It will be hard to top last year for Mitch Landrieu, who presided as mayor over an international celebration of the comeback of New Orleans and Louisiana from the storms of 2005.
The recognition included being named, again, one of Governing magazine’s outstanding state and local leaders in the United States and praise from the president on down.
Perhaps less noticed but also noteworthy is the new city budget, which like all such documents came in for some criticism and some revision as it was passed by the City Council. But in a city that was nearly insolvent when taken over by Landrieu after the debacle of the second Ray Nagin administration, not only solvency but some real progress has occurred.
As Landrieu noted happily in the new year, the third of a series of police pay raises took effect, a practical step toward replenishing the ranks of the New Orleans Police Department.
“After turning around our city finances when we took office, we have been able to stabilize our budget and give NOPD what it needs to grow and help keep our streets safe, which is my top priority,” the mayor said proudly. He stressed that the city is recruiting new classes of potential cops.
He has a right to be happy with that change, as a 16 percent raise since 2010 is a positive step. But the problem with being mayor of a large city is that the calendar marches along, and bad news is also not far away.
The death of a young California businessman in particularly horrific circumstances over the New Year holiday continued to show that crime is a problem for the city’s economically vital tourist trade. And one of New Orleans’ young hopes, a recent graduate of Dillard University, was shot and killed in the first homicide of 2016.
Along with the opening of Carnival, the new year has thus brought terrible news, reminders of the challenges awaiting the city’s leadership in 2016. The mayor and others are looking for higher property tax millages for both police and to pay for a large part of a settlement of longstanding lawsuits against the city by firefighters. However valid the purposes for which they are proposed, taxes are always going to be to some extent a hard sell for city leaders.
Mitch Landrieu had an awfully good year in many ways in 2015, even as he suffered through the crime issue and was much-criticized for his intervention into Civil War memorials. We recognize the gains that the city has made under Landrieu’s leadership, but he’s the mayor every day until mid-2018, and the city’s challenges continue, as the first days of 2016 have made so clear.