I saw this quote from Mayor C. Ray Nagin’s interview with CNN:
We have this kind of idealism that at some point people are going to understand what we’ve been doing. It’s almost like an underground movement. We’ve been working underground to make sure that this city can fully recover with the hope that at some point people will recognize the good work that we have done.
And I was all set to poke fun and then make a serious point about who is really responsible for the progress you see in terms of home rebuilding and population recovery before I noticed this quote from Mayor Nagin:
I’m also proud of the fact that we empowered this community. I didn’t have to do much, citizens got involved and pushed a lot, it’s their recovery.
The Nagin administration failed to implement a recovery plan. The mayor himself was disengaged and largely absent from public view. The residents of this city have done all of the work on an individual basis with very little infrastructure support from municipal government. Nagin wants to take credit for the fact that the city might be doing a little better than many thought it would in terms of population recovery even though he didn’t do much while glossing over his administration’s inability to implement recovery plans and build public projects.
Jeffrey has a post today about Mitch Landrieu’s “new mayor smell” and the linguistic puffery used by The Times-Picayune to describe his mannerisms at a public meeting of one of his transition task forces. He wisely remarks that this is common practice for most incoming administrations and points to a 2002 article in which The Times-Picayune treats the then-recently elected Nagin in much the same way.
Mitch Landrieu may find himself the subject of many more fawning news articles as he takes the reins of city government, not just as a function of new-mayor smell but because of lingering old-mayor odor.
Landrieu is going to get a lot of credit for “leadership” because he’ll just be doing the regular things that most mayors do but that Nagin has not.
Like, for instance, talking to the City Council. Or attending regular community meetings.
Landrieu understands how important optics are, how just, to use a cliché quote, “showing up is half the battle.”
None of this will mean, of course, that Landrieu is good or bad at being mayor. But the fact that he will be busy actually “being mayor” will be boldly refreshing for New Orleanians who have forgotten what it is like to have a leader who enthusiastically maintains a regular public presence.