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In defense of recovery czar Ed Blakely

October 22nd, 2008

From today’s T-P editorial:

The city of New Orleans’ list of completed recovery projects is humble stuff: roof replacements, elevator repairs, street paving. There are a couple of building renovations on the list, but those are few and far between.

This isn’t what residents were promised by recovery chief Ed Blakely in March 2007 when he predicted that the city’s $1 billion rebuilding effort would put “cranes on the skyline” by that September. Nineteen months later, construction cranes here are as rare as the endangered birds of the same name.

Meanwhile, Mr. Blakely is globetrotting to Dubai to offer his thoughts on sustainable development. When he’s gone, he told the City Council last week, his office here doesn’t get much done.

Has it occurred to the T-P that Dr. Blakely is travelling to Dubai to make a deal on some cranes for New Orleans? Since 30,000+ tower cranes are operating there (1/4 of the world’s total) , perhaps he’s trying to bring some cranes back to the Crescent City.

Has it occurred to the T-P that Dr. Blakely is going to Dubai to learn how they build islands so quickly, so that he can bring back that knowledge to assist in coastal restoration of Louisiana’s barrier islands?

And if, after a long day of horsetrading and dealmaking for the good of the city, if Dr. Blakely wishes to relax and enjoy a cultural treat while overseas… I don’t see how we can blame him.

===

Heh, just kidding.

I phoned into Kaare Johnson’s WIST 690am radio show the other day and commiserated with my brudda about how wrong we were to put our hopes in Ed Blakely’s ability to “quarterback” the city to recovery. Initially, we both thought “How could he be worse than Nagin”? Which is still a good question. I mean, what are the odds— a billion to one? Since there’s about 6 billion people on earth, I guess that means there’s only about five other people on the planet who are as qualified as Blakely to do such a crappy recovery job.

Dr. Blakely has said that he will “finish when all of you think I’m finished.”

Okay, okay. I think you’re finished.

T-P’s James Gill (who has cornered the market on the word “jake”, btw) gives Blakely the treatment today:

[Blakely’s speech in Dubai] was no doubt a good one, at least for those who find urban-planning consultants a turn-on, because Blakely has never had any trouble talking. Getting anything done is another matter, which is why everyone around here, with the possible exception of Mayor Ray Nagin, has him tagged as a flim-flam man.

The occasional foray to distant parts is, of course, perfectly OK even for full-time city employees, who may, indeed, return with new knowledge that will redound to the public benefit.

Blakely, however, has it the wrong way around and his occasional forays are to the city that pays his salary. Otherwise he’s all over this country and various others. He retains his chair at the University of Sydney, Australia.

Blakely noted that Dubai’s “port development is pretty smashing.” Being within sight of it for a few days was “helpful,” he said, because he doesn’t have “a strong background in ports.”

He should come see us in New Orleans more often. We have a port right here.

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