
all of those people, to come back to our city? Do you want those people
NAGIN: Is this another tag question? You know, Peggy, I want
everybody to come back to the city. The ones that I‘m not excited about
coming back are the people that have been involved in very serious crimes.
Those are the folk that, you know, they need some rehabilitation, and I‘m
not sure where they can get that.
But I will tell you this: Every resident of the city of New Orleans
deserves the right to come back to the city. We‘re going to have a better
city. We‘re going to reorient our economy, and we‘re going to have a place
where people that didn‘t earn a lot of money before will have an opportunity to participate in a booming economy.
This city and this region is going to rock and roll for the next five
to 10 years, and we want you to be a part of that.
ROBINSON: Thank you, Mr. Nagin. Your question for Ms. Boulet?
NAGIN: Ms. Boulet...
NAGIN: No tag team, but you have kind of pitched this idea to move
UNO downtown. The chancellor of UNO has said he‘s not really willing to
abandon a billion-dollar investment that they‘ve already made on the lakefront. How do you propose pulling this idea off?
BOULET: Well, I‘ve talked to the chancellor of UNO, and he is telling
me that it would cost $300 million to move UNO downtown. This would
completely bring back a whole side of the French Quarter, from Poidre (ph)
Street all the way to Esplanade. And it would renew the French Quarter and
provide foot traffic for French Quarter merchants, 12,000 hungry, thirsty
students every day.
NAGIN: And where would they be? Where would they be? I‘m sorry.
BOULET: From Poidre Street (ph) all the way to Esplanade, along Rampart...
NAGIN: Daviville (ph)?
BOULET: And Loyola.
NAGIN: So where would those folk live?
BOULET: Well, they would live there, too.
WATSON: We can call it a double-decker.
BOULET: You know, Ray, cool cities have universities downtown, and
cool universities are downtown.
NAGIN: All right.
BOULET: Kids like to study downtown, and they would be attracted here. And I think UNO would do very well.
MATTHEWS: Ms. Boulet, your question for Mr. Watson?
WATSON: Yes. Tom, this morning in the paper, Lowis Eli (ph)
suggested that your campaign and mine had not fully addressed the problem
of poverty in New Orleans. What should the next mayor do about poverty?
WATSON: Well, first of all, we have to be very sensitive to poverty.
I read the article, and it said I was the only candidate that addressed
poverty. And the problem was I was at whatever so-called second tier, but
I know I‘m in the first tier, OK? And I want everybody to understand that.
So I had to, you know, kind of debate that issue. But I‘ve been
working on behalf of poor people all of my life. I would hope the next
mayor would have a clear plan, a strategy to help poor people to get off of
the tariff rolls (ph), and to give them vouchers for houses, as what they
did after World War II, and they don‘t have to live in poor public housing,
a master plan to rid our city of poverty and classism.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
BOULET: I agree.
ROBINSON: Before we resume our questioning from the moderators, we
noticed that the incumbent has accused Mr. Couhig of executing a tag team
ROBINSON: Mr. Mayor, would you like to respond, please? Would you
like to respond?
NAGIN: Would I like to respond to what?
ROBINSON: The tag team that you have accused Mr. Couhig of executing
NAGIN: Oh, I think America saw it. You know...
ROBINSON: What did they see, just in case America wasn‘t watching
what you were watching?
NAGIN: They saw Mitch kind of punt a softball question to Rob, kind
of pointed at me. You know, it was kind of...
NAGIN: It wasn‘t conspiracy.
ROBINSON: What was the question, Mr. Mayor?
NAGIN: I totally forgot. It was irrelevant.
ROBINSON: It wasn‘t that significant.
NAGIN: It was irrelevant.
ROBINSON: All right. Well, let‘s resume the general questioning then. This is for all of you, and we‘ll begin with Ms. Wilson.
There‘s no guarantee, it‘s coming from engineers, that the largest
segment of the city, 144 square miles in Eastern New Orleans, will be protected in future hurricanes. What is your moral responsibility when people inquire about whether it‘s safe to rebuild there?
WILSON: Well, first of all, we don‘t have all the information that is
available. And when I am the mayor, I will get that information.
It is possible that New Orleans East will still continue to be a very
dangerous place to be for this year. But let me tell you what‘s even more
dangerous: the new landfill that the mayor has suggested and entered into
a contract to be built out in New Orleans East, right next to the Vietnamese community.
ROBINSON: The question was levee protection. How safe is it? And
how morally responsible is it to tell people to rebuild there?
WILSON: Because the levee protection is not going to be what it is
should this time, then it is very dangerous to keep opening new landfills.
We have two of them that are on the books now. And it is irresponsible to
do that, and I know that three of my opponents have accepted large contributions from the people who are going to build those landfills...
ROBINSON: No one ever drowned from a landfill, Ms. Wilson.
WILSON: They might have been poisoned from a landfill.
ROBINSON: ... what is the answer to the question?
WATSON: The answer is we have to demand accountability from the
federal government. Just like they have never found the weapons of mass
destruction, but we have levees that cause mass destruction disproportionately to African-American people.
Ninety percent of New Orleans East is African-American. As the mayor,
I would demand that the levees are built appropriately and suggest that people come home. That‘s the pioneers of this city. That‘s the black middle class. They‘re absent.
My doctor, my dentist, they lived in New Orleans East. I would demand
accountability, do for New Orleans what you did for New York after 9/11. I
will demand it.
MATTHEWS: Can I ask you a question about this? I‘m an outsider. I‘m
looking right at you, Lieutenant Governor, because you‘ve got this great
history in this state of political public service.
Nobody can understand why this country, which is got—we invent
everything in this country. We‘re state-of-the-art in music. We‘re state-
of-the-art in electronics, communication. We got everything nobody else
has, right? We‘re there.
How come the French and the Brits can build a tunnel under the English
Channel? It never leaks. It works. The Dutch have their dikes and stuff
like that, and it works. How come we have dirt piles to protect this city?
Why is it so—why do we have those things that look like sound barriers
along a highway that can‘t protect you from anything? Why do they fall over? Why is the like that?
LANDRIEU: There‘s an easy answer to that question: It‘s called will
power and it‘s called money. And those of us that have been down here know
that nothing less than Category 5 hurricane protection will do, first of
Secondly, we‘ve been paying lots of money to the federal government
and not getting our fair share back, and our coastal wetlands have been
deteriorating, so we haven‘t been able to protect ourselves. We haven‘t
had the political muscle with seven congressional members in the delegation
to get that done.
I think that your question earlier about, what about building below
sea levels? The levees broke. That‘s why most of this area flooded, not
because it‘s below sea level. And if you fix the levees and do what we did
in the Netherlands, coastal wetland restoration, then this city will be protected.
And what you need to tell people is the truth. You need to give them
the information they need. And like good Americans, let them make the choice about their future welfare.
ROBINSON: Let us move on now to the next example of what you said
prior to this point. Mr. Couhig, you‘ve been dubbed as the pit bull in this race.
COUHIG: I always thought they called me the nice guy.
ROBINSON: Yes, well...
... you were misinformed. And you wasted no time putting out an attack ad.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP, COUHIG CAMPAIGN AD)
ANNOUNCER: ... candidates for mayor. Mitch Landrieu, uncertain,
indecisive. The “Times-Picayune” called him a reluctant warrior. Ron
Forman, party switcher, chairman of Marc Morial‘s third-term campaign. Ray
(CUCKOO CLOCK SOUND)
... plus other assorted candidates, weirdoes and wannabes. But consider this guy: Rob Couhig.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
ROBINSON: Mr. Forman, your take on the ad?
FORMAN: Well, it was entertaining, but I think this is a very, very
serious time in our 300-year history. We got destroyed with the worst catastrophe and natural disaster ever.
I want to go back and answer your question, too, because it‘s
important to tell people of New Orleans and the rest of the country: New
Orleans is going to come back. Where it‘s going to flood over the next 10
years, until the levees protect it, we have a lot of high land in our city.
We‘ve got to tell our good people: This is where you can build; this
is where you can get insurance; this is where you can get a mortgage. I
don‘t want the negative thought going out there that we‘re not going to rebuild, because we are.
WILSON: The marketplace is going to take care of most of that, but
the other question that you asked, it‘s political corruption, Chris.
MATTHEWS: Who‘s corrupt. Name names.
WILSON: The levee board was corrupt.
MATTHEWS: No, names. I want to know the names this time. I heard
about Dicky Brandon (ph). So tell me about the corrupt people here.
WILSON: Mr. Huey, who is chairman of the levee board. And I would
say just about the whole...
MATTHEWS: How about the mayor? Is he corrupt? Is the last mayor
corrupt? Was the one before that corrupt?
WILSON: The last mayor—Mark Morial was the most corrupt mayor that
we‘ve had in our history. Sidney Barthelemy was dumb, incompetent and corrupt.
MATTHEWS: Was Mayor Landrieu corrupt?
WILSON: Mayor Landrieu, I can‘t comment on him at this point. I would say that he was not a particularly good mayor, because he didn‘t understand the most important thing in our city, which is our historic character.
MATTHEWS: Which politician down here do you think is any good?
WILSON: Which politician do I think is any good?
MATTHEWS: Any good anywhere in the state?
WILSON: Anywhere in the state?
MATTHEWS: Any good?
WILSON: I have a hard time coming up with somebody.
COUHIG: Let‘s try Bobby Jindal.
WILSON: Yes, I‘ll go with Bobby Jindal.
COUHIG: And I think one of the things that disappoints me most about
Ron‘s campaign, in fact, is him bringing in the people who gave us Kathleen
Blanco to assist him in attacking Mitch. And, frankly, unlike Ron, when I
attack Mitch, he knows it. He‘s knows it‘s coming and we‘ve done it, because we disagree philosophically.
FORMAN: Rob, you‘re known as the pit bull. I‘m not. What I did...
FORMAN: It‘s OK to talk about—thank you, Rob—it‘s OK to talk
about a person‘s past record. This is an important race. We know what
Mitch did the last 20 years, what I‘ve done in the last 33 years, and, Rob,
frankly, your back record needs to be talked about...
WATSON: ... while they‘re attacking, I‘m trying to get people home
out of their diasporas. There are people—and I think we need to stop
this attack foolishness. There are people watching us who want to come home. We ought to ask the lieutenant governor...
ROBINSON: I want to refocus...
WATSON: ... how to help get our people home. He‘s next to the governor. We‘re talking about attack ads. That‘s a waste of time.
ROBINSON: And I want to refocus this...
WATSON: Our people want to come home.
ROBINSON: I want to refocus this discussion on the people...
ROBINSON: ... because there people all over this country who were
torn from the bosom of the Crescent City who are upset. They‘re
languishing in an area of ambivalence. They have no direction. They don‘t
know what to do with their lives.
And is there any feeling for them on this dais? And let me direct who
will answer these questions, please, because this is very important.
We just found another body today. Why were bodies left in the debris
of Lakeview and the Ninth Ward for several months, in some cases only to be
stumbled upon by relatives who were looking for their loved ones? Why does
that happen in the United States of America in 2006, Ms. Boulet?
BOULET: It is such a shame that it happened, and it won‘t happen when
we have a competent system to help people evacuate. Every one of those
people should have been evacuated. And if they didn‘t have a car, they
should have been evacuated on a city bus. And if they didn‘t have a credit
card to get a hotel room, we should have had a plan long in effect long before Hurricane Katrina to make sure they had somewhere to go.
We should have made sure that their pet had a place to go, because
many of them stayed to protect their pets. We need to think this through
far more intelligently than we ever have before. We need to prepare every
person, and not just police, for what‘s going to happen with the next hurricane.
ROBINSON: Mr. Couhig?
COUHIG: Norman, I don‘t think there‘s a person up here who isn‘t
heartfelt at what happened. What concerns me though now is the next great
exodus, which is taking place every day.
Our doctors are leaving; our technicians are leaving; our universities
are declining in capacity. We have to address that, and we have to address
it right away. We have to build housing.
We haven‘t talked about housing tonight. It‘s the single biggest
issue we have. We have to build hospitals immediately. Our people don‘t
have health care. If we don‘t save our universities and colleges, our
biggest and best opportunity for the future goes down the drain. That‘s
why we ought to concentrate on that, rather than tourism.
ROBINSON: Mr. Forman?
FORMAN: It was horrible what happened, but we can‘t let it happen
again. The hurricane is going to hit this country again. The entire country is not prepared for disasters.
We are proposing through our administration—we did a feasibility
study of a global disaster center for this country, that we talk about how
we prepare, not just in New Orleans, but the rest of the country. It shouldn‘t happen here. It shouldn‘t happen anywhere again.
And then we need to show how New Orleans can be the leader. We have
Katrina and New Orleans as a brand name to be a leader in how we recover. No one knew how to help us. This is going to happen, either a natural disaster or a manmade disaster, and this country is not prepared.
It‘s time for this country, this state and this city, and all people
in this country, to be prepared for the next disaster, so we don‘t have dead bodies in homes.
ROBINSON: Mr. Landrieu?
LANDRIEU: What happened ripped our hearts out. We all feel that.
When I said earlier that I disapproved of President Bush‘s job approval,
it‘s because I don‘t feel like the help has gotten down here quick enough.
We‘re still waiting on the second allocation for the housing money, which
is the most important.
Getting people money to get back in their houses, getting them into a
system that processes their permits, moving them into areas so they can
start rebuilding their houses, because they need a house, they need a job,
and they need a school. Getting that back is the thing that‘s going to
start the economy rolling in the city again. And the quicker we get that
done, the better.
ROBINSON: Mr. Nagin?
NAGIN: You know, your question deals with finding dead bodies in a
city that was almost totally devastated. You know, I watched so much of
that. I saw so many bodies in the waters. I stood with General Honore as
he tried to get his troops to go through the city systematically and identify everybody.
They made many, many sweeps. Unfortunately, we didn‘t get all of
them. And that‘s the tragedy: We‘re still dealing with this issue eight
months later. So next time a hurricane comes, we‘re going to get everybody
out. There will be no shelter of last resort; everybody is going to get
out, and we‘re going to make sure that everyone is safe.
ROBINSON: Reverend Watson?
WATSON: Proverbs 29 and 2 says, when the righteous are in authority,
the people rejoice. But when the heathen bear rue (ph), the people mourn.
New Orleans was mourning before Katrina.
We haven‘t talked a lot about the racial tension pre-Katrina. College
students choked to death on Bourbon Street. Right after Katrina, a 64-year-old African-American male beat almost unmercifully.
The problem with New Orleans is that we have not been sensitive to the
least of our people. And now we have a new poor, the ones that don‘t have
their jobs and all. The problem is you need a leader who understands that
government is set up to help all people and not just the ones that represent your constituency.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
WILSON: It is very hard to deal with people who were left in houses
that have been destroyed, when even before the storm we had 27,000 vacant
and abandoned housing units which were never put back into commerce and
which should have been and could have been. All of those houses are still
available and can still be put into commerce.
We are spending $95,000 asking for trailers. Why not give the $95,000
to people and say, “Here take this, and fix up your house”? The problem
that we have in this community is we‘ve had an out-migration of all of our
middle class. Forty percent of that out-migration has been black middle
class. We don‘t have a middle class in this city. We have nothing but the
rich and poor.
ROBINSON: Here‘s a question for you. If you had to pick one of your
fellow candidates to be your chief administrative officer, if you were elected mayor, who would that be, Ms. Wilson?
WILSON: Who would I pick for my chief administrative officer?
ROBINSON: Yes, on this panel?
WILSON: I would not pick any of the people up here as my chief administrative officer.
ROBINSON: Reverend Watson?
WATSON: I would select Virginia Boulet.
ROBINSON: Mr. Nagin?
NAGIN: Rob Couhig.
ROBINSON: Mr. Landrieu?
LANDRIEU: Virginia Boulet.
ROBINSON: Mr. Forman?
FORMAN: Tom Watson at deputy mayor.
ROBINSON: Tom Watson, deputy mayor.
COUHIG: No one up here.
ROBINSON: No one up here.
BOULET: Ray Nagin.
ROBINSON: Ray Nagin. All right, another one...
BOULET: Just kidding.
MATTHEWS: ... love the fact that the cuckoo clock—the guy you called the cuckoo just cooed your name. I thought that was great.
COUHIG: Well, you know, you never let me comment about that ad. It
was, I think, the best ad in political history, and let me tell you why.
It clearly said three things: Mitch had to weigh all the options, not
just for himself, but for his family and their political dynasty. Ron‘s
got a history of politics that people needed to know about. The mayor and
I have disagreed about his positions. And then you didn‘t show the second
part that talked about what this city needs, a businessperson, an entrepreneur, someone who loves this city.
ROBINSON: Thank you. But that was all that ad showed, Mr. Couhig.
COUHIG: No, no. You didn‘t show the second half.
ROBINSON: Starting with you, Ms. Boulet, in the case of a run-off and
you don‘t make it, who would you throw your support behind?
BOULET: Who‘s in the run-off?
ROBINSON: I don‘t know. Which one of you? And you‘re not in the
run-off, but one of these guys...
BOULET: You‘re really asking who‘s the next best person.
ROBINSON: Who would you—yes, who would you throw support behind?
BOULET: If Tom Watson were in a run-off, I would support Tom Watson.
ROBINSON: Mr. Couhig?
COUHIG: The reason I got into this race is I looked at the other
folks who were running and, with all candor, they didn‘t measure up to what
I thought was important: a change of philosophy from one of entitlement to
one of empowerment.
ROBINSON: So no one?
COUHIG: No one, sir.
ROBINSON: Mr. Forman?
FORMAN: Yes, that‘s still a question I‘d have to consider. This is
an important race. I‘m running for mayor for the same reason as Rob. We
have to provide the leadership, and I‘m not ready to figure out who‘s the
ROBINSON: All right.
LANDRIEU: Tom Watson.
ROBINSON: Tom Watson.
NAGIN: I‘m on the sidelines.
ROBINSON: You‘re on the sidelines. If you‘re not in the run-off,
you‘re not involved?
NAGIN: I‘m on the sidelines.
ROBINSON: All right.
WATSON: Remember, I was the person that said that I would have, as a
serious goal, to have the first female chief of police. I would want to
support Virginia Boulet as the first female mayor of New Orleans.
ROBINSON: Ms. Wilson?
WILSON: Well, it‘s hard to think of supporting a bunch of people who
have no idea how to restart this economy. The only person with a plan or a
suggestion is Ray Nagin. He suggested gambling casinos on Canal Street,
which is a bad idea, but at least he suggested something. The rest of them
keep saying we have to work together, or we have more chance, one thing after another. And nobody has an idea of how to restart this economy except for Peggy Wilson.
ROBINSON: Mr. Mayor, let me ask you this question. As you know, many
in the African-American community, when the storm struck and several days
afterwards, were angry with you because they said—well, you complained
about the faces being stuck at the Superdome, they were your faces, faces
who represented you, and you didn‘t call the mandatory evacuation soon enough. Do you owe them an apology?
NAGIN: Well, you know, I don‘t necessarily know if I owe them an
apology. I started calling for an evacuation when the storm first got in
the Gulf of Mexico, which was on Friday. I stepped that up every day until
I got with Max Mayfield to really understand that this was pointing towards
The only window we had, you know, was about 10 more hours we could
have called the mandatory evacuation 10 hours earlier.
ROBINSON: Thank you very much.
NAGIN: And I‘m not sure how much a difference that would have made.
ROBINSON: Thank you very much.
MATTHEWS: OK. We covered a lot of ground now. We‘re down to the
last few minutes for everybody here. So whatever you didn‘t say yet, say
now. Final shot.
BOULET: Thank you so much. By destroying all of our institutions—
housing, health care, our levees, our schools—Katrina put everything on
the table. A lot of people would think that my ideas for fixing New
Orleans might have been too bold prior to Katrina, but we need to be bold
to survive. We need a new mayor with bold ideas with the experience to finance them and to implement them. We need to unite our city. Please join us.
ROBINSON: Time‘s up. Thank you.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Couhig?
COUHIG: Thank you. And thank you for coming tonight. And thank you,
America, for helping us in our time of need.
I love this city. I was born here almost 57 years ago. But it‘s time
for us to change the culture of our city to one of self-reliance, to one of
empowerment, not entitlement, and to demonstrate to America the toughness
of the people that are here today.
We spent a lot of time talking and worrying about our friends who aren‘t here, but the people who are here need to be served. We need housing and hospitals for them.
ROBINSON: Mr. Forman?
FORMAN: We need to tell the national audience: New Orleans is coming
back. We have a 300-year history. If you look at the greatest cities in
this country, New York, Boston, San Francisco, Paris, Madrid, New Orleans
is one of those cities.
What we need is to do it differently. We were not a great city before
the hurricane. We need to provide better education for all our kids,
diversity in jobs, not just in the type of jobs before, and mixed-income
housing. We have a chance to do it differently. It‘s about leadership.
For 30 years, I represent world-class facilities, world-class management.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Landrieu?
LANDRIEU: Chris and Norman, thank you for being here. And, America,
thank you for everything that you‘ve done.
What was OK before Katrina is not OK after Katrina in the state of
Louisiana and in the city of New Orleans. We need to begin again. We have
only one chance, and we have to get it right.
Everybody has got to come together and formulate a plan that actually
makes sense. We need people home. We need housing. We need jobs. We
need schools. We need somebody who actually knows how to get it done and
can actually make it happen. Thank you for being with us tonight.
MATTHEWS: Mr. Nagin?
NAGIN: Thank you, America and to all New Orleanians who are spread
out across the country. I‘ve been your mayor now for four years. I‘ve
been through the toughest storm and the toughest crisis that has ever hit
this country. I‘ve been here. I have a plan. We‘re bringing you back,
and the city is coming back.
You have a tough decision to make. April 22nd is the primary. May
20th is the run-off. Hurricane season starts June 1st. Do you want
experienced leadership or do you want to experiment at this critical time?
MATTHEWS: Mr. Watson?
WATSON: To the diasporas and to those who are watching locally, you
know, New Orleans, in spite of its partying mindset with JazzFest, Mardi
Gras, Second Lines, New Orleans is really a strong, religious city,
Catholics, Protestants, Jews, Muslims. I believe I‘m that multifaceted
spiritual leader with the kind of talent to bring this city back to a place
where we can all be proud. I need your help.
ROBINSON: Thank you.
WATSON: God bless you.
MATTHEWS: Ms. Wilson?
WILSON: Ladies and gentlemen, we have a chance, not to rearrange the
chairs, but to fix the boat. I‘m the only candidate who has talked about
lowering taxes, about corruption, and about really and truly making major
This election is not about a black or a white mayor; this election is
about the right mayor. I am Peggy Wilson, and I need your vote. Thank you.
ROBINSON: Thank you. We want to thank all of the candidates, and we
want to urge New Orleanians, wherever you are, please cast your vote in
this historic election. The city‘s at a crossroad, fighting for its very
MATTHEWS: I agree. And what I noticed today traveling around in your
tour you gave me was that it takes a whole block to get together to decide
to rebuild. Individuals can‘t do this. They‘ve got to be led. A big message I got from you today.
Thank you, Norman.
ROBINSON: Thank you, and good night.