Bruce Nolan of the Times-Pic shadowed federal recovery coordinator and retired Maj. Gen. Douglas O'Dell around for a few days, and files an interesting report:

O'Dell, who consults with dozens of federal, state and local agencies and troubleshoots regulatory logjams, said Mayor Ray Nagin's recovery director, Ed Blakely, often does not return his calls and seems to be operating under the premise -- erroneous, O'Dell thinks -- that a new presidential administration next year "will reload the cannon and start shooting money down here."....

But in several interviews, O'Dell expressed continuing frustration with Blakely, an urban planning professor from Australia who once served as deputy mayor of Oakland, Calif.

He said Blakely is often absent and unavailable and leads an office that produces "ethereal visions" of recovery that cannot be financed with federal recovery dollars.

"I'm basically asking Blakely, who's probably getting paid a whole hell of a lot more money than I am, to do his damn job," O'Dell said.

Salty! (That cackling I hear tonight from the Bywater: 'zat you, Blakely anti-fan Andre Trevigne?)

If he was having trouble reaching the man, the modern major general should've shown up at the Ritz-Carlton for the Excellence in Recovery party Friday night; Dr. Blakely was there.

O'Dell also had some interesting things to say about another newish resident of the city:

Later, meeting with U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and New Orleans Inspector General Robert Cerasoli, he asked about the status of Cerasoli's new city investigative office, which is still hiring staff. He told Cerasoli that Bush asked about his progress at a recent Cabinet meeting.

He later praised Cerasoli as "tough as a woodpecker's lips, and smart." A measure to embed Cerasoli's office in the City Charter is on the Oct. 4 ballot.

In the coming weeks, "I want to be sure I'm hammering home the importance of that ballot measure," O'Dell told Letten and Cerasoli.

Again, Mr. O'Dell could've stopped by later that night at Buffa's, where Mr. Cerasoli himself dropped in as a few dozen members of the New Orleans blog community were dining on Recovery Pizza and excellent beer.

And, yes, the I.G. did seem polite but tough. Nice to have a new woodpecker in town who doesn't seem easily bullshat.

(Blind item: Which local Internet-ite, upon meeting Cerasoli, promptly invited the I.G. to dinner in the coming days -- not at some power spot...but for a home-cooked Creole dinner and some conversation? [Cerasoli accepted, with pleasure.]

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