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Location: New Orleans, Louisiana, United States

Leonard Earl Johnson (photo credit Frank Parsley) covered Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (2005), and the 2010 British Petroleum oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico for ConsumerAffairs.com. He is a contributor to Gambit Weekly, New Orleans Magazine, SCAT, Baton Rouge Advocate, Advocate Magazine, The Times-Picayune, Country Roads Magazine, Palm Springs Newswire and the anthologies: FRENCH QUARTER FICTION (Light of New Orleans Publishing), LOUISIANA IN WORDS (Pelican Publishing), LIFE IN THE WAKE (NOLAfuges.com), and more. Johnson is a former Merchant Seaman, and columnist at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans; and African-American Village. Attended Southern Illinois University, Carbondale, and Harry Lundeberg School of Seamanship at Piney Point, Maryland. Winner of the Press Club of New Orleans Award for Excellence, 1991, and given the Key to The City and a Certificate of Appreciation from the New Orleans City Council for a Gambit Weekly story on murder in the French Quarter.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Ray Nagin, Where He Is Now / January 2018

LEJ's Louisiana
Yours Truly in a Swamp,
Monthly e-column by
Leonard Earl Johnson, 
of Lafayette and New Orleans

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LEJ's Mardi Gras Glossary
will be posted February 1, 2018

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Copyright2018, Leonard Earl Johnson
All Rights Reserved

Ray Nagin, Where He Is Now
by Leonard Earl Johnson 



Ray Nagin was the controversial mayor of New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina and after.  He is recognized for holding The City together politically by traveling the country speaking to the diaspora, and staging elections with voting booths outside New Orleans.

Nagin fought with President Bush's Administration over information withheld (under claims of privacy) on the whereabouts of New Orleans dispersed citizenry.  This, some say, was a position advanced by right wing interests ever eager to reduce voter turnout ~ in this case so as to thwart Nagin's efforts at keeping The City together as a mostly black and blue-voting block in an otherwise mostly white and red-voting state.  It was during this time, Nagin was widely quoted speaking positively of New Orleans being a "Chocolate City."  

Hyper race-sensitive Louisianians (admit it, cher, there are some!) did not like seeing or hearing it that way.  

Nagin's people say 'Chocolate City' was widely misrepresented, pointing to the governor's race of 1991, pitting Edwin Edwards against openly white supremacist, anti semitic, and formerly Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard, David Duke.  Statewide, Duke carried the white vote by 55%.  It was the black vote in New Orleans, 'Chocolate City' ~ along with 45% of white voters ~ that saved Louisiana from David Duke.  

(Note: Duke was disavowed by National Republicans but ran as a Republican.  Edwards ran as a Democrat.  The primary was open to all on one ballot regardless of party affiliation.  In the primary, Duke knocked out fellow Republican-formerly-Democrat, incumbent Governor Buddy Roemer, and then he lost in the runoff to Edwards.)

When Edwin Edwards was asked, after the primary, what he would have to do to win the general election, he said, "Stay alive till the election."  

Nagin's "Chocolate City" comment was meant to please his black voters, of course!  But it also conjured an image of what saved white-and-black Louisiana from Governor David Duke.

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Two years after leaving the mayor's office, Nagin was indicted for early post-K. reconstruction graft; found guilty, and incarcerated for ten years (2023 release, he will be 66)

Among Nagin loyalists it is argued his offenses and gains were small (e.g., football trip to Chicago, his Son's business ~ Stone Age (marble/counter-tops) ~ enhanced by tax-lapping corporate scalawags.  Whereas, charges against the scalawags ~ reduced for testimony ~ were huge.  So goes the thinking.

Judge Ginger Berrigan reduced the sentence she handed down by one-half of Federal recommendations.  She stated as consideration Nagin's gains from his graft being small, and that he had shown himself to be a good family man, and upstanding citizen outside of these incidents. 

One day ~ during the Evacuation ~ I happened upon Nagin, Seletha, and their accompanying Muscle at a crossroads boudin place in Acadiana.  As I recall, President Obama was coming.  In any case, Nagin and the Muscle were hefting three long stainless steel ice chests (like we bring for the catch, fishing in the Gulf) full of boudin. 

~ Ray and Seletha Nagin ~
In the checkout line, I said people were judging him too harshly.  "No one knew what to expect from The Storm," I said, "or how to react after."  The Mayor agreed.  His Wife, and the Muscle both nodded.  

Remember, Katrina was the World's first major 'non-global-warming' event.  Neither Nagin, you, nor I knew what to do. 

Carbon-spewing interests had not yet switched arguments from, 'Global warming is not-happening' to 'Happening, but not our fault!'  Meaning they, too, with all their science, did not know what to do. 

New Orleans was left between a ghost town and a frontier town, afterwards. 
 The City was mostly empty.  Military convoys roamed the streets.  People dipped water from The River. Everything was broken, and nothing was open but a couple of French Quarter bars!  Dennis Hastert, Speaker of the U. S. House, was not alone in his view that New Orleans was too damaged and too vulnerable, and should not be rebuilt. 

A few very angry citizens were in Town ~ on the green strips along The River and the lip of Lake Pontchartrain.  This is New Orleans 'highground', towering inches above Sea level.  It did not flood in 2005.

During this strange time, an angry crowd denied Nagin a place on the podium to speak in front of a parade and rally criticizing FEMA and the murder rate.  Imagine, the Mayor of The City home from the diaspora and denied access to his own citizens at home ~ by some of those citizens! 

 "Little Bush Leaguers," L. A. Norma called this group.  Perhaps.  Or just driven mad from our ordeal.

Later, the Mayor's sub-office of garbage pickup-and-scatter issued spanking new trash cans too large for the little walkways between French Quarter and other old houses.  Tempers ran high.  

Nagin, alone among politicians, took the hit for the burdens that angered us all.

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As the bumper sticker suggested, we remained New Orleanians wherever we were.  Unlike New Orleans, however, where we were, across the Atchafalaya Basineverything worked.  

"Except for you," L. A. Norma said.

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LEJ's Mardi Gras Glossary will be posted February 1, 2018, at www.LEJ.org
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Mack The Knife  /  Bobby Darin

Oh, the shark, babe, has such teeth, dear
And it shows them pearly white
Just a jackknife has old MacHeath, babe
And he keeps it, ah, out of sight.

Ya know when that shark bites with his teeth, babe
Scarlet billows start to spread
Fancy gloves, oh, wears old MacHeath, babe
So there's never, never a trace of red.

Now on the sidewalk, huh, huh, whoo sunny morning, un huh
Lies a body just oozin' life, eek
And someone's sneakin' âround the corner
Could that someone be Mack the Knife?

There's a tugboat, huh, huh, down by the river don'tcha know
Where a cement bag's just a'drooppin' on down
Oh, that cement is just, it's there for the weight, dear
Five'll get ya ten old Macky's back in town

Now d'ja hear âbout Louie Miller?
He disappeared, babe
After drawin' out all his hard-earned cash
And now MacHeath spends just like a sailor
Could it be our boy's done somethin' rash?
Now Jenny Diver, ho, ho, yeah, Sukey Tawdry
Ooh, Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown

Oh, the line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky's back in town
I said Jenny Diver, whoa, Sukey Tawdry
Look out to Miss Lotte Lenya and old Lucy Brown
Yes, that line forms on the right, babe
Now that Macky's back in town.....Look out, old Macky's back!!

 Anything goes  /  Cole Porter,
lyrics are posted on screen

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LEJ's Louisiana, Yours Truly in a Swamp
is a monthly e-column @ www.LEJ.org
~ Hosted on GOOGLE Blogger ~
and periodically 
at Les Amis de Marigny, New Orleans,
publication of the
It is written by Leonard Earl Johnson
of Lafayette and New Orleans, Louisiana
Archives: www.LEJ.org
© 2018, Leonard Earl Johnson, 
All Rights Reserved.
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LEJ's Mardi Gras Glossary will be posted February 1, 2018, at www.LEJ.org
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