The local paper profiled Mitch Landrieu today, and I think that the article really captures him. After you wade past the initial fluff (i.e. what Mitch was like as a child etc.), you get to the stories that matter. Essentially, what comes out is that Mitch is a very skilled politician, meaning mostly that he is savvy about building coalitions to support his projects. People have accused Mitch of not being sufficiently ‘business friendly’ and perhaps that’s a legitimate concern for some people. However, read this passage, which I think underscores a very key issue:
Campaign finance records suggest that Forman is the darling of the city’s corporate leaders, including several who in 2002 got behind Nagin, then a businessman who touted his lack of political experience as an asset.
But Gary Solomon, a banker and venture capitalist who led the government effectiveness committee of Nagin’s rebuilding commission, said that, unlike four years ago, the mayor who pulls New Orleans out of the Katrina chasm will need a thorough understanding of how to overcome government’s obstacles.
"It probably goes without saying that the majority of people of my profile are probably with Ron Forman," said Solomon, a Landrieu backer. "But I came to the conclusion that we need a politician, a person who knows the system, a person who has personal connections all over the country."
The article highlights Mitch’s tenacity and his commitment to making New Orleans a better city. As everyone knows, and as Mitch freely admits, running for mayor is not a smart political move for him. So why do it? Because he is committed to making this city better and he knows that he is uniquely qualified to do it. And if Mitch says he’s going to do something then you can ‘write the bond’ (as the judge he and used to work for used to say).
The article ends with a passage that makes that point quite poignantly:
St. Bernard Sheriff Jack Stephens said he encountered Landrieu the day after [Katrina] riding in a 14-foot flatboat.
"We were so screwed up, and the first elected official we saw was Mitch Landrieu in a flatboat with some Wildlife and Fisheries guys coming down St. Bernard Highway in 5 feet of water," Stephens said. "I rode over to him, and I said, ‘What are you doing here? Have you lost your mind?’ "
The two talked for a while, then Landrieu scribbled down a list of supplies that Stephens said were needed by about 900 residents stranded in the parish: drinking water, food, insulin, underwear, body bags.
"I told him that we needed a voice on the outside," Stephens said. "He said, ‘Jack, I’ll be back to help.’ It wasn’t a day or two, and he was back."
Like I’ve said, I think a couple of the other candidates would be good mayors and I’m happy we have some good ones to choose from. But I don’t want to settle for a ‘good mayor.’ I want a great one, and I have a strong sense that Mitch can be a great mayor for this city. Read the article.