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Good Morning, Mr. Mayor 

The citywide elections are over, Mr. Mayor. The good news is you won. The bad news is there's no time to celebrate. It's time to get to work. Because our publishing schedule requires us to write these words before the polls open, we cannot acknowledge you by name, but that doesn't matter. The challenges confronting New Orleans are not going to change. In that spirit, we take this opportunity to look beyond the rhetoric of the campaign and offer you some heartfelt suggestions on guiding the city for the next four years.

First things first: it's time to heal. This campaign was a throwback to elections of the 1960s, '70s and '80s in that race played far too great a role. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, which tore open old wounds relating to race and class, this was perhaps to be expected. What was not to be expected was the extent to which some candidates played into those divisive sentiments for their personal political gain. Now that the election is over, your first job is to unite our city. Unless New Orleanians work together, our city cannot and will not rebuild.

Time and again in the 20th century, New Orleans missed opportunities to advance economically and socially because white and black citizens did not trust one another, did not reach out to one another, or otherwise failed to put past practices and hurts behind them. This has got to stop, and now. And it's your job to lead the way. Among your first acts should be reaching out to voters who did not support you and assuring them that their concerns are your concerns, their hopes and dreams are your hopes and dreams, and their losses are your losses. But you must do more than just talk the talk. You have to walk the walk. Spend time in parts of town that did not support you and find out why -- and then do something about it. Be willing to change yourself fundamentally so that you can relate to all New Orleanians. This burden falls on you because you have been chosen to lead, and if you don't rise to the challenge in a fundamental and personal way, all your other efforts are doomed to fail. Take this to heart, and act on it.

Second, we urge you to think long and hard about the people you surround yourself with -- do they reflect the city as a whole? Do they bring unique talents and experience to the table? More specifically, are they even more competent, more experienced, and more intelligent than you? One of the hallmarks of successful leaders -- in politics as well as business -- is their eagerness to surround themselves with people who know a lot more than they do.

So, as you look at your team, ask yourself these questions: Do they know going in how to make government work for the greater good? Do they have the ability, the experience and the commitment to work with other agencies and elected officials to move the city's agenda forward? Above all, do they have integrity and believe in transparency throughout the decision-making process? These are not rhetorical questions. You will be judged by their actions -- particularly their failures. Remember this as you assemble or reconstitute your administration: oftentimes in politics, it's not your enemies who do you in -- it's your friends. Choose them carefully.

Third, as you pick up the pieces of New Orleans' recovery effort, it's critically important that you remain focused and yet open to new ideas. That's difficult even in the best of times. If you have surrounded yourself with the kind of people we described above, and if you work closely with the new City Council, this task will be a lot easier. Understand that you cannot "go it alone," no matter how many hours you put into the job. Recovery is going to require teamwork, and your job is part strategist, part cheerleader, part visionary. When things are falling apart, it's up to you to hold everyone together.

In that regard, we make one concrete suggestion: consider breaking your job into two distinct areas of focus and then hiring extremely talented people to supervise each area. One part will focus on the normal functions of a city -- public safety, parks and playgrounds, garbage collection (PLEASE!), etc. -- as if Katrina had never happened. A politically savvy, hard-nosed chief administrative officer will take care of this function. Find one now. The other area of focus deals exclusively with recovery -- visioning, planning and executing a citywide recovery effort. The planning part is mostly done. Conduct a nationwide search for someone with building and political skills, because both are needed. Once you visualize this division and put capable people in charge, hold them personally accountable every day. Remember, you will be judged by the performance of your worst hire. Make each one count.

Above all, Mr. Mayor, know that all New Orleanians have a stake in your success. If you fail, we all lose. If you succeed, we all win.

Now, get to work.


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