New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s recent State of the City address, which blended optimism on economic issues with grim resolve on public security, reminded us very much of speeches we’ve heard from Landrieu’s friend and fellow mayor, Kip Holden.
As mayor of Baton Rouge, Holden has spoken a lot about expanding economic opportunity, yet also acknowledged urban crime as a continuing challenge.
These common concerns in south Louisiana’s two biggest cities should also interest civic and business leaders throughout the region. New Orleans and Baton Rouge are important economic engines for the entire state. The health of south Louisiana’s urban corridors, including not only New Orleans and Baton Rouge but Lafayette, will be pivotal in shaping south Louisiana’s future.
Landrieu, an optimist by nature, touted the addition of 4,000 jobs in New Orleans and the decision of GE Capital to relocate in the city. He said that murder is down more than 25 percent from the same time in 2011 and is down 15 percent from this time last year. Landrieu also mentioned an intervention program for chronic criminals that’s similar to an initiative recently launched in Baton Rouge.
But Landrieu also touched on continuing efforts to reform the Orleans Parish Police Department, and he mentioned a federal consent decree for the Orleans Parish Prison that he said the city cannot afford.
A community often celebrated as “The City That Care Forgot” doesn’t seem, at first glance, like a place where municipal efficiency is a priority. But Landrieu is right to acknowledge that the effective delivery of basic services, including public security, is essential to New Orleans’ future — and, by extension, to the future of the region.