Landrieu: N.O. shouldn't be used as 'whipping boy' by political - FOX 8 WVUE New Orleans News, Weather, Sports, Social

Landrieu: N.O. shouldn't be used as 'whipping boy' by political candidates

Landrieu says he'd welcome the opportunity to talk about the city's ongoing crime problem in a public forum with David Vitter and John Kennedy. (FOX 8 Photo) Landrieu says he'd welcome the opportunity to talk about the city's ongoing crime problem in a public forum with David Vitter and John Kennedy. (FOX 8 Photo)

Mayor Mitch Landrieu reacted to two high-profile statewide elected officials criticizing him over the city’s crime problem. He sees it as a political pile-on during an election season.

"Crime in New Orleans is a raging epidemic, I mean that's just a fact. It's unchecked,” said State Treasurer John Kennedy.

Landrieu was asked about the recent criticism from Kennedy and U.S. Sen. David Vitter.

"So instead of using New Orleans as a whipping boy - which is what everybody wants to do in order to get votes in north Louisiana - what they ought to do is say I've got a great partner down there and I've got a great partner in Baton Rouge. Let's find a way to do this together,” Landrieu said.

Kennedy calls for an aggressive “stop, question, and frisk” policy for the New Orleans Police Department. He said it is working in some other major U.S. cities with serious gun violence.

"That's legal. We've got to do something to get the thugs, and the dope and the guns off the street,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy is seeking re-election. Vitter, is a candidate for governor. 

Vitter has recently written Landrieu a series of letters stating that the city’s crime problem is out of control and asking Landrieu about an action plan to address crime.

On September 11, Vitter wrote:

Dear Mitch:

 I write again regarding the out-of-control crime situation in New Orleans and your focus on less serious and more divisive matters instead. You have never replied to me; I specifically request a written reply.

Every week, the bad news continues. As I noted in my last letter, on September 4th, Lester Johnson was gunned down and murdered in his driveway in New Orleans East. On August 20th, two masked gunmen burst into a busy New Orleans restaurant at dinnertime and robbed everyone at gunpoint, making them lay face down on the floor.  Wednesday, an elderly couple in Lakeview had their home raided WHEN THEY WERE HOME and were robbed at gunpoint.

 Thank God no one was killed in the latter two incidents. But others haven't been so lucky. The New Orleans murder count is 123 so far this year, up 30% from the same period last year.

 What is your action plan to address this crisis? Specifically, will you support a whole new State Police troop in New Orleans to have a super-visible presence in areas like the French Quarter, and will you help identify local revenue and tourism industry pledges to pay for this? Will you support a major role for the State Police to help train and increase the professionalism of NOPD?

 Finally, will you please show a real and public focus on this crime crisis versus the monuments non-issue?

 I look forward to your constructive written response.

 Sincerely,

 David Vitter

Landrieu talked about the letters in responding to questions about the criticism of the city’s crime issues.

“I find it just so strange that Senator Vitter continues to send me public letters, I hosted Senator Vitter in my office. We had a personal meeting a couple of months ago. We exchanged cell phone numbers. I’ve sent Senator Vitter numerous letters over the last so many years asking him to make sure that the federal government does their job in helping protect the city of New Orleans,” Landrieu said.

Vitter has also questioned the mayor’s attention to the idea of removing Confederate-era statues. Landrieu said as mayor he is capable of multi-tasking.

“When you’re governing a city you have to do not two things at one time, you have to do 50. So the issue of monuments and the way that those monuments either represent, or don’t represent who we are as a people is something separate and distinct from crime,” Landrieu said.

When asked whether he viewed the dual criticism as a political pile-on, Landrieu said: "They're both so weird, you know? Both of these guys have been around forever, haven't really lifted a finger to try to help the city of New Orleans - notwithstanding the fact that the city of New Orleans produces a huge amount of money for the state of Louisiana.”

"Mitch can call me all the names he wants to," Kennedy said. "I like Mitch, I respect Mitch. But he's got, we've got a serious, serious problem in New Orleans and we cannot be a world-class city when people don't feel safe.”

Kennedy believes the federal consent decree for the police department has hamstrung officers.

"Right now the fastest growing industry in New Orleans is crime and I’m telling you people are not going to want to visit our city, they’re not going to want to live in our city, they’re not going to want to invest in our city if they don’t feel safe,” Kennedy said.

He denied his public criticism is about political expediency.

He's dead wrong, he's trying to change the subject,” said Kennedy.

But FOX 8 political analyst Mike Sherman is not surprised that some statewide candidates are focusing on the crime problem in the city of New Orleans.

"For a candidate looking for statewide office in this sea of red that has become Louisiana, it is not surprising that when they can't attack Barack Obama in the White House, they would go against the state's top Democrat. Right now, that's incumbent Mayor Mitch Landrieu in New Orleans who was lieutenant governor,” Sherman said.

Landrieu, who is not on the ballot this fall, also chocked it up to politics.

"Treasurer Kennedy, who's a good buddy of mine, a little piling on. But you know it's political season and it's crazy season, so they're going to say whatever they want to,” Landrieu said.

In fact, Mayor Landrieu says he'd welcome the opportunity to talk about the city's ongoing crime problem in a public forum with David Vitter and John Kennedy.

"If Senator Vitter want to have a debate, and Treasurer Kennedy and all the gubernatorial candidates, and put me in it, even though I’m not a candidate, so we can talk about all this stuff, instead of just jiving stuff across the airwaves - I'm happy to do it,” he said.

"I'm not running for governor, but I'll meet with Mitch anyway, and if he's got a plan, let's implement it tomorrow,” Kennedy said.

Sherman said for some politicians crime becomes a ready talking point.

“Crime is an easy issue to talk about as a problem, [but] very difficult to propose a solution that works,” Sherman said.

"The only reason I think that we're not doing this is because the politicians are afraid to talk about it, and they're afraid of the racial aspect, the racial politics, and I understand that," Kennedy said.

A spokesman said the NOPD has a policy that allows officers to stop individuals and such stops may lead to a frisk, but that not all stops by police involve frisks. Because of the consent decree, the latest NOPD policy requires officers to document why they had reasonable suspicion to stop someone.

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