Gambit endorses: Mitch Landrieu for mayor

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Every election presents a unique opportunity for citizens to give themselves and their community a gut check — and to change direction when needed. In the Feb. 6 citywide primary, New Orleans voters already know our city needs a drastic change in direction. More than four years after Hurricane Katrina, city government is dysfunctional, our city’s “brand” is synonymous with crime, the current mayor callously and selfishly widens rather than heals a longstanding racial divide, the local economy continues to decline and the recovery citizens have been hoping for still needs a jump start. Now more than ever, New Orleans needs a mayor who “gets it” at every level and who can move our city forward on many fronts at once. One candidate stands out as that kind of leader: Mitch Landrieu.

A recent WWL-TV survey of New Orleans voters underscored just how dysfunctional City Hall has become. When asked to rate the importance of various issues on a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being “of the greatest importance,” voters rated every major issue above “9” — an unprecedented sign that voters see nothing going right in city government. Those issues included crime, public corruption, putting the city’s interests above personal political ambitions, economic development and jobs, public education, better management of city departments and uniting the races to solve problems. The next mayor must tackle all of these issues at once, and Landrieu more than any other candidate has the skills, the competence and the experience to do that. As he declared in his announcement, he knows what to do and how to do it.

Some of Landrieu’s opponents cast him as a “career politician” because of his 22 years in public service. In our view, “career politician” is a plus if a public servant is honest and good at his job. Look at it this way: If you needed emergency medical care, you’d want a “career doctor” — not a “businessman” who promises to “run the ER like a business.” After nearly eight years of Ray Nagin, New Orleans desperately needs a mayor who knows how to triage our city’s unmet needs and understands politics at the local, state and national levels. Mitch Landrieu will be that mayor.

Speaking of the current mayor, New Orleans also needs to rebrand itself to the world. We need a mayor who embodies and represents all that’s good about our city. In Mitch Landrieu, we’ll have such a mayor — one of whom we can all be proud when he travels to Baton Rouge, Washington, Wall Street or abroad; a mayor with little patience for underachievers or laggards; and a mayor who, should another hurricane threaten New Orleans, will inspire confidence and calm rather than doubt and fear.

If there’s one thing holding New Orleans back, it’s our lack of racial unity on matters other than Saints football. Going forward, we need a mayor all New Orleanians can trust. Mitch Landrieu is trained in conflict resolution, mediation and arbitration — all skills New Orleans sorely needs in a leader — and his entire public career reflects a commitment to inclusiveness and coalition building. He has consistently polled strongly in the black community because he has proven, not just promised, that he is sensitive to the concerns of all New Orleanians.

It’s not too late for New Orleans to gain traction in the post-Katrina recovery. In fact, “economic development” and “recovery” go hand in hand — if we have a mayor who inspires confidence among business leaders, has good contacts at the state and federal levels and has the focus and discipline to see the job through. As lieutenant governor, Mitch Landrieu has excelled at leading the state Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism by harnessing Louisiana’s cultural economy and by continuing to function at a high level in the face of drastic budget cuts.

We recognize that some still object to “another Landrieu” in office, which is about as sensible as objecting to another Manning in football, another Marsalis in music or another Brennan opening a restaurant. When you know what to do and how to do it, your last name shouldn’t matter. Mitch Landrieu offers what the city needs right now.

We urge our New Orleans readers to elect Mitch Landrieu mayor this Saturday.

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