By MARY FOSTER (Associated Press)
NEW ORLEANS — Former New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin writes in a new memoir that he was the only one to understand how to recover from Hurricane Katrina, and that he endured plots against him and incompetence around him as he set his plan in motion.
That and more is in the recently self-published memoir from Nagin, who was mayor before, during and after the Aug. 29, 2005, storm that flooded 80 percent of the city and took more than 1,700 lives. Nagin writes in ”Katrina’s Secrets: Storms After the Storm” that he was the only one who understood the storm’s dangers and tried to get people out of harm’s way before it struck. After the storm, his one-page plan to get citizens back to a restored New Orleans disappeared, likely taken by someone who wanted to write a book, Nagin writes.
These and other claims in the book are not documented, and he writes of things ”becoming apparent to him” or being guided by gut feelings. The book was not independently fact-checked because it was self-published.
He publicly contradicted Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco, President George W. Bush and U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, a move that he writes left him fearing for his life.
”I had a target on my back as the guy who stood in the way of their vision of a new New Orleans where mint juleps would once again be the drink of choice in a bleached, adult Disney World-like city,” he writes.
Katrina left entire areas wiped out, buildings off their foundations, electricity gone, and residents stranded in attics. Conditions were so bad Nagin ordered the city emptied of people. Many poor people worried they would not be able to return, fearing others would seize the chance to get rid of low-income, crime-ridden areas.
And, Nagin writes, the rumors of plots against the city’s Blacks were true.
Nagin discusses conspiracy theories and ”shadow governments” aimed at undermining him, including ”men dressed in black combat outfits and adorned in bulletproof vest, rifles, and leg straps holding at least two very large handguns each,” storming into a meeting and saying they were there to protect the mayor. Another involves others running suspicious wires from the roof of the Hyatt Regency Hotel, where Nagin was holed up, around the door to his suite.
The most prevalent conspiracy theory, however, is that racial prejudice was behind many of the blunders and problems after the storm. Nagin writes that New Orleans was a majority Black city before Katrina, and that a group of White residents was determined to change that.
While in Dallas shortly after the storm, Nagin met with a group of White businessmen, with a lone Black man among them, that was determined to ”keep certain residents out and to shut down parts of New Orleans forever.” Yet Nagin appointed the leader of those businessmen to his 17-member ”’Bring New Orleans Back Committee.”
Nagin said he was chosen by God to lead the city out of the storm. God also answered Nagin’s prayers by sending