National Press Club

New Orleans Mayor Landrieu 10 years after Katrina: 'We are America's comeback city'

August 18, 2015 | By Justin Duckham |

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu discusses his city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina at National Press Club luncheon.

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu discusses his city's recovery from Hurricane Katrina at National Press Club luncheon.

Photo/Image: Al Teich

Nearly 10 years after Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu hailed the strides the city has made both in its ongoing recovery and its role in becoming a key player in the "New South" at a National Press Club luncheon Aug. 18.

“We are America’s comeback city,” Landrieu proclaimed. “With this huge tragedy came a huge responsibility to make it right.”

Landrieu zeroed in on the reforms that the city had made in the storm’s wake, specifically in education, access to health care and affordable housing.

“Today nearly every student attends a public charter school and families who used to have only one choice for their kids can now apply to nearly every school in the city,” Landrieu said. “In New Orleans, geography is no longer a kid’s destiny.”

Landrieu went on to note the establishment of the St. Thomas Community Health Center, a new facility that, along with two multibillion dollar medical centers planned in downtown New Orleans, will reorient the focus from emergency room visits to preventative medicine.

In terms of housing, Landrieu laid out plans to achieve 14,430 new affordable renting units in an effort to move away from the city’s previous low-income living environments.

“New Orleans’ notorious Big 4 public housing developments, which were run down and were dangerous ... did not give the people of New Orleans what they needed or what they deserved,” Landrieu explained. “We converted this public housing into mixed income communities with amenities like schools, health care and transit.”

Addressing the city’s attempts to tackle crime, Landrieu broadened his perspective to discuss the Black Lives Matter movement.

Landrieu noted that the city’s murder rate has hit a 43-year low, but argued that young black males nationwide are disproportionately the victims of both murder and mass incarceration.

“Black Lives Matter, whether they are being lost to shootings or to years in prison,” Landrieu said.

Landrieu cast this manner of thinking as a crucial step in the South definitively overcoming its long history of racism.

“The South has a lot to offer the United States of America,” Landrieu said. “But we’ve got to put down this issue of race. We’ve got to make sure everybody in this country is included.”

Landrieu lauded South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley’s decision to remove the Confederate flag from the state house as an important sign of progress.

“I’m really just thankful for her to be leading that effort and look forward to partnering with her ... to see what the ‘New South’ looks like,” Landrieu said.

Wading into 2016 politics, Landrieu was asked by National Press Club President John Hughes about his thoughts on Donald Trump and whether the real estate mogul and Republican presidential contender could be ranked alongside colorful Louisiana politicians like former governors Huey Long and Edwin Edwards.

“Donald Trump would fit in really good,” Landrieu replied. “No matter what you can say about The Donald, he’s spicing it up. He would fit in real good on Mcilhenny Island where they make Tabasco sauce.”

“So come on down to Louisiana, we’d love to see him,” Landrieu added.