(Sept. 7)Moon Landrieu, the path-breaking former mayor of New Orleans who died Monday at age 92, got the big things, including the biggest thing of all, absolutely right.

Landrieu pushed for and oversaw the racial integration of public life in the Crescent City. He did so when being for integration took moral courage. Whatever else Landrieu did wisely or unwisely in terms of policy, his example of a strong conscience is one that more politicians, conservatives and liberals alike, should emulate.

Yes, conservatives of a certain age in New Orleans grew up chafing at some of Landrieu’s liberal policy preferences and at some results of the left-of-center political dynasty (daughter Mary, the senator, and son Mitch, the lieutenant governor and mayor) he spawned. Some of the people he appointed to help service the then-new Superdome got embroiled in scandal. The rate of major crimes exploded in New Orleans on his watch (to be fair, it grew somewhat nationwide as well).

Yet the city, by most measures, made progress under Moon Landrieu’s leadership. And when the demands of economic development sometimes clashed with historic preservation (a crucial need for a city with New Orleans’s rich cultural and architectural uniqueness), Landrieu at various times aggressively pushed both. While critics carped at the choices he made between those competing considerations in individual cases, the simple fact is that the city’s downtown grew under Landrieu’s stewardship even as most of its important landmarks and character remained intact.

In sum, Landrieu was in many ways a good mayor, even in tough circumstances. And on the toughest issue of all, racial integration in the South, Landrieu not only took a moral stand but also engineered a relatively soft landing.

Landrieu’s stand for racial fairness began long before his mayoralty….. [The rest of the column can be found at this link.]


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