By: Pat Austin
SHREVEPORT — New Orleans Mayor Landrieu is publicizing his new book which is out March 20 and as the mayor blusters and pontificates all over the media, one can’t help but consider how he relished the monument drama as fuel for future book sales.
Last week he spoke to the press about his plans for the sites in New Orleans that previously held Confederate monuments. It’s been about a year since Landrieu had four monuments removed: the monument at Liberty Place was taken in the dead of night. In the following days and weeks Landrieu also removed those of Jefferson Davis, P.G.T. Beauregard, and Robert E. Lee, leaving blighted public areas and empty pedestals in their place.
During Mardi Gras, he placed a ring of porta-potties around Lee Circle.
The whole issue still makes me angry when I think about it. My position has always been that these monuments represent history and to destroy public art does not change that history or make it disappear. Landrieu never engaged the opposing side in any of his plans, an effort that certainly would have been better for the city and reduced tension. But that wouldn’t have sold as many books.
At these sites, Mayor Landrieu plans to place an American flag where the Jefferson Davis monument stood. As for Lee Circle, he’s deferring that to others to decide. At the Beauregard site, the City Park Improvement Association will landscape and clean up the area and the pedestal will be removed. Nothing will go where the Liberty Place monument was.
Landrieu says that those companies who didn’t make their equipment available to him to remove the statues were practicing “industrial racism” and he continues to insult the ancestors of a great number of southerners:
“Really what these monuments were, were a lie,” Landrieu told Cooper on “60 Minutes. “Robert E. Lee was used as an example to send a message to the rest of the country, and to all the people that lived here, that the Confederacy was a noble cause. And that’s just not true.”
It’s difficult to know what to say to people who refuse to see both sides of history. And I’m a little embarrassed for him for being so blind and uninformed.
The entire monument removal fiasco was questionable on many levels and many questioned various legal aspects of the project, including who paid for the removal, why city workers were used to remove the monuments, and who was behind the foundation that funded part of the removal.
He said the monuments belong in museums but a year later they are still crated up in some city warehouse.
That Landrieu is kicking the can down the road with regard to the placement of the monuments themselves should surprise no one. As Mike Bayham points out, Landrieu wants to go on his book tour as the guy who removed the monuments, “not rearranged them.”
But you can rest assured that whenever (or if ever) Davis, et al leave the city warehouse, Landrieu will be basking in the klieg lights of the media to criticize wherever they go, because that’s his racket and sole source of relevancy in the national media.
Instead of transferring the statues to an appropriate historic venue that would secure and maintain them, New Orleans is going to be treated to a new round of acrimonious bickering in shouting matches euphemistically labeled “listening sessions”, with the fringes of both sides being prominently featured by the media. Dragging things out benefits Landrieu’s national stature, though not the incoming New Orleans government, which should be focused on the quality of life matters that will be left festering on their doorstep.
While New Orleans is one of the most historic, vibrant, and beautiful cities in the South, it has suffered greatly under Landrieu’s tenure. Crime has been out of control and the mayor has made little effort to do anything about that. He is now a lame duck as he prepares to step aside for the new mayor elect, LaToya Cantrell, a Democrat who won the election with 60.4% of the vote.
One hopes that the incoming administration will deal with this issue with more finesse than Landrieu has done.
Here is the 60-Minutes transcript if you missed it.
Pat Austin blogs at And So it Goes in Shreveport; follow her on Instagram at @patbecker25 and Twitter at paustin110.