New Orleans, La. – Mayor Landrieu has skipped the tradition of delivering the annual address after a year on the job. As Landrieu took the oath of office in early May, he was learning about a deficit he now says is $67 million dollars. And BP's oil spill was just beginning to unfold into the largest one in American history. He was just a few minutes into his speech at Xavier University when he talked about the disaster in the Gulf.
He says he still hasn't gotten an answer from BP on the city's $75 million-dollar claim to fund a tourism campaign. Landrieu says the economic fallout from the spill comes at a time when the city is facing a deficit that's much deeper than he thought.
Landrieu is calling for a 25 percent budget reduction over the next six months. Departments are cutting overtime, reducing hiring and travel to live within their 2010 budgets. And that includes police. Superintendent Ronal Serpas.
Landrieu says he wants more community involvement to improve vital services that are lacking. He says recreation programs for children are a "shambles" and is looking to a public-private partnership to help. He introduced board members appointed this week to help open a full-service hospital that's been missing since Methodist Hospital closed after Hurricane Katrina.
At the conclusion of the well-received speech at Xavier University, University of New Orleans political scientist Ed Chervenak says it will be difficult for city government to make 25 percent reductions without staff cuts or furloughs.
He says it's politically essential for the mayor to appear in charge - especially when times are tough.
For WWNO, I'm Eileen Fleming