"Down here in the nine, we don’t mind dyin’!!" was how Mayor Ray Nagin concluded his dedication speech to wild applause in the heart of New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward yesterday.
Mayor Nagin spoke of the challenges ahead and offered a message of hope - and humor - even suggesting that when folks rebuild their "mansions" that they should put a "Jacuzzi on the second floor!" But the grim reality is that the Lower Ninth Ward still looks as devastated as it did a year ago (minus the water) and the money hasn’t come.
Most houses there are collapsed, telephone wires are down and demolished cars litter the streets - and in some cases the houses sit on top of the cars. The stench is undescribable. It is the same smell of rotting wood, trash, debris and water damage that made it all the more unbearable a year ago.
What’s more incredible is that most of the residents that I spoke to there in the Lower Ninth believe that a conspiracy by the government or other entity purposely either "bombed" the levees or orchestrated another form of "man made" breach.
If you ask most New Orleanians "Why is it taking so long to rebuild the city?" They almost immediately tell you it’s because "Nagin has no plan!" And factually, that remains the case in so far as the local government’s plan for reconstruction hasn’t been entirely offered.
But perhaps the biggest question that I have as I travel around every section of New Orleans - Lakeview, Uptown, the Garden District, the Upper Nine and the Lower Ninth... Isn’t "How could this have happened?" (although that is still a question that only the history books can tell) but rather: How the heck did this guy get re-elected?!!
Oh well, I guess since I don’t live here and vote here, I shouldn’t criticize it... but I am thankful for my novelty store Ray Nagin Key Chain that plays the audio of the Mayor’s most memorable sound bites since Hurricane Katrina.