|This article uses citations that link to broken or outdated sources. (February 2012)|
|60th Mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana|
May 6, 2002 – May 3, 2010
|Preceded by||Marc Morial|
|Succeeded by||Mitch Landrieu|
|Born||Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr.
June 11, 1956
New Orleans, Louisiana, USA
|Spouse(s)||Seletha Smith Nagin (married 1982)|
|Children||Jeremy, Jarin, and Tianna|
|Alma mater||Tuskegee University (Bachelor of Science)
Tulane University (Master of Business Administration)
|Profession||Corporate executive, entrepreneur, author|
Clarence Ray Nagin, Jr. (born June 11, 1956), also known as C. Ray Nagin, was the 60th mayor of New Orleans, Louisiana from 2002 to 2010. He is a member of the Democratic Party. He was formerly a consultant, entrepreneur, author, and public speaker. He became internationally known in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated the New Orleans area.
Nagin was first elected in March 2002 and received significant crossover vote from just about every segment of the population. He was re-elected in 2006 even though the election was held with at least two-thirds of New Orleans citizens still displaced after Katrina struck. He was term limited by law and left office on May 3, 2010.
After leaving office, Nagin founded CRN Initiatives LLC, a firm that focuses on emergency preparedness, green energy product development, publishing, and public speaking. He wrote and self-published his first book, Katrina Secrets: Storms after the Storms, which gives a first-hand account of how New Orleans overcame the effects of Hurricane Katrina.
On January 18, 2013, Nagin was indicted on 21 corruption charges, including wire fraud, bribery, and money laundering, related to his alleged dealings with two troubled city vendors following Hurricane Katrina disaster. On February 20, 2013, Nagin pleaded not guilty in federal court to all charges. He was convicted on 20 of 21 of these charges on February 12, 2014.
Early life and career
Nagin was born on June 11, 1956, in New Orleans' Charity Hospital, to a modest-income family. His childhood was typical of that of urban youth, and his father held two jobs: a janitor at New Orleans City Hall by night and a fabric cutter at a clothing factory by day. After the factory shut down his father became a fleet mechanic at a local dairy, to earn sufficient pay to support his family. His mother was employed as manager of a Kmart in-store restaurant. The family lived on Allen Street in the 7th Ward, followed by a stay near St. Peter Claver Catholic Church in the Tremé, and then moved to the Cutoff section of Algiers. Nagin attended St. Augustine High School and O. Perry Walker High School, where he played basketball and baseball. He enrolled at historically black Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, on a baseball scholarship, played on championship teams, and graduated with a Bachelor of Science degree in Accounting in 1978.
After graduating from college, he went to work in the purchasing department at General Motors in Detroit, Michigan. He moved to Los Angeles, California, then to Dallas, Texas in 1981 to take Internal Audit Manager and Division Controller jobs with Associates Corporation.
In 1982, Nagin married Seletha Smith, a New Orleans native. Together, they have three children: Jeremy, Jarin, and Tianna. In 1985, Nagin returned to New Orleans to become the controller of Cox New Orleans, the city's cable television franchise, run by the Cox media conglomerate. The franchise had a history of customer complaints, low profits, and stagnant growth, and was one of the poorest-performing components within Cox. Nagin was quickly promoted to general manager and implemented an upgrade of the system to 750 MHz, spent over $500 million on developing its fiber-optic cable, and introduced new services, including digital cable television, high speed internet and telephony. In 1989, he was appointed to oversee all of Cox properties in south Louisiana as vice-president and general manager of Cox Louisiana. Between 1985 and 2002, eight hundred jobs were added. By the end of his tenure, 85 percent of customers reported satisfaction with Cox services, compared to less than half in 1989. Cox Louisiana became one of Cox's best-performing units.
In 1993, Nagin enrolled in the executive MBA program at Tulane University. Mark Miester, Editor of Freeman Magazine for the A. B. Freeman School of Business, reported that in his role as vice-president and general manager, Nagin gained valuable experience in politics whilst balancing customer and regulator concerns. Nagin also lobbied at the local, state and federal levels as many of the businesses he managed were regulated and required formal franchise renewals. His public profile was high because he hosted a twice-weekly television call-in show for customers.
In 1995, Nagin received the Young Leadership Council Diversity and Role Model Award, and later sat on the boards of the United Way, Covenant House, and Greater New Orleans Education Foundation. He also was one of the founders and president of 100 Black Men of metro New Orleans, an affiliate of the national organization of African-American businessmen. In 1998, he led a group of diverse investors to bring professional ice hockey to New Orleans, the New Orleans Brass. Nagin became the team's president and investors' spokesman as they secured this historic hockey franchise. The initial popularity of the team allowed the group to secure the 18,000 seat New Orleans Arena as its home venue. That year, the local alternative newspaper Gambit Weekly named Nagin as its New Orleanian of the Year.
Several news sources, including BBC News and numerous blogs and editorials, have stated that Nagin was a registered Republican for most of his adult life, and a George W. Bush supporter, but switched to the Democratic Party shortly before seeking office. In 2004, he endorsed John Kerry for president. In a January 13, 2006 interview on the Tavis Smiley Show, Nagin himself denied these rumors, stating that he "never was a Republican" and that he has been a "life-long Democrat", and several of the news sources reporting that he was a Republican have since issued retractions. He did give contributions periodically to candidates of both parties, including Representative Billy Tauzin in 1999 and 2000, as well as Democratic Senators John Breaux and J. Bennett Johnston, Jr. earlier in the decade. Nagin endorsed conservative Republican Bobby Jindal over conservative Democratic Lieutenant Governor Kathleen Blanco in the 2003 runoff for governor. Both candidates platforms were almost identical, so Nagin requested each write a letter detailing what they would do for the citizens of New Orleans if elected. Jindal wrote a very detailed plan while Blanco sent a one page, two paragraph letter.
2002 mayoral election
Nagin entered the race for mayor on the final day of qualifying. There were already fourteen candidates who had announced their candidacy. Nagin was considered a long shot as he was not backed by any of the city's established political organizations. He hired Jim Carvin, a campaign manager who had never lost a mayoral race.
In the first round of the crowded mayoral election in February 2002, Nagin won first place with 29 percent of the vote. Some of his opponents were the Police Chief Richard Pennington, State Senator Paulette Irons, and City Councilman Troy Carter. In the runoff on Saturday, March 2, 2002, Nagin defeated Richard Pennington with 59 percent of the votes to become the 60th mayor of New Orleans.
Shortly after taking office, Nagin launched an anti-corruption campaign within city government, including crackdowns on the New Orleans Taxicab Bureau and Utilities Department. Media scenes of corrupt officials being led out of City Hall in handcuffs were received with surprised enthusiasm by much of the public. When an investigation into corruption among city vehicle inspection (locally known as "brake tag" inspection) certification workers suggested that corruption was systemic, Nagin fired the entire department's workforce. In fact, when Nagin was asked what should be done about his cousin, who was implicated in the taxi cab bureau scandals, Nagin said "if he's guilty, arrest him." Nagin's cousin was later arrested.
The 2004 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report of the City of New Orleans, as certified by CPA firm KPMG, highlighted many significant accomplishments of the Nagin administration. New Orleans gains 4,500 jobs that year. U.S. Census Bureau figures showed about 38,000 New Orleanians had risen out of poverty as the national average increased. Targeted policies to stimulate business growth, enhance job skill training and homeownership for single parent households were credited. According to The American City Business Journal, per capita income in New Orleans was rising at the fastest rate in the nation.
Southern Business and Development named New Orleans number eight on the list of "come back kids" in the south. New Orleans had back to back record tourist years, 10.1 million in 2004. A Yahoo/National Geographic Traveler poll named the city its number one family destination. Since 2002, the area had seen over $400 million of film productions, including movies like the Oscar-award winning Ray, starring Jamie Foxx, and All the King's Men, featuring Sean Penn. According to MovieMaker Magazine, New Orleans was the 4th best place to film a movie and had earned the title "Hollywood South".
In November 2004, the Nagin administration passed the city's largest bond issue, $260 million. New Orleans also implemented unprecedented technology and jumped from 69th to 38th on Intel's list of "Most Wired Cities". The city's website went from being unranked to the 4th best in the nation.
As Hurricane Ivan threatened the Gulf of Mexico in September 2004, Nagin urged New Orleanians to be ready for the storm. In an effort to get the public's attention and bust through media clutter he advised evacuees to have some "Benjamins" ($100 bills) handy and urged those planning to stay not only to stock up on food and water but also to make sure they had "an axe in the attic". This was a reference to the many people trapped in their attics by rising floodwaters when Hurricane Betsy hit the city in 1965. Nagin issued a voluntary evacuation call at 6 pm on September 13, and the interstates quickly filled as some 600,000 metro New Orleanians left. Traffic was so heavy that some trips took 12 hours or more. Fortunately, the hurricane missed the city like many others.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina entered the Gulf of Mexico. Early on Friday, August 26, Mayor Nagin advised New Orleanians to keep a close eye on the storm and prepare for evacuation. He then made several public statements encouraging people to leave and advising that if they did not evacuate, "We will take care of you". By 10 a.m. Saturday, a mandatory evacuation was called for low-lying areas in the surrounding parishes—St. Charles, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, and Jefferson—and a voluntary evacuation for St. Bernard Parish. In addition to the parishes' announcements, President George W. Bush declared a federal state of emergency for Louisiana.
In accordance with the regional evacuation plan, New Orleans, along with the surrounding areas of Jefferson and St. Charles parishes, were given formal voluntary evacuation orders around 50 hours from landfall. This phased approach along with "contraflow", wherein all incoming interstate highway lanes are reversed outward, ensured that additional vehicles moving onto already congested roads would not create massive gridlock. The local newspaper reported that Nagin stopped short of ordering a mandatory evacuation because of concerns about the city's liability for closing hotels and other businesses. However, this was never confirmed by anyone directly involved in the city's decision making process. After receiving a late night Saturday call from Max Mayfield, head of the National Hurricane Center, Nagin was advised there was final clarity on where Katrina was headed, to New Orleans. He immediately ordered the city attorney to prepare legal documents for calling a mandatory evacuation of the city, the first in New Orleans' almost 300 year history. The legal team worked through the night and on Sunday, August 28 at 9:30 a.m., the mandatory evacuation order was signed and communicated to the public. The Superdome was opened as a shelter of last resort and police went throughout the city with loudspeakers alerting all remaining citizens to go to key pickup points for free bus rides. By Sunday evening 80% of New Orleanians and visitors were successfully evacuated or relocated out of harm's way.
After the hurricane hit, the federally built and maintained levees collapsed throughout the city. 80% of the city flooded, some areas as high as 20 feet, over rooftops. With each passing day, food and water became scarce. Looting became uncontrollable. All communication was down. After hearing reports on his wind up radio, Nagin blasted the slow federal and state response on WWL radio and his passionate outburst went viral all over the world despite the fact that he ignored both federal and state help and recommendations for evacuation five days before the storm hit. As public pressure swelled, federal and state officials were forced to act. After seven full days, the last stranded citizen was evacuated.
"Chocolate City" speech
Shortly after Katrina devastated New Orleans, some started making bold public demands for socially reengineering New Orleans during its recovery. There were repeated calls for moratoriums on rebuilding certain neighborhoods with developers eager for cheap land. Two weeks after Katrina struck, Nagin took a weekend trip to Dallas to reunite with his family. While there, he was asked to meet with leading New Orleans businessmen to discuss the city's future. Nagin states he made it clear at the meeting that everyone had a right to return home, a claim contradicted by some businesspersons in attendance. He also asserts his plans were to rebuild a bigger and better New Orleans where diversity, equity, and fairness ruled. Nagin traveled the country presiding over 170 town hall-style meetings to inform displaced New Orleanians of the status of the city's recovery.
Many of the initial proposals to rebuild New Orleans focused on rebuilding areas with the highest likelihood of economic return. Many groups expressed concern that this might radically change the racial make-up of the city. The land deemed most economically viable was mostly city land above sea-level, in which the most economically-advantaged and white citizens resided; the majority of New Orleanians, especially black residents, lived in the outer edges of the city, where land was mostly below sea-level and deemed less economically viable. Nagin disavowed such proposals, and in response to residents' concerns, he used the phrase "Chocolate City" to signal that New Orleans would remain a majority black city. He first used the phrase during a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration speech in New Orleans on January 16, 2006 and repeated the metaphor several times. This was seized upon and parodied by some commentators, cartoons, and merchandising. Various designs of T-shirts with satirical depictions of Nagin as Willy Wonka were sold in the city and on the Internet.
Nagin also stated that New Orleans "will be a majority African-American city because this was what God wants it to be." Certain people found the implication of Nagin claiming to know God's will as troubling as the racial aspects of his speech. He then condemned Washington D.C., by saying God "sent us hurricane after hurricane after hurricane, and it's destroyed and put stress on this country", suggesting God's disapproval of the 2003 invasion of Iraq under supposedly false pretenses.
In an interview with Tavis Smiley broadcast on Public Radio International on January 13, 2006, Nagin said he used the phrase "chocolate city" in reference to a time in the 1970s when African Americans were just starting to exercise political power in places like Washington, D.C. The term had been used in many of Nagin's previous speeches and welcoming addresses to visitors of the city. The idea reportedly originated with the song "Chocolate City" by the popular 1970s funk group Parliament.
2006 mayoral election
The 2006 mayoral race was one of the most expensive in New Orleans history. At the time of this election, at least two-thirds of its residents were still displaced. One candidate said in his Times Picayune interview he was running because the city's demographics had dramatically changed. There were three unsuccessful lawsuits filed to prevent delaying the original election date.
The state first performed a voter purge and then set up a complicated voting process that required most displaced voters to travel back home. In addition, elaborate absentee voting procedures were required to included multiple mailings, notarizing documents and extensive verifications. An April 1 protest march in the city called for satellite voting to give displaced voters the same rights as those who had returned.
In the April 22 election, Nagin was the front runner with 38% of the vote. Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu came in second with 29%. Nagin and Landrieu faced each other in a run-off election on May 20, 2006. Nagin defeated Landrieu 52% to 48%.
Nagin's second term began on June 1, 2006. He was intensely criticized by the local media throughout this term. For example, his "100 day plan" to accelerate the rebuilding of New Orleans was bashed for what critics said was a tardy release, lack of details and activity in moving forward. Nagin administration spokesperson Rob Couhig backed away from a 100 day promise, stating that it was not meant as a "time period," but as a short-range initiative to improve quality-of-life issues. Delays in FEMA reimbursements and federal recovery dollars reaching the city caused many significant delays.
Unprecedented challenges included: all public transportation needed to be restarted, stoplights and street signs were destroyed, the city’s world famous street cars were in total disrepair, bankruptcy was a real threat, bonds were downgraded to junk status, half the city’s workforce was laid off, millions of tons of storm debris and construction trash had to be removed, construction costs tripled and an historic number of building permits needed to be issued.
Nagin reorganized city government, launched an innovative internet based Kiosk system to issue permits, successfully lobbied to increase the federal community disaster loan from a $5 million limit to 50% of the city's annual revenues, stabilized real estate and tourism markets, restored the city’s bond rating to investment grade, initiated Disney like & semi-automated garbage collections in 2007 and pushed unprecedented public housing transformation.
In 2006, Nagin was also criticized for devoting time to extensive lobbying in Washington, DC and a national speaking tour. Nagin's administration countered this criticism by stating this was necessary in order to correct inaccurate perceptions of New Orleans and secure much needed recovery support.
In addition during 2007, a drastic increase in the city’s violent crime rate led to more criticism of Nagin. A destroyed criminal justice system, post tramatic stress and a severely depleted police force were key contributors to this rise in activity. Nagin called for and got help from the Louisiana National Guard and U.S. Justice Department. However, Nagin continued to be heavily criticized by the local newspaper. He reignited complaints when he said news of two killings should keep focus on the city's needs for more help and, “while sad, keeps the New Orleans brand out there."
Nagin hired recovery expert Dr. Ed Blakely in 2007 to head up a dedicated Office of Recovery Management. Rockefeller, Ford and Bill & Melinda Gates foundations provided grants for critical staff enhancements. During the end of 2007 and into 2008 Nagin guided the city through an extensive planning process that documented a $14 billion need. However, the state only allocated 2% of the plan and it took almost 3 years to receive any of these federal recovery dollars.
With such limited resources, the city came up with the "Citywide Strategic Recovery & Redevelopment Plan" or target area strategy to focus public and private recovery investments. There were 17 initial target areas with commercial centers and clustered residential redevelopment. This strategy proved to be effective as for every $1 of public sector investment was followed by $188 in private sector investment.
The average recovery from a disaster like Hurricane Katrina normally takes 10 to 15 years. Kobe, Japan took 15 years, Watts took 10 years, and New York is still recovery from the 9/11 terrorist attacks after 11 years. By years 4 and 5, New Orleans made significant progress toward full recovery. 85% of all city managed recovery projects were either recently completed, under construction, or in final design. By the end of 2009, there were over $20 billion in public & private sector construction related projects underway.
As a result, national groups took notice. Business Week said New Orleans was one of the best cities in America to ride out the great recession. Money Magazine ranked the city as the sixth fastest growing real estate market. Outside Magazine said New Orleans was the 20th best town in American to live in. The U.S. Department of Labor in its April 2010 report said New Orleans had the lowest unemployment in the nation.
Prior to leaving office in 2010, Nagin was appointed by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to head the United States delegation to a state and local governments conference on assistance to post-earthquake Haiti held in Martinique. A recovery plan was completed and presented to donor nations resulting in Haiti receiving billions in pledges.
2011 and after
Now as a consultant, public speaker and recovery expert, Nagin travels the country and world to give advice to governments, universities and private sector on emergency preparedness. He had worked extensively in Europe, Canada, Haiti, the Caribbean and Australia. ”I think New Orleans is a key study of a horrific catastrophe and how we struggled to plan and implement to get the city back to recovery,” he said. ”I will tell you that there are lessons for Australia in trying to recover and authorities could well look at us. One of the key things is to engage the citizens in a big way. They must be involved so they own the recovery.”
On January 18, 2013, Nagin was indicted on 21 corruption charges including wire fraud, bribery and money laundering related to his alleged dealings with two troubled city vendors following the Hurricane Katrina disaster. The charges are the outgrowth of a City Hall corruption investigation that already resulted in guilty pleas by two former city officials and two businessmen. On February 20, 2013, Nagin pleaded not guilty in federal court to all charges.
The local U.S. Attorney's office requested a delay and Nagin's attorneys agreed so his trial date was postponed to October, 2013. This same office is also being investigated by the Department of Justice for alleged prosecutorial misconducts, top prosecutors "resigned" and all charges were dropped on a major case.
Controversy, indictment, and conviction
In 2004, Ray Nagin's two sons started a family business, Stone Age, LLC, with their parents' financial backing. Stone Age, LLC, had received a contract with Home Depot after Hurricane Katrina.
Stone Age, LLC, was a granite and marble business that focused primarily on the residential market. When Stone Age registered as a home-improvement business with the state Licensing Board for Contractors the application showed that Seletha Nagin, Nagin's wife, signed as a witness, and the document was notarized by then-City Attorney Penya Moses-Fields. Stone Age, LLC, is currently "Not In Good Standing for failure to file Annual Report" with the Louisiana Secretary of State as the company is currently inactive but eligible for reinstatement.
At a town hall meeting in October 2005, Nagin said: "I can see in your eyes, you want to know, 'How do I take advantage of this incredible opportunity? How do I make sure New Orleans is not overrun with Mexican workers". This was in response to a question from the audience. Some Hispanic groups, including the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, criticized Nagin's statement, although those attending the town hall meeting reportedly applauded - many believing jobs should first go to locals displaced by the hurricane. Nagin went on to say this was the city's biggest economic opportunity and urged New Orleanians to get more comfortable working besides someone who did not look like them, as everyone's help was needed. During a subsequent interview on Telemundo with Jose Diaz-Balart, Nagin praised the great work Hispanic workers did in New Orleans and said the city would not have recovered without them.
On April 7, 2009, the Times-Picayune alleged a conflict of interest with regard to a trip Nagin took to Hawaii in 2004. The Hawaiian vacation Mayor Ray Nagin, then-chief technology officer Greg Meffert, and their families took in 2004 was claimed to be partially paid for by Meffert, but years later it was revealed that Meffert used a contractor's credit card to pay for Nagin's plane ticket. David Hammer of the Times-Picayune reported on April 23, 2009, that Nagin had taken "plenty of other trips" at the expense of NetMethods, a company owned by city vendor Mark St. Pierre.
In April 2009, Nagin was obliged "to sit for a deposition as part of a civil lawsuit over the city's controversial crime camera program." The Times-Picayune had obtained information that Mark St. Pierre, who allegedly paid for the holiday, had made substantial donations to Nagin's 2006 re-election campaign.
Nagin's Chief Technology Officer, Greg Meffert, was later charged with 63 felony counts in what authorities say "was a lucrative kickback scheme." All but two of the counts were subsequently dropped, and Meffert eventually plead guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and one count of filing a false income tax return.
In June 2012, Frank Fradella who was facing major securities fraud charges, pled guilty in New Orleans federal court to one count of conspiracy to bribe a public official. According to The Times-Picayune, Fradella claims to have paid $50,000 and delivered truckloads of free granite to Nagin's sons' business in exchange for favorable treatment for Fradella's companies with city contracts.
On January 18, 2013, Nagin was charged with wire fraud, conspiracy, bribery, money laundering, and filing false tax returns related to his alleged dealings with two troubled city vendors. The 21-count federal corruption charges were issued by a grand jury. On February 20, 2013, Nagin pleaded not guilty in federal court to all charges. Despite New Orleans' long history of political corruption, Nagin is the first mayor to be criminally charged for corruption in office.
On September 19, 2013, Nagin requested a further delay, arguing that his legal team needed time to review a report about prosecutorial misconduct that caused the convictions in the Danziger Bridge shooting case to be overturned. Nagin's lawyer, Robert Jenkins, claimed that many of the same personnel involved in the anonymous postings on NOLA.com, the Website of New Orleans' local newspaper, The Times-Picayune, also posted racially charged statements about Nagin. The trial began Jan. 27, 2014. Nagin was convicted on 20 of the 21 counts by jury on February 12, 2014. These charges included that he had taken more than $500,000 in payouts from businessmen in exchange for millions of dollars' worth of city contracts.
On February 12, 2014, a jury convicted Nagin on all but one of the twenty-one federal corruption counts. He will be sentenced on June 11, 2014. Judge Helen Ginger Berrigan, a Bill Clinton appointee to the federal bench, ordered a pre-sentencing investigation. He could receive twenty years imprisonment and face asset forfeiture, hefty fines, and supervision on release from prison.
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|Mayor of New Orleans
May 6, 2002 – May 3, 2010