Moderator: Norman Robinson, WDSU news anchor
Panelists: Warren Bell, former news anchor, WVUE, WDSU
Cheron Brylski: Morial Press Secretary, Director of Public Information, and Speechwriter
Ron Gardner: Morial aide
Sheriff Paul Valteau: Orleans Parish Civil Sheriff, former Morial aide
The first African-American mayor of New Orleans, Dutch Morial (1929-1989) led the city through transformative years with a bold personality and a focus on the “democratization” of government. Prior to taking office, Morial broke barriers as the first African-American to receive a law degree from LSU, as well as being the first African-American state legislator since Reconstruction and the first African-American to sit on the Louisiana Fourth Circuit Court of Appeal. As mayor, he worked to revitalize the Port of New Orleans, capitalize on the oil boom with development of Poydras Street, streamline city government, and diversify the city’s economy. His term was marked also by the the 1984 World’s Fair, police scandals that led to reform in the department, and several attempts at gaining more control for the City over public works. A groundbreaking figure in the evolution of New Orleans politics in the post-war era, Morial considered a run for mayor in 1990 before his untimely death at the age of 60.Watch a video of the panel on Dutch Morial on November 18, 2009 at the Louisiana Humanities Center
Nov. 12, 1977: defeats Councilman Joseph V. DiRosa in runoff, winning 95% of the black vote, 20% of the white vote.
May 1, 1978: inaugurated as the first African-American mayor of New Orleans.
1978: Names first Executive Assistant to the Mayor for Planning and Economic Development and establishes Office of Economic Development. The new administration focuses on bringing more industrial and manufacturing sector jobs to the city.
1978: City receives $90million in federal funds, consisting of 42% of the total budget. Morial begins working to lessen the dependence on these funds.
February, 1979: Police strike leads to the cancellation of Mardi Gras. Morial urges residents and tourists to stay away from the French Quarter.
February, 1980: Names Board of Commissioners for the Almonaster-Michoud Industrial District. The administration projects 50,000 new jobs by the turn of the century.
November, 1980: After an officer is killed in the neighborhood, NOPD torture two men, then storm the home of suspects, killing two men and a pregnant woman. Six years later, three officers are convicted for their involvement.
1980: Proposes a 10% set-aside for public spending on minority businesses, opening a running conflict with the Sewage & Water Board. The proposal ultimately succeeds.
January, 1981: Announces a reduction of 1500 positions in the municipal workforce, part of an effort to increase government efficiency.
June 19, 1981: Angered by police brutality and the Algiers incidents, protestors take over the mayor’s office. The police department is later restructured, a 911 phone system installed, and the Office of Municipal Investigation created.
1981: City reaches deal to purchase future site of the New Orleans Centre shopping mall, part of continued development on Poydras Street corridor. Fueled by the oil boom, multiple office towers rise on the street to house Freeport-McMoran, Pan American, Exxon, Cheveron, Murphy Oil, and others.
March 20, 1982: Defeats State Rep. Ron Faucheaux in run-off with 53% of the vote. Morial receives 14% of the white vote.
September 1982: With a budget surplus of $4.8 million, the City Council votes to set aside a $2.7 million “nest egg.” Disagreement over use of the surplus increases tensions between the Mayor and the Council.
September 1982: The state legislature passes the first of two reorganization measures designed to give the state effective control over the Audubon Park Commission. Morial defeats these efforts, asserting “racial overtones” to the maneuver.
1982: Formation of the Regional Transit Authority (RTA) to service metropolitan area. The new entity results from continued conflict between the administration and New Orleans Public Service, Inc. (NOPSI), which controlled public utilities.
1983: Begins to campaign to revise the city charter to repeal term-limits. In 1985, the effort is amended to a “Just 3” proposal to allow for one more term. Both measures fail.
November 1984: The 1984 World’s Fair closes. Louisiana World Exhibition, Inc., which oversaw the fair, files for bankruptcy. The fair is a financial catastrophe, but leaves behind a new convention center (later named for the mayor), the beginnings of the Riverwalk, and several large hotels. Morial is credited with protecting city interests.
June 1984: New Orleans Airport unveils $30 million in improvements.
December 1984: Warren Woodfork named first African-American police superintendent.
February 1985: Vetoes budget as part of efforts to raise additional local revenue and services; City Council overrules. During his second term, he searched for ways to make up for the slashing of federal funding, proposing a metropolitan earnings tax and revising the homestead tax exemption to include a large majority of homeowners.
March 1, 1986: Councilman Sidney Barthelemy elected mayor, defeating Morial-endorsed William Jefferson in run-off.