The (New Orleans) Times-Picayune has long since quit trying to maintain an objectivity about some of our community’s leaders. Concerning Mayor C. Ray Nagin, the paper has lost patience with his posturing, his evasions and his lack of transparency (the very quality he promised would distinguish his administration).
Several times a week, the paper gives a little more detail of an expensive vacation trip the mayor and his family took at the expense of one of the city’s contractors a few weeks following Hurricane Katrina. The trip to Montego Bay would have been impressive to most of us, but Hizzoner says he remembers almost nothing of it, that it was “just a blur.” The contractor, who usually palmed himself off to outsiders as “deputy mayor,” a position that does not exist, had intimate contacts with other companies with deep pockets which he engaged to work for the city. Turns out the trip was paid by one of those companies.
Were there shenanigans involved? Especially when you consider that this company was paid huge bucks to install the traffic-light-cameras, most of which ended up not working? Hard to tell. To my knowledge, nothing has been pinned on the mayor. However, he’s not helping the investigation and says he has forgotten all about the trip.
I’m leading up to something, so bear with me a moment.
Dr. Ed Blakely has resigned. We’ve written about him before. Mayor Nagin brought him in to be something of a savior for New Orleans, to work with our city’s departments and come up with a master plan for the redevelopment of the flooded city. Blakely, owning a resume most people would drool over, arrived with grandiose promises of “cranes in the sky” within a few months. In time, when almost nothing was accomplished under his leadership, and when it became apparent that Blakely’s primary job was drawing a big salary while jetting around the world to appear as expert spokesman on this or that program, always at huge fees, Blakely found another way to get the job done: take credit for what others have done.
So, now, Dr. Blakely gives himself an ‘A’ on his report card and flies back home to Australia.
Local columnists are not letting him depart without a few choice words.
James Gill, resident curmudgeon for the Times-Picayune, writes: “Mayor Ray Nagin and his Recovery Director Ed Blakely complement each other admirably. Nagin cannot remember things that did happen, while Blakely can effortlessly recall a bunch of things that didn’t.”
“Thus,” Gill continues, “Nagin can prostitute his office and promptly block the memory, while Blakely, as he announces he is getting out of town, continues to bask in the glow of imaginary accomplishments.”
They do have a lot in common, Gill says: “Hardly anyone believes a word either of them says.”
“But let us not be too quick to condemn. Maybe Nagin is being truthful when he says the free trip he took to Montego Bay around the Thanksgiving after Katrina is ‘just a blur.’ As luck would have it, I also have only the haziest recollection of the few hours I spent in Montego Bay a few years ago. Just tell us you were drinking Red Stripes (booze, I suppose) with the locals, your honor, and we’ll understand.”
But Gill had an advantage over the mayor, he asserts, which helped him remember everything. “I remember having to pay the bill.”
As for Blakely, Gill says, he arrived on the scene a year after Katrina, promising “the fastest recovery that anyone has ever seen.” It was fast, Gill adds. In fact, “it’s all a blur.”
“It soon became clear that Blakely’s real stock-in-trade is pie in the sky” (as opposed to cranes in the sky).
Chris Rose chimed in on the subject, comparing two recent articles in his newspaper regarding a couple of “our most maligned newsmakers.” That would be Mayor Nagin and Paris Hilton. “They claim they work very hard. They claim they travel the globe, constantly doing their best. They claim they are misunderstood. And they claim they have no idea — not a clue, not an inkling — who pays their bills.”
Rose says Mayor Nagin and Paris Hilton are “passengers on a train, watching life fly by outside the window: Wow! Look at all that stuff! It’s all a blur. Like, where am I?”
In his take-no-prisoner manner, Chris Rose refers to the recent news that the mayor’s office had erased hundreds of e-mails which the law required to be kept for several years, e-mails which were being requested in various investigations. Rose says, “It might be a blur to our mayor, but it’s as clear as glacier water to everyone else. The mayor is on the Crazy Train, and it has left the station.” He adds, “The possibility of getting a straight answer from this guy is as likely as Paris Hilton doing advanced calculus.”
Then, he delivers the piece de resistance…
“And here’s the rub. Paris Hilton is an airhead heiress whose actions and subsequent blithe and astoundingly insouciant explanations dramatically affect her constituency: Us magazine.
“Ray Nagin is the chief executive of a crisis-riddled, devastated and rapidly depressing major American city whose actions and subsequent blithe and astoundingly insouciant demeanor dramatically affect his constituency: Us.”
In either case, Rose says, the readers are not amused.
After dealing with a related, sordid tale of our city’s misleadership, Rose concludes, “If this weren’t such a sad case of selling the city down the river — again — by our elected officials and their trusty confidantes, then it would be funny. But it’s not. It’s just another sorry branding effort from the Nagin administration, the folks who put the ‘cover’ in recovery.”
A year from now, we’ll have a new mayor. A poll taken last week indicates the population has no patience with selecting an outsider with no knowledge of city government who will come in and clean up this mess. They want someone who knows where the bodies are buried and how to get things done and will take a strong stand. Fortunately, we have several who qualify. If I were to hazard a guess, I’d figure the next mayor of New Orleans to be Arnie Fielkow.
Fielkow is former general manager of the New Orleans Saints football team, who was canned by owner Tom Benson after he began making noise about relocating the team to Texas following Katrina and Fielkow stood up to him. The citizens were irate at the treatment of this good man and promptly elected him (Fielkow) to the city council where he has been a strong voice for integrity and responsibility. He is Jewish, popular, and well-connected.
Never a dull moment in this city.
Why would I want to move from here? (I’m not, just raising the question.)