Saturday, December 15, 2007

Nagin chides protesters, thanks alot Ray!

Mayor Ray Nagin called the planned demolition of aging public housing in New Orleans a "no win-win" situation and chided protesters who he said have never lived in the developments.

"Someone is going to be upset," Nagin said Saturday about the planned demolition of 4,500 units of public housing to make way for mixed-income neighborhoods.

Nagin called the demolition protesters an "interesting group" and questioned whether any of them had ever lived in public housing.

Nagin was speaking at a press conference in Hollygrove on to mark the construction of a $4 million, 30-unit housing development for the elderly.

The protesters, Nagin said, are "getting their 15 minutes on the camera."

Nagin said he was disappointed that the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development didn't start rehabbing the Lafitte development in the Treme two years ago.

"I think we could have done a lot more," Nagin said, of the rehabilitation of old public housing units. reposts controversial video on Friday reposted to YouTube a satirical video filmed by high school students that is critical of the relationship between the American Society of Civil Engineers and the Army Corps of Engineers, after the group was promised free representation by two local law firms in the event it is sued.

"We have something to say today to the president of the American Society of Civil Engineers," said President Sandy Rosenthal during a news conference in a restored Lakeview home a few blocks from the 17th Street Canal. "We reject your threats and we will not stop publicizing our video."

In a letter to ASCE general Counsel Thomas Smith III, one of the attorneys for warned that any lawsuit against the organization might trigger Louisiana's "Anti-SLAPP" statute, which allows courts to weed out lawsuits designed to chill public participation on matters of public significance.

SLAPP stands for "Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation."

"While this may not be a criticism the ASCE enjoys, it is nonetheless a fully protected exercise of free speech on the part of," wrote Samantha Everett, an attorney with Cooley Godward Kronish.

The announcement came three weeks after Rosenthal announced that she had taken the video off YouTube because of the threat of a cease-and-desist lawsuit from the ASCE. At the time, she said she was taking that action only because her organization could not afford the legal costs if the ASCE were to file a lawsuit.

The video was produced by her son, Sanford, who is a student at Isidore Newman School. The ASCE had sent a copy of their cease-and-desist letter to the school's principal, too.

The announcement comes only a few days after ASCE officials announced that they were creating an independent task force to review the way the organization participates in national disaster investigations like the corps-sponsored review of the levee and wall failures during Hurricane Katrina.

The ASCE also has begun an internal ethics investigation in response to a 42-page complaint filed by University of California-Berkeley Engineering Professor Raymond Seed, in which he said senior ASCE and corps staffers conspired to obstruct him and other independent investigators looking into the Katrina disaster.

In the video, narrators say, "The Army Corps of Engineers asked the American Society of Civil Engineers to hand-pick some members to find the truth," referring to the ASCE's External Review Panel, which was reviewing the investigation findings.

"Then they paid them nearly a million dollars and awarded them medals of honor. Way to go, guys!"

The ASCE accepted close to $1 million from the corps to compensate the external review committee members for their time and expenses during the two-year investigation.

Rosenthal said the Seed letter and ASCE investigations add to the reasons why an independent "August 29 Investigation" proposed by U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., should be created by Congress.

The video can be viewed by going to and searching for "Controversial Levee Video." It also is available through a link at, which agreed to sponsor the video on YouTube after Rosenthal initially asked YouTube to take it down in November.