He may not exactly be America’s Mayor, but Ray Nagin might be the most recognizable sitting city chief executive right now. He speaks his mind in an interview with Vibe magazine for their August issue. Mayor Nagin makes one valid point, while effectively passing some of the buck:
“A lot of the dollars that flow from the federal government are controlled by the state. Superdome, City Park, Riverfront, you name it—a lot of the critical assets are controlled by the state.”
A great deal of useful context is missing from this feature. Ned Sublette writes of “Gov.” Blanco’s handling of the Road Home program: “That fiasco closed out the career of Democratic Governor Kathleen Blanco, who, this spring, announced she would not seek re-election.” He does not mention the fact that Nagin had supported her Republican opponent in the 2003 election, Bobby Jindal, the presumptive front-runner to now succeed her. Following her announcement, the Mayor was probably leading the chants of “na-na-na-na-goodbye.”
Sublette also talks of the slowness of federal aid, which has been true in far too many instances. However, he overlooks instances of local incompetence that has prevented federal assistance from reaching those it was intended to help. A case in point being the six doublewide trailers, supplied by FEMA to provide primary care, still unused because of the City government’s unfathomable zoning concerns.
While he titles his interview “Dedication,” Sublette does not report on the speculation Nagin is sniffing around Rep. William Jefferson’s seat, should it open up suddenly (as in a criminal conviction). Cynics have suggested Nagin has lost interest in rebuilding and would prefer the less taxing life in D.C.
In truth, Nagin does seem to be a survivor. Perhaps those skills would better serve New Orleans as a congressional representative than as its mayor. Regardless, the certainty of a new administration in Baton Rouge can only lead to better leadership for the state.