Mayor Mitch Landrieu thinks an infrastructure failure, like what happened with New Orleans' levees, could happen in other cities.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu thinks an infrastructure failure, like what happened with New Orleans' levees, could happen in other cities. - 
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In just a few years, the city of New Orleans will celebrate its 300th birthday. As the celebration approaches, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu wants New Orleanians to strive not just for a rebuild, but for progress.

“I want them to think about building the city for the future and not just getting back to where we were before Katrina hit,” Landrieu says.  

But as the population of New Orleans grows to about 94 percent of what it was the day before the storm, the city is whiter and wealthier than what it used to be. Landrieu says it’s not fair to peg New Orleans’ growth as racially imbalanced though.

“The city of New Orleans before the storm was [a] major majority African American city,” Landrieu says. “It’s a more eclectic city than it was before, but there’s no hint or no chance that the city of New Orleans has ever lost its historic character or its essence as a gumbo."

Another hurdle for New Orleans as it turns 300 is making sure businesses will want to stay in the Big Easy. As Marketplace continues reporting on New Orleans 10 years after Katrina, we've found that many business owners have had a difficult time rebuilding.But Landrieu doesn’t think his city’s struggle to revitalize means New Orleans has an inherent flaw.

“If any city got their hump busted like New Orleans did, it would be a tough rebuild,” Landrieu says. “What the country needs to be thinking is, ‘What’s going to happen when it hits us? And how can we protect ourselves and how can we learn from New Orleans?'”

Landrieu points to New Orleans’ levee breaches as the real crux of the Katrina disaster, an infrastructure failure he thinks could happen in other cities around the country.

“The country ought to be thinking about the fact that Congress can’t even pass an infrastructure investment bill and the need for that so that we can be a stronger nation,” Landrieu says. “New Orleans is just a canary in the coal mine when it comes to that.” 

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Follow Kai Ryssdal at @kairyssdal