Last week the political landscape shifted in the Mayor's race here in New Orleans.
It started with my performance in the first mayoral debate to be attended all candidates. At the youth-development focused debate, a simple question was asked by the moderator.
"What is your position on the Youth Study Center?"
For those outside of New Orleans, the Youth Study Center and it's poor treatment of incarcerated juveniles has been a high profile issue in New Orleans for quite sometime. The City of New Orleans was sued by Juvenile Justice Project of Louisiana (JJPL) for its inhumane treatment of incarcerated children and teens housed at the Center. Before the suit, kids were regularly left in cells for 21 of 24 hours and fed spoiled food infested with maggots. Many children were offered no education while in the Center.
The lawsuit was part of an effort to transform the center into a place where it helped to reform and educate juveniles while detained, rather terrorize them and astronomically increase juvenile recidivism rates through inhumane treatment and denial of access to education.
There have been great strides, due in large part to the lawsuit and the attention it received here in the City.
If you are serious about making our city safer and serious about reforming our broken criminal justice system then this issue is one that should be writ large as a candidate for Mayor of New Orleans.
We released a webvideo today chronicling the series of astonishing answers by the other candidates.
It also includes my answer and responses by local media.
This was followed by an overwhelmingly positive response to my current TV ad in which I pledge to cut the murder rate by at least 40%, or not run for re-election.
Yesterday I held a press conference just outside of the Youth Study Center where I laid out my roadmap for reducing our city's murder rate by at least 40%.
I also pledged that if my plan is unsuccessful, I will forgo running for re-election. I challenged the other so-called "major" candidates to to do the same.
Today, the major daily newspaper in New Orleans took notice that this wasn't just a campaign slogan or the empty rhetoric expected from political campaigns and candidates.
"New Orleans mayoral hopeful James Perry wasn't stretching it when, in his latest TV ad, he said he has a plan to cut the city's murder rate by 40 percent -- or he won't run for re-election."
To read the entire article please click here.
I have staked my candidacy, as well as my re-election if elected, on solving our out of control murder rate and for good reason. It's because I feel strongly that our chance at a prosperous future is tied directly to our city becoming safe again.
The status quo and politicians that benefit from our broken criminal justice system will work hard to prevent this type of sweeping reform from becoming a reality here in New Orleans.
That's why I hope you'll join me in fighting for a better future for New Orleans by visiting my website at www.jamesperry2010.com. With your help we all can finally have the New Orleans we deserve.
I wanted to share with you my remarks from yesterdays press conference as my detailed road map for reducing our out of control murder rate by 40%.
Welcome and thank all of you for attending today.
We all know that crime is out of control in our city. People don't feel safe, and that feeling of insecurity is interfering with our efforts to rebuild a better New Orleans. We all know that we must do something to stop the crime and make our streets safe for all our families.
We must stop the rising tide of crime in this city. We cannot sit by while New Orleans is taken over by criminals, but we also cannot arrest and incarcerate our way out of this problem either.
We've chosen to announce our criminal justice policy here at the Youth Study Center because the Youth Study Center and the fight over both its current and future existence is, let's face it., the poster child for what is wrong with our current thinking and approach to how we make our city safe.
I think it was also important to hold this announcement here to remind everyone of what is at stake in this upcoming election, given the most recent debate where the other four so-called "major candidates" believed the juvenile detention facility behind me was an afterschool program.
I think when you are a candidate for Mayor there is no excuse for not knowing the difference between a jail and a school or unaware of the lawsuit that was filed to force an end to the inhumane conditions that exist within those walls.
Today I'm going to use even more controversial words to lay out the roadmap on how my administration will reduce the murder rate by at LEAST 40% by the end of my first term or I won't run for re-election.
* Strategic planning
* Prevention not just detention
* Coordination & coalition building
* Transparency & accountability
We need a new criminal justice policy. One that leaves behind the failed policies of today and yesterday that have resulted in Compton, California being a safer city today than New Orleans.
These things will only come if we elect someone who can provide real leadership in making our city safer.
We've had enough excuses and poor performance; we've had enough of politicians blocking our attempts to provide the tools we need to make our city safer. Like the controversy that surrounds the Youth Study Center behind me, we want to break free of the failed policies and status quo politics that are the root cause of our public safety crisis today.
We know what the status quo is when it comes to public safety, and we know it doesn't work. But when we allow fear to guide us, when we ignore overwhelming evidence and data, what we end up with is politics as usual. I'm not here for politics as usual. Politics as usual is what got us into this mess. We've had enough of politics as usual.
We can't continue just throwing money at a police department whose leadership spends the money in ways that have not made our city safer. We can't just be tough on crime. We have to be smart on crime and to be smart about fighting crime, we must be smarter about spending crime fighting dollars.
For the Youth Study Center, that means implementing the strategic plan that stakeholders and the Annie E Casey Foundation put together that would both serve the needs of the young people here and protect public safety.
For New Orleans, that means collaborating on a similar strategic plan for our whole city - a plan that will serve the needs of our people and keep our city safe. It means refocusing the NOPD towards violent crime and away from expending limited resources on municipal and non-violent offenders. We need to fight crime, but we also need to reduce crime and prevent crime, we need to look at the root causes of crime, at which offenders are repeat offenders, and why.
If elected mayor, I will conduct a national search for a new chief of police for the New Orleans police department, and I will work with a committee of diverse citizens to make sure we hire a police chief that is committed to making our city safer. I will direct the chief of police to engage other members of the criminal justice system in a dialogue about citywide performance measures for all areas of criminal justice, including the courts, the district attorney, the criminal sheriff, and the social service agencies that address some of the root causes of crime. I will sign and personally deliver an Executive Order requiring the NOPD to contribute to a monthly "Crime Report Card," so that everyone can see exactly how we are performing and improving on public safety from all criminal justice agencies within Orleans Parish.
When I am elected mayor I will lead the effort to eliminate the incentives throughout the criminal justice system that have made New Orleans number one in both incarceration and also number one in violent crime. For example, we cannot, and will not if I am elected Mayor, bankrupt both the city coffers and human lives by incarcerating non-violent offenders, who then find it hard to obtain jobs. The failed strategy of incarcerating non-violent offenders will not lower the murder rate, but it will create a strong labor pool for the City's drug lords.
I will make crime reduction and prevention the top priority of my administration, and I will not seek reelection unless the murder decreases by at least 40% by the end of my first term.
If elected mayor, I will make New Orleans safe again.
This is no easy task. It will be difficult, and there will be entrenched political interests who are fighting us every step of the way. There will be people who only know politics as usual, people who try to scare you, people who say that crime reduction is soft, that the only way is to build more prisons and lock up more people. I don't believe that's true There are people who belong in prison, and we're not going to let them out. But there are also people who made mistakes, but who are not a threat to public safety, and don't need to be incarcerated at a cost of thousands of dollars a year. When we send non-violent offenders to a prison, they often return to our communities as hardened criminals.
But we need a criminal justice system that makes our problems better, not worse. Treating teens in the Youth Studies Center with respect and providing them education will dramatically decrease their chances of recidivism. So let's look at job training and skills programs, programs that prevent crime. Let's look at drug courts and specialized rehabilitation programs that prevent crime. Let's look at social services and after school programs that prevent crime.
Let's not just be tough on crime, let's be smart on crime. Let's give the people of New Orleans a reason to be proud of their city, and let's clean up the crime.