Charter Change, Done . . .
National Chief Search, Done . . .
First Ever Confirmation Hearing, Done . . .
The Saga Continues . . . Will the City Council Confirm Kirkpatrick This Week? Stay Tuned!
Dear New Orleanians: You’ve been hoodwinked, bamboozled, sold an entire bill of goods.
Did y’all really think that the charter change to force mayoral appointees to go before the City Council for confirmation was about transparency and accountability?
We warned, last year, when Councilman JP Morrell first offered the ordinance and again when the referendum made it to the ballot as a result of a majority vote of the council and a subsequent vote to override the Mayor’s veto that it was about politics and personal conflict. We distinctly said that it would create red tape that would slow the efficient, effective operation of city agencies. Oh, yeah, we even told y’all that it could result in executive level nominees being put in a position where they might feel compelled to curry favor with members of the Council. In short, it was some bull (censored word) that would cause more problems than the non-existent issues it was suppose to resolve. We tried to warn that it would be a hot mess. But, hey, enough of the ‘we told you so’ . . . we’re here now.
And you gots to know that on the very first run out of the gate — it did not disappoint.
We thought we had stepped into the twilight zone when members of the Council asked the current interim superintendent and nominee for the permanent post, Anne Kirkpatrick, about the former interim superintendent, Michelle Woodfork, whether they two had the opportunity to meet, talk and so on. Then, they questioned Kirkpatrick what would become of Woodfork if the body went on to confirm her.
Kirkpatrick spoke very highly of Woodfork and went on to say that her predecessor was already a part of her executive leadership team as a deputy superintendent, but that it could not last without some changes. Kirkpatrick, aided by CAO Gilbert Montano, provided some clarity. NOPD brass serve at specific ranks and are paid accordingly. Woodfork was a two-star captain prior to being elevated to four stars expressly to serve as the interim chief. Now that she has been passed over for the top permanent job, she would return to a two-star captain despite having served as a four-star chief for about nine months. One might argue that it just isn’t practical to demote her to a position much lower than the one in which she most recently served, especially considering the progress she led in the department during her tenure. In other words, she’s proven her worth.
Montano explained that some temporary fix was put in place while research into a process to permanently elevate Woodfork was underway. It would require changes that would have to be approved by the civil service commission and the Council as NOPD’s current top-brass hierarchy only allows for one (1), three-star position, which is already filled. If Woodfork is to continue to serve as a deputy superintendent at a star-level higher than the one she had before becoming interim chief, a new position must be created. That’s the gist of the situation as we understand it.
Now here’s where it gets good. Members of the Council, in turn, urged Kirkpatrick and Montano to get whatever was needed together and put before the board so that they could approve changes or amend related ordinances sooner, rather than later, because if they confirm Kirkpatrick, they want to know that Woodfork, whom they don’t want to see leave, would be encouraged to stay with NOPD without losing the pay she enjoyed while serving as interim chief or being knocked down to two-stars again.
Do they not read The New Orleans Tribune? Otherwise, why all the urgency? They would know that Woodfork told us that even if she were not selected as the permanent chief, she wasn’t going anywhere. She said that New Orleans is her home, and that she is dedicated to NOPD. Of course, we have zero issues with her being promoted. Nor would we be mad if she explored other opportunities. She has a career to consider; and if folk here don’t know her worth, then she better. Still, we agree with the notion that Michelle Woodfork has both experience and skills that make her an asset the City and NOPD are fortunate to have.
But, this is sticky; and as we see it, there are two problems with that line of questioning and with what’s being considered altogether.
First, scrambling to figure out how you can keep the person that wasn’t nominated for the job in a high enough post so that she does not feel slighted while you are supposed to be conducting a hearing with the person that was chosen . . . well, that’s insane! It’s all too muddled. In fact, that alone should inform the Council’s vote on Oct. 19. If that’s where we’re at, throw the whole the thing away. Not to assail Kirkpatrick’s ability, but the fact the Council is so worried that Woodfork might leave . . . so much so that its members want assurances from Kirkpatrick of her willingness to keep Woodfork as a deputy chief and then gave their own assurances of their willingness to do whatever is needed of them to make it happen in short order ought to be an indication that the person before them may not be the one for the job.
Second, what in the quid pro quo did y’all just say . . . at a confirmation hearing, of all places?!
“If (we confirm you), then (what happens to Woodfork)?” That question and concept are rife with illegal and immoral implications! An “if-then” statement is the fundamental ingredient . . . better still, let’s call it the roux, of a quid pro quo gumbo that we don’t like the taste of — granting a favor in exchange for some other benefit or gift in return. What in the world?
What’s next . . . before we confirm you . . . if we confirm you, will you hire our cousins?!
That display alone is exactly why we said that the Council should not be anywhere near mayoral appointees. As highly as we think of Woodfork and her work while interim chief, quite frankly, what happens with her if Kirkpatrick is confirmed is not the Council’s concern. That charter change that Morrell vehemently pushed for last fall, shamelessly convincing voters it was needed when it wasn’t, gave the Council the right to confirm specific top-level mayoral appointees — not to handpick NOPD’s deputy superintendents.
Yet, here we are.
The Oct. 11 confirmation hearing, a prelude to this week’s confirmation vote, was a nearly five-hour long session that included more than its share of insane questions, ambiguous responses and what appeared to be an invitation from Councilman Thomas to Council President Morrell to take it outside. Our money is on Thomas, but we digress.
Another example of an insane question?
Well, there was the one in which a member of the Council asked Kirkpatrick to clarify what she meant by stating that she ultimately answered to the Mayor.
Why in the world would that need to be clarified! Seriously, unless there has been a shakeup in city government of which we are unaware or another useless charter change slipped by undetected, the superintendent of the New Orleans Police Department is still selected by the mayor and reports to him/her or his/her designee. Instead of simply recognizing that irrefutable fact as the plain statement it was intended to be, the council member belabored the point, asking the question again and again to make certain that Kirkpatrick wasn’t suggesting that she would do the Mayor’s bidding at all and any cost.
Really? All the woman is saying was that, in the chain of command, the Mayor is her boss, the person to whom she reports!!! Why are you trying to turn this into some game of ‘political gotcha’!
Look, we will be honest. Kirkpatrick was not the choice we would have made. Still, we certainly do not believe the nominee was suggesting she’d be the Mayor’s errand girl. Y’all need to stop!
One Big (Censored Word) Show
In just a couple of days, the Council is expected to cast its official vote on the Kirkpatrick nomination, and if the hearing was a precursor, strap in tight, it’s going to be a (censored word) show. This will be something to see.
We can’t lie. We have questioned the Mayor’s decision. Why Kirkpatrick? And we could care less about some selection committee’s scorecard or those bogus suggestions that Woodfork didn’t have enough experience to be a police chief. The woman is a 30 plus year NOPD veteran who just underwent nine months of on-the-job training during which marked improvement in violent crime stats was made, so tell that (censored word) to someone else.
New Orleans is still a majority Black city, and it is a unique one. We believe its police chief ought to be one who understands New Orleans, its people, their customs and traditions intimately. Mayor LaToya Cantrell thought enough of Woodfork to select her in the interim, moving her up from a two-star captain to a four-star chief, even if temporarily; and Woodfork rose to the occasion. So what is this (censored word)?
In our attempt to decipher this (censored word), we have discussed possible scenarios: Has the Mayor now bowed to some external pressure to pick someone from the outside? Wait, maybe she is being cynical, even a little contemptuous in her choice as if to say, “You want to confirm appointees . . . you want a national search? Well, here you go, ha!”
In either case, we say our city has no time for this (censored word).
Oh, how we wish the Mayor had used that window of time, albeit short, to just name former NOPD Supt. Shaun Ferguson’s successor outright before this charter change went into effect. Yes, critics would have condemned her for circumventing the impending process. They have attacked her for far less. And, well, she has thumbed her nose at naysayers on matters that were not nearly as salient to the welfare and safety of New Orleans. If there was ever a time to not give a (censored word) about what folk had to say, that was it!
However, even if she figured it played better politically to go along with the whole national search and confirmation malarkey, the final say was still hers. When it was all said and done, she could have nominated Woodfork. At least then we would not have to watch this, well, you-know-what-we-want-say show unfold.
Maybe that’s it. It’s been a . . . ewwwwww . . . man-we-wish-we-could-that-word show from the word ‘go’. Maybe that’s the boll weevil in this cotton. We’re sitting here trying to figure out when and where it all went off the rails, when this train was never on a track. It crashed a long time ago, so it wouldn’t have mattered who the Mayor selected . . . Woodfork . . . Kirkpatrick . . . the second coming of Richard Pennington. We would still be exactly where we are now — in the middle of an ongoing we-can’t-write-that-word–but-if-we-could-you-would-have-read-it-a-dozen-times-by-now show, because right now politics trumps people all day long in New Orleans.
Oh, Yeah, the People
Speaking of people, last week’s hearing also included a parade of New Orleans citizens that used the public comment portion to express their dismay at the selection of Kirkpatrick.
They implored the City Council not to confirm her. They decried what has been characterized as a veil of secrecy and a lack of inclusion in the selection process. They brought up the fact that Black officers in the Oakland Police Department expressed no confidence in her while she led there as they were particularly troubled by what they saw has an inability or unwillingness to deal with longstanding issues of racism within the department. And with New Orleans in the midst of its own federal consent decree, members of the public were especially worried that when Kirkpatrick left Oakland, that city’s department was still under a federal consent decree — arguably in worse status than it was when the decree was first implemented.
They want a do-over, they say. Some even questioned why there was a national search at all.
Let us remind you. There was a national search because members of the New Orleans City Council, like Helena Moreno and JP Morrell, bolstered by the elite business community and organizations like the Metropolitan Crime Commission, which spuriously operates as if it works on behalf of all New Orleanians, all the while doing the bidding of the Uptown elite, said New Orleans needed a national search for its next chief of police. Period.
That’s why we are side eyeing folk like Council Vice-President Helena Moreno, who now, out of the other side of her neck, says she is shocked that it wasn’t Woodfork sitting before them.
Is this chic playing with our intelligence? How could she possibly be surprised that Woodfork was not the nominee? As a main voice calling for a national search, she feigns astonishment now only to keep from eating crow. Crime is down, efforts to address recruitment and retention are underway and other positive steps forward are being made at NOPD – all under the leadership of a homegrown police officer. That’s why she is shocked. Anything else she says is all about saving face. So she can miss us with that (censored word).
On Thursday (Oct. 19), the City Council is expected to vote on Kirkpatrick’s nomination. We will not even pretend to know which way its members are leaning or what the outcome will be.
We suppose, like everyone else, we can only watch as, well, as the . . . we-are-all-out-of-ways-to-say-the-word-we can’t-say show unfolds.