It has been almost 9½ years, over 3,400 days; it was before the iPhone and the Saints winning the Super Bowl. That’s how long ago Hurricane Katrina devastated the West End area of Lakefront New Orleans and the Municipal Yacht Harbor.
For decades, the harbor, the seafood restaurants, the parks, the boat launch and the volleyball courts were a treasure for the city. The city reaped millions in revenue from slip rent and the taxes of surrounding businesses. Now, all that’s left is a poorly maintained park, a harbor appropriate for Mogadishu, a huge revenue generator idled and a litany of explanations about “progress,” “plans” and “improvement.”
The Municipal Yacht Harbor Management Corporation (MYHMC), the entity responsible for the harbor and some of the surrounding areas, calls itself “a public benefit corporation of the city of New Orleans.” The MYMHC website states after it gained its authority that progress “accelerated” and “is in motion now.”
Despite the updates and meetings and timelines, the ultimate arbiter of progress — physical condition change — has never materialized.
We don’t need meetings and timelines, we need new (or rebuilt) docks and a functioning harbor. So with this record it’s crystal clear: The people and institution in charge have failed and we need to make a big change.
The solution to this problem is simple — and one that the current leadership will never embrace. It would eliminate the MYHMC staff’s livelihood and tear down a fiefdom the board members control. It would also be the best thing for New Orleans.
The solution is to introduce a profit motive.
The MYHMC should be disbanded. Its final act in conjunction with the Mayor’s Office should be to host an auction and award rights to run the MYHMC’s mandate to a for-profit company with a successful record of running aesthetically appealing, environmentally responsible and — critically — profitable marinas. A chance to do what the MYHMC has proven it cannot. The terms of a long-term lease with the winner would include a healthy profit-sharing arrangement assuring taxpayers are appropriately compensated.
Management by a for-profit company would inject a sense of urgency and create demand for tangible results that has been lacking with the current structure. The private sector is best at giving customers what they want; it’s no different when it comes to marinas.
West End and the Municipal Yacht Harbor is a tremendous resource that has been squandered for too long. The current management has proven its incompetence. The time for a complete structural change is now. No more excuses, no more blaming FEMA and no more filibustering with bureaucratese.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu, restore this public benefit.
political consultant, former New Orleans resident