At a gathering of trial lawyers, Louisiana's lieutenant governor said New Orleans' slow recovery has become symbolic of the United States and more funding was needed for remediation if America hopes to recover its "mojo."
On Feb. 7 the American Association for Justice began its 2009 Winter Convention in New Orleans, La. Lt. Gov. Mitch Landrieu was the first to speak during the group's opening plenary session.
"People have forgotten how to do big things – the world gasped at our inability to rebuild New Orleans," Landrieu said. "We can't effectively spread our morality abroad if we can't rebuild New Orleans. America needs to find its mojo."
Landrieu said the country's response to Hurricane Katrina "has been an abject failure." He added that levees known to be flawed nearly wiped out "an entire civilization."
Even though more than $100 billion in federal aid has been directed to New Orleans, Landrieu says the "compensation doesn't meet the damage" and more funding is needed.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, Katrina caused an estimated $81.2 billion in damage, with economic losses totaling more than $100 billion.
Speaking to a group of plaintiff's lawyers, Landrieu gave an analogy of New Orleans plight, saying it's not enough to fix a person's bumper after causing an auto wreck.
"(The government) has forgotten that Louisiana basically powers … clothes and feeds … this country," Landrieu said, adding that New Orleans empathized with Detroit, knowing first hand "what it feels like to have a city that dies."
Landrieu blamed "small thinking" on Washington's part for America's woes, but added that President Barack Obama has the opportunity to help America find itself again by rebuilding New Orleans.
"The last presidential race told the rest of the world that we can still be great," Landrieu said, adding that he believed the election was a battle between "light and darkness."
On Jan. 14, 2008, Landrieu was sworn in for a second term as Louisiana's lieutenant governor.
According to the state's Web site, Landrieu practiced law for 14 years and served as president of International Mediation & Arbitration Ltd. He is a member of the Supreme Court Task Force on Alternative Dispute Resolution, which was responsible for developing the pilot mediation program in Orleans Parish.