Few New Orleanians liked former Recovery Czar, Ed Blakely. He was distant, he was presumptuous, and he spoke without thinking. Also — and this is a fault of our own parochialism — he was an outsider and therefore, suspicious.
I never met the man. I don’t know what he was like. All I know is that watching him on TV was unbearable: his comments reeked of the same jackass hubris that still peppers Ray Nagin’s cringe-inducing interviews. Grand pronouncements, back-slapping self-congratulations, all that junk.
However, as the [terribly edited] two-part interview above shows, Blakely did pick up a few things here. He may or may not have had any impact on our city’s recovery, but at least he understands now what we’re up against — and I don’t mean levee walls and rising sea temps. Of course, you’d have to be a complete idiot to miss the racism — both black and white — that informs every move in city politics, but given my low expectations of the man…well, I’m pleasantly surprised he got it.
That said, Blakely is way out of line when, speaking of the recovery process, he says that “New Orleanians expected someone else to do it all along…. They never expected to do it themselves.” That may have been true over on Perdido Street (was there ever a more apt street name?), but if the son of a bitch had gotten out of City Hall and into the neighborhoods and seen the work that people were doing — cleaning up, building networks, starting community organizations, attending endless planning meetings — he might’ve understood where the real impediments lay.
The man’s no idiot, but he’s kind of an idiot, if you catch my drift.