Thursday, March 12, 2009

From the Archives: Our interview with Robert Cerasoli

From July of 2008: Hear the audio of Trumpet Editor Ted Hornick’s interview with Robert Cerasoli! Featuring content not in the original issue!

New Orleans’ first Inspector General, Robert Cerasoli, held the city at a distance. He maintained that it was necessary for his work that he live in what many, including the Times-Picayune in today’s cover story, called a “monk’s existence” with little more than his clothes and his air mattress. His career of investigating waste and corruption gave him a pragmatic view of New Orleans and its criminal history before he even came here, when he originated the job of I.G. almost a year and a half ago.

However, Cerasoli balanced his work with a hopeful attitude about New Orleans and the people here. He was careful not to let himself be seen as “the last failed messiah of New Orleans” and realistic about what he could do in his term. I often spoke of Cerasoli with friends outside of New Orleans as an important measure of progress here, pointing to him as a sign of post-storm recovery correcting pre-storm problems. The news of his resignation, announced just this morning, is certainly depressing, but the fact that the Louisiana Ethics Board has already found an interim successor for the man (Leonard Odom, former Assistant Inspector General for Investigations in Washington, D.C.) proves that, despite delays and a lack of response from City Hall, Inspector Cerasoli has proven the need for an independent evaluator of what does and does not work in the city.

Cerasoli often spoke of his goal of identifying the entire “entity” of the city of New Orleans. This of course overlaps with NPN’s goal of connecting the separate neighborhood groups that define that entity, but it must also remind all of us of the value for vigilance to the city’s needs. Just as Cerasoli was sure not to mythologize New Orleans when working to address its issues, we must use our actions to ensure his legacy.

-Ted Hornick, Originally posted to on January 30, 2009.

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