When Mitch Landrieu won on his third try for mayor in 2010, there was a great deal of optimism about his administration.
The Lieutenant Governor and scion of a former mayor had won in a landslide, carrying 2/3s of the city.
People sighed relief that Ray Nagin’s imploding administration was going to be succeeded by an energetic leader propelled into office with a diverse coalition of support.
Some believed that the election of a white mayor with considerable backing from black voters signaled that New Orleans was entering into a post-racial era.
Add to it that Landrieu won the mayoral election the night before the New Orleans Saints would play in their first Super Bowl.
Well the Black and Gold did their part; Landrieu not so much.
Scratch that – Landrieu not at all.
With the recovery from Hurricane Katrina still ongoing then (and now as some major facilities still need a complete renovation), the people were willing to be patient with Landrieu.
But as time went on, the crime never got much better and the roads continued to deteriorate. But more revenue-harvesting traffic cameras sprouted up.
The closest thing to a Landrieu accomplishment is the construction of what is being billed a world class new airport. While the current airport won’t be mistaken for any of the great air transit hubs of Europe, the $800 million “tuning fork” shaped airport is supposed to stimulate greater travel to New Orleans.
Too bad nothing was done to improve the means by which travelers get from the airport to downtown New Orleans, where mass transit from the airport is amazingly not a viable option in a city that lives off of tourism.
And the new airport will be located on the opposite side of the airfield from the $72 million car rental structure that was built so passengers would no longer have to ride in rickety airport shuttle buses and could instead make a short stroll to the rental counter. That was nice while it lasted.
I’d add the Lafitte Greenway but that has been a magnet for “bike path bandits” who have held up cyclists at gun point.
At the end of the day, Landrieu’s signature act was removing Civil War-era monuments with great media fanfare and through a means that violated transparency and governmental ethics laws by brazenly using a foundation to conceal funds utilized for a public purpose. Add into the mix that the mayor misused first responders for a task that was not within the scope of their training nor responsibility to the public.
Even the League of Women Voters called out Landrieu for his egotistical clutching to the drapes, saying that he insisted on remaining in office long after his successor was chosen by the voters so he could preside over a soulless tricentennial celebration, that attendees at his grand banquet said was more a celebration of himself than the city.
And when he wasn’t tethering himself to the city’s 300th birthday in the extended period between the election of his successor and leaving office, Landrieu was pushing his book(let) about how courageous he was to remove a handful of landmarks.
Instead of giving the new mayor time to develop solutions to the myriad of problems he was leaving behind, Landrieu used the lame duck period to promote himself in interviews with the national press and his book. If New Orleans had a truly objective media outlet, they would have raised hell over it. Instead, they let their favorite politician do whatever he wanted free of questioning or consequence
In fact the biggest failure in New Orleans outside of the mayor and the Sewerage & Water Board was the local media, especially the newspapers that enabled Landrieu by rarely challenging him on anything.
A few years ago Louisiana Democrats mocked another Louisiana politician with presidential aspirations, distributing bumper stickers sarcastically asking “Where’s Bobby?” a reference to the weeks then-Governor Jindal spent outside Louisiana working the hustings in Iowa and New Hampshire.
But to Jindal’s credit, when hurricanes threatened Louisiana during two consecutive Republican National Conventions, Jindal skipped out on the chance to speak to a national audience and increase his political profile to manage in-state emergency preparations.
By contrast, Landrieu was in Colorado engaging in his latest round of “statue spiking” when the city went under water in August 2017. Landrieu’s top aide beseeched him to leave the Aspen Institute gathering early but the mayor stayed to give his speech. The people of New Orleans were no longer a priority to the mayor. Assuming they ever were.
Landrieu’s indifference to the more critical yet less media appealing aspects of his job resulted in flooded neighborhoods and numerous boil water advisories.
Anyone from outside of Louisiana who would want Landrieu as president owes it to him or herself to get a taste of what it’s like living in a Landrieu-run city by moving to New Orleans.
New Orleanians were treated to eight years of unmet expectations, neglect, and political theater by a trained thespian now off to audition for a more prominent role (President? Vice-President? Secretary of Ribbon Cutting?) on a bigger stage and under brighter lights.
New Orleans deserved better and in retrospect the city would have been better off had his performance been cancelled a season ago.