Edward James Blakely (born 1937) is known primarily for having been Executive Director of Recovery Management for the City of New Orleans.
Blakely earned his B.A., from the University of California at Riverside, an M.A. from the University of California at Berkeley, a master of management from Point Loma Nazarene University, and a Ph.D. from the University of California at Los Angeles.
Blakely was hired by New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin after Hurricane Katrina. When his role in New Orleans ended in 2009, Blakely returned to an appointment at Australia's University of Sydney. The consensus among New Orleanians continues to be that he accomplished little and imagined his involvement in post-Katrina achievements.
Role in New Orleans
Blakely's role in New Orleans was never far from controversy: he was criticized for describing New Orleans as a "third world country" and its residents as "buffoons" and for not accomplishing enough. He alleged, in a speech in Sydney, that the actual population of New Orleans pre-Katrina was known to be lower than the official number reported by the U.S. Census Bureau but that local politicians blocked an update of the figures because of the potential downward effect on federal grants. On another occasion he also analogized New Orleans to divided neighborhoods of Sunnis and Shias; at Johns Hopkins University he was alleged to have said that New Orleans needed birth control (Blakely later explained that he had been misquoted, his actual statement being only that the New Orleans public schools were unprepared to enroll a growing population of children). Additional targets of criticism were his "on loan" status in which he continued to receive part of his University of Sydney salary while New Orleans paid him full-time and his alleged involvement in transparency issues similar to the New Orleans e-mail controversies. Blakely's New Orleans salary was $150,718 for 2007 and $154,510 for 2008.
According to the Times-Picayune, "Blakely has acknowledged that trying to shepherd a clumsy and sometimes-inept City Hall bureaucracy through the maze of federal rebuilding rules has been a challenge. He admits perhaps some of his early promises about a speedy recovery were overblown." Columnist James Gill used Blakely's resignation to poke fun at Nagin, who had professed being unable to remember the facts of certain controversies during Nagin's second term as mayor; Gill averred that Nagin and Blakely "complement each other admirably": "Nagin cannot remember things that did happen, while Blakely can effortlessly recall a bunch of things that didn't." Subsequently, Gill's fellow columnist Stephanie Grace asserted that Blakely and Nagin have behavioral similarities such as "unfulfilled promises" and cited a 2007 comment by Blakely that New Orleans would soon have construction "cranes in the sky" as part of the rebuilding effort.
In October 2009, Blakely again made controversial statements about the New Orleans recovery and his role in it. In a video interview on U.C. Berkeley's CalTV, Blakely said "I should have left a little earlier, for two reasons: One, my health wasn't good. Secondly, I had other things I wanted to do, and administering a recovery is not one of them." In the same interview, Blakely claimed that the people of New Orleans were lazy and virulently racist, and that "Unless the next mayor is very clever, it's going to explode and there are going to be race riots." Louisiana Lieutenant Governor Mitch Landrieu responded to published reports of Blakely's comments, saying that they were "offensive and untrue" and calling Blakely's tenure in New Orleans a "complete failure". To highlight Blakely's total failure at accomplishing anything during his time in New Orleans, he was quoted on February 23, 2011 as saying that only 30 percent of the New Orleans' residents have returned when in actuality over 75 percent have returned.
Return to Australia
On May 6, 2009 Blakely announced his intention to resign from his position as "Recovery Czar" in New Orleans effective 2009 July 1 and to return to Australia. Simultaneous with his resignation, his agency was renamed the Office of Community Development, supervised by Blakely's deputy director Austin Penny. In a farewell presentation to the City Council's Recovery Committee, Blakely urged that New Orleans "face south" to increase trade with Latin America in view of the Panama Canal expansion project. He also recommended focusing the city's biomedical industry on tropical diseases and working on New Orleans East to rebuild Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital and to "let people know we're in the technology business" by making the Michoud Assembly Facility a tourist destination.
Shortly before his departure from New Orleans, Blakely was asked whether he would return if the city suffers a future disaster. Blakely's response:
- "You don't invest this much time, this much heart without coming back. . . . I'm an American. I'm not going to let this city become an embarrassment."
Blakely's name continued in the New Orleans news, as when Nagin was quarantined in China while on the way to a University of Sydney conference where Nagin was to discuss, according to the printed program, how he "launched several high profile investigations that resulted in a paradigm shift that unleashed unprecedented economic development"—a statement which attracted a quip from satirical columnist James Gill:
- "Shifting paradigms sounds like heavy work. Maybe Nagin borrowed a crane in the sky from Blakely."
Notes and references
- Australian "recovery czar" of New Orleans Ed Blakely at Sydney Ideas, 2007 March 27 (accessed 2009 April 26). Australian Business Foundation profile on Professor Ed Blakely.
- Professor Blakely Australian media coverage, 2007 April 18 (accessed 2009 April 26).
- Steering New Orleans's Recovery With a Clinical Eye, Adam Nossiter, New York Times, 2007 April 10
- Jeff Crouere, New Orleans Recovery Czar Plays Buffoon Again.
- "Running in place" posted on nola.com by the Times-Picayune editorial staff on 2008 October 22 (accessed 2009 April 30).
- Michelle Krupa, "Blakely says Louisiana needs birth control" in Times-Picayune, 2009 May 17. Many of the respondents to the article agreed, however, with the statement which Blakely said that he had been misquoted as making.
- E-mails' inconvenient truth, editorial in the Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2009 April 26, Metro Edition, p. B4. See also the English Wikipedia articles on Jacquelyn Brechtel Clarkson, Stacy Head, Shelley Stephenson Midura, Ray Nagin, and Tracie Washington.
- Michelle Krupa, "Blakely leaving post as city's recovery chief" in Times-Picayune, 2009 May 7, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. B1, B3; the salary figures appear on p. B3 (web version = Blakely confirms he's leaving recovery director post 'as soon as I can,' but definitely by July 1).
- Michelle Krupa, "Blakely leaving post as city's recovery chief" in Times-Picayune, 2009 May 7, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. B1, B3; the quotation appears on p. B3 (web version = Blakely confirms he's leaving recovery director post 'as soon as I can,' but definitely by July 1).
- James Gill, "Nagin did, Blakely didn't: It's a blur" in Times-Picayune (New Orleans), 2009 May 10, Metro Edition, p. B5.
- Stephanie Grace, "Blakely and Nagin are two of a kind" in Times-Picayune, 2009 May 12, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B5
- "In Focus: Edward Blakely", www.caltv.org, 2009 October 16. Part I, Part II
- "Ed Blakely lambastes New Orleans, saying its residents are racist, lazy", The Times-Picayune as posted at www.NOLA.com, 2009 November 2.
- "Statement from Lt. Gov. Landrieu on Ed Blakely", www.abc26.com, 2009 November 3.
- , Ed Blakely tells Australian radio that only 30 percent of New Orleans residents have returned since Katrina.
- Michelle Krupa, "Blakely leaving post as city's recovery chief" in Times-Picayune, 2009 May 7, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. B1, B3 (web version = Blakely confirms he's leaving recovery director post 'as soon as I can,' but definitely by July 1).
- Pendleton Memorial Methodist Hospital data.
- Bruce Eggler, "Recovery panel gets Blakely farewell" in Times-Picayune, 2009 May 21, Saint Tammany Edition, pp. B1, B3 (all quotations from p. B3); web version = "Blakely details recovery progress").
- Michelle Krupa & Frank Donze, "Forever Blakely" in Times-Picayune, 2009 June 27, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B3.
- James Gill, "Mayor goes global" in Times-Picayune, 2009 June 10, Saint Tammany Edition, p. B5. Much of Gill's essay lampoons Nagin's ability to maintain "sustainable globalization" as newsworthiness.
- Blakely, Edward J. (2011). My storm: Managing the recovery of New Orleans in the wake of Katrina The City in the Twenty-First Century. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 0-8122-4385-4. Foreword by Henry Cisneros.
- Gill, James. "Blakely can't get anything right". Times-Picayune (Saint Tammany Edition). p. B5. Gill posits that Blakely, on p. 1 of the book, seeks to name five great performing artists whom New Orleans has produced. "Blakely did get two—Louis Armstrong and Mahalia Jackson—right, but Tina Turner is from Tennessee, while Scott Joplin was born in Texas and Josephine Baker in Missouri.