Thursday, March 06, 2008

Mr. Attitude

Well, yesterday evening I attended New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin's "One New Orleans" conversation with the Hispanic Community. I guess there were about 60 people in attendance, 20 of whom were somehow part of Nagin's official posse. My reaction: it was a pretty vacuous "conversation." It started with Nagin giving us his laundry list of accomplishments, which lasted about 25 minutes or so, and was then followed by a question and answer session. I guess the Mayor gets credit for at least staging the event, even if the event was pretty much useless. But I do want to mention two things which stood out to me.

First, when asked about his comment regarding New Orleans being overrun by Mexicans, Nagin outright lied to the Hispanic community. Martin Gutierrez, the point person for Catholic Charities and the Hispanic Apostolate, invited Nagin to help him respond to Hispanic questions regarding the meaning of Nagin's comment. Gutierrez's question was phrased very sympathetically and even graciously, but was met with Nagin's characteristic dismissiveness and evasiveness. In fact, I'd say that Nagin insulted Gutierrez and the rest of the Hispanic community by basically claiming falsely that he never made such a comment. Nagin challenged the audience to provide any evidence that he ever said such a thing. Well, here's the evidence.

Now, I want to make it clear that Nagin wasn't even being criticized for this. Gutierrez was only asking him to clear up the matter and remove any doubts or confusion about what he meant with the comment. Gutierrez was basically saying that the Hispanic community heard his comment and perceived it to be not only a manifestation of ignorance as to the demographic reality of the Latino population in the City (i.e. Spanish speaking workers are not all Mexicans) but also a slight against the hard-working Hispanic labor population in the City. And Gutierrez wanted to be able to explain to those who asked him about it what Nagin's comment really meant and how to allay their negative perception of the comment. And Nagin just lied about it. He essentially denied it ever happened.

I can tell you that the room was a bit stunned at the brazenness of the lie, especially since everyone knew exactly what Nagin had said and had seen the video of the comment played over and over again in the Spanish language media. I myself had to pick my jaw up off the floor. Of course, Nagin and his henchmen, even when denying that such a thing ever happened, pulled out the "they're taking the words out of context" and "I love the Hispanic community" lines to paper over the fact. I tell you, it would have been better had he just said: "Yeah, I know, I spoke out of my nether parts on that one. I'm sorry for that." If he had said that his comment, clear in its intent, came amidst a heated exchange about employment and job insecurities for local residents in those uncertain days and months immediately following Katrina, I think his stature among the Hispanic community would have been restored. But, alas, instead of being honest and apologetic, he just lied. Even as I think back on the moment now, I still can't believe that he bald-faced lied about it. I understand that when the local media aired clips of this event on the news last night, they highlighted this lie. Personally, I think he blew it with the Hispanic community with his response. He certainly didn't make it easier for Gutierrez to be able to explain to those who ask him what the Mayor meant by that comment. I mean, what's Gutierrez gonna say to people who clearly saw the Mayor mouthing these words? Is he supposed to tell them: "Well, you see, the Mayor really didn't say that. You're just making the whole thing up."??? Ay, Carajo! Bueno ... ni modo ...

The second noteworthy moment came when Radio Tropical (AM 1540) and Telemundo NO owner, Ernesto Schweikert, III, expressed his personal disappointment with Nagin's ignoring the Hispanic Community following Katrina. Schweikert, in a very calm, but clearly personally disappointed tone, said that he resented the fact that when Katrina hit, Nagin made no effort to communicate with and provide information to the Spanish speaking community via Schweikert's still functional and broadcasting radio station in those first days of the Katrina crisis. Schweikert even went so far as to say how disappointing it was that the Hispanic community welcomed Nagin and helped elect him to office, only to be shunned and ignored following Katrina. Schweikert couldn't even get the City to provide him a gallon of gas to run the generator that powered his radio transmission equipment.

Now, the kicker to this moment wasn't so much Schweikert's personal plea, but the shocking and hypocritical quality of Nagin's reply to it. In typical Nagin "cold-cocking" fashion, Nagin responded by getting all defensive and telling Schweikert that he was out of place for expressing his personal resentment and disappointment with Nagin and his team in such a public forum. This, from the very man who himself makes a habit of going on television shows and radio programs and engaging in disrespectful and pathetic displays of frustration, anger, and even threats. And he has the gall to then go and tell Schweikert: "You got to have an attitude adjustment." (And that's a direct, verbatim quote from the Mayor.) Unbelievable.

I can assure you, Schweikert's "bad" attitude was not even a fraction of what we've seen the Mayor do in public forums. [Granted, Nagin later apologized to Schweikert for maybe seeming to "come on too strong"; but, heck, the need to even have to do that tells me that Nagin is no better than what he is complaining about.]

Frankly, I think the Mayor, at this point, is pathologically incapable of empathy or frank honesty. He struck me as jaded and not really interested in cultivating constructive and engaged working relationships with people outside of his cocoon. It was all a show, and Nagin was just going through the motions and playing his part, without all that much heart in it. That's how I saw it, anyway.

At least the "Complimentary Refreshments" were good, even if the chicken wings, barbeque ribs, and sausage jambalaya didn't quite match the preferred culinary dishes and flavors of the target audience.


dangerblond said...

He really is just a pathological liar, isn't he? I don't think he even knows it himself when he's lying. All we can do is grit our teeth and wait until his term in office is over. There is no hope at all that he will ever give a flying crap about the people of New Orleans.

jeffrey said...

Good grief. If he's going just to be abrasive and insulting to people, one wonders why he even bothers showing up at all.

He still doesn't really understand the ways in which being a civic leader is different from being a corporate executive.

But this is what the "reformers" said they wanted; someone who runs city government "like a business". I hope they're still enjoying that.

Huck said...

dangerblond - you're right. Nagin doesn't care anymore and he said as much, too. He basically gloated that he was immune from criticism because he couldn't be re-elected. The attitude was, let the critics complain, screw them, they'll get a new Mayor in two years, and until then, what can they do to me. So they better learn to take it. That's the attitude of a cynical autocrat, not a concerned mayor.

jeffrey - Nagin isn't even running the City like a business. I think it's fair to say that if Nagin treated his customer base like he treats New Orleans residents who have a complaint about the "product" he'd lose his job within a week. What's pathetic is that the residents of New Orleans, knowing Nagin's poor customer service skills, re-elected him. In doing so, they basically dropped trou, bent over, and declared to the paddle-wielder: "Thank you sir, may I have another."

jeffrey said...

I think it's fair to say that if Nagin treated his customer base like he treats New Orleans residents who have a complaint about the "product" he'd lose his job within a week.

Really? I don't think that's the lesson he learned at Cox.

Huck said...

Then Cox has a very poor business model, I'd say.

jeffrey said...

Oh I don't know.... a quasi-monopoly which allows you to sit around all day and collect checks from people. Sounds like a pretty decent business model to me.

Leigh C. said...

Even corporate execs have to have some kind of semblance or at least a show of empathy in their dealings with investors, else they are not long for their jobs. What, in the end, makes the Walking Id any different?

Oh, right. He doesn't know when to hang it up and ride off to Dallas. And nobody is powerful enough or has enough influence over him to get through that hard bald head of his.

Anonymous said...

ugh. what a nightmare, this man. someone get him a psychologist!

D-BB said...

jeffrey said...
Good grief. If he's going just to be abrasive and insulting to people, one wonders why he even bothers showing up at all.

Hey Hucky, was he talking about me or Nagin??????

Cause I do have an answer but if the question wasn't for me, then it’s best that I not answer....I guess....but then....why did I write this?????

I don't know.....I think it's that Daylight Saving Time crap where I lost that freakin' hour not to mention having to set my alarm clock for 2AM in the freakin' morning so I could change my clocks at the same time. Wtf they don't just change the hour like at 5PM in the freakin' afternoon so people wouldn’t have to get up at such an ungodly hour and uh.......crap, what was I talkin' about????