Sunday, September 30, 2007

Well, I was joking

The cans have been replaced with 500 wrought-iron ones, according to Sanitation Director Veronica White. The new cans were purchased via the city's now-expired contract with Waste Management of Louisiana, which acquired them through a vendor, Guillot's Sanitary Supplies, White said.

The city did not go through a bid process, she said. The cans cost $670 apiece. White said she will buy 500 more if the City Council puts sufficient money in her budget.
Times Picayune on Saturday

But they cited a familiar complaint about life as a New Orleans prosecutor: The salary increases cannot make up for the frustration of working under constant pressure with almost no support staff to help with menial tasks.

Prosecutors say the amount of time they spend on necessary clerical chores eats up hours every day, a problem Jordan recently acknowledged when he asked the City Council for $135,000 to hire 15 more secretaries through the end of the year. Jordan made the request Sept. 12, but it remains unclear when or if help will arrive, as the City Council's Budget Committee probably will not even begin considering the request until the end of October.

Carter said the council likely will find some money to help the office get more clerical workers.
Times Picayune on Sunday

In the last post, I was joking about the mayor wanting to replace the old garbage cans to remove the temptation presented by the empty advertising space. Unfortunately, our city officials aren't. They would seriously consider spending more money to replace perfectly good garbage cans than it would cost to pay for an adequate support staff for the D.A.'s office for a year, just because the mayor doesn't like the old ones. It's hard to say which is funniest, the fact that the city council already approved one purchase of new garbage cans, the fact that the mayor's office has the audacity to make a second such request, or the fact that the council seems to take the sanitation department's request as seriously as the request from the D.A.'s office.

The front page of Monday's paper had articles about both the problems in the D.A.'s office and the city council election. I thought about a post suggesting a connection, guess I just posted it.

So if anybody knows Lee Zurik, please suggest that he ask a question about the garbage cans and/or the D.A.'s office Thursday night (h/t Adrastos). Or he could ask the candidate if they think that the council is operating according to Cynthia Hedge-Morrell's professed governing principle:
Hedge-Morrell said the key question in considering each request was, “Is this vital to move this city forward post-Katrina?”

The embarrassing question for Cynthia Williard-Lewis should be obvious.

There's more on the garbage cans at Library Chronicles, but the badinage between bloggers isn't as funny as the serious statements from city officials. No offense intended guys.

How big are the new cans?

New Orleans seems to be a city of willing victims, where conmen don't even need the basic intelligence to make their stories consistent.*

I never thought I'd tell Gordon Russell how to do his job, but there does seems to be an important detail missing from his report on the city's decision to replace its new bomb proof garbage cans with even newer wrought-iron ones. Since the stated reason for replacing the (old) new cans with the (new) new cans was that the (old) new cans were too small for the mayor's taste, the obvious question would be to ask the (new) new cans compare to the (old) new cans in size. I do know that the (old) new cans had a 39.9 gallon area. That seems somewhat small for outdoor garbage cans, but one of the first things that I noticed about the (new) new cans was their small size. Without any of the (old) new cans around to make a comparison, I can't be sure, but I think that the stated reason for purchasing the (new) new cans is inconsistent with the observable facts.

It certainly seems inconsistent with the mayor's claims that he stretches every dollar to make the recovery work. I find it hard to believe that even Nagin thinks that buying 1,000 new garbage cans at $670.00 each is the best possible use of city money. If I go into detail about the mayor spending $670,000 of city money because he doesn't like to stoop to throw away trash, this post will be covered with exclamation points and foul language, so I'll limit my comments. However, I do it find it hard to believe that the mayor is that tall or his arms are that short. I don't recall the city ever having garbage cans that were so short that the mayor would need to stoop to throw away trash. Maybe they were so short that I didn't see them; that would certainly explain the poor advertising revenue. Personally, I'm surprised that the mayor was able to resist the temptation to fill the empty advertising panels with his own visage. Is it possible that Nagin actually had the good sense to realize how poorly that would be received and decided to remove the temptation? I'd have to start drinking again to believe that, although I could imagine the mayor spending city money to compensate for his own lack of will power. At any rate, there's still the question of what happened to the old cans. There are still large stretches of major thoroughfares where garbage cans are nowhere to be found -- the city doesn't have a single can along the entire length of Jeff Davis Ave, to give just one example. Spending money to replace the (old) new cans, rather than to put out more cans seems strange.

I'd hate to suggest that Gordon Russell collaborate with the Chris Rose, but somebody needs to ask why the (old) new cans were "cleaned and serviced" before they were replaced, and how much the city paid for the cleaning and servicing. I don't want to be overly repetitive, but the only possible explanations involve mind-boggling fiscal irresponsibility, corruption or cynical dishonesty. The residents of the city do have the right to know which it was. Assuming it was the relatively innocent reason that the city couldn't afford to empty its garbage cans on a regular basis and overflowing garbage cans create a bigger litter problem than non-existent ones, the city shouldn't have gotten away with the "cleaned and serviced" crap. Had the city come out and said that it was removing the cans because it couldn't afford the maintenance, somebody other than Dr. John might have asked about Palm trees on Canal St. I doubt that James Gill would have come out of his stupor, but somebody other than a visiting preacher and a local musician might have pointed out the obvious. With an election looming, the mayor couldn't have that. The election's over, but the mayor will continue to wait until the last minute to furnish the council with the details of new spending proposals until he gets called on the bullshit. Gordon Russell is a good reporter, but he needs to asks about "cleaning and servicing" garbage cans before replacing them.

Of course, the worst bullshit in the article was Nagin's description of the old (new) garbage can deal as a "Charles Rice special." Had it been an isolated incident, that might be acceptable. But, there were at least three questionable deals involving Charles Rice while he was CAO and two of the three involved professional services contracts. I'm not sure, but I believe that the mayor is responsible for the "professional services' designation. At any rate, these weren't complicated deals involving technology or the entertainment business. If Mayor "it's not my fault" can get away with the "Charles Rice special" excuse, can "Ernest Collins specials" and "Greg Meffert specials" be far off?

At any rate, when Charles Rice left the Nagin Administration, the assumption seems to have been that Nagin was cleaning house. I have no idea why the local press corps accepted the most innocent of several possible explanations, since Nagin didn't seem to have been angry at Rice at the time. At any rate, Rice left city government shortly before Katrina. Shortly after Katrina, the city gave his new employer a high-priced contract for debris removal. That must have been a Veronica White special.

*Obviously, I'm still imitating Jeffrey Sadow.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Odds & Ends

If you saw the article about one of my favorite place for walking and bicycling, I'll repeat that the concrete paths can be very bumpy and the bumps and curves make it difficult to ride very fast, i.e. it's not the place for an aerobic workout on your bike. The article didn't mention that the nicest scenery is above Harrison Ave, I'd say between the arboretum and Filmore, or between the arboretum and Wisner, but above Filmore is also nice.*

I noticed this week that Bayou Bicycles has re-opened in the building behind the post office.

I saw Desert Bayou at Loyola last night. It's definitely worth seeing, but some people might be disappointed because it's not a finger-pointing political documentary. I'll try to write more about the film in another post this weekend.

A funny thing happened at an institution of higher learning yesterday. At some point in the early afternoon, my immediate boss told me that the big boss was telling people that he had heard that Nagin was ready to announce his resignation. I had strong doubts, but thought that there was the slight chance that he heard something through the pro bono work that he done for the city and decided to post it on my break. After my break, somebody else told me that the big boss' wife had called him and told him that Nagin was going to resign. Unfortunately, I was in the middle of a big project and my break was over. As a general rule, I only remove posts if they would being embarrassing to somebody else, so I probably wouldn't have removed it anyway. I hadn't yet seen the "New Orleans Levee," but once I saw the comments, I knew what had happened.

A recent This Modern World made me think of another Nagin/Bush parallel.
It's not exactly as if they've been hiding any of this...But everyone's always too distracted by an endless succession of short-term controversies and manufactured outrages to pay much attention...

The difference is, Nagin manufactures his own outrages by sticking his foot in his mouth. I don't believe it's a conscious tactic, but it's worked well for him so far. Nagin isn't the first politician whose supporters have used his stupid statements as proof that he's "not a politician," it just seems to happen with incredible frequency with Nagin. In Nagin's case, there's the added benefit that even his critics tend to think that he isn't slick enough to be a crook. First off, Nagin's no fool -- you don't make nearly $500,000 in private industry if you're an idiot. You don't need to be a genius to make money, but total idiots don't rise to the top. Anyway, "he's too dumb to be a crook" seems to be the mantra of suckers and chumps everywhere. You only need a very minimal level of intelligence to take advantage of people; some, not much, acting ability, a lack of scruples and an instinct for finding willing victims are far more important. New Orleans seems to be a city of willing victims, where conmen don't even need the basic intelligence to make their stories consistent. Or, maybe Nagin really is stupid enough to think that more than doubling the cost of garbage collection would somehow be the "cornerstone of the city's recovery." I'm sure he's just too stupid to come up with better uses for the money, and the garbage contracts had nothing to do with campaign contributions.. That said, I'm still appalled and would like to see a little outrage.

I hate to end with five links to myself in a row, but it's too nice a day outside to take the time to find other links. I apologize for the Jeffrey Sadow imitation.

*Rereading the post two weeks later, it occurs to me that there is a nice area between the interstate and Harrison. Now, I've included just about everything except the marsh between Christian Brothers and the interstate,


Friday, September 28, 2007


There's a rumor going around about Nagin resigning, but I can't find any confirmation. Personally, I'm having trouble believing it, but the source is a reliable person.

Second thoughts, I think it's almost certainly false and I'm embarrassed to have posted it.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


I normally don't get indignant about insensitive, even offensive, political speech. Nine times out of ten the indignation strikes me as phony coming from the right, and, as long-time Countdown fan, I'm starting to find the worst fishing trips in the world almost embarrassing. I get indignant over unchallenged lies and deceit; when the mayor said that the city budget had decreased drastically, when it was revenue that decreased drastically, and the Picayune called him a genius for borrowing money, I even got pissed off. But I don't get indignant over insensitivity.*

However, I heard the mayor say something on TV last night that shocked me. I can't find a video clip, so I'll quote from the Picayune:
Echoing Letten's comments, Nagin described the city's violent crime as concentrated and unlikely to affect visitors who frequent tourist destinations.

"You don't have anything to worry about," Nagin said. "I'm looking at this audience and you all don't look like young African-American males who are involved in drug activity."

Nagin's comments, to a group of cruise lines executives, sounded much more offensive when I heard than they seem as I read them. I didn't hear Letten's comments, so I can't comment on how they sounded. However,:
Most of the murders are committed by young men from "failed families, abject poverty." They can be related to drugs or retaliation for other murders or in response to slights or perceived slights, he said.

Letten isn't the mayor, and his words aren't quite as insensitive. Am I wrong to find the mayor's statements appalling?

BTW, Letten went on to acknowledge a crime problem, even if he underplayed it. The mayor went on to imply that Bush was promise-keeper (sorta):
In response to a question about the safety of the city's levees, Nagin told the group that the systems that protect the French Quarter and the downtown areas are "in the best shape we've ever had in the history of the city." Weaknesses in the system remain on the West Bank of the city and in eastern New Orleans, Nagin said.

*I did object to "Chocolate City," but only because Nagin was already mayor and I thought that it was premeditated. At the time, I said it was minor if you thought it wasn't premeditated as I really didn't care if he was insensitive to white people. If it was premeditated, it meant that he didn't care about dividing and embarrassing the city, if it furthered his re-election chances. Since he was already mayor, he should have been putting the city first. And, that is what I said in real time.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Oakland of websites


The Bobby Jindal commercial says to go to to read about Jindal's plan to give us a "wise and honorable" state government. Well, as Gertrude Stein might say, "the trouble with 'Second Chance for Louisiana' is that when you go there, there isn't any there there.

If you go the issues page, there isn't any insurance there. In a state where Democrats, Independents and even Republicans say that there's an insurance crisis, the leading candidate for governor doesn't seem to consider it an issue. Since one of his commercials criticizes Boasso for voting to raise the legally required minimum liability insurance for Louisiana drivers, I halfway expected something about that. Actually, that's the cheap trick of running an attack ad that includes a vaguely worded criticism of a vote that your opponent cast, that you would have almost certainly cast yourself. Four years ago, he ran for governornor saying that he wasn't a politician, now he uses the oldest politician's trick in the book.

Jindal first came to prominence running the state healthcare system, but there's no healthcare there. Nothing about re-opening Charity Hospital (or not). Nothing about the V.A. Hospital. No commitment to keep LSU Medical School in New Orleans (or not). That's one argument for anybody who cares the economy of the Greater New Olreans area to vote for anybody but Jindal. I don't care if you're the caller that I heard on Between the Lines, wondering what Boasso had done for black people...ever, or my Republican sister in Mandeville, at the very least, you shouldn't vote for Jindal if you think a vibrant medical corridor is vital to the local economy. At least, you shouldn't until he actually states his position -- it's not on his website, where you can read about his wise ideas.

But, I'm being unfair, there are a few things there. Jindal wants stricter discipline in our school, but who doesn't? More importantly, what can the governor do about it?

There's also Illegal Immigration there, get a load of this (from the website):
As Bobby Jindal recognizes, our first priority needs to be securing our border.

Glad to hear it; we all know that the federal government would abandon its plans to build a fence between between Texas and Mexico if the governor of Louisiana objected. He lists five issues on his website and one that has absolutely nothing to do with governing a non-border state is one of them.

Finally, there is something there there on the subject of Reform:
Louisiana needs to have zero tolerance for public corruption so that it's no longer the punch line of national jokes. Corruption won't be a part of the new Louisiana.

Bobby Jindal has a 31-point plan to clean up politics in Louisiana. It includes several key points. First, no legislator can also be a lobbyist. Second, legislators must provide full disclosure of their assets, income, and debts. He also proposes that anyone working for the government shouldn't do business with the government at the same time, and that lobbyists should be subject to more detailed disclosures. Lastly, he believes that anyone caught breaking the law should be subject to criminal proceedings.

That's it, that's the whole detailed plan that we can read all about on his website. I agree with the full disclosure and will support him on it, if he's elected. The rest sounds more than a little vague. You've really got to love the part about having a 31-point plan. The commercial says to go to the website to read his plan for a "wise and honorable" state government and, when you go the website, it says, "Jindal has a 31-point plan."

For somebody who's supposed to be just about the brightest sumbitch in the whole entire gad dang state, Jindal doesn't seem to be very clear on the concept. If you tell people that can read your detailed paln on your website, they expect to be able to read the plan, not that you have a plan. Of course, Jindal's just using an increasingly common political ploy -- be as vague as possible, while saying that details are available on your website. It generally works, because most people, including most journalists, don't bother going to the website. Four years ago, he wasn't a politician, now he's using the newest, oldest politician's trick in the book.

On the subject of Jindal, I agree with just about everything that Stephanie Grace, Jeffrey and Adrastos have to say. Sorry, Adrastos, I have to disagree with one thing:
Since I'm not a goo-goo, the only thing I won't criticize the Jindal campaign over is the way they've limited the number of debates the candidate participates in. That's a classic strategy of frontrunners.

Yeah, that's the classic strategy, but you've got to try to punish them for it -- nothing hypocritical about that. And I still think that the now (more-or-less) extinct New Orleans expression, jenny woman should be resurrected for Jindal.

A commenter at YRHT points out that the website isn't the Jindal campaign website, but the work of the Republican Governors' Association. In other words, we have outside agitators running an expensive advertising campaign saying that Jindal is the only honest politician in the state. The basic point still holds. Criticisms and attacks are more effective if the mud-slinger can claim to offer an alternative, the commercial claims that real alternatives are offered on the website and none are.

Jindal's site doesn't offer much more detail. There does seem to be a 31 point plan for reforming government and most of the proposals seem to be good in principle. I haven't had a chance to read it carefully, but some of the proposals seem like platitudes, while the wording of the proposed legislation would be critical for other parts of the plan -- without being a lawyer, I suspect that writing legislation that had any teeth, but was also able to survive legal challenges, would be difficult.

The health care section is a joke. There's nothing about public hospitals or LSU Medical School, but there are links to "Dr. Ralph's" commercial and a tear-jerker article about a death in Jindal's family.

At least Jindal's website doesn't seem to have anything about immigration. One can't help but speculate why the Republican governors felt the need to establish Jindal's bona fides on immigration. Louisiana isn't a border state, but the emphasis is on securing the borders. In the rebuilding of the New Orleans area, there have been there has been widespread use of illegal immigrant labor, but the Republican governors don't talk about penalties for employers who break wage/hour or OSHA laws.

Cross-posted at The Katrinacrat Blog.

Bonus non-political quote, from the internet's best free fantasy football site:
Bob Costas using the words homeboy or calling 30 Rockefeller Center, 30 Rock after bragging about contributing large sums of money to his alma mater is just a small reason this guy is out of touch with the fan base watching his show. He hates fantasy football folks. While I respect anyone who doesn’t like or get fantasy football his on-air disdain for the hobby is foolish. He was once such a respected sports host, but he’s riding the wave of his career and has been reduced to a puppet hawking corporate products every two minutes. I see why David Letterman and Howard Stern hated working for NBC, and Don Imus was right at home. Don’t you get the feeling Bob Costas will be our father’s version of Lorne Green, Andy Rooney, and Alex Trebek selling predatory insurance policies on television commercials 15 years from now? If we all stop watching, maybe we can hasten this career opportunity.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Moldy City Politics

I've often wondered if working for C. Ray was the trigger that set off Krazy Kim's psychosis. If she weren't stark raving bonkers, the city council race might have at least one honest reformer:
In hiring Kimberly Williamson Butler as his first chief administrative officer, Nagin approvingly cited an episode in which Butler, as director of the Downtown Development District, refused to cave into political pressure and award a street-cleaning contract to AME.

Metro Disposal, meanwhile, was written up and briefly put on probation by former Sanitation Director Lynn Wiltz, who said in memos that the company had failed to live up to parts of its contract. Wiltz was fired a few months later, and Rice has said he is satisfied with Metro Disposal's performance.

Ditto for AME, he said.

"My experience with AME has been positive," he said. "They've done a pretty good job for us maintaining Gallier Hall and several other buildings."

The article linked above does raise a serious question: if Jimmie Woods owned an office-temp service, would the D.A.'s office have the support staff problems described by former prosecutor Harry Tervalon in today's Picayune:
Our assistant district attorneys are competent and dedicated, but they are seldom "over target" due to an atrocious lack of support and personnel and a mountain of paperwork. Today, assistant district attorneys leave quickly because they are frustrated by the environment.

Any large office must have adequate support staff. There is no secretarial pool in the district attorney's office. The district attorney asked a City Council committee Wednesday for money to hire clerical staff, but in the meantime prosecutors must do all the typing and copying.

Of course, the amount that city spends on the D.A.'s office staff might triple, but if that's what it takes to avoid the discovery problems described by former prosecutor Cate Bartholomew...

Considering the number of allies and associates that Morial and Nagin have in common, it's only fair to ask whether the animosity between the two is more likely the animosity between a corrupt politician and a reformer, or the animosity between two corrupt politicians vying for control of a corrupt city government. With that in mind, I really have to disagree with Stephanie Grace:
The probe into Morial-era contracts, by any objective measure, has been a huge success. Among the high-profile figures who've pleaded guilty are Morial uncle and ex-Regional Transit Authority consultant Glenn Haydel, former property management director Kerry DeCay and operative Stan "Pampy" Barre, who in turn helped the feds nab ex-Councilman Oliver Thomas, a member of the rival BOLD political organization.

Three of the four were out of the loop at the time of their guilty pleas; objectively, hugely successful probes nab crooks that are still in a position to steal. I'm not quite ready to suggest a Syriana scenario in which prosecutors need big names, but don't want to upset the apple cart, but there better be a good explanation for the failure to indict Barre's partners.

I hate to criticize Clancy DuBos for something that's intended as a hard-hitting editorial, but he's back to criticizing Nagin for not understanding politics. That criticism didn't didn't hurt Nagin very much in the mayoral election, it's not likely to be any more effective in the campaign to control the city's rebuilding. Come on, Clancy, New Orleans needs an alternative. Before Katrina, you flirted with questioning the mayor's integrity, go back to acting like an alternative. It's time to ask whether the problem isn't so much that the mayor doesn't understand politics, as that he does understand graft.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Factual Statement? Depends on the definition of crossover.

Leaky roof leads to fallen sheet rock leads to ... ultimately, less computer time. More links and detail may be provided later.
The two worlds have collided at times, with Collins conducting private deals with firms that also have had business relationships with the city. Such crossover, one former Nagin administrator said, has always been forbidden by the mayor.

Dambala is the man (or zombie) to see for more dirt on Ernest Collins than the Picayune was prepared to provide Monday, but I wanted to comment on the statement that I cited by an unnamed former Nagin administrator.

If, by such crossover, the unnamed former administrator meant that Nagin has always forbidden city officials to own any interest in firms that have business relationships with the city, he may be correct. But any such rule has always been narrow in spirit.

Soon after Nagin took office, his brother-in-law,Cedric Smith, demanded a piece of Glen Haydel's firm that managed the RTA. Of course, Cedric Smith wasn't a city official and Nagin was angered and embarrassed by Smith's action. He was so angry that his re-election campaign paid Smith a thirty thousand dollar consulting fee and Nagin invited Smith to be a featured speaker at his second inauguration.

Technically speaking, I'm aware of no such crossover involving Charles Rice. For example, Charles Rice wasn't a partner in the firm that was awarded a contract for bombproof garbage cans, his brother was. There was the debris removal contract that went to a firm that hired Charles Rice, but Rice left the city to work for OMNI Pinnacle. So, I guess there was no such crossover.

With time, I could come up with more examples of (not quite) such crossover, but I'll conclude with the special example of Billboard Ben Edwards. As an appointed member of the Sewerage & Water Board, he should be independent of the mayor until his term expires. But he's not independent of the mayor because his term has expired:
Meanwhile, Edwards, executive director of the 9th Ward's Third Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, is staying on with the understanding he could be removed at any time, Nagin said. That should keep the sometimes controversial member, who has a reputation for meddling in the board's day-to-day operations, in line with the administration for now.

Edwards isn't listed as an owner of MCCI, his running partner, O.C. Coleman, is. However "B. Edwards" appeared on many of the invoices that MCCI submitted for payment on work done for the city. I don't know if FEMA is still refusing to reimburse the cash-strapped S&WB for work done by MCCI.

If Collins proves to be a political liability, but not a legal problem, for the mayor, expect to hear all about the entertainment industry sharpie who took advantage of the mayor and put the first stain in his spotless record. Don't believe it.

Friday, September 14, 2007

I won't insult Jason Berry

Over one passage in this week's Gambit:
Perhaps the core problem is the mayor's idiosyncratic idea of himself as a reform politician above the city's legendary corruption -- therefore, a man who stands alone against the sun. Given the extravagant performance of justice by U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and the local division of the FBI, it seems safe at this juncture to say that Mayor Ray Nagin has clean hands.

But, that is just incredibly specious reasoning. The mayor thinks, or pretends to think, that he's the only honest politician in town. He also claims to have brought transparency to city government, in both cases, a famous Shakespeare quote comes to mind.

At any rate, the lack of indictments against Nagin administration officials indicates nothing, nothing whatsoever. Marc Morial was first elected mayor in 1994, we know that members of his administration were subject to FBI wiretaps by 2001, but indictments of Morial administration officials didn't begin until 2006 (there may have been a couple of minor indictments earlier), over four years after Morial's second term expired -- one certainly can't accuse Letten and his boys of extravagant haste. So what if no Nagin officials have been indicted? How many Morial administration officials had been indicted at this point in his second term? The same question could be asked of the Barthelemy administration, or the Dutch Morial administration.

Even if there is no reason to think that the current Justice Department would be reluctant to investigate the Nagin Administration, such an investigation might be years away from bearing fruit. However, I can think of many reasons to think this Justice Department might be reluctant to go after Nagin. There's the rumored immunity and there's the rumored political deal, but there's also the fact that any investigation into the Nagin administration would ultimately become an investigation into Katrina reconstruction spending. Does anybody, of any political stripe, believe that the Bush White House would want that? A year ago, a Democratic mayor (that Republicans helped elect) would have been the perfect fall guy for Katrina fraud and corruption and the failed recovery. With the Democrats in charge of both houses of congress, there's no way that Congress would allow any investigation of misspent recovery funds to begin and end with a Democratic mayor. You don't need to be a partisan Bush or Nagin hater to suspect that Nagin has nothing to fear from this justice department.

I've often wondered if Nagin's reputation for personal integrity has declined as much among the general public as it it has in the blogosphere. If most people share Berry's opinion, the answer is no. I can understand not being persuaded by unproven allegations, but I would expect the large number of the allegations to take some toll. It would certainly affect the reputation of a politician who didn't get special treatment from the media. There's not just the allegations of wrongdoing, there's the excessive secrecy from an administration with the largest budget in city history. Finally, there's an indisputable public record that's every bit as suspicious as that of any of his predecessors. Before Berry puts his reputation behind Nagin's reputation, he really should think about it; he could start by thinking about the sanitation department.

I'll say it one more time, the reason why I get so impatient with "preaching to the choir" (or poor play calling) is that there's so so much obvious missionary work to be done. No matter who we elect to the city council, I don't expect Nagin's authority to be effectively challenged while his reputation for integrity is intact.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Code Words

I don't know if Kenya Smith's statement was subtle enough to qualify as code:
“This hardworking, dedicated employee was absolutely disrespected,” said Kenya Smith with the Department of Intergovernmental Relations. “She is not to be treated like a child. She is not to be treated like a piece of property.”

I'm afraid that it's going to be a long two years if a candidate who will stand up to Nagin is elected to fill Thomas' city council seat, because I don't believe that any of the major black candidates fill that bill. Cynthia Willard-Lewis is more likely to challenge the mayor than either of the African-Americans who are likely to run as reformers. I suspect that we'll see an effort to present CPA Tommie Vassel as a businessman reformer, I don't know anything about Vassel's time on the school board, but it's pretty clear that Nagin appointed his (sorta) former business partner to the S&WB as a friendly vote for his failed privatization effort. There's also Diane Bajoie, I suppose that it's possible that a long-time state legislator and SOUL member will be an agent of change; I wouldn't worry about her history of receiving campaign contributions from gambling interests at all.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Old News

Mominem had an interesting post last year:
Often in the early days people were hired not for their demonstrated ability but for their local connections.
I've often wondered what Ray did for Cox before he came here to fix their problems. I've often suspected Cox viewed their problem as a regulatory/governmental problem and sent a "government relations expert" to solve it.

I came across a couple of interesting quotes from the 2002 mayoral election. Couldn't find working links, so I'll include the headline, date and reporters' name in both cases.

Nagin ran on his business background:
March 1, 2002 Friday

Tired candidates limp toward Saturday's finish;
Lightening up on the mud, they make one last pitch for undecideds

BYLINE: By Gordon Russell,; Frank Donze; and Stephanie Grace; Staff writers

Nagin cast himself as a corporate turnaround artist who had energized a once-moribund cable-television franchise, while Pennington touted his role in cleaning up a corruption-ridden police force and cutting the city murder rate in half.

Marc Morial seemed to think that he had something to do with the turnaround of the "moribund franchise":
February 4, 2002 Monday

Runoff battle opens cordially;
N.O. mayoral candidates promise clean campaigns

BYLINE: By Frank Donze; and Gordon Russell; Staff writers

"I don't lean toward either of them, to be quite honest," Morial said. "I have worked closely with them. I worked with Ray Nagin to bring the Brass here. I worked with Ray Nagin on a new franchise agreement for Cox Cable in 1995. Certainly, I recruited Richard Pennington to come here."

I may post the second article at The Nagin Files, I did post an interesting article about the hockey franchise.

Finally, a quote from YRHT:
Here's a piece of information for our Republican friends: believe it or not, the Morial machine is shattered beyond repair. I know how well those nightmares about blacks on buses (being paid to go from poll to poll) animates you, but I'm sorry to say it just doesn't hold anymore. If Morial's machine were even a shadow of its former self, LIFE would have delivered more votes for Landrieu.

Yeah, the machine is shattered; and Nagin is the leader of one the factions that it broke into. Maybe David White or Roy Rodney is the actual head; that's irrelevant. The important facts are obvious to anybody who cares to pay attention.

Spit (it out) Take

Following Nagin's victory, Boulet, a former special counsel with the Adams and Reese law firm, became an unpaid adviser to the mayor. For a time, she worked on financial matters and commercial development, but recently she has said she has grown disillusioned with Nagin's performance and has largely dropped from public view.
Times Picayune

In two years, Cerasoli wants to make government in New Orleans transparent and allow everyone to see how the funds are spent and who is involved in city contracts. Right now, there is an unfortunate and deliberate layer of mystery surrounding the operation of City Hall. “Corruption is neither need-based or greed based. It is simply opportunity based. If there’s an opportunity for corruption to exist, it’s going to exist.”

Currently the City of New Orleans provides plenty of opportunity for corruption.
Such opportunities need to cease and a functioning Inspector General will help make that dream a reality. However, Cerasoli needs to be funded, not defanged before he even gets a chance to succeed.
Jeff Crouere

I came close to doing spit takes when I read the Boulet quote and when I heard Crouere read his piece on Ringside Politics, but, in both cases, I immediatley thought that both helped elect Nagin, both need to say exactly what they mean. I'm not saying that Crouere intnetionally helped Nagin, but his commentary did help make Nagin's re-election more acceptable to conservatives.

Oyster and Ashley have already gone over Boulet's candidacy, and I've said most of what I have to say in the comments, but I will emphasize that Boulet needs to explain exactly whatit is about Nagin that she's grown disillusioned with.

One other thing about the city council election, it's not an ordinary city council election -- it's an election to fill slightly more than half of a normal term. Considering the candidates, that's probably a good thing. Jackie Clarkson is Jackie Clarkson. Cynthia Willard-Lewis is Cynthia Willard-Lewis. For some reason, people seem to thing that a SOUL member will be a candidate for change, and I'm sure that the former New Orleans Brass investor that Nagin and Rice installed on the Sewerage and Patronage Board will be presented that way. What the election should be is a referendum on the recovery, and Boulet could help make it that. I might even consider voting for her, despite the things I've written about her.

I was glad to hear Crouere's commentary, but it should have gone further; "deliberate layers of secrecy" need to be created by somebody. Crouere should have gone furher and said, "Nagin has created a deliberate layer of secrecy..." Remember, Nagin approved (and apparently lobbied for) the changes that led to a weakened inspector general's office.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Infuriating Article

No time to comment, but from the September Commentary:
New Orleans—An Autopsy
Ben C. Toledano

Abstract –

Reports of the death of New Orleans as a major American city have not been greatly exaggerated; they have only been greatly delayed. Although the funeral was not conducted until Katrina struck, the death took place several decades ago.

The complete article is available in an unlikely place. I knew the author's name from local politics but couldn't quite place it, he ran as the Republican candidate against Landrieu back when the general election was meaningless -- the winner of the Democratic run-off was assured of victory. I've only had a chance to glance at the article, but, even though it seems to be a right wing hate piece, the Bobo Report, which the article mentions, is worth remembering. I didn't notice any mention of federal responsibility for failed levees.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

John Kennedy loses himself

I didn't finish the thought in a comment at YRHT, but John Kennedy's comments on the Blanco budget made me think that he was an anti-Stelly conservative who wanted to repeal Stelly by stealth. If he thinks that permanent spending increases are irresponsible because the surplus won't last, he must know that lost tax revenue will need to be replaced when the surplus disappears. He also knows that a future budget shortfall caused by a reduction in income tax rates is more likely to be made up by a "temporary" "emergency" sales tax than a restoration of income tax rates. If he thinks the Stelly Plan* should be repealed, he should come out and say so.

Still, that alone doesn't make him a cowardly weasel, but his new commercial is funny, just not in the way that he intends. Kennedy's quite the profile in courage standing up against spending money on lawn mower races, but you may have noticed that the source listed at the bottom of the screen is The Washington Times. Apparently, the illustrious journal published an article about the Morehouse Equine Center that contained the following:
Supporters of the $4million Morehouse Parish Equine Center say it will give a much-needed boost to the economy.

Jimmy Christmas, center chairman, says it will be used for horse, cow, dog, goat and art shows; rodeos; auctions; crawfish festivals; lawn-mower races; religious functions; an animal shelter; and a community center.

I have no idea whether Mr. Christmas was joking about the lawn-mower races, or if lawn-mower racing really is a popular pasttime in Morehouse Parish. Though the project may well be wasteful pork barrel spending (it sounds like it to me), it's obvious that nobody proposed a taxpayer-funded lawn-mower racing complex. If Kennedy thinks that the Morehouse Equine Center is a waste of taxpayer dollars, he should take a stand against that, not a stand against mythical, taxpayer-funded lawn-mower racing. Of course, that would risk alienating the 30,000 residents of Morehouse Parish. I guess that would be too many voters to take a stand against. Kennedy should reread Kierkegaard.

*For anybody unfamiliar with the Stelly plan, PAR explains it -- PAR is not a liberal group. It considers itself non-partisan, opinions of PAR vary.

cross-posted at The Katrinacrat Blog

How many ways can you say, "Duh?"

Nagin was serious about running for governor. I have no idea whether he still is, but he was serious a few months ago. I thought it was plausible, but I didn't think it was likely that he would run. While looking for information for a follow-up to something that I wrote about the mayor constantly bulldozing the city council, I realized that there's been no follow-up to another article about the mayor that appeared in May. Since that was about the time that the speculation about Nagin's fundraising began to heat up, I can't believe that nobody made the connection*:
N.O. plans to hire PR firm
Marketing pro will focus on evacuees

Mayor Ray Nagin's administration is poised to spend $100,000 to hire a marketing firm to help the city disseminate information about the status of the recovery to displaced New Orleanians as well as those who are back home.

Plans call for the marketing consultant to employ every method to reach displaced residents, including the Internet, radio, television, newspapers and billboards.


If the costs allow, the Nagin administration is hoping to reach up to five evacuee hubs: Houston; Dallas; Atlanta; Jackson, Miss.; and Mobile, Ala.

The information the city is looking to distribute runs the gamut from the number of potholes, traffic signals and street lights that have been repaired to how many flooded-out structures have been torn down or tagged for demolition to the status of air service at Louis Armstrong International Airport.

No information about absentee voting? I thought that maybe the contract had been awarded while I was on vacation and I had missed it, but nothing about it turns up on either a Google or Lexisnexis search. If Nagin does decide to run, you can bet that the contract will be announced in short order and there will be more information about absentee voting than potholes.

Even if the mayor doesn't run for governor, it might be worth $100,000 of city money for the mayor to get out his message in favor of the right city council candidate. With Head and Fielkow (I won't use the nickname this time) starting to behave like Midura, we're only one vote away from an obstructionist city council that won't give the mayor everything he needs to lead the city to a full recovery -- like a weakened IG's office:
Even so, the ordinance was extensively rewritten Thursday with approval of a six-page amendment incorporating dozens of last-minute changes sought by Mayor Ray Nagin's administration.

Let's get real, mayor "stretch every dollar" has a $600,000 per year PR staff, but that's for media relations, so he needs another $100,000 to reach evacuees. Mayor "transparency' has six spokespersons and all six refuse to answer questions. With that in mind, optional reading that may be of interest.

*If anybody did make the connection, I apologize for missing it or forgetting it. Let me know by comment or email.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

The Lying Monkey

...the administrations of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and Mayor Ray Nagin have been pure as the driven snow by historical standards.

Since Katrina made landfall, if not since the 2002 election of our reform-minded mayor, James Gill has been the wisest monkey in the local press corps. Now, he's made the leap from ignoring the obvious to lying about it.

That might seem like an overreaction to one sentence in a column that wasn't even about Nagin, but Gill didn't write "scandal-free," he wrote "pure as the driven snow." Anyway, what historical standards is he talking about? The Landrieu administration? Barthelemy? Let's make it easy and compare Ray Nagin and Marc Morial.

At this point in Morial's second term, there were charges of serious, possibly criminal, wrongdoing, as well as blatant cronyism and sweetheart political deals involving padded contracts for politically connected firms with ties to big donors like Jimmie Woods and Benjamin Edwards. In Nagin's second term, there are charges of serious, possibly criminal, wrongdoing, as well as blatant cronyism and sweetheart political deals involving padded contracts for politically connected firms with ties to big donors like Jimmie Woods and Benjamin Edwards.

I don't believe that any Morial officials were indicted while he was in office, if so, they were very low-level. The main difference was the attitude of the local media, and nobody provides a better example than James Gill. Gill did write two columns about Yachtgate, but he certainly would have written something much stronger than "Some Like it* Tepid" (column can be found at the end of this post) had Meffert worked for anyone other than Nagin. Does anybody truly believe that Gill would have been so quick to conclude that a scandal involving any other administration was all a matter of ego and jealousy? Gill also criticized the high cost of the new garbage collection contracts; however, he didn't mention the political donations, to Nagin or CHANGE Inc.**, of the companies involved. That's odd, because he did think that campaign contributions were significant when he wrote about judges on a plane.

I could go on with more detail and more links but the important question should already be obvious: why does James Gill have such tender feelings for the Nagin Administration?

Another Question:

If the following:
But DRC's officials are raising questions about Omni's selection.

"I'm shocked to learn that we were the low bidder and were not awarded this contract," Bob Isakson, head of DRC, said recently when told about the city's choice. "I'm certain our qualifications were more than sufficient."

It's unclear when Charles Rice began working for Omni. He and Omni's owner, Ronald Reine, both said their relationship sprang up after the firm received a city contract as Katrina approached New Orleans. When asked for a copy of Charles Rice's contract, however, Reine said through a spokeswoman that he could not locate it.

had been written about the former CAO of the Marc Morial administration, or the Aaron Broussard administration, or the Kathleen Adminstration, or the CAO of any administration other than that of C. Ray Nagin, does any long-time Picayune reader believe that James gill would have failed to write a column about it?

To be fair, I did read somewhere that the owner of Omni Pinnacle claimed to have not been paid by the city or the ACoE, or somehow got stiiffed on the deal, and OMNI pinnacle actually donated money to the Landrieu campaign, after donating money to Nagin's re-election fund during his first term. However, Omni Pinnacle is once again giving money to the mayor. At any rate, the story about debris removal contracts came out months before the election.

*In this case, "it" would be political commentary.


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