You hear the word legacy a lot in these final ruinous days of the Ray Nagin Era. What other American mayor has served as the inspiration for not one, but two published collections of quotations?
In the end, we're left with nothing but soundbites. Chocolate, Benjamins, vaginas, cold-cocking, branding, get off your asses. Everything a blur. For Ray Nagin, maybe. But why the hell does it seem like the rest of us have been weighted down for eight years by an albatross the size of his ego?
I am left to wonder: What, exactly, did we get out of the deal?
The Ray Nagin Coloring Book.
Just friggin' perfect. He went to Cuba and we didn't even get a lousy T-shirt.
That "fact-finding" trip to Cuba last fall really got on a lot of people's nerves. For me, it wasn't the secret planning for the "fact-finding" mission that sticks in the craw, nor the money spent on the "fact-finding." The most egregious fact is that, after all was said and done, he didn't seem to bring back any facts.
Let me explain: I have been pressing the mayor's office for several weeks to answer what I would have thought a fairly simple question about the Cuba trip: What facts, exactly, did y'all find?
Certainly someone on the mayor's staff took notes during the trip. Certainly the mayor stored away some vital info in that Blackberry of his. Surely the mayor's office collated all the facts together for distribution to department heads and emergency preparedness folks in town.
In fact, the mayor's office has not produced a single written word of review, analysis or summary of the trip — not the Cuba trip nor any of the others to China, Australia and Lord knows where else he went. Nothing to pass along for future administrations or even posterity. No report, no communique, no inter-office memorandum. He went, he saw, he came home — and promptly dropped the matter.
Just the facts? Man, this guy would drive Joe Friday insane.
I have talked to four people who accompanied the mayor to Cuba — all of them high-level city officials, department heads or mayoral advisors, most of whom requested they not be quoted by name. To each I posed the question: You would think that six days of emergency preparedness conferencing in Cuba would produce at least one useful memo from the mayor's office, no?
"You would think," echoed one reply. Others were similarly terse. "I'll be open and honest with you," said another, somewhat apologetically: "There are no such documents." Said a third: "I'm not saying the trip was a waste of time but, well — you're right on the mark."
Nothing to show for it. Reviewing the past eight years, it has a familiar ring: complete, total and incomprehensible detachment from the process of governing.
I asked a fourth attendee if — as an official member of the delegation — he or she had thought to write a report on behalf of the mayor. "It would be silly to write a report for the mayor," that person said. "He was there!"
Yeah, so we hear. Your tax dollars at work. I reckon if Mitch Landrieu or any other incoming department heads want to know what lessons in emergency preparedness we can get from Cuba — they can just go themselves.
It's all just another colossal WTF moment in a ceaseless, unending, unendurable string of WTF moments provided by the Nagin Administration. I listen to the teabaggers screaming for smaller government; hell, they should just come to New Orleans and see what it's like to have no government at all.
Earlier this month, 32 people were shot in the city of New Orleans over one weekend. Had you monitored the activities, initiative and communications at the mayor's office, you might not have known this. The mayor issued no press release, held no press conference, made no attempt to reach out to the city's distressed and discouraged residents to offer, say, words of condemnation, comfort, determination.
Like everything else that happened around here over his second term in office, he put forth the notion that it had nothing to do with him. And, in the end, it didn't, for his was a chimerical order of leadership. Think Peter Sellers in Being There.
He said a lot of interesting things, but he wasn't really there. And if he was, there's no record of it, a ghost in the machine, the paper warrior, all hat, no cattle.
By virtue of the mayor's refusal to speak to any other media outlet, WBOK radio has become his official mouthpiece, the apologists' hotline. Recently, WBOK morning show host Gerod Stevens addressed the final days at hand with an admonishment to the mayor's critics to just leave the man alone now, let him go in peace: "He'll be gone soon enough."
Gone soon enough? Hell, Elvis left the building years ago.
And that's a fact.