Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Here on Gilligan's Island



It'd be nice if The Times-Picayune acknowledged that they were about two months behind Dambala in floating the Meffert yacht story. Even so, they're still skirting around the more important question. Sure, Meffert has an expensive yacht, but the harm done by using it to entertain is probably minimal compared to the greater harm that may have been done by doling out all of the city's technology projects to his friends.

Don't get me wrong -- I salute The Times-Picayune for (finally) picking a fight with the Nagin administration. I just hope it's a serious fight, not a face-saving stunt. A new Gordon Russell article quoting former Imagine employee, Paul Bible, suggests that maybe the TP is turning the corner:

“All the campaigning begs the question of how much time was spent working on these campaigns,” Bible said. “How much money is the city spending for them to work on these kinds of projects?”

Meffert's a good Samaritan? Possibly. So it shouldn't be difficult for him to justify his actions then, should it?

Why is Meffert so coy about revealing why he passed so much business onto his friends? How much money did his friends actually make? Was it reasonable compensation? Could other competing firms have done as much or more for the money, or produced better ideas and solutions?

I'm okay with maverick behavior -- like stealing the assessors' records to post them for the public to see -- as long as it can be demonstrated that the public good was served.

Let me just go ahead and reveal that I once worked as a subcontractor to a prime contractor for an office in City Hall. After months of being told that I would be able to continue in the project for months more to come, I was shocked when I was told just before Christmas that the job was finished -- which it wasn't (and since then, never has been finished). I may have cut my own throat by going around the prime contractor, directly to the city official overseeing the work, to provide what I thought was a more productive approach to managing the project. Just a few weeks ago, I noticed that the same project manager for the prime contractor who "fired" me -- who's been doing a pretty lousy job for years -- donated $5000 to Nagin's re-election campaign.

Now, I don't know about the rest of yous, but I definitely don't have $5000 burning a hole in my pocket that has Ray Nagin's name on it.

Is it any wonder why good ideas never seem to come out of City Hall when only people who pay kickbacks get recognized? Meffert may be an exception to the rule, but it might only appear so because he wasn't doing anything truly innovative, other than bringing City Hall into the 1990's from 1970's technology. Meffert did nothing more than reach for the low-hanging fruit.

How much more might have been accomplished if Meffert had revamped the civil service rules which continue to force talented people, who have expensive educations and families to raise, to work in job descriptions and pay scales that are over thirty years old? Or if he had actually altered the contracting rules to make them more competitive and rational, instead of rewarding himself and his friends?

I guess it's just bidness as usual, whether it's Sydney Bartholomew, Marc Morial, or C. Ray Nagin!

I've been holding back to see if anyone else would relate a story which reveals not just Nagin's contempt for people who are busting their asses to rebuild this city, but how contemptuous he is of his own office. I wasn't there, so I'll tell the story as best I can and modify later as required for accuracy:
A couple of weeks ago, Nagin made his first appearance, in longer than anyone could remember, at a community meeting. Councilwoman Stacy Head was introducing him, and joked that everyone should be nice to him so he'd come back. K shouted out from the audience, "He's the mayor. We pay him to come back!" Nagin replied, "Yeah, my big government salary." To which K held up a hand forming a big zero and said, "You know how much I get paid to clean up debris in my neighborhood?"

If it isn't apparent, let me spell it out. Here we are, citizens living in a city more than 80 percent destroyed. We are fighting, all of us, doing our civic duty along with volunteers from around the country, to rebuild this city block by block, house by house, for no other reward than to help restore our neighborhoods and help our fellow citizens return to their homes. And Nagin acknowledges that effort by whining about a $150,000 salary he's never once earned!

Oh yeah ... don't forget to recall Ray Nagin!

In other media matters, 14 out of the last 20 interviews archived by WWL 870 AM are about the Saints or LSU. Going back further than a week, and it's all Saints, all Vince Marinello, all the time. It's becoming far more difficult these days to hear anything of substance about the recovery of New Orleans. Then, whenever WWL hosts interview prominent guests -- like Ray Nagin last week -- they ask trifling questions. And when a caller happens to introduce controversy into a conversation, WWL hosts quickly get the caller off the air so not to offend their esteemed guests.

I make this observation because I was hoping to hear again, and post some comments about, the extremely insightful remarks on Garland Robinette's show Tuesday afternoon by the former Director of City Planning, Kristina Ford (no thanks due Robinette who likes to do most of the talking for his guests).

She stated her preference not to criticize, but instead to offer constructive advice for citizens engaged in the planning process flavor of the day. In its most distilled essence, Ford's message was to ask planning teams questions. Ask, ask, ask. Without naming names, it was clear she was referring to Steven "Bungler" Bingler's bungling of the Unified New Orleans Plan process when she said that even she didn't know what was being said sometimes, despite her having earned a Ph.D. in planning. When planners say they're going to simply "weave" or "knit" 72 neighborhood plans into one cohesive unified plan, ask what those words mean -- what do they mean, precisely, by "weave" and "knit"?

Ford also recommended having a city planner present at any meetings with private planning teams like Concordia. She expressed her utmost confidence in the people who work in the City Planning department -- who have been notably absent from many of the planning discussions to date.

9/21/06 update:
I forgot to comment on the caption to the yacht picture printed in the TP. I wonder if the words "to celebrate ... his decision to give up the drudgery of his job as the city's chief technology officer" were Meffert's, or the TP's. Drudgery? If that was Meffert's choice of words, well ... we don't need people like him in public office, so good riddance (and I'm being polite).

Tags: | | | | | | | Katrina Dissidents | Failure Is Not An Option | Ray Nagin | Recall Ray Nagin | Hurricane Katrina One Year Anniversary | UNOP | Unified New Orleans Plan | Steven Bingler | Concordia

17 Comments:

At 9/20/2006 07:52:00 AM, Anonymous Karen said...

I am the one who told the Mayor I made $O For cleaning debris. You got that story right. I really really do not want to hear public officials WHO ran for the job bitch about the payscale.

 
At 9/20/2006 08:48:00 AM, Blogger Schroeder said...

I was hoping you'd tell the story yourself. I still hope you will if you have something to add.

 
At 9/20/2006 08:50:00 AM, Anonymous adrastos said...

Excellent post, Blondie. You are the *real* Dangerblond, he said hopin to get a rise out of a certain blogger.

 
At 9/20/2006 09:05:00 AM, Blogger Zihuatanejo said...

Nice peice! and I wonder how long it will be before the Times P has the guts to write a story like this one?

And is when is New Orleans going to realize it is sinking due to organized crime run by a secret private company that is bigger than Microsoft. I mean come on, how do you expect levees.org to compete with this? And don't forget to check out the interactive map by Clicking here, then clicking launch and clicking the window

 
At 9/20/2006 12:35:00 PM, Blogger oyster said...

Wait. Nagin makes $150k/yr (is that right?) and acts like it's a pittance?

Did he raise the salary while mayor? If it's chump change, why did he do that? If he doesn't need it, why not donate it, like former Pres. Hoover?

 
At 9/20/2006 12:52:00 PM, Blogger Mark said...

Karen, I understand if you're reluctant to upset the Walgreens applecart by tearing the mayor a new one, but then he's probably counting on that.

I think people need to call out the failure of his team to deliver results or transparency, and use the Meffert story to ask the question that David at Moldy City starts to ask:

At a time when city services may end up being massively outsourced due to a shrunken city payroll, how do we know that such an effort won't be massive corrupt, given the example of Mr. Meffert, and the complete failure of your administration to deliver on a promise of transparency?

 
At 9/20/2006 01:17:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

I'm going on my faulty memory oyster. I do believe I heard that the mayor and superintendent both make $150k.

This was a couple of years ago -- then it was $110k, but didn't the mayor give himself a pay raise in his first term to achieve equity with the police chief?

This 2002 Gambit story is interesting for a rundown of what people were getting paid when Nagin stepped into office.

http://www.bestofneworleans.com/dispatch/2002-03-19/news_feat.html

It was, coincidentally, interesting to read again how Kristina Ford got that sweet little job as the city's property manager for $120k.

 
At 9/20/2006 02:39:00 PM, Anonymous Karen said...

Well I did not want to post it on my blog. and I was hoping that someone who can actually write would do so. And you did,thanks.
I have thought a lot about Post K Ray, Pre K it was hard to go grocery shopping without tripping over him, and since the storm he has been AWOL.
So I propose that we take any and all opportunities to call Ray out. Forget about Recall, I suggest a Stalk Ray movement.

 
At 9/20/2006 03:44:00 PM, Blogger Zihuatanejo said...

now you guys are talking. How about a whereIsRay website? We can enroll the same person who did the anybodybutBatt.com or whatever it was. you all could write bits for it and I can cross post the stuff everywhere! shake a leg.

 
At 9/20/2006 04:05:00 PM, Blogger Schroeder said...

Where's Nagin?

 
At 9/20/2006 04:30:00 PM, Blogger dillyberto said...

I am eager to get my wheresnagin sign.

Thanks for the info, Shroeder.

 
At 9/20/2006 05:19:00 PM, Anonymous Marco said...

Has Ray visited the levees lately?

 
At 9/20/2006 05:50:00 PM, Blogger bayoustjohndavid said...

Don't say picked a fight, I know you didn't mean it that way, but I wouldn't want to give anyone ideas. Anyway, James Gill seems to think they were just trying to impress chicks or something.

On the mayor's salary, it was $110K when he took office. What follows is from memory but I'm 90% sure about it. When Nagin got the council to approve pay increases for top aides, he didn't seek one for himself. He was only interested in bringing top quality people into city government. Also, a mayoral pay raise can't go into effect during the term of the mayor who approves it. I don't know if one was approved that didn't go into effect, but I don't think so. I also don't if a raise approved in his first term would go into effect if he were re-elected, or if would have have to wait for the next mayor. But I'm pretty sure he's still making $110K, if it's more, it went up after the inauguration. Unless the state of emergency somehow changed things.

Meffert made as much as the chief and at least three other aides made between 110-150k.

 
At 9/20/2006 05:50:00 PM, Blogger bayoustjohndavid said...

Don't say picked a fight, I know you didn't mean it that way, but I wouldn't want to give anyone ideas. Anyway, James Gill seems to think they were just trying to impress chicks or something.

On the mayor's salary, it was $110K when he took office. What follows is from memory but I'm 90% sure about it. When Nagin got the council to approve pay increases for top aides, he didn't seek one for himself. He was only interested in bringing top quality people into city government. Also, a mayoral pay raise can't go into effect during the term of the mayor who approves it. I don't know if one was approved that didn't go into effect, but I don't think so. I also don't if a raise approved in his first term would go into effect if he were re-elected, or if would have have to wait for the next mayor. But I'm pretty sure he's still making $110K, if it's more, it went up after the inauguration. Unless the state of emergency somehow changed things.

Meffert made as much as the chief and at least three other aides made between 110-150k.

 
At 9/20/2006 07:02:00 PM, Blogger Dambala said...

Karen, I got a call from a national reporter who was referred to AZ. He asked me what I thought my chances were of recalling Nagin. I told him, "I'm not tyring to recall him...I'm tyring to indict him."

Schroeder...note that David White was listed in the story as Nagin's campaign manager and refused to comment....he got his own paragraph. I smell more to come on that front. I think AFO is a timebomb....I honestly don't have anything yet, but I have a hunch.

 
At 9/21/2006 11:07:00 AM, Blogger bayoustjohndavid said...

Apparently some pat has increased because I read in the paper that the CAO makes $155. A couple of years ago only Meffert and the police chief made that much.

 
At 9/21/2006 07:18:00 PM, Anonymous Karen said...

weave..as in to bob and weave..you know, avoid

 

Post a Comment

<< Home