Many people in New Orleans think Governor Jeff Landry wants to take over New Orleans.  Landry campaigned on making New Orleans great again. And Landry wasn’t even in office for 30 days before he held a special session on crime.  Much of the discussion in the session had New Orleans overtones.  And two weeks after the session ended, Landry launched a New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board Task force.  That group quickly suggested a takeover of the beleaguered agency.  And don’t forget about the state police troop N.  The new force dedicated to the city  is labeled  “confusing” and its’ precise  mission is still unclear.

Related: Landry Needs a Strong New Orleans

Some activists say Landry is after all the city’s valuable contracts. While controlling an organizations purse strings provides a certain amount of leverage, true control of government boards is in the appointing structure.  And if we look at the “attacks” on New Orleans objectively, so far Landry’s aid seems warranted.  NOPD is at least 100 officers short.  The Sewerage and Water Board still sends out $10,000 monthly bills and is a turbine failure away from complete catastrophe if we get a big rain event.  And all the laws from the special crime session apply statewide not just in New Orleans.  So Landry’s motives are debatable.

One thing is clear.  Landry lit a fire under local representatives.  Legislators filed a flood of new bills, especially about the Sewerage and Water Board.  These new bills are new ideas.  New Orleanians elect leaders to represent their best interests.  It is a great thing our local legislators are now creative and resourceful.  But the Sewerage and Water Board is a long-standing problem.  Crazy high water bills started when former Mayor Mitch Landrieu replaced the old, outdated billing system with an ummm, erggh… new state of the art system. 😊 Citizens screamed.  The media questioned.  Finally, over a decade later, we get strong bills from our delegation.  And these bills are sailing through this hyper partisan “anti-New Orleans” legislature. And you have to give Landry credit for setting the stage.

Is Gov Landry Trying to Takeover New Orleans?

It’s great that we are now getting support from the legislature. The New Orleans legislative delegation is acting quickly. Representative Matthew Willard is one of the best legislators in the city.  He is so well regarded that he leads the Democratic delegation for  the entire state.  So, it’s no surprise that he introduced HB525.  This simple but effective legislation stops SWB from estimating bills. 

Another of our great current leaders, Senator Jimmy Harris is addressing billing and infrastructure issues.  He wants to appoint third party mediators to handle billing disputes.  And he wants to pull the storm drains and small pipes control away from the DPW and let the SWB maintain them.

Are Local Leaders Part of the Problem?

Years of agonizingly questionable kicking the can down the road created this systems failure.  Now New Orleans is at a  tipping point.  Fixing the SWB is critical.  New Orleans does not exist if it can’t successfully manage water.  Statewide, we are now laser focused on this troubled agency. Trust him or not, Jeff Landry makes this possible. A strong governor and a willing legislature can accomplish great things in this state. 

Yes, Landry’s power moves appear orchestrated. His campaign rhetoric seemed anti New Orleans.  And ramming a police force down our throats without any coordination is highly questionable. Don’t forget his SWB task force recommended a takeover. But frankly  the SWB is a state agency. The buck kinda stops there. So, if New Orleans is protected by the home rule charter, the state can do little to change the city’s power structure. This makes a state takeover of New Orleans extremely difficult.

But if you remain unconvinced and are still suspicious of Landry’s intentions, the looming statewide constitutional convention is where a takeover can really get started.  Stay tuned!

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