Thursday, March 05, 2009


I'd love to put this Mayor Nagin interview side by side with some of the other he's given over the last few months.

So many contradictory statements, such denial. It's incredible. Another classic.

(Props to Fox 8 for making their video embeddable. More of our local stations should do this.)

The best part (if one can even choose) is toward the end when he discusses the crime camera investigation.

Kim Holden: Let's switch gears a little bit -

Ray Nagin: (interrupting): Really?

Holden: Another controversy involving the crime cameras -

Nagin: (agitated interruption): Controversy?

Holden: - That came up this week. The IG report blasting your office for basically failing to hold the contractors accountable for the work they did, way too much money being spent on this, and the fact that maintenance costs are going to be astronomical from this point on. At some point do you say let's just abandon this whole project?

Nagin: I wouldn't do that. I mean, you know, one of the things I want to remind the public is that this is something that we pioneered. This was a research and development kind of project that the city of New Orleans really hadn't done. And when you do research and development and you pioneer things, you know, you're going to have some issues. I want to tell you I was just in Washington and Mayor Daley came up to me and he said, "look, I like these crime cameras that you guys are doing in New Orleans. They're cheaper than hiring more police officers and we're going to do them in a big way in Chicago."

Now, have we had issues? Absolutely. It's been well documented. We started to look at it back in August and make some changes. The gentleman who was in running the department is no longer in charge of that, no longer in charge of contracting, and we're cleaning this up. We have had some issues and we are going to do better.

Jonathan Carter: Well right now there have been a reported three prosecutions coming off of the crime cameras. With a cost of $6.6 million, Raphael Goyaneche of the Metro Crime Commission, I mean, he said that's basically $2 million for a prosecution and... and... in his words, he says, "that's not much bang for your buck."

Nagin: Well, Raphael is not really a crime expert so, I mean, you have to take what he says with a grain of salt. I will tell you that three number I don't think is accurate. I know for a fact the US Attorney's office has used the crime cameras to solve cases. The Police Department has many more cases than three that they've used. Now, whether one case where you prevent a murder or you solve a murder is worth $6 million dollars, I mean, we're going to have that debate for a long time.

Holden: How do you feel about the US Attorney looking into this whole issue and the IG's report reviewing it -

Nagin: The IG? I mean, I'm happy to see that the IG has produced another report. It's the second one in eighteen months, so that's a good thing. The first one we thought was, um, not well written but this one is better. It confirms our forensic audit. As far as the US Attorney, I, I welcome it. We've always said if there's something wrong that we have done or one of our employees [has] done and if there's anything that crosses the line of the law, we were going to turn it over and that's what we're doing here; and we'll get to the bottom of it.

But, my read of this is that I'm not sure what criminal violations happened. But I'm not an attorney so we'll see.

Another interesting exchange came as Nagin tried to downplay the insufficiently nicknamed email controversy.

Carter: Do you have any plans to talk to Veronica White about what happened?

Nagin: Uh, I...I'm, that's... she reports to the Chief Administration Officer Dr. Brenda Hatfield. And I've asked Dr. Brenda Hatfield to look into this a little further and if there's any, you know, thing we need to do from a disciplinary standpoint, we will do that. . .

Very interesting defensive posture to take to a very basic, non confrontational question. He won't even discuss the matter with his own Sanitation Director. That's how isolated this guy is. He won't even directly "talk" to his own sanitation director, who controls one of the city's largest and most consequential service departments and who controls a budget of tens of millions of dollars. Is Brenda Hatfield the only person the Mayor talks to on his own staff?

Not one of the questions he was asked was particularly probing. They're all open-ended. They just ask "well what about this thing" and give him a platform to get out his message Imagine if a reporter actually pegged him with some tough questions that ask him about specific names and dates or specifically confront some of the bogus claims he makes.

For instance, he got angry during the interview when Holden asked him if it was "fishy" that all of council's emails had been leaked when he himself has been subject to a records lawsuit because his administration had refused to hand over his own emails before it was revealed that they had been deleted. He went on some long explanation about how the council and mayor's emails are stored on different servers (which doesn't really appear to be true) and how all of his emails are now available for public consumption (which almost certainly isn't true).

Overall, it's gotten to the point that even the mere suggestion that one of these issues be labeled a "controversy" is out of bounds.

And this is pretty much the only media outlet that Ray Nagin still talks to at this point.


At onset, I thought Nagin would be able to once again out maneuver Council in terms of political tactic but there are just too many 'fishy controversies' confronting his administration at the same time. It's really looking disorganized over there and there's too much bad press coming all at once. This Mayor was and is deeply unpopular. Council isn't fighting itself over the emails matter. He needed that in order to "win" on the transparency/emails kerfuffle and by proxy, obscure the crime camera disaster and now this new expenditure issue.

It's too much at once.

The Mayor is on very shaky ground right now. He might have been better off just staying in the bunker.


Civitch said...

Ray Nagin on the media treatment of Tracie Washington:

"Now I find it a little offensive that they're framing her as an 'activist.'"

So for him, "activist" is a pejorative.

Very telling.

E said...

You're right. I've heard from a few different places that people are offended with that terminology.

I don't know why they'd concede that it's a pejorative term.

I'm proud to be an activist.

Anonymous said...

It's a classic cultural difference of people assigning different meanings to the same term based on their own cultural prism. I found that strange at first when I heard WBOK folks reject the label, but apparently in the middle class black community "activist" equates with with "radical" and they view that label as an attempt to denigrate their greivances.

There is no right or wrong way to define a term, but at least now we know that some people find it a pejorative term. It probably reflects how activism became irrelevant during the 30 years that blacks held city hall and they could normally remedy their grievances through the system. In those days, the only "activists" agitating against the city government were were black leftists and nationalists.

Funny, though, because I don't quite know how to describe what I define as activists. Maybe they prefer the term "community leaders." Bill Quigley is normally refered to as a "civil rights lawyer" or "housing rights advocate." Why don't you go on the WBOK blog at 3:0O and ask Kevin the producer to ask Paul and John. That's also a very good place to post questions in general since it is interactive and largely black folks. They usually forget the program and have their own discussions.

Very interesting discussion the other day on how all the killings are related to the decline of neighborhood-based gangs--that Katrina destroyed the traditional gangs and "lone wolves" invite attack because you have only one victim to deal with at the time. A normal consequence of trauma-induced cortisol stress is "short-term focusssed responses"--in other words, your endocrine system prevents you from weighing the long-term consequences of behavior. But the lack of trauma treatment for teens is another blog topic--and one far more important than this camera stuff.

E said...

I suppose that is a reasonable explanation. 'Activist' tends to be pejorative in white power circles as well. For example: activist judges.

civitch said...

Anon - thanks for the suggestion. I'll post the question to the WBOK site at 3. It is surprising to me that anyone in this city views "activist" as a dirty word. I chalk up virtually all of our post-Katrina progress to activists of the housing, neighborhood, good-government, etc. ilk. But I'm willing to concede that others have a different perspective, so I'll be interested in possible responses on the radio.

But back to Nagin's specific comment: I can't help but put it in the context of his many remarks over the past year that seem designed to pit us against one another based on race, and I find that reprehensible. Instead of dealing with valid issues that "activists" uncover - NOAH, crime cameras - he dismisses them out of hand, or worse, attempts to portray them as racist efforts. In the meantime, nothing of substance is done about the underlying problems.

A true leader would be finding a way to bring us all together in this difficult time, and I think that is why so many people - black and white - are sorely disappointed in our mayor.

Anonymous said...

Well, the problem is that there are white people in the leadership of the "good government" movement--people who use it as a guise to diminish the power of the black majority. Who appeared before the council on the transparency issue? The Business Council, with their secret membership (only in New Orleans), the council's hirelings, the BGR (which opposed building permits in the black community).

So how do you distinguish yourself from them: you attend that council meeting and support transparency and publicly disassociate yourself from the Greenspacers and the people attempting to encroach on black elected power. They have a podium and an an open mike there. All you have to say is that you differ with these fine folks in that you oppose the "footprint" plan, oppose the attempts to remove the Water Board and Nord from elected bodies, oppose the closure of Charity, etc.

If you are going to be in the transparency movement, you have to draw lines between you and your policy allies who have ulterior motives.

Second, you have to develop a political identity in the black community as supporters of other issues. I think all the black community sees is white people attacking black elected officials. Yes, public housing was an exception, but one public stand in over three years does not allow progressives to distinguish themselves from reactionaries.

I think Brad Ott has done a good job of supporting transparency, but devoting himself to an issue that affects the poor in which white folks are calling the shots. Not coincidentally, you will hear Brad a lot calling into WBOK supporting black community issues (one of the few white callers), and that goes a long way to developing trust.

The problem for white progressives is that the Uptown Carnival elite were the only organized and powerful group in the city after Katrina--indeed, they never left except to form a shadow government in Dallas. Too many good white people who came back in the months following Katrina fell under the hegemony of their leadership in the BNOBC by default and now find themselves in bed with some very anti-democratic minded folks. You can't break with these folks using twitter or a blog--you have to break with them organizationally.

Puddinhead said...

"...good white people..."?

I'd heard somewhere that that was an oxymoron....

joejoejoe said...

The Nagin camera comments got picked up in Chicago because Daley doesn't go around town saying 'cameras are cheaper than cops', he says cameras are tools for cops.

First an anonymous CPD cop blogger commented on the story...

...then picked up on the story...

Good tips from the cop on what kind of FOIA requests should be made to your local PD to see if cameras are actually working.

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