Ray Nagin Is NOT America's Mayor
By Michael J. Gaynor
NAGIN: I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. We ain't talking about -- you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here.
I'm like, "You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans."
That's -- they're thinking small, man. And this is a major, major, major deal. And I can't emphasize it enough, man. This is crazy.
I've got 15,000 to 20,000 people over at the convention center. It's bursting at the seams. The poor people in Plaquemines Parish. ... We don't have anything, and we're sharing with our brothers in Plaquemines Parish.
It's awful down here, man.
The story on this idiot....
Rudy Giuliani became America's Mayor as a result of the calm and positive way he responded to the September 11 terrorist attack.
Ray Nagin, the Mayor of New Orleans, will not be known as America's Mayor.
He will be remembered as the man who waited too long to order and implement a mandatory evaluation. And then blamed others, including the federal government, even though President Bush had urged him to order mandatory evacuation and he had dawdled.
Mayor Nagin is a black mayor of an overwhelmingly black city.
And a political opportunist.
He switched from Republican to Democrat in 2002 and then successfully ran for Mayor of New Orleans on an anti-corruption platform.
The following year, he endorsed the Republicans' unsuccessful gubernatorial candidate, Bobby Jindal, over the current Democrat governor, Kathleen Blanco.
And in 2004 he supported John Kerry over George Bush, to whom he previously had donated.
Those blaming racism and the federal government and absolving local and state government for the Hurricane Katrina disaster should take a minute to read the following pro-Nagin article on Mayor Nagin from Volume 42 of Contemporary Black Biography, published in 2004, before Hurricane Katrina:
"Politics in New Orleans have long been as murky as the bayou waters that circle the Southern city. Backroom deals, bribery, and corruption have caused many political commentators to change the city's nickname from the Big Easy to the Big Sleazy. Whether the accusations were true or not, the rumors were enough to stifle the city and by 2002 New Orleans was sinking under massive debt and rampant crime. Businesses were reluctant to build in the city and young people were making mass exoduses in search of better places to work and raise families. Into this grim picture entered Ray Nagin, a New Orleans cable executive and visionary. With no political experience and little campaign money, Nagin came out of nowhere to win the 2002 mayoral election on a platform of anti-corruption and economic development. Leaving behind a well-paid executive position to take on the challenges of revitalizing the city that care truly had forgotten, Nagin said during his inaugural speech, 'The winds of change are blowing, and they are fanning the flames of a renaissance in our great city,' according to Jet. New Orleanians hoped he was right.
"The New Orleans Nagin inherited was indeed in bad shape. Analysts predicted a possible $50 million shortfall in the budget. Businesses were closing up or moving out of the city. Murder and violent crime were at vicious highs with at least one homicide occurring every night. Above all of it was the hulking ghost of corruption--New Orleans's reputation for bribery and nepotism. 'Corruption had gone on in the open for so long that there was really a feeling of hopelessness,' the president of New Orleans crime commission told the Los Angeles Times. 'There was a sense that it was so embedded in the culture of the community, there was no way to change it.' Nagin made fighting corruption one of his priorities. 'Before we can grow the economy, we need to make sure that everybody understands what the rules of engagement are,' Nagin told the Tulanian. 'You need to have a level playing field where people can compete. Then you can create an environment for business growth and job creation.'
"Nagin began his term in office by peopling his staff with business leaders, not political insiders. 'I surrounded myself with people who think outside the normal box of government, with a few governmental people sprinkled in to kind of make sure we have the experience levels we need. That's basically how we've approached it--as new thinkers, as change agents, as a group trying to make the city better,' he told the Tulanian. With his administration set, Nagin quickly turned to corruption. On a steamy July morning in 2002 police fanned out across the city and arrested dozens of people straight from their beds. Arrestees included low-level city bureaucrats, brake-tag inspectors, and illegally licensed cab drivers. The sweep also resulted in the arrests of the city's utilities director and head of the taxicab bureau. Though some dismissed the sting operation as an attack on petty officials--one Louisiana political commentator told the Los Angeles Times, 'There was a sense that, God, all we're doing is catching little fish'--most New Orleanians welcomed the raid and showered Nagin with gratitude.
"Nagin also made other, less dramatic moves soon after taking office. He put tax information and permits and other application processes on-line. He also led the repeal of a 2% entertainment tax that was hurting local and visiting performers. His first operating budget worth $557.2 million won praise from the city council and included a much-needed pay increase for rookie cops. Nagin also brought his business acumen to the city's operations and renegotiated several banking, audit, and collection contracts that were slated to save the city millions of dollars per year.
"Despite his many successes, Nagin still faced an uphill battle by the first anniversary of his election. The very environment he created, threatened to hurt his popularity. Gambit Weekly noted, 'voters are more optimistic than ever about the future of New Orleans, but that optimism has produced expectations that may outstrip anyone's ability to deliver.' In the same article Nagin acknowledged, 'The burden is huge. I will not discount that at all. There are lots of expectations in this city.... We have unleashed this tremendous optimism in this city that people have been thirsting for a long time. I don't know what to do about that other than to stay consistent and to stay focused on the key issues.' Only time will tell if Nagin is able to do that.
Time has told us that Nagin failed.
Let's review the facts.
On Friday, August 26, 2005, the National Hurricane Center first predicted that Hurricane Katrina would become a Category 4 storm, and therefore beyond the design limits of the levees protecting mostly below sea level New Orleans.
And Governor Blanco declared a state of emergency.
The next day, Saturday, August 27, 2005, President Bush declared an emergency in Louisiana and ordered federal aid to "supplement state and local responses in the parishes located in the path of Hurricane Katrina beginning on August 26, 2005, and continuing."
Hurricane Katrina was on course to strike New Orleans and President Bush was anticipating a natural disaster.
But Mayor Nagin did not issue even a voluntary evacuation until late on August 27, 2005. Hereportedly was reluctant to order a mandatory evacuation because he was concerned about possible lawsuits against the City of New Orleans for closing hotels and other businesses.
On Sunday, August 28, 2005, Hurricane Katrina actually became a category 4 hurricane. And Nagin finally heeded President Bush's appeal and ordered mandatory evacuation and opened the Superdome to those who did not leave.
National Guard forces under Governor Blanco were posted at the Superdome, but even combined State and City efforts were woefully inadequate, as evidenced by rapes and murders at the Superdome.
Governor Blanco wrote to President Bush, requesting he declare "an expedited major disaster for the State of Louisiana" and provide federal assistance.
Hurricane Katrina's actual landfall point on August 29, 2005 was 15 miles east of the anticipated one, sparing New Orleans a direct hit and minimizing wind damage there while maximizing it elsewhere.
And the initial report was that New Orleans had dodged a bullet.
But the next day levees broke and most of the City was flooded and thousands who had not evacuated were stranded.
On September 1, 2005, Nagin was flailing wildly, blaming everyone else:
"You know what really upsets me? We told the governor, Homeland Security, FEMA...the importance of the 17th Street Canal (breach) issue....And they allowed that pumping station to go under water. And what happened when that pumping station went down, the water started flowing again in the city, and it started getting to levels that probably killed more people...I flew over that thing yesterday, and it's in the same shape that it was after the storm hit. There is nothing happening. And they're feeding the public a line of bull and they're spinning, and people are dying down here."
We know who's spinning and scapegoating, Mayor Nagin.
You and your team failed utterly to evacuate, despite ample opportunity.
Mayor Nagin, there WAS a young man in New Orleans with the gumption to act. A student apparently without a license, he nevertheless commandeered a school bus and drove about eighty people from New Orleans to Houston, a very hospitable place.
Why didn't YOU order the rest of the school buses and the municipal buses to be used to evacuate?
Instead, you had people collecting releases from those who didn't want to leave. To protect against lawsuits.
Instead, Mayor Nagin bungled. And tried to make up for it with vulgar tantrums like this one:
"I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count.
"Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddam crisis in the history of this country."
It WILL be fixed, in spite of you, by the American people, under the leadership of President Bush and the Congress.
YOU, who made it much, much worse, failed to prepare and should be quiet if all you can do is rant and curse.