Covering Louisiana

May 5, 2014 2:33 PM by AP

New Orleans Mayor Landrieu launches 2nd term

NEW ORLEANS (AP) - Mayor Mitch Landrieu formally launched his second term Monday, saying hard work and tough decisions lie ahead as the city grapples with stubborn violent crime, lingering blight, struggling schools and dauntingly expensive court mandates for police and jail reforms - even as the recovery from 2005's Hurricane Katrina continues.

"We can't stop moving forward on all fronts," Landrieu told a packed house at a historic downtown theater. "We need to keep the recovery going."

Re-elected in a February landslide, Landrieu touched on various successes during his speech, noting the balancing of a city budget that was an estimated $100 million in the red when he took office, a stepped-up pace of repair or demolition of blighted buildings, construction of new hospitals and a reduction in the city's murder rate to a near 30-year low.

Yet, he said, killings and violence continue, blight remains a problem and federal court mandates will place a heavy burden on the city budget. Court decisions regarding the city's obligations to a firefighter's pension fund, plus court-backed plans for reform of the police department could add tens of millions to the city's expenses.

Landrieu did not mention potential solutions Monday, but tax proposals will likely be among them. State legislation that would enable the city to raise property and hotel taxes is being considered in Baton Rouge.

Landrieu took the oath of office from his father, former Mayor Moon Landrieu. He, along with City Council members and other elected officials, were sworn in at the Saenger Theatre. The 1920s-era movie palace and playhouse was recently restored after heavy damage from Hurricane Katrina and Landrieu cited it as a symbol of New Orleans' continued recovery.

Landrieu, the first white mayor of the mostly African-American city since his father left office in the 1970s, said unity among the city's diverse population is key to maintaining progress. "The wounds of yesterday are starting to heal," he said. "Differences of faith, race or neighborhood give way to higher common ground and a shared humanity."

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