The Times-Picayune publishes/blogs a lengthy interview with Mayor Nagin by reporter Gordon Russell. Lots in there; judge for yourself:
: On the buses:
Federal officials have also faulted Nagin’s administration for not marshaling its own buses and those of the School Board to start ferrying the tens of thousands of evacuees stranded at the Superdome and the Convention Center out of town.
Nagin said perhaps some of the criticism is fair. But he said there were various logistical hurdles that made it hard to use that equipment, and the buses would have hardly created a dent in the size of the crowds anyway.
“It’s up for analysis,” he said. “But we didn’t have enough buses. I don’t control the school buses, and the RTA (Regional Transit Authority) buses as far as I know were positioned high and dry. But 80 percent of the city was not high and dry. Where would we have staged them? And who was going to drive them even if we commandeered them? If I’d have marshaled 50 RTA buses, and a few school buses, it still wouldn’t have been nearly enough. We didn’t get food, water and ice in this place, and that’s way above the local level.
“Our plan was always to use the buses to evacuate to the Dome as a shelter of last resort, and from there, rely on state and federal resources.”
Those resources took way too long to arrive, Nagin said – in fact, much of the help didn’t arrive until after the mass evacuations from the Dome and the Convention Center had occurred.
Well, there’s the first FOIA I want to see: Let’s see the plan. Let’s see all the plans: city, state, and federal. Who was supposed to do what?
On the federal and state response:
Nagin’s biggest frustration, and his biggest source of puzzlement, is the slow pace with which relief arrived. He said state and federal officials made repeated promises that weren’t kept….
“All I saw was a huge two-step, if you will, between the federal government and the state as far as who had the final authority. Promises made that weren’t really kept. It was frustrating. We’d analyze things, double-check them, and then, later in the afternoon, we’d find out that someone was changing the plan, moving resources around.” …
” I think the government ought to be asking itself, ‘What happened to the resources?
Why were people promised resources and they didn’t show up? Where were the military resources? Where was the National Guard? Why were we left with a city on the verge of collapse, fighting for the soul of the city, with 200 National Guardsmen and 1,200 police?…”
On the SuperDome and Convention Center:
The city’s hurricane plan calls for portable toilets at shelters, but none ever arrived. Nagin said his understanding was that the National Guard was in charge of providing them.
Also, he added, “Our plan never assumed people being in the Dome more than two or three days.”
On the worst he saw:
“I saw stuff that I never thought I would see in my lifetime,” he said. “People wanting to die. People trying to give me babies and things. It was a helpless, helpless feeling.
“There was a lady waiting in line for bus who had a miscarriage. She was cleaning herself off so she wouldn’t lose her place in line. There were old people saying, ‘Just let me lay down and die.’ It’s bull…., absolutely bull….. It’s unbelievable that this would happen in America.”
On whether people will return:
“I think some people will probably not come back,” he said. “You know, Texas is treating people very well, probably much better than we treated people.”
On blame: Nagin acknowledged…
…that he may have made some mistakes but said that he hopes others in positions of authority – including President George W. Bush and Gov. Kathleen Blanco — are scrutinized as closely as he and his staff have been.
“I’m not pointing any fingers at anyone,” Nagin said. “But I was in the fire. I was down there. Where were they? I’m confident the truth is gonna come out. But I want everybody’s record analyzed just as hard as mine….
“It was a serious breakdown,” the mayor continued. “Make sure that whether it’s Ray Nagin or the governor or the president, we take a serious look at this and make the changes that need to be made. I’m afraid some of this was a tug-of-war about who gets to spend the money at the end of the day. And I don’t appreciate that….
“Analyze my ass, analyze everyone’s ass, man. Let’s put the facts on the table and talk turkey. Why was there a breakdown at the federal and state level only in Louisiana? This didn’t happen in Mississippi. That’s the question. That’s the question of the day.”
Nagin told the T-P that he bought a house in Dallas and that his child will go to school there. He will live in New Orleans but doesn’t know where; his house was in a bad flood area.