Mitch Is the Man

New Orleanians, the best way to make the Saints lucky on Sunday in the Super Bowl is by casting your ballot early and often (encore, repetez!) for Mitchell J. Landrieu as mayor of the great City of New Orleans. This is also the best way to boost the city’s fortunes for four years (at least). We are indeed fortunate to have a candidate so thoroughly qualified, politically able, well liked, and, yes, ethical. Let’s make it a Super Weekend, a one-two punch, Saturday and Sunday. Who dat say dey gonna beat Mitch?

Among many admirable qualities in this New Orleans native (he grew up in Broadmoor, graduated from Jesuit, and earned his law degree at Loyola), one that particularly impresses us is the fact that as lieutenant governor he was an early and vigorous supporter of the America’s Wetland Conservation Corps: he pushed America’s Wetland to affiliate with AmeriCorps to combine AW’s conservation agenda with the youth public service program to make Louisiana a better, greener place. Mitch gets it, and it’s working. The AWCC is administered by the Louisiana Serve Commission in the office of the lieutenant governor. Our regular readers know that we have been pushing for a new Civilian (or Coastal) Conservation Corps for the urgent job of restoring the Louisiana coastline to serve as a critical buffer from hurricane storm surges. Levees are not enough. Read more about AWCC here, and our plan for a new CCC here (at LaCoastPost).

In addition to the highly coveted endorsement of this blog, Landrieu has been endorsed by the Times-PicayuneGambit Weekly, the Louisiana WeeklyNew Orleans CityBusiness, the New Orleans firefighters, and the Alliance for Good Government.

Landrieu is young—just a year older than Obama—and much of his work has focused on youth, public service, and justice. The Times-Picayune’s endorsement notes that “his greatest legislative accomplishment as a state representative was the landmark juvenile justice reform bill in 2003, which showed his ability to pull diverse interest groups together and overcome significant resistance to change,” and is still chair of the Juvenile Justice Commission. Landrieu was trained in mediation and arbitration at the Harvard Law School Negotiation Project and has taught dispute resolution at Loyola Law School. He is a bridge builder, a uniter.

Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu (top center) helps rescue a New Orleans resident in the days after Hurricane Katrina, 2005.

Third Time’s a Charm

This son of mayor Moon Landrieu and brother of the state’s senior senator, Mary, has been lieutenant governor since 2004. He was a Louisiana state legislator for 16 years. He first ran for mayor in 1994 (Marc Morial won), again in 2006 (Nagin reelected). He has been a leader in tourism and the arts—perfect for New Orleans—and led a coalition to repeal the widely hated Orleans Parish “amusement tax” on sales at establishments that feature live music. As lieutenant governor he also established the World Cultural Economic Forum to promote economic development through music, art, and other cultural activities.

(We cannot prove this in a court of law, but the word we heard last time around was that, even after being overwhelmed and damaged by his handling of Hurricane Katrina (he wasn’t alone in that), Ray Nagin won reelection with the help of a preponderance of St. Charles Avenue elites (you know, mystick krewes of Momus and Comus and Rex types) who did not want another Landrieu having power in the great state. Horrors! That sounds just cynical and self-defeating enough to be plausible. How well did that work out, smart guys? Please, St. Charles elites, not again.)

The Times-Picayune’s endorsement well describes why Mitch Landrieu should be the next mayor of New Orleans.

He is a seasoned politician who has honed his craft on both a local and state level. He understands the give-and-take necessary in the political arena. He understands how to work with the City Council, the Congress and the Obama administration. He knows that it is important to enter a state legislative session with a well-honed city agenda that reflects a thorough public conversation about priorities. This is expertise New Orleans must have and that has been lacking under the current administration.

Mr. Landrieu understands the need to build bridges. And he has the ability to reach across the racial and economic divide in New Orleans and speak credibly to all sides in a majority-black city where there is considerable wariness at the prospect of a white mayor. That is important not only to the city’s collective psyche but to its ability to work through the difficult decisions inherent in rebuilding on this scale.

He also has shown an ability to build an effective administrative team, which is essential to a responsive and efficient government. He would represent the city well to the outside world, too. That is especially important at a time when the federal government’s assistance is vitally important in so many arenas—flood protection, health care, housing, education.

After eight years of C. Ray Nagin, Mitch Landrieu would be as welcome a breath of fresh air—an able administrator and an activist mayor—as Barack Obama has been after eight years of George W. Bush in the White House. The city needs Mitch Landrieu. Third time’s a charm—a lucky charm.