On Mayor Mitch Landrieu's 100th day in office, he held a town hall meeting in City Council District A at Grace Episcopal Church in Mid-City. Landrieu, who is in the midst of conducting "listening sessions" in every district, was joined on the dais by District A Councilmember Susan Guidry and deputy mayors Judy Reese Morse and Andy Kopplin. In the audience were NOPD Chief Ronal Serpas, Orleans Parish Sheriff Marlin Gusman, DA Leon Cannizzaro, Council President Arnie Fielkow and dozens of city managers from almost every municipal department, who took notes as members of the crowd stood and spoke about the improvements needed in their neighborhoods.
"I think it's fair to say we've put the pedal to the metal," Landrieu said, outlining the six priorities of his administration, which he said were developed in the many task force meetings held during his transition. The six priorities were, in order of importance: public safety; children and families; economic development; sustainable communities; open and effective government; and innovation. He warned that the city's $67 million deficit would require some "tough decisions and bad choices," and he added that the findings from these community meetings would steer the direction of his first city budget.
Audience members filled out cards with questions and comments as they entered, and moderator Vincent Sylvain handed them to Landrieu one by one. Each person had two minutes to pose a question, during which Landrieu — in loosened tie and rolled-up shirtsleeves — took copious notes on the most tangential of complaints on pages of yellow legal paper.
The meeting was supposed to wrap at 8 p.m., but the two minutes allowed for each question led to some serious citizen filibustering. By 8 p.m., Landrieu hadn't begun to answer the dozens of questions, there were still cards to be read and the standing-room-only crowd of several hundred people was getting hot and restive. "I'll stay here all night and answer every question," the mayor said, "but let's get a show of hands as to whether we keep going here or cut it off." The crowd voted overwhelmingly to cut it off. Landrieu mulled it for a moment and then said, "OK, we'll go for 10 more minutes." Some groaned.
Outside, a canvasser seeking signatures on a petition to reopen Charity Hospital wasn't surprised. "The [public meeting] on Caffin Avenue went past 9:30," she said. Whatever the final budget produces, it seems, no one will be able to say the mayor and his dozens of staffers weren't listening. — Kevin Allman