It's been very interesting to observe the way that the Times-Picayune and other traditional media have covered the unfolding E-Maelstrom. The focus has shifted away from the various email-specific issues involving Veronica White, City Council, and the Mayor's Office of Technology to a seemingly singular fixation on a Nagin family vacation to Hawaii that was funded by a contractor with ties to the MOT and to former Chief Technology Officer and Administrative Executive to the Mayor, Gregory Meffert.
Though American Zombie wrote about this improper trip back in 2006, the mainstream media only recently got the confirmation necessary to go to print with the allegation. Of course, the release of Greg Meffert's deposition from a related lawsuit confirms that in fact, the Nagin trip was financed by city contractor Mark St. Pierre.
But is taking a contractor-funded vacation so outrageous or uncharacteristic for a Louisiana politician? Someone following this peripherally might question why the T-P has it's top investigative reporters chasing down a story about $2000 vacation.
It's because this isn't about an unethical and possibly illegal vacation to Hawaii. Rather, this is about trying to establish the facts around what might prove to be an enormous criminal conspiracy at City Hall revolving around the Mayor's Office of Technology. When you start to add up the dollars that exchanged hands between the municipal government and the various contractors with ties to Mr. Meffert, Mr. St. Pierre, and their cronies, you're talking about tens of millions of dollars. Maybe hundreds of millions. It's years of a failed crime cameras, yes. But it's also years of a failed 311 system. It's customer service kiosks at City Hall. It's all sorts of various municipal websites. It's the no longer available city wi-fi service. It's all sorts of technology purchases. All of that stuff (and unfortunately more) is in question.
It's not just about tax dollars wasted, it's also about what would have instead been invested in more plentiful and efficient city services that weren't there when we've needed them the most.
The recent series of articles in the Times-Picayune, I presume, is laying the groundwork for future reporting detailing the scope of corruption. That's why it has seemed like many of the articles that they've published since the end of March haven't yet provided anything particularly earth-shattering. The T-P needs to reestablish a lot of the background data that many internet insiders already understood before they can credibly start publishing new revealing details.
Ray Nagin's media availability yesterday was remarkable because it seemed to lend credibility to the inquiry at hand. Last week, Ray Nagin offhandedly dismissed reporter questions about the trip to Hawaii as a personal attack. This has been his typical response to most all tough questions about his record as Mayor. We know the tone well. Yesterday, however, Mayor Nagin's answers were delivered with a slight touch of basic humility that I thought was noticeable and notable, particularly when questions turned to his own low approval ratings, etc. (some video here, more detailed description here).
Certainly, he continued to deny any wrongdoing in the Hawaii matter and had his own interpretation of the approval ratings that absolve him of any real responsibility for anything, but the fact that he held stood outside of City Hall and held a question and answer session with the press indicates that the facts and allegations swirling around his administration can no longer be avoided and/or defiantly cast as a media conspiracy against him. I think that there is some implicit acknowledgment that the Mayor is in trouble - that this isn't just a game.
UPDATE: Here's full video of Nagin's media availability from yesterday afternoon. On seeing it in entirety, I think I was basically right; there's a little more furrow to his brow. He's taking this a little bit more seriously than he seemed to last week.
|Mayor Ray Nagin Addresses Ethics Questions|
It's also quite hilarious that Mayor Nagin decided to give Jim Letten unsolicited advice about how to select a jury. What would he need a jury for Ray?