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Nagin: NO not bankrupt, has $204 million shortfall, needs federal loan

From New Orleans mayor seeks aid, loans for shortfall:

New Orleans is seeking federal aid and new loans to ride out a $204 million budget shortfall caused by the expected loss of all property tax revenue in the short term, the city's mayor said on Thursday.
"If we project out based on maintaining essential personnel and essential services throughout the year, the amount of money we're borrowing still leaves a gap of about $204 million," Nagin told Reuters in an interview.
"We're not bankrupt. We've been out of cash. We have a liquidity problem. But we have been careful to make sure that we continue to pay our debt service, which would cause all sorts of problems," Nagin said...
New Orleans has over $530 million in general obligation bonds outstanding and $155 million in pension bonds, according to Standard & Poor's Ratings Services. Related entities such as the New Orleans Exhibition Hall Authority and the New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board also have outstanding debt.
Nagin said that although aid had been slow in coming, the city was in the process of applying for $120 million in federal borrowing under the Community Disaster Loan program.
Forced to try to woo major businesses back to the city, Nagin said executives have told him they needed to see a strengthened levee system, better schools and streamlined government in order to invest again.
"They don't want to see the bloated government that we had in the past," said Nagin, a former cable television executive who faces a possible primary election in February.

"Bloated" is one way to put it I guess.

Nagin: NO to be larger; only enough cash til March


New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin believes that the city will be larger and much safer in as little as five years.
Nagin made the proclamation in front of the City Council Thursday as he projected his budget for the upcoming year.
While anticipating a much smaller city initially, Nagin believes the opportunity to rebuild New Orleans will result in eventual growth...
However, Nagin realizes hard times will precede good times and he said next year's budget will be approximately $155 million less than this year's. He attributes the shortfalls to anticipated trouble collecting property taxes and a large decline in tourism, probably to 20 percent of its pre-Katrina level for next year.
And he anticipates that the cash they currently have can last them only through March, though he is optimistic that loans and federal grants will bridge the gap...
... Council members suggested that the city also become more diversified since tourism is expected to be only a fraction of what it once was for some time to come.

Nagin's first townhall meeting

Mayor's meeting a forum for questions and anger

Whether in search of information or group therapy, hundreds of people crowded into a Canal Street hotel ballroom Wednesday for the first of what are billed as weekly town hall meetings Mayor Ray Nagin will hold to update the public and hear their concerns.
The session was supposed to start at 2 p.m., but it was past 2:30 before Nagin, clad in a New Orleans Saints sweatshirt, walked in to a chorus of catcalls about the delay. "You were late for Katrina, too," one man shouted.
Responding with a smile, Nagin told the crowd, "We are going to rebuild this city. We are going to do it together."
... Asked whether the city will condemn many flooded buildings, Nagin promised that no buildings will be demolished without the owner's consent unless they are deemed structurally unsound. Of 50,000 buildings inspected so far, he said, only 1,000 have been found to be unsound.
As he has done several times lately, he promised, "We will rebuild the Lower 9th Ward and New Orleans East, and in a way very similar to what was there before, but better."
... Criticized for what one speaker depicted as the city's inadequate evacuation and shelter plans before Katrina, Nagin defended his record, saying that 1.5 million people were evacuated from the New Orleans area. He said the city will re-evaluate its plans for evacuating and sheltering people, but he told the crowd, "If another Katrina is coming, run!"
The mayor also had to contend with a political jab toward the end of the almost three-hour session. Although he told a speaker he did not wish to address strictly political issues, he was stung when the speaker dubbed his Bring New Orleans Back Commission a "re-election commission."
"Man, I am so far not thinking about re-election," Nagin shot back. "You want the job, man? Maybe we can work something out."

NOLA: "Nagin gets mixed reviews"

Could someone look through the long article Nagin gets mixed reviews: Evacuation plans, Superdome use criticized and put the salient points in comments, squaring what's in there with what's been previously posted?

Louisiana leaders reject LA's corrupt reputation; play tu quoque

From this:

The struggle was never more evident than last week when Gov. Kathleen Blanco, Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin appeared before congressional committees asking for help to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, in a series of speeches that each included a defense of the state.
With several members of Congress openly suggesting since Katrina that Louisiana isn't trustworthy enough to handle billions of dollars in disaster relief aid, Blanco pledged accountability in spending.
She said the state was hiring a nationally recognized accounting firm to review the flow of federal dollars through Louisiana and that she would hire another accounting firm to audit those first auditors.
"I want to emphasize that the financial affairs of Louisiana will be transparent and wide open. I believe that we will stand well to expected scrutiny by the public, the Congress and the media," she told a meeting of House subcommittees that oversee the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Environmental Protection Agency, FEMA and other agencies crucial to Louisiana's recovery.
"I expect to account for every single penny of federal money that is received by the state of Louisiana," she said.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin urged the lawmakers to Google his record.
"You will see that since I have been in office almost four years, my whole focus has been on reform of government, honesty and integrity," he said...
"All manner of ugly words have been used to describe us by people sitting in their ivory towers. We have moved a million miles, but our old reputation continues to haunt us," Blanco said earlier this month.
And Landrieu was particularly straightforward when he appeared before the U.S. House committees with Blanco and Nagin.
The lieutenant governor said Louisiana doesn't corner the market on public corruption, noting that seven states with members on those subcommittees had more public corruption convictions than his state did.
In a letter he submitted to the subcommittees, Landrieu said New York, Illinois and Florida have twice as many federal public corruption convictions than Louisiana, and California has three times as many.
He said in the past decade, governors of New Jersey, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Arizona, Illinois, Ohio and Alabama all have been indicted - though he failed to mention that Louisiana's former four-term governor, Edwin Edwards, also is behind bars for a corruption scheme.
"I question the political tactics of basically 'kicking our state' while it is down," he wrote. "Now, we come to Congress - the voice of the American people to seek help. And yet, in the media, at the office water cooler, at the family dinner table and even in the hallways of the Capitol, we have been made to feel corrupt, selfish and unworthy of aid."
The problem is Louisiana officials have gone to jail over the years. One of its congressmen currently is under investigation. Federal prosecutors set up shop before the hurricanes in the Orleans Parish school board offices. Jefferson Parish judges have been convicted recently as part of a wide-ranging corruption investigation...

Will Nagin run again? Will there be a strong challenger?

From Katrina rewrites N.O. politics

"There are just so many unknowns," said political science professor Susan Howell of the University of New Orleans. "The political landscape changes virtually every month. It's impossible to say what an election in February is even going to look like.
"I suspect people not planning to come back will not even care. It seems to me the electorate is going to be more upscale and more white than it was, but what the numbers are going to be, who knows?"
What seems clear is that the mayor is far more vulnerable than he was in the lazy days of summer before the storm rolled in. All over town, there is talk of possible big-name candidates, although no one has officially announced...
"As a practical matter, you may have to run a multistate campaign to be mayor of New Orleans," he said. "If anyone who challenges him actually threatens him, it will be someone wealthy."


Nagin moved buses to higher ground?

While I've seen many references to Nagin saying the plan was to move people to higher ground, I haven't seen the same about the schoolbuses. However from News - Disaster response 10/23/05:

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that, before the storm hit, the buses were moved to higher ground that traditionally didn't flood. But this time the area, like 80 percent of New Orleans, did flood.
Even if the buses hadn't flooded, Nagin said, drivers would have been in short supply because many left town.

Now, find the flooded schoolbus pic showing personal (or city) cars high and dry in a separate parking lot nearby...

"Usufruct" or an unconstitutional property grab?

Old Twist on Rebuilding New Orleans reports on a proposal to do something about all the NO houses that their owners are unable or unwilling to repair. Ray Nagin's office appears to be advocating for it, along with local lawyers. In involves a legal concept called "usufruct", and here's how it would work:

...Authorities would locate scattered homeowners to determine if they have the means or the inclination to rebuild. There are believed to be at least 100,000 homes in New Orleans that are damaged to the point that they are not habitable. If the owner is not planning to return anytime soon, local officials would strike a deal.
The owner would sign over controlling rights of the property - but not the title - to the government. In most cases, that would likely be the city of New Orleans, but the program would apply statewide and could involve numerous municipal or parish governments.
Through contracts targeting hundreds of properties at once, the government would then pay to make the home habitable again, while assuming, in most cases, mortgage payments for the owner.
The home would then be rented out, first to displaced "essential workers" such as teachers, police officers and firefighters and their families, then to the public. Rents would likely be subsidized, and checks would be written to the government agency that signed the deal or to a company hired to manage the money.
The owners would be allowed to return after an agreed-upon period of time - perhaps three to five years - provided they could repay the government for repairs made. If, at that point, the owner did not want to return or could not pay for the fixes, the government would have the right to sell it. If the house were sold, the government and the owner could share in profits and losses...
...Because the government would not technically own the property, advocates believe the program would not represent a "taking" of homes and could sidestep constitutional questions. For the same reasons, the program would not require costly and lengthy court battles that typically ensue when the government tries to seize property through eminent domain...

Sweet! I'm sure this would not ever be abused.

Will Wilma force a new evacuation?

Hurricane Wilma is picking up strength, and Mayor Nagin says:

"The people that are moving back to New Orleans should be very mobile... That's why we have not encouraged the repopulation of children nor senior citizens that are not very active... We're going to continue to monitor the storm and at a moment's notice people should be ready to evacuate."


Nagin has closed-door meeting with evacuees... in different parish

Shreveport's Hirsch Coliseum is operated by the Louisiana State Fair and the Red Cross is using it as a shelter. They gave in to his demand to speak privately to his constituents who are staying there; Caddo Parish deputies kept others out. That lasted for 20 minutes until the media managed to barge their way in to the event:

Nagin's restoration plan hinges on getting displaced New Orleanians to return home. It's also a crucial political issue regarding voting power. The public, which will foot much of the bill for the reconstruction of what was the state's most populous city, needs to know what Nagin is telling his constituents. What promises is he making? What information is he sharing? Public access to these encounters is important to compare his words with the available facts. Such disclosure helps protect both the dispersed people of New Orleans and taxpayers.


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