In The News › Mayor addresses Black-on-Black violence to the BGR

Mayor addresses Black-on-Black violence to the BGR

April 8, 2013

The Louisiana Weekly

By Christopher Tidmore
Contributing Writer

In his legislative address before the Bureau of Governmental Research, Mayor Mitch Landrieu called for an end to young male black-on-black violence.

“We need to stop the killing,” the New Orleans mayor declared. “When I give this speech, people feel helpless. We’re not.” Using a new grant from the Bloomberg Foundation, his new campaign, Nola for Life seeks to “change from a culture of death to a culture of life” on the streets of the city.

The $500,000 grant acts as the seed money, he explained, to “stop the shooting” by giving these predominantly young Black men “anything they need to put down the guns” from education to job opportunities in the public and private sectors.

However, the mayor pledged, “If you don’t we’re coming after you. And not just you. Every member of your gang.”

Having established a new multi-department gang unit at City Hall and within the NOPD, the mayor pledged that entire gangs will be held account able for the violent actions of their members.

“That’s how it works now…No more…Young men think there are no consequences.” There will be, Landrieu pledged, within his revamped criminal justice system.

His breakfast speech Wednes­day morning overlooking a rainy CBD on the 12th floor of the Westin Canal Place saw the Mayor speak on a wide variety of topics, but centering the majority of his remarks on fighting dysfunction on the streets, in the police, and the need “to reform what we loosely call a criminal justice system.”

Referencing the 193 murders last year, Landrieu admitted that he was tired of, in the middle of the night, “my Blackberry buzzes, and I get a message. ‘Sorry, Mr. Mayor, there was a murder last night. A young African-American…”

“One hundred and ninety-three tragic stories…lives changed, damage done, children burying parents, parents burying children,” he maintained. “This is unacceptable. It has to stop.”

Landrieu equally noted that NOPD has to change as well.

Responding to questions on ‘stop and frisk’ from The Louisiana Weekly at the BGR Breakfast, he was quick to add, “We don’t do it the way it is done in New York.”

The mayor pledged to stop suspects based on behavior and not racial profiling. He noted that the NOPD has done that in the past, and promised that “increased training and the work we have done over the last two years” is decreasing that trend.

According to the mayor, police complaints are down 30 percent under his administration citing the new Public Integrity Division of NOPD staffed by two FBI special agents “on duty all the time”, and an Inspector General overseeing police practices as well.

“Even New York doesn’t have the IG overseeing police,” Landrieu added.

The results are telling, he stated. Fifty-three NOPD officers have been arrested since 2010, with two new classes of recruits under training, and a full overhaul of the detail system underway.

“Regardless of what is happening to the consent decree, we are reforming NOPD.

“And, in the new NOPD, racial profiling will not be accepted,” the mayor emphasized multiple times, responding to criticism in this newspaper and elsewhere that the practice has remained common.

He noted that the Mardi Gras incident on Bourbon Street likely was racial profiling, yet Landrieu pointed out that the police in question served in the State Police, not the NOPD. “I’ve seen the tape, and it didn’t seem like a proper stop.”

That the State Police overreacted, and the uproar since, Landrieu noted, was the “fruit of the point tree of how you treat young African-American men.”

The mayor urged the more than 250 corporate and civic leaders assembled to help provide opportunities for young men who put down their guns.

He noted that the Sewerage and Water Board rate increase, while unpopular, would not only stop the 40 percent leakage of potable water and raise the system to EPA mandated standards, but would provide thousands of good-paying jobs. And, City Hall seeks to direct them to as many of those who renounce the violence as possible.

Landrieu went on to challenge the corporate leaders to provide opportunities to those caught in the trap of the streets. He reminded them of a young Black man from a disadvantaged background, nearly killed in a shooting less than four years ago, who had gone on to work in the Obama Administration.

He now runs a program in Landrieu’s office that provides 1,500 young men with midnight basketball, thanks to a grant from the Nike Corporation.

The Mayor also spoke of his legislative package in Baton Rouge at the meeting.

Specifically, speaking of the large rate increases recently approved for the Sewerage and Water Board to rebuild the city’s water system, “After decades of kicking the can down the road,” Landrieu explained, “we reached a breaking point.”

The mayor noted that the city was losing 40 percent of its potable water, and that was before environmental concerns over possible contamination as the pipes and drains deteriorate. Customer rate hikes will continue apace until 2020, earning more than $583 million to fund, in part, a $3.3 billion rehabilitation.

However, Landrieu added, “I promised you that if you allowed us increase those rates, I would not do that without making a major commitment to complete and total restructuring of the Sewerage & Water Board and management and operations of the Sewerage & Water Board,” Landrieu said. “Our first priority this session is for the City of New Orleans to honor that commitment.”

The proposed legislation, authored by state Sen. J.P. Morrell on the City’s behalf, would reduce the board of directors from 13 to nine members, removing altogether the City Council members who serve on it. Terms would fall to four years, down from nine, and members would be limited to just one reappointment. University presidents, budgetary, and hydrology experts would nominate experts in areas for the positions.

As a state political subdivision, only the Legislature can alter the composition of the Sewerage and Water Board. The same is true of the Firefighters’ pension system, which Landrieu also seeks to revamp. Currently, the fund costs the city $50 million a year, yet the mayor and the Council exercise almost no control over the contributions or investments. Put another way, if considered alone the pension fund would be equal in size to the city’s fifth-largest department.

Landrieu seeks to raise the firefighter’s employee contribution in line with that paid by NOPD, or 10 percent. The police pension fund stands at 83 percent solvent, while the firefighters rank far below at 40 percent funded.. The bill that would change how the firefighters’ pension fund operates would save the city about $2 million a year, The Mayor noted.

In the presence of juvenile court judicial candidate Doug Hammel, Landrieu also pledged to fight in the State House to reduce the number of juvenile judges in Orleans Parish from six to four. Currently, the city has more juvenile sections than any comparable Louisiana municipality. That would also save the city $2 million per year.

Asking the assembled civic, business, and political leaders gathered at the BGR breakfast, Landrieu challenged, “We have to be willing to step up to the plate … or the city will continue to get what it’s gotten in the past.”

“I’m calling everybody in this city into purpose, and it is not a problem that cannot be solved. We cannot look away. I am not looking away from this. From today to the moment I leave office, I will not look away.”

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