Mayor Ray Nagin's explosive comments about Carnival at a town hall meeting in Atlanta foreshadowed last week's rift between the mayor and New Orleans tourism leaders. TV coverage of Nagin's remarks also revealed a glaring omission in The Times-Picayune's story about the mayor's address to homesick New Orleanians -- his response to a simple question. The uproar began when displaced New Orleanian Betty Gaynor deplored Nagin's decision to proceed with Carnival 2006. "How can we be having Mardi Gras and we aren't even there?" Gaynor asked, referring to the inability of thousands of evacuees to move back home. A large crowd of other evacuees roared in agreement as Nagin responded: "I went before the tourist industry and the lieutenant governor and all those folks. They are of the mindset that we need to hold Mardi Gras to get the economy going again..." Voices in the audience yelled: "Oh no! Oh no!" "I was against it; I was against it," the mayor told the crowd, emphatically. At least two local television stations broadcast the mayor's comments back to viewers in New Orleans the same night. One station reported that the mayor told the Atlanta crowd he was opposed to Carnival but that he was "outvoted" by tourism leaders in New Orleans. The following morning, in its Sunday editions, The Times-Picayune turned Gaynor's question into a four-column headline over its story. However, the T-P story did not mention Nagin's startling revelation that he had opposed going forward with Carnival so soon after Katrina. -- Johnson
NOPD: Sink or swim
The more than 100,000 pages of emails and documents released to Congress earlier this month continue to be a public relations nightmare for the office of Gov. Kathleen Blanco. But what about the private citizens mentioned in the documents who offered volunteer services? Brad Reeves of Shreveport closed down his business, Reeves Marine, for about a week to help with search and rescue. He arrived in New Orleans two days after Katrina with 15 boats in tow, two workers on each craft and two surgeons in his party. Karen Zoeller, communications director for the Governor's Office of the Workforce Commission, sent an email to Kim Hunter Reed, deputy chief of staff, about the situation at 2:34 p.m. on Aug. 30: "I hate to have him on the road and then arrive here with no contact and nothing to do."
Yet, that's exactly what happened. "But what really stands out in my mind is when three policemen from New Orleans drove up in a new Cadillac and said they needed one of my boats," Reeves recalls. Shortly after the storm, reports surfaced that the Louisiana Attorney General's Office was investigating thefts of about 200 cars from Sewell Cadillac in New Orleans -- allegedly by some members of NOPD. While Reeves says he was more than happy to hand over the boat, he now finds the event somewhat disconcerting. "The officer gave me his name and number and said he would return it when they were done," he says. "When I contacted him sometime later, though, he said the boat was gone, that it had gotten shot up and the bullets had sunk the boat." Reeves says he has given up trying to find his vessel. -- Alford
More greatest hits
The recently released Hurricane Katrina documents also reveal a few punchy remarks made by our public officials, such as those found in the following emails. "I am in the mood to kick anyone named Katrina right now," wrote Gov. Kathleen Blanco, late in the evening on Aug. 26, two days before the hurricane made landfall. She also mentioned a "probable evacuation" would soon need to be called. The following day, as emails flew back and forth in preparation for the Category 4 storm, Kim Hunter Reed, deputy chief of staff, asked Communications Director Bob Mann if she could tend to some important business: "I assume I am safe to go grocery shopping ...?" -- Alford
Time to move?
It may be time for Mayor Ray Nagin's town hall meetings in New Orleans to move out of the downtown Sheraton Hotel and into the neighborhoods affected by Hurricane Katrina, says real estate developer Shawn Barney, a former candidate for the Legislature and son of the late local civil rights leader Clarence Barney. "These town hall meetings may be more effective if [the city] would start to go into those communities and address those issues," Barney, 31, said, after attending one of Nagin's recent meetings. Barney says Nagin can channel anguish into action by prioritizing recovery issues within each neighborhood. For example, debris removal -- not restoration of power -- is a higher priority in Algiers, which escaped serious flooding. However, in eastern New Orleans and Gentilly, the restoration of electricity and gas is critical to the return of displaced homeowners. Asked how the city can heal its racial divisions after Katrina, Barney says: "The storm didn't discriminate and the recovery should not discriminate." He notes that residents of Lakeview, Gentilly and the Lower Ninth Ward have all expressed fears of being "shut out" of the city's rebuilding efforts. Katrina flooded all three neighborhoods. Barney campaigned for a state Senate seat earlier this year but was disqualified from the race by a successful court challenge to his residency.ÊBarney and his family buried Clarence Barney on Aug. 27, then evacuated to Houston before Katrina hit New Orleans on Aug. 29. -- Johnson
Another D-Day Casualty
The National D-Day Museum reopened three months after sustaining $200,000 in losses to looters and vandals after Hurricane Katrina. Museum officials acknowledge the long delay also stole an irreplaceable asset from the shrine to World War II veterans -- time. With World War II veterans dying at a rate of 1,000 a day, fewer will be on hand for an international conference on the war that has been rescheduled for November 2006, museum officials say. Originally scheduled for Oct. 5-9, 2005, the conference promised a memorable climax to the 60th anniversary of the end of World War II. However, two of the more than 120 notable speakers scheduled to address the October convention have since died, says museum historian Martin Morgan.ÊSo, why wait more than a year? "We thought about doing it in the fall (of 2006), but we really didn't want to take the risk of another hurricane," says museum spokesperson Clem Goldberger. Concerns about the availability of hotel rooms in the spring was another reason for the later date. -- Johnson FEMA frightened Quoting a spokesperson with the Federal Emergency Management Agency, The Washington Post reported last weekend that the government responder pulled all of its workers out of the Lower Ninth Ward on Dec. 2 after "threats of violence." An internal email obtained by Gambit Weekly and written by Anthony Bertucci, a project engineer with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, reveals a first-hand account of a local resident threatening a contractor at a site near Florida and Claiborne avenues. "The resident approached one of the contractor's laborers and blamed the Corps of Engineers for blowing up the floodwall along the Lower Ninth Ward. He stated that his mother was killed when the levee failed. Then the resident proceeded to tell the contractor's employee that he had a gun and that he intended to return to kill the contractor's employees." Bertucci confirmed the authenticity of the email in an interview, adding that -- unlike FEMA -- none of the Corps' workers were pulled from the area. -- Alford Early campaign slogans The Republican Party of Louisiana began selling bumper stickers on the first Friday of the month emblazoned with, "Don't Blame Me, I Voted for Jindal." By the end of the day, party officials reported they were sold out and more than 1,000 were on order. In unrelated news, no reports are available for how many "FREE EDWIN" bumper stickers have been sold since the former governor was sent to the pokey. -- Alford
CORRECTION: In "Scuttlebutt" section of our Dec. 6 issue, an item about discrepancies in the death count from Hurricane Katrina had the wrong byline. The item was written by Jeremy Alford.