The countdown continues: This week (Thursday, actually) will mark 60 days left in Mayor Ray Nagin's torpid second term. Let us pray that Hizzoner's final two months in office will be as languorous as the past 46.
Between now and May 3, it will be good news if Nagin is not hard at work. In fact, citizens everywhere should encourage him to take his sweet time holding court at his daily breakfasts and lunches. Spend an extra hour or two at the gym, too, Mr. Mayor. You'll want to look your buff best when you embark on your post-lame-duck rock star tour. Take another vacation, even. No need to rush back to City Hall.
The reason for this sentiment is obvious: When Nagin does try to play the role of mayor, he fouls it up so badly that the city loses ground — and often money as well. Consider his recent decisions to extend expensive contracts with two of the city's three sanitation contractors, both of which have contributed to Nagin's political war chest. Those contracts will cost the next administration and council millions. Then there's his determined effort to buy the Chevron Building and move City Hall there — an idea that the current council mercifully scuttled earlier this year, only to see Nagin try (unsuccessfully) to pull an end-run. And, of course, there's Hizzoner's feeble attempt to bypass the public bid laws to renovate the Municipal Auditorium, which, four and a half years after Katrina, hasn't even had an initial damage assessment. Sources say the historic landmark and cultural icon still has water in it. Talk about stuck on stuck.
So why hurry back to work now?
Even Nagin's successor, Mayor-elect Mitch Landrieu, has asked him not to sign any long-term contracts or commit the city to expensive deals. Nagin, with his hallmark delusional swagger, says he intends to be the mayor right up until the moment Landrieu takes the oath of office.
That, of course, is his duty, and he's fond of saying that. But it's also his duty not to saddle the next administration and council with expensive contracts that will only have to be undone, possibly through protracted litigation — or federal indictment.
One possible saving grace is the hope that city vendors and contractors are not as obtuse as Nagin. Anyone who signs a questionable deal with him has to know that he'll be in the crosshairs of the feds. Line starts on the left, fellas. First one to the grand jury gets the lightest sentence.
Landrieu is still two months away from becoming mayor, but already his work ethic and political style strike quite a contrast with Nagin's. The lieutenant governor apparently gets very little sleep, and he surrounds himself with people who work just as hard. His transition co-chairs, Doug Thornton and Judy Reese Morse, are well-known as workaholics who get lots of credit for getting things "unstuck."
Landrieu also has kept his campaign promise to assemble a team that is heavy on consensus building. Consider the diversity of his police chief search team, which is co-chaired by Norman Francis, president of Xavier University, and local Urban League president Nolan Rollins. Other committee members include businessman Greg Rusovich, community activist Barbara Major, Baty Landis (a founder of Silence is Violence) and the Rev. John Raphael (an anti-violence crusader), among others.
That model contrasts starkly with Nagin's penchant for dividing citizens by playing the race card.
May 3 cannot come soon enough.