It's an election year in New Orleans, and candidates in the Oct. 14 primary have vied to attract the most attention by talking about public safety. No surprise there, as crime rates and response times are obviously legitimate and indeed vital issues.
But let's not forget that the new mayor and City Council will have other responsibilities. Those include continuing the progress in city parks and recreation.
A milestone worth celebrating is the national accreditation for facilities and programming for the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission. Over the past dozen years, the hard-hit parks and recreation system has slowly recovered from Hurricane Katrina and the widespread flooding caused by the failure of the levee system.
Tragic as those consequences were, the re-election of the hapless — and ultimately convicted — Mayor Ray Nagin in 2006 continued a process of dissolution of public services and near-bankruptcy of the city. Inevitably, even vital services like parks, libraries, street lights and others were cut as financial disaster loomed.
Even with the election of Mayor Mitch Landrieu in 2010, serious cutbacks were necessary to keep the city from default of its obligations. But over time, with the support of the mayoral administration and two City Councils, NORD has come back. Dozens of park facilities have been rehabbed or expanded. Funding, the mayor's office noted, has tripled since the financial crisis left by Nagin's administration.
The city is right to be proud of this new award, achieved in a three-year assessment covering many performance standards. There is only one other accredited parks system in the state, that of Baton Rouge's Recreation and Parks Commission. BREC's history of strong public support for taxes for recreation is remarkable compared to many communities in the nation.
But if the new mayor and City Council keep going with the support and funding of parks, there could be significant benefits for New Orleans' future. Parks and recreation programs, like libraries and schools, are contributors to the well-being of families, particularly children. More pools and other facilities help keep adolescents out of trouble and activity is the fundamental answer to the grim statistics about obesity in Louisiana youth.
More is better here, on many levels in the city.
New Orleans has much to look forward to, and this is one more path toward the excellence that our people deserve.