Yesterday evening, Polimom’s IM windows were popping up all over the place about Nagin’s latest gaffe (airing Sunday on 60 Minutes):
On a tour of the decimated Ninth Ward, Nagin tells Pitts the city has removed most of the debris from public property and it’s mainly private land that’s still affected – areas that can’t be cleaned without the owners’ permission. But when Pitts points to flood-damaged cars in the street and a house washed partially into the street, the mayor shoots back. “That’s alright. You guys in New York can’t get a hole in the ground fixed and it’s five years later. So let’s be fair.”
This is classic Nagin — the very model of diplomacy [/snark] — and the blogosphere is predictably abuzz with rehashed “Chocolate City” chatter, sprinkled here and there with outrage over comparison to 9-11.
Obviously there’s a modicum of truth behind the comparison to that tactlessly described “hole in the ground”, but to draw a line between New Orleans and New York is akin to comparing blueberries and pumpkins. Yes, they’re both spherical…. and….?
Does C. Ray Nagin have the foggiest idea what’s coming out of his mouth when it’s moving?
People have tried to compare the two before, of course. “Nagin’s no Giuliani” has played to fruits- and-vegetables-challenged audiences many times since Katrina. Polimom’s amused, actually, to hear the New Orleans mayor take a page from a book long-since debunked (correctly).
All of which is beside the point: the spotlight is indeed turning toward New Orleans as the one year mark approaches, but it’s exposing more than debris:
A year ago, water was the enemy. Today, it has been replaced by a more insidious foe: uncertainty.
As the water receded, a smaller, sadder New Orleans looked to Mayor Ray Nagin and the City Council for leadership. They responded with chaos. The symbol of their failure is New Orleans’ lack of a citywide plan to rebuild — the first essential step toward renewal. Without a plan, residents don’t know whether city services, utilities and other families will return to their old neighborhoods. So decisions about rebuilding are deferred and residents stay away, compounding the failure.
Even with Rigamer’s optimism, with the East, Gentilly and Lakeview still at around one-quarter of their pre-storm population, it may be time to revist the hard question, the one many of us hoped Mayor Nagin would rise to and confront once he was safely re-elected: can those outlying and badly flooded neighborhoods be saved? Is it time to start encouraging people to move into core city neighborhoods such as Broadmoor and Mid-City, where return remains below 50% but are still far ahead of the outlying suburbs? Should the city and Entergy be investing scare resource we really can’t afford to restore services in neighborhoods that are a ghost of their former selves?
It’s more than Ray Nagin, of course. Leadership at every level seems to be hog-tied — snarled in the political flotsam that has marked Louisiana politics at all levels for generations. Pointing at New York City as an excuse for his own inability to lead is not going to help New Orleans.
What I’d really like to hear more about is this bit from that up-and-coming 60 Minutes program:
Nagin says he is looking out for the poor, mostly black, residents who are dispersed all over the country, some of whom are waiting to return to the city.
“What I do have a problem with is some entrenched interests that are looking and salivating over certain sections of the city,” Nagin says.
The mayor says these interests want him to keep those poor people from coming back so they can get rich developing the land.
“I don’t think that’s right,” Nagin says.
I don’t think that’s right either, but until now, talk of conspiracies to keep people from coming home has just been grist for the hyper-productive rumor mill. If Nagin’s going to put legs on it, then let’s have some names.
Spill it, Ray. You know you wanna.
(H/T to Editor B for the link to ebay.)