Five years after Hurricane Katrina destroyed New Orleans, the city's mayor said its recovery — slowed by the Gulf oil spill — will take at least another five years.
New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu reported Thursday on the city's progress as it continues to deal with the effects of Katrina and the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Both events, he said, brought the coast "to its knees." He addressed a luncheon at the National Press Club where Gulf shrimp was served.
As Landrieu urged listeners to visit Louisiana, he also emphasized the need to lift the moratorium on deepwater drilling. He said he'd discuss the issue with President Barack Obama during his visit to the Gulf on August 29 to mark the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina's devastating hit. The Obama administration banned such drilling after the BP oil spill disaster.
Though BP, he said, has been negligent and irresponsible, drilling oil is necessary to let the Gulf coast continue providing oil, energy and food to the rest of the country.
"We are not limited to, 'Drill, baby, drill' or stop drilling forever. We can do better," Landrieu said. "We must drill and restore."
The city's transformation will be slow and dependent on resources, but Landrieu said there will be more immediate transformation in the city's safety, schools and job market. As other issues take longer, he expects it to be at least five years for New Orleans to have recovered.
There's a $79 million hole in its $460 million budget. Landrieu said cuts have included 14 furlough days for city employees and reorganizing usage of overtime.
Still, he'd like to see New Orleans back on its feet in time for the city's 300th anniversary in 2018. As New Orleans builds from the ground up, Landrieu said the city is already seeing a revival in volunteerism and nightlife and student test scores have gone up in the last three years. New Orleans, he said, is a city ripe for innovation.
"Our future is not just about survival," Landrieu said. "It's about resurrection. It's about redemption."
Landrieu was elected in February to replace term-limited Ray Nagin as residents became frustrated with Nagin's leadership following Katrina. Landrieu became the majority-black city's first white mayor since 1979, the year his father Moon left the office. His sister, U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., also attended the luncheon.