February 28, 2004 Saturday
SECTION: METRO; NEW ORLEANS POLITICS; Pg. 1
LENGTH: 914 words
HEADLINE: Mayor treading water on board seat;
Nice trip for a couple of city workers; The naked truth about Mardi Gras; Nagin borrows an idea for his costume
BYLINE: By Martha Carr and Gordon Russell; Staff writers
Benjamin Edwards' term on the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board expired three months ago. But Mayor Ray Nagin seems to be in no hurry to replace him.
The mayor said recently he is searching for the "right person" to take Edwards' spot on the 13-member board. There's a chance that the right person could turn out to be Edwards himself, but it sounds pretty remote.
"He's got people lobbying me for him to stay on the board, and I just haven't made a decision," Nagin said. "If I do do something, I would probably find another minister or preacher in the community that is interested in serving."
Meanwhile, Edwards, executive director of the 9th Ward's Third Shiloh Missionary Baptist Church, is staying on with the understanding he could be removed at any time, Nagin said. That should keep the sometimes controversial member, who has a reputation for meddling in the board's day-to-day operations, in line with the administration for now.
"It's harder for him to join a coalition that may not be in on our agenda," Nagin said.
Edwards was appointed to the board in 1989 by Mayor Sidney Barthelemy to fill the unexpired term of businessman Arnold Broussard. In 2000, Mayor Marc Morial reappointed him to a full nine-year term, retroactive to 1994. His term expired Nov. 14.
For months it has been widely assumed that the mayor would replace Edwards, who voted with the 6-5 majority in October 2002 to kill a Nagin-backed move to privatize some board operations. Nagin said he has yet to make a decision, partly because it has been difficult to find a suitable person willing to serve nine years.
Since he was elected, Nagin has appointed two board members: Gary Solomon, who succeeded Stafford Tureaud Sr. for a term expiring in 2009, and Tommie Vassel, who took the place of Ronald Guidry Sr. for a term expiring in 2011. Tureaud and Guidry both voted against privatization.
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NICE WORK? You know what they say: It's Nice work if you can get it -- especially if it's in Nice, France.
New Orleans Chief Administrative Officer Charles Rice and Director of Music Business Development Scott Aiges, along with members of the Mahogany Brass Band, will return this weekend from a weeklong Carnival trip to the Riviera hub that Nagin's press office swears was to promote business opportunities.
This much, at least, is true: The area's storied topless beaches have yet to crank up for the season, the weather in the south of France being a tad chilly still.
Administration officials said the trip was a follow-up to a "cultural partnership" agreement signed by Nagin and the mayor of Nice last year that calls for the "exchange of resources, expertise, and creative talent."
The agreement "builds upon our cities' natural similarities, particularly when it comes to music and Carnival," Nagin said in a statement.
Those similarities include rich jazz and Carnival traditions. For instance, Nice's king of Carnival is apparently escorted by faux executioners down the city's streets and symbolically burned in a bonfire. Perhaps, as part of the cultural exchange, New Orleans could import the tradition of the symbolic execution.
Next year, Nice will host a Carnival celebration that will highlight traditions throughout the world, and New Orleans officials hope to be in that number.
"They're inviting everyone to take part in this sort of uber-Mardi Gras, so we think there's some opportunity for New Orleans float builders," Nagin spokesman Chris Bonura said.
The city's tab for the trip was about $4,000, Bonura said, in part because the city of Nice offered free accommodations and other perks.
"It was a real bare-bones investment," he said.
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SPEAKING OF BARE: Nagin's press office sent out a news release on Ash Wednesday with an unintentionally hilarious typo.
Trumpeting the success of Mardi Gras 2004, the release said: "Early economic indicators reveal that this year's Carnival celebration was slightly better than average when it comes to the number of revealers and the economic impact."
And here we thought the city was trying to discourage that sort of behavior.
Bonura took responsibility for the gaffe like a true government soldier. He sent out a corrected news release with the preface: "It has been REVEALED to me that some of you are REVELING in a Freudian slip I made in a press release. I'm working to reverse the REVELATION that I mistook REVELERS for REVEALERS. I would venture to say that New Orleans did have quite a few REVEALERS yesterday. Perhaps my slip-up is a REVELATION of my own Mardi Gras REVELRY and the price I'm paying for it today."
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AND SPEAKING OF REVELERS: On Mardi Gras, Nagin sported a rather clever costume inspired by a recent column by Times-Picayune columnist Stephanie Grace. The column tagged the mayor as an "idea man" who presents bold plans but thus far has failed to carry out many of them.
Nagin's outfit included a light bulb perched on a top hat and yellow cards featuring Grace's mugshot and outlining some of his more controversial notions: selling the airport, combining the civil and criminal sheriffs' offices, and so on.
While Grace's column apparently irked some Nagin staffers, Nagin's Mardi Gras getup suggested that the mayor hasn't lost his sense of humor.