Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered an optimistic State of the City speech Thursday, July 8, even following the announcement of 25 percent budget cuts with a Boudreaux and Thibodeaux joke. "While it is true that we have inherited a myriad of problems and City Hall is dysfunctional, it is also true that we own it now," Landrieu said, encouraging the audience at Xavier University to face the city's $67 million budget deficit with "eyes wide open."
Landrieu compared the deficit to the "hellhole" spewing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. "Like the spill, it's worse than we thought, and there are no quick fixes," he said, eliciting whistles from the crowd when he compared the actual deficit with the $35 million deficit his transition team had been told about. Landrieu said his administration faces "nothing but hard choices," starting with the elimination of 50 positions in the police department, and added he has ordered his departments to review overtime spending and reduce hiring and travel.
Landrieu also slammed Universal Health Services Inc. (UHS), which owns the shuttered Methodist Hospital in eastern New Orleans. Landrieu recently offered to buy the vacant property for $9.7 million, but the company declined. UHS's best offer so far is to sell the property to the city for $40 million. Landrieu instead is starting over with a new hospital district board, and he promises a formal strategy on opening a hospital in eastern New Orleans this week. — Matt Davis