Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Out-of-control crime overshadows mayor’s other accomplishments

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Allan Katz and Danae Columbus

Poor Mayor Mitch Landrieu. Winner of two landslide elections, seemingly one of America’s most successful and articulate mayors, architect of a New Orleans post-Katrina renaissance, he has to be wondering what hit him. It seems like his plunge from the penthouse to the outhouse took place almost overnight.

The big punch, of course, began with a sudden surge in Vieux Carre crime that quickly got completely out of control. Gangs of thugs began roaming French Quarter streets, beating people up as well as robbing them. The Vieux Carre community responded with fury, holding rallies, complaining that they were living in Landrieuville where no one is safe for even a moment.

It began to look like the mayor’s new Police Chief, Michael Harrison, is in over his head. He responded with a task force but the crime spree hasn’t yet slowed down and seems to be spilling over the boundaries of the Vieux Carre into the CBD, Uptown, Mid-City and even Lakeview.  Let’s just admit it, crime is out of control everywhere. 

Though the DA is accepting more cases and successfully prosecuting more offenders, the criminals certainly don’t seem to be afraid of the cops. It looks like the five-year effort of the mayor and the City Council to reform, rebuild and rejuvenate the Police Department may be a bust.

At least six businesses on our side of the 800 block of Baronne Street in the CBD have crime cameras up.  That didn’t stop an intruder from breaking in a plate glass window on New Year’s morning.  Though video from one of the cameras is posted on You Tube, the perpetrator has not been found.  There was an NOPD squad car with lights flashing close to the crime, but the officer inside apparently missed all the action.

As all this speeds out of control, Sidney Torres, the brilliant St. Bernard Parish entrepreneur, launched a $200,000 TV campaign against the mayor, calling out Mitch as no one else has done in five years. The mayor responded angrily but he’s the one on the defensive. Torres is still attacking and what the mayor needs now is not better PR but some key arrests by the cops to show that they’re a handle on the situation.

Key arrests are only a smart part of what we need. Many more officers  — whether they are college educated or not — is much more like it. We also think that cancelling officer’s ability to ride on Carnival floats is downright un-New Orleans and not a worthwhile solution to building goodwill within the ranks.  

One of our CBD neighbors, developer Dotan Bonen, who has done several adaptative reuses in the historic Lafayette Square neighborhood, is keeping track of the violent crimes in the American Sector that he says have gone unreported by the cops or the news media.

Dotan is furious at the mayor. He says that Mitch’s chickens have come home to roost. “The only way Mitch is going to go into high gear is if we humiliate him,” says Dotan. He thinks Torres has the right idea. Dotan also thinks that the business owners and residential dwellers of the CBD need to hold a rally on the steps of City Hall. “That’s the only language that the mayor and the City Council understand,” he says.

Conspicuously absent from all of this is Governor Bobby Jindal, off on his Presidential campaign. Where is the governor? Why isn’t he meeting with the mayor? How about activating some National Guard units to help the NOPD, as was done after Hurricane Katrina?

This crisis is Mitch’s toughest test. He’s a smart guy who is usually equal to any challenge. But, at the moment, he’s back on his heels. Chief Harrison doesn’t seem to have the answers and the bad guys continue to run amuck.

We also think there are trained police officers around the country who would love to come down for Mardi Gras, work a couple shifts, and enjoy the festivities. Let’s recruit them on the Internet. Maybe some of them would want to stay!  

A NEW ORLEANS CELEBRATION OF THE LIFE OF DR. MARTIN LUTHER KING

It’s hard for us to believe that 47 years have passed since the murder of Dr. Martin Luther King. In that time, he has gone from a controversial figure to an American icon. In New Orleans, each year, his life is celebrated by a vast host of events, including concerts and parades. And, each year, a wide variety of folks, from elementary school students to the city’s most distinguished theologians, try to tell us that Dr. King would say if he were around today. Please take a moment today, King’s actual birthday, to reflect on his life and legacy.

Allan Katz spent 25 years as a political reporter and columnist at The Times-Picayune, and is now editor of the Kenner Star and host of several television programs, including the Louisiana Newsmaker on Cox Cable. Danae Columbus is executive producer of Louisiana Newsmaker, and has had a 30-year career in public relations, including stints at City Hall and the Dock Board. They both currently work for the Orleans Parish School Board. Among the recent candidates who have been represented by their public relations firm are City council members Stacy Head and Jared Brossett, Lt. Gov. Jay Dardenne, former Sheriff Charles Foti and former Councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell.

4 thoughts on “Allan Katz and Danae Columbus: Out-of-control crime overshadows mayor’s other accomplishments

  1. Perhaps in another opinion, Katz and Columbus could share with us exactly what they think one of America’s seemingly most successful and articulate mayors, has accomplished?

  2. First positive notes:

    “We also think that cancelling officer’s ability to ride on Carnival floats is downright un-New Orleans and not a worthwhile solution to building goodwill within the ranks.” When your department is loosing officers faster than you can replace them and low morale is playing a large part in leading officers to quit, this is not a good idea. While I agree with the chief that it looks bad to have NOPD officers ride on floats, it not looks bad, but actually is life or death bad when people keep on quitting.

    “The only way Mitch is going to go into high gear is if we humiliate him,” truer words have never been spoken. This mayor’s only vulnerable spot is his own self image and it needs to be attacked if we ever want to see top down change.

    Now to the negative:

    Allan Katz and Danae Columbus are respected and listened to local political pundits. I have seen maybe 2, at the very most, articles written by either of you being critical of this mayor. While Serpas was destroying the NOPD and the Mayor was calling the NOPD the worst department in the country you two were his cheerleaders. How can a mayor have the nerve to consistently trash the NOPD for his own political gain and then act surprised when everyone starts to quit. Pundits like Allan Katz and Danae Columbus and many others in this town have consistently shielded this mayor from criticism and have failed to be objective with their readers. All the positives in the economy and developments have happened in spite of this mayor. Everything he or his administration has put his hands on has failed, new city hail failure, wtc failure, failure failure failure. Everything positive in this city has been completed because the mayor has stayed out of the way, despite his efforts to show up for the photo opp. This guy has done more harm to NOLA than Nagin ever did. And you too and the other political insiders in this city that want to make sure their names are included in the next local gala invitations have failed us, miserably.

  3. I think the Mayor now understands:
    “When the burdens of the presidency seem unusually heavy, I always
    remind myself it could be worse. I could be a mayor.”
    Lyndon B. Johnson

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