Nagin Slammed For Race Comments

By Monisha Bansal | July 7, 2008 | 8:32 PM EDT

( - New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin refuses to take his share of the responsibility for recovery efforts after Hurricane Katrina, a conservative African American group said Wednesday.

"Mayor Nagin continues to do everything to deflect blame from himself," Project 21's Darryn "Dutch" Martin said in a statement. He accused Nagin, who testified before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee earlier this week, of "playing the race and class cards."

"Nagin is singing the same old anti-Bush tune touted in the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina," Martin said.

According to the Associated Press, Nagin attributed the slow recovery after Katrina, in part, to race.

"I think it's more class than anything, but there's racial issues associated with it also," he told the committee during a field hearing in the city, which was devastated by the flooding caused by the hurricane.

Nagin said he had heard various explanations for why money is not flowing quickly enough to New Orleans.

"I look at what we're doing in Iraq and how we spend money at an unprecedented level there, how we can set up temporary hospitals and designate money to rebuild their economy, and we have this dance going on in New Orleans," he said.

Nagin also told the senators that he does not think "the will to really fix New Orleans" exists.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the agency charged with recovery efforts, has agreed to pay $334 million in infrastructure repairs, but the state of Louisiana has forwarded only $145 million to the city.

The delay spurs from what Nagin called "cumbersome" budget documentation, which the state requires.

"From my perspective, not having the resources at the local level is the absolute killer of this recovery," Nagin said.

On the evacuation situation, he said the approximately 90 percent of its residents who had the means to self-evacuate had left.

"However, a significant portion of our population needed assistance to evacuate. These individuals included those who rely on public transportation and do not even posses a personal vehicle, those that do not have the funds to self evacuate, the elderly who were unwilling to spend the many hours in traffic trying to evacuate the area, and those living in their home but still needing medical assistance."

Martin said it seemed the mayor "will never own up to the fact that, with ample time to prepare and get the most vulnerable citizens out of harm's way before Hurricane Katrina struck, he and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco failed miserably."

He said Nagin's insinuations that the Bush administration and other government entities were inherently racist were "all just a smokescreen to hide his own failure."

Geoffrey Moore, another member of Project 21, said Nagin seemed to want recovery money without accountability.

"While cumbersome bureaucracy is never a good thing, there do need to be safeguards against the fraud and mismanagement that New Orleans has become known for," he said. "To blame race and class is ridiculous."

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