At this time every year, we look back at the previous 12 months and attempt to put the madness into some sort of perspective. We also look forward to the New Year, hoping things will be better. In that spirit, we offer the following suggested New Year's resolutions for local political leaders and public figures:
• Mayor Mitch Landrieu — As he gears up for his re-election campaign, Landrieu is touting a record of success, much of which he can legitimately claim. Should he win re-election, the mayor should address very real fears that the recovery isn't buoying the poor and middle class. Statistics bear that out. When adjusted for inflation, wages have not increased in New Orleans, yet rents and housing prices have gone up dramatically. The "brain gain" that resulted from young people moving here after Hurricane Katrina hasn't had a matching gain when it comes to good jobs for all. And while the mayor's ambitious anti-violence program, NOLA For Life, has seen some successes, our city is still far too violent.
• Gov. Bobby Jindal — Last year, we asked the governor to spend more time in Orleans Parish, the economic driver of the state on which he brags so much. That didn't happen. Instead, he traveled the country as head of the Republican Governors' Association, promoting his own brand and offering advice to the national GOP — very little of which he applied back at home. If President Barack Obama's Affordable Care Act will be the president's legacy (for better or for worse), the governor's mean-spirited rejection of Medicaid funds to offset the costs of Obamacare in a state near the bottom of every health ranking likely will be his legacy. Jindal's resolution should be to put his state first and his ambition second, but we're not confident he'll do that.
• U.S. Sen. David Vitter — While Louisiana's junior senator says he's still deciding whether to run for governor in 2015, few people doubt he already has made up his mind (including Jindal, who has said as much). Vitter's political resurrection after his notorious prostitution scandal is one for the ages, but most of his "comeback" has come from defining himself in opposition to President Barack Obama. That's not a platform from which to lead a state with so many "local" troubles and needs. Pandering to tea party groups is no substitute for leadership in a state as diverse and complex as Louisiana. We'd like to see Vitter resolve to run a campaign that unites rather than divides the state he says he loves.
• The Jefferson Parish Council — The proposed lease of Jefferson Parish's two publicly owned hospitals is the biggest fiscal and policy decision to face council members in at least a generation. Unfortunately, the process of making that decision has been as flawed and protracted as that for building the parish Performing Arts Center. The parish should scrap the process and start over — with the aim of selling the hospitals in a "cleaner" transaction that also could create a trust fund to provide funding for badly needed infrastructure and public safety needs.
• Coastal levee boards and parishes — The environmental lawsuit by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East (SLFPA-E) against 97 oil, gas and pipeline companies was a bold attempt to get Big Oil to help pay for fixing what it helped to break. Since then, two parishes have filed environmental lawsuits against energy companies. Other coastal levee authorities and parishes should resolve to follow suit.
• Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman — The beleaguered sheriff, or his successor should he not win re-election, should resolve to hire the best jailer in the nation to run the city's correctional center in a humane, constitutional and professional manner. He also should resolve to reform the office's ridiculously expensive and patronage-heavy contracting practices.
• The New Orleans Saints — If 2012 was a coachless disaster and 2013 was a year of rebuilding, 2014 should be the year that the Black and Gold learns how to play consistently on the road — and in all kinds of weather conditions.
• The New Orleans Pelicans — There have been some bumps along the way in the Pels' first season under their new name and banner, but the team's resolution should be to play well enough to turn New Orleans into a first-class basketball city — with the fan base to match.
In years past, few of our suggestions were followed. Let's hope this year things are different. Happy New Year!