In one way, it will be a sad day when New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin finally leaves office in May after eight incredibly long years at City Hall. He has been such an invaluable source of material for our monthly comedy show Politics with a Punch that I cannot envision anyone else delivering such delicious content.
Certainly it is hard to imagine the staid and polished Mitch Landrieu supplying us with the type of whoppers that Nagin makes on a regular basis. We should not expect to hear Landrieu praise Cuban dictators, tout the high murder rate of New Orleans as a way to “get our brand out there” or call the 9/11 site a “hole in the ground.”
The latest Nagin hilarity came in a CNN interview. The Mayor claimed that he was excited to take a “long vacation. I have been going non-stop for eight years.” He says he has been working so hard he needs a break. Oh really, I think most people would say that he has been hardly working.
Why does Nagin need a long vacation when he has spent most of his eight years on one long vacation? Let’s look at how hard Nagin has been “working.” While he was supposedly toiling so hard for the people of New Orleans, he has found time to visit just about every vacation spot imaginable. He is just back from Martinique and has also enjoyed the sights in Hawaii, Australia, China, Rio, South Africa, Mexico, Cuba, and Jamaica, just to highlight a few of his many mayoral vacations.
There is nothing wrong with prudent travel for any Mayor of New Orleans. Of course, it is necessary for a Mayor to travel to Capitol Hill on occasion or to participate in mayoral conferences. However, it is imperative for an effective Mayor to be highly visible in the community dealing with problems, listening to constituents and attending important neighborhood forums. Sadly, Nagin has been mostly invisible in recent years, leading many people to speculate about his whereabouts. It is no surprise that he earned the nickname Ray “Na-gone.”
Some of his trips were touted as “economic development” missions, but, they never resulted in any businesses or jobs moving to New Orleans. In reality, these out of town excursions were just vacations that Nagin enjoyed for free. The travel tabs have been paid by vendors or the taxpayers of New Orleans. Adding to the cost, Nagin never travels alone and is usually accompanied by an entourage of security and staff.
Let’s not forget that the Mayor has a townhouse in Dallas that he visits on a regular basis and has also traveled all over this country trying to boost his profile as an “expert on recovery issues.” He is almost never in the office working, but is often exercising, having long lunches, or traveling. When a reporter from WWL-TV tried to investigate his lax work schedule, Nagin became agitated and challenged their news director to a fight in the parking lot. Obviously, the topic was a sore point and a source of embarrassment for Mr. Nagin, which is why he likes to keep his schedule a secret.
The CNN piece also noted that Nagin has an approval rating lower than George W. Bush at the end of his term. In the latest poll, Nagin’s approval rating was an abysmal 20 percent, lower than any rating for any Mayor in the history of New Orleans polling.
At this point, the people of New Orleans agree with the Mayor. He does need a long vacation. In fact, there is no need to hurry back; the people have seen enough of his “hard work” in New Orleans.
Jeff Crouere is the Host of “Ringside Politics,” which airs at 7:30 p.m. Fri. and 10:00 p.m. Sun. on WLAE-TV 32, a PBS station, and 7 till 11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990 AM in New Orleans and the Northshore. He is the Political Analyst for WGNO-TV ABC26 and a Columnist for selected publications. For more information, visit his web site at RingsidePolitics.com. E-mail him at [email protected].