Landrieu is back in the spotlight tackling infrastructure and equity
New Orleans – Former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu left office nearly four years ago, taking national awards for the removal of Confederate monuments after beginning to recover from catastrophic dam failures, Hurricane Katrina and flooding.
Once considered a potential presidential candidate, Landrieu is back in a big way. It was used this week by President Joe Biden, his fellow Democrat, to coordinate more than $1 trillion in spending on national infrastructure. “Make sure everything gets out and goes where it’s supposed to go,” Biden said Thursday of his job.
“He’s the perfect person for the job,” said Walter Isaacson, a New Orleans-born historian, journalist, and author who played a role in the Katrina recovery effort. “He loves the geeky details of infrastructure and loves bringing people together on great projects.”
Andy Coplin, deputy mayor under Landrieu and chief of staff for two of Louisiana’s former governors, said Landrieu’s skill in logistics will be a strength in his new position.
“There will be a thousand billion dollars of projects in this trillion dollar bill,” Coplin said. “He’s always been focused on getting the resources to land at the right time, and that’s what’s critical to the coordination he’s going to be tasked with.”
The Landrieu administration wiped out a deficit of nearly $100 million and attracted billions of dollars in federal aid to ramp up the recovery from Katrina under former Mayor Ray Nagin, who later went to prison on corruption charges.
Under Landrieu’s leadership, New Orleans secured federal funds to repair and revitalize fire and police stations, libraries, school buildings, roads, and sewage and public recreation areas destroyed when federal levees built during the storm failed. Landrieu also spearheaded the development of a new, state-of-the-art international airport, something that state and city leaders have been talking about for decades.
Landrieu scored landslide mayoral victories in 2010 and 2014. He was of limited duration when he left the mayor in 2018 and his political future at that point was uncertain. Although he won two elections as lieutenant governor, his prospects of running again statewide were questionable in a reliable Republican state. By then Marie Landrieu had lost her seat to Republican Bill Cassidy and the state had gone big for Donald Trump in 2016.
Landrieu’s insistence that monuments such as the statue of Robert E. He was on the defensive as the end of his term drew near to violent crime, the slow pace of some projects and the many problems at the agency that oversees sewage and street drinking water systems.
Nationally, however, he has occasionally been mentioned as a potential 2020 candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, especially after the removal of a statue of Lee and a speech denouncing the monuments as part of a “purged fantasy confederacy.”
He ruled out talking about national ambitions and never entered the race. He promoted a book, made some political commentary on CNN and made time for the E Pluribus Unum Project, a non-profit that has begun to break down racial divisions.
Landrieu, a former state legislator and deputy governor, was steeped in progressive politics since childhood. His father, Mon Landrieu, was a two-term mayor who brought black politicians into city government in the 1970s, served in President Jimmy Carter’s government and later became a judge. His sister is the three-term former US Senator, Marie Landrieu.
While his new role places him, once again, in charge of major infrastructure projects, issues of race remain.
“We will repair many roads, bridges, ports, railways and airports,” Landrieu, 61, said in a statement issued Monday morning. “Racial equality will be the primary focus of implementing this historic infrastructure package.”
This echoes plans promoted by the White House early this year, during the sale of the infrastructure package, to “address historical disparities” in transportation projects — such as highways that divided communities like New Orleans’ historic Black Trim neighborhood. Also worth noting, Koplin said, is Landrieu’s strong track record of involving minority companies in city projects.
Landrieu’s new job, directing large sums of money to highly sought-after complex projects, carries political risks for the politician for life.
“He’s willing to take risks and is generally fearless,” Isaacson said. “Every time I give him advice, when more caution is required, he eventually rescinds my advice. Because he’s willing to take a risk to get something done. He knows you won’t get everything quite right, but if you don’t make a decision and act, you will go wrong. certainly “.
His new job is bound to revive talk of presidential aspirations, but colleagues and political analysts in Louisiana say that’s premature, and not necessarily why Landrieu, 61, is ready to tackle the job.
said Pearson Cross, professor of political science and associate dean of the University of Louisiana Lafayette School of Arts. “And I think the specific size of the infrastructure bill and the issues involved, is an interesting problem for him.”
It’s too early to think about Landrio’s future, said Ed Chervenak, a political science and polling expert at the University of New Orleans. “We’ll give him two years, see where he is, see how this program works, if he can get the money, and if we can see some progress,” he said.
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