Column:New Orleans can change through voting
In My Opinion. NOAH WALKER
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu walks with Archbishop Gregory Aymond in front of City Hall before the 28th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Day Parade. Landrieu is running for re-election in the 2014 mayoral elections. ZACH BRIEN/ Staff Photographer
The New Orleans mayoral race is in full swing. While the primary election was on Feb 1. 2014, the candidates were using this past week to make their final push for votes.
Mitch Landrieu, the democrat incumbent, is seeking a second term, four years after he won the 2010 election with a cushy 66 percent of the vote. Landrieu has certainly benefitted from a recent endorsement by President Barack Obama - not to mention the fact that his sister, Mary Landrieu, is a U.S. Senator -but political connections alone can't determine whether an incumbent stays or goes.
Aggressive competition is what will determine this election, and that's exactly what Democrat Michael Bagneris has brought to the table.
Bagneris, who has spent over a decade as a Civil District Judge in Louisiana, resigned from his judicial position in order to run for mayor, which quickly complicated what looked like an easy re-election campaign for Landrieu. Bagneris wasted no time getting financial backing either. Within hours of launching his bid for mayor, Bagneris raised more than $170,000; as of Dec. 23, 2013, he had $219,025 to spend on the election.
Although there are two other candidates in the race - Danatus King - the fact that Bagneris had such a large coalition of donors already in place quickly made him Landrieu's chief rival.
It's no surprise that both Landrieu and Bagneris have made reducing crime and enhancing public safety a significant aspect of their campaign platforms. If elected, Bagneris said he would attempt to alleviate New Orleans of a problem he calls the "blue hemorrhage", referring to the annual loss of over 100 police officers. In order to curb violence, Bagneris has proposed a hiring campaign that would enhance recruitment efforts through improvements in police pensions plans, implementation of a Human Resources Division, and assistance from state police.
Landrieu's anti-crime strategy is largely based on championing a program he developed in 2012 called NOLAForLife. This initiative focuses on targeting violent gangs, investing in crime prevention through increased job opportunities and improving the New Orleans Police Department.
Landrieu wants the police department to hire 150 new officers this year and hopes to create better police-to-citizen cooperation by outfitting officers with body cameras.
There's a wide array of issues that these two candidates are seeking to address in their respective bids for the Mayoral office. While crime and NOPD reform is a significant concern, it is not the only plight that our city has to face. Unemployment is a huge concern.
In 2013 Loyola University found that 52 percent of African American men in New Orleans are unemployed.
Blighted homes are scattered across our city, our roads and general infrastructure needs vast improvements, and child poverty has increased to 41 percent.
All of these problems certainly can't be fixed overnight, and maybe not even within one mayoral term, but this election is none-the-less important. Big cities are hard to run, and we as citizens and residents of New Orleans have not only an obligation to care, but also a large stake in making sure that our city is run correctly.
This means we need to stay informed about who's trying to lead New Orleans in the right direction.
This means research, it means advocacy, it means voting and more importantly, it means making sure that those who are running for office are responsive to our personal needs and the needs of our city as a whole.
Consider how New Orleans can be improved; think about which candidate can better meet our city's collective needs. On Saturday, Feb. 1, you should have engaged in the process.
Noah Walker is a political science senior and can be reached at email@example.com
In My Opinion is a regular column that is open to all Loyola students.
Those interested can contact firstname.lastname@example.org
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