On Thursday, Mayor Mitch Landrieu sat down with Katie Moore talk about the threat of flooding in the city. He touched on comments about how money was spent during the removal of four Confederate monuments earlier in the year, and why that money wasn’t used towards the city's drainage system. Here’s what he said:
KM: We have people online, of course, saying we just spent $2 million removing the Confederate monuments, why didn’t we spend that money helping to fix our drainage.
ML: First of all, if you go back to 1992, when the city asked the public to pass a partial fee because we didn’t have money for drainage, the public said no. That’s what began stressing the system out, and the level of deferred maintenance. And, by the way, you have that everywhere in the city, relating to every piece of infrastructure.
So, as I said when people want to do the after-action report, I’ll take my hits, Cedric will take his hits, everybody else will. But at the end of the day, the public has to say, also as well, that you cannot have the resources necessary if you don’t have the right amount of money. That’s part A.
Part B, one of the reasons why I released the Dept. of Public Works is because the city council and I put $3 million in the budget to do repairs for the system that did not get done. Now that's unacceptable. No one has been able to explain to me why that happened. We have spent billions of dollars on that system. The monuments issue is an emotional issue for everybody. And that becomes the argument about everything. You could use that argument about everything we’ve done, and people are going to continue to use it. I think that’s a red herring. We raised most of the money. Most of the public money that we spent was a consequence of how people acted and for the security we had to provide to make sure people stayed safe in the City of New Orleans, which we would’ve done had it been Jazz Fest or anything else.
So, I get it. It’s a stick because we’re never going to agree on that but we’ve invested billions of dollars and we’re going to continue to do that. I’m going to say this again so that people clearly understand, notwithstanding that me and a whole bunch of people have been able to generate $2.4 billion for the streets, it’s not enough. Notwithstanding that we got $350 million from the federal government and more to do all this stuff, it’s not enough because our needs are much greater, which is why the President has been talking about a massive infrastructure rebuilding from my perspective he can’t get fast enough.
KM: In terms of your priorities, you think everything is square, and that’s why I asked about the monuments? I think people question whether or not we have our priorities in order.
ML: Well, first of all, remember we’ve been rebuilding this city aggressively for the last seven years. We’ve built 33 new school, 55 primary health care clinics, 3 hospitals, we’ve built more streets. We’ve invested $2 billion in the police department and public safety. The monuments are 100th of one percent. For me It's kind of like oh well, it means that every penny that’s not spent means your pri…that’s not true. Our priorities...I have spent very little time on the monuments personally, everyone else got apoplectic about it. I spoke very forcefully to it, I think it was the right thing to do. I think it’s going to be good for the City of New Orleans in the long run. But it’s at the minimus amount in comparison to all the other things that we’re talking about but people are going to talk about it forever and people are going to have their jerseys on about that, and that’s going to be what it’s going to be.