As New Orleans prepares to show off its assets to the world for its 300th anniversary, Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Dec. 1 officially named a star-studded committee tasked with planning the landmark occasion.
Landrieu made it clear that the city's tricentennial in 2018 should inspire and reassert New Orleans as the soul of the U.S., while also promoting the city as a world-class destination. The year 2018 has been Landrieu's (and marketers') calling card in promoting the city and a frequent talking point during redevelopment efforts, at press conferences, budget talks and elsewhere. (It also was a selling point during an unsuccessful bid to host Super Bowl LII.)
An "executive committee" (including Troy "Trombone Shorty" Andrews, Drew Brees and Harry Connick Jr., among others) will oversee eight subcommittees — including a Racial Reconciliation Committee, chaired by Carol Bebelle, Flozell Daniels, Allison Plyer and Matt Wisdom. That committee will "find ways to bring people together to have a dialogue," Landrieu said. "We will build relationships."
"The incidents in Ferguson remind us that race is a complex issue that every city has to address. You can't go around it, you can't go over it, you can't go under it, you have to go through it. I intend as the mayor of this city to lead that discussion," Landrieu said. "We will show the city and the country what racial reconciliation looks like in 2018."
Following grand jury decisions not to indict white police officers in the deaths of black men in Ferguson, Missouri, and New York City, Landrieu issued statements asking for solidarity among people of different races.
"We must convert this painful moment in our history into a beginning for meaningful change," he said on Dec. 4. On Nov. 25, Landrieu said, "We live a block away from one another, but are often a world apart. It is time for each of us, every American, to accept the fact that we must begin to acknowledge and discuss the most difficult issues we face. And we must agree to face them together." The tricentennial subcommittees will be responsible for coming up with programs and projects and will catalog events around town. Events and updates will be posted on the website www.2018nola.com and related social media sites. Mark Romig, president of the New Orleans Tourism Marketing Corporation, serves as director of the 2018 commission. Romig told Gambit that beginning early next year, the executive committee will meet "one-on-one" with the subcommittees "to scope out what citizens see as the approach and direction" of their respective committees.
"We want this to be as inclusive a process as possible," he said. "We're open to all advice. I see this developing from the neighborhood level all the way to citywide level. We're going to want to have outreach into the neighborhoods. Some reach as far back as the founding of our city."
The group also plans to support itself and its events through private donations — though it hasn't gotten that far yet. Romig said the committees will plan first, raise money second. "We're trying to do this without putting any pressure on our already tight budgets we have at the city and state level," he said, adding with a laugh, "We haven't identified donors yet, but I'll be coming."