by Kevin Allman
On Mayor Mitch Landrieus 100th day in office, he held a town hall for City Council District A at Grace Episcopal Church in Mid-City. Landrieu, who is in the midst of conducting these listening sessions in every district, was joined on the dais by District A councilperson Susan Guidry and deputy mayors Judy Reese Morse and Andy Kopplin. In the audience were NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, Council President Arnie Fielkow and dozens of city managers from almost every municipal department, all of whom took notes as members of the crowd stood and spoke about the improvements needed in their neighborhoods.
District A City Councilmember Susan Guidry and Mayor Mitch Landrieu take notes as members of the crowd speak at last night's town hall in Mid-City.
I think its fair to say weve put the pedal to the medal, Landrieu said, outlining the six priorities of his administration, which he said were developed in the many task force meetings held by the new administration. The six, in order of importance, were: public safety; children and families; economic development; sustainable communities; open and effective government; and innovation. He warned that the citys $67 million deficit would require some tough decisions and bad choices, and added that the findings from these community meetings would steer the direction of the final municipal budget.
Audience members had filled out cards with questions and comments as they entered, and moderator Vincent Sylvain handed them to Landrieu one by one. Each person had two minutes to pose a question, during which Landrieu in loosened tie and rolled-up shirtsleeves took copious notes on the most tangential of complaints on pages of yellow legal paper.
The meeting was supposed to wrap at eight oclock, but the two-minute time limit had led to some serious citizen filibustering; at 8 p.m., Landrieu hadnt begun to answer the dozens of questions, there were still cards to be read and the standing-room crowd of several hundred people was getting hot and restive. Ill stay here all night and answer every question, the mayor said, but lets get a show of hands as to whether we keep going here or cut it off. The crowd voted overwhelmingly to cut it off. Landrieu mulled it for a moment and then said, OK, well go for 10 more minutes. Some groaned.
The crowd at Grace Episcopal Church in Mid-City. By the time the mayor arrived at 6:30, the church was standing room only.
Outside, a canvasser seeking signatures on a petition to reopen Charity Hospital wasnt surprised. The [public meeting] on Caffin Avenue went past 9:30, she said. Whatever the final budget produces, it seems, no one will be able to say the mayor and his dozens of staffers werent listening.