To be in that number

NOLA City Council shows leadership while Nagin isno show

Despite a week’s worth of heated debate over his proposed 2008
spending plan, Mayor Ray Nagin was a no-show Friday as his staff spent
more than six hours before the City Council putting the finishing
touches on the operating budget.

In the end, council members made
several major alterations to Nagin’s original plan, rejecting the
mayor’s suggestion to raise property taxes by 2 mills, ignoring his
request to avoid dipping into a projected 2007 budget surplus and
placing more than $20 million into reserve accounts so the money cannot
be spent without their approval.

Where was Nagin?

Garey Forster, a former state legislator and one-time member of
Nagin’s executive staff who now co-hosts a radio talk show, said on the
air Thursday that the mayor was on the beach in Jamaica while the
budget negotiations were taking place.

Turns out Nagin was back in New Orleans on Friday to attend a
graduation for the latest police recruit class. The event started at 10
a.m., shortly before the council commenced debate on the budget.
Throughout the day-long hearings, however, he failed to make an

What about Jamaica?

Asked if the Jamaica report was accurate, Nagin press secretary
Ceeon Quiett said in a written statement that she did not know the

“The mayor’s personal whereabouts are not in my purview as his
employee with the city government of New Orleans,” Quiett wrote in an

Lord, how I want to be in that number

The only information Quiett provided this week regarding Nagin’s
whereabouts, however, came in response to a request for comment about
the mayor’s failure to vote in the last four elections, including the
October gubernatorial primary.

The Secretary of State’s office confirmed that Nagin had not cast
ballots in those elections just weeks after Nagin had declared that he
was “disgusted” with apathy among city residents, adding that it was
“unacceptable” that only about a quarter of registered voters bothered
to cast a ballot in the primary. The mayor did not mention that he was
in that number.

At the time, Quiett said by e-mail that the mayor was out of town on “personal business and not available for comment.”