New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu joined Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer Tuesday to address a group of business and government leaders at the 2016 Leadership Louisville Luncheon.
Landrieu was recently selected by his peers as the mayor who ushered the biggest turnaround in his city, according to Politico.
Before he addressed the crowd in Louisville, Landrieu, along with Fischer, who was selected as the “most innovative” mayor in the Politico poll of more than 70 mayors, sat down to discuss what it takes for cities to change.
We met in a conference room at the Marriott Hotel in downtown Louisville. After the interview, Fischer directed Landrieu’s attention to the large, south-facing window, where work on the near $300 million Omni Hotel is underway.
You can listen to the interview in the audio player above.
Mayor Landrieu, you were recently voted as the most transformative mayor by your peers for changes associated with housing, policing and blight. Some of these things have come under unique circumstances, one of which being a federal consent decree associated with the police department. I want to get your take on the role the federal government plays in ushering in changes on a more local level.
“What’s worked in New Orleans is a great partnership between the federal government, the state government, the local government and, more importantly, the business community and the faith-based community, and everybody pulling in the same direction. That’s what’s allowed us to transform organizational structures that didn’t produce good results to structures that actually do. Whether it’s police reform, education, infrastructure, recreation, public safety, whatever it is. It’s about everybody being at the table.”
Mayor Fischer, we’ve seen the changes in New Orleans. What changes are you looking to maybe adopt from that city here, if any at all?
“Our teams have worked together, a lot, on innovation. You’ve seen it take place with our public safety, our environmental education, different public services as well. Today, I think people will be reminded of the importance of authenticity in a city, being your own person in terms of arts and entertainment. But also leaning into race relations, civil rights, making sure that everybody is along for the ride to success and, as you know, we get after that every day.”
The blight issue in New Orleans has transformed over the past few years. Mayor Landrieu, you had a unique opportunity with the failure of the levees that presented an opportunity that wasn’t welcome, but you did make the best of it, some say. What would you say to a city that is wanting to address blight but doesn’t have such an opportunity?
“I wouldn’t call it an opportunity. What happened is the city got completely drenched by water that destroyed a lot of houses, that was one of the things that happened. What happened before that was a lot of people moved out of the city.
“What’s happening now is that people are moving back into the city, but a lot of folks had property left and they just didn’t take care of it, which put the burden on other tax payers to take care of other citizens’ private property. So we began to really kind of think about how to fix that problem, because it’s like, just having trash sitting on the street, it’s debilitating, it doesn’t work.
“We confected a program where we’ve taken down more blighted properties than any other place in America, but that is a very difficult problem. One of the ways you fix that is with economic growth and development. You get economic growth and development by having a safe city, you deal with that by dealing with the issue of violence, poverty, equity — all of those things — and blight, over time, will take care of itself.”