Friday, May 19, 2006

"I don't care what people are saying Uptown"

Just a reminder of what Ray-Ray said all those months ago, which now feel like years.

I know some people say it isn't fair to judge a person by one poorly-chosen statement, but this isn't just anyone. This is the mayor of a major city. Okay, it's New Orleans. Maybe that makes things different? I don't think so. The whole world made a laughing stock of us at precisely the time when we need people to take us seriously. And frankly, there was too much malice in Nagin's tone to pass it off as just an off-the-cuff gaffe, and the invective pitting one group of people against another was revealing of something Nagin has kept hidden inside.

In case anyone's forgotten, here's what Nagin said (emphasis added to the line that I personally found most offensive):

We as black people. It's time. It's time for us to come together. 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 where ever they are. This city will be chocolate at the end of the day. This city will be a majority African-American city. It's the way God wants it to be. You can't have New Orleans no other way. It wouldn't be New Orleans.

Oh I know, some people are saying Nagin learned from his mistakes and won't make the same mistakes again. Baloney! Nagin's mistakes follow a predictable pattern which I will outline shortly.

First, what do other bloggers have to say about Nagin?

bayoustjohndavid is reminding undecided voters to recall a Stephanie Grace column that was printed in The Times-Picayune long before the mayor's race:
Just as in the past, Nagin didn’t line up the support he needed before opening his mouth, and he didn’t take care of the specifics. It’s all so familiar. ...

If ever there was a time for dreaming big, it’s now, when the city is poised to flourish or founder based on decisions Nagin will make in the coming months -- and without the undertow of inertia that has dragged down big ideas in the past.

But, as the whole repopulation drama has shown, the administration still needs to get a handle on its traditional weaknesses: follow-through and communication with other agencies.

Meanwhile, Tim wrote a letter to Ray-Ray, telling him that this is simply not his time. Instead, wrote Tim, "in this post-Katrina New Orleans, what we need now is a visionary and a leader."

dangerblond's letter acuses Ray-Ray of making her look like a fool:
In front of, well, everybody. Every lousy cab driver in America thinks I got exactly what I deserved for not having enough sense to keep my levees up.

Whoever wins the mayor's race, po'boy is worried about the nation's perception of the results. Meanwhile, Patrick Armstrong answered in a comment that the winner will have to sell the value of rebuilding New Orleans to the rest of the country, and to remind the nation that Americans don't give up on their own. My view is that Mitch Landrieu is the better candidate to inspire the nation:
The national media has been warming up the funeral dirge for New Orleans since Katrina was turning north in the Gulf.

Whoever y'all do elect as Mayor, populist or politician, he's going to need to be ready to take this fight right back at the national media and remind them that, as Americans, we don't just give up on our people or our cities.

Markus, Adrastos, and oyster have joined in promoting dangerblond's Landrieu Dirt Exposure offer to pay $50 to anyone who can furnish any "credible story of corruption by any Landrieu family member or close associate with verifiable source."

To those who worry about the Landrieu family being too entrenched in politics -- i.e., being too good at doing what they do, Slate quoted oyster in a po'boy comment, you "wouldn't want a root canal from someone who wasn't a dentist."

I've spoken at length in another post about why I like Mitch for mayor. I called for him to run long before he declared.

Let me now restate some additional arguments I have against Nagin:

1) Failed leadership: Nagin's problems getting the recovery represent a larger pattern of failing to rise to confront challenges with bold and visionary leadership. I don't recall, for example, Nagin saying anything about the city's failing schools and rising crime rate in the year preceding Hurricane Katrina. Are you satisfied with Nagin's defense of the re-emergence of a murder a day by saying that crime is actually down on a per-capita basis? Allowing buses to flood rather than using them to try to evacuate people is another example of failed leadership. Nagin fails to anticipate problems -- not something we can tolerate in a city in peril of another hurricane strike.

2) Poor planning: The best criticism I've heard of Nagin's style of governing is "ready, shoot, aim." He fails to listen to other people's advice, and seems to conjure ideas out of thin air without thinking them through or airing them with other people. The Canal Street casino corridor idea is one good example.

3) No follow through: I have often said that we ought to have had tent cities raised immediately after Hurricane Katrina so that people could come back to work on their houses, and participate in the rebuilding process. A couple of months ago now, I remember Nagin saying at the last Bring New Orleans Back meeting that he was going to work on getting temporary housing to accomodate displaced residents who want to work. Since then, has anything happened? Furthermore, why did Nagin have to wait for the BNOB before he came up with the idea. Shouldn't this have occurred to him in September -- or better, how about before Hurricane Katrina?

I'll continue to hold Nagin, or Landrieu if he wins, responsible for what happens. If it's Mitch, he better hit the ground running Monday morning. I'm working up a list of questions that need to be answered. I'll post them soon. I would love to see The Times-Picayune do the same thing -- post a list of essential questions that residents need answered on the front page, above the fold, and keep reprinting the questions every day until they're answered. I already know what one of those questions will be: What is the fiscal condition of the city -- stated in tax receipts and expenditures? Jefferson Parish has provided this information, and it was published in The Times-Picayune. Why can't New Orleans do the same? It's a question we all need to know the answer to, because everything follows from the answer that's given. How, for example, will the city be able to pay for services to sparsely-populated neighborhoods?

I'll wrap up this post with a final reminder. When you step into that voting booth, at the very least if you live Uptown, remember that Nagin said he doesn't care what you think. Nagin shouldn't get a single vote Uptown, from white or black voters.

The easy part of the rebuilding process has already gotten underway in areas that remained relatively dry. The hard part is yet to come. Can Nagin really handle it? Has he really proven himself?

It's time for a change!

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At 5/20/2006 06:46:00 AM, Anonymous Adrastos said...

Well done, Schroeder. Glad to see someone else arguing that C Ray was NOT a good Mayor pre-K. Let's hope we don't need t-shirts that say: don't blame me I voted for Mitch.

At 5/20/2006 09:51:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Right. I'm glad someone agrees. I wonder which issues would present themselves if there weren't a hurricane -- schools and crime I bet, and people would be asking why Nagin was asleep at the wheel.

At 5/20/2006 09:17:00 PM, Blogger Jimmy Huck said...

Can't believe Landrieu lost! Can't understand how Nagin could win! What will we ever say to our critics outside the state? My line is going to be: Nagin probably wouldn't have won if the leading Republican candidate hadn't endorsed him. Blame Couhig, and by extension, the GOP.

At 5/21/2006 08:01:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

I think there were a lot of reasonable Republicans who confidently threw their support behind Mitch. Couhig represents the angry "me first" wing of the GOP. The irony is that wealthy New Orleanians will do fine. Its the poor and middle class who will be screwed if Nagin doesn't do a good job. I'm afraid there's more uncertainty than ever now.

At 5/21/2006 08:33:00 AM, Blogger velvet_rut said...

it is a crazy gamble, i agree.

may the gods smile favorably on all us us in our wisdom for folly.


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