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Former New Orleans mayor Mitch Landrieu stepped down almost four years ago, winning national accolades for removing iconic Confederate monuments after initiating recovery after catastrophic levee failures and flooding Hurricane Katrina.

Once considered a possible presidential candidate, Landrieu is back in force. He was asked this week by President Joe Biden, a fellow Democrat, to coordinate more than $ 1 trillion in national infrastructure spending. His job, Biden said Thursday: “Make sure everything comes out and it goes where it’s supposed to go.”

“He’s the perfect person for this job,” said Walter Isaacson, a New Orleans-born historian, reporter and author who was instrumental in Katrina’s recovery efforts. “He loves the geeky details of infrastructure and he loves bringing people together for big projects. “

Andy Kopplin, deputy mayor of Landrieu and chief of staff to two former governors of Louisiana, said Landrieu’s logistics skills would be an asset in his new role.

“There will be a thousand billion dollar projects in this trillion dollar bill,” Kopplin said. “He has always focused on getting resources to the field at the right time, and that’s what is essential with the coordination that will be entrusted to him. “

Landrieu’s administration wiped out a deficit of nearly $ 100 million and attracted billions of dollars in federal aid to accelerate Katrina’s painstaking takeover under former mayor Ray Nagin, who was later jailed for corruption.

Under Landrieu, New Orleans secured federal funds for the repair and revitalization of fire and police stations, libraries, school buildings, roads and drainage and public recreation areas that were devastated when federally constructed dikes failed during the storm. Landrieu also led the development of a new state-of-the-art international airport, a topic state and city leaders have been talking about for decades.

Landrieu won overwhelming mayoral victories in 2010 and 2014. He was on a limited term when he left the mayor’s seat in 2018 and his political future at that time was murky. Although he won the lieutenant governor’s election twice, his prospects for another statewide race were questionable in a reliable Republican state. Mary Landrieu, by then, had lost her seat to Republican Bill Cassidy and the state had grown big for Donald Trump in 2016.

Landrieu’s relentlessness to tear down monuments like the larger-than-life statue of Robert E. Lee towering over Avenue Saint-Charles was unpopular among some white voters. And he was on the defensive towards the end of his tenure because of violent crime, the slowness of some projects, and a myriad of problems at the agency overseeing street drainage and drinking water systems.

Nationally, however, he has at times been mentioned as a possible candidate for the Democratic nomination for the 2020 presidential election, particularly after the Lee statue was removed and a speech denouncing the monuments as part of a “fictitious and sanitized confederation”.

He ruled out discussions on national ambitions and never entered the race. He promoted a book, provided political commentary on CNN, and devoted time to Project E Pluribus Unum, a nonprofit organization he began to break racial divisions.

A former state legislator and lieutenant governor, Landrieu had been steeped in progressive politics since his childhood. His father, Moon Landrieu, was a two-term mayor who brought black politicians to city government in the 1970s, served in President Jimmy Carter’s cabinet, and later became a judge. His sister is former US Senator Mary Landrieu, who served three terms.

If his new role places him again in charge of large infrastructure companies, questions of race remain relevant.

“We can repair a lot of roads, bridges, ports, railways and airports,” Landrieu, 61, said in a statement released Monday morning. “And racial equity will be central to the implementation of this historic infrastructure package.”

This echoes plans that the White House touted earlier this year, while selling off the infrastructure package, to “fix historic inequalities” in transportation projects – such as the highways that divided communities like the neighborhood. historically black from Treme to New Orleans. It should also be noted, said Kopplin, Landrieu’s solid experience in involving minority companies in urban projects.

Landrieu’s new job of allocating large sums of money to highly sought-after complex projects carries political risks for the longtime politician.

“He’s willing to take risks and he’s generally fearless,” Isaacson said. “Whenever I gave him advice, when it came to being more careful, he ended up ignoring my advice. Because he’s willing to take a risk to do something. He knows you’re never going to get it all done, but if you don’t make a decision and move on, you will definitely be wrong.

His new job will certainly rekindle talks about presidential aspirations, but his colleagues and political analysts in Louisiana say it’s premature, and not necessarily why Landrieu, 61, is ready to tackle the job.

“One thing I can say about Mitch, without neglecting his deep political roots and his abilities as a politician, Mitch is one of those guys who loves to get things done,” said Pearson Cross, professor. of Political Science and Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of Louisiane-Lafayette. “And I think the size of this particular infrastructure bill and the problems it poses is an intriguing problem for him.”

Ed Chervenak, political science and polling expert at the University of New Orleans, said it was too early to think about Landrieu’s future. “We’re going to give him a few years, see where he’s at, see how this program works, if he can get the money there, if we can see any progress,” he said.


The Independent Gt

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