Wednesday, September 07, 2005

That buck's done stopped...

Nothing like a nasty comment to get me fired up first thing in the morning. I'm pretty sick and tired of all the blame and buck passing that's been going on over the catastrophe in New Orleans. As I see it that buck's done stopped... right in front of mayor Ray Nagin. Here's a CNN interview with him from Sept. 2:

Mayor to feds: 'Get off your asses'
Transcript of radio interview with New Orleans' Nagin

Friday, September 2, 2005; Posted: 2:59 p.m. EDT (18:59 GMT)

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin speaks Saturday, before Hurricane Katrina's devastation.

(CNN) -- New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin blasted the slow pace of federal and state relief efforts in an expletive-laced interview with local radio station WWL-AM.

The following is a transcript of WWL correspondent Garland Robinette's interview with Nagin on Thursday night. Robinette asked the mayor about his conversation with President Bush:

NAGIN: I told him we had an incredible crisis here and that his flying over in Air Force One does not do it justice. And that I have been all around this city, and I am very frustrated because we are not able to marshal resources and we're outmanned in just about every respect.
You know the reason why the looters got out of control? Because we had most of our resources saving people, thousands of people that were stuck in attics, man, old ladies. ... You pull off the doggone ventilator vent and you look down there and they're standing in there in water up to their freaking necks.

And they don't have a clue what's going on down here. They flew down here one time two days after the doggone event was over with TV cameras, AP reporters, all kind of goddamn -- excuse my French everybody in America, but I am pissed.

WWL: Did you say to the president of the United States, "I need the military in here"?

NAGIN: I said, "I need everything."

Now, I will tell you this -- and I give the president some credit on this -- he sent one John Wayne dude down here that can get some stuff done, and his name is [Lt.] Gen. [Russel] Honore.

And he came off the doggone chopper, and he started cussing and people started moving. And he's getting some stuff done.

They ought to give that guy -- if they don't want to give it to me, give him full authority to get the job done, and we can save some people.

WWL: What do you need right now to get control of this situation?

NAGIN: I need reinforcements, I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. We ain't talking about -- you know, one of the briefings we had, they were talking about getting public school bus drivers to come down here and bus people out here.

I'm like, "You got to be kidding me. This is a national disaster. Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get their asses moving to New Orleans."

That's -- they're thinking small, man. And this is a major, major, major deal. And I can't emphasize it enough, man. This is crazy.

I've got 15,000 to 20,000 people over at the convention center. It's bursting at the seams. The poor people in Plaquemines Parish. ... We don't have anything, and we're sharing with our brothers in Plaquemines Parish.

It's awful down here, man.

WWL: Do you believe that the president is seeing this, holding a news conference on it but can't do anything until [Louisiana Gov.] Kathleen Blanco requested him to do it? And do you know whether or not she has made that request?

NAGIN: I have no idea what they're doing. But I will tell you this: You know, God is looking down on all this, and if they are not doing everything in their power to save people, they are going to pay the price. Because every day that we delay, people are dying and they're dying by the hundreds, I'm willing to bet you.

We're getting reports and calls that are breaking my heart, from people saying, "I've been in my attic. I can't take it anymore. The water is up to my neck. I don't think I can hold out." And that's happening as we speak.

You know what really upsets me, Garland? We told everybody the importance of the 17th Street Canal issue. We said, "Please, please take care of this. We don't care what you do. Figure it out."

WWL: Who'd you say that to?

NAGIN: Everybody: the governor, Homeland Security, FEMA. You name it, we said it.

And they allowed that pumping station next to Pumping Station 6 to go under water. Our sewage and water board people ... stayed there and endangered their lives.

And what happened when that pumping station went down, the water started flowing again in the city, and it starting getting to levels that probably killed more people.

In addition to that, we had water flowing through the pipes in the city. That's a power station over there.

So there's no water flowing anywhere on the east bank of Orleans Parish. So our critical water supply was destroyed because of lack of action.

WWL: Why couldn't they drop the 3,000-pound sandbags or the containers that they were talking about earlier? Was it an engineering feat that just couldn't be done?

NAGIN: They said it was some pulleys that they had to manufacture. But, you know, in a state of emergency, man, you are creative, you figure out ways to get stuff done.

Then they told me that they went overnight, and they built 17 concrete structures and they had the pulleys on them and they were going to drop them.

I flew over that thing yesterday, and it's in the same shape that it was after the storm hit. There is nothing happening. And they're feeding the public a line of bull and they're spinning, and people are dying down here.

WWL: If some of the public called and they're right, that there's a law that the president, that the federal government can't do anything without local or state requests, would you request martial law?

NAGIN: I've already called for martial law in the city of New Orleans. We did that a few days ago.

WWL: Did the governor do that, too?

NAGIN: I don't know. I don't think so.

But we called for martial law when we realized that the looting was getting out of control. And we redirected all of our police officers back to patrolling the streets. They were dead-tired from saving people, but they worked all night because we thought this thing was going to blow wide open last night. And so we redirected all of our resources, and we hold it under check.

I'm not sure if we can do that another night with the current resources.

And I am telling you right now: They're showing all these reports of people looting and doing all that weird stuff, and they are doing that, but people are desperate and they're trying to find food and water, the majority of them.

Now you got some knuckleheads out there, and they are taking advantage of this lawless -- this situation where, you know, we can't really control it, and they're doing some awful, awful things. But that's a small majority [what?] of the people. Most people are looking to try and survive.

And one of the things people -- nobody's talked about this. Drugs flowed in and out of New Orleans and the surrounding metropolitan area so freely it was scary to me, and that's why we were having the escalation in murders. People don't want to talk about this, but I'm going to talk about it.

You have drug addicts that are now walking around this city looking for a fix, and that's the reason why they were breaking in hospitals and drugstores. They're looking for something to take the edge off of their jones, if you will.

And right now, they don't have anything to take the edge off. And they've probably found guns. So what you're seeing is drug-starving crazy addicts, drug addicts, that are wrecking havoc. And we don't have the manpower to adequately deal with it. We can only target certain sections of the city and form a perimeter around them and hope to God that we're not overrun.

WWL: Well, you and I must be in the minority. Because apparently there's a section of our citizenry out there that thinks because of a law that says the federal government can't come in unless requested by the proper people, that everything that's going on to this point has been done as good as it can possibly be.

NAGIN: Really?

WWL: I know you don't feel that way.

NAGIN: Well, did the tsunami victims request? Did it go through a formal process to request?

You know, did the Iraqi people request that we go in there? Did they ask us to go in there? What is more important?

And I'll tell you, man, I'm probably going get in a whole bunch of trouble. I'm probably going to get in so much trouble it ain't even funny. You probably won't even want to deal with me after this interview is over.

WWL: You and I will be in the funny place together.

NAGIN: But we authorized $8 billion to go to Iraq lickety-quick. After 9/11, we gave the president unprecedented powers lickety-quick to take care of New York and other places.

Now, you mean to tell me that a place where most of your oil is coming through, a place that is so unique when you mention New Orleans anywhere around the world, everybody's eyes light up -- you mean to tell me that a place where you probably have thousands of people that have died and thousands more that are dying every day, that we can't figure out a way to authorize the resources that we need? Come on, man.

You know, I'm not one of those drug addicts. I am thinking very clearly.

And I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now.

WWL: What can we do here?

NAGIN: Keep talking about it.

WWL: We'll do that. What else can we do?

NAGIN: Organize people to write letters and make calls to their congressmen, to the president, to the governor. Flood their doggone offices with requests to do something. This is ridiculous.

I don't want to see anybody do anymore goddamn press conferences. Put a moratorium on press conferences. Don't do another press conference until the resources are in this city. And then come down to this city and stand with us when there are military trucks and troops that we can't even count.

Don't tell me 40,000 people are coming here. They're not here. It's too doggone late. Now get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country.

WWL: I'll say it right now, you're the only politician that's called and called for arms like this. And if -- whatever it takes, the governor, president -- whatever law precedent it takes, whatever it takes, I bet that the people listening to you are on your side.

NAGIN: Well, I hope so, Garland. I am just -- I'm at the point now where it don't matter. People are dying. They don't have homes. They don't have jobs. The city of New Orleans will never be the same in this time.

WWL: We're both pretty speechless here.

NAGIN: Yeah, I don't know what to say. I got to go.

WWL: OK. Keep in touch. Keep in touch.

The statements in bold are my own emphasis. I think any of those statements can be directed right back to the mayor. I can't find the quote I was looking for. I heard him in one interview question to anyone who was trying to place responsibility on him, "Where were you? I was here." Well, maybe you were there, but what had you done over the years to plan for a disaster? Where was your plan like Houston's? Yeah, sure, you pleaded with the federal government to do something, but what did you do yourself to have a plan in place? You don't wait for a state of emergency to get creative and figure out how to get things done. You get creative and figure things out before the disaster strikes. Everyone knew that this was inevitable, but they did nothing. What is a mayor's job? To take care of his city. Not to pass the blame on to everyone else. Why hadn't he done everything in his power in the days leading up to the storm?

He said, "I don't know whose problem it is. I don't know whether it's the governor's problem. I don't know whether it's the president's problem, but somebody needs to get their ass on a plane and sit down, the two of them, and figure this out right now." If that's not passing the buck then I don't know what is. Dude, I know he's stressed and devastated and angry, but I measure a man by his willingness to accept responsibility for his own failures. Accountability matters. And Ray Nagin isn't measuring up.

I hope we all learn a serious lesson from all of this. We all need to prepare for the worst. We all need to make sure our local leaders have disaster plans in place. No more sticking our heads in the sand and waiting for someone else (the federal government) to fix our own backyards. I'm not saying that there haven't been problems with the federal reaction to the disaster. It's clear that there have been, but come on, Nagin, you can't just blame it all on everyone else.

Yeah, I know it's easy for me to sit here and spout off. But I have every right to criticize someone who hasn't done his job very well and tries to blame it on everyone else. I'm angry about it. I feel horrible for the people who have lost everything.


Jillian said...

Great post!! Keep it up!!

Average White Guy said...

Great post!

I think Bush saying we shouldn't play the blame game is BS! If I screw up at work I am held accountable.The President Congress, FEMA, The Governor, and the Mayor all should have done more! Someone needs to be blamed and pay some consequences. How can we teach our kids etics if our leaders are slackers and weasels! SORRY to rant!

DHammett said...

What a difference from the way Giuliani reacted in NYC! OK, according to CNN, the federal govt. has approved over $50 billion (with a b) in aid to New Orleans and the rest of the hurricane victims. Thousands of troops and National guardsmen have been sent in. The Army Corps of Engineers has plugged the levees and repared the pumps. What are the mayor's locals doing? Oh yeah, over 50 policemen quit right after the disaster.

And like you said, Rae Ann, this is a disaster that's been waiting to happen. Every other major city in the country takes care of its infrastructure. I've read that New Orleans has known that repairs/upgrades have been necessary for over 40 years. What has your office been doing, Mr. Noggin, er, Naggin', er Nagin?

Gotta go...I've got to find some chocolate to take the edge off of my jones.

verification, for the benefit of the mayor: dpwadd

mr_g said...

I agree about the lack of foresight and preparation. There's no question that this was a major contributor to the chaos.

That being said, when the disaster was imminent, the "law" goes out the window. The federal government can't stand on protocol during crisis. I was watching the news reports again last night and all I heard people say was, "Where is FEMA?" At this point in the game, it has to go beyond placing blame. It just needs to get done!

DHammett said...

I think it is getting done, now. More and more encouraging reports are starting to flow (no pun intended)out of the city.

But in getting it done, especially in the beginning hours, there needs to be communication from the city and state to the federal government to allow the latter to respond appropriately. The mayor can't just say, we need help. He has to say where he needs it, how much he needs, etc. He and his staff (police chief, fire chief, etc.) are the eyes and ears on the ground. Without their input, nobody is going to know how to best respond. One can't expect FEMA to know every city in every state with enough familiarity to be able to make these decisions...there is too much area to cover and too few people to do it. I've had the opportunity to work with FEMA. These are some of the best-intentioned men and women you'll ever find. And while they are usually all about preparation, they also fly to all corners of the country on virtually a moment's notice in the event of a disaster.

Let's give those who are trying to help a break, forget the blame game, and do what each of us can to help those affected get back on their feet.

Even though I'm jonesing on this blog, I need to get back to work lickety quick (is naggin' really that illiterate?).

Rae Ann said...

jill, thanks for coming by!

awg, you can rant here all you want! I sure do plenty.

mr g, this whole thing has really affected me on a core level. My misplaced faith in humanity has finally shifted elsewhere.

dammit hammett, you crack me up! Lickety quick! lol Did you get your chocolate fix? Mmmm, I could use some of that lickety quick. I had something semi-intelligent to say but that lickety quick thing just made me forget it. I can't say what else I just thought. *blushes*

I'm so flustered I even messed up the first word verification.

eatmisery said...

"Pass the Buck" is a great game for politicians to play. They're so innately good at it.

Kristi said...

Nagin is a rat. A wet, drowning rat.

I am also sick of hearing everyone blame each other.

Rat Nagin needs to step up and admit that he failed the very people that elected him. Oh, wait, the people he needs to apologize to most are no longer of this earth.

NO was too busy partying when they should have been securing their infrastructure.

I was always taught to take care of my self and not to depend on others to do things for me. I

ellipsis... said...

As one who was in NYC after 9/11, I can say that this a whole different reality. This feels so different in the way people are reacting and behaving. It's an epic nightmare made worse by the insane behavior.

Rae Ann said...

em, yeah, I guess that's a requirement to be a politician.

kristi, me too. I think a lot of people have an 'entitlement' mentality. They don't want to take care of themselves.

ellipsis, I agree completely.