In The News › Mitch Landrieu’s Next Steps

May 10, 2010

Source: The Louisiana Weekly

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

Mitch Landrieu’s Next Steps

Monday, May 10, 2010
The Louisiana Weekly

Mayor Mitch Landrieu ended his inaugural speech on Monday, May 3, with a challenge to the people of New Orleans to take one step together in unity.

One Step has become the fifth stanza of his anthem “One Team, One Fight, One Voice, One City,” a sort of reformist paraphrase of Dr. Robert Schuller’s “Inch by Inch, it’s a cinch; Yard by Yard, it’s hard.” Moving together, step by step, in reform and accountability, the message of the mayor is that we, the people, can build the city of our dreams.

It is an anthem of leadership that paints a picture of a brilliant possible future, but it requires real change from the top, before there is faith and incentive to move from the bottom.

We, the general electorate, have sent a blazing message to the mayor that we momentarily put aside our divisions of race and class to give him a chance.

The warning that The Louisiana Weekly offers the new mayor is that this suspension of misbelief — this outbreak of political faith — will last just moments unless he acts quickly and decisively to justify that collective choice to step from cynicism.

No Mayor can make everyone happy, and we do not envy the choices that His Honor will face thanks to the $15 million deficit in the police budget and chaotic City Hall bequeathed to him by Ray Nagin. Hard choices will create enemies, yet we send the message that people of all races, creeds, and political persuasions will stand with you as long as you act in the general public fairness.

We will give you a chance still, even amidst budget cuts and pain, but only if you take some hard stands that many of your closest political supporters may find difficult to swallow. And, only if you take them soon, Mr. Mayor.

The first test will come from the battle to end the city’s haphazard, Persian bazaar method of awarding professional service contracts. In an interview with The Louisiana Weekly on the eve of his inauguration, Landrieu explained that he hoped to have a reform that would satisfy both the Bureau of Governmental Research and the Black community. That is a tall order, but one that is eminently possible.

The BGR has for a decade called for a transparent process that awards professional service contracts on price and qualifications, rather than friendship with the Administration in power. Their requirements have great merit, but a legitimate worry came in the last eight years that the independent boards they recommended would not be reflective of the racial and economic status of most of the residents of the city.

In other words, using independent boards nominated exclusively by university presidents and good government leaders might not have the same resonance of legitimacy for local African Americans as it does for the Business Council. However, while Ray Nagin used this challenge as an excuse to do nothing, we hope that Mayor Landrieu will not. There exists a common ground.

The first test of his real willingness to reform the city will come by developing a framework for choosing panel members that reflects both the city’s diversity and its interest in transparency and competency.

Secondly, Mitch Landrieu’s fond of quoting his father’s admonition that a mayor of New Orleans “has to make love to his council.” Or put another way, a mayor’s second responsibility after maintaining his own principled stands is to make sure that he has a welcoming relationship with his legislative branch. A mayor has few more important jobs than making sure his City Council trusts him — especially on the difficult decisions.

And, there will be quite a few of those in the coming days. Mitch Landrieu has to work extra hard to ensure that the seven Councilmembers believe themselves as partners and teammates of the Administration.

Thirdly, Mitch Landrieu understands perhaps better than any mayor in recent history to get anything majorly accomplished requires regional and national partnerships. His tenure as Lt. Governor has re-enforced the notion that the Mayor of New Orleans has a responsibility greater than the home rule charter President of Orleans Parish.

He is the leader of the metro region and the spokesperson to the nation for South Louisiana. To fail in this task endangers the recovery of not only the state, but the city. We have not the political power to fund our own recovery and advancement. We need allies who expect reciprocal help when the time comes. All New Orleanians, whether from the city or from Jefferson, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, or St. Charles, need a common leader. Only when this mantle is claimed by the mayor of New Orleans can the people of Orleans Parish be assured of aid.

However, when the budget gets tight in the coming days, the pressure will increase to play the politics of the city versus the state, and the urban versus the suburban. It is an easy political out that provides temporary political security for an embattled mayor. If recent history teaches us anything, though, that easy political gambit is the road to eventual budgetary and governmental disaster.

We expect no mayor to be a proverbial “miracle worker,” yet we warn that public faith and unity holds only by an inch. New Orleans needs a mayor to keep faith with it, to take those first steps, so we, the citizenry, can keep faith, in step, with him.

May 10, 2010

Source: The Louisiana Weekly

Filed under: Contracting, Orleans Parish

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