In previous elections, the Mayor’s race generated tremendous interest; however, that is not the case in this lackluster campaign. Possibly voters are not enthralled with the two African American Democratic candidates in the runoff, former Municipal Court Judge Desiree Charbonnet and District B Councilwoman LaToya Cantrell. Yet, this is surprising because New Orleans will be electing its first woman as Mayor in the 300-year history of the city.
Even though the candidates are making political history in New Orleans, they are not generating much enthusiasm from the voters.
One theory is that the people of New Orleans are exhausted by the recent battles over the Confederate monuments and the drainage disaster. They could also be dejected due to the continual crime problems that do not seem to be getting any better.
Whatever the reason, the electoral process in New Orleans is severely flawed.
Voters seem to have given up on the idea that elected officials can help to solve problems. They have accepted the poor street conditions and drainage, the violent crime rate, the blight, drug abuse, extreme poverty rate and high unemployment rate among African American men.
Over the last eight years, voters have seen a self-confident Mayor fail to handle the nagging problems that have beset New Orleans for generations. He also created additional problems with his lack of oversight into the Sewerage and Water Board and his needless focus on Confederate monuments which divided New Orleans along racial lines.
The Mayor increased taxes, fees, fines, parking meter rates and ticket prices to address problems that were not solved, while new ones were created.
The next Mayor will have a tremendous challenge dealing with a growing homeless problem, street panhandlers and roaming bands of criminals who target innocent citizens and tourists. The drainage issues are severe and will require significant resources and innovative solutions.
Both Judge Charbonnet and Councilwoman Cantrell have significant political experience and backing. Hopefully, the winner will enter office with a team of supporters eager to tackle the longstanding challenges of New Orleans.
While there are some similarities, the candidates also have dissimilar styles. On Saturday, voters will have to determine which approach is best for New Orleans.
Currently, polls show LaToya Cantrell will be the next Mayor of New Orleans. If she wins, Mayor-elect Cantrell will have to wait over six months until taking office. This is an unusually long and counter-productive transition period for a new administration. When voters elect a new Mayor, they want that candidate to take office as quickly as possible, so the ideas espoused in the campaign can be implemented.
Unfortunately, the New Orleans Tricentennial celebration will be hosted by a Mayor who has shown a tremendous disregard for the importance of the city’s history. He is the last person who should be leading the 300-year celebration, since he declared war on the history of New Orleans.
Let’s hope the new Mayor will be able to not only solve longstanding and difficult issues, but also bring together a city that has been torn apart by a selfish politician hell bent on pursuing his personal agenda, not the agenda of the city he represented.