Sunday, February 11, 2007

If You Read the Paper Online,

Be sure to read the interview excerpts (pdf.) that accompanied today's front page story on Nagin. About the March on Crime, he says:
There's a lot of pain out there and I respect the fact that people took the initiative and did that march. Now, was there some political mischief in some of that? Absolutely.

Now that I've thrown that bomb, the main article was Frank Donze at his worst. There are times when Donze seems like a perceptive intelligent perceptive reporter and times when he seems like the most gullible reporter on the planet. Nagin and his supporters are certain to react indignantly to the headline and opening paragraphs, but the bulk of the article was Donze taking dictation. We're actually supposed to believe that Nagin's good at details and managing spreadsheets, he just hasn't communicated his vision for the city very well:
The criticism of Nagin is not so much about his management of the nuts and bolts of City Hall as it is about his perceived lack of what former President George H.W. Bush famously labeled "the vision thing."

Perhaps, I'm beeing a bit harsh. It's basically a he said/she said article, that even starts out negative from Nagin's point of view. But I wondered what kind of kool-aid Donze was drinking when portrayed Nagin as cautious and good with details. I also wondered at lines like:
With the heady discussions of the BNOB behind him, Nagin started to gravitate back to the mayoral role he played before the storm -- the low-key manager, not the adventurer. Nagin's limited successes have mostly been in that role.

For instance, his awarding of new garbage contracts -- something that might be considered less than statecraft -- may be the boldest initiative of his still-young second term. Initially, the contracts aroused controversy because of costs, at $33 million nearly double the price of pre-Katrina garbage collection, but since their implementation they have garnered nearly universal praise.

That was followed by Virginia Boulet's praise for the mayor's handling of the city's finances. Has Donze already forgotten that the $33M figure for garbage collection seems to greatly understate the cost? Nagin doesn't pay any attention to detail and is a terrible steward of public money. I suspect that Donze found critics who said that, but such criticisms wouldn't have fit into one of the themes of the article.

This might seem like nit-picking, but Donze forgot Jamaica:
Shortly after the election, for instance, Nagin jetted out of town on at least a half-dozen occasions, traveling to New York, Indianapolis, Chicago, Baltimore, Philadelphia, San Diego and Memphis, Tenn., among other places.

The busy travel schedule went over poorly. Some New Orleanians viewed it as a vanity tour taking place as the city he was elected to represent sank further into ruin. Influential talk-radio host Garland Robinette dubbed the mayor "Ray Nay-gone."

Yes, he writing about the eight months since the election, but to discuss Nagin's travels and omit a trip to Jamaica less than three months after katrina seems very kind to me.

Unless I'm misreading something, it seems that a Nagin defender actually praises Nagin for saying what it took to be re-elected, even though he knew that what he said wouldn't hold up:
It may be that such ideas need time to ferment before they become palatable.

'After I'm done'

Last fall, Triplett, who is a psychologist as well as a community leader, said she believed residents weren't ready to hear talk of a shrinking footprint in the first few months after the storm. During the planning processes that followed -- concluding with the recently completed effort that Triplett helped oversee -- residents began to come around to the idea of encouraging "clustering," if not requiring it.

Am I misreading that?

Regrets: I believe this is only the second time that I've regretted being too diplomatic in a post. Donze's article was hackery, plain and simple. You had to love that clever ironic twist at the end, it ends up that it was actually visionary for our detail-oriented mayor to be cautious rather than visionary. Either it's that serendipitousness that Rob Couhig spoke of, or Frank Donze is a regular O. Henry. Actually he does good work at times. He just takes dictation at others.

In my own defense, it was an attempt to be consistent that caused me to pull my punches. In that past, I had criticized the Picayune for ignoring the fact that most people only read the headline and opening paragraph when it came up with crap like:
Blanco's office scrambled to spin Katrina
E-mails detail effort to ensure feds took blame for slow response

Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Bush administration were locked in a pitched political battle to shape public opinion about the response to Hurricane Katrina at the same time they were trying to manage the rescue operation, documents released late Friday by the governor's office show.

If any readers wonder why I still defend Blanco from unfair criticism, it's because the unfair criticism predates the Road Home failures by months. There's a major difference between the Blanco story (not available online) and the Nagin story. The Blanco story began with negative opinion presented as fact and became somewhat balanced. The Nagin story began with negatives opinions clearly presented as opinions and became a puff piece.

I'm still flabbergasted that Donze would portray Nagin as attentive to detail. Adrastos shares that opinion. He also makes a good point about the city council:
The City Council is too busy patting itself on the back and posturing to make a positive contribution. If the Council had the stomach for a knock down drag out fight with the Nagin administration, they could fill the gap. But as long as Oliver the Actor runs the council that won't happen: Oliver is a obsessive consensus seeker, which is why, while he might make a good replacement for Dollar Bill, he would be a terrible Mayor. And Oliver clearly wants to be Mayor.

It's time to make Thomas realize that in three years people will be looking for a leader who challenged the mayor.

It was at best skitzo and at worst apologist for Nagin.

I haven't heard anyone praise the garbage contracts, I do know people who are glad their garbage is being picked up. Not the same thing at all.
The only thing interesting to me from this article was the fact that Jim Carvin has apparently split with C Ray. Other than that it is a terribly disappointing piece of journalism that ultimately leaves the reader that Nagin doesn't deserve criticism. The "political mischief" line just made me cringe. Any doubts now that the anti-crime rally message was totally missed or ignored?
The term "mischief" is what pisses me off. That suggests there was something underhanded in it. It wasn't some covert statement about his inept office, it was a bold, loud-and-clear political indictment of the city's leadership. No sneakiness about signs that say "Resign Nagin."
Vera Triplett was one of the officers of the Gentilly Civic Assn. when I first joined, leaving it to work on the UNOP. I'd never picked up anything of the "Nagin supporter" in her....but neither did I sense that she was one to let her own personal dislike for someone make her oppose something she thought was good--save that person she didn't like being affiliated with it.
Don't even say garbage collection to me. Drive down Burgundy from B'water to Elysian and you will see dozens of those monstrosities - apparetly now permanent sidewalk fixtures since they won't fit into the alleys.
I'm surprised there's not more outrage at the political mischief line. now that I've had time to think about it, the article was an even bigger hack job than I thought at first. I don't expect reporters to share my views, but I expect them to exercise their critical faculties.

I didn't refer to anyone as a Nagin supporter, I'm not splitting hairs when I say that defender implies a lot less than supporter. The article made Triplett seem like a critic turned (perhaps reluctant) defender. But the criticism wasn't intended for Triplett, but for Donze's absurd ending. He painted a portrait of a detail oriented mayor who's cautious rather than visionary. But, oh frabjous day! It turns out that it was actually visionary for our mayor to be cautious. Callooh! Callay! My mouth's just watering in anticipation of that exploding pie.
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