Monday, June 26, 2006

Nervous Chatter From the Picayune, Reporting From Gambit Weekly

Apologies in advance for the overdone rhetoric or purple prose at the end. Sometimes, you know better, but just can't help yourself.

I hate to admit it, but I do it sometimes myself; I just hope I'm not as obvious about it as the T/P staff. I'm sure you know the feeling from your work or personal life, it's time to talk about something that you know you just have to talk about, but you just can't bring yourself to talk about it (conversely, you might be worried about what the other person plans to talk about), so you just nervously chatter away about anything else. That certainly seems to be the collective mindset at the Picayune. Well, there does sometimes seem to be an element of malicious gossip mixed in with the nervous chit chat.

At least, that's the only explanation that I can come up for paper's recent reporting. I've already ranted enough about devoting page after page to a $238K judicial conference but one buried column to the city budget, now they give us a front page story on the future of a political "dynasty." I think that we're all a little more worried about the future of that "dynasty's" city. Believe it or not, I'm usually a fan of the paper's op-ed writers, but I can't remember the last time that one of them wrote a column that would earn more than a C on any kind of relevance test. I understand the problems involved in election reporting, but they've had five weeks to get some confidence in their second term reporting-- maybe they just identify with the mayor. I am curious about one thing, James Gill hasn't published a column in at least two weeks, has he had the good sense, or merely the good fortune, to take his vacation while the paper gets its bearings?

At least Gambit Weekly seems to hold to the old-fashioned notion that media should fact check the statements of public officials, even honest Ray. From this week's Scuttlebutt:
Nagin Keeps (Forman's) Campaign Promise
The mass murder of five teenagers June 17 shocked and angered the city. But Mayor Ray Nagin's response -- asking Gov. Kathleen Blanco to send in the National Guard to help police cope with growing violence -- was no less stunning. During his recent re-election campaign, Nagin never hinted he was considering such a drastic measure, even though his police chief now says the request for Guard troops was first made in March. At the time, Nagin was in the middle of a campaign for the April 22 primary. In fact, Audubon Institute CEO Ron Forman then was the only major candidate to suggest bringing back the Guard after its Katrina mission ended Jan. 1. "If I'm mayor, and it doesn't get better soon, I'm going to get the governor's cooperation to bring the National Guard back in town," Forman told Gambit Weekly in an April 5 interview. Forman repeated his pledge in a televised forum that same week. Nagin emphasized support for Police Chief Warren Riley at the forum. "We need help from state government," the mayor said, but he was referring to millions of dollars in proposed state relief to rebuild the local criminal justice system. Forman finished third in the primary, but candidates often borrow each other's ideas. -- Johnson

There's more:
Nagin told the crowded City Council Chamber that Chief Riley had asked Gov. Kathleen Blanco for 60 State Police troopers two weeks before the killings of the five teens. Nagin then told the crowd, including mothers of the slain teens, that he himself had asked a Guard commander for 250 troops to assist NOPD. "These requests are in and the governor is reviewing them," Nagin said. Hours later, Blanco said she had already received the city's request for Guard troops two weeks earlier.

There's also mention of that Times' Editorial that Shroeder and others have mentioned. I wonder if anybody in either local government or the local media has read it yet. Everyone else who has any interest in the city has.

This goes beyond a mere gotcha about when the mayor asked for help. Even with the guard and state troopers in town and FEMA money coming in to replace damaged police cars, it's important to ask whether the city's budget problems affected its police presence. They mayor insisted that they didn't, yet it would seem that they did. Whether the loss of officers was greater than admitted, officers were assigned clerical duties or there weren't enough squad cars available, lack of resources certainly seemed to reduce the police presence.

I for one would like to know just how credible the mayor is, before I agree to unite behind him. Note to the Picayune, you can't establish somebody's credibility without examining his credibility.

Sorry, I don't grant an assumption of integrity to a politician who skirts the edge of federal campaign law:
Finance list note challenged: A footnote to a list in Saturday editions listing contributors to New Orleans mayoral candidates stated that the data didn't include contributions received by Mayor Ray Nagin during a May 8 fund-raiser in Chicago despite a state law requiring candidates to report contributions to the state ethics officials within 48 hours of receipt. On Saturday, Nagin's campaign treasurer, David White, noting that the law requires reporting contributions when they are "in hand," added, "There is no way we could report on contributions we have not received." White didn't return earlier calls about the fund-raising event, which according to Chicago Sun-Times reports netted $500,000. (5/14/2006)

and makes some highly misleading statements to get re-elected.

Playing hardball politics certainly doesn't disqualify somebody from public office, but it's absurd to treat a hardball politician like Honest Abe. Well, what's the worst that could happen if we all unquestioningly united behind the mayor? It's not like the administration could spend away the city's future and bulldoze away its past, could it? Anyway, the press would certainly be all over the story, right?

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