September 02, 2005
Interview with Ray Nagin

Here's an interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin. To say the least, it's very blunt. Listen to the whole thing.

That link comes via New Orleans native Ray in Austin, who has a whole lot more on his site. Start at the top and scroll down.

If you haven't already, read this piece by Eric Berger from 2001 about what we've seen this week was going to look like. It's scary how accurate it is.

UPDATE: Here's a transcript of the Nagin interview - thanks, Karin! Also, here's a National Geographic article and a Scientific American article on the same subject as the Berger piece - thanks to Charles M and Kevin for the links.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 02, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

"I don't think anyone anticipated the breach of the levees."
The Prez on GMA

Somebody did. The National Geographic. Read it all - it is eerily prescient.

.... The storm hit Breton Sound with the fury of a nuclear warhead, pushing a deadly storm surge into Lake Pontchartrain. The water crept to the top of the massive berm that holds back the lake and then spilled over. Nearly 80 percent of New Orleans lies below sea level—more than eight feet below in places—so the water poured in...
Posted by: Charles M on September 2, 2005 12:05 PM

For those interested, I would suggest the book Rising Tide by John Barry. It tells the story of the Mississippi River flood of 1927 and the efforts by the Army Corps of Engineers to "control" the Mississippi. Fascinating read.

Posted by: Patrick on September 2, 2005 12:28 PM

There's also a transcript of the Nagin interview here:

Posted by: Karin on September 2, 2005 12:30 PM

While I believe Mayor Nagin makes some very good points, I also think he's failing to lead himself. Doing little more than complaining about what others are NOT doing is not leadership in a time of crisis. He's no Rudy Giuliani, that's for sure.

I think the city's own preparations in advance of Katrina's arrival were inadequate and led to at least some of the problem. But I guess it's easier to just blame the feds for everything.

Frankly I'm seeing a lack of leadership at ALL levels of government, and there will be plenty of time to Monday morning quarterback the situation and assess blame, which of course many people will place squarely along partisan political lines (naturally).

But it's not that time yet. Now it should be time to spend our time, money, resources and energy toward assisting in the relief effort. Once the situation has stabilized, then let the partisans start pointing fingers at each other as they inevitably do with every chance they get.

Posted by: Tim on September 2, 2005 1:26 PM

Scientific American had a longer article a few months before Berger's in 2001 (Drowning New Orleans).

Found it at Orrin Judd's place, where Orrin made the very good point that democracies tend to be reactive on these sorts of matters.

Posted by: kevin whited on September 2, 2005 1:46 PM

Chuck, I don't know if you remember Paul "Pableaux" Johnson from Trinity, but he's now a freelance writer. He bugged out and is still trying to take in what has happened to his city.

Posted by: Patrick on September 2, 2005 4:42 PM

Tim you are right , ray nagin is blaming , pointing but him himself or his cohortS , commisioners, police chief . The so call mayor is trying to make a name for himself or get reelected. you reap who you vote in.

Posted by: cuellar carlos on September 2, 2005 9:22 PM

Just read the Nagin interview. Jeeze what a buck-passer, he sounds like the NYT editorial board.

The TV images of the hundreds of submerged NOLA area school buses and the thousands of flooded autos in the NOLA streets tells this story loud and clear.

Posted by: ttyler5 on September 3, 2005 3:00 AM

I was profoundly affected and shamed by the Nagin interview; probably the most genuine set of statements made by a politician in recent memory.
I did not hear a fellow with an ambition for re-election- I heard a humiliated man who was at the end of his rope, not caring how he was going to come across to the public. He was waving the white flag in the face of armchair polemics like me and thousands of others, flooded with smug indifference, submerged in our own righteousness as we judged him for not making the right decisions. He wasn't casting blame as much as he was railing against an America that was content to sit back and wait for someone else to move out of his/her comfortable perch to do something for fellow suffering Americans.
I don't get the logic; the buses were not adequately employed by whoever, so everyone should sit back and let these poor brothers and sisters, the sick, the elderly and the poor twist in the wind till they're dead.
What is this Nation coming to? We employ our best to pay the ultimate sacrifice spending billions each week to fight an (illegal) unwinnable war without a clear reason, in some faraway gulf, and can't muster the will to help a city within our own nation.

Cuellar's right, we voted in this President and now we must "reap" who we voted in...

Posted by: Shaquille Jefferson on September 3, 2005 11:41 PM

if i could give my heart to the city of new orleans i would peel back the skin on my chest that conceals this dark luminosity
if i could give my soul to those that have lost theirs i would subscribe to the unknowing
if i could sacrifice my life for the thousands that are lifeless i would immolate
if my eyes could sponge up the waters that flooded i would tape back my lids and let my two orbs labor
if i could talk to god i would come down from the firmaments with the answers that you seek albeit their shirk-ness
and convey to you the reasons why katrina abrogated

Posted by: tarius montague roberts on September 4, 2005 3:43 AM

From Siva Vaidhyanathan

Chicago: The Precedent for New Orleans

… Eric Klinenberg wrote a powerful, important, award-winning book called Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicagoo.

Friday he wrote an article for called When Chicago Baked - Unheeded lessons from another great urban catastrophe.

… Federal officials ignored several urgent pleas—from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers, members of Congress, Gulf Coast politicians, and scores of disaster experts—for major infrastructure improvements to prevent catastrophic flooding on the Gulf Coast.

Paul Krugman reports in the New York Times that FEMA rated this crisis one of the top three threats to American security. Yet the White House denied requests to shore up levees or build larger drainage systems for the lower Mississippi River.

Emergency preparations during the week before the storm were also weak. As in Chicago, top political officials—this time President Bush and his Cabinet members—refused to interrupt their vacation schedules until the death toll spiked.

As in Chicago, city leaders neglected poor African-American neighborhoods where residents were certain to be vulnerable, failing to send evacuation buses there or to the hospitals and homes where the frail, elderly, and sick are clustered.

In contrast to Chicago, however, New Orleans officials have clamored for more assistance from Washington. The New York Times reported that Col. Terry Ebbert, director of Homeland Security for New Orleans, said the disaster response has been "carried on the backs of the little guys for four goddamn days. … It's criminal within the confines of the United States that within one hour of the hurricane they weren't force-feeding us. It's like FEMA has never been to a hurricane."

In part because of such open condemnation, the media coverage of Katrina has been more critical than the coverage of the Chicago heat wave. Yet little of the most valuable coverage, local radio broadcasting, is available inside New Orleans. Without TV, Internet access, newspapers, and telephones, people are depending on radios—battery-powered, in automobiles, or hand-crank—for emergency information. But as of Thursday evening, only one station, Entercom's WWL-AM 870, had its own reporters on the air.

Clear Channel Communications, which owns roughly 1,200 stations nationwide (about six times more than any other company) owns six stations in New Orleans. The company has been criticized for failing to provide emergency information or expansive coverage during other local disasters in recent years. During the first days of the disaster, none of the Clear Channel stations provided their own reporting on the crisis. One, KHEV, retransmitted audio from WWL-TV. On Friday, the Web sites for Clear Channel's New Orleans stations announced that they had joined other broadcasters in setting up "United Radio for New Orleans" and removed the promos for syndicated programs and paid advertisements that had been visible on the site over the previous days. ...

Posted by: Support Science to Reverse Global Warming, if still possible on September 4, 2005 11:59 PM

I too listened to the interview with Mayor C. Ray Nagin that took place Thursday night on the Garland Robinette show, and I was truly moved. I felt some gratitude, in this time of profound loss, that he was finally going to get some action. No politician has ever taken a stand like this and it is directly due to that interview that things started to move towards recovery. The loss is so great that it hasn't even been fully realized yet. Throughout the interview you can hear the frustration, despair and fear in his voice but then a level of sheer hope rises up to say that we are not defeated, not yet. He begs for help and his cries, thankfully, were heard and his pleas were answered. The most chilling part of the interview occurs near the end when both the Mayor and Mr. Robinette are crying together. But it took the raw emotions of a man trying to hold on to some sense of sanity for a city that is truly dying, even today.
Thank you for your time in reading this and God Bless all of the people affected by the tragedy called Katrina.

Posted by: Lauri Smith on September 5, 2005 1:24 PM

I find it extraordinary that some people are already casting aspersions on Mayor Nagin's interview or on his motives. They are already predicting that this will be some left-wing blame-in against the Bush administration. Anyone who is already throwing up the barricades to protect this President has got to know deep down that Bush et al have it coming. Their response has been as delayed, as inadequate and as calculated as all the others in his Presidency. To me, C. Ray Nagin sounds like a genuine hero - someone willing to call it like it is, damn the consequences. He speaks with the kind of anger that can only come from a place of genuine love and passion for his city and its people - not the phony born-again platitudes offered by W.
When this is all over and the rebuilding has begun, there will be a lot of people who should be ashamed of themselves - looters, gangsters, Michael Browne, George W. Bush and others. And there are some who can be proud that they kept their humanity even when they couldn't keep their cool - C. Ray Nagin among them.

Posted by: Jowi Taylor on September 6, 2005 7:33 PM

The first real SOS was heard by all from Ray's radio interview Wed. nite- we didn't hear it til Thursday on CNN--why did it take the man using the God damned Lord's name in vain for the suits to get off the golf course or vacation and DO SOMETHING? Many were waiting, FEMA held them back. Don't blame Ray for finally telling it like it was. Yeah, he was overwhelmed. Red tape and beauracracy made our fellow Americans suffer and die. I am saddened beyond belief by the turtle's pace in an emergency. FEMA should hire someone to watch TV like the rest of us were doing! America felt helpless and hopeless and that's just not very comforting nowadays. Thank God for those brave who stuck it out and helped.

Posted by: Sunny on September 9, 2005 4:37 AM

I'd lost faith in anything political until I heard Ray Nagin's radio interview. This man was reaching out from the depths of his soul...crying out to humanity when it appeared no one cared. Why is it that some will always find fault with those that care?

Posted by: l. brown on September 9, 2005 11:49 PM

I applaud Nagin for stepping out and speaking his opinion and I respect him for being honest with his feelings ( although I am sure he felt like saying even more) . I watched the horrific display of fellow humans being ignored for the most part for 4 days until the dog and pony show came in prior to Bush's appearance in the gulf area. Bush declared that area a federal disaster area from the get-go-- so what was the hold-up?? Thank God for Nagin-- his mouth I believe helped to speed up matters ( even as slow as they were going) and I feel he was somewhat responsible for Bush actually saying that things were unacceptable ( of course GW reversed this once he was present in the gulf area)
Nagin is also the first to admit that things could change for the better and also admitted to wrongdoing or lack of doing on his end but the fact remains that once those levees were known to break ( that morning) federal action should have been organized immediately. All officials should have been on alert and terminated their vacations on MONDAY not wed-friday-- that is a disgrace.
The common folk KNEW what was going to happen-- just by watching the news. Why didnt the feds along with FEMA prepare on Monday-- instead things started to change Thursday nite. Shameful and so sad.

Posted by: Peggy on September 11, 2005 4:28 PM

amazing to read comments from non-Louisiana citizens passing judgement on Mayor Nagin one way or the other just based on the little that actually gets covered by the media....You people are clueless and apparently bored as you seem to think that someone values your uneducated opinion about things you know nothing of other than yourselves......

Posted by: louisiana_man on September 11, 2005 6:48 PM

Tim, Guiliani was given exactly what he needed, when he needed it. All he had to do was stand up and look strong while the government did what it had to do. Nagin has been doing all that he can with almost no help for how long. This man is a true hero. He didn't hop on a helicopter. He is still in New Orleans, in his city, with everyone else suffering. Guliani wasn't at ground zero with the firefighters at 10AM on 9/11/2001. Nagin has been there since the storm hit. Don't try to downgrade what this man did, because honestly I don't think I'd be able to do what he has done, and I'd bet you wouldn't either.

Posted by: pyekatta on September 13, 2005 11:39 AM

There is a man here in Macon, Ga, Harold Katner, a refugee from New Orleans that said he in his official capacity as director of the levee and pump system recommended that they upgrade the pumps and fix the levees several years ago to abate just what happened and the folks down there thought it a stupid idea. They did not think $200 million dollars was worth the protection from a storm. Now they are talking 200 Billion dollars. Who's stupid now. We are if we give it to them.

Posted by: DHISRAEL on September 16, 2005 10:41 PM

Prior to Hurricane Katrina, discrimination was present in the Metro area. However; the discrimination is not only among the races, but also against people with disabilities by the failure to provide physical accessibility into businesses. In addition, I know from personal experience that there are employers that actively discriminate against people with disabilities in their hiring practices.

Does Mayor Nagin plan to address this? Furthermore, Does he have representation for people with disabilities on the commission formed to rebuild New Orleans?

Posted by: Robin on September 30, 2005 5:46 PM