Saturday, October 14, 2006

Working Around A Bad Boss

That's what I thought of when I read today's New Orleans Politics column:
Chapter 1 of the Tania Tetlow story ended with her exit from the New Orleans Library Board after Mayor Ray Nagin told the volunteer board chairwoman her services were no longer required.

Chapter 2 opens with her comeback as the new head of the Library Foundation, a nonprofit group that seeks grants and philanthropic donations for the system and works closely with the library board.

Nagin set off a mild furor several weeks ago when he moved to replace Tetlow, who had established a reputation as the driving force behind the restoration of the city's flood-ravaged library system since Hurricane Katrina.

While the administration praised her for a job well done, Chief Administrative Officer Brenda Hatfield told Tetlow that the mayor wanted to inject the city's boards and commissions with new blood to avoid "entrenchment" by appointees.

Yet two of Tetlow's Library Board colleagues were so sorry to see her go that they each offered to step down if Nagin would agree to name Tetlow to their seat.

Nagin never got back to them.
So after board members welcomed Nagin's hand-picked replacement for Tetlow, musician Irvin Mayfield, they moved quickly to cast their former colleague in another major role -- one that requires no mayoral appointment. The foundation board includes the nine members of the Library Board and three private citizens.

I suppose that the other board members had no choice. It's probably too early to resign in protest, and it might have been construed as a protest against Mayfield rather than a protest against Nagin.

However, you generally work around a bad boss who's sort of a jerk, but otherwise sane. There are times when more drastic actions are called for. At any rate, there's no reason for city council members to think that they need to work around a bad boss. Apparently, something went unreported since we first heard this story:
Tetlow, a Tulane University law professor appointed to a partial term by Mayor Marc Morial in 1999, will be replaced as soon as the City Council approves Nagin's recommended replacement, musician Irvin Mayfield. That vote could come as soon as next week.

That's not the kind of thing that a council normally confronts a mayor over, but the closest this council has come to confronting the mayor over anything, is to send a supplicatory letter. I thought they were co-equals.

I'm embarrassed to admit that I forgot all about Nagin's desire to "refresh" the city's municipal boards in order to "avoid entrenchment," when I commented on Nagin's reappointment of friend, campaign manager and business partner to the aviation board. Can't believe I missed something that obvious.

Update: Though it was about much more,Schroeder has a great post that highlights the lack of leadership:
is that as much as we are all trying to do on a daily basis to bring our city back, nobody (his emphasis) at any level of leadership or representation has a narrative to tell about the future of this city.

I don't mean to "hijack" another blogger's post to prove my much narrower point, but isn't it time that the council stop trying to work around a bad boss and start asserting its equal status?

Hmm ... catching up on Nagin's ties to the airport via David White and the real estate venture, it seems curious now that the airport is pushing the state to invest in building new facilities. I'm not savvy enough in the realm of real estate deals to know how Nagin might bite off a piece of the deal, and the expansion plan might on its own merit be good for the region, but ... we deserve some clarification, and more transparency.

I remember at the time mentioned in the article, my roommate had a lucrative second job as a sort of real estate agent working out the purchase agreements between the airport and nearby Kenner residents. At the same time, my brother was working on the same issue with his law firm--commercial real estate was his main area. That was a bit of a coincidence, but it shows the extent of the airport's real estate dealings. I'm not sure how much of the land the airport still owns.

I still remembe my brother commenting on the incredible amount of patronage that the aviation board controls. The mayor sees no need to refresh the two boards that have always controlled huge amounts of patronage, but he wants to refresh a board that never controlled much patronage in the past, but should start overseeing a massive rebuilding project in the future.

A hypothetical crooked mayor wouldn't need cronies on a hypothetical board that would soon start finding itself in the position to approve or disapprove expensiive projects, he would just need a ceremonial board that approved what the experts proposed.
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