Off Nagin's Back
Over the last three years I have refrained from commenting on the critics of my friend Mayor Ray Nagin. I viewed most of them as part and parcel of the normal discourse that comes with being a public figure. However, your tirade concerning his ability to lead and comparing him as being in the same venue as your canine friend is one I could not ignore. I know emotions are high and we are all looking for someone to blame, but your comments reflect the kind of emotion-based superficial journalism that does a real disservice to the public.
You say the mayor does not seek good advice. You don't know him, he seeks the best advice I know of; there is a Bible at his side always and he prays every day that God will give him the wisdom to make good decisions. He may not seek the advice of the political power brokers that want him to do what is in their best interests, but he does seek the advice of the average citizen. You did not see him physically embrace the residents of this city who were in the shelters; he listened when they told him they wanted to come home and he has done everything he can to safely let them.
You say he is a weak politician; in an era when corruption and political partisanship many times overshadow the public good, the mayor is one of a few very special public servants always concerned about the public more than himself and his political position. That is why he made the comment at the commission meeting that you saw as flippant. He is more concerned about the public good when many other "politicians" are concerned about getting elected and which of their friends get the next public contract.
To say the mayor snubbed the people of Lakeview after traveling to see the hundreds of displaced, mostly poor New Orleans residents who were in shelters in Louisiana and other states smacks of the kind of elitist, racially divisive rhetoric that has kept this community from moving forward and if we continue will keep us from achieving the kind of city the mayor left a lucrative corporate job to try to accomplish for all of us.
You may be interested in living in a city where your dog Stella can be mayor, but I doubt if anyone else is.
(Mr. White is Mayor Nagin's closest friend, top political adviser and chief financial supporter.)
Hold Politicians Accountable
Eddie Bernier of Kenner hit the nail on the head in his recent letter when he wrote -- "this was a catastrophic government failure." That includes all municipal, parish, state and federal governmental bodies. I am a New Orleans native and have lived my entire life in Mid-City and Lakeview. My present home in Mid-City, built in 1922, was flooded as well as the home I grew up in, now my brother's home in Lakeview, built in 1950. Both are raised and neither has ever flooded before. On my many trips to Lakeview and Mid-City I am overwhelmed with sadness when I see the total destruction that makes the home I knew and loved now look like a nuclear winter. That sadness soon turns to rage every time I remember that this was not a natural disaster but a governmental one and totally preventable. How ludicrous that the two sides of the canal were built by two different construction companies because they fell under the purview of two different parishes? If it's true that the Jefferson side pilings were driven deeper than the Orleans side, we need to know why. Nature isn't concerned with political boundaries. People are people regardless of where they live.
I watched the entire Congressional hearing on the levees on television. Two words I heard several times were preventable and suspected malfeasance. I also heard someone from the panel question the practicality of having so many governmental entities involved with the levee protection systems and drainage of the Greater New Orleans area. It's outrageous, unacceptable and insane for any plan to be devised that is not a regional one. The various levee boards, the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board and the Jefferson and St. Bernard sewerage and drainage agencies all have to come together under one master plan to efficiently drain the city and surrounding areas. They also must protect the people and property of these three parishes from storm surges that can result from Lake Pontchatrain, the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico. Anything short of that will result in more of the same. It's time to put an end once and for all to the patronage involving contracts for infrastructure projects when the very lives of the people are at stake. We can start by refusing to accept any new restrictions or requirements on re-building and restoring homes that were not already in place prior to this catastrophic government failure. Our elected officials need to now take responsibility and be held accountable for fixing it without taking it out on the backs of the people they were elected and sworn to serve.