For the past seven years, a diverse coalition of civic groups has quietly worked to help chart the course of New Orleans government, getting candidates in municipal elections to agree to pursue specific goals and then tracking how well the winners live up to their promises.

But that coalition, Forward New Orleans, could gain new prominence in a mayor's race that is flush with candidates but light on contenders who are household names in city politics.

The group will unveil its latest platform this week, after 18 people — including veteran politicians, businessmen and political rookies — signed up for a chance to become the city's next mayor during the three-day qualifying period for the Oct. 14 election that ended Friday. All told, a whopping 66 contenders qualified to run for 15 different offices, with the mayor's race drawing the biggest crowd.

If there's no shortage of candidates, there's also no one who has the kind of public-service pedigree that made Mitch Landrieu the instant front runner when he launched his third mayoral bid in 2010.

Enter the 20-page document Forward New Orleans hopes will set the agenda of the next mayor, whoever he or she might be.

“Everyone has been really focused on the 'who' ” in the mayor and council races, said longtime coalition leader Greg Rusovich. “But we think what this document can do is really bring us back to the issues — back to the 'what.' ”

The group's platform seeks to preserve the progress the group credits Landrieu with making in the areas of economic development, city infrastructure and city finances.

But it also urges incoming officials to do more to stem the city’s stubborn crime problem, an area where Landrieu struggled, and to seek solutions to other problems that plagued his administration. It offers a host of proposed solutions, guided by the coalition’s research on best governmental practices.

Launched in 2009, the group now comprises 26 civic organizations with varied missions, which collaboratively create and endorse a set of recommendations for municipal candidates.

Member groups include the Business Council of New Orleans and the River Region, the New Orleans Chamber of Commerce and other business groups, but also the transit group RIDE New Orleans, the Greater New Orleans Housing Alliance, Crimestoppers and similar advocacy organizations.

The coalition asks candidates to agree to implement the group's goals and then tracks their progress in regularly published reports.

This year’s suggestions cover six major areas: public safety, city infrastructure, economic opportunity, city services, city finances and the city’s civil service system. Members plan to hand-deliver the goals to mayoral and City Council candidates on Monday and then secure pledges from willing candidates in the coming months.

Serious candidates for mayor are expected to release their own individual platforms. But the coalition’s effort could give like-minded voters some assurance that progress achieved by the Landrieu administration will be maintained even as candidates push their own distinct agendas. It also could help voters evaluate a field with few candidates who are instantly familiar to city voters.

For instance, City Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell, though she’s been at the forefront of key city issues, has served on the council for only five years. Former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet has spent 19 years in public office, but in positions that draw little public notice.

Former Civil District Court Judge Michael Bagneris served as executive counsel to Mayor Ernest “Dutch” Morial in the 1980s and later spent two decades on the bench. But again, those positions have not brought him squarely into the public eye.

Those are the only current or former elected officials in the field. Likely best-known of the rest are Frank Scurlock and Troy Henry, businessmen who lack any record in politics.

All of that is in sharp contrast to Landrieu, the son of a former mayor who spent 16 years in the Legislature and another six as lieutenant governor before taking the city’s helm.

Along with helping voters sort through a little-known field, Forward New Orleans is hoping to provide the same service to potential big donors. The group’s members, many of whom are part of a business community that will provide much of the money to fuel the race, have been asked to hold back their donations until commitments to the platform are secured, Rusovich said.

A candidate looking to tap into those resources would have an incentive to sign on to Forward New Orleans' platform.

The document itself calls for the preservation of Landrieu’s affordable housing and resiliency plans, transparency in awarding contracts and responsible stewardship of city finances, in nods to strides the group credits the current mayor with making.

“You are very familiar with the budget that Mitch inherited, and what they did with it is nothing short of miraculous,” said Coleman Ridley, managing director of the Business Council.

The agenda is less congratulatory toward Landrieu on the public safety front. The coalition is asking the next administration to promise to recruit a net increase of 50 police officers annually, in order to aid a depleted police force that has struggled to tackle the city’s violent crime problem.

The ambitious target — the New Orleans Police Department achieved a net gain of just five officers in 2016 despite a major recruiting effort — would be realized by beefing up the NOPD’s human resources department, building state-of-the-art training facilities and offering nationally competitive compensation, the coalition says.

It might also be helped by granting the police chief more autonomy in budgeting decisions, Rusovich said. 

Plans for police pay increases and opportunities for swifter advancement in the department that Landrieu announced July 5 could be the biggest factor in achieving the goal. 

The coalition also wants the city to create a public-private partnership to support groups that provide mental-health and substance-abuse services for young people, a tool that it says has worked to address crime problems in other cities.

Forward New Orleans does not recommend ontinuation of NOLA for Life, Landrieu’s signature anti-murder initiative, but it calls on the next mayor to come up with a “sustainable, evidence-based strategy to reduce violent crime” and to track that initiative’s performance.

Another area of concern for the coalition is the city’s civil service system. Reforms announced by Landrieu years ago have yet to have much impact in practice, and the Civil Service Commission members are still sorting through minor disputes between their staff and city department heads instead of focusing broadly on policy, said Christy Harowski, a lawyer and member of the Business Council.

While the city's current leadership has had a “keen focus” on economic opportunity, it has fallen short when it comes to paying its contractors on time, said Kelisha Garrett, of the New Orleans Regional Black Chamber of Commerce. That failure can be catastrophic for small business owners, she noted.

A spokeswoman for Landrieu said Friday that some civil service reforms, such as a compensation study and an online system that prevents department heads from evaluating employees based on favoritism, will be completed within months.

The spokeswoman, Erin Burns, also said the city in 2012 began tracking contractor payments electronically, and since then it has launched a fund to provide contract financing to small businesses that can’t handle the unpredictable payment schedules of public sector work.

While city officials historically have not been in lockstep with every Forward New Orleans recommendation, the group has had some success. A progress report released in March showed that Landrieu and the current City Council had completed or were likely to complete 54 of the 102 objectives in the group’s 2014 platform. Another 44 objectives were in the works, while only four were unfulfilled.

This time around, the group will seek to secure a total of 35 promises related to the six major topic areas from as many candidates as possible ahead of the Oct. 14 primary and Nov. 18 runoff elections.

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.