Monday, May 22, 2006

A defense for Ray Nagin

Laura at Pursuing Holiness steps up for Ray Nagin. I think that it is important to listen to her side of the story, or rather, Nagin's side as she presents it. She sounds a bit defensive and I guess if I were a New Orleans citizen I would be a bit defensive, too.

In In Defense of Nagin she says that charges of corruption against Nagin (which Mark in Mexico has not made) are unfounded. She challenges those making such charges to step up with credible evidence. Well, there you go boys, you've been called. If yur a-holden 'em, show 'em.

She responds as follows to one charge made here.
There has been criticism that Nagin did not immediately straighten out the Levee Board when he took office. The Levee Board is appointed by the Governor and they are useless. The Mayor is not empowered to change it. He likewise has no control over the Corps of Engineers, who is largely responsible for the damage in New Orleans. If the levees had held as promised, we’d have been back to normal a month after the storm.
That's a two-parter. First, I did not realize or had forgotten that the levee boards were appointed by the governor. Another nail in Kathleen Blanco's political coffin, I guess. So, I apologize for holding Nagin responsible for not cleaning up the corrupt levee boards.

Secondly, Laura says that the levees did not hold as promised. I don't think that is completely accurate. The levees were overtopped and everybody in official capacities knew or had been warned many times that a storm surge of sufficient height would overtop the levees. Once the levees are overtopped, all bets are off over whether they will or will not hold up. Both the scouring effect from water on the outside of the levees as well as impact from heavy objects, like boats and barges, can cause sections of the levees to fail. This, I think, is what occurred. In any case, the levee specifications, design and construction are not under the control of the New Orleans mayor and were all completed long before anyone ever heard of Ray Nagin.

In “Chocolateville” Ray Nagin won - and it’s a good thing, Laura admits to some of Nagin's flaws, but says,
Nagin made plenty of mistakes, but they were honest mistakes, and we can tell the difference.
And maybe she spells out the bottom line with this;
A vote for Nagin was a vote for honest government. Is Nagin perfect? Of course not. Do we like the fact that the race card (deck!) was played? Of course not. Do we want our money - and yours! - handled honestly? Yes, we do.

New Orleans had a choice between a man who has actively fought corruption from his first week in office, and a man well entrenched in Louisiana politics, a “Cajun Kennedy” who spent almost a million taxpayer dollars redecorating. Given the amount of federal money that will hopefully, eventually, flow through New Orleans, who would you prefer we elected?
Well, ma'am, taxdollarwise, I 'spect you're right.

I guess maybe one way to look at this is that everybody got buried, at least initially, by the scope of the disaster. The one thing that sticks out, at least to me, and continues to haunt recovery efforts, is the mountain of bureaucratic red tape that no one seems to be able to cut through with any success, with the possible exception of Gov. Haley Barbour over there in Mississippi. I don't know what the hell you do about that.

Laura does complement Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco, however, saying she,
. . . would make a fine 2nd grade teacher . . .

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