May 2014, Into the Future
AN ORIGINAL ©MIKE LUCKOVICH CARTOON FOR NEW ORLEANS MAGAZINE
This month is an important one in chronicling the city’s history, both politically and historically.
Mitch Landrieu will have been inaugurated to his second term as mayor of New Orleans as will a city council with three of seven new members. By sheer coincidence their four years will correspond to the buildup toward celebrating the city’s tricentennial in 2018. The actual date on which New Orleans was incorporated as a city was May 7, 1718.
Landrieu and the council will get to pilot the city through the end of its first three centuries.
Amazingly through war, pestilence, crime, tropical events and one of the worst flooding disasters in American history, New Orleans reaches its tricentennial generally beloved and physically in decent shape. There will never be a perfect moment in the city’s history, but there are times when we should be able to step back and say that our city is a good place to live. Now is such a time. Many cities cannot make such a boast.
Historically some executives – governor, presidents and mayors – have stumbled badly during their second term, a situation often compounded by warring factions and approaching lame duck status. Nevertheless, second terms, which are often less burdened by purely political considerations, can also be a time to achieve greatness. Landrieu, whose second term could be diverted by a run for the governorship, has a chance to deliver the city to the doorstep of its tricentennial as a city that works. There are those who still exploit race as a political tool, but as a strong bi-racial middle class emerges such tactics should soon be tossed into the heap of bygone politics.
Few mayoral appointments are as important as that of police chief. For Landrieu’s choice, Ronal Serpas, the next four years are his chance to make a major mark in shaping the department. Few police chiefs ever last through two four-year mayoral terms. Serpas, who has had the full support of Landrieu, might. Over the next few years there will be the guidelines of the federal consent decree to implement. Those plus reforms already in place could make Serpas the leader of a much better department than what he took over.
Last month the city council abolished residency requirements, which had the effect of limiting the pool of potential recruits. Now the chief can search for the best nationwide.
Though everyone is talking about the tricentennial, we know of few efforts other than at City Park, which has targeted its master plan to be completed by then, though most will have been in place by that date. Our friends at WYES-TV, working with the Historic New Orleans Collection, also are planning special presentations. As for a civic contribution, we have urged before and will do so again, that the lakefront be made a priority for the anniversary. The river is well celebrated but its big bend alone would not have made the area a desirable place to build a city had it not been for a lake and its outlets, which increased the commerce opportunities. At the very least we hope the tricentennial provides a lakefront tower to draw attention to an underutilized resource.
This month opens the doors to many possibilities for the next four years. May we see the emergence of a golden age in esprit and cooperation. New Orleans has a great story to tell. Now is a chance to make the story even better.