Thursday, September 13, 2007

A Showdown at City Hall

New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin is facing increasing pressure from an investigation by City Councilwoman Stacy Head. I will admit that I don't know a whole lot about her other than that she is a new member of City Council, having just been elected in 2006, after unseating a longtime member. Thus, she joined Council after the storm and is decidedly unattached to the traditional political clans that control business (or the lack thereof) here in New Orleans.

Councilwoman Head persuaded City Council President Arnie Fielkow to issue a subpoena to City Department of Property Management Director, Pamela Smith, to force her to testify in a matter related to repairs to a police department building in Head's District B.

Mayor Nagin, for his part, has refused to allow Smith to meet with Council. Nagin apparently is trying to protect his aides from Council, who have grilled members of his administration repeatedly on a wide-range of issues. As a result, Head has pursued a legal strategy via subpoena to force Smith's testimony.

Now, Head is moving forward with contempt charges for Smith.

Wednesday's New Orleans Times-Picayune described the tiff as a "showdown... over the balance of power at City Hall..."

There is an interesting juxtaposition to be made here between this fight here in New Orleans and that which is occurring at the national level, where Congressional Democrats are considering a number of legal actions to force Bush aides to testify on a number of scandals ranging from the improper firings of federal prosecutors to the secret nature of the domestic wiretapping program. Media outlets are looking at this debate as a constitutional showdown of monumental proportions.

The epic face-off down here in the swamp, however, is not over a secret Nagin plot to bomb Iran or spy on jazz musicians. Rather, the fight here, is over a faulty air conditioning unit.

A police station in Stacy Head's district was without working AC for much of the hot summer months, and she wants to know why it took so long to fix and why it cost the city $40,000.

These seem like pretty reasonable questions to me. Perhaps one of the reasons Councilwoman Head was elected to office over a longtime official is that people here are getting sick and tired of incompetent, corrupt, and inefficient leadership.

Now that she is doing her job by asking questions, even on an issue as small as an air conditioner, Mayor Nagin is feeling the need to protect the entrenched system of gunky gears.

Rather than wondering himself why an AC repair would cost the city $40 grand, our Mayor, who rarely makes public appearances or statements these days, sent out a stooge spokeswoman for a childish attack that would make Karl Rove proud:

According to spokeswoman Ceeon Quiett, Head's meddling subpoena is "demoralizing to the hardworking men and women on the front lines of recovery every day in this city. Our city employees and our citizens deserve better."

Councilwoman Stacy Head's improper questions about blatant government ineffectiveness are giving aid and comfort to al-Qaeda and our enemies in Iraq too, come to think of it. Why isn't she supporting our troops?

Look, Mayor Nagin, I really appreciated your passion during the storm. You expressed anger and anguish over the federal response to the Katrina to the press that underscored what many people were feeling. The whole ordeal, however, has clearly taken a toll on you mentally and professionally. Don't you want to spend more time with your family? What about writing a memoir or going on the lecture circuit? It could be lucrative. Please do us a favor and resign your office so that we can clean up our government and rebuild the city already. It's been over two years since the storm and you've accomplished almost nothing.

But you did achieve the dream, and for that, I'm jealous. You, C. Ray Nagin, are the most famous mayor this city has ever had.


New Orleans City Councilwoman Stacy Head said Thursday she was meeting with Pamela Smith, the city’s director of property management – one day after Smith refused to appear before the board despite a subpoena demanding her presence


Anonymous said...

Look at the "bright" side...this is the most attention C Ray has given to anything related to the city in months.

Anonymous said...

The voters of New Orleans need to think long and hard about who they are going to vote for in the future. Do people really get the leaders they deserve? No one deserve this kind of incompetence, nationally or locally. But the best people of this country stay away from politics because the cost is too great, financially and personally. Not everyone wants to be famous. ...Clocks