Mayor Mitch Landrieu got more than he bargained for when he co-hosted an "oil spill response open house" with representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard and BP on June 23 in the Botanical Gardens at City Park. Eighteen agencies showed up to answer citizens' questions on subjects that included wildlife, safety, fisheries and making claims, but Hizzoner's opening remarks quickly devolved into a series of rapid-fire exchanges with citizens from an activist group called The Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Catastrophe.
"You're saying this is about information, but you're shutting people down," said Larry Everest, interrupting Landrieu. "I've been to these where there's a lot of B.S." Everest said he didn't like the open expo format and wanted citizens to have the opportunity to ask questions of Landrieu, BP and the Coast Guard in a press conference format where everyone in the crowd could hear.
"If everybody will conduct themselves with civility and ask a question, then allow somebody to respond, then I'm sure they'll be happy to do that," Landrieu said.
Another citizen asked what the mayor thought of a recent pledge by Sen. Mary Landrieu, his sister, that offshore drilling is safe. "I can't answer questions for Senator Landrieu, she's not here. My name is Mitch Landrieu. She's the United States senator," the mayor responded, to some applause from the crowd. "Well, obviously, the BP drill rig was not safe. That's fair enough? We agree on that?"
The back-and-forth continued for about 10 minutes and became increasingly chaotic — as TV cameras rolled — before Landrieu's staff escorted the mayor to the door, stopping several times to answer more questions from citizens and a bevy of journalists. — Matt Davis