The recent concatenation of reports run by the Times Picayune on the questionable nature and actions of Mayor Nagin's Technology office for the past 7 years seem to be leading up to a crescendo with today's article by David Hammer:
Public-private lines blurred at New Orleans City Hall under Nagin
Conspicuously placed in the Sunday edition...front page no less...it is essentially an overview of the nefarious M.O. by which Greg Meffert and peeps ran our city's technology department since Nagin won office in 2002. Perhaps an outline for reference of events to come this week?
While listing the low hanging fruit - Crime Cameras, the boat and the Hawaii vacation, the article doesn't so much as glance matters such as the 311 contract, the interoperability grant, or the "free" wi-fi deal struck with Earthlink.
As this blog and it's many anonymous sources have been hammering on these issues for years, I am happy to see at least some of these transgressions come into the public light. I think we all owe a great debt of gratitude to the hard work former Inspector General Cerasoli and his office conducted to bring the crime camera contract to light.
To think, this is just one of many multi-million dollar, no-bid contracts Meffert kicked back while holding the CTO position (or running it by proxy through Mark Kurt and Anthony Jones). I think the 311 and interoperability contracts are just as grievous as the crime cameras and deserve the same credence....but at this point, I am ecstatic that at least some of these issues are becoming public knowledge.
The obvious question on everyone's mind is wether or not we will see indictments against any of these mooks. Is Letten actually going to charge these guys or will they prove to be as teflon coated as Marc Morial? It is the multi-million dollar, taxpayer question.
I, for one, can't stress enough, my desire to see these criminals brought to justice (of course that's obvious if you read AZ). I truly believe it is crucial for the future success of our city. I have spoken before of the culture of corruption which I believe has crippled our city for so very long. The U.S. attorney's office now has the opportunity to send a very clear message to the top level of city government...NO FUCKING MORE!!!
It seems every politician runs on a reform platform, but shortly after taking office they go right back to the same old racket....of course I'm exaggerating....not EVERY politician but this city seems to produce an abnormally large number of crooks in public office.
Why is that?
I have my theories...most of them derived from a close examination of our pre-Katrina public school system.
The NOPS budget before Katrina was the largest public fund (half billion) in the state and the largest employer in the city of New Orleans. As the budget became more inflated every year, the graft only increased while the schools lay in rot....the children left ignorant of the basic skills needed to succeed in a city in which even the best educated have a tough time making ends meet. The devolution of the public school system was an example of what happens when public entities and public money starts being treated like private enterprise.
From the article:
The Rev. Kevin Wildes, president of Loyola University and chairman of the city's Ethics Review Board, had a similar view.
"If nothing else, there were huge conflicts of interest all over the place" in Meffert's tech office, he said. "I really still do believe in public-private partnerships, but you have to have the right firewalls in place."
All well and good Rev but the problem with that notion is that private enterprise has a very real litmus test to ensure performance and eliminate graft which public entities don't have...its called the bottom line....call it the ultimate firewall. If people start stealing from a private company or it doesn't meet performance standards...that company ain't gonna be around for long (unless its AIG).
In the public sector....the money just keeps flowing. More often than not the result is even an increase in funding in order to "fix the problem". There are private contractors out there who make a living off public money by not just being mediocre, but actually being incompetent...and they quickly come to understand that. AME, the school system's former janitorial contractor comes to mind.
It's the promotion of incompetence. It's also known as the Peter Principle and here's another shining example of it which affected our city on a catastrophic level.
In the case of New Orleans, we have very little private enterprise to begin with. Public money is by far the most lucrative path to wealth, or even moderate wealth, available. After a half-century period of governmental neglect, we have practically institutionalized corruption. The result has been a steady descent into a complete and total kleptocracy.
I guess an argument could be made that the whole country has followed that same path, but as Cousin Pat has so eloquently noted, New Orleans is a magnification of every problem our country is facing.
Here and now, with Meffert and Nagin...we have a chance to make things right.
Here....Mr. Letten....now....in the midst of this national crisis of confidence in business, government and the interaction of the two....this is the time to send a very clear message to this city, and by media proxy to the country, that the game has changed and you are putting this train back on course. This isn't racial, this isn't partisan...its not even about socialism v. capitalism...its about the future of this city, and I believe the future of this grand experiment we call America.
That wreaks of grandiose, sentimental shiiite...I admit...but I honestly believe it.
The parallels between W. Bush and Nagin have been made before and here I will make another.
This country was nearly (and may yet be) destroyed by 8 years of incompetence and corruption under the Bush/Cheney administration.
This city, in it's most crucial and desperate time, has been forced to suffer under the cronyism, corruption, incompetence...and complete, fucking absurdity... of Mayor Ray Nagin. We will not survive another 8 years, or even 4 years, if "business as usual" is allowed to continue in City Hall.
When Nagin took office he ran on a platform of transparency and reform....here we are 7 years later and I would dare say Ray may have even outdone his predecessor. Morial skated....if Nagin skates, why should we expect anything to change under the next administration?