Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Nitty Gritty of our Unfair City

Time to update my constituents on the state of the city and all that . . .

I've been working hard! I am a hard worker! Things are moving in the right direction! Federal funds! Fighting crime! Construction! Economic development! Jobs! Mildly self-depreciating joke! Reform efforts are working! Long term vision! The city is working! I have been working hard! Optimism!

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So what really stood out?

A few things. Here is the TP report on the speech.

Mayor Nagin's site selection is interesting. He delivered his speech from the Port of New Orleans Cruise Terminal. A well-used public space and a symbol of community, no? Certainly, it is not at all indicative of Mayor Nagin's private-sector base.

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. . .Nagin joked often Wednesday and focused almost exclusively on the positive signs he's seen since the storm.

He cited surveys saying most New Orleanians believe the city is moving in the right direction. He also touted reports that the city has the sixth-fastest-growing real estate market in the country and record low unemployment, not mentioning the fact that the storm's impact has inflated the number of housing sales and construction jobs.


Okay, let's talk about the Mayor's positive signs:

1. "Surveys saying most New Orleanians believe the city is moving in the right direction"

Really? Most New Orleanians? What surveys?

It couldn't be the same surveys that you discussed in this article:

Referring to a recent poll by researcher Verne Kennedy showing that nearly one in four New Orleans voters think the city is "moving in the right direction," Nagin said he has faith in such positive results.

"We like these polls that say 23 percent of people think the city is headed in the right direction," he said. "Y'all keep these coming. We'll pay good money for them."

Oh! One in four! That's most of us, alright. We'll keep 'em coming.


2. "the sixth fastest growing real estate market"

The free market recovery is yielding results there, huh? In a toxic national real estate climate, people are making money off a city that lost a huge chunk of its housing stock to the storm? No kidding.

In the paper edition of the T-P, the jump headline on page A-7 is "Nagin notes housing market."

And my eyes jumped out a little bit because I thought that maybe he was going to make mention of the gigantic affordable housing crisis that has been the foremost issue facing the city since December of 2005.

This surprised me because he doesn't ever seem to mention it.

In the end, I was brought back down to earth because the "note" on the housing market Nagin made was the one above. So while the city's affordable housing developments are precariously close to failing, the Mayor is proud to report that money is being made by ultra wealthy.

3. "record low unemployment"

Which, of course, is very similar to the endemic underemployment at a minimum wage of $5.15 per hour.

Kudos to the T-P for it's immediate refutation of the the Mayor's citation of housing and employment stats as positive recovery signs.

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There was one more interesting tidbit that I think is important to rememberL

After weeks of fence-sitting, he took a position for the first time on proposed state legislation to transfer control of Louis Armstrong International Airport from the city to the state in exchange for at least $500 million. The city would cede the airport's daily operations but would expect the state to significantly upgrade the facility. The deal would give the city much-needed cash for a long list of city infrastructure projects, Nagin said.

The mayor called for exploring a sale of the airport during his 2002 campaign.

"Remember my phrase: Sell that sucker," Nagin said.

But the mayor offered one caveat: He doesn't support the legislation's proposed creation of a new agency with both mayoral and gubernatorial appointees to control the cash for city infrastructure. Instead, he wants the existing New Orleans Building Corp., which is comprised of the mayor, his appointees and City Council members, to handle the money.


Now this is important. What are the city infrastructure projects we need to raise money for?

Is it for roads or schools? Is it for hospitals or public transportation? Is it for NOPD facilities or parks?

I made the connection a few weeks ago but now the Mayor has made it perfectly clear. The Mayor's caveat for supporting the sale of a precious, revenue-generating public asset is that the sale money go under the direct control of the New Orleans Building Corporation.

The NOBC's signature initiative is the stupid Reinventing the Crescent giveaway.

So literally, the Mayor's plan is to sell off a major revenue provider for the city for $500,000 so that Sean Cummings, CEO of the NOBC, can spend a quarter of it on his own pet project - one that the Louisiana Board of Ethics is already suspicious of because of Cummings' extensive property holdings near the proposed riverfront redevelopment.

This is the first paragraph from the initial T-P report about the airport sale proposal:

Business leaders from across the metropolitan New Orleans area and Baton Rouge have crafted an audacious proposal that calls for City Hall to hand over ownership and governance of Louis Armstrong International Airport to the state, in return for heavy state financial support for city redevelopment projects.


So who are these business leaders again? Might one of them wear two hats? Might one of those hats be CEO of the New Orleans Building Corporation?

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Time to update my constituents on the state of the city and all that . . .

I've been working hard! I am a hard worker! Things are moving in the right direction! Federal funds! Fighting crime! Construction! Economic development! Jobs! Mildly self-depreciating joke! Reform efforts are working! Long term vision! The city is working! I have been working hard! Optimism!

5 comments:

Karen said...

It's cool, 2010 Eli for Major Minor Mayor.

bayoustjohndavid said...

Something weird is definitely going on behind the scenes with the airport/riverfront deal. I don't remember who Hedge-Morrell supported in the last mayor's race (the other Cynthia was a very low-key Landrieu supporter), but Nagin and Hedge-Morrell seemed close soon after. Now she's talking about staling the airport deal. Juan LaFonta was an obvious Nagin backer in the election and he's trying to remove Cummings from the NOBC.

I, of course, agree with Hedge-Morrell but can't agree with LaFonta. I'm no Cummings fan, I've material I've been meaning to post for over a year now, but bills designed for a particular official are just sleazy.

E said...

Why would anyone question attempts to reduce accountability on a cool $500 million?

I'll support anything that keeps Cummings away from this money. I'll support anything that keeps Nagin away from this money.

I actually think there are merits to selling the airport - but NEVER when the proceeds are going to NOBC, Nagin, or anywhere else where we voters don't get say as to what it's spend on.

It would be really helpful if you started posting that stuff you've had for a year . . .

bayoustjohndavid said...

I said that I agree with Hedge-Morrell, I don't object to accountability on $500M. I do object to bills that single out a single official for special treatment -- good or bad.

A lot of what I was going to post involved the campaign contributions that you and Schroeder have already discussed. There's something in this article (that I link to every chance I get) that nobody seems to think is noteworthy. A reference that I saw to a friendship between Cummings and Greg Meffert led me to email the only Meffert expert I could think of. His response (very favorable toward Cummings) led me to decide to tone it down from "Nagin and Cummings are cronies" to something much more balanced that I haven't gotten around to writing. Basically, even if you assume total integrity on the part of both Nagin and Cummings, they're definitely like-minded about the city's future. That makes kind of attitude unacceptable, unless you think that two or three people should decide the city's future.

I planned to write something that wasn't a hatchet job,yet still made a case, but I haven't gotten around to it. If I'm going to take take advantage of the free tuition that comes with working at a university, I should probably post less frequently but try to make those posts count.

Anyway, there definitely seems to be a power struggle between Nagin and some of his former allies. Or, Nagin wants Cummings out, but doesn't say so. Or something worth watching is going on.

E said...

Did anyone notice the "rally" held in support of RTC this past weekend?

What was that?