April 10, 2002
New Orleans mayor-elect Ray Nagin bowed to local political tradition when he rode in the Irish Channel St. Patrick's Day parade, but in other ways, Nagin's transition to office is on the cutting edge. "I've been calling this the first technology transition," says adjunct law instructor David Marcello, a leader of Nagin's transition team.
The team is working to ensure a smooth passing of the reins of mayoral power from the incumbent, Marc Morial, to the newly elected Nagin. A feature that sets the Nagin transition apart from other transitions is its reliance on the Internet, says Marcello.
"We have a Web site, http://nagintransition.com, that is the point of entry for people who would like to be volunteers in the transition process, for people who would like to get a job with the new administration or for people who would like to be considered for a board or commission appointment," Marcello says. "I got an e-mail just yesterday from a friend who said, 'I just visited the Web site and nominated myself for a position on the library board--it's really cool!'"
A veteran of two previous transitions, Marcello is the executive director of The Public Law Center, a joint venture of the Tulane and Loyola law schools. The center, explains Marcello, teaches second- and third-year law students the intricacies of the legislative process and how to write rules and regulations for governmental agencies. Marcello's teaching specialties closely parallel his extensive experience with state and city government.
As a law student at Tulane in 1969, Marcello worked in Dutch Morial's office as a Law Student Civil Rights Research Council intern. "That was the summer Dutch ran for councilman-at-large," says Marcello. Morial was defeated on that occasion by Joe DiRosa, but in 1977, Morial turned the tables and beat DiRosa in a run-off election for mayor.
"My first experience of a mayoral transition was in the first half of 1978, leading up to Dutch's inauguration in May 1978," says Marcello.
Also, Marcello worked on the transition for Dutch's son, Marc Morial, and helped him implement his legislative program. Marcello also chaired the advisory board appointed to revise the city's home rule charter, which voters approved in fall 1995. The charter revision process pointed the way to a new approach in mayoral transitions, according to Marcello.
"What we're testing out in this transition," he says, "is the theory that rather than looking exclusively at individual city agencies, we should focus on challenges, problems or issues--things that could be dealt with through a coordinated strategy that might involve multiple agencies as well as private players."
To this end, the transition team has set up citizen task forces to tackle issues including blighted housing, Canal Street revitalization, economic development and governmental ethics, as well as the current state of schools, arts, music, entertainment and tourism. The Web site is instrumental in finding volunteers for the task forces.
"The site is not only a great opportunity to invite the public to participate, it's also a great organizing device," Marcello says. "Through the Web site we get groupings of people who have particular interest areas."
The Web site also moves the Nagin transition from being a purely local activity to one with a global dimension. "One of the things that Ray talked about in his campaign was his hope that we could recruit expatriates back to New Orleans," says Marcello. "And he is going to reach out not only to former New Orleanians, but also to the rest of the world."
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