Four weeks from the anniversary and we still don’t have a plan. In fact, until a week ago we didn’t have a mayor. Now our mayor has re-appeared to announce that, at some point in the near but still non-dated future, there will indeed be a Plan!
Forgive me for being under-whelmed.
After getting re-elected, C. Ray Nagin virtually disappeared. Sure, we would hear reports that he was showing up at the Essence Festival and other, farther-flung events and happenings, making speeches about how New Orleans was “on the right track,” but if we had thought the Mayor of New Orleans would appear around town with actual, real, solid plans for rebuilding, well, we were sadly mistaken. Perhaps it was too depressing around here, what with not much getting done and all.
Now apparently back from his good will tour, last week C. Ray held a big press conference to trumpet the exciting news that New Orleans is, in fact, “on the right track.” He also informed us that he would soon appoint a Rebuilding Czar to oversee the rebuilding effort. He didn’t name this Czar, mind you, but told us that there will be one. But that’s our Sugar Ray – he promises everyone everything, but doesn’t understand why we expect him to actually keep those promises. Eleven months after and this city still doesn’t have anyone in charge of its recovery, and no, I never bought C. Ray’s assertion that he was performing that function, even before he spent the first two months after being re-elected everywhere and anywhere but New Orleans.
Did I mention being under-whelmed?
The other thing Sugar Ray wanted to trumpet was that people are “tending” to get rebuilding permits in higher spots in the city as opposed to the low-lying areas, which he used to defend his “market-driven” rebuilding process as opposed to government telling people where to rebuild. But a tendency isn’t a plan, and the one house per block in the Lower 9th or out East is going to want water, electricity, sewage, fire and police just as much as those clustered Uptown, and they deserve it, too. But how much is that going to cost this bankrupt city? Not to mention the question of where the promised improvements – the parks, the commuter trains, the “big-box” retail district, the Cat 5 sized levees – will go, and what happens when one of them goes where someone’s “market-driven” rebuild happens to be, the rebuild that they have spent the last year and thousands of dollars on. What then?
Proclaiming the debatably positive effects of not planning isn’t the same as leadership. New Orleans needs leadership now, someone to make tough decisions rather than empty promises; in fact, we’ve needed it for eleven months.
New Orleans needs a plan, not the promise of one. We need someone to tell us where services will go, where we can rebuild with the knowledge of levee protection and what kind of protection it will be. We are about to (finally!) receive billions of dollars in aid and New Orleanians and all other Americans have a right to know how that money will be spent. We need a leader who will lay that out in detail.
Unfortunately, instead we’re stuck with Sugar Ray Nagin.