NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana -- I had heard a lot about Edward Blakely, the so-called "master of disaster" turned New Orleans recovery czar. Mayor Ray Nagin announced his hiring last December, at $150,000 a year. So we figured it was time to see just what he has accomplished since then. After all, he'd earned the name "master of disaster" after helping California recover from the Oakland fires and a major earthquake, so we figured he's gotta be good, right?
Well, that depends on who you ask. People we talked to around the city of New Orleans told us Blakely hasn't done much but embarrass them. Shortly after his hiring, he referred to the people of New Orleans as "buffoons" following a planning meeting. He also promised cranes in the sky by September of this year, part of his $1.1 billion blueprint for recovery. He told us exactly where to look for the cranes he says are there, but we never found them.
So I asked Blakely directly: What have you accomplished since you came on board in December?
"First, we have the plan. Secondly, we have about $500 million we didn't have before," Blakely said. "The LSU complex is another accomplishment. ...Practically every street in the city is being repaired. That didn't happen before I got here. The signs are up. City is running."
To hear Blakely tell it, he's practically rebuilt the city of New Orleans single-handedly. Critics say Blakely doesn't really deserve the credit.
"That is not Dr. Blakely. Those are initiatives that were done by the Louisiana legislature and other bodies. I think what he unfortunately has the tendency to do is take credit for things that are not his doing," said New Orleans talk radio host Jeff Crouere.
Blakely has also been criticized for being absent from New Orleans much of the time. He has also been teaching in Australia at the University of Sydney and travels around the United States giving speeches.
"Being paid $150,000 to do a full-time job and getting half-time commitment was really disappointing to a lot of people," Crouere told us.
How does Blakely feel about the criticism?
"People can say whatever they want. I just have to do my job," he said.
Mayor Nagin says we're all going to be surprised by Blakely's successes. But when -- many others in New Orleans want to know -- is he going to start getting results?
-- By Randi Kaye, CNN Correspondent