While New Orleans has many fine attributes and it truly one of the most unique cities in the world, city leaders never seem to make any real progress in dealing with longstanding problems such as unacceptable levels of violent crime, inadequate drainage, crumbling streets, poor infrastructure, failing public schools, etc. For example, in 2017, the murder rate dropped 10%, but New Orleans was still one of the murder capitals of the nation.
In August, a rainstorm caused widespread flooding and the resulting controversy exposed massive leadership problems at the Sewerage and Water Board. The Mayor serves as President of the Sewerage and Water Board, but he blamed underlings for mismanagement. Clearly, problems still exist as freezing weather forced city officials to announce another boil water advisory last week.
Instead of working on solving the violent crime and drainage problems last year, New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu made national news advocating the removal of four Confederate monuments. This unnecessarily divided the city over an issue that had previously not been very contentious.
This problem was created by the Mayor to advance his political career in the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, it is still unresolved as the former monument sites are unfinished eyesores and the removed statues are gathering dust in a city warehouse. This situation is made worse by the fact that the Mayor has not fulfilled his promise to present a plan on how to display the removed monuments. In addition, many anti-monument activists are still organized and working to destroy more monuments in New Orleans. Last week, a Confederate monument on Jefferson Davis Parkway was vandalized. This assault on history will continue as anti-monument protesters are vowing to take down dozens of other monuments in the city, including the beloved statue of General Andrew Jackson, hero of the Battle of New Orleans.
Into this mix of problems and opportunities steps New Orleans Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell. She was elected under a cloud of suspicion that has not been resolved. Her use of city issued credit cards was a controversy during her campaign. While she reimbursed the city approximately $9,000 for personal expenses that she initially paid for with city credit cards, the Attorney General has subpoenaed more of her financial records to investigate this matter in greater detail. Unfortunately, he has been blocked at the Orleans Parish Criminal District Court. His request to move the matter to the Louisiana Supreme Court is currently being considered by the state high court.
While the credit card investigation moves forward, the Mayor-Elect created another controversy by associating with former felon and State Senator Derrick Shepherd. He appeared with her at some functions during the campaign, wrote a campaign speech for her and joined her at a meeting with Louisiana legislators. Her spokesperson denies that Shepherd will play a role in her administration, but it remains unclear why she appeared with him in the first place.
More explaining was necessary last week after the New Orleans City Council foolishly approved a resolution sponsored by the Palestinian Solidarity Committee. This resolution called for New Orleans to “review investments” and contracts with companies involved in human rights violations. In essence, the resolution was part of the “Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions” movement that is directed against Israel in protest of their policy regarding the creation of a Palestinian state.
This issue should have never been addressed by the New Orleans City Council, a group that should focus on local problems, not international affairs. Unfortunately, as a member of the council, the Mayor-Elect voted in favor of this controversial resolution. The fallout from this vote has been so negative that the issue will be revisited by the council at their next meeting.
In the immediate aftermath of the resolution controversy, on Saturday, Cantrell addressed the crowd at the New Orleans’ Women’s March 2018. She encouraged women to continue to “resist.” She complained that there was only “one woman” on the city planning commission and vowed to appoint more. She also blasted President Trump for comments he supposedly made about Haiti and African countries. Obviously, her base of supporters liked her speech, but it will do little to expand her political coalition or bring people together in New Orleans. Incidentally, the rally featured activists carrying signs with offensive language and vulgar references regarding the President. In Los Angeles, at least one rallygoer threatened to “kill” both President Trump and Vice President Pence, not exactly the type of dialogue that should be used to advance political goals.
Overall, it is clear that in the first two months of her transition period, New Orleans Mayor-Elect LaToya Cantrell has solidified her reputation as a card-carrying liberal.
If New Orleans voters thought they were voting for a new direction for their city, they are sadly mistaken.
Cantrell will not only follow the liberal path set by current Mayor Mitch Landrieu, but she will also go much further to pursue progressive policies. Sadly, the history of New Orleans shows that this course of action will do nothing to solve the many problems plaguing the city today.
Jeff Crouere is a native New Orleanian and his award winning program, “Ringside Politics,” airs locally at 7:30 p.m. Fridays and at 10:00 p.m. Sundays on PBS affiliate WLAE-TV, Channel 32, and from 7-11 a.m. weekdays on WGSO 990-AM & www.Wgso.com. He is a political columnist, the author of America's Last Chance and provides regular commentaries on the Jeff Crouere YouTube channel and on www.JeffCrouere.com. For more information, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org