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Mitch & Kip: Lifting Cities by Raising the Bar

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Seven Years After Floods, New Orleans is America’s Fastest Growing Major City

NEW ORLEANS — Approaching the seventh anniversary of the post-Katrina flooding that devastated the city, New Orleans has risen from the muck to be declared by the U.S. Census Bureau as America’s fastest growing city.

Mayor Mitch Landrieu

Mayor Mitch Landrieu

It did not happen overnight and it was not a guaranteed outcome. Buoyed by an influx of disaster relief dollars, New Orleans muddled along initially. But, with the election of then-Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu in 2010, the city’s recovery kicked into a higher gear and has shown no sign of letting up.

The Crescent City’s resurgence has not been driven solely by the return of those originally displaced by Katrina and the floods. Forbes magazine reports that a study performed by the Kaiser Family Foundation indicates that one in nine current New Orleans residents were not living in the area prior to Katrina. Forbes says those newcomers are more likely to be younger and better educated, adding a vitality and verve to the city’s recovery, as well as for the push to reform.

At the front of the push is Mayor Landrieu, whose passion for his city and his job are evident to all who encounter him. His administration created the New Orleans Recreation Department Commission which is a public/private partnership that has revitalized the city’s recreation department. Recognizing that the availability of health care services is essential for the the rebirth of New Orleans East, the city under Mayor Landrieu’s leadership created the Orleans Parish Hospital Service District A and purchased the former Methodist Hospital. The $130 million redevelopment project is on track for a late 2013 opening.

The city has emerged as an entrepreneurial Mecca, with startups averaging 40% higher that the national average. Film, the creative arts and technology are booming.

It’s quite a turnaround from downward trajectory New Orleans like other older American cities found itself  on before Katrina. The transformation is not yet complete, but with Mayor Landrieu leading the effort, there will be no shortage of energy or effort to keep the momentum going.

Baton Rouge has followed Holden’s lead to become Louisiana’s largest city

BATON ROUGE — The Baton Rouge skyline is changing almost as fast as farm land it turning to new developments in East Baton Rouge Parish. The Capitol City is booming and much of the credit goes to the policies and initiatives implemented during the nearly eight years of Mayor-President Kip Holden’s tenure.

East Baton Rouge Mayor President Kip Holden

East Baton Rouge Mayor President Kip Holden

Mayor-President Holden hit the ground running in 2005 and has engaged voters in an ongoing conversation about the kind of city and the parish they want Baton Rouge and East Baton Rouge Parish to become. That has, in turn, translated into a series of voter approved investments in the parish that have built the solid infrastructure upon which the current growth cycle has been built.

FutureBR, a comprehensive land use and development plan that was approved by the EBR Metro Council, was initiated in 2008. He made funding the Central Thruway connecting the northern part of the parish with downtown a top priority of this administration. That project, which will be a major transportation upgrade for the parish, is on track for completion in June of 2013.

Curbside recycling is now available throughout the parish, thanks to Mayor-President Holden’s leadership. And, his administration successfully negotiated an agreement with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) that will result in a major upgrade of the parish’s outdated sewerage system.

The revitalization of downtown Baton Rouge has taken off, thanks to strategic investments made by Holden’s administration that have, in turn, attracted new private investment dollars. North Boulevard’s Town Square has transformed the area around City Hall, the Old State Capitol and the Shaw Center into a great community gathering place.

The city and parish have emerged as leaders in the creative arts and technology in the state and region. With the abundance of talent emerging from LSU, Southern University and the community and technical colleges in the region, the emergence of these economic engines have made it easier for the region to retain that home grown talent.

From infrastructure to quality of life improvements, residents of East Baton Rouge Parish and the city of Baton Rouge are enjoying the benefits that Mayor-President Kip Holden’s leadership has delivered over the two terms that he’s led the parish. Holden’s visionary leadership has proven itself up to challenges that come with leading a rising urban city and metropolitan area. Voters will have a chance to renew their lease on Mayor-Presiden Holden’s leadership when they go to the polls this November.

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Originally published: Aug 24, 2012