Friday, August 25, 2006

Nagin's naggin': What hole?

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin -- possibly the least capable and most boorish big-city mayor in America -- can't seem to keep his mouth shut about the wrong things nor express how to get the right things done.

During a "60 minutes" interview, a reporter questioned why flood-damaged cars still haven't been plucked from the streets of New Orleans' Katrina-wracked Ninth Ward after one year. The always cranky Nagin replied, "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."

He was referring to the World Trade Center site. A hole in the ground?

Nagin's comparison of redeveloping the site of the most devastating terror attack in history, where the world's two tallest buildings were reduced to rubble, to the removal of ruined cars from New Orleans streets reveals as much about his knowledge of civil engineering as much as his insufferable ego.

How many cars could five guys with tow trucks remove in a 40-hour week? 200? 400? And when politicians start comparing disasters like they compare their, um, private parts ("Mine is bigger than yours!") then we're all screwed. Lots of people in Southeast Texas feel they were overlooked when "the forgotten storm" Hurricane Rita hit here three weeks after Katrina hit New Orleans, but nobody's dismissing New Orleans' tragedy as a "stiff little breeze."

But here's the more important question: How can the mayor of a flooded city that's below sea-level insult anybody about a "hole in the ground"?

Nagin's an embarrassment to New Orleans.


Saskboy said...

Where do you want them to put the cars? And to be fair, it's 5 years later, and there is no concensus on what to build on one site. New Orleans is a whole ruined city.

Ron Franscell said...

Interestingly, many of the flooded vehicles in New Orleans are being transported and sold in Mexico. The junkers are probably ... junked.

Ron Franscell said...

Shame on you, MG.

Anonymous said...

Race is an issue in post-Katrina New Orleans. Those who are getting rich off the suffering of the poor and mostly African American citizens of New Orleans, at the expense of the taxpayers, are well-connected and already-wealthy white folks. But Ron can find nothing better to do than to smear Ray Nagin, the democratically-elected mayor, who happens to be an African-American. The brothers ain't buyin it, Ron. And you ought to be ashamed of yourself.

jason said...

I agree and so do a few other leaders.

AP: Gov. Kathleen Blanco yesterday distanced herself from New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin's disparaging comment about recovery at New York's World Trade Center site, publicly thanking New Yorkers for their help after Hurricane Katrina. Blanco issued a statement noting that residents of New Orleans and New York share a bond in the cities' recent calamities: New Orleanians because of Katrina, New Yorkers "because of their tragedy five years ago."

I think Nagin's poorly worded comments contained a grain of truth: We have seen little obvious progress on the WTC site. But he chose to call this hallowed place "a hole in the ground" instead of the WTC site or something equally respectful. It's like calling the Lorraine Motel "just a seedy flophouse" or Gettysburg "just a dumb-hick farm town." I think people are offended not by Nagin's criticism of the speed of WTC rebuilding, but by his choice of words.

When asked a network reporter to explain why flooded cars still haven't been removed from the Ninth Ward (among many renovations remaining undone), Nagin could have explained the enormous difficulty of such a task, but he chose to chide somebody else for being slower than he is. No class.

In today's Times-Picayune, Nagin "confessed that he could see how some might find it 'a bit insensitive' that he called the site of the Sept. 11 terrorist attack, which killed more than 3,100 people, "a hole in the ground."

But, Nagin followed up, "The comparison is relevant. It's difficult to recover from a disaster, whether it's a couple of blocks in New York or whether it's 80 percent of the city of New Orleans."

Too bad he didn't say it more like that, huh?

Ron Franscell said...

Anon, your comment betrays a certain racism. Whether you like rich white folks or not, they are participating in the rebuilding of NOLA, side-by-side with the black leadership with a great infusion of "colorless" money from ordinary Americans everywhere -- but the largely black citizenship simply has not returned in the numbers the city would like. It's highly unlikely you know any "brothers" or even have visited New Orleans since Aug. 28, 2005. My comments aren't about race, but about Ray Nagin's insensitive comments about the World Trade Center site and his slow leadership in rebuilding New Orleans.

I agree with Jason wholeheartedly on this: Nagin's reduced the WTC site to "a hole in the ground" as his defense for the slowness of recovery in NOLA. That's offensive to me and to others. It's an embarrassment.

He might have said "NOLA shares an equally difficult task with NYC, where repairs at the terror-attack site will go well beyond five years." Nobody would have flinched.

Quit playing the race card. That dog don't hunt. Nagin's comments weren't about race, and neither were mine. Race has nothing to do with whether NOLA can remove flooded, cratered cars from the streets of the Ninth Ward, Lakeview, Gentilly, the French Quarter or the Garden District. Nagin bashed Bush for responding too slowly, so it's appropriate for Americans to ask if he has performed any faster or better in difficult circumstances. I believe he has not. You apparently believe he's doing a sterling job, and that's OK.

And on your last ridiculous point, MG: Yep, Nagin was duly elected. So were George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Tom DeLay, but that hasn't stopped you from criticizing THEM, has it? Of course not. And because they're all white guys, maybe your criticism is racist, too, right? Probably not ... but neither should you so quickly play the race card when a politician of color is criticized.

Often it's just an expression that has nothing to do with race.

Dominic Broussard said...

I have a question for anonomous. I am an African American man who lives and WORKS in Houston Texas since I evacuated from the City of New Orleans last year. My house was flooded and my job was shut down for good and I have been fortunate to be able to start a new life away from the city where I was born. I am also shocked and dismayed to see how my city of birth has not been repaired as much as you might think in a whole year that has transpired and a LOT OF WORK still is remaining to be done. Not much has been done there. I am also embarrased by Nagin saying the Twin Towers are a hole in the ground. He don't give respect so he aint going to get respect .... and also I am sad that all my 'brothers' aren't getting the job done so I may someday return to my city of my birth.

so my question for anonomous is if I think Nagin aint getting the job done am I a racist also???

Anonymous said...

There are racists in every ethnic group, bar none. And there are bigots in every organized religion, bar none. It's what has been called "human nature" for the members of every ethnic group and every religion to see their group and their religion as special, if only because an individual quite naturally has a more intimate knowledge of a greater affinitly for the members of his own group, and his own religion, rather than others.

In group/out group perspectives and attitudes are as old as families and tribes, and such attitudes are, to varying extents, codified in racial and religious literature. In the Holy Bible, the holy book of the tradition with which I chance to be most familiar, because I happen to have been born into a Christian family, the Old Testament is rife with ethnic bias, and explicit exhortations to slavery, ethnic cleasnsing, and bloody slaughter of other ethnic groups. See: Deuteronomy 20: 10-18, Joshua 6, Joshua 11:20, I Samuel 15:3, Psalms 21:9-10, et al. Perhaps more troubling is the appearance in the New Testament Book of Revelation 19, of a violent avenging God of wrath whose robes drip blood, whose tongue is a sharp sword with which he strikes down nations, and who will rule with an iron rod. Yet, nowhere does the historical Jesus of the New Testament suggest to his would be followers that the kingdom of God is to be established or maintained by an angry violent God of wrath. In fact, He says just the opposite, that God is love and that God's laws require man to love God with all his heart and to love his neighbor as himself! What are we to make of this? Is God angry, vengeful, and violent one day, only to require that man love his neighbor as himself the next? Or, could it be that men, imperfect as they are, are often blinded by racial and religious bias? Could it be that it is far easier to see the other fellow's racial bias or religious bigotry than to see one's own?

I've recognized more authority and greater credibility in the writings and actions of those who have actually devoted their lives to the study racial and/or religious bias, especially when their studies are backed by substantial practical experience in the fields of race relations and interfaith relations.

As it happens, relatively few are deeply interested in or devoted to either field. Can you imagine why this is so?

Those who develop philosophies of living and philosophies of religion that to some noteworthy extent transcend their own personal racial and religious background are too few in number in my experience. Often, when they speak of their experience, voice their desire for a world in which men actually live as brothers, or dare to criticize ethnocentric attitudes and actions, or expolitation and oppression based in large part on racial, religious, or class differences, they are likely to be accused of being traitors to their own race or religion by those who are typically more concerned with coercion and violence as solutions to personal, social, and political disputes.

Which has more in common with the highest religious values, which all the great religions hold in common, he who actually attempts to love his fellow and to defend the oppressed and exploited, or he whose philosophy of life easily excuses "collateral damage" among the members of other racial and religious groups with which he is mostly unfamiliar?

I can't help wondering what credentials Ron can point to in support of his pontifications with regard to race and religion. For instance, he's written that Ray Nagin is "possibly the least capable and most boorish big-city mayor in America." Can I safely assume that Ron is, in fact, knowledgeable regarding the relative capabilities and track records of every big-city mayor in America? He'd have to be to make such a statement with any credibility. I strongly suspect that he is not, and that other factors inform his transparently hyperbolic rhetoric.

I'm thankful I'm responsible only for my own actions, not least because I am increasingly aware that, as one prophet said, "Every day is judgement day."

mary said...

He's baaaack -- gees, Michael, if you're gonna say things, at least have the nerve and courage of your convictions to sign your name. After all, ANYONE can say crummy things anonymously.

Ron Franscell said...

Oh, please don't encourage him, Mary. I'm not sure I can afford the bandwidth.

Ron Franscell said...

Interestingly, Ray Nagin isn't even terribly popular with his constituents, including the largely black Ninth Ward. That suggests evaluation of his performance is NOT a racial issue, but one of bottom-line action. A recent poll showed that the number of people who are dissatisfied with his post-Katrina leadership is growing, from 20 percent to 29 percent. (And they are slightly more dissatisfied with the federal and state response.)

So the opinion that NOLA hasn't been reborn/rebuilt fast nor smart enough is not just the opinion of a distant observer, but of many of the citizens most directly affected. It's only been one year and the rebuilding of this fantastic city will take much longer, but the city leaders seem to be woefully behind schedule with basic clean-up and repair.

As far as racial issues are concerned, Nagin has gotten a free pass on the race issue. When he said he was confident his city would ultimately return to being "a chocolate city," it caused a stir, but nobody asked whether a white mayor might have been unceremoniously dumped if he'd expressed confidence that someday his hard-times city would return to greatness as "a white city." And dumped is exactly what should happen in such a case.

But again, this isn't a race issue. This is a question of whether Nagin was disrepectful by labeling the WTC site as "a hole in the ground" (he was) and whether he has shown reasonable progress in rebuilding New Orleans if they haven't even removed flooded cars from the streets (my opinion after visiting New Orleans twice since Katrina, loyal reading of the local press, and watching the rebuilding of my own community after Hurricane Rita is that the NOLA's progress seems extraordinarily bogged down at the local level.)

This criticism of Nagin contains not a whit of racism except in the minds of people who want to imagine racism must be the root cause of anything with which they cannot agree. For those people, the only argument becomes insult.

gohuskers said...

Oh lord, Gillespie is back! Ramblin;, ramblin' ramblin'! More of his "I'm right and everybody else is stupid" attacks and "I just wanna complain about you instead of actually proposing solutions." Ron, I see you have recently begun moderating comments so I hope it means our conversations won't be disrupted with those snarky questions like "You say you don't like terrorists, so does that mean you hate all people named Osama?" or "You don't like broccoli so shall we presume you want to drop nuclear bombs on all peace-loving vegetarians?" Gillespie is a speech-team bench-warmer.

I renew my vote for keeping his intolerant crap off the site until he can affect some basic tolerance for opposing views. He isn't required to agree, merely to not call anyone a racist or a mental defective for disagreeing with him. And if you allow his BS, I hope you will allow us to respond in kind.

Keep up the good work.

Anonymous said...

Well as I see it Mr. Nagin needs to have the residents return and get to work rebuilding for themselves. Their was no one here to rebuild my home after Rita, I had to do it myself or pay someone to do the work that I could not do. But I think that you can teach some of those folks to take care of themselves instead of US THE TAX PAYING citizens paying the tab for them. Every interview you see is someone telling the news no one is doing for them. What ever happened to do for yourself? I think the government has no business paying the tab for people that can do for themselves. Just my 2 cents on the issue..

Anonymous said...

Without defending Nagin (who's ineptness is obvious) I think saying New Orleans just needed to tow a few flooded cars off the street is as bad a comment as Nagin's. New Orleans is 468 square miles. The levee failures flooded 80% of the city and the water sat there for 2 weeks -- with depths up to 12 or 15 feet. The city has lost 89% of its mental health professionals and 70% of its primary care physcians. Only 3 acute care hospitals remain out 10 that were operating before the storm. The city lost its only Level 1 trauma center. Over 250,000 people have been displaced. 100's of square miles of the city still have homes in ruins. In many cases the flood moved house off their foundations before destroying them. The task facing the people of New Orleans is truly monumental, requiring a complete rebuild of the infrastructure that most cities take for granted. Be fair. Nagin's silly comment does not negate the devastion experienced by the people of New Orleans.

Anonymous said...

I agree , as a RITA victom I drive to work everyday seeing homes still covered and NO help in sight! FEMA , HA ! we got NO help as the most of RITA victoms , NO comments or news on tv either. And on the news The Galveston Hurricane years ago lost way more people than New Orleans! Nagin should have had enough knowlegde to have loaded up his people on those school busses before they flooded and saved those people , I blame his lack of commom sence for their deaths!