Mayor Mitch Landrieu's second State of the City address, which he delivered in the Mahalia Jackson Theater in Armstrong Park on April 28, contained the usual mix of laundry-list accomplishments and promises for the future. Landrieu snapped off stats from his first year: 18,000 potholes filled, 3,000 streetlights fixed; 464 take-home cars reclaimed; 12 New Orleans Recreation Department pools to be operational this summer (up from eight in 2010); 31 summer camps to be opened (up from four in 2010); and a doubling of the summer jobs program to accommodate 3,000 teenagers (that got big applause from high school students who sat near the front).
Some of the numbers, however, were not so impressive, especially those relating to crime. "Last year, New Orleans had 175 murders," Landrieu said. "In the first four months of this year, there have been another 72." He didn't pencil out the fact that if the rate continues at that pace, 2011 will end with 216 murders — well below the 265 murders committed in 2004, but on a sharp upward trend. Landrieu proposed a Mayoral Strategical Command partially overseen by the city's new Criminal Justice Commissioner, James Carter, the former District C councilmember who went into private practice as a lawyer after leaving the council.
Nor did the mayor address the latest traffic camera controversy. After a court ruling that all traffic camera images must be reviewed by law enforcement, the city outsourced the job to Anytime Solutions — a company owned by NOPD 8th District Cmdr. Edwin Hosli, a longtime friend of Serpas'. Among the company's hires: Officer Travis Ward, Serpas' son-in-law.
Off-duty cops reading traffic camera photos were paid as much as $35 per hour of taxpayer money. The program has been suspended, and Landrieu has ordered Serpas to submit a plan by May 15 suggesting ways to enact a complete overhaul of the NOPD's paid-detail policy. Asked after the meeting if he'd spoken to Hosli about the arrangement, Serpas told Gambit, "I'm letting the PIB (Public Integrity Bureau) look into that." So the two longtime friends hadn't spoken? "No," said Serpas.
Landrieu, as is his wont, also touted the artistic and financial benefits of New Orleans' cultural economy, particularly Hollywood South, the combination of tax breaks given to movie and TV productions in the state. "At this very moment, nine more movies are in production in your city," Landrieu told the crowd — without mentioning the critically acclaimed HBO show Treme, which has been filming its second season here for months. The mayor and Treme creator David Simon had a he-said/he-said public spat a couple of weeks earlier over some blighted housing, and relations still appear to be frosty. An unintentional omission? Hard to believe when the State of the City was being delivered in ... the Treme. — Kevin Allman