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.
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: Hurricane Katrina | Katrina | New Orleans | Louisiana | America's Wetland | We Are Not OK | Rebuild New Orleans | 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