In New Orleans, step outside your door — if you have shelter since the city’s housing grows less affordable every day — and you have a poorer chance of coming back alive than in almost any major city in the world. But at least you won’t have to battle rising seas while Mayor Mitch Landrieu concentrates on healing the planet, helped by his own Ministry of Silly Walks.
The Monty Python sketch that lampoons misguided government priorities and expenditures remains a comedy classic. Unfortunately, Landrieu’s agenda in his final months in office is anything but a laughing matter, as he proposes spending time and money to make living in New Orleans less affordable than ever while not really tackling its major problem.
This month, New Orleans’ murder rate — fourth highest in the country and ranked 32nd among major cities worldwide in 2016 — continued to climb at a pace easily surpassing last year’s. The city’s failure to curb violent crime drew substantial attention from Landrieu in his last State of the City speech this month, which he used to promote initiatives he claimed would reverse deteriorating public safety. He also briefly asserted that housing, which in 2015 ranked 29th most expensive of the 302 largest cities in the country, would become more affordable as a result of his policies.
But he first mentioned climate change as an “existential” threat to the city’s future and implied that catastrophic, man-made global warming, left unchecked, would swamp everything. Promising immediate action, the next day he delivered a Climate Action Strategy under the purview of the "ministry" in question, guided by Deputy Mayor Jeff Hebert as chief resilience officer. The plan envisions using more low-carbon and sustainable resources, expanding mass transit and promoting fuel efficiency, and reducing waste through recycling and composting.
With one eye toward New Orleans’ perilous state when he took office seven years ago, and the…
Louisiana has a lot of fossil fuel, making its energy costs among the lowest in the country. But solar energy would cost consumers more. A comparison of the price of energy sources by Forbes contributor James Conca showed that coal costs 4.1 cents per kilowatt hour, natural gas 5.2 cents an hour, and solar 7.7 cents an hour. The mayor's idea to boost recycling has potential new costs, too, posing another financial obligation on residents.
Worse, diverting money to a green agenda would take resources away from the city's real problem, an understaffed police force. Despite having by far the state’s highest municipal property tax rate, which partly explains the city’s high cost of housing, Landrieu never has found money to hire about 300 more police officers to bring the force up to recommended staffing levels, even as public safety and emergency preparedness already eat up 63 percent of the city’s budget.
His and the City Council’s failure to do so has cost lives. Upon taking office nearly eight years ago, the population of 356,317 had endured 2,593 violent crimes, including 175 murders in 2010. The first six months of 2016 saw 2,041 violent crimes inflicted upon its 393,447 residents, and the 2017 pace for homicides looks like it will approach 200 by year’s end.
Landrieu’s well-publicized measures, such as administrative reforms, more social services for ex-cons, and midnight basketball haven’t dented the incidence of violent crime. And even as he laments poverty as causing criminality, under his watch median household income through 2015 declined 1.8 percent.
Those challenges shouldn't be neglected to accommodate the political left’s fashion on the environment. Landrieu needs a reality check, and his successor should abandon his flawed approach.
The nation's biggest cities, even those in red states, tend to swing blue. So it should come…
Jeff Sadow is an associate professor of political science at Louisiana State University-Shreveport, where he teaches Louisiana government. He is author of a blog about Louisiana politics, www.between-lines.com, where links to information in this column may be found. When the Louisiana Legislature is in session, he writes about legislation in it at www.laleglog.com. Follow him on Twitter, @jsadowadvocate or email firstname.lastname@example.org. His views do not necessarily express those of his employer.