It's a Gambit tradition each year to make a list of New Year's resolutions — not for us, but for local public figures. We realize that many will go unfulfilled, but that has never tempered New Orleans' (or our) sense of optimism. So, without further ado, we offer our suggestions for 2011:
• Mayor Mitch Landrieu is off to a good start, but the honeymoon will soon be over and the list of things for New Orleans' mayor to do in 2011 is long. As some public schools prepare to revert from control by the Recovery School District (RSD) to the Orleans Parish School Board (OPSB), Landrieu has said he wants to play a role. Public education is not officially within his mayoral purview, but this mayor is not one to run from a challenge — even if it's one that he brings on himself. If Landrieu decides to take on this one, he should do all he can to help make it a clean, smooth transition.
On another educational front, many are learning that Landrieu can be a pit bull when he finds it necessary, and we can't think of a better place for him to sink his teeth than the disaster looming at the University of New Orleans (UNO), the city's oldest and largest public university. The Louisiana State University System seems to be on a mission to marginalize — if not subjugate — UNO. Landrieu and the entire metro area cannot afford to let that happen.
In 2010, the mayor doubled the city budget for the New Orleans Recreation Department (NORD) and established a new city commission to oversee NORD. This year, Landrieu will be expected to produce results by summer. We'd also like to see him continue his hands-on approach to working with Sheriff Marlin Gusman on the proposed new prison. And finally, he should lend his political capital to the efforts to stabilize revenue streams for the Sewerage & Water Board, the Levee Board, the OPSB and other tax-recipient bodies.
• New Orleans Police Chief Ronal Serpas' honeymoon is almost over, too. He's doing a good job of cleaning up NOPD's image and performance, but it's not enough simply to be honest during his own tenure. The city's long-term need is structural reform that will outlive this administration and restore citizens' faith in the local police for years to come. Meanwhile, he should continue to work with the feds in their ongoing investigations and in the Justice Department's intervention to reform NOPD. And as citizens we have one responsibility: stop the killing.
• Members of the New Orleans City Council seem to be getting along with the mayor — and one another — better than any council in years. They should continue their efforts to promote both comity and progress.
• No one has done more to clean up Louisiana politics in the last 50 years than U.S. Attorney Jim Letten and his team of investigators and prosecutors. We hope they resolve to keep up the good work and bring their ongoing investigations to swift and just conclusions. The NOPD trials in the case of Henry Glover were masterfully handled. Next up: the NOPD trials in the matter of the Danziger Bridge, possible indictments in Jefferson Parish and additional work in the investigation of the Nagin Administration.
• Newly elected Jefferson Parish President John Young Jr. and the Parish Council are still getting comfortable in their new roles vis-a-vis one another. As a councilman, Young was the outsider who often sparred publicly with his colleagues. Now, as parish president, he holds the ultimate "insider" job — and the parish needs its president and council to work together more than ever. Young and the council must resolve to navigate the political waters that lie ahead with one eye on the need to accommodate each other's views and the other on citizens' demands for reform and restoring trust in government.
• The OPSB and the RSD need to stop their turf wars and remember their common purpose: children's education. Stop bickering over who's in charge. Post-Katrina voters have no patience with self-serving politicians who engage in spats over fiefdoms. If you persist, they're liable to take away all your authority in the next round of citizen-led reforms. Put the kids first, not your own political interests.
• Gov. Bobby Jindal: Rip up your frequent-flyer cards and show some real leadership and creative thinking on the 2011 budget rather than relying on foolhardy solutions (slashing higher education funds across the board) and cockamamie one-time plans (selling off state prisons to plug the gap). Focus on Louisiana, and do the job you say you want.
• Kenneth Feinberg, the "BP claims czar," should show his allegiance to the people of the Gulf Coast. Before the claims process becomes a Road Home-style disaster, Feinberg should cut the red tape and start reimbursing local businesses (including local restaurants and those who do business with local restaurants), all of which suffered the effects of the BP oil disaster.
• Speaking of BP, the oil giant should spend less on self-promotional ads telling us how responsible the company is and put some green into actually showing us how responsible it is — with projects like wetlands restoration, seafood promotion and tourism promotion for New Orleans.
• Glen "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Bryan Batt, Kermit Ruffins, and all the performing artists who made it big on the national stage in 2010: Keep doing what you're doing. You make us all proud.
• In 2010, David Simon and the cast and crew of HBO's Treme embraced New Orleans (warts and all), and most of us agreed that the fictionalized portrait they painted was accurate in spirit, even if it wasn't always pretty. Our wish for Season 2 is that Treme's creators keep showing off all our ups and downs, joy and sadness, intelligence and music.
• Local sports fans and arts lovers: It's time to step up and help save a couple of local treasures. The New Orleans Hornets need an attendance of 14,213 at home games by the end of January, or the team can exercise a clause in its lease to depart the New Orleans Arena and move. Meanwhile, the financial woes of Le Petit Theatre du Vieux Carre — the country's oldest community theater — have reached crisis levels. Paid staffers have been fired and the remainder of the current season has been canceled. The theater's board hopes to keep Le Petit alive, but it will need everyone's help.
• To the New Orleans Saints: Bring home the Lombardi Trophy ... again!
And to everyone else, from Uptown to Backatown: Love thy neighbor. Practice random acts of kindness and senseless acts of beauty. Pause each day to realize what we have here and be grateful for it.
Happy New Year.