Former New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial recently wrote a thoughtful and detailed letter to the mayoral candidates. Morial, who currently serves as National Urban League President and CEO, told the candidates that they should provide specific plans for New Orleans future, not talking points or “copies of best practices from the Internet.”
Here is her full letter.
Dear Mr. Morial,
I am writing to respond to your letter of September 27, but I’d like to start by thanking you for your many years of service to our city and country. Your previous experience as mayor and your current as head of the National Urban League has served as a model for what true leadership can do. Turning to your letter, in response to your thoughtful series of recommendations for the next Mayor of New Orleans, I’d like to offer my views and plans in each of these areas.
No issue is more important to our city’s future than public safety. You urge the next mayor to work with the community and experts to “create a strong set of holistic policies,” adding New Orleans must be “smart on crime, not just tough on crime.” I couldn’t agree more with your strategy. Here are a few ways I’ll act on it. First, I’ll expand the city’s Tactical Intelligence Gathering enforcement Response (TIGER) unit, concentrating on trends and patterns in violent crime and individuals rather than just the traditional, geographic approach. We won’t make progress unless we improve our ability to apprehend people who commit violent crimes. I will also target those at-risk of being either the victim or perpetrator of violent crime with necessary services and job opportunities they need to make better choices for themselves and the city. I will create a Pay for Success program that will provide the upfront costs needed to implement the program and recoup those costs through the savings to our criminal justice and health systems.
At the same time, we need to build neighborhood trust. One of my first orders of business will be to launch a national search for a police chief with a track record in community policing. I’ll give the chief autonomy to revamp and revitalize the NOPD, but I’ll keep him or her accountable for delivering on a long-term plan to reduce crime. I also think we can do a lot more with technology. This includes, for instance, use of the Next Door app so the police and citizens are in constant communication on neighborhood concerns and criminal activity. Finally, I will invest in our officers. This means better wellness programs for NOPD employees, streamlining recruitment for veteran officers from other jurisdictions, and annual – not sporadic – pay raises.
Jobs, Poverty, Economic Development and Infrastructure
Public safety is deeply connected to economic opportunity, which is why I make a point of saying nothing stops a bullet like a job.
You call for a Mayor who is an “aggressive proponent of the diversifcation of the New Orleans economy…the expansion of the manufacturing, health, technology, trade and cultural sectors is paramount.”
I share your view. As I see it, our next mayor must be someone who thinks and acts at two levels: in the community and beyond our borders. Community leadership means listening to the people, and involving them in city policy and governance. Beyond borders leadership means acting as an ambassador for New Orleans, forging productive relationships with other city leaders and bringing outside resources to our city. This is the leadership approach I have delivered throughout my career. In Broadmoor, I established partnerships with the City of San Francisco, the Aspen Institute, Harvard, Shell and the Shorenstein Company. These groups contributed money and time to help us restore our housing, public school and library. On the City Council, I have continued this
approach, working again with Aspen, the Open Society Foundations and Local Progress on issues like the living wage and equal pay for women.
I also agree we need to play to our strength when it comes to job creation. The tourism industry is case in point. Tourism is the backbone of our local economy, and deserves the city’s support and investment. I also think we can do more to train our young people for jobs of the future through Career and Technical Education programs. And I think we should concentrate on access to capital for small businesses, both in the high grow tech sector and in our neighborhoods – the barbershops, hardware stores and beauty salons that employ so many of our citizens.
As far as infrastructure is concerned, we’ve kicked the can down the road for far too long. That’s why I’m calling for a major investment in our drainage system and streets, including cutting edge storm water retention, permeable surfaces, and regular catch basin cleaning. I will fund this investment by working with our delegation to get a bigger share of the hotel sales and occupancy tax revenue that the city already generates.
Housing and Neighborhood Development
You offer “equitable development” as a guiding principle for the next mayor, highlighting our severe housing crisis and the importance of bringing together the public, private and nonproft sectors to chart a course forward. I think that’s spot on. In Broadmoor, our partnerships with the business and nonproft sectors helped us restore our housing, clear away blight, and rebuild our school, library, and community center.
When I’m Mayor, I’ll continue to tap private and public resources in the interest of our citizens. We have so much work to do in this area. I’ll focus on struggling neighborhoods, targeting redevelopment resources where they’re most needed. I’ll work with landlords to create incentives to moderate rent. And I will revisit our short-term rental law to protect our neighborhoods and their residential character.
Children and Youth Development
“Youth development is essential to public safety,” you write. When you were mayor, you got results from your juvenile curfew program. An important part of the program were curfew centers, where kids out past a certain hour on certain days were brought for counseling. Kids were not brought to jail, and that’s very important. The program made a point of engaging parents, too, to ensure they were involved. You coupled this approach with an investment in the city’s recreation department, including summer camps and summer jobs.1
These are the sorts of holistic solutions we need for our children today. When I’m mayor, I’ll create an offce of youth and family services that brings together City agencies such as NORDC, the New Orleans Public Library, and other public assets, to work with schools and our families. I will also work closely with the Orleans Parish School Board to insure equity and consistent policies for all students and parents as we move toward a Unifed Public School System.
Race Relations and Diversity
Diversity is strength – it’s as simple as that. You write that we must renew our “effort for more meaningful economic participation by communities and business owners of color.” I agree, and I would add this: we are a welcoming city. As a Councilwoman, I pushed for and authored the “Welcoming City” resolution, helping those of us who are often marginalized. As Mayor, I will continue to fght for our inclusive values.
We’re facing the most anti-urban federal administration in generations. It’s one of the reasons careful stewardship of our city’s fnances is more important than ever. We can expect federal funding to decrease in the years ahead. Are we using our resources as effectively as possible? I agree with your recommendation to conduct a comprehensive review of all sources of revenue four our city. I’m the only candidate with city budget experience, training which will help me hit the ground running when I take offce in May.
Your time as Mayor was a bright spot for our city. Crime dropped 60 percent. Employment went up, and poverty went down. Your leadership had a lot to do with these successes. You brought people together. You worked across lines. I’d like to think your approach is a blueprint for the next Mayor. We need consensus now more than ever. When I am Mayor, I will always listen, build consensus, and deliver results. New Orleans is at a watershed moment in history. As we move to celebrate 300 years, we must make critical choices just to survive as a coastal city at the mouth of the Mississippi River.
These are momentous times, but we can’t be intimidated. We won’t back down. If we come together, there’s no challenge we can’t overcome.
Thank you for all you do for our city.