Against Nagin - Portrait of Ineffective Government
I have a somewhat unique point of view that I’d like to share with you over the next several months.
From September of 2003 through March of 2005, I served as a Staff Writer for Mayor Nagin’s Office of Communications. During that time I wrote countless press releases, media advisories, and talking points for Mayor Nagin. I also single-handedly researched and wrote the Mayor’s Two-Year Progress Report.
During my time at City Hall, I got to know the Mayor a little more closely than most people, but only through proximity. The Mayor made a habit of keeping his public mask on, even around the office.
Mayor Nagin suffers from several afflictions of personality that make him a liability to the future of New Orleans. Over the next few weeks, I will present a number of arguments against Nagin as a statesman as well as a leader. I encourage anyone to ask questions and voice their opinions, consenting or differing.
Number One on the list of shortcomings:
1. Nagin tends to believe his own press.
I know this because I used to write it. Nagin is not special in his desire to bend facts to make his administration look good. Everyone expects that. But what bothers me is how Nagin claimed credit for “Hollywood South.” His communications staff slapped a label on economic activity that was already happening (to the tune of nearly $200 million in production work over 2 years) courtesy of the Louisiana Film Tax Credit incentive, which was put in place by Governor Mike Foster’s office.
Yet Nagin spent city money to visit Los Angeles and meet with studio reps in an attempt to bring more movies to the city. Hollywood South is smoke and mirrors, a catchy hook to claim credit for something other people had already done. And now, Hollywood South is under a thin layer of petroleum and bio-hazards.
Like most novice politicians, Nagin’s rhetoric does not match his effectiveness. He promises the world and delivers a scoop of dirt. Everyone remember the noble concept of a passenger rail from downtown to the airport? That was a jewel in his campaign rhetoric that went away quickly after I came on board.
Nagin’s special disease is “Talk Big – Act Small.” Where the change requires a tsunami’s force, most of Nagin’s plans have provided the cumulative effect of a wave pool. You cannot deny their effectiveness in small doses – such as “Project Second Chance” and the city-sponsored New Orleans Lightning (a biddy basketball team that won a tournament in Nice, France). But when lives were on the line, in a crisis, Nagin’s poor leadership created crime, anarchy, and ultimately death.
Ultimately, this Mayor is more flash than substance. He has an immense ego, judging his administration’s success by the number of cover shots he has on magazines, how often he sees himself on TV, and how favorable the press coverage is. Nagin enjoyed his honeymoon in politics, that first 18 months where he could do no wrong, bringing credibility and “accountability” to the Mayor’s office as the face of a “New New Orleans.”
The truth of the matter is that, while Nagin's national recognition increased, the city's core problems of widespread povery, blighted housing, and unimaginably bad crime remained. This makes him a poor choice to continue the next 4 years as mayor.
Now in the wake of his inept planning and execution of evacuation for Hurricane Katrina, Nagin now has blood on his hands as well. We'll be talking more about this as the weeks wear on.