I doubt that I'll ever get to meet Xzibit, the "Pimp Master of Ceremonies" on MTV's hit show, Pimp My Ride. That's too bad, because I could give him the ultimate challenge: Dude, forget about junk'd cars all over New Orleans -- you gotta pimp my mayor!
For those not familiar with the show, Xzibit and his colleagues at West Coast Customs pull raggedy vehicles off the road and turn the heaps "from dirt to pimped," according to the show's Web site. If Xzibit can do the same thing for a guy's political image, I respectfully submit that Mayor Ray Nagin needs a serious pimp-over. Coincidentally, the reason has a lot to do with dirty cars.
Nagin's administration rejected a Texas car-crushing company's offer to pay the city $100 per vehicle for the right to scrap thousands (estimates have ranged from 30,000 to 50,000) of abandoned, flooded-out cars in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina -- and instead awarded the contract to a Denver-based company that wants to charge the city $1,000 per vehicle. To be fair, the Denver company's bid was for more work -- including towing, storage and notice to vehicle owners -- whereas the Texas firm's offer was just for scrapping the cars. There's also the matter of mitigating any hazardous materials, such as gasoline, batteries, etc.
Still, the Denver company, known as CH2M Hill (gotta admit they got a pimpin' name), submitted the most expensive of 14 bids for its services -- almost three times the price of several other bidders, including at least one local company. It sure looks like somebody wants to take taxpayers for a ride.
Making such a clunker of a decision -- merely the latest in a string of doofus moves by hizzoner -- was bad enough. When the media got wind of the story, Nagin wimped out. He ran and hid, refusing to answer questions or even to offer an explanation, despite being publicly called out by WWL radio host Garland Robinette.
After two days of silent wimpitude in the face of a media and public outcry, Nagin finally said last Thursday morning that CH2M had decided to pull out of negotiations with the city -- as if that somehow made up for his indefensible decision to give the contract to the highest bidder. Unfortunately for Nagin, that very afternoon his parking administrator told the City Council that CH2M was still in negotiations with the city -- and CH2M sent a letter to CAO Brenda Hatfield saying the company's bid "remains intact."
You know you've been punk'd when your own posse outs you. Man, that's gotta hurt.
But what hurts more is the fact that Nagin expects voters to buy his claim that his negotiators were going to whittle CH2M's price down by $700 per car -- and not trigger cries of favoritism or even legal challenges. Or his assertion that "price is not as much of an issue" because FEMA is going to reimburse the city anyway -- as if FEMA gets its money from somewhere other than taxpayers. FEMA does factor into the equation: If the work is not done by June 30, FEMA's reimbursement rate drops from 100 percent to 90 percent, which means local taxpayers may wind up footing the bill for Nagin's joyride.
Give Nagin credit for this much: He at least manages to affect a pimpin' attitude. No matter how bad he looks or how royally he screws up, he always struts like he's some kinda rock star.
Too bad his performance doesn't match his swagger.
- Mayor Ray Nagin needs a serious pimp-over. The reason has a lot to do with dirty cars.