New Orleans mayor on supporting Harvey recovery: ‘We’re all in the same boat’

Nation

MILES O'BRIEN: While Louisiana gets battered by Harvey, New Orleans is not in the crosshairs this time.

Twelve years ago this week, it was a different story, as Katrina made landfall. And there are lessons to be learned about the long, difficult road of recovery ahead for Houston.

Mitch Landrieu is the mayor of New Orleans, and he joins us now.

Mr. Mayor, good to have you with us.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU, New Orleans: Thanks for having me.

MILES O'BRIEN: I'm curious what your best advice is to your counterparts in other cities that are more hard-hit this time.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, it's not really a time to give advice.

I can tell you, I had an opportunity to watch your previous two segments, and it's just heartbreaking. It brings back so many incredibly difficult memories. And exactly what was said in both of those segments is unbelievably prescient and correct. Those individuals that lost everything are going to go through a very, very difficult time.

This is one of the worst disasters that the country has ever seen. It's hard to compare the two, but it's clearly as big, if not bigger, than Katrina. And, of course, people lost everything. And so they're upended. A lot of people are in shelters. You can see what is happening down in the southwestern part of Louisiana and in the eastern part of Texas in Beaumont, with them still suffering the effects of the storm, and rescues not being complete yet.

So, the rest of the nation is going to rally to the cause. They're going to be there to support the people of Texas and the people of Southwest Louisiana. I want Congress to learn the lesson of Sandy and Katrina and not quibble over how much. It's going to be an extensive amount of money.

And I know that they're going to step up to the plate and make sure that the financial resources are available to help this community stand back up. This is a national crisis. It requires an immense and a total and complete national response. And I know that our nation is up to it.

MILES O'BRIEN: You get the sense that we're learning the same or not learning the same lesson over and over again, or are we getting better at this?

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, to a certain extent.

I can say this, that the emergency response teams across America are far better prepared. And you can see the response happening right now on the federal, state and local level. This doesn't happen by one level of government. And our first-responders are out there, and doing a really, really good job under very difficult circumstances.

There are very few — actually, there are no cities in America that can prepare adequately for a Category 4 storm that drops 50 inches of water on you in a short period of time. It's just not possible.

And, you know, people are trying to get out of harm's away. We just have to make sure they have what they need. Now, there is the rescue. There is the recovery. And then this is the long-term thing that you were talking about a minute ago, the rebuild.

It's not something that happens overnight. People get disassociated from their homes. They feel a sense of lack of security. They don't have the financial resources to stand back up. The one thing that they shouldn't have to suffer is what happened after Katrina and then after Sandy for a minimal period of time, about wondering whether or not the resources are going to be there.

This is clearly going to be in excess of a $100 billion event. I don't think that there is any question about that. But it's really important that the nation step up to the plate and do this, as a federal government, in partnership with the state and local authorities.

Now, the other thing that you are going to see — and you are seeing it already — is miraculous, which is people helping each other. I just talked to a guy a couple of minutes ago who was here rescuing people 12 years ago. And would you know it that he was in the Houston area today rescuing people.

John Besh and our chefs are over there feeding people. Our firefighters are there. Of course, this is happening all from all over the country. And it is miraculous to watch the people of America come together in difficult times, where it's clear that we're all in the same boat.

And I think the lesson to be learned is, we ought to be that way all the time. And we would all be the better for it.

MILES O'BRIEN: It is quite literally a two-way street. I remember Houston's help of New Orleans 12 years ago.

You know, we're in the acute phase, as it were, of this crisis. A lot of attention, a lot of focus. As the media turns its attention elsewhere, as we all get on with our lives, that can be the hardest time for the victims, right?

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Yes.

Well, there's no question about it. I mean, and hopefully in a reasonably short period of time, everyone who can be rescued will be rescued. Unfortunately, there will be more deaths because there are people that have not yet been found. There are people that are in shelters. Eventually, they will move back into some sense of normalcy, to the extent that that is possible.

And then the media is going to go on to North Korea and a whole bunch of other stuff. In the meantime, all of these individuals are going to be left behind. And we have to make sure as a nation that we don't leave them behind, that we get them the resources that they need.

On top of that, the economic picture is that Houston and Beaumont and Lake Charles, Louisiana, are the hub of the nation's national security because of our energy policies. So, just economically, we have to do it.

So, I'm hoping that Congress has learned the lesson — and I think they have — that we don't really have to quibble about this. This shouldn't have any impact on the debt ceiling. We should just kind of get through this. This is going to cost the nation a lot of money. It is an investment that is well worth it.

All of these communities are important to the United States of America, and we ought to all lift up all the individuals that are going to be hurt and would make it easier for them to come back. But this is not a handout. It is just a hand up. And it is a part of who we are as Americans.

MILES O'BRIEN: You know, one of the lessons of Katrina, I think, was that, you know, people have a hard time moving forward after these situations. And part of that is being prepared in advance. Do you think that that lesson has been well-learned?

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Well, I think we're better at it.

Unfortunately, a lot of times, folks, you know, just don't listen. Sometimes, folks do. And even when they do listen, you get overwhelmed by a storm like this. But it really is important to understand that you can't guarantee that people are not going to get hurt.

What we have to do is be prepared and try to engage in what they call risk-reduction strategies and how we build back, where we build and things of that nature.

Then, of course, you get into the emergency response, which is far superior. I think everybody can watch it on TV. This is something that has taken a long time to develop amongst the emergency responders across the country. There is better command-and-control, better communication, better coordination.

And this is a good effort. However, you can see how easy it is for a city to be overwhelmed by Mother Nature. When you get a Category 4 storm or a 5 storm coming at you with 150-mile-an-hour winds and 50 inches of rain, you get an interior rain event like this, and you just — you know, Mother Nature will have her way with you.

So, as we go forward, we have to think about how to build back stronger. Now, one of the real challenging things is that every time somebody has trauma in their life, the first thing they want to do is go back to exactly like it was.

And it is a little bit harder to think about, well, what should it have been? And each community has to go through that on their own. And I'm sure that Houston and Beaumont and all of the areas that have been hard-hit will think through that, and build back better than it was before.

MILES O'BRIEN: All good words.

Mitch Landrieu, the mayor of New Orleans, thank you for your time.

MAYOR MITCH LANDRIEU: Great. Thank you so much.

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