THE PLAYBOOK INTERVIEW: New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans and president of the United States Conference of Mayors, is trying to sell the importance of mayors in the legislative process. Landrieu, who is wrapping up his last year as mayor of New Orleans, is following in the footsteps of his father, Moon Landrieu, who was himself a New Orleans mayor and president of the conference. The Democrat remains mum about his future plans, but he has been mentioned as a dark horse candidate for higher office once his term expires. “I really don’t [have future plans]. I haven’t had time to think about it that much … and I intend to finish really, really strong, to make sure I keep my eyes focused on the streets in the city of New Orleans and to make sure the people have my full attention and full commitment. When that’s over, I’m going to take a nap.”

The highlights …

HOW HE’S CLOSING OUT HIS TERM AS NEW ORLEANS MAYOR: “We’re preparing to celebrate our 300th anniversary. On that day, we hope to demonstrate to the country all the work we’ve done in the last eight years, being one of the great American comeback stories. We’ve rebuilt our schools, we’ve rebuilt our health clinics, we’ve built three new hospitals, we’ve rebuilt the airport and rebuilt the riverfront. … Hopefully when the year comes around we’re going to demonstrate that we’ve used the last eight to 12 years to really come up with good models of governance that can be reflected across the country.”

ON WORKING WITH TRUMP: “This administration is particularly confused about what they want to talk about at any particular time. They have a very hard time staying on message and as a consequence it is hard to respond to. We don’t have a set position, we’re always ready to work. Whenever they want to find an issue that we have common ground on, and even ones that we disagree on, we’re always ready to be engaged. We don’t have an ideological bent; we don’t have the freedom to do that. We have to work with any president at any time to try to find an answer that works.”

ON CITIES WORKING TOGETHER POST-PARIS ACCORDS: “New Orleans is in as vulnerable of a position as almost any other city in America, but we’re certainly not the only one. … The existence of New Orleans will be threatened if we don’t arrest and/or abate the deterioration of our coast. That’s just as clear as day. There’s no debate that’s actually happening. … We just decided that if the federal government wasn’t going to participate, that we were not going to stop. And that cities across America, if there wasn’t going to be a federal policy, could in fact create a national action plan to hit some of those goals to protect our cities.”

ON HOW MAYORS CAN WORK WITH CONGRESS: “Don’t wait to bring us in until the last minute when everything looks like it’s gone to hell in the handbasket. Talk to us early and we might be able, based on our practical experience, to help you design a better mousetrap on whatever it is you might be talking about. … We’re the ones who build all the projects on time, on task and under budget. We do it much better than the federal government does. But they’ve got to show up to do that role.”

ON WHY IT IS IMPORTANT THAT MAYORS COME TO D.C. “Communications need to take place in real time and not have Congress just pass stuff and mayors come down and say, ‘Oh by the way, did you realize what the unintended consequences of your good intention was?’ [That’s] why we’re here on a consistent basis, to communicate with them, and why we continue to tell them quit thinking of us as a special interest. We’re the best partner you have.”

HIS ADVICE FOR WASHINGTON: “Stop being so ideologically bent. Be problem-solvers. Be thoughtful, be practical and be bipartisan. Talk to each other and find common-sense solutions to real problems. We do it every day in our cities. If you want to learn how to balance a budget, come see us. If you want to learn how to choose between bad and worse or good and better, come see us, because we see it every day.”

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