Black Activist Criticizes Nagin’s Convoluted Comments to Senate Committee

Calling his testimony a “smokescreen” to cover up his own failings at the outset of the Hurricane Katrina crisis, members of the black leadership network Project 21 are criticizing the racially-charged rhetoric of New Orleans mayor Ray Nagin (D) before the Senate Homeland and Government Affairs Committee yesterday.

“Mayor Nagin continues to do everything to deflect blame from himself,” said Project 21 member Darryn “Dutch” Martin.

At a January 29 Committee field hearing that was held in New Orleans, Mayor Nagin complained that President George W. Bush did not mention the rebuilding efforts in the Gulf region in his State of the Union address on January 23.  He further criticized the Bush Administration for not making enough aid available to the region, claiming that the White House is more interested in rebuilding Iraq than New Orleans.  He testified: “I look at what we’re doing in Iraq and how we spend money at an unprecedented level there, how we can set up temporary hospitals and designate money to rebuild their economy, and we have this dance going on in New Orleans.”

Nagin says that aid to New Orleans is not being delivered quickly enough.   While the federal government has allocated $334 million for repairing the infrastructure of the city, state officials controlling the flow of money through agencies such as the Louisiana Recovery Authority have only released $145 million.  State officials cite a lack of proper budgetary documentation on the part of city leaders, which is something Nagin has called “cumbersome.”

Nagin further implied that a hold-up in the flow of aid is due to discrimination.  He said: “I think it’s more class than anything, but there’s racial issues associated with it also.”

“In playing the race and class cards in his whining to the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin is singing the same old anti-Bush tune touted in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,” said Project 21’s Martin.  “Evidently, Mayor Nagin will never own up to the fact that, with ample time to prepare and get the most vulnerable citizens out of harm’s way before Hurricane Katrina struck, he and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco failed miserably.  Nagin should be ashamed of himself for taking political cues from rapper Kanye West by insinuating that the Bush Administration and other government entities are inherently racist.  It’s all just a smokescreen to hide his own failure.”

“It seems Mayor Nagin wants the money with no accountability.  That is not how things should work with public monies,” added Project 21 member Geoffrey Moore.  “While cumbersome bureaucracy is never a good thing, there do need to be safeguards against the fraud and mismanagement that New Orleans has become known for.  To blame race and class is ridiculous.”

Project 21, a nonprofit and nonpartisan organization sponsored by the National Center for Public Policy Research, has been a leading voice of the African-American community since 1992.  For more information, contact David Almasi at (202) 507-6398 x11 or [email protected], or visit Project 21’s website at

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