Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s crusade to reduce New Orleans’ perennially high murder rate was the focus of a lengthy profile in a highly regarded national magazine last week.
The piece in The Atlantic ran about 10,000 words, and the mayor had to be pleased with its highly sympathetic tone.
With the 10th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina approaching, Landrieu has been visiting media around the country, and no doubt he has been besieged with requests for interviews. But The Atlantic’s piece focused not on how the city was recovering from the storm but on Landrieu’s quest to stem New Orleans’ tide of violence.
Some of it will be familiar to local readers — Landrieu, for instance, retells the story of the 1994 murder of 9-year-old James Darby, who had just written President Bill Clinton a letter saying he feared being killed.
He also visits the Louisiana State Penitentiary at Angola with reporter Jeffrey Goldberg, where he talks to men about what prompted them to commit the murders that landed them there. And the two attend a “call-in” — a staged affair in which law enforcement authorities bring suspected gang members into a room, warn them of the potential consequences of their behavior and try to point to a way out. Call-ins are a key tool in Landrieu’s “NOLA for Life” anti-murder strategy.
As thorough as the piece is, it devotes very little ink to the question of whether the city’s strategy is working. A single paragraph notes that the city had three straight years of declines in homicides, but that “a recent spike … threatens to make 2015 a much more violent year in Landrieu’s city than he would have imagined.”
As of Friday, the city was on pace to record 189 murders this year, up 39 from 2014.
Landrieu to tout N.O. as ‘global model’
Meanwhile, Landrieu will be taking his message about the city’s post-Katrina recovery on the road this week.
On Tuesday, he has a stop in Washington, D.C., where he will speak at the National Press Club. His office said he plans to explain why New Orleans is “poised to be a global model for urban resilience” despite “major challenges” such as crime, poverty and income inequality.
Landrieu heads to Houston on Thursday for a worship service commemorating the 2005 storm at the New Home Family Worship Center. The event is billed as a chance to “reflect, commemorate, reunite and heal” in a place where thousands of New Orleanians sought refuge during and after Katrina.
Chicago column elicits outraged responses
The mayor has already taken his case to Chicago, where some odd conclusions were drawn.
After Landrieu sat down recently with writers at the Chicago Tribune, editorialist Kristen McQueary published a column saying their conversation left her “wishing for a storm ... an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury.”
The clincher probably was this: “Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth.”
There soon were rent garments all over Twitter.
Wendell Piece, the local actor, thundered, “Blasphemous evil. Disgrace.”
State Sen. J.P. Morrell fired off a letter to the editor saying that for anyone “to ‘envy’ this disaster, even by way of metaphor, is extremely offensive.”
McQueary joins a foot-in-mouth club with some distinguished members, including U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, who suggested a few years back that Katrina was “the best thing that happened to the education system in New Orleans.”
Tammany councilman to seek second term
St. Tammany Parish Councilman Richard Tanner has announced his run for a second term representing District 6, a sprawling rural district that takes in most of the northeastern part of the parish.
Tanner, who is retired from a 37-year career with the parish school system, said he ran initially to provide a strong voice for the needs of rural St. Tammany.
During his first term, he said, he removed impact fees that were being imposed on new residential construction in the district and improved the level of road work from milling and overlaying to reconstruction, spending more than $5 million.
Tanner also cited his role in getting money for a new pavilion and parking area at Poitevent Park in Pearl River and getting a $1 million grant to build a new community center in Bush, making the old center available as a senior center and food bank.
Peralta responds to Parish Council in ad
The war of words between St. Bernard Parish President David Peralta and the Parish Council just won’t quit.
In response to the council’s unanimous call for him to resign, the oft-indicted Peralta took out an ad in the St. Bernard Parish Post saying he will consider it — if Councilmen Guy McInnis and Ray Lauga resign first for what Peralta claims are ethical lapses on their part and if Councilman Casey Hunnicutt “can show me that he has accomplished anything in his three and a half years as a councilman!”
Compiled by staff writers Gordon Russell and Sara Pagones