Mayor Mitch Landrieu no doubt was hoping his last few months in office would be a cakewalk, if not a victory lap. That is not to be. The mayor has a to-do list that seems to get longer with each passing week. Here are some of the top items on that list:
1. Devise a fix for the Sewerage & Water Board (S&WB). Landrieu was basking in the glow of adoring crowds at a conference in Aspen, Colorado Aug. 5, when in New Orleans an intense rainstorm flooded homes, businesses and vehicles in Lakeview, Mid-City, Treme and parts of Gentilly. The mayor returned to sobering news that the S&WB is even more dysfunctional than anyone imagined.
New Orleans thus far has been spared additional inundations, but we are still in the most treacherous part of hurricane season.
Landrieu has worked hard to get his arms around the problem using emergency powers, but even the notoriously detail-oriented mayor cannot possibly cure what ails the entrenched S&WB in a few months. The best he can hope for before leaving office is a detailed set of recommendations from the management team he brought in to run the troubled agency.
The city's Office of Inspector General and others have called for making the "independent" S&WB part of city government under the mayor's direct control. At least then voters would know whom to blame if pump failures cause another flood. Landrieu should work with local lawmakers and the incoming mayor to draft and promote a plan to make the S&WB part of City Hall and thereby more accountable.
2. Clean all the catch basins. This one cannot wait for the next mayor and council. It should have been done long before now. In addition to cleaning all the city's catch basins — some of which have been paved over — Landrieu should propose a plan to pay for regular cleaning going forward.
3. Fix the affordable housing mess. Another inspector general — this one with HUD — says the city has mismanaged a federal low-income housing program and should repay at least $1.8 million in affordable housing funds (and possibly as much as $7.5 million). That's enough to clean a lot of catch basins, and like the basins, this problem cannot wait for the next mayor. The HUD report alleges that a city affordable housing program failed to properly monitor and inspect at least 30 units that participated in the program, resulting in housing not being available to low-income residents.
4. Relocate the Confederate monuments. Landrieu always promised to find appropriate destinations for four Confederate monuments that he fought so hard to take down. He hasn't kept that promise, and it's an open wound that the next mayor and council should not have to inherit. As he has done with the S&WB, Landrieu should turn this one over to experts — historians, preservationists, civic and civil rights leaders and others.
All this, in addition to crime, economic opportunity and disparity, potholes, blight and more.
Landrieu leaves office May 7, less than eight months from now. If he doesn't get busy on his to-do list, he can forget about a victory lap.