I been watching and participating in the Gustav Media Circus and I think it is time to give a citizens eye view of the circus.
First I'm not going to deal with the evacuation. As far as I can tell it went very well, despite long lines of cars on the Interstates leading out of town. It was no doubt the best organized mass evacuation in US history. In fact we are getting pretty good at this. The Second Best Evacuation was three years ago for Katrina. That evacuation would have been the model for all subsequent evacuations, if the levees had held.
The first group to be graded is our Political Leadership. I could only grade three groups, City of New Orleans Jefferson Parish and The State. The grades are primarily based on their public statements over the several days before and more importantly after Gustav.
State Leadership B+
Bobby Jindal's press conferences have been a blizzard of facts and figures. He clearly has a head for numbers. He has called FEMA out on their failure to keep promises and pulled a few rabbits of of his hat, including purchasing generators for local governments and ordering schools to prepare hot meals for people and bringing in large commercial food service operators to do the same. My only reservation is whether these were real improvisations or existing contingencies he simply activated. He presented them as new ideas, I sense he's showboating a little. Whatever the actual facts his confidence, energy and apparent command of the situation.
Jefferson Parish Leadership C+
Aaron Broussard ran regular public briefings. They were professional and included his entire team. Parish President Broussard laid out facts and responses. The Parish seems to have been caught flatfooted by the lack of commercial power, leading to water conservation orders due to the lack of sewage pumping capacity. He did keep residents informed of the situation, without panic hyperbole. His decision to allow residents home soon and without restrictions jump started Jefferson and probably prevented the Mayor from locking the city down for a longer period.
City Of New Orleans Leadership D
Ray Nagin's communications were typical of his personality, confused, confusing and full of high drama. They also seemed randomly scheduled making it difficult for evacuated citizens to hear. Whether his early emotional appeals for evacuation or his confused clarification of when the city would actually be open for residents to return, the Mayor drowned out everyone else while he hogged center stage. Called out by Arnie and Stacy on his delay in opening the city he lashed out, gave in and then clarified that he didn't actually give in. He has taken credit to the evacuation of the city, trumpeting his own achievements, while failing to provide information the 250,000 citizens who evacuated on their own needed. If you listened to him you might believe that everyone in the city was bussed out and put up at his house, instead of the 20 - 30,000 or so people with special needs or without transportation the city did evacuate.