Thursday, 08 July 2010 23:58

Landrieu Delivers State Of New Orleans Address

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Today, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu delivered his first State of the City address, titled “Eyes Wide Open,” to a packed audience at Xavier University.

During Landrieu's brief experience in office, not only has he picked his administration but has also  dealt with the BP Oil Spill experience

Here are  segments of the address picked out by Landrieu's press office which it says is Mayor Landrieu's  "truthful, honest assessment of city government following his first 67 days in office".

 

“We are here to pull back the curtains and let the sunlight shine in so that, together, we can see, with eyes wide open, a truthful and open picture,” said Landrieu. He continued, “we will not be blind to the state of our city – it is one that has great potential, but one that is in peril.”



In the first two months of his administration, Landrieu has identified a $67 million deficit for the 2010 budget year.  Today, the Mayor laid out approximately $30 million in budget savings.  Additional budget cutting solutions will be announced in the coming weeks.



Landrieu’s assessment was eye-opening on nearly every subject area.



On the oil spill:



“The BP oil crisis poses daunting challenges for our people and our city. That hellish hole is spewing the equivalent of an Exxon Valdez disaster every four days. We do not know when the oil will stop gushing or what the final impact will be on our environment and economy. We can feel that our entire way of life is threatened…Just this week, tar balls and oil sheen entered into Lake Pontchartrain – a Lake that our community has rallied to clean and protect for decades.”



On the budget:



“During the transition, we were told that the city had a $35 million deficit. If that was not bad enough, when my team got into City Hall, we opened the books and after a thorough audit found that the budget deficit was $62 million.  



Since then, we discovered that the city failed to properly account for a $5.5 million deficit in 2005.  So the gap is now $67 million. With only six months left in the year, we face a $67 million deficit. We are obligated by law to have a balanced budget. The budget that we inherited and must live with was passed last year, and during the first five months of 2010, it was mismanaged from the top to bottom…We are living well beyond our means.”



On cost-savings measures:



“And across all departments, we’ve reduced overtime from as high as $3.5 million in February to less than $1 million in May and June. And we expect it to drop even further as all departments manage their overtime budgets effectively – saving the city well over $10 million by the end of the year. I’ve made it clear that we will not tolerate departments overspending their budgets.



We are currently projecting departments are over budget by $27.9 million. But I have ordered each department to develop a plan to live within their 2010 budget. So in addition to cutting overtime, they are also reducing hiring and travel in order to balance their budgets.   



We are also cutting and renegotiating contracts.  



For example, we restructured the MWH recovery contract to save the tax payers $1.1 million over the next three months. We are cancelling two IT projects to save $1.3 million and reducing five IT contracts to save an additional $800,000 this year.  In fact, all contracts are under review.”



On Crime:



“Crime in this city has been unacceptable for generations. The culture of death and violence on our streets is unnatural. We have the highest per capita murder rate in the country, over ten times the national average.



Ten times. And there have been 35 murders since I took office 67 days ago.



But these crime statistics only tell part of the story. No one can quantify the worry of a mother or the nightmares of a child who has seen too much.   



CNN called us one of the most dangerous places in the world. And Time Magazine asked the unbelievable question, “Is Baghdad now safer than New Orleans?”



New Orleans is not Baghdad, but with eyes wide open we can see that some of our citizens live in a war zone. But we are not battling some foreign foe. We are fighting against a cycle of violence fueled by desperation and poverty on a field of battle that starts on our own front porches.”



On Education:



“But while the Recovery School District improved their pass rate from 37 percent to 43 percent -- by far the largest increase in the state -- it still means that 57 percent of our students fail to read, write, or do arithmetic at grade level.



We must confront these brutal facts because education is the civil rights movement of our generation.”



On NORD & Recreation:



“When I was a kid, NORD had great playgrounds and sports teams and even theatre, dance and music programs. But when I came into office 67 days ago, I found a recreation department that would make you weep, one that is under-funded and under-prioritized.  



We found many of NORD’s facilities are in shambles – swimming pools without filtration systems, no restrooms and no shower facilities.”



On Jobs & Economic Development:



“In terms of jobs, the good news is that prior to the oil spill, the New Orleans metro area had a 6% unemployment rate, the lowest of any large metro area in the country. But even with recovery in some sectors, the local economy remains deeply wounded. Good-paying jobs elude many residents. The oil spill provides new uncertainty for tens of thousands of local workers. New Orleans has lacked a strong economic development effort for many years.



I look forward to launching a much-anticipated public-private partnership to coordinate the city’s economic development efforts. This is a major step forward and one that has been a long time coming.”



On Healthcare:



“Our healthcare statistics are bleak. We have high infant mortality rates, high premature death rates, high obesity rates, cancer rates, and suicide rates. And while health problems have gone up, health care options have gone down. Hurricane Katrina devastated our hospitals and clinics and displaced our corps of doctors.



Now, the oil spill poses new challenges, as we struggle to meet the need for mental health services. But even before Katrina and the Oil Spill, we did a lousy job of taking care of ourselves – through preventative care, nutrition, and exercise. It’s time for us to view these issues with urgency and eyes wide open. It’s a matter of life and death.”



On Methodist Hospital:



“In New Orleans East, Gentilly, and the Ninth Ward, 80,000 residents are 30 minutes from an emergency room.  I want the residents of New Orleans East to know that I'm on your side.  



Knowing that this was a pressing issue, I visited with the current owners of Methodist Hospital during my transition over 75 days ago. There, I asked them to come back to New Orleans and reinvest in Methodist Hospital to run it themselves. They declined.



They countered by attempting to sell their flooded buildings to the city for $40 million, which is more than twice their appraised value.  I then asked for a 60 day review of the deal that was on the table from the last administration and convened a working group of expert physicians and community members on the issue. I charged this group with developing a tangible strategy to open a full-service, sustainable hospital in the East.   



Weeks ago, I asked the owners of Methodist to donate the Methodist Hospital building to the city, so we can open a full service hospital quickly. Again, they declined.



In the past few days, I met with UHS executives and offered to buy the property for its fair-market value of $9.7 million.  Not surprisingly, they declined again.



So, yes, I’m incredibly frustrated.



Frustrated that it’s been five years and no hospital. Frustrated that an out-of-state Fortune 500 company would propose such a deal after pocketing over a quarter of a billion dollars in Katrina insurance proceeds. Frustrated that the previous administration and previous hospital service district couldn’t get a deal done in five years and tried to push a questionable deal in the waning days of the last administration.



I asked for 60 days, a reasonable request, and our formal strategy will be announced on July 15 just over two months into my administration. And make no doubt about it, we will build a full service hospital with emergency care in New Orleans East, working with a new hospital service district board, because that’s what the citizens of New Orleans East deserve.”



On City Services & Technology:



“When I took office, I learned that we’ve outsourced management and the day-to-day functions of City Hall. Half of our Information Technology office are hourly contractors.



Some of our highest-paid contractors were providing even the most basic services such as reception and administrative work. Why should we be paying a contractor $70 an hour for a clerical staffer who is performing simple administrative duties, like cutting checks, at City Hall?”



Closing:



Mayor Landrieu closed the speech with an inspirational ode to so many New Orleanians who have been on the frontlines of our city’s post-Katrina recovery and called for us to face our problems together.



“So, while it is true that we have inherited a myriad of problems and City Hall is dysfunctional, it is also true that we own it now. All of us, together.  



And while it will take longer than 67 days to turn the tide of dysfunction that has swept across this city for so long, it is our duty, yours and mine, to fix it and get us to where we want to be.”



“We will find a way. And if we can’t find a way, we’ll make a way. We can, we must, win.  



In the first 67 days of my administration, we have laid the groundwork for change with real reforms, and each day for the next 1397 days, we will keep moving in the right direction – one step at a time.



There’s an old saying that the best time to plant an oak tree was 30 years ago. The second best time is now.  



New Orleans, now is our time to create a city for the ages. A city that honors our rich heritage and our great promise. We will not stop. We will take one step, everyday. One step with eyes wide open, empowered by the knowledge of where we stand today and believing in the promise of where we can be tomorrow.”
Bayoubuzz Staff

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