For a man who made his name as an executive of a cable television channel before turning to politics, New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin knows a thing or two about communication. He put those skills to good use just three days after his city began to fill with floodwater, launching a tirade against the slow response from federal authorities to a disaster of unimaginable horror unfolding on the country's doorstep. 'Get off your asses and do something, and let's fix the biggest goddamn crisis in the history of this country,' he said during an interview with a local radio station. 'Excuse my French, everybody in America, but I am pissed.' Some dismissed his forthright outburst as the profanity-laden rant of a man exhausted through lack of sleep and frustration. Others suggest it was a shrewd and cleverly scripted tactic to capture the attention of federal authorities and get National Guard troops rolling into Louisiana after several days of inactivity. Whatever the truth, the episode enhanced his reputation. The jury is still out, however, on whether what Mr Nagin did or failed to do worsened the situation. He has faced criticism for refusing to leave New Orleans, when the best interests of the city may have been served by moving to Baton Rouge, the state capital, to co-ordinate the relief effort. He was called a coward for not setting foot inside the Superdome. 'We've been in here for five days, and he still hasn't shown his face to us,' Donnieka Rhinehart, 26, told The New York Times as she prepared to board a bus to leave the stadium last Saturday. Mr Nagin was criticised for calling a mandatory evacuation of New Orleans just one day before Katrina hit and then not activating hundreds of city school buses that could have taken thousands out of harm's way. Instead, the buses ended up 3 metres underwater, locked in a parking lot while city residents sweltered in the Superdome. Clarence Ray Nagin was born in New Orleans in 1956. He earned a degree in accounting at Alabama's Tuskegee University, and returned to the city to complete a master's in business administration from Tulane University in 1994. The degree stood him in good stead for his career as general manager and vice-president of Cox Communications, transforming his poorly performing patch of southeast Louisiana into one of the cable TV firm's most profitable areas. He also hosted his own phone-in show. He was soon attracted to politics, he says, by frustration at growing levels of corruption within the city's government. His political leanings were largely Republican, but he switched his allegiance just days before filing his papers to run as mayor in 2002, correctly figuring that would boost his chances in a heavily Democratic city. There was uproar in city hall from the day he was sworn in as the first mayor for 60 years with no political experience. He had taken 58 per cent of the vote. One of his first acts was to clamp down on bribery in the taxi licensing office, and among the dozens of arrested drivers was his own cousin. The Times-Picayune called it 'the biggest crackdown on municipal corruption in the modern history of the city'. Even so, the raids, which led to the restructuring of several city departments, did not earn him as much kudos as he might have hoped. The black community, which makes up 67 per cent of the half-million population of the city proper, was happy enough that Mr Nagin was seen to be clamping down on corruption, but many were concerned over the perceived disloyalty to a family member. Josh Levin, assistant editor of online magazine Slate, claimed this week that the mayor often promised more than he delivered. 'He oversold his blue-sky ideas. Nagin has pledged at various times to build a new city hall, take over the city's failing public schools, streamline government by merging agencies, reduce the number of mayoral appointees and sell the city's airport to private investors. None of these proposals has come to fruition. Meanwhile, the city's major structural problems - poverty, unemployment, crime - have only gotten worse.' The mayor admits that New Orleans' rampant drugs problems contributed to the lawlessness seen in the city in the days following the storm, and he is frustrated that there has been little impact on a murder rate running at eight times the national average. Mr Nagin will be remembered best, however, for his role in the biggest natural disaster to hit the US, both in the immediate aftermath of the storm and in guiding the rebuilding and restoration of his beloved city. Photogenic and forthright, Ray Nagin is a politician some locals are already comparing to former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani in the aftermath of September 11. 'What's the betting Hollywood will be making a film about all this somewhere down the line?' says Floyd Simeon, a New Orleans resident. 'They'll have Denzel Washington playing Nagin for sure.'