Scoot: An open letter to New Orleans Mayor Latoya Cantrell

March 11, 2020 - 12:40 pm

Dear Mayor Cantrell:

Shortly after you became mayor of my hometown, New Orleans, I was covering several events that you attended, like Night Out Against Crime; and you graciously accepted my invitation to share your comments with the WWL Radio audience.

As the newly-elected mayor, you were open to share your thoughts with the citizens of the city that elected you to office. But, Mayor Cantrell, I, too, represent the citizens of New Orleans every afternoon on my radio talk show. Like you, I have a responsibility to honestly inform the citizens about the city and city government through the precious freedom of the First Amendment.

My goal has never been to attack you for the sake of getting ratings. That’s not who I am, personally or professionally. Our early conversations prove that I accepted you as the new mayor with no intent to bash your administration. In fact, I took a lot of criticism from many people who thought I was pandering to you, but I never allowed that criticism to alter my positive attitude about you.

I am not alone in the questions I have raised about your handling of the collapse of the Hard Rock Hotel construction site, from the explosives to take down the cranes to the two bodies that remain in the rubble. There was the inconsistency with putting a tarp over one of the bodies that was partially exposed then saying it was too dangerous to put up another tarp when, during the very radio show where I addressed this, the city suddenly put up a new tarp. I don’t want to take any credit for forcing the city to do the right thing because it could have been a coincidence. But the inconsistency was blatant none the less.

Communication concerning the on-going disaster in downtown New Orleans lacked transparency in such a way as to instill the belief that you and the city were hiding something. Skepticism on the part of the citizens of New Orleans is justified because of a history that long proceeds you that city government is corrupt and that there are those elected and appointed officials that are taking advantage of their positions at the expense of hard-working taxpayers.

There were questions about your use of credit cards during your reign as a member of the City Council, but that was not a source of criticism from me because I was willing to let the process play out.

The issue with your back taxes paints a vivid picture of a person who had no interest in even trying to work out a settlement for the over $90,000 you owed the government. Your lack of open and honest communication about this further increased skepticism of you as mayor.

The aforementioned issues were both self-imposed by you, Mayor, and could have been handled in such a way as to promote the image that things happened to you, like all of us, and you were willing and eager to make things right. If you truly want to make things right – you have failed to communicate that to the citizens of New Orleans.  Since I represent the citizens, as you do, I had a responsibility to address these uncomfortable issues.

I have no doubt you inherited a total dumpster fire of issues and inappropriate behavior in city government – but if you are sincere in honestly representing the citizens of this city – then you have a responsibility to communicate in a way that answers questions rather than raises questions.

And the latest is what appears to be obnoxious hypocrisy on your part by going before the public and in the interest of public safety and out of concern for citizens you cancel St. Patrick’s Day-related parades in the city. But you fail to cancel a private fundraiser, the Mayor's Masked Ball, on the same weekend as the canceled parades claiming that it is a private event.

It is promoted as the Mayor’s Masked Ball to benefit the United Negro College Fund, but that should be inconsequential and I would never imply a priority based on race.

What is significant and puzzling is the reality that in the name of suggestions from the CDC you canceled the St. Patrick’s Day-related parades based on “social distancing.” If your concern for the citizens is sincere – then why is the ball that bears your political title not canceled in the name of “social distancing?”

“Social distancing” is the act of keeping people from gathering closely together in crowds. If the concern for citizens coming together for a St. Patrick’s Day parade is vital to preventing the further spread of the coronavirus – then why does the concept of “social distancing” not apply to the Mayor's Masked Ball?

Mayor Cantrell, our collective confusion is not the result of malicious judgment of you and your administration – it is the direct result of what appears to be a preferential priority. Only you can end the confusion that invites skepticism of your motives as mayor of the City of New Orleans.

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