June 23rd, 2011
Surrounded by about 30 political, business, education and civic leaders, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu on Monday called for construction of the University Medical Center, calling it “one of the most transformational projects that the state has seen or will see for a long, long time.”
Susan Poag / The Times-PicayuneMayor Mitch Landrieu addresses the crowd during a groundbreaking ceremony for the University Medical Center, in April.
Speaking at a City Hall news conference, Landrieu rebuked three critics — U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La.; state Treasurer John Kennedy; and state House Speaker Jim Tucker, R-Algiers — who have called for scrapping the state’s plan for a new, 424-bed facility in Mid-City in favor of buying and expanding existing hospital facilities in and around the city that are now owned by Tulane.
“Let’s put that idea to rest today,” Landrieu said.
Among those supporting the mayor was Xavier University President Norman Francis.
“If we don’t stand together, we’ll be back to where we were 100 years ago,” Francis said. “Not only can we do this, we can lead.”
The center, which is expected to cost about $1.2 billion, will be what Landrieu called an “economic powerhouse” that, he said, will generate about 12,000 jobs and serve as a model for research and patient care.
Critics, among them Vitter, Kennedy and Tucker, have questioned whether the UMC plans will ever be fully realized. They also fear the new hospital will force the state to kick in a sizable annual subsidy.
Landrieu sees it differently.
“The question is, is it a good return on the investment?” the mayor said. “Yes, it is.”
“Our residents deserve nothing less,” Landrieu said.
Because of the center’s job-creating potential, “the business community is totally, passionately and unanimously behind this project,” said Ron Forman, a member of the New Orleans Business Council and chairman of the Louisiana Stadium and Exposition District. “We are determined to work day and night to bring this vision to New Orleans.”
John Pope can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3317.
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