New Orleans Needs To Get Ambitious on Public Safety

Shaun Mena, JD

My heart aches because I am wondering how we got here. “Here,” for New Orleans, is the heinous murder of a mother while her child was in the backseat and the cold-blooded homicide of a food server at Mandina’s. These unconscionable killings occurred blocks from where I grew up and still currently reside in Mid-City. I pause to think about my almost 2-year-old son. We traverse the intersection of Orleans & Broad every day when I’m taking him to school, which is the same location where the young mother was tragically killed. 

Mothers should be able to drive their children around our city without fear of being murdered. Young men should be able to work at a restaurant making an honest living without fear of being murdered. Those basic societal guarantees should, at the very least, be upheld. Would it be nice if there weren’t so many potholes? Sure. Would it be ideal if the streets didn’t flood when there was a really bad downpour? Definitely. However, if we as New Orleanians could make a deal where we will always have to suffer with the two above issues, but we can assure that mothers will always be able to drive their children in absolute safety and young men can work for an honest wage and not be murdered, I’m sure that most of us that truly love this city would accept those terms unconditionally. 

Ambition can be defined as a strong desire to do or to achieve something, typically requiring determination and hard work. 

Ambition is not a bad thing. Ambition as an individual, a community, or a business can lead to benefits for our society as a whole. Ambition has done an immense amount of good for me in my personal life. It took me from being the son of an immigrant father with a 4th grade education to being an attorney today.

Ambition took me from growing up in the 5th Ward in the 90’s when it was an overly impoverished community to actually being able to afford to live in the 5th Ward today where it is now a beautifully diverse community referred to as the Mid-City area. 

To be overly dramatic, I would say my ambition saved my life. To be a bit more realistic, I would say it made the 2nd Third of my life much more comfortable than the 1st Third. Which is a win in my book. 

In closing, we can and should have the ambition to do better as a city. 

Whenever any American’s life is taken by another American unnecessarily – whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence – whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded. – Robert F. Kennedy

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