Monday, June 04, 2007

Actually, it Was a Pretty Small Feat

From the Picayune's editorial on Nagin's "state of the city" address:
The city has also avoided bankruptcy -- no small fiscal feat and undoubtedly one of the mayor's top accomplishments after the storm.

That's another assumption that nobody in the local media is prepared to question. It shouldn't surprise me coming from a T/P editorial, after the mayor made the utterly preposterous claim that he kept the city afloat on a quarter of its pre-Katrina budget, the Picayune praised him, when it should have called him a bald-faced liar (or at least questioned his math). Now they call it a major accomplishment that the city didn't declare bankruptcy. After the flood, the mayor did what he had to do and laid off half the city's workforce. He didn't do what he should have done, and put the remaining payroll where it would have done the most good. No city workers were mad at the mayor because they were laid off; I was far from the only one who was angry at paying for supervisors who no longer had staffs to supervise and for the inflated salaries of Nagin's top advisers while the city had only two electrical inspectors.

He did another thing that he had to do and borrowed money to make up for lost revenue. Boy, that was an act of sheer genius -- it took a real visionary to come up with that idea. I'll type this real slow so that even the editorial writers at the Picayune can understand: you don't need to be a financial wizard to take advantage of federal loans.

Even Stephanie Grace made a similiar statement in an otherwise commendable column on the same subject. I only say commendable, rather than great or excellent, because of a rather glaring flaw in the same column:
And the major took yet another victory lap over the success of his controversial trash contracts. It's true that things seem to be going well on the sanitation front, aside from the controversy over the supersized carts. On the other hand, trash pickup is a basic municipal function, not some impossible dream.

And what about all the city offices that aren't functioning properly?

I'll type this real slow so that even the Picayune's brightest political analyst* can understand: part of the reason why all those other city offices aren't functioning properly is because we're spending so much on those sanitation contracts. It's not a complicated equation with multiple variables. And as far as those "controversial trash contracts" are concerned, your paper has pretty much chickened out on that front.

*Does anybody actually believe that the real James Gill still works for the Picayune? I think it's either a doppleganger, or there really still is Voodoo in New Orleans.

I can't find the damn article now, but didn't I read in da paper a couple of weeks ago (last week maybe) that the city was on the verge of bankruptcy?
The BGR seems to think that the city still has big problems:

"A new report by a nonpartisan watchdog group warns, however, that the city's debt "is a significant burden for New Orleans, given the damage and population loss it has suffered."

Since 1998, the Bureau of Governmental Research report says, the portion of the city's annual operating budget devoted to paying off debt has increased from about $10 million to $43.2 million, or more than 10 percent of the general fund budget. Having to spend so much on debt "absorbs undedicated revenue that the city (otherwise) could use to provide services," the report says.

The debt that is payable from the city's operating budget totals $482 million, and the separate bonded indebtedness administered by the Board of Liquidation, City Debt, amounts to $510 million, for a total of $992 million."

Thanks for the link. I'm usually exceptionally diligent about saving articles to my hard drive, or setting up a link in a draft post. Maybe, if we're lucky, the day will come when the federal government and New Orleans are so broke, the Louisiana purchase will be sold back to France for pennies on the dollar.
I try to do he same thing, after a couple of weeks it can be almost impossible to find a Picayune article if you don't remember the exact headline. Even then it's still sometimes impossible.
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