When it comes to the day-to-day concerns of ordinary New Orleanians, it has become increasingly clear that Mayor Landrieu has, to put it mildly, completely tuned out. Gone are those halcyon days when Landrieu at least gave lip service, if not substantive effort, towards governing our fair city.
It’s becoming clear that Landrieu’s attentions have been completely diverted, and his efforts have tilted entirely in favor of preening for a national audience.
It all began with Landrieu being named as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, a highly politicized group with a pronounced leftward bent. The choice was viewed as a stamp of approval to Landrieu’s much-publicized effort to cleanse New Orleans of its most nefarious element – Confederate statuary.
Landrieu ran with the football, and immediately began to use his newfound position as a bully pulpit on national political issues, all from a notably partisan perspective.
First, Landrieu gave a rousing speech on June 26th before the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors as he accepted the presidency. There, he spouted some nonsensical pablum about practical politics.
“In this political climate,” Landrieu explained, “we mayors must fight to occupy the radical center, where idealism meets reality, and where we put people over politics.”
It wasn’t long before Landrieu revealed his “radical center” to be a cover for partisan ambition. First, he gave an interview to Politico in which he attacked the Trump Administration and Congress at length. Trump was lambasted as “wrong most of the time, because he takes a myopic, narrow view” while the GOP Congress was depicted as “out of touch with the American people.”
Next, he issued a statement condemning the Senate Healthcare bill, arguing that “[t]he bottom line is that this bill will make us sicker.”
Finally, Landrieu seemed to return to the fold, and announced a policy change in the city he actually governs – a grand plan to reduce New Orleans’ greenhouse gas emissions 50 percent by the year 2030. However, this too was partisan posturing. It was a transparent rebuke of President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Accords.
Landrieu’s own report acknowledges that New Orleans ranks low in terms of metric tons of pollution per capita, a fact which is undoubtedly a byproduct of poor economic conditions. Wealth begets waste, if only because wealthier people can actually afford waste. Drawing closer attention to that is cold comfort.
Ultimately, Landrieu’s climate change proposals weren’t meant to address New Orleans’ actual problems, or even something he can control.
Landrieu can have some influence on crime, of course, but he squandered that opportunity. In the midst of New Orleans’ recent spike in violent crime, Landrieu finally announced proposals designed to increase retention in the NOPD. Alas, that’s like closing the barn door after the animals are gone. The damage has been done, and presently the department can’t even effectively solve homicides.
This is what we can expect for the remainder of Landrieu’s administration. He has given up all hope of a political career in Louisiana, and despite talk of a presidential run in 2020, he’s an unlikely contender. His last chance is to make himself known to interest groups and garner a plum position on his way out. It’s crass, but it’s also politics.
In the meantime, though, New Orleans needs an active mayor, not one who already has his foot out the door. Our problems, for the most part, are worse than ever. Regrettably, so is Mayor Landrieu.
Owen Courrèges, a New Orleans attorney and resident of the Garden District, offers his opinions for UptownMessenger.com on Mondays. He has previously written for the Reason Public Policy Foundation.