Nov 16, 200912:00 AM
The Editor's Room
Weekly Commentary with New Orleans Magazine’s Errol Laborde
Errol Laborde: Nagin Responds to Blakely, the Sequel
Ray Nagin finally had something to say about Ed Blakely’s slandering of New Orleans –– sort of. Confronted at Dooky Chase restaurant, Nagin, according to the Times-Picayune, called Blakely’s prediction of race riots in the city "foolishness." The mayor, however, added that Blakely is "entitled to his own opinion" and then revealed that his former "recovery czar" never felt comfortable here. Nagin is quoted in the article, written by David Hammer, saying the following: "I talked to him when I was in Sydney, Australia -- we kind of got quiet, one-on-one -- and he was really still a little hurt. He said this was a tough city for him to live in, so he never felt totally welcome."
Let’s examine the three parts of the mayor's response:
• Referring to the prediction of race riots as "foolishness." Here the mayor was correct if not too gentle. Better terms might have been "hurtful," "asinine," “uninformed” and maybe even “idiotic.” Nevertheless, we will give the mayor a point on this.
• Saying that Blakely is “entitled to his opinion.” Well, OK, everyone is entitled to his or her opinion –– so too were David Duke and, for that matter, Adolf Hitler. The issue is what threat do those opinions cause for people and places? In the age of the Internet, Blakely’s opinions could go global within minutes. Those who did know much about Blakely but were dazzled by his titles would likely take his comments seriously and see New Orleans as a racist cesspool. In speaking about the city, someone who passes himself off as an academic should offer some analysis, substance and fairness behind wants he says, but not Ed Blakely for whom it is easier to just play the race card. Nagin gets zero points for this.
• Saying that Blakely never felt welcomed here. A very high-ranking public official once told me, off the record, that when Blakely arrived, he called and offered to meet with Blakely to share information about the area. According to the official, Blakely never returned the call. Eventually the official saw Blakely at a public event, introduced himself to Blakely and again offered to get together. Blakely said he would call him but never did. Using the old “never felt welcomed here” argument is a throwback to snickering about Southern genteel society, but it is just not true. Ask Appleton, Wis., native Arnold Fielkow, who has lived in this town less than a decade and who many people hoped would run for mayor. Mayor deLesseps Morrison was a native of New Roads in Central Louisiana; so too was Lindy Boggs. Angela Hill, possibly the region's most popular female, arrived here from Corpus Christi, Texas. North Carolinian Chris Paul feels a lot of love here. Alton Ochsner, the progenitor of a medical dynasty and a former Rex, hailed from South Dakota. Bill Jefferson, a native of Lake Providence in Northeast Louisiana, built a political empire here. He lost it –– but not because he did not feel welcomed. Look at the younger-than-40 crowd that is moving into the city because they see this as a place to build businesses and enjoy life. Examples abound. If Ed Blakely never felt welcome here, it was because he spent too little time here to get to be known. On this point, Nagin gets another zero.
In what should have been a strong repudiation of the man who unjustly defamed his city, Nagin went one for three. In baseball terms, he batted 333 when he should have hit 1000.
No wonder he might be feeling out at home.
Krewe: The Early New Orleans Carnival - Comus to Zulu by Errol Laborde is available at all area bookstores. Books can also be ordered via e- mail at email@example.com or (504) 895-2266.
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