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Joke mayor Landrieu keeps disserving N.O.

Riddle me this: what’s the difference between Kim Davis, the Kentucky clerk of court held in contempt of court for refusing to sign certificates for same sex marriages, and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu, found in contempt of court for not having the city pay what is due to the city’s firefighters and firefighter retirees? Answer: nothing; neither are doing their jobs.

Of course, that’s nothing new for Landrieu, who carries about him a fantastic obtuseness when it comes to doing what matters most for New Orleans. This is the guy, after all, who has spends rhetorical capital and publicity trying to take down monuments because some see them as symbols of racial oppression, a removal which would cost millions of dollars that the city doesn’t have (although, ironically, one such target’s object of commemoration actually preached racial reconciliation), rather than to address the city’s crime rate (undoubtedly exacerbated by Landrieu’s acquiescence to New Orleans acting as a “sanctuary city”). Then, when Sen. David Vitter calls him on it, he tries to link Vitter to racial animus.

On the matter of crime he also enjoys picking fights with another Lincolnesque statesman, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, who faces a court order to reduce his prison population. While New Orleans must pay for its prisoners, Gusman decides whether to take some state prisoners that balloon the prisoner census but who bring in compensation. That cost would increase if city prisoners would have to be located elsewhere. Landrieu petitioned the state to intervene and threatened a suit if the state kept housing its prisoners at OPP. With its silence, the Department of Corrections basically told Landrieu to go pound sand.

Of course, with a murder rate about four times the average for a city its size and much higher per capita than almost any central city in the country – and that rate swinging back up after years in decline – and overall violent crime rate continuing a trend upwards, better policing could stem the number of city offenders headed to OPP. But that is hampered by reductions in force to the New Orleans Police Department that could be stemmed by more resources committed to it. Embarrassingly for Landrieu, state taxpayers had to pick up the tab for policing the Vieux Carre for a few months earlier this year, lest the city’s lifeblood, tourism, have its image tarnished. And that was after a voluntary patrolling effort organized by entrepreneur Sidney Torres as matters had gotten so far out of hand. Meanwhile, other areas of the city see no such relief.

It’s not the only time Landrieu has sucked from other governments. He continues to get state taxpayers to pony up for health clinics even though the city opened an unneeded hospital in New Orleans East when beds increased in nearby Chalmette and across the canal at the new University Medical Center (largely paid for by the state). State and federal dollars, not local governments’, pay (with fares) for the Regional Transit Authority’s operations and capital items, which as a result has ended up attenuating bus service that makes the city less business-friendly, which then eventually leads to less economic activity and tax revenues. With a majority of five appointees on its board, Landrieu controls RTA policy.

Naturally enough, Landrieu also acts in other ways to discourage business activity. In addition to the city’s Byzantine maze of bureaucracy to hurdle, the latest impediment is his declaration that contractors of city business hire local residents for at least half of jobs and also 30 percent of the total “disadvantaged” – on top of the existing requirement that 35 percent of business must go to “disadvantaged” owners. This comes on the heels of putting into ordinance the ridiculous “living wage” notion that deliberately misprices labor contribution and only serves to inflate costs to taxpayers and to depress economic development.

These kinds of actions set the background for why Landrieu, as the city’s chief executive, got hit with the contempt ruling last week. In essence, decades ago the city stopped paying for some vacation time and salary increases of firefighters which, with interest, inflated to nearly $150 million. Courts consistently have ruled against the city in its trying not to pay, although the latest handling the case has said, with the firefighters’ assent, the roughly $75 million accumulated without interest would suffice as long as it was paid out fairly expeditiously.

Landrieu has refused with multiple attempts to make realistic offers on this account. Further, as a petulant bargaining strategy, he withheld about $30 million worth of the city’s obligated pay into the troubled New Orleans Fire Fighter and Pension Relief Fund, which now also the city has been ordered to pay. Given the past financially irresponsible behavior of the NOFF city payments continue to rise, to the point now they are higher than actually running the fire department.

But political subdivision immunity where concern over the welfare of the jurisdiction prevents anybody from collecting provides a shield for the city to hide behind in forcing it to pay anything, leaving only the contempt citation that has District Judge Kern Reese threatening Landrieu with home detention every week beginning at 5 PM Friday for 48 hours, waived only at the court’s discretion. Landrieu made sport of the decision but also indicated a forthcoming appeal coming on the matter.

Not surprisingly, it is all a joke to the laughing potential detainee, because with him it’s never been about governing for all, but to satisfy certain constituencies that got him there and the big government ideology that they share. It might become less humorous were Reese to act as hardcore as happened in Kentucky and jail this clown, where at least Landrieu could do some personal research on the OPP question.

But even incarceration seems unlikely to make Landrieu change his ways to start acting responsibly in the citizenry’s interest, abjuring from poor spending choices and wrecking economic development, not in favor of special interests. And Democrats seriously think he has any political future outside of New Orleans?

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