Former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris formally launched his 2017 mayoral campaign Thursday evening, pledging to reduce crime, improve industry and fix the streets of what he described as a city that has made strides but is at a crossroads.
About 100 supporters crowded Dooky Chase's Restaurant for the announcement, as campaign staff handed out blue and yellow bumper stickers with the slogan “I like Mike.”
This is Bagneris' second try for the city's top job. He lost badly to incumbent Mitch Landrieu in 2014, 64 percent to 33 percent.
In a speech that focused heavily on public safety and rebuilding the Police Department, Bagneris said both crime and a lack of economic opportunity have hampered the city.
“Ours is a very noble cause. We are fighting for the very soul of New Orleans,” he said. “The soul of New Orleans is its people, and we the people are in peril.”
Bagneris pledged to bolster the NOPD’s ranks by providing incentives to officers, requiring trainees to stay on the force for three years and luring retirees back onto the force with more officer-friendly policies.
He also said he would improve community policing and suggested that beefing up staffing, rather than the crime cameras that form the basis of Landrieu’s recently announced security plan, is the way to reduce crime.
Bagneris also pledged to improve relations between the mayor’s office and Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman and District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro, both of whom have clashed with Landrieu.
In terms of economic development, Bagneris said he would work to develop light and medium industries that could turn raw materials brought into the port into finished products in New Orleans, rather than just using the city as a waystation toward their final destination.
He also suggested building on the city’s music scene to develop jobs in recording, publishing and distribution.
Bagneris said he would improve the condition of the city’s streets and would dedicate all revenue raised by the traffic cameras installed by the Landrieu administration to roadwork.
“We must begin to dream of a city free of crime; a city where every able-bodied person who wants a job can find one; a city where businesses are thriving, not simply holding on; a city where driving down the street is a normal occurrence, not a life-risking adventure,” Bagneris said. “Together, we can make this dream a reality.”
Bagneris served as chief judge of Civil District Court before leaving the bench to launch his unsuccessful challenge to Landrieu.
City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell has also announced her candidacy for mayor, as has would-be Six Flags developer Frank Scurlock. The rest of the potential field is believed to be in flux, with various well-known figures rumored to be considering runs but not saying anything officially.
Bagneris drew parallels between the end of Landrieu’s term and that of his father, Mayor Moon Landrieu, four decades ago and the subsequent election of Ernest “Dutch” Morial. Bagneris served as executive counsel to Morial and cast himself as similar in background and approach to his former boss.
“I stand before you not because I have a pretty face. Not because I’ve cut political deals to clear the field,” Bagneris said. “I’m taking my chances because this city and its citizens deserve another scrappy, experienced attorney and judge with a business-friendly attitude and a strong background in law and order to carry it forward.”