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Gasbags Landrieu, Richmond talk disingenuously

What is it about New Orleans that produces politicians who, especially when the national spotlight hits them, turn into such insufferable windbags?

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu recently took over as president of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, using his acceptance speech to showcase his superior ability to say one thing while actually doing another. That talent Orleans District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro previously had laid bare to Baton Rouge Advocate readers when in an opinion piece last month he excoriated Landrieu’s crime policy.

Cannizzaro cited Landrieu for placing “politics above public safety” through pursuing policies that endangered citizens, as reflected in a rapidly escalating number of shootings this year. He noted how Landrieu talked up policies that create an “illusion of public safety,” while Landrieu continued to staff the city’s police department well below optimal levels and cut funding to Cannizzaro’s office.

He could have added that Landrieu also rebuffed Atty. Gen. Jeff Landry’s efforts to provide supplemental law enforcement. Meanwhile, rather than investing in actually making New Orleans safer, among other things Landrieu diverts money to an unneeded public hospital in New Orleans East, pays for higher contractor costs than necessary due to the city’s set-aside and “living wage” requirements he encouraged, and funded costs associated with needlessly removing four Confederate monuments he initiated over passionate opposition.

The eradication of these objects from the public space illustrates perfectly the hypocrisy contained in Landrieu’s speech. Even as in it he exhorted mayors to “put people over politics” while decrying “demagogues with their own political agendas seeking to divide us,” consider this came from the guy who sunk demagoguery to new lows by equating former Sen. David Vitter with professional racist David Duke regarding the monuments, and who ratcheted divisiveness within the community to record levels by failing to follow the course of places like Richmond, VA that wants to reimagine and repurpose its outdoor Confederate relics.

Competing with Landrieu for gasbag honors comes Democrat U.S. Rep. Cedric Richmond, who represents much of New Orleans. He took umbrage last month at remarks in committee made by Republican fellow Rep. Steve King concerning the latter’s amendment to a bill that would have required reporting every six months on crimes committed and any convictions of children who immigrate unaccompanied from so-called "violent" countries, when King noted the murder rate in New Orleans a decade ago compared about equally to that in El Salvador.

Rudely interrupting King, Richmond, a city resident, said this equated New Orleans’ citizenry to those in Central America (briefly confusing Guatemala for El Salvador), and to him those were fighting words. He alleged the “not appropriate” comparison displayed “traditional white privilege” and to do would be like “comparing [King] to somebody in the Klan.”

Seldom has so much idiocy sprung from the mouth of a Member of Congress in such a short span. Facts are facts: right after the hurricane disasters of 2005 New Orleans’ crime spiked upwards to reach rates around those seen in Central America. Even using the most recent data (2016), reviewing the homicide rate for cities with more than a quarter of a million residents, not only does New Orleans register with one of the highest rates in the country – fourth – but it has one of the highest in the world, ranking 32nd.

These days, San Salvador has climbed even higher from the rate of nearly one in a thousand of its citizens getting murdered that it shared with New Orleans in 2006 while the Crescent City’s has fallen by over half. But, regardless of whether Richmond can handle the truth, his home slots right in there with the likes of Kingston, Tijuana, and a host of South American cities as the most violent worldwide – and climbing, as Cannizzaro pointed out.

King was correct. Leave it to Richmond to interject needlessly and recklessly race into the argument to try to distract from New Orleans’ policy failures, which by and large Richmond endorses in terms of articulated spending priorities, that make it so dangerous. And Richmond continues to be part of the problem and not the solution, as he personally and as leader of the Congressional Black Caucus has opposed measures by GOP Pres. Donald Trump to strengthen public safety, even refusing to discuss matters like that with the president.

Richmond disserves his constituents by his dogmatic refusal to see the reality of the policies he supports and without any good reason blaming race for these. Grandstanding and insults directed at other policy-makers as his response only makes the problems he neglects worse.

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