C Ray in absentia

Lee Zurik investigates C Ray’s presence, or absence if you will, in steering the recovery of New Orleans. Apparantly this was the story that sent C Ray into a psycho rant on the morning news.

and the transcript follows


He’s been called Ray Na-gone, the disappearing mayor and there is even a website poking fun at the perception of his absence.

So just where has the mayor been and what has he been doing?

To help find out, early this year, Eyewitness News put in a public records request with the city for a copy of Nagin’s mayoral calendar or schedule for all of 2007, specifically asking for every city appointment, meeting, and trip for last year.

A few weeks ago Eyewitness News received 56 pages of his schedule – of 2007, and with the help of some political analysts and a few city hall insiders who spoke off the record, we analyzed what the mayor’s been doing.

“If I were the mayor, I would be a little embarrassed that this was my schedule,” said political analyst Clancy DuBos.

“It’s a typical mayoral schedule,” countered analyst Gary Clark. “(It’s) very occupied, very busy and he seems to have a lot on the plate.”

This subjective review of his schedule revealed at most 25 trips for the year, seven to the nation’s capital.

“I don’t think there’s an excessive amount of travel on city business,” said DuBos. “That’s part of a mayor’s job.”

That travel includes only two trips to Dallas – one in April, the other July. Neither had any city business scheduled. The number of trips confirms what the mayor told Eyewitness News last month. When questioned about it, he said he goes to Dallas about every four to six months.

The schedule shows that rumors about Nagin’s family living in Dallas are also false.

In March, July and September Nagin went to school and camp functions in New Orleans for his daughter. Beginning in May, many Fridays included lunch with his wife.

On January 11 of last year, as thousands of New Orleanians marched on city hall, the mayor promised a new commitment to fighting crime.

“My pledge to the citizens of New Orleans is that everything I do going forward as your mayor will be focused on making sure that murders become a thing of the past in our city,” he said at the time.

His schedule shows that the next day, Friday, January 12, Nagin had three crime-related meetings. But the next mention of crime on his calendar came two weeks later – on the 26th, and it was not a meeting but a press announcement where he gave a crime update.

“The mayor seems disengaged and the schedule seems to reveal that,” said DuBos.

DuBos says that’s apparent in the schedule at the end of April.

“On April 30 of last year, which was the opening day of the legislative session, there’s not even a mention that week that the legislature was in session.”

Nagin did meet with the Orleans legislative delegation on Friday of that week but had just a few appointments each day during the start of the session.

“He’s got four things on this calendar on Monday, April 30,” said DuBos. “The first one is noon. How many CEOs show up at the office at noon?”

But Dillard political science professor Dr. Gary Clark says Nagin’s infrequent visits with lawmakers may be part of his strategy.

“That becomes a question of style,” he said. “In the past we’ve had individuals who are mayors who came out of the Baton Rouge environment. This mayor’s approach is if you put together a strong legislative team that may not be necessary.”

This schedule is in essence a showcase of Nagin’s management style.

“I delegate on a regular basis and I have regular staff meetings and regular one on ones with my key staff people,” he said.

Nagin did have regular meetings with his CAO Brenda Hatfield and Intergovernmental Affairs Director Kenya Smith. But meetings were less frequent – Eyewitness News counted eight – with recovery director Ed Blakely.

On his schedule Nagin met infrequently with key people in Baton Rouge.

“The governor was conspicuous by her absence,” said analyst Ed Renwick. “There didn’t seem to be that many meetings with people from Baton Rouge or the national government.”

“His scheduled shows that he’s not really plugged in much,” said DuBos. “Ray Nagin will have Fridays where he works out, has lunch with his wife and then does nothing again until 6:30 p.m. on Monday.”

Eyewitness News counted 34 Fridays with few scheduled meetings and many only had a workout scheduled for the morning, paperwork and downtime in the afternoon. It’s a schedule DuBos calls different from past mayors.

“They were working early in the morning, late at night and on Saturdays,” he recalled.

On an important Saturday in November, the Saturday of the Bayou Classic, the schedule shows Nagin was on vacation, as Eyewitness News had previously reported, in Jamaica.

“For a guy who is an African-American rock star in politics to not be here for the biggest African-American event in the south other than the Essence festival,” DuBos said.

That trip also kept him out of town during some of the city council’s budget hearings and when he did return – on Wednesday November 28 – he ended the workweek with little on the schedule. On the day the council voted on his budget he spent the afternoon doing paperwork and having downtime.

DuBos said it shows that Nagin is disengaged from the process, but others say it’s Nagin’s political strategy and management style.

When asked a while back if he would call himself a ‘hands-on’ mayor, Nagin said that he was hands on ‘when the situation requires it.’

“New Orleans has gone through a period where it’s used to the mayor being on site – there,” said Clark. “This mayor comes from the business sector. In the business sector you manage by committee.”

And sometimes that style doesn’t require you to work long hours.

“We had a president of the United States who was a 9-5 president – Ronald Regan – and served two terms,” said Clark. “It’s style.”

A style and a schedule that analysts we talked to interpret differently.

“Overall, I look at this schedule and I’m wondering where the rest of the time went,” said DuBos. “There are a lot of holes there. There are some days packed full and to me a mayor’s schedule ought to be packed full every day.”

“A mayoral schedule is like a budget,” countered Clark. “You can look at a budget and dissect it and certain aspects you don’t like.”

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~ by maringouin on Thursday, February 21, 2008.

 
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