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Wed March 6, 2013

Mayor Landrieu Set To Fight Federal Consent Decrees

New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu is gearing up for a battle over implementing two consent decrees designed to reform the city police department and jail.  

Mayor Landrieu facing political land mines in fighting federal reform plans.

Mayor Landrieu had initially welcomed the federal review of the police department. But he says that combined with the consent decree outlining jail reforms, the city would be crippled by paying for both at the same time.

“The point is to find common ground so you can have a pathway that’s sustainable going forward. And I think that we’ve demonstrated time and time again in this administration that reorganizing and reforming government is one of our top priorities and we’ve had a lot of successes at it. And we’ll continue to fight this until we get it right.”    

He’s asking a federal judge to reject the decrees. The city says the jail reform plan could cost up to $20 million over several years — the police plan another $11 million a year for the next four or five years.

University of New Orleans political science professor Ed Chervenak says Landrieu has claimed crime reduction as his top priority. Asking for tax hikes to pay for criminal justice reforms could be a political nightmare ahead of a re-election campaign.

“Short of laying people off or cutting services, then it means raising taxes," Chervenak said. "The mayor still has a good deal of political capital, but he would be using almost all of it if he called for a tax increase.”  

Landrieu says he has no choice but to fight the federal plans.

“The low-level bureaucrats that work in the civil rights division in the Justice Department don’t have any responsibilities for running cities. That’s why they don’t run cities. But that’s my responsibility and that’s what I’m going to do.”    

A federal court hearing is set for April 1 on the mayor’s objections.