tampabay.com

Nagin's goals: unify, rebuild

By ASSOCIATED PRESS
Published May 22, 2006


NEW ORLEANS - Newly re-elected Mayor Ray Nagin immediately began trying to mend ties with political opponents and crucial leaders on Sunday as he looked ahead to overseeing reconstruction of then city.

"We're going to bring this city together. It's my intention to reach out to every segment of this community," Nagin said a day after defeating Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu. "This is our shot. This is our time."

Nagin said he reiterated his desire to work together in conversations with President Bush and Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco.

The president called to congratulate Nagin and said he would rather finish rebuilding with the mayor because the two men had weathered Hurricane Katrina together, Nagin told fellow parishioners at St. Peter Claver Church.

Nagin said he pressed Bush to help accelerate the rebuilding and to help with the removal of tons of debris still littering neighborhoods. He also raised questions about the pending end of federal aid for some evacuees still living in Houston and other cities.

Nagin said he plans to put together a commission, including some former political rivals, to decide on action in the next 100 days. Debris removal and housing will be top priorities.

Landrieu said Nagin deserves the city's support.

"We've taken Mayor Nagin through the crucible, and he survived the test of the storm," said Landrieu, who called Nagin a friend before and during the campaign. "It's really about the future; it's not about who's sitting in the mayor's office."

Months ago, Nagin had a plan put together by community leaders for the rebuilding effort, but many parts have been stalled, waiting for funding as the campaign was fought. Analysts said the rebuilding may gather momentum now that the uncertainty of the election has been removed.

Nagin has repeatedly predicted a coming "boom" in economic opportunity and growth, as billions of reconstruction dollars reach the area.

"Now that there's some stability as to who is going to be mayor, and he's already in place, hopefully that means the rebuilding process will be accelerated," said analyst Silas Lee.

The vote in Saturday's election split largely along racial lines, but both candidates got about one-fifth crossover vote. Analysts said that boded well for the future of a city where deep racial divides were exposed after Katrina and rebuilding plans raised questions about the future of some predominantly black neighborhoods.

"The bottom line is we ended up with the mayor who represents the demography of the city," said Greg Rigamer, who analyzes data from the Secretary of State's Office and other sources.