Mayor Landrieu compares N.O. murders to civil rights deaths in 1960s, and other political news

Mitch Landrieu joined the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Birmingham, Ala., this week, participating in a panel discussion on how to promote racial and economic equality.

The New Orleans mayor had a simple suggestion, bringing the discussion around to what’s been one of his central preoccupations in office: reducing the epidemic of murders that is plaguing young black men in American cities.

“It is really hard to have economic justice if you’re struggling to survive from day to day,” Landrieu said.

He paraphrased a recent remark by the 1960s civil rights hero John Lewis, now a Georgia congressman: “We didn’t get beat on the way to Selma (Ala.) so that people could kill each other.”

The gathering commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1963 bombing of Birmingham’s 16th Street Baptist Church, where the discussion was held.

Landrieu mentioned the four girls who were killed in that attack, but he asked the audience not to forget more recent victims whose names won’t be spelled out in history books: “Londyn Samuels in New Orleans, who was 1 year old,” he said, or “Arabian Gayles, who was 11, who got shot the next day.”

Mandeville debates adding beautification director

The City of Mandeville is beautiful, but it may not be fair.

That’s the conclusion of the city’s attorney, who said that by keeping the director of the city’s beautification program on contract, the city could be violating the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Susan Russell, the director of Keep Mandeville Beautiful, has been a contract employee. But in presenting the budget for next year, Mayor Donald Villere said her job had grown, so he proposed making Russell a city employee with benefits.

That rankled some members of the City Council, who said the increased expense would be too much for the city to bear.

The city’s attorney, Edward Deano, agreed with Villere. If it keeps Russell as a contract employee, “the city would be liable under federal law for potential fines and penalties for misclassifying” her, Deano wrote in a letter to the council. The beautification chief’s position has “evolved over time into a position that is more fully integrated into the city,” he said.

The council discussed the matter Thursday but took no action.

Villere critic loses bid to join Planning and Zoning Board

Mandeville developer Mike Waller, a vehement critic of Mayor Donald Villere, lost out Thursday on his bid to be named to the city’s Planning and Zoning Board.

Waller threw his hat in the ring for the post in an effort to replace longtime board member Nixon Adams, who Waller said has stymied one of Waller’s developments in Old Mandeville.

Waller accused Adams of conspiring with Villere in reprisal for a website that Waller started in an effort to unseat Villere during the 2012 election. But Waller was unable to persuade three members of the City Council to vote for him.

Adams’ opposition to him was never about his developments, but was “about me attending council meetings, making record requests that expose what they do , and challenging them when they lie about it, and starting a website to put it before the public because the media won’t,” Waller wrote in an email after his defeat.

Compiled by staff writers Andrew Vanacore and Faimon A. Roberts III