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A Letter to Elvis 

Dear Elvis,

I'm sorry I haven't written before, but I guess I just didn't believe all those stories about you being body-snatched by aliens -- even though fans have documented your appearances many times after the body snatchers faked your death. I believe it now because those same aliens appear to have taken my city's mayor and replaced him with some bizarro human-looking plasmoid from Uranus.

It's ugly. Real ugly. That's why I'm writing you, Elvis. I'm counting on you to convince the body snatchers to send us our old mayor back. His alien replacement ain't nothin' but a hound dog.

To understand how serious this is, you have to realize what New Orleans has been through since you left Earth. We have a long history of political corruption and cronyism, a history that holds us back in many ways. Every four years, candidates for mayor promise to end the sweetheart deals and fat patronage contracts, but nothing ever changes. As a result, our city is filled with suspicious minds.

Then, in 2002, a miracle happened. A guy with no past political ties -- a businessman -- got elected mayor. He promised reform from top to bottom, and for a while it looked as though he was actually trying to do it. The Old Guard scoffed at him for not being a very astute politician. Truth be told, he was lousy at politics. But at least he was honest. At least contracts were awarded on the basis of merit and value to the city, not political connections and contributions. What a wonderful world!

Then, a few months ago, things started changing. Our mayor started acting just like all the others before him -- in all the wrong ways. It wouldn't have been so bad if he had started making intelligent political decisions. Instead, he's just as dumb (politically) as he ever was, but now he's doling out favors like an old-time ward heeler.

It started, oddly enough, with garbage cans. I should have suspected something was amiss right then and there because the official excuse for buying pricey garbage cans from a company with connections to the mayor's right-hand guy was that these garbage cans would be bomb proof. Bomb proof!?? Who in the hell wants to blow up a garbage can in a city as hot and humid -- or as thoroughly littered already -- as New Orleans? But that was just the beginning.

The mayor followed that by awarding several other contracts to firms that were not the low bidders -- and that also happened to be owned by folks with political connections. In one instance, he gave a parking control contract to two firms whose fees will be 62 percent higher than those of a competing bidder. In another, he gave the third-place bidder a "do-over" so it could land the contract to create a home-monitoring program for municipal offenders -- even though the firm's politically active owners (read: campaign contributors) have never been in the home-monitoring biz before. On still another occasion, he doled out huge pay raises to some of his top aides, even though many veteran city workers earn poverty-level wages.

This cannot possibly be the work of an intelligent human being. Only an alien life form -- or a human under the control of aliens -- could do such things.

Worst of all, this is happening less than a year before the mayor has to run for re-election. It's double trouble, for sure. If we don't get our mayor back, we could see somebody elected who would make a career out of these kinds of moves. Or, just as bad, we could have to endure four more years of this alien poseur's bad decisions.

Please don't let my long silence count against my city. You have many ties to Louisiana and to New Orleans. Our message to the aliens is simple: Don't be cruel -- please send back the real Ray Nagin ... and send the alien one back to Uranus. Thank you. Thank you very much.

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