Will Mitch Landrieu Steer Infrastructure Funding to New Orleans?

Credit: Courtesy of Mitch Landrieu’s Facebook page

Former Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s recent appointment as President Biden’s infrastructure czar is a big win for New Orleans, Louisiana and the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Landrieu will advise the National Economic Council on how to spend the $1.2 trillion proceeds from the bipartisan infrastructure legislation.

Biden chose the likeable Landrieu because of his diverse experiences as a former lieutenant governor and mayor and from the nation-wide relationships he made while president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. Landrieu’s international visibility from his appearances on CNN is also a plus.  Saddled withlessons learned after Hurricane Katrina and most recently from Hurricane Ida’s effects on the power grid, Landrieu understands the area and its needs. Though, while mayor, he failed to adequately address the problems at the Sewerage & Water Board, Landrieu was able to secure billions in funding for schools, hospitals, and infrastructure after Katrina.

In an interview with the Wall Street Journal, former Mayor Marc Morial praised Landrieu for bringing “order, disciple and a focus on outcomes” to the post-Katrina rebuilding process.

“This appointment of Mitch Landrieu is great. He guided the recovery after Katrina that produced levees that held perfectly inour recent Cat4 hurricane, a better school system and no examples of fraud or abuse. He is persistent, smart, energetic,”tweeted acclaimed News Orleans-based author Walt Issacson.

Actor Wendell Pierce, an owner of WBOK Radio, had a slightly different view. “Biden’s Blunder: Naming Mitch Landrieu to oversee the $1T Infrastructure Bill. If his record in New Orleans is any indication, the construction is doomed for delay and stagnation. In New Orleans, post Katrina, half the city saw no economic development while millions went unspent,” said Pierce on Twitter.

Landrieu noted that his work would require strong partnerships across government and with state and local leaders, business and labor. Mayor LaToya Cantrell, Senator Bill Cassidy,Congressman Troy Carter, and senior presidential advisor Cedric Richmond were among the hundreds of government leaders from around the country who attended Monday’s signing ceremony with President Biden.

Landrieu is in a unique position to ensure that New Orleans get every dollar possible. Additional broadband is essential for homes where a lack of connectivity is hampering learning. Funding is needed for new pipes and generators to guarantee asafe and dependable water system. New Orleans’ electric grid must be hardened. Climate change is taking a terrible toll on the region. To remain competitive in the global marketplace, Port Nola should continually expand. Let’s not forget all the better-paying construction and permanent jobs this program will create as well as the training opportunities for workers of all ages to learn new skills.

Among New Orleans’ greatest needs is for funding to address historic racial inequities that have always held back the majority of Black and Brown citizens. Enslaved Africans first danced in Congo Square in the 1700’s. Native Americans preceded them. Free people of color claimed the neighborhood when Claude Treme subdivided his plantation in the early 1800’s. They built their homes and businesses there and built the majority of the city as well. In its heyday, Claiborne Avenue was the heartbeat of Creole New Orleans.

A complete redevelopment of Armstrong Park into the city’s premiere cultural center could be the catalyst for the revitalization of greater Treme. Funding to replace the Claiborne Avenue overpass would be a dream come true. Even the construction of new affordable housing on vacant lots, grants to culture bearers, and financial support to uplift Claiborne area and Treme businesses would help rebalance equity.

Landrieu won’t be working in a vacuum. Troy Carter and Cedric Richmond are also poised to lead the way. Together this trio, along with Mayor Cantrell, will deliver a much needed cash infusion to better position New Orleans and its citizens for the future. With the general malaise citizens are feeling, it won’t come a minute too soon.

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