City of New Orleans — still a disaster from a public administration perspective

DamagedSuperdome

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As we all knew shortly after Hurricane Katrina (2005), the lack of local government capacity and capabilities regarding emergency management was one key contributor to the terrible response and recovery efforts after that event.  To be fair, state and federal governments, as well as the Red Cross, also displayed major failures.  Nevertheless, all of those agencies and organizations depend on a functioning local government in order to fulfill their roles and responsibilities efficiently and effectively.

What seems surprising now, more than 5 years later, is that the local government’s capacity is still seriously deficient. Mayor Nagan, who served two terms in office, left this legacy. The new mayor has initiated the review and hopefully will implement needed changes.  See: New Orleans City Hall dysfunction leaves specialist ‘shocked’, March 4, 2011, Times-Picayune.

Calling New Orleans city government the most dysfunctional he’s ever seen, a leading turnaround specialist delivered a report to Mayor Mitch Landrieu this week identifying a long list of problems at City Hall, as well as a 10-point plan on how to right the ship.  Staffing shortages and senseless red tape are among the problems at New Orleans City Hall identified by the consultant.

Since taking office in May, Landrieu has identified many of the problems outlined by consultant David Osborne, including decades-old computer systems, civil service rules that beget mediocrity, senseless red tape and staffing shortages dating to Hurricane Katrina.

Osborne, who has advised dozens of cities on streamlining efforts, said Thursday that New Orleans faces myriad, deep-seated problems, the likes of which he has never encountered. “I was kind of shocked,” said Osborne, who served as a senior adviser to then-Vice President Al Gore’s National Performance Review initiative. “I think they inherited the least competent city government I’d ever seen in this country and the most corrupt — a really tough experience. I just haven’t run into this level of dysfunction before, and I’ve been doing this work for almost 25 years.”

Chief Administrative Officer Andy Kopplin said the administration concurs with the findings and has embraced the remedies advocated by the Massachusetts-based Public Strategies Group.

I cannot imagine any other city vying for that description!

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3 Responses to City of New Orleans — still a disaster from a public administration perspective

  1. CP says:

    Here here. Sadly, I agree 100%… I love the City of New Orleans, but I’ve never witnessed a system as broken. The St of Louisiana is not much better. Our government system (as a whole) simpy cannot funtion when the local government is broken beyond repair.

  2. Robert Zimmerman says:

    New Orleans is my home town. Indeed I love this city althought I no longer live in the area. Osborne’s findings do not surprise me in the least. Nor would they surprise many Orleanians. Relating the problems to the 5-year time span since Katrina is a bit unfair. Recall that the administration in place during Katrina was re-elected for another 4-year term. Give Mr. Landrieu a chance. He has been in charge for only about a year. These problems were not created overnight and won’t be solved overnight. Consider that his police chief has embraced outside help from the Dept. of Justice. Recovery in New Orleans is a work in progress … on several levels.

    • recoverydiva says:

      Actually, I did not mean to blame the current mayor at all. I give him credit for doing the study and managing the reversal of fortunes.
      I just edited the post to clarify these points.

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