In three months, New Orleans will elect its 51st mayor, who will inherit all the improvements and problems left behind by Mayor Mitch Landrieu's eight years in office. While much attention has focused on the Confederate monument controversy in the last few months, the city still struggles with many of its generational problems — combined with new challenges such as short-term rentals.
One town hall forum already has been held featuring some of the declared mayoral candidates, and they're about to come fast and furious as qualifying for the race ended last week. Now that qualifying is over, all the candidates will face questions from residents and journalists. We've compiled an initial list of issues — and related questions — that we think the 2017 mayoral candidates must address.
• Crime, NOPD and public safety. New Orleanians agree that crime is the No. 1 issue. Is the New Orleans Police Department adequately staffed? If not, what's the proper number of officers — and how quickly will you get the department to that target size? Are cops paid adequately? If not, where will you get the money?
Is NOLA for Life performing well? Will you continue the program, change it, or scrap it? Do you have a better idea?
Is District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro doing a good job? Should the city provide him with more money, less money, or is the current level of funding about right?
Is the public defenders' office properly staffed and funded?
Is Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman carrying out his responsibilities? What should be the size of the new jail? Should New Orleans consider combining the NOPD and the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office into one entity? If so, why? If not, why not?
• Streets and transit. How would you improve the way the city repairs streets and streetlights?
Is the Regional Transit Authority performing well? Riders often complain of inconsistent schedules. Would you commit to real-time tracking of buses and streetcars as is done in most other American cities?
Do you have any ideas for improving public transportation to and from Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport?
• Economic opportunities and disparities. It's been clear for a long time that New Orleans' post-Hurricane Katrina recovery has not occurred uniformly across the city. How will you change that?
Should New Orleans have a higher minimum wage than the rest of the state as in cities like Seattle and San Francisco?
• Housing and neighborhoods. What role should city government play in ensuring affordable housing?
Is the city's new short-term rental policy a good one? What changes, if any, would you make?
What, if anything, will you do differently to combat blighted housing?
• Other issues. Should New Orleans continue collecting sales taxes itself or let the state handle that responsibility? Are taxes being collected fairly and efficiently in New Orleans?
Do you support traffic cameras, the fines from which have become an important part of the municipal budget?
No doubt other issues will crop up as the campaign heats up, but these issues and questions are a good place for candidates to begin the discussion.