Monday, August 25, 2008

You broke my heart! You broke my heart!

A member of the stopped clock that is the Bush Administration comes up with the correct time regarding the ongoing disaster that is New Orleans.

YOU'LL NOTE I didn't say the ongoing disaster that is post-Katrina New Orleans. At any rate, The Times-Picayune asked federal recovery czar Douglas O'Dell what time it was, and he said it's late.

Late, indeed:
On one of his frequent visits to New Orleans, federal recovery coordinator Douglas O'Dell delivered a bruising critique of the Nagin administration on Thursday, saying "there is growing frustration" in Washington with the speed, efficiency and competence of City Hall's efforts to manage the local recovery after Hurricane Katrina.

O'Dell, who consults with dozens of federal, state and local agencies and troubleshoots regulatory logjams, said Mayor Ray Nagin's recovery director, Ed Blakely, often does not return his calls and seems to be operating under the premise -- erroneous, O'Dell thinks -- that a new presidential administration next year "will reload the cannon and start shooting money down here."

O'Dell's critique, developed over several interviews, came as The Times-Picayune accompanied him on an all-day New Orleans visit Thursday. The coordinator visits the area at least every other week to discuss a wide range of recovery issues with regional officials, his aides said.

O'Dell's most recent visit included a problem-solving technical session with local, state and federal housing officials; a discussion of education issues with state Education Superintendent Paul Pastorek; meetings with local business leaders and law enforcement officials; and consultations with Paul Rainwater, his state counterpart as director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority.

O'Dell praised the work of some local and state leaders, such as Pastorek, who recently unveiled a massive school reconstruction plan involving 28 new or rehabilitated schools and $685 million in hand for construction.

And he singled out for more praise Bill Chrisman, the city's new capital projects director, and Cynthia Sylvain-Lear, who oversees capital projects as the city's deputy chief administrative officer. "She has her finger on the pulse," he said.

But in several interviews, O'Dell expressed continuing frustration with Blakely, an urban planning professor from Australia who once served as deputy mayor of Oakland, Calif.

He said Blakely is often absent and unavailable and leads an office that produces "ethereal visions" of recovery that cannot be financed with federal recovery dollars.

"I'm basically asking Blakely, who's probably getting paid a whole hell of a lot more money than I am, to do his damn job," O'Dell said.

"He's there not only to plan, but to execute. Not only to manage, but lead. He's not an elected official, but as a nonelected official he wields enormous influence over the future of this city and the speed of its recovery," he continued.

"And he's failing, in my view."


Asked why he chose to be so blunt about the work of Blakely's office, O'Dell said: "What I'm trying to do is plainly tell the federal view, the universal federal view . . . that the federal government has created $126 billion worth of response to this tragedy. And there are a lot of people in the federal government who are not happy with the way it's being applied -- with the speed it's being applied, the efficiency with which it's being applied. And there's great concern as to the transparency with which its being applied."

O'Dell said Thursday that Blakely's office sometimes seeks recovery money for projects "based on rough sketches, arm waving, 'imagineering,' whatever."

THERE'S ONE THING, however, that I couldn't tell you whether O'Dell grasps or not. It's the sad fact that this is as good as it gets in the Big Uneasy.

I don't know that the former Marine general apprehends that New Orleans is the slow-witted goombah in the godfather's coterie -- the one who's just as eager to skim a few Benjamins off the top of the weekly protection-money haul as he is clueless that the capo (that would be the Louisiana statehouse) knows the score and would have had him whacked years ago, except that N'Awly is mama's sister's baby boy, and even Michael Corleone doesn't need that kind of heat.

And even Michael Corleone doesn't need that kind of heat. . . .

And even Michael Corleone doesn't need that kind of heat. . . .

AS THE CIVIC-MINDED IDIOT with an admitted soft spot for N'Awly, I've been saying and saying, "N'Awly, cut that s*** out . . . the Big Boss is wise to you, and if he don't whack you, the G-Man will!"

And N'Awly, he say, "Aw, Favog! You worry too much. Ain't nobody gonna mess wit N'Awly. If Cuz get too mad at me, I'll shake Unk Sam down for a few thou more, and we be square. Chill, Cap!"

And den I say, "Cher, you don' unnerstand. It different this time. Unk Sam sick of coughin' up more protection money than what he owe da Capo. I hear he been talkin' to da feds, an' if push come to shove, da Big Boss gonna hang you out to dry wid da G-Man.

"Dat way, you outta his hair, and he don' have to tell his Mama he had her sister's baby boy whacked."

And then N'Awly say . . . well, N'Awly was gonna say sumptin', but right then the floodwall started leakin' through the newspaper expansion joint . . . and this wall a water started headin' our way . . . and I ain't ashamed to say I got the hell outta there.

Last I saw N'Awly, he was kickin in the door of da liquor store, tryin' to grab him a case of Early Times before the water got too high and rurnt it.

I GUESS UNK SAM -- not to mention Gen. O'Dell -- knew how to get N'Awly out of everybody's hair after all. Something tells me N'Awly's (and the Capo's, too) days in the "protection" bidness are numbered.


Anonymous said...

Dude. You should look up info about Ed Blakely and the comments he made about corruption and New Orleans buffoons after coming here and making all manner of promises. Ed's an outsider, a planning prof from Sydney Australia, UC Berkeley, NYU, with a center for "sustainable" suburban development named after him at UC Riverside (this on top of a center named after him in Sydney). You sound exactly like him here.

The Mighty Favog said...

At some point -- and this is a concept lost on my home state -- you have to take responsibility for the dumbass things done in your name by the government YOU ELECTED.

I know all about Ed Blakely. And Ray Nagin, whom New Orleanians re-elected, hired him. Between Blakely and Nagin (and all the crooks with their hands in, ultimately, Uncle Sam's pocket) the recovery is doomed.

It's a bitch to try to turn 300 years of history and civic culture (or lack civic culture, as the case may be) on a dime in the wake of Katrina -- and it's probably unfair to expect such of a people -- but it was New Orleans' only chance. Y'all screwed it up.

Perception is reality, and the continuing tale of dysfunction and corruption and incompetence eminating from the Crescent City has been, is now, and will be devastating.

You're squandering your one shot; in the wake of three years of the mess America has witnessed in Katrina's wake, there will be no more cash. This is America; we're forgiving and supportive of tinhorn little s***s with suspect track records only when they're far away and pick unwinnable fights with formerly communist superpowers.

That's whack, admittedly. But that's the way it is in the reality-based world.

Life ain't fair, and N.O. (not to mention Louisiana) will be forced to bear the responsibility (and consequences) of its shenanigans whether it thinks it ought to or not.

BTW, the problem with Ed Blakely is not that he's an outsider. The problem with Ed Blakely is he's an absentee, posturing idiot.

Really, "outsider"??? Like the "locals" have been doing anything but making a gigantic mess of things since 1699.