Friday, February 16, 2007

Get a Load of Couhig

I mentioned before that Rob Couhig seems to be taking a more critical look at the Nagin administration. By itself, I wouldn't read too much into the exchange with James Carter that I mentioned yesterday, because most of the interview was nonconfrontational. However, Couhig had some interesting comments during his Feb. 14, 7a-8a show:
Ed Blakely went out & hired 17 people in the past week to join his staff in the office of recovery, many of whom, I guess are PhD's, which is fine, but he has a half million dollar budget. So he busts his budget in the first week & he says, Well, I'll go get more money from the Rockefeller Foundation, or whomever. But, we're concentrating all our efforts on planning instead of doing.

Would the city be materially better off if we took a half million dollars and said what we're gonna do is we're going to start at The Industrial Canal and The Seventeenth Street Canal, and we're going to move from one to the other, and if the buildings aren't being refurbished we're going to take them down and clean them up, and charge the owner to get his lot straightened out so we can make the city hospitable for those who want to come here?

That starts at about the 18:30 point of the recording; it's not an official transcript, but I typed it as accurately as possible. He also referred to Blakely's assertion that a army of people want to come here, and said "only in your dreams" will people come here if we don't clean up the city. He gave the mayor credit for the French Quarter being clean, but questioned the other garbage contracts.

I wanted to wait until I had time to go into detail about this to post on thesubject, but that probably wouldn't have been until after Mardi Gras. So just a couple of points. First, I don't endorse everything that Couhig recommended but it's refreshing to hear anybody with a microphone questioning the city's numbers (in the Carter interview) or its use of money.

Also, I don't know if I'm reading too much into only a few comments or if Couhig really his on the verge of becoming a major Nagin critic. If it's the latter, Couhig can't undo his endorsement. However, as part of Nagin's 100 day committee, he lent credibility to Nagin's claim to have restored accountability and transparency to city government. He can certainly speak out out about that.

If he's going to question police manpower figures, he should ask about replacing some the laid off civilian employees. There are difficulties in replacing police officers that go beyond costs, but if more officers than usual are performing civilian duties, it's only a lack of money that keeps the city from doing anything about that. Like I've said before, it's possible that I'm barking up the wrong tree there. If the city refuses to share information, and the professional journalists refuse to ask real questions, it's up to us amateurs. Of course we'll get some questions wrong, that's better than letting the questions go unasked. If any readers with any experience in either law enforcement or city government have any insight, I'd love to hear it. Even if it's just to say that I'm way off base.

As I said, it's quite possible that I'm reading too much into a few comments and there's no friction developing there. It's also possible that Wednesday's comments reflect the conflict that seems to be developing between Blakely and NORA.

After attending the last NORA Board meeting I would say that Rob Couhig is "steaming" mad. Ed Blakley was giving the Board a presentation and things got a little heated.

I would say your observations are on the money.
I thought I had noticed Couhig starting to criticize the mayor in the last week or two. Funny how after the disagreements between NORA and Blakely, Couhig started noticing other things. Whatever prompted it, I hope there's a follow up to that conversation with Carter.
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