Monday, July 09, 2007

Tell Me No Lies, I'll Ask You No Questions

If the lying sack of s*** is going to repeat the same old crap:
"I haven't had one scandal, not one, in this administration. I've taken your money and used it to the best of my ability and stretched it to get us to the point where we are today," Nagin said, denouncing journalists and "good government officials" he claimed have tried to create divisions in city government.

That's two howlers in one sentence, I'm going to repeat two two (closely related) old questions:

Has the layoff of about 300 NOPD civilian employees affected the number of officers on patrol duty? That is, are more patrolmen than usual assigned to desk duty?

I could mention the shortages in the planning and permitting offices and the absurdity surrounding electrical inspections that go unaddressed while the mayor has a P.R. budget of $600,000 and wants another $100,000 to hire a private firm to tell the country what a great job he's doing. Remember, that $600,000 is the P.R. budget for the mayor's office, other city agencies have their own community relations people (for another example of questionable budget priorities, see the previous post). However, this is a more obvious example. Like I've said before, as underpaid as police officers are, they do get paid more than desk clerks. Also, prospective police officers need to be tested and trained; office personnel can be replaced much more easily and quickly. It's merely a matter of finding the money, unless every dollar of the city budget is spent on more important things.

There may well be perfectly good answers to the questions that I've asked. It could be that rotating police officers through desk duty could be a method of giving rest to officers who have been overworked since Katrina -- as a civilian, I'll admit that I have no idea. More likely, with a reduced population, there's been a reduction in office work --fewer calls and fewer forms to fill out. However, if the mayor, or any member of his administration, or any of his supporters were to make that claim, I would expect them to be consistent in their use of numbers. Yeah, right. I have no idea whether the layoff of civilian employees has a great effect on police presence and effectiveness, or even any at all. I'm p***ed off that nobody bothers to ask.

I won't go into much detail about " denouncing journalists;" does anybody really think that even Nagin believes it? Unfortunately, those kind of statements have the desired effect, most people probably believe the b.s. about not one scandal -- mainly because those "denouncing journalists" have treated him with kid gloves. You can tell how little heat the mayor's feeling by the fact that he didn't say anything about bias.

The local press has paid some attention to questionable dealings by the Nagin administration, but you've had to look for it. There was a front page story about Charles Rice and Omni Pinnacle, but that story was also about the Bush and Blanco administrations and there was no follow-up. Read the parts about Rice and Omni Pinnacle and you can only wonder how James Gill ignored that story. But then again, Gill has been monkey no. 1 where the Nagin administration is concerned. When he finally wrote a column about Nagin and Meffert, he brought back memories of Tulane basketball. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a working link to that truly odd column. Any long time Picayune reader should understand why I mention James Gill, I defy any of them to tell me that Gill holds Nagin's statements up to the same scrutiny as those of any of his predecessors or politicians in other parishes.


The James Gill column that reminded me of a point-shaving basketball team:

September 20, 2006 Wednesday

LENGTH: 686 words

HEADLINE: Claiming yacht, Meffert goes overboard

BYLINE: James Gill


In "Some Like it Hot," Tony Curtis lied about owning a yacht in order to put the make on Marilyn Monroe.

Greg Meffert posed as the owner of a yacht and took Mayor Ray Nagin and other civic worthies out on Lake Pontchartrain.

I am with Curtis on this one.

Whether Meffert took another leaf out of Curtis' book by putting on a blazer and a Cary Grant accent is not known. It is known, however, that he did a lot of bragging around City Hall about the 53-footer he claimed to have bought with the proceeds of a real estate deal.

If Curtis had a cast-iron excuse to dissemble, Meffert offers none. Indeed, Meffert, who recently quit as the city's chief technology officer, continues to insist he owns the M.S. Silicon Bayou in face of public records that prove it belongs to a group of geeks he hired under a fat, no-bid contract.

Meffert did not leave City Hall because he was caught with his ethics down. Indeed, his secret may have remained safe if, a couple of weeks later, he hadn't celebrated his birthday with a "sunset cruise."

Meffert sent out invitations bearing a picture of the M.S. Silicon Bayou to a bunch of friends and colleagues. Inevitably, he was betrayed in a jiffy.

Although he was now back in the private sector, it turned out that he had hosted similar soirees while in the public employ. The ethics law forbids public officials to accept "a thing of value" from contractors, which would seem to cover the use of a two-stateroom yacht with a professional skipper.

The Nagin administration has taken its share of knocks lately, but nobody has disputed that it has made enormous strides in technology. When Nagin was elected, the city computer system was primitive and chaotic, its Web site useless. Citizens doing business with City Hall faced weeks of delay and mountains of forms.

After Nagin recruited Meffert, City Hall was introduced to the modern era, with online services and a Web site that became a model for municipal governments. After Katrina, Meffert's department worked wonders to restore communications.

Thus, when Meffert resigned, he was everywhere regarded as the star. Well, maybe not everywhere. All that bragging about the yacht had evidently grown somewhat tiresome at City Hall, especially as not everyone was fooled by it.

This administration, moreover, has always billed itself as a breath of fresh air after the corruption and patronage that marked the Marc Morial years. Thanks to Meffert, the smell of hypocrisy was in the air.

Meffert had persuaded Nagin to let him hire contractors at will, provided their prices were in line with General Services Administration schedules. Some local IT companies have alleged from time to time that they would have given the city a better deal than Meffert's choices, but he has always maintained he has saved the taxpayer millions.

He certainly never seemed to lack self-assurance, but all the while he was evidently afflicted with a rather pathetic need to impress. His story was that he had bought the boat out of bankruptcy for something of a song. He did so, he would gladly explain, with the money he made by selling the Poche Plantation at Convent five years after buying it.

In fact, real estate records say he got only little more than he paid for the plantation and had, according to his acquaintances, spent hundreds of thousands fixing it up.

The most recent Coast Guard records, moreover, show that the yacht was bought by four old friends of Meffert, who were partners in a company that had made as much as $2.7 million a year from city contracts while he was in charge. The managing partner, Mark St. Pierre, declined to discuss the yacht on the quite reasonable grounds that anything he said would "come up bad in the paper," while Meffert stuck to the implausible story that he really was the owner.

One of the partners, Mark Kurt, has now been appointed to Meffert's old job with the city. Kurt said he sold his share in the boat last year, so, unless he has another one, the days of the sunset cruise are presumably over.

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