Marc Morial, never a fan of the guy who replaced him at City Hall, leveled some particularly harsh criticism at Ray Nagin during a visit to New Orleans on Thursday.
Arriving from New York, where he now leads the National Urban League, on the heels of a headline-making shooting incident on Bourbon Street, the former mayor made it clear that he felt Nagin had dropped the ball on violent crime after Morial’s own tenure, though he did not at first name names.
“I candidly felt that when my second term ended and we had driven the crime and violence problem down, that we had created a formula,” Morial told Angela Hill in a WWL radio interview. “A reformed, accredited Police Department that was of the right size, a real commitment to youth programs, and a coalition from the business community to the religious community.”
Morial did not lay blame on Mayor Mitch Landrieu for the city’s violence problem, however, instead suggesting that problems began somewhere between the end of Morial’s term in office in 2002 and Landrieu’s inauguration in 2010 — in other words, during Nagin’s eight years in office.
“Somewhere along the line, the city lost its way,” Morial said. “The current mayor inherited an effectively dismantled Police Department and a dismantled infrastructure.”
Later, the discussion turned toward Nagin more explicitly, with talk of the former mayor’s impending sentencing on corruption charges. Morial said he never bought the hype that accompanied Nagin’s political ascent in the first place.
“The public knows we were never close friends or allies,” Morial said, adding that he had “doubts about his ability to perform” in office because “he had no real experience.”
“It’s tragic,” Morial continued. “I feel for his family. I feel for his children. I feel for his confidants that had such trust in him.”
Still, Morial showed the same defensiveness about New Orleans and its political culture that Landrieu has sometimes expressed, pointing out that other cities and states see local politicians locked up just as often without seeming to develop the same reputation for corruption.
“You can’t dwell on the challenges. You’ve got to confront problems,” Morial said, pointing toward his father, Mayor Dutch Morial, and a previous generation of elected officials. “I grew up watching my father and his allies and friends. They were civil rights leaders and community leaders before they were politicians. They had an abiding sense of public service.”