Louisiana Lieutenant Govenor Mitch Landrieu announced officially announced his candidacy for mayor of New Orleans today in a ceremony by the Mississippi River. I’ve known Mitch since law school (we were in the same class at Loyola) and I think he’s the right person to be the mayor of this city during its difficult recovery process. Although I knew him in law school, I really got to know Mitch best when he and I clerked for the same federal trial judge in the Eastern District of Louisiana.
I like Ray Nagin and Ron Forman too. Forman is the head of the Audubon Institute (which runs the local zoo and the aquarium). A few months ago when it was rumored that Forman might run I was excited and I hoped he would run. I’m still glad he’s running, because I think he’d probably be a good mayor. And it’s always nice to have some solid choices from which to choose in an election.
As much as I like Nagin, I think he’s burned out. He came into office as a businessman who could get things done. He’s become more of a politician, in the sense that he seems to now be saying things to pander to a sect of voters rather than trying to build a cohesive vision. Still, he’s not a very effective politician. It’s pretty clear that he has trouble talking to other politicians and making them feel like he’s listening to their concerns. Bottom line: no one that I’ve talked to has any faith in Nagin anymore. So, we need someone who can get elected and do a much better job.
As much as I like Forman I think he might suffer from the "I’m not a politician" halo effect. As much as I hate politics and would like to see a non-politician lead us out of the rubble, I have to face the reality that non-politicians often lack the requisite awareness of how to advance their agenda. I think Forman would probably make a great dictator (benevolent, of course). But, I’m not so sure he is sufficiently skilled in dealing with the nasty brutish world of politics, which is even more brutish after Katrina. Running an organization that takes care of animals is one thing, but dealing with the smog of human power struggles is quite another.
So, despite my affection for Ron Forman, I’m backing Mitch. I know Mitch, and I know he’s committed to this city. He ran for mayor several years ago (back in 1990), and I remember that people said he was too young to run for that office. He was too young, but he ran was because he wanted more than anything to be the mayor of this city. His dad was the mayor and I know that Mitch believes that he can make this city better. He believed it then, and he believes it more than ever now.
We need someone who can build coalitions, inspire passion, promote innovation, and someone who has massive integrity. Mitch will take this job seriously, and will bring a lot of skill to the task. No one can say what the next 10 years holds for New Orleans, and no one can say that the next mayor of the city (whoever it is) will be able to make the city better. All we can hope for is someone who will create as much positive leverage as possible. From his tenure as Lieutenant Governor, Mitch has the requisite knowledge of state government and good relations with politicians throughout the state. And he’s got a sister who is a U.S. senator, which gives him a connection to Washington that is critical right now. Mitch is positioned to create maximum leverage for our recovery, and he’s someone that can get elected if he makes the runoff.
So, it’s official: I’m backing Mitch Landrieu. I’ve offered to help the campaign in anyway I can. Obviously, the campaign needs contributions and I’m going to give as much as I can. If anyone else is interested in helping out let me know.