Yes JazzFest is upon us and you would think that would be the most exciting time but no.
The best news is that the sitting mayor is leaving office.
Yes, we are excited.
Mayor Nagin came into office running against a full slate of Democrats (in a weak field that included a police chief that had just moved to the city a few years back, a state senator with much promise but who had passed little legislation while in office and a councilman who seemed to spend more time at ribbon cuttings than in his chair).
Maybe because of the many candidates the fact that Nagin had switched his party just a few months before to Democrat largely escaped notice. He ran on a "businessman" campaign, most likely winning because of his support for the New Orleans Hornets and his work to get a hockey franchise (whatever happened to that Ray?) which brought out the young professional vote.
He vowed to cut corruption upon winning office. He promptly focused on the taxicab bureau, "perp" marching dozens of people past cameras to show his commitment to a new City Hall. Hard to ignore the fact that the District Attorney threw most of those cases out by October of that year. And let's not that the Taxicab bureau is ALSO the Utilities Department (interesting choice from someone who just served as vice president of COX CABLE right before his mayoral stint) and therefore might have just pulled a fast one by putting his own sympathetic people in that office. Especially since we never heard another peep from him on corruption in any other part of City Hall which would be laughable if it wasn't so goddamn tragic.
Add the Danzinger tragedy to that, as he said this week "it's seven guys. Seven. We have 1,600 police officers."
Even though the decision making in planting the gun and certainly the orders to shoot unarmed civilians during our darkest day seemed to come from supervisory level and that we have just started to unravel this.
So tragic is a word now forever associated with Nagin as mayor. The world watched his meltdown during our worst moment. We, however, had to watch the other 200 worst moments that he gave us after August of 2005. It seemed his modus operandi was to hide away and to deliver laconic "hey man, I was doing my best" type of answers to serious questions of inactivity. And to fight with everyone. And to offer bizarre ideas like selling City Hall and making it a "jazz park".
Actually, let me focus on that for a minute as a perfect example of his mayoral era.
The idea to sell City Hall itself is not a bad one I think. The building (although beloved by internationalist style architecture buffs) is oddly situated (away from our commercial areas) and in the least walkable area of downtown. I wrote C.Ray a letter back in 2003 asking him to look into the idea of the Krauss building as a possible city hall, moving the seat of government steps from Iberville and on Canal Street. Of course instead, developers made Krauss into the white flight answer to staying in the city--condos.
So years later, we heard about a move to another skyscraper near the current CH that seemed most inappropriate for a number of reasons, although who could tell as facts rarely emanate from government. Maybe the Chevron building was perfect and City Council just made a dumb move but in this case, I think their prudence in saying no was sound.
Even so, the idea to sell it off for a jazz amphitheater in its place struck savvy New Orleans as completely out of touch with reality.
As if jazz clubs were overflowing with customers now.
As if people prefer to come to a city known for its neighborhoods to sit in a concrete jungle with 10,000 other tourists.
As if the area by the Superdome needs to be focused on for economic development first, when the Saenger was still closed and Canal is of little use to 99 % of locals and every other business corridor in the city lacks street repair, oversight of zoning and support for entrepreneurs.
In any case, it showed once again Nagin's dismissal of reality and the embracing of any new idea that he could sell as his own, no matter how stupid.
Remember the idea to legislate gambling for every hotel? That was what he came up with in October of 2005 as a suggestion to jump start the economy. Jeeezus. We should have driven him to his home in Dallas then and told him to help them and leave us alone.
When he ran for the second time in 2006, there were a few factors that allowed him to remain in office in my estimation:
1. People were concerned about a new mayor taking time to get up to speed on rebuilding issues.
2. There were few African-American candidates that were electable running.
3. People were busy with rebuilding and did not have time to investigate the new candidates.
4. Mitch Landrieu seemed to not want the job.
So, we ended up with 4 more years of him. And fortunately for him, the resilience and intelligence of New Orleanians has allowed the city to rebound in many areas, and the Saints and HBO are doing the rest. So, even after 8 confused years of low leadership, we will still escape these Nagin years with our heads held high. No thanks to him.