Three of New Orleans' five living mayors, as well as Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell, appeared
tonight at Loyola University's Roussel Hall to discuss "One New Orleans: Five Perspectives" with Gambit political editor Clancy DuBos.
Mayor Moon Landrieu (1970-1978), Mayor Sidney Barthelemy (1986-1994), Mayor Mitch Landrieu (2008-2016) and Mayor-elect LaToya Cantrell (Marc Morial, mayor from 1994 to 2002 and now president of the National Urban League, had to cancel his appearance; DuBos joked he was visiting former Mayor Ray Nagin, who is serving a sentence in a Texas federal prison.)
The first question for the former mayors: What piece of advice would you give to Cantrell that you wish someone had given you?
[jump] "I thought I knew something about the mayor's job," said Moon Landrieu, saying he found the job was much more demanding that he ever envisioned. Barthelemy called it "an overwhelming experience," adding, "Once you get into the office as mayor, the buck stops there. ... Welcome to the NFL. Get ready," he told Cantrell, who laughed.
Mitch Landrieu said his father told him on the eve of his inauguration, "Boy, tomorrow you own every pothole in the city."
Cantrell said the best piece of advice she's gotten since winning the election was to pay attention to her 10-year-old - "to not lose focus on my child as I focus on the needs of every child." Her answer, which seemed to catch the audience by surprise, was greeted by applause.
A few quotes and moments from the conversation:
• Mitch Landrieu, on picking your battles: Sometimes "the juice is not worth the squeeze."
• Moon Landrieu: "Whether you're the mayor of New Orleans or the mayor of Tickfaw, you're on the job 24 hours a day."
• Cantrell: "Sewerage & Water Board is a mess. I am inheriting a mess." She added that every time she thought she understood it, she found the agency to be a hole "even deeper and blacker."
• Both Landrieus said they thought being mayor of a major American city was as difficult, if not more, than holding state or federal office, including the presidency.
• Moon Landrieu described integrating City Hall and relying on his friend and consultant Don Hubbard, who brought him candidates that were rejected one after another. In Landrieu's telling, Hubbard said in frustration that he thought Landrieu was looking for "Supernigger." That took the air out of the room for a moment.
• Mitch Landrieu on race: "Everything I know about race came from my mother and father and Dr. Norman Francis" (Francis was in the front row). ... "After the monuments, my white support evaporated." Landrieu added he would support monument removal all over again, which drew applause from the audience.
• Cantrell on race: Referencing U.S. Census data and the recent diversity study, Cantrell said it was indisputable that the "majority of African-Americans don't have the same piece or slice of the pie." She complimented Mitch Landrieu on raising the issue, saying, "White privilege is real" and adding that the conversation would be different if the issue had been raised by an African-American woman.
• Barthelemy said it was important for New Orleans voters to pick a governor who actually likes New Orleans. He spoke glowingly of former Gov. Edwin Edwards; of former Gov. Buddy Roemer, Barthelemy said, "I don't think he really liked New Orleans."
• All on stage agreed that term limits for mayors were a good idea. DuBos added, "I know if Marc [Morial] was here, he'd say no."
• Barthelemy: President Donald "Trump is horrible. If Barack [Obama] had done what Trump is doing now, he would be in jail. I cannot understand some of these people who voted for Trump."
• Mitch Landrieu on immigrants, particularly after Hurricane Katrina and the federal floods: Those people who are anti-immigration: No one was asking for [ID] cards when these people were cleaning out your nasty refrigerator."
• Asked who her most formidable opponent had been in politics, Cantrell got a laugh by saying, "Don't get me started." After a moment, she added, more seriously, "I don't see an opponent. I see the machine."
The discussion was the ninth annual Ed Renwick Lecture Series, presented by Loyola's Institute of Politics.