Wednesday, 21 March 2018 19:44

New Orleans Mayor-elect Latoya Cantrell could lead Louisiana with transparency in government

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Icantrell clearf LaToya Cantrell doesn’t do it, the state should.

The present New Orleans City Council member and incoming mayor, Democrat Cantrell during her campaign pledged maximal transparency from her administration. That promise got off to a rocky start when she made her transition team members sign nondisclosure agreements.
At least she has released information about who has donated to her transition, which neither state law nor city ordinance requires. At that dissemination, which revealed a list chock full of city contractors, Cantrell reiterated another campaign talking point, that she would seek to ban contractors from donating to political campaigns. She mentioned that the relatively late date of her formal induction into the office, May 7, made impractical an effort to do so through state legislation as the regular session ends about a month after that, but noted she would look at other options to achieve this goal once in power.

Certainly an ordinance would take care of that matter, but why not go for more? Under reforms at the behest of Republican former Gov. Bobby Jindal passed just after his inauguration, gubernatorial transitions must release information about donors and limits contributions to $5,000. An equivalent measure for the city would suffice in addition to living up to her stated intention regarding contractors.

Meanwhile, state lawmakers could catch up over the next year with laws disallowing contractor donations and forcing sunshine and placing limits on transition donations for all local governments. This seems especially needed when municipalities like Shreveport have a contracting process for architecture and engineering that begs for political interference and Jefferson Parish Council members practically chose winners of contract work within their own districts and collectively have wide discretion in choosing contractors for parish-wide matters, with many jobs not even requiring multiple bidders.

But since Cantrell stuck her neck out on this issue, she should start the ball rolling. Then, New Orleans could find itself in the unusual position of acting as a beacon for reform across the state.
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