You could call it a to-do list from one former mayor of New Orleans to the people hoping to become the next one.
Marc Morial, who served as mayor of New Orleans from 1994 to 2002, on Wednesday released a letter he sent to the field of 18 candidates vying to become the next mayor in the Oct. 14 primary election.
Morial praises current Mayor Mitch Landrieu in the letter, though he says he is "not a perfect public servant but he is a dedicated and passionate public servant,” Morial writes. “He (Landrieu) inherited a mess after eight years of failed municipal leadership.” He does praise Landrieu for the removal of Confederate era monuments, a movement which did not take shape during Morial's tenure.
“Those monuments were never anything but an effort to celebrate slavery, and as I argued over 25 years ago, they belong in a museum. I believe that it is a bogus issue to pretend that there should be a referendum or a reconsideration of a 6 to 1 vote that was taken by the New Orleans City Council. It is time to move on,” Morial writes.
“Now that the monuments have come down, I believe strongly that the community should discuss what replaces those monuments. A public competition could be undertaken, with the leadership of the cultural community, to select appropriate public pieces for these prominent and picturesque locations. For example, Lee Circle could become Tricentennial Circle, a permanent display to the future of the city on the occasion of its 300th Birthday. The debate must move on to what comes next and to what type of public displays represent the values and the unity – that we are – and – that we need – today,” he writes.
In the letter, Morial, who is now president of the National Urban League, also challenged the candidates who want to become the next mayor to provide voters “with informed and specific plans for leading and governing the city into its fourth century.”
“I write, not as one who has served as a State Senator, Mayor of New Orleans, President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, nor as President of the National Urban League. Instead, I write as a passionate New Orleanian, a diehard Saints and Pelicans fan, and a lover of gumbo, red beans, po’ boys, Mardi Gras, the Jazz Fest, and the Essence Festival,” Morial writes in the letter. “I write, not to offer unsolicited advice, but to offer perspective, because you have embraced an important challenge to become the next leader of our great city.”
Morial discusses seven key areas which he challenges the candidates to formulate more concrete plans for, as they campaign for votes.
The first is public safety. Morial, who has been widely hailed along with former New Orleans Police Supt. Richard Pennington for reducing the crime rate during his tenure by 60 percent, writes that “public Safety above all requires that you have a coherent well thought out plan of action – not talking points, clichés or mimeograph copies of best practices from the internet.”
Morial also addresses what he calls the city’s “severe housing crisis,” with a dire need for quality affordable housing units. “This area provides a chance for great economic growth but also requires bold and courageous leadership and the ability to bring together non-profit, public and private agencies in a comprehensive way. Without it, gentrification, disruption and inequitable development will result. Equitable development should be the guiding principle.”
Morial urges the next mayor to become a “visible aggressive proponent of the diversification of the New Orleans economy,” when it comes to job creation, eliminating poverty and spurring economic development. “New Orleans needs jobs and New Orleans needs quality jobs,” Morial writes.
The former mayor lists children and youth development as a priority, along with race relations and diversity. He encourages the city to continue to embrace its diversity, “for diversity is its strength.”
When it comes to city finances, Morial recommends the next mayor conduct a comprehensive review of all sources of revenue – “sales taxes, real estate taxes, fees, as well as all sources of federal, and state revenue going to all local, public agencies, not just city government. Are they properly allocated in accord with the priorities of the 21st Century?” He also urges a review of the current allocation of hotel/motel taxes. “Should more of these funds be allocated to general government? How about public safety? How about youth development? How about schools? This is a public discussion that is long overdue.”